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Housing.

– in the House of Commons on 13th March 1922.

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Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

I beg to move to reduce Item Class VII (Ministry of Health) by £100.

I wish to draw attention to a few aspects of the housing policy of the Government, and, particularly, to the non-fulfilment of promises and assurances given in this House by the Prime Minister when speaking in the latter part of last year upon this question. First, I would draw attention to those financial measures which were designed, not merely to construct a number of houses, but designed incidentally to find some employment. Some £10,000,000 have been voted, and I understand that that sum is all practically ear-marked for existing schemes. If I am right in that view, I would like to ask the Minister of Health whether it is proposed to ask Parliament for a further supply, and whether there are any new schemes under consideration for which no financial assistance is available. If it be true that this sum has been already allotted, we should be told whether Parliament is to be asked for a supplementary sum, and, if not, whether there are any schemes being given up because the necessary financial assistance cannot be afforded the local authorities. Should there be such schemes, I would like to ask how many, because a great deal depends upon the number of cases in which local authorities may be seeking assistance and not able to obtain it. I am certain my right hon. Friend in recent months has received from local authorities many protests and complaints of the effect of those Departmental regulations which were enforced by the Health Department in relation to the rates of wages for work upon relief schemes. Those regulations laid down that, generally, the rates must not exceed 75 per cent, of the ordinary rate, but that a man employed on work for which he was skilled should be paid the full rate, and that a man employed half-time should be paid 87½ per cent, of the ordinary rate instead of 75 per cent.

How many local authorities have protested against the great inconvenience and the difficulties to which these Regulations have given rise in relation to their regular employés? I understand the Minister of Health to say that very few have protested. It may be true that the separate cases of protest have been few. It is true also that representative associations of the great municipal bodies have expressed the general opinion of municipal authorities in the resolutions of protest which they have sent to the Ministry and published in the Press. There have been cases where a local authority has had an improvement scheme in hand and on the scheme has employed men usually employed in their service, and the authority has paid them the full rate. The authorities have had to seek assistance from the Unemployment Grants Committee, but in order to receive those grants they have had to reduce the wages of their men in accordance with the Regulations. It would be interesting to learn how much money has been saved by that means.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

If the local authorities employed their own ordinary labour it would come under the classification of skilled labour and would be entitled to the full rates of pay. I cannot understand how it could be that in the case of skilled men on a job it was necessary to reduce wages. Obviously that ought not to be.

Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

My information is that there are such cases. I shall supply the information to sustain my statement. I am assured that there are cases where, in order to secure a proportion of these grants, the Regulations have been applied and the wages of the men have been reduced. I shall be happy to find that I am incorrect, and that the view just expressed by the Minister of Health has had general application. In a large number of cases relief work is being carried on many miles away from the homes of the workmen, and in some instances we have reports of men who pay more than 5s. per week for their travelling expenses and they have no means whatever of recovering the outlay. I suggest that men who are put to work in the first instance for the purpose of affording them relief should not be fined in that way because of the particular locality of their employment and the time and labour involved in getting to their job.

We may reasonably ask what has been the general good, if any, from Regulations designed to reduce the rate of pay of men employed on relief labour. I daresay the Department has kept some record, and, apart from any general statement which we may have from the Minister of Health, we would gladly receive from him some evidence of what has been the net gain either to the fund itself or to the local authorities, and incidentally what has been the net loss to bodies of workmen who have had to suffer the reduced rates of pay. In a recent answer to a question in this House, my right hon. Friend denied that either the Prime Minister, or any other Minister speaking with responsibility for the Government, had promised to the country so large a number of houses as 500,000. I do not know whether I would be in order in referring to a published statement made by His Majesty and made clearly with information afforded to him from the proper quarter.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

There is an old rule of the House against such references.

Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

In the quotation there is a statement that 500,000 houses will be provided, and clearly it was made with the authority of the Government of the day. I will furnish the Minister of Health with the terms of the quotation. I think it may be generally assumed that there was a universal impression created, to put it no higher than that, that the Government desired to undertake a scheme of house construction even so ambitious as that of building 500,000 new houses. No wonder, for indeed, apart from the great arrears of house building occasioned by years of non-building during the War, the conditions as they existed before the War would have warranted such a number. Many years before the War we had evidence, in replies to questions in this House, that 900,000 people in London lived in overcrowded houses and that at least 386,000 of these had to wash, sleep, dress, cook, and eat and live in those abominations that were classed as one-room dwellings. In the same year there were armies of overcrowded working people, numbering in Birmingham 68,000, in Leeds 60,000, in Liverpool 56,000, in Manchester 41,000, and in Sheffield 37,000. So one could furnish a long list giving similar figures according to the size and population of a district, all going to prove that long before the special causes created by the War, there was a housing problem, and it has been in no way met by what the Government has done since the end of the War. This is not purely a matter of non-accommodation, of inconvenience or irksomeness in relation to the general conditions of life of those who are affected. Such conditions of overcrowding bring their social and their physical effects in many ways, and the community finally has to pay, in reduced standard of health, in reduced efficiency, in higher doctors' bills, in the deepening of the sense of social discontent. All these are the by-products of overcrowding. I suggest to the Government that it does not pay to do this job badly, that in fact we shall be compelled to pay in one way if we do not freely and willingly pay in another.

The Minister of Health, earlier in my remarks, hinted that not many communications of protest had been received from the local authorities. I have seen many which have called upon the Government steadfastly to carry into effect the policy embodied in the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919, and in this way, as it is stated, "honourably to fulfil the pledges given by the Prime Minister when he used the following words: 'We are only now crying a halt—not to stop building. There will not be a single house the less built. On the contrary, there will be more houses built, because we know that by liquidating this gigantic obligation which we have got upon us of 176,000 houses and then by meeting the building trade on equal terms, there will be more houses and cheaper.… I say that this is simply an effort—I use the phrase which I used before—an effort not to stop housebuilding, but to put it on a better and more businesslike footing.' It will be for the Minister of Health to show how far that argument has been made good by results and whether those results come anywhere near the pressing need of the enormous number of people still waiting for something like human conditions of housing in the thickly populated centres. I will quote another statement made by the Prime Minister last year. It was a statement in relation to men in the building trade and the effect of the Government's policy on their employment. The Prime Minister said in this House last year that after full consideration it had been decided by the Cabinet that the building trade should be kept employed up to the limit of its capacity in the housing schemes of the local authorities. A few days ago the Minister of Health gave to the House a little information in reply to a question. Let us see how much in conflict that information is with the assurance given by the Prime Minister on the general subject only last year. On 1st March last the following figures relative to the number of building trade operatives employed on the housing schemes of local authorities were given to the House. The men employed on 1st October, 1921, numbered 138,334; on 1st February of this year the number employed was 101,235.

These are not figures from the Opposition side of the House. They are the official returns supplied by the Minister of Health himself. They go to prove again the failure of the Government to make good the solemn assurance of the Prime Minister as to what the policy of the Government would mean in relation to the employment of men in the building trades. Those figures are not quite sufficient. They do not fully cover, nor do they sufficiently or graphically describe, the realities of the situation among men in the building trade. I take, therefore, the last return furnished in the "Labour Gazette." There we have further figures. In the February number of the "Labour Gazette" it is stated that there are 178,119 unemployed in the building trade. These include carpenters, bricklayers, masons, plasterers, painters, plumbers, and general workers in the trade. There are more than 13,000 carpenters unemployed, and more than 8,000 bricklayers. Those figures, supplied from official sources, together with the figures given in an answer a few days ago by the, right hon. Gentleman, completely prove the failure of the Government to keep its promise as to the effect of its policy in keeping men in work.

Just one other aspect of this question before I conclude. The phrase which has, perhaps, found its way more often into the currency of political utterances in this country than any other has been the phrase that we were to have "houses fit for heroes to live in." I return to it and use it again in order to impress upon my right hon. Friend the extreme and continuous suffering caused by lack of house accommodation to a large number of ex-service men. These men are in a position of special handicap because they went abroad. Many had to give up their homes, their wives and dependants went into lodgings, and their homes were taken by the munition workers or by ordinary householders in search of homes. Be cause of their war service and their absence abroad, these men were placed in a special difficulty in relation to getting houses when they came home, and many of them, instead of being house holders, had to become lodgers. I have here a long list giving numerous instances of ex-soldiers, the fathers of families in many instances, with four or five children, who are unable to get housing accommodation within their slender incomes. If the Government is to fail to keep its pledges in respect of the civilian population, it ought, at any rate, to have regard to its very special obligations in relation to the ex-service men who are still unable to get any proper shelter through having been away at the War, although three years have still elapsed since the War terminated. Another aspect of this question will present itself in due course when the law comes to an end which now protects tenants against rent increases which they would have otherwise to meet because of the house shortage if the house owners and land owners of the day had their way and were free from the restraint of the law. Altogether there are about 8,000,000 houses in England and Wales, and of that number some 5,000,000 are working-class houses. If the rents of these houses were to be increased by only 1s. per week, working-class families would have to pay, in the aggregate, an additional rent charge of £13,000,000 yearly. I do not know what the Government may have in mind in regard to the continuance or discontinuance of the law which now secures tenants against rent increases—

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

That is hardly in order on this discussion.

Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

I was not going to press the point. Really my object was to draw attention to it in order to show that the lack of the number of houses promised will in itself be an incentive to landowners and house-owners to increase the rents unless this Act of Parliament is continued. I am using the law as it now is as a reason why a greatly increased number of houses should be constructed so as to prevent such a shortage as will enable house-owners to increase rents in the future. I think of all the other difficulties which the Government might be able to escape they cannot escape from this. This is almost solely an internal question. It is, of course, in part a matter of money, but it is also largely a matter of organisation. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what it is costing the country for unemployment benefit alone to keep these 117,000 building operatives who are unemployed? I would ask my right hon. Friend as a man of great business experience and knowledge what ho thinks of the plan of continuing to pay so large a number of men these bigs sums of money for doing nothing at all. Personally I never thought it was a good plan. Prom the beginning, since the end of the War, I have regretted that the unemployed were not organised or permitted to organise themselves in order to perform and carry out some useful productive work—it might be profitable work—in exchange for the money they take. I have said often I would rather pay a man the wage of £4 a week for three days' work and get something from him than pay him £2 a week for doing nothing. There a large number of men, or at any rate of families which collectively are getting £2 a week or more and are rendering no service in exchange. There is no greater waste than that kind of idleness and the Government is encouraging it by the lack of organisation. I do not say that the whole of the unemployed could have been put to productive work, but, at any rate, there are a large number, not brain workers, who go to make up this total of nearly 2,000,000 unemployed who could have been regularly kept on useful service for some part of the week and could have produced some serviceable return for the country which to some extent is providing them with a little of the wherewithal to live. If this Debate serves no other purpose I think it may be useful in enabling us to ascertain what is the further policy and administrative action of the Government in order to keep faith with its numerous pledges both inside and outside this House. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.

Photo of Mr Thomas Inskip Mr Thomas Inskip , Bristol Central

No subject could have been selected for the Debate on the Vote on Account more important, probably, than the one which the right hon. Gentleman has raised in connection with the housing policy of the Government. Perhaps I may preface what I have to say by expressing the hope that the Government really have a policy on this question. I say that in no hostile spirit to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote because I am satisfied he has done very much to produce order and cohesion in his Department. I am anxious solely less the housing policy of the Government should be allowed to take a second or back place when it ought to have a front place in all administrative questions. I should like to supplement what my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) has said in his quotation from the speech of the Prime Minister by a quotation from a speech by Lord Long, then Mr. Walter Long, in 1916, when he said: It would be a black crime indeed if we were to sit still and do nothing by way of preparation to ensure that when these men come back they shall he provided with homes with as little delay as possible. To let them come back from the horrible water-logged trenches to something little better than a pigsty here would indeed be criminal on the part of ourselves, and would he a negation of all that had been said during this War that we could never repay these men for what they have done for us. These were the words, not of a Radical or revolutionary, but of a Tory with a heart as well as political convictions. I should like to recall those words to the Minister in charge of this Vote in introducing the few observations which I have to make in order to elicit what is to be the policy of the Government in this connection. I should like to refer to what my right hon. Friend has said as to the extravagance of spending money to keep people doing nothing at the present time. The only criticism I wish to make on my right hon. Friend's suggestion is this: I think he sometimes forgets in this connection the case of those who belong to the middle classes whom no scheme of employment such as he has in mind would provide for, yet who are just as much at their wit's end as those who do manual work. Even when that criticism is made it does appear a serious matter that we should be paying millions of pounds in unemployment dole and that we should be putting men to do work which is not really economical or revenue-producing, at a time when there is work of this sort waiting to be done and probably the most urgent work which could be undertaken for the community. The Geddes Report dealt with many economies which were possible, but I look in vain through that Report to find any mention in regard to money paid for non-productive purposes. The reason why the Geddes Report made no reference to that is probably that it depended on outlay on other questions over which the Geddes Committee could have no control and as to which it could have no information. Quite apart from the cost of maintaining the people, I would like to point out that this housing policy really lies at the root of many other questions. It is said that drink produces poverty. I should be much more inclined to say and believe that it arises from poverty, and that until you provide a home for a man which is decent and comfortable you are driving him to places where he can obtain other solaces. And so, in connection with education, I respectfully agree with the decision of the Government the other day that children should not be kept away from school because they were of tender years. But if I thought that the Government had spent the proper amount of money in providing comfortable and decent homes for the children to live in, I should think twice about that question, and should be very doubtful whether it would not be proper to say that those children should not go to school until they were of an age to receive education.

This housing question really lies at the root of these matters which I have mentioned, and of many others, and I want to bear this afternoon, and I hope we are going to hear, some assurance that the Government are driving on with the provision of the homes which have been promised by Mr. Walter Long and by others to the ex-service men. The ex-service men are still waiting for them in large numbers. In my own constituency, at the end of last year, there were still over 4,000 ex-service men upon the waiting list asking for houses to be provided for them. It is not only a question of accommodation for those who have come back and have no houses; it is the existence of these horrible slums which makes it incumbent upon the Government to regard this as the very first task that ought to be undertaken. I remember the language used in the Report of the Land Inquiry Committee, which published its conclusions in 1913. It spoke of two or three millions of the urban population of England and Wales living in slum dwellings, where closeness, narrowness, and want of free ventilation made the conditions dangerous to the life of those who inhabited them. I hardly like to go into some parts of my own constituency, not because I am afraid, but because of the hopes that I held out in my speeches during the election. My right hon. Friend may say that I should not have held them out, but I was encouraged by my leaders to hold them out, and I do not believe that my leaders have departed from the intention which they had to remove those slums at the earliest moment. It is not only the difficulties that may be created by finance and the need for economy that prevent these slums from being removed. I know that the people dwelling in them are difficult to evict. Quite recently a housing inquiry was held in Bristol, at which the actual tenants of these horrible places came and gave evidence that they would rather live in them, for reasons which they thought satisfactory, than be evicted. But the Government, and my right hon. Friend above all people, must have a policy which will encourage us to look forward to the period, it may be at the end of a generation, when these slums will be non-existent.

Let me ask my right hon. Friend what is going to be done from the point of view of the cost of these houses that I hope he is going to erect? Some time ago in Bristol—I only give this as an illustration, because the facts are within my own knowledge—houses were costing £ 1,030 each. The Housing Commissioners intimated that the price must be reduced to £800. The Bristol Housing Committee submitted plans and tenders at £790, but they were refused permission to erect houses at this price. How long are the Government going to wait before they encourage the production of houses? I quite agree that it is extravagant to spend £790, and I understand that the price has fallen very much. But, if we pressed on in 1919 and 1920, when the price was round about £1,000 per house, in Heaven's name let us press on when the price has fallen by 50 or 60 per cent. If my right hon. Friend can tell us that the Government are satisfied that prices have indeed fallen to a figure which will justify such a campaign as was initiated in 1919 and 1920, I am sure it will bring gladness to the hearts, not only of the supporters of the Government, but of many people who are waiting for houses. This is the time, surely, to press on, if only in view of what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) as to the disappearance of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act. If the problem is urgent now, it will be far more urgent when that Act has disappeared. The reason why I am so anxious that the Government should give us some information this afternoon, indicating not only what the present condition is, but what their plans are for the future, is that I feel that the housing question, as I have already said, is at the base of almost every other question. Vice, poverty, sedition, flow from lack of houses, and the only regret that I have in regard to the Debate this afternoon is that these Debates come on in an almost haphazard way, without very much interest, knowledge or attention being directed towards them. Hon. Members, who, I am sure, are sincerely interested in this question, do not attend the Debates almost because they do not know that housing is going to be discussed. Will my right hon. Friend give us a lead, and give us such information and encouragement as to the policy of the Government as will compel hon. Members to take the interest in this question which they took in 1918, when they were inviting their constituents to support the abolition of slums and the building of houses, and when everything in the housing programme of the Government was going to be considered from the point of view of the returning soldiers? I quite understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) may think me guilty of revolutionary sentiments and of a disregard of the interests of the taxpayer, whose burdens, unfortunately, I share to a less extent than my right hon. Friend; but there are some questions upon which economy must take the last place, even if you are considering the mere outlay of money. What we do want is to see that the promise is being redeemed which was made in 1918, and, until that promise is redeemed, some of us will not rest content.

Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON:

I sincerely trust that the sanguine anticipations of my hon. and learned Friend who has just spoken may be realised, and that the pledges which have been made may be fulfilled. But I rather despair of that from an answer which the Minister of Health gave me on Thursday, when I was pressing him as to the policy of the Government after the restricted programme of 176,000 houses had been completed. In reply he said: In view of the large programme of housing still to be completed"— that is, the 176,000 houses— and the continued reduction in prices, I hope that further State intervention in any form will not be required, and that the building industry will return to its pre-War economic basis."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1922; col. 1471, Vol. 151.] I am afraid that we can only read one meaning into those words, and that is that, instead of the 500,000 houses which were undoubtedly promised from many platforms during the Election, we are to have only 176,000. Whatever view this Committee may take, I am sure that the country will view with great alarm this tremendous cutting down of the promises that were held out to them in the earlier days during the Election. Why is there this reversal of policy? I suppose we must turn to the Geddes Report, which the Government have adopted to a large extent with regard to housing. There we find it stated that we cannot afford to go on spending all this money on housing.

Mr. THOMSON:

The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London naturally agrees, and there may be others who also agree. Why cannot we afford it?

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

Because we have not the money.

Mr. THOMSON:

Did we tell that to the bondholders? Surely we are as much pledged to provide houses as we are to provide interest for those who found the funds for War Savings Certificates and War Loans. When, a few weeks ago, it was suggested from these benches that economy might be effected by cutting down the rate of interest which was being paid on War Stock, a tremendous howl went up from the economists on the other side, and I agree with them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] But I ask that the same fairness and justice of treatment in redeeming promises which it is desired to give to those who invested in War Stock, in response to pledges given to them, shall be given in respect of the promises to the men who went overseas, and who were told that when they came back they should not suffer, that houses fit for heroes should be found for them, and that, in the words, already quoted by the hon. Member who spoke last, of Lord Long, who was then at the Local Government Board, it would be a disgrace and a scandal if we allowed those men to come back from the waterlogged trenches to hovels not equal to pigsties. Those are the promises which were given by the Prime Minister and by the Minister of Health who preceded the right hon. Gentleman who now sits on that bench, and we insist that it is as necessary to fulfil those promises as it is to fulfil the promises to the bondholders and those who hold War Stock.

Why cannot we afford it? The Geddes Report goes into figures, and suggests that, because we are spending £10,000,000 a year on the schemes that we have already in hand, we must cry, "Halt!" and cut down; and this Report the Government have adopted so far as their administration is concerned. I should like, however, to examine some of these figures, because I venture to suggest that even this Business Committee of skilled financiers have been at fault as to the fundamental facts upon which they base the whole of their arguments. They say that the average cost of the houses is £1,100—that is to say, £1,100 each for 176,000 houses which have; already been sanctioned. How do they get that figure? I know we have heard of huge sums of £1,000 and £1,200 for houses, and no doubt, in some cases, that has been paid; but, as the Committee point out, not more than half of that number of houses had been completed when their inquiry was made. Only some 68,000 houses had been completed, and another 68,000 had been sanctioned and were in course of construction. These latter cannot have cost £1,100 each. Moreover, there are 38,000 houses which have not yet been sanctioned, and they certainly will not cost one-half of £1,100. I have been at some little trouble to take out the official figures given by the Ministry of Health as to the cost of houses from time to time, and I find that, in reply to a question in the House of Commons last year, it was stated that the very highest price, out of all the tenders accepted, had been one of £1,288 in 1920, while there was another, for a non-parlour house, of £1,070. It was added in the answer that these figures must not be taken as comparable with any others, because of the peculiar site difficulties in connection with those houses. It was stated, in reply to a question, that the average price in March, 1921, for a three-bedroom, parlour house was £887, and in June, £823, while for a two-bedroom house, with parlour, the prices at those two dates were, respectively, £808 and £722. Those were the average prices in March and June of last year, and I submit that it is quite impossible to get for 176,000 houses, half of which have not yet been built and 38,000 which have not yet been started, an average price of £1,100. Only the other day, in reply to a question which I put to him, the Minister of Health said that tenders had now been lot as low as £425, and yet, with 38,000 houses not yet started, we are told that the average price for the whole lot is £1,100. I submit that a Committee of business men who give estimates of that sort are really taxing the credulity of the British public and of the House of Commons. I suggest that, if you take the 68,000 houses which have been built and say that they cost an average of £1,100, and the 68,000 which are now under construction—many of which have cost from £800 down to even £500—and if you average them at £900, you are giving a very wide margin; while in the case of those not yet sanctioned, I suggest that £500 would be a fair average figure for those to be built during the next year or year and a half. These figures average £900 for the 176,000 houses which have been already sanctioned, and, therefore, this figure of £10,000,000, which the Committee use as a bogey to deter the House and the Government from carrying out its pledges because it cannot afford to redeem them, is based on fallacy number one, that the average cost of the houses is nearer £900 and not £1,100.

5.0 P.M.

There is a second item in this figure of £10,000,000, that is the rate of interest, and the Committee suggest in their Report that the rate of interest and redemption is 68 per cent, for 60 years. Surely, the Committee have not shown the acumen which they use in conducting their own finances. What local authority has borrowed this money by a long-period loan of 60 years? Housing certificates are issued for periods of five or at most 10 years. I was making inquiry at the week-end, in my own town, and was assured by the accountant that, except in one solitary case, every one of the housing certificates was for a period of five years, but there was one exceptional one for 10 years. A good deal of money has been raised on these terms and a further sum has been raised by Local Stocks, and the period of those loans averages about 20 years, or, at any rate, there is a break period at the end of the first 20 years. Then you have 25 per cent, or more on money granted to small local authorities by the Public Works Commissioners. The Public Works Commissioners have borrowed from the Treasury. Docs anyone suggest that they have borrowed for 60 years at 6 per cent.? It is fantastic. I challenge the Minister to say whether more than 5 per cent., or at the most 10 per cent., of the money already raised for housing bonds has been raised on the full period of 60 years. If it has, it points to incompetence, but I submit that not 5 per cent, has been raised for the full period. What does it amount to? It means that these War Saving Certificates, which have been raised for five or 10 years, and Local Stock, which has been raised for a 20 years' period—and many corporations have raised money on ordinary mortgage, which is redeemable at six months' notice;—all these sums can be redeemed within 20 years. They will be redeemed and re-issued and re-borrowed and then what will be the rate of interest? With the bank rate at 4½ per cent.—and it is suggested in many financial papers that it may be 4 per cent, before very long—who can say that before 20 years it will not be below 4 per cent.? And it is not an unfair suggestion to make that before this period comes you can redeem and reborrow at 5 per cent, or 5½ per cent., and what then becomes of the bogy of £10,000,000? If you can equate your finances by redeeming the money you have borrowed within the next 20 years on a 4 per cent, basis, it means that the whole period of 60 years will work out at something like 5½ per cent., and therefore if you reduce the interest and redemption charge from the 6.8 per cent, taken by the Geddes Committee to the 5¼per cent, which I suggest as a very liberal estimate to cover the next 60 years, you save there a quarter of the total cost of interest and redemption, and instead of having a charge of £10,000,000 a year, your charge will be much less to pay for the houses which have already been built. To suggest that we cannot afford to redeem our pledges because we have already spent up to the hilt—we have already spent £10,000,000—is to mislead the Committee and the public. I ask the Minister to say whether he would substantiate the financial figures shown in the Geddes Report and whether the average price for the 176,000 houses is not nearer £900, taking into account the 38,000 houses not yet built and which can be built probably for £500 instead of £1,100, according to the figures ho has supplied. Allowing also for the rate of interest for the extended period, repaying and re-borrowing before the 20 years are out on the basis of 5¼ per cent., you reduce that figure of £10,000,000 to something nearer £5,000,000.

What do this wonderful Committee and this Government suggest as their solution? To sell the 176,000 houses. And they will sell them for £550. In the first place, how can you sell the houses without turning out the tenants? The bulk of the tenants are ex-service men. Ninety per cent, of the tenants of the local authority houses are ex-service men. Are you going to turn them out after they have been in possession for a year or two? They are not protected by the Rent Restrictions Acts. If you are not going to turn them out, who is going to buy? Will anyone go into the market to buy unless he can get vacant possession? Even if you ignore the claims of the ex-service men, if you are willing to turn them into the street after having provided houses for them for a few years, who will pay £550 for a house? The Minister told us the other day that they were accepting tenders at £425. To that has to be added the cost of the land and street construction. Add another £100, which is more than the cost of the land and the sewering of streets, then you you get a price to-day of a new house less than the Geddes Committee suggests these houses should be sold for. Suppose you find anyone foolish enough to pay £550 for one of these houses, how will it work out as a financial proposition? He has to borrow the money. I suppose to-day, on the security of a house of that kind, he would have to borrow at 5 per cent, or 5½ per cent.

Then he would have to provide for redemption. He will want to redeem the property. Not having Government security behind him, and having a limited length of life, he will want to redeem probably in 20, 30 or 40 years. Add another 1 per cent, or 1½ per cent. Then he must provide for empties, for management and other charges. He has also to provide some profit to himself because he will not buy a house merely for the fun of it. If you add 5 per cent, or 5½ per cent, for interest, 1½per cent, for redemption, 1½per cent, or 2 per cent, for cost of management and loss on empties, and 1 per cent, for his profit, you have to have 10 per cent, on your money before you can get any yield at all. 10 per cent, on the cost price which the Geddes Committee suggest of £550 gives you a rent of more than £1 a week. The tenant who goes in will have to pay rates of, at any rate, 10s. a week. How are you going to find buyers of houses who will have to find hundreds of thousands of tenants to pay 30s. a week in rent and rates? The whole thing is utterly fantastic and ridiculous. You cannot sell the houses at£550. It is not an economic proposition. But you say, "We will sell them at less." If you do, you are not going to cut your liability. It was only by selling at £550 that you were going to save this £3,500,000, according to the Geddes Report. It is not a sound financial proposition, and as you reduce your price, which you would have to do to find a market, so you will reduce the saving that you will get through the sale of the houses. The houses already being in existence and the Government being able to borrow more cheaply than any private investor, it is impossible on the face of it to be able to sell houses now held and built for the Government at a price which will reduce the standing charges. That is altogether apart from the question of the honesty of turning out the tenants.

The policy of the Geddes Committee is wrong and is entirely based on fallacies. First, they overestimated the cost of the existing liability both with regard to the cost of the houses and the interest charges, and on the other hand they overestimated the price at which they could sell the houses. The only thing for the Government to do is not to leave it to the ordinary play of economic forces, because who suggests that this year, or next year, or in the next three or four years, any ordinary private individual is going to be able to build houses at to-day's prices and let them at an economic rent? The lowest price the Minister suggested is £425 without sewers and roads. Say £500. According to the figures I have given, for a £500 house you must get a rent of something like £1 a week in order to make it a paying proposition to the ordinary investor. Who is going to pay £l a week to-day for a workman's cottage? It is ridiculous to suggest that such a thing is possible. We have to face the facts as they are. Ordinary private enterprise cannot supply on an ordinary economic basis the houses that are required. We know from figures which have been given that at least half a million houses are required. A return was taken out by local authorities under the 1919 Act, under the instructions of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, which showed that over 835,000 houses were required by local authorities in order to provide decent housing accommodation. Cut that down by half if you like, you still have to provide over 400,000 houses at once in order to have decent housing accommodation. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government say leave it to private enterprise and ordinary economic forces. What is going to be the result of leaving it to private enterprise? You cannot build a house to-day for less than £400 or £500. You cannot let a house of that sort under 15s. or 20s. a week, with rates on the top. Does anyone suggest that in these days it is possible for a workman to pay that sum?

We have to face the facts as they are. We are left as an aftermath of the War with this tremendous shortage—abnormal shortage—of houses, due to the fact that during the War the Government would not allow house building. The Government and the community are responsible. The shortage is an artificial shortage brought about by the cessation of house building during the five years of the War, and the community and the State must realise and take up their responsi- bility, and until that shortage is made up, it is a burden and a duty upon the State to provide these houses before you talk about the ordinary play of economic forces. You have the economic forces artificially weighted against the tenant because of this abnormal shortage of houses and we have to face the situation. If you were pressing on your housing programme when houses were £1,100 or £1,000, surely now they have dropped to £425 is not the time to cry halt, but to go ahead. You can build another 500,000 houses at £425 and then you will not have overstepped the total amount which the Government originally intended to spend on redeeming their pledges at the election. The Minister of Health preceding the right hon. Gentleman suggested that £10,000,000 a year was the sum which would have to be found in order to redeem our housing pledges. For £10,000,000 a year, without exceeding that sum, you can provide that 500,000 houses. On the figures I have given, the 176,000 houses already sanctioned will not cost more than £5,000,000 a year, allowing for the reduced cost and rate of interest. The right hon. Gentleman looks astonished. He was out when I was making that point. Beyond that, for £5,000,000 you can build more than 500,000 houses, because with the price to-day at £500 and you will soon be able to borrow on State security at 4½ per cent.—if the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) objects, let me take it at 6 per cent. For £500 at 5 per cent, you have to find a revenue of £25 a year. You have a rent, according to the Geddes figures—I take them because they are the lowest—of 6s. 2d. a week. £16 from £25 leaves a loss of £9.

The Geddes Committee say the local authorities under the 1d. rate are paying £4 a year of that loss, and the local authorities should not object, knowing as they do the conditions under which the people live, to provide their share. Therefore, you reduce the net cost to £5 a year to the State. The Minister of Health and the Government cannot allow things to drift along merely by private enterprise. They must fulfil their bargain. They must build extra houses until we have at least another half-million houses. Surely hon. Members have not forgotten the housing returns which have been sent into the Ministry of Health, showing the most appalling overcrowding that exists throughout the country. In my own town there are still over 3,000 men waiting for houses, and we have given them something like 600 houses, and the Minister refuses to allow more, although we have bricklayers, joiners and plasterers walking the streets and drawing unemployment benefit.

Mr. THOMSON:

Yes. There are plasterers on the unemployment list.

Mr. THOMSON:

There will be a great many more directly, because as your houses are completed, these men are coming on the streets and drawing unemployment pay. From the figures given to me a few weeks ago by the Ministry of Labour the number of men engaged on State housing has fallen by 38,000 in five months, and yet the Government suggest that they are using all the available labour in order to expedite and carry out the pledges they have made. From every town there comes a story of appalling overcrowding. In my own town last year a house to house canvas was made of 26,000 houses, and it was found that in the industrial area of the town over one-third of the population were living in a condition of overcrowding; while one-fifth of the population have no houses of their own, which means that one-fifth of the whole of the industrial population of Middlesbrough were joining at houses. There were two, three, four, five, and even six families in one house. In hundreds and thousands of cases there were people with only part of a house for their own use, and this is the time when the Government talk about stopping house building. How can you expect to have a decent population? How can you expect to have a healthy population, and how can you expect to have a moral population under such conditions?

Mr. J. JONES:

They do not expect it; they never did.

Mr. THOMSON:

I should like to call attention to the words of the Bishop of Woolwich, because what he says is applicable to every industrial town to-day. Speaking last week he said: Overcrowding now was worse than ever, and it was impossible to bring up children clean, moral, and pure under the awful conditions he had seen. He wished they could have a Government which would say that the first vital need of the country was decent homes for the people. This is the demand that is made from every industrial centre. The people have been extraordinarily patient and forbearing, but I beg the Minister of Health not to believe that for the next two or three years economic forces can allow the ordinary law of supply and demand to work. You have the shortage made by the War to make up. Make it up, and then leave private enterprise to work.

Photo of Mr Lewis Haslam Mr Lewis Haslam , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

I have listened with great interest to the speeches which have been delivered. It is of the utmost importance that house building should be renewed as soon as possible. This is purely an economic question, and I cannot help thinking that if the Minister of Health would say, very distinctly, at what price houses should be built, and what support the Government are pre parted to give towards the building of the houses, it would go a long way towards solving the problem, and would have a very important effect from the point of view of unemployment. It is all a question of cost, and in this matter we desire the co-operation of the trade unions. There is not the slightest doubt that there has been some reluctance among the trade unionists to agree to the employment of discharged soldiers and others in the building trades. I was told by a large contractor that about a year ago he could have employed 1,000 more men if he could have obtained 100 plasterers. He had 28 plasterers, and the Plasterers' Union said that they would not allow any man who was not a plasterer to do the rough screening which would enable the other 1,000 men to be employed. In the existing state of affairs, when unemployment is so rife, I think that the regulations and ideals of trade unionists in regard to employing men who are exactly fitted to one particular job might be relaxed. We must all, employers and employed alike, work heartily together. If we can reduce costs we can secure employment for everybody. We must do our best to work honestly and well in all our avocations, and by that means the question of unemployment will be solved. At the same time I would urge the Minister of Health to help us to do something towards restarting housing schemes. Houses to-day cost something like one-half what they cost at the dearest period, and that shows that the loss to the Government on any future building schemes would be very much less than it has been on building schemes in the past. I hope the Minister of Health will take this matter into his serious consideration.

During the discussion on the Supplementary Estimates, I endeavoured to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that too much is spent by the Ministry of Health on curative agencies rather than preventative agencies. We all know that prevention is better than cure. I was specially referring to the welfare of children. Children require the very best nourishment in order that they may grow up healthy and be able to resist disease. Disease can be resisted only by health. The most important point in regard to the health of children is the provision of healthy food. If children are brought up on sufficient healthy food, they will have power to resist tuberculosis, rickets, and other wasting illnesses. When we buy a loaf of bread, we do not know what that bread contains. Bread is a most important food for children. It is almost the sole diet for children among the very poor, and yet we allow bread to be bought by the poor in which the most important nutritive elements have been excluded by the millers. I do not say that they exclude it with the intention to interfere with the health of the children, but they do it in order that the public may be supplied with what they demand, namely, white bread. The most nutritive part of wheat is the germ, and the germ is eliminated and sold separately at a higher price for cakes, special bread, and so forth. The Minister of Health ought to let the people know what is the moat healthy form of bread. If he did that, we should have a standard quality of flour and bread. In order that that can be brought about, the millers would have to know that if they provided anything as standard flour or as standard bread which did not contain the necessary nutritive elements for standard flour and standard bread they would be liable to prosecution. There was a deputation from the Food Reform League, which was represented by 85 Members of Parliament and 35 leading scientific authorities, and all these, including nearly the whole, if not the whole, of the medical Members of this House, agreed that this question of the retaining of the germ and other nutritive elements in bread was one of the most important questions that could be considered. The deputation included such—

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

Does the hon. Member suggest that this matter can be dealt with under any of the existing powers of the Ministry of Health?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I am afraid that if legislation is required it would be out of order for the hon. Member to pursue the matter. If it could be dealt with under any powers now possessed by the Ministry, it would be in order.

Photo of Mr Lewis Haslam Mr Lewis Haslam , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

Perhaps the Minister of Health will take care that all the medical officers of health and the child welfare societies and other bodies are informed as to what bread should contain. Great damage is done to the health of the people by the production of inferior bread. The health of the people has suffered very materially since they have taken to eating white bread and drinking so much tea. Formerly they used to cat oatmeal porridge and drink milk. At one time the labourers were paid partly in kind.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

The hon. Member is out of order unless he can suggest how the Ministry of Health has control over this matter.

Photo of Mr Lewis Haslam Mr Lewis Haslam , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

A standard should be fixed for the nutritive value of bread. The present process of milling eliminates the most important part of the cereal. Many years ago a campaign was organised by the "Daily Mail" in favour of standard bread. That would have been a most useful campaign had it not been for the fact that it was only a campaign, and that nobody knew what standard bread really meant. Had it been carried out to a proper conclusion I am certain that the health of this country would be very much better than it is at present, and that the amount of money how spent on curative agencies would not have been required.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

The discussion so far has been mainly in connection with housing. I wish to divert it from that for some moments, and to call the attention of the Minister of Health to a circular which was issued by his Department in November last. I feel sure that when he hears about it he will be disposed to withdraw the paragraph of which I complain. In the circular which is numbered 257, the Minister says that he considers that local authorities should require a contribution towards the cost of residential treatment of persons suffering from tuberculosis. I am proud to think that very few local authorities have adopted the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, but I know of one case in which a local authority has required a consumptive to pay a certain sum as a condition of entering a sanatorium. This is a violation of pledges which have been given by the Minister of Health. We have heard a great deal in this House of pledges to ex-service men, bondholders, and others, which have been broken, but I wish now to draw attention to a pledge which has been broken which was given to persons suffering from consumption in this country.

The issue of the circular is without precedent. When the Insurance Act came into operation insured persons who came under that scheme were entitled by law to receive sanatorium treatment because they paid for it in their contributions. Then the Minister of Health suddenly found out that overlapping was occurring as between local authorities and insurance committees, and in May, 1920, he secured the passage of a Bill transferring from the insurance committees to the local authorities the duty of providing sanatorium treatment. The statement was made from that bench then that the transfer of duties was made definitely in favour of the consumptive, and yet we find this circular issued with the consequences which I have mentioned. If persons suffer from any other disease, contagious or infectious, typhoid or scarlet fever, no local authority would, and the Minister of Health would not ask them to, require persons suffering from those diseases to pay any sum whatever for entering into an institution. Why is there this difference in the case of a consumptive?

Consumption is a dread disease, a disease of poverty, poverty of food, of clothing and decent housing conditions. The right hon. Gentleman has created a very bad feeling among insured people by the circular to which I have referred. To require, as the circular does, that an insured person who is a consumptive should pay as a condition of entering a sanatorium will act as a deterrent against the individual entering the sanatorium at all. I can give a case in which it has been put to a man suffering from consumption that he must hand over his State insurance benefit as a condition of treatment in the sanatorium, and, rather than leave his wife and children without any income by paying the money to the sanatorium authorities, the man has remained at home. He is now consumptive and is probably transferring the disease to his own family. I hope that we shall have a pledge from the Minister that he will withdraw the paragraph complained of and keep the promise made from that Bench to all people suffering from consumption, which promise was made when the Bill I have referred to was passing into law.

On the question of the treatment of tuberculous people I wish to draw attention to the valuable work that has been done in this country. In 1915 the number of primary notifications was 90,592, and the amount spent on the service was £245,000. The amount increased year by year until 1920, when the sum spent on the work was £754,000, but there was a decrease approximately of 20,000 in the primary notifications of tuberculous people in this country, and the number of deaths decreased by 13,000 in that period. Those figures will show that the more we spend and spend wisely in this direction on the cure of consumptives, the more good work we do in this matter.

I would like also to say something on the question of housing. Manchester, the city in which I live, is afflicted very much with overcrowding. I hope that some of the speeches delivered to-day will help the Minister in connection with this very important matter. A census of overcrowding has been taken in our city. I do not want to weary the Committee with figures, but I quote one case in order that the Minister may be moved to do something more than he is doing at the moment. Strangely enough, the case which I am quoting has occurred within a few yards of where the Prime Minister was born, and the Prime Minister once talked of houses fit for heroes to live in. There are at present, for the heroes of whom he spoke, few houses in Ardwick, Manchester. I give as an illustration of what is actually happening, a case in which there are two rooms up and two down where the man, his wife, and 10 children, 12 persons in all, are living in four rooms. That is not the worst case. I have it on very good authority that the number of cases of incest brought before the police court in our city is on the increase, and that those cases are attributed in the main to overcrowding. I trust that this point will be borne in mind by the right hon. Gentleman when he replies.

Between 1905 and 1910 there were 11,983 houses built in our city, which was an average of 2,396 per annum. In the next five years the average had fallen to 961; within the last five years the average was only 67 for a population of 750,000. On account of the shortage of houses there is a great deal of farming of houses going on in Manchester. There are people in our city who own houses, and they farm them by putting a family in each of the five or six rooms in that house at an extortionate charge. This exemplifies what is happening in our city. There are 1,686 rooms farmed by these people, and the number of persons in these rooms is 4,221. An hon. Member referred to the immorality that comes from overcrowding. I agree with him, but I could never understand any man saying that sedition comes from over crowding. I thought that it required a clean heart, mind and intellect to know anything about sedition. You cannot get those from overcrowding. On the question of approved societies I wish to say a few words. It is assumed in this country that the State Health Insurance scheme is a national scheme. It is nothing of the kind. There are in this country several thousand approved societies, and each approved society has its own method of handling its business. I would ask the Minister to take into consideration the nationalisation of the whole of the schemes, and—

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

This is a matter which would require legislation to deal with it, and is therefore not in order on the present occasion.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

I will conclude by asking the Minister to bear in mind the facts which I have related in regard to overcrowding. There are some local authorities to whom pledges were given so that schemes of housing should be proceeded with, after they have spent money for the laying out of the sites, the Minister has declined permission to proceed with the scheme. These are very hard cases, and I trust that they will receive consideration.

Photo of Mr George Roberts Mr George Roberts , Norwich

This discussion has rightly centred round the housing problem. During the several years in which I Lave been in this House I have heard many discussions on the problem. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) seemed to argue as if the problem were one created during the War, and as a result of the War. But before the War there were many who held the opinion that housing was one of the most acute social problems. It is true that the fact that building and repairing were held up during the War has aggravated the housing problem. I shall be interested with other Members in listening to what my right hon. Friend has to say respecting the housing policy of the Government. Undoubtedly a great deal of dislocation has occurred owing to the changes of policy which have taken place. At least those local authorities who have made plans and entered into contracts should be allowed to carry them through, and I trust the Minister will give us some satisfaction on that point. I wish particularly to direct the attention of my right hon. Friend to another question. I observe in the Estimates a reduction under the heading of "Grant for the Welfare of the Blind" of £20,000 on last year's Estimate. How is it proposed to effect what appears to be a very large reduction under this head? Everybody is convinced of the positive necessity of economy. We all realise that industry is being hampered by the burden of taxation, but I feel that sometimes we fail to understand the real meaning of economy. It often happens that expenditure of public or private money ultimately proves to be the best form of economy. For my own part I feel that if the reduction under this head means that we are going to arrest or to end the work now being done for the blind, then it will be not only a false economy, but contrary to humane ideals. Is it proposed to reduce the grants now made to local authorities and to voluntary agencies, in respect of the employment of blind persons in workshops and elsewhere? Is there any intention of interfering with the augmentation grants which are paid to persons employed in workshops or elsewhere? Again, is it proposed to make any reduction in the allowance towards the maintenance of blind persons in homes and hostels or in respect of the teachers who are provided to train blind persons in their homes?

It may be interesting to the Committee to know that there are 34,894 blind persons under the control of the Ministry of Health, and of these, 17,228 are returned as unemployable. Anything done to restrict efforts towards placing these people in a position to earn their own livelihood would be a disaster to them individually and detrimental to the nation as a whole. I can conceive of no more deserving class of the community than blind persons, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to convince the Committee that the work now being done for blind persons is not to be hindered. I urge that even in these days of extreme stringency we should develop our plans for the treatment of the blind. Of the 34,894 blind persons, 1,383 are mentally defective. Of 1,000 blind persons 40 are mentally defective, whereas among the ordinary population the figure is only eight per 1,000. The case of the mentally defective blind is particularly hard. We know that operations generally for dealing with the mentally defective have been restricted, but I think in this particular case the Minister should see that this work is allowed to proceed. I appreciate that in order to deal properly with this class, buildings may be required. We have endeavoured to ascertain whether it is possible to accommodate these children in existing institutions, and we are advised that these are already congested. Moreover, it is stated that to put blind children among children who can see, is harmful, indeed, almost criminal, because the blind child is entirely at the mercy of those who can see. They must be kept apart in the course of their education and training. I trust the Minister will be able to give us some assurance that the reduced figure does not mean that we are not only going to stop development, but cut down the work which is already being done.

I feel sure the sentiment of the Committee would be rather in favour of developing this work on the lines both of curing and preventing. I am presiding over a Committee which is inquiring into the causes of blindness and defective vision, and there it has been ascertained that a good deal of blindness is preventive. Anything that would result in reducing the efforts to prevent blindness among children would be a false economy and it is not a humane consideration. For these reasons I wish the Minister to explain how he proposes to effect a reduction from £100,000 to £80,000. I agree it is desirable at recurring periods to overhaul any service, because in the lapse of years waste does arise, but in respect of this proposed cut, a good deal of justification will be required, and I respectfully submit that a more urgent need is not reduced expenditure under this head, but greater development.

Photo of Viscountess Nancy Astor Viscountess Nancy Astor , Plymouth, Sutton

I should like to add my plea to those of the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Inskip) and the other hon. Members who have spoken, urging the Government not to go back on a progressive housing programme. The Government cannot really do so, because this is a national question and we have to face it as a nation. It is no use the Government saying that they cannot face it. We know perfectly well that if the Government came down and said, "We must have four battleships costing millions and millions, because we need them as a nation," that the House would pass the proposal. I contend that houses are just as important to the nation at this time as battleships were in 1914. It is no exaggeration to say that if hon. Members of this House only took the trouble to see what are actually the homes, not of heroes but of ordinary men and women, at present they would turn up here in greater numbers and the Government would be shown that some of us, at any rate, were in earnest when we said in our election addresses that we meant to struggle for better houses. The Geddes Committee was a very wonderful Committee. It showed us that we ought to be grateful for business men but that we should thank God for politicians. Business men are all very well in their way, but you must have something bigger than business men to run a nation like this. There is something else besides pounds, shillings and pence, and the Geddes Com- mittee, naturally, only faced it from that point of view. I do not blame them, but that point of view would absolutely wreck the nation, if the House of Commons listened to it alone. It must be confessed that, nationally, private enterprise has failed and failed lamentably in the matter of housing. Look at the houses the people had before the War! The War opened our eyes to many things. Before it there were many people who did not realise the sort of homes the people were living in. Then the country was stirred and said, "Never again will we go back to that state of things," but unless the Government carries out a progressive programme we will go back to even worse conditions, because there is less employment and less money in the country.

I implore the Minister of Health not to be led astray either by the Anti-Waste party or by the Noah's Ark men but to go forward. These people do not really represent anything. One set represents "stunts" and the other set represents, as I have said, the Ark. In this country, as three bye-elections have shown, there is a great mass of the people who are keen for economy, but they do not mean to economise on the vital things Hon. Members who are terrified of Socialism and who fight it all they can, would realise, if they had a little more vision, that nothing induces discontent so much as bad houses. One hon. Member has said that he does not agree that bad housing produces sedition, but I say it does and no one can blame the people for it. Take the case of a man who has come back from the War with a vision of better things. Some of them have been in hospital, they have enjoyed cleanliness, and a chance of being clean, they have had things they never dreamt of before in their lives, and they come back to these Horrible houses—if indeed they are lucky enough to get any houses at all. That should be borne in mind by hon. Members who are frightened because of Socialism. I am not frightened myself, and that is why I do not mind my hon. Friends on this side of the House, but I urge that it should be made possible for progress to go on in the ordinary way, and I hope the housing programme of the Government will be persisted in. I know it is capable of improvement, but in any case, do not let us drop it. Let us go forward and not backward.

The hon. Member for Central Bristol said that housing was at the bottom of a great many of the nation's moral ills. So it is, at the bottom of a great many ills, both physical and moral, and the nation which does not face up to these things in a national way is failing lamentably. I am a great believer in the Government, that is to say, in certain portions of the Government. I am not what would be called a "whole hogger," but I am a great believer in the vision of some Members of the Government, though I fear that of late they have been looking backward instead of forward. May I beg of the Minister of Health to think of all the pledges that were made? You may not carry them all out, but at any rate go forward instead of back, and remember the thousands of women and children who are concerned. There are splendid women making a brave uphill struggle to-day, under conditions which, if endured by the wives of some hon. Members, would lead to a very different story being told. I beg of the Minister to think of these women who cannot speak for themselves. I regret that a larger number of Members who are interested in social reform are not in the House to express their views on this matter. We are not Socialists, but Social Reformers. We put the needs of the nation ahead of everything, and one of the great needs of the nation at the present moment is that of homes, not for heroes, but for ordinary men and women.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

We are under a deep debt of gratitude to the Minister of Health who, during the few months since he succeeded to that office, has endeavoured to put his Department on a businesslike footing, and has endeavoured to reconcile his expenditure with his means. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) informed us that private enterprise had failed.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

May I point out that this great Empire was built up by private enterprise, and it was only when attempts were made to interfere with private enterprise, during the last 13 or 14 years, when "people's budgets" and other foolish things of that sort were introduced, that the shortage of houses commenced.

Photo of Viscountess Nancy Astor Viscountess Nancy Astor , Plymouth, Sutton

The thing that did most to build up this country was not private enterprise but the British Navy, and that was national.

6.0 P.M.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

That is a startling proposition, which opens up a great field of debate, but I think it would be rather out of order to discuss whether or not the enterprise of the citizens in the country produced the prosperity which we used to have before the War, or whether it was the Navy which was outside the country which produced that prosperity; but I will not be led away by the interruptions of the Noble Lady and will confine my remarks to the question before the Committee. Of course, it is all very well for anyone to get up and say it is very pleasant to have a large quantity of nice houses. It would be very pleasant if nobody had to work, and if everybody had £5 a week or whatever sum the trade unions thought was a sufficient amount to live upon, but we do not live in a world of that sort, and we have got to cut our coat according to our cloth. Let us consider for a moment what is the position in regard to housing. I am glad the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson) is in his place, because he commenced his rather unbusinesslike speech, if he will allow me to say so, by stating that we had made promises to pay interest to people who had invested their savings in War stock and that when people suggested that that interest should be cut down the answer was that promises had been made, and I understood the hon. Member to say that he agreed with the people who objected to the interest being cut down, but he thought that because promises had been made to build houses the State should carry out those promises.

Let me point out to him that there was no promise with regard to War savings. It was a contract, which is a very different thing from a promise. There have been no contracts with regard to houses, and the only promises that I know of in regard to houses were made on election platforms. A promise on an election platform is a thing which is nearly always observed in the breach and not carried out.—[HON. MEMBERS: "By your side!"]—I can remember very distinct promises which were made on platforms during election time by hon. Members opposite. The Liberal party and what there was of the Labour party in those days said the sugar duty and the tea duty should be reduced, if not abolished, but when they got into the House they voted for their continuation and in one case for an increase. [HON. MEMBEBS: "Labour never did!"] The Liberal party, by getting in in 1906, greatly on the assumption that the tea and sugar duties should be reduced, did not reduce them, but kept them up, and I went into the Lobby with the Liberals for maintaining them, because I said they should be maintained, and therefore I voted with the Liberals on that occasion. We really must not pay attention to promises which are made on election platforms, therefore. Let us look at the business point of view for a moment, because after all it is necessary to find the money from somewhere. You cannot build houses unless you have got something to pay for the material and the labour which you are going to put into those houses. I think I am not exaggerating when I say that, taking it all round, an economic rent for the houses that have been put up would be something like £1 a week, but, as I think the hon. Member for Middlesbrough said, who can afford to pay £1 a week? I do not know who can. I do not think there is anybody who can. I think the ordinary person for whom the hon. Member always waxes so eloquent can afford to pay 8s. or 9s. for his house at the outside, and who is going to find the difference? It is all very well to say that does not matter, that the State must find it, but the State has not got any hole in the ground into which it can put its hand and bring up sovereigns, and that difference between 8s. or 9s. and £1 has to be found by the taxpayer, who has got more than enough to find at the present moment. Therefore, to say that you are again to go and put your hand into the pocket of the taxpayer in order to provide houses for which people cannot pay is to create a very dangerous doctrine, which can only result in ruin to the country.

After all, houses are necessary, but so are clothing, and food, and pure bread, according to an hon. Gentleman who spoke just now, and are we to find all that for everybody who wants it? Where are we going to end if we depart from the doctrine of private enterprise? There is no end to it, and therefore I say that we owe a debt of gratitude to the Minister of Health for his courage in opposing what, after all, is a very easy way of getting votes on a platform or in an election, but I think the public are beginning to understand that all these statements about heroes and houses and a world in which there is never going to be any unemployment, all of which were made by the present Prime Minister, are the sort of promises in which they cannot put any faith, and that the only way by which the country is to be restored to anything like its former prosperity is to get rid of all these absurd socialistic doctrines. The Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth says she is not a Socialist, but a Social Reformer. I have never been able to find out what difference there was between a Socialist and a Social Reformer. The only difference I can find out was that a Socialist had the courage to say straight out that he was a Socialist, that is to say, that he believed in some extraordinary manner that the State should run the whole thing, and the Social Reformer had not the courage to say that—

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

—but thought that he or she might make himself or herself a little more popular by enunciating socialistic views which did not go so far or which could be so turned as not to go so far as pure Socialism, so that you could run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. That is what I always consider to be the Social Reformer. I think the Social Reformer has been found out a little bit and that people are beginning to see that all that sort of thing will not do, and therefore I repeat that I am extremely glad the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has initiated a sound and wholesome policy in this matter. If we had never had the Land Valuation Duties, we should never have had a shortage of houses. At the end of the War, if we had warned people that they were not to enter into all sorts of extravagance and believe that the millennium was coming, we very likely should be in a better position than we are in now.

I should like to say one word with regard to the statement of the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) that it would be an economical thing to take men who were receiving out-of-work donation and put them on to building houses. I am not sure that it would be, because what is to happen to those men when the building of houses is stopped? You cannot go on building houses for ever, and if you are going to begin or continue to build houses at a loss, you must remember that not only are you paying these men wages, but you are taking up an expense which will have to be met later on. That apparently did not occur to the right hon. Member for Platting. It was said earlier on in the Debate that there was not a very large number of Members in the House. I do not think the Minister of Health need be in any fear on that score, because I believe the vast majority of Members are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done, and I feel certain that when we have a Division a very large majority will support the Minister of Health in the steps he has taken since he has had the honour of being in that office.

Photo of Mr Ernest Evans Mr Ernest Evans , Cardiganshire

I wish to refer to a matter which closely affects the people of Wales. I join with hon. Members who have already spoken in pressing the Minister of Health to exercise a good deal of caution in the way in which he is going to practice economies, particularly in regard to expenditure on tuberculosis. Unfortunately, Wales is a country which has suffered in the past very heavily from this grave disease, and I am very much afraid that the Minister of Health, in the effort at economy which he is endeavouring to make, may adversely affect the position. There is in Wales a society, called the Welsh National Memorial Association, which has done work of incalculable service for the promotion of health generally, and especially for the prevention of the spread of this disease, and I do not think it any exaggeration to say that they have carried on their work, not only with great efficiency, but in a most economical manner. A few years after the passing of the Insurance Act it became evident to this association that provision was necessary for surgical eases, in addition to the class of case previously dealt with, and they did their best to cope with that necessity, but they have been unable to do as much as they would like, and they are now very anxious to continue to work particularly in that direction. A late Member of this House, a man who has worked very hard in this connection, Sir Garrod Thomas, gave his own house in Newport to the association to be used as a hospital, but certain difficulties arose with the neighbours, and there were other difficulties, as a result of which that house has had to be given up, and the association is now faced with the necessity, according to the best advice of those who are competent to speak on this subject, of taking a place near the sea which can be used as a residential hospital for tuberculous cases.

The right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has paid a tribute to the Minister of Health for his businesslike capacity, and I am sure he will be glad to hear that this association has also shown business capacity. Had they adopted the policy of pressing for the erection of these hospitals when they were needed during the War or immediately after the War, they would have involved the association in a large expenditure, and the Government at that time would have had to give a grant in aid which would have amounted to a very large sum. During the War, and immediately after the Armistice, those buildings were stopped, because it was found at that time that hospitals could only be erected at an expenditure of from £1,000 to £1,500 a bed. They, therefore, decided to postpone all building until things improved, and the result of that has been that on the places at Craig-y-nos and Cefn Bably, which our association were able to acquire later, the Treasury grant will only be £50,000 on both, whereas had these hospitals been acquired when they were really necessary, sums amounting to £62,000 in each case would have been required. As I said, there is very urgent need for a hospital at the present time, and the association is in the very fortunate position of being able to acquire a house called St. Bride's, in Pembrokeshire, the residence of Lord Kensington, who, I may say, has had to spend over £100,000 on this property. He is willing to sell it to the association for a very small sum—about £10,500, for a property which is worth £40,000, £50,000, or £60,000. If the Minister of Health will enquire, I think he will find that with the provision we can make there, we will be providing a bed at the cost of £220, whereas, taking hospitals in the country generally, the cost works out at £600 per bed. If the association had acted a few years back, as I said, they would have involved the Government in very heavy expenditure, and now the amount that is required from the Government is a very small amount. Yet, because we have acted in this business like way, we are now threatened with the loss of any grant at all from the Government. All that we are asking is a small sum, whereas if we had been sufficiently unbusinesslike, or sufficiently in a hurry, to have built a short time ago, the Government would have had to pay a very large sum indeed.

It is not necessary to emphasise the very great need there is, particularly in Wales, for a hospital of this character. There are a number of cases awaiting treatment, and it can only be provided if the men who have devoted themselves for the last few years to the study of this question are enabled to proceed with that work. I believe that we can safely say that Wales, with those business-like methods which are so characteristic of her and of her citizens, has saved the Government, at least, £40,000 by abstaining from action in this connection, and I do urge my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, who is himself very well acquainted with the work that has been done by the Welsh National Memorial Association, which has, out of its own funds and the subscriptions of people in Wales, enabled invaluable work to be done, to press upon the Treasury for a full grant being made in this case. Otherwise we in Wales will be penalised for having pursued a business-like method, and what is much more important and more vital than that, unless we get this grant, the great effort which is being made in Wales to cope with this disease will be very considerably handicapped.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson , Wood Green

One or two hon. Members have rather complained that the Geddes Committee has been somewhat harsh on the Ministry of Health, but, as a matter of fact, hon. Members who have read the Geddes Report will very clearly see that that Committee has treated the Ministry of Health far more tenderly than it has treated nearly every Department of the State. The Geddes Committee only recommended a reduction of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 out of a very large Vote. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Health is not reducing its expenditure by that amount. It is reducing expenditure, I think, to the tune of about £1,600,000. One of the points I want to put is this: the Geddes Committee recommended that the Welsh Board of Health should be abolished, because, according to them, they believe, as business people, that the whole of the administrative duties of the Welsh Board of Health should be transferred to the Central Ministry in London. They pointed out that there has been a great deal of useless duplication going on on account of there being a Welsh Board of Health sitting in Wales and the Central Department in London, and they pointed out that if the transfer took place there would be a saving of £40,000 a year. Soon after this Report was published, the agreement under which the Chairman of the Welsh Board of Health holds office came to an end automatically. Yet, only a fortnight ago, the Chairman was re-appointed to hold office until December, 1926. I do think that before such an arrangement was made, this House ought to have had an opportunity of saying whether it agreed with the recommendations of the Geddes Committee that the Welsh Board of Health should come to an end. I do not think it is quite fair on the public or on this House that the Chairman should be appointed for another four years to a Board of Health whose abolition was actually recommended by a Committee which the Government itself set up. Our hands now are absolutely tied. This gentleman—I have no doubt he is a very able man, and carries out his duties very well—has now got office until December, 1926, and, therefore, we cannot get rid of the Welsh Board of Health until then. I think that is a great pity, and I do not know why the Government did it.

I should like to refer to a way in which, I think, money could be saved, and that is with regard to the men in His Majesty's forces. When a man joins the forces, he immediately goes out of Unemployment Insurance, but he remains in Health Insurance, and a great deal of clerical and other work has to take place in approved societies with regard to these men, because amounts are placed to their credit year by year, and the only benefit a man in His Majesty's forces draws is a maternity benefit, which can quite easily be administered by the Service itself. What I suggest—it is purely a matter of administration—is, that men in His Majesty's forces, who are insured persons, should leave Health Insurance altogether when they join the forces, and, on their discharge, be readmitted to the Health Insurance scheme. If you did that, you would get rid of an enormous amount of accounting work, clerical work, and card work in the Army, in the Ministry of Health, and in the approved societies themselves.

There is another way in which, I believe, a great deal of money could be saved. I refer to the recommendation made in the Geddes Report that the Unemployment and Health Insurance machinery should be amalgamated. They recommended it very strongly, and they recommended that an Expert Committee should sit on this question. My right hon. Friend, and, I suppose, the Minister of Labour, have appointed a Committee which is now sitting. This is the important point: There are only a few days in which to make the decision. Unemployment and Health Insurance cards will have to be printed in a few weeks at latest, because they have to be despatched and delivered by the end of July, and it is not a light job. So far as the Health Insurance cards are concerned, 14,000,000 have to be issued, every one having to be written out with the member's name and number, The use of one card, as recommended by the Geddes Committee, is a perfectly simple and an easy change to make. I understand that on that Committee the representatives of the Ministry of Labour are doing their utmost to delay a decision. If another week goes by, then for the whole of the next 12 months 12,000,000 Unemployment Insurance cards will have to be issued, costing a very large sum of money with the stamps, and with all the extra clerical work involved. That is my information. Everybody can see the reason. If the amalgamation were made a great reduction of staff would result in the Ministry of Labour, especially, I understand, at Kew. I do hope that my right hon. Friend will bring pressure to bear upon the representatives of the Labour Ministry to see if it be possible to come to a decision as rapidly as can be, because, if not, the whole of these 12,000,000 Unemployment Insurance cards will have to be issued for another year.

Those are the chief points I rise to make. There is the question of the treatment of tuberculosis. We are spending in England and Wales over £2,000,000 every year. The local authorities are spending an equal amount, and I certainly believe, with various hon. Friends of mine, that we are really not getting proper value for our money. I believe that with a different kind of treatment, especially after-care treatment, you could get a better result with a smaller expenditure.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I think, perhaps, it would be convenient, in view of the number of speeches that have been made, that I should make some reply now. As regards some of the points raised by the last speaker, I may say that the question of tuberculosis administration is occupying our very serious attention. We are having a careful investigation made of the money, being spent by local authorities. I have been much struck by the inequality of expenditure in various localities for apparently similar service, and I am going into that matter very carefully, and drawing the attention of the various authorities where I think money is being spent more than is necessary for the work they are doing. I quite sympathise with the statement that has been made at various times on after-care treatment. It is an important, subject, and if we had more plentiful funds at our disposal, no doubt that would be a useful matter in which we could employ them. At the present time, we are really only in a position to keep going those services which are already running. That is the object we have in view at the present moment. I do not wish any national health service to go back, and I think, in spite of the reductions to be found in Estimates that have been published, we can promise that that will be the case.

My hon. Friend referred to the Committee which is sitting to consider how far it is possible to amalgamate the Health Insurance and the Unemployment Insurance. That, I fear, was a heritage that came to me pretty soon after I took office. I discussed with my experts as to whether or not it was possible to effect the re-arrangement and savings suggested. The subject is full of technical difficulty, and it is no use disguising that fact. It is not fair to say, however, that the Labour Ministry is delaying matters; also the Committee that I have appointed is doing its best to get on with the work. The matter is a complicated one, but the Committee ought to be able to arrive at the solution.

Another matter referred to was the question of prolonging the engagement of the Chairman of the Welsh Board of Health. In this matter the Cabinet have decided not to follow the recommendations of the Geddes Committee, and to abolish the Welsh Board. Very good reasons can be adduced for taking that step. Probably there would be some saving if the course suggested by the Committee were adopted, though I do not think it would be as large as the Report suggests. On the other hand, a great deal of expense would be entailed on the Welsh approved societies, and also the Welsh local authorities who now go to Cardiff. Not only that, but there are very peculiar circumstances in the cases under the Welsh National Health Insurance, and especially connected with the South Wales coalfields; therefore it is of great importance to the work that you should have people who thoroughly understand these conditions. If at any time a decision was given to do away with these officers, we should have to transfer to London the chief officers to see to the work, and therefore the prolongation of the appointment of the very able official—whom I have known for a good many years and before he entered the Government service—is of great importance to the value of the work. In any case, as I say, the services rendered by that official would have to be transferred to London. There is another point, and a very good one made by my hon. Friend opposite as to the soldier's insurance during the time they are soldiers. That matter is under consideration at the present time. A reduction in the Estimates in connection with the grant for the blind was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts). I quite agree with him as to the value of the work that is done in this direction, but we have found from practical experience that the 1921–22 Estimates were not expended. Therefore, in the Estimates for the next year we have taken the sum which was actually expended in 1921–22 so as to enable the existing services, which have been proved necessary for the purpose, to go on, and postponing till a later date services which may become necessary following the Report of the Committee on which the right hon. Gentleman is sitting. Another point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Evans) in connection with a case with which I am well acquainted, and that is the desire of the Welsh National Memorial Association to acquire additional hospital accommodation in South Wales. I may say I am looking into the case personally, and so far as I have any influence I shall be glad to see it carried out, and the opportunity taken to secure a very fine building belonging to a Noble Peer who has offered it at a very low price in order to start a surgical tuberculosis hospital. This aspect of the work in the past has been too much neglected. We are trying now to encourage the movement. Surgical tuberculosis work gives excellent results from the medical point of view, and I think, on the whole, we have more satisfactory results than in the sanatoria. So far as money is available, we are anxious to develop that side of the work, because it largely affects small children, and anyone who knows the work done in orphan hospitals amongst small children suffering from tuberculosis, will know of the wonderful cures affected. We are desirous of stimulating the work so far as we are able to provide money for the purpose. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Haslam) raised a question not altogether germane to this Vote, and I am not going to enter in that subject now.

The main body of the discussion this afternoon, so far as it has gone, has proceeded on two or three lines. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) opened this Debate in a speech characterised by that moderation and fairness which distinguishes all his speeches in this House. He asked a number of questions with which I will try to deal, though I cannot say I altogether followed all of them. He spoke first of all about the sum allocated for specific unemployment work and asked whether all that money had been exhausted. As a matter of fact it has not. A certain sum, a considerable sum, will not be spent in this financial year, and the question of a revote next year will probably arise. Replying to his questions, I may say that as a matter of fact more houses could be financed than have been authorised to be built. No local authority is stopped to-day building houses from financial considerations under the assisted scheme.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me to justify the scheme in which I assisted, I am glad to say, successfully, and under which the unskilled and untrained men doing work locally had received only 75 per cent. of the ordinary rate—that is to say, 75 per cent. of the rate paid by the local authorities. I want to emphasise that point, because I have seen letters saying we were paying 75 per cent. of the district rate. The right hon. Gentleman knows that in nearly all cases the local authorities have their own and a higher scale, and when the 75 per cent. was arranged this was borne in mind. Most of those to whom he refers, therefore, get a good deal more than 75 per cent. of the district rate.

But the best answer to the objection raised in many Debates on this matter, and some of the stereotyped Resolutions which I have received is this: that so popular has this scheme been with the local authorities that the Government have had to increase the Grants-in-Aid, and have had the greatest difficulty in restraining the local authorities from entering upon more schemes than could be financed. That shows that the only objection that is of much moment has been met. I frankly admit that there are some difficulties in the matter from the time-keeping point of view. But the difficulties of time-keeping on these jobs, where they have different rates of pay, and different, perhaps, for the same kind of job, are really not very great, and have been overcome, and so I think it should be in this case. But the greatest justification for my policy is this: We have recently had a very careful inspection made by an inspector of one of our Departments of a very large number of these relief work schemes assisted by the Ministry and carried out by the local authorities. Nearly a hundred schemes have been overlooked, perhaps more. I was anxious to see whether the money spent was being well spent and how the labour side was working out. The report on the whole is satisfactory. The people at work are loyally trying to do their best. We all know that the average standard of relief work used to be from about 25 to 30 per cent. of the normal. What has happened? Exactly what I expected. If you have any thing like the possible full output, the figure would be about 60 per cent.—as it is according to the report. If, then, the men engaged on the relief works are doing about 60 per cent. efficient work compared with the normal, and you are paying them 75 per cent. of the normal, it works out on the side of overpaying, and surely it is entirely wrong to condemn the local authorities for watching the ratepayers' interests in this matter and not paying the workmen of the district 100 per cent. for work that is only worth 60 per cent.!

Anyone interested in local affairs, too, would see that what is being done is a reasonably fair thing to do in view of other men who are working normally and who really are getting to-day low wages at their own job. The people to whom we refer are those for whom the work has been created, and I think it would be a most unfair thing to do other than we are doing. I have had a good many workmen and labour representatives tell me that they fully agree with the policy we have adopted. I have been informed by many local authorities that they would not undertake again to provide work of this kind if they were asked to pay the full rates. I had a deputation of the biggest local authorities of the country speaking to me—not speaking to their electors, but to me—and they said: "We have always resented having to do with relief work and pay a rate which is far in excess of the value which we, as local authorities, get." One of the main reasons why I say the policy of 75 per cent. has been fully justified is the many thousands of men working contentedly under the schemes. If local authorities made application in special cases, careful consideration would be given to individual cases.

There is one point raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Davies) which I would like to reply to. He referred to a circular which has been issued in regard to the residential treatment of tuberculosis. I was surprised when he was dealing with that point that he did not give the Committee the benefit of quoting the circular of which he complained. The circular states that the local authorities should require a contribution towards the cost of residential treatment of persons subject to tuberculosis in eases where the financial circumstances of the patient justify a charge. There are many people who take advantage of hospitals who are in a position to contribute. In these matters there is far too much sponging on the community, and there is too much tendency to expect everything to be done by the community at large.

The circular further states that nothing shall be done which would be likely to deter persons in need of residential treatment, and that a charge should only be made in cases where the authorities are satisfied that the patient is in a position to contribute towards the cost of his treatment. If the hon. Member will send me the case of the man to whom he has referred I will inquire into it, because if he is entitled to this treatment, what has happened appears to me to be a gross misuse of the circular. A man in the position stated by the hon. Member is certainly not in a position to contribute, and so far from carrying out the terms of the circular, what has been done in this case appears to me to be in direct opposition to it. I know that in some cases the terms of the circular have not been carried out in a reasonable way, but, on the other hand, there are many people asking for these services who can really afford to pay something, and they should contribute.

One of the largest parts of this Debate has been occupied with the question of housing. We have had many discussions on this subject since I have had the honour of holding my present position, and they have all run on somewhat similar lines, and to some extent have been subject to the same misconception. My attention has been called to what was stated in His Majesty's Speech upon the housing question. I have looked up that speech. It has been stated that the Government recommended that there was a need for 500,000 houses, but the Government did not pledge themselves in that Speech to build that number of houses under the present scheme or under any other scheme. When the hon. Member argues that the Government said that they would build 500,000 houses at the taxpayers' expense, I say that there is nothing in that Speech to warrant any statement of that kind. I defy anybody to find anywhere a statement that the Government said that they would, regardless of expense and regardless of national finance, build 500,000 houses. A good many statistics have been produced upon the housing question, and I have done my best to investigate them, but I have never been able to find any solid basis for them. I know that many local authorities and medical officers sent in estimates of their shortage of houses, but I do not think one single local authority would stand by them to-day, and I know this claim is not put forward by the Middlesbrough district which is represented by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. Thomson).

Mr. THOMSON:

I went the other day round with the chairman of our housing committee, and he was begging and praying for the building of more houses, and therefore I cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman's misrepresentation to go without being challenged.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

That is what I was told myself.

Photo of Mr John Mills Mr John Mills , Dartford

Was it because of the cost?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

What I say is that in regard to the figures which are so frequently quoted, very few people take the trouble to analyse them for themselves. I am always sceptical about statistics, but into these figures I have made a painstaking investigation, and I have concluded not that there was not a shortage of houses, but that there was no real basis for the statistics put forward, and they were exaggerated by the fact that a great many people came back from the War and wanted to get married, and this greatly increased the demand for houses at that time. The same demand does not exist to-day, because, amongst other reasons, many people have gone on living with their parents.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

They have not got married, because they cannot get houses.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

A large number have not got married because they cannot afford it. I have been dealing with these questions for a long time, and I have seen a large number of people connected with the localities affected.

Photo of Mr John Mills Mr John Mills , Dartford

Will you come and see some of the slums?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I will deal with that question later on. I am merely stating now that there has been a big drop in the demand for houses, and the figures originally put forward do not hold good.

Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

I understand the right hon. gentleman to say that he circularised the local authorities in regard to housing. With reference to the returns in response to the circular, do they not show that there was a need for about 800,000 houses? Is the right hon. Gentleman's statement to the effect that those returns are not to be taken seriously?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I have examined those returns, and I say they were not serious returns. They represented maximum amounts, which they would naturally try to get if somebody else was going to pay for them. The local authorities had up to the outbreak of War an opportunity of dealing with the Housing Question, but they did not do so, and now hon. Members say, "Look at our slums; what a terrible state they are in."

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

But why did the local authorities before the War not deal with this question?

Photo of Mr Thomas Inskip Mr Thomas Inskip , Bristol Central

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether his investigation of the returns connected with these 800,000 houses enabled him to form any opinion as to how many houses are required?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I doubt very much whether anybody could form anything like an accurate estimate from those returns, and it would be a most difficult thing to do. The last census showed to us that in normal times you had 430,000 empty houses of a working-class kind. My point is that all those houses have now been filled with tenants, and that fact has never been taken into account in any of the statistics which I have seen put forward.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

That is most essential.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

Yes. We all know that there was throughout the country a certain number of empty houses.

Photo of Mr Thomas Griffiths Mr Thomas Griffiths , Pontypool

How many of the empty houses included in that figure are in South Wales?

7.0 P.M.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I could not say, but I know that a large number of these empty houses have disappeared, and this has no doubt relieved the situation to a considerable extent. That has to be taken into consideration, and I would not, therefore, like to say at the present moment what the actual housing need is. Certainly there is a need, and it varies very much from district to district. I can say that if I had been in charge of the housing scheme before I was, I should have taken note of the industrial districts where the need was greatest and, knowing that it would be impossible to finance those ambitious schemes which housing enthusiasts forced on the Ministry, I should have rationed my houses so as to deal with the serious conditions which exist in many districts. I should not have spread my butter over the whole country so thin as to make it inadequate in many places.

What is our position? The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) questioned the figures published by the Geddes Committee as to the financial loss. All I would like to say on that is that those figures were very carefully worked out for the Geddes Committee by my Department. We went into them then, we have been into them again, and we stand by those figures, which were the result of very carefully calculated work. The position is that the average cost of £1,100 was the estimated amount in July last, carefully compiled for the Geddes Committee. After testing in a number of different ways the figure still remains. It is true that considerable reductions in cost have been made since last July, but unfortunately the bulk of the commitments in respect of the 176,000 houses was entered into before that date, and recent low tenders apply to only comparatively few of those houses. Like the hon. Gentleman, I hoped to get a much better figure, but I was disappointed. The fall in cost has affected to some extent some of the old contracts, but it would be unwise to budget for a greater saving over all than for about £4,000,000, reducing the all-in cost of the 176,000 houses to £190,000,000.

I ask the Committee to notice that this is the contribution to housing—£190,000,000. When it is said that the Government have not fulfilled their pledges and have done nothing, I ask in what period of history has any country ever spent £190,000,000 on housing? We assumed formerly that people would pay for their own houses, that houses were a commercial article and not a charity; but the Government, rightly recognising the difficulties that have arisen during the War, launched out on a scheme on which has been spent something like £190,000,000, which will cost the taxpayers about £10,000,000 a year for a considerable number of years to come. The hon. Member said that it would only cost £5,000,000, but he is wrong. I wish his figures were right, because it would make my task easier, but they are not. The Ministry have taken £16 net rent on the average, which is arrived at by taking the expected rents to be obtained from all types of houses in rural as well as urban areas. The actual extremes of rent, exclusive of rates, is 4s. 6d. in rural areas up to 21s. a week in urban areas. The bulk of rents vary from 6s. to 13s., and if you take the weighting in the case of a number of houses in rural areas where the rents are very low, £16 is the highest average net rent we can take after allowance for maintenance. That is how you arrive at this deficit. The capital expenditure to the 31st March, 1922, on 100,000 houses completed, and the equivalent of 20,000 completed houses represented by houses in various stages, is £140,000,000 bearing interest and sinking fund charges at 6.8 per cent.

Mr. THOMSON:

How many years?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

This is for the next year —£9,600,000. The expenditure during the year, say, £50,000,000, bearing interest for 10½ months with sinking fund and interest charges at 6.3 per cent., is £2,750,000, which gives £12,350,000. Take, the rent on 100,000 houses at £16 for the whole year, 76,000 at £16 for six months, and a penny rate at £750,000, and you arrive at the figure of £2,950,000, giving a balance of £9,400,000—say £9,500,000. We shall spend on slums £130,000 in the next financial year, and that gives £9,630,000. Take the 176,000, and you have an average cost for 156,000 of £1,100, and for 20,000 an average of £900, and that brings out the average figure of £190,000,000. It was rightly observed that when the cost of money comes down the charge will come down—

Photo of Mr George Lambert Mr George Lambert , South Molton

In these figures, has the right hon. Gentleman taken into account the houses that will be empty and the cost of minor repairs?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I think we have covered that in the allowance for maintenance. I have been looking into that question because the interest charges are very important. In due time I have no doubt you will be able to convert these housing bonds into lower bearing rates of interest, but I can assure my hon. Friend that I do not think in the next two or three financial years we shall do very much in that direction. We have an enormous lot of conversions to be done as regards national debt, and a considerable amount of floating debt to reduce: Although I have already been trying to work out some scheme, I do not see any prospect of applying it for some considerable time, and even if you get a reduction of 1 per cent. it will not affect these figures to anything like an extent to justify the hon. Gentleman's figure of £5,000,000. I thought we should get much more benefit out of cheaper houses, but unfortunately the number is too small. Really, I think one of the reasons we cannot do more is the overstimulation that took place at the beginning of this scheme. If instead of people going about shouting for houses everybody had said they did not want houses you would not have had to pay £1,100 each for them. People did everything to force prices up by at least 50 per cent. The result of all that was that the builders, whose profits had fortunately diminished very much, came and said, "Here is another stunt." Why have prices come down? Because I said I was not a buyer of houses. What has reduced builders' profits, wages, and materials? I said that I was not in the market for unlimited houses, and did not propose to re-enter it for unlimited houses. I want the people of this country some day to be in a position to get their houses at a rent they can afford to pay. It is not because we want to be hard, or that we do not realise that housing conditions are bad or that we do not feel that housing conditions have not wanted improving. Certainly they have, but the last way to set about it is to hold up a falling market against it. We have a very large programme to carry out, and I do wish very earnestly myself that some of the hon. Members sitting for localities which represent their housing conditions as very bad would stimulate their local authorities to get on with the job. We had a reference to Manchester. I know Manchester, and I have no doubt there is a housing shortage there. What is the position? Manchester has 3,500 houses approved; 2,742 have been started, only 1,000 have been finished, and 700 which have been approved have never been begun.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

Then why do they not build the 700? They cannot build what I ask them to. There are over 25,000 approved houses of local authorities in this country which have not been begun. I spoke at a deputation the other day in connection with unemployment, and said that I would see if I could not provide some employment on housing work. Here are these houses not begun, and perhaps hon. Members will find out why they have not been begun. It is not a question of our re-commencing a building programme which has been stopped. Hon. Members speak as if there was no building going on, and as though the whole building programme of the Government had come to an end. We have completed already a relatively small part of our 176,000 houses, and one reason they are not getting finished is that we cannot secure the plasterers. I would like to read to the Committee a letter from the Deputy-Chairman of the Manchester Housing Committee. He does not want more houses; he wants more plasterers. He says: The scheme was begun in July, 1919. There are now 2,020 men engaged on the scheme, of whom 195 are plasterers Altogether 2,000 houses have been begun, of which 890 are finished. Of the remainder, 1,137 are roofed in, 364 are awaiting plasterers, and have been in some cases for six months. I am told there are unemployed plasterers! Why do not you get them into Manchester?

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Why do not you get them?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

Why should I; there is a local authority. The letter goes on: An attempt has been made, without success,"— this is important, and I hope the hon. Member will note it— to induce the local Federation to vary the demarcation under which the different sections of the trowel trades work so as to overcome the delay caused by shortage of plasterers. Eighty plasterers could be kept in full employment for six months. Why cannot you get over the line of demarcation?

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

Is it not the case that in Manchester an agreement has been reached under which if there is an insufficiency of plasterers bricklayers will do the work, and should that not be brought out?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

If the hon. Member has information to that effect I accept it, and am very pleased to have it. I only wish that reasonable spirit would spread. I am not making a debating point about the plasterers, but the lack of plasterers is hampering housing schemes. If we started building a larger number of houses there would not be more houses for ex-service men to live in within an appreciable time, for we should only start again on a vicious circle because of the shortage of plasterers. Anything that can be done to solve this plastering question is really more important than any number of speeches made by hon. Members opposite or by me at this Box. We have still a large programme to carry out. It is a programme which, if we are to carry it out within a year, would require us to complete more houses than was customary in the industry in pre-War times. We are going on with the programme. As to the Government policy in the future, I am not in a position to say anything. We have commenced 150,000 houses. On March 1st 91,000 were completed. The number of houses authorised but not yet started is 20,000 and nearly 5,000 are not yet allocated. Altogether local authorities and private builders have completed 119,000 houses. We have still to build 59,000 local authority houses and 14,500 private builders' houses. There are 25,000 houses still to be started and 98,000 houses to complete.

That is a fairly big programme which it will take a year to carry out. Hon. Members have said that private enterprise is not at all ready to come in. That is not my information. I have had letters from builders and from organisations of private builders that if we would only get rid of the subsidy they would be able to support us. There is the outstanding fact that before the War 95 per cent. of the cottage building in the country was done by private enterprise. I do not say that private enterprise then filled the bill, for it did not, but there is a great difference in reversing that and putting the 95 per cent. on the local authorities. There is a great difference between supplementing private enterprise and undertaking the whole of the obligation. I am convinced that with a little management and patience we can induce private enterprise to come in again. At any rate we ought to endeavour not to forestall what is happening. I am surprised at the reduction in costs that has taken place. I had been assured by competent experts not many months ago that we should never see a cottage built for less than £700 and that £600 might be reached in three years. We have already come down to £400. I am not sure that we have reached the bottom of the fall at £400, for we are living in very unstable times. I do not think you will get to pre-War figures, but I believe that you will get still lower than the present figure. It would be foolish for me to announce some policy which in six months or twelve months time would prove to be quite a wrong policy. I do not wish the Committee to imagine that I regard housing conditions as satisfactory or that I think we have solved the housing problem. We have not done so; but I maintain that we have made a very large and important contribution towards solution, with 220,000 houses. It is not fair to say that no pledge has been kept and nothing has been done. We may not have done as much as many had hoped and wished, but we have done as much as anyone anticipated.

Let me refer to the question of slums. The slum question ought, as far as possible, to be dealt with separately from the housing question. It is a very curious thing that if you study the statistics they will show that when we had 400,000 empty houses in this country the figures for overcrowding were just about the same as they are to-day. That demonstrates that the slum question is not merely a question of providing houses. To be quite candid, we all know it is not. We all know that a certain number of people will not trouble to move out of a slum even if you provide them with fresh houses. There are many reasons for that. The position of the slum may be convenient. In some cases the people do not care what kind of house they live in, and in other cases they have got so used to their surroundings that they do not realise how bad they are. You will help the slum problem by providing houses, but by that means you will not get rid of it. Two things can be done which are being done, and they are of the utmost importance. Local authorities should use their powers for the repair of individual houses. That is a question into which we have gone recently. The reports of the Medical Officers of Health for 1920 show what local authorities can do if they use their statutory powers. If local authorities would use those powers in a more ruthless way, a great deal more might be done for the improvement of housing. The reports I have mentioned show that 1,500 local authorities have been working on schemes, and of 6,600,000 houses of all classes over 1,000,000 were inspected, 271,000 were found unfit for human habitation, and 180,000 were made fit for habitation. In addition, 30,000 notices wore served under Section 28 of the Housing Act of 1919, resulting in 19,000 houses being repaired by owners and 801 by local authorities. In 425 cases closing orders became operative. Notices under the Public Health Acts requiring repairs to be done were served to the number of 254,000, and these notices resulted in the repair of 218,000 houses by owners and 1,900 by local authorities.

Those figures show that a great deal can be done. Surely it is a rational and safe line to proceed on, when we are notoriously hard up for money. One has to deal with schemes which lie nearest to hand. We have made a start on the slums. At present there are ten schemes of wholesale demolition and clearing where no other course is possible. The problem, of insanitary areas in London has been surveyed as a whole by the London County Council. Work is proceeding on the Tabard Street (Southwark) scheme, and a start has been made on the Brady Street (Bethnal Green) scheme, while schemes for smaller areas submitted by some Metropolitan borough councils have also been confirmed. Work is also in progress in Liverpool and other cities and towns. The total number of dwelling-houses in schemes submitted, including those confirmed, is over 4,000, with a population approximately of 20,000. If any hon. Member has any point he would like to bring to my notice, I would be only too glad to give him what assistance I can.

I am very anxious that we should remove the stain of the slum, which has remained on this country much too long. We all feel ashamed that people should live in these conditions. I am certain that without spending enormous sums, as has been shown in Birmingham and in other places, and in London, an enormous amount of good can be done. On this subject I do not think there is any quarrel on either side of the House. We all desire to see the housing provision made as perfect as possible. No one feels that present housing conditions are satisfactory. They must be improved if we are to raise, as we desire, the health and morality of the people. The question is, what is the best method—what are the best schemes for dealing with this class of property. I do not think anyone is satisfied that we should proceed on the old scheme of a penny rate. That is absurd. The local authorities feel that they have been held up and hampered too much by it. It is not a scheme one cares to perpetuate. I do not think that this is a moment when my Department should extend its building schemes. It would be better to get the houses finished which we have in hand and to get them inhabited rather than to start on other houses which will not be finished for a very long time to come.

Photo of Major John Molson Major John Molson , Gainsborough

How many houses has the Government got for sale, or are they in the possession of the local authorities?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

The Government have no houses. They belong to the local authorities, which can sell them under certain restrictions contained in the Housing Act, 1919. Those restrictions would have to be removed by Statute before the Act became inoperative. I have consulted experts, who are not at all sanguine that this is the moment to sell houses. No prudent business man would be inclined under existing conditions to go into the market to sell houses. He would not be able to get a reasonable return for his capital outlay. Hon. Members have raised the question as to the position of ex-service men in possession of these houses. Local authorities cannot sell unless they get the sanction of the Ministry, and I would never be responsible, when houses have been built for ex-service men and are in the possession of such men—I would never be responsible for sanctioning their sale under conditions which would involve turning them out of the houses built for them. It would be a gross breach of faith, and I would never sanction an arrangement under which it would be possible for these men so to be turned out.

Photo of Mr Joseph Johnstone Mr Joseph Johnstone , Renfrewshire Eastern

The Committee must have listened with very great interest to the comprehensive speech of the Minister of Health. In reference to his concluding observations as to slums, I would like to point out that the condition of the houses themselves is not alone responsible for slumdom. The surroundings have equally to be taken into account, and no mere tinkering with slum houses will have the desired result. The only thing is to pull the houses down and get the inhabitants away from the surroundings. I can quite understand the Minister's difficulty in regard to the shortage of houses, and I think he will have to face the necessity, if people are to be properly housed, for another scheme to make an ample provision of houses. Anyone acquainted with our large cities must realise to the full that, notwithstanding all that has been done to improve existing houses and to erect new ones, there is evidence of a shortage which will have to be dealt with. I quite sympathise with the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman has taken with regard to the corner in the building trade. The country is justified in desiring to see substantial progress made under the present scheme before launching into any great extension of it. But the scheme was launched under costly conditions and carried through under the worst possible organisation for building houses.

I agree with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) who deplored that private enterprise had been knocked out of housing work owing to the proposals brought forward in the so-called "People's Budget" not long ago. Up till that time private enterprise was able to supply nearly all the houses that were required, and no public body, no public Department could compete with efficient private enterprise. It produced moderately rented houses well within the reach of the comparatively small wages paid in those days. I had the privilege of going over a housing scheme carried out by a local authority recently. I found that the rents varied from £25 10s. to £30 per annum and that they were going to be increased to £27 10s. and £32 10s. Now it is very difficult for the working classes in these days of less employment, falling wages, and increasing rates—it is almost impossible, indeed, to pay these high rents. Yet on these houses there is an annual loss because they are let for less than an economic rent. Take one class of houses which I inspected. The present rent is £30, it is to be increased to £32 10s., and yet the economic rent required for that particular class of house would be £87 per annum. We have run up a heavy burden for these housing schemes which will press heavily upon the country for many years to come. I suggest that if the Minister is to face an extension of his housing programme he should scrap the whole of the present scheme and 'bring forward proposals by which he will be able to do the work more efficiently and at a lesser cost.

I did not rise for the purpose mainly of speaking on the housing question. I wish to call the attention of the Committee to something which I believe has not yet been referred to in the Debate to-day, and that is the recommendation in the Geddes Report with regard to medical referees. So far as I can judge from the Estimate placed in our hands, the Minister has only reduced the number of medical referees by two—from 30 this year to 28 next year. The Geddes Report says that these medical referees are a luxury that ought to be given up at once, and where the engagements of the medical men cannot be terminated, then they should be transferred to other Departments, and that the approved societies should themselves provide for the medical referees. I am aware that in a large county where the Insurance Committees have an organised system of medical referees with the concurrence of the approved societies, they have instituted a method whereby any society which desires a member to submit himself to the referee pays the fee and thus covers the cost. The system works well, and in one large county area the cost is less than £100 per annum There is no doubt whatever that if the system were properly organised and set up all over the country it could be efficiently carried out and the State would be saved this very large cost. I am afraid it is symptomatic of Government Departments that they are cheese-paring in small things and glide very easily into large expenditure. I do not know what influences may have been brought to bear on the Department in this matter, but I certainly do not think sufficient thought was given to the matter when this medical referee system was set up.

Photo of Major Alexander Farquharson Major Alexander Farquharson , Leeds North

For the sake of accuracy I would like to draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that of the £88,000 spent on medical staff, £66,000 is recoverable from the National Health Insurance Committees.

Photo of Mr Joseph Johnstone Mr Joseph Johnstone , Renfrewshire Eastern

I am not sure whether the hon. Member is quite correct in that figure. I think the amount is very much smaller. According to the Geddes Report, the proportion recoverable from the Insurance Committees is comparatively small. There is no justification for the continuance of these medical referees, and the sooner that part of the expenditure comes to an end the better. I rather think my hon. Friend's figures referred to the whole medical service, and not merely to the medical referee. At all events, the Geddes Committee strongly recommends that this system of medical referees should be brought to an end. I should like the Minister to consider that matter, as I feel, from my own knowledge and experience of National Insurance work, that it could be efficiently done if properly organised by Insurance Committees, and that there is no need for a State service of this kind.

Photo of Mr Thomas Myers Mr Thomas Myers , Spen Valley

I was hoping, with regard to the all-round demand that has been made in reference to housing, that we should receive from the Minister some assurance that in the near future a reversal of the existing housing policy was contemplated. I feel profound disappointment at the Minister's statement with regard to that, and I am inclined to believe that that disappointment is shared by most of us on this side of the Committee. I shall endeavour to meet one or two of the points which have been presented in connection with the housing policy, or the lack of it, but, before dealing with that, I desire briefly to refer to one or two other matters in connection with the Ministry of Health's administration. During the past few weeks the Minister has been assailed by a large number of questions from various angles with reference to the milk supply, and a few days ago I myself put forward a question upon this matter, in reply to which very little satisfaction was given, and certainly not the satisfaction which I think the subject matter demands. There is no more important service in this country from a public health point of view at the present time than that of the milk supply, upon which the public have to depend. It can be touched upon from many points of view. There is the question of tuberculous milk and there is the point of view of the conditions under which the milk is produced. I desire, however, to draw the particular attention of the Department to the very extensive sale in this country at the present time of milk below the standard quality. It is a feature of the milk supply of this country to which sufficient notice has not been directed. I find, from the Board of Trade Returns for 1920 and 1921—the 1921 figures have been given to me by the President of the Board of Trade—that over 22,000 mechanical cream separators were imported into this country in those two years. These articles are not brought into the country for ornamental purposes. They are brought in for use, and these appliances are in general use all over the country. As soon as the milk is produced, the mechanical appliance is set to work, the cream is extracted, and the milk, before it, is a quarter-of-an hour old, has had all its nutritive properties extracted; and this commodity is being sold all over the country. The Milk and Dairies Act, 1915, contained a Section which, if it had been put into operation, was intended to make provision for this matter. This Section reads: Every tin or other receptacle containing condensed separated or skimmed milk must bear a label, clearly visible to the purchaser, on which the words 'Machine-Skimmed Milk' or 'Skimmed Milk,' as the case may require, are printed in large and legible type, and if any person sells or exposes or offers for sale condensed separated or skimmed milk in contravention of this Section, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds. That Section of the Act of 1915 has not been put into operation. Why was it incorporated in the Act? It was, I presume, because it was considered to be necessary. If it was necessary then, it is necessary now, having regard to the extensive use of these mechanical appliances for extracting the cream from the milk, and to the large quantities of this milk which are offered for sale to the public. The Minister of Health suggested that the public had ample protection against anything in this direction under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act. I do not agree, and I do not think that the statistics of samples of milk taken and convictions recorded justify the statement of the Minister. While it is not necessary to assume that every milk vendor is a rogue, and that he is endeavouring to palm off this separated milk, which is worthless, as the genuine article, there is another aspect of the matter which is extremely important. We are living in very bad times, when the earning capacity of a large number of people has been lowered, and the financial means at their disposal are extremely limited. These poor people, having regard to the fact that they can buy this separated milk cheaply, are attracted to the commodity from that point of view, but they may just as well, from the point of view of its nutritive properties, be purchasing water from the ordinary domestic water tap. I know that this milk is being sold in large quantities, and I would urge upon the Minister and upon the Department that the matter merits more consideration than it has received. I would suggest that the Department look into this aspect of the matter and the way in which the public are being served in this direction.

The next matter to which I desire to refer in connection with the Ministry of Health service is that of maternity and infant welfare, which has not been referred to during the course of this discussion. A very doubtful change of policy is in prospect. As far as children and nursing mothers are concerned, the policy has fluctuated at different times. We were permitted, as local authorities, to distribute milk to children and nursing mothers as part of the administration of the Department, and 50 per cent. of the cost was received from the Exchequer. Subsequently something caused the Ministry of Health to modify that financial arrangement, and they sent out a Circular intimating that, so far as the milk was concerned, only 5 per cent. of financial help would be granted. Questions put to the Minister in the House of Commons got from him the concession that he would leave the old order intact until the 31st March, and the old practice of granting assistance to the extent of 50 per cent. is at the present moment in operation. A much more drastic change, however, is now contemplated. A further Circular has reached the local authorities of the country, which indicates that it is proposed to abandon the granting of milk to children and nursing mothers on the principle hitherto prevailing, and it suggests that an innovation shall at least be attempted which, in my judgment, is an exceedingly foolish one, and not likely to have any beneficial results. The local authorities are asked to estimate the expenditure that will be incurred during the year 1922–23 in supplying a midday meal to expectant and nursing mothers. Expectant and nursing mothers are not likely to go down to the town hall seeking a midday meal. It is not reasonable to expect them to do so. That they must go there is evidenced by the fact that the Circular contains this paragraph: The local authority shall not incur any fresh expenditure in providing premises for dining centres, and, where they have no suitable buildings at which dinners could be served, they should endeavour to make a contract for the supply of the meals required. Further, the women to whom these dinners are supplied should be required to attend with reasonable regularity, and should pay a proportion of the cost where they can afford it. The meals should be consumed on the premises, except immediately before or after confinement. The cost of the meal to the local authority should not, as a rule, exceed 6d. per head per meal. That is what I would term the lame alternative which is to be submitted to nursing mothers in lieu of the assistance which has been given to them under the old dispensation. I suggest that, if it is attempted by the local authorities—I do not expect it will be; it does not deserve to be—it will break down. If it is an attempt on the part of the Ministry to economise by offering this alternative, and thus disposing of the liability they have had—if the Minister tells us that that is the intention—we can quite understand that the object in view is likely to be achieved.

Some reference has been made to the question of tuberculosis, and I regret to find in the Estimate a reduction for the coming year of £359,000 under that head. I agree that on the other side there is a new item of £175,000 for the provision of sanatoria, and that reduces the sum I have named to just under £200,000. We cannot afford to cut this Department to that extent, and we ought not to attempt to do so. I have often said in the House of Commons, and I repeat it, that, for the expenditure which is at present being incurred in the treatment of tuberculosis, we are not getting value for the money and energy expended. I do not mean that from the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson). I am not at all criticising the nature of the treatment. I do not say that we are spending too much on institutional treatment, or that we are not getting the best advantages from it. My great point is, and in this matter I speak with some opportunity for close observation, that we do not get hold of the consumptive persons in this country early enough. The great trouble in this matter appears to be the difficulty of early diagnosis of this disease. The medical men of the country either fail to effect a sufficiently early diagnosis of the disease, or they neglect to disclose the fact when they have found it. Whichever it be, the people who are called upon to administer this side of our health services do not get the material into their hands soon enough to produce the best results.

8.0 P.M.

The figures relating to this matter are very significant. In 1913, for every 12 cases of tuberculosis notified there were 5 deaths; but in 1920, for every 7 cases notified there were 4 deaths. The deaths were in the proportion of 5 to 12 in 1913, and of 4 to 7 in 1920, so that we were actually getting a greater proportion of deaths from tuberculosis, in proportion to the number notified, in 1920 than was the case in 1913. Anyone who has had experience of the administration of this side of our public health service must be absolutely appalled at the number of deaths from tuberculosis immediately following the date of notification. Within my own experience, I have come across cases in which the death of a person has occurred from tuberculosis which has never been notified at all. This is not a matter of new expenditure; it is a question of stiffening up the administrative side of the Ministry of Health medical service. I agree that this point deals exclusively with the ameliorative side of this problem. The ameliorative aspect of tuberculosis is only a minor factor. When we have done the best we can on the side to which we are referring, there still remains the necessity of a recognised system of after-care treatment, and there still remains the greater aspect of the question, that of prevention, and we cannot dissociate the prevention of tuberculosis from the great housing problem. We have heard in this discussion some references to overcrowding. I believe the overcrowding of our industrial populations in the cities and towns is one of the chief factors which create tuberculosis and assist it to flourish. The recognised greatest authority upon tuberculosis, the gentleman who discovered in the first instance the tubercle bacilli, committed himself to this declaration, the great Dr. Koch himself: It is the overcrowded dwellings of the poor that we have to regard as the real breeding places of tuberculosis. It is out of them where the disease always crops up anew, and it is to the abolition of these conditions that we must first and foremost direct our attention if we are to attack the evil at its roots. Everyone who has looked into this aspect of the matter will agree with that pronouncement, and I was absolutely startled to hear some of the declarations by the Minister upon this matter. The old Local Government Board, before the inception of the Ministry of Health, or some Department acting for it, fixed the standard of overcrowding, and their standard was that a house was occupied on an average by more than two persons per room. The 1911 Census disclosed the fact that, taking the whole of England and Wales, something like 8 or 9 per cent. of the population were living in overcrowded conditions. Further investigation into this matter indicates that in some parts of the country a much larger percentage than that prevails. If you go to Devonport and Plymouth you have an average of 16 and 17 per cent. overcrowded. St. Helens, the highest I can find in Lancashire, was 17 per cent. If you get to the North East Coast, in Sunderland and Gateshead there are 32 and 33 per cent. of the population living in an overcrowded condition. In eight of the Metropolitan boroughs, you find 23 to 39 per cent. of the population living in these overcrowded conditions. If that was the census of 1911, what must be the conditions that prevail at the present time? I am positively astounded to hear the Minister of Health indicate that one of the methods of dealing with the housing problem was for the local authorities to take over the Housing Acts and repair, as far as possible, existing houses. We had a good long spell at that before the outbreak of the War, and the local authorities patched up undesirable property on all sides, and what is more, they closed a large number of houses, and I can tell the Minister, and I guarantee that my colleagues can support what I am going to say, that in those days the houses were closed by the order of the local authority and remained closed for a considerable period. Some of them are now occupied, because there was no other accommodation to be found. The remedy for the present condition of housing is not to be found in that direction, because we have in all the industrial towns tremendous areas of cheaply-erected house property which has been standing 40, 50 or 60 years, the product of the early factory system. All those houses are going bad at the same time and at the same rate, and the wholesale policy of patching up will not touch the fringe of this problem. Those houses ought to be emptied of their population. They ought not to be patched up, because when you have made a back to back house the most desirable place possible, with repairs and ventilation and all the rest of it, it still remains an undesirable habitation. It still remains a place where the infantile death rate will be high and the prospect of tuberculosis will be very pronounced. We have to empty those places, and we can only empty them by erecting new houses for the people to leave them.

I was also very much surprised at the Minister of Health throwing some doubts upon the estimates which have been made of the number of houses that are required, in a statement by the ex-Minister of Health and a speech that he made to a deputation in 1916. I was a member of that deputation, and I remember well that it was represented to the President of the Local Government Board, as he then was, that 100,000 houses were required every year to meet the normal growth of the population, and an additional 50,000 houses were required every year to meet those that were dilapidated and worn out, and that figure of 150,000 houses has been accepted, not only by representatives of the Government but also by experts in this matter of housing requirements in many walks of life. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] It was accepted on that occasion as being a reasonable demand for the housing requirements of the country. The Prime Minister, in December, 1920, committed himself to the belief that 500,000 houses are required and now, seven years after the outbreak of the War, when we are told that 176,000 is the sum total of houses erected, houses started, and houses contemplated, we have the Minister of Health telling us that the margin of that 176,000 houses which is yet incomplete, is the great work in front of us to complete. We cannot accept that as a solution of the housing problem. They do not more than produce one year's requirements, and I suggest, with some little knowledge of our industrial population, that there is not an industrial town in this country with over 50,000 population which does not need several thousands of houses at this moment. If the right hon. Baronet is inclined to doubt that position let me make this enquiry. Is it a fact that applications from prospective tenants to the local authorities in the places I am going to name have been made to the extent I am going to quote—15,000 in Glasgow; 25,000 in London; 9,000 in Manchester, and 5,000 in Leeds? I invite the reply of the Minister to that question. Further, does he doubt the estimate which was made by the local authorities when that circular was sent out to them? I was a member of a local authority at the time and I know the method we adopted in endeavouring to arrive at an estimate of the houses that were required, and the sum total was 800,000 houses. I will put another question to the Minister. If any of those local authorities who made that, estimate can make good their claim and justify their estimate, will he agree to that number of houses being erected by that local authority? There are points of some substance in this matter, particularly having regard to the exceedingly lame position which has been presented by the Minister himself.

With reference to the aspect of the question which was referred to by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) we all know the difficulties of the financial situation, but here again the indictment is against the Government who initiated that policy. There never was such a policy in public administration with as much muddle in it as the policy which has moved in the direction of building these houses. What does the Ministry of Health do when a local authority wants to borrow some money for a public service of any kind? The period of borrowing is based upon the life of the service that is going to be put into operation. If it is a road, it is 30 years; if it is a bridge, it is 60; if it is a house, it is 60. But the first principle of municipal borrowing sanctioned by the Ministry of Health is that, whatever service is provided, at any period of its life it will be worth as much as the outstanding debt that is against it. If we have paid for 20 years on a loan and there are 40 years still to run, the service that has been produced is worth the outstanding debt and will realise upon the market the outstanding debt that is against it. There is not a single house which has been erected under the Government scheme which will produce at the present time in the open market anything like the figure it has cost. That is obvious to everyone. I will go further. There never will be a time in the life of any of these houses which have been erected when they will yield as much money in the open market as the outstanding debt that there is against them at any period in the life of the house—I am making allowance for a possible reduction in the rate of interest—because we know what many of these houses have been. The Government ought to have seen that. They would have expected a local authority to see it. As a matter of fact local authorities did see it, but they were led to believe that after their responsibilities had been met the balance would come from some other quarter.

I regret that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) is not present. Some time ago he inquired with dismay where this balance was to come from. We heard a great deal about the economic rent, and everybody realised that the economic rent could not be charged, whereupon the right hon. Baronet looked across to this side of the House, and, with a note of alarm and dismay, inquired where the balance was to come from to pay for the houses. We answered, and quite rightly, that it would come from the same place where the balance came from to pay the railway companies their compensation. As soon as it was found that the railway companies could substantiate their claim to £60,000,000 from the Government—which we say was done very unfairly and very inequitably—there was no question as to where the money was to come from. As soon as it was established to the satisfaction of the Government, they dipped into the public exchequer and handed out £30,000,000 last year and £30,000,000 this year to the railway companies. We are entitled to say to the right hon. Baronet that where the railway companies have found their spoil at least some measure of assistance should be given from the same source to the housing needs of the country.

We are hearing great complaints from all parts of the country about housing schemes being held up. We are entitled to expect that some of the partially completed schemes should go ahead, having regard to the fact that labour is now available, and that materials can be found in abundance. I will give an instance to illustrate my point. At Ilford the local authority proposed to erect 2,000 houses. They got sanction for 638. They erected 220, and they have at the present time 418 houses incomplete, the sewers for which are laid, the roads made and the foundations put in, and they are only waiting for some assistance and some encouragement from the Ministry of Health to go ahead with the work. It is all very well, for the Minister of Health to say that the local authorities should proceed with the schemes that have been sanctioned, but who has put on the brake? The Ministry of Health has applied the brake to these schemes, and it does not convey an accurate representation of the case to complain, as the Minister of Health did, that the local authorities are not proceeding with their schemes, when at the same time they are not proceeding with them because of the pressure from the Ministry of Health at Whitehall. The works that have been executed in connection with the Ilford scheme are estimated to cost about £20,000, and the authority are anxious to proceed with the work.

With regard to the controversy which has arisen about the shortage of labour, the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) has drawn the attention of the Minister of Health to the fact that an arrangement has been made between the plasterers and bricklayers in the Manchester area that if there is a shortage of plasterers, the bricklayer will do that work if there is one avail- able. It has been suggested from the Front Bench to-day that there are no plasterers out of employment. Since the Debate started I have had a statement put into my hands, from a reliable source, that on the 31st January, 1922, the official figure of people unemployed in the building trade was 176,119, including 740 plasterers. I have also a letter from the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives, who at least can be accepted as an authority, and they tell me that at the present time the total number of people unemployed in the building trades has reached 210,815, and that 30,000 people in the building trades have been discharged since October. That there is plenty of labour available cannot be denied, and that materials can be found in abundance must also be accepted, and when we have the Minister of Health's statement that the cost of housing has gone down by at least one-half, there is no reason why some stimulus should not be given by his Department to enable the schemes to proceed.

One very awkward fact emerges. Some months ago in this House very violent criticism, and a great deal of unreasonable criticism, was directed to this side of the House about what was called the dilution of the building trade with ex-service men. The Prime Minister and other responsible Ministers visualised the possibilities of work in the building trade, which was extensive and likely to be prolonged. Here we had a field where labour was required, and where there was a shortage of that labour. Why should not ex-service men be admitted into the building trade? Ex-service men were admitted into the building trade. Thousands of them have entered the various training establishments in connection with various phases of the building trade, and the Government have taken certain responsibilities by establishing centres. I believe there is one at Hull. Ex-service men were put in these establishments and trained in the various phases of the building trade, and then the building schemes have been stopped, and we have thousands of ex-service men partly trained to do work in connection with the building of houses out of work. We have scores of thousands of skilled men in the trade itself out of employment. What chance, therefore, is there of a half-trained ex-service man finding a job in the building trade at the present time? The policy of the Government has been absolutely cruel towards these men by leading them to hope that there would be abundance of opportunity for employment in the building trade, by spending money in the training of them, and then taking the lead in hanging up the housing scheme and throwing these men on the labour market, out of a job. Therefore, not only does the Government's action operate to the disadvantage of the people who could find regular employment in the building trade, but it also operates in a repressive sort of way on the ex-service men.

The declaration of the Minister of Health to-day will be looked upon throughout the country with profound disappointment. We were entitled to look for something better at this juncture. The urgent need of houses is admitted, however much the Minister may endeavour to side-track that belief. Everybody connected with an industrial area is made vitally alive to that fact. In these days when there is so much unemployment admittedly in occupations concerned with the building of houses, and at a time when schools are required by the hundred all over the country, if there is one Department of public activity which might be stimulated from the point of view of the benefit which it would bring to the community at large, quite regardless of the incidental advantage to the people in the trade, it is the building trade of this country. When we add to that the happiness and comfort it would bring to many people who now require decent houses, all the advantages taken together indicate an irresistible case for a definite step forward to be taken in this direction. The three essentials of life are food, clothing, and shelter. Shelter is the one thing which is deficient in this country at present, and from the point of view of the physical and moral development of our people it is not the least essential. Once more I must express profound disappointment, which is shared by my colleagues, at the very unsatisfactory defence of his policy put forward by the Minister of Health.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

I am always interested in the speeches of the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers) on the housing question. He and I have met several times before on this subject, and I have to suggest that on one of the points which he has put forward his facts are wrong. He says that the need of houses for the increase of population is 100,000 per annum. The average population of a house is five, and his contention would mean that there is an increase in the population of England and Wales of 500,000 per annum. He is obviously wrong in that.

Mr. ALFRED DAVIES:

What about deterioration?

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

He gave another 50,000 for deterioration. That is a separate item. I do not know what the lion. Member is thinking of. I think that he has added on an extra nought.

Photo of Mr Thomas Myers Mr Thomas Myers , Spen Valley

I think that it was Mr. Skelton, Vice-President of the National Property-Owners' Association who, at that interview with Mr. Walter Long in 1916, gave those figures, and similar figures have been put forward many times by people who claim to be experts.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

I do not know what are the facts of that interview, but obviously we have not got an increase of 500,000 per annum in population. The total number of births per annum is 700,000, and the deaths are about 500,000, so that there is an increase of something like 200,000 per annum in the population. I do not know the exact figures. As regards deterioration the number of houses required to replace deteriorated houses would be about 50,000 per annum, and this is a need which we require to meet. I must agree with hon. Members on those Benches when they say that the Minister of Health has not really faced the complete issue involved in this problem. He gave us the reason, which hon. Members must admit is a good one. If he once comes into the market, and shows that he is going to come into the market again, even at the present price of building houses the prices will at once go up; and they will go up, as I tried to show last week, by profiteering equally with rings of employers and of labour. We want to prevent that by getting back to our ideas with regard to the principle of housing which was developing very well before the War—as regards council housing. It had not come into anything like sufficient application, but it had shown quite enough success to warrant our proceeding on that basis in future.

Only mo other day, when I was inquiring into some of the housing schemes at Barnet, I was pointed out some of the houses which were put up on my report before the War as County Medical Officer of Health. I had been reporting to the authorities year after year with reference to the need of houses, and eventually they put up these houses. I inquired how the scheme had fared during the seven years which had elapsed since I went to the War, and I was told that the only part of the scheme which was self-supporting were these pre-War cottages. They are very satisfactory cottages. With regard to housing, the future must lie on those lines. The housing must not be State-assisted, except where it is absolutely necessary. The bed-rock of our housing system must be the system as it was before the War—private builders' enterprise, but helped where necessary by the local authorities, whose one incentive obviously is to make the two ends self-supporting, and at the same time meet local criticism and local needs. If you could do this before the War, surely you could do it now, and you must look forward to a time when you can do it again, and you must do nothing meanwhile to prevent your getting back to that stage of making houses self-supporting, and in the general demand for the readjustment of wages between employer and employed, of seeing that the employed are able to give enough in order that houses may be self-supporting like the other commodities of the country.

That being the case, nothing should be done to interfere with it. At the same time I must come back to the fact, which the right hon. Gentleman is constantly emphasising, that before the War 95 per cent, of the cottages were provided by private enterprise. That is often quoted, but it is quite wrong if it is taken as representing the building going on in 1913. It was only in the reflection of past history in 1913 that, in the sense of cottages existing for the working class, it was true to say that 95 per cent, had been provided by private enterprise. But private enterprise had already been killed for that class of house. It is said with a great deal of truth—I have said it myself—that it was killed by the land policy of the Radical Government in the Finance Act, 1910. That was definitely aimed at, among others, the speculative builder, and it killed the speculative builder as regards working-class houses.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

It did a great deal. I do not know whether it did more. It was all part of the Radical policy. And no doubt you have got to keep the speculative builder, or any other kind of builder including the local authority, in check to see that the houses which he puts up are decent houses. But some of the best figures on this question are derived from the report of a colleague, a County Medical Officer of Health in the North of England, which shows that the diminution in private building enterprise started a great deal before that. It started about 1902 or 1903 up in the colliery districts of the north. The general tendency of the times was to remove the speculative builder from practice. What we must recognise is that the speculative builder is the only builder who will speculate. He is the only builder who will therefore provide houses in advance of the demand. You cannot wait in ordinary times until there is a great demand. You must have provision in advance.

The right hon. Gentleman made one point which must be explained or I will challenge it as wrong. He said that there were 450,000 empty houses before the War, as if this were a great discovery made by his Department, and that therefore you had got a huge provision for two and a half million people. That is a cheap arm-chair suggestion. Anyone who knows anything about the real needs in connection with the housing of the working classes knows that those 450,000 empty houses are an absolute essential, not only for the working classes themselves, but also for industry. Where you have got, as you have at present, every single house bound up and full you cannot possibly have any movement of people, and thus industry is clogged. You cannot start a new industry in any particular district without bringing people from other districts. You have to bring your artificers and special tradesmen probably from other towns, and that is one of the many things which has been clogging industry since the War. Apart from that, there are other conditions, as to which I can show chapter and verse from the figures of the London County Council. About a month ago, it was my duty to present to the London County Council the report of two of our officers on the pressing housing needs of London. It was part of the great housing scheme of the Government that all authorities were, within two years, to survey their needs. It was assumed that, having already built their hundred thousand houses, they were to proceed with a fresh batch. This survey has been made in London. I have not yet read that any other authority has made it, but naturally enough London is in advance. This survey shows, first, that the population of the County of London during the past decade decreased by nearly 40,000 persons. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Somebody has the temerity to say "no." I hope he will have the courage to explain his facts. On the census figures, the County of London population has diminished in the last 10 years by 38,436. Therefore one wonders why there should be this greatly increased demand for houses. It is true that a certain number of houses have been demolished in order to make way for industrial development, but very few, because all that has been checked by the War and, above all, by legislation. The real facts which we discover in seeking an explanation of this is, that the number of families in London has increased by 110,000 during the decade. That means to say that the number of units requiring houses has increased and that at once explains a great deal of the increased need. It is a text upon which one could expatiate to any extent, but I will not do so at this moment.

On account of the needs of the moment, as regards housing, these 110,000 additional families have had to squeeze themselves, either into the empty houses which the Minister of Health has discovered or else into houses already occupied. It only makes one think of the number of cases in which people have not married because they could not get room to start housekeeping. The Minister of Health did not seem to recognise, their existence. Still more does it remind one of the number who have married, but who cannot increase the population, because of the congestion. One of the greatest national problems with which we are faced, and one which is hardly recognised by the general public of to-day, is that of recruiting our population in the future. Whether we are war-like, and want to go to war, or whether we have to go to war; whether we are civilised, and want to develop the industries of peace; whether we are æsthetic, and want to develop the arts; even if we seek to be athletic, and to beat some of the nations of the world who at present are beating us—whatever form our activity may take, we shall find that the backbone of all national power must be population, not merely because of the numbers but because of the wider field for selection, for talent of all kinds, for genius, leadership, inspiration and everything. The birth-rate has been going steadily down. Whereas 50 years ago 35 children were born to every thousand of the population, it went down a year or two ago, at the end of the War, to as low a figure as 17, and although it rebounded in 1920 to 25, that was shown to be a temporary rebound. The causes of diminished birth-rate continue, and will continue unless we take measures to stop them. There have been Commissions, which, although not Royal Commissions, possessed great authority, sitting on the question of the birth-rate since 1913, and they have issued two outstanding reports each of which shows the same thing. They whittle down the causes to their elements. They find, again and again, that these causes are continuing, and will increase, and that among them are the housing shortage and congestion.

So far as the Minister of Health makes any case, it is that, looking at the problem as a whole, we depended before the War on private enterprise to the extent of 95 per cent., and that we should get back to that as soon as we can. During my period on the Housing Committee of the London County Council I have been challenging those who advocate private enterprise to give us their scheme. They keep on saying that the Government is killing private enterprise in housing. I say it is not the Government which is killing private enterprise now, because private enterprise has not done any of this kind of work for 20 years, and would not do it at the present time even if the Government were not in business. The hon. Member for Forth St. Pancras is one of the best exponents of the private enterprise policy, and I suggest that the Minister of Health should ask him to state categorically what private enterprise requires in the way of help and assistance in order to undertake to fulfil the housing needs of the working classes, without forcing up the prices. It requires careful consideration from the economic as well as the other points of view, and I should like the Minister of Health to summon the private enterprise people to his aid. It is no good for either local authorities or officials of Government Departments to go into the question themselves. They will get too much in the way of arm-chair recommendations. We want the private builders themselves, who are patriotic and public-spirited—and there are several of them—to come forward and say what they will do, and what is required to help them and to give them security and confidence that they may build. I do not say that even then we shall be able to depend upon it, but at any rate a case will have been made for argument. As it is, the case is incomplete.

In the Annual Report of the Ministry of Health dealing with the year before last, one is glad to see many signs that there are different aspects of this subject in its newer phases receiving a considerable amount of attention with a view to development. In particular, I would like to refer to the question of slums, and to acknowledge most gratefully what the Minister of Health has done with regard to this question. At the same time, the attitude of the Ministry has been very tardy in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman referred to two schemes of the London County Council which were actually now in progress. Of these, the Tabard Street scheme was decided on before the War, and when we started work after the War we scheduled 22 slum areas in London that particularly wanted dealing with, and we started to deal with them and put forward five to the Ministry of Health. We have had local government inquiries on four of those, but with only one of them, namely, Brady Street, have we had sanction to go ahead. That was settled two months ago. As regards the other three, inquiries were held as far back as June, 1920, more than 18 months ago, and we have not yet had any reply in regard to those slum areas—Ellen Row, Bell Lane, and Ware Street; and that is only a beginning, because there are 17 other schemes which have been scheduled as the most urgent. We are right behindhand with this slum business, and it is waiting for a policy. The Minister of Health has done very fine work, if I may say so, in having obtained this grant, a definite grant of £200,000 a year for 60 years, that is, for the length of the loans that may be required for dealing with these areas. Our Brady Street scheme is a very large slum area and will cost us £10,000 a year deficiency, which only takes £10,000 out of the £200,000, so that the remainder will enable the local authorities of this country to go in for slumming areas 20 times as large as that Brady Street scheme; and it was shown quite clearly by the Minister, when he originally made his pronouncement, that that was only an advance guard and a beginning. I hope he may be able to go ahead in that slumming policy.

I would like to mention the wider and newer questions of what are called town planning and zoning. The questions of town planning and zoning, to all except those who have studied housing, and even to some of them to some extent, are matters of rather academic interest, but those who have really tumbled to the idea of zoning, and who have seen or heard of its action in the United States of America, realise the importance of it and the interest of it, from an economic point of view as well as from other points of view. In fact, I am inclined to think that it is more from an economic and industrial point of view than from a social and philanthropic point of view that it should be argued. The whole point is this, that you have got in the centre of any big town, and, above all, in London, a centre where the residential houses have been squeezed out by offices and factories, and that is spreading more and more, so that the offices and factories are eating out into the residential areas. In some cases that is all to the good, where the people can move residentially further afield, but in other cases it is not desirable.

The idea is that you can to a certain extent direct and guide—I would not like to say completely control, because that is rather against the British character—development in the right kind of direction one way or another for new development, by a system of town planning outside, and a system of zoning in the internal part of your city. That has got to be worked at slowly, and preached, and gradually considered. It is being considered in London unofficially by those of great official experience, in connection especially with the borough of Southwark; there is a very good instance to start with, and I am glad to see the Ministry of Health are encouraging the consideration of this principle. It has been enthusiastically adopted in New York, not so much by the philanthropists as by the industrial people, who see the enormous value of keeping good residential areas residential, and of keeping a certain amount of order in your development and guiding your lines of business development, whether in factories, or offices, or other buildings.

I should like to mention one or two other points on other subjects on the Ministry of Health Vote. They are too little talked about in this House, and yet one cannot help thinking that in politics, as in other things, silence means consent, and the fact that you have got such a magnificent record of work as you always have shown in the Annual Reports of the Ministry of Health and its officials, and the local authorities, passing by year after year without any comment—for the comment here is nearly always confined to the housing question—shows that there is general consent. That, I think, is very much endorsed by the Report of the Geddes Committee, for if the Geddes Committee with their axe could not find any real flaw in the administration, I think we may feel fairly immune from any further critics, on the subject, anyhow, of economy. I should like to quote from the summary of conclusions. Except for the suggestion of the sale of the houses in order to reduce the housing debt, the Geddes Committee say definitely that they do not recommend reductions in the expenditure generally on the Vote of the Ministry of Health. They say: We hope that, with falling prices and the greatly increased incentive to economy, the authorities responsible for this form of activity will be able still further to increase their beneficial work. I do not think you could have had a better unsolicited testimonial for the activities of the Ministry of Health and the local authorities than that.

There is one question that is constantly recurring at the present time, on which we do want to get some kind of policy in the next year, with a view to the actual administration of the Vote, and that is the question of venereal disease. That is a problem that has been newly taken up as a result of the War, and it is one that will repay the nation a thousandfold if it is done in the right way. The Ministry has been attacked because it has decided on one particular line of policy that is associated with one of the volunteer associations that undertakes educational activities in this direction and is, if one may say so, the more morally orthodox in its activities. As against that, another association has arisen with, to the lay mind, perhaps, no very great differences in its main objects and ends, and yet a body which says that the original association in its orthodoxy is ineffective, and urges, perhaps, a more unorthodox, more direct, and apparently more effective method for dealing with this disease and preventing its occurrence. There is a great discrepancy between the actual points at issue between these two authorities—such a discrepancy that one authority only can receive assistance from the Government. That naturally gives rise to a good deal of criticism, and at the same time there is some division of effort and some conflict of effort which ought to be removed. I may hope that the Minister of Health will see his way to get some reconciliation between these two bodies. I know he has tried it for some time and has been unable so far to get the doctors, and still less the other people associated with the doctors, to agree, but I hope that possibly he may be able to inspire some kind of agreement between the two, some kind of round table conference, in order that these two bodies, engaged in a subject of vital importance and interest, both from the point of view of efficiency of the nation and of philanthropy and humanity, may be able to get to work on common lines without inflicting greater moral injuries than those which they seek to prevent.

I want to raise one point in which I think the Ministry of Health have inherited a wrong policy from the old Local Government Board, and as to which I ask for some reconsideration, because it affects the actual expenditure of the monies for which they are responsible. It is the question as to the future appointment of medical officers of health. The report of the Ministry last year shows that a county medical officer of health may not engage in private practice, and may not hold other offices without the consent of the Ministry. It then goes on to show that on the 31st March all the county and metropolitan medical officers of health, and 250 medical officers of health acting for county boroughs and county districts, gave their whole time to the public service; 62 of the latter acted as medical officers for more than one district. In the opinion of the Department—and this is the point to which I wish to draw attention—this is the best method of filling the appointment of medical officer of health in a district which is too small to need the whole time of an officer. That is the point which, I believe, is really vital to the health of the rural community. The Ministry of Health, like the old Local Government Board, are carrying on the policy, started in 1870, of trying to carry on public health by specialists all over the country, having nothing but specialists to do this work. The result is that 318 urban and rural districts out of 1,800 districts, or one-sixth, are served in England and Wales in this manner, after 50 years' endeavour.

9.0 P.M.

Opinion is divided amongst medical officers of health on the subject, but in my own county of Hertfordshire, where I had colleagues, both whole-time men serving some districts and private practitioners serving as medical officers of health and school medical officers in other districts, my own experience was that one district was as well served as another. Each system had its own advantages, but the main thing was the actual personality and will of the man himself, and to get a man keen on doing his work and interested in it. But the ideal thing of all was for a country community to be served by the general practitioner of the old-fashioned sort you read of in novels, and, I am glad to say, with whom you meet very frequently in ordinary life, who fulfils all the needs of the district. I believe that is the man who does the best work, and I am perfectly certain that that is bound to remain to a large extent in the future of public health in the country. So we come to this point: When is the Minister of Health going to be able to get the further consideration of health measures in relationship to the Poor Law and the other Departments that deal with public health measures? The Poor Law medical officers in their own domestic work should be associated with the health side of the Ministry of Health, and yet they are still as separate as if they were different Government Departments. We want them connected, and I believe the foundation of public health should be for the Poor Law medical officer, who attends the people in their own homes, who gets to know their own condition, who looks after them, and is a friend to the people, to assist the Government in its ordinary work of public health. It is not so at the present moment, because, hitherto, the ordinary education of the ordinary medical man in this country has not included any practical work in public health. The ordinary medical man has not this knowledge, and has therefore not the keenness. It is quite true he can pick up some of the outward requirements of an appointment if it comes his way, but he is not educated in this way. The curriculum of his education has not been improved to meet new conditions. That is where I want the Minister of Health to come in. The curriculum is ordained by the General Medical Council, which is a public body administering public funds to protect the public interest as regards medical practice. One of its functions is to supervise and organise really the standard of medical education in this country. The question of public health is one of essential importance. The General Medical Council could quite well supervise and re-arrange. At the present time the General Medical Council has this matter under consideration. The matter is now in the melting-pot. The General Medical Council will issue these Regulations. The draft Regulations, as I have seen them, do not do as much—

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I am not quite clear whether this question comes within the scope of the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health, I understand, has no jurisdiction over the General Medical Council.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

I do not think they have direct jurisdiction, because that, I think, is under the Privy Council. But I take it the advice of the Minister of Health to the Privy Council is relevant to this discussion, because, surely, the Minister of Health is the one official who should speak to the Privy Council on the subject of what is required to carry out the work of his Department. Anyhow, I have made my point. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot do it, let him tell us that it is out of his competence to do it. I hope the Minister of Health will look personally into the matter and see if he cannot advise, so that the General Medical Council shall be able to revise the standard of education of the medical profession in this particular.

Photo of Mr Anderson Barlow Mr Anderson Barlow , Salford South

I have been appealed to, and many hon. Members have imposed upon me, very kindly, the obligation of answering for the Minister of Health. I am afraid that is not an obligation I can assume, but one or two points have arisen in the course of Debate where I have a responsibility more or less—points relating to the Ministry of Labour—and I do not think it would be possible for me to let the two or three points which have been raised go by without some answer. The hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers), in a speech to which we all listened with interest, raised a good many points, but he raised one emphatically with regard to the training of disabled men. He said—I am sure he did not realise the mistake he was making—that the training schemes had all stopped. That was quite inaccurate. The training schemes are going on most successfully for men in the building trade. He said it was cruelty on the part of the Government that, having trained the men, they did not see that there was work for them after they were trained. Let us be clear about this. No men are taken into training into the General Instruction Factories, or in any of our courses, except with the approval of the Technical Advisory Committees, which have been in existence since the first, and have given us the most loyal and hardworking assistance, and which consist of employers and trade unionists connected with the particular trade in question. What is true in the present unfortunate state of unemployment is that a good many of these Technical Advisory Committees have had, so to speak, rather to turn off the tap, seeing that at present it is unsound to bring more people into the trade. It is not the Government in any particular case who, having admitted the disabled man to training, has turned the tap off. It was with the direct advice and approval of the committee of the trade, composed as I have said.

What is true is this: that in certain cases there has been difficulty in finding improvership vacancies for the men that have been through the period of preliminary training in the Government Instruction Factories; that is to say, a state of things we all regret has arisen, and to deal with it we have been employing a certain number of special inspectors and special canvassers in order to secure vacancies. I have not looked at the figures lately, but, if my memory serves me rightly, a very large number of those following their period of training in the London factories alone, something like 500, who have not been able to find improvership vacancies, have had their number materially reduced through the efforts of these special men. By dint of hard work these have secured situations for the trained men. I say this because I do not want it to go abroad, as a result of this Debate, that, as suggested by the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers), these courses of training have ceased. That is not correct. They are going on, though we cannot admit so many new entrants into trades that we should like. Still, we are making the most determined effort we can to secure improvership vacancies, and making these efforts with a very considerable amount of success.

The other point was that put forward by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) with regard to the Joint Committee which has been set up in regard to the question of co-operation between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour on insurance. It is quite clear that if that method of co-operation can be worked out there are the possibilities of very distinct savings. A proposal for the examination of the whole situation to see whether it is possible to adopt one card instead of two, and a co-operative system instead of two systems, has been before both Ministries. A strong Committee has been set up presided over by the Government actuary on which both Ministers are represented. The hon. Gentleman suggested that there was some delay or obstruction on the part of the representative of the Ministry of Labour. I am quite sure that is not a fact, and I must repudiate the suggestion at once. I am sorry the hon. Member for Wood Green is not in his place. If he were, I should be forced to ask him to particularise a little more. So far as the Ministry of Labour is concerned there has been given from the first the most cordial support and co-operation in the examination of the situation to see whether a joint working is possible, and if it is possible, as I hope it may be, I feel certain the suggested savings of the Geddes Report can be effected. I feel it my duty on behalf of the Ministry of Labour to make these two points clear.

Photo of Mr Athelstan Rendall Mr Athelstan Rendall , Thornbury

I desire in the first place to deal with a few of the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) in his proposal for developing the present system instead of going in for whole-time medical officers of health—

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

Not by getting rid of the present men, but that there should not be adopted a policy of the one being better than another, and, therefore, encouraging the whole-time men at the expense of the character of the local men who know the conditions and have local advantages.

Photo of Mr Athelstan Rendall Mr Athelstan Rendall , Thornbury

We desire, of course, to have the proper test in these matters, and to allow for circumstances, but it seems to me that if a man is to be given a job of this kind he will be the better if his whole time is taken up with it. The point of the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to be that because a doctor is an ordinary practitioner, and has made the acquaintance of sorrow and illness and trouble, that all these things influence his character, and that he will be a better medical officer of health.

Photo of Mr Athelstan Rendall Mr Athelstan Rendall , Thornbury

I do not know that I share that opinion in view of the very important duties that a medical officer of health has to-day. It is, I believe, quite frankly admitted that the General Medical Council have altogether failed in their duty to the public in this matter. I say that with some trepidation in view of hon. Members opposite who belong to the medical profession. In view of the great importance and increasing number of duties which year by year are being placed upon medical officers of health, it is more and more essential that we should have thoroughly trained whole-time men. I cannot believe that half or part-time duty by a general practitioner is at all satisfactory. I have been acquainted with agricultural districts all my life and with general practitioners who were part-time public officials. They were men of quite as high character as the majority. Still, one must remember the position in which they were placed. They were doctors for the well-to-do farmers, employers of labour, and men who owned houses, and they were in the difficult position of having to attend these persons privately, and then, as public officials, perhaps to treat them in a different capacity. It is invidious to put men in such a position. A medical officer of health ought to be above suspicion in every way. He should be trained properly and be a man specially qualified to do the work for which he is appointed. If such a man is all he ought to be, he ought to put the public service first and foremost, and not private considerations of any kind. It is only in that way we shall get character and influence and that expert knowledge to which I think we are entitled in our medical officers of health. We put more work on the medical officer every Session, and, if that is to be the rule, then the sooner we get rid of part-time medical officers and appoint whole-time officers the better.

There is another matter which demands our attention at the present moment, and it is the controversies between the National Society and the Society for the Prevention of Venereal Disease in dealing with that subject. There are good and scientific men in both those organisations. Most of us have taken sides, some of us are members of the National Society and some members of the Society for the Prevention of Venereal Disease, and eminent men are to be found in both camps. The net result of this formation of two parties in dealing with this question is that progress is undoubtedly being delayed. This frightful evil is said to be increasing, and that is a most serious matter if the statement be true. The Minister of Health has up to now, on the whole, led himself to be persuaded by the National Society, and such money as he has been able to furnish he is utilising to carry out the policy of the National Society. For years there has been a spasmodic controversy in the "Times" and other newspapers on this matter between the representatives of those two organisations. It has gone on year after year, and we never seem to get to any final issue or any resultant policy decided upon either by Parliament or the medical profession itself.

Recently, in order to put an end to all this agitation, which has prevented drastic action being taken, it was thought desirable that under the ægis of the Ministry of Health there should be set up a scientific committee which would command the respect of both those bodies now engaged in controversy on this subject. It was suggested that the committee should be most carefully selected, that it should be furnished with all the necessary powers of taking evidence and decisions, and that it should be able to report to the Minister of Health in order to enable him to take up a more decided position. Under the predecessor of the present Minister of Health, most of us felt that ecclesiastics who were up to that time mostly in favour of the National Society on moral grounds, if they had not got the ear of the right hon. Gentleman, they had got his fear. The right hon. Gentleman has shown so much independence throughout his career and such strength in many of his actions that I do urge upon him that he should, regardless of the different quarrelling schools of medicine, theology, and morals, endeavour to get a committee together which will command general respect, get a Report, and act upon it without fear or favour. If the right hon. Gentleman did that, I think we might then be on the high road to find a policy of which we could approve.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Nathan Raw Lieut-Colonel Nathan Raw , Liverpool Wavertree

I should like to congratulate the Minister of Health on the excellent provision he has made for the vital services with which he is concerned. I would like to refer briefly to the question of maternity and child welfare and also the treatment of tuberculosis. I notice in the Estimates that the right hon. Gentleman has provided the same amount of money this year as was provided last year for the treatment of child welfare and maternity benefit. I think we all agree that this Vote and this amount of money has given not only relief, comfort, and safety to thousands of poor women in maternity, but it has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in this country. I sincerely trust that the Minister, when financial conditions improve, will be able to devote more money to this valuable work than he has done in the past. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has somewhat reduced the amount to be devoted to the treatment of tuberculosis. In 1921 the amount was £1,700,000, and in 1922 it is to be reduced to £1,300,000. This terrible disease of tuberculosis is attacking largely the industrial population of this country, and there are over 1,000,000 people in Great Britain affected at this moment by this disease. The sum which the right hon. Gentleman has put down represents a little more than £1 per head per year in the treatment of this great disease. The eradication of tuberculosis is a national concern. It is not a disease which affects just a few people, and, therefore, I sincerely hope that the Minister, instead of reducing the amount of money devoted to the treatment of this awful disease, will see to it that next year a very much larger amount is secured.

The question of housing, as the Committee knows, is at the very root of the prevention of tuberculosis, and until we can get a really complete system of proper sanitary and decent housing, we cannot hope very seriously to reduce tuberculosis amongst the industrial classes. It is quite impossible to expect any improvement in the present overcrowded and insanitary conditions under which a great many of our people have to live to-day, I am sure that when it is possible to provide the community with really decent housing accommodation, tuberculosis and other evils will be very greatly reduced.

The other question, of the amount of money devoted to the treatment of tuberculosis, has been argued by many people in the country as so much money wasted. I do not take the view that a single penny of this money is wasted, but what I do consider is that a great amount of the effort and the money is wasted because the work is not continued. It is quite useless to devote three or four months to sanatorium treatment of a working man affected with tuberculosis and then to allow him to go home to living conditions in which he is almost bound and certain to relapse. I therefore do press on the right hon. Gentleman to consider the importance of training in the sanatoria, and of providing tuberculosis colonies in which the working man when once affected with tuberculosis can be detained and taught an occupation, and proper provision made for the remainder of his life. I quite agree that in treatment tuberculosis is the most costly disease with which we have to deal; but it is worth it. We are losing 60,000 people every year from this disease alone, and therefore on economic grounds only it is well worth the serious consideration of the Minister of Health not only to spend £1,000,000 but £2,000,000 in the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis. I have to congratulate the Minister on the very excellent provision which in my judgment he has made for these vital services, and I only wish he could have made the amount greater for tuberculosis than he has done this year.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

I desire at the very outset to express my satisfaction with one or two items in the Vote we are considering this evening. In the first place let me say that I am very gratified indeed to find that the Minister of Health has decided to retain the Welsh Board of Health. I am very glad indeed to observe that he recognises the special character of the Welsh industrial areas as providing him with an adequate cause for the retention of that Department. The second point on which I wish to express my satisfaction is that the Ministry proposes to spend a considerable sum of money on behalf of the blind persons of this country. I personally am extremely gratified to find the Minister embark upon that work.

What I rose particularly to discuss was the question of housing. Let me say quite frankly that I am entirely prepared to accept the assurance of the Minister, so far as ho himself is concerned, that he is imbued with quite the very best intentions in regard to the provision of houses. Unfortunately, there is an English proverb which says that the path to the lower regions is paved with good intentions. What we have to remember is that the people of this country, after all, are entitled to feel some measure of dissatisfaction with the degree of actual provision of houses that has been reached in this country since the War. They were led, rightly or wrongly, by the Ministers of the Government of the day to believe that when the War was over the Government would undertake the problem of reconstruction in no niggardly spirit, and I think I am right in reminding Ministers that pamphlets were printed under the ægis of this Government giving the description, details, and specifications of the new world that they proposed to provide for us in the dim and distant hereafter. Since then the economy campaign has overtaken all our reformers in the country. The new question is not whether we should have a new world at all, but whether, after all, the new Jerusalem which was going to be built is not going to cost too much. I would like to ask this question. Suppose that the War had been continued to this hour, is it not fair to assume that the Government opposite, in its legitimate or illegitimate desire to carry that War to a successful conclusion in a military way, would have made adequate financial provision for the purpose, and, if finances could have been provided for that military purpose, surely it could have been provided equally well for the purpose of building houses for those who fought in the War.

I feel we have to regard the problem of housing from something of the same standpoint as we regarded the provision of munition factories. That is to say, the housing problem is in some measure due to war conditions, and because the housing problem has in some measure been created by war conditions, I think something like that kind of activity could have been embarked upon by the Government to provide houses in the same way as munition factories were provided. I feel it is wrong to look upon the problem of housing from the purely economic point of view, as is being done at this moment. You provided munition factories because they were required as the result of a national policy. I suggest that the shortage of houses has been similarly created as the result of a national policy too, and that one is just as much a call on national effort as the other.

At this juncture I want to enter a protest as what I feel sure the Minister, perhaps in calmer moments, will feel was too sweeping an assertion made during his speech. In speaking of the time when the local authorities were invited to send in their returns as to what they estimated would be their requirements in the matter of houses, he used a most unfortunate phrase in saying that local authorities had been guilty of a deliberately boosting process. I have been a member of a local authority for 11 years, and I can well recall the occasion when the circular came from the Government inviting us to estimate according to the best of our ability what would be our requirements in the matter of housing in the next two or three years. I remember very well that the authority over which I then presided went into the matter in some detail. Events have since proved, it is true, that we did not actually require the same number as we then anticipated, but I am bound to remind the right hon. Gentleman that it is not fair to assume that because our estimate was slightly above the remark that that is therefore an indication of deliberate boosting. Nor does it apply all round. Moreover, if local authorities are to be accused of deliberate boosting, and of having made grossly exaggerated estimates of their requirements and are to be criticised on that account, what amount of criticism does the Government itself require and deserve for its inability to estimate the housing problem when it made its various proposals and promises some few years ago? I think, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman—if I may use the phrase without unkindness—has made a somewhat unworthy reflection on people who are just as keen as he or anyone else is to do the right thing by the country without mulcting it as a whole in unnecessary expenditure. I was very glad to hear the Minister of Health concede the view that industrial areas such as those, in South Wales have a special case in the matter of housing. I wonder how many members of the Committee are actually cognisant of the conditions of people living in South Wales to-day. I appreciate that there has been latterly a sort of revolution in housing conditions as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's policy and that of his predecessor. But there are homes by tens of thousands in South Wales, or perhaps I should say by thousands, where coalminers, returning from their work day by day and requiring a daily bath, have no other provision than that of some utensil which is placed before the fire in the living room, where they have to perform the operation of bathing in the presence of the female members of their families. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is true.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

Why not put the bath in the bedroom?

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

The right hon. Member for the City of London shows that he knows absolutely nothing about Welsh life. It is the easiest form of interruption I have ever heard.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

That is not an answer to my question.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

For that kind of life some kind of change is necessary. Let me mention an incident in my own life recently. When travelling by train I was joined in the compartment by a young friend. In conversation I found that he was travelling to a village a dozen or 20 miles distant. He said that he was going there to see the lady whom he had married two years before. He explained that he had not yet lived with her, because in our particular neighbourhood the shortage of houses was so great that they had not been able to establish a home. He said that they had been separated so long that "I am bound to confess that I do not very much care when we begin to live together." That may be the subject for a joke by hon. Members opposite, but it has a very serious aspect. It shows that the housing problem is striking at the very roots of that sentiment which makes married life possible. Perhaps hon. Members opposite are not worried about this kind of thing, but those belonging to my class are worried about it day by day.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

There are numbers of men in other classes of life who cannot marry because they have not sufficient means or because they cannot get houses.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

I agree, and there are innumerable people in the hon. Baronet's class who could well afford to let half their houses to half a dozen families of the class that I know. During the last Recess I had at my house at least a dozen callers who complained of housing accommodation that was inadequate. In some cases they were people who lived in homes with three bedrooms and about 20 to 23 people lived in each house. That may be exceptional, but the case is at least an indication that in industrial areas the housing problem is infinitely more intense than many of us imagine. How can you state that problem in terms of money and of economics? It is a problem after all that affects the normal human relationship. The wonder is not how immoral people are under these conditions, but that they are as moral as they are. I think it is a triumph on the part of the working classes that they are able to show such a clean bill of morality in spite of these unfortunate circumstances. We are discussing in conjunction with housing the problem of tuberculosis. I have been greatly cheered by the amount of encouragement that the medical Members of this House have given to the demand for housing on medical grounds. In the long run it is cheaper to preserve health than to cure disease. For that reason we on the opposition side are extremely anxious to see the problem of housing tackled in a more enthusiastic way.

Photo of Sir William Cheyne Sir William Cheyne , Combined Scottish Universities

I did not intend to say anything to-night, but the spirit moves me to make a few remarks, especially in regard to the treatment of tuberculosis. First, I must refer to a question put to me by an hon. Member opposite. I did not catch exactly what was said, but as regards the treatment of venereal disease, of which he was speaking, I confess I can see very little difference between the two societies. I cannot understand the antagonism. It is mainly a question of the time of disinfection, a very small question of minor importance. Both societies are doing well and might well be combined. As to tuberculosis, the efforts of the Government are spoken of as a campaign against tuberculosis. I wish to point out where I think the campaign might be strengthened. As far as I can see from the Votes, the campaign consists chiefly in the treatment of tuberculosis, in attempts to eradicate the disease once it has got a firm hold in the frame of the patient. That is quite right, but it would be much better if you could prevent the virus getting into the patient. If you use the word "campaign" and introduce a military metaphor, I should say that what is being done is practically a frontal attack on an enemy which is very strongly entrenched, whereas what the military man docs is to surround his enemy and to cut off his communications. It is not until he has done that that any real progress can be made with the campaign. I think that is the state of things in regard to the campaign against tuberculosis. The results to be secured by devoting the main attention to its treatment are comparatively few. It is very difficult to make progress in that way. The eradication of the disease cannot be secured by such means. The other part of the campaign—the prevention of the disease—is the point, to which I wish to call particular attention. It is rather over 40 years since the virus of tuberculosis was first demonstrated, and during those 40 years there has been an enormous amount of research. I suppose we know more about tuberculosis, the natural history of the virus and the method in which the disease progresses, than we know of any other disease. We have, therefore, fairly definite lines on which to base our attempts at prevention.

Everyone knows that the chief sources of infection are two in number. One is the material coughed up by the patient who has tuberculosis of the lungs. Patients thus suffering are constantly sending into the air particles of moisture containing tubercle bacilli which are a constant danger to those who are living with them. Further than that these particles dry up and are mixed up with the dust, and when attempts are made to dust a room the particles rise up again and are inhaled by people in the room and are thus a further source of danger. These bacilli retain their vitality for a very considerable time, and destruction of them in the sputum is very difficult. If you want to prevent infection segregation of the patient is the really logical method of treatment. Here we can realise the great value of sanatoria. Not only does the sanatorium treatment help to cure the patient—and a considerable number are cured by it if it is only sufficiently prolonged—but it also removes from the home the individual who is capable of infecting the whole family. One knows many cases where members of a whole family with an inherited tendency to tuberculosis have died one after the other, the only one living being the child sent away to school and never coming home. Those who remain at home infect one another and die off. Short of segregation, therefore, I am afraid there is nothing very much that can be done, although steps should be taken to teach the patient how to deal with the sputum, etc. I know it is difficult to get this carried out properly. People suffering from tuberculosis are generally very nice gentle people, and their friends do not like to part with them. But I believe in course of time they themselves, if they realised the facts, would want to go away to a place where they would not infect their relatives. They need not necessarily be cut off from their relatives, but should have opportunities of seeing them. So much for that.

There is another source of infection which requires to be dealt with, and that is tuberculous milk. Tuberculosis is quite common in animals. Many cattle get it, and their milk may become full of tuberculous bacilli, it is drunk by children, and sets up various forms of tuberculous disease, including surgical tuberculosis and tuberculosis of the bones and joints and glands. Something like 30 to 60 per cent, of these diseases in children are due to infection from tuberculous cattle by means of milk, and if we could cut oft the supply of this tuberculous milk it would at once bring about a very large diminution in the incidence of tuberculosis and prevent an enormous amount of injury to children. I have never been able to understand quite why stronger measures are not enforced against this source of infection. I suppose it is a matter of trade, but such considerations ought not to be allowed to prevail. I know that there have been various Bills brought in and a number put on the Statute Book for maintaining the purity of milk, but, so far as I have read those Acts, I do not think that even if they were enforced they would produce the desired result. As a matter of fact, I believe they are in suspense at the present time, and nothing really is being done to prevent this infection. For instance, a friend of mine, a surgeon, was very much interested in trying to ascertain how far children suffering from tuberculosis were infected from cattle or other sources. He had in his wards at one time a number of children who came from the same part of the town in which he was practising. He set to work to try and trace the origin of the disease. He found the children all came from one small area which was supplied with milk from a particular dairy. He examined the milk from that dairy and found it contained tuberculous bacilli. He went further, and succeeded in locating the actual cow which produced the milk. He informed the authorities, and orders were given, not for the cow to be killed and cremated—which would have been the proper course—but for it to be removed from the dairy. The dairyman obeyed the order, and sent the cow into the country. She was sold to a farmer connected with a dairy in another part of the town, and she came back to that other dairy and infected the milk supply there.

The time has come when something should be done definitely to prevent this serious source of infection. The means would be, examination of the milk to ascertain if tubercle bacilli are present in it, and examination of the cattle to see which of them are tuberculous and which of them are yielding tuberculous milk. Of course, it is not every tuberculous cow that yields tuberculous milk, and the injection of tuberculin, and the observation whether fever is produced or not, and the killing of all cattle that react, is not a feasible proposition. Some that react may not be tuberculous, and the great majority will not have tuberculosis of the udder, and therefore will not be particularly dangerous. But wherever an animal is found to be yielding tuberculous milk, that animal ought to be killed and cremated. I received a circular two or three days ago, and it was this circular really that led me to speak. Evidently an agitation is beginning against the Minister of Health, to prevent him from bringing in another Milk Bill. The circular stated that it was understood that the Minister had an agreed Bill. I do not believe he will ever get an agreed Bill that is of any use. I think he will have to bring in a Bill which recommends the proper measures, and to carry it out. The Government, with their very large majority, would have no trouble in passing any Bill that they liked, and I cannot think of any better preparation for a General Election which, I am told, is in the air, than to be able to say that you have passed this Bill with a view to saving the children. It would appeal to the women, who now form practically half the electorate, more than any topic you could take up. In fact, I am not sure that it would not be better if the Minister could arrange to be defeated on the Bill. I know such things have been done, although I do not suppose he would dream of doing it. In that case, however, he could go to the country and say, "I have brought in a Bill which would have saved your children, and those wicked Labour people—or Wee Frees—or Anti-Waste people—have prevented"—

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN Sir Edwin Cornwall):

The hon. Member is not entitled on this Vote to discuss legislation. I allowed him to go a little wide, so that he could put his points, but if I allowed him to continue I should have to allow other hon. Members to discuss legislation, and that would not be in order now.

Photo of Sir William Cheyne Sir William Cheyne , Combined Scottish Universities

I understand your ruling, and I have really finished. I will only repeat that I think prevention is better than cure, and that I should like to see more energy put into prevention than is the case at present.

10.0 P.M.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

I am sure the whole Committee will be at one with my hon. Friend who has just spoken in his desire to put a stop to what evidently is a very serious evil. This is a subject which, as he knows far better than I do, has been discussed inside the House of Commons and outside for many years now, and I cannot help thinking, if he will allow me to say so, that scientific men have been partly to blame for the want of progress that has been made. If I remember rightly—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—the history of this question, it was begun by putting the case too high. There was a demand that all cows that reacted to tuberculin should be killed, and the result was that every farmer, and, indeed, a great many other people besides the farmers, were up in arms. They said, "Either you are going to compensate us for the destruction of the cows"—which was not proposed, in fact,—"and if you do that, it will cost a great deal of money; or you are going to ruin us," and there was a most violent agitation. I do not remember exactly how the legislation on the matter stands, but it was because of the case being put so high that nothing was done. I am convinced that there would be no difficulty in enforcing a law that no cow should be allowed to go on giving tuberculosis milk. That is a proposition which is so self-evident and so righteous that no one would resist it. Whether the State ought or ought not to give compensation for cows so destroyed is a different matter, but that adequate measures should be taken in that regard I am sure we should all agree.

I should like to say one word upon the Estimate itself. An hon. Member said just now, with a great deal of plausi- bility, if we could spend so much on the War, and if the War had gone on a little longer we should have gone on spending, why cannot we spend a very much less sum on peace? There is, of course, a certain force in that, but I think my hon. Friend will agree, on reflection, that you must not press that too far. After all, we are suffering very severely from the expenditure that we did incur on the War. A great many of the evils from which we are suffering are directly traceable to the necessary extravagance of the War. No one really thinks that taxation ought to be as high as it is, and there are many of us who believe that the Government have not taken the best way to lower that taxation. Undoubtedly, however, whatever they might have done, the vast expenditure on the War must have made the years which succeeded that War difficult, and most difficult of all for the poorer classes of this country.

Therefore, I myself am of opinion that in all legitimate ways we ought to save money at the present time, and I do not quarrel with the Minister of Health or anyone else who has tried to save money, provided, of course, that he has done so without sacrificing interests which are of such importance that they ought not to be sacrificed, at any rate until everything else has been tried. But when I look at this Estimate, I wish my right hon. Friend would explain to me exactly how it is that he has said that economies have taken place. As I understand the Estimate, the gross total proposed to be spent on the ordinary services this year is about £1,750,000 higher than it was last year. It is £20,957,000, as against £19,284,000. That is for ordinary services. I am told, and no doubt it is quite true, that to that £19,284,000 must be added some £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 spent on Supplementary Estimates, and that when you have added that—I will come to the extraordinary expenditure presently—there is an economy as compared with last year. That would be very well if we could be sure that there would be no Supplementary Estimates this year, but there is nothing to guarantee that there will not be Supplementary Estimates at least as large as those of last year. Therefore I do not think the Government are entitled to take any credit in comparing the proposed Estimate next year with the proposed Estimate plus the Sup- plementary Estimate as well. But then it is quite true that when you turn to the services arising out of the War there is considerable economy, and the economy is in two respects. There is a very large economy under the head Purchase of Housing Materials. Last year £4,800,000 was spent and this year only £240,000 is to be spent. But you have to set against that that last year there was an Appropriation-in-Aid, which the note tells us was derived from the sale of housing material, which amounted to close upon £5,000,000. This year it is only estimated to be £1,000,000. So that last year, on the whole transaction of purchasing and selling housing material, there was apparently no loss. This year it is hoped there will be a gain. When all that has been allowed for the two things practically cancel out, and taking the Appropriations-in-Aid and the purchase and sale of housing material together, there is no economy this year as compared with last. There is an economy in compensation to contractors, which is something but not very much, and there is a really big economy in the subsidy paid to private builders. That is an economy of £2,500,000. I do not quite understand how that comes about, because I understood the Minister's policy to be rather to encourage private building and not to rely so much on building by local authorities. At any rate, I would direct the attention of the Minister to this figure, because I think it is right to point out that after all the considerable reductions which, I understand, he has made in the building programme of the Government, he does not, so far as I read these figures, appear to have made any economy on balance on the ordinary expenditure and only a small one relatively taking ordinary and extraordinary expenditure together.

I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech with great interest and a considerable degree of admiration. But does he not think, on reflection, that he put the case for the Government a little too high? He denied emphatically that the Government had ever made a promise to build 500,000 houses. I have not the actual statement, but I am sure he would not not deceive the House as to the actual words that were used. But the broad fact was that at the beginning of that year the Government went to the country and said, "We are going to regenerate this country. We are going to make it quite a different place." There were all sorts of phrases used. They then called particular attention to the housing difficulty as one of the main things they were going to deal with. They put the lack of houses at 500,000—some put it higher—and undoubtedly they held out to the country—no one can doubt it—the expectation, whether it was a promise or not, that they were going to provide 500,000 houses, because they thought that was the number necessary. My right hon. Friend now says the whole of the estimate was utterly unreliable. He said it depended on the returns of local authorities, elicited in a way which he thinks was very unsatisfactory. He says, I understand from an interruption, that the figure which was so elicited was not 500,000, but 800,000. He says he does nor think that was worthy of serious attention. My recollection is that the estimate did not proceed merely on the return of local authorities. I have a strong recollection that there was a committee appointed which investigated this matter, not indeed with the same care and skill as the right hon. Baronet displayed in investigating it later, but they were a committee appointed by the Government, and they did their best. I do not remember the figure they arrived at. I rather think it was 300,000, but it was certainly very much in excess of what the Government are proposing to provide as it is. Then there was another much more rough-and-ready calculation. There was the broad proposition that there was a lack of houses, as was undoubtedly the case, before the War. Certainly in some country districts, with which I am better acquainted than with industrial districts, there was a considerable lack of houses even before the War. Then there were five years during which no houses were built. Then it was said with a good deal of force that the ordinary number of houses which were built in every year was, I think, 80,000, and therefore in five years, since no houses were built, you would expect a shortage of 400,000. Add to that the already proved shortage, which I say and many of my hon. Friends opposite say, was due very largely to the unfortunate experiment in land taxation—but whatever it was due to, which is not the point for the moment, there was a shortage of houses before the War. If you add to that shortage the 400,000 which were not built during the War, you come very near the 500,000 which the right hon. Baronet regards as such a ridiculous figure.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

What about the number who were killed?

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

There was not a diminution of the population at that time. The population still went on increasing. All I am directing the right hon. Baronet's attention to is that it was not merely these statements of the local authorities that were fantastic. He was asked, What figure do you put it at? He declined to reply. I daresay he was quite wise. But at the same time, if a Minister says all the estimates which have hitherto been made are ridiculous—estimates made by his own colleagues and for which he himself as a Member of the Government is responsible, though that apparently does not affect any Minister—if it were ridiculous and you cannot put any figure of your own, it makes one a little doubtful as to the criticisms that are offered. He concluded that part of his speech by saying with great triumph that the Government had no policy. That is a very frank statement which could be made with equal truth about most subjects. They have no policy. With his usual ingenuity he defended that proposition as the right thing, and he proceeded to explain what folly it was to have a policy, how absurd it was to have any figure of the number of houses you wore going to build, how ridiculous, how fantastic it was to suggest that you could ever estimate with any degree of accuracy the number of houses that are required, and particularly how utterly perverse it was to have entrusted the building of those houses to local authorities and not to private enterprise. That is what I understood my right hon. Friend to say. That is carrying the modern doctrine of Cabinet irresponsibility somewhat far. This was a policy deliberately adopted by the Government, in the face of protests made by myself and by others much more qualified to speak on this subject. The Government deliberately said: "We will not trust private enterprise; we will insist on putting the whole thing into the hands of the local authorities, and we believe that that is the right and proper plan." Now the Minister of Health comes here, and he can scarcely find enough words of scorn to refer to a policy of that kind. If he is right it means that for two years or more the Government have been grossly mismanaging one of the most important parts of their business.

I pass now to one part of my right hon. Friend's speech in which I am in close agreement with him. He spoke on the question of slums. I heartily agree with him in saying that you cannot deal with the slum problem merely and solely by building new houses. Undoubtedly, it is the most difficult and the most important part of the whole problem, in some respects, with which we have to deal. He advocated two very old lines which have been advocated by Social Reformers from both sides of the House, namely, the repair of insanitary dwellings—in which I am in entire agreement with him—and the clearing of slum areas. I believe that the clearing of slum areas is a necessary and proper reform, but it is also true to say that it very often fails to produce the result which is expected from it. My right hon. Friend will pardon me if I remind him that it too often happens that the houses built in these slums are not inhabited by the population that formerly inhabited the slums, and that that population is driven out into a new area where a fresh slum area is created. It is no use putting up very expensive houses in place of slum dwellings, because you do not house there the people with whom you want to deal. When I was at the Parliamentary Bar I remember that we discussed this question, and the opinion was very commonly held by authorities that it was more important to improve the method of transportation than even to sweep away slum areas, and that the better course was to try to take your population further afield by cheap transportation than to rely solely upon the clearance of slum areas.

I realise that this is a matter which is very difficult, and I agree with my right hon. Friend that it is a very baffling problem and that no agency that can be brought into action to deal with it should be despised. Here I find myself at issue with the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). I cannot agree with him that everyone who wishes to be a social reformer is merely a Socialist in disguise. That is an extravagant view. The social reformer—I do not care very much about the word—is one who wishes to improve the social conditions of his fellow citizens. Surely that is not the same thing as Socialism, though no doubt the Socialists also want to do that. My right hon. Friend will gravely mislead the Conservative party if he succeeds in divorcing them altogether from social reform. When I sat on those Benches among my Friends I remember that there was nothing which some of us at any rate were more concerned to point out than that the Conservative party, the Tory party, call it what you will, had in its best days done quite as much for the social well-being of their poorer fellow citizens as any other party. That was the claim that was made, and I should be very sorry to label all those who labour either to improve the lot of their fellow countrymen, whether by grants for education or by Housing Acts or by Factory Acts for which they were responsibe, as nothing but Socialists in disguise.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

I never did. I was alluding to the remarks made by the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) with regard to what is called at the present moment social reform. I said that people who advocated social reform at the present moment were nothing but Socialists. I was not referring to what took place 40 or 50 years ago.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

I am not concerned to defend my Noble Friend who is perfectly capable of defending herself.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

I beard her speech advocating improved housing conditions, and I earnestly hope that no section of this House is going to write on its banner that it is against housing reform, that it believes that the State should cease to interfere to protect the housing conditions of the poorer citizens or any nonsense of that kind. It is all very well to say that people ought to pay for their housing. So they ought to pay, perhaps, in one sense, for everything, but we, at any rate, in this country have very clearly laid it down that, for good or ill, there are many things in which the State shall assist the poorer citizens of the country. We have done it with regard to education and with regard to disease. We have done it with regard to housing in various ways. It may be wrong or right. I myself am quite confident that it would be fantastic folly to go back on that course of legislation. How far you must go may have to be decided in each case, but to say, as my right hon. Friend says to us, that we are to abandon all attempt to assist the improvement of the housing conditions of this country, seems to me to be reaction gone mad. After all, the case for State intervention in housing is a very strong one, indeed. We have heard it elaborated in many aspects by much more eloquent tongues than mine. They have told us that the interests of morality, health, and everything that constitutes the well-being, require good housing.

My hon. Friend who has just made that very interesting speech on the medical aspect of the tuberculosis question has said, and no one will disagree with him, that good housing is one of the most important things in the prevention of tuberculosis. I remember, years ago, hearing strong evidence in connection with a Private Bill upstairs, which showed quite clearly that the worse the housing conditions, the greater the death-rate from tuberculosis. It is a false economy to spend vast sums of money in combating tuberculosis, and providing sanatoria and the other things which my right hon. Friend rightly desires, if you allow such housing conditions to prevail as create breeding grounds for the disease. There are many other aspects of this question, even more serious and more urgent than that. I have no doubt a great deal of money has been wasted by the Government's vacillation and incapacity to lay down one sound policy and follow it. I have no doubt some of the schemes proposed were too extravagant. I only hope my right hon. Friend is not now being inadvertently guilty of extravagance in too hastily scrapping some of these schemes. I was told to-day a story concerning a village in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. Fifty houses were originally authorised, and this was suddenly cut down to 18. The sites had already been bought and had to be disposed of under conditions not likely to be remunerative. A large amount of material had been stored in the street. It was left absolutely useless, and I suppose will eventually have to be carted away. Nothing is easier than in the name of economy to be guilty of mere extravagance. I trust my right hon. Friend will be careful of that. I do not quarrel with the general line he takes. I do not quarrel with the view that one has to be careful with expenditure even on such a vital matter as housing. I do not even quarrel with his view that it is perhaps wiser not to fix the definite number of houses we intend to build, but I earnestly beseech him and his colleagues not to allow themselves to forget for one instant the vital needs and the interests involved in this housing question. I do not complain, in the very difficult situation in which we are, of a desire to save money even in that respect. Yet I confess it is one of the very last heads of expenditure which I myself should be inclined to cut down.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I am sorry to have to intervene again in this Debate, but I feel it only right to do so in view of the number of new points which have been raised and the questions which have been asked. The Noble Lord has asked me one or two financial questions, which I shall endeavour to answer. He said he could sec no reduction in the Estimate for this year in what I may call the normal services, compared with the Estimate for last year, and he differentiated between the original Estimate and the Supplementary Estimate which had since been added. I think it is only right that he should have regard to the money which actually will be spent in this financial year.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

What is your Estimate for supplementaries.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I will come to that in a moment. We have very considerable supplementaries in the Estimate of this financial year because of the uncertain elements of cost. This is especially so in regard to grants to local authorities, which came out a good deal higher than was expected. As for next year, I am rationing local authorities for the 1922–23 expenditure, and no supplementaries can arise under this head. I am proceeding by a process of rationing, not by a process of fixing 50 per cent, of their expenditure, which often comes very much higher than when the Estimates were made out. I would point out to the Noble Lord that in administration alone I have a saving of no less than £780,000, a reduction from £2,298,000 to about £1,500,000. A large amount of this saving is partly war bonus and partly the abolition or reduction of the housing staff, and when I said earlier in the Debate that I wondered whether anybody was anxious that we should continue with the scheme we had been working in the past, I was thinking of the enormous overhead charges involved from the nature of the scheme, and I thought it could be avoided by a scheme of a different character. I am sure nobody, either local authorities or anybody else, desires to have these unnecessary overhead charges and duplication of salaries if they can be avoided.

Then, of course, there is an increase of £2,000,000 in the housing grant, and that arises partly through the deficiency on the local authorities' housing schemes only becoming effective year by year, and we have not yet reached quite the maximum. The Noble Lord will see, if he looks up the Estimates, that I have to face an increase of £5,000,000 beween last year and this year, which is automatic. The building subsidy, on the other hand, comes down, and the reason is that the private builders' subsidy was cut down in time. It comes to an end earlier than was originally anticipated, and that will produce a considerable saving. The chief saving in the Estimates is one of £2,248,000 which arises on the insurance grants. I shall have to deal with that when I come to introduce legislation on the subject, but it is too late for me to open up on that now. That is a direct outcome of the recommendations made by the Geddes Committee, and although I do not propose to deal with them on the lines which they exactly proposed, still we shall have the saving which we set out to get at that time. On the services arising out of the War, or what you might call War terminal services, there is a nominal saving of £4,560,000, but that is offset by the reduction in the Appropriations-in-Aid. The Building Materials Section really bought with one band and sold to the local authorities with the other.

The Noble Lord's speech was on the whole friendly in character, but he made one or two statements which showed either that I had not expressed myself as I intended to or that he had not appreciated what I said earlier in the Debate. He at first accused me violently for attacking the kind of general figure for the estimates for housing, but I must point out that some of the data which have come to light since have only come to light since the preliminary census of 1921 has been completed. The remarkable figure of 434,000 empty houses before the War came as a great surprise, I think, to anyone who has been considering this problem. I had been very much surprised, with the calculated house shortage, that the difficulty of those needing houses had not in practice been greater than it was. I always felt that there must be some explanation, which had not been probed, to explain how we managed to carry on at all. That led me to make inquiries, and we discovered that there was a kind of balance of some 400,000 empty houses spread over the country.

Mr. J. JONES:

On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that we have a number of empty houses in various parts of London, that the only way we can get occupancy is by buying them, and that the great mass of people cannot afford to buy them.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I do not think that is a point of Order.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

It is a matter of fact.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I am not arguing the matter of fact. I am quite aware of the fact that there are such houses, and I am also aware of the difficulties of dealing with them. I am also aware that the local authorities have power to purchase these houses. I am only mentioning the fact; it is not that I am throwing any aspersions on local authorities. There is no doubt that, after the War, we had much more grandiose ideas than we have at this moment. The Noble Lord said there is no housing policy, but what I pointed out was that we have still got a large housing policy to carry out. We have not completed more than about 50 per cent, of the houses under the policy which is being carried out. We are building more houses than were normally completed of this kind of houses before the War. Before launching forth on an extension of this or into a new policy, the most important matter is to get on with the houses that are being built. When the Noble Lord said, rather to my surprise, that I entirely disapproved of the policy being pursued, I never said anything of the kind. What I was arguing was that, because you provided something like 180,000 houses to fill an emergency in one case, it did not follow logically that you were definitely bound to go on with that line at whatever cost to the public. We have supplied houses with public assistance to the extent of about a quarter of a million, and if you take the number of years of the War, and take the average number of cottages that were built pre-War of this kind, you will see that the Government have filled the hiatus which the War created, which is the analogy which the hon. Member for Caerphilly introduced. I will take his analogy. If you say it is also your duty to provide all the houses that did not exist before the War at the expense of the taxpayer and Treasury, when before the War any such housing schemes were done at the expense of the ratepayer and the local authority, it is a fundamentally new axiom that one person is to own the houses and the other person is to pay for them; one person to build and another to finance. In reply to the Noble Lord, I have said that before the War 95 per cent, of the houses required were provided by private enterprise and 5 per cent, by the local authorities. The question has been faced, too, by many of the creators of big industries that they should provide accommodation for their workmen—colliery companies, for,instance—so that the community is not taxed for a particular section.

Photo of Sir Wilfred Sugden Sir Wilfred Sugden , Royton

We have accepted that principle in the cotton trade.

Mr. J. JONES:

It has not come to Silvertown.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

Where the responsibility has not been adopted the housing conditions are peculiar. Apart from that if the responsibility is on the community the working-class taxpayer has to pay extra on his tea, sugar, and other things. One or two questions have been put to me on other points. The hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers) drew attention to the sale of skimmed milk as whole milk. Such a practice is nothing more or less than a robbery of the people, and, so far as possible, it should be stopped. Under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, 1871, it is an offence to sell to the prejudice of the purchaser any article of food which is not of the nature, substance, and quality demanded. Under Section 13, officers of the local authority are required to take samples and submit thorn to the public analyst for analysis. The sale of skimmed milk comes under Section 6. I admit that the powers are not necessarily wide enough. The provisions of the Act of 1915 under which milk is dealt with has not yet come into operation. The question, however, is under careful consideration at the present time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and see!"] It is not a question of waiting and seeing; something will have to be done. A very interesting speech was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman for the Scottish Universities suggesting that there is matter for consideration in the sale of tuberculous milk. It is most undesirable that this should be sold at all, but the question of how to stop the sale is not quite so easy. There is the question of the farmers, who may be in a difficult position. One wants to give careful consideration so that in destroying one evil one does not bring about a greater one.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

Perhaps not quite so simple as the hon. Member would appear to think.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

Then there is a question in which the rival protagonists have been flooding me with pamphlets, literature, and so on. I refer to the matter of venereal disease. In more than one quarter it has been put forward as to whether something should not be done to make the societies dealing with this matter combine. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to help to bring that about. This is a subject capable of considerable controversy. I have tried to obtain the assistance of the Medical Consultative Council and Lord Dawson to get together a body of medical men who would look at this subject from a medical point of view and advise me. I must not overlook the fact that there is also a moral aspect, and on this point I would never be a party to some of the propaganda which is being carried on. The existence of the disease is unfortunate, but fortunately a vast majority of the people of this country do not suffer from it and in any attempt to stamp out the disease the ordinary decencies of life have to be preserved.

The question of the diminution of the amounts to be spent on health services in next year's Estimates has been raised. Owing to the fall in the cost of living and materials, many of those services will not require as much money next year. With regard to the circular issued with regard to supplying dinners to nursing mothers rather than milk, I have been informed by very competent medical authorities that it would be more valuable to do this from a health point of view. The local authorities have provided nursing mothers with milk, but as I have only a limited amount of money for this purpose, naturally I wanted to ascertain their views as to how far it was practical to substitute meals for milk.

Photo of Mr Thomas Myers Mr Thomas Myers , Spen Valley

I did not object to the meals, but to the method by which they were to be given.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

The only way in which it can be done is the way we adopted, and I am told that it has worked very well.

Mr. J. JONES:

How would you like to send your wife to a meal under those conditions?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I believe my wife established one of the first of these maternity homes in my constituency.

Mr. J. JONES rose

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN:

I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to interrupt.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

I am not interrupting. I am only asking a question. What about your own wife?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I do not see what advantage it is to a nursing mother who wants free milk to refer to my wife, or, for the matter of that, that I have a wife at all.

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

I think the hon. Gentleman, after his experience in this House, ought to have learned that that kind of observation is not made here. I am not here to answer as regards my private life, or that of my family.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

Then why should you put it on others? [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down!" and "Order!"] Order yourselves?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

On the whole, I think it has been proved that that policy is good, and that being so, and desiring, as I do, to help in every way possible, I decided to give the option. I am glad I have been able to save the milk, because nothing would have given me more dissatisfaction or sorrow than to cut down a service that was doing good work, and is, I think, better administered now than it has been in the past.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

Having to go to a soup kitchen when in a family way! Some of your wives ought to have to go and do it!

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

Another point was raised by the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) earlier in the Debate, and by my predecessor (Dr. Addison) in the last Debate, and that is the question as to how far we intend to build houses at a loss rather than keep people unemployed. That is a very difficult problem that has always occupied our minds. The calculations when we come to make them do not bear out the idea that you would save money or do much good in doing so. As a matter of fact careful examination of the figures leads to this result. The right hon. Member for Shoreditch (Dr. Addison), on a Supplementary Estimate, gave the figures which he had worked out, namely, that in order to avoid a loss of £20 in the building of a house men were being thrown out of employment for a whole year at a cost of £120. I have examined the figures and find the following to be the true result. The average number of men required to build a house is not two, but one and a half, and in taking the amount of assistance given to unemployed the right hon. Gentleman's figure of £120 should be £90. Where the right hon. Gentleman went wrong was that he was comparing the loss on a house for one year, whereas the loss on a house was for 60 years, and if the loss is £20 the capitalised loss on the house at 5½ per cent, makes a present value of £350. Therefore, his saving would mean a net loss of £260. That was rather a different picture, and if we went on with that on any large scale we should get into an even more ruinous position than that in which we have been involved by similar calculations made in the past. I am certainly not prepared to accept that course. We have had a helpful discussion, and I hope the Vote will now be passed, and that we shall be able to proceed, not to waste money, as the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) suggested, but in order to get the best results for the money spent.

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

The right hon. Gentleman has expressed considerable doubt about the estimates of the local authorities as to the houses required in their areas. Will the right hon. Gentleman say he is certain that his own estimate will meet the requirements of the nation, and if he is not certain will he make another inquiry of the local authorities to find out exactly what houses are required?

Photo of Sir Alfred Mond Sir Alfred Mond , Swansea West

In course of time there might be a useful inquiry made.

Mr. J. JONES:

Possibly hon. Members consider that I am sometimes rather inclined to lose my temper. I make no apology for having a temper; it is the only thing I have. In this particular instance I interrupted because I feel very strongly regarding one particular portion of the memorandum issued to local authorities in connection with cases of maternity. Women are expected to go, when they are in a condition in which they should not be called upon to go, to a central place to get a meal. Fancy

women in that condition having to queue up at a public building to get a meal! It is an insult to our intelligence. The cost is to be 6d. per meal. You could not buy half a pound of dog biscuits for the money. Here are the mothers of the race expected to queue up outside a public building, in order to get a meal five days a week. What are they to do on the other two days? That is what arouses my indignation, and I should not be worthy of the name of man if I did not protest. I have had to go through the mill. I have been out of work when my wife was in that condition. I should have looked upon it as an insult if she had had to go to a public building almost to beg for a meal. That any authority, Government or local, should put such an insult upon my class makes me feel as if I should like to break down the whole system under which such things are possible. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot evolve a better method of dealing with this maternity question, he is not fit to occupy the position he occupies.

Question put, "That Item Class VII (Ministry of Health) be reduced by £100."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 52; Noes, 156.

Division No. 47.]AYES.[11.0 p.m.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Grundy, T. W.Rose, Frank H.
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)Royce, William Stapleton
Bill, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)Halls, WalterSexton, James
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Hirst, G. H.Spencer, George A.
Bramsdon, Sir ThomasIrving, DanSwan, J. E.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Cairns, JohnJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Cape, ThomasKennedy, ThomasThorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Cecil, Rt. Hon, Lord R. (Hitchin)Lawson, John JamesWatts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)Lunn, WilliamWignall, James
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Naylor, Thomas EllisWilson, James (Dudley)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)O'Grady, Captain JamesWilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)
Galbraith, SamuelRendall, AthelstanWood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Gillis, WilliamRichardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)Robertson, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. Myers.
NOES.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James TynteBellairs, Commander Carlyon W.Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James
Amery, Leopold C. M. S.Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)
Ashley, Colonel wilfrid W.Blades, Sir George RowlandCarew, Charles Robert S.
Astor, ViscountessBlake, Sir Francis DouglasCasey, T. W.
Atkey, A. R.Blane, T. A.Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)
Baird, Sir John LawrenceBorwick, Major G. O.Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-Cheyne, Sir William Watson
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender
Barlow, Sir MontagueBreese, Major Charles E.Coats, Sir Stuart
Barnes Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)Brittain, Sir HarryColfox, Major Wm. Phillips
Barnett, Major Richard W.Broad, Thomas TuckerConway, Sir W. Martin
Barnston, Major HarryBrown, Major D. C.Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.
Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kine.)Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. GeorgeRodger, A. K.
Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G.(Islington, W.)Kenyon, BarnetRoundell, Colonel R. F.
Elveden, ViscountKing, Captain Henry DouglasRoyds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund
Erskine, James Malcolm MonteithLewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Evans, ErnestLloyd, George ButlerSanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Falcon, Captain MichaelLocker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Fell, Sir ArthurLoseby, Captain C. E.Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.Shaw, William T. (Forfar)
Ford, Patrick JohnstonMaitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Foreman, Sir HenryMitchell, Sir William LaneSimm, M. T.
Forrest, WalterMolson, Major John ElsdaleStanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Foxcroft, Captain Charles TalbotMond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred MoritzStanton, Charles Butt
Fraser, Major Sir KeithMoore, Major-General Sir Newton J.Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Moreing, Captain Algernon H.Strauss, Edward Anthony
Ganzoni, Sir JohnMorris, RichardSugden, W. H.
Gibbs, Colonel George AbrahamMorrison, HughSutherland, Sir William
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir JohnMunro, Rt. Hon. RobertSykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)
Goff, Sir R. ParkNeal, ArthurThomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)
Grant, James AugustusNewson, Sir Percy WilsonTownshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers
Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)Tryon, Major George Clement
Gretton, Colonel JohnNicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)Turton, Edmund Russborough
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir HenryVickers, Douglas
Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert PikeWard, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)Warren, Sir Alfred H.
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)Pennefather, De FonblanqueWatson, Captain John Bertrand
Hancock, John GeorgePerkins, Walter FrankWhite, Col. G. D. (Southport)
Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)Perring, William GeorgeWild, Sir Ernest Edward
Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel CharlesWilliams, C. (Tavistock)
Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest MurrayWilloughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud
Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel FrankPretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.Windsor, Viscount
Hinds, JohnPurchase, H. G.Wise, Frederick
Hood, Sir JosephRandles, Sir John ScurrahWood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Hopkins, John W. W.Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)Worsfold, T. Cato
Hurd, Percy A.Remer, J. R.Young, E. H. (Norwich)
Jephcott, A. R.Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Jodrell, Neville PaulRoberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Johnstone, JosephRoberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Dudley Ward.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.