Whatever else may be in dispute or contention to-day, there will be general agreement that the health services in Scotland are standing up splendidly to the stresses and strains of war. When social standards deteriorate it is usually women and children who feel the first impact of that deterioration. But in Scotland in 1942 the death-rate for females was the lowest in our history, and the records of school entrants in Glasgow for last year show definite increases in the weights and heights of both boys and girls. There has been a remarkable and steady increase in well-being since the middle of last century. This is borne out quite clearly, I think, by the mortality statistics. If we compare the figures for the decade 1851 to 1860 with the figures for last year, we see that per 100,000 of the population smallpox deaths have fallen from 35 to one; measles from 43 to three; scarlet fever from 98 to one; diphtheria from 44 to six. Indeed, a recent study of diphtheria statistics shows an even more remarkable reduction in what is called the case mortality rate. In 1900 the rate was 19.9 per cent.—that is to say, one out of every five notified cases of diphtheria died. There has been a steady reduction ever since, until last year only one out of every 36 died. Deaths through whooping cough per 100,000 of the population have fallen from 72 to two; diarrhoea from 106 to 22; bronchitis and pneumonia from 201 to 110; and even the tuberculosis figure—although it is now giving us serious cause for anxiety—has fallen from 360 to 84. Deaths from typhus and enteric have been almost wiped out in the same period. Infantile mortality has been halved. Infantile mortality was 14 per thousand better last year than in the previous one. With the single exception of 1939, when the rate was only fractionally lower, the figure for 1942 was the lowest on record. Still we have to face the fact that our infantile mortality rates are higher than they are South of the Border.
Tuberculosis is the chief black spot on our health statistics. It was halved between the two wars but is again unfortunately on the increase. The notifications for pulmonary tuberculosis have increased by 31 per cent. since the war began, and, no doubt, the mass radiography experiments which we hope to inaugurate this summer or autumn will throw up other incipient cases. It is fortunate, however, I think, that these incipient cases can be more easily treated, and with much greater hope of success, just because they are discovered at an early stage. Meantime we have allocated 800 additional beds in emergency hospitals for the treatment of T.B., and we have about 500 cases awaiting nursing staff. In order to induce patients to go early for treatment, maintenance allowances on a standard scale, and without any test of means, are being provided. These maintenance allowances range from 39s. per week for male applicants, with allowances for dependants in addition. There are also discretionary allowances, at the option of the local authorities, for exceptional liabilities. Every effort must be made to relieve patients from domestic anxiety.
In Scotland we have inaugurated a system whereby, through arrangements with voluntary hospitals, we have succeeded in wiping off patients on the waiting lists of these hospitals to the number of 15,000. Previous to the war we were exceedingly short of hospital accommodation. The Committee on Health Services reported alarming figures of shortage, but the Government's emergency hospitals have provided an opportunity for experiment whereby patients on the waiting list of these voluntary hospitals can be treated at once. I had meetings with the voluntary hospitals authorities, and, after adequate discussion, they agreed to take part in the scheme. They pay a small fee of 30s. per case to the State hospitals, but there is no charge to the patient. There are 35 voluntary hospitals playing up splendidly under this arrangement, and a vast mass of human suffering and pain has undoubtedly been eliminated.
I am particularly pleased also at the success of what has been called the Clyde Basin experiment and is now called the supplementary medical service. Patients are referred by panel doctors, or from works medical officers, for specialist examination to the State regional medical service. All the most modern appliances and diagnostic skill are available, and, where necessary, the patients are treated, gratis of course, in one of the State emergency hospitals. We have had 3,700 people, mostly young workers, dealt with down to the end of May, and the scheme, which in effect supplies a specialist medical service gratis to the working population, has been warmly welcomed by the doctors as well as by the patients. Many young workers have been saved from complete breakdown by the timely intervention of this scheme. I fervently trust that it will not be regarded as a mere temporary war-time expedient but will in some way or other be permanently grafted on to our health services. In effect it is a nationally supplied specialist medical service superimposed on the top of the panel doctor service, and provides specialist treatment in hospital, and in convalescent homes if necessary, for workers where diagnosis is difficult for the panel doctor, or where it is fatigue or the beginning of some vague form of disease from which the patient is suffering.
There is another experiment, at Gleneagles, a one-time luxury hotel which has been adapted as a fitness centre. It is called by the ugly word "reconditioning," but it is a fitness centre for injured miners. I advise hon. Members, if they are ever in the neighbourhood, to go and see it at work. I most fervently hope that the service there will not stop at coal mining but that the great experiment, which has already been highly successful, will be extended to other crafts and trades.
There is still another experiment about which I should like to say a word. We took a thousand men—there were some women among them, but mostly men—who were invalided from the Forces, and put one of our Department's medical officers on to following up these cases to see how they fared in civil life—to see if they had conditions of employment appropriate to their physique. I should like to thank Sir John Fraser and other well-know consultants for their gratis advice and assistance. It appeared from the test examinations that about 20 per cent. of these invalided ex-Service men were trying to do work quite unsuited to their physical condition, which, if persisted in, would have meant a complete breakdown, and we have been able, in consultation with the Ministry of Labour, not entirely in every case but in large numbers of these cases, to secure that the men get employment more suitable to their physical condition.
With regard to housing, I am well-aware of the anxiety that is felt among all classes and sections of the community. I share that anxiety. For 30 years I have taken part in struggles and have promoted schemes for an adequate supply of healthy, sanitary, comfortable and artistic homes for the Scots people. Now the stern necessities of war have temporarily suspended, or at all events retarded, the steady provision of these houses. We had actually been making a great effort in rehousing between the wars. Since 1919 there have been built 352,000 houses, that is, 30 per cent. of the total number in the country. Now, however, there is a diminishing labour force. During the war we have combed every available source to get the necessary skilled personnel for the completion of houses under construction, for the restoration of air raid damaged houses and for the maintenance of existing housing structures and fabrics. Services such as Air Raid Precautions and the National Fire Service are being carefully examined to see how far they can contribute building trade workers towards meeting the housing needs of our people. During the year all possible sources of building trade workers have been combed out, and the number of building trade workers on air raid shelters have been diminished by over two-thirds. Demolition squads and some other services must of necessity have some skilled tradesmen in their ranks. Again there are some materials in short supply. There are timber, steel, and certain non-ferrous metals. Nevertheless, since the outbreak of this war we have completed the construction of 31,619 houses. At the beginning of the present year our local authorities had still over 5,000 houses under construction, some of them suspended, and I arranged with my colleagues that we should get an additional allocation of 1,000 workers in the building trades to help in the speedier completion of these houses.
Yes. There are parts of the country also where private enterprise houses have been suspended, and, on my representations, the Ministry of Works are now making arrangements in suitable cases to give labour facilities for the completion of these houses, If the proprietors are unable or inwilling to face the present costs of completion, it may be necessary for the Government to requisition and to complete them. Again, in Scotland we have seven large civil defence hostels so constructed that they might be quickly divided and adapted as temporary family houses. Some of these hostels could provide about 100 houses each, and I am now considering adapting one of them for a particularly difficult housing area.
It is on Clydeside, but in advance of my negotiations with the Treasury I prefer not to be more precise. Since 1926 over 32,000 houses have been reconstructed under the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts, and 2,000 more houses are even now under re-construction. Then we have permission to authorise the building of another 1,000 houses in Scotland. For 204 of these estimates have already been accepted and approved and local authorities have been authorised to go ahead.
I could, but I put it to the hon. Member that if I were to give in public the prices per square foot which had been accepted, it would be regarded as a target figure for other possible tenderers. While I am perfectly happy to give any hon. Gentleman the figures privately, I am advised that in the public interest it would be highly disadvantageous to give the figures that we have accepted because of the effect it might have upon other contractors or tenderers.
I am sure the trade know the prices. The point in my mind is that we have a public duty here to see that we are not being exploited, and we cannot carry that out unless we have some idea of what house contractors are charging.
The hon. Gentleman's first statement that the trade know these prices is not correct. Of the figures for the 204 houses, 200 are not tenders which have come from the trade at all. They are direct labour estimates, and, therefore, the trade cannot know them. I would beg the hon. Gentleman to believe me when I say that we are acting only in the public interest in refusing to disclose the figures at this stage while the tenders are coming in.
I am merely giving my view. On these 1,000 new war-time houses there is an extra grant of £100 per house in urban areas and £200 in rural areas. We are doing everything we can to encourage local authorities in these matters. I am sure that it is possible to have these houses built at a reasonable figure per square foot, but again I would plead with the Committee not to press us to-day for precise figures because of the effect that it might have upon potential tenderers in other schemes.
As an emergency measure under the Defence Regulations, we have authorised local authorities to repair and to make habitable some 500 houses which have been previously condemned. Local authorities have also been authorised to rent 1,100 unoccupied houses in addition to 400 requisitioned houses for homeless and evacuated persons or war workers. In some of the Clydeside towns in addition I have authorised the local authorities to take possession of empty shops and offices. In all these cases we have offered to give them 100 per cent. grants towards the cost of reconstruction of those shops and offices which can be suitably converted into dwelling houses.
Not enough, but I will give some figures. Some of these places had once been dwelling houses and had been converted into shops. We now ask, when the shops are empty, that they should be reconverted into dwelling houses. In Glasgow this has meant 81 new houses at a construction cost on an average of £55 per house. They were not all shops and offices; some of them had been houses at one time and another. Repairs of war damaged houses used up a great amount of our building trade labour activities during the year. It is important that hon. Members should be reminded of this. Down to May, 1943, minor repairs—that is repairs bigger than, say, the mending of broken glass—had been made in over 67,000 cases and major repairs in over 5,000. Where disputes arose as to what might be fittingly paid for the damaged houses I am happy to say that they have been settled under the procedure already announced in the House under which we appointed men of skill to decide. No appeals have reached me against any of their decisions.
I can say nothing to-day on the question of furnished lets. It is an exceedingly difficult subject. There are cases undoubtedly where what I can only describe as extortionate charges are being made for sub-lets of furnished dwellings or rooms in furnished dwellings. The variety of the furnishing or what is called furnishing—for in some cases it consists only of an old table, a chair and a wisp of linoleum—is so wide that it is difficult to get a remedy. The Lord Advocate took proceedings under the Rent Restriction Acts for extortionate overcharging, but the Court of Session has held that in these cases not only must we prove high prices but there must be some threat in addition. Unfurnished lets are protected up to £90, but furnished lets are a most difficult problem. All I can say is that the Government are closely examining the question of the practicability of dealing with the subject of furnished lets in the hope that, however we deal with it, we will not diminish the supply of bona fide furnished lettings which are providing accommodation for such a large number of our people.
As to the future, we are doing everything possible to prepare plans for instant action on a large scale immediately men and materials are available. My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is Chairman of our Housing Advisory Committee. It is now inquiring into such questions as the design, lay-out, furnishing and distribution of houses. When these three remits are completed I hope to provide them with further remits to which I trust they will give urgent attention. We are ensuring that every local authority in Scotland will have in its ownership land for at least one year's building programme whenever peace comes, and I hope that as and when the labour position in other directions eases—and that may be long before the end of the war so far as older labour is concerned—it will be possible to arrange in the most difficult areas that the local authorities will proceed with a limited amount of work upon roads, sewers and water mains for their housing scheme. So far as I can ascertain, these are the facts about health and housing. It is for this House and the country to judge whether, given the limiting conditions of a war in which the nation is struggling for survival, the administration of our great health services in Scotland has during the year been competently and efficiently discharged.
A good many of my colleagues in Scotland wish to speak in this Debate, so I intend to intervene for only a few minutes to deal with one aspect of this very important housing problem, and that is the modernisation or reconditioning of existing properties. I was interested to see that only a few days ago, at a conference of local authorities in Edinburgh, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave some prominence to this point. The question of reconditioning is in the main confined to the larger cities and burghs where, as all who represent the urban areas know, there has been a lamentable deterioration in great tracts of tenement property. From having been well found and good dwelling places they have now fallen into being the vilest of slums. That is serious because there is no remedy except to pull down very large blocks of buildings; but prevention is better than cure, and there are considerable blocks of tenement buildings in all the cities which are externally sound and adequate and could be made habitable for a good many years to come if internal reconditioning could be carried out.
I appreciate that this is an extremely difficult problem. During the time when I had the advantage of serving on Edinburgh Town Council I was very much interested in reconditioning, and I studied the valuation rolls for some of the central areas of the town. I found that in a single building there might be a dozen or more owners and very often trust estates held a large block of tenements or part of a block. Therefore there were legal and financial impediments in the way of taking action. If I remember aright, the Whitson Report of 1933 suggested that a subsidy might be made available for reconditioning, but for reasons which were partly, I think, financial but mainly political, that proposal was never adopted, and to the best of my knowledge the only Statute dealing with reconditioning of houses in urban areas is Section 20 of the Act of 1935 and that section is permissive and does not give any financial assistance to local authorities who wish to carry out reconditioning on an ambitious scale or indeed any scale at all. For all practical purposes that Section is a dead letter.
I have said that I recognise this is a very difficult problem, and I am not asking the Government to produce any cut-and-dried scheme straight away, but I would remind the Secretary of State that a year ago he appointed a Scottish Housing Advisory Committee, composed of a large number of men and women with experience in housing and health questions, and I would ask him to set up a sub-Committee of that body for the express purpose of examining the problem of reconditioning or modernisation and to issue a Memorandum or White Paper setting out the facts and what remedies are open. I feel this to be one aspect of post-war housing that we must deal with if we do not wish to see a great many more slums developing. I ask my right hon. Friend to give sympathetic consideration to this suggestion.
I think all hon. Members will be fully appreciative of the figures given by the Secretary of State showing the progress in health over a good number of years, and I do not propose to go into that aspect of the matter to-day, because I think there is no gainsaying the fact that if there is one factor more than another that is conducive to good health, it is housing. I shall never forget the telling details that were placed before us when I was a member of the Glasgow Corporation, showing the differences in weight and in height of boys from three specific schools who had come from one-apartment, two-apartment and three-apartment houses. They could be regarded as having had something of the same type of food, and the deduction was made that while their food and the other factors in their lives were the same the differences in weight and stature were due to the variations in air space available in their homes.
To my mind Glasgow is not very different from any other towns, but as I see it there are four problems connected with housing which are more clamant in Glasgow than, perhaps, elsewhere. There can be no denial that over-crowding is one of the paramount problems, and the councillors of the City of Glasgow cannot satisfy the mass of appeals which are made to them. At the same time it is no answer to people to tell them that they are up against a wall except for an appeal to the Scottish Department of Health, and that they cannot be given houses if houses are not there. There is in Glasgow a type of house which I call the uninhabitable, or at any rate the house that should not be habitable. It exists there in larger numbers than in most other towns in Scotland or in England. Then there are certain condemned areas in the city which call for immediate attention. Last, but certainly by no means least, there is an extensive list of newly-married persons who are entitled to some attention. The list is large at present, but it will be a very much larger one when hostilities end and young men come back to take their places in industry. To my mind Glasgow is peculiar in the extent and the urgency of those four aspects of the housing problem.
On the question of planning I read recently of some very effective arrangements being made to deal with London. While I am glad that many towns have not suffered as London and some of the other towns in England have suffered, it may be that the extent of the destruction in certain places may make planning there a little easier from the point of view of laying out better towns. Planning is of no use unless it is long-term planning, and planning does not mean only roads, institutions, housing and parks. It means an endeavour to conceive of the social and economic changes which may take place in a large city. Scotland is a nation that has its own ideas, if not unmindful of the advantages it can receive from others, but just because Scotland has suffered so many deficiencies in the past the awakening that is evident in Scotland to-day will possibly insist on changes being made with greater speed. Without any desire to hurt the chances of other cities, Glasgow will call for expedition in the matter of dealing with her needs.
I never think of planned housing without bearing in mind that there is a definite desire on the part of the people to see that industry shall not in future be allowed to perambulate about the country as it has in the past. There can be no real planning of the lives of the people from the point of view of their housing requirements unless we can see with some certainty—if not altogether accurately, with some certainty—what the industrial pattern of the country is going to be. In saying that I do not wish it to be understood that I am in favour of building houses up against works and factories. I definitely reject the idea that houses are to be looked upon as hostels for the workers in industry. That is far from my conception of housing. Moreover, I believe the statement that people must live near their work takes no account of future developments in the transport system. There is no reason why efficient and comfortable travelling facilities should not make great inroads into the alleged desire of people to live very close to their work. I do not look upon housing as a necessary adjunct to the exact location of large groups of industries.
Next I want to show what Glasgow has done in preparing for the future. As at April of this year Glasgow Corporation had completed 53,500 houses under the various Housing Acts. Naturally there was considerable interruption in the progress during the last four years. For a considerable part of that period of four years there was, naturally, a lack of thought for the future, because nobody was thinking very much then of what advance could be made, but Glasgow now visualises the possibility of building another 80,000 to 90,000 houses, even 100,000 houses. That is a big enough problem in all conscience for the time being. I shall not go into harrowing details, such as could be given by all hon. Members, because I am conscious that the representatives of the Government know what the position is as well as we do. I am told that the peace-time production of Glasgow Corporation was round about 400 houses a month. In December, 1942, it had gone down to 150 houses a month, and to-day it is 65 or less houses per month. Conditions are not conducive to the production of houses, and therefore I attach no blame to anyone responsible for providing houses. But the Secretary of State ought to take timely action to assist any preparations or action taken by Glasgow Corporation to meet the needs of which I have spoken.
First there is the pre-requisite of land. I should like to be assured that action has been taken to safeguard local authorities against land speculation. Something should be done to see that land speculation does not in the slightest degree hinder the activities of local authorities. Glasgow Corporation have already acquired land for 26,000 houses. If they can—and I trust they will be able to—at the earliest opportunity reopen the negotiations that were interrupted by the Treasury at the beginning of the war, they may acquire land for another 10,000 houses. There is the possibility that that number might suffice, but, if not, we desire to see Glasgow and other cities safeguarded against the activities of the gentlemen to whom I have referred. I am informed by competent people in Glasgow that preparedness has advanced so far as to permit of an immediate start upon about 10,000 houses. As the restraint upon materials and finance is eased, that can be stepped up effectively and speedily.
As to speed, I wonder whether detailed attention has been given to the processes of prefabrication that are now available. We have satisfied ourselves that Glasgow's own method of prefabrication is capable of standing up to what is claimed for it. I have seen houses erected by prefabrication in poured concrete, and they compare favourably with anything else. If we can get construction of houses by prefabrication methods with slabs of concrete from 8 to 10 ft. square, an avenue is opened that gives considerable hope for the future and the possibility of greater adaptability of labour in keeping flowing units to the sites selected for house erection. The extent of the housing problem is so great all over the country, and particularly in Scotland, that building operatives might well countenance without any danger something being done in the way of prefabrication of houses, and might allow intermingling of labour of a suitable type.
Glasgow covers 39,725 acres. Roughly, between 11,000 and 12,000 acres are covered with open spaces, institutions and industries, thus leaving 28,275 acres for houses. The housing committee of Glasgow Corporation endeavoured to ascertain, and has been guided as to what might be done by plotting out, the types of houses that would meet the requirements of the population. Speaking approximately, the population of the city could be housed mostly within the city boundaries, even though 15 per cent. of the houses were of the flatted or tenemental type of a density of about 30 to the acre and 85 per cent. were of terraced or cottage houses, at 10 to the acre. On that basis, the Corporation feel that it would be possible to house Glasgow's population within the boundaries, but a reduction of density might cause them to go outside the boundaries. Those figures display conditions more favourable than exist at the present time. In the factory or industrial dis- tricts there is a density of from 136 to 95 houses per acre, and in what is called the Western or middle-class districts of from 48 to 45 houses per acre. I am well aware that approved town planning schemes have a ceiling of 36 houses to the acre. If we are really in earnest in the matter, by the application of prefabrication, due regard being paid to the preparations already made in the provision of land and other elements necessary for production, Glasgow could go ahead to a considerable extent, and speedily, after the war. I would like to say more on the subject of building materials, but the innovations in these things are pretty well known to hon. Members.
If there is any field in which we can cut adrift from the old methods, finance is one of them. I have here some details of the building-up of the rents of houses in Glasgow during the year in which the war started. It states that the average rent paid in the year the war started for all Glasgow Corporation houses was £32, and proceeds:
Of this sum, no less than £14 12S. 6d. was paid in interest charges or equal to 45·7 per cent. of the rent paid. Sinking fund for the redemption of the debt accounted for £4 16s. or 15 per cent. of the rent paid. The total debt charges on a rent of £32 is therefore £19 8s. 6d., or equal to 60·7 per cent.
That is atrocious, and I do not think it should be tolerated in the future. Surely this country can see to it that different methods are applied to meeting the housing needs of the whole population of Glasgow. Other parts of the world have shown how it can be done. I would suggest special housing bonds that could be ultimately cancelled out by the payment of rates and taxes. That method is far preferable to the paying of interest in perpetuity in the manner which I have displayed. Good houses will be provided in the main by a reduction of rents. One of the methods is by reducing rents, and thus taking off the shoulders of the people who pay those rents the incubus of the 60 per cent. mentioned in my illustration.
Glasgow is in line with the desire of the Secretary of State and of the Government to make a frontal onslaught on this housing question. The peculiarities of Glasgow show that the city is a cameo in the general picture and requires special consideration. I have endeavoured to show that the City of Glasgow has its own house in order. The houses are on order and delivery can come if the Government will pay attention to the needs of the City.
May I draw attention to the deplorable evidence of absenteeism in this Chamber and to the fact that many Members who have been criticising the miners for absenteeism are not present at this Debate?
I am sure that all hon. Members will have been very pleased to hear the report on the health situation in Scotland and interested in the various experiments that the Minister is carrying out. We wish him well in the continuation of those experiments. I do not want to follow him in talking of the health of the people of Scotland, but I should like to say a few words about housing. The erection of houses is almost impossible in view of war conditions. The Secretary of State is doing a great deal, but none will ever be satisfied that he is doing enough. He is pressing the Minister of Labour for more people to work at housing during the war.
It is not that aspect which I wish to consider but the future of housing in Scotland. There is no more important factor connected with the raising of the social standard of our people than housing. Together with education, housing is the very foundation of social betterment. Without adequate housing it seems that we are committed to a battle against squalor, dirt, misery and disease. Thousands of our womenfolk in Scotland have been fighting that battle for more than a generation. Many of them have been worn out by mere drudgery in endeavouring to keep a decent home and to bring up their children respectably. We must stop that once and for all, and that will be done only by the most intensive effort. Before we set about it, it is as well that we should all personally realise exactly what the nature of the problem is, and, for that purpose, like my hon. Friend the Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard), I would take the example of the conditions which exist in the City of Glasgow.
In Glasgow to-day there are 281,000 houses, of which 35,000 are single apartments and 110,000 of the room and kitchen type. Practically none of those houses have baths or sanitary accommodation except what is common to the inhabitants of four or more houses. How people can maintain any reasonable standard of decency under those conditions passes my comprehension, but the fact is that they do. If we are to remedy that state of affairs and bring our housing up to the standard laid down in the Act of 1935, we shall require at least 100,000 houses. That is the official figure from the Corporation of Glasgow. In the 20 years prior to the outbreak of war, 63,000 houses were built. The hon. Member for St. Rollox mentioned 53,000, but I think he meant the houses actually built by the Corporation and did not take into account 10,000 houses built by subsidy and private enterprise. The building of 63,000 houses in 20 years was at the average rate of 3,150 houses per year, and if we were to continue at that rate, 32 years would elapse before we had made up the leeway. The situation is considerably worse than that. When a survey was made in 1935, the Corporation estimated that they would require 65,000 houses. The estimate is now 100,000, an increase of 35,000 houses, perhaps due to dilapidation in the period of seven years, If dilapidation continues at that rate, at the end of 32 years we shall be far worse off, because we shall require an additional 160,000 houses to bring matters up to the standard laid down in 1935. No one can contemplate such a situation with equanimity. Houses must be completed in every possible manner.
It is unfortunate that political considerations have entered into the matter of housing in Glasgow, one party believing in private enterprise and another party in direct labour. I am not discussing the merits of either of those systems, but I say that, in face of a problem so great, it would be advantageous to employ every possible means to get additional houses. Had that been done, it seems to me that it would have been very beneficial, for the introduction of two systems would have meant that one would have been a check on the other, and also there would have been healthy competition provided which would have tended to increase the economy and efficiency of both.
They did not operate to anything like the measure they could have, as my hon. Friend well knows, and indeed recently, as he is also well aware, there has practically been only one system in operation. Let me say further that as a result of that political bias results, particularly in the last five years, have fallen far short of what they were in previous years. I have just received information, for instance, that from 1934——
But this is a political Chamber. When did you get the right to say that it was not? What the hon. and gallant Gentleman is arguing is something about direct labour and private enterprise. He may be right or wrong, but surely when we are considering houses these issues are facts in the housing situation and ought to be discussed?
I did not say that the question of direct or indirect labour should be ruled out. I was suggesting that if the hon. and gallant Member had gone very far on the lines he was going, it would not be entirely within the scope of this Debate.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman and others have raised the housing position in Glasgow. They are surely entitled to discuss, because part of the money used in it is Government money, the elements that go to make up the building situation, whether private enterprise, direct labour or anything else.
I think that if we carry on the whole argument as far as actual housing is concerned, we could easily go outside housing and get on to a discussion on other points which I think would be out of Order.
I do not propose to go on that line, Mr. Williams. I never did. All I wanted to say was really to express the hope that when the war is over and we start building houses again people will remember that it is houses that are required and that they will not, at the expense of housing, try out their various political theories.
I spoke a moment ago of the need for employing every agency that can possibly produce houses. I would ask my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench, the Under-Secretary, if consideration could be given to what I would call the master contract. By that I mean firms of very high reputation and financial standing such as would enable them to undertake schemes of magnitude and carry them through on their own. These firms might be asked to submit tenders for any scheme of considerable size, and they should be entrusted thereafter with carrying out the whole work, including sub-contracting and all necessary co-ordination, on their own. It may be contended, of course, that such a scheme would mean that there could not be proper competitive tenders. I would reply to that by saying that direct labour might and should prove an adequate check. I ask for consideration of that matter, because my experience has been that as a result of this fetish of accepting the lowest tender contracts have been awarded to firms who financially were unable to bear the strain, this resulting in shoddy work and in some contractors being unable to complete the contracts which they had undertaken.
Might I turn for a moment to consider our past achievements in the building of houses in Scotland compared with results obtained in England, because from a comparison of that kind very valuable lessons might possibly be learned? In the 20 years ended 31st March, 1939, under the Housing Act, and with the assistance of subsidy, 1,500,000 houses were constructed in England, and of these 430,000 were constructed by private enterprise. The comparable figures for Scotland are 259,000 and 41,000 respectively. That is to say, that while in England under the Act one new house was provided for every 27 of the population, we in Scotland provided a new house for every to of the population. That is a result which is very soothing to our Scottish feelings, and I think it is very creditable to the housing authorities. But unfortunately it is not the end of the story, for in the same 20 years private enterprise, altogether unassisted by subsidy, built in England 2,500,000 houses to our 56,000 in Scotland. Therefore, one has these figures, that in England 4,000,000 houses were built, that is to say, one was provided for every 10 of the population, and in Scotland—I am taking the figure given to us just now as authoritative —we built 352,000, or one for every 14 of the population. That is to say, the very substantial lead which our local authorities obtained with the help of the subsidy was completely passed and wiped out by the operation of private enterprise in the case of England.
From that comparison it appears to me that one matter of considerable importance emerges both for the taxpayer and for the Chancellor. Private enterprise in England without the help of any subsidy whatever provided 2½ houses for the 1½ houses provided with subsidy by the local authorities and private enterprise combined. The result is that the taxpayer was only called upon to subsidise 37½ per cent. of the houses built in England, whereas in Scotland he was called upon to subsidise 82 per cent. It may well be asked why the Scottish taxpayer should have to subsidise 82 per cent of the houses built while his brother in England was only called upon to subsidise 37½ per cent. In view of the enormous housing programme in prospect, it would be well for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to inquire how that comes about. If he does, he will find it is almost entirely due to the operation of the Scottish rating system, which makes it impossible for private persons to build houses for letting purposes and obtain a reasonable return on the capital invested. I am sure that the Committee will agree with me in this, that we want the largest possible number of houses in the shortest possible space of time. Can we possibly afford to shut out an agency which in England has provided 62½ per cent. of the houses built in the last 20 years without any assistance whatever? If the answer is that we cannot afford to do so, then the remedy is obvious, and I trust my right hon. Friend will have the courage to apply it.
Might I turn for a brief moment to the type of house that is required? We are more or less committed to-day to the cottage type. I know reports have been received by a section of the Corporation of Glasgow that all the new houses can be built within the city boundaries, which is something which departs from the experience of the past. But it seems to me that our concentration on the cottage type inevitably leads to building in the outskirts, to expansion of the cities, to applications to this House for an extension of boundaries, to friction with neighbouring authorities, to people having to live a long way from work, to inconvenience, to personal expense, to transport difficulties, and also to a very great expenditure on the part of local authorities in providing the services and amenities for houses built on the outskirts. Not only that, but it leaves the centre of the city derelict. I have no objection whatever to the cottage type as such, but I do think that a good case could be made out to-day for the erection of multi-storied flatted residences in the centre of the city. Their convenience and economy are very great, as I saw with my own eyes recently in America. They would enable people to live near their work, while the economies of central heating, a central water supply, and the central collection of waste would not only be a boon to the housewife but also an economy to the local authority.
I do not wish to see any half-hearted experiments in that direction. If we are to experiment, I want to see an all-out effort—a building of 10 or 15 or 20 or more stories, provided with lifts and every possible convenience. I want it to be self-contained, with shops on the ground floor and all the amenities of communal life. I want it to be surrounded by a large open space laid out as a public park, with playgrounds for the children, recreation centres for the young and places where the aged can take their ease. If it has been done in America and other countries—Sweden and Austria—I do not see why it should not be done here. The answer, I am told, is that the cost, particularly of acquiring the ground, would be prohibitive. I find it very hard to believe that the cost of such a project in the centre of a. city where all the services—water, drainage, electricity, gas, transport, streets, schools and libraries—are already in being could vary greatly from the erection of hundreds of houses on the outskirts where all these services have to be provided. I would make an earnest plea to my right hon. Friend to give consideration to that matter.
I spoke a moment ago of the convenience of building. I know that a [Commander Galbraith.] very great deal of attention is being paid to-day to the architecture and lay-out of our housing schemes. I hope that similar attention is being given to the internal lay-out and that the women who have to work in these houses are being properly consulted in the matter, for in the past there is no doubt that houses were pretty badly laid out, very inconvenient, and were of a type where the maximum amount of work produced only the minimum results. Reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Rollax as to whether or not it is a good thing for people to live in the vicinity of the place where they work. We all know that used to be the fact but that in recent years it has been departed from, and we welcome it as taking dirt and smoke away from the vicinity of residential quarters. But I would ask the Committee to consider whether, with the modern developments in the supply of electrical power, and with factories no longer necessarily ugly, it would not be a convenience for people to live close to their places of work. It would depend a great deal, of course, upon the circumstances of the family.
There is another suggestion that I would like to make. Our housing authorities might take into consideration, when laying out a scheme, the provision of a factory building, divided into small units, which could be let out to small firms such as we find to-day working more frequently than not under very unhealthy and insanitary conditions in the basements of dilapidated buildings.
I was glad to have the assurance from my right hon. Friend that even in the midst of war he is continuing planning, and that adequate sites are being secured. I hope that he will take into consideration the suggestions made by the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison). With this terrific programme that confronts us, is it possible for us to build speedily and to the best advantage and yet leave housing in charge of the present local authorities? Looking at the Clyde Valley as a whole, where the burghs are placed so very close together, it seems to me that if expansion is to be carried out on a properly-ordered basis, the continuation of one burgh's scheme into an adjoining burgh or out into the county areas, is necessary. I have some doubt whether that can be done efficiently under the present authorities, or whether the time has not come when housing should be placed on a regional basis. That is a matter which needs to be discussed at great length, and I have already spoken far too long. I would ask other hon. Members, if they think it worthy of consideration, to mention the matter, and I ask by right hon. Friend to give it his mature consideration.
In Scotland, the problem of housing is gigantic, and I hope that we may tackle it united in purpose, that we may set aside preconceived ideas, that we may use every possible means at our disposal; in fact, that we may get down to the job of providing our country with houses such as our people richly deserve, and such as are essential to health, happiness, and in accordance with those standards of social betterment which I am sure is our ambition and which we are all determined to achieve.
I was very pleased to see the Secretary of State take more time than he has done on past occasions, although we could, I think, have listened to him for still longer. In the limited time which he occupied he dealt with the health and housing of Scotland. Other speakers in the Debate so far have referred only to housing. I also intend to deal with that subject, but first I want to say a few words on health. Speaking for myself, I would say that the Secretary of State must not expect this Debate to have nothing controversial about it. I think the Secretary of State is far too much inclined to think that you can solve problems without controversy. To make us all nice charming boys, kicking with the same foot in the same direction, is not a laudable objective, even if you could achieve it. The Secretary of State was one of the chief controversialists in Scotland, and he must not now resent criticism.
He has issued a memorandum on the treatment of tuberculosis and has stated that he is now giving special grants, which, he emphasised, are free from any means test. When one hears the memorandum explained by the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary, one is apt to take off one's hat and cheer it as a great achievement, but when one reads the memorandum one finds that the achievement is nothing like so great. It gives the single person 39s. a week, and the married person 39s., plus certain other allowances, with 10s. for rent. But the whole of the National Health Insurance is deducted from that; and the great bulk of National Health Insurance contributors receive at least £1 a week. So it is not 39s., but 39s., less 20s., that is being provided. When one compares it with the old Poor Law for Glasgow, its advantages are not marked, because under the Poor Law scheme 10s. 6d. of that National Health Insurance payment had to be ignored. I am convinced that behind the illness problem the question of wages plays a dominant part. Recently I was speaking to a man who is interested in the Port of Glasgow. The City Port, from Greenock up to Glasgow, is of tremendous importance now. This man, in common with others, is worried about the sickness rate. He tells me that it is almost impossible at times to define whether a workman has become sick through his work or from some other cause, because the dividing line is so close. He is running the docks, and he wants to make them efficient. He wants men to lay off for a few days at the beginning of their sickness, and to get better, rather than to turn out for work and to drag on for days, when they are ill. The trouble is that they receive only National Health Insurance. The solution is to put the general working community on the same footing as most of the Government servants, local authorities' servants, and officials. If the ordinary worker is legitimately sick, he should be put on the wage that he was earning. when he was well. The 39s. for T.B., when you have taken away the £1, is not very attractive.
No one in a city like Glasgow can help being worried about the known incidence of T.B. The Secretary of State referred in the memorandum to the development of certain ways of tracing the disease—I think it is by some photographic method. The local authorities are already staggered by the figures which are revealed, and some are positively alarmed at the thought of what the new method will disclose about T.B. The Secretary of State can say what he likes, but it is not complimentary to our City or to Scotland that to-day doctors cannot get places for T.B. patients in our hospitals. Even when people do go into hospitals, they are unduly scampered out, back to the slums from which they came. The need for providing T.B. treatment is great, but one of the greatest needs is a period of convalescence afterwards. In this matter the Scottish Office has been guilty of serious neglect. The well-to-do approved societies, like the local government offices and the railway clerks, have provided convalescent homes for their members, but the poorer workers and their wives have none. To-day, these people, after being treated for T.B., are merely flung back into the shocking dwellings from which they emerged. There were valuable convalescent homes which were run by the co-operative movement and others, but they have been taken over by the Government for war purposes. In a month, two months, or three months after treatment, the man or woman drifts back to T.B. again so that medical skill, time, and patience are wasted, with no results to show for it. This sum of 39s. is nothing like sufficient. There is a great deal of parade about the scheme, but it does not bear proper examination. The Secretary of State should provide a payment which compares much more favourably with normal wages, and somehow or other, even in war time, he must rescue people from a position in which after treatment they have to go back to the places from which they emerged.
No one can be satisfied at any time with housing in Scotland. Before the war the position was indefensible. In the West of Scotland it was one which caused every decent person, no matter what his religion or politics, almost to hide his head with shame. The Secretary of State throws out his chest, and say, "We had built 300,000 houses in Scotland in pre-war days." But he has to bear in mind certain things. It is a great achievement to build 300,000 houses if 300,000 is all you need, but it is not a great achievement if you need three times that number, and it is not a great achievement if during the time you are building them more houses are passing out of use than the number you are building. That was the situation in Glasgow, where, before the war, you were merely keeping pace and doing nothing to meet the terrible inroad on the number of habitable houses.
Since the war the position has been growing worse. No one in this Committee wants to give harrowing details of what they see and know, such as for instance the case of the father fighting abroad, with nine children at home, living in a two-roomed apartment house. Who can defend this sort of thing? The tragic thing is that this man is fighting out in Africa, and to him it matters little who wins the war, if, at the end of it, he has to come back to his nine children living in these conditions. The Secretary of State held out no hope of anything better for him to wish to come back. He talked about the future, but I say that this thing should be done now. If I speak heatedly on this matter, it is because my constituency, possibly without exception, is the worst of any in this respect. It is terrible to see some of the people. The President of the Board of Trade at Question time to-day said that he had made arrangements for the manufacture, I think, of some 90,000 wireless sets. Wireless sets are desirable things, but when I listened to that I said to myself that, while he can make arrangements for the supply of 90,000 wireless sets, the best we can do in Scotland is to make arrangements for only 1,000 houses, and even in regard to that number, there are only estimates in to-day for 200. This is a disgrace.
The Secretary of State should look to some temporary method of rescuing these people. They are sinking. Some have sank or their health is in such a state that they can hardly now be rescued. One sees every form of human adaptation made for the accommodation of troops coming here from overseas, and there is no place where that adaptation has taken place with greater rapidity than in our native country. If this country were faced to-morrow with the problem of housing a quarter of a million troops, Scotland could do it in next to no time. When questions were asked to-day about the miners an hon. Gentleman observed that miners were not dissimilar to men in the Army, that they were just as important. The digging of coal, whether in peace or war, is one of the most important occupations, but it does not end with coal. The dividing line between soldier and civilian is very narrow, and to-day you house your Armies but you do not do it for your army of civil workers living in our great cities. I would remind the hon. and gallant Member opposite who is smiling that this to me is serious.
I am sorry, but may I tell the hon. and gallant Member how passionately we feel about this? It is terrible. Although this may be said against me, I am not against allowing the big contractor helping out. I am not against trying anything that will mean the building of houses quickly. One of the terrible problems of our city is the density of population. Glasgow has a greater population than Birmingham, which occupies an acreage two and a half times greater than that of Glasgow. Edinburgh has a population of less than half a million, and actually in acreage it is almost the same as the City of Glasgow. The density of population in Glasgow is colossal.
I do not think that the suggestion I made would make the density greater, because there is such a large area cleared, and it would be better laid out than it is at present.
I see no interest displayed in the development of the cottage type of dwelling. The Secretary of State cannot justify the position by counting on something which is to happen some day after the war. He will have to do more than he is doing now. The erection of 1,000 houses now is practically no contribution to the solution of the housing problem. He talked about getting the Glasgow Corporation to turn a few shops into houses. Let him do that if he wants to do so, but he has to make up his mind—whether it is done by the use of some other form of building material or not, I care not—to get the people housed as soon as possible. We cannot go on with our city in the way it is. You cannot talk about the great aims for which we are fighting. It appears shallow to these people unless you connect it with their lives at home. The Secretary of State will be judged on the success or failure of the housing of the Scottish people, and so far his contribution towards a solution of the problem is extremely meagre. He ought to devote the great talent which he possesses immediately to finding at least some temporary method of solving this problem while he works out the larger plans that lie ahead
I am sure that the whole Committee will have listened, as we always do, to the burning words of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) with great approval. He knows at first hand the conditions of the great mass of the people in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. I for one shall always be willing to sit at his feet and learn something of the social conditions of the people. I was thinking when he spoke of words that Disraeli used 100 years ago, when he stated that the amelioration of the social conditions of the people should be the first object of a statesman and that if this were not accomplished the pomp and power of thrones and of Parliaments were alike worthless. I am sure that the Committee agree with my hon. Friend in trying to get on with his great housing problem, and we have the utmost confidence in the Secretary of State for Scotland and his Department that they will do all that is humanly possible to bring about a better state of things, so .that my hon. Friend will not be able to get up in this House a few years hence and draw such an unhappy picture.
I really got up for one purpose. The Secretary of State, in his short and interesting speech, mentioned Gleneagles. I have known Gleneagles for 30 years or more, and I knew it when it was a bleak hillside and that palatial building was not there at all. I had the honour and pleasure, at the suggestion of the Secretary of State himself, of spending a most absorbing and happy day at Gleneagles three weeks ago. I went with two friends, and we came to the conclusion that it would be impertinence to go about and ask questions. But during our stay we thought we would like to get to know about the atmosphere of the Rest Home and find out the real feelings of those who are being treated there and brought back, if possible, to a sound state of health. One of my friends by chance happened to talk to a Lanarkshire man who was there, and he found that his father had been his schoolmaster, and so they got very friendly, and in a few minutes we heard all about the atmosphere. The right hon Gentleman, in initiating this great project, has set a noble example right through the country of what ought to be done in the future. We saw there 200 men who had come through a strenuous life and had met with an accident, receiving the utmost care, sympathy and attention from a devoted staff. I do not know whether I am right in saying it, but I should like to mention in this House, which is the sound-
ing board of Scotland, the name of the head of the staff who looks after these patients with such great care. His name is Dr. McLeod—a good Highland name. Highlanders have always been full of sympathy for their fellows. As Bonnie Prince Charlie said:
Give me back my Highland comrades,
Give me back my Highland maid.
Nowhere beats a heart more kindly
Than beneath the tartan plaid.
No hearts beat more kindly than the hearts of Dr. McLeod and his efficient staff. They are kindness personified, and I could detect in the happiness and conduct of the patients there the utmost gratitude for what was being done for them. Good luck to the right hon. Gentleman and his scheme; may it be copied throughout the length and breadth of the land. If any hon. Member has not had an opportunity of going there to see what is being done, he should make the opportunity, because it would make him very happy to see what was being done for those in less fortunate circumstances than himself.
I listened to the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland with great interest, but I must say that I felt more and more despondent as I heard his statement. When I heard what he promised us with regard to houses I felt that our people would be left in a terrible position. The right hon. Gentleman gave figures about the increase in tuberculosis and told us about the hospital accommodation that was being provided. But I would have liked him to have spent a little more time in telling us what was considered to be the probable cause of the increase in tuberculosis. It is a fine thing to have an ambulance ready when there has been an accident, but it is much better to prevent the accident. I, in common with other people, have been very worried about the increase in this disease. We have heard from time to time statements about the health of the nation being better since the war in spite of rationing restrictions and other things, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has said, some people will say anything. It is good to know that attention is being paid to the question of treating tuberculous people, but I think the Department of Health for Scotland will have to take much more vigorous steps than they have been taking up to now to see that people leaving hospitals after treatment are housed in conditions which will enable them to maintain a proper standard of health.
I want, however, to say a few words about housing. In the district I represent in this House we have some of the worst housing conditions in Scotland. When I came into the House of Commons in 1922 the infant mortality rate in one of the wards in the Camlachie constituency was the highest in any part of the country. To-day, in spite of all I have been able to do, the conditions in that ward are still very bad; indeed, housing conditions there are lamentable in the extreme. The Secretary of State has told us about a programme for 1,000 houses for Scotland and added that the stern necessity of war prevented more being done at the moment. I was dismayed about his hesitation in giving figures of tenders for housing schemes. The right hon.Gentleman said, "Do not ask for a figure, because it might be taken up by others in putting forward tenders for other schemes." The figure of £1,300 was mentioned in connection with houses for the English scheme. Remembering what happened in connection with the Addison scheme, I cannot understand why the Government do not deal with this question of the increase in the prices of houses. People are being conscripted; they are being taken into the Services and into workshops, yet the Government are making no real attempt to deal with the interests connected with land and property in order to see that our people get the housing accommodation they ought to have. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) spoke of soldiers coming home from Africa and various fields of battle to slums in which they would have to live with their children. Why do not the Government act in this matter?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) described the clearing of a centre of a city and the building of flats with a park around them and asked whether that was not a very material contribution. As I was listening to what he was saying, I thought I was listening to someone reading a chapter out of Hans Andersen's fairy tales. The Scottish Office are considering what is the best type of house; housewives have been consulted, and exhibitions are being held, yet practically nothing is being done, and I believe very little will be done in the future. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok wondered whether we had not lost a great deal in the past in Glasgow because certain people there have been thrilled with the idea of direct labour for the production of houses. Well, in the greater part of those areas there was not a Labour majority. It is true that Labour councils persuaded moderate majorities to employ both methods—direct labour and private contract—but the number of houses produced was very small compared with the needs of the City of Glasgow. I cannot understand why the Government do not take control of everything that is necessary for the production of houses. The Committee, should not be content with the programme outlined by the Government. The programme for to-day and the immediate to-morrow should be greatly increased, in spite of the necessities of war. More labour should be available for the building of houses in Glasgow. We shall have a poor future indeed unless greater imagination, enthusiasm, courage and audacity are put into the solution of this problem by the Scottish Office than have been evident up to the present time.
I regret that I did not hear the complete speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland, through no fault of my own, but that part which I did hear convinced me of something I have known for some time, namely, that he has brought to bear on his difficult and very important job great sincerity and great honesty. I have long watched the right hon. Gentleman, and although in the past he was rather apt to be more critical than those of us who are criticising him to-day, I think it is possible that in those days he had more reason. I think all Secretaries of State are open to criticism. If we go back over the last 10 or 15 years, we can find very good reasons for being dissatisfied with the progress made in the administration of health and social services in Scotland.
But to-day the Secretary of State has a good team round him, I think a team pervaded with the same sense of honesty, determination and sincerity that he has himself. Indeed, listening to his speech, and knowing what I know, I think he put up a very good case except from one angle, namely, the question of housing. He is not alone in this failure. The failure has existed as long as I have been in the House, and I have never yet been able to understand it. Like many others, I suppose, I receive about 30 letters a day from my constituency, five of which—I have tried to make a conservative average—are about housing. That is 1,500 a year from one constituency alone. Therefore to me it is not surprising that on all sides of the House we have Members who cannot find the attitude of the Government towards this vital problem satisfactory. Indeed, sometimes I pinch myself and wonder whether we are really alive to the most fundamental necessity of making the people happy, contented and healthy—that is by providing good, happy, sanitary homes. Why is it that we lag so hopelessly behind practically every civilised community? All over Great Britain wherever you come to big cities you find slums. I am well aware that today it is even more vital than ever to have a contented and happy people, because the war effort depends on it. You cannot expect people to put their might, their soul and their body into producing the weapons which are to bring us victory hen they have not reasonable conditions of life around them.
Another thing is the continuous reference made by every Minister in turn whose Department is affected to the shortage of labour and material. It seems to be now accepted as a proper defence to every challenge to what we should do and have not done. In the last few years we have erected scores of airfields and thousands of huts to accommodate millions of Americans, but when it comes to providing decent and reasonable accommodation for the workers who make all these things possible, we are contented to let them live and die in squalor. That does not seem to me good enough. I do not want right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench to blush for themselves. They are only taking part in a policy which has been in existence for the last 20 years. It is not particularly their fault, except that if I were in their position, I would resign to-morrow rather than be a party to the conditions of housing in Scotland to-day. It has been said as another defence that it is the dead hand of the Treasury which stops progress. If that is so, let us remember that both the Treasury and its spokesman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, are the servants of this House, and therefore ultimately the responsibility for the conditions existing in Great Britain to-day comes back to us. Unless we are determined, as a House, and as representatives of the people, to see that our word carries and our determination perseveres and our aims are achieved, we are responsible. There is no getting away from it.
I am glad to say that we have the Prime Minister back with us, and we are grateful and relieved in our hearts that he is back safely. We all know that he is wrapped up, very properly, in the supreme job of winning the war, and therefore, quite naturally, he leaves these domestic matters to departmental administration, but I wonder whether, as Minister of Defence, he fully realises that what every soldier in North Africa is fighting for, what every soldier has always fought for, is not for an ideal. He has fought for the fireside that he knows and loves. He has fought for the scrap of garden that he has cultivated his flowers in. He has fought for a glimpse of the countryside that he sees and the home that he loves. What are these soldiers who are fighting to-day coming back to? They are not fighting for a slum. Surely they are not coming back to Britain to find a slum as their reward. I leave it to the Secretary of State, and those associated with the Scottish Office, to see that all our wishes are translated into realities. Do not let us fiddle about with 1,000 houses—300,000 before the war and 1,000 now. Let us attack the thing with humanity, courage and determination. Let us wipe aside all these clichés about labour and material. We can produce the labour and material when we want them. I put up a suggestion to the Secretary of State some time ago which was put up to me by a retired builder in Ayr, who said, "Only give me the bricks. I have old chaps over 60 who have been associated with me. Give me the bricks, and I will undertake to provide the labour. I do not say I will put up many, but I will go on putting up houses one at a time till the end of the war." He has built many streets, and he knows the job. I got a reply that the matter would be carefully considered. It was most hopeful and sympathetic, but I should like something more than sympathy. I should like something done.
I do not want to make the picture all black, because that would be distinctly unfair to the Scottish Office. I know that a great deal has been done. Great efforts have been made in regard to public health as a whole. Local authorities and private enterprise have done well, but the scale of their efforts is wrong. There is something in the tempo that is wrong, and it has to be put right from the top. Everything that is wrong in a battalion, in a ship or in a factory comes from the top. You have to get the direction, the enthusiasm, the imagination and the drive from the top. That is where we look to the Secretary of State, and to the War Cabinet if the Secretary of State cannot get his way. Every Secretary of State, particularly the Secretary of State for Scotland, should be in a position to go to the War Cabinet and demand a seat on it, where he can exercise his authority. I do not intend to quote examples. We have all got them, and we blush for them. But let us face the facts. Take the question of the children. I think the children of Great Britain as a whole are better fed to-day than ever they were before. They are more properly clad than ever before. But they are not suitably accommodated. We all know that T.B. is increasing. How could it be otherwise when, despite all efforts to keep them healthy and rosy cheeked and well, they have to live in waterlogged rooms, perhaps sharing a lavatory with 20 others in the same block? Those are the things that exist. If we are really to build this new brave world which is going to be the result of victory, we have to start now, and we have to put the best that we have into it.
Sir William Beveridge has talked about many good things. He has talked about pensions and social security, but he has not stressed, as I feel he should have done, the necessity for good, decent, comfortable and sanitary homes. They are more important than all the pensions and all the ideals of social security that this great humanist has put before us, because they are the very foundation on which the family life, the social life, the industrial life, and the fighting life of the nation depend. I have made many suggestions to the Secretary of State in writing. I have suggested the advisability of having a review of all the condemned houses as a short-term policy and seeing whether something could not be done which did not demand much labour and material to make them suitable so as to meet the overcrowding and the disgusting conditions in which many of our people live. I think the huts that have been built should be used after the war. They are very good, well heated, windproof, rainproof, and a lot could be done with them for the time being until labour and material are available, but what more than anything else is necessary is the spirit and determination on the part of the Government really to put everything they have into this business. It is too big to be relegated to a few hours' Debate. It means too much to our people. We have a good Secretary of State. There is nothing wrong with him. There is nothing wrong with his colleagues. They are good, keen, determined, honest, decent people, but they have not delivered the goods in regard to houses. They are capable of doing it if only they will pull their weight with the War Cabinet and force them to see the importance of the issue. If they do, we may yet remove this stigma which has lain on the country as a whole for so many years past.
This is such a many-sided problem that as a matter of convenience I might have followed in the footsteps of the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), but as the one who in recent years was the father of the direct labour department in Glasgow I will make only one passing reference to what he said. I make the challenge to either the hon. and gallant Member or to any of those associated with him to produce one tittle of evidence that at any time direct labour construction in Glasgow was used as anything other than ancillary to the methods which were being adopted at that time. If I may say so without offence, I had the privilege of introducing the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok to one or two of the contractors who went bankrupt and walked out and left us high and dry with unfinished houses on the stocks. So I think the less we say about that aspect of Glasgow's housing problem the better for all concerned. I will say, however, that we have never built by direct labour with concrete of 13 parts sand and one of cement in internal walls and that no member of Glasgow Town Council associated with direct labour has ever been made a baron or a knight and at no time has anybody been proceeded against on petition.
I want to congratulate the Secretary of State on a pronouncement he made at the week-end at a Scottish housing and town planning conference. The trouble with this problem is that there has been so much "talkee-talkee" about it during the last 33 years. Had there been less talk and more action, we should not have found ourselves in the difficulties in which we are placed at the moment. The Secretary of State is entitled to receive at least our support for having indicated to the powers-that-be that so far as Scotland is concerned we are for no central authority stationed in Whitehall. This central planning authority stands for this, that and the other thing, and the Minister of Health for England, with his 3,000 houses for agricultural workers, is in a hog. There have been so many planners of these 3,000 houses that they have not been able even to agree on a design or a price. There are four different Ministries putting their fingers in the pie—the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Supply—and I prophecy that not one of these 3,000 houses will emerge within the next 12 months. The virtue of the Scottish position is that we have the Ministers of all Departments rolled into one, with a possible exception at the moment.
One of the Whitehall octopuses has invaded Scotland—the Ministry of Works, which at the moment is more concerned in the destruction of direct labour departments than it is in assisting the solution of some of our temporary housing difficulties. Let me give an illustration. The Glasgow housing authority asked for 53 tradesmen of various types to assist in the completion of houses. They asked for 35 tradesmen for contractors working for the corporation. The Ministry of Works provided nine of the 53 and 24 of the 35. It is very difficult for the Ministry to transfer men from private contractors to work on direct labour. My experience is that once a craftsman gets a job on direct labour you cannot remove him with a bomb, but you can transfer a craftsman on the superannuation list from direct labour to contractors. I want to ask the Secretary of State whether he is aware of an organisation having considerable influence in the councils of the Ministry of Works which is making an effort to corner all the major building contracts during the war and which desires to anticipate the end of hostilities by creating a corner in the construction of houses for the working classes after the war? If the Minister is unaware of it, I suggest that he should keep his ear to the ground, because, make no mistake about it, the building industry after the war is going to be the Mecca of all the chancers who wish to pick up easy money. Nobody is a greater chanter than the person who has something to sell. I want to warn Scottish Members that we must clear the Ministry of Works out of Scotland lock, stock and barrel at the earliest opportunity.
Let me give another illustration. One of my constituents was badly advised to ask for permission from the Supply Ministry to use some scrap timber in his back yard to put up a place in which to keep four pullets. The reply was that the Department regretted that it could not authorise the use of the material for this purpose. That was all that was required, but the Department went on to give the address of a cement corrugated sheeting firm in London who would supply this man, an occupier of a corporation house, with a substitute with which to erect his hen house. I ask the Secretary of State to give us some information about what the Ministry of Works is doing. I do not want him to criticise another Ministry, for that would be infra dig, although a part of the trouble is that Ministries go about covering up one another's mistakes.
With regard to the question of house construction, I know what the dream house is but the worst of a dream is that you have to wake up. As I said in a previous Debate, we have all the Bohemians from John o' Groats to Land's End planning houses for the future with recess cupboards, refrigerators, ironing boards, extra room for the wife, electric this and gas that. Nobody ever stops to think whether this is the quickest way to ease a depressing situation. Everybody is entitled to a refrigerator if he wants one, but surely the first responsibility of the local authority is to provide the house and to give people some place in which to lay their heads. One would think that it was fairly simple to proceed with a housing programme and that it was merely a question of buying a site and putting the builders on it. It is not as simple as that, although the procedure could be simplified. I would ask my right hon. Friend to remember, in any calculations he intends making as to what the potential outcome in housing will be, that he ought to base his figures on orthodox methods of construction, relying on alternative methods to supplement them, because the quickest, cheapest and best method even to-day after thousands of years of house construction is by bricks, stone or mortar. Some people will say that I am backward or not modern. I will give a reason for not being so modern as some people. There is a scheme in Scotland where all the floors are constructed of cement and even the roof is of cement, but the cost per square yard of the flooring is 23s. 6d. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok can take it from me that if you build multi-storied flats of anything up to 20 stories, all constructed with cement floors, the flooring alone will swallow the subsidy.
The Minister has said that local authorities can make provision for one year's programme. What is one year's programme? From were is he going to get the figures to determine what a year's programme is to be? When the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok vacated Glasgow city chamber with the ruling body, they left 159 acres for future requirements in the city of Glasgow. That is land for less than 3,000 houses. I cannot understand why the Government ask local authorities to make provision for the future and go ahead with their plans and then tell them that their planning must be for one year only. If there were any local authority in Britain which could solve its problem in a year that would make sense. There is no use drawing up plans. Most local authorities could stock the Department of Health with plans next week if they were wanted. The Department of Health itself could flood local authorities with plans. It is not plans we want. The first essential for the building of houses is the land upon which to put them. Surely it is an insult to Members of this House to tell them that this nation is so afraid of inflation that local authorities must not plan for more than a year ahead. I have heard it seriously said that the reason why the Treasury placed an embargo on anything more than the provision of land for one year's housing was that it would be a contribution towards inflation. That sort of bogyman frightens nobody. In Glasgow they have land for a five-year programme lying sterile. They have £75,000 worth of civil engineering plant lying idle. They have everything that is needed other than the materials and the labour, yet on this measurement Glasgow cannot acquire another yard of land.
Take Dumbarton County. The Vale of Leven is one of the most hopelessly over- crowded places in Scotland, but the Government sent evacuees into the Vale of Leven, and they overcrowded condemned houses. There was a housing scheme coming near to completion in the place, but the First Lord of the Admiralty requisitioned those houses for workers at the Alexandra factory. The same was done in Greenock. The Government recognised the necessity for housing comfortably people engaged on war work. Fifteen hundred houses were built in Hillingdon for the Rolls Company, who were under contract with the Air Ministry. I say definitely that the ship-yard riveter works harder than any precision engineer and is entitled to have some place in which to lay his head. The Government will say they are not to blame. I am not blaming this Government, but there are hundreds of Members on the other side of the House who share the responsibility for the mess we are in to-day. From 1932 to 1936 there was only one Act on the Statute Book under which a local authority could operate and that was the Act of 1933. The rents were fixed at 6s. a week, but when it was found that there was a deficiency of £8 16s. per house authorities did not build. From 1933, with the withdrawal of the Wheatley subsidy—and hon. Members opposite were responsible for that—and after the Reports of the Moyne Committee in England and the Whitson Committee in Scotland, they knew the problem existed, but they were more concerned with trying to get grants for reconditioning dilapidated property. The owners of that property had made no provision for depreciation out of their rents; they had taken everything and left nothing for depreciation.
Is that the reason why the housing committee with which the hon. Member is associated has been able to produce only 2,861 houses a year, on the average, between 1934 and 1939?
Measure those houses in terms of apartments. When we took over we stopped doing what your people were doing, perpetuating slums by building two-apartment houses. In the houses we built we produced over 1,500 more apartments in the year than were provided in the houses built before. Reference has been made to Glasgow's 100,000 houses. I speak as one who drafted the Report which has been mentioned. It would be far better to consult the Report first and see what is in it than to mention that Glasgow's housing needs have jumped to 100,000 in seven years. The estimate of Glasgow's housing needs, according to the 1935 census taken by the medical officers of health, was based not on housing the people who were houseless but on providing houses for people who were living in overcrowded conditions. Again, may I say that it was I who fixed the figure at 65,000, because I thought it was a reasonable 10-year programme. Anyone who thinks we can build 60,000 houses in the whole of Scotland in one year is living in a fool's paradise—that is, if we build houses.
In conclusion, I would make an appeal to the Government. The Government are sitting on the edge of a minefield. There must be improvisation. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) talked about the number of letters he received on the subject of housing. I have interviewed as many as 3,000 persons in nine months in connection with houses. The Government should take steps to arrange for the speedy erection of mass-produced improvised dwellings. A timber house with air space and cleanliness is better than no house at all. We owe it to the thousands of young men who have married since joining the Army to take action. For Heaven's sake, do not ask them to come back to dual occupancy. If there is dual occupancy and children are born in overcrowded conditions, it will be simply perpetuating what all our efforts have been directed to clearing away. I ask the Government to tell local authorities which have land to get ahead with making roads and installing services, and those which have not land should be given authority to acquire land so that they can put in the essential services and to that extent be ready for the speedy erection of dwellings.
I want to add a few remarks to what has been, to me, a most interesting Debate. All of us are anxious, above everything else, to do the best we can for Scotland and the problem is one of the most difficult the country has ever had to face. There is much leeway to be made up; if there is much leeway in England the leeway in Scotland is greater. That is true despite the figures given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland of the houses built in Scotland before the war. The question is one which each of us will have to face within the next few years, and each of us has a duty to display an interest in it rising above party politics. I listened with great interest to what the Secretary of State had to say. There are three periods to be considered. First, what can be done for housing now, in this war; secondly, what can be done when the rush time comes, when the men are coming back from the front, and thirdly what is to be the long-term policy? I was impressed with what the Secretary of State told us he was doing during the war, although I think it is not nearly enough. He must know that we would all wish him to see that more is done. I believe that some 325 houses are to be completed in Edinburgh this year. I do not know whether the Secretary of State is aware that some people have been waiting for houses for eight years. Therefore, I am sure that he will understand our anxiety that every effort should be made, even in war time, to push on with whatever can be done. Of course, the wider national interest must come first, because men are required for the all-important duty of winning the war, but I would ask him to remember that anything that can be done now is urgently wanted and will be of the greatest help, when the rush period comes.
I was a little disappointed that he was not able to give us any definite plan of what he proposed to do for the rush period. He did say that an important committee had been appointed under the chairmanship of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, who is to wind up the Debate, and here I would take the opportunity of telling my right hon. Friend how glad we all are that he has received his recent honour. The important point about this Committee is whether it has power to come to any decisions as to the line the Government is to take after the war, or is it only to report back to the Secretary of State? Every sort of house, every type of building, will be wanted if we are to build a half of what is necessary for Scotland. I think hon. Members would have welcomed a clear statement of policy laying down the various uses to which the energies within the country are to be put. Perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary may be able to tell the House a little more. We want to utilise everything—utilize building societies and private enterprise and also utilise local authorities. Building societies have done good work for the country. One in my own city, the Scottish Amicable, has done particularly fine work. Everything is needed; and on this point we Scottish Members might well consider whether we could not bring about a little more co-operation among ourselves, forsaking party interests for what is in the interests of the country as a whole. I feel sure the Secretary of State for Scotland would welcome any step in that direction.
If the hon. and learned Member wants us to agree, would he be prepared to take over land, without paying the price that is demanded for land required in order, to build houses? If he did that, we could agree on some of the other things.
The hon. Gentleman is, at once, trying to introduce party politics. I am perfectly willing to meet him on the footing that what is necessary, above all, for the interests of Scotland should be conceded, but I am not prepared to come in on the basis of committing myself to one party's policy. If there is to be an agreement and we are to try and get co-operation, we must try to find out what is the greatest measure of things on which we can all agree. If the hon. Member opposite were really anxious to help in this matter he would be able to contribute from his angle much that was useful. If we do keep to party politics we shall be doing injury to the people of Scotland. On the question of the long-term policy, I hope that the Secretary of State will give those who are in charge of this matter a considerable amount of responsibility, and allow them to get, not only what is aesthetic and good from an architectural point of view but what will make for real homes for the people of Scotland.
It may be asking much but I feel sure that the Secretary of State ought to be pressed constantly to produce a scheme such as we want, a scheme that will be worthy of Scotland. I hope that he will clear up the matter in this Debate if possible or, if not then, as soon as possible thereafter. It may be that we shall have a statement outlining an ambitious programme such as will help the people in the country we represent. I believe that housing is the greatest challenge which we have to face and if we are not found worthy of it, much harm will be done in the country in the years to come. Housing is one of the first necessities. It comes before almost anything else and we must approach the matter in no niggardly spirit. We must not limit ourselves to one particular line of action but proceed with determination, without regard to our own particular ideas, and be willing to cooperate in the greatest work that we can all do at this stage.
I listened to the Secretary of State for Scotland demonstrating to the Committee what a great artist he is, but he painted a picture in which I did not recognise my own country. To listen to him speaking about health, one would have thought that all was better than well in Scotland. Why, if the present generation were not descended from a very hardy and intelligent race, they would have been wiped out. Housing conditions in Scotland are a standing disgrace, and the Secretary of State, and the two Joint Under-Secretaries, who are sitting on the Front Bench now, cannot escape responsibility for those conditions. Think of Scotland, as we know it. If any stranger came in here to-day he would have heard every speech condemning Scottish housing conditions or calling for the present state of affairs to be remedied. Every speech has drawn attention to the danger that, unless that state of affairs is remedied immediately, the health of the people of Scotland is bound to deteriorate to a greater extent than it has done up to date. Without any shadow of doubt, and irrespective of political opinion, the whole Committee is of opinion that something radical should be done—not a twopenny halfpenny affair of building about a thousand houses for the whole country.
That brings me from the general aspect of the question to my own constituency, where conditions are beyond belief. Men working in Clydebank have threatened to stop work in a token strike, in order to draw attention to the awful conditions with which they are faced. They are scattered all over the West of Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland put up a proposition about Glasgow. All the speeches delivered here to-day have been about the hellish conditions in Glasgow—overcrowding and slums—yet the Secretary of State for Scotland could stand at that Box and say that Glasgow was prepared to take in a proportion of people who had been driven by the blitz out of Clydebank. What is the meaning of these things? If Ministers did not know, I could forgive them. I do not want to be saying these things about the Scottish Office. I would rather be on friendly terms with them. But I represent folk who are desperate for houses, for homes of their own, in fact for what we have promised them, ever since we started the idea of better housing for the working-folk of Scotland. The home life of the people of our country was the backbone of the British Empire. I wish we had John Wheatley with us here; we should have another Scotland. I am confident of that, but we have to deal with the material we have, and make the best of it.
Consider my constituency. There has been no attempt to deal with the state of affairs which exists there. They tell me that 200 houses are to be built. Two hundred houses will not touch the fringe of the problem. We need 2,000, and even that would not cure the position. Previously we had scheduled for 3,000 houses. Let anybody go and see how derelict the place is. Some individuals from London get whirled through the blitz areas, and they say that they will have all the rubbish removed. It has not been removed yet. Then there are the rats. I went to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he sent down the rat catchers. There was one four-storeyed property, in a top fiat of which 20 rats were caught in three weeks. New works have come to the West of Scotland, and my folk see 1,500 new houses being built. That is not all. We have been told that housing cannot be proceeded with because of a Cabinet decision and because of a shortage of timber and other materials, and labour. The war has to be won first—"Win the war, and all these things shall be added unto you" we are told.
I have been asked to go with different Ministers of the Crown through different parts of Britain. The last was a great part of the South of Scotland, where I saw factories that had been erected and accommodation being built for thousands of people. I am not asking for anything revolutionary when I say that if temporary accommodation can be built for those new workers, the same thing could be done for the workers in Clydebank who are building the most essential, priority No. I ships.
It depends. This is a very serious matter, and something will have to be done to meet the legitimate needs of the people. This is only hitting the workers. It is the workers' houses, not those of the well-off folk. If it was, the problem would have been solved long ago. They still have two and three houses; and my folk, who are doing the most important work in the midst of this discontent and this scandalous, dirty treatment which is being meted out to them, are beating all records in the building of ships and in the repairing of ships.
Here is a letter. I have had many resolutions. You would think they were foreigners I was asking for. The letter says:
I am a soldier's wife and have never had a house. I have always stayed with my mother, but owing to serious illness of my brother there is now no room for me or my three years old daughter. I am at present staying with a married sister at the above address but she can only put me up meantime as she herself is crushed. What is worrying me is this, that my husband, after doing 16 years in the Army, is now on his way home from the Middle East minus his arm, and has no home to come to.
There is a state of affairs for you.
Away for 16 years fighting for his country. Where is his country? His wife and wean have not a
home anywhere to lay their heads. It could be truly said to-day of the folk I represent, and it was said about the Founder of Christianity:
The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
That is Scotland for you. That is what the Tories have done for Scotland, and I am asked to support them because they are in the Government. Never. As a result of these conditions here is what I am faced with now, and what this Committee will have to face. All the bluffing will not bluff this away. This is from the shop stewards of the Clyde, a resolution they passed:
We view with alarm and great concern the present living conditions of the people in the Burgh of Clydebank. We draw attention to the mass of citizens who are still without a home, living in unsatisfactory conditions and having to travel long distances to and from work. We condemn the Government for the inadequacy of its housing policy and its decision to allocate only 200 houses to the Burgh of Clydebank. We view with alarm the ultimate effects of prevailing conditions and the possible loss of additional lives through the ravages of consumption and other diseases. Believing that the housing of bombed-out people is an essential part of the war effort, affecting not only the problem of production but the morale of the citizens, we call upon the Government to declare Clydebank an emergency area and to utilise all the resources at its command in material and labour, so far as present conditions will permit, in a great national effort to rehouse the homeless people.
That has been passed by the shop stewards, and I think our Chief Whip might hand it over to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland so that there may be no mistake made about that.
There are other hon. Members wishing to speak, and I do not want to take up the time of the Committee, but I would appeal to those representing Scotland to view this seriously. Being nice to me is not worth anything to me. I want the houses, and we will have to get the houses. I do not want to breathe out any threats. I do not want to say, "I will stop the Clyde"; I do not want to say, "I will stand by you if you have a token strike." I have said to them, "No matter what happens you must not stop work. Those who are not doing their best at the moment to increase production are traitors to their country." But with my point of view, and knowing the hellish conditions men and women have to live under at the moment, think of that letter A man has lost his arm fighting for his country. If he was the only one, it would not be so bad. Some of my friends would give me a house to give him and his family; of course they would. But there will be hundreds—no, thousands, like that for whom no provision is being made. Go to the War Cabinet and tell them that we must have houses. It is as important as anything else in order to win the war. Think what these folk in Clydebank have endured. Talk about equal sacrifice—think of the sacrifices they have made, have endured, with hope springing eternal in the human breast that the Government would see they were not treating them fairly. We could not treat the Germans worse; the German prisoners are treated better, and the Italians.
But our own folk are so loyal, they love their native land, they want to win the war, they want to win for a better world. They honestly believe that we shall get a better world after the war, but at the moment, as far as Clydebank is concerned, they see not the slightest glimmer. They say, "If they do this to us during the war, what will they not do to us when the war is won? We remember what happened after the last war, we shipbuilders in the Clyde, after we had given up everything," they say—I along with them. I asked them not to give up work, to give up trade union rights which were not ours to surrender but ours to defend. When the war was over we were flung on the scrap heap, not old and done men, but the best and finest any country in the world ever had. A stupid ruling class allowed them to go roving the streets with nothing to do, Satan finding "some mischief still for idle hands to do." We do not want that to happen again. We want to give some indication now that it will not happen again.
The Prime Minister can go away to America and soothe the savage breast of the Americans. I heard him to-day, I listened to him very carefully, and I am a great admirer of his. I have seen the day when I was his only supporter in this House. He can go to America, straighten out the difficulties there, go over to Algiers, listen to the French, and do what he can to smooth things out there too. Here is a problem at home
which is cutting the very vitals, the very foundation of the family life of our country, and no one knows better than the Secretary of State and the two Under-Secretaries the great high ideal that has been passed on to them, so that,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
Our national poet, Burns, said well that our great high ideal was:
Tae mak' a happy fireside clime
Tae weans and wife;
That's the true pathos and sublime Of humanlife.
I am glad indeed to have the opportunity of following my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), who, as usual, has spoken with such heat. I ought to say something, not by way of apology but by way of explanation, of my interruption. He was dealing with housing conditions in Scotland generally, and I thought that he was in danger of misleading the Committee about what was being done in regard to temporary housing accommodation for those who are engaged in national work of some kind or another in Southern Scotland. I think that his answer to my interruption showed that he was to some extent in agreement that he had exaggerated the temporary housing shortage. Let me assure him that in many areas of Southern Scotland —I do not know all of them, but in those I do know about—the housing position, due to the temporary influx of workers, is very bad; and I myself 18 months ago had conversations with those responsible, in order to see whether something could be done. The hon. Member must remember that his words go a long way beyond this Chamber. His book, "My Life of Revolt," with its foreword by the present Prime Minister, has been very widely read throughout the world. His words might easily be quoted in enemy broadcasts to illustrate the perverted view that the enemy wish to give of our housing conditions here.
I had no desire to make that speech to-day. I have twice spoken here about housing conditions on Clydebank, and the reason I made that speech to-day was that I was driven to it. If conditions had not been so terrible, I would not have made it. What I said was that in all my travels I have seen thousands——
I have spoken in no spirit of hostility to the hon. Member, but only as a tribute to the universal esteem in which he is held. Nobody would wish him to step across the line. Then there was his statement as to what had happened as a result of the bombing on Clydebank. We all know that the bombing on Clydebank during two nights of 1941 was very severe, in fact, devastating. At the same time he will agree with me that Scotland as a whole in regard to the bombing of house property generally has come off very lightly indeed compared with South Britain. I am sure that many of the hon. Member's colleagues in the Labour Party—I see the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) here, for one—could give him instances of far more terrible damage
I think I am in Order, and you will at once correct me, Mr. Williams, if I am not, in suggesting that, bearing in mind the experience of many of the bombed areas in South Britain, the hon. Member has somewhat exaggerated what has happened in Clydebank. I think I am the only county Member who has had the honour of addressing the Committee to-day
What we have heard from hon. Members on both sides has illustrated the fact that every Member representing a Scottish constituency, urban or county, is fully seized of the importance of the housing question at the present time. We all realise the importance of agriculture at the present time, and the part which it is likely to play in the post-war period. I suppose it would not be an exaggeration to describe that as being at least a 20-years' period. Realising that, everyone wishes to impress upon the Scottish Office the importance of as soon as possible—I stress those words—coming forward with a comprehensive programme. I well realise—and I said so in a Debate on
housing at the end of March—the difficulties before the Scottish Office at present. They have been mentioned to-day by Members on both sides, even those who were criticising the Government for their lack of energy and initiative. There are the difficulties of providing men and of providing materials. I hope that the Government have this matter very seriously in mind. I represent a constituency where the rural housing problem bulks very much more largely—and that is putting it mildly—than the urban housing problem. Representing a constituency such as the Province, or Kingdom, of Galloway—for such it is, although you will not find that title marked on any map—I have a special interest in this problem. My constituency, so far as rural housing is concerned, is rather sharply divided. I think I might in speaking of it, with apologies to Julius Caesar, paraphrase the opening words of the first chapter of his "De Bello Gallico":
"Omnia Galwegia in duabus partibus divisa est."
"All Galloway is divided into two parts." There are the stewartry of Kirkcudbright and the county of Wigtown. That paraphrase conveys some idea of the sharp distinction which exists between these two counties in this matter. I do not want to bore the Committee with figures, but I have provided myself with one or two, which show the position in my constituency as a whole and that between the two counties. We have heard a lot about the sins of omission in respect of housing in the inter-war period. I am told by one who is very intimately connected with the local authority of Kirkcudbrightshire that in 1939 some 400 new houses for rural workers would have been their target. To-day the figure would be at least 1,200. In Wigtownshire conditions were so bad in 1939 that the local authority were unable to name any target which they thought would adequately express the number of houses required for rural workers in the area they were called upon to administer. Again, I am told by one intimately concerned with local affairs in Wigtownshire that at least 3,000 to 5,000 would be required in the immediate postwar period. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan), whose constituency runs down to the Wigtownshire border,
will, if he comes to address the Committee, as we are all hoping he will, tell us about the conditions which exist in his constituency. Those are just one or two figures showing what two rural local authorities deem absolutely imperative in the immediate post-war period.
We have heard a great deal to-day about what was omitted during the interwar period. Scorn and ridicule have been poured upon the reconditioning programme undertaken by nearly every local authority in Scotland, urban and rural, during those years. I am not in a position to speak at first hand with regard to urban authorities, and I fully accept some of the statements that have been made as being not very far from the truth—if I may put it that way. But in the rural areas the shells of houses erected in some cases 150 or 200 years ago are often still very good. The insides admittedly are in a bad way: the lath and plaster partitions, owing toßž—
Yes, damp, and the quick succession of tenants, not all paying strict attention to the welfare of their houses—[Interruption]—yes, and the omissions of the landlord, leave much to be desired. But the local authorities, on inspection, declare the shells of these houses to be absolutely adequate and well worthy of the reconditioning provided for under the Rural Housing Acts. With regard to reconditioning, I want to give two figures, for Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire, again illustrating the point I have endeavoured to make about the difference in the position in these two counties. The last time I spoke in this House, some seven or eight weeks ago, on what we had done with regard to reconditioning the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)—I regret he is not in his place, but no doubt his hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) will take me up if he disagrees with what I am going to say—asked me how many houses I had built under the 1938 Act. My answer was "None," because that Act had only been in operation some 12 months before the outbreak of the war. Although I obtained two estimates—and even then the size of the estimates amazed me—the war was upon us, and the general shortage of men and materials, about which we hear so much to-day, at once began to operate and the whole thing fell stillborn to the ground.
I am delighted that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire has asked that point, because I was about to ask the hon. Member for Shettleston to convey to his hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton that after careful investigation I found, in the period 1934–39, I had reconditioned some 19 houses, which I think is not bad. Of course, I could not have done it but for Treasury assistance. I merely mention this now because I was not able to give the hon. Member for Bridgeton the information he then sought either with regard to building or reconditioning so far as I myself was concerned. I am sure the Government will have no regrets in having put down this Vote for discussion to-day. Members in all parts of the Committee have rightly shown that they are aware that the housing conditions in Scotland as a whole are lamentable and deplorable, and we all desire to know, without putting undue stress on the Scottish Office, what their intentions are in the future.
It is only a few days ago since we passed in this House a Bill, the extent of whose ramifications cannot be foreseen, with regard to developing the water power of the Highlands. That is very good, and we all wish it God speed, but a Measure like that alone, involving as it does some 70 schemes, will call for a vast, comprehensive housing programme in the Highlands of Scotland. I only say that in passing as it would be out of Order for me to attempt to say very much about that scheme, except that some of us even now are not convinced that it will bring the benefits to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland that some hon. Gentlemen seem to envisage.
Some passing reference has been made to the 1938 Housing Act. In the two counties that I have the honour to represent 32 houses were built under the Act. Some hon. Members have questioned whether that Act was worth while or whether anything really worth while had been done in building in consequence. I hope that the figure I have quoted of 32 houses in one year, until the war made the Act practically inoperative, shows what was done by one local authority whose resources are not very wide, as it is a fairly poor rateable area. Both counties that I have the honour to represent have had allotted to them under the present house building scheme some 20 houses. That is all very well as far as it goes, but the figures I have quoted—and I have tried to be very accurate and not to indulge in extravagances—show that it only touches the fringe or outskirts of the problem. It is all very well as a foretaste, and I am not going be like the hon. Member for Bridgeton and the hon. Member for Shettleston and turn away the slice of bread because it is not the whole loaf. I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary of State replies—and I realise his difficulties—he will be able, as a result of the Debate, to tell us a little more about the plans of the Government for immediate post-war building.
We all listened to the Prime Minister's words to-day with the greatest attention and intense interest. He gave no dates about the future. Surely it would be a cautious statement to say that when June, 1944, comes round, and these Scottish Estimates are discussed again, the state of affairs in Europe may be very much better than it is to-day. That is why I urge upon the Scottish Office to give us as much information as they possibly can in regard to what they intend to do, during the period that immediately follows the war
I listened with considerable interest to the speech delivered by the Secretary of State. He had a number of very interesting things to tell us in regard both to health statistics and housing. At the week-end I read the speech, as reported in the papers, of the Secretary of State when he addresed the conference of local authorities in Edinburgh on the question of housing. I am not sure that he was not more interesting at the conference than he has been here to-day. At the Edinburgh conference, where he was meeting representatives of local authorities, who are always keenly interested in housing, he had a number of very interesting things to say. He was looking forward to the time when Scotland would be building 50,000 houses annually. I wish we could get even a proportion of that number just now
It is all very well looking ahead to what we hope to be able to do after the war, but the housing situation in Scotland, whether in the urban or rural areas, is desperate. We require houses of some kind to meet the requirements of our people. Up to now I have had a very strong prejudice against new-fangled types of houses. I have always had a prejudice against the concrete house and against the houses that have been erected for merely temporary purposes. I have to confess however that the situation is becoming so desperate in Scotland that I would be prepared to accept almost anything, so long as it was a shelter. Our people are becoming over-crowded and disease is developing as the result of overcrowding, and conditions are so uncomfortable that I would welcome any sort of expedient that the Scottish Office might be prepared to bring forward to give us relief from our present housing situation.
I assume that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will reply to this Debate and I am rather pleased at the prospect, because I would like to mention one or two things of which I would like him to take note and to which I would like him to reply. The Secretary of State referred to the position in Scotland with regard to tuberculosis and mentioned how it was developing. I would like some information on what the Scottish Office propose to do in view of the situation in the county of Fife. The Joint Under-Secretary of State knows that county very well. I hope he will be able to tell us what it is proposed to do in view of the situation which has recently been created in the county of Fife. We have a first-class sanatorium, and at the last meeting of the sanatorium board of the county council it was reported that the situation was becoming so bad that they were thinking of closing down part of the sanatorium. A considerable number of cases are waiting for admission, and although there are beds available the shortage of staff is making it impossible for the sanatorium board to carry on. That is a very serious situation and I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us how the Scottish Office propose to deal with it.
For a considerable number of years most valuable work has been done at that sanatorium, The board of which I was a member for a number of years have taken a considerable amount of pride in it. The sanatorium has a very fine situation and has always been run on the best possible lines. We are fortunate in having a superintendent who is an enthusiast for his work. Yet we are faced with the situation that the sanatorium board are considering closing down part of the institution despite the fact that we have a long list of waiting cases. I agree that the position is difficult because of the inducement held out to young women to transfer from that sort of work to better paid occupations, but I wonder whether the Scottish Office are considering any plan whereby it would be possible to keep the institution properly staffed. Without a proper staff the only thing the sanatorium board could do would be to close down part of the institution. I hope that will not be necessary and that before there is any danger of any part of it closing down some steps will be taken to deal with the situation
At the Edinburgh conference the Secretary of State told representatives of the local authorities what it was hoped to do before the war ended. He referred to the Advisory Committee of which the Joint Under-Secretary is chairman, and said he hoped that it would be able to do a considerable amount of work in acquisition of sites and putting in water and drainage and other services before building operations commence. I would like to know how far it is possible to enable local authorities to go ahead with plans. My right hon. Friend knows a burgh in my constituency which has had great difficulty in getting sites. The burgh is completely built up and there is little prospect of any extension. Can the Scottish Office do anything to get sites in a burgh of that description? It is true that a considerable area could be cleared and that the local authority are willing to clear some areas that have been ruined by underground workings, but the number of these sites is very limited and, apart from the extension of the burgh boundaries, I wonder whether we can have any guidance on what can be done in circumstances of that kind?
At the Edinburgh conference my right hon. Friend declared himself a "small burghs man." I am glad he did so because I, too, am a small burghs man. I believe in small communities managing their own affairs. I have a prejudice against too big local administrative areas. There may be something in what he suggested to that conference, namely, that instead of large unwieldy areas, administered by a central committee, there should be more Joint action between local authorities. I believe that it is sometimes very difficult because burghs are usually surrounded by county areas, and county councils are apt to look upon themselves as the big brothers of the smaller burghs within their areas and that sort of cooperation among local authorities would not be satisfactory. However, I hope we shall have more co-operation between local authorities concerning the problems of housing, water supply and other services that could be jointly undertaken even by a county local authority and the burghs within its area.
I would ask the Joint Under-Secretary to tell us what reply has been sent to the representations which come from the Burgh of Cowdenbeath for a deputation with regard to housing. The housing situation there has been desperate for years. Half the population are now living in overcrowded conditions. New houses ought to have been built long before the war. The local authority owns a considerable number of houses, but that has not met the problem in that area. There are old houses that have been going out of use and derelict areas within the burgh which have intensified the problem to such an extent that not only the local authority but independent bodies of ratepayers are trying to draw public attention to the situation. There are many houses which are really not fit for human habitation but which are being occupied and must be occupied, because the people have nowhere else to go. It is precisely because of that that I am prepared to accept anything in the way of a shelter until we can build proper houses, such as we had before the war. Even before the last war we built decent houses in Scotland.
I have seen some of the temporary dwellings erected during this war to meet the new population which has come into my constituency. Hundreds of houses have been built in one area. Looked at from the outside they are not attractive, but I am prepared to accept 2,000 more in my constituency in order to ease the situation. I think I am correct in saying that in the burgh of Dunfermline the local authority have built about 2,000 houses. One house in this 2,000 becomes vacant every five months, I understand. There are hundreds of people who have been waiting for years for houses within the burgh of Dunfermline. In the meantime all the available accommodation is packed.
My right hon. Friend referred to the difficult question of furnished, lodgings. I agree that it is very difficult, but in my constituency people have been glad to accept accommodation at almost any figure because of the demand for houses. Single accommodation has been offered by people who, normally, would never have thought of offering accommodation. We have had to surrender a great many of the privileges we have hitherto enjoyed; we have had to do much that we have not liked. Can we be told whether there is any hope of the Treasury ban being to any extent waived? The Treasury have said that there must be no capital expenditure by local authorities on housing and that there must be no acquisition or preparation of sites. Can my right hon. Friend tell us that he is prepared to go to the Treasury or the Cabinet and ask for a relaxation of that ban? I think we should be prepared for the end of this war, and nothing is more urgent than the provision of houses as soon as the war ends. Surely it is not asking too much of the Scottish Office that representations should be made to the Government to relax this ban on local authorities. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) that the Government must bear the sole responsibility for nothing having been done in regard to housing. That is not so; local authorities must bear some part of the responsibility. But they must be allowed now to make some preparations for the end of the war. The war may end sooner than we expect and I agree with what my right hon. Friend said at the Edinburgh conference, namely, that we should not slither into the post-war years, without having everything ready for a great attack on the housing problem in Scotland.
Something must be done in the burgh of Cowdenbeath. I thought some years ago that the place would die Nearly a score of collieries round about the town were closed, but despite the necessity of having to travel to other places for work, the population insist on living there and are determined to make it their centre in the future, as in the past. I thought that when pits closed the population would have been spread around other parts of Fife, but that is not being encouraged now. Colliery companies which refused to find houses for their workers, are not erecting houses. They are looking to the local authority which is not inclined to erect houses around a colliery, with the result that thousands of miners have to travel to work by bus and train. Formerly, their work was almost at their doorstep, but now that has changed. So far as Cowdenbeath is concerned we shall have a large population there in the future and I hope my right hon. Friend will be prepared to meet representatives of the local authority and to discuss with them the serious position in that burgh.
I rise to make three points. The first is about housing, the second concerns partly housing and partly health, and the third is about ourselves. It is not remarkable that this Debate has centred almost entirely around housing. The need for us to build, and to build quickly, after the war a great many houses is so great that it requires us to adopt bold and, by prewar standards, revolutionary methods if the demand is to be met. Let me explain what I mean by revolutionary methods. We are proud of our Scottish houses. They are built to last. Like the quarried stone of which so many of them are constructed, they are weather resisting and long lasting, and what they lack in aesthetic merit they make up in solidity. And the newer country cottages—I am thinking particularly of those constructed under the Housing of Rural Workers Acts —contain a high degree of sanitary amenities. We should not depart from these high standards lightly or wantonly, but I say that we must depart from them temporarily if we are to get all the houses we need after the war and get them quickly. We must not allow the good to be the enemy of the best. It is really, as I see it, a choice of evils. Either we can maintain our high standard and accept the inevitable restriction of output which solid construction, the provision of modern sanitation and shortage of labour and materials will impose, or we can waive our standards temporarily and go all out to put roofs over the heads of the people until such time as the better houses are ready for them. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson), who has just spoken, said he was prepared to accept almost anything so long as it was a shelter. I agree with that entirely.
I think we ought to recognise two types of houses—the standard house and the emergency house. Let the standard house by all means conform with our high prewar standards, but let the emergency house be run up quickly, probably of prefabricated material, so that it will provide a shelter quickly for those people who will need homes. Let it contain the bare essentials for healthy life—two apartments, a cooking stove, a wash-house with a copper, and little else. I have seen plans of apartment houses of this kind which have been prepared in his spare time by the architect of one of our educational authorities. He describes the houses as caravan cottages. They are a sort of temporary house which can be run up quickly in sections and which would be placed on the corner of a plot of ground which will not later be occupied by the standard house and, when labour and materials are available for the construction of a standard house, it can be put up without disturbing the people who are living in the temporary house, so that in time they can transfer to the standard house, and the emergency house can then become a stick house, a pony shed, a games room or what you will. I think that is a good and a sensible idea and that there is a great deal to be said for it. I am sure that if the Secretary of State adopts a plan of that nature, as I hope most fervently he will, he will meet with criticisms from amenity groups and from societies for the preservation of this and that. He will be called a vandal and a despoiler of the countryside, but I do not think he need mind that at all. He has imagination and vision, and he will understand the needs of the people for whom I believe I am privileged to speak. These people are young, and many of them are in the Services. They are not having a very easy time. They have learnt to endure hardship. They are used to living in camps and huts, where they have to endure a very public existence.
I think it will be useful and convenient if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give an idea of the kind of raw materials which he thinks should be used for these erections. Does he realise that raw materials in the form of bricks are more available than wood or any other alternative, and, if you are using bricks anyhow, if you do not build your houses properly, you will have bad sanitation as well as a lack of other amenities which the country would demand.
I am envisaging a situation where you require thousands of houses and require them as soon as people come out of the Army. A kind of material which might be available is corrugated iron. I do not want my plan to rest on the assumption that these temporary houses are to be built with corrugated iron, but that is a material that might be used to put a roof over people's houses quickly until brick houses are ready for them. By all means let us have brick and stone houses and get all the sanitary amenities into them that we can, but I believe that if these young men and women in the Services came along here and pleaded before us, their elected representatives, they would say something like this: "We do not want to wait until you can build us houses which will last a lifetime. We do not mind about the bathroom or the hot water, or the flush closets. We have not been used to that sort of thing lately. What we want when we come home is a house of our own." Some of them will not come home. We cannot fail those of them who do.
My second point is this: When the war is over, the Army will cease to require hundreds of camps in almost every corner of the country. Some of them are large, some are small, some are in lonely and inaccessible places, some are poor and some are very good indeed. I know, because in some measure I have been responsible for many of them. I believe these are assets which we should be able to acquire cheaply—assets which, if properly used, could be of immense benefit to the health of our people, and assets which may even help to provide a temporary solution for some of our housing difficulties. Some of these camps are at present occupied by anti-aircraft units—mixed units. They provide very good accommodation for women as well as for men. They would make admirable holiday homes. Others would house seasonal workers in agriculture or forestry and casual labour for almost every kind of development work. They offer the possibility of extending our system of youth hostels and of establishing summer schools and convalescent camps. St. Andrew's House has an excellent liaison with the headquarters of the Scottish Command. It is an advantage not possessed by Government Departments in England. It is dealing with only one Command for the whole of Scotland. I want the right hon. Gentleman to keep in touch with the Scottish Command. Let him get a list of the camps erected all over Scotland. If he does not like to get it from them, let him get it from the local authorities. Let him plan now what can be done with them. It is not too early to work on the assumption that many of them will be available for his use.
Finally about ourselves. I have never ceased to express the belief that we Scottish Members ought to be able to set an example by agreeing among ourselves upon the main outlines of our post-war internal policy. As we develop our ideas on the immense problem of Scottish housing, we shall find that the gifts we need to covet most for ourselves are boldness, imagination and the inspiration of high ideals. These gifts have been possessed in large measure by some of the greatest of our fellow countrymen. We can fortify ourselves with that thought as we labour together to build a better Scotland.
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast." Every year we look forward to this Debate on the Scottish Estimates as if it was going to bring us something material, and every year, I suppose, we just conclude our Debate and discover that there has been nothing accomplished. It is not at all surprising when we look round the House and see the number of Members who are sitting still at this hour—an adequate proof that even Scottish Members have no interest whatever in a Scottish Debate. They only come to make speeches. Having made their speech, they do a bunk. They disappear one by one until by the time we reach the last speaker there is no audience to address.
I always come back. I think we must agree that there is a tremendous amount of futility about these Debates. There is plenty of excuse for absenteeism from this House but none when it comes to the question of the collieries. I was attending a doctor and did not hear a good deal of the Secretary of State's speech, but what I did hear was not very promising. If the doctor had known, he would probably have given me a prescription not to come to the House at all to-day. I begin with the question of Scotland's health. I think that no Member can look upon it with equanimity and say that there is anything to boast about in the health of Scotland to-day. I have heard statements during the Debate that Scottish children are better fed and better clothed to-day than ever they were. If that is so, it is a tremendous indictment on what they had to suffer in the past, because I can find no evidence that the children of Scotland are well-fed to-day.
There are some aspects of the health problem that the Secretary of State did not touch on. One which deserves some consideration concerns maternal mortality. I have always wondered why maternal mortality in Scotland is 100 per cent. higher than it is in England. I can understand why the mortality of the Scottish regiments is higher than that of the English, because they are always called upon to do the heavy and difficult jobs. They are always called upon to be in the van of an advance and to cover up a retreat. Therefore it is not surprising to find that the casualties among Scottish regiments are much greater than those among English regiments. The Secretary of State ought, by this time, to be able to answer the question why maternal mortality in Scotland is so high. He has expert advice at his command, and he has set up large numbers of committees, some of them approaching mass meetings in size. There is the Advisory Committee on Education, and I am sure that in his early days the Secretary of State has addressed smaller audiences under the name of demonstrations.
The hon. Gentlemen has just made a serious point. He said that the mortality at birth is 100 per cent. greater in Scotland than in England. Could he give figures in support of that?
Yes, quite easily. I should have thought that my hon. and gallant Friend, having been a member of a large local authority covering a population of 1,250,000 which has a higher maternal and infant mortality rate than any other area in the country, would have known the figures without asking for them. In order to satisfy him, I will give the figures. From 1931 to 1935 the average for Scotland was 6.1 per 1,000 births. There was an improvement later, but the figures to-day are 4.7 for Scotland and 2.6 for England and Wales.
Those of us who are connected with the mining industry are sometimes shocked at the tremendous mortality in the mines. When disasters take place the Member for the constituency concerned puts down a Private Notice Question to the Minister of Fuel and Power, and in his answer he always expresses sympathy with the relatives of the deceased. Mining is the most dangerous industrial occupation, but dangerous though it is, it is far less dangerous than child-birth. If we had the mortality in the mines that we have among our mothers, there would be revolution. The mining mortality is about one per four maternal deaths. We remember those alarming figures which old Herbert Smith used to dish out about an army marching and one falling out every yard injured and one dying at every so many yards. We could multiply that by four, and that would be the number of maternal deaths. We are entitled to know from the Secretary of State what is being done to reduce this heavy mortality rate. It is a curious fact that although the incidence of many diseases and mortality has been considerably reduced, maternal mortality has remained almost stationary, if it has not slightly increased. Here is a field which the Scottish Office should surely enter. We have targets in all directions. We have targets for coal production, and every pit has its target. Could not we have a sort of inverted process and try to see how low we can reach in the figures of maternal mortality?
Closely related to that question is infantile mortality. Here again Scotland has very little to her credit, because she has a much higher rate than England. With the exception of some Colonies or dependencies that are governed by the English, Scotland in this respect is, to use a colloquialism, the world's worst. In the quinquennial period I have mentioned the rate for England and Wales was 57, while for Scotland it was 77. If we take countries comparable in size with Scotland, we find the situation much aggravated because Oslo had an infantile mortality of 25, which was the lowest in the world, and Stockholm a mortality of 35. That should be compared with the City of Glasgow, which has an infantile mortality of 104. These are matters to which it is very necessary that the Scottish Office should be able to give us some reply. Is there any reason why Sweden or Norway should have such a low mortality rate as compared with Scotland? We are a nation of some 5,000,000 people. There is plenty of room in Scotland for us. There is no need to build skyscrapers and to huddle all the people in the City of Glasgow. There is no reason why our population should not be dispersed. There is no reason why Scotland should not be a happy and healthy country. There is no reason why it should be a land of poverty, misery, ill-health and mortality.
Given a fair chance, Scotland should be able to produce as good results as any other country. Scotland is a poor country. If it were not attached to England, it would be less poor. A country like Scotland, which produces 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 tons of coal per annum and could increase it to some 40,000,000 tons, ought not to be a poor country and ought to be able with her industries and her intellect to raise a standard of life for the people comparable with that of the best country in the world. The ambulance work is very good in its way and a necessary complement to our services, but it is a truism that prevention is better than cure. Scotland would like to know what is being done to stamp out disease in that country. In this field we have a black record. It is not a nice thing to have to say about one's own country, but when we talk about our mountains, lochs, straths and glens, it is merely a façade for its misery, poverty and disease.
There is no question about the increase of tuberculosis. We may be deceived presently, because the mortality figures have slightly declined or at any rate are almost stationary. When there is an outbreak it is some time before the results are apparent, but we shall reap what we have sown, and the mortality rate will be a progressive one in the days to come. I agree that the question of housing is largely bound up with the question of health. The hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) spoke about the needs of his particular area. I can assure him that the the needs of the neighbouring county are not less. A survey made by the medical officer and sanitary inspector of the county of Ayr showed that some 10,000 houses are required in the landward area alone.
The whole of Ayrshire. The population of the landward area is considerably less than 50 per cent. of the population of the whole county, when you include the big and small burghs responsible for their own houses. Speeches and blue prints will not produce houses, and the local authorities are at their wits' end to know what is to happen in the future. A voluminous questionnaire has been sent out, but when filled in it means nothing, because half of the information asked for is of no use at all to any Department. We want to know what are the prospects for housing in the very near future. This namby-pamby scheme under which a few houses are thrown at us is worth less than nothing. I would gladly surrender the few houses given to Ayrshire in order to save the trouble of allocating them. To allocate them is worse than to build them—if ever they are built. I have been in this housing business since 1919. I was chairman of the housing committee of my local authority from 1919 onwards and know some of the difficulties encountered in trying to build houses. Every obstacle you could think of was placed in the way.
Before you could get started at all the first question was the cost. We had that from the Chancellor of the Exchequer when we were discussing the Beveridge Report. He was in favour of the principle of the Beveridge Report but had to consider all financial aspects of it. If we are to consider all the financial aspects of housing, we shall be in no better position than we were in 1919. Then we had to borrow money. They said,"You cannot build the houses until you borrow the money." We borrowed the money at 6 per cent. and kept it and paid 6 per cent. to the people who had lent it, and then after 18 months or two years we had to send the money back to them.
The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) said that if there was sufficient material and labour, there ought to be no difficulty in housing the people. But what about the land? That was the bugbear with us for years. Are we to have to begin all over again the old game of applying for compulsory orders before we can get on to the land to build houses? It is both expensive and a delaying action of the most deplorable kind. If we are to be held up by a few pettifogging landowners, how are we ever to face the building of the 20,000 or 25,000 houses required in the county of Ayr? We cannot go on in this way. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs has read a letter. Everybody knows the state of things in my own village. We require double the houses because of the fluctuations of industry. It is largely a mining area there, and new developments are to take place. We have had a committee, the Coal Committee, running round our county in motor cars. It was set up by the Secretary of State to inquire into the future of coal in Ayrshire, but not a single representative of the Ayrshire miners was asked to serve on it. Not a single representative of our miners' unions was asked to act on that committee—and we can see them running about our county in motor cars, fixing the location of industries for the future while the people directly affected have not been asked to form an opinion at all.
On a point of correction. Do I understand the hon. Member is referring to the Coal Committee under the presidency of the Solicitor-General? If so, there are representatives of the Scottish Miners' Federation on it.
If my right hon. Friend had paid a little attention to what I said, he would not have needed to make his correction. When he set up the Committee he selected a representative not from the Scottish miners but from every area in the Scottish minefield with the exception of the one area where there are likely to be large developments. He has Lanarkshire very well represented—a dying area—and, it is a remarkable thing, he did not forget to have the Ayrshire coalowners represented on his Committee. It is probable that we could have offered some advice. We have a board of over 20 representatives, and it is quite possible that some of them would have been able to offer advice on the development of the coal measures and housing for the people. There are areas where the coal measures are being worked out and other areas where it is intended there shall be, huge developments, and surely it would have been most reasonable to ask our people what are the prospects of development and where they thought houses should be built. But no, they did not have that opportunity.
Housing in Ayrshire, as in all other areas, is a most acute problem. How industry is to be carried on without housing I do not know. I heard one hon. Member say that he knew of a person who had been waiting eight years for a house. We have grandchildren who have been waiting for a house, and there is not the slightest possibility of their being housed. All our houses have been built to meet the overcrowding situation and for clearance purposes, and there is not the slightest possibility of newly-married folk getting houses. We have some who married before they went up to the Forces and we have others who were married during the time they were in the Forces. They will come back to the same conditions that existed when they left. Therefore, it is necessary that the strongest possible action should be taken. I do not know how long we have to wait. We do not know whether the war is to end next year, the following year, or the year after that. All we do know is that the war will come to an end some day. We are unable to place a period upon it. But are we to have no houses built, irrespective of how long the war goes on? If so, we shall be accentuating a very grave and difficult situation. Drastic action must be taken. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on his recent honour, because it is an honour not only to him but to the whole of the working class in Scotland. I therefore congratulate him, but, having done so, I hope that he will be able to provide us with some answer to the difficult problem that is facing the local authorities as regards both health and housing.
Before I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland I congratulate the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) upon being in such good form after visiting his doctor. This Debate has shown us clearly two things. The first is that there is a universal belief among Members of all parties that there is an acute shortage of housing in Scotland. Secondly, there is a universal desire from all those Members that something should be done about it as soon as possible. The housing trouble in Scotland has been developing for some considerable time. It is not something which has just happened suddenly. I think one of the main causes of the present position is the distress which has existed in Scottish industrial areas for a good many years, and has had a gradual repercussion upon housing. When my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) was speaking there was recalled to my mind the time when he had not attained his present position of an elder statesman and had only been four years in the House. I was then an apprentice in Glasgow, and the office in which I was engaged had to do with houses in Clydebank. They were owned by very poor people, and the tenants were very poor people. The tenants were unable to pay their rent, and because of the distress of the tenants the owners were not in a position to keep the houses in proper repair, and so there was brought about a vicious circle in which the property gradually declined. I think that is a position found in many parts of Scotland.
Accordingly, unless you have some fabulous prosperity and find the working classes able to pay very much higher rents— which seems to me at any rate unlikely—private enterprise will not be able to cope with the working-class housing problem It is a problem which must rest with the Government, and we must all ask what the Government are going to do. There is both an immediate shortage and a general problem. To meet the immediate shortage it is obvious that whatever materials the right hon. Gentleman can find must be utilised to tide aver the difficulties which are going to be very acute when men return from the Services. There remains a wider problem, and this Debate shows that it is time we had a long-term programme. In Edinburgh we are fortunate in having an Advisory Council, composed of three local men, who are going to study the problem of houses and replanning. The Edinburgh Corporation built and reconditioned over 28,000 houses at a capital cost of over £7,000,000, and as a result the density of population in Scotland is just half of that in Glasgow.
No, if I gave that impression, I wish to correct it. I only desire to say that at the present moment, as I understand, the density of population in Edinburgh is roughly half that in Glasgow. What I was going to say was—and I think I am entitled to say it—that we have a very far-seeing Corporation in Edinburgh, and what Edinburgh can do to-day Glasgow can do to-morrow. I know Glasgow housing conditions fairly well, having had the misfortune to be a property owner in that town, and nothing more discouraging to private building could take place than in Glasgow, where, despite derating, the rates, so far from diminishing, have tended to rise. In Edinburgh the rates remain the same. If Glasgow had only managed its affairs as well as Edinburgh, then Glasgow might have shown an equally good position. Good as is the work that Glasgow Corporation has done, there is still scope for improvement. In my constituency we have perhaps the most ancient and historic part of Scotland, but ancient and historic buildings are not necessarily hygienic when we are seeking places to live in. I certainly hope that that aspect of my constituency will in time disappear. I am glad there has been this Debate and that the right hon. Gentleman has shown some interest in housing in Scotland. Speaking for myself, and I think for all Scottish Members, I say that anything we can do to help will most gladly be done.
Before the last speaker got up I was feeling a little sorry for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, because the course of this Debate has been mainly on housing, and he seemed to have had a bad date. I wondered if my hon. Friend was trying to draw the fire of the Secretary of State, because he certainly made a most provocative and, in my opinion, exceedingly ill-founded speech. As far as I followed his argument, it seemed to me a plea to Glasgow Corporation to solve the housing problem by making building more profitable to property owners in Glasgow. If the hon. Member's associates 100 years ago in Glasgow had accepted their obligations and discharged their duties before there was any rating problem, then this Debate would not have taken the course it has taken. It is because in these cities houses were built without much reference to public health considerations and certainly with no reference to town planning that the bulk of our programme has become so great a problem for the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Health.
I will not attempt to compete with the picture put before the Committee by my hon. Friends the Members for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay). I would only add that in my Division there is the same acute problem, and I find some pleasure in remembering that the first speech I made in this House was on that subject. At that time I pleaded that improvised methods should be adapted to the needs of these particular distressed areas, but nothing was done. The Scottish Secretary assured the Committee that the country had been combed for labour and material to meet this urgency. I say without qualification that if that is not an untruth, it is at least an inaccuracy. If there was nothing more important in the mind of the Minister than providing some immediate contribution towards the solution of this problem, he would comb these areas and get some results. In my Division a large number of houses have been requisitioned by the Service Ministers. Two of them were houses that we had been forced to set aside for the needs of bombed-out families.
When I was discussing housing and this matter of requisitioning, the Minister concerned said that if he could get huts he would not make these demands upon my Division, but at a conference subsequently with another Minister that Minister said he could get huts. I think that if the Secretary of State was really determined to put aside the obstructions put up month by month, he could clear scores and hundreds of houses of Service personnel who are using, as offices, buildings which are suitable for dwellings. I do not suggest that that would solve the problem, but conditions are so acute and distress is so great, not in terms of sentiment but in terms of sheer arithmetic, that any contribution should be seized upon. Anything that would lighten the situation would be welcomed. One thing that might be done is the method of putting houses at the disposal of working men, not for whole-time domestic use, but for use during the working week. That would be some contribution. Nobody wants to turn a Scottish Debate into a competition of misery. We would rather be talking about the health and achievements of our people, but we cannot escape from this problem.
At the opening of the Debate, the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill) talked of the three phases of housing, the immediate, the rush-hour and the long-term policy. The hon. Member who has just sat down said he was glad that the Secretary of State had a long-term programme and paid a tribute to the city of which his constituency is a part. I cannot leave this subject without saying that no longterm housing programme has yet been promulgated by the Government, nor, if we are to be honest, can there be any, until certain basic conditions have been examined and decisions upon them taken. In the course of our two-day Debate last year, when the Secretary of State had been putting before the Committee a not unattractive picture of Scottish industry, I remember that I made myself unpopular by saying that those were all secondary considerations, and that until we knew the Government's intentions towards the Barlow Report on industry we could not proceed logically with our discussions
Several hon. Members have referred to the sub-committee of the Solicitor-General's Committee which is considering the distribution of housing in relation to industrial needs. Indeed, my right hon. Friend referred to it in opening the Debate. The committee to which I have referred may report upon certain facts. It may tell us what the present rate of working is in the industrial life of Lanarkshire, and what, upon that estimate, are the housing needs of that county; but we cannot be tied to that, because we do not know, from the point of view of the whole nation, whether we are going to close down production in Lanarkshire when we get below an 18-inch seam, which is all that they can say just now. Therefore, I say that we cannot have a long-term policy until we have had decisions not only upon the Barlow Report, but on the Scott and the Uthwatt Reports. I make it plain that, naturally, I am not attacking or condemning the Secretary of State for Scotland and his Joint Under-Secretaries because they cannot come to this Committee and give us answers about those three problems, but I would say that, whatever deficiencies show themselves, if and when we are left without a long-term housing programme, those three right hon. Gentleman will have to accept their share of responsibility for remaining within a Government and not making their demands upon that Government, if these problems seem to them as important as they seem to me.
I want to turn to an aspect of the public health part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which is relevant to this Debate. May I make one general plea? I am not entitled to speak in this matter for anyone but myself and a few of my hon. Friends to whom I have spoken. I cannot understand why in this Debate, and indeed, in the Debate on the Ministry of Health Vote, we are always left in the position of having to debate the speech of the Minister without having in our hands the relevant figures. It is because the public health year ends in July, but I cannot see any reason why, for one year, the last quarter, for comparative purposes, should not be lifted out of the ending year and added to the nine months' period, so that we should have the public health year ending in March or April. We should thus have the annual report in our hands on these occasions and be in a position to discuss the figures. We are left without any real figures in our possession and without being able to make any factual judgment upon the health of Scotland in the current year. I do not want it to be suggested that I think our discussions cannot proceed without these figures, upon which to make comparisons, but, if I may say so without offence, there would be a slightly better comparison than that which the Secretary of State used this morning, when he referred us to the public health figures for the middle of last century. If he wanted to display how much progress we have made, I cannot understand why he stopped short of tak- the figures for the Black Plague year, which would have shown an even better comparison.
I want to refer only to one narrow factor of this picture, and that is to tuberculosis. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) said that he had figures in his possession which led him to believe that the mortality rate in Scotland would be stationary for this year. I am sorry that my estimate conflicts a little with his. I believe that the rate will be up this year. I think the figure will work out to be about 4,300, but that is only an estimate. At any rate, the figure is of such dimensions as to be alarming. That is an understatement. In his speech my right hon. Friend only touched upon this problem and said there was a shortage of beds, which we all knew. Then he referred to a new experiment in diagnosis, upon which we all compliment him and from which we hope for greater results. He said he had a waiting list of 500 tuberculosis patients needing hospitalisation. Despite his experiments in radiography and his scheme of allowances for the dependants of patients with pulmonary tuberculosis, upon which. we also congratulate him, he appears to be allowing himself a balance of only 300 beds.
I am not in a position to estimate how many patients his units of radiography will throw off afresh, but it should not be difficult to make an estimate if we knew how many patients he means to handle for diagnosis. The Army, the R.A.F. and the Navy have all done large-scale samples with miniature radiography. We have the figures, but I would hesitate to accept them because they are a sample selected from a very narrow sector of population. From 1936 to 1940, radiography was used on entrants to a London East End factory, a total of about 10,000, and the percentage of incipient tuberculosis patients worked out at between 1 per cent, and 1·5 per cent. I think there is reason to believe that the figure will be below that percentage in the case of Scotland. When the Minister comes to reply he will therefore see that he is leaving himself a very narrow balance indeed when he has 300 beds as his margin.
I wonder whether I might suggest to him that he could extend the number of beds for the incipient cases quite easily and with great effect. We all know that the real problem is not beds, as a matter of furniture, but nurses, and we equally know the reason for the holding back of those nurses. A considerable proportion of those 1.5 per cent. of patients which we may accurately estimate will be shown , as incipient pulmonary patients by radiography are what we might properly call borderline cases. They are people with dull patches and therefore people who will express great fear if they are asked to go into tuberculosis institutions for further diagnosis or for treatment. I suggest that my right hon. Friend would be meeting the needs of these people and-partially solving this problem—with which he has shown little readiness to cope—if he were to set aside something in the nature of isolation or observation wards. Those people would have their prejudices set aside if they were given the assurance that they were not being put into a tuberculosis institution My right hon. Friend and I know that the prejudice is absurd, but still it exists, and one of his jobs is to break it. Many of these borderline cases will not need much more treatment than rest, food, fresh air and adequate nursing, and that can be given to them outside the normal institution. I do not see how the right hon. Gentleman can attempt this, without prejudicing the case which has been put up for housing, except by telescoping the population in our bigger houses around the perimeters of our cities and setting aside some of those houses as recuperation homes for some of those borderline cases. That is going to be a fairly hefty proposition. I also suggest that he would find nurses willing to volunteer for that type of case who are not willing apparently to undertake training in institutions
I have talked rather longer to the Committee than I intended. I do not want in anything that I have had to say on these detailed problems to change the main trend of the Debate, which has been to say to the Government and to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that we cannot expect any dramatic or radical change in the public health position in Scotland, that indeed, we cannot hope for any substantial change at all over even a longish period, unless they address themselves adequately to the basis of all our problems in a public health sense in Scotland, that of housing, which is the single biggest governing factor in the whole picture
I do not intend to take up very much time, because the question of housing has been very well dealt with from every possible angle. The only thing I would say in that connection is that it is rather unfair to expect the Secretary of State for Scotland to make up in the middle of a war the arrears in housing which are due to neglect of Governments in the past. Therefore, while I admit all that has been said about the awful housing conditions and their effect on health, the point I want to raise is the continuing high infant and maternal mortality rates, and to see whether something cannot be done to remedy these evils. It is a disquieting feature that we have this increase in maternal and infant mortality. Housing conditions are responsible for a good deal of it, I know. When we get better houses the death-rate will fall, but I notice that in the Glasgow figures the death-rates have been higher in the better wards, where the housing conditions are not so very terrible.
The point I want to press is the need for providing more maternity hospital accommodation where mothers can have their babies because of the very fact that there is this deplorable housing condition, which is very much worse than it was. After all, in the old days, although people had small houses, they were their own houses. Now there are very large numbers of married people living in rooms. I have had letters from young married women who, as soon as babies are going to appear, are turned out. I am not altogether blaming the landlady, because a room in a house where other people are living is very unsuitable for bringing up a baby. That makes it all the mare necessary that we should have alternative hospital accommodation, the shortage of which is chronic. As has been pointed out, we do not get up-to-date figures, so I am dealing with the 1941 report, which states that we had a total of 1,970 beds for maternity cases for the whole of Scotland. This is totally inadequate, especially in view of the terrible housing conditions. In the East End of London the infant and maternal mortality rates were brought down very greatly, not only by better housing conditions, but by providing this hospital accom-
modation, so I would urge on the Secretary of State that something more should be done to provide that accommodation. I have a cutting here taken from a speech delivered some time ago by the medical officer of health for Glasgow. He says there:
The demand on indoor accommodation for confinement, which was rapidly increasing before the war, has been intensified and is now very difficult to meet. Fear of raids, the black-out, and a shortage of midwives have contributed to the pressure but I am convinced that women will increasingly prefer to be confined in an institution rather than at home. This tendency is one to be encouraged and provided for, and steps should be taken to include further accommodation for maternity as part of the new hospital policy.
I hope the Secretary of State will press local authorities to provide this extra accommodation, so that we may bring down this terribly high rate of maternal and infant mortality.
I can think of nothing more tragic than a young woman dying in child-birth, leaving her baby behind and not knowing how it is to be provided for. There are too many cases of women dying, with four or five children, and the children being left without the care and attention of their mother. I therefore press the Secretary of State to push on local authorities. There are too many that have these old-fashioned ideas that because women in the past had a baby in a kitchen bed, that is a satisfactory state of affairs. They seem to forget that the death-rate in those days was very high indeed. They think that women did not die so readily, but, as a matter of fact, the death-rate among mothers in those days was terribly high. They will not move forward. I suggest that these working-class women who are doing what they are being urged to do—having families—should at least get proper care and attention. I hope that the Secretary of State will very strongly press all local authorities to provide the necessary accommodation.
I understand that last year, when the Secretary of State was setting up a Scientific Advisory Committee, that Committee was asked to inquire into the reason for the high infant mortality rate. Has that Committee met? If it has investigated the matter and come to any conclusions about it, I would like to know its report. In addition to the high death-rate, there is a tremendous amount of preventable sickness among the infant population. A very large number of babies die from chest troubles, especially in Glasgow, and I am quite convinced that the smoky atmosphere that exists in our cities is very largely to blame for that. I do not know whether in future planning something will be done to prevent the amount of smoke at present being put into the air, whether there will be some control of smoke in order that many of these infant lives may be spared.
There is another point I wish to deal with. I notice from the Glasgow education authority's report, which I got this week, that while the health of the school children is fairly good, very largely, I expect, because they are being provided with milk and school meals, there has been a tremendous increase in skin disease. That increase is due to lack of proper care, and in many cases it is due to lack of cleanliness, due to dirty conditions. I am also convinced that improper feeding has something to do with that. Children are not getting the fruit and so on that they used to get. I hope that the meals being provided in the schools are calculated to see that the children are kept in a fairly healthy condition, that it is not just a case of filling them up with steamed puddings and something like that, but that something is done to see that the children get vegetables, and fruit if possible. I would like to see oranges, instead of going into the shops, being supplied to the school children and to the clinics. By those means I am sure those who need them most would get them.
I wonder whether something cannot be done in an educational way to try and get a higher standard of cleanliness and hygiene among the people, even under bad housing conditions. I wonder whether something cannot be done through the schools to put out information to the parents as to the need for greater measures of cleanliness being taken. It is rather disquieting to read of so many mothers going out to war work and leaving their children, which is very regrettable. Apart from that, I think something might be done by teaching the children the need for cleanliness, and also, perhaps, by issuing a leaflet or adopting some other method like that to impress on the parents the need for cleanliness. I need not say that I agree with everything that has been said on housing conditions. We all get shoals of letters, and when we go into the constituencies we get people clamouring, to us as to whether we cannot get them houses. I have one letter—it is one of many—from a woman who has six young children and is living in a single apartment. She says that the doctor is never out of the house. I do not suppose he ever is. Imagine a woman bearing and rearing six children in a single apartment house, without bath, hat water or any accommodation whatever. I could do nothing for her but refer her to the council. They have long waiting lists. There should be some emergency measures. In regard to some of the bigger houses, we might have some method of getting those people to let some of their rooms. I am one of the people who think we have to get the war stopped to get on with the real measures that are necessary to deal with the problem
After listening to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Spring burn (Mrs. Hardie), I am afraid I am tempted to feel a little annoyed with some of the suggestions of the hon. and gallant Member opposite, who is not here at the moment, when he carried improvisation to the extreme of suggesting that we might retain after the war Army huts and, even put up corrugated iron shacks and all sorts of temporary erections of that kind for the housing of the men, and presumably the women, coming home from the fronts. The basis of his argument seems largely to be that they were accustomed to these things in the past few years, and therefore they might be able to put up with these hardships for some time longer. I do not think that, because one has lived under hardships for a period it is a good reason for doing it for the rest of one's life. The fact that one has been accustomed to sleeping out in an anti-gas cape under a hedge during the war is no reason for living under those conditions after the war. It reminds me of a letter that Mrs. Carlyle wrote about her husband. She must have been rather irritated on that occasion with the sage of Chelsea. She said she never knew a man who could bear with such Christian fortitude the sufferings of other people. That is very largely the attitude of those people who are perfectly content to see other people put up with a certain amount more hard- ship partly on the ground that they have already suffered hardship, partly, because they are not prepared to undertake the hard work and the planning on their behalf, the much decried planning which is unquestionably necessary if these postwar things are going to be done.
The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) rather astonished me with his speech, which was almost to the revolutionary Left for him. It was most remarkable, and I should like to congratulate him in his absence. He made, as I say, quite a remarkable speech—and; in contrast to his previous speeches in this House, a most progressive speech for him—a revolutionary effort. He criticised Beveridge because he did not lay sufficient stress on housing. It is difficult to consider housing in isolation. I think you must consider it against the background, against the whole question of want and poverty. One thing is quite certain: we must feel strongly on this subject, at least so long as this problem remains as serious as it is in Scotland to-day. More and more the Scottish Office, the Department of Health and public Departments will be called upon to undertake the rehousing and housing of the Scottish people. Their problem is more serious, as has been shown by my hon. Friends, even than the very serious problem in England and Wales, and that is serious enough.
What I am concerned with is that we are passing now to a new criterion in the housing of our people; that is, we are passing away from the criterion of income and effective demand to the more real, and more just and ethical, criterion of need; and all these questions of housing and public health must to-day be related to the question of priorities on that basis. That is to say, that the people who need these things, the people who have earned them, and the people who are the productive members of our population, must first and foremost have first priority of claim in housing as in other things. It must not any longer be money which gains the priority. The criterion must now be need, not income and effective demand. It must not be possible for people to come along and say to the private enterprise builder, "I am going to make my first demand on these urgently needed materials which are in short supply, because I have the money to offer." That must not be allowed. There must be a continuation of control of materials after the war, so that those who really do need are the first to have their needs satisfied, not those who come forward with ready money and effective demand. We must change our ideas in relation to the satisfying of priority claims in housing.
This is purely a poverty question. You cannot separate housing and health; they are one and the same, and part of the general problem of the poorer classes of this community. We have had in the past, if you like, universality of sacrifice, but the fact that we have a housing problem among the poor and not among the rich is proof that we have had nothing like equality of sacrifice. In wartime, even as in peace-time, the poor continue to suffer from the lack of houses, as of other things. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs should relate the question of housing and Sir William Beveridge's general solution to each other. On the questions of public health and housing, we have to regard them much more as one single subject for planning and for general consideration. The preventative scheme and the curative have to be regarded as one and the same, and in that relationship housing and health come very closely together. You cannot expect people to live together in a healthy and cleanly way in bal houses and bad surroundings.
A great deal of emphasis has been laid on the needs of the industrial areas, such as Glasgow, Clydeside, and those places. I recognise the seriousness of their problem, and I am not making any comparisons or special claims; but we have a problem which I will not say is more serious or less serious but is in many respects different. In the Highlands and Islands of Scotland we are up against a very serious public health problem. Immediately you mention housing you are up against the difficulty that up to now there has been, outside the urban areas, such as there is in the Highlands and Islands, no real planning except in respect of the individual houses and a few small estates. There have been some estates settled by the Department of Health with loans and subsidies; but with always something missing which detracts from what you have done. You have failed to lay on water or you have failed to fence them off and to build side roads which lead to the main and village roads. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) is so familiar with these matters that this perhaps sounds a little tiresome to him, but it is a fact that even now the Government Departments are still not planning these things as a whole, seeing them as complementary wants requiring co-ordinated schemes. They build a house and forget to put in sanitation, or they provide sanitation and forget to put in water to make that sanitation effective. That is not good enough. We hope they will at this stage map out these places and plan them in such a way as to allow for the immediate laying on of water and sanitation and other things which are necessary if you are to provide not merely a concrete block-house but an attractive home for men and women coming back from the war.
Some have water supplies through the accident of being near the water mains of a nearby town or large village; but the Department of Health cannot take credit for having planned a single important water supply in the Highlands and Islands. It is all being left to the people themselves. They have still to trudge long distances with buckets to fetch water from the wells several times a day. It is mostly the womenfolk who have to do it, as the men are away working all day. It is too bad, when the officials go up there and say, "The house is on a good site and all is well"; and then go away again and forget about problems like water supply. Women should not be made to walk miles every day trudging through the mud to fetch water in buckets from the wells. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary and I myself do not have to do these things. We have to apply the test in these matters to ourselves before we can get any idea of the injustice of them. We have to feel strongly about how these things affect others; even more strongly than we do about our own personal comforts. The fact that we do not have to go to wells for our water supply, and that we do not have to go through all the miseries of being without sanitation, does not free us from moral responsibility and the practical duty of tackling this problem. I have bored this House for the last eight years in demanding water supplies for villages whose names are unpronounceable to anyone but myself in this House; but when it comes to a war you do not relate the value of the citizens to the rateable value of the areas in which they live. You do not say to a man, "You are an able-bodied fellow, but there are only 500 of you in the whole island, and we do not think a penny levy would make it worth while conscripting you in this war." We cannot depart from the moral criteria.
It is very easy to criticise: till someone says, "What would you do?" I admit that a lot has been done, and I am very proud that the Scottish Departments have provided a good number of houses, but they have left many to be built, and have left many of the old "black" thatched houses without sanitation or hope of it. It is no good putting sanitation into those houses; you must build new ones, with modern equipment. At present you leave it to a man to come along and say, "My house is no longer fit to live in, and I want a subsidy to enable me to build a new house." It is left very largely to himself to build a house mainly with unskilled help. It should not be left to an individual to decide when a house is no longer fit to live in. It is time that the officials of the Department made a survey of these villages, village by village, to find out definitely what houses are needed, and then drew up a blue-print, including in their proposals for these villages the most economical ways of providing electric light, water, sanitation, access to main roads, to the crofts and to the peat-fuel supplies and so on. It should not be left to individuals to plan one house down in a ditch and another on a hill, so that when we ask for water supplies we are told that they would be uneconomic. I agree that it is uneconomic in some places; but this is a question not merely of economy but of citizen rights and of human life. These are important considerations in war, and they should be regarded as important in peace-time too. We have a responsibility to these people when they are living for their country and not only when they are dying for it.
There is a feeling among our local authorities in Scotland, and among the ordinary people there, that there is no real plan coming into being at present for housing. I should like an assurance from the Under-Secretary that a co-ordinated scheme for housing in relation to these public health questions of water, sanitation, and so forth is, in fact, coming into being now. It is an extremely important question for everybody in the North of Scotland. It does not arise so much in the cities where you get hot and cold water and sanitation generally with all new houses. All these questions of the gardens before and behind a house and spaciousness and colour and so forth are quite new to the Highlands. I want to see the officials of the Department making a survey rapidly, with a view to providing all amenities and trying to make not just drab monotonous concrete blocks of houses, but homes with colour and space and air and light. These things will have to be done if you are going to attract the people back into these areas. The men in the Merchant Navy and in the Armed Forces do not want to go back to just four acres and a cow; they are sick of that, especially when it is coupled with unemployment and no prospects. If that is all they are offered, they will emigrate to the United States and Australia and other countries, which will be begging for our best men and women after the war. So long as you relate improvements and the provision of amenities to the actual rateable value of the small places, the position will always be unsatisfactory. These small places like the Isle of Scarp and the Isle of Bernera and so on, have, you say, a rateable value of only so and so and therefore justify no improvements. So long as you say that, you will make these places relatively unattractive in terms of amenities, just as the places with higher rateable values will be more and more attractive. We have to treat people reasonably as human beings and citizens, not just as rateable subjects, and we have to stop trying to balance the Budget at the expense of failing to solve these extremely important questions.
The other day, when the Minister of Health was answering a Question on housing, I asked him if he had read a pamphlet by Harry McShane on housing in Scotland, and whether he would discuss it with the Secretary of State for Scotland; but, in view of the fact that Harry McShane is a Communist, I suppose that pamphlet will be on the Index, and untouchable by the Secretary of State and his very active assistant. I have another pamphlet here, on "Housing, an immediate programme for Scotland," by Councillor B. McCourt. It contains a very fine programme for im- mediate action. It takes the form of a letter sent by the Scottish district of the Communist Party to the Scottish Office. Of course, they got the usual reply, that most of these things have been considered before and that most of these things will be considered again, but there was no suggestion of any immediate action. The thing that is wanted is immediate action to meet the immediate situation that confronts us. The hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill), who is Chairman of the 1922 Committee, suggested that party politics should be left out. He is a very broadminded, openhearted fellow and is ready to take us by the hand, and he thinks that if I would only leave party politics alone I would be of very great assistance. I am willing to make any concessions conceivable so long as we get houses, but Conservative party politics say, "Do not interfere with private ownership of the land," "Do not interfere with private enterprise," "Do not interfere with profits." How can there be any possibility of getting houses of a desirable kind unless you do something about the robber landlords and stop the bloodsucking profitmongers? It is not possible. As soon as you mention land hon. Members on the other side say, "I am finished." As soon as you mention anything that will solve the problem, it is an interference with the Conservative party outlook and is therefore going to introduce politics. Let anyone suggest to me any concessions needed to put up houses and I will make concessions; will the Tories on the other side say the same? "No," they say, "No interference with private property."
The Secretary of State for Scotland and his very active Joint Under-Secretary used to march with me behind the banner, "Rent is robbery; profit is plunder," but the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. A. Chapman) seems to have got them just where he wants them. We do not seem to hear anything about the old slogans any more. You cannot solve the housing problem if you are going to maintain what is desired by the Conservatives of this House—a reduction of the rates on property and land. It is a shameful thing. The Secretary of State should read over and over again the speech made by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). Is it more desirable, I ask any hon. Members, that the wife and child of the soldier should have the right to a home, than that the hon. Member over there should have the right to private property in houses? What a shameful business. I refer to the hon. Member who had the audacity to use this Debate to mourn his loss because he was not getting sufficient out of rent. Yet men, women and children are dying because they cannot get housing accommodation. He has never had to go without a meal or a bath.
That is just where the hon. Gentleman is very much mistaken. It is only within the past few years that I have been in the happy position of having a two roomed house with bath, and the Secretary of State for Scotland and his assistant know that. It is only a few years ago since I was able to leave a single-apartment house and in my earlier years I had experience of slum life. I happened to be born in a slum and I got my early training in a slum, in the midst of most terrible poverty and that is something which cannot be erased from my mind. I hear these fellows talking about rents and property as though that were all that mattered. Will the Secretary of State answer the question, what are we going to do for the health and well being of the people. Is that soldier's wife and child to get a home? Will that soldier when he comes home again, be able to get a house? Those are questions that he has to answer. It is not rent he has lost, it is an arm he has lost.
There is another question. If it is desirable to build and provide new houses for new workers what about the old stalwart workers who have been keeping the Clyde and some of the finest industries in this country going? The right hon. Gentleman has to answer that question put by the Member for Dumbarton Burghs. He has to answer the other questions which have arisen about maternal and infantile mortality. I remember the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr), speaking here, quote Carlyle as saying that in the midst of abundance the people perish and a Tory on the other side got up and denied that there was any truth in that to-day. Will they deny it after hearing the Debate on Scottish housing and the figures of maternal and infantile or tuberculosis mortality? I have always been accused of being for violence and revolution. If there is a fight on the part of the working class and violence develops, it may be very bad for some of the lads on the other side and those whom they represent. You might see some blood flowing here and there. You might hear cries of agony and that would be terrible. They cannot stand the thought of that between wars, and so I am condemned for my ideas as a revolutionary. But they do not mind how many deaths there are or how many perish, if people will only keep in their own back street and perish quietly of tuberculosis as too many of our people perish.
The hon. Member has quoted what an hon. Member said in, reply to a quotation from Carlyle in this House a few weeks ago. I think the hon. Member who spoke on that occasion denied what Carlyle said in its application to the present time.
It is impossible to penetrate the peculiar structure that covers the brains of the Conservative Members of this House, the anti-social Members. The hon. Member who objected to the quotation, said that it did not apply now, and I say that it does apply now. People perish now in the midst of an abundance of wealth.
I will leave that. I only say that I am very sorry that the wrong people perish. I want to touch on one other matter that is very important. I have heard many things today that have been close to my own experience, every word of which I support but I remember that on different occasions when this question of Clydebank, Glasgow or other places have been raised and reference has been made to the large houses in the country, standing empty or half empty, the Secretary of State for Scotland has said, "I have given the local authorities power to take them over." That is all bunkum. It does not mean anything—not a thing. The local authorities that need housing have no empty houses in the country and the local authorities that have empty houses in, the country do not need houses to meet the problem of overcrowding.
There are any number of houses not far away from Clydebank but they are not under the control of the Clydebank council or the Dumbartonshire council but under some other council. Look at Glasgow and how it is packed and overcrowded and yet around the district there are any number of big houses to be found with two or three people living in them, or perhaps nobody at all. Yet the Glasgow authority cannot take them over. The authority that has the power over them is not concerned in taking them over. We ought to get from the Secretary of State a decision that he will take over every large house in Scotland unoccupied or only partially occupied, and that he will draw up zones and allocate those houses to the particular authorities that at the present time are in need of houses. All the measures that have been suggested for meeting the emergency should be put into operation without delay. The people perish in the midst of abundant wealth and I say here that, if we would save our people, we must provide our people with proper housing.
I have sat through the greater part of this Debate and I must say that it has clearly shown the vigour of the Scottish way of expressing things. We started with an excellent statement by the Secretary of State which was not wholly a pleasant one. In certain respects it was one that caused us great disquiet but there were certain pleasing features in that statement and I was glad to learn from it that his activity in respect of clearing the waiting lists of the voluntary hospitals have now developed so far that he was able to say that of the waiting lists of 35 voluntary hospitals that participated in his scheme, 15,000 patients had been removed from those waiting lists and dealt with in the emergency hospitals. That was something that was well worth putting on record and something about which we should be very pleased indeed when we think of the way in which these waiting lists for years grew up under the aegis of the voluntary hospitals. We found immense difficulty in having them dealt with and we are entitled to be very pleased now that even under the stress of war and indeed largely because of war these waiting lists have been cleared and that also the supplementary services with specialist advice and all the rest of it that is offered more particularly to young people have now been able to record dealing with 3,700 patients. That is another feature of the Report with which we should be very pleased.
It would be wrong to pass from the Secretary of State's description in respect of diseases in Scotland and not to give a due meed of praise in respect of his activity in these two particular directions. My hon. Friends and indeed Members in all parts of the Committee have deplored the rise in the incidence of tuberculosis, and the high rates of infantile and maternal mortality, and these have been emphasised in a way that clearly indicates the concern of the Committee about these conditions. But in respect of these, as in respect of many of the other points that have been made in criticism of the condition of affairs in which we are living the Secretary of State and those who work with him could reply "There is a war on." I am quite certain that that is the answer to many, if not all, of the difficulties we are facing at the present time.
Before I leave the question of diseases I would like to put a question about venereal disease. I know it is too early to ask for anything in the way of results following the passing of the recent legislation on this question, but perhaps we can be told whether this dreadful scourge is still increasing, whether the Scottish Office believes that the new compulsory notification will be effective and whether some progress is expected in dealing with this disease? It is very largely a disease of war-time aggravation, if not of wartime origin. Indeed, I will go further and say that it is largely due to the evil of intemperance. It is remarkable how the question of dealing with the increase in drinking that prevails during war-time has not been tackled by the Government at a time when intemperance can be clearly indicated as one of the causes of the great increase in this disease. Any information that my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can give us on this matter will be welcomed.
The great part of the Debate to-day has centred round the vexed question of Scottish housing. Every Scottish Member in this House represents people who are desperately in need of houses and who have required houses for a very long time. Like other Members I could cite cases in my own constituency showing how great is the need. While we agree that the Secretary of State can say that there is a war on and that war conditions are militating against the solution of the problem, I think the urge that has been put forward to-day must give him a clear indication of the importance that is laid upon this matter by the Committee. I do not say that my right hon. Friend requires that urge, but if there is any action he can take to deal with this question, I am sure that the strong things which have been said to-day about the disgrace of housing conditions in Scotland will strengthen his hands.
Whence has come this acute housing problem in Scotland? If we go back a long time I think we may find that it arises partly from the fact that many years ago Scottish houses were put up to last too long and that when local authorities with new ideas came to deal with their own areas, they found the cost of taking down houses so prohibitive that they jibbed at the expense. Certainly, the State has come along, especially since the last war, and has provided money in various ways for slum clearance and for dealing with overcrowding. I think that here we may find another reason for local authorities hanging back from doing what we conceive to be their duty. Changes have been made in the arrangements for dealing with houses and subsidies have changed so much that local authorities who were not too keen about dealing with their own problem decided to wait a little longer to see if they could get a better bargain from the State. Some local authorities have thought that people did not want to be disturbed in their homes and simply wanted to be left alone in homes that were not up to modern standards. That is another factor that has militated against the full development of Scottish housing.
We cannot allow these factors to continue to stand in the way. There are, of course, other factors. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), pointed out in an obviously well-prepared speech, that 82 per cent. of the houses built in Scotland had been built with State assistance, whereas in England the percentage of publicly subsidised houses was only 37½. That is a remarkable difference. Yet I could not agree with any English Member who said that that showed a carelessness on the part of Scottish people with regard to the provision of houses. The fact is that Scottish people are more cautious about the way in which they use their resources. They do not like to commit themselves unduly to large expenditure without seeing the end of that expenditure and without seeing whether they will be able fully to carry the obligations they have taken upon themselves. That is why building societies cannot show anything like the progress in house building in Scotland that has been achieved South of the Border.
That suggestion has been made to-day but I am not seeking to enter into it; I was hoping to put fresh ideas to the Committee as to what might militate against the development of housing in Scotland. Scottish people, as I say, are reluctant to commit themselves in a wholesale way to great expenditure the end of which they cannot see but that is a feature which should not be too much condemned. Indeed, there is much to admire about people who do not wish to involve themselves in commitments which they cannot see the prospect of clearing within a measurable time. So the possibility is that these factors have militated against a development of our housing.
We are told that, in order to meet the immediate problem that faces us—and the problem is a very acute one—we must go in for quick methods of providing our people with houses. I know so much of the evil of people living in overcrowded conditions. I have seen so much of the tragedy of young married couples living with their parents, that I am inclined not to be too scrupulous about how we provide for the housing needs of our people at present. Yet I react against the idea that was voiced by Sir John Orr at a meeting at Edinburgh the other night, when he talked about providing houses in the same way as we at present provide munitions of war, by mass production of pre-fabricated parts. The picture that he conjured up in my mind, when making that statement, was of an enormous expansion on modern lines of the "uglification" of the countryside which took place during the industrial revolution, when brick boxes with slate lids were hurriedly run up for the workers who were recruited for the factories. This is a much greater problem than that which existed in the days of the industrial revolution, because of the increase of our population and the need that there is to deal with things more quickly. I cannot find myself reacting favourably to the mass-production type of house because it seems to me that it would place a stamp of sameness on the houses, which would be detrimental and would not help the people living in them.
I have said I cannot find myself reacting as strongly as I did formerly against ,this mass production idea for I know how desperately houses are needed. When I put the other side of the picture, as I see it, before the Joint Under-Secretary, I am going to ask him what is the official view about the way to deal with it. On the other hand, instead of pre-fabricated small houses planted down in enormous numbers we have the picture given us to-day by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok of huge barracks, 10, 15, 20 storeys high, built in the centre of cities. Again, I recoil from putting people into warehouses of that kind. I simply have to pose the problem, Where are they going? What is to be the policy? Have the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office thought sufficiently about these things to make their plans and to give us some indication of the way in which the problem will be met? I agree that speed is necessary, but I cannot see that the building of purely temporary dwellings will meet the problem in an adequate way. I have seen many temporary dwellings—I am sure they are still standing in the North of France to-day—which were put up for our Army between 1914 and 1918. When I was there shortly before this war they were still being occupied as houses, though they were never intended to serve that purpose. They were simply an excuse for the authorities in those localities sitting back and taking no adequate steps to provide their population with reasonable housing conditions. Much is said about slums. I am afraid that some of that mass production either on the large scale of a single vast building, or the mass production of thousands of small houses, would be running the risk of creating new slums.
I was much interested in the point made by the hon. Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) about the need for whatever new houses are provided being kept clean. She cited the fact that soap and water are certainly available and I am sure it is the wish of everyone of us that, whatever is done in providing houses for our people, they shall be treated in a proper way, that the outlook of those who are given these houses will be raised and an endeavour will be made to get away from what might be described as the shim mentality, which would make a slum of any place, however well equipped it might he. We are glad indeed to be able to record that at least 95 per cent. of the people who have gone into new houses provided by public subsidies have made good. But the aim that we should have in providing for our people, even if we have to do it in ways which normally we react against, should be to provide dwellings which can be real homes. In those homes, let us hope, we can place a proper population which will realise the truth of the motto of the City of Edinburgh, "Nisi Dominus frustra," which is usually interpreted, "Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it." I believe that the most important thing that we need to-day for the establishment of our people in proper conditions in the years that lie ahead when we are providing new homes is to carry into those homes a new spiritual outlook that will make them homes indeed and places worthy to live in and worthy of the motto that I have quoted.
I make no apology for intervening in this Debate. The speech to which we have just listened is one of the most horrible declensions I have heard for a long time. When I think of the old days when Scotland was fighting on the housing question, and when I think of Sir Alexander Ure in this House, my mind goes back to Campbell-Bannerman. How did we face the issue in those days? Was it by the outpouring of vacuous nothings such as we have just listened to? Scotland was then l00 years ahead of England in housing matters and we solved the problem years ago. Our task was to educate the English mind to the advance that Scotland had made. I was born and brought up in Glasgow, where we had the finest slums in Europe. When I left, 60 per cent. of the people were living in one or two-roomed apartments. In Glasgow and in Scottish towns we had the single apartment. You do not get them in England. So intense was the problem and so intense was the thinking on the problem that I may say, with due deference to English Members, that we had a clear view of the cause of the problem.
We had a Rating Commission set up, of which Sir Alexander Ure was the chairman. I understand that the Government are now cogitating about some rating committee. I ask them not to waste further time but to get Sir Alexander Ure's Report, because we recognised in Scotland a long time ago that the three causes of bad housing were self-evident. The first point was that monopoly and speculation in land make an extension of building impossible. The second was that a rating system that might have been devised in an asylum makes housing an impossibility. Everybody who builds a house is rated in proportion to the rental value of it. No system that could have been devised could better stop building. We in Scotland in those days, round the year 1906, said that as long as this system of rating prevailed it was inevitable that, with the added burden of increased rates being levied on improvements, in the long run housing development in Scotland would be made an impossibility. The third point was the low wages, owing to the competition of the unemployed men to get the jobs of those in employment. We had these three causes running together—land monopoly and speculation; a rating system penalising improvement, and at the same time by not levying rates on the value of land withholding the land from development; and a low wages system, all conspiring to make an economic house an impossibility.
I am intervening in this Debate because I know from experience the housing conditions of Scotland. They are the most appalling of any country in the world. It is not because Scottish people do not desire better houses. It is not because the Scottish mind has not been applied to the problem of an economic solution of its difficulties. What horrifies me in 1943 is that I have to listen to a Scottish Debate on housing the prevailing assumption in which is that nothing has been thought about these matters in the past. I would ask those who are really serious about this problem to go back and find out what was being done on this matter in the past, when men did not come to the House and ask for a subsidy but said that the only way to solve the housing problem was to dissolve the rating system. Here we are faced with a fact that was self-evident long ago.
The war breaks out, and housing is stopped. I have heard to-day that there are no houses being built round towns, but where there are factories there is no housing problem. This is a personal matter, but I may as well tell the Committee. There are two large factories in the Midlands, and there was a possibility of a breakdown of transport unless the people were in some way housed contiguous to the factories. I decided to do something about it, and I was really the first to build houses in this country after war was declared. We built houses, amounting to practically two townships, by putting them contiguous to large factories. When we built the houses we could have let them at an amenable rental, but when the rates were levied they made it impossible to let the houses at an economic rent unless there was a State subsidy—the old story over again. On top of that we had new charges. We built houses of three rooms with kitchen and bath, and I found—because I was supervising the accounts as well as organising the contractural work—that I could not keep my costs down less than £850 per house. I have been making inquiries about what these new agricultural houses are going to cost. I find that in one instance houses not as good as those I put up will cost £1,300. It will be an impossible proposition at that price. I would make a suggestion if there is a determined effort to be made in Scotland as well as in England in those areas where the emergency is present almost to the point of tragedy. In my constituency, in the Potteries, we have had the same trouble as in certain parts of Glasgow. We have had girls, directed from the Highlands of Scotland and from the South of England, packed into houses in the Pottery district——
I am giving an experience similar to one that has already been referred to in the Debate, namely, the directing of people from outside to an already congested area.
As an old Member of this House, I think I know when I am keeping strictly to the Rules of Debate. I merely said that I am having the same experience in the Potteries as has been mentioned in regard to Glasgow, namely, the incoming of fresh people into an already congested area.
I will be content with what I have said. The similarity is there, the same difficulty is there. We are driving people into an already congested area, and the resulting tragedy makes it imperative that some form of accommodation shall be found for them expeditiously. We have set up a Minister of Town and Country Planning, and naturally he is apprehensive that not even temporary erections shall be so sited as to make it impossible to remove them for new planning in future. We passed a Bill giving full powers to that Ministry to withhold building, so that we shall have to circumvent in some way the new powers granted to the new Minister in order to get what I would call "accommodation houses" built in Scotland—and there is the same problem all over the place. I would suggest to the Secretary of State—he knows it, because more years ago than I would care to remember we used to stand in the streets and discuss these things——
Yes. I would ask the Secretary of State to see that rates shall not be levied upon these emergency houses. Will he have the courage to try that? Let him try it and see what will happen, because it would help to reduce the rents and the charges upon the users. With regard to the question of materials and men, there is an increased amount of building labour floating about the country, and in the next two or three months, with the calling-off of much building that had already been projected, there will be a greater number of bricklayers and builders' labourers to be found. As regards material, the question will arise of the substitution of precast concrete for wood. I do not think there is any problem there, but those are technical matters which I will not discuss now. I ask the Secretary of State to approach the Minister of Town and Country Planning, because there is no reason why the emergency houses should not fit in with some plans already in the hands of the Minister—in Scotland. My next point is that rates shall not be levied upon these emergency houses. My third point is that the Secretary of State should not be "fobbed off" with the suggestion that there is no labour available. I know there is plenty of labour. I know there is a question as regards the cost of precast concrete houses as compared with wood houses, and all I would say on that is that while we are told there is no wood it is very strange that I see wood piled in the most weird places.
The hon. Member says he knows that there is plenty of building-trade labour in Scotland. I would assure him that my right hon. Friend and I have explored every possible source from which to augment the supply of building-trade labour, and if he can put us on the track of where there are unknown reserves, we shall be greatly obliged.
All right. But I shall have to watch the Chair. Some have come down from Scotland to England, and they can be re-directed to Scotland. I know they are looking for work now and there will be more of them now that certain works are being held up. There is no reason why they should not go home. I will do my best to tell the right hon. Gentleman where they are. I am sorry to have spoken at such length, but let me repeat that I would beg Scottish Members to go into the past history of the housing fight in Scotland and the proposals advanced by responsible Members of this House to deal with them.
I was not particularly referring to my hon. Friend but speaking generally to Scottish Members. It is not only to-day that I have in mind, because I have listened to other Scottish Debates, and with the exception of one or two Members of the Independent Labour Party the speeches have seemed entirely divorced from the historic background of the fight in Scotland. Therefore, I was incited to intervene, and I am sorry that I have run counter to the Chair once or twice. Notwithstanding that, what I have said here to-day I have said in all sincerity, because when Scotland comes to face post-war reconstruction I hope that much that was done in the past will be remembered and that Scotland will set an example of how to solve the problem of houses.
This Debate has been one of the most interesting we have had on Scottish Estimates, confined though it has been to two subjects of Scottish administration, health and housing. The Debate has also proved that while it was open to hon. Members to debate the general aspects of health administration, there was a sincere desire to draw attention to what I believe is Scotland's greatest problem, which will have to be solved if we are to have a happy people living under peace conditions, and if we are to make really healthy conditions possible in Scotland. It may be impossible in the time at my disposal to deal with all the points that have been raised, but I make the same promise as I have made on previous occasions, that any points missed by me in this reply will be dealt with in communications to the hon. Members who have raised those points. I shall deal with as many points as possible, and take them in the order in which they have been raised. Before doing so let me make it clear that any constructive suggestion put forward today will receive very careful consideration, and not only the constructive sug- gestions made to-day, because this is one of the greatest problems which is facing us. Speaking on behalf of the Secretary of State, myself and the Department of Health, I can assure hon. Members that in addition to the constructive suggestions made to-day we shall be pleased to receive any others they may have in mind and to give them careful consideration, so that collectively we may do our best to make Scotland a better place than it is.
The first point was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) when he asked what was being done with a view to improving or reconditioning houses in Scotland. When the Housing Advisory Committee was set up it was divided into three sections, and it received from the Secretary of State three remits. So soon as those remits have been dealt with and the necessary recommendations made to the Secretary of State, there will be further remits, and one of them will be to consider how best—I do not like the word "reconditioning"—to modernise existing houses. There is a big difference between reconditioning and modernising, because you can recondition a house and still leave it without up-to-date sanitary conditions and below the up-to-date standards we desire to see.
All I can say is that we are proposing to give a remit to the Housing Advisory Committee to consider how it would be possible to secure the modernising and reconstruction of existing well-built houses. There may be many methods to consider with a view to making that practicable and possible so that it will not merely be those who go into the new houses who will benefit but also that part of the decent, hardworking population that if we did not reconstruct would have to live and die without the standard of housing which will be provided in the new houses. I hope that meets the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member.
The question of publishing the report will be a matter for my right hon. Friend to consider as and when recommendations are made by the Advisory Committee. Of course, the Committee itself will have no power other than to advise the Secretary of State on various remits. It will be a matter for my right hon. Friend to consider as to how he will make those recommendations known to the House.
A suggestion was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) that housing work should be given to master contractors with leave to sub-contract. That also is a matter which is receiving consideration at the present time. There is a difference between the contracting system in most areas of Scotland and the system in England. In England a master builder is given the job of building houses, whereas in Scotland separate contracts are given to individual contractors dealing with brickwork, joinery, plastering and slating, plumbing and so on. That matter is being considered by a Committee. Consideration is being given not merely to methods of contracting for work but also to the question of the use of alternative materials. On behalf of the Secretary of State, I say that we are prepared to use any and every material that can be proved to be of real value in trying to solve this problem. We are prepared to use any and all methods, and we are prepared to use any and all kinds of material that will stand the test to enable us to solve this problem. The hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) referred to the stopping of speculation in land. The Uthwatt Report has been considered by the Government, and they have already come to one decision, that is, that land required for public purposes should be acquired at a price not exceeding the value in March, 1939.
I have told my hon. Friend the decision of the Government. They have accepted this principle, and legislation will be introduced in due course. This will at least mean that speculators will be well advised to keep off buying land for speculative purposes.
We have allocated 1,000 houses to Scotland—200 to rural areas and 800 to urban areas. All along we have said that we do not claim that that is a solution of the Scottish housing problem. When England received 3,000 houses for the purpose of dealing, not with its housing problem, because that was not the essential purpose of giving the 3,000 houses, but with the problem of food production and of building houses in areas in which, I understand, there were very few houses and in which huge tracts of land formerly under grass were now being brought under the plough, we put in our claim for 1000 houses, and we received the right to go on and build them. We have already received estimates for 200 in Glasgow and for one of the counties. I can assure the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) that the figure is not anything like £1,300 for these houses in Scotland.
No, they are cottages in the county areas, of the single-storey or two-storey type. They are also of a tenement or flatted type for Glasgow, where they are of four or five apartments, and of the four-apartment type for the rural areas.
I cannot say that at the moment, because I do not think it would be wise to do so. I can give hon. Members the assurance that the price is under £1,000 for the houses for which we have accepted tenders. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan), who has for so long been connected with housing administration, will know that it would not be in the public interest to give the figure. To the hon. Member who wanted to know what was to be done if local authorities had no land for further houses, the answer is that they can build outside their boundaries, or they can apply for an extension of their boundaries. The problem of housing distribution is being considered at the present time. It has also to be considered in relation to the length of life of mining in particular areas. Another point raised related to a town council who had made application to be heard in connection with their housing problem. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfermline Burghs (Mr. Watson) that the Secretary of State and I have seldom if ever turned down such an application to be heard. I shall notify the town council concerned in the very near future, so that a mutually suitable date can be arranged, and I shall be only too pleased to meet that deputation.
A further question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline was in connection with Glenlomond Sanatorium. For the last 18 months, the Department have helped the sanatorium by supplying two trained nurses and 22 nursing auxiliaries. The shortage at the present time is two trained nurses and six other personnel. There is no question in our mind of the sanatorium being closed, but there are 30 empty beds. So far as the Department of Health are concerned, we expect, on information we have, the possibility of new patients being sent along this week.
I did not say that there was any question of closing the sanatorium, but what the Joint Sanatorium Board recommended was that part should be closed, due to the fact that they have not the nurses to keep the whole institution going.
I am coming to that. One great problem we have to face is the shortage of nurses, but the Department are still trying to get nurses for the sanatorium. The general question of the supply of nurses is for the Ministry of Labour, who are now preparing their machinery in consultation with the Department to enable us to get the maximum number of nurses who may have retired from the profession.
Would my right hon. Friend forgive me? I think everyone who heard the hon. Member for Dunfermline thought that he had made out a reasonable case in this matter. Is he aware that there are a fair number of nurses, tuberculosis nurses among others, who are leaving Scotland to go to England? If they do that, it is not because they like England better than Scotland. Will he look into the matter to see whether English standards are more attractive than Scottish standards?
The fact is that we are actually 500 nurses short. Quite recently we had a report from the Taylor Committee in connection with salaries for nurses, which practically brought the standard of salaries for Scottish nurses up to that being paid——
That is perfectly true. There were also conditions of employment. What we have done up to the present does not mean the end of what we are going to do in an endeavour to try and get that provision which is absolutely necessary if we are to tackle either the problem of tuberculosis or the general health problems which are being thrown up at the present time.
All I can say is that we are going to do everything we can to try to combat something which, I think, everyone is desirous of seeing combated so far as Scotland is concerned. I am pointing out some of the problems we are up against. When we realise what we are up against, difficulties of nursing staff and so on, it makes it much easier to face up to the problem and try to get a solution. The hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western (Lieut.-Colonel Thornton-Kemsley) pressed for temporary houses after the war and suggested the use of Army huts. Again, all I can say is that all forms of temporary construction will be considered. None is ruled out. I have already stated that the problem is so great, and the Burt Committee, which is a United Kingdom Committee, is considering suggestions which have been put up by the City of Glasgow in connection with certain forms of construction, and suggestions which have been put up by the County of Ayr, by its leading architect. They are considering those proposals so far as a new method of construction is concerned. I would not call them prefabricated houses, but it is claimed that the building of these houses would be far more speedy than by the ordinary material used. Then we have the Gyproc experimental scheme, of which we have the example of two houses built by the Kilmarnock Town Council, which is already being considered by the Burt Committee, and any other proposals which anyone desires to put forward which deal with alternative materials and alternative methods of construction will receive the fullest consideration, because of the determination of everyone dealing with this particular problem: to use every possible means of solving it, even to the extent of having temporary buildings.
The problem is great, and the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) knows that we are all desperately anxious to do whatever is possible to deal with the type of case he brought before the Committee to-day. Everyone has the same desire, and if it were possible to solve these problems immediately, there is not a Member of the Committee who would not willingly use any power he had. When a man has given his services and given his limbs—aye, and given his life—he or his dependants are entitled to decent shelter.
All I am saying is that we have done what is possible. We have combed all the places we know of for labour, and I am pleased to hear what was said by the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren). We have even sought what help we could from the National Fire Service. On the face of it, there seems to be a large number of building workers engaged in the National Fire Service, but the distribution of the workers is such that we cannot get the full value out of those people. For instance, there are 832 building trade workers in the Fire Service, but over 200 are painters, whose services are least required at the present stage in connection with the housing problem.
I want to make it clear that all forms of temporary labour will be considered in dealing with this problem. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire, dealing particularly with health problems, drew attention to——
Is the hon. Member not going to say anything about the fact which has been put before him that, although thousands of houses have been built during the war to accommodate workers at new work, nothing is being done to provide houses for my folk in Clydebank, who are doing work as essential as the new work?
I would like to get the opportunity of dealing with the problem in my own way in the limited time at my disposal. I am going to give some figures of what has been done in Clydebank. Two hundred out of the 800 houses which were made available recently were allocated to Clydebank. We are prepared to do all we can, and any constructive proposals which have been made to-day, or which are passed on to us in future, will receive immediate attention. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire referred to the figures for maternal mortality. Legislation to improve the position in respect of the maternity services was passed only in 1937. Schemes are now in operation throughout the greater part of Scotland, but it is too early for them to have had any appreciable effect. The Secretary of State pointed out in his statement that the rate for 1942 was 14 per 1,000 less than the rate for 1941.
I am sorry; those figures relate to infantile mortality. The Scientific Advisory Committee of the Department of Health have been inquiring into the whole problem of infantile mortality in Scotland, and their report is expected shortly. The figure for 1942, however, was almost the same as the record low level of 1939, and, incidentally, the rate for the first quarter of 1943 is the lowest for the first quarter of any year.
If there are any other points that I have missed—and I have only a very short time now—I shall endeavour to see that each Member gets a letter dealing with the point he has raised. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) has raised a question about the Ministry of Works, which he said was more interested in the distribution of direct labour than producing houses, and wanted to know whether the Secretary of State was aware of any organisation concerned with the cornering of the construction of houses in Scotland, We shall be glad to act on any information which the bon. Member may have if he gives the hint.
If there is any suggestion thrown out as to the possibility of anyone seeking to corner the construction of housing in Scotland, if we get the information, we shall certainly give attention to it at once, and that rules out none. I think that the hon. Member also suggested that the first responsibility we have is to provide the houses and that we should not worry about the fitments and the lay-out. I can assure the hon. Member that the sub-committees of the Housing Advisory Committee, two of them at least, will be able to make reports in the very near future dealing with the design and lay-out of housing.
I have already pointed out that when the reports are made to the Secretary of State for Scotland, it will be for him to consider the ways and means of how the advice in those reports shall be made available, if considered advisable, to Members of the House. The first two will deal with design and lay-out of houses for our people which will have to be occupied in the year 2,000.
I am not afraid of that. We are laying plans for building 50,000 houses per year for the first ten years after the war, and it will be open to every local authority and everyone interested in solving this problem to help the central body to make that target possible and if possible surpass it. But it will require the whole-hearted co-operation of all those who are interested in housing if that target is to be reached. There will have to be no squabbling among local authorities. They Will have to give us all the help and advice possible. There will require to be control of labour and material, otherwise we shall be placed in the same position in which we were placed under the Addison scheme, when costs rose in such a way that they killed the possibility of obtaining houses at that time.
I have only five minutes left. There is only one party who claims to be able to do that and I am afraid I do not belong to that party, and consequently I see no hope of being able to take over the control of land in four or five minutes.
The Labour Party has not a majority in this House. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) drew attention to the shortage of labour and material, and, as I have already pointed out, wherever we are informed that there is a surplus of labour we shall certainly do our best to make full use of that surplus, if it can be made available. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs, I want to pay a tribute to the workers on the Clyde and Dumbarton. They went through a most harrowing time; they have had great difficulties to put up with, but they have responded most patriotically to the appeals made to them to try and give of their best and to build the ships required. Without the whole-hearted support, energy, enthusiasm and labour of the working class, not only on Clydebank but in the rest of Scotland, it would have been absolutely impossible for us to have reached the position we have reached today on the road to victory.
I was interested in the resolution which was handed across the Floor of the House, a resolution which, as my hon. Friend knows, has come from many quarters in Clydebank. Bearing in mind that these people have been facing up to great difficulties, including the shortage of houses, which we have tried to meet as far as possible, what does the resolution say? It says:
Believing that the housing of bombed out people is an essential part of the war effort, affecting not only the problem of production but the morale of the citizens, we call upon the Government to declare Clydebank an emergency area and to utilise scientifically all the resources at its command in material and labour, so far as present conditions permit, in a great national effort to rehouse homeless people.
It is quite apparent that those who framed that Resolution were facing up to realities. They say, "so far as present conditions permit." They are facing up to the difficulty of present conditions. So far as is possible at the present time we are doing all we can.
I want to point out that the Department have maintained close contact with the Council and their officials in order to expedite the completion of the 354 houses which the Council had under construction in March, 1941. Since then special facilities for the supply of labour and materials have been placed at the Council's disposal and 250 houses have been completed, leaving 104 still to be finished, which is expected will be completed this summer. Added to that—and I have not time to give the full story—are the 200 houses we have just given them. An outstanding feature of this Debate has been the fact that no one has attempted to defend the impossible conditions applicable to housing in Scotland but that everyone, Irrespective of party and whether in or outside the Government, is earnestly desirous of seeking to use to the best advantage all the means at our disposal during the war of trying to improve the housing position in Scotland.