New Clause. — (Increase of permitted number of persons.)

Orders of the Day — Housing (Scotland) Bill. – in the House of Commons at on 2 July 1935.

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Notwithstanding anything in this Act contained, a dwelling-house shall not be deemed to be overcrowded if, subject to the provisions of paragraph (a) of Sub-section (1) of Section two of this Act, rooms of exceptional size are occupied by more than the following number of persons, that is to say: In the case of a room having a floor area of more than one hundred and thirty square feet two and a-half persons.—[Sir R. Horne.]

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

With regard to the new Clause which stands in the name of the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), I have had some doubts and still have some doubts whether I should select it. I think the right hon. Gentleman does not quite realise what would be the effect of his Amendment. I will, however, give him an opportunity of explaining it.

Clause brought up, and read the First time.

3.41 p.m.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Clause arises out of the special conditions of housing in Scotland, which are entirely different from those of England on which, unfortunately, too much of the legislation in this Bill has been based. Too little regard has been given to the conditions of the country with which the Bill is supposed to deal. The Schedule which deals with floor space shows that 20 square feet is supposed to be the accommodation for half a person, half a person being a child under the age of 10 years. There are gradations in the Schedule. Seventy square feet or more, but less than 90 square feet of accommodation is for one person. Ninety square feet or more, but less than 110 square feet is for the accommodation of one and a-half persons. One hundred and ten square feet or more is accommodation for two persons. The scale goes up by one-half in respect of each additional 20 square feet of accommodation.

In England 110 square feet is a very ordinary room, certainly far more usual than is a room in a similar working-class house in Scotland, where the space is very much greater not merely in the number of square feet but more so in the number of cubic feet. We could not induce the authorities to take into account the fact that there is additional height in our walls. For that reason I am asking for some consideration in regard to the number of square feet without regard to the number of cubic feet that you would get if you had regard to the height of the room. A room of 110 square feet is a very ordinary room in England, but a very small room in Scotland. One hundred and thirty square feet is a very common room in Scotland, and that is the point to which I wish to draw attention. There are vast numbers of rooms in working-class houses in Scotland that contain more than 130 square feet, and it is having regard to that type of house that I am asking the Secretary of State to give fresh consideration to this particular matter.

It seems on the face of it and on the merits not too much to ask that a father, mother and child should be allowed to live in a room of 130 square feet or more. I have raised the 110 square feet standard up to 130 feet in my Clause and have added half a person in accordance with the graduated scale. To those who know the conditions of life among our working-classes I suggest that this is not asking for anything extraordinary or anything that would cause embarrassment if some such condition were arranged for. I want to look at this question from the practical point of view and to do something which can be brought into operation at an early period of time. If we are going to rely upon too high a standard, we shall delay for how many years no one can tell in bringing about better housing conditions for our people. Accordingly, I suggest that in the Scottish Bill 130 square feet should be recognised as the accommodation for 2½ people.

Mr. Speaker has been so good as to indicate that he sees some difficulty in regard to the results of this Clause, I imagine in connection with the other Clauses of the Bill. I am aware of the fact that it contravenes the two scales that are already in the Bill in connection with the number of rooms, or the graduated scale of accommodation which those rooms afford, but the arrangement has to be taken on the basis that you have to apply the scale whichever is the lesser. As I dare say Mr. Speaker will observe, I begin the proposed new Clause with the phraseology: Notwithstanding anything in this Act contained, a dwelling-house shall not be deemed to be overcrowded if, subject to the provisions of paragraph (a)"— etc. That means subject to provisions in regard to the segregation of the sexes, which would remain unaffected; you would still have that condition to apply no matter what the other conditions were. A room of 130 square feet should in Scotland be recognised as the appropriate accommodation for 2½ persons.

3.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

I hope the House will reject the proposed new Clause. The right hon. Gentleman has given his point of view as to how the Clause will affect the difference in housing between England and Scotland. He says that in Scotland we have more spacious apartments than they have in England. I am not going to deny that statement in its entirety, but I want to put another point of view, and I hope the Secretary of State will pay attention to it. I would point out that the conditions of housing in Scotland are quite different from the housing conditions in England. In Scotland, we have great tenements, and in England they have nothing of the kind. That is all the difference in the world. In some of our closes in Glasgow we have as many as 130 souls, piled one on top of the other. Therefore, I hope that the Secretary of State will not curtail or weaken the position of the Bill so far as floor space is concerned.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

On a point of Order. I understood you, Mr. Speaker, to say that you doubted whether the new Clause was in order and that you asked the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) to make a short explanation. After the right hon. Gentleman had made his explanation, I presumed that you would have said whether the Clause was in order or not and whether the Debate should continue.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

What I said was that I did not think the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) realised the effect his new Clause would have. It is not my business to interpret to the House the meaning of any Amendment, but what I had in mind was that if the new Clause were adopted as it stands the effect would be that houses with rooms of more than 130 square feet might be occupied by any number of persons I thought that this should be pointed out.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I am afraid that that arises from a clerical error; the word "not" has been missed out. The new Clause should read: Rooms of exceptional size are occupied by not more than the following number of persons.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I can only take the Clause as it appears on the Order Paper.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

May I say that I moved the new Clause with the "not" inserted. That is to say, the new Clause will read: Notwithstanding anything in this Act contained, a dwelling-house shall not be deemed to be overcrowded if, subject to the provisions of paragraph (a) of Sub-section (1) of Section two of this Act, rooms of exceptional size are occupied by not more than the following number of persons, that is to say:In the case of a room having a floor area of more than one hundred and thirty square feet two and a-half persons. It is a clerical error for which apologise.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Now that we are in order may I say that the new Clause is reducing the thing down to a very fine edge? This is a Bill to do away with overcrowding conditions in Scotland, which are unequalled in any part of the world. They are a standing disgrace, and the Bill does something to remedy the terrible state of affairs. But along comes the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) and boils the thing down to two and a half persons. What a generous action. When we are dealing with a Bill which will do something to do away with the most terrible housing conditions in Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman introduces a new Clause which will hamper its operation and make the Bill worse instead of better. The right hon. Gentleman says that his new Clause is a practical suggestion, meaning, I suppose, that the Bill is impracticable. I hope the Secretary of State will resist it.

3.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Combined Scottish Universities

The suggestion in the new Clause is that in a room of 130 square feet, that is 13 feet by 10 feet, the permitted number of persons should be increased to two and a half persons. A room of this size is exactly the width of the space between the two sides of the House and from the end of the Table to the Clerk's table in length. It would seem a startling proposition that we should lay down a room of this size as sufficient for the permanent living place for two grown-ups and one child. The right hon. Gentleman laid stress on the difference in the size of rooms in Scotland and in England. There is something in that, but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the number of rooms in Scotland is smaller and that overcrowding is at its peak in two-roomed houses. If this alteration is made in the standard, hon. Members must realise how it will effect people who are living in two-roomed houses. That is the main question to consider. If the alteration were made in two-roomed houses, each of the rooms being 13 feet by 10 feet, it would be possible for a widow and eight children to occupy the rooms. You could have that degree of overcrowding. But it is not only the actual number of human beings you get in a room of that size but the material difficulties, which are very great indeed. When you get two adults and one child up to the age of 10 years accommodated in rooms of this size you get problems of space, which are difficult indeed. The Government are most unwilling and indeed determined not to alter or diminish the standard of housing laid down in the Bill. The vital matter in Scotland is the two-roomed house, and if you permit this extension—there may be more arguments in excuse in a three or four-roomed house—you must be careful, when you are dealing with the two-roomed house, that your standards are not such as to allow too great a number of people to be living in these two rooms.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

Does the Under-Secretary realise that under his scale in a two-roomed house of 110 square feet you can equally have a widow and six children, if they are all of the same sex?

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Combined Scottish Universities

That is no reason for making this alteration. That bears out the view which was frankly expressed in Committee, that you cannot expect to get an ideal standard, and the fact that even this standard is open to criticism seems to be a reason why—the Committee having determined upon the standard—there should be no alteration.

3.59 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett , Aberdeen North

I hope the Secretary of State will take into consideration the principles embodied in the new Clause. I admit all that has been said about the overcrowded conditions in Scotland and I do not minimise them, but it will be a long time before we have sufficient accommodation to enable us to say that we can get rid of overcrowding, and until we have sufficient accommodation we must consider how best we can spread the people over the accommodation that we have. This amounts to something like a puzzle. We have to fit so many pieces into a particular square, and if we fit a certain number of pieces in, leaving considerable spaces, we find when we get to the other end that we cannot get all our pieces in. To illustrate that, I may say we have a large number of people at present in my constituency who are living in tents and vans, simply because there is no accommodation which they can get. I think that is a very strong reason why we should use the accommodation which we have got to the utmost. The majority of tenements in my constituency which have been built within the last 30 or 40 years are good, solid, granite buildings with good height. The three-roomed tenements have rooms with about 180, 150 and 110 square feet of floor space on the average, while the two-roomed tenements have something like 180 and 110 square feet. If we take the scale laid down, it means that these rooms which have 180 square feet of floor space are not fully used, and we are taking very much longer time before we can deal with the gross overcrowding which exists.

I may take an instance, which I came across three days ago, of a family—a husband and wife and eight children—living in three very small rooms. The two larger rooms were 8 feet by 10, and the smaller room had the whole floor practically covered by bedding. This family could have been moved some time ago into a three-roomed house where there would be accommodation of the nature I have mentioned. In that case, the five girls in the family, aged 14, 12, 8, 7 years and six months, would have to be put in a room where there were 180 square feet of floor space, instead of a room 10 feet by 8; but, owing to the regulations, they cannot be put into a three-roomed house, and there are no four-roomed houses available. [An HON. MEMBER: "What regulations?"] The existing regulations as to 400 cubic feet. My point is that, if we lay down too many regulations, we are hampering the local authority considerably in dealing with these worst cases. We have to calculate the thing by figures—the numbers of people, the numbers of houses, the amount of actual floor space. But the local authority is dealing with actual flesh and blood. It is these gross cases of overcrowding with which it has to deal, and whenever we can move a bad case of 10 people or so crammed in small rooms into better circumstances, I think we are making a mistake in hampering a local authority in doing this. I favour the principle of the Clause, because I consider that it will enable us to spread our people better over the existing accommodation, and I look forward to the time when we shall have enough accommodation to be able then to take up the standard which we desire to have. I most certainly want this Bill to be quickly placed on the Statute Book so that we can deal with overcrowding, but if we make rules too strict, I do not think that we are hastening the day when that can be done.

4.5 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL:

I must remind my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that when he was opposing the Clause moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), he seemed to overlook two things in the Bill. In the first place, he did not make it clear to the House that the number of persons to be allowed to sleep in each room advances by half a unit for every additional 20 square feet, beginning by allowing half a unit, that is, a child below the age of 10, for 50 square feet. Therefore, what my right hon. Friend suggested is entirely in line with Table II of Schedule 1 which allows two full persons, or four half units, for a room of 110 square feet. His clause is in line with the basis of that table, that for an additional 20 square feet an additional half unit should be allowed. I think that is a very important point to keep in mind.

The other point in regard to the Bill which my hon. Friend overlooked is, that although Table II of Schedule 1 allows an additional half unit for every additional 20 square feet between 50 and 110 square feet, reaching a maximum of two full units, there is another table in Schedule 1 which for a two-roomed house allows only three persons. My right hon. Friend's suggestion thus would not mean more than two and a-half persons in one room and one person in the other room, and therefore only an additional half unit. Under Table II the number of persons allowed in a two-roomed house could not be stretched to the dimensions suggested by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. Therefore, what this House has before it is simply a half unit added to the number of persons, which is in line with the Government's own proposal of allowing an additional half person for every additional 20 square feet, and there is no proposal under the new Clause to upset the conditions in Table 1, by which, if you have two persons in one room you can only have one person in the other room of the two-roomed house. Therefore, the case of a widow with eight children in a two-roomed house has no relevance to the facts, and even if two and a-half units were allowed, it would work out to a woman with seven children, and not eight. I beg to support the Clause.

Photo of Captain John McEwen Captain John McEwen , Berwickshire and Haddingtonshire

Is it not a fact that, according to the Rules of Procedure, a new Clause may not be moved without notice, and, therefore, as notice has not been given of this Clause correctly, is not this Debate on the Clause entirely out of order?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

A new Clause cannot be moved without notice being given, but I understood from the right hon. Gentleman that his intention was that the word "not" should be included in this new Clause, and that it was an error that it was omitted. If that be the case, I should naturally assume that it was intended to give notice of the Clause in that form.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

It was perfectly obvious that the Clause could not mean anything else to any intelligent reader.

4.9 p.m.

Photo of Captain Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Captain Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn , Renfrewshire Western

When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was asked just now whether it would not be possible under the Bill for a widow and six children to inhabit a two-roomed house, he appeared to agree that this was so, but I do not think it is. Under the first Schedule, the greatest possible number would be a widow and four children under 10.

Mr. SKELTON indicated assent.

Photo of Captain Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn Captain Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn , Renfrewshire Western

That is only half the number of children which might be possible under the new Clause of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne).

The argument put forward in support of the new Clause is, that if you relax the standard of overcrowding, you will thereby enable the worst overcrowding conditions to be relieved more rapidly than would be the case under the existing provisions of the Bill. The House, of course, will have observed that the Secretary of State has put down an Amendment to the Clause which reads: Any proposals under this Section for the provision of additional housing accommodation shall be accompanied by a statement of the steps which the local authority propose to take to secure that the rehousing of families living under the worst conditions as regards overcrowding is provided for first. It is, therefore, evident that it is the intention of this Bill, on which the Government mean to insist, that the worst cases shall be dealt with first, and the only point we have to consider is whether a Clause of the sort now proposed would make it more difficult to carry out the Amendment which is to be inserted at the end of Clause 1. I think, perhaps, hon. Members have confused the business of relieving overcrowding which can begin now, with the fixing of the appointed day under the Act. There is nothing whatever to prevent the process of de-crowding from beginning now. The financial provisions of the Bill apply retrospectively to all houses begun after 1st February of this year. There is no need for a local authority to wait for the appointed day in order to start building new houses, and moving families not only into the new houses, but perhaps out of one house into another old house, which will accommodate them better. The object of the overcrowding standard proposed is to provide the local authorities with some measure which will enable them to know how many houses to start building. The local authority has a survey of its area and finds out how many houses will be required to relieve overcrowding under the standard laid down. Having decided that, it can start to build them, but the business of moving the families will not begin until some houses are built, and the appointed day will not be until a sufficient number of houses is built to relieve all the overcrowding in the area.

Therefore, the higher standard we set now, the more houses you make local authorities provide for, and the quicker will be the process of relieving the worst cases in accordance with the proposed Amendment of the Secretary of State. I see no difficulty such as that envisaged by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) of moving the family which he instanced into a new house, or rather into an old house other than that which they occupied before, while the process of decrowding is going on in the initial stages of the working of this Bill.

4.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

The hon. Member who has just spoken has not, I think, covered the whole purpose of the supporters of the new Clause. I think the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), the Noble Lady, and the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) may be given credit for understanding the Bill. They know perfectly well that there is no provision in the Bill which immediately establishes the standards laid down. We know there is any amount of time given for their adjustment—centuries in fact, if the Bill is interpreted in a liberal spirit.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett , Aberdeen North

I know that at the present time families such as I have referred to cannot be put into council houses. They cannot be put into three-romed houses, because there are too many families.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

No; the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the position. There may be some local rule of the Aberdeen Town Council by which they are going to allow people into certain houses owned by themselves, but there is nothing that prevents an adjustment, so far as Statute law is concerned, nothing that prevents a change being made at Aberdeen.

Photo of Dame Florence Horsbrugh Dame Florence Horsbrugh , Dundee

Several local authorities have adopted what, I think, are model by-laws, suggested, I believe, by the Department of Health in a circular on the 1930 Act, that when clearing slum areas the standard for the new houses should be three units per two-roomed house. A standard has thus been set up in a piecemeal way, which is unfortunate, I think.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

That may be so, but as legislation stands now, and as it will stand after this Bill becomes law, there is nothing to prevent local authorities moving families about from house to house in the way that seems to them best suited to the needs of the community, and I am prepared to believe that the Housing Committee of the Aberdeen Town Council are as capable of making a wise decision on these matters as is the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett). After the appointed day, after time has been given for the building of new houses and the reconstruction of old houses, the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) wants it to be laid down permanently that Scottish people can live satisfactorily and healthily in a single apartment house—two adults and a child—and the space for which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends are arguing is a space somewhat less than the floor space from the Bar to where I am standing. They are arguing that a family, a man and wife and child, shall live their complete lives, shall perform every function of life, shall be born and die, inside that space. That is what they are standing for here.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett , Aberdeen North

Until the appointed day.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

No, after the appointed day.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

That is the view of right hon. and hon. Members of what is good enough for their fellow-countrymen. It is not good enough in England and not good enough in Wales or anywhere else, but it is good enough for their fellow-countrymen, for their constituents, for the people who sent them here. It is necessary to explain to English Members of this House that when supporters of this new Clause talk about a single room they mean a room that is all-inclusive. There is no kitchenette, no scullery, no bathroom, no water closet. It is one room that has to be bathroom, drawing room, sitting room, bedroom, kitchen and everything else.

Duchess of ATHOLL:

The hon. Member is talking about one room and connecting it with the supporters of this new Clause. We are only proposing to add half a unit to the number of persons set out in the Bill, and we have said nothing about one-roomed houses.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I have listened to that the hon. Member has said, and completely misrepresents my point view.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

I may be misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, but I am not misrepresenting either the new Clause on the Paper or the speeches made in support of it. The Government, I admit, allow for the retention of the one-roomed house and the Bill allows two people to live in it. That is held to be an ideal standard. It is a miserable standard. A higher standard could have been inserted and should have been inserted in the Bill. But it has been accepted by the Standing Committee after long argument. What is being done now by the right hon. Member for Hillhead and his friends is not merely to defend a continuation of that single-roomed house, but to persuade this House to pack an extra human being into it. That is what they want. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen who represents a great fishing port, talked about it as if it were a problem of packing herring into barrels. The Noble Lady resents that statement.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett , Aberdeen North

The hon. Gentleman entirely misrepresents my position. I said that these grossly overcrowded places, such as I mentioned, need attention as well as the cases where a person has to live in a one-roomed house. I asked simply for equality of treatment.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Then I take it that the hon. Gentleman does not regard the packing of three human beings into one room of that size as undesirable? It is the whole house; it is everything. It is not merely the whole house, but the whole garden and the rest of it. If the tenants want to grow a geranium it has to be grown inside that space. Right hon. and hon. Members come forward and ask me to agree to packing another individual into that space. They may go into all sorts of side issues, but what they are asking here is that the House shall agree to packing another human being into a one-roomed house, and that not merely for a transition period but as the accepted standard for Scotland. I am not having it, and I am glad that the Government have definitely resisted the proposal.

4.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Train Mr John Train , Glasgow Cathcart

I am deeply interested in what the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has said with regard to the one-roomed house and the new Clause that has been moved. I support the new Clause not so much because it asks that another half person be put into the room, but because it makes the room 20 square feet larger than that in the Bill. What are the Government asking in the Bill? Two people to 110 square feet. The new Clause suggests 2½ people to 130 square feet. I would support it more readily if it suggested 150 square feet. I would not suggest that the housing conditions in Scotland are good. They are bad, and very bad, and I agree with all that has been said about them. From one-third to one-half of the working-class people of Scotland are living in overcrowded conditions. If this Bill in its entirety goes through we are told that 70,000 houses in Glasgow will not meet the requirements of the Bill regarding overcrowding.

We have been accustomed in Scotland to larger rooms than those in England. I agree with the statement that what is good enough for England is good enough for Scotland, but it is necessary to compare like with like. Rooms of houses in England have never been as large as those to which we have been accustomed in Scotland. I have here a note given to me regarding some houses in Paisley. They are two-roomed houses, and they were measured by a reputable firm of surveyors. The note gives the sizes of the rooms in square feet in the case of 564 houses. The total for a two-roomed house is 415 square feet. That is over 200 feet for each room, and that is what the people of Scotland have been accustomed to.

Photo of Mr John Train Mr John Train , Glasgow Cathcart

I am giving the figures supplied by a reputable firm and will pass them on to the hon. Gentleman if he wants to see them.

Photo of Mr John Train Mr John Train , Glasgow Cathcart

I am quoting a statement which shows that there were 415 square feet in the two rooms as measured by the surveyors in Paisley, and the measurements were made in 564 houses. That is typical of housing in Scotland generally.

Photo of Mr John Train Mr John Train , Glasgow Cathcart

Scottish people are accustomed to these larger rooms. If for no other reason I would support this new Clause because it increases the sizes of the rooms provided in the Bill. An area of 110 square feet is very small. We have had an illustration of an area of 130 square feet, but imagine what 110 square feet is. When you open the door you are up against a bed or a fireplace, and there is no room for furniture at all. I am all for making the rooms larger. If we get another 20 or 30 square feet into a room I am all for the proposal. I hope the Government will give the new Clause every consideration. It is all very well to say that the appointed day has not yet come. As the hon. Member for Bridgeton said, it might not come for a long time. That is what a lot of us are afraid of. We want this Bill to go through in a way that is practical, but if the Government insist on these very rigid conditions and lay down regulations that so many houses must be provided before beginning to deal with the subject, delay is inevitable. It is all very well to say "the worse cases first," but the present condition of housing in Scotland is bad and progress is not what we wish. Laying down hard-and-fast regulations and taking the people away from the kind of houses to which they are accustomed, are not going to help housing improvements in Scotland.

4.28 p.m.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife Eastern

The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) wishes to increase the size of the room in which two persons are to live. If that be his desire, he ought to produce an Amendment to make the 110 square feet, which appears in the Schedule, into 130 or 140 square feet, leaving unaltered the provision as to two persons. What the hon. Member really desires is to increase the size of the room but also to increase the number of persons in it. The Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) put an interesting argument. She said we have advanced by a process of arithmetical progression, by 20 feet and 20 feet and 20 feet, until we have reached 110 feet, and there we have two persons. She asked, why cannot we add 20 feet and provide for 2½ persons? I cannot believe that the Noble Lady appreciates the logical conclusion of that argument. Why stop at 2½ persons for 130 feet? The hon. Member for Cathcart spoke of rooms 200 square feet in size. If you adopt this arithmetical progression, you will have four persons in a room of that size. Does anyone desire to cram as many people as that into one room?

The Schedule says that in no circumstances can more than two persons be accommodated in one room. My right hon. Friend is suggesting in his new Clause that more people should go into one room. I am very sorry to disagree with my right hon. Friend, because I agree most profoundly with him in his views on the position of occupying owners and compensation to people disturbed and on the assistance that ought to be given to owners to improve their property without unnecessary rigmarole. I agree with him profoundly on those subjects, and I admired the stand that he took up in the Standing Committee on these matters. I beg my right hon. Friend not to pursue a proposal which is designed to lower the standard of housing.

The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) appreciates as I do that we may not be able to apply this standard at once but that is no reason why we should reduce the standard. When a standard is applied, for example, to a business, all those engaged in that business do not always come up to that standard but that is no reason why the general standard should be reduced. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend expects the employés of any company over which he presides to keep proper hours and to work diligently throughout the day. That is his standard. But he knows that some of them may not arrive punctually at nine o'clock each morning—that some may dribble in five minutes or 10 minutes late and that some may not always work diligently throughout the day. He does not, however, lower the standard on that account. He maintains the standard and strives to make its application general. I know that his desire for better housing is as keen as that of any Member in the House, but I submit that, whatever may be the arguments in favour of his Amendment, it would have the direct result of increasing rather than diminishing overcrowding and I ask him therefore not to press it.

4.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Leonard Mr William Leonard , Glasgow St Rollox

I am pleased that certain hon. Members representing English constituencies who were sitting in my vicinity have now departed because some of the statements made earlier in this Debate surprised them and their comments caused me a certain amount of embarrassment. I am very pleased that the Secretary of State is not going to accept this Amendment and I trust that he will not be diverted from that view. The question before us is whether we desire that the standard should be lowered or not. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment represents a division of Glasgow but he is not voicing the opinion of the people of Glasgow in putting forward this Amendment. The Amendment is more suggestive of the views of some of the county councils on this matter. I recollect the efforts that were made in Committee to conform to the desires of those county councils and I have still in my possession a copy of a document from the Association of County Councils in Scotland in which they state that they take the view that the standard of overcrowding laid down in the Bill is too high as compared with the English standard. They also state that the Scottish authorities have a greater problem of overcrowding to face and that some lower standard might be laid down for Scotland.

I definitely disagree with that view. There is no reason why we in Scotland should not aim at the standard which has been accepted as suitable for England. An hon. Member has suggested that this scheme is like a puzzle and that it will take time to fit in all the different parts but it has also been said that there is ample time and that there will be a sufficient number of "appointed days" in order to get all the parts of the puzzle into their proper places. I feel that much of what has been said in support of this Amendment has a greater approximation to the kind of opinion which resides in county councils than to opinion in the urban areas. The problem of the county councils in the matter of houses for overcrowding is not so great as the problem of the city, and I think it is a true reflex of the opinion in the cities to say that they are prepared to pay for the higher standard even if it takes a little more time, and that, especially in view of the modifications already made in Committee, there is no reason to depart from the standard fixed in the Bill.

4.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Argyll

I want to see everything done as quickly as possible, but there is one consideration in connection with this matter which ought not to be overlooked. I do not think that the average sensible person in Scotland would suggest that it is necessary or desirable, if a young couple get married and if in the ordinary course of nature one member is added to the family, that they should immediately have to hunt round the town in order to get another house. That is not a sensible or a reasonable proposition. I think the proposal in the Amendment is reasonable and fair, and is in consonance with public opinion.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.