Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £16,093,846, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Health; including Grants, a Grant in Aid, and other Expenses in connection with Housing, certain Grants to Local Authorities, etc., Grants in Aid in respect of Benefits, etc., under the National Health Insurance Act, certain Expenses in connection with the Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, and other Services." — [Note.—£6,000,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Sir Kingsley Wood)
It is again my good fortune to introduce the Estimates of the Ministry of Health. I should like to say, first, how much I regret the absence, and the cause of the absence, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I think he has been present at as many of these Debates as I have myself, and they certainly comprise a very large number. I shall certainly miss his powerful criticism and, I hope, a certain amount of commendation that he always gives me. I think, however, if he were here he would agree with me that the actual figures and accounts contained in the Estimates can give only a partial and incomplete account of all that we are striving to do to bring about better health conditions. They give an incomplete picture of all the efforts that are being made, not only by the Ministry of Health but by local authorities and voluntary organisations, and thousands of unknown men and women who are engaged in this great task. But I think it will be agreed that these Estimates plainly demonstrate once again the large and increasing sums of money that are being provided for this great purpose.
The net total Estimate for 1937 has reached over £22,000,000, and the provision for the Department's administration 1608 expenses in the Estimates covers all services administered by the Department, involving an expenditure estimated to amount in toto to some £166,000,000. The Ministry of Health Estimates this year show a net increase of nearly £500,000 over those of last year. Progress under the slum clearance campaign is reflected in the provision of an additional sum of £500,000 in respect of new houses and, for the first time, there is a sum of £207,000 for grants under the new Midwives' Act, which comes into operation in a few weeks time. Another financial feature of the year to which I would call attention has been an increase in the total of loans sanctioned to local authorities, which amounted to more than £42,000,000, an increase of £7,000 000 over the previous year. There has, indeed, been some considerable activity in the provision and extension of systems of sewerage and sewage disposal, and another reason for the increase has been the larger provision for facilities for public recreation. In 1926 the total amount of loans sanctioned for this purpose amounted to £1,260,000, and the corresponding figure for the past year is, I am glad to say, approximately £3,200,000—in my judgment one of the best signs of the times.
I should like to refer to the health balance sheet for the past year. On the credit side I think we can say that motherhood was safer than for 15 years, inasmuch as the maternal mortality rate per thousand live births was the lowest on record since 1922. Infant mortality was low. The rate per thousand live births was 59 which, though slightly higher than the record low figure of 1935, is the same as for 1934, which was the previous record. The tuberculous crude death rate continues to decline. It has fallen from 718 per 1,000,000 persons in 1935 to 692 in 1936, and it is the lowest rate hitherto recorded. The number of deaths from tuberculosis in England and Wales declined to 28,268. I am glad also to be able to report that there has been a steady decline in the mortality from infectious diseases. There was a substantial decrease, for instance, in the prevalence of diphtheria. There have also been on the credit side of our health balance sheet many interesting developments in medical science during the year. The provision of a method of producing influenza in animals has been of great value in affording opportunities for fruitful research. 1609 Not only has much been learned concerning the origin of influenza, but progress has also been made in the study of immunisation against the disease. Advances have been made in the treatment of child-bed fever. The discovery that certain organic chemical compounds can reduce both the mortality from this disease and the incidence of complications has been of outstanding importance. Advances have also been made during the past year in the study of diabetes, as well as in physical medicine.
But there is another side of the health balance sheet. Cancer, though many more lives are saved to-day by early diagnosis, still remains one of the most deadly enemies of mankind. This is the heaviest single item on the debit side of our national health balance sheet. It is true that diseases of the heart and the circulatory system head the list, but they, of course, may result from a number of various diseases. I regret to say, also, that colds and influenza still account for nearly a quarter of the absences from work and, while it is true that the influenza epidemic that we had last year was what is called generally clinically mild, I am also glad to assure the Committee, I hope on the best authority, that there is not likely to be a further visitation on the same scale for two years.
An epidemic of enteric fever during the year at Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch illustrated once again the difficulty of ensuring a safe milk supply otherwise than by pasteurisation, where the milk was as in this case obtained from many sources and pooled before distribution. There has also been an increase in the proportion of mortality caused by some of the diseases whose prevalence is greatest among the older part of the population, I suppose a natural corollary of the decline in the great killing infectious diseases which used to take a heavy toll at all ages, but even here we have hopes that the situation may be further improved.
May I say a word on a question which has been raised again and again in the House and outside, and which is causing a good deal of discussion—the question of our population. The estimated midyear population of England and Wales in 1936 was 40,839,000, and this figure showed an increase of 194,000 over the estimated mid-year population figure in 1935. The total number of births was 1610 605,292, the birth rate per 1,000 living being 14.8, which is 0.1 per 1,000 higher than the birth rate for 1935 and 0.4 above that of 1933, which was the lowest on record in this country. The total number of deaths was 495,764. The crude death rate per 1,000 of the population was 12.1, which is 0.4 per 1,000 higher than for 1935, and 0.7 above that of 1930, which was the lowest on record. The problem of the population of this country is undoubtedly engaging increasing public attention and is of course a vital matter. It concerns the future of our country not only internationally but in relation to its future social and economic policy. We already know certain facts in connection with it, but before we can properly consider the problem we shall certainly need to know many more. The birth rate, which stood in 1875 at 35.4 per 1,000 living has, as we have seen, fallen to 14.8. I am told that mothers of to-day have about half the children that their grandmothers had, and we know that in the next 15 years the total number of children aged five and over in public elementary schools may fall by as much as £1,000,000. Another factor of importance is this: It is probable that our population in the immediate future will contain a much larger proportion of older people. We cannot, of course, say whether these conditions will all continue. We need not necessarily be pessimistic about the matter, for instance as to whether we shall have to take into account a stationary or a declining population.
At the present time there are two inquiries in progress, one by the Registrar-General, and the other by the Population Investigation Committee, a voluntary body under the chairmanship of Professor Carr Saunders, and I am glad to say that there is close co-operation between the two inquiries. But it is already apparent, in the opinion of all these investigators and of many other authorities, that before this matter can be adequately dealt with either by them or, as has been suggested, by a Royal Commission, further steps will have to be taken to make available certain new facts and statistics. I regret to say that our methods of obtaining and keeping important vital statistics are unsatisfactory and incomplete. Further information is undoubtedly necessary in connection with fertility. The existing 1611 birth rate figures show the children born of the population as a whole, but fertility statistics must relate to the births of particular parents, and show what kind of parents and under what conditions they produce many or few children. The main particulars which are in fact wanted are, therefore, the ages of the parents, the date or duration of the marriage, the orders of births and matters of that kind. All who have studied this question say that if these facts were available it would be possible to investigate much more adequately the conditions and circumstances which appear to encourage or discourage the production of children. I want to assure the Committee that I am now considering the best steps that can be taken so that these particulars can be obtained, of course with due regard—I emphasise this—to their confidential and personal nature.
§ Mr. Sandys
My right hon. Friend may remember that a few months ago we had a Debate in which the Parliamentary Secretary promised a departmental inquiry. Has that inquiry begun?
§ Sir K. Wood
That is the inquiry to which I have referred, by the Registrar-General, who is one of my officers.
§ Sir K. Wood
I know what the hon. Member has in mind. All I am concerned about is the obtaining of certain facts and figures, and not matters of policy.
§ Sir K. Wood
I know how the hon. Gentleman feels about it. Before a Royal Commission, which has been suggested, could consider matters of that kind there 1612 must be further information so far as the facts and statistics are concerned.
A few words on a subject in which every one is interested—housing. I am glad to say that we have had another successful house-building year, and if there is a house-building boom it dies hard. In fact the latest figures suggest much life and vigour, and apart from houses built there are continual demands for other kinds of buildings like factories and workshops. The figures show the work of local authorities of all political complexions, and of private enterprise as well. In my judgment the provision of decent and better houses has been the greatest contribution which this generation has made to better health conditions and the improvement in the lives of our people. It should also be recorded, from the point of view of money, that the taxpayer has contributed nearly £180,000,000 to housing alone. We have long since passed the 3,000,000 mark of new houses since the War. In fact since that time the figure is almost incredible, for some 12,000,000 persons, equal to 30 per cent. of the population, have moved to new homes. It has been a great exodus, and removal on so large a scale, involving so high a proportion of the population, has never taken place before in the history of our country. It raises many problems apart from housing alone. Whilst in presenting Estimates I am naturally speaking of achievements, I am of opinion that we cannot rest content, notwithstanding our record, until we have seen the last of the miserable and bad housing conditions that still undoubtedly exist. Preparatory to my further remarks, I still continue to have the opinion, in the responsible position I happen to hold for the time being, that notwithstanding the success we have achieved resolute action and sustained effort are still necessary.
So far as housing last year was concerned there was a record total, with the erection of 346,000 houses, compared with 325,000 the previous year and 329,000 in 1934–35. Private enterprise is showing little or no decline. For the half-year period ended 31st March last the figure was 145,789, compared with 146,621 for the corresponding period ended in March, 1936. In local authority house-building progress has been more than maintained during the past year. Local authority building has established itself on a steady 1613 level of between 5,000 and 6,000 houses a month. The number built by local authorities last year was higher than at any time since 1928. Loans give a fairly good indication of local authorities' activities. The loans which I sanctioned for housing purposes in 1936–37 were over £33,000,000, compared with some £25,000,000 in the year before. Demolition is proceeding on parallel lines, and new proposals for clearance and the building of new houses are being prepared at a rate which should ensure the maintenance of the building programme at the same level during the coming year. The question is often asked, and I answer it again, what is the proportion, in this great record, of houses which we may call small houses, because that of course is of the greatest importance. It is interesting to see that some 170,000 houses were built during the year by private enterprise and by local authorities with a rateable value of less than £13, or £20 in Greater London; and an additional 140,000 of the houses built by private enterprise were of a rateable value between £13 and £26, or between £20 and £35 in Greater London.
Then a question which is quite properly again asked is, how about the number of houses that are being built to let? I am not one of those who have never done anything else but commend people who are in a position to buy houses of their own through our great building societies, but I have long recognised as one of the great problems which concern us, having regard to the progress made, the number of houses that should be built to be let. Undoubtedly a very large section of the people desire to have their house needs met in that way. I am glad to say that last year there was a considerable improvement, for 71,000 houses were built by local authorities to be let and some 71,000 were built by private enterprise to be let. That is the same figure for local authorities as for private enterprise. With the possible exception of the year which ended 31st March, 1928—and I am by no means sure about that year, because we did not get the returns which I am getting to-day; and I make that possible exception because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was then Minister of Health—last year's figures represented the greatest production of houses for letting in the history of the country. I want to issue this warning, because I 1614 have to go up and down the country to see local authorities and also to confer with private enterprise during the year, that I am not by any means saying that that is enough. I want to see many more houses built, and all I claim is that satisfactory progress is being made in the direction we all desire.
I would like to say a few words about rural housing, which presents its own special problems. Rural district councils are at present concentrating upon slum clearance, and increased attention is being paid to it. It has resulted in the original slum clearance programme for rural district councils being increased by approximately two-thirds. There is almost as big a slum problem in the rural areas as sometimes there is in the towns. [An HON. MEMBER: "A bigger one!"] The present programme covers some 55,000 houses, of which nearly 23,000 are to be dealt with in clearance areas. What is the progress that has been made up to date? Some 17,000 are already in areas which have been formerly declared, over 15,000 are covered by orders submitted to me, and nearly 12,000 are in orders which have been confirmed. Of the total of 28,000 new houses, 20,000 are attracting the Exchequer subsidy. These 28,000 houses have been built or are under construction to replace unfit houses. In many areas schemes for abating overcrowding are proceeding concurrently with the erection of houses for slum clearance. When I am asked about progress, I would like the Committee to realise—because it is one of the difficulties I am going to place before the Committee in a minute or two—that it is the fact that at the moment the erection of new houses required for slum clearance in these areas and for the relief of overcrowding is fully occupying both the resources of the rural district councils and of the building industry itself, as many hon. Members may know.
I would emphasise the importance—and we have given a good deal of time at the Ministry of Health during the past year to it—of the renovation and bringing up to date of existing country cottages under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. I would sooner renovate an old cottage, if it were a practical and decent thing to do, than I would pull down one. I know that hon. Members 1615 of the Committee, as they have in many quarters, will impress upon local authorities the importance of making further use of that particular Measure. I am hopeful that again a good deal will be done during the forthcoming year. Finally, I recognise that, while the measures which are at present in hand for the improvement of rural housing conditions are as much as can be carried out at the moment within the limits of the building industry, I have asked my Central Housing Advisory Committee, on which are some of the best housing experts in the country, to consider further steps in rural housing. I hope soon to receive their report and then to consider what further action may be necessary in the light of that report.
The fixing of the "Appointed Days," the date from which the new overcrowding provisions are to operate in particular areas, is, I am glad to say, proceeding steadily. The Committee will be glad to know that up to the end of March orders had been issued for fixing the Appointed Day for 1,484 local authorities out of a total of 1,536. I can give the assurance to the Committee this afternoon that the Appointed Day will be fixed for practically every one of the remaining 52 authorities before the end of the year. It has been a difficult task, needing a great deal of tact and common sense in its operation, but the local authorities have responded well. I am glad to say that the abatement of overcrowding does not await the fixing of the Appointed Day. It is perhaps astonishing, and it is not always realised, that local authorities have in their possession nearly 1,000,000 houses, and that the casual vacancies which arise in that large number of houses are considerable. I saw two further reports this morning that opportunity is being taken in the re-letting of these houses as well as in the letting of new houses to abate overcrowding. Although I have not asked the authorities for returns, I think that it can be said in perfect safety that the amount of overcrowding has been substantially reduced in many parts of the country since the time of the overcrowding survey.
Local authorities are dealing with the standard laid down by this House in the Act of Parliament, but when people ask 1616 me whether the House of Commons has finished and is going to make no further demands upon the authorities or the building industry, I would again express my personal judgment that, while we are now dealing with some of the worse housing conditions in respect of overcrowding—I hope that I shall not be wrong—as we are able to carry out our present programme, we shall be able to proceed to improve the present overcrowding standard in this country. The 3rst March of this year marked the end of the fourth year of the five-year programme of slum clearance. It has more than kept its promise. Four-fifths of that programme is represented by 166,000 houses and already the houses in submitted orders and purchase agreements exceed that number. Progress is, in fact, better than the figures indicate. The original programme has been constantly extended in many areas, and at the end of March the revised slum clearance area programme in this country stood at 265,000 houses compared with 207,000 houses, an increase of 28 per cent., while the number of houses to be dealt with under individual demolition order procedure has grown from 72,500 to 110,500. The total revised programme is now 375,000 or an increase of 34 per cent. Having given what the Committee will regard as the more satisfactory figures, I want to refer to one or two problems with which we are being faced.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves his statement of the building of houses, will he be so kind as to explain one figure? He told us the number of houses that were built last year and the proportion of those which are on the low rateable value, and said that 142,000 houses—half by local authorities and half by private enterprise—had been built to be let as distinct from sale. What I do not quite understand is whether that 142,000, particularly the houses built by private enterprise, were houses to be let at low rents, or whether the figure includes also the quite expensive houses?
§ Sir K. Wood
I am going to say a word about that. I have here a more complete analysis, and I will hand it to the hon. Gentleman for the purposes of debate, or for any observations he wishes to make. That is one of the problems before us. What are the problems facing us at the present time? In the first place, it is not sufficient to build new houses, and when 1617 I say that, I speak in general terms. What I mean particularly is that, at this juncture in our housing activities, we must get a balanced provision of new houses which must meet the variety of the needs of our people. The indications of the future are that there will be a need for a larger proportion of two types of houses. We shall need provision for a larger number of one-bedroom houses for aged persons, and also a larger number of houses for large families requiring four or more bedrooms. A few months ago I communicated with the local authorities on this important matter, and I again desire to emphasise it this afternoon. Another requirement, especially as our people are being moved out of unfit and overcrowded houses, is that the rents charged should, if it is possible, be within the means of the lower-paid workers in the country.
The consolidation of subsidies authorised by the Act of 1936 has enabled a number of authorities to spread this advantage over the whole of their housing. and not to be tied in fixing their rents by the particular Act under which the houses were built. Although it is not an easy task, as I have seen from examination on the spot of the cases of a number of houses, the process of rent adjustment is proceeding through that means in the case of many local authorities. I have been endeavouring to ascertain the facts, because it is well that we should know the facts, whether they are good or whether they are bad, with regard to rents in connection with houses built by local authorities. From the information that I have been able to obtain from what is called the housing provisions account of the local authorities, of the total number of houses built by local authorities at 30th June, 1936—I emphasise this date because, obviously, there is a lag in getting the numbers—112,000, or 13 per cent., were let at rents not exceeding 5s. a week exclusive of rates. These returns also show that an additional 452,000, or 52 per cent., of the houses for which I have returns were let at rents between 5s. and 8s. a week, exclusive of rates. I put these facts before the Committee because, at any rate, I think they show a movement in a satisfactory direction, but again I say that in my judgment this is one of the problems which undoubtedly face us and have to receive consideration.
§ Sir A. Salter
I understand that those figures relate solely to houses built by local authorities. What I was anxious about was whether any substantial proportion of the 71,000 houses built by private enterprise last year were houses of the kind that are let at low rents.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am not able to get the returns so far as private enterprise houses are concerned in relation to rents, but in the figures that I have given to the hon. Member we are able to show the rateable value of those 71,000 houses, and he will see, I think—I do not think I am speaking incorrectly—that the great majority of them were houses of comparatively low rateable value.
§ Sir K. Wood
I was thinking of issuing a White Paper, because this is a matter of interest to the Committee and to the country as a whole. Now I will say a word or two about further difficulties that confront us. There is the important question of the cost of housing. I have been looking at the facts for some considerable time. Taking the non-parlour house with three bedrooms, the average prices of houses included in contracts let by local authorities have varied from £311 for the three months ended 3rst March, 1936, to £338 for the three months ended 31st March, 1937. I emphasise that this is an average increase and that there have been variations from place to place and from time to time in individual places which have been more uneven, and it is possible that there may have been some increase above these figures in the contracts let in the last two months, for which the figures are not yet available. I need hardly say, in view of the effect of the increased building costs on the rents at which houses can be let, that my officers and myself, local authorities, and all who are interested have been giving a good deal of thought to this aspect of the matter.
What does the analysis that we have been able to make at the moment show? The largest single item in the rise in the cost of material used for ordinary cottages is due to the increased price of timber, a material, of course, in regard to which we are dependent on world supplies and world prices. It should also be said that the prices of bricks and cement have 1619 generally remained steady, and the rise during the period mentioned can be accounted for as regards£8 by the increased prices of materials and as regards£3 by increased labour rates. I suppose it must be said that the balance of the increase can only be assigned to excessive pressure on the industry and the uncertainty as to the ready availability of skilled labour and certain kinds of materials, but I emphasise again that any rises in the cost of building are a matter of concern and that there are two or three things that we can do at the Ministry and that we are doing as soon as possible.
We are carefully scrutinising the proposals which are submitted, in the first place, in order that we may be satisfied that prices are reasonable, and in a number of cases it has been necessary to withhold sanction for loans on the ground that they cannot be sanctioned until satisfactory prices are obtained. We have also had a certain number of matters carefully investigated by the Building Prices Committee. Then there is the problem, in certain cases, of securing sufficient skilled labour for the completion 'of houses within the contract period. I am glad to say that there have been meetings lately between the Minister of Labour and the building industry, which I hope will make for the more advantageous use of the resources of the building industry, and that one of the results of the recent meetings has been that a joint committee has been set up, which will be meeting during the present month.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
The right hon. Gentleman has indicated that there have been increased prices for timber and so on. I should like to know whether the Public Works Loans Board is likely to advance money at a lower rate of interest so as to counterbalance to some extent this rise in prices.
§ Mr. Quibell
Can the Minister tell us how far building is affected by the increased prices Of lead, copper, and light castings, which form a fairly considerable item in the erection of houses?
§ Sir K. Wood
I will supply that to the hon. Member. I am impressed more and more by the fact that houses alone do not 1620 make homes, and, after all, the ultimate aim of good housing is the establishment of a healthy and a happy life. I have seen so often the fact that the provision of houses is not enough, and I would like to emphasise once again that I believe that here there is a wide field for social endeavour and room for both public and voluntary effort. For instance, the great activity in building new housing estates has emphasised the need for providing adequate communal activities. It also means the provision of more open spaces and centres with assembly rooms, club rooms, and workrooms. I would like to say in this connection that Bristol and Manchester are examples of what can be accomplished. Finally, I would like to say that there is, in my judgment, a real need of certain tenants in respect of furniture for new homes, and I would like to emphasise that local authorities have certain powers in that connection. I believe that at this moment Birmingham and Gateshead, for instance, have schemes which, through local retailers, make provision for furniture in those cases where tenants move into new houses. In many cases they move into the new house with less furniture than they had in the old, because for health reasons some of it has had to be destroyed. This is a limited field, but there is a real need in very many cases that something should be done in the matter.
We certainly want quality as well as quantity in our house-building operations. We want good housing standards, and here again I hope something will come of the activities of voluntary organisations which have been formed during the year in order to deal another blow, and an effective blow, I hope, at the jerry-builder. I know that many of my colleagues are interested in the orderly development of land and the preservation of rural amenities. There is some satisfaction in the fact that three-fifths of England and Wales, or 22,500,000 acres, are now covered by resolutions to prepare schemes under the Town and Country Planning Act, and I am glad to say that there is another powerful agency which is doing so much up and down the country in this connection, namely, the National Trust. I am considering again, in conjunction with my Town Planning Advisory Committee, the adequacy of present powers and whether anything further can be done in that connection.
1621 My last word on this subject is about London. I notice that there have been criticisms in the last few days as to the action of London in this matter, and I would like to say that the importance of securing practical co-ordination of effort over the whole of the Metropolitan area is, I believe, generally recognised. The Joint Committee which has been functioning over a period of years was dissolved a few months ago, but the Committee itself came to me and invited my assistance in finding in some alternative machinery which would secure adequate consultation on matters of common interest, and after a conference which I had with many prominent members of the London County Council and local authorities, I have written to all the local authorities concerned and invited them to co-operate in the establishment of a new joint standing conference. I am glad to say that I have received acceptances from the great majority, and I hope this committee will be set up in the very near future.
I shall be asking the House at a later date to approve the extension of the present rates of subsidy both for slum clearance and the abatement of overcrowding so as to apply it to houses completed by 31st December, 1938. This will extend the operation of the present rates, which are fixed by Statute for houses completed up to 31st March, 1938, for a further nine months. As regards the future, I would like to say that, while I must not anticipate the decisions of Parliament, when I come to review the position I shall approach the matter myself with the view that the completion of slum clearance and the abatement of overcrowding are vital elements in the health services of this country, and that the new houses provided for this purpose must be let at rents within the means of those who occupy them, but I shall not, I hope, proceed to attain that object at the price of imposing an unreasonable burden on the local rates.
I am afraid that I have occupied a long while on the question of housing, but our Estimates come up only once a year, and they affect our people at so very many points that I hope the Committee will allow me to refer briefly to some other matters. I would like to say a word or two about nutrition. If I do not, I am sure that somebody will get up and ask 1622 why I have not done so. We have had many previous discussions on this matter. During the last two or three years we have in fact had more discussions on this than any other subject which has leapt to light with the advance of science, and no doubt as the result of the keenness of hon. Members opposite. Therefore, I do not want to restate again my position and that of others on this matter. I will content myself by saying that I believe that nutrition is playing and must play an increasingly important part in our health provisions and plans, and I emphasise again that, while the matter of food is, of course, important and vital, good nutrition is also a matter of good housing, open spaces, good sleep and rest, and proper exercise.
We must think of the mind as well as of the body. If we properly avail ourselves of it, this new and increasing knowledge that is placed in our hands will be a potent weapon against disease. I hope that hon. Members who have not had time or opportunity to study it already will study the further report which has been issued by the Nutrition Committee. That committee is composed of some of the most representative men in the country on this matter, and, astonishing as it may seem, they have reached unanimity as far as their recommendations are concerned.
Following the report of that committee in April last, I asked the maternity and child welfare authorities to review their arrangements for the supply of milk and meals to nursing and expectant mothers and young children, in the light of the report. That request was made only a few weeks ago, and it is very encouraging to me, as it will be to the committee, that already one-fifth of the authorities have replied. They have considered the matter and are now taking steps, particularly in cases where the supply of milk has been restricted to expectant mothers in the last two or three months of pregnancy, and in the case of children where it has been restricted to those of very young age. Some of the replies from such places as Durham and Leyton have stated that their services are already complete. I am very glad to say that 33 authorities have reported that they are taking further action. A number are extending the service to cover the whole or the larger period of pregnancy, and also to include more children under five years of age. In 1623 addition, the quantities of milk supplied are to be increased and the payment required from those recipients of milk who can afford to make some payment are in a number of areas to be fixed in the future on a more favourable scale in order to ensure that all mothers who cannot afford to pay for full supplies of milk shall be able to take advantage of this arrangement.
I need not detail the other inquiries which are being made at the request of the committee, but I should like to say a few words on the kindred matter of maternal mortality. We are doing much, and I hope that we shall do more in the coming year, to make motherhood safer still in this country. The fight to reduce maternal mortality is a particularly stern and difficult one. It is true that in comparison with other countries our rate is not a specially high one, but we are faced with the fact that for a long period the rate has not substantially varied. We have had a recent report from our investigators, who have been engaged for two years throughout the country examining the worst areas, and, after reading this very elaborate and carefully prepared report, I have come to the conclusion that a proportion of the deaths that take place in this country are preventible.
The other side of the matter is that the rate fell in 1936 to 3.81 per 1,000 live births, which is the lowest figure since 1922, and the first year since 1924 that the figure has been under 4 per 1,000. The recent report shows that the main line of attack on maternal mortality must be the continuous improvement of the local maternity services, the keynote of which is the necessity of team work. The new Midwives Act will come into operation a few weeks hence, and from the proposals which have been submitted by the local authorities it can be said that satisfactory arrangements are being made in the greater part of the country. Important steps are being taken in regard to the training of midwives, and it is also satisfactory to know that the number of antenatal clinics has increased by 76 during the past year. There has also been an increasing number of mothers attending these clinics during the year.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the report of the investigations which have been taking 1624 place during the past two years. Can he say how long he has had that report in his possession?
§ Sir K. Wood
A few weeks. The moment that I got it I sent it to the printers, and directly it was in print I made it available to hon. Members.
§ Sir K. Wood
I will send the hon. Member a specially inscribed copy. As far as child welfare is concerned, I am glad to state that the rate of infantile mortality in England and Wales has fallen to 59 per thousand births, which is only slightly above the low record rate of 57 in 1935.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The right hon. Gentleman has given us the general average. Can he give us the average in working-class districts, compared with the average in middle-class districts?
§ Sir K. Wood
The hon. Member will, I think, find that information in our annual report, but if he has any district specially in mind, I will try to supply him with the information he desires. I am glad to report that there is a steady increase of children under one year of age who are brought to the infant welfare centres. During the past year I have urged on local authorities the importance of the fullest supervision over the health of children between the ages of 18 months and five years, and I am gratified to state that during the past year there has been a substantial increase in the number of visits paid by health visitors to such children. As a result of my representation at least 47 authorities have established special clinics for toddlers, and 53 have arranged for the school medical services to be available for the younger children, while 64 have appointed additional health visitors.
I will deal with a few other matters briefly. There is the report on the voluntary hospitals. I welcome that report as an attempt to provide the framework for welding the voluntary hospitals into a coherent system, and for the coordination of their work with that of the hospitals of local authorities. These two classes of hospitals are partners, and not competitors. The voluntary hospitals have a special and honoured place in the 1625 country's provision for the sick, and I am very glad to note the recommendations for the co-ordination of voluntary hospitals by means of regional councils and a central council. I hope that as a result of the report we shall see during the next 12 months a full development of voluntary and municipal hospital systems in this country, because there is real need for both.
As far as the vagrancy side of our administration is concerned, this work has changed very much. We need not to-day think of tramps and the provision for tramps in the terms of a few years ago. There has been a consistent reduction in the numbers, and as a result of the reformative work that has been developed in recent years, the younger men in increasing numbers are being taken off the roads and being trained in hostels for a more useful life than that of vagrancy. The older tramps are being encouraged to settle down in useful institutions, and intensive efforts are being made to deal with the child vagrant.
Attention was called last year to the desirability of making further and better provisions for the lodging of hop-pickers during the season. This subject will specially interest the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). I always like to go once a year to see the hop-pickers, and I hope to go to some part of the country this year. It is not always an easy matter to make provision for them. There are some difficulties in connection with the scheme of migration, but during the last few months my officers have spent a considerable time in consultation with the representatives of the hop growers and the local authorities, and we have just issued a revised code of model by-laws which we hope will be put into operation in time for the commencement of this year's hopping season. I have, in addition, called the attention of the authorities to the importance of early inspection of the camps prior to the arrival of the hop-pickers, and the appointment of the necessary additional inspectors. I have also suggested additional measures which, I hope, may be found useful. When I find myself among these people I realise that they are among the most interesting people in the world. It will particularly interest my Noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to 1626 learn that hop-picking is almost a matter of heredity as far as these people are concerned. Their grandmothers and their mothers went, and therefore they go. There is a good deal to be said for that kind of hereditary system.
§ Sir K. Wood
I will make sure, and let my hon. Friend know.
In a number of directions much is being done in regard to camps and the establishment of outdoor games, and we have recently been making special endeavours in that connection. A final matter with which I wish to deal is one in which I hope to enlist the support of hon. Members. I have been struck with the fact, that although we have perhaps the finest social services in the world, they are by no means fully utilised. It is regrettably a fact that nearly one half of the expectant mothers have not been brought within the scope of our ante-natal services. It is also regrettable that there are still areas where the majority of parents have not taken full advantage of the services provided under the maternity and child welfare schemes for the benefit of their children. In connection with tuberculosis, a deadly disease, the local authorities are steadily improving the provision for diagnosis and treatment, but a large number of patients only come under the purview of the service when the disease is too advanced to render recovery probable.
I am hoping—and I trust that the right hon. Member for Wakefield and other hon. Members will join me in this effort —in the autumn of this year, in connection with the Board of Education and the Central Council for Health Education to organise a national campaign to bring these health services more to the notice of the people. The keynote of the campaign will be: "Use your health services." There is no question of politics in a matter of this kind, and I hope that we shall get a real advance, apart from the creation of new services, in getting our people to utilise the services already in existence.
I have only this to say in conclusion. The establishment of the Ministry of Health was the outward expression of Parliament that national health is of supreme and vital importance to the State, and it was undoubtedly inspired by that new 1627 and wider humanity which I am glad to say is so prevalent to-day. Our aim must continue to be along those lines and it should be our desire to the best of our endeavour and capacity to make good health the birthright of every citizen. Certainly this can be said, that the fight for good health cannot be successfully conducted with a limited choice of weapons or on a narrow front. We must more than ever use the whole armoury which modern knowledge and medical science have given us, and, if possible, broaden our front and deal not only with the specific diseases of the individual but more and more with the wider conditions, the environment, the occupations and the conditions of our people. Although I agree that we have much to accomplish, many tasks yet to undertake and many difficulties yet to overcome, I think it can be claimed that our efforts in seeking to build up a healthy nation have not been in vain, and I hope that I have been able to show some progress this afternoon. I need hardly say, speaking for the Department, and also for the authorities and the great voluntary organisations in the country, that all that we have been able to achieve will only inspire us to still further efforts.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Ammon
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
There is at least one point on which I cordially agree with the Minister of Health, and that is in expressing our regret that the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) is not here to open the Debate from this side. The Estimates of the Department deal with a very wide range of subjects of deep human sympathy and interest, and although the right hon. Gentleman has spoken for a considerable length of time I am sure the Committee was glad to hear him. He brings considerable administrative ability to the work of his Department and has an exceptional flair for setting his goods in the shop window. He makes it a little difficult for those who follow him to criticise his Department and they may appear a little ungracious when finding fault with some of his administrative work. From whatever angle we view it we must all look with concern on the fall in the school population, particularly as it means that 1628 the average age of the country is considerably higher. There seems no likelihood of the problem being arrested. That has been brought home to me particularly in connection with the Education Committee of the London County Council, where we are now budgeting for some 200,000 children fewer than we did a few years ago. The school population of London has fallen from 600,000 to 400,000, but one must bear in mind that it does not necessarily mean that this is not wholly due to the falling birth rate, because many have gone into the new housing areas. But when we have made full allowance for that, it means that there is a considerable and a continuing fall in the school population, and there should be an investigation to find out the real cause.
I think that the housing provisions we are making and the increased standard of living to which people are trying to aspire, play some part in this matter. It has been brought home in a rather startling way by a report that large numbers of people who are moving out to these new housing areas, people of the lower middle class, the higher paid artisan class, are suffering from malnutrition because of the extra burden placed upon them by way of increased rents and the expense of travelling to and from their work. They cannot allow their personal appearance to fall below a certain level, and this raises an entirely new and different aspect of the problem of malnutrition and the inadequacy of wages. This, I think, plays a part in the problem of population, because these people have had a certain amount of training and possess a certain amount of restraint which enables them to see that they must economise. The result is not that they do not want to have a family but that because of the economic situation they cannot afford to have one. That is, I think, a very real cause of the decline in the school population.
In spite of the interesting and wonderful record of the work of the Department—I am quite prepared to admit that —and whilst the right hon. Gentleman has given us an indication of the fresh services which are being provided for the benefit of the people and has called our attention to the number of authorities which have agreed to adopt the services, we have to remember that under the 1629 scheme of bonus grants there are difficulties and problems. While these fresh services are being imposed on local authorities, and willingly accepted by them, the block grant does not increase, and the result is that an increased burden will be thrown on the ratepayers or they must forego the benefits of the new services. I have no doubt that the Minister, when he comes to reply, will point out that £47,000,000 has been paid out to local authorities under the block grant system and that this is an increase of £2,250,000 on the previous year.
§ The Chairman
I must call the hon. Member's attention to the fact that the block grant is under a special Vote.
§ The Chairman
I have allowed the hon. Member to go some distance and I only remind him of the position because he will realise that there are definite limitations on the extent to which we can go into the question of the block grant. The advisability indeed of increasing it cannot be raised on this Vote.
§ Mr. Ammon
I will bear that in mind, but the block grant system does limit the full play of the services which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, which are of inestimable importance. Circulars have been issued calling upon authorities to consider a larger supply of milk and further maternity and child welfare services. The circular which was issued in 1921, called the Mond Circular, called upon local authorities to restrict the supply of milk to nursing mothers and children. It raised a considerable outcry in the country. We have gone a long way past that stage. The present Minister of Health does not make blunders like that. He simply says to local authorities that he wants them to carry out a particular service, a larger number of people to have a larger consumption of milk, but says nothing about any increase in the amount of money to be granted. Various authorities have endeavoured to put these circulars into effect and some have raised the income level of those who are to receive milk supplies, and also in connection with midwifery and maternity. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the toddlers' 1630 clinic, children between 18 months and five years, which will call for additional services and additional expenses.
A number of circulars, admirable in phraseology and intention,., have been issued. They all entail fresh services. Every local authority is in precisely the same position. A block grant of 60 per cent. to one authority may not mean much more than a block grant of 20 per cent. to another authority. The. right hon. Gentleman mentioned the difficulty of persuading parents to take advantage of the organisations and social services and different institutions in the country. There are many mothers who think they know more about the training of their children and the care of their children, having buried a certain number, than those people who are seeking to advise them, and medical officers are also finding considerable difficulties. Attempts are being made to overcome those difficulties by visitors and others going round and persuading people of the wisdom of taking advantage of these services.
I wish now to refer to housing, although I shall not deal in any detail with the question as it affects London, because if my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silicin) takes part in the Debate, he will speak with first-hand knowledge of the subject, since he is large responsible for directing housing operations within the county of London. The comments I shall make will be of a general nature and on similar lines to those which I made in the Debate on the Estimates last year. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health referred to the increasing costs which authorities are experiencing in their housing programmes, but he did not refer to the increase in the cost of the land which has to be acquired, which represents the biggest handicap to the housing authorities. I sometimes think that the reason why re-housing has met with such general approval from hon. Members is that nothing has been done to interfere with the power of the landowners, who have been able to get a very considerable amount of money from the housing authorities. There was a notable case about 12 months ago in the county of London, where there was some delay in the purchase of a piece of land and where it was discovered by the county council that the price had gone up by £5,000 in less than a week.
1631 One effect of the high cost of land in London has been to force the authorities to concentrate on putting up block dwellings and thus contribute to what, for want of a better word, I will term the "uglification" of London. Huge barrack-like buildings are being erected on every hand, and the old self-contained houses are becoming fewer and fewer. These block dwellings are to a large extent ill-planned and haphazard, and I fear that they will raise a good many fresh social problems later on. As the Minister knows, in some of the old slum areas of London many of the houses had very big gardens behind them, as they were built at a time when land was more plentiful. It is a disputable question as to whether the space allowed within the confines of the estates on which the block dwellings are built compensates for the open spaces that were to be found in the gardens of the old independent houses, but, considering all things, I think that from the point of view of open space, the people lose by the block buildings.
On one or two occasions I have been told by women living in these buildings that now that their husbands have not got their bit of ground to till, they go to the public house, and that that causes a good deal of difficulty in the home. I think there is a great deal of truth in that. The men used to have a back garden in which they could sit and smoke their pipes, but now they get "fed up" with stopping in the flats in the block buildings, and go to the public houses. That is a problem which will have to be faced, and there will be other problems of a similar nature. Incidentally, this question raises the interesting point as to whether it is the well-to-do section or the poorer section of the community which influences the other, and in this case it seems to be the poorer section, because in the past living in block dwellings was the prerogative of the very poor people, whereas now it has been copied very extensively in the housing of the wealthier people. I believe that the new social problems which will arise as a result of these block dwellings may have a very important impact on our national life a little later on. I cannot refer more fully to this question, as it might involve legislation, but I hope that before it is too late, the Minister will turn his mind to this problem and to the planning of 1632 satellite towns and the location of industry; otherwise, when we have got over the immediate needs, we shall be laced with greater social problems and difficulties than in the past, and the cost will be tremendous, not only in pounds, shillings and pence, but in the deterioration of moral and spiritual values. The right hon. Gentleman has earned a very high reputation for competent administration in his Department; let him add to that reputation by initiating a bold and far-reaching campaign to deal with this problem, which is much more than a housing problem.
The right hon. Gentleman said that 3,000,000 houses had been built since the War. That sounds a tremendous figure, but let hon. Members consider what it really means. When this matter was under discussion in 1928, it was recognised that the need was for 5,000,000 houses, so that the figure which the right hon. Gentleman has given really means that we have gone only half-way towards meeting the need, and naturally the need grows from, year to year. Consequently, although the Minister may take much credit for himself and his Department for the steps that have been taken, it must be remembered that we are still lagging behind the need, and that something must be done to expedite the rate of building. Moreover, the question of rising costs must be dealt with, and at some time some Government will also have to do something about the tremendous burden which the high cost of land places upon the authorities.
Another question which is ancillary to the housing problem is that of open spaces within the boundaries of London and other large cities. While I shall continue, as in the past, to do all I can to further the idea of a "Green Belt," it has to be remembered that there are thousands of people in London who cannot get to it, and something must be done to provide facilities for recreation and breathing spaces within London and other large towns. I have in my hand a magazine entitled "Better Health." It is an admirable magazine, published, I believe, by the medical officers of the local authorities; and the number which I have contains a short article by the Minister —accompanied by a portrait that does not do him justice—in which he voices some excellent sentiments. I will read one passage to the Committee: 1633The steady growth of public open spaces and modern town and country-planning are two of the best signs of the time. It is a good thing that some millions were spent on recreation grounds and swimming pools last year, and much more than in previous years.The right hon. Gentleman then emphasises:We want more of them.I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but what is he going to do to provide them? We want to provide those facilities within the crowded and congested areas. In places such as Southwark, Bermondsey, Bethnal Green, North Camberwell—in one part of my constituency there are over 1,000 persons to the acre—there are no open spaces, and it is impossible to provide them without first of all having clearance schemes, which can be carried out only at tremendous cost. It seems to me that whenever there is a clearance and rebuilding scheme, some part of the ground ought to be scheduled as a public open space, even if it be only a small part. I believe it is far better to have a number of small gardens than one large place situated at one end of the locality. What is the Minister going to do about this matter? The town-planning authorities are bound by certain restrictions and regulations, the housing authorities say it is not their job, and the parks and open spaces authorities say it is not theirs. As I said a minute or two ago, if there were gardens where the men could go and smoke their pipes, they would not put their families to the inconvenience which is caused by the bad habits which I mentioned.
I would like now to refer to the housing of rural workers. I congratulate the Minister on the altered form of the excellent report which he has issued, and which every hon. Member ought to read. In that report the right hon. Gentleman calls attention to the Housing Act and to that aspect of it which deals with the housing of rural workers. In a little pamphlet which the right hon. Gentleman issued some time ago, he mentioned that in the case of certain cottages in rural areas, up to about two-thirds of the cost of the work of putting them into a habitable condition will be provided when the cottages have fallen into disuse or are in an unhealthy state. I think that it would probably be better to demolish many of them than attempt 1634 to put them right. Picturesque as they may appear, those who read the Minister's statement will find that the sanitary arangements in many cases are defective, the windows too small, the water supply bad, and that there are various other drawbacks of that kind. However, I am not basing my criticism upon that ground. But I do not see anything to boast about in the fact which is stated in the report that 11,513 cottages have been dealt with under the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts, 1926 and 1931. That represents a period of ten years—since 1926—and is not a very rapid rate of progress. I imagine that at that rate it will take a long time to overcome the difficulties connected with the rural housing problem.
On 4th May last my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Adamson) asked the Minister the number of rural dwelling-houses which had been reconditioned under the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts in the counties of Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire respectively, and also the total amount of grant paid in those counties for each year. It will be noted that those are four of the most important Midland counties. Over the period from 1926 to 5936 the total number of houses dealt with in each of those counties was 76, 647, 405 and 153 respectively, and the total amount of grant paid in those areas was £6,562, £59,359, £36,547 and £8,371 respectively. It is no wonder that yesterday when my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) referred to the housing of rural workers, the Minister of Agriculture with true native caution, while mentioning this Act and saying that it was working, disclaimed any responsibility for its working. When one examines those figures one can readily understand the right hon. Gentleman's reason for doing so.
It is worth noting that in 1928, in Staffordshire £375 was spent; in Shropshire, £2,835; in Worcestershire, £2,845, and in Warwickshire, £517. In 1931—and I ask hon. Members to note that date —£590 was spent in Staffordshire, £9,194 in Shropshire, £3,854 in Worcestershire and £1,486 in Warwickshire. That was a peak year and the amount spent steadily declined from that year. That does not show that the means now being adopted will adequately deal with the rural hous- 1635 ing problem. I recognise that the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts are not to be taken alone. There are other Acts in operation, but if we consider the fact that we have got only about half-way since 1928, in dealing with what was then known to be the deficiency in our housing, it would seem that at such a rate of progress we shall never get much further than we are at the present time.
I wish next to call attention to a problem which arises in connection with the provision of public abattoirs. That problem has a very serious bearing on the health and well-being of the community. I gather that there are 15,000 private slaughter-houses and that 120 public slaughter-houses are provided by local authorities. In London there is only one public abattoir, which is in the Caledonian Road, but there are a number of small ones. There are two Co-operative Society slaughter-houses, one at Leyton and one belonging to the Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society at Woolwich. The difficulty is that slaughtering on a large scale can only take place in those slaughterhouses which are provided by public authorities or institutions like the Cooperative Societies. The others are of such a character as to make it very doubtful whether the ordinary rules regarding cleanliness and so forth can be observed. My statement in this connection is borne out by a case which was heard in the Guildhall last year against two Scottish suppliers.
§ Mr. Ammon
This was a case in which two Scottish suppliers were charged with sending unfit food into Smithfield Market. In the defence it was brought out that there had been some sort of examination of the meat by the local authority, but it appeared that it had been carried out in the dark with the aid of a flash-lamp which had a half-worn battery. It is only fair to add that the defendants bore excellent characters. When the carcases went into Smithfield Market they were found to be unfit for human food but the regulations as regards going to an abattoir which is open to inspection had been fulfilled and they had received the necessary certificate. The carcases had gone to the market and had been exposed when the marketing inspectors detected them, and proceedings were taken. I would like 1636 the Minister to say whether anything will be done in this connection and whether the opportunity will be taken, in connection with the Livestock Industry Bill, to introduce some provision for the setting up of public slaughter-houses and the abolition of these small and unsatisfactory slaughter-houses, and placing the whole thing under proper Government supervision.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid I could not allow the Minister to answer that question on this occasion. He has nothing to do with the Livestock Bill.
§ Mr. Ammon
I should not like you, Sir Dennis, to have to call the right hon. Gentleman to order, but perhaps I may ask whether he will not consider, at some time, bringing forward proposals to deal with this matter. Those are all the main points which I desire to bring before the Committee. Some of my hon. Friends will, in the course of the Debate, deal in greater detail with housing, maternity and child welfare and other matters which arise on this Estimate. While we congratulate the Minister on the work which he has done in carrying out the laws at present on the Statute Book, we cannot feel satisfied with the progress which has been made in regard to housing. There is more to be done in seeing that local authorities are adequately supplied with the funds necessary for carrying out their work. Something will also have to be done to deal with the lack of open spaces in built-up areas. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to that problem before it is too late and also to the need for better and more scientific planning of our housing schemes in relation to the planning of industry. It is necessary that efforts should be made now to remove those factors which are arresting social progress. Otherwise those who come after us will find themselves faced in years to come with problems even graver than those which confront us at the present moment.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
I wish in the first place to offer my congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Minister. I hope he will allow me to call him my right hon. Friend because we have been associated in public life for many years, not only in the House of Commons but also in the London County Council. He has given us a masterly statement on the work of 1637 his Department. I have heard many statements by various Ministers of Health but I never heard a more complete statement than that which my right hon. Friend gave us to-day. Each one of us, I suppose, has his own pet subject coming under the head of public health, and yet I do not think that any one of us can criticise the Minister on the ground of omission. He did not overlook any of the matters in which hon. Members are particularly interested, and even remembered the question of the hop-pickers, although it is some months since I drew his attention to it. But I do not wish to spoil the Minister by being too kind. There is always a danger in throwing too many bouquets lest the right hon. Gentleman and his Department may become complacent.
I congratulate him also on having remained Minister of Health. In the forecasts of the "general post" which took place in the Government, he was "tipped" for many positions. He was mentioned as a possible Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a possible Secretary of State for War, as a possible Home Secretary. I hope he will not feel that in remaining at the Ministry of Health he has lost status. On the contrary I consider that the right hon. Gentleman occupies a key position. The War Office and the Treasury are important Departments. The Home Office does very valuable work, but the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Health has opportunities for constructive work which are unequalled in any other Cabinet office. Besides that, the right hon. Gentleman has accumulated valuable experience in connection with that Department. I think he started as Parliamentary Private Secretary and was for many years Parliamentary Secretary in the very Department of which he is now head. He won golden opinions, even before he came into this House, during the discussions on health insurance problems. He has, therefore, had great experience, and I hope that that does count for something in the filling of these high offices.
The Minister referred with satisfaction to the number of houses that have been built throughout the country. But those figures do not mean that we have conquered the housing problem. There is much yet to be done. I have always insisted that the overcrowding problem, the 1638 problem of too many people to a room, is even more important than the problem of slum clearance. We are more conscious of the slums because thy are obvious. We are conscious of the badly-built, ill-designed, dark, unsavoury alleys and streets, but we are not so conscious of the conditions of the people who live behind the walls. That applies particularly in the case of London. As my right hon. Friend must have learned, many of the lesser streets of London are, from their appearance, well-conditioned, but inside, behind the doors, there are terrible conditions of overcrowding, presenting a problem of the greatest urgency. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it, and if I am critical here I am not finding fault because I recognise that in other statements outside the House he has given publicity to the gigantic size of the overcrowding problem.
Out of 9,000,000 dwellings inspected, 340,000 or 3.8 per cent., were overcrowded on the very low standard fixed by the Act of Parliament of 1935. The statutory basis of overcrowding permits a living room to be used for sleeping purposes. I understand from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that he admits that the ideal standard is to ignore living rooms as sleeping accommodation, and if we took that standard the number of houses overcrowded would be 853,000. Conditions vary in different parts of the country and there are many parts where slums are the prime reason. In London overcrowding is now the most urgent question. In the London County Council area, according to the last Census return, only 36.7 per cent. of the families enjoy the single occupation of a separate dwelling. In Middlesex the proportion rises to 64.4, and in Hertfordshire to 91.6. That shows how pressing is the evil inside the county. In other words, in London in 1931 two-thirds of the population failed to secure the exclusive occupation of a separate dwelling. As the Census of 1931 put it, two-thirds of the populationare found having their correspondence delivered through communal letter-boxes and sharing in a majority of instances a common water supply and sanitary arrangements.That is the problem of overcrowding which we have to face in London. I want to recognise the magnificent work done by the Housing Committee of the London County Council, which is by no 1639 means confined to one party. I was for many years on the London County Council and I recognise that the Housing Committee had devoted men and women doing great work through the officials in trying to deal with this problem.
I was glad that the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) who spoke for the Labour Opposition, accentuated the danger of London becoming a city of flat dwellers. When we go to the Continent we are often impressed by the fine broad streets and apparent absence of slums. We have in this country taken pride in the character of our towns being different and more individual,. and it would be a tragedy if in fighting this twin evil of slums and overcrowding the whole character of our city should be changed and it should become a town of sky-scrapers. It is significant that the tenement dwelling is now becoming common, not merely for the working-classes, but for the middle and higher classes. It would be a tragedy if the London of the future were a town merely of block dwellings. I recognise that you cannot put a quart into a pint bottle, that there is only a limited surface of earth within a certain radius, and that it is necessary for men and women to live near their work. In the pressure to meet that need, there is a danger of a universal construction of flat dwellings.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman now, as I have done to him privately, that the Ministry of Health should use its influence against sweeping away all our old quiet streets, many of them with good houses which merely want reconditioning and modernising, and which, if the overcrowding is dealt with, are still worth preserving. I know from the feeling of the electors that the average working man would prefer to live in an old cottage with a back garden than in the best modern flat, provided he has the house to himself. The trouble is that, owing to the fact that rents are high and wages are low, it is rare for an East Londoner to have a house with a garden to himself. When people talk of the slums of East London they ought to be conscious that in the quiet streets of that part of London, and of Camberwell, Bethnal Green, and North London, there are thousands of people who value their little gardens. I could show some of the poorest areas, which are 1640 usually marked black in housing surveys, where there are hundreds of houses with delightful gardens growing flowers, even roses, and where they keep poultry, rabbits and many other things. All this is out of the question for dwellers in block dwellings.
In trying to make a perfect world, let us not destroy the character and the qualities which we associate with English life as opposed to the Continental system. The difficulty is that of meeting the demand of the lower paid workers. I know how easy it is to generalise about the problem and how difficult it is to build down to the rents that the ordinary working man can afford. The best remedy is to raise the standard of his wages and put him in a position to pay the rest. We have, however, to face the world as we find it, and we must use our ingenuity to plan and design houses to be let at reasonable rents. In the meantime, I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is conscious of the rising costs of building. It is not merely a question of timber, but of light castings and a general, steady, significant increase in the cost of house construction. I would like to know whether the Departmental Committee dealing with the cost of building materials is still functioning.
§ Sir P. Harris
I am glad that it is. It was once very active, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will stimulate it into activity again and that we shall have a report from it on this urgent problem. It is a serious thing. In the last five or six years we have been going through a period of steady levels in the costs of production and of low interest rates which have assisted the local authorities in carrying out their responsibilities and in letting houses at reasonable rents. If we are not very active in dealing with the competition of the manufacture of munitions we may find our work largely paralysed by the increased cost of house construction.
In London we are now faced with a difficult new question because of the growth of a new London outside the county. The population inside the county is declining and has been declining for some years slowly but perceptibly. I would set off against this, that although the population has been declining, there is no decline in the housing problem 1641 because houses have been giving way to flats and offices. Meanwhile, the population is steadily drifting outside and new towns are being created at a terrific pace. I know that hon. Members above the Gangway may suggest that London is only one of the problems. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is where hon. Members show their ignorance, because one-fifth of the population of the country is living in Greater London. The steady drift from Wales and the North of England to London is causing a new question of serious significance, and it must rapidly be tackled if we are not to be faced with questions in future which it will be almost impossible to solve.
In the Metropolitan police area, according to the last Census, there was an increase of nearly 750,000, and I think it is not unfair to say, from the information available, that the rate of increase since 1931 has been very much intensified and is probably something near 900,000. In the London traffic area in 1931 the population was 9,250,000, an increase of nearly 1,000,000 compared with the previous 10 years. That increase has gone on at the same pace or an even greater pace during the past five years. People are rushing into London, which is proving a magnet. The depression in the North of England and Wales, the large amount of unemployment and the opportunities that new industries are providing, have been contributory causes of this marvellous development. It would be magnificent if it had been planned and organised and anticipated. It is going on without any plan, chaotic and in an unscientific way. It is interesting to look up the report of the Unhealthy Areas Committee of 1920. Curiously, the Chairman of it was the present Prime Minister. The report was written by him before he became a member of the Cabinet and started his great progress upwards to reach the pinnacle of Prime Minister. That committee advised for London that—a plan should be prepared now which should broadly assign to the various districts in and about London their respective functions in the future so that every reconstruction scheme may conform to such a plan in its main details. This should at once provide the key to the problem so often put as to whether the displaced population should be rehoused on the site or elsewhere. Such a plan would harmonise all future operations and co-relate housing, industry and transport to their mutual advantage.1642 That was 17 years ago, and little has been done. Then there was a Royal Commission, presided over by Lord Ullswater, that issued majority and minority reports. Nothing came of that. In 1927 the Greater London Regional Planning Committee, representing all the local authorities concerned, was appointed. They had the advantage of one of the ablest town planners in the world, a man of international reputation, Mr. Raymond Unwin, who was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and associated with him was Mr. Hardy-Syms. The report that was issued put forward practical proposals which, if they had been adopted, would have done much to prevent many of the evils which have since arisen. Unfortunately that committee is no more, though why it has been allowed to lapse I am not able to say. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can explain. I am told, and perhaps my hon. Friend above the Gangway will be able to put me right, that the local authorities concerned were too mean to provide the comparatively small sum needed to enable it to continue its work.
§ Sir P. Harris
No, I asked the hon. Member to put me right. The work the Committee did was most valuable and it is unfortunate that their recommendations have led to nothing. Sir Malcolm Stewart, in his report on distressed areas, made a significant reference to the position of London, going so far as to say that London should be placed out of bounds for industrial purposes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am not surprised that some of my hon. Friends take that line. There is a problem which ought to be faced, both from the point of view of London and the whole country, but owing to the fact that in London there are some 135 authorities sharing responsibilities for planning, with an absence of any unified control, practically nothing has been done, and chaos remains. Housing and industrial development go on higgledy-piggledy, anyhow, under no 1643 scheme. Industries are dumped down in one quarter of London where there is no provision for housing the workers, and in another part houses are run up although there is no occupational employment for the people who will live there. Something has been done by the Ministry of Transport in the way of providing arterial roads and means of transport, but the absence of any proper plan has meant that the transport does not meet the needs of our vast population. Thousands go out to work in overcrowded trains, and tens of thousands more come in to work, all at great discomfort and expense, intensifying the housing and the traffic problem, and making London an almost impossible place to live in for tens of thousands of its inhabitants.
I am not going to suggest legislation. I should be out of order in this discussion if I were to do so, and in any case I would not suggest more legislation. Already we have many Acts of Parliament dealing with traffic, town planning and housing. Before we got another Act of Parliament some 18 months would elapse, and then time would have to be allowed for putting it into operation. I want the Minister to act under his existing powers. I was glad to hear this afternoon that he is setting up a new Standing Committee. I have already seen some reference to it in the Press. A speech was made by Mr. Adams, a very experienced town planner, at a conference in the County Hall over which my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) presided. Probably he heard more of the speech than appeared in the Press. If the statement is right that this new Standing Committee is to be set up, apparently it is not to be furnished with the wherewithal to do its work. Is the statement of Mr. Adams that it is to be provided with only £360 a year correct? If that be so the Committee cannot possibly discharge its functions. Mr. Adams pointed out that in New York between 1923 and 1930, in seven years, they spent £250,000 on a regional plan, and that the Regional Planning Association of Greater New York, largely a private organisation, I suppose, is spending £10,000 a year. I hope we shall be told by the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary how much authority this new Committee is to have, and whether it will be pro- 1644 vided with funds effectually to discharge its great and important functions. If it is to be merely a nominal Committee, without real power or funds, we had better not have it, because it will be misleading to the public, be merely a drug to keep us quiet and prevent criticism.
I have always held that great concentrations of population, making large areas of the country almost one continuous urban area, are thoroughly bad and unhealthy. I am glad to see present the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), who is a great authority on this question. As long ago as 1904 we had a most interesting experiment in the establishment of a garden city at Letchworth. At the time some people thought it was rather a fancy experiment, but now one has only to go to Letchworth, with its present population of 15,000, to see how that experiment has justified itself. In 1920 a similar experiment was made at Welwyn, and there we now have a population of 12,000, and a number of factories. They are two healthy examples of satellite towns. Section 16 of the Town Planning Act, 1925, gave the Minister of Health very considerable powers to stimulate and assist the formation of new satellite towns on the lines of Welwyn and Letchworth. To what extent has the right hon. Gentleman utilised those powers? Have local authorities approached him for assistance? He is able to help local authorities to acquire land, and can also enable two or more authorities to act jointly. I feel that much remains to be done in this direction.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman must recognise that in housing we make a most direct contribution to improving the health of the country, but I was glad that he insisted that housing alone does not by any means solve the problem of insuring the health and happiness of the community. We want well developed and well planned cities. In our great capital the Minister has a golden opportunity. He has public opinion behind him. If he will give London a lead, if he will use his existing powers, we can do something to prevent that growing evil which we see around us almost every week-end when we go out into the country, and that is new towns, new streets springing up like mushrooms. If we are not careful those new streets unplanned without proper pro- 1645 vision for open spaces within a few years become new slums with many of the evils we associate with the poorer districts of our great towns. Here is a chance for a great Minister of Health to give a lead to London, and if he does so and makes use of his powers he will have deserved well of future generations.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr
I am certain that the House has been gratified by the recital of the encouraging facts which it heard from the Minister. If I may say so, my right hon. Friend is, to borrow an American phrase, "a go getter," and the most encouraging fact about him is that his achievements, notable as they are, do not satisfy him. Like the climber in the poem "Excelsior," he always seeks to attain higher ranges, so I am certain that he will turn a sympathetic ear this afternoon to the one or two points about health which I should like to lay before him. Every country and every Government is more or less health conscious at this moment. Visitors who travel abroad to countries under dictatorships never fail to express their admiration at the immense energy and organisation which those Governments devote to the benefiting the health of the people under their care. One cannot see the young Fascist athletes practise discus throwing in the Forum Mussolini outside Rome, or witness the massed German Youth battalions, drawn up in serried brownshirted ranks to greet Herr Hitler on the 1st May, in the Post Stadion, near Berlin, without being amazed at the extraordinary advances which Italy and Germany have made in the last TO years in raising the level of physical education.
At home our Government are now embarking on an extensive and vigorous health campaign. During the last 30 years we, in this country, have enjoyed a fairly happy reputation regarding our health services. We have seen grow up extensive hospital services, we have seen school medical services and maternity and child welfare services spring up on every hand. I think the people of every class now realise that this country cannot hope to secure its position in the stress and competition of the modern world without maintaining a healthy stock. Nor can we maintain that high level of technical excellence which our craftsmen have attained, or produce indi- 1646 viduals able to fill the highest executive posts, unless we continually make inroads upon disease and improve the physical standards of our people.
We should, however, be blind to the facts if we did not realise that the services which local authorities render in various parts of the country differ considerably. Under the block grant system local authorities now enjoy sometimes as much as 60 or 70 per cent. of their total revenues from national sources. But to judge from certain reports issued by the Ministry of Health those local authorities do not sometimes live up to the standards which the Ministry of Health requires. Doubtless the Minister occasionally cracks the Ministerial whip behind the scenes, but a question of principle here arises: Since local authorities now enjoy a considerable portion of their revenue from the National Exchequer, has not the time come when, perhaps, a greater influence could be brought to bear upon them to live up to those standards which the Minister of Health requires? In this country the services dealing with health are managed by two groups: by local authorities and by officers of the central authority, who enjoy funds from the National Exchequer. Let us enumerate the different authorities with which the average boy and girl come into contact as they grow up. Few would deny that our maternity and infant welfare services could not be bettered anywhere. Probably no country in the world makes such provision for the mother and the infant as this country. A mother can go to a clinic and receive expert advice before the birth of her child, and she can go after its birth and receive treatment. Visitors from the clinic give her expert advice and see that she is progressing favourably. As regards the child, however, supervision ceases, to a great degree, between the ages of two and five years. In spite of the efforts made to start various centres for infant welfare, there is still very little supervision of the child between the ages of two and five years in this country. That is the chief gap which exists in our health services.
The Board of Education and the Ministry of Health issued a joint circular in 1929, and made the following significant remarks:It is grossly uneconomic to allow the health and stamina of infants to deteriorate up to five years of age and then to spend 1647 a large sum of money in trying to cure them between the ages of five and 15.A report issued by the Ministry of Health in 1935 makes a further important comment. It says:It is unsatisfactory to find that more than 16 per cent. of the children entering school show some form of disease or defect requiring treatment. This points to a need for more systematic and more effective health visiting, better arrangements for medical supervision, and increased facilities for treatment.If we are to embark upon a health policy, it should have a definite policy of seeing that every boy and girl gets a fair opportunity of a healthy life. It should not devote itself merely to the negative method of curing disease that comes along.
That policy can best be served by ensuring that every boy and girl should, at regular intervals, enjoy the advantages of medical supervision from the earliest days up to the age of 16. When a boy goes to school between the ages of five and 15 he has free medical examination. But the doctor in charge of the school medical service is probably under the direction of the Board of Education, and may not have access to the report which the Ministry of Health doctor made on that child at an earlier age. When the boy leaves school and enters industry at 14 or 15 years of age, a gap formerly existed, but we are now promised that boys and girls will be able to come into National Health Insurance immediately upon leaving school. This provision will remove a very important gap in the continuity of medical supervision. When the boy enters industry, a Home Office doctor examines him. A report issued by a Departmental Committee of the Home Office in 1924 suggested that, more often than not, such examination by a Home Office doctor was of no use because the young workers came in in such numbers that the doctors had neither the time nor the available accommodation satisfactorily to deal with them. Furthermore, the doctor has not the medical history of the boy and girl in front of him, to give him valuable hints when diagnosing any possible malady from which the child may be suffering. Thus it is extremely important that, either in a local centre or in the headquarters of a town a properly organised file of the health history of each boy and girl should readily be available. Only by being aware of the total medical history from the age of one to 16 can a 1648 doctor hope to deal efficiently with a case before him. I want especially to make the point that doctors should have available to them the entire medical history of a boy or girl from birth to 16.
Finally, we should welcome any further action by the Minister of Health to close the gap between the ages of two and five years, that is to say, between the time that the child leaves the maternity welfare centre and the time it enters school. If we are determined to improve the health of the people of this country we should spare no resources and should use every available opportunity. We should, by increased propaganda, encourage mothers to attend maternity services, and, where possible, increase transport facilities between clinics and the homes of the mothers and children. We should see, if possible, that the scope of maternity centres is increased, to include children up to the age of five, to the age when they enter school.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I should like to congratulate the hon. Gentleman. I am going to try to follow his example. It would be rather nice if all of us followed his example and did our best, as was done on a previous occasion, to get our speeches off in the shortest possible time. On an occasion like this we all want to say something upon the aspect of the subject in which we are interested. I would first like to point out that to-night we are dealing not with causes so much as with effects. The necessity for the range of services which the Minister of Health controls through local authorities arises very largely because of poverty, and until poverty is dealt with we shall not make true progress.
The mother who takes her child to a clinic sometimes gets medicine and sometimes food for the child. It has been pointed out that between the ages of two and five nobody takes any care of the child. Throughout the child's life, the greatest problem is that of feeding. For the children of the poor, that is the over-riding problem. Until children can get within their homes all the food that is necessary for them, we shall not obtain that healthy, virile youth population that we all want to see. I am not denying for one moment that the present 1649 Minister is probably, not the best, but, one of the best Ministers that we have had in that position, but he cannot do impossibilities. We should not be considering how we can extend these services, but how we can get rid of the necessity for them. My wife and I would have hated our children having to be dealt with as many poor families have to be dealt with to-day. It was a hard job to bring up our children in our own home in our early days, but we, and my wife especially, would have been outraged to have to do what millions of mothers have to do to-day, in order to preserve even the semblance of health in their baby children. I therefore welcome what is being done to ameliorate the conditions, but I hope the House of Commons one day will get down to the fundamental problem of preventing poverty rather than dealing only with the conditions which poverty creates.
Take the problem of overcrowding. What is that, really? It is associated with the question of the birth rate. A man and woman marry, and the man has so much per week as wages, if he is lucky enough to be at work. If he is a little better off, he gets a salary. As the children come, there is no rise in his salary or increase in his wages, and half a dozen mouths may have to be fed with the income on which the man married. That is an impossibility. Therefore, all these propositions are put up in trying to overcome the difficulty. The difficulty cannot be overcome in that way. The proper place for a child to get healthy conditions is in its own home and in its own surroundings. Not one hon. Member on the other side would not agree with me. I am sure that not one of them would desire that his children should be treated outside their own homes. The problem of overcrowding is not one for London alone. I meet the same problem in every town or village to which I go. I have in my hand at this moment a pamphlet in which reference is made to a case in which seven or eight people have been herded together for the last 15 months because nobody will take them in. The local authority is a good one, and the London County Council is a good housing authority, but the problem of that family is that we have to move them, and to have whatever rent is payable out of Poor Law assistance. The man cannot get a job, although he 1650 is honest and hardworking when he has a job. He therefore cannot get the wages necessary to maintain his children.
I heard what the Minister said on the question of population. It is very often suggested that there is some sort of secret reason why the poor people have big families and the other people, the rich, have very few in family. I think it was Will Crooks who said that God must love the poor because he creates so many of them. The problem of population is not only one of numbers but is one of quality. Many a working man and his wife have now learnt sufficient of what the rich people learned long ago in dealing with birth control, and the younger women will not bear children if it means that they may live the cramped kind of life that millions of people are living to-day. That problem cannot be overcome by the provision of clinics, nursery schools, and all the rest of it. I should like the Committee to turn its attention to that side of 1he question.
I would join with the hon. Member who has just spoken. He called attention to the youth of Germany and Italy, but he might also have called attention to the youth of Soviet Russia. In those three great countries there is a tremendous rise in the development of and the attention to youth such as I have never seen anywhere in this country. But do not let us be carried away too much. I have discussed this matter with friends in the House, and they rather brought me to see it more clearly. To go on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and see our young people, the boys and girls in the elementary day schools, going out for their sports day and to learn sports, is to me always an inspiration. But we need more playing fields, more equipment, more of everything that is necessary for the development of boys' and girls' bodies. I should like to see the Minister of Health, together with the Minister of Education, take this question in hand, and see to it that every district, either out of its own resources or from national resources, has placed at its disposal the means of providing all the playing fields and equipment necessary.
I would finish on the note on which I began. If you want a race of men and women strong and healthy, virile and vigorous, with sound minds in sound 1651 bodies, you will find them eventually only in decent homes. You will not find them in barracks like the huge monstrosities which we are obliged to put up; you will find them only in places like that which for me was a home when I was a boy, and which for my own children I strove to preserve—a home where there is enough to eat and drink, where the mother is not worried to death as to where the next pennyworth of food is coming from, where the children as they grow will not feel that they are robbing their mother, and where all of them are enjoying what every family in a civilised community should enjoy, the means to live the fullest life that God Almighty intended every child to live.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
I shall try to follow the excellent example which has been set, and speak, so to say, in shorthand. It is not surprising that many Members wish to take part in this Debate, for it appears to me that no Ministry touches the lives of the people at so many points, and touches the lives of so many people, as the Ministry of Health. Those who represent large industrial constituencies are compelled to recognise that nearly all the problems, both personal and general, which require attention in their constituencies, are Ministry of Health problems. Many of us have a number of points dealing with the administration of this great Ministry on which we desire to, ask questions on the present occasion, and perhaps I may be permitted to say with what great personal pleasure I see my hon. Friend the Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) in the position to-night of answering for the Ministry of Health. I wish him success.
I desire to deal with three particular points. With one of them, fortunately, I can deal very briefly, because the Minister himself dealt with it. It is now some 17 years since I was in charge of the University Settlement in Liverpool, and it was then forced on my attention that a great many of the benefits provided by the State for those in need were not known to those who might have received them; and from that time onwards I have felt that something should be done to publicise the benefits available to those who are in want. That would be a great advantage, and I am delighted this afternoon to hear the 1652 Minister of Health declare that in the autumn of this year he intends to inaugurate a great publicity campaign having for its purpose the development of knowledge of all the many benefits that are available to the citizens of this country through this great Ministry. In that connection I would ask one thing of the Minister, who has a great reputation as a publicist. I hope that such publicity matter as is prepared will be prepared in simple language. I have been impressed by the difficulties with which I myself am confronted when I read some of the documents explaining the provisions of the various National Health Insurance Acts and so on, and I feel that, if explanations can be given in simple language, it will be of great benefit to many people in this country.
The next point with which I want to deal has already been dealt with by the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), and thus again I am assisted towards the necessary brevity. Since 1932 I have watched the developments under the Town and Country Planning Act, to which there has been added recently a kind of ancillary Act, the Ribbon Development Act, and I want to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that the powers with which his Ministry is endowed by these two Acts are sufficient for the purpose which we all desire to see achieved. The Minister told us this afternoon that no less than three-fifths of the land of this country is under resolutions for planning; but what is beyond those resolutions? Statistics are not always the best guide to development; many of us have to rely on the evidence of our eyes, and, as we go about, it seems that in very few parts of the country has a check been placed upon this sporadic, spasmodic development, particularly in the vicinity of large towns.
I would like to ask whether the Ministry of Health has had anything to do with the trading estates of which we have heard so much—whether the Ministry has had anything to do with the planning of those trading estates. It has always occurred to me that the name is a very ugly one. Would it not have been better if the Ministry of Health had a hand in these trading estates, and, perhaps, given them a different name, such as that of garden cities? I should think it would be much more attractive to imagine oneself 1653 working in a garden city than in a trading estate. And would it not be desirable, if these trading estates came to success, that they should be developed comparably with Letchworth and Welwyn?
I should like to supplement what the hon. Member for North Camberwell said about the development of satellite cities. It appears to me that there are four good reasons to-day why the satellite city should be encouraged by the Ministry of Health in its general survey of planning —reasons which did not exist, perhaps, with such full force not so long ago. The first is the increasing complications of modern transport. The second is the undoubted desire of the younger generation of this country to live nearer to the land. The third reason is that the development of amenities in small urban units is far greater than it was years ago; amusement and shopping facilities and so on have developed in small urban unit towns in a way that bears no comparison with the conditions even a decade ago. The fourth reason is that, if the dread event of war should fall upon us, the country is surely less vulnerable if its population is scattered in small units than if it is concentrated in large overgrown towns. Therefore, I would urge the Ministry, in this survey of planning, to do its best to develop satellite cities.
Let me turn to the last point which I desire to make, and which is on a cognate topic, namely, slum clearance. The slums have no defenders; they are, perhaps, the worst relic of the Victorian age. I remember, if I may refer again to my experience in Liverpool, being responsible for instituting a survey of slum property in the south of Liverpool's dockland, and it struck me then that nearly all that property was built within a short time—in the 30's and 40's of the last century—and that, therefore, all that property would "die" in a habitable sense at about the same time, and a tremendous problem of replacement would be created. That problem is now upon us, and I think the House will agree that it is being tackled with great determination by the Ministry of Health at the present time. But, while we can regard slum clearance schemes with pleasure and satisfaction, I feel that in the minds of many of us there is a certain criticism. I fear that, coincidentally with this work of slum clearance, there is developing a sense of grievance and hardship in the 1654 minds of some of those who are dispossessed. The previous Minister of Health, Sir Hilton Young, as he was then, dismissed the plea for compensation for the slum owner with an argument by analogy. He said that those who exposed for sale meat which was unfit for human consumption found that it was at once destroyed without any compensation, and, therefore, those who offered houses which were unfit for human habitation could make no complaint if those houses were destroyed without compensation. The argument is just, but within strict limits. I know of no butcher who has been brought to poverty by the destruction of a joint of beef, but I think that most of us, at any rate those who represent industrial constituencies, know of cases in which people have been thrust on public assistance by hardships due to the operation of slum clearance orders. Undoubtedly the Ministry of Health is itself sympathetic. I read in the Report for last year, to which reference has been made, the following phrases:The Minister would express the hope that every authority will exercise sympathetically and generously their power of making reasonable allowance in suitable cases in order to mitigate the hardships to shopkeepers and others"—I would emphasise "and others"—which may result from the large-scale clearance operations now proceeding. The Minister will be prepared to sanction loans to cover any expenditure incurred by local authorities in the exercise of these powers.I should like to ask what evidence there is that the local authorities are interpreting that invitation of the Minister in the generous spirit in which he has praised it. I should like to ask what amount of loans has been asked for by the local authorities to cover the expenditure in which they have been involved by this more generous compensation to those who are expropriated.
I would like to go one step further in this matter, and say that in my view there is one easy way in which this sense of grievance could be remedied. I find that many of those who are dispossessed harbour a sense of grievance because they feel that their own local health department, and the Ministry of Health itself, have been judges in their own cause. An area is scheduled, the Ministry's inspector goes down, and there is no appeal from that inspector to an independent authority. I have visited many areas which 1655 have been scheduled, and I must confess that in most cases, had I been the judge, so far as my knowledge of the Act goes, I should have come to a conclusion similar to that reached by the Ministry of Health inspector, and I think that probably an independent authority would have done the same thing. If that be the case, why should the Ministry object to making an administrative change which would allow an independent authority to exercise the final judgment on these matters? I feel that, if that were done, the sense of grievance and hardship that has been harboured by so many of those who have been dispossessed would be removed. My own constituency association, not a reactionary body, not a revolutionary body, recently passed a resolution asking for that sort of thing, and I believe that, if something could be done in that sense, then what I think is the only possible blemish, and it really is a very small blemish, on the slum clearance programme, would be removed.
This Debate so far has been, as in many previous years, a friendly sort of Debate, with the Minister receiving many congratulations. I think there is a reason for that. Last year the Minister in his speech said, and said truly, that no country in the world spent so much money on its social services as this country spent. He said that the amount spent during the year on the social services was no less than £420,000,000. So long as that sum is being spent, I am sure that neither this Committee nor the country outside will have any other feeling than that the Ministry of Health is performing a most useful function in the life of the country, and will not wish this Debate to be other than helpful to the Ministry in the administration of the various legislative powers which have been conferred upon it.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Silkin
The Minister of Health devoted, quite properly, a considerable proportion of his speech to the question of housing, and in referring to that question he remarked that housing was the greatest contribution which this generation has made to better conditions in the life of the people generally. I do not think he exaggerated the importance of the housing question. He referred to the fact that there was at present a house 1656 building boom. I should like to put before the Committee a number of factors to which, it seems to me, the Minister must give consideration if he wants this house building boom to continue. The first is the question of the increasing cost of building. As far as London is concerned this increasing cost is giving us very great concern. In the last two years it has increased by something like 15 per cent., and there is every indication that the increase is continuing. Apart from the question of increase of cost there is the subsidiary question of delay, because we are finding it increasingly difficult to get certain materials. I hope the Minister will take this question very seriously because it is one of the most important factors in conection with housing.
A second factor to which the Minister will have to give consideration is the question of interest rates. In the last six months there has been an indication of what is going to happen, because interest rates, as far as local authorities are concerned, have gone up by a quarter per cent., and that means in terms of rent, in London, 8d. a week, which is a very serious fact. The third point is one which I mention with some diffidence, the continued pressure on the part of the Minister to improve standards. I have no complaint at all about the Minister's action in endeavouring to improve standards of building. On the contrary, every suggestion that he has made is a desirable one. From time to time local authorities get a very interesting memorandum from the Minister suggesting some improvement which local authorities are advised to introduce in their building, and these suggestions are always required to be met at the sole expense of the local authority. Quite recently the Minister suggested that in flats there should be private balconies, that the size of living rooms should be increased from 150 to 200 feet, and that there should be more playing facilities for children on new estates, and even to-day he made two additional suggestions, one that there should be more homes for aged persons and for large families, these being the most costly portion of the community to deal with, and also that local authorities should embark on schemes for providing furniture on the hire purchase system.
He has also from time to time urged local authorities to deal with the question of social facilities for adolescents and 1657 adults. Every one of these improvements is desirable, and indeed essential, but there is a financial partnership between local authorities and the Ministry which involves the Ministry contributing two-thirds of the deficiency and the local authorities one-third. It is very hard on the local authorities that, once they have embarked on this partnership on a certain basis, the Minister should be continually urging them to add to their portion of the burden without making any additional contribution on his side. It seems to me that a partnership of that sort requires some revision of its terms.
A fourth factor of which I am sure the Committee would like to be informed is one of the effects of the 1935 Housing Act, the abolition of the reduction factor in connection with the acquisition of land for clearance schemes. The effect of that reduction is that the cost of the land has increased by something like 30 per cent., and this is a most important factor in connection with costs. In the case of an area in Marylebone, which before the passing of the 1935 Act would have cost £12,000, the actual price paid was £18,000. In the case of a site in Paddington the original cost was £10,000 and the operation of the 1935 Act brought the price up to £19,000. Those are instances in which the basis of the original arrangement between local authorities and the Ministry has been shifted, and I ask the Minister to give very serious consideration to these facts because they are cumulative in their effect. An indefinite increase in cost can have only two effects. It must increase rents, and therefore adversely affect the very class of person for whom housing operations are being carried out, or it must tend to decrease the volume of housing work which will be carried out by local authorities, or possibly local authorities may be tempted to reduce the quality of their building in order to meet the additional cost.
And now I should like to say a few words on rural housing. Apart from the need that there is of dealing with slum clearance and overcrowding in rural areas, a committee with which I am concerned has ascertained that there is a need for some 25,000 additional rural houses. There is not the slightest likelihood of their being provided unless the Minister provides a subsidy for their erection—because dwellings which are not 1658 required for the purpose of dealing with slum clearance or overcrowding carry no subsidy at all—and proposes to look at the whole question of housing administration in the country generally, because I find that there are 17 rural districts with housing powers where a penny rate produces less than£50 and there are 83 rural districts where a penny rate produces less than £100. It is imposing an impossible burden on these rural districts to expect them to provide these houses without a subsidy. Moreover, it seems to me to be quite hopeless to expect them to carry out housing on an extensive scale when they cannot possibly afford to employ the necessary staff to carry it out. It seems to me that there is a case for regional housing activity and carrying it out on a larger scale.
We know the local authorities are concerned about the question of jerry-building, because we realise that in the long run a good deal of the burden in connection with jerry-building will fall on local authorities. I should have been glad to hear what is actually happening in connection with this matter. I know that the Minister is very much concerned about it. I understand that the building industry itself has undertaken to bring before the country a scheme by which it win itself certify houses as being fit for habitation and, in certain ways, protect purchasers. I should be very glad if the Minister could state how far this scheme has been carried into effect, what number of houses have been actually certified and what proportion of builders have come into the scheme. The London County Council, and other large local authorities by implication, have been very severely criticised for putting up what have been described as barracks, monstrosities, sky-scrapers and so on, but no one has suggested what the alternative should be.
§ Mr. Lansbury
We are not allowed to, because it would mean legislation. I have quite a good scheme.
§ Mr. Silkin
That is a very convenient way of getting out of the problem. The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) referred to the fact that in his area there was overcrowding to the extent of a thousand persons per acre, and in many parts of London the population is about that figure. In dealing with slum areas it is found that, broadly 1659 speaking, there is a population of about 300 to the acre, and all those persons want to be rehoused as near as possible to where they are living. [An HON. MEMBER: "Working!"] They are usually working where they are living. They want to be rehoused in the central portion of London. Suppose that, instead of building these monstrosities, we built cottages or houses with gardens, you could put up about 12 to the acre. Say you could put up 18 to the acre. No one has ever suggested that you could do more than that. You could get on an acre a population of something like 80 persons and you would not be able to provide accommodation for the remaining 220. Those 220 would presumably have to live outside the town and suffer from the malnutrition which the hon. Member for North Camberwell referred to as being the fate of those living on the outskirts of large towns. That is one problem. What are you to do with the population that is being disturbed?
There is also the question of costs. In London we are having to pay something like £12,000 an acre for land and, if you were to buy land and put 12 houses on an acre, the cost would be £1,000 per dwelling, with interest charges and debt redemption, something of the order of £1 a week, before you started building at all. That is an impossible proposition. On those two grounds alone the large cities at present have no alternative but to build flats as well as they can. I deny that they are monstrosities or skyscrapers or that there is anything objectionable about them. Large local authorities have been criticised because they deprive persons of gardens. In very few cases are they actually gardens. They are really back yards which are shared by two or three families. There are very few gardens inside the centre of London which have been dealt with by local authorities under slum clearance schemes. I have put a number of considerations which I regard as important and I hope the Minister will give them serious consideration.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
There are so many subjects covered by the Department for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible that it is always difficult to know which to choose. I wish to say a few words to- 1660 day for people who, I consider, are seldom spoken of and seldom thought of—the mentally afflicted. They present a problem which can no longer be overlooked. We are spending some £10,000,000 on the insane, on the mentally defective. I do not wish to speak to-day about mental defectives, those who from birth have some lack, and in many cases go into colonies, and are more or less regarded as incurable. I want to speak of those people we so often describe as lunatics. They may be divided into two categories. The first consists of the turbulent, difficult patient who is probably incurable, and for whom all we can do is to see that his or her conditions of life are as comfortable as possible.
§ The Deputy Chairman (Captain Bourne)
I think I reminded the hon. Lady last year that this subject comes under the Board of Control.
§ Mrs. Tate
I bow to your Ruling. But when I wrote to the Home Office I was told the subject came under the Ministry of Health, and when I wrote to the Ministry of Health I was told that they had sole control of the Board of Control. If we are not to be allowed to discuss this on the Health Estimates or on the Home Office Vote, when is it to be discussed? Every year we certify 20,000 lunatics, and there should be some day in the year on which we can discuss it.
§ Sir P. Harris
Is it not a fact that the local authorities have the administration under the Board of Control, and are responsible to the Ministry of Health as administrators, and cannot we discuss this matter in so far as the local authorities are responsible as administrators to the Ministry of Health?
It is an old-standing rule in Committee of Supply that where a service has a separate Vote, it can only be discussed if that Vote comes before the Committee. In recent years that practice has been relaxed, and we have permitted discussions on what I might call a subordinate Vote if it has been put down at the same time as the main Vote of the Ministry. The question whether the Vote is put down or not rests with the party which asks for the Supply day, and if they do not put the Vote down I am afraid we cannot discuss it.
§ Mrs. Tate
That makes my position difficult. I have spent a year of hard work on this question, being a magistrate and having to do a certain amount of certifying. I can only hope that the Opposition will see that at some not distant date this question is raised. Recently we had a report from America on the incidence of venereal disease in this country and in the Scandinavian countries. The report is of vital interest to this country. I believe that in Holland the disease is notifiable on a voluntary basis only, and that in the Scandinavian countries it is compulsorily notifiable. I believe Scotland is anxious that it should he made compulsorily notifiable, but that is not the wish of this country. I hope the Minister will give us some assurance that he will set up a committee of inquiry on the desirability of voluntary or compulsory notification. We have been speaking this afternoon about rearing a healthy, happy people. When we bring into the world children tainted before their birth, we are doing something for which we must be responsible, and any steps that can be taken to lessen that danger and that suffering it is our duty to take.
Last year, the right hon. Gentleman will remember, I asked if there might be a more careful inspection of nursing homes. I pointed out that in many nursing homes there are still draperies and hangings which spread disease. I would like to know whether there has been that inspection during the past year, and I would like a more careful inspection. It is within my certain knowledge that there are nursing homes in London which are not used for quite normal illnesses. Careful inquiries might be made into conditions ruling at some nursing homes to see whether they do in actual fact receive what might be called normal illnesses, and whether there is not great ground for believing that curious and very undesirable practices are going on in places which are called London nursing homes.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Rowson
A good many encomiums have been showered on the Minister and the Department this afternoon. One thing that struck me as being refreshing was to hear the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) make a speech and fail to refer to what the Labour Government did not do between 1929 and 1931. I agree with many of the 1662 things that have been said about the work of the Ministry. We are all proud of that service. I am not going to say that there is anything this country can be taught by Russia, Germany or Italy, but there are many things prevalent in this country which must destroy all complacency on the part of Members of the Committee.
In speaking about the new Midwives Act the Minister said that everything was in perfect order, things were going on nicely, and everything had been satisfactorily settled between the parties concerned. I do not know whether any complaints have come to the Minister from midwives in different localities. The criticism—and I believe it is genuine—that has been made to me is about the way the registered midwife is being treated in the making of new appointments. In my constituency there is considerable complaint about the way in which posts are being advertised. The secretary of the local midwives' association has sent me 12 newspaper cuttings of advertisements for persons to fill the new positions as midwives, and in every case there is emphasis on the applicant being a State registered nurse in addition to being a midwife. The Annual Report of the Ministry for 1935–36 states in connection with this matter:The number of candidates who entered for the examination of the Central Midwives Board in the year ended 31st March, 1935, was 3,965, compared with 3,862 in the previous year; and the number of these candidates who gained a certificate of the board was 2,936, compared with 2,997 in the previous year.This matter concerns a large number of women who have tried to fit themselves for these positions, and we must have some regard for them, especially in the Northern districts, where we have, in the main, maternity nurses who have only had training at a maternity hospital and got the C.M.B. certificate. The Minister would do well to call the attention of local authorities to the point that these advertisements are misleading, and that all due consideration should be given to the woman who has the single qualification.
I would also like to refer to the question of tuberculosis. On page 37 of the report there is a reference to village settlements. I accept the statement of the Minister in regard to tuberculosis, and I agree with what he says that there is a considerable 1663 fall in the number of cases. But I want to raise again a matter I mentioned to him not long ago, and which I raised on the Adjournment, in connection with village settlements. I refer particularly to the Papworth village settlement. The report states:It is understood that the provision of a Home for the benefit and prolonged after-care of nurses who have contracted tuberculosis in the course of their duties is projected at PapworthThe point I made when I raised this matter previously was that certain trainees and non-tuberculosis sufferers were being sent to Papworth to work side by side with persons suffering from tuberculosis. If the authorities at Papworth have to make provision for nurses who have contracted the disease in the course of their duties, then it is much more necessary now than when I first referred to the matter to keep lads from the distressed areas and elsewhere away from Papworth. If nurses who are skilled in the use of antiseptics are susceptible to this disease, in all conscience the men who have no knowledge of the use of these things are more likely to contract it when they are working on the same bench with a tubercular sufferer.
I would like to ask the Minister as to this point. I am under the impression that the Papworth Village Settlement is under the administration of the Ministry of Labour, and not the Ministry of Health. Perhaps the Minister can inform me whether that is the case.
§ Sir K. Wood
The Ministry of Health have certain duties in connection with it. As the hon. Gentleman has said, it is referred to in the report of the Ministry of Health, and I had gathered that it might be referred to.
§ Mr. Rowson
There are two paragraphs in the Annual Report of the Ministry of Health, on page 37, which refer to the Papworth Village Settlement, and, therefore, surely it is in order. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to the particular point. It mentions that in the 1664 cabinet-making department there has been an increase in output of 60 per cent. I do not know whether the Minister will agree with me or not, but that statement is somewhat misleading, unless hon. Members understand the circumstances. If it were useful work, go-as-you-please, by T.B. sufferers and patients, I would not take the slightest exception to it, but I understand that in that particular department there is made for local authorities various furniture consisting of cabinets and all kinds of things, and that in the last two years there has been a considerable increase in the number of people employed there who did not know what T.B. was. If the Minister would look at the report of the Scottish Board of Health and at some of the contents of the report of his own Department, I am sure that he would realise that what I have stated is inescapable, and that either the Ministry of Labour or someone else is forcing these men to run the risk of infection and catching the terrible disease of tuberculosis in circumstances which we as a House of Commons ought not to allow.
This is a little criticism that I am putting forward in respect of the Department, and I am sure that the Minister appreciates what I am saying. I am not speaking without having consulted medical men. When I raised this matter in the House before I consulted a medical friend, and he told me that it was not just a question of a man or woman working side by side for the day, or something like that. All medical authorities would agree that when it is a question of constant contact with the tubercular bacilli day after day you are bound to get a person who will eventually succumb to the disease. I say with all seriousness that it is bad enough for those who cannot get away from it, but if there is any purpose at all in building these sanatoria or hospitals, it should be that of preventing the contagion and infection, and we ought forthwith to prevent persons, except those whose services are absolutely necessary in connection with the staffing arrangements, from going to the Papworth institution.
I come now to the question of the number of deaths. S Here, again, I am seriously concerned. I agree with the Minister when he says that the numbers suffering from T.B. are falling considerably, but we find that in England, Wales 1665 and Scotland, from 1926 to 1935 inclusive, 390,516 people died from tuberculosis. In England and Wales alone, according to last year's records, there was a total of 29,201 deaths from pulmonary tuberculosis and non-pulmonary tuberculosis. These figures perhaps do not seem to convey the correct impression and seriousness of the terrible scourge with which we are dealing, but it means that in England and Wales alone 562 people a week, or 80 people a day died from tuberculosis. I know that the Minister will agree that we ought not to be complacent and rest upon our oars. There is reason for the most serious consideration of this matter, and for the finest research we can employ in order to try to cut down this terrible scourge. One of the means by which we shall be able to combat this disease, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said, and the Minister has mentioned, is by the better housing and feeding of the people. We shall all have to die at some time, but the tragedy of the disease of tuberculosis is that the largest number of sufferers die between the ages of 15 and 45, when they ought to be in the prime of life. It is terrible to see them. I saw scores and hundreds of T.B. sufferers when I was a member of the tuberculosis committee in Lancashire, and if there is anything that I can do to try to improve the position I shall be glad to do it.
There is another point to which I want to draw the attention of the Minister, and I think that the Committee will agree that it has some importance. In spite of the improvement and the treatments which have taken place, there are still 315,196 people suffering from tuberculosis. It is a terrible state of affairs, when one comes to think about it. While we are throwing all the bouquets we can, let us recognise that we have that terrible white scourge still in our midst, and that those who ought to be the flower of the land are being taken off year by year when possibly there might be things that we could do to cut down the number of sufferers and strengthen the weaker citizens of this country. I do not know whether I shall be able to persuade the Minister to take action in this matter, and I do not want to be too critical in what I have to say, but a treatment was brought to my notice in London in respect of which I have seen some remarkable 1666 results. I do not know how it will turn out in regard to tuberculosis, because anybody who has had any experience of dealing with tuberculosis will certainly not be dogmatic. Certain results have been obtained as a result of this treatment, and I should like the Minister to go more fully into the matter. I know that he has, at my request, made some inquiries, but I would like to see the treatment more thoroughly investigated, especially in respect of tuberculosis. I know of one case where a sputum in the microscopic field of 40 to 50 tubercular germs, in eight months, had a negative after this treatment. It is very important if a patient can be brought to that state.
I do not want to pose as a medical authority at all, but if we could get this treatment adopted, and the Ministry of Health would only say that it could be used by the medical profession, I am convinced that many medical men in this country would use it forthwith. There are medical men who are using it now, but it is not on the list, and it is out of the reach of the ordinary working man and woman. I want it to be made available for panel patients and workpeople in this country. I have absolute proof of the success of the treatment in bronchitis, catarrh and asthma, and in cases so stubborn that they had resisted all forms of treatment by orthodox methods. Some cases were of 25 years' standing. I have two close friends, one of whom lives in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam), and they are full of gratitude for what has been done for them. I wish the Minister would go more thoroughly into this question. I think that it should be done in private rather than by stating the details and names of cases in this Committee. I would like to make the treatment more widely known because I have ample medical testimony for every statement I make on this treatment. I have seen results that are absolutely remarkable. I believe that I am the first to break the time limit in this Debate, but it is difficult, when one has prepared a speech of considerable length to cut it down.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
I want to deal briefly with a subject on which there is a great deal of feeling considering the number of telegrams that have been passed to me during the course of the 1667 debate to-day. It is that of the proposed additional ophthalmic benefits. The point that is raised with respect to the Additional Benefits Amendment Regulations comes before me, as it comes before the Minister, no doubt, as definitely a contest between the opthalmic surgeon on the one hand and certain persons in the benefit societies on the other, as to what is the proper way of administering opthalmic benefit. It is a most important subject, and I am not going to take sides one way or the other, but I am bound to bring before the Committee the definite feeling of those most qualified obviously to know the danger that there is by the examination of eyes for spectacles by opticians, who however eminent, have not the qualifications to be able to detect serious illness at the back of the eye. Owing to the difficulty that there has been, there was a doubt in people's minds as to whether it was right that additional benefit should be allowed from the National Insurance Fund for opticians to prescribe spectacles. Obviously it is the most convenient thing to be done from the point of view of the superficial provision of spectacles. The Departmental Committee on the Causes and Prevention of Blindness in 1922 stated quite definitely that…an official Register of Opticians would tend to mislead the public into thinking that registered opticians were competent to discharge functions which belong only to those who have had a medical training.Then again a Departmental Committee in 1927 very definitely said:We are not satisfied that even those opticians who are most highly qualified in all other respects are sufficiently trained in this respect.These two bodies, therefore, have taken the view that it is dangerous to allow this additional benefit to be given to a register of opticians, but apparently the Minister of Health is about to make a new departure and to allow a register of these opticians to be made out, which will certainly have this dangerous effect, that members going to it will think that they are going to persons who are competent to prescribe as regards the trouble to their eyesight. In 1927 there was this to be said, that the ordinary medical practitioner had not got any real provision all over the country to be able to deal with 1668 this question, but as I understand the point the ordinary panel practitioners have taken the matter in hand, recognising the difficulty of meeting the need of the insurance beneficiaries. They have got the Association of Dispensing Opticians, and the National Ophthalmic Treatment Board has been set up, with inclusive charges well within the means of those whose family income does not exceed £250 per annum. If that is so, and if that is sufficiently widespread over the country, I think it is a dangerous thing to allow this additional benefit to be given merely for treatment by those who are not qualified to find out the trouble at the back of the eye, and it is another instance, I am afraid, where the public may be put upon in some cases by those who are really not qualified to give advice.
There are two other points that I wish to emphasise. We have heard again and again with regard to the question of satellite cities, and I am sure the Minister himself agrees. Certainly the Prime Minister has again and again shown his interest in the idea of garden cities. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister signed a report in 1930, and there is no doubt that the case for satellite cities in general is agreed, but the real difficulty is to get them accepted and put into effect by local authorities. I understand that the London County Council recognise that they have power to deal with the matter, and I imagine that they are contemplating something of the sort down in Essex, but we heard nothing about it from the hon. Member who succeeded me, after some interval, as chairman of the Housing Committee of the London County Council, the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), in his extremely valuable, useful, and realistic speech to-day. I am afraid that the London County Council are again jibbing at the difficulty of putting the satellite city theory into practice.
What are the objections? They say that, although they have all the trouble involved in a satellite city, it will only account for a very small number of those with whom they have to deal, that London is migrating 100,000 persons every year into the surrounding country, and that if they are dealing with that number every year, what is the good of little garden cities that will only deal with 50,000 or 100,000 altogether and take 1669 years to establish? But that viewpoint mistakes the real intention of the whole garden city campaign as laid down 40 years ago by Lady Howard. She laid down the theory as a diagram to be followed as far as possible, and it is as a diagram that you want to carry this out into the whole of the town planning movement, and it is not being carried out at present. It is not simply in the establishment of a garden city here or there, although that would be the ideal, but it would be in the adaptation, as I think the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) suggested, of the whole town planning movement in that direction. Yet we see London spreading and sprawling over the countryside, with no attention paid to the matter.
Some authority ought to take hold at once of the centres that are being made by the arterial roads throughout the country. They will be the centres of the future communities, and yet they are allowed to be taken up by petrol stations, breweries, public houses, and caravan centres—I am speaking particularly of the Barnet by-pass—and spoiled. They are a splendid opportunity for the creation of community centres. I do not know who should do it. I hope the proposed revival of the Greater London planning authority, or something of that sort, may mean that such a body as that will see in what way this can be done. At present we are spreading ourselves all over the country higgledy piggledy, anyhow, and people are being thrown out into the country without belonging to any community. They are independent of the community, and there is a terrible future for them. They are being lost to all communities as a general rule. You want the community to grow up properly from the very beginning, on proper central lines, otherwise you get the appalling position which was spoken of by John Ruskin in 1849. He said:It is not possible to have any right morality, happiness or art, in any country where the cities are thus built, or thus, let me rather say, clotted and coagulated; spots of a dreadful mildew, spreading by patches and blotches over the country they consume. You must have lovely cities, crystallised not coagulated, into form; limited in size and not casting out the scum and scurf of them into an encircling eruption of shame; but girded each with its sacred pomoerium and with garlands of gardens, full of blossoming trees and softly guided streams.Now may I endorse the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Frome 1670 (Mrs. Tate) as regards the Scandinavian experiment in the treatment of venereal disease? The position requires to be argued, because it is quite clear that that experiment has obtained a position of almost complete immunity from syphilis and a very large reduction of venereal diseases generally, largely, it is claimed, by compulsory methods. Undoubtedly we have improved our position here with the inception of treatment centres, but the fact is that people come and make use of this great scheme, which has been rightly started, at great cost, but instead of carrying the treatment through, a large number of persons have failed to use the treatment to the finish. Of the nearly 50,000 persons who were discharged last year from the venereal disease clinic, only 22,000 had the final tests of cure, and nearly 20,000 ceased to attend before completion of their treatment. What is the result? They go forth to infect the community and in many cases to bring into the world infected children, who become the maim, the halt, and the blind. I maintain that the country cannot have that abuse of its services.
What action is to be taken? In the first place, education of one kind or another. Not nearly enough education is being given, and the Ministry of Health ought to exercise more pressure on the local authorities to keep up their quota of subscriptions to the Social Hygiene Council that has been entrusted by the Government in successive years with this particular service. We also have to consider very seriously the question whether it is not necessary to introduce some kind of compulsion either as regards notification or as regards the completion of treatment, treatment to a finish. The New York Commission has gone out and reported on the Scandinavian countries in this sense. We do not believe the case is proved, as the American Commission's report would suggest, for the adoption of a compulsory system, but it is foolish for us to blind our eyes to the results that have been obtained in Scandinavia, results which apparently we cannot equal in this country. We ask that this inquiry shall go forth to discuss in the same way the system in Scandinavia, and side by side with it to discuss the system in force in Holland, where they do not use compulsion, but where, by a voluntary system, they have also got results a great deal better than ours. They had II fresh 1671 infections per 100,000 last year instead of our 15 per 100,000 of the population. I believe that a commission of inquiry should be set up and that it would give us valuable results. It would enable us to compare the Dutch and Scandinavian systems and both of them with our own system, and I ask the Minister to give the small amount of money that is required and the permission for this two months' inquiry.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Henderson
Most of the discussion to-day has been upon the question of housing, which is, I think, inevitable, and references have been made to London, Letchworth, and, I think, Welwyn Garden City. Commendable as those efforts have been, I was grateful to, the right hon. Gentleman for even mentioning Manchester. In my judgment the development of the Wythenshaw estate in Manchester from the standpoints of location, construction, and amenities is one of the outstanding achievements in progressive housing construction in this country. I was also struck with the commendation which came from all parts of the Committee of the idea of schemes for housing aged people. May I mention a historic place in the North West corner of England, my birthplace, Carlisle? I think that if the right hon. Gentleman will look at his records, he will see that they have made very great progress in this matter, and I would ask for an investigation of the experiment. In Carlisle there has been a goodly number of houses built, with all modern amenities, for the all-inclusive charge—rent, rates, water, and light—of 4s. a week. I would like the Minister to go into that matter and to give a stimulus to some authorities who are lagging behind in this direction.
The Ministry of Health really exists to look after the preservation of the health of the people, which is of paramount importance, and secondly, to stamp out disease. While the right hon. Gentleman gave a catalogue of scourges that are happily being conquered to a certain degree, such as maternal mortality, infant mortality, tuberculosis, and cancer, there is one disease which has become more rampant year by year. I refer to the scourge of rheumatism and its allied complaints. While we are justly proud of our social 1672 services in this country—I would certainly not decry them, and what I now say is not meant in any carping spirit—I maintain that several Continental countries have outdistanced this country in the treatment of rheumatism. The vagaries of the English climate make our people susceptible to rheumatism, which is startlingly prevalent in large portions of industrial England, particularly in the North of England. One of the most astounding aspects of this ravaging disease is that unless it is tackled in its initial stages it becomes chronic. Unfortunately, as is the case in regard to tuberculosis, we have large numbers of people who are afflicted with this disease, and who, because they have not had prompt and proper treatment, are more or less human derelicts. They could not perform work if it was offered to them, their dependants at home suffer as the result of the loss of family income, and the funds of the friendly and approved societies are severely drained because these men are a heavy charge on them.
It is assessed by people who have given a close study to this scourge—I give the figures with reserve — that it costs £17,000,000 a year for treatment, that £20,000,000 a year represents the loss in industrial capacity and that 1,000,000 workers lose 5½ weeks per year employment, with the result that the funds of the approved and friendly societies suffer to the extent of many millions of pounds. These dire results are produced by rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica, arthritis and kindred complaints. Several Governments on the Continent of Europe, backed up by the municipalities, have established a network of spas and clinics, and the workers afflicted by this disease are encouraged in the initial stages to get treatment from radio active waters, from Q-ray active compresses, from manipulative treatment and other special treatments, and as a result they have largely conquered these cases when they have gone for treatment in the initial stages. In this country, unfortunately, we are lagging behind. There are not many of the leading hospitals which deal with the manipulative treatment of this disease, although there are a few. One of the most successful is situated in London, namely, the Manor House Hospital at Golders Green. There they have made a very intensive study of the disease and have produced some remarkable results
1673 The principal method of dealing with the disease in this country is by the Q-ray active compress, which consists of radium deposits from the radium mines of Czechoslovakia, and manipulative treatment, but the hospitals are crowded, they have not sufficient facilities, they are too poor in finances, and they have not the equipment for dealing with this scourge which, at any rate in the North of England, is increasing year after year. My own approved society, the National Union of Railwaymen's Approved Society, under Surgical Benefit No. 13, gives a contribution to its members who have a medical certificate showing that they are afflicted with rheumatism, sciatica or any of the allied complaints, enabling them to obtain the Q-ray active compress. This has proved a great boon to the railwaymen so afflicted who live a long distance from a hospital. It is beneficial in that they are able to get the treatment in their own homes. Only this morning I have seen copies of testimonials from members of our approved society. The general secretary informs me that 75 per cent. of the members who have obtained this Q-ray active compress have spoken of its effects in most eulogistic terms. They apply the compress in their homes and probably overnight it makes them fit to go to their work the following day. That saves wages, it prevents human suffering and it means that many key men who would otherwise be absent from work are at the bench or in the shunting yard with the locomotives next day. If that can be done in connection with a society of 140,000 members, what could be done with an insured population of 17,000,000?
I would urge the Minister to take a survey of this scourge and to organise, if possible, a national service of municipal clinics in conjunction with the local hospitals, where manipulative treatment and scientific treatment could be given. He might also encourage the very brilliant specialists in this country who are fighting a lone hand in trying to arrest the progress of this disease. I would further suggest that the approved societies cannot very well give a lot of these additional benefits because many of them are in an impoverished state, largely due to the Economy Act of 1926, passed by the Conservative Government, which cut down the contributions of the State from two-ninths to one-seventh. 1674 In 10 years that has meant a diminution in the funds of approved societies to the extent of £40,000,000. My own approved society of 140,000 members in one quinquennial valuation had a reduced contribution from the State in this respect of £80,000.
If the Minister could establish a national system of clinics, working in conjunction with the hospitals, and could restore the status of the approved societies to the pre-1926 level, the approved societies could make a contribution to the clinics and the hospitals and also a contribution to the research workers, which contributions would tend very largely towards the easement of suffering. The approved societies are only allowed to subscribe to three clinics for the treatment of rheumatism, one in London, one in Sheffield and another in Glasgow. This terrible scourge of rheumatism is no respecter of persons. Industrial workers in all branches are afflicted with it. In the Manchester district among several sections of cotton operatives the disease is very rampant, causing a great deal of human suffering and diminishing the income of the sufferer's family, with the result that the housewife and the children have to stiffer. I beg the Minister to take a more intense interest in this scourge, to have a survey and to encourage the medical profession, the hospitals, the research workers and the administrators of the great friendly and approved societies to deal with it. By that combination, as the result of a very meticulous survey, I believe that by this time next year much advantage would have accrued to the health of the nation.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Viscount Elmley
Before turning to the question of rural housing I should like to express the hope that the most excellent and interesting suggestions which have been made by the hon. Member for Ardwick (Mr. J. Henderson) will be followed up, because they opened out many important lines of inquiry. The problems of rural housing have not been discussed in the House for a considerable time. The most unfortunate thing about it is that to-day the local authority of the countryside, with the best will in the world, can do extremely little to meet its housing needs. It is true that there 1675 has been a great deal of housing legislation since the War, but it is equally true that the problem of providing agricultural and other rural workers with accommodation at rents within their means is a long way from solution.
I should like to mention the two chief reasons why His Majesty's Government ought not to lose a minute in trying to improve the position. The first was the very excellent speech made by the Minister of Agriculture yesterday. From that speech it was clear that it is the policy of the Government not only to keep people on the land, but, if possible, to try to get people to go out to the land from the towns. That will never happen if the bad housing of the countryside continues. Secondly, it has been proved beyond dispute that bad housing is the cause of many evils of body, soul and spirit. Those two reasons are the main ones why we should see that something is done as soon as possible. Regarding my own constituency, I have ma de what is admittedly a rather rough-and-ready calculation, and the result of that calculation is that one out of every 38 people wants to get a house and cannot get it. There are about 50,000 people in my constituency, and I have divided that by the number of applicants which the five local authorities have on their books. That gives me the figure which I have quoted.
It is very depressing to reflect that we are further from solving this problem than we were five years ago. At that time we had the effectiveness of the Housing Act, 1924, which was increased by the gradual fall in building costs. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say to-day that he was watching the increase of building costs at the present time. Five years ago we had the aid of the subsidy of £11 per cottage per annum, which enabled a rural district council to build and let a cottage at an inclusive rent, including rates, of 5s. a week. The subsidy was, unfortunately, withdrawn, and since then it has been found impossible in the countryside to build houses which will let at rents within the means of agricultural and many other rural workers. It cannot possibly be done under 8s. 6d. a week, and agricultural workers and many other workers of the countryside cannot possibly afford that rent out of a wage of 31s. 6d. a week.
1676 I understand that this was done because of a recommendation by the Moyne Committee. I have not read all the evidence that was given to that committee, and I have not read all the evidence on this particular point, but if anybody told the committee that houses could be built to let to agricultural workers without the aid of a subsidy, experience has shown the statement to be quite wrong. I remember at that time a very excellent article appeared in the "Times" expressing doubts because only two members of that committee had signed the Minority Report. They were Members of this House, and I understand that one of the reasons which made them sign the Minority Report was that they felt that it would be quite impossible to build houses without the subsidy.
The legislation we have at the present time does not go to the heart of the problem. On all sides to-day we have heard references to the Act of 1926. That Act is excellent as far as it goes, but it does nothing to increase the housing in a general way. It does several excellent things. It ensures that cottages which are reconditioned are let to agricultural workers at a reasonable rent for at least 20 years, and it can prevent cottages from becoming slums, but it cannot add a single house anywhere in the countryside to-day. To my mind that is its great defect. If there is a good result from the interesting book issued by the Ministry recently on this subject, it will not go all the way one would like it to. Since the Act started 11 years ago, only houses have been renovated in my constituency at a total cost of £1,600, and I dare say the same story can be told elsewhere. There are some local authorities which have not touched this matter at all. Another point is that one local authority may sanction a certain scheme and another may turn it down; there is no co-ordination.
The Act of 1930 shares the defect of the 1926 Act in that it does not increase the amount of accommodation available in the countryside. It does two things. It demolishes or effectively repairs unfit cottages and provides accommodation for those displaced. Lastly, there is the Overcrowding Act, a very complicated Measure, and it is not an effective instrument for getting houses built in the countryside. Happily we have not suffered so far from overcrowding like 1677 the towns, but I would give the Government this warning, that if the present position continues a great many more people will be drawn within the ambit of the Overcrowding Act in the countryside, and I am sure the Minister of Health will agree that it is a very unsatisfactory way of solving the housing problem to wait until people come within the ambit of the 1935 Act and only deal with them then.
Three main facts come out of the present position: first, that very little can be done, however willing a local authority is to help; secondly, that no cottage of good construction can be built at an inclusive rent of less than 8s. 6d. per week; and, thirdly, that local authorities can only build for workers who are displaced from unfit cottages and for agricultural workers who are living in overcrowded conditions. The large majority of people who are on the waiting list of local authorities to-day form only a small proportion of these. Rural district councils, therefore, have deferred their building schemes, because they know that many of the applicants on their list really cannot afford to pay a rent of 8s. 6d. This is having very unfortunate effects. In the village where I live I know three couples who want to get married, but cannot because they find it impossible to get a house. I know that it is not a question of money, but, unfortunately, in the end these people generally go and live with their relations, their "in-laws," often with most unfortunate results. Of all people, a young couple who are starting out on the adventures and troubles of married life deserve help and sympathy more than anybody else. I think it should be emphasised that the sort of houses required in the countryside to-day cannot be built without help from the Exchequer; secondly, that many people besides overcrowded agricultural workers and occupants of condemned cottages want rehousing. I would suggest an Exchequer subsidy equivalent to 3s. 6d. per week per cottage. It would make many of the complicated provisions of the 1925 Act quite unnecessary, and if it were done you would see a great deal more building done in the countryside. Local authorities who are considered ineffective, would immediately set to work and build houses to the satisfaction of everybody.
There is one further point which, I hope, the Minister will look into. I can 1678 give him many instances of it. It has often happened that cottages which are occupied by agricultural workers become vacant and are bought by speculative builders who rent them to what I would call rich week-enders at largely increased rents. There is a case in my own constituency where the rent of a cottage was put up from 3s. per week to 30s. If any hon. Member is interested in this matter, there was a letter in the "Times" yesterday on this subject. I could give the Minister many more instances of the same thing, and I hope he will look into it, because many of these cottages are in this way being used for purposes for which they were never intended, no good is done to the agricultural worker; indeed, much harm is being done. I ask the Minister to consider these two questions, and I hope when the report is presented to him that it will contain my ma in recommendation regarding a subsidy for rural houses. I am sure that progress will be very slow until we receive this help. When we are talking about large sums of money to-day and the vast sums that are being spent, it may seem that the proposal of a subsidy of 3s. 6d. per week is a very small sum, but I am sure it will do far more good than many people imagine, and it certainly will do a great deal to make the lives of those who live in the countryside much better and happier than they are to-day.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
As we have an agreement to limit our speeches to about 10 minutes, I think I had better leave out the questions of maternity and housing, with this one passing thought to the Minister of Health. In one Section of the 1935 Housing Act is says that the Minister "may grant" up to £5 per house for a period of 20 years to an urban district council. In another Section it says he "shall" for 40 years grant £6 where flats are being built. The one Section does not give him a choice, but the other gives him power in his own discretion. My own local authority, which has a 1s. 5d. housing subvention on the rates has made an application to the Minister for a subsidy and has been refused. He has refused entirely to give us any subsidy at all, not even the maximum of £5, or a minimum of 5d., although the authority has a housing burden of 1s. 5d. in the£. The local authority has built one quarter of the 1679 houses in the district, and he now says that it shall have no subsidy at all when at the same time he is pressing us to deal with overcrowding. In the future we have to build four-bedroomed houses to meet the 1930 Act and, therefore, I hope the Minister will give some consideration to this case. As far as maternity is concerned, the Minister knows my mind. I always look on the Minister of Health as the "optimisticitis" king.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The "optimisticitis" king; the most optimistic Minister that sits on that bench. That is why the Conservative party brought him in as propaganda king at the last election. The right hon. Gentleman can paint everything beautiful. He is exceptionally clever at it. During last year 2,979 women died in childbirth, and during the past five years a total of 16,385. The majority of them were working-class women. The Chief Medical Officer of Health in his report for 1933 stated that we could have saved 50 per cent. of these women, that is 1,500 women per year. I see in the White Paper issued last week that we have saved 200 women, and I was not surprised to hear the Minister say that he is not satisfied with the rate of progress we are making as far as maternal mortality is concerned. A very instructive inquiry is being made by the National Birthday Trust Fund, the Secretary of which is Lady Rhys Williams. She has just made an up-to-date inquiry in the Rhondda Valley, and she proves that we could reduce maternal mortality by feeding and nourishing pregnant mothers, and she supports the Chief Medical Officer's view that we could save 50 per cent. of these women.
Having dealt with those two matters I want to come to a subject which has not been touched upon and which affects Yorkshire, not London. Listening to the first five or six speakers I thought London was the only subject, that there was nothing else. I am taking the Committee to Yorkshire for a few moments. There would be no London if there was no Yorkshire. I want to take the Minister of Health right into the heart of the mining areas. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and myself have repeatedly put questions to the Government about the pit heaps which are on fire. In the 1680 middle Yorkshire county they are a disgrace to civilisaton. The Minister possesses the power to see that these things are wiped out. I want to give him a description of things in Yorkshire. In 1931 there were 45 pit heaps which were on fire, burning furiously, and in winter time you would think it was Hell let loose, blazing up into the sky, and the fumes brought ill health in the mining districts. In 1934, the Minister of Health asked that there should be another survey of the burning pit heaps in these districts, and in 1935 the West Riding set aside a special medical officer and three or four sanitary inspectors to survey the entire county. They found that 78 out of 142 pit heaps were on fire, and only the people who are living in the vicinity of these pit heaps understand the tragedy of it. One colliery company alone had five pit stacks blazing round a village, and fumes were given off into the village where the people were living.
The local authorities reported 28 different complaints from which people were suffering because of those pit heaps. In the constituency of one of my hon. Friends, there is a village which is entirely surrounded by these pit heaps. The fumes from them go into the village, and when the people go to bed at night they have to shut the windows, because if they left them open they would not get the benefit of fresh air, but poison would come in. Some eight years ago I was taken ill with quinsy, and had to stay in bed. Not far off there was a pit stack on fire. It was at Christmas time, and the manager of the colliery had gone to Bournemouth for his holiday. When he came back he said, "George, how did you go on at Christmas?" "How did I get on?" I said, "While you were getting a good treat at Bournemouth, I was getting your muck into my bedroom." It was impossible to open the windows because of the fumes that would have come in.
Let me give some figures to show what is the position. There are 129 houses which are only 100 yards from the burning stacks; there are 228 houses which are between 100 and 200 yards from the burning stacks; and there are 1,286 houses which are between 200 and 400 yards from the pit stacks. Multiplying the number of houses by four, we get the population living in the vicinity of the pit stacks. 1681 The Minister of Health knows that when it is left to the colliers and their wives, there is not much outcry about a low birth rate. If it were not for them, I do not know where the country would be. Therefore, taking an average of four persons in each of 1,600 houses, we have in our county, living near the pit stacks and suffering from the fumes which come from them, at least 7,000 men, women and children. I ask the Minister to look into this matter.
There is not a word in the report about the subject of diabetes. We have in this country not fewer than 200,000 diabetics. In the Debate last year, I asked a question about the wives and dependent children of State-insured persons being allowed insulin free of charge when they are diabetics. A State-insured person who is a diabetic gets his insulin free if he is not a voluntary State-insured person. If he is a voluntary State-insured person, he has to find his own insulin. If the wife of a State-insured person is a diabetic and is prescribed insulin, which costs anything from 10s. to 18s. a week, if her husband is working, no matter what may be his wages, she cannot get from anybody a penny piece with which to get the insulin. Only 10 days ago I visited in my own village a woman who had to spend 17s. 6d. a week on insulin. Because her husband is earning £3 a week, she cannot get any insulin from the public assistance department. In addition to the 17s. 6d. a week which it costs for insulin, she has to have a special diet which is different from that of her husband. I ask the Minister by hook or by crook to see that not only shall a State-insured person who is a diabetic get insulin free, but that his wife, daughter or son, when they are diabetics, shall also have that life-saver. I know from experience that it is a life-saver. I have not read about it, but experience it every day. I know that insulin is the greatest medical discovery of the last 20 years. It has brought happiness and joy into the lives of thousands of diabetics, and I am asking that the wives and children of State-insured persons shall have it.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
I cannot claim any special consideration from the Committee on the score that I am about to make a maiden speech, but I ask for a 1682 little consideration in that it is my first speech since coming back to the House last March, and if I take a little longer than the ration which hon. Members opposite have allotted themselves, I hope I shall be forgiven. In the first place, let me say what a pleasure it is to me to find my old friend the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) sitting on the Front Bench. We have known each other for many years, and his promotion has given tremendous pleasure to all his friends. When I told my hon. Friend that I intended to raise a certain subject in this Debate, he said, "Bowl me an easy one." I assure him that if he merely accepts the suggestion I shall put to him, I shall consider myself in for a "six."
As the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) referred to maternal mortality, I feel that I am entitled to say a few words about it. Yesterday I was talking to one of the most eminent —if not the most eminent—gynaecologists in London, and when I told him that I hoped to speak in this Debate, he said there was one thing he wished I would say about maternal mortality, and he gave me a paper he had written on the subject. I think that he and many of his colleagues feel that the Ministry are losing a sense of proportion with regard to maternal mortality. They feel that too much stress is being put on ante-natal treatment and not enough emphasis is laid on the importance of skilled attention at the actual time of birth. In this paper he says:If the discussion, money and thought which have been devoted to ante-natal care in its relation to mortality during the last few years had been expended upon intra-natal care we should be able now to claim that definite progress had been made.He goes on to say—If this suggestion is correct, the answer to the question 'How can maternal mortality be reduced?' lies in improvement beyond all measure in the standard of treatment given to the woman in labour; not instead of but in addition to the efforts that have been made in the direction of ante-natal care. But reverse the present system. It is the specialist who should be looking after the actual confinement and the practitioner doing the ante-natal care.He goes on to remind people that childbirth is "a major surgical procedure." I am not an expert in medicine but I hope that the Minister will bear that point of view in mind. In passing, may I say that I do not think any debate 1683 on these questions should pass without some reference being made to the tremendous benefits to all women which have been brought about by the efforts of Lady Baldwin with regard to anaesthetics. I think hon. Members on all sides will agree with that remark. Personally, I feel that the solution of the problems of maternal and infantile mortality lies in educating the lay population.
So much for that subject and I pass to one which is perhaps not so important. It is a question of amenity. I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to the question of saving the English countryside, our beauty spots and our ancient and historic buildings, from defacement by ugly advertisements. I do so all the more gladly in view of the attack which has been made in this Debate upon the prevailing tendency to pen up our population in towns and, above all, in high blocks of buildings. Personally, I regard it as nothing short of tragic that the majority of our population should be losing their country background. We cannot all live in the country, and it would not be desirable that we should do so even if we could. But it should not be forgotten that the foundation of the English genius is to be found in the country. I do not think it is a mere coincidence that the greatest Londoner in fiction died babbling "of green fields." I regard the English countryside and the whole attitude towards life that is bred by it, as one of our most precious heritages. I feel I shall have all hon. Members with me when I say that every effort must be made to preserve intact the beauties of our rural areas.
This is, of course, not the first time that the question has been raised here. The first Measure which sought to deal with the problem was the Advertisements Regulation Act of 1907, which passed through all its stages to Third Reading without debate, and at the Third Reading there was such a thin House that a count was called. That Measure gave power to local authorities to make bylaws, and "local authorities" under that Act, as under the later Act of 1925, meant county councils, borough councils, and urban district councils with areas of population of over 10,000. That first Measure was extended by the Act of 1684 1925, and it is a sad commentary on the lack of interest in the subject that the 1925 Act also passed through most of its stages without debate. The extension of the original Act was due largely to the efforts of the Scapa Society. Both those Acts were optional and not mandatory on local authorities, and no standard form of by-law has ever been laid down for local authorities. I admit that the majority of the by-laws that have been passed under those Acts are satisfactory. As far as the county councils are concerned, there has been 100 per cent. of success in inducing them to pass the necessary by-laws. As far as the borough councils are concerned, only 22 per cent. have passed the necessary by-laws and of the urban district councils only 28 per cent. have done so.
Two points emerge from this. There are practically no means of inducing local authorities to do more than they want to do in the passing of by-laws, and there are no means of inducing them to see that by-laws are carried out and observed when they are made. I think there is something fundamentally wrong in the method of the House of Commons of dealing with certain problems by giving optional powers to local authorities and saying that they may or may not do certain things. I think it makes legislation a farce. Further, these two Acts are, generally speaking, limited to the rural areas. There are no steps possible by which we can save the amenities of what are called urban approaches. Apparently there is no method, for instance, by which one can prevent advertisements on gable-ends or walls in towns.
So much for the legislative side of what has been done. Those Acts were supplemented if not preceded by an agreement, arranged through the good offices of the Scapa Society and the Royal Automobile Club, between the four leading petrol companies not to put any big advertisements on country roads. Again this was a most admirable idea, but, as might be expected, its value has been undermined by other petrol companies who do not subscribe to that agreement. To-day the signatories to the agreement complain that they are facing great difficulties in carrying it out, owing to the activities of their rivals. At the risk of boring the Committee, I must refer to one other factor in the legislative attempts to deal 1685 with this problem. That is the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932, which gives power to the Minister to schedule lands in respect of advertisements. But there is also a catch in that. That is only as part of a general planning scheme, and until the scheme, as a whole, has been accepted by the Ministry, the prohibition of advertisements does not come into operation.
I do not wish to waste the time of the Committee or try out my inexperienced eloquence on the desirability of saving the countryside from defacement and defilement, but I must point out that this is not purely a matter of sentiment. There is great commercial value, from the tourist point of view, in our countryside. It is not only one of our most precious spiritual heritages; it is a practical heritage which can be turned to good account in getting foreigners to visit our country. In Coronation year I need not stress that point. At any rate, in spite of the Acts of Parliament and the agreement to which I have referred, the evil of defacement exists, as every hon. Member must agree. In 1935, for example, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England conducted a census, and along the road between Hounslow and Bath they found 154 large signs and advertisements. In Lancashire the local branch of the council reported that there was hardly a gable end in the whole county which had not an advertisement upon it. It would be foolish and wrong of me to condemn advertisements as such. They play a valuable part in our commercial life, but they must be in their proper place. My own opinion is that companies which rely upon publicity would lose nothing if, by general agreement, they refrained from advertising in places where advertisements mean the defacement of the countryside.
There are only two possible solutions. One is compulsion, which would mean that permission would have to be obtained for every advertisement put up. It would be out of order to suggest such a measure in this Debate and in any case I think it would be an impracticable proposal. I think that it is impracticable and would be such a nuisance that it would defeat its own object. But, in considering legislation, there are certain questions I wish to ask the Minister with regard to the administration of the laws that deal with this problem. Would he 1686 be good enough to ask the Home Office, who are responsible for this branch of the law, whether local authorities which have made by-laws under the Acts of 1907 and 1925 enforce them satisfactorily? Will he see that urban authorities, especially with regard to the approaches to towns, are encouraged to make the fullest possible use of the Acts? What use has been made effectively of the Town Planning Act? In fact, what areas have been saved under it from defacement by advertisements? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that local authorities are asked to make periodic surveys of the situation and report to him? Will he consider how to deal in general with the problem of urban amenities which are not covered by existing Acts? Turning to the idea of voluntary agreements, I should like the Minister to tell the House whether the voluntary agreement is still in force, what companies adhere to it, and why some companies which use large-scale advertisements are outside it. If only a few companies belong to it there is a temptation to break the agreement, but the temptation is removed if it is generally adhered to by all companies.
Finally, I want to make a suggestion to the Minister. Will he use his influence to secure the calling of a conference to see how this question can be dealt with? Most of the work in calling such a conference could be done by bodies like the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and the Scapa Society. It is a question about which there is practical unanimity, but, judging from the interest taken in it, whether in this House or outside, it is one of those questions about which people do not feel strongly enough to act vigorously. I beg the Minister to use all his energies to call together such a conference. I am certain that it would not be without avail. As I see it, the state of the country in these respects proves one of two things—either that the present powers at the disposal of Government Departments are inadequate, or that they are making insufficient use of those powers. Although in itself this is a minor problem compared with many of the great matters that have been discussed to-day, it is worthy of the attention of the Committee and of the Minister of Health, and I beg my right hon. Friend to direct all his efforts towards finding a satisfactory solution.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Quibell
The Minister made a very interesting and comprehensive statement on the work of his Department. In some respects, as he confessed, it fell far below his expectations. Many of us who have had some experience of it and have had some disappointments in regard to the administration of public health, will agree with him that it has fallen far short of what was expected. I was much interested in some remarks that were passed by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson). We are in this House continually considering new Measures. On the Committee stage Ministers are very anxious to get them through, and very often the fullest consideration is not given to them. I believe that if the Measures on the Statute Book were efficiently administered, they would effect a revolution in local government. It would be a great advantage if there were fewer Measures which were better conceived, more fully considered, and, above all, efficiently administered when they were passed.
The three problems of housing, water supply and sewerage works in the rural areas are related to one another. The housing of the people in the rural areas of England is in a shocking condition. Anyone who lives in a rural area and has been brought up in it, as I have, must see the shortcomings of the local authorities in the administration of the Public Health Act. I notice in the Ministry's Report that one of the weaknesses in rural local government, although it is being gradually eliminated, is the fact that in some places the medical officer of health is a part-time officer who has to get his living in some village, and is called upon to attend his landlord as patient one day, and to be faithful to his duties and serve a notice on him to close his property on the next. Conditions in which a man's public duty conflicts with his private interest in that way ought once and for all to be ended. I am not casting any reflections on medical officers of health who, in difficult circumstances, have done their work very well and been efficient officers, but it is not fair to a man to put his bread and butter in jeopardy by asking him to carry out some of the laws in regard to the closing and reconditioning of houses.
I have heard many tributes paid from the Government side to private enterprise 1688 in rural housing. As one who gets his living in that way, I am willing to throw bouquets in that direction, too. Anyone engaged in industry, however, knows that private enterprise cannot solve the difficulty of the man in the countryside who wants a house to rent. Take some of the houses erected under the 1930 Act. I do not know who is responsible for the inspection of those houses, but I have taken the trouble to look at some of them. The nation is paying a subsidy of £11 a house for them. I would rather it had been given to the local authorities. I wish I could take the Minister of Health to look at some of the houses about which they boast. They look more like barns. There is no sewerage disposal system. The sewage merely drains into a cistern, and is not dealt with in any way. In one particular case the houses which are receiving this subsidy have a water supply from two wells, one of which was full of sewage which came out of the drains, because there was no septic tank and no overflow. Who is responsible for the inspection of such places? I reported this particular case to the Minister, and I must pay him this compliment, that he said he would immediately take action. But that instance could be multiplied by the dozen. As to the quality of the houses, some of the tenants told me that the old houses they had left were preferable to the new ones we have put them into.
In my opinion the Government should take their courage in their hands and give the rural authorities a subsidy in order that they might be able to house agricultural labourers. The difficulties of the agricultural workers have not been solved. Many of the houses to which I am referring are not occupied by agricultural workers. Some of them are let at 5s. or 6s. a week, plus the rates. They are now as high as 10s. The rates in the rural areas adjoining the town of Scunthorpe, from which I come, are actually higher than in the town of Scunthorpe, owing to de-rating, and consequently these houses, which were intended by the Ministry for agricultural workers, are not occupied by them. In the whole of that area with, I think, two exceptions, it is not agricultural workers who are living in those houses. As regards housing no real attempt has yet been made to do for rural England what has been promised times out of number.
1689 One of the difficulties which the Minister said his Department was tackling lies in rising prices. I hope the Government will tackle the question, because the Government are more responsible than anybody for the increase in prices, which are the outcome of the policy they have pursued. I was in conflict with the Minister on one point in connection with prices. In my experience the increase comes somewhere near to about 10 per cent.—a pretty considerable amount. According to the Minister's statement the increase was somewhere about 8 per cent. He spoke of timber, but that is only a small item in a house. Light castings, lead and copper are the things that have increased in price more particularly as a consequence of the policy of the Government. Light castings are the subject of a trust. The party opposite have always been the friends of trusts and therefore I hope the Parliamentary Secretary is listening to what I am saying. Lead at one time increased in price by 100 per cent. The Government should look into this question, and see what justification there is for lead being nearly double its former price.
I was very much interested in the Minister's statement that an increasing number of houses are built to be let. In my experience of the building trade, which is a long and intimate one, I find that no one who builds a house is letting it, except as a last resource and because he has not been able to sell it. If he lets it he only does so under compulsion, because he does not usually build to let but to sell. The Government ought to take immediate steps to remedy that situation. I cannot allow to pass without comment the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) who has such a regard, even an affection for the cottage with the little rose tree growing round the outhouses. If only he went to some of the old cottages in rural England where you see a rambler rose in front and a bit of ivy somewhere else—my word, if he could look behind the scenes and see what the roses hide he would not talk in that way.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith
I was present during the speech of my hon. Friend. He was talking about little houses in London, and not about country cottages.
§ Mr. Quibell
But I am certain that in the case of many of the little houses in London the same remarks apply. We have heard an appeal for the preservation of the little cottages in the country, and it is said that greater advantage ought to be taken of existing legislation in dealing with them. There is a weakness there. Some of those very old cottages were built in the days when there were no such things as damp courses, and you could not really recondition them without pulling them to the ground. We should be spending money on houses which would inevitably be damp, because they had no damp course. The Committee should not come too quickly to the conclusion that the right course is to renovate some of those derelict houses, because having no damp courses and with the other conditions which apply to them, it is almost impossible, in some cases, to convert them into substantial and healthy homes for agricultural labourers.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Bossom
This Debate has been marked by more sympathy and understanding than is apparent in many of our debates, because on the Ministry of Health Vote we all come right up against facts, and, as a rule, know personally what we talk about, and that is not always the case when other subjects are under consideration. On this subject we are realists and not theorists; we get down to facts and real cases. I want to congratulate the Minister, who has that valuable faculty of putting first things first. In his closing words the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) said there are many old houses which are not worth saving. I agree, but we ought to be sure that we save those which are worth saving.
The Minister of Health has to deal with many important problems—maternity, child welfare, housing, slum clearance and pensions, etc. It is a huge array of subjects to be handled by one Minister and one Parliamentary Secretary. In my judgment it is too much for one Minister and one Parliamentary Secretary, and I think that, following on the example of 1691 the Board of Trade, there ought to be at least two Parliamentary Secretaries to handle the work of this Ministry. Judging by the remarks which we have heard from all sides of the Committee, I feel that we know that anything which the Minister has touched he has improved by the touching of it.
I will try to confine my remarks to planning and preservation. I know that the Minister has great sympathy with us in these matters; he has said so in discussion and in answer to questions. I want to call attention to one or two of the weaknesses of the Town and Country Planning Act which, although very comprehensive in many respects, has not been satisfactory in its working to preserve those things worth preserving. In a Debate upon a private Member's Motion on 18th November of last year, in winding up for the Government, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health said:I can, however, give my hon. Friend and the House this assurance, that we are fully conscious in the Department of the need for getting on with the job."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1936; col. 1881, Vol. 317.]Again, on 10th February this year, on the Debate on a private Member's Motion on the preservation of our charming sites, beautiful buildings and that sort of thing, the entire House was absolutely unanimous. During all the years that I have been a Member of this House it was the only occasion when I had not heard one Member antagonistically criticise the general point of view that was being expressed. Everybody was in favour of the Motion. The Parliamentary Secretary accepted the Motion in these words:Meantime I am authorised to say that we accept the Motion, and will continue in the Department to carry out the type of inquiry referred to in the Motion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1937; col. 472, Vol. 320.]Last week, on 2nd June, I asked what progress had been made in this matter, what had been done in the way of inquiry, who had been on the inquiry and what were the findings. The answer I received was:Investigations are being carried out in my Department as indicated by my predecessor in accepting my hon. Friend's Motion on behalf of the Government, and my right hon. Friend is proposing to take the views of the Town and Country Planning Advisory Committee." 1692 —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1937; Col. 1021, Vol. 324.]It is something like seven months since this matter was first raised. I know that the Minister is in sympathy with this object because he has frequently expressed that point of view. Nevertheless, seven months have gone by and no result is forthcoming, and now he is proposing to ask the Advisory Committee. When we debated this matter of preservation last time, the Parliamentary Secretary said that we had been rather remiss in not bringing examples to his attention. All I can do is to refer him to any newspaper. I am sure that no newspaper would publish matters that did not interest the public. If he but examines any leading paper he will find weekly some example of buildings being wrecked, destroyed or about to be destroyed. He said we should educate the public; there are now existing about 150 or 200 bodies throughout the country doing their best in that direction, and I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary, who is, I understand, to reply on this matter to-night, that if the Ministry wants to see the answer to this situation, I would quote the words which are to be found in the basement of St. Paul's Cathedral and which refer to the memorial to Sir Christopher Wren:If you would see his monument, look around you.That is the case with the destruction of historic buildings and beautiful countryside, etc., to-day. If the Ministry want to see the facts of the situation, let them not ask the Advisory Committee, but look around and it will be evident that the Town and Country Planning Act and other Measures do not sufficiently protect the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said yesterday that one of the greatest difficulties encountered in the House of Commons was in changing an official viewpoint. I admire and respect the point of view of many of the officials, local and otherwise, but as regards town and country planning, I am afraid they have both indicated and proved their point of view by their attitude, and by what they have done and do. Town and country planning advisers are advertised for regularly. The town of my hon. Friend who, I understand, is to reply to this Debate, recently advertised for a town 1693 planning assistant and offered £4 5s. per week. I think you would find that dustmen gangers as a total pay receive £3 17s. a week. In other words the man who has to advise where factories are to be placed, where the roads shall go, where to put housing estates, what to preserve and what to allow to be destroyed is expected to do the work for 8s. per week more than is paid to a ganger dustman. I know that does not represent the attitude of the Minister, because I have heard him on many occasions, but he has such a vast range of subjects to look after, that he has more than any Minister with only one Parliamentary Secretary ought to be expected to do. I am making a suggestion that we should have a second Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. The Board of Trade has three Parliamentary Secretaries. The Ministry of Health is one of the biggest Departments in the Government and ought to have at least two Parliamentary Secretaries.
On this subject I will not say we are like Nero fiddling while we burn our capital, but I will say that to a large extent we stand idly by, watching the beauty and charm of our historic countryside being ravaged. We ought not to allow this condition to continue. As has already been remarked, the Town and Country Planning Act is optional, and not compulsory. While that is so, I am afraid the present conditions will go on. Hon. Members must not forget that it puts financial obligations upon the smaller authorities that they cannot meet. They cannot begin to pay the compensation which is contemplated under the Act. The matter ought to be taken up upon a much broader and bigger basis if we are to preserve the things that we have valued and have been given to us, particularly so if we would hand them on to our children.
Acts of Parliament may be made, but if they are not enforced, they will not stop the acts of the vandal. The Town and Country Planning Act is not being enforced, being optional. When the Minister said this afternoon that three-fifths of the country was under general control, I thought that, as a matter of fact, very satisfactory, but is it not the case that only something like a half of r per cent. of the area of the country is under complete control. General control 1694 is not enough. This figure of approximately one-half of 1 per cent. was given by the Ministry not so very long ago. Although the three-fifths is all in the right direction as we must get control started, but final control is what is essential. Without final control complete planning cannot be put into execution. Time is a vital element in the matter. Will the Minister advise the town and country planning authorities of the country to pay enough to secure well equipped and capable advisers who can co-ordinate the town and country planning, housing, slum clearance, transport, recreation, sewage, lighting and all kindred activities in their area and will he also appoint another Parliamentary Secretary, especially to look after either housing, a subject which deserves a complete department, or town and country planning? If such activities had their special Parliamentary Secretary he could find out what the country possesses. He could get the various parts of the country to find out what they possess, to see what is worth saving and to save it, and let the other parts go. We have reached an important time in the town and country planning of the nation. We have to make improvements, we are in a changing age, and there is no one more capable of directing the changes that come under his Department than the present Minister of Health. I congratulate him tremendously on all that he has done, but I would like to see him put his touch on town and country planning, and do for that what has been done for most of the other matters which have come under his direction.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I want to enter what is perhaps a discordant note. The debate has been going on fairly smoothly in regard to housing, and it would appear as though everything in the garden was lovely, but my submission is that, while a tremendous amount has been done in regard to housing, the rate of progress has largely been because, up to 1930, when the Labour Government took a hold of the problem, practically nothing had been done for housing, so that while, as I have said, a considerable amount has been done, and the progress appears to be rapid, it is only rapid in the sense that up to that time there was nothing in this country more neglected than the housing conditions of the working classes. 1695 If that argument is disputed, we are in a position to give concrete proof of what I am saying, because there are still large numbers of people in our colliery districts and elsewhere who are living under conditions which ought to make us all blush with shame. The Minister of Health is probably the most admirable man that any Government could place in that position, and he is able to tell his story in a most likeable way, but I feel bound to make these criticisms.
An hon. Member opposite smiled when I was giving credit to the Labour Government in regard to housing, but he will not question that it was the Labour Government that was responsible in 1930 for laying the foundations of slum clearance. There is a considerable amount of perturbation in the minds of local authorities in regard to the slum clearance problem as it stands at present. Prices are rising, difficulties are being met with in regard to supplies of materials, and other factors are arising which are slowing up the programme, so that a considerable amount of work still remains to be done before we can remove the slums about which the Minister spoke so feelingly when he said that we cannot be satisfied until we have seen the last of these houses. Nevertheless, at the moment, the local authorities have only the assurance that the subsidy will continue until December, 1938. I wish that the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary could give some assurance that, while these disturbing and hindering factors are in existence on account of the armament programme, we shall be able to complete our programme of slum clearance.
There is another point on which I want to find fault. I believe that the greatest mistake was made when the general housing subsidy was withdrawn. Much has been said here to-night about the part that is being played by private enterprise in the building of houses. Personally I believe—I may be wrong—that the general subsidy was withdrawn for the sake of the finance companies, who had a great deal of money at their disposal at a time when industry was languishing to such an extent that there was no avenue for investment. I believe that that was one of the reasons, and that another was the necessity for coming to the help of the building societies. But what has happened? All over the country to-day we 1696 find that people are building houses in the form of flats, and the owner is living either downstairs or upstairs, as his fancy takes him, and putting a tenant into the other rooms to buy the house. If the figure of 71,000 which the Minister mentioned to-day were analysed, I would guarantee that it would prove to include very many cases in which the owner of the house is living in it, either downstairs or upstairs, and there is in the other part a tenant who is really paying for the house, thus defeating the very object which the affable Minister of Health announced to-day, namely, the building of houses at rents which people of the working class can afford to pay.
In a modern flat to-day, with a tenant upstairs, the rent is somewhere between 12s. and 14s. Let me take the case of an ordinary working man—not a man on the means test, not a man on standard benefit, but a man who is working in the pit, who is probably earning no more than £2 a week, and is meeting the very desirable wish of everyone to-day in view of the fact that in 100 years there are only going to be about 4,000,000 people in this country. If he has three or four children, and earns £2 a week for a full week's work, then, deducting 13s. 6d. for rent, the family will not have much more than 1s. per head per day to live upon. How are we to have an A.1 nation under those conditions? How are we to have nutrition? How are we to avoid having mulnutrition if that be the position? That applies not only to the man who may be working on day work, but to people like piece coal fillers on the conveyor face, who probably have only 10s. 6d. a shift to take home. Therefore, I think it was a great mistake to withdraw the general subsidy, which was enabling our councils to build houses to be let at rents which working men were able to pay.
There is another aspect of this matter. Last week-end we were laying the foundation stone of aged miners' cottages, an idea which goes back for many years in Northumberland and Durham, where men conceived the noble plan of providing houses for their aged fellows before the State and Government did, and we carry on the work that they have handed over to us since they have passed on. We shall see in the near future the erection of these houses in which aged miners will be able to live rent free. But that does not meet the need, for, while we have 1697 probably nearly 400 houses in that category in Northumberland, we have 1,000 men on the waiting list. As the Minister said, we need houses, but we need also classification of houses. I believe it would go a great way to help housing conditions in two ways, as it says in this report, if we were to give a subsidy to councils to meet the need of small houses for aged people. When we take the rent into consideration we might at the same time remember that with two aged people, one 65 and the other 61 there will be only one getting a pension. Therefore there will be only 10s. a week coming in. There is a crying need for action by the Government and it is not well that we should be so complacent as long as we have these sores in the body politic.
§ 9.18 p.m.
The question of the provision of small houses for old people has been discussed by a good many speakers and the Minister made it clear that he was very well aware of the real need that exists for this type of house. I understand that he has from time to time endeavoured to make local housing authorities equally aware of this pressing need. I wonder whether he could tell us what success his efforts have met with in this direction. A certain number of these small houses have been built by local authorities in some of our large towns, but I do not think any of them have been built in the country districts; I am sure that in many of our villages there is a very large number of old married couples living in houses which are really too big for them and who would welcome an opportunity of moving into a smaller house, thereby creating accommodation for married couples with families who are now living in rooms or with their in-laws or having to put up with some other unsatisfactory makeshift.
Several speakers have referred to the week-ender who is coming into the country, buying farm labourers' cottages and turning them into week-end residences. I wonder whether the Minister would tell us whether he proposes to take any action to stop what is really a very serious evil. These people who come into the country for week-ends are really of no use to the districts where they come. They take little or no part in the communal life of the neighbourhood, and the fact that they are taking away working-class accommodation means that they are 1698 throwing a very heavy burden on rural district councils, which probably are not in a position to build houses to meet the needs. I think the Minister might consider the possibility of making regulations or by-laws to ensure that anyone who buys a property and alters its use in this way should be obliged to provide alternative working-class accommodation.
There is another point that I want to raise in connection with old age pensioners in Poor Law institutions. As far as I am able to understand the position at present, a pensioner who goes into an institution for medical or surgical treatment is allowed to retain his pension, and he pays seven or eight shillings of it to the local authority. Similarly, a pensioner who is drawing outdoor relief is allowed to retain his pension, which is taken into account by the public assistance authority in assessing his needs. But apparently when an old age pensioner is too infirm to look after himself and has no one else to look after him and he goes into a public assistance institution, he automatically forfeits his pension, and I understand that the local authority has no power to give him pocket money or a small allowance while he is there. I believe the Minister has been approached on a number of occasions by local authorities on the point but, so far I understand, he has shown no disposition to give way. In fact, I have heard it said that on this subject he has shown himself to be extremely hard-hearted, which is a most unusual epithet to have applied to that particular Minister.
I wonder whether he would be prepared to empower local authorities to make a small allowance of 1s. 6d. or 2s. a week to infirm inmates of these institutions. Whatever may be said about the comforts and amenities that are provided for these people, I think everyone will agree that their lives nine times out of ten are very drab and extremely monotonous. I believe this fact is recognised by a number of Poor Law authorities, who actually give pocket money to their inmates. How they manage to get round it I do not know. It may be that the Minister turns a convenient blind eye on this practice, but there are many other local authorities which either do not want to give pocket money to their inmates or are afraid of being surcharged by the district auditor if they do so. I think 1699 that the Minister might be well advised by legislation or the introduction of regulations to empower and if possible to direct local authorities to give some allowance of this kind to their infirm inmates. If something of this kind could be done the Minister, at very little cost, would be doing a great deal to brighten the lives of these people and to give back to them some illusion of the independence they may have lost.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Colonel Nathan
This afternoon the Minister of Health depicted with a broad sweeping brush the achievements during the past year of his Ministry. I thought that he exhibited with a rather less bold gesture some of the deficiencies and shortcomings and the problems of the future. I wish to address myself to one particular problem taken in isolation and, in a spirit not so much of criticism as of interrogation, to ask a few questions of the Parliamentary Secretary, whom I congratulate on his appointment and wish good fortune in his office. The question which I wish to put to him, with its ancillary questions, is this: What does the Minister conceive to be the extent of the problem with which the Government are confronted so far as it relates to overcrowding and slum clearance? What do they consider is the number of houses that require to be replaced or built? I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary would agree with the figure of somewhere between 450,000 and 500,000 as the immediate proved need.
I will tell him how I arrive at these figures. In the comprehensive and interesting survey of overcrowding published in 1936 it was stated that the number of cases of overcrowding was upwards of 340,000. To combat that amount of overcrowding would require 200,000 houses. Then the Minister, in an address at Harrogate on 27th November last, stated that the number of families, not persons, to be displaced from 363,000 slum houses would require a very large amount of building: it may be as much as 400,000 houses, making a total of 600,000. The number of houses completed towards that 600,000 to 31st March was 138,000, leaving a balance of 460,000 as the immediate proved necessity. I would like to know whether the Parliamentary Secretary agrees with that figure, and how long he thinks it will take to achieve it.
1700 It may be of some assistance if I say that during the 17 years from 1919 to 1936 local authorities actually provided 914,000 new houses, an annual output of 53,800 houses. Sometimes the figure has been less, sometimes more. As the Minister said in his opening speech, the present rate is about 5,000 houses a month. There is likely to be a slight slowing down, and it would be safer perhaps to reckon on not more than 50,000 during each of the coming few years. The continuous expansion of industrial building in connection with the Government's rearmament programme and the absorption of skilled labour which that has entailed make it unlikely that the local authorities will be able to secure an accelerated output, and, indeed, a diminished output is more likely. That means that it will take eight or nine years before the proved immediate requirement is achieved. The figure of 450,000 to 500,000 houses takes no account of thousands of other houses that are required for attacking the second line of slum clearance and the prevention of overcrowding if and when industries spring up or are moved to new areas, and it takes no account of the normal increasing requirements of the working classes.
Even so, the standard of accommodation on which the calculations are made is meagre. It is based on Section 58 of the Housing Act, 1936, and the Minister stated in a recent memorandum that it does not represent any ideal standard but the minimum which is capable of immediate or early enforcement. An examination of Section 58 shows that for a five-roomed dwelling—two living rooms, three bedrooms, with certain floor areas—on a formula prescribed by the Act, no fewer than 18 persons can be asked to find their home there and still be within the law. The Committee might be interested to know how I arrive at the figure of 18 persons for three bedrooms as being within the law. It is 10 persons for five rooms under the Statute. Children under ten count only as a half each, and infants do not count at all. Father and mother, two adults. Six children count as three adults. A baby does not count at all. Nine to one family. Nine count as five for the purpose of the Statute. Twice nine is 18, and under the Statute 18 souls may live in three bedrooms.
1701 The reason why that extraordinary situation arises is that under the Act living rooms are included as being capable of being used as bedrooms. The relevance of the figure is that the present immediate requirement of 450,000 to 500,000 houses is based on the footing that living rooms may be used for sleeping also. The report on overcrowding gives, not the figure of 341,000 as the number of overcrowded cases, but 853,000 as overcrowded cases if the standard adopted is that bedrooms only, and not living rooms, are to be used for sleeping. These figures emphasise the need for taking the swiftest possible action to deal with the worst cases of overcrowding. I shall be glad to know what the Parliamentary Secretary has to suggest as to that.
In recent months, as has been pointed out, the price of capital and also the price of building have risen. In March of this year the rate of interest on advances from the Public Works Loans Board to local authorities was increased from 3¼ to 3½ per cent. In the case of flats in London, such as those referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), that means an advance of 8d. per week in rent, and in the case of the ordinary house it means an advance of 4d. a week in the rent. In answer to a question put by me a fortnight ago, the Minister of Health stated that the average cost per foot super of a non-parlour house contracted for by a local authority had risen from 8s. 2¼. in 1935 to 8s. 10¾d. in March of this year. Prices seem likely to rise further in the next few months, and the Minister's requirements, taken into account with the increase in prices, make it fair to say, and indeed the Minister's own figures corroborate this, that there will be an increase of £40 in the actual cost of the house, involving a further increase of 8d. in the weekly rent over and above the figure which I have already mentioned. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to be good enough to tell us what steps the Ministry is taking to ensure some measure of control over the prices of these houses? Can he also tell us what steps the Ministry is taking to ensure supplies of materials without involving delay in the erection of houses. There are other questions which I might well put to the Minister, but I am anxious to keep to the arrangement that has been made, and, therefore, I leave the matter with these questions.
§ 9.38 p.m.
I should like to pay my tribute to the excellence of the statement of the Minister and of the report of last year's work. There is one comment which the Minister made in his speech upon which I wish to base my remarks this evening. He said that in the autumn he would initiate a campaign of "Use your health services." Is he entirely and absolutely satisfied that he has in his possession a detailed statement of the provision of health services as apportioned out by all the various local authorities? Because before embarking upon a campaign of "Use your health services", with which I am in entire agreement, it is important to know whether there are adequate health services provided by every local authority. I do not wish my remarks to-night to be interpreted in any sense as a criticism of the administration of local authorities. On the whole, the officials and the local councils carry out their responsibilities in a very efficient and a very enthusaistic manner, but it remains to be said that, in places like London, one is able to supplement by the various voluntary organisations, if so required, the health services of the various borough councils, whereas in places in the depressed and other industrial areas, and in the rural and agricultural areas, there are no such services upon which the local authority can draw.
I want to quote one or two personal experiences of the lack of the very health services upon which the Minister has laid such very great stress this afternoon. In some local authorities the administration of health services is divided. I know where tuberculosis administration is in the hands of one authority and the ophthalmic treatment in the hands of another authority. There is the case of a child who had an accident at the age of four. By the time it was 10, the two local authorities had not arrived at a conclusion as to which was responsible for the treatment of the child. The fact remains that at the age of 10 that child had received no special treatment whatever, and was not able to read or write, and had had no education of any kind. The Minister specifically referred to the treatment of tuberculosis. Only last week I visited a house where a girl of 10 was in plaster of paris up to her hips. She was obliged to lie on a couch no wider 1703 than this bench. She had been told by the medical officer that she ought to have open-air treatment, but it was not possible to give the child open-air treatment because the sanitary inspector had to be called in to clear a pipe which was giving off a very objectionable smell. The window always had to be closed in order that the child should not inhale the fumes from the pipe. In addition, at night, three boys and two other girls occupied that room, and treatment was held up pending the decision of the local authority to find some suitable place to receive the child. I wonder sometimes why parents dealing with cases of that kind remain sane. There ought to be immediate provision made and before you advertise. "Use your health services" it will be as well to find out whether there is adequate provision in places where cases of that kind can occur.
The other case I would cite is that of a boy who, at the age of 15, was acting as an office boy and was told that if he learnt typewriting and shorthand before lie was 16, he would be kept on at the office of a very well-known firm, and that it would mean a permanent job for him. The family were quite unable to provide the necessary fees for his tuition, and arrangements were made by the local education committee to see that the boy was taught shorthand and typewriting at no cost to the parent. It was then discovered that the boy could not take advantage of the free tuition offered at the expense of the State, unless he was provided with new spectacles, because he could not see properly. It was quite impossible, as there was no provision to provide the boy with glasses. He was in the position that either his eyes would be strained, or he would be dismissed from his job and probably would never be able to get employment again. I took the matter up with the Ministry of Labour, and they said that there was no possibility of providing glasses through the Unemployment Assistance Board. They referred me to the Board of Education, who said that there was nothing that they could do, except that they wrote to the local education committee who, I think, said that as the boy was no longer at school, they could not do anything about glasses. But the councillors on the local 1704 education committee found the money out of their own pockets.
In the meantime, the Board of Education handed the case on to the Ministry of Health, who wrote to me and said that there was an Act which gave power to local authorities to introduce treatment for the prevention of blindness. I put down a specific Question to the Minister of Health as to whether the local authority involved had made use of the powers which Parliament had conferred, and I was told "Yes." But the fact remains that the education committee attached to the specific local authority had no idea that there was any power under which spectacles could be provided free to that boy. At the time that it is intended to initiate a campaign of "Use your health services" we should, first of all, have a detailed survey of what health services are available to see whether local authorities are not only taking advantage of the powers which they can use, but also whether they have the necessary finances to enable them to take advantage of the powers conferred upon them. Then, when the Minister has in his possession the whole of the facts, he should run, side by side with his "Use your health services" campaign, a campaign for the local authorities, to find out how far their powers can be amplified, and whether they are taking full advantage of those powers.
I very much appreciate the detailed attention that my right hon. Friend gives to every small detail that is put to him. It is perfectly magnificent, and on one occasion, when I said that I was not satisfied with certain health services of a local authority, and that I did not think they had sufficient money to provide them, he sent down an inspector, who reported that an assistant medical officer of health ought to be provided, that an additional sanitary inspector was necessary, that the health visitors ought to pay increased visits to children between the ages of two and five years, and that special attention should be given to expectant mothers, if required, during the period of expectancy and not only at the eighth month. Those were four very important recommendations, which the Minister himself conveyed to the local authority, and I am very glad and proud to say 1705 that when the local authority received them, they took steps to implement them. The point that I want to emphasise specifically is this, that if something had not been said to the Minister, he would never have realised that these very important services, which he considered requisite, were not available for the population which was served by that local authority.
I hope that when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, whom I most heartily congratulate on his elevation to the Front Bench, winds up the Debate, he will give me some answer to these points. If he will forgive me one personal observation, I feel that I cannot resist the opportunity of saying that while he was a back-bench Member he took a great deal of delight in criticising the operations of the women Members of the house, that we did not always perhaps do our jobs as well and as thoroughly as we ought. At any rate, his main point was that we had no specific achievements to our credit. I suggest that here is his great opportunity. I am sure that he is of a very gentle nature and that he would like to make good the deficiencies of the women Members, and if, after my few remarks, he can say that he will give due consideration to the points that I have put forward and have that detailed survey made, he will have removed the blot from my character.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I desire to speak, shortly, on some aspects of the Minister's work that were dealt with by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom). I agree with nearly everything he said, with the exception of his proposal that there should be appointed another Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, because if every aspect of public life were adequately dealt with in the way of appointments of Under-Secretaries, I am inclined to think there would not be a single Member on the benches opposite who was not an Under-Secretary of one kind or another. There are, as a matter of fact, too many Ministers at the present time, and I am sure that, with the able Ministers that the Government have at present—there is no doubt of their ability, whatever we may think of their efforts —they are quite capable of doing their work.
1706 I desire in particular to ask the Minister of Health to consider the present position in regard to national parks. Great interest is taken in this question throughout the country by millions of people who spend their holidays in the open air and who are anxious to see every possible step taken to preserve existing areas and to encourage their pro vision in still greater numbers. The recent history of this matter has been that a Debate was initiated by me in the month of December, when a unanimous resolution was passed by the House asking the Government to take certain action in the matter. As a result of that Debate, I took to my hon. Friend's predecessor a deputation of a number of very distinguished gentlemen who give their time to various aspects of this work. The whole question was thoroughly gone into, and examples were put forward, in detail, of the way in which the present operation of the Town and Country Planning Act was not able to give the results that were desired in this connection.
Everyone who has given thought to the development of national parks and to the operation of the present machinery has, I think, come pretty well to the same conclusion, namely, that there should be central guidance of some kind, it may be on a very advanced scale, by legislation, or it may be in a very modest way indeed, but all agree that there should be some help and direction from the central Government. The matter might be dealt with in various ways. We should like, first of all, that the Government should implement the report of the National Parks Committee of 1931. They made two recommendations. The first was that there should be a body with considerable powers spending £100,000 a year; alternatively, they put forward a proposal that there should be a body on a more modest scale, spending £10,000 a year. We should like one or other of those proposals adopted, but if the Government cannot see their way even to going as far as that, I most seriously want to urge upon them that a practical step that they could take—and it would be a very useful step—would be to set up a purely voluntary body of persons interested in this matter, without any statutory or coercive powers at all, a body which would concentrate their whole attention and throughout the whole of the year to the creation of interest 1707 in national parks, so as to make the local authorities throughout the country and those who are interested in this question realise that there was somebody looking at the question as a whole, that the Government attached importance to it, and that Parliament had taken the step, in the first place, of setting up this voluntary body for dealing with the question.
It might be that if you started on this very modest line, experience would show that further powers were necessary, and in our usual way of development in this country you might go a step further after the passage of a few years, and in the course of time you might get the full recommendations of the National Parks Committee carried out. But let us begin on this very modest scale, which would not require you to do anything other than to appoint a committee and to take the very great interest in the matter that I know my right hon. Friend does take. I think it would be desirable in this connection for him to make, as I hope he will do at an early date, a speech devoted to this problem, stating the enormous importance which the Government attach to the question, and urging that everybody affected should consider most carefully the best way of dealing with it, in order that people can be made to realise the importance of the question. I think those two modest steps would do a great deal to begin with and would give great satisfaction to the many people throughout the country who are giving their time voluntarily in most cases to the development and consideration of this question.
As the hon. Member for Maidstone said, if you are really going to deal with this matter in due course on a big scale, money will be required by way of compensation. Many of these authorities would like to zone certain areas and preserve them from building development, but they cannot do it with their present limited powers, and at some stage certainly it will be necessary for a grant to be made for that purpose. The proposal would fit in well with the Government's plan for the development of national physique, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend, who has done so much and is so keen on the development of affairs in his Ministry, could not do better than add further to his prestige and success 1708 by working on a matter—if I may put it on such a ground—that is going to gain the Government a good many votes. It will be a very popular thing. Of course, that is not a matter which my right hon. Friend would ever stoop to consider for a moment, but if he did allow it to percolate through to his mind, I am sure he would realise that no more popular step could be taken from the point of view of the National Government than to get a move on in regard to the development of those national parks. When one thinks of the great open spaces that exist In the Peak district, the Lake district, in the Snowdon area, in Dovedale, in Cannock Chase, and in an area in which I happened to be motoring last Saturday, the Vale of Neath, with its beautiful waterfalls, Brecon and the Black Mountains; when one thinks of these valuable assets, it must surely be the desire of the House to take every possible step to preserve them for the nation for ever.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
I confess to a sense of regret that this Debate is drawing to an end. It has been one of the most pleasant, most instructive and most interesting debates that the Committee has had for many months. It is an indication of the general health of Parliament that the House of Commons can devote itself with such deep interest to an examination of our national policy as revealed in the report we are discussing. There has been a general appreciation of the way in which the Ministry of Health has carried out its administrative duties. We find in the report much detail which gives consolation and confidence to every one who is interested in the larger questions of the national health as well as the building up of the national physique. The report, with its varied contents, covering more than 300 pages, is a revelation and disclosure of the kind of work in which Parliament has been engaged almost surreptitiously, almost clandestinely, without the knowledge of the country, building up a huge fabric of social services which are shown in this report to be working in a most excellent, effective and efficient way. I am sure that the House will desire to devote further time in this Session to a discussion of the report. I do not think that we shall finish the debate to-night. We shall ask permission to resume the debate later in order that we may come back again to the various 1709 aspects of a situation which time has not permitted us to discuss to-day.
The Committee is very anxious to develop and make use of all the facilities to which reference is made in this wonderful report, which covers every aspect of our national life and shows the very wide remedial measures which Parliament has been building up. The contents of the report ought to be made more widely known to the people of the country. The Minister of Health, fortunately, need not be urged to let his light shine. He does it in a scintillating way, without shock, and with adequate brilliancy and persistency. His light never goes out; it is always visible and always occupies the centre of the limelit stage. We can afford more publicity for his Department, and the House generally must join in that task. The Minister has asked that the propaganda should be non-party. The speeches to-day have shown health to be above party and a recognition that health is an aid to happiness and efficiency for the individual, and a source of great benefit and wealth to the nation as a whole.
In the report we find a vivid picture of the struggle with the dark forces of disease, and it is very appropriate that a report which covers such a wide list of subjects begins with the water supply, that cheap, abundant, indispensable liquid which we have never learned to value as highly as it deserves. In this country we do not realise how much our health, our productivity, our lives, our prosperity depend upon the abundant water supply with which nature has endowed us. I should like to put a few questions to the Parliamentary Secretary on the question of water supply. Even though we have abundant rainfall and we can generally rely on a constant water supply, we have not been able to make efficient use of a system of distribution.
As we all know, this problem affects particularly the rural districts, and I regret that to-day the claims of the rural areas for water supply have not found full expression. Rural water supplies have been very lacking. No organisation has yet been built up for conferring upon the rural authorities and districts the same amenities and comforts in this respect as have been conferred upon the urban districts, and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to say something about the progress which has been made in providing 1710 the rural areas with water supplies, and the number of schemes, it he has the figures available, which have been framed in the last two or three years for this purpose. The question of a national water supply is one that we shall not discuss adequately to-night, but some time or other we must return to that question. We have from time to time made claims on behalf of a national system for the utilisation of our water resources. In the days to come more mechanisation and more highly developed industrialism will compel localities to have wider recourse to water supplies and will compel the coordination of machinery by which abundant water will be provided for our towns and cities. The allied question of our public cleansing system, our baths and sewers, is a very vital question which we cannot adequately discuss to-night.
I should like to say a few words on the next question in order of importance, and that is the absence of pure air. Reference has been made in the Debate to the pollution of the air from one cause and another. The right hon. Gentleman in his summary of the elements of nutrition said that first in the order of importance was the necessity for pure food. Then he said that the other necessities were pure air, rest and sleep. He said that those were the four elements of nutrition, but he omitted a fifth element, which I am sure is never absent from his mind, and that is a healthy philosophy of life, which must be at the root of a solution of our health problems. What we are trying to do and what we have been trying to do ever since the Ministry of Health was instituted is to build up a state of health in which everyone in the nation shall participate and enjoy. But before we arrive there we must remember that large masses of our people are subject to diseases which are preventible.
The Minister of Health has rightly said that the purely medical side of health must be provided for the individual by the State and voluntary organisations. To deal with the problem of sickness is vital, but I am sure the Committee will agree with me that more important than the question of adopting right methods and planning remedial measures on a large scale is the problem of poverty. It is easy to give instructions on the means of improving the condition of health of the individual, but it is never easy when poverty oppresses the individual, deprives 1711 him of the essential means of obtaining health and also deprives him of the courage and the hope and confidence which are essential. The questions of poverty, of bad conditions at home and at work are all highly important in the battle to which the right hon. Gentleman summoned us in his concluding words, eloquent, forcible and inspiring words. He referred to it as a battle against disease. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are ready to join him in that battle. We recognise that we have everything to gain by victory over disease. We represent special interests which suffer more and lose more by the neglect of health than any class in the community, and we shall join him in his battle-cry of "Health against disease."
But eloquent words are not enough. We must think in concrete terms. Hon. Members have discussed the questions of housing and rents, and wages and subsidies. All these various questions hinge upon one another and form part of the general problem of poverty. Without greater purchasing power on the part of the masses of the people there is no possibility of a large increase in the standard of our national health. The Minister's figures and the whole of this report simply reflect the poverty of the great mass of our people. It is often said that poverty brings disease, but that is not an accurate representation. Poverty is a disease, and it manifests itself in various forms, due to lack of purchasing power and the lack of contact with the essential things necessary to health and life. It has been well established that one-half of the people of this country lack the means of obtaining the optimum quantity of food. Those who have been familier with poverty know how little the large masses of the people have to spend on physical sustenance, and the Minister of Health will not be doing his duty in the cause of health unless he joins in the cry for higher purchasing power which will enable the masses of the people to spend more on the better foods grown in this country. The national products of our soil are the best foods for our people, but they cannot be obtained; you cannot pay the producer a fair price unless you increase the purchasing power of the people.
Although this does not arise directly from the report, we shall be blinding 1712 ourselves and following futile paths if we do not keep in mind the relation between purchasing power, nutrition and the standards of health. I have listened to most encouraging speeches, including that of the Minister of Health which was highly encouraging and leads one to hope that we shall succeed in this effort, which is not to be a party effort, to improve the standard of national health. I do not think the party opposite will neglect it; if they did it would be at the expense of the people of the country. At the same time I want to draw attention to one or two items of neglect. I would warn the Committee against succumbing to the dolorous expectations about failing to deal with one disease or another. We have repeatedly heard of the little progress we are making in the fight against tuberculasis and against lunacy. I believe both these diseases would speedily give way if we had the will to organise a proper food supply and give those vitamins which we are now beginning to appreciate at their right value. We are beginning to recognise that there is something in the selection of foods to meet various conditions of life and various physical conditions to which mankind is subject.
I feel sure that we could make great progress in the battle against tuberculosis. In Wales we have the heaviest incidence of tuberculosis in the whole British Isles, and the hon. Member for Montgomery-shire (Mr. C. Davies) told us of his visits to villages in his constituency which saddened me very much. He described the condition in village after village, the school conditions, the housing conditions and the employment conditions, which must lead to disease and poverty. There is no escape from tuberculosis unless we make a determined effort to remove the causes of the disease. I am sure also that rheumatism would give way to suitable measures. The Minister of Health is responsible for a very attractive little document—everything he turns out in the form of literature is highly attractive. He in a good propagandist, and this little document has great propaganda value not only for his own side but for the country as a whole. I am glad he has taken the trouble to write a preface and be responsible for the document. On the first page it deals with some common defects of structure, and begins with dampness. It reads: 1713A great many country cottages are damp. Dampness is a serious defect. It causes rheumatism and bronchial diseases; it rots the building, the furniture, the linoleum and the carpets.The first statement is vital. I remember the house in which I spent my early years. I would hate to go back to live in it, although I have a kind of affection for the house and the place in which it stood. There was a large garden attached to it and in spite of the wretched house, the green food from the garden helped us to maintain our health and to survive the wretchedness of the hovel. The house was dark, miserable and gloomy, and not a ray of sunlight found its way into the rooms; but living in that house gave us a taste for outdoors which helped us afterwards. As boys and girls we had to live outside because the house was so wretched.
That is the sort of house in which millions of my fellow countrymen are living. If anybody tried to invent a punishment for me, it would be to make me live in such a house. I could be punished in many ways and would survive, but I should give way to despair if I had to live in such conditions of dampness, lack of light, and so on, which are the lot of many people to-day. I think the Minister has impressed the House to-day with the seriousness of his devotion to his task. We welcome his holding that office for a little while until we are ready, and then we shall bid him a fond farewell; but I hope that now that he has taken the Committee into his confidence, he will also take confidence in the Committee, and will listen to hon. Members on this side. I have never heard better speeches in the Committee than I have heard to-day. I have never heard more comradeship in an attempt to put the case for the dispossessed, the large mass of poor people in this country, who cannot buy the good things of life or even the good things of health, and for whom there must be some organisation.
I would like now to refer to one or two special diseases. The hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) and the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) called attention to the prevalence of one of the worst diseases which afflicts mankind—the filthiest and most terrible disease—venereal disease, which takes such toll upon life and efficiency in this 1714 country and is the cause of so much pain and horror. Venereal diseases are not being diminished. There is a sham prudery and modesty about venereal diseases which we ought to set aside. We ought to grapple with this problem. I am not afraid of advocating compulsory notification of these diseases, nor am T. afraid of advocating compulsory treatment, with due protection, safeguards and modesty. I am sure that the Minister would do well to pay heed to the request made by the two hon. Members, with whom I heartily associate myself, for an investigation into the means by which compulsory notification of these diseases might be brought about in this country with the minimum of shock and with the greatest degree of modesty, but with the determination to do all we can to prevent and to stamp out these horrible diseases. Norway and the other Scandinavian States, with few of the natural advantages and the great resources which we have in this country, but with a purity of political purpose and with a desire that the people should have strong clean bodies, have attacked the problems of drink and social hygiene in a way which is an example to the rest of the world, and one which we ought to follow.
There are various industrial diseases which also call for attention but to which I shall not refer on this occasion. But I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies to say something on the points which have been raised about amenities. Life is not all drab and life is not all a matter of housing and such things. There is a philosophy and an appreciation of life which includes a love of beauty and a recognition of the healthy influence of living in beautiful surroundings. I have often felt myself the better for being in the presence of beauty, and I hate to see that disfigurement of our countryside to which reference has already been made in this Debate. I believe that the beautiful South of England is more disfigured to-day than any other part of the country. In Wales to-day we would not tolerate ribbon development and the other influences which are disfiguring the country. We have set our faces strongly against that disregard of the amenities which is so prevalent elsewhere, which strikes one in the eye, which almost gives one a physical pain when one witnesses the desecrated beauties of our wonderful country. I ask 1715 the Parliamentary Secretary to make some reference to the question of the preservation of amenities in relation to the new housing estates.
May I also add my voice to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hems-worth (Mr. G. Griffiths) and others who have spoken about the ugliness and the poisonous fumes associated with certain industrial areas. There are industries in the North and in the Midlands and also in South Wales, which are responsible for polluting the air and the water in those districts in such a way as to bring ugliness and disease into every part of the country where they are situated. We in Swansea have suffered, because in the past we had metallurgical works emptying their poisonous fumes into the atmosphere, destroying trees and vegetation and even the plants and the flowers in the windows of the cottages. We hear stories of similar conditions in the North. I do not believe that the Minister has no authority to deal with these matters. If he has not the authority now, he can very quickly get it from Parliament. The conditions which have been described to-day as existing in many industrial areas are a disgrace to all of us here, but a disgrace more to the Government than to hon. Members on this side. We have protested, we have called attention to this matter, but for the moment authority lies with hon. Members opposite. They are responsible and they must make up their minds to tackle this problem of the pollution and poisoning of the air in which many of our people have to live.
A great task awaits us. The Minister has a great responsibility. He is at the head of the central authority for dealing with these questions. The local authorities already have much to do and they are doing it very well. Generally speaking, in many respects they are in advance of the Ministry of Health, but I hope that the central administration will now give a lead on all questions concerned with safeguarding the health of the people. Health is the most valuable asset both of the individual and of the nation. I hope that the local authorities will continue to play their part and that every individual in the House and every individual who has any influence outside the House, win also play his part for the next four or five years. In five years we could by united 1716 efforts effect a revolution in the health of the people of this country. I hope that this Debate will stimulate interest in this subject and will strengthen the determination of each and all and not least of the Ministry, to help in building up a higher standard of health and efficiency, and happiness among the people of this country.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Bernays)
I am sure that I shall have the sympathy of the Committee as the most junior Minister having to reply to this very interesting Debate. When my predecessor spoke on this subject last year he was able to say that he had been four years in my office. I have had the honour of holding it not much more than four days. Therefore, it will not be easy to reply to the very varied topics that have been raised, and I hope that the Committee will forgive me if on this occasion I have to keep rather closely to my notes. My unfortunate position reminds me of a conversation I had, when I was recently in Africa, with a Sudanese schoolmaster who had been over here to examine our educational institutions. In the course of his tour he had visited Eton, and I asked him, "What did you think of Eton?" He said, "Oh, I thought they were proceeding there on the right lines." That is rather what I feel, having listened to the Debates and my right hon. Friend's speech; I feel that the Ministry of Health is proceeding on the right lines. Probably, however, the Committee would like a rather more detailed answer than that.
The difficulty I find is to discover any connecting link in the various subjects that have been raised, and I have realised perhaps more than ever before the journalistic genius of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in coining the name "Ministry of Health," because all these varied services are directed to the one purpose of improving the health of the nation. Nothing has improved that health more than adequate housing, and it is with the questions that I have been asked on housing that I will deal first. I will take first a very easy ball that was bowled to me—there were some difficult ones later—by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan). He asked me whether 1717 I could not agree that 460,000 houses was the approximate number that was required, and I would certainly agree with him on that. He asked me, also, how long it was proposed that the campaign to obtain these houses would last. My answer to that is five years. There my agreement with him ends, for he seemed to imply that a brake was being put on municipal housing by my right hon. Friend in recent months.
I can only reply that the number of houses completed during last year—about 70,000—exceeds any output of recent years, and that the number of new houses which are being approved from month to month remains quite steady. I have the figures here—January, 4,800; February, 6,300; March, 5,30o; and April, 6,400. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that there is a slowing down of the process. Not a bit of it; it is slowly increasing. It is only in individual cases where the particular tenders are unsatisfactory that a brake is applied. The figures I have just quoted prove that this control, which is necessary to protect the tenants of the new houses in regard to their rents, is not in fact retarding the general output of slum clearance houses. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Wandsworth raised the question of the rate of interest. I agree with them that it has increased from 3¼ to 3½ per cent, and that that may well mean an increased rent.
I do not in the least want to be provocative on this question, but I would remind hon. Members opposite that, though the rate of interest may have increased from 3¼ to 3½ per cent., when the Labour party were in office it was 5 to 5½ per cent. The fact that it has come down is a big factor in the progress made with housing development and a great tribute to the fruits of the financial policy of the Government. [Laughter.] It will not be so easy to laugh that off in the by-elections.
§ Mr. Bernays
I was asked what my right hon. Friend was doing about this 1718 slight increase in the interest rates. The rate of interest is dependent upon general financial conditions, and obviously is not a matter within departmental control. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) then raised the question of the building cost of houses, and said this matter was a direct concern of my Department, with which, of course, I agree. The main problem at the present time, when general building is intensively active, is to endeavour not to overload the market, and that is why my right hon. Friend has occasionally to turn down new tenders. Local authorities ask for tenders at a time when the building market in their district is overloaded, and the result is lack of competition and bad prices.
An interesting question was raised by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) when he asked me what I proposed to do about the amenities in these new housing estates. It is a problem which is very familiar to all of us who sit for urban constituencies. Many of the tenants in these new housing estates undoubtedly miss the life and colour of the crowded streets they left behind, and for all the increased air and space in their new houses they do find their surroundings rather drab, being far removed from the local cinema, away from old friends and with no centre of corporate life. My Department is most anxious to make good the deficiency in amenities. The Minister of Health and the President of the Board of Education issued a circular dealing with community centres and recommended their provision. Special action was taken by the housing department to secure that the circular came to the notice of the larger local authorities in their housing capacity. We have taken such action as is practicable to encourage community centres, and I understand that some 40 local authorities are at this moment busy in establishing them. I can assure the hon. Member that action on these lines will be encouraged, and I know that my right hon. Friend will be very grateful for any suggestions that hon. Members opposite or in any part of the House may make as to how we can assist in improving the amenities of these new housing estates.
While still on the subject of housing, I come to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane). I should like to thank him 1719 very much for the kind things he said about me. In the past he and I have, perhaps not infrequently, done a little hunting of junior Ministers ourselves, and it is a very pleasant thing to hear that my hon. Friend sympathises now with the hunted. He raised the question of compensation in slum areas. This has been debated on several occasions. The principle has never been departed from that compensation is based on the condition of the house, and not on the means of the occupier. The Act of 1935, as my hon. Friend knows, gave special allowances for houses which, though unfit, had been well maintained. He asked for a return of grants made by local authorities for compensation, and I am in a position to inform him that my right hon. Friend is having returns prepared and will be glad to give him the necessary information. I think there is no reason to suppose that the powers of compensation are not being exercised by the great majority of local authorities. He asked, too, whether there could not be some independent appeal in the case of those slum owners. I think he will recall that this question was well threshed out on the Committee stage of the Bill, that it could not be altered without fresh legislation, and that there is no reason to suppose that the judgment which the House gave on that occasion by such an overwhelming majority would be altered now.
I come to a subject, also associated with housing, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), that of the Advisory Committee on Planning for the Metropolitan Area. The Advisory Committee is no longer in existence, but a new organisation is being set up which will secure adequate consultation on questions of common interest. The hon. Gentleman raised the question also as to how much authority the new body would have. The reply is that it will not have any authority at all, because it is purely an advisory committee. The local authorities are the executive bodies in these matters. The committee will have at its disposal an officer appointed by the Ministry of Health, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will carefully watch its operation. The question of jerrybuilding was raised by the hon. Member for Peckham and he asked what the Government 1720 were doing about it. Within the building industry, an organisation has been set up under which builders will register and become certified builders. My right hon. Friend is giving every encouragement to the scheme and has appointed observers upon the committee. It was launched only a few months ago, and it is yet far too early to give any details as to the result. Naturally, the Minister will watch its progress with the greatest sympathy.
Now I leave housing for the moment and come to another central problem which has always appeared in the Debates upon the Ministry of Health vote, that is nutrition. The hon. Member for Gower said that half the people were without the optimum diet; I am sure he will agree that that does not mean that half the people are suffering from malnutrition. This very important question of nutrition is one in which I have always taken a great interest and have spoken upon frequently. The figures given in the latest annual report of the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the Board of Education are very illuminating in this connection. They show that, out of 1,680,000 school children examined, only 0.7 per cent. were suffering from definitely bad nutrition and only 10.6 per cent. from sub-normal nutrition. Those are very remarkable figures. There is also the encouraging fact, which gives the lie to the assertion about the deterioration of our national physique, that the general death rate has fallen by one-third during the last 25 years and that the death rate from tuberculosis and of children under one year of age has been reduced by a half in the same period.
In a speech on this subject of nutrition the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), whom we so much missed on the Front Opposition Bench to-day, declared that he was not going to pretend that malnutrition was very widespread, although, he added, it was a real problem in certain areas. It is a problem, and we can legitimately claim that it has been tackled with energy and effect in the last few years. My right hon. Friend stated in great detail to-day what is being done under the milk schemes, and I need not add to what he said, except to take up a point raised by the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon). I am 1721 delighted at being face to face with the hon. Gentleman to-night, because I remember at Cambridge once debating with him at the Union, and by some odd freak he spoke then on the same side as myself. I quite forget, however, what the subject was. I am certainly going to speak against him now. He said in the course of his speech that nothing was being done about money for these milk schemes, but that really, if I may say so, does not represent the facts. The grounds of financial stringency which prevented some authorities from developing this service as fully as they desired have been relieved by the additional financial assistance afforded by the recently passed Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act, which not only increases the total amount of the block grant by £5,000,000, but applies that sum to the areas that are most in need of assistance.
There is a subject connected with another aspect of nutrition that was mentioned by my right hon. Friend. I refer to the provision of facilities for recreation, which is so vital to the development of health. The hon. Member for North Camberwell, who raised this question, contended that we needed more playing fields, and he wanted to know what the Government proposed to do about it. He quoted a paper by my right hon. Friend in which he said that we wanted more playing fields, but my right hon. Friend not only wants more playing fields, but is getting them provided. It is true that the action in recent years has been taken by local authorities, but they cannot go very far without my right hon. Friend. This is well illustrated by the increase in the loans sanctioned by my Department. In 1926, the total amount of loans sanctioned for this purpose was £1,260,000, whereas the corresponding figure for the past year is approximately 3,200,000. Again, in 1926 the area of land acquired by local authorities for purposes of recreation was 2,050 acres, including 325 acres for playing fields, whereas for the past year the comparable figures are over 9,000 and 1,000 acres respectively. In this connection I might mention that during the past year over 500 acres have been presented to local authorities or the National Playing Fields Association for open spaces and kindred purposes. So far as the Government are concerned, it 1722 may be anticipated that further assistance will be available through the National Council and the Grants Committee contemplated by the Physical Training Bill, but, of course, that is a question for the Education Department.
Another question in relation to the urgent matter of bringing the joys of the countryside to the urban dweller is the question of satellite towns. It was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), and by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green. This question was dealt with by the Departmental Committee on Garden Cities and Satellite Towns which was appointed by the Labour Government in 1924. The recommendations included the establishment of a National Planning Board, which afterwards, I think, became the basis of the plans of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in his proposals of 1935.
The main suggestion in regard to these satellite towns was that the larger local authorities at the appropriate stage should be encouraged, and, if necessary, compelled, to make further outward development in the form of planned units outside the town, separated by adequate areas of open land. What we have been asked to do to-night is to develop that system and to carry out those recommendations. The instances of Welwyn and Letchworth garden cities have been raised, and we have been asked why we cannot apply experiments of that kind. These garden cities were started by public utility companies, and I understand that the suggestion made to us to-night is that these garden cities should be established by local authorities. That is quite a different thing. It would be quite contrary to our system of local government for London—to take an example—to establish an administrative council in Hertfordshire, which would in fact be an urban community surrounded by another administrative council. I am sure that that argument will particularly appeal to the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green.
§ Sir P. Harris
There is the example of estates like Becontree, which could very well have been converted into a satellite town.
§ Mr. Bernays
I rather doubt whether very many hon. Members want to see another Becontree. The operations which 1723 local authorities are carrying out are doing much to secure the objects which hon. Members have in mind. After all, town planning is planning to secure proper sanitary conditions, amenities and- conveniences. The increasing use of joint committees means the extension of planning for larger units.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
They are doing nothing to marry factories to residences, and that is the whole essence of the thing.
§ Mr. Bernays
Houses are being built under healthy conditions, after all, on the outskirts of the towns, and this policy will be continued and encouraged. With the existing organisation, and working in accord with the sympathy of established authorities, much is being and can be done. I am sure my right hon. Friend will examine the proposal of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) with regard to national parks with the greatest sympathy and see whether anything can be done on the lines that he suggests.
Now I come to another topic relating to the spread of amenities, the question of the control of advertisements. I am sure we were all glad to hear the second maiden speech of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson) and to welcome him back to the House. I agree with a great deal that he said. These advertisement hoardings are indeed dreadfully ugly, and my right hon. Friend is most sympathetic to the demand that effective measures should be taken to check these abuses. In spite of what the hon. Member said, substantial powers are already in existence under the Town and Country Planning Act. In addition there are those which are operated under the Home Office by-laws, which only control advertisements in beauty spots. Every local authority making a planning scheme —and two-thirds of them are—can specify in the scheme areas which are protected against abuse of amenities by advertisements, and once a scheme is in force then they have the power to require those advertisements to be taken down. There is nothing permissive about it, but these powers are not available until the scheme is in force, and I agree with my hon. Friend that the great majority of districts under planning are still in the interim development stage. The scheme has been prepared but not completed, and in 1724 that stage it is effective for building but not for advertisements. But the planning schemes are coming in for approval at a fast rate, and the future will see a big increase in the effective control of these advertisements. My right hon. Friend is confident that these advertisement vandals will not be allowed to retain their present immunity much longer, but that like Sennacherib's army,a hook will be put in their nose and a bridle in their lips and they will be led back the way they cameth.
§ Mr. Nicholson
But when the man rose in the morning they were all dead corpses, and that is what I am afraid of.
§ Mr. Bernays
I thought, also, that the land had rest for 40 years. Objection has been taken to the recognition of opticians as having power to prescribe for defective eyesight. While my right hon. Friend is satisfied that the ultimate ideal is that all persons should go to a medical eye specialist, he is satisfied that it would not be practical politics under present conditions to make this an invariable practice in all cases. The reasons are that the supply of qualified medical men is not sufficient to meet the needs of the whole population and that the people have not been educated up to recognising the advisability of this course in what they regard as ordinary, straightforward cases of defective eyesight. The Regulations, therefore, provide for either of the alternative courses being followed. Every insured person is required to visit his own insurance doctor before his application for ophthalmic treatment is granted.
§ Mr. Bernays
The hon. Gentleman raised the very important question of the treatment of the burning pit-heaps. The problem is being attacked from two directions. There is a useful instrument in the existing Public Health Act, 1875, under which a burning pit bank is generally accepted as a nuisance. But successful proceedings cannot be taken under this Act in certain circumstances if it can be shown that an accumulation is necessary for the effectual carrying on of the business. There is another means of dealing with this, and something more is clearly needed to be done. I would remind the hon. Member that the last three or four 1725 reports of the Alkali Inspector show that district inspectors have investigated the problem, obtaining a large measure of co-operation from colliery owners and have evolved various methods of arresting fires or even putting them out, or of so constructing new pit-heaps, that they will not take fire. These matters have been described in the last four reports. They are well known to local authorities and should be useful levers in their hands in dealing with the few exceptions where colliery companies are unwilling to carry out the suggestions made by the Alkali Inspectors.
I have taken note of the individual case raised by the hon. Gentleman, and I know that my right hon. Friend will, if necessary, be glad to make special representations to the alkali inspectors that these particular and peculiar conditions which the hon. Member spoke about should be brought speedily to the notice of the colliery owners concerned with a view to constructive action. The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of cheaper or free insulin, but he will forgive me if I do not reply to that question now. It is a problem with which I have yet to make myself familiar, but if he will come and see me, I shall be very glad to consult with him and see what can be done on the subject.
§ Mr. Bernays
There are many points with which I have not had time to deal, but I can assure hon. Members that the OFFICIAL REPORT will be most carefully read in the Department, and if it is possible to send a detailed reply to hon. Gentlemen either my right hon. Friend or I will be most glad to do so.
It seems to be absurd after so short a time in the Department to make any
§ generalisation, but there is one aspect of the work of the Ministry of Health upon which I would like to lay stress for a moment. It is the extent and variety of these social services which the Ministry of Health administers. There is hardly a gap in the network of provisions which guard the life and health of the citizen from the cradle to the grave, and yet something is still lacking. As my right hon. Friend pointed out in his speech this afternoon, it is the lack of knowledge of the people for whom these schemes are provided that they do exist.
§ Mr. Bernays
It is most important that we should do everything we can—and it is our urgent task—to make these health services more accessible and more attractive. That is the object of the campaign—a campaign in which every party can make its contribution. In these magnificent social services every party has played its part. One Government has come along and done its work and another has taken its place and carried on where its opponents left off, and so the work has gone on, until there has been established this magnificent structure of social services which is the envy of even the richest countries, and which, to my mind, is the finest evidence that we could have in the world to-day that, so far as Great Britain is concerned,Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £16,093,746, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 126; Noes, 193.1729
|Division No. 207.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Cocks, F. S.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Cove, W. G.||Gibson, R. (Greenock)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Daggar, G.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Dalton, H.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Groves, T. E.|
|Day, H.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Barr, J.||Dobbie, W.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Batey, J.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Ede, J. C.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Bread, F. A.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Bromfield, W.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Hopkin, D.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Burke, W. A.||Frankel, D.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Cape, T.||Gallacher, W.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Chater, D.||Gardner, B. W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Cruse, W. S.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Jonas, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Naylor, T. E.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Oliver, G. H.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Owen, Major G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Paling, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lathan, G.||Parker, J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Lawson, J. J.||Parkinson, J. A.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Leach, W.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Lee, F.||Price, M. P.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Pritt, D. N.||Walker, J.|
|Logan, D. G.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Lunn, W.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Watson, W. McL.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Welsh, J. C.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Riley, B.||Westwood, J.|
|MacLaren, A.||Ritson, J.||Whiteley, W.|
|Maclean, N.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Mander, G. le M.||Rowson, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Marshall, F.||Sexton, T. M.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Messer, F.||Short, A.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Milner, Major J.||Silkin, L.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Montague, F.||Simpson, F. B.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smith, E. (Stoke)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Furness, S. N.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Munro, P.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir J.||Nail, Sir J.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gledhill, G.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Granville, E. L.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Bernays, R. H.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Peat, C. U.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Grimston, R. V.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Guest, Maj.Hon.O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Petherick, M.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Guy, J. C. M.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hannah, I. C.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Brawn, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Harbord, A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Butler, R. A.||Hepburn, P. G, T. Buchan-||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Higgs, W. F.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Holmes, J. S.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Cary, R. A.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Remer, J. R.|
|Channon, H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rowlands, G.|
|Golman, N. C. D.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Keeling, E. H.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Salt, E. W.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Critchley, A.||Kimball, L.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Latham, Sir P.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Selley, H. R.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Liddall, W. S.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Lindsay, K. M.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lloyd, G. W.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Denville, Alfred||Loftus, P. C.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Donner, P. W.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Spens, W. P.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||McKie, J. H.||Storey, S.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Magnay, T.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Makins, Brig-Gen. E.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Emery, J. F.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Markham, S. F.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Everard, W. L.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Thomas, J. P. L.||Warrender, Sir V.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Waterhouse, Captain C.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Train, Sir J.||Watt, G. S. H.||Wragg, H.|
|Turton, R. H.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Ward, Lieut-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Womersley, Sir W. J.||Major Sir George Davies and Mr. Cross.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. T. Smith rose—
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ CHAIRMEN'S PANEL.
§ In pursuance of Standing Order No. 8o (4), Mr. SPEAKER has nominated Colonel Douglas Clifton Brown a member of the Chairmen's Panel, in the room of1730
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.