HC Deb 10 October 1946 vol 427 cc374-478

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. William Whiteley.]

4.10 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)

I welcome this opportunity of reviewing the recent housing progress in Scotland, and I want the House to note that I use the word "progress" to indicate the state which we have now reached in the provision of temporary and permanent houses. Hon. Members, I am sure, have before them copies of the last published monthly report, which showed the position in Scotland up to 31st August. I propose to supplement the information in that report by giving figures up to 2nd October.

Taking the temporary housing progress, there has been a marked acceleration in the completion of temporary houses during September. As the published report shows 6,118 of these houses had been completed at the end of August, when the average rate of completion was about 245 houses a week. By 2nd October, the total number completed had risen to 8,545 giving an average rate of completion for the last five weeks of 485 houses a week, or about double the rate in August. I am confident that we can maintain this improved rate of completion, and even increase it still further. If we can do this, we may look forward to having completed something like half of the total Scottish programme of 32,000 temporary houses by the end of this year.

The production of Tarran, Arcon and Uniseco houses has been substantially speeded up. Indeed, the danger in the immediate future with regard to these types is not likely to be a failure in the rate of delivery of these structures but the possibility that they may now come forward in larger numbers than can be accommodated on the sites which have so far been prepared for them. In saying this, I level no criticism at the local authorities. I do not want to be accused by anyone in this Debate of criticising the local authorities, so far as that aspect of the subject is concerned, because, from the start, and for a considerable time afterwards, the local authorities played up well in the advance preparation of temporary housing sites, and it was only the non-appearance of the houses accord- ing to schedule, in the early stages, that gave rise, in some cases, to a slackening of local effort in this respect. But, in the face of the present acute shortage of housing accommodation, it would be impossible to justify a situation where there were houses in the factories and insufficient sites on which to put them in the various localities.

Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)

This is a very important point. From the August return, which was the last we have, 32,000 sites have been acquired, and no fewer than 15,500 sites have been completed. That was in August. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he does not expect more than 16,000 houses at the end of the year. Can he explain how the shortage of sites will arise?

Mr. Westwood

I have tried to explain that there was a certain slackening in the provision of sites because of the fact that houses were not being delivered in accordance with the schedule. I am not blaming anyone for that. It is natural that should take place. Now we want all the speeding up we can get, and surely hon. Members on the other side of the House are going to help me in my appeal to the local authorities. Politics do not come into it, because this is a case where every one is entitled to make all the appeals possible to the local authorities to deal with this vital problem. I would, therefore, appeal once more to the local authorities concerned to push on with all speed with the outstanding work for the preparation of their sites, so that the Houses may be erected, and, at the earliest possible date, occupied by the families who need them.

I might mention specially the steadily growing stream of aluminium houses coming out of Blackburn's factory at Dumbarton. The output here, so far dependent largely on manual operations, has been kept fairly well up to schedule. At the moment it has reached a level of about 100 houses a week. But with the full mechanisation of the factory this is expected to rise to a peak of 250 houses a week by the end of the year. Since the aluminium house is the most highly prefabricated type being supplied, the amount of building required at the site is small and this increased production therefore promises a substantial acceleration in the number of houses available for actual occupation. Let me add that with over 8,000 temporary houses occupied, almost no complaints have been received from the tenants. Though substandard in area and definitely a temporary expedient which we shall get rid of as soon as possible, these houses are giving satisfaction to thousands of families who find them an immense improvement on the overcrowded and otherwise unsatisfactory accommodation from which they have come. In particular, the modern kitchen equipment is proving a tremendous attraction. Indeed I know one local authority who received applications for temporary houses from tenants occupying permanent houses of standard size, which seems to indicate that to the modern housewife, efficient domestic equipment is just as important as living space.

I come now to the permanent houses. Progress here has not been as good as I should have wished. We have an abundance of sites approved (over 200,000 for permanent houses) while tenders have been approved or central orders placed for the considerable total of 54,227 houses. Against this, however, the number of houses under construction at 2nd October was 22,371 and the number completed 3,627. Progress with the completion of the houses has in fact been slow. What is the reason for this slowness? For some time after the end of the war we were faced with an acute shortage of labour with a force of only some 6,000 men engaged on housing work. This has now risen to over 30,000 and although these men are working on both temporary and permanent houses the total force now engaged on housing is greater than it ever was before the war. There are still local shortages in particular trades, notably bricklayers, but while the labour force available for permanent housing will have to continue to increase if we are to be able to undertake the large programme which lies ahead of us, by and large the supply of labour is not at present a limiting factor in construction.

Our main difficulty concerns the short supply of certain materials and components. The switchover from war to peacetime production has steadily proceeded since the middle of last year and in many items there has been a marked increase in quantity of production. Take bricks for example. Before the war the output of bricks in Scotland was about 56 million a month. But during the war brickmaking came to a virtual standstill and in July, 1945, the output was down to as low as some nine million a month. This state of affairs demanded vigorous action, and the Joint Under-Secretary of State set about arranging for the reopening of closed brickfields and an increase in the supply of brickmaking labour, with the result that the monthly output has steadily increased. In August, 1946, it reached 45 million, and production is still increasing. In recent months, to augment the supply still further, five million bricks a month have been imported from England and supplies are also coming from Belgium. The total monthly supply available for building is now very close to the prewar figure of 56 million bricks per month. But although everything possible is being done by the Ministries of Supply and Works to improve supplies, there are grave shortages of essential materials, such as paint, timber, plaster and plasterboard, light castings, steel windows and electrical components. It is these shortages which are retarding the completion of many permanent houses at the present time. In fact if it were not for the progress we are making in housing, there would be no bottlenecks. It is the fact that we are making progress which in itself creates some of the bottlenecks in some of the components. [Interruption.] There were no bottlenecks in the first four years after the 1914–18 war. So few houses were built then that there were no bottlenecks. The bottlenecks occur now because we are building houses. I am not here to apologise in connection with our programme and work. I am here to explain the facts, and then the criticisms from either side of the House can be based on the facts which I submit to hon. Members.

Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)

Will the Secretary of State add glass to the list? I noticed that he did not mention glass, which is desperately short.

Mr. Westwood

I believe glass is short. I know there is a difficulty in the hon. Member's constituency, a constituency that gives me a good point in connection with progress in housing. I went up there to open some aluminium houses. What did I discover? In the 20 years prior to the war, the town of Arbroath built altogether 712 houses. When I went up there to open the aluminium houses, they had either built, or the building orders had been approved for, 717 houses, five houses more than had been built in that town during the 20 years between the two wars.

Mr. Maclay

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that that reflects the greatest credit on the local authorities?

Mr. Westwood

Yes, and the assistance given by the Secretary of State and the Joint Under-Secretary of State. No one would be more ready to admit that than the town council of Arbroath.

Mr. Maclay

So do I.

Mr. Westwood

Thank you. In the circumstances, we recently considered what steps, in addition to those which the Supply Departments are seeking to increase the supply of essential materials and components, it is possible to take to get an early increase in the number of houses completed. This can best be achieved by concentrating on those houses which are in an advanced stage of construction. Our records show that of the 22,371 houses now being built, over 7,200 were at or beyond the wallhead level on 20th September; many indeed are roofed over and complete except for some internal fittings. We have, therefore, decided to give these houses super-priority in the supply of materials and components, and where necessary of labour, in an effort to complete them by the end of the year.

For this purpose we are pin-pointing these particular houses and are arranging that such labour and materials as are required to finish them will be specially allocated from local or other sources. We shall give the same super-priority to non-traditional types at the various stages of construction since, with an adequate supply of labour and materials, these are specially capable of rapid completion on the sites. In furtherance of this campaign the Joint Under-Secretary has already had meetings with the associations of local authorities, with the building trades employers, and with representatives of the building materials distributive trades, all of whom have promised their wholehearted cooperation in this campaign. The Joint Under-Secretary is to have similar meetings in Glasgow tomorrow with representatives of the building trades operatives and with manufacturers to enlist their wholehearted support. We shall do everything we can by these special measures to secure the same kind of improvement in the completion of permanent houses as is now taking place in the erection of temporary houses, so that the maximum additional accommodation may be made available to the people of Scotland in the shortest space of time.

I should like now to say a few words in connection with the permanent non-traditional type of houses that we are building. Apart from the measures to which I have already referred, we have now reached the stage when we may reasonably expect to reap the benefits of the plans laid during the past year to encourage the building of permanent houses of non-traditional types in supplementation of the ordinary brick construction. We can never solve our housing problem in Scotland in a reasonable period if we are to depend wholly and solely upon the traditional methods of building. Our problem is too great; we need, as pointed out by the Housing Advisory Committee, no less than 500,000 houses. That means that we have to bring all forms of construction into operation if we are, as I have already indicated, to solve within a reasonable time what is one of the greatest, in fact, I believe, the greatest, of the social problems that face us in Scotland at the present time. Our aim has been to tap all methods of building and all resources of labour and materials so as to obtain the greatest possible contribution to house production. I am sure it will be of interest to the House to know that of the 54,227 houses for which tenders have been approved or central orders placed no less than 18,105, or roughly one-third of the total, are to be built by alternative methods. These include the use of timber, steel, concrete, combinations of steel and concrete, foam slag, and so on. In fact, we are building 15 different types of these non-traditional forms of houses in Scotland at the present time.

Preliminary arrangements for the examination of plans, thorough laboratory tests, the tooling up of factories, and the placing of contracts, necessarily took some time, and in some cases, I admit, progress was not as fast as we had hoped. We have, however, had regular meetings with the sponsors in order to hasten their preparations, and I am glad to say that the building stage has now been reached in an increasing number of types. As I have already indicated we are working on 15 different types in Scotland at the present time. For example the Atholl scheme of 1,600 steel houses is well under way; we hope to finish the great bulk of the 2,500 Swedish timber houses in the course of the campaign of which I spoke earlier; building has now started under the British Iron and Steel Federation and Weir steel housing programmes, and a start has now been made with the first of the Cruden houses, which have been specially designed for erection in the rural areas to enable us to help solve the problem of rural housing. I know that will be stressed here in the Debate today and I can assure my colleagues on both sides of the House that the Joint Undersecretary and myself are just as keenly interested in trying to help the rural areas in connection with houses as we are to help the urban areas. We know these problems and we want to try to the best of our ability and, in the light of the experience we have gained, to afford any assistance we can to enable rural authorities to face their housing problems.

Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question with regard to rural areas? What kind of delivery is being given in regard to the Swedish timber house? Is the delivery quick? The local authorities seem to be uncertain when they will receive delivery.

Mr. Westwood

To the best of my knowledge all the Swedish houses have been delivered with possibly two or three exceptions. Some of the difficulty has been in the completion of these houses because of the shortage of component parts. However, if we adhere to the usual rule which applies in connection with Scottish Debates, the maximum number of hon. Members will get in and the Joint Undersecretary will deal with any of these points that may help.

Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)

Could the Minister say how many have been put up in Glasgow in the last year?

Mr. Westwood

Two hundred in Glasgow, and a total of 2,500 for Scotland as a whole.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

Would the Minister give an explanation of what he said earlier? He told the House that the Cruden house had been started. Does that mean started in the factory, or is a house going up in some part of rural Scotland?

Mr. Westwood

I have already pointed out that the Joint Under-Secretary will take up these points and deal with them as they are put by hon. Members. I have said that work is going on in connection with the Cruden house and I cannot make it any clearer than that. Building has now started under the British Iron and Steel Federation and Weir steel house programmes and a start has been made with the first of the Cruden houses which have been specially designed, as I have already indicated, for erection in rural areas and small burghs. All these activities will be increasingly reflected in a growing number of houses under construction and completed. During the initial stages of development the prices of these non-traditional houses are necessarily higher than those of houses of similar size built in brick, but where the difference is substantial a special additional subsidy will be paid to the local authorities under the Act which was passed earlier this year. We are making it perfectly clear to the sponsors of these new methods, however, that if they hope to get further contracts they must show that their prices compete with the current cost of brick houses. In addition, now that we have achieved a fairly broad spread of housing contracts and have got the building industry going in most districts, we shall do everything we can to get prices down generally. Following an upward trend, which took place at the beginning of the war in respect of tenders, prices have remained comparatively steady during the past few months.

Commander Galbraith

Can the Minister indicate what they are?

Mr. Westwood

Yes, they are round about £1,150 and up to £1,300, for the non-traditional type of house. They cannot continue at their present high level indefinitely. If we should think it necessary to refuse approval in any particular case because tenders are higher than we think they should be, I hope that local authorities will give us their full support.

Now I would say a word about squatting. The matter has already been raised in its application to England during Question time earlier today. The House will no doubt expect me to indicate the position in Scotland with regard to this matter, which has exercised the public mind in recent weeks. The movement began in August. It rapidly spread to various Service camps. The latest figures that I have show that possession has been taken of 143 camps and that some 6,800 persons are involved. The first step we took was to safeguard the public health. We asked local authorities immediately to ensure that water, drainage, lighting and other essential services were made available in the camps in question. Without exception, local authorities cooperated and made the necessary arrangements. We then set up a committee of officials representative of the Service and civil Departments concerned and asked it to examine the position in relation to each camp. On the basis of those inquiries we have asked local authorities to take over, to equip and to manage those camps which are occupied by squatters and for which the Government have no further use, or which will not be required for some time by the holding Departments. Negotiations with the local authorities on this aspect of the matter are not yet complete. They are proceeding. A small number of camps will be required for important reconstruction purposes such as the training of building craftsmen. In such cases, the squatters will have to vacate the accommodation they now occupy, but we will make every possible effort in the first place to find alternative accommodation for them.

While the Government were prepared to make those arrangements for the occupation by squatters of Service camps surplus to requirements, we were not prepared to condone unauthorised occupation of private premises. Accordingly, when the movement spread in September to the occupation of such premises, we made it clear that such occupation constituted a violation of both the civil and the criminal law, and that persons who took up illegal occupation were liable to eviction at the instance of owners and, on conviction under the Trespass (Scotland) Act. to a fine or to imprisonment. The warning seems to have had the desired effect. The movement as a whole seems to have spent its force. Very few new cases have been reported in recent weeks.

Mr. Stephen

How many prosecutions have taken place?

Mr. Westwood

I cannot say offhand but we will try to get the information for the hon. Member before the end of the Debate.

I want to emphasise in the strongest possible terms the urgency of the steps, which we are taking to build the maximum accommodation, both temporary and permanent, at the earliest possible date. Local authorities and the Government have already placed with the industry contracts for 54,227 permanent houses and 32,000 temporary houses, making a total for Scotland of 86,227 houses in all. I hope that no one will accuse me during the Debate as I have already been accused. It has been suggested that at some time or other I said that we should have 20,000 houses finished in the first year after the war. I have no recollection of having said anywhere at any time that we should finish 20,000 houses.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)

Does not the right hon. Gentleman read the newspapers?

Mr. Westwood

Yes, but what the papers say is not always true. I am very careful in the statements which I make. Both in the days of the Coalition Government, and after I had accepted responsibility as Secretary of State for Scotland, I always stated that out of the 300,000 houses which we were likely to get for Great Britain in the first two years after the war, 20,000 had been allocated to Scotland for the first year and 30,000 for the second year. I said they would either be built or building. I never used the word "finished." I have no apology to make about the figures that I have given, in view of all the difficulties. They are far better than those of the Conservative Party ever were when they were in office. We have made it possible by our programme and our legislation, to provide accommodation for the newly married couples. That was denied in Conservative legislation. It was they who made it impossible to provide houses for the general needs of the population. It is just as well that in this House, as well as in the country, these facts should be driven home.

Mr. Snadden

There are no houses being provided in my constituency.

Mr. Westwood

That is typical of some of the criticism which we get in the Press. I have a cutting here which says, "No houses." If it had said that there were few houses, there might have been some argument, but, whether it is stated by Members of this House or in any other way, if any people say that there are no houses as a result of our efforts in Scotland, they lie. I am not making an accusation against Members of this House. I have given figures of the houses. [Interruption.] I do not mind giving the name of the paper from which the cutting to which I refer is taken. It is from the "People's Journal," a very reputable journal. Its criticism is typical of the way we are attacked when we are dealing with these problems. We do not object to fair criticism. I am trying to give the facts, which are that 54,227 contracts have been placed with the industry by local authorities and by ourselves for permanent houses, and 32,000 contracts for temporary houses, making a total of 86,227. Difficulties are not wanting, especially in the supply of materials and components, but with good will and determination on all sides much can speedily be done to improve the existing position.

I, therefore, make an earnest appeal to all concerned, including the local authorities, to make a special effort to increase house production to the greatest possible extent in the coming months. I make this appeal to local authorities, employers, operatives, manufacturers, and distributive trades alike. All will have to pull their weight if we are to make real progress in housing. Each section has its contribution to offer. In face of the clamant housing needs of Scotland, I have the right to ask that those efforts should be made in the fullest possible measure by all those who take part in our housing programme.

Mr. Stephen

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about the 86,000 contracts to which he referred? Can he give us any idea when those houses will be available—for instance, will it be by the end of next year?

Mr. Westwood

I am not going to fix a target. I do not know the difficulties that may stand in the way. I have always been very careful about that. I would rather promise to the people of Scotland 10,000 houses and provide 15,000, than promise 25,000 and be able to deliver only 20,000. I cannot, therefore, give a definite promise when they will be completed. We are doing every- thing possible to speed up production of these houses, and I have given the total figures so tar as contracts are concerned.

Lord John Hope (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)

With reference to the brick shortage which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, is he satisfied that the Government are examining all the possibilities for extending the manufacture of bricks from shale slag?

Mr. Westwood

There were certain experiments carried out in connection with that. I am not sure if the reports indicated whether we could spend the time just now to carry those experiments further and see what success resulted. The hon. Member can rest assured that if he has some point to put to me, I will see that it is examined at once in the interests of housing progress in Scotland.

4.52 p.m.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)

In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, I charge the Government with having failed, and failed badly, in their housing programme. As the right hon. Gentleman will not recognise his failure, it becomes necessary for us to probe for the reasons for it, because it is only by discovering those reasons that we can discover the remedy. As he will not realise his failure, and will not look for the reasons, he is not very likely to discover the remedy unaided. I was a little astonished by his statement that he had no recollection of having promised 20,000 houses completed in the course of his first year of office. The statement which the country understood to mean that, was given at a Press conference on 24th August, 1945. This habit of Press conferences is perhaps an unfortunate one. Statements made in this House can be cross-examined and frequently are, but at a Press conference we have no knowledge of what was said except what the Press says next morning. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman's Press officer would have communicated with the newspapers if these newspapers gave a misleading impression of what he had said. I should have thought that that was at least his duty, but so far as I am aware, neither the right hon. Gentleman nor his Press officer ever sent any such correction, and certainly I have seen no references to it in the Press. Let me read what he is reported to have said: Twenty thousand permanent houses for the first 12 months of office. That is my target, bat I want to exceed it. My difficulty at the present moment is the technical staff. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to deal with the fuller programme of 500,000 houses in 10 years. Is it suggested that with regard to the 500,000 the right hon. Gentleman only intended "built or building"? He intended "built." Anybody would have taken it so. I refreshed my memory by reading the whole article only a week ago. The impression anybody would get from the "Scotsman" was that the right hon. Gentleman had undertaken to finish 20,000 houses in the first year. The "Glasgow Herald" was even clearer. Let me read a few words of what the right hon. Gentleman is reported to have said. If he can find a context which takes away the apparent meaning of these words, I should like to hear it. He is reported to have said that he was quite confident that Scotland would be in possession of 20,000 permanent new houses within the next 12 months. He denied that it was merely an optimistic statement. One cannot be in possession of 20,000 new houses unless they are completed, and if the right hon. Gentleman is now going to ride away by saying that he never said that, why did not he or his Press officer correct it at the time? This is no way to treat the people of Scotland —to make an ambiguous statement, allow the people to be misled and keep silent—

Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recollect that at that time there was a promise that 2,500 houses known as Portal houses were coming, and the promise was made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). Would not my right hon. Friend have been banking on some of these Portal houses that never materialised?

Mr. Reid

I had more respect for the hon. Lady. I really did think that she knew the difference between a temporary and a permanent house. If she had been listening to what I have been reading, she would have heard references solely to permanent houses. The word "permanent" is used time and time again. The hon. Lady's well-meant intervention completely misfires—

Mr. Westwood

I have no recollection anywhere, at any time, and never in this House, where my words could be challenged, of saying that we would have finished 20,000 houses in the first year after the war. I have always used the same terms and I repeated them again this afternoon—that they would be built or building. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman can get any quotation from anything I have said in this House to the effect that we would finish 20,000 houses, that might be used as evidence against me.

Mr. Reid

This is a most odd business. The House was either sitting or about to sit on 24th August, 1945. The right hon. Gentleman chooses to make his pronouncement outside the House and then he complains when we rely on it and says we are only entitled to rely on the pronouncements made in this House. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that unless he is trying to mislead the people of Scotland, he has no right to make ambiguous statements, and allow them to be so presented in the Press as to give a wrong impression and keep silent.

Mr. Westwood

I say without any hesitation that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has no right whatsoever, even in this House, to accuse me of trying to mislead the people of Scotland. When his record is half as good as mine, he will have little cause to make that suggestion.

Mr. Reid

That is an interjection which I do not propose to follow up. Let that be. Let us come to the next pronouncement which was made in this House. It was equally misleading. I refer to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman on 9th May, 1946. In reply to an interjection by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), this is what he said: Yes, permanent houses. I am pleased to report to the House that last week no less than 247 houses were completed. In other words, nine months after the end of the war we have passed the peak figure of weekly production of the years before the war. Then the right hon. Gentleman made it perfectly plain a little further down that the 247 houses were permanent houses. He referred to: … the 247 permanent houses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1946; Vol. 422, c 1255.] Now what is the position? It so happens and we have another example of it this afternoon—that, by a curious coincidence, always the week before the right hon. Gentleman speaks there is a very large output of houses in Scotland. This time there was an output of 247 permanent houses. The impression that anybody would get from his speech on 9th May was not perhaps that 247 were to be produced every week thereafter, but that we had now got well away, that we were now producing as well as we were before the war. He did not go on to explain that this was a freak week, or that it was unlikely to be repeated. Far from it. What has happened since? Throughout the months that have since passed, the average has been not 247 but about 75 —less than one-third; that is to say, since May when the right hon. Gentleman spoke, there has been a rapid and sudden falling away and as yet no improvement. How does he explain that? How does he make that consistent with his optimistic claims this afternoon—247 houses a week represented as the output for Scotland in May, and ever since then down to 75? Is that being candid with the House? I should have thought not. The right hon. Gentleman would do well to consider the implications of some of his statements before he makes them, and to avoid ambiguous statements of this kind, if he wants what he says to be accepted at its face value.

What is the performance of the Government in the first 12 months? No, in 13 months. I will give them an extra one. In 13 months there have been completed 2,617 permanent houses. That is all, and if the right hon. Gentleman takes the extra month about which he has told us this afternoon, the figure is still under 3,000 permanent houses completed in 14 months. By the way, if we can have the figures today for 2nd October from the right hon. Gentleman, why do we have to wait a month always for the annual return? If they can be got out in 10 days, why are they not always ready in a fortnight instead of a month? Are we always to be dragged at the tail of England?

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

We wait for England.

Mr. Reid

Really, that is a shocking statement. Because England cannot get its report out in less than a month, this has to be kept in a pigeon hole, and Scotland kept in ignorance about Scottish affairs. Really, I am surprised at the attitude of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Seotland on that.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Buchanan)

I never said a word.

Mr. Reid

Somebody did. I thought it was the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Buchanan

Really, the right hon. and learned Gentleman must not think. I did not even nod my head.

Mr. Reid

The words "We wait for England" came from that part of the House. I heard them clearly.

Mr. Buchanan

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is much too suspicious. I am glad he is not my judge.

Mr. Scollan

I interjected in reference to the point that the English people had tied us to the tail of England. What is the right hon. and learned Gentleman complaining about?

Mr. Reid

I am complaining about the fact that we have not any houses, and I am trying to find out why. I am complaining on this particular point, that if Scottish figures are ready within a fortnight, why should we have to wait a month to see them, simply because the English figures are not ready?

Mrs. Jean Mann

It is houses we want, not reports.

Mr. Reid

But returns may enable us to get houses. They may enable us to find out what is wrong with the Government, and to prod them on a bit. Anyway, there does not seem to be any other way of making them get a move on. I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he talked at that Press conference about Swedish houses. He told us then that in addition to the programme for permanent houses, there was a programme to provide 2,500 Swedish timber houses by January, 1946. He did not say "built or building" there. Perhaps he meant it, but, again, he was reported in such a way that the ordinary reader would anticipate that they would be ready. What has happened? They have all been standing about waiting for fitments for months and months and, I pre- sume, deteriorating. Really, Socialist planning which cannot keep the programme in step is a pretty queer kind of planning. What has been wrong in this past year, quite obviously, is the slow progress once a house is started. We were told in the summer that it took eight months to put up a temporary house. It is obvious that the Swedish houses have taken about just as much as that.

Mr. Buchanan


Mr. Reid

Longer perhaps, but the permanent houses are even worse. The last Government left under construction in July, 1945, 3,832 houses. Of those houses, in a period of very nearly a year up to 5th July, 1946, only 1,930 had been completed, which is almost exactly half. So that in a year, the Government have only completed half the houses they received under construction, and a great many of them—unless this drive about which I shall say a word in a moment is successful—will have to stand for two winters uncompleted. Why is that? It is not labour. We agree on that. The hon. Gentleman told us a month ago, and the right hon. Gentleman has told us again now, that the labour force is greater than it was prewar. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman, who is chiefly concerned with housing in Scotland, has done too well: he has a lot of men hanging about with nothing to do because his colleagues will not give him materials. If there is to be any kind of plan, surely you want to keep in step, and it is not a bit of good the hon. Gentleman congratulating himself that he has got a big labour force together if they have nothing to do. This is just an example of Socialist co-ordination. Each Department apparently sets out to do the best for itself without any regard to what the others are doing. What is the good of increasing the labour force when you know your colleagues cannot produce the material with which to build.

The right hon. Gentleman has admitted quite frankly that there are great shortages, and most of those shortages could have been remedied perfectly well by this Government if they had carried out their plans. At least, one assumes that before they started on this housing drive they really had some plans. I do not mean merely that the Scottish Office had plans for building houses. I presume the Scottish Office inquired of the Ministries of Works and Labour whether they had plans for producing the material, and I presume that the other offices assured the right hon. Gentleman that they had such plans. I will say this to the right hon. Gentleman, that I do not think he is the real culprit here. The real culprits appear to be his colleagues who have misled him—unless, of course, he did not take the trouble to inquire of them. I do not know whether he did, but I expect he did, and, therefore, I think his colleagues are the real culprits.

Mr. Scollan

That is the English side of the problem.

Mr. Reid

I thought we were still in the United Kingdom. I am not in the least concerned whether we are let down by English or Scottish Members of the Government. What I am concerned with is this system of Socialistic work, because they cannot carry out their plans.

Mr. Scollan

That is not Socialism. It is rheumatism the right hon. and learned Gentleman is talking about.

Mr. Reid

The hon. Gentleman seems to have described some of his friends most admirably. It is clear that some of the shortages could have been remedied fairly simply. It is fairly clear that if some of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues had been more alive about buying materials abroad, they could have prevented quite a few of these shortages, but, of course, owing to unskilful buying, and owing to the Treasury thinking that the people of this country prefer films to houses, we have been deprived of a number of raw materials. The right hon. Gentleman sits there as representing the Government in his collective responsibility. The people of Scotland will not acquit the Government of spending tens of millions on films, and failing to buy housing components, which they could have bought otherwise with the dollars concerned.

Most of the troubles are arising out of labour shortages. I would like to remind the House that those labour shortages are only shortages in particular industries. It is now the case that there are more people in this country working on orders for the home market than there were before the war What is wrong is maldistribution. I thought this Government came into office to set up a planned economy. What has happened? The high priority industries which ought to have had the surplus labour are now vastly undermanned. Labour has drifted away to industries of less high priority. The Government are maintaining an increase in the Civil Service of from 400,000 to 700,000 people. How can this Government say that it is moving into a sphere of planned economy, when it makes such obvious and glaring mistakes as to so adjust the labour situation that the bulk of the labour increases go into non-essential industries while essential industries, such as building components, are starving? Brickworks have only about 72 per cent. of the labour they had prewar. That is the first essential before we can get what the right hon. Gentleman says is our first need in Scotland—houses.

The Government must face this. Either they are incapable of making a plan, or are incapable of carrying it out. It looks as if the view we have held for a very long time, that Socialist planning cannot be carried out without direction of labour, is true. Very rightly, the Government are refraining from an undue exercise of that power because the people would not stand for it, but I do not think it will be very long before hon. and right hon. Members opposite begin to realise that this system of theirs is breaking down because they cannot act ruthlessly enough to make it work. I do not think it would work very well if they did, but it will not work otherwise. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might think again, and might perhaps revert for a little while to planning by those who carry on the industry and who produce the goods; in other words, free enterprise. If he cannot manage to plan better than this, what about giving someone else a chance? What about trying to loosen up and enable people to exercise their own skill and initiative without too much control? I do not want to stray too far in that direction, but it does alarm me to see the slow progress which is being made.

The rate of completion of houses has not increased materially in the last four months. It is still round about 300 per month, and the right hon. Gentleman has not led us to believe that there is going to be any great increase. It is true he is to divert labour and material in making a show with these 7,000 houses, but is that going to help in the long run, or is it a little window dressing? I hope the hon. Member who is to reply will be able to relieve our fears in this matter. If, side by side, there is a house well on the way to completion and a house just started, and, without undue diversion of labour and materials from one part of the country to another, one can concentrate on the one which is nearly ready in order to keep the winter rains out, that is common sense. But I have heard rumours, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will deny them, that building labour and material are being diverted altogether to quite different parts of the country.

Mr. Buchanan indicated dissent.

Mr. Reid

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be able to give us a little more information about this diversion, but he has made such a point of it, that it seems to be a major military operation.

Mr. Buchanan indicated dissent.

Mr. Reid

I do not know why such a point has been made of it.

Mr. Buchanan

I have not made much of it.

Mr. Reid

There has been a suspicious unanimity in the Press about it, and it would seem that whoever conducts his publicity, understands that this is a big point.

Mr. Buchanan

I have not done much about it. I met the Press one morning and talked to them about it. Apart from that, I have done no advertising about it. I have met local authorities. Pressmen want news, and get it, but I never went after the Press, apart from the one occasion when I met them.

Mr. Reid

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's Press department is doing about this matter. It seems odd, if he does not attach much importance to it, that a good deal has been made of it. However, if there is nothing in it, I will not take the matter further.

Mr. Buchanan

I have not gone out to the Press.

Mr. Reid

We have an understanding that we should not speak for too long. Although there are a number of other topics with which I would like to deal, I think that as many hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies as possible should speak on these occasions. I hope that if this Debate serves no other purpose, it will at least have disturbed the optimistic frame of mind of the right hon. Gentleman. Until he gets rid of this false optimism, he is not likely to learn from his own mistakes. One can respect a man who recognises his mistakes and learns from them, but if the right hon. Gentleman denies his mistakes, he will not learn from them.

5.17 p.m.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

7: There has been a marked difference between the speeches from the two Front Benches. I do not wish to comment to any extent on the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid), but it is justifiable for me to spend a minute or two in examining what he said. The gravamen of his charge was made in practically his first sentence, that the Government had failed, and failed badly. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has shown that in roughly 13 months the Government have finished 12,172 houses, adding temporary and permanent houses together.

Commander Galbraith

With private enterprise as well.

Mr. Mathers

Well, 12,172 finished and ready up to 2nd October. That gives us roughly the same period from the end of the 1914–18 war to the end of 1919. My information is that up to the end of 1919, when hon. Members opposite were in power, just as effective power as the Labour Party has now that it is in charge of the affairs of this country, no houses were completed in Scotland for occupation.

Lord William Scott (Roxburgh and Selkirk)

Will the hon. Member tell us who was the Minister for Housing at that time?

Mr. Mathers

I do not wish to be drawn away into a post-mortem examination in the way the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead has been. He made another statement to the effect that when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland was to speak there was a boom in house production the week before. It seems to me that all that is necessary in that event is for us to arrange for the Secretary of State for Scotland to speak every week, and have a boom in housing production the week before. The right hon. Gentleman also suggested towards the end of his speech that, if the Government could not do the job, they should give somebody else a chance. I suppose that those in power at the end of the last war did give somebody else a chance. I have indicated the extent of the success achieved on that occasion. If the record that we have been given today by the Secretary of State for Scotland is an indication of failure, I would say, let him go on failing even more spectacularly than he has done up to the present time. If that kind of failure produces the houses, as it is producing them now, that is, in a steadily growing stream, we shall be very glad indeed that we have in power in this country and in charge of our affairs in Scotland, a Government and a Minister who are failing in a way which is at least producing the houses.

I do not wish to take part to any extent in any cut and thrust of debate on this occasion. I wish to put two points to the Front Bench in the hope that the Joint Under-Secretary, whose duty it will be to reply to the Debate, may possibly give an answer to them. The first is, will he endeavour to make clear here today the present powers of local authorities with regard to requisitioning? There is a certain amount of doubt in the minds of members of local authorities with regard to these powers, because of the effect of a legal decision some time ago. I want to know whether the difficulties in that regard have been resolved, and whether local authorities now know precisely what are their powers and how those powers can be put into effect. The idea previously held was that the local authorities themselves had power directly to requisition empty houses and indeed to work upon them, to build them up, to recondition them and make them much more fit for human habitation than when they took them over. These doubts do exist in the minds of local authorities at the present time, and I would very much like the Joint Undersecretary kindly to devote some part of his reply to making clear the present position.

The other point is, Will he take into consideration the idea of giving some guidance to housing authorities with regard to the method of letting houses once they are available? There is a good deal of heartburning amongst prospective tenants of houses that are being built about the way in which they are, as they consider, being wrongly treated. It would be valuable if some guidance could be given to the local authorities as to the best methods of exercising their powers in this regard. I know that the final responsibility for the letting of the houses devolves upon the local housing authorities, but it would be useful if the Scottish Office would give some guidance as to the method of applying properly the decision as to who should have the occupancy of the new houses. There is a good deal of concern in this regard, and a good many letters of complaint are written about houses to which people think they have a better right than those who are actually given the tenancy. I know that in the course of time this difficulty will disappear because of the provision of more houses satisfactory to the needs of the applicants, but in the meantime there is a strong urge among those who are living under unsatisfactory housing conditions to secure the earliest possible tenancy of houses. I hope that some guidance may be given by the Secretary of State to the local authorities as to how best to proceed in allocating the houses that are produced. I know that in providing that kind of guidance he will give authoritatively a good deal of satisfaction to those who will be able to calculate when they are likely to get houses in comparison with other people. I believe that it would be very helpful to local authorities to have something authoritative from him along those lines to guide them in the use of their housing powers.

5.27 p.m.

Mr. Spence (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)

I wish to address myself particularly to the question of the shortage of materials for the building of houses, to which attention has been called by all speakers and of which all Members of the House are well aware. The most outstanding case of houses that have been waiting for materials to enable them to be completed for habitation is that of the Swedish houses. There are a very large number of them all over rural Scotland and in the towns, and almost without exception they are waiting for fittings, either electrical or in the form of windows, to enable them to be made habitable. I consider that the trouble has been that when these houses were originally ordered the proper priorities were not given to the factories through- out the country to enable the fittings to be made ready, waiting for them.

We have various national priorities today. There are housing, the export drive, the home market. I consider that of these, housing should have absolute priority, and I should like to direct the attention of the Secretary of State to export figures of products the need for which is holding up the completion of houses. In the case of electrical goods and apparatus, we have this year exported £23 million worth. In the case of insulated wires, of which there is a big shortage, we have already this year exported £6,700,000 worth. In the case of sheet glass, which is a crying need, we have exported £1,640,000 worth. These figures are roughly two to three times as big as those in the same comparable period of months in 1938. It seems obvious, on the face of it, that there is a lack of coordination at the top. The export drive is being pushed by the Board of Trade and it seems that the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Works are not coordinating the needs of builders and seeing that industry shall supply houses first and the export trade second. I believe that priority should be given to our housing. Our industrial revival and well-being depends on good housing for the people. The question of window frames was mentioned. It was said that window frames and metal casements were holding up the erection of houses. We find that £282,000 worth of metal casements and window frames have gone abroad this year.

Mr. Buchanan

Would the hon. Member state the period he is quoting?

Mr. Spence

I am quoting from the Trade and Navigation Returns for the period from 1st January, 1946, to date. Apart from the question of material shortages, I think the greatest aspect of the housing progress is neglect of the question of rural housing. Those of us who represent rural constituencies find that men are coming back from the Forces, getting married, and that there are no houses for them. There is no housing development proceeding on the farms and these people tend to drift to the towns. That is a tendency which, in our national interests, must be checked. Somehow, a remedy must be found. As a temporary expedient, I suggest to the Secretary of State that he might consider ways and means by which new unorthodox perma- nent houses might be made available to the private individual on some reasonably economic financial basis. Unless we get houses on our farms fairly soon, we will have a continuing and growing drift of people from the country to the towns, with a consequent effect on agriculture.

In this connection, I think the Cruden house, with its comparatively simple method of construction and ready availability of material, is one that could well be used. It is a house which, I believe, will have a great future. Hon. Members may not know that it is made of comparatively thin grooved and tongued concrete slabs carried in pressed cold rolled steel metal frames. The steel is very light and the whole structure of the house is carried on stanchions instead of on the walls of the house. It can be built with a far less weight of material in it than we have envisaged so far in ordinary forms of construction. Something of this sort must be made available throughout the countryside to the individual. The system to which we are limited at present, whereby the only houses being built in the country are in small groups here and there built by the county authorities, will not cover the case of rural Scotland, especially in the more scattered districts. I beg the Secretary of State to give this matter his attention and to see whether he can find some way of providing a permanent house which can be built on our farms so that the men can live on the job. In that way this drift to the towns would be avoided.

There is one other matter to which I wish to refer whilst on the subject of shortage. I hope the suggestion which I shall make will be found helpful. Sheet lead is in very short supply. I know from my own experience that behind every plumber's shop in Scotland is an enormous heap of scrap lead. I suggest that the Secretary of State should initiate a salvage drive so that the lead may be reclaimed and rolled into sheet. This suggestion has come from the plumbers themselves who find themselves embarrassed by the amount of lead scrap which they have on their premises. They tell me it would help them very much to make progress with the job of roofing and guttering houses if sheet lead was available. Finally, I want again to refer to the question of priority for houses over all other claims. This priority must come before exports, otherwise we will not get houses completed in Scotland in reasonable time. As the Secretary of State well knows, only four Swedish houses have been completed so far in Aberdeenshire. He came up and opened one himself the other day. In my home town these houses have been standing for months waiting for quite simple fittings, in the main for electrical fittings. I am sure these fittings would have been available if they had not been shipped out of the country. I earnestly beg the Minister to make representations to the Ministries concerned and to ensure that there is proper coordination so that our total effort of production in this country is devoted to the housing of the people and not to the export drive, though that, also, must be considered.

5.36 p.m.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)

There are one or two points to which I wish to draw attention during this Debate. I think I am in Order in dealing with the question of expense, the cost to the builder of houses in rural Scotland compared with the cost in England. I hope the Under-Secretary will correct me when he comes to reply if I am wrong. There is nothing contentious about this and I am merely seeking information. I think I am right in saying that if a farmer wants to build a new house for himself even though it is a necessary house, he gets no grant at all in Scotland. On the other hand, in England a similar man would get £15 per annum for 40 years under the Housing Act of 1946. I think the figure was increased from £10 to £15. That seems to be a very unfair differentiation. I do not wish to go into the pros and cons of tied houses, but there is no grant for a tied house for a farm worker in Scotland. Neither is there a grant officially in England. There are, however, so many loopholes in the English Act that it is not very difficult to have a tied house. A man can get over the legal difficulties in several ways. It is not for me to give details of that at this stage. We are discussing rural houses in Scotland. There are no loopholes in the Scottish Act, though there are in the English Act.

In the case of an additional house for a farm worker, not a tied house on this occasion, there is no provision for a grant in Scotland. Again, in England a grant of £15 per annum for 40 years is available. That also is an unfair differentiation. A man who wishes to build a new house in substitution for an old house in Scotland would get a grant of £240 for a three-roomed type of house and rather more if it was a house of four rooms. In England there is available a grant of £15 per annum for 40 years, a total of £600. This appears to be very unfair to those who wish to improve rural housing conditions in Scotland. There are many other examples which I could instance. My object is to draw attention to the fact that in Scotland we have to pay more than in England for a similar type of house. I hope that the Undersecretary will be able to say that this matter has been raised and that his Department consider that the people who are trying to improve housing conditions in farming communities in Scotland should not be worse off financially than their brothers in England. I feel sure that that is accepted as a principle, though at the moment, as the law stands, England is very much better off than Scotland.

In connection with the Housing Return for Scotland issued for the period up to the end of August, I would point out that houses built by private enterprise, unassisted, have made a much greater increase proportionately compared with the number of permanent houses built and under construction by the local authorities. There is an increase of something like one-sixth in private enterprise unassisted building, as against an increase of only one-tenth in local authority building. There must be a good reason for that, because the private enterprise builder gets precious little encouragement and yet still seems to be able to do better, proportionately, than the local authorities.

Mr. Buchanan

I have not followed the hon. and gallant Gentleman's figures. Will he go over them again, as I did not quite catch them?

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Private enterprise, at the end of August, according to Table V of the Housing Return, had completed, since 1st January, 309 houses, and the similar figure at the end of July was 250. That shows an increase. The figures for permanent houses completed by local authorities were 3,281 at 31st August, against 2,978 in July. The proportion, as I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, is a little unbalanced.

Mr. Buchanan

May I just put the hon. Gentleman's figures right? I speak from memory, but private enterprise has completed 317 houses—that is the total of completions—whereas local authorities have completed well over 3,000. Those are the facts. We cannot take the figures month by month, but must compare them over a period.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

With great respect, I thank the hon. Gentleman for those figures, but I am talking of the increase over last month.

Mr. Buchanan

The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot take it over a month.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

On the contrary, I can take it over a month, and, now that the hon. Gentleman has emphasised that point, no doubt he will deal with it fully when he replies. Another point to which I wish to draw attention concerns the question of the export trade, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. Spence) has already referred. We are all well aware that the export trade must be boosted up for all it is worth, but I feel that the necessity of housing is far greater even than that of the export trade, and that this over-emphasis of the export trade against the home market, in relation to housing, is a very serious thing at this stage. I recall that the Minister of Health not so long ago could write in a book that this over-emphasis of the export trade as against the home market was "a twist of the Tory mind." I think that this twist has gone in other directions now, and that it certainly cannot be laid at the door of the Tories on this occasion. The Board of Trade should be told quite clearly by the Secretary of State for Scotland that they are not getting enough stuff for housing, which is so essential in Scotland, and that they are providing rather too much for export.

My final point is in connection with the situation in rural Scotland. Here, the housing situation is still deplorable, and I can see no sign of it becoming anything else. I do not want to go into the question of the tied house, which was discussed yesterday, but I do feel that we must realise that, unless we get the houses actually on the farms and up the glens where the men have got to work, these farms will become derelict in a very short time. It is no use saying that there will be a village community 10 miles down the glen when we know that no fellow will go 10 miles either on foot or on a bicycle every day. The houses must be on the spot in these areas, and that is where, so far, we have seen no sign of them at all. The situation is very serious, and I beg of the hon. Gentleman te tell us more today about what he is going to do in dealing with housing in the rural parts of Scotland.

5.44 p.m.

Mr. Timmons (Bothwell)

I want to compliment my right hon. Friend on the progress he has made up to now, and, in doing that, I want to point out one or two factors which have been militating against a further increase in completed houses. I regret that the Minister of Works is not here—

Mr. Buchanan

My right hon. Friend was here, but he has gone.

Mr. Timmons

I remember that, in the last housing Debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) gave a word of advice to the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench and said that, if they wanted to make progress in housing in Scotland, the first thing they would require to do would be to get rid of the Ministry of Works, lock, stock and barrel. My own experience, over a lengthy period, makes me feel like reiterating that advice to my hon. Friends, and I ask them to take steps to make some arrangements whereby the Ministry of Works is made to do the job or clear out of Scotland in order that some progress can be made in housing.

I will give some experiences which I have had in dealing with the Ministry of Works. A firm came up into my division to build houses rather more than a year ago. Every obstacle that could be put in the way of that firm in their efforts to find storage accommodation was placed in their way. In spite of the number of appeals which were made to the Ministry, not one square foot of storage space was provided until a few months ago, when I took up the matter with the Department in Edinburgh. Even today they have not got the accommodation they require. This has been going on continuously for a period of nine months. But that is not the worst of it.

About six months ago, I had occasion to go to the Department to see the Undersecretary of State, representatives from the Ministry of Works, representatives of that firm and some of the officials from the Scottish Office, and I remember that, after we had discussed the question of storage space, we got down to discuss another important matter concerning the site for a few hundred temporary houses which had been serviced and sent along to the Ministry of Works for delivery. I remember very well that my right hon. Friend did not know about it at the time, but later found out that it was perfectly true. Tentative arrangements were made with the representative of the firm of Tarran to slab the site and to erect the houses, and it was only a question of taking them from one side of the village to another. Two weeks later, what happened? We got an intimation from my right hon. Friend that that arrangement had been cancelled and that the site had been declared suitable for aluminium houses. The Lanarkshire County Council have a big number of sites ready serviced, with everything waiting but no houses coming along, and there will be no delivery of aluminium houses up to the end of this year.

I had occasion to go to Glasgow last week, and I went to the headquarters of the Lanarkshire County Council to check up and to make inquiries about a place called Forth, which had been given an allocation of 119 houses to be erected on a site which had been ready for a considerable time. The excuse of the Ministry of Works was that the contractors could not find accommodation for their workers. In that same place, there is a hostel which was built for Bevin Boys and which has never seen a boy in it since it was built. No serious attempt was made by the Ministry of Works to find accommodation for the workers, and so they could not build the houses in that area. These are some of the things we have had to contend with in our experiences with the Ministry of Works.

I wish to mention another matter in relation to this question. At Bellshill, we have been hoping to get delivery of our houses by the end of this year. Thai promise of delivery was based on an estimate that, by the month of September, the works would be producing 250 of these houses per month. I understand from my hon. Friend tonight that they have now completed 100 per week. The Lanarkshire County Council is to get something like 1,500 aluminium type houses and, in the meantime, further sites are being prepared. But we have 1,200 young people living in sub-let rooms in Bellshill with no prospect of a home of their own in the immediate future. Not one temporary house has been erected, and there is every reason for the young people to complain about the lack of progress made. I do not blame my hon. Friend in the least; I know the fight that he has put up in an attempt to help us in the matter. The fault is entirely due to the officials at the Ministry of Works. Had they been present, I would have appealed to them to clear out of the place entirely in order that progress can be made in Scotland. There are a number of sites ready and the firm engaged in building temporary houses, which employs over 700 of our people in Bellshill, has got to stop work and may be compelled to pay off 200 men because it has 450 temporary houses ready for delivery and the Ministry of Works say there are no sites available.

What progress has been made in relation to the proposed permanent houses? The Tarran Company have been building a certain type of permanent house somewhere in the North of England, but the same house, when it comes to Scotland, is not accepted until the bathroom is moved from upstairs to downstairs.

Mr. Buchanan

Some six months ago an hon. Member for one of the Hull Divisions wrote to me asking if I would make a site ready for this company to erect a prototype house. Six months ago I wrote to the firm, after consulting the Glasgow Town Council and the Housing Association, offering them a site. Both the Glasgow Town Council and the Housing Association have heard nothing further from that firm.

Mr. Timmons

I remember that in the early part of this year a question was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Coat-bridge (Mrs. Mann) about the Weir factory. I understand that they were to be in production by June. A few months ago I visited that factory and there was no immediate likelihood of production. They told me that they would be producing up to 50 houses a week in September. It is now October and I do not know whether there has been any production to date or whether there is likely to be any.

Mrs. Mann

May I say that there is production? There are over 200 workers and they have been working for over a month. I wish that my hon. Friend would make himself a little more conversant with the situation. May I also say that it is private enterprise.

Mr. Timmons

I am asking for information and the Under-Secretary of State ought to be able to inform me on these matters. No doubt I shall get the information I require when he speaks at the close of the Debate. I also want to know whether this firm is being financed by the Government, and to what extent. Can the Under-Secretary tell me what progress has been made with the Iron and Steel Confederation houses, and whether we are likely to get them? Are we going to be in the position of having sufficient supplies of steel? Labour trouble has developed in Lanarkshire and production has again declined. I wish to appeal to the Minister of Works to go to the Edinburgh Office and make a thorough reorganisation and a proper clean-out, and to get more cooperation between the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Supply, and the Under-Secretary of State who is responsible for getting the houses.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

If what the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Timmons) has said about the office of the Ministry of Works in Edinburgh is true, then it serves only to confirm and emphasise the case I have been making to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the past year—that Scottish housing is handicapped partly, but nevertheless seriously, by the multiplicity of directing heads. The hon. Gentleman has repeatedly denied that charge and said that he has complete control. The hon. Member for Bothwell does not think so, and he, apparently, speaks with a considerable personal knowledge of the matter. It is surely evident to the country that, if there is not only the Secretary of State, but also the Minister of Supply, the Minister of Works, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Minister of Health—the Chairman of the Government's Housing Committee—all sitting, coping and dealing with, arguing and discussing Scottish housing affairs, we are not likely to get the progress we desire. I hope the hon. Member for Bothwell succeeds: I confess I have failed badly in trying to persuade the Joint Under-Secretary of State.

Some time ago I tried another approach. On the advice of the very progressive Fife County Council, on which there are a great many Labour men and many Communists, I have, time after time, urged upon the Under-Secretary of State, in this House, the desirability of short circuiting his administrative machine. I gave him figures which proved that the present method involved inordinate and completely unnecessary delay. He denied that it existed and said that, even if it did, it was impossible to alter it. I did not like to tell him that that was nonsense. Under still further pressure and a good deal of publicity in Fife, the hon. Gentleman at last condescended to look at the Fife case. As a result it was proved, even to him— and he is a very stubborn person when he makes up his mind—that the system was bad. Under pressure, he altered it, and I am assured by the Fife County Clerk and his progressive council that the number of steps in the process of getting a house approved and built has been reduced from well over 100 to something well under 30. Hon. Members will see that that sort of thing is undoubtedly delaying matters.

The Secretary of State in his opening speech said he had nothing to apologise for. There was no penitence, no case for excusing himself. I thought his perky self-satisfaction somewhat nauseating in the present desperate housing situation. Perky satisfaction is not suited to the times. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman misleads himself as he misleads the country and the House from time to time. On a former occasion in May he undoubtedly misled the House; I was able to look up the figures and proved that the statement that the right hon. Gentleman had made was utterly false. One thing I noticed today was that the right hon. Gentleman did not promise any large undertakings for the future. That struck me as rather strange, because the chairman of the Government's housing committee has made such a pledge. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if the pledge which was made for England applies to Scotland also. This is the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health yesterday: I give this promise, that by the next General Election"— that is, 3½ years ahead, not very far away— there will be no housing shortage so far as the mass of the British people are concerned. The Minister of Health has said time and time again that he would not make promises, but in recent months in fact he keeps on making promises. Those words that I have just read constitute a promise. Does that promise apply to Scotland? Perhaps when the Undersecretary of State replies he will tell us whether the Socialist Government's promise to England will also apply to Scotland.

Mr. Buchanan

The point is this. I pledge myself, and nobody else will pledge it for me.

Mr. Stewart

Let us get this clear. Whereas England can be sure that in 3½ years' time its housing problem will be solved, no such possibility exists for Scotland. I ask hon. Members opposite to say if I am wrong in that. Will somebody please deny it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] It is not denied by anybody in the Government. It is not denied by the Minister. So we may take it the housing shortage will not be met in 3½ years' time in Scotland, whereas in England it will be. I will tell the House why there is likely to be that strange comparison. The Minister of Health went on to say this yesterday: It is no use grumbling at the Government. The bricks are on the sites, and the materials are there. The contracts are placed and it is now the job of the builders to build the houses. I invite the special attention of the House to those words: The materials are there"— in England. The whole burden of the complaint of the Secretary of State today was that they are not in Scotland. Why are they not in Scotland? Let us have a little inquiry into this matter, because this is vital. The Secretary of State has shown that he has now as many bricks as he had before the war. The output of bricks is as high as it was in 1939. He declared too that there are now more men employed in building than ever before. He has bricks, men, the administrative machinery and the whole paraphernalia of Socialist planned inspiration but not the materials.

I would like to tell the House of a case in Cupar, Fife, where there were two building schemes. One is a brick built scheme operated by the Local Authority and the other a scheme for the erection of prefabricated houses undertaken by the Ministry of Works. When I visited the sites a few weeks ago the brick scheme was going ahead step by step, well planned and with no delays. Everybody was working and there was not an idle man on the site. What happened on the other job? The Cupar Council were cajoled into accepting these temporary prefabricated houses on the gorund that it was a quick job. What a tragedy. I found there was stagnation. The floors, roofs and sides had come, but vital parts had been forgotten. There was no plumbing units, no pipes, and other vital parts were missing with which the private enterprise buildings had been provided. I am not a bit surprised that there is a shortage of materials. Why is there a shortage of materials in Scotland when, apparently, there is no shortage in England? If the statement of the Minister of Health is accurate—and I suppose it must be taken as accurate—England must be getting all the materials at the expense of Scotland. We do not require to search far for the answer. I have heard it said, and from Government supporters, that the Secretary of State is representing Scotland rather feebly in the councils of the Government. I well believe it. Here is an example of it. He says, almost with tears running down his cheeks, '' I cannot help it. We have not got the materials." But the Minister of Health has got all the materials he wants. Perhaps the Undersecretary of State will be able to enlighten us when he replies.

I suppose one judges a Government not by its words but by its deeds. What are the deeds of this Government? I say nothing about the 20,000 houses mentioned in the promise of the Secretary of State. That is for him to settle with his conscience, and perhaps with the Press, although it struck me as very odd that the Secretary of State should adopt that slippery, un-courageous action of saying, "I was misreported." However, I will let that pass. What has been done in the 13 months of Socialist rule? In the first report which came from the Department of Health we were told that Scotland needed 500,000 houses. That was, apparently, the objective of the Secretary of State. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) has said, that appears to be the programme of the Secretary of State. I believe that is a ten years' programme. Now let us look at the production of permanent houses. There are now 3,670 permanent houses which have been completed in the 14 months up to September. That is during the best summer months—

Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)

When were the summer months?

Mr. Stewart

They are supposed to be the best building months. While some parts suffered from rain, Scotland as a whole came off very well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The anwer is to be found in the facts. The Scottish harvest is in, but in some parts of England it is not in yet, and Scotland's harvest will be infinitely bigger in proportion than England's harvest, because the weather in Scotland was better. In those summer months, June, July and August, far from the rate of permanent housing going up, it fell. The figures are: June 331, July 308 and August 303. It is an incredible performance. It is true that in September the number seems to have been boosted up to 346, but that is likely to be another freak figure, like the 200-odd figure which was given to me in May. It seems to show that the number of houses built in Scotland will be less than 4,000 per annum, compared with the target figure of 50,000 per annum. I do not think that is anything to be perky about. The local authorities were pressed to get on with the job, to provide sites and to get tenders forward. They did. There are 54,000 tenders, but only 23,000 houses.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to another example of failure. Included in that small number of permanent houses are those built by the Special Housing Association which, I think, was given an immediate target of 10,000 houses—100,000 total and 10,000 at once as a first job. How many houses has this much boosted, Government sponsored, Exchequer paid housing authority produced? During the 13 months they have completed 264 houses; during the month of August the immense total of nine houses; yet they are going to build 10,000 houses. When? God knows. There seems to be no prospect of any advance there.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)

They were the shock troops, too.

Mr. Stewart

The shocking troops, I would say. The temporary housing position is not quite so bad, but it is bad enough. We were promised 32,000 or 33,000 houses in Scotland, were we not? The attraction was speedy production. The local authorities had expected to receive their complete allocation by the end of this year—and why not? Their chief value was supposed to be their readiness. The whole point was speedy production. The position now is that only 6,000 temporary houses have been completed by the Government and handed over to the local authorities. Six thousand instead of 33,000. That is a quarter of the number promised. Here again local authorities have gone ahead as far as they could, only to be hopelessly disappointed. Even in the course of the war years, when house building was very nearly impossible, in Scotland we built 6,000 houses.

Mr. Westwood

Might I just correct the figure? It is quite common for the hon. Member not to give the facts to the House, although I have already given them. The total number of temporary houses which have now been completed is 8,545. That is only about 25 per cent.of my total. Of course, that is typical of National Liberal facts.

Mr. Stewart

I am much obliged for that correction. I was dealing with the figures in this return up to August. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right; he did give—and I apologise for not quoting him before—the figure up to 2nd October. His correction is quite right, which I admit, and am glad to admit. I was about to say that during the war, in Scotland 6,000 new houses were built. We are now building at the rate of less than 12,000 in a year, only twice as many as were built in the war. That strikes me as an incredible example of incapacity.

That is the charge I level against this Government: sheer gross incapacity. [Laughter.] There they are, these Socialists: they laugh, they joke, they jeer, they are apparently quite satisfied with their performance. If that is so, then the outlook for Scotland is even blacker than I thought. Not only are they incapable but they seem to be glad to be incapable, and very proud to be incapable. If this incapacity continues we will suffer very very great strain and distress in many parts of Scotland. It will be particularly so in rural areas. No substantial number of houses have been built anywhere in any county of which I have any knowledge. Apparently a new type of house is to be started —one house! Does that mean one house being built, or one house being created in a factory? One would like to know. I assure hon. Members opposite that they are neglecting a vital activity, and I am not sure that it is not the most important part of any Government's activities.

There is one other question which I want to ask. The Secretary of State, with one of his sorts of asides, indicated that the price of houses ranged from £1,150 permanent to £1,300 of the non-traditional type. Did I catch that correctly?

Mr. Westwood indicated assent.

Mr. Stewart

I wonder if that is a complete answer. My information is that some of these temporary or non-traditional types of houses run to an infinitely higher figure than £1,300. I am told they run to £1,600. Was the right hon. Gentleman giving an average figure, or does he deny that some of them are as high as that?

Mr. Buchanan

Some of them run to very nearly as high as that I do not deny that.

Mr. Stewart

Surely that is an extraordinary situation. We can build brick houses for about a third less than these new types. Apparently we have all the labour to do it; apparently we have all the bricks to do it, and I should have thought we would have had the other materials. In these circumstances is it not the duty of the Government—financial, social and every other kind of duty—to concentrate more, to bring more weight to bear upon traditional brick built houses rather than to play about with these new-fangled ideas? I am in the fortunate position of having attacked temporary houses from the very start, in the time of the last Government. I could almost claim to be the initiator of the attack upon that system. Therefore, I am perfectly consistent in attacking it now. I admit the permanent prefabricated house has pos- sibilities, but at the moment brick houses go up quicker, they cost less, they are more suited to this country and they are more popular. Why in heaven's name does not the Secretary of State concentrate more upon those instead of fiddling about with all these new ideas, which are obviously costing such an enormous amount of money and producing such very meagre results?

It is a depressing picture that faces us as we look forward to Christmas time. Permanent house building will be still smaller in numbers during the winter months. The prospect is even more gloomy than it was in the summer. I can only ask, with all the sincerity I can command, that the Government will approach this again with a good deal less conceit and self-satisfaction, but with a good deal more readiness to accept the advice of other people, and particularly with readiness to give those people who do understand this business all the encouragement that is possible. Above all, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to give the House the plain, unvarnished facts. We are entitled to the plain truth. We are entitled to believe that when a Minister makes a statement and gives an undertaking he stands by it. The Secretary of State has proved himself to have fallen far short of that standard. Unfortunately, having fallen short of that standard himself, all Scotland suffers accordingly.

6.17 p.m.

Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)

I congratulate the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) on his comprehensive knowledge of the building industry. When I hear an hon. Member of this House talking about building brick houses cheaper and quicker than he can build houses by any other method, I can only assume it is not only in building that fabrication takes place.

Mr. Stewart

These are figures given by the Secretary of State.

Mr. McKinlay

The hon. Member's well simulated indignation will read remarkably well in East Fife, but so far as this House is concerned it stinks. I want to be quite frank about this. I have been in the building industry long enough to know that eloquent speeches never produce one single house, and that goes for all political parties.

Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)

Neither do eloquent promises.

Mr. McKinlay

I will deal with the promises. I do not want to offend the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew {Major Lloyd), because he is so sensitive. He is blindly sensitive, if I may say so, and I do not want to get into the headlines of his. political commentary. It is an awfully dangerous thing, even for Front Benchers, to indulge in waves of optimism in dealing with this problem. To listen to hon. Members opposite one would think this problem was a creation of the war period. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife quotes the number of houses built during the war: six years of war, 6,000 houses. We have a residuum of prewar housing programmes of semi-finished houses; and anything after September, 1939, was a wartime product. I am sure this must tickle my hon. Friends' imagination— 1,500 of them in one fell swoop were built by direct labour; and they were built at Penniles and Hillington for the Ministry of Aircraft Production; and it was the only housing development where no system of payment by results was introduced, and where the output, per bricklayer, was as high as it was per man in the munition factories. But that is a shocking state of affairs.

I did not get up however even to try to follow the well simulated indignation of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid). When all is said and done, this Government is not so very old. I remember a prototype house being erected at the back of the Tate Gallery. Did we hear anything about it? It was the Portal house. If I remember correctly, I, as a member of a Committee, was presented with some figures in this Parliament which showed that the Party opposite, that the brilliant son-in-law of a brilliant father-in-law, had committed this country to £50 million worth of components; but the houses upon which they proposed to use the components had never even been started, and most of the fitments were made right and left handed for the wrong places. It has cost this Government thousands of pounds in storage charges trying to hide them from the public. Why the Minister of Works should have been so modest about what happened in the administration of Mr. Duncan Sandys I do not know. They are far too modest.

I think the Minister of Health in England adopted a very good policy when he said he was creating no target. I want to give some advice to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland when he says there are 230,000 sites. The man in the street thinks that is 230,000 areas upon which to build houses; which, of course, is all poppycock. They are 230,000 pieces of land upon each of which one house can go. If I may say so, I think the Glasgow corporation, indeed, are entitled to the credit of having, at least, land for 40,000 houses in their possession and included in those figures. But I wish Front Benchers and Back Benchers, too, would stop talking in astronomical figures about what can be done in the production of houses.

Major Lloyd

The hon. Member should have said that at the Election.

Mr. MacKinlay

If the hon. and gallant Member accuses me of having said those things at the Election, then I can only deny it.

Major Lloyd

On a point of Order. I did not say that. I said the hon. Member ought to have said it. I did not say he said it.

Hon. Members: Oh!

Mr. MeKinlay

Anyone who knows me knows I would not talk such arrant nonsense. Those who do not know me, and believe it, are entitled to their belief. But I have had the chastening experience of having to prepare a programme of 60,000 houses, and that was mainly the responsibility of the Party opposite who, in 1933, declared that the housing problem was solved, and who withdrew the Wheatley Act subsidy, and chased every person who was not qualified for a slum clearance house into the hands of the building societies. Will any hon. Member on the opposite side of the House deny that? It is not a question, however, of who was responsible for creating the problem. It is a question of how best we can solve it. There are some things being accepted as dwelling houses at the moment that never will be dwelling houses. That brings me to the question of what constitutes a temporary house. There is not a single house designated as such, that will not stand for 25 years, and part of the problem in Scotland, at least, is this: that the buildings they did build years ago, were too strongly and too well built. They outlasted the development of modern society, and we cannot clear them away without spending a fortune.

However, I am departing from what I intended to say. If I may have the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for a minute or two, I want to deal with the Special Housing Association. Hon. Members are aware that there was a reorganisation that took place of this Association, and that its members were asked to tender their resignations. I wonder what the reason was. I feel some responsibility in this matter, because there was, at least, one who was a member on my recommendation. Having declined to serve myself, I recommended one who was, I thought, a suitable alternative. There were two Members of this House who were asked for their resignations from the Association. Everybody was asked for his resignation; but some were asked to serve again The only person not asked for his resignation was the chief executive officer. If that was an efficiency test, why did they leave Casabianca standing on the burning deck all by himself? But there has been reorganisation, and new members have been appointed. Well, I have looked at the list of new members. I do not know that any of them have ever been to sea before. They apparently have struck stormy weather in the early days of their passage, but I am sure we wish them well. I would counsel them not to let it worry them too much lest somebody come along and ask for their resignations without any explanation.

What I really want to get at is this. What was the purpose of this reorganisation? My attitude towards the Housing Association has never been concealed, but I was worried, in this Parliament, after an initial protest, to give it a run for its money. It is costing a lot of money. A new director has been appointed at a salary of £3,000. In the last Parliament, when we sought the extension of the powers of this Association, I protested that there was nothing the Association could do, that a local authority could not do, and that the Association never created one single additional building trade unit, nor yet did it provide one single item by way of a building trade commodity. I repeat that. I have always wanted to know what purpose was behind this. I understand that they are to build 100,000 houses in 10 years. That is the point to which I want to come. I do not want to discourage them, but that is 10,000 houses per annum—perhaps. But on nth September an advertisement appeared in the "Glasgow Herald"—and, I presume in the "Scotsman," for the benefit of the intellectual Members who come from the East—for technical officers. On a rough calculation I made out that at least they were being saddled with an overhead of between £50,000 and £60,000 per annum in salaries. I think these people are entitled to a good salary, but what purpose does it serve, in a scarcity market, advertising appointments at salaries far in excess of those paid to the same technicians by local authorities and private employers in Scotland? My right hon. Friend is dropping an inflationary bomb into every city engineer's office in Scotland, because the only way they can retain their staff is by giving them a wages or salaries boost. Clerks of works are advertised for at £12 per week, when only a miserable £5 per week is the average rate paid. This is reflected in the cost of houses, apart from anything else, but I want to know just exactly what this huge technical army proposes to do.

Ten thousand houses per annum—that is an optimistic estimate, and I am not blaming them if they do not build 10,000 houses per annum. I tried to do it myself when bricklayers were three a penny, and could not do it, but that is by the way. Could the Joint Undersecretary, when he is replying, tell me whether it is proposed that this Association should construct the new towns which were planned, one of them located in Lanarkshire and one in Dumbarton? I want to know if it is proposed to use the Association for that purpose. I also want to know, seeing that the subsidy is due for revision, if it is the intention of the Government to give the same financial consideration to local authorities as they give to the Special Housing Association? If it is the policy of the Government to give 100 per cent.from funds provided by the Treasury to the Special Housing Association, then I submit that they cannot deny the same concessions to the local authorities. Here is what has happened A proposal was before the Glasgow corporation a fortnight ago that they should enter into a contract, with an organisation of contractors, which has been formed to build 12,000 houses. The argument used against the corporation's entering into that covenant was this, and it came from some of the people who were the most vociferous supporters of Glasgow's accepting 2,000 houses from the Housing Association: "Why do you not get the Housing Association to enter into this contract, and then we, the citizens of Glasgow, will not be required to provide an £80,000 sinking fund?"

My right hon. Friend knows that the only attraction for local authorities in taking the assistance of the Special Housing Association is that the houses cost the local authorities nothing. I do not understand the set-up at all. I am informed on pretty fair authority that the Special Housing Association has the Dundee Corporation as contractors, in Dundee, on a site which originally belonged to the corporation. What sort of poppycock is this? Where are we getting to? If the 2,000 houses offered to Glasgow are going to be built by the Association, I presume that the Glasgow corporation will become contractors to the Housing Association for the servicing of the sites. The only virtue about it is that the houses will cost the local authority nothing. I do not like the Housing Association and I have never concealed it. I think there was an ulterior purpose behind its original creation, and whatever useful work they may have been able to do before the war, I have searched my conscience to see whether I could give them credit for doing any useful work after the war.

My hon. Friends will say that the Association has been reorganised. That is what I want to know—I want to know exactly what the reorganisation has been about and what is the purpose behind it. The local authorities have persuaded the Secretary of State for Scotland to fix a revision date for the subsidy in 1947 and that experience has proved the subsidy to be wholly inadequate, as the Government's contribution is fixed and limited and that the local authorities' contribution is a minimum without any maximum. In the light of experience I submit that, if the Government can give 100 per cent.from the Treasury to cover the cost of houses built by the Association, the local authorities are entitled to claim at least the same treatment.

6.36 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)

There are many aspects of housing on which one would like to speak this evening, but as I know that a great many hon. Members on both sides want to take part I will confine my observations briefly to three points. I would first say a word on the question of the general progress of the Government's housing programme, because it has already been the subject of argument. It seems to me that the only fair way in which one can judge progress is to compare actual achievements with what the Government estimated, at the beginning of the Session, that they would do. My datum line is a statement made by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland in answer to a Question I put to him on 16th October of last year. He said: The Government aim at having 20,000 permanent houses built or building by the end of June, 1946, … Their target is to have 20,000 temporary houses completed by the first date…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 940.] I am only dealing at the moment with the period up to 30th June, 1946. I suggest that it is necessary to dispel that aura of complacency and self-congratulation which seems to have centred itself round the Secretary of State by pointing out that the achievement so far, by 30th June, has not been very impressive. Actually we find, by referring to the official returns, that by 30th June, 16,910 permanent houses were then built or building, of which incidentally no less than 4,500 were started before the Coalition Government left office, and that 4,433 temporary houses had been completed. In other words, the achievements, as compared with the Government's own estimate, show a deficiency of over 3,000 permanent houses and no less than 15,500 temporary houses. I cannot see any reason for complacency or self-congratulation on the part of the Secretary of State or anybody else associated with the housing programme.

One would like to know what all the reasons are for the delay. The Secretary of State has given two this afternoon. He said that in the early stages of the programme there was some shortage of labour, but I understand him to say that that is no longer a factor in the situation. He also said that there was a shortage of certain components used in building houses—glass, electrical equipment, drain pipes and so on, and that is, I understand, the main difficulty at the moment. My only comment on that is that I do not think very much of the Government's planning. They have very great powers for dealing with these matters; towards the end of last year this House passed the Building Materials and Housing Act, 1945, which empowers the Minister of Works to purchase building materials and equipment for building, and authorises him to make and carry out arrangements for the production and distribution of building materials and equipment. Although many of us on this side rather doubted the wisdom and efficiency of that Act we did not oppose it in principle, neither did we oppose the Second or Third Reading, but I think our fears were justified, and it does not appear to have been of much use in ironing out shortages of materials.

I should like to say a word on the subject of finance. It has been referred to by the Secretary of State in his opening remarks today, and I am very glad, because earlier in this Session when we were discussing the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act, 1946, I put several questions about costs but was not successful in extracting any answer from any Member of the Government, either during the Second Reading Debate or during the Committee stage. It seems to me that this question of cost is exercising, and rightly exercising, the attention of the Government, because I noticed that the Minister stated a few days ago, at a public function in London, that building prices have already gone as high as this country can stand and must go no higher. According to the Secretary of State the present cost of a permanent house of the traditional type, which I assume to be a four-roomed house, is £1,150. I take it that that is inclusive of services. I was told when I was visiting a housing estate in Edinburgh that they put the figure at £1,170. It is worth while noting that a comparable house in 1939 would have cost £530, or about half the price. I was told in Edinburgh that they estimated the cost of a temporary house at about £1,300 exclusive of services, and the Secretary of State also mentioned the figure of £1,300 today. That seems to be a very high price for a dwelling which is assessed as having a life of only 10 years. I hope that we may have more information later on about these matters of cost, because I understand that next year the question of subsidies falls due for further discussion and legislation.

Another point of considerable interest and importance is the question of the requisitioning powers of the local authorities. I put it to the Secretary of State that neither he nor the Government are backing up the local authorities sufficiently in their activities in this direction. I say that because at the moment there are no less than 94 large houses in Edinburgh having an annual rateable value of £80 or more, most of which are in my own Division, which are being occupied by some Government Department or other. The corporation are most anxious to get hold of some of these buildings for the housing of homeless people—

Mr. Buchanan

Not empty houses?

LJeut.-Commander Hutchison

My point is that they are in possession of Government Departments, and that it is high time that we got these people out of these dwellings. Another point is that they are occupied only during the day, and are empty, except perhaps for the odd caretaker, during the night. I make the suggestion that the same practice should be followed as was followed by the Admiralty during the war. Admiralty staff worked in hutments. This system worked quite well, and it is something which might be looked into. Investigation might show that comparatively few people are working in some of these premises, and the Secretary of State might consider telescoping some of these Departments to make some of these houses free. I therefore ask him to look into this matter to see whether he cannot make available for use for housing purposes some of these dwellings which at present are in the hands of various Government Departments. I would remind the Secretary of State that there is in force a Regulation—Defence Regulation 68CA prohibiting the conversion of dwelling houses, which includes hotels, into business premises. I regret to say that the Secretary of State has set rather a bad example in Edinburgh which has caused a good deal of irritation, because he overruled the Town Council who were anxious to secure an hotel which was being sold for housing purposes. The Secretary of State overruled their decision, and he allowed a firm of contractors to occupy this building for business purposes.

Mr. Buchanan

I think that the hon, and gallant Gentleman should tell the full story. I am interrupting in fairness, because the facts are as follow. We had better say who the firm was. It was Messrs. Wimpey, the contractors who are carrying out extremely valuable building contracts in Scotland. They occupied an office which they used for work in this area, but because of the extensive business which was increasing in Scotland, it was necessary that they should find room for surveyors and other people. What they did was to give up their other place which was not so big, and they got this one for housing purposes. It was a thing which we had to do for housing, because getting people to work in offices for housing purposes is just as important as getting them to work on a site. I trust that the House will accept that explanation.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

I am glad to get that explanation, but I would point out to the Secretary of State that there is a psychological approach as well as a practical approach in matters of this kind. While he is perfectly correct that Messrs. Wimpey are giving up their premises, it is going to cost a great deal to convert these premises into dwellings, whereas the Town Council could have had this hotel and with very little difficulty could have effected the necessary conversion. I know that this matter is now finished with, but I hope that tie will pay full regard to cases of this kind in the future.

Mr. Buchanan

I want to make this perfectly clear. I have been challenged repeatedly by Members opposite for not giving private enterprise a chance. Messrs. Wimpey are a private-enterprise firm. They need offices, and so long as they operate I propose to give them a decent office in order that they can carry-out their work of housing construction on a big scale.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

I am, of course, glad to get that explanation, but all I can say is that it is very desirable that the Secretary of State shall endeavour to take the local authorities with him in future, because this case has been a source of irritation.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. Hoy (Leith)

I am rather surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut-Commander Hutchison) should have taken the line he has taken over the allocation of offices to Messrs. Wimpey. This was not a decision forced upon Edinburgh by the Scottish Office, but a decision arrived at by the Edinburgh corporation. They decided, in the best interests of all concerned, that Messrs. Wimpey should have offices which were sufficient to cope with the contracts they received in Edinburgh and elsewhere. I think that it is making a mountain out of a molehill to use a small incident of this kind to attempt to fasten on the Scottish Office responsibility for not having released houses for temporary accommodation.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

I do not know whether the hon. Member understands the facts. The corporation had earmarked this hotel for housing purposes. They put up a proposition to the Secretary of State, but under the Defence Regulations he refused to confirm it.

Mr. Hoy

I agree that that is what happened, but Messrs. Wimpey agreed to release other premises, and I think it was a very satisfactory arrangement which met with approval in Edinburgh. I do not wish to hammer at the point too long, because there are many hon. Members who wish to take part in this discussion.

I was a little surprised at the attack launched on the Government by the right hon and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid). I thought he made very heavy weather when he was discussing the speech of the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend has not always received my wholehearted support, but I did notice that he was careful to say, "Twenty thousand houses built or building." In our previous Debates he has used the same expression, but what I am much more interested in is getting houses built.

I want to make one or two points of criticism about supplies. I very much regret that the Ministry of Supply are not represented on the Front Bench today, because I understand that one of the greatest complaints from contractors is the lack of electrical supplies. I understand that the Ministry of Supply, at least in certain sections, is the Department responsible. In communication with the Ministry recently, I was making a complaint regarding an electric cable for a housing scheme. I know the Minister is making attempts to meet the shortage, but when one is faced with having to wait 104 weeks for delivery of a certain type of electrical cable, it does not fill one with great hope of getting all houses that we require in Scotland. There are many types of electrical supplies which are scarce. Housing is waiting on electrical tubes, switches, and mains boxes. I know one firm in Edinburgh which cannot carry on with its schemes for approximately 1,000 houses, because of the lack of electrical supplies. We are entitled to know what steps the respective Departments are taking to produce these supplies. Without them we cannot have finished and occupied houses. I also understand that there is a great scarcity of light castings. We shall expect the Under-Secretary to tell us tonight, what steps are being taken to overcome these scarcities, because we are entitled to have some answers to these questions.

I want to deal with the question of the shortage of other materials. For a long time there were complaints from all over the country about the scarcity not only of painters to complete houses, but of painting material. I do not think the position has eased in the past few months, and I am perturbed about the tremendous amount of these materials which are being used on public houses and buildings of that type when they ought to be-diverted to ordinary housing. I think a great deal of responsibility for this must, again, be laid at the door of the Ministry of Works. In many ways I think they are too free with the licences they issue, while they always seem to be adamant in refusing them in what most of us consider to be necessitous cases. The licensing department of the Ministry of Works must be overhauled. The Joint Under-Secretary ought to look into the way in which local authorities are using their licensing powers. For instance, a few weeks ago in the City of Edinburgh, the local licensing committee gave a man a licence to add a bedroom to his house. I am not arguing for one moment that the man wanted more room than was necessary, but with a wife and three children he had a five-apartment house, with the usual offices. I understand that he wanted one of his "in-laws" to stay with the family, though I can scarcely believe that he was eager to have his mother-in-law. He was granted a licence for £250, with which to put an extra bedroom on to his house.

There are other abuses of these licensing powers and the Government must be adamant in dealing with cases of this kind. There is no room for wastage of material or labour until we have sufficient houses to meet our immediate needs. When my hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary is discussing this problem he might also discuss it with the Ministry of Works, because in many cases I think they are too free with their licences. If the suggestions which have been made were adopted I think we should save material and employ our available labour in a better way. I hope the Minister will make an endeavour to meet the criticisms I have had to make.

6.56 p.m.

Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)

There is no more burning question that we as representatives of Scotland could possibly discuss at the moment than that of housing. I do not think there is any subject about which Scottish people, both in rural areas and in industrial and urban areas, are more deeply concerned at the present time. I wish we were able to accommodate the representatives of the thousands of homeless people in Scotland here today, so that they could listen to this Debate. We have not had many listening today, but there are many hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland who are greatly concerned with what we say and do here on the subject of housing and I fear that they will read their newspapers tomorrow with bitter disappointment about the comparatively fruitless results of our discussions.

I listened to the speech of the Secretary of State and I must confess that I was absolutely shocked, at the complacency with which he made his statement, and the satisfaction which was apparent throughout all he said. What on earth is there to be satisfied about, in the progress of housing in Scotland? Does the right hon. Gentleman imagine that the homeless people there, or the thousands of people who are concerned about them in Scotland, are satisfied? If he is satisfied, then he is the only person in Scotland who is. The right hon. Gentleman should be the major representative of Scottish discontent and disillusionment. He is our leader in Scotland. On him we depend for drive and energy, and for representation, in the Cabinet, about Scottish grievances—the many Scottish grievances which have been represented here, in connection with the lack of facilities given in Scotland with regard to raw materials and supplies.

I do not blame the Joint Undersecretary who is responsible for housing, half so much as I do the Secretary of State for the situation which prevails in Scotland. We ought to be adequately represented with strength and force in the Cabinet. If our grievances with regard to the lack of supplies and lack of attention by the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Supply and other Departments were adequately represented, and there was no satisfactory result, then the only way to handle the matter would be through resignation by the Minister. If that is the only means of protesting against the inefficiency of Departments in Whitehall, which seem to run the whole of our life these days, then let us have resignations. Resignations were called for from the Special Housing Association, presumably because it was not doing as well as it could do. Does the Front Bench, representing Scotland, imagine that it is doing a good job in this respect? If they are not happy about it and are dissatisfied, and do not want to be blamed themselves—and I do not think that they need be entirely blamed—then surely the courageous thing to do is to say so frankly, if necessary by means of resignation. But no one ever resigns from the Government Front Bench today.

I know the Joint Under-Secretary of State well, and I have a great respect for him, and I cannot believe that, when he comes to reply, he can say that he is satisfied. I cannot believe that he shares the self-satisfaction and complacency of his colleague, the Secretary of State. If he does, he is not being true to his nature. He has courage. Let him say if he is satisfied, and, if he is satisfied, if he shares the complacency shown by the Secretary of State in his speech. If he is not satisfied, and cannot get his own way, and if the Department will not help him more than they are doing, let him have the courage, which he has always shown throughout his long career in Parliament, to resign, and tell Scotland the reason why. That is what the situation is coming to—some drastic action. We can all criticise and point out faults, but only one speech from the opposite side has shown any criticism of the present position. Everyone else has patted the Government on the back and shared in the satisfaction of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State said that he had nothing for which to apologise. Good heavens, these two Ministers, representing Scotland in connection with houses, should be here in a white sheet. They have everything for which to apologise. It may not be their fault, but they have a great deal for which to apologise in so far as they represent Scotland on this question.

The housing record is a pitiable story of utter failure and of a ghastly difference between promises and performance. After all the promises which were made in this connection during the General Election in Scotland, from platform after platform, let us look at the miserable results today. The pledges and promises given by representatives of my Party, 220,000 houses in Great Britain to include Scotland, was called "chicken feed." Whatever I said with regard to housing in Scotland, I was told that it was not enough. I was told by the Socialists "What is the good of that?" "Chicken feed" was what the Minister in this House had called it a few days before. What about the "chicken feed" today? The story is shameful and the people of Scotland are getting desperate about it.

I am getting pitiable letters from constituents who are in the most desperate plight for homes—the most terrible stories of people living under the most dreadful conditions, some of them suffering from tuberculosis. There are pitiable stories of people coming home from the war, after long service, who cannot get homes, and have not the faintest chance of getting homes. What are we going to do about it? The Secretary of State today represented a complacent attitude which was absolutely disgraceful. If he had said, "We have failed to implement our promises but we have had all kinds of difficulties to contend with, mainly from Whitehall, and we really are ashamed of our record, and hope you will forgive us and understand," we would have respected and admired his courage. "I have no apology to make," he said, for his pitiable record of failure. It seems that the situation is deplorable in the extreme. The story which has been told us today is not going to hold out one ray of hope to the thousands of homeless people in every part of Scotland. That applies especially to the urban areas and in the rural areas it is even worse. Not a single thing is being done to assist those who live in the rural areas, and who will be of such vital importance to our agricultural work in the future.

I would say a word or two about the position of squatters. I am particularly interested, because a number of squatters have come from Glasgow into Renfrewshire and taken possession of hutments there. What is to happen with regard to the apportionment of responsibility? Have the Renfrewshire county council to accept as their new tenants squatters from Glasgow, for whom they have no responsibility? Is the expense of maintaining these camps and looking after all the sanitation, which is quite substantial, to fall on the Renfrewshire county council or upon the Glasgow corporation? It seems that we must have a very definite understanding about matters of that kind. Why should people come from one area into another area and become a considerable charge on that area, without a "By your leave" and without any specific ruling or action from the Government on the matter?

With regard to the Ministry of Works, I have the greatest sympathy for the Under-Secretary. I wish that he would tell the House, and Scottish Members, today, the truth about his difficulties. I beg him to have the courage to do so. Then everyone would respect him. Whitehall is just running us today, and not giving us sufficient freedom with regard to housing. Muddle and mess are going on, and the officialdom in the Ministry of Works is too bad They have their representatives in Scotland, but what power have those representatives? For anything worth while they have to refer for consent to their higher-ups in Whitehall. Let the Minister of Works delegate to them real powers, and let them be men of courage who will not constantly refer every little thing to Whitehall for ruling and consent.

There has been talk about houses for key workers. I attended a conference in Scotland, at which there were colleagues from both sides of the House, on the subject of what the Board of Trade hope to do in bringing new works to Scotland. We all discovered that one of the major difficulties in the way of these plans, most of which were on paper, was that if these works came to Scotland there were no houses for the key workers. What has the Under-Secretary to say with regard to that? It is a very vital point. Local authorities have enormous waiting lists. Are they to give up the waiting lists of their own local people to strangers from England, for the sake of key workers? There ought to be a special method of building houses for key workers, without asking the local authorities to sacrifice their own houses and to tamper with their pathetic waiting-lists. I do not think that it is fair to ask the local authorities to allocate precious houses to key workers coming from England. We ought to have a better policy than that. The Government might even use the Special Housing Association for that purpose. I am not concerned in going through the figures which we have all studied. How anyone can suggest that these figures are not pathetic, and how anyone can hold out any hope to homeless people in Scotland for many years to come, I simply cannot understand.

7.9 p.m.

Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)

I feel greatly honoured to have such a huge attendance of Members on the opposite benches. There must be at least a dozen. I want to point out that the dozen represents 300 per cent. increase in the number of Members opposite who attended the last attack on the Government in regard to housing. I believe that there was throughout that Debate an average attendance of four. Nevertheless, that four represented three more than those who attended the conference when we were discussing work in Scotland last week. When Members of Parliament were invited to two of the industrial estates to find out what was really being done for Scotland, I believe that we had one Member present from the Opposition benches. If the Government's record in housing is in any way synonymous with this alleged interest of hon. Members opposite in either housing or work, then Scotland is in a bad way indeed. I have listened to the criticisms that have come from the Benches opposite. Criticisms are always good for any Government; even newspaper criticisms are very good. I hope the time will never come when criticism will be stifled either in the Press or from the public. But criticisms in a Debate of this kind ought surely to be constructive. I have searched for a single constructive suggestion in the speeches of hon. Members opposite; I nave read the Scottish newspapers on housing; I have even attended some of my opponents' meetings, and still I have not got from them a single constructive suggestion.

We who have been interested in housing and have followed it between the two wars know how dreadful the position is. We know that there are thousands who are homeless, who have not a roof over their heads, and we know why. We know that since the withdrawal of the Wheatley Act in 1933, there has not been an Act on the Statute Book under which a local authority in Scotland could build for other than the overcrowded and slum clearance. In other words, from 1933 every local authority in Scotland was prohibited from building unless it was for those already in houses, namely, slum clearance and overcrowding. Will hon. Members opposite tell their constituents that? It is not due to the war. It is due to ineptitude and lack of foresight on the part of the Government six years before the war. Is it not a fact that all the local authorities in Scotland sent up protest after protest pleading to be allowed to build houses for the newly married, and their protests were all turned down? The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) was a member of my housing committee when I was convener. He was present when, in that committee, we asked our architect to design cottage homes on the Pollok Estate. He was also present, I believe, when the refusal came back from the Department of Health to allow us to build anything but houses for slum clearance and overcrowding. I believe he joined in the protest which was made to Sir Godfrey Collins in an effort to get him to reconsider that decision. There are many thousands of people who are homeless—not homeless for a year, not homeless even since the war, but people who, as we know from the heartbreaking applications that come to us, now have three or four children and have been 10 years waiting for a house; and if they have been 10 years waiting for a house, hon. Members opposite cannot shirk the blame. I am reminded of the Knights of the Round Table, of one of whom it was said: His honour rooted in dishonour stood, And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true. If today hon. Members opposite had any constructive suggestion to make, we would gladly listen to it. Have they learned anything from those 10 years before the war, or the six years of the war? What did we hear from the Front Opposition Bench today? There was a single suggestion that we ought to publish the Housing Report twice monthly instead of monthly. Would that give us houses any quicker? No. It would simply enable the Opposition to criticise a little more often. Surely, their purpose and interest were revealed in a statement of that sort. Is housing to be the plaything of politicians for criticising each other, or is it something that we genuinely desire? I say—and I fear no honest contradiction—that there is more being done for Scotland in housing today than ever before in the annals of Scottish history. Hon. Members opposite know that I have never been backward in criticising, and I have often criticised my own Labour group in Glasgow Town Council, and would very readily do so today; I have also criticised the Government Front Bench; but I have seen, since the advent of Labour, all that I wanted, all the criticism that I made, put into action. I tried to be constructive in my criticism.

First, I thought that the traditional methods of housebuilding would never give us the number of houses required, and secondly, I thought that the traditional method of accepting tenders would never give us the number of houses required. What do hon. Members opposite say? They say that we are not using something or other—probably they mean private enterprise. Here is a list of the additions to the traditional methods, and they have all been introduced recently: The aluminium house, the Swedish timber house, the "Quality," the "Paragon," the "Tarran," the "Orlit," the "Cruden," the "No-Fines" Wimpey. Hon. Members opposite say that we are not encouraging private enterprise. Who are Wimpey's? Are not these firms private enterprise? There is the "Uni-Seco," the "Duplex," the British Iron and Steel Federation, the "Airey," the "Cussens," the "Easi-form," the foam slag, the "Scotswood," the "Steane," the "Unity" and the "Wates." Every different method is a departure from the old that could pass a reasonable test and is actually in operation.

During the inter-war years we lagged behind with our deplorable system of having a fight between direct labour and the building contractor. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok agreed with me that we should use both, and more if we could get them, but at that time, and for 20 years, we could only see an inflexibility on the part of the Government that would not budge from this position—that we had to accept the lowest tender. That went on for year after year, although in accepting the lowest tenders we were probably rejecting 11 or 12 potentially good building firms.

That has all changed. Not only is there multiple contracting instead of merely the single contractor, but also these potential builders who were formerly rejected are now grouped together. In addition there is the Scottish Special Housing Association. Yet we have been attacked with the suggestion that we are neglecting the rural workers, and it has been said that we have withdrawn the Rural Workers Housing Act. I do not know if it is a Rural Workers Housing Act; it never gave us a single additional house. It was in fact a reconditioning Act under which the reconditioning was paid for in the proportion of one-third by the local ratepayer, one-third by the taxpayer, and the remaining third by the landlord. I think it would be better called "the Rural Landlord's Housing Act," because the house remained his. He had it reconditioned and modernised and had only to pay one-third of the bill; the rest of us paid the other two-thirds Moreover when landlords had their houses reconditioned on such advantageous terms there was not much incentive to press for new houses, and it is new houses that are going up in the rural areas now. What a dismal tale has been told; yet wherever one goes these houses are going up.

Lord William Scott


Mrs. Mann

Everywhere. I was in the rural areas at the weekend and even in a little place like Dunblaine I saw them completed and going up, and in my own little rural town or burgh of Airdrie there are 842 wall high. That will mean that very soon there will be nearly 4,000 of my constituents in that burgh under new housing—and let hon. Members mark that there are only 15,000 persons in that burgh who are not already housed under municipal roofs. It therefore means that about 28 per cent. of them are being provided for by houses which are already wall high. Yes, hon. Gentlemen opposite are like the spirit of Ovid; they hover over Greece, over the stately temples and harbours, and they weep because there is nothing to weep about. They should get in all that they can just now because very soon they will have nothing whatever to talk about.

7.24 p.m.

Mr. John Henderson (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I should like to take the opportunity of pointing out to the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) that when she began her interesting speech there were exactly the same number of hon. Members present on this side of the House as on hers—namely, 13. By the time she resumed her seat her support had risen to 17. I think it is only right to make that point clear, and when one considers the representation of Scottish Members in this House it does not reflect very great credit on the Scottish and Socialist Members so far as their attendance at this present moment is concerned. I should like to say one or two things arising out of this Debate because I have sat right through the discussion since the early part of the afternoon and have heard the various figures thrown across the House from one side or the other—the various numbers of houses and the different types of houses—and the conflicting opinions as to how housing is progressing.

There is a shortage in Scotland of 600,000 houses and I venture to suggest that even supposing it were possible to erect 600,000 houses overnight there would still remain a problem of the greatest concern and urgency because throughout Scotland there would still be hundreds of thousands of people who were not in new houses but who had been tenants in one and two roomed kitchen houses without proper sanitary facilities. In Glasgow alone there is a shortage of 96,000 houses and if every one of these houses were supplied and occupied in the next 10 to 30 years—and I think 30 years is more likely to be the time it will take to erect them—it would still leave more than half of the population in houses where they have to share a common water closet, and where there are no hot or cold water facilities and absolutely no bathrooms. Therefore, however the Government may seek to find cause for satisfaction in the progress they have made and will be making in the immediate future, the problem is one of the greatest urgency. There seem to be two schools of thought as to how this problem should be tackled. The Government appear to be of the opinion that the policy should be to get on with completely new houses and that all existing houses should be ignored and all possible efforts of building concentrated on new houses. I do suggest that the great tenements and other large villas in the West of Scotland, the structure of which is externally sound, could, if it were possible to divert the labour, be reconstructed and solve a very huge problem, giving increased accommodation for the overcrowded people of the city of Glasgow. I hope that if the Secretary of State can find it within his province he will deal with this question of the reconstruction and alteration of some of these houses which are capable of being altered to accommodate additional people.

An hon. Gentleman on this side of the House expressed concern with regard to the method of allocating these houses. I should like to say that in the city of Glasgow that subject has been causing a considerable amount of concern for a long time. As the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge well knows, since she was a convener of housing in the corporation of Glasgow, out of a total of 130 members of the Glasgow Corporation 36 have helped themselves to council houses.

Mrs. Mann

I do not think the hon. Gentleman means to give the impression that whilst I was convener these people helped themselves to houses. I think he knows that I was very much opposed to council members obtaining these houses.

Mr. Henderson

I did not for one moment try to imply that, but I did want the hon. Lady to confirm the fact that my statement was perfectly true. In one of the schemes known as the Moss Park Estate, every profession is represented— doctors, lawyers, chartered accountants and high officials of the corporations, men who are earning very substantial salaries, and I think it is a disgrace that the working man with four or five pounds a week in Glasgow should have 6d. of his rates charged against housing under these various housing schemes. It is a fact that today-even Members of Parliament with £1,000 a year are in subsidised corporation houses in Glasgow. I think that the Secretary of State for Scotland might pay a little attention to this aspect and ensure that these houses are occupied by the people for whom they were originally intended.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. J. L. Williams (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

So many aspects of the housing problems of Scotland have been covered by hon. Members that my remarks will be very brief. I represent a Glasgow constituency which is very badly housed in parts. I do not want to describe how bad its housing conditions are, as I think we have passed that stage. I would say only that they must be as bad as the worst conditions ever described in this House in housing Debates from time to time. My attention is called to plenty of pitiable cases week by week. We hear quite a lot about slums and overcrowding, and about rats, bugs, mice, and other creatures. The fact remains that the people who live in those conditions do not attempt to blame any particular Government. They do not believe they are due to the misdeeds of any one Government, and much less to a Government which is in its first Session.

Those people know full well the truth of this matter, which is that the problem goes back for at least 150 years. It is part of the industrial system under which we live. It goes back to the days when the workers came from the fields to the factories and left the villages for the new iron towns and textile towns. Those people found themselves huddled together with a very low standard of housing, both as respects building and accommodation, and there was a very low conception of the living space needed for human beings. Ideas have changed to a great extent upon that matter. They have changed most rapidly, like ideas in other directions, under the stress of war, and at a time when no houses, or very few houses, could be built. The problem with which we are faced today is a legacy from the early days of the Industrial Revolution.

I am rather tempted by some remarks made about Glasgow and election promises to say a few words about the recent Election. The last General Election was fought in some constituencies in Glasgow upon the housing record of the Glasgow city council, by the choice of the Conservative Party. It was thought that that would be a good thing. The result is well known to all hon. Members. It made very little impression. So far as the city council itself is concerned, the Opposition again thought last November that they were on a good thing, after 12 years of what was considered a bad housing record on the part of the council. The fact today is that the Labour Party's majority on the council is higher than it has ever been before. But my constituents are not satisfied, I am not satisfied, none of us is satisfied. I wish to speak about some of the things which concern the people in my division. They feel that housing progress is being retarded by certain factors, the first of which is the diversion of building materials to purposes other than those connected with housing. Then people find materials are being used extensively in connection with the repair of big houses away in the suburbs somewhere. They begin to wonder whether those materials are illicitly obtained.

In the second place, people are very much concerned about what they consider to be the low proportion of building workers engaged in house building. Figures have been given in this House from time to time, ranging from 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. of the total number of workers in the building industry. The figure appears fairly high, but many of these workers live themselves in decayed or overcrowded houses and feel they do very little towards building houses for families who need them, because their energies are engaged in other branches of the building industry.

The third point is that there are still in the Forces men with long experience of this industry. There are joiners, bricklayers, painters, plasterers, and even architects, who cannot obtain release. Hon. Members, including myself, receive many letters from such men. What is more disappointing is that those men are engaged, according to what they tell us, in menial duties and in work which is not essential, or which could at least be done by people of less experience in the Army, and the other Services.

My last point is in relation to the letting of houses. I can confirm from my own experience week by week every word that has been said by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) concerning the feeling in the minds of the people that they are not getting a fair deal. This function is entrusted to local authorities, who vary in their methods. As a background to the methods adopted there is a great deal of valuable administrative experience. I have no doubt about that. There is also the fact that houses are being let in a pretty fair manner, on the whole. Nevertheless, there is dissatisfaction. It is natural that competition should be keen and that people should feel intensely on this matter so long as there are so few houses, in comparison with the large number of applicants. It is not sufficient that we should be doing the right thing in this connection, especially with so many new houses coming along. We should convince the people themselves that we are doing the right thing. I ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State to give us a word of reassurance upon these matters.

7.38 p.m.

Lord William Scott (Roxburgh and Selkirk)

I would first refer to the last part of the speech of the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman seems very complacent about the housing situation in Scotland, and proud of his own contribution towards a solution. He ended his speech by making a special appeal to local authorities, to whom has been entrusted the principal share of house production in Scotland, and to all other sections of the community who might in any way assist. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if his appeal had been made to that section of St. Andrew's House which deals with housing, it would have been far more to the point In my own constituency I have eight local authorities, and I have every reason to suppose that other local authorities throughout Scotland resemble them more or less in most ways, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is no section of the community in the whole of Scotland more anxious to produce finished houses at the earliest possible moment than the local authorities to whom the Government have entrusted the power. If I had been a member or convener of the housing committee of one of these local authorities, in view of the work I have put through and the frustration I have received during the past 18 months, I should have felt it as nothing but an added insult at this late stage to have a special appeal made to me by the Secretary of State—at the very moment, too, when the local authorities and those who lack houses consider that the chief impediments from which they have suffered all these months are to be found far nearer St. Andrew's House than in the local burghs and the county councils. When I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I could not help wondering whether he had himself received this curious spirit of satisfaction from St. Andrew's House or whether those at St. Andrew's House had received their apparent spirit of lack of emergency and lack of necessity from his outlook. Whichever it is, the result has been most distressing to Scotland.

I would like to deal very briefly with two remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers). He made much the same remark this afternoon that we have heard rather more often recently than we did a year ago. He was comparing the failure to produce houses in the post-war months after this war with a failure in the post-war months of the previous war. This House is probably aware that there are three very grim periods in the history of house building in Scotland. Those three periods are the years 1911–12, 1919–20 and 1945–46. I have to thank the right hon. Gentleman for a very valuable White Paper on Scottish housing which he produced some months ago. Information from that discloses that up till the year 1910 housing in Scotland, without any form of subsidy, was running to an average of about 15,000 new houses every year, which was then about adequate for the needs of the people of Scotland. In 1910 there was produced what was known as the People's Budget, which included the tax on unearned increment, which was introduced by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd George, who in a few years' time was to become Prime Minister. As the result of that Budget, house building in Scotland dropped from about 15,000 new houses a year to under 3,000 new houses in 1911, and in the following year it was under 4,000. There is no man living and no man dead who has struck such a bitter blow at Scottish housing as was done with this unearned increment tax in the Budget of 1910.

We come now to the second bad period, 1919–1920. Listening casually to the words of the hon. Member for Linlithgow one might have thought it was a wicked Tory Government in power at that period. No one with the broadest stretch of the imagination could ever accuse the then Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, of being a Tory, and it is just as well to remember that in that second Coalition. Government which was in power in 1919– 1920 under the premiership of Mr. David Lloyd George there was possibly the most inefficient Minister that has ever been in charge of housing. We will mention no names. Some of us think it a little unfair that this grim period of housing shortage in 1945–46 is compared with the period 1919–20, with the suggestion that we on these benches or our predecessors were in any way responsible for that period. However, enough of the past.

During the last winter, on many occasions when meeting my constituents, I informed them that I did not believe that any Government that had been in power or had been returned at the General Election in July, 1945, could have made any substantial progress in housing before that winter. I said that the real test would be the number of houses completed in Scotland before the next winter and that my own opinion was that a great number of houses had been promised and that very few would be produced. One of my sorrows at the present moment is the knowledge that in the two counties I represent, although I have a reasonable certainty that quite a number of new houses will be completed somewhere round about May or June next summer, I am reasonably certain that very few additional new houses will be actually finished and ready where they are desperately needed for the coming winter.

One of the most surprising matters, when one looks at this little White Paper, "Housing in Scotland," which we have just been given, is the very great number of new houses that have been started and the very small number that have actually been finished. I have gone into that question with my own local authorities because they showed exactly similar results. I am not quite so worried as to how many are started, but I am very much worried as to how many are finished. The chief reason with the local authorities seems to be that they get on as far as they can with their individual houses and then run short of materials. They then put off work on those particular houses until the necessary materials come along. Having the labour handy, they get busy in the meantime with another house or another group of houses. So we see these various stages or layers of houses in course of production, and in nearly each case the reason why work has been laid off in any one particular sector is shortage of materials. In the area in which I live we recognise that there has been a quite considerable shortage of both labour and materials. That, I think in many cases, was inevitable, and I do not hold anyone specially to blame for that. What was quite unnecessary and very distressing was the fact that what labour and material were available were not by any means in all cases put to the best use. There is no question at all that at the time when various housing projects in different parts of Scotland were held up because of a shortage of material of one kind or another, a very few miles away there was a definite store of that self-same material which was not being used but was being carefully guarded by the local authority who would be using it in a few months' or a few weeks' time. I am convinced that if there had been a happier distribution of the available labour and material, we would today have far more houses finished in Scotland.

Mr. Westwood

May I ask the noble Lord if it was the local authority who did that?

Lord William Scott

I do not want to attribute the blame. I think each one of my local authorities, looking back now, has probably made one or two mistakes. They have been desperately keen to produce houses, and they have each in turn been held up owing to shortages of material. From a little gentle snooping of my own, however, I am quite aware that these same local authorities took steps to guard against the danger of a similar shortage, perhaps of some other material, in the immediate future and, like the Army quartermaster, had cased off what was necessary so that there should be no danger of being faced with these shortages when the time came.

Mr. Westwood

Does not that prove that I was not seeking to insult the local authorities when I made a special appeal to them to give me all the assistance they could to deal with this particular problem?

Lord William Scott

I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has taken it quite the wrong way. My own local authorities, and I believe those throughout Scotland, are every bit as anxious to help. Even if they had not been 18 months ago, the pressure put upon them from every direction and the amount of distress they see at their own doors have been quite sufficient to induce anybody who has been called upon by his neighbours to serve on a local authority to do all that is conceivably possible to produce the necessary houses.

The other matter which has been drawn very forcibly to our attention by this small booklet in my hand is the apparently inordinate time it takes to build and to finish a permanent house. One understood that in the prewar days—certainly across the Border in England, where the chief building was done by private enterprise—those who were most efficient and produced the greatest number of houses expected to be able, according to the time of the year, to build a house in somewhere between seven and nine months. Yet one is very much surprised to discover that of those houses already partially completed when the Government came into office in 1945, there are still considerable numbers of them apparently not yet completed. The present Government have been in office for over a year, and it looks as if it is now taking very much longer to build and complete a permanent house in Scotland than it did before the war. If that is so, I believe it is due not so much to the slower output of the individual builder as to the fact that we are not making the best possible use of the available building labour. In conclusion, I would say to the right hon. Gentleman today that we look back on the very considerable number of houses that we had been promised, and we are bitterly disappointed at the accomplishment.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. J. J. Robertson (Berwick and Haddington)

I am very grateful to relieve the strain upon my patience, because I have been sitting here for 6½ hours without leaving the Chamber in the hope that ultimately I might be able to make a small contribution to this housing problem so far as it affects the people who live in rural areas. First, I would like to congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland on the vigorous manner in which the housing problem over Scotland generally has been tackled since this Government came into power. Also I would like to say that on this side of the House we sympathise with him in the tragic legacy with which he has been confronted as a result of the neglect of former governments supported by hon. Members opposite. However, I do not desire to concentrate the discussion upon hon. Members opposite who have been endeavouring to make some much needed political capital from this housing question, except to say that certain figures cannot be refuted, and that for every one house built under the administration of a Conservative Government during the first 16 months after the last war, 36 have been built under the administration of this Government.

Lord William Scott

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that there was a Conservative Government in office during the first 16 months after the last war?

Mr. Robertson

I said that I did not desire to enter into a controversy which I think has been rather overworked by hon. Members opposite, but I do say that it was a predominantly Conservative Government in those days. Now let me turn to the other question, which is more important—

Lord William Scott


Mr. Robertson

I have only a few moments and I am sorry I cannot give way. While congratulating the right hon. Gentleman, we are by no means satisfied on this side of the House with the housing situation in Scotland. We shall never be satisfied with it until we have achieved the purpose for which this Government was elected, that is, to satisfy the housing needs of the people of Scotland. That has never been done by previous Governments, and we are now setting our hands to that task which I believe will be accomplished in due course. Whilst there is appreciable evidence of progress in the urban districts in Scotland, I am sorry to say that in certain rural areas of Scotland there is a remarkable and tragic neglect of this tremendous problem.

There are probably two main reasons for this. Certain amenities have to be provided in these areas before one can get on with houses there. One of the most vital and important is an ample supply of water. I have the honour to represent two counties in Scotland, East Lothian and Berwickshire. In East Lothian there is an admirable and adequate supply of water, and progress with housing is going remarkably well. But statistics for Berwickshire show that no houses have been built. When I point out that in the county of Berwick there are no fewer than 14 villages without the semblance of any sanitation, water supply or sewerage system, the House will understand how we sympathise with the Secretary of State for Scotland in facing this huge problem. It is tied up with the tragic legacy of neglect of former administrations in the provision of water supply. I ask the Scottish Secretary to urge on local authorities in rural areas who are not getting on with housing in accordance with the desires of the Government, to come along with their plans for water supplies and sanitation in order that they might get on with housing. If we get the question of water supplies settled we will be able to get on with housing programmes in those areas.

It must be evident to anyone who goes around the country today that in certain areas local authorities are cooperating more eagerly with the Government in their policy than in other parts of the country. In many backward areas it is quite evident that politically reactionary local authorities are not cooperating as they ought. That will probably be remedied by the electorate, in due course, but it is in the meantime an impediment to the building of houses. I am not satisfied that the Scottish Special Housing Association has proved itself as efficient an instrument for the production of houses as it should be. It may be that there has not been sufficient time to test the instrument, but I ask the Secretary of State to bear in mind the necessity of using it in the more backward areas in the rural districts, particularly in politically reactionary areas where local authorities appear not to be overanxious to cooperate with the Government.

I beg my right hon. Friend not to accept for use in Scotland types of permanent prefabricated houses which might be more suitable for the more temperate climate South of the Border. I have no evidence that he is likely to accept those types, but I do not wish to see them foisted on Scotland as they are unsuitable for Scottish needs. Hon. Members on these benches regard the housing problem as a most serious matter. We do not regard it as a matter on which to make political capital, but desire to make a real job of the provision of houses for the people of Scotland. I am confident that our task will be accomplished with every credit to this Government.

8.7 p.m.

Miss Herbison (Lanark, North)

Time after time hon. Members on the other side have suggested that the Secretary of State for Scotland and hon. Members on this side are complacent about the housing situation in Scotland. There is nothing further from the truth. When the Secretary of State was making his opening statement he said quite clearly that things were not just as he would have liked them, and that progress had not been so great as he would have wished. No one could accuse a single hon. Member on this side of the House of being complacent. When we go round our constituencies and see the shocking conditions under which our people are asked to live it makes us the very opposite of complacent. Those conditions are definitely not due to wartime, nor to one year of Labour rule. People in my constituency of North Lanark are living in houses which ought to have been condemned long before the war, but they could not be condemned because the Conservative Government of those days had made no provision whatever to house the people of that constituency. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) accused us of laughing. We were not treating the matter lightly—the laughter was due to the ludicrous statements made by the hon. Member.

The right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) said that so far we had produced only 2,617 permanent houses. The emphasis was not on the number, but on the word "only." It has been pointed out in this Debate that the number may not be very big— and none of us are at all satisfied, with either the number of permanent or of temporary houses—but surely one hon. Member of the Opposition would grant that 2,617 permanent houses, plus all the temporary houses we have built in this one year after the war, faced with all the difficulties, is a very good number indeed when compared with the number built between 1918 and 1919. I see that apparently one hon. Member opposite does not like that comparison, but statements have been made that will go into the Scottish Press tomorrow, and it is most important that we on this side, although we must look to the future, and to providing a greater number of houses, should emphasise to our people in Scotland that those who are in charge of housing in this first year after the war have made a very much better job of it than those who were in charge previously.

The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. John Henderson) gave us a very dreary picture of these tenement houses in Glasgow. We know only too well that those conditions exist, but I want, in this short speech, to put the blame where it should go, not on the Members on this side of the House. We were also faced, at the beginning of our term of office, with the fact that no provision whatever had been made for the building of houses when the war ended, nothing but airy phrases that came sometimes in the speeches of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), when he told the men who were to return as ex-Servicemen of the wonderful cottage homes that were to be ready for them. Not one provision was made for those lovely cottage homes.

There are two points of which I would like the Joint Under-Secretary to take particular notice. One of them I raised at Question time with him previously, and I have discussed it with him also. I wish tonight to emphasise the feeling that there is, not only in my constituency but in many other parts of Scotland, about the letting of the temporary houses. According to the present regulation these temporary houses can be let only to a man, wife and one child, or a man, wife and two children. In some places in my constituency and elsewhere there is no prospect of permanent houses for some time. Indeed, in one corner of my constituency, because of the mineral situation, we have to be content for some time with 200 temporary houses. There are people there living in rooms, a man and wife, sometimes with five chidren—in North Lanark. Are they to sit back, living in a room or a hovel in which no human being ought to have to live, and see a young man, his wife and a child moving into a temporary house?

Surely it would be much better to choose, in each district, the worst cases, and give them the houses that are ready first, irrespective of the size of those families. A temporary house would, to a man and woman living with a family in a room or in a hovel where there are rats, and where water is running in everywhere, be heaven compared with the conditions under which they are living. I make a strong plea to the Joint Under-Secretary to give the greatest consideration to this matter and lighten the hearts of some of these people who have been looking forward to us to get a square deal.

My last point is about labour. I have visited most of the housing schemes in North Lanark and I found one where four bricklayers were needed but where there was one, and he was a trainee bricklayer. It was quite impossible to get those sites serviced as they ought to be serviced. From another corner of my constituency I have received a letter from a parent whose son is an apprentice bricklayer. He has been doing a good job of work and has been called up to the Forces.

Mr. Buchanan

If he is in his union, as I suppose he is, he has only to notify them. The instruction is quite definite. There is to be no call-up of that class of labour. We cannot always cope with every isolated example that occurs, but even if he is not in the union and speaks to my hon. Friend, we will take the necessary steps. I can assure her that there is no call-up of that class of labour at the moment.

Miss Herbison

Even in my maiden speech I made a suggestion that every builder should be brought out of the Forces and that no apprentice, whether he be a builder or anything else concerned in the provision of houses, ought to be called to the Forces. It seems to me that the provision of houses is the most important thing facing this Government today.

I want to end on this note. I have no fear, in spite of all that has been said from the Opposition. Not one constructive suggestion has been offered from the Opposition Members today. We have had tirade after tirade about what this Government has not done, but not one thing have they suggested that we might have been doing which has not been done. We get a similar kind of thing from the papers that support the party opposite. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead seemed to make very heavy weather about the 20,000 houses and suggested that the Secretary of State or his Department ought to have denied it. If we on this side of the House had to deny every half truth or misstatement that was published in the Opposition Press, we would need to set up another Ministry in the Government. We would need ever so many more civil servants, and then we would have more huge headlines about bureaucracy being set up by the Government. Although we are not complacent and although we think things must move faster in the future, I am satisfied that by the end of our five years the people will have realised the work we have done. They will realise it in Scotland particularly because our figures show that we have provided more houses in respect of the population than have been provided in England in spite of the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) about control at Whitehall and how badly Scotland was being treated. Scotland will be able to look to this Labour Government at the end of five years and to say they have done a very much better job than has ever been attempted by any previous Government in this country.

8.17 p.m.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)

I would like, if I may, to preface what I am about to say with a postscript—not a very usual procedure. The postscript is to something said by the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. Robertson) when he supported his colleague the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) in criticising the Scottish Special Housing Association. I notice that this Association, during the last month for which we have figures available, completed nine houses. It has under construction 2,813 houses and, if my arithmetic is correct, that means that if they go on at the August rate—and August generally is a good building month—they will complete the houses they have already started in 26 years. I am sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Lord William Scott) did not take his researches into the past a little bit further to give the answer to the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) who complained that between the wars the only rehousing that was done with Government assistance to local authorities was to clear the slums and to alleviate overcrowding. I am sure the hon. Lady did not intend to mislead the House.

She will remember, of course, that we emerged from the 1914–18 war with a known requirement of 236,000 people requiring houses and with an unknown number of people who were living in Scotland in overcrowded conditions. She will remember that the attack on the problem was three-pronged. First of all, there was the attack on clearing the slums. We had the 1930 Act. When the worst of the slums had been cleared the attack was switched to the alleviation of overcrowding, for which purpose we had the 1935 Act to encourage provision of accommodation in order to alleviate that problem. The third prong, the one which the hon. Lady overlooked, was that of rural housing, and, by the Housing (Agricultural Population) (Scotland) Act, 1938, subsidies were given to local authorities for building houses to meet the urgent needs of the agricultural population.

Mrs. Mann

I would like the hon. Member to tell us the Act under which we were allowed to build for newly-married couples—the last Act under which we could build in Scotland.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

The hon. Lady has had her turn and I have been sitting in this Chamber for six hours awaiting mine. I would only remind her of this. Although we are not complacent about it, by means of these three Acts in the inter-war years, no fewer than 313,000 houses were added to our total Scottish houses, which was over one-third of the number of houses we have in Scotland. Let me clear up another point right away, and that concerns the problem of the squatters, to which the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) and other hon. Members have referred.

The Secretary of State said that, when this problem first arose in Scotland, the first step he took was to safeguard the public health and that, without exception, he went on to say, local authorities made the necessary arrangements. That, of course, was in line with the speech made by the Joint Under-Secretary, who was reported in more than one newspaper as saying that, irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the question, people must in the meantime be provided with the necessary water, sanitation and lighting in the interests of public health. I do not want to make a great point of this, as the case was brought to my notice only yesterday, but, in my own constituency, for the first five weeks of the occupation of Air Ministry huts, water and light were available, but both have now been cut off. I will send the particulars to the hon. Gentleman if he would like to look into the case.

Mr. Buchanan indicated assent.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

What I want to do today is to depart from the immediate problem, which has been stressed over and over again by speaker after speaker, and look ahead a little and try to urge that something should be done—not immediately, because it cannot be done with the immediately urgent problem staring us in the face—to safeguard our traditional way of building in Scotland— our way of building in stone. Stone houses are durable, and all hon. Members of this House from Scottish constituencies will know that they are best fitted to stand the vagaries of our Scottish climate, that they are warm in winter and cool in summer, that they are inexpensive to maintain and that they blend well with our village architecture and harmonise the works of man with the beauties of our Scottish scene. There are, of course, disadvantages of building in stone. It takes a long time. It takes a man longer to build an 18-inch stone rubble wall than it does to build an 11-inch brick wall, and, unfortunately, there are internal walls which have to be lathed and plaster-boarded, which means that they consume timber, and they are more expensive.

I believe, from figures which I have found to be accurate, that they are not as expensive as they are sometimes made out to be. I have some comparisons of costs here showing the difference between stone and brick houses, first of all, in the prewar days at the time when the quarries were in full production, and, secondly, at the present time. In 1935, a four-roomed house containing 800 sq. ft. cost £360 in brick, and £370 in stone. In 1946, a house of the same number of rooms, but containing 933 sq. ft. cost £1,100 in brick and £1,240 in stone. But there are ways of lowering that cost. It is possible to standardise the sizes of window openings and doors and to go in for simplified methods of construction of which, I have no doubt, the simplest and the best is probably the random rubble of Auld Reekie so beloved of Lorimer, the greatest of our Scottish architects.

I was well received by the Joint Undersecretary just before the Summer Recess when, with certain friends of mine, I went to him to urge that he should make a full inquiry into the economics and the desirability of encouraging building in stone as a long-term policy. I do not for a moment suggest that this will solve our immediate problem, but I do, in the future, want to see the quarries opened up and this useful local industry made possible. I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary replies he will be able to tell us that a committee or some inquiry has been instituted which will—

Mr. Westwood

May I say that we are actively pursuing that matter and that before the Debate ends the Joint Undersecretary will, no doubt, explain to the House exactly the lines we are taking.

Mr. Thomton-Kemsley

I am very glad to hear that. Of course, exactly the same thing is true of slates, and I hope that the same sort of inquiries will be made with respect to them. One hundred years ago practically all the slates used in Aberdeenshire were quarried in the hills which lie between Huntly and Aberdeen. That local industry was gradually superseded by slates from the Welsh quarries until, today, it is quite impossible to get Aberdeenshire slates although the quarries are still there. I was rather perturbed by a letter which I read in the "Scotsman" during the month of August. I admit that I have been unable to check the facts contained in it although it refers to a place on the borders of my own constituency. The writer of the letter spoke about the action of the Crown Commissioners, of whom the Secretary of State is one, at Tomintoul, where farm buildings were going into disrepair and where, in order to put roofs on them, the Crown Commissioners, in whom the ownership was vested, ignored the local slate quarries, which produce an admirable slate and, instead, destroyed the whole of the roofs of steadings, throwing away the slates and replacing them with asbestos sheeting. The writer of the letter said that the effect was garish and the policy inexcusable. I cannot find it in me to disagree with him. After all, this roof sheeting is one of the things we all want.

In Scotland we are throwing everything into the housing drive. I wonder whether it is realised what it is costing Scotland in terms of food production. I could give example after example of materials urgently needed for agricultural production which are not obtainable at the present time owing to the fact that they are being diverted to the housing problem. Asbestos sheeting is one of them. Two or three days ago I heard of a case where asbestos sheeting was urgently needed for the re-roofing of farm buildings. The order was placed in November, 1945, and, after 11 months, this material is still not forthcoming. It is estimated that it will not be available for another month or two owing to the heavy demand for the housing programme. Only a few days ago I had a tragic case where asbestos sheeting or some substitute for it was very urgently needed for re-roofing a stable. It has been on order for months, and unless it can be obtained quickly the farmer will have to get rid of his cattle because it is quite impossible in that part of Aberdeenihire to keep them in the open throughout the winter without some sort of cover over their heads.

Another example that I can give concerns a contractor who is doing a lot of work for local authorities. He came to me the other day and said that he could not get hold of fire clay goods, glass, slates, timber, cement, baths and plumbing fittings because they were all in short supply. Yet my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. Spence) has told the House that these materials are being exported. I have some figures concerning these materials. It is remarkable to be told that the housing drive is held up because of a shortage of these materials when in July this year we exported wood and timber to the amount of 608 tons, which is higher than the monthly average for 1938. We exported nearly 28,000 cwts. of tiles. These figures are for July, just one month. We exported 84,707 cwts. of plate and sheet glass, which is far more than we exported in 1938, 5,593 cwts. of electrical ware, 676 tons of door and window frames and 4,135 tons of girders, beams and joists. There are many more, and I could go on reading such lists, but that is the sort of thing which makes one wonder if we deserve to have the houses.

Let me conclude by saying that before the war the number of insured workers in the building and ancillary trades in Scotland was between 60,000 and 70,000. The latest return, for August this year, gives the whole of the labour in the building and civil engineering industries in Scotland as 52,000, and of these less than 30,000 are directly employed on the preparation of sites and the erection of houses. We have been told this afternoon by the Secretary of State that the total labour force is now greater than it was at any time before the war. If that is so—and I do not dispute it—the failure of His Majesty's Government is the greater. In the 10 years before the war with a labour force of between 60,000 and 70,000, we built 20,000 small houses a year. Now after 14 months the total is not 20,000; the total in Scotland is 3,627. I need say no more.

8.34 p.m.

Mr. Willis (Edinburgh, North)

I think it is probably a testimony to the work which has been done by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State that the Opposition today have found it almost impossible to make many constructive criticisms or to offer many helpful suggestions as to how the present rate of building can be increased. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) told us that he would analyse what he called "this failure"—in fact, I think he called it a bad failure—on the part of the Government. I expected as a result of that analysis that we would find the causes and the remedy. In fact, that is what he told us he was going to do. He proceeded to make the analysis, and the remedy was, "I think you ought to give a bit more freedom to private enterprise."

That was the remedy actually suggested. He found the causes to be that we could not get material, that we could not get the workers in the necessary industries, and he thought this could have been done if private enterprise had had its way. What sort of private enterprise? Obviously, it would have to be a different sort of private enterprise from that which has had its way for decades. If private enterprise could not solve this problem before the war, how is it going to solve it now? If it could not solve it when men and labour were plentiful—in fact, when men walked the streets, and when it could get all the material it wanted—how is it going to solve it now? We did not get any enlightenment on that point. All we got was an airy wave of the hand, and the suggestion, "I think you should have given private enterprise a little bit more free play." Private enterprise is already being used, and the disappointments which we on this side of the House have suffered have been as the result of private enterprise not being able to fulfil the promises it has made. A promise was made by the Government that we would have some Orlit houses in Edinburgh. They should have been started last October. When the Joint Under-Secretary comes to reply, I would like him to tell us when we will get those Orlit houses. We have had similar promises made. In Edinburgh Swedish timber houses have been held up for lack of certain components. It is not the Government that have not supplied the components, it is private enterprise. Therefore, this argument really does not stand up to very close examination.

The other criticism which we had came from the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). His contribution was that we could increase the supply of houses if we concentrated on brick houses, because we could build them more quickly. Until we get the skilled workers needed for the production of houses, it is obvious that the course being followed by my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Scottish Office is correct, because we must have houses that can be built with labour other than skilled building trade labour if we are to get the biggest possible number of houses built.

Those are the suggestions that we have heard this afternoon. That is practically all we have had, except for the few suggestions made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), with which, I think, we are in general agreement, because we want the indigenous industries of Scotland exploited to their uttermost to contribute towards a solution of this problem. Perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary, when he replies, will give us some information about what is being done in the brick industry, in quarrying, in the cement industry and the slate industry, to encourage them. In Scotland at the present time we have 76,000 men unemployed. In March, when we debated this question, my hon. Friend the joint Under-Secretary said it was not right that we should have a large army of unemployed while still needing houses. At that time he told us what was being done to train men as builders. Have we yet got sufficient men into the building industry to meet the demands of the building industry over the next 10 or 20 years? There is a big demand. Has any estimate been made of the requirements of the building industry in regard to the number of men that will be wanted in each branch of the industry, and has any plan been made to train those men to take a part in that industry? We want an answer to that, because the Government are responsible for finding employment for these men. We want to see it done in a manner that will contribute towards the reduction of the unemployment problem in Scotland, and at the same time produce the things we require.

It seems to me that when we get down to examine this problem we are brought up against the question of the supplies of raw materials used for the making of certain components, and of the components themselves. I want to ask the Under-Secretary a question here. I understand that there are large quantities of building trade supplies and components being held in store in Scotland by the War Office. I do not know whether that is true, but judging by the reluctance that the War Office has shown to give up camps, I should not be surprised if it is true. I want to know if any steps are being taken to see that there are no large quantities of building trade supplies anywhere held by any Department that are not being used for the purpose of completing or carrying on this programme as rapidly as possible.

Mr. Stephen

Or by private enterprise.

Mr. Willis

Or by private enterprise. I have nothing more to add at the present time. My time is nearly up, and I know that other Members are anxious to take part in the Debate. On the whole, there is no doubt that this Government, up to the present, have clone quite a good job. That does not mean to say that we are satisfied. I can hardly understand how Members below the Gangway opposite can criticise this Government after their record prior to the war. I can understand Members of this side criticising the Government and prodding them on. but I really cannot understand Members opposite criticising the Government—not, at least, if their minds are on the past. This Government have done a good job up to 1he present; but it is not good enough. We want to make it better. We want an assurance that proper consideration is being given to obtaining the men for the job and to the utilisation of every facility that exists, whether small or large. We had to do that during the war. We have got to do that now, in order to produce the components and requirements of the houses. We want an assurance that a plan is being made for a long term of years—not a mere haphazard sort of arrangement which, one is tempted to think at times exists regarding the supplies of components; but a proper long-term plan. Only in that manner will we get the back of this problem broken within a reasonable time.

8.43 p.m.

Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)

The territory over which this Debate has ranged, a very wide territory which includes some flights of fancy by the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann), only serves to show how many facets there are to this very complicated question of housing. I should like in the short time at my disposal to try to concentrate on one or two of the aspects and, incidentally, to try to satisfy that long procession of disappointed Members opposite who complained, on seeing their own policy bankrupt of constructive effort, that no one has come along with something with which to help them out. The plaint has been, from one Member after another, that we have nothing constructive to offer. Why have the Government nothing constructive to offer? There has been throughout this Debate implied dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. The Secretary of State at one point said he was not satisfied and that things had not gone as well as he had hoped they would up to the present time, and that he was going to put all that right in the future.

Mr. Westwood

I am really pleased that the hon. and gallant Member has admitted that, because it clears me of the charge of complacency.

Colonel Hutchison

Not altogether, because having admitted that things have not gone very well in the past, the right hon. Gentleman nevertheless pulled himself together and, with an air of benevolence and paternity, assured us that we were all going to be perfectly satisfied in future. I need only ask hon. Members to look at the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment, and they will see how content he is with the general run of things.

I want to try to offer some constructive suggestions, and I beg right hon. and hon. Members opposite to realise that, if the constructive suggestions which come from these benches are ones which they do not like, they are, nevertheless, constructive suggestions. The main constructive suggestion which I have to offer is that they should abandon doctrinaire theory and prejudice against private enterprise—not the private enterprise which they have been trying to discredit all the afternoon, because that is not private enterprise at all. It is no more private enterprise for an Orlit house to be bought by a local authority or by the Government than it is for the Ministry of Civil Aviation to buy a tyre for an aeroplane. I mean competition between men who are not contractors to a local authority or to the Government, free competition between those men or firms to give the country what it wants. That is one constructive suggestion. My second is that there should be more coordination between materials and labour. Finally, I would like to touch upon the question of prices—are we satisfied that all that can be done is being done to keep the prices of house building down?

There has been a great deal of prejudice against private enterprise, and I cannot allow to go unchallenged certain remarks made by the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and the hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. J. L. Williams) in connection with the General Election to the effect that the past record of private enterprise had been one of complete failure. In fact, by the time the war had broken out, only 6 per cent. of the population of this country were living in overcrowded or insanitary conditions, and if the war had not broken out all that would have been removed in a very short time. I would like to bring to the attention of the House the classic example of how doctrinaire theory, cutting out pri- vate enterprise, has prevented the building of houses. It took place in the city in which I have the honour to represent a Division. In 1935 the Socialists captured a majority on the Glasgow Council—

Mr. McKinlay

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is wrong, it was in 1933, so he is not very accurate.

Colonel Hutchison

I accept that correction; it only emphasises my case. If it was in 1933, they have had control of the Glasgow Corporation for a longer period than I was going to assume. I stood for the Glasgow Council about that time, and I was defeated largely because of the promise made by the Socialist Party that, if they continued in office, they would build in the City of Glasgow 10,000 houses per year. They were continued in office, and the first thing they did was to refuse to allow any private enterprise to build any house whatever, because their conception was that they would implement their promise of 10,000 houses per year by using the doctrinaire methods of direct labour. They failed, and they failed dismally, and not one house was built by private enterprise after they succeeded in office.

Mr. McKinlay

If the hon. and gallant Member will allow me, I want to say that that statement is simply not true, and I was on the housing committee at the time.

Colonel Hutchison

The houses built by private enterprise, according to all the statistics I have seen, were only those started before the Socialists took office, and they were gradually abandoned until none were commenced at all. At any rate, and I think the hon. Gentleman opposite will agree with this, the numbers promised were not achieved, and not half achieved. So the promise upon which they had been elected was a false one, and the martyrdom of the people of Glasgow continued. It is largely due to Socialist ineptitude in the City of Glasgow, and to their hidebound adherence to dogma and doctrine, that the squalid conditions in which so many of my constituents are housed continue today. I believe that the Joint Under-Secretary of State has gone some way to break down this doctrine. He has issued a circular known as 9246, which invites private enterprise builders to become building contractors—this is not true private enterprise, but it is going somewhere along the line—and to submit tenders to local authorities. I should like to ask him whether he is satisfied that this system is working.

Mr. Buchanan

What is the circular?

Colonel Hutchison

It is a circular which the Secretary of State sent to me himself, advising me that this was a very good system. I have no doubt that when he thinks a little harder he will remember what it is. I should like to ask him whether it is working, because I am informed that it is not. I suggest that he should see to it that it works, and that there should be some appeal for builders to the Department of Health if reasonable contracts are not entertained because Socialist theory thinks it is getting too close to private enterprise or because Moderate theory thinks it will get the houses cheaper later on. The need now is for the production of houses, and nothing should be allowed to stand in the way, whether it be doctrinaire theory from the right or the left. There are many of us who think that coordination between labour and materials is one of the things most identified with the delay in housing.

Mr. Scollan

By private enterprise, does the hon. and gallant Member mean someone who is prepared to build houses without subsidy from the municipality or the Government?

Colonel Hutchison

I am coming to that later on in my speech, because there again I have a constructive suggestion to offer. In the meantime, let us consider coordination. Coordination is an immense task even for a small limited company or private firm, but when the Government enter into control of all the supplies of timber, tiles, pipes, shipping and so on, it becomes a task almost of a brains trust of Solomons. With all the self-assurance that the right hon. Gentleman has, I do not believe that he would arrogate that elevated title for himself. So long as the nation tries to control the immense organisation which is needed for house building we are bound to get a lack of coordination.

I should like to ask what is happening in the case of timber, because timber enters into a, house at many stages. Are we short of timber? Are the 25,000 standards which were the subject of nego- tiation with Soviet Russia ever going to materialise? What is stopping them coming in, and what is the price to be? What about the timber stocks? There are complaints that the stocks of timber, such as they are. are still being held in remote areas in the centre of the country where they were held for the purposes of security and anti-bombing during the war. Is the Joint Under-Secretary satisfied that the timber which exists is flowing through to the people who need it? They complain that when their stocks are used up it takes a long time to get them replenished, if indeed they do get them replenished. There have been suggestions made to the Minister of Works that the formula for securing arrival of timber is unnecessarily complicated. The timber trade have made suggestions for speeding it up, which would mean less delay and consequently less money. The slow house is a costly house to build.

I would like also to know what has happened to the offer, by British Columbia, of a timber built house for £240 on quay in British Columbia. That price is immensely less than that for a similar house in this country. They offered samples to be shown, but they were tucked away in a corner of Lancashire where they were scarcely visible. What is the prejudice against these houses? I want to suggest that the Government, when buying goods abroad, send out to buy them a person who knows something of what he is buying, somebody who has studied the subject for many years, instead of an official who regards his task as being so much news. Who went to Belgium to buy bricks at 150s. per 1,000 whereas, before the war, the price was 50s. per 1,000 delivered to this country?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The officers sent to Belgium were among the leading importers of bricks from that country before the war, and included leading experts in both the building and brick industries.

Colonel Hutchison

I am delighted to hear that some people who knew their job were sent there. But is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the price of 150s. per 1,000 bricks in Belgium is a reasonable price compared with 50s. per 1,000 delivered, here before the war? There are certain directions in which the costliness of building can be reduced. Is there any doubt in the Minister's mind about the present high cost of building? It has gone up from 9s. 6d. per superficial foot before the war to 24s. today. If he wants proof that the cost of houses is unnecessarily high may I remind him of a letter I wrote in May, 1946, in which I stated that an eminent firm of house builders in Scotland, a firm which has built more houses to let than any other in the country, offered to build the same type of house, to the same specification and to let at the same rental, as local authority houses, for a subsidy only 77½ per cent. of that which the Minister is now offering to local Authorities, and which subsidy certain Members opposite have said has already shown itself to be inadequate. If you want an acid test that money is being wasted by the present method of building houses, there you have it. There you have a private firm which is prepared to accept whatever rent the local authorities and Government decide, and to supply a similar house for letting with only 77½ per cent. of the subsidy which Members are beginning to claim is too low.

If ever there was proof of waste of money, there it lies. What Government have the right to continue in office and squander the public money in that way? The Government have asked for constructive suggestions. Let them use specialist builders, and take advantage of offers of that kind. Not only will they get houses more quickly, but they will save the nation many thousands of pounds a year. When Governments trade, efficiency becomes the plaything of politics. That is what this country is suffering from now. Our people are shuttlecocks between a series of doctrinaire battledores, and because of that they are sighing and suffering.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Cook (Dundee)

The Government Front Bench has been accused of mis-planning. We at least have a plan, whereas the party opposite have been looking for a policy at Blackpool. It seems almost ludicrous to find the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) giving a first-class display of misplaced, histrionic ability. We have had nothing this afternoon from the party opposite of a constructive character in relation to this housing problem. I can recall having a debate with the hon and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) on another issue, in another place, when he told me that it was not the job of the Opposition to give constructive alternatives, but to destroy the Government's Bills.

Colonel Hutchison

I said that it was not the role of the Government to look to the Opposition for a policy. I never said that the Opposition were out to destroy their plans.

Mr. Cook

I still say that the reply which I got in the Christian Institute, Glasgow, was that it was the job of the Opposition to destroy the Government's Bills, and nothing else.

I want to congratulate the Scottish Office on the progress which they have made in the short time at their disposal. One might almost gather that all the housing problems—upwards of 4,000,000 houses required in this country and 500,000 in Scotland—were a direct result of mismanagement on the part of this Government. So far as I can recall, the party opposite have had at least 25 years to tackle those problems, and we still require 4,000,000 houses in this country. An hon. Member said that they had started a three-prong attack for the abolition of the slums [An HON. MEMBER: "There has been a war."] There has been a war, but never any war on housing until such time as this Government took office. In reply to the criticism made with regard to the Scottish Special Housing Association, I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will change it every six months, if it requires it, but, for goodness' sake, let him keep it in operation, because it is doing a first-class job.

I have asked, time after time, what Members opposite mean by free private enterprise. If they mean the building companies, then I am certain my right hon. Friend and the local authorities will give them all the work, and more, that they can tackle I challenge them to deny that their interpretation of free private enterprise means anything other than the building societies, which are very anxious to advance money to propagate the scheme of the so-called propertied class that we heard about from Blackpool. The "four per cent. boys" are hot on the trail for free private enterprise. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Undersecretary will see that they do not get the opportunity of exploiting the 4 per cent. and giving us slums such as we have in King's Park, where they build up church collections for the new poor.

Supplies of electrical goods are very short, but not for the reason that has been attributed. Supplies are coming forward, but the unfortunate thing is that contractors have to go to the small shopkeepers in order to buy switches, cables, plugs, etc. I ask the Minister of Works and the Secretary of State for Scotland to examine where these supplies are going. There is an increase in unemployment in the electrical industry, and we know that supplies are coming through. It is a very sad reflection when we find that reputable contractors, willing and anxious to get on with the housing programme for the Government, are being sabotaged in the way that they, are by Woolworth's and the Clydesdale and others having control of this material.

I wish to put another point with regard to the control of licences. As has been mentioned, pubs particularly seem to be spending their excess profits on repainting outside. Further, I would like to see a stricter control of the supply of licences to such individuals as Lord Kemsley, who has had eight baths installed in a house which has been derequisitioned. If it is possible, I would like to see a grouping of the smaller firms, and to see them supplied by Government Departments with the necessary equipment; we could then get through the smaller firms a great deal of assistance in tackling the housing problem. Too much concentration is going on to the big firms, and the smaller firms are more than anxious to assist in this direction. I have some figures concerning the point which was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow. When the Socialist Party took office on Glasgow Town Council, they scheduled in Balornock, Houselwood, Berryknowes, Blackhill No. 2, Kelvindale No. 2, and Holmfauldhead approximately 3,000 houses in 1934, 1935 and 1936 for private tender. Taking it by and large, and considering the fact that we had a Socialist local administration trying to operate the awful Acts of a Tory Government, I think it stands to their credit that they achieved such a remarkable programme as that.

It took us five years to gear up production in this country for war, and even then we were lagging. We find that the party opposite are attempting to make political capital out of the desperate need of the people of this country. They seem to think that a machine which was geared for war production could be immediately changed over and in 13 months geared to produce all the necessary components required for house building. It ill becomes the party opposite to talk in terms of lack of planning when we had the miserable spectacle of the shambles that took place in Blackpool the other week.

9.9 p.m.

Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)

I had hoped that this Debate today would have demonstrated the disappointment and the great concern of every Scottish Member at the slow progress which is being made in providing homes for the people of Scotland.

Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)

That is your side.

Commander Galbraith

I felt, with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd), that the Secretary of State, in the course of his speech, appeared to be somewhat complacent, but I could not help wondering whether he was not just putting the best possible face on a somewhat difficult situation. In any case, he told us very little indeed, and he said very little indeed, about what had happened during the past 13 months, although he painted an exceedingly rosy picture of what was going to happen in the future. Might I just say to the right hon. Gentleman that we cannot judge the housing progress altogether by the number of houses that are planned, or by the number under construction, and that the only true test we can apply to progress lies in the number of houses that are completed. No matter what hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, I believe that in reality there is in their hearts a feeling of disappointment that we have not gone faster than we have. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) dealt with the figures in regard to permanent houses, figures which to my mind are literally appalling. He pointed out that while there were 3,832 houses under construction in July, 1945, only 2,617 permanent houses have been completed in the last 13 months, and I am particularly appalled by reason of an experience which I had recently in Japan.

That country has been devastated to an extent which no one who has not seen it would believe to be possible. There is no industrial area in Japan which has not been absolutely wiped out. Hon. Members may have seen photographs showing the result of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Let me assure them that the devastation wrought there is not one bit worse than that at Tokio, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kobe, the great industrial areas of Japan. One can go for miles along roads where houses and factories used to exist and see nothing but green fields with a chimney sticking up here and there. Japan today is busy on rebuilding houses, shops and factories, but in March of this year the United States occupation forces came to the conclusion that they required 20,000 houses of United States type and design to accommodate the dependants of the soldiers serving in Japan. That programme was initiated in March and commenced in May. Already hundreds of houses are completed and the programme to March next year has been limited by the supreme commander at 10,000 houses. In the meantime the engineer in charge of the project tells me that he could complete many more.

Mr. J. L. Williams

Could the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell the House how, if the Americans are so clever in Japan, it comes about that there is such an enormous housing shortage in America?

Commander Galbraith

I have not visited America and I do not know the figures which the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but I am relating circumstances which have come to my notice and which, I think, place our housing programme in a very bad light. Ten thousand houses to be completed by March next year and every one of them right up to the standard of permanent houses required in this country. I do not know what the explanation as to the slow progress is, nor do I feel that the Secretary of State shed very much light on it during his speech this afternoon, but I am certain that no explanation, whatever it may be, is going to satisfy the people of Scotland that during these past 13 months we have achieved as much as it was possible to achieve. According to old standards the 2,617 houses that have been completed would have been built in 12 months by a labour force of 2,617 men. In July of 1945 we had 3,800 men employed on permanent building and today the figure is 15,900. If we take a rough average through these figures I think we shall come to the conclusion that well over 7,000 houses should have been completed in the period. That that number was not reached may be due to one of two things. Either the materials and components have not been forthcoming, due to a shortage or a lack of organisation, or labour output today is not up to the prewar standard. I confess that I am puzzled over the whole matter. The contradictory statements that we have received from Ministers do not help to clear the situation. Let me give an example of what I mean.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State delivered a broadcast on 8th October. He then spoke of shortages of glass, bricks, electrical fittings and plaster. Today, in "The Times" there is a report that the Minister of Health yesterday made a speech in which he used these words: It is no use grumbling at the Government. The bricks are on the sites. The materials are there. The contracts have been placed. It is now the job of the builders to build the houses. From the statement of the Joint Undersecretary it would appear that he blamed shortage of materials From the statement of the Minister of Health it looks as though he places the blame on the building industry.

Is the situation different in Scotland from what it is in England? Are materials available in England and not available in Scotland? If so, may we be told why? I understand that it is the business of the Ministry of Supply to furnish building materials and components in large measure. If that is so, is there a fair distribution? If there is not, how can the Minister of Health say that he has the materials ready on the sites here while the Joint Under-Secretary says that they are not available in Scotland? I noticed one thing upon which both Ministers would appear to agree; that is, that they do not seem to place any blame either upon their own Department or upon any other Government Department. This shortage is a Government responsibility The building programme is the Government's responsibility. It is a responsibility which they have undertaken and in which hitherto, in my belief, they have failed.

I would ask the Joint Under-Secretary to tell us, when he replies, why Scotland should lag behind England. In April, we completed 440 houses in Scotland as against 330 in England. Since then, Scotland has fallen back. In the last three months the average has been about 300 a month while in England the number has risen from 330 to 1,504. Why should England make such a great advance while Scotland has stood still? It is surely not a difficulty of labour shortage. Labour forces have increased in those months, and if it is due to a shortage of materials, which the hon. Gentleman blames, will he tell us who is to blame? From what I know of the hon. Gentleman—and I am not flattering him—I am certain that he has not spared himself to find a solution to this problem. I know another thing about him, which is that he would rather accept the blame himself than place it upon the shoulders of anyone else. I hope that he will be perfectly, and even brutally, frank, if need be, and will tell us where his difficulties lie. I am sure that they are not of his own making.

Several hon. Members have spoken about exports of building materials. I would like to know whether the Secretary of State is satisfied that the building materials which are required by us are not being exported. Have we sufficient ranges, stoves, electrical equipment, sanitary ware, and metal doors—I think he said today that he had not sufficient metal doors and window frames—and asbestos goods? If we have not those things, and are short of them, it seems to me that the Government stand condemned. We are exporting, certainly in the case of electrical goods alone, twice as much as we exported in 1938.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Woodburn)

We must pay for our food.

Commander Galbraith

We pay for our food by exports, certainly, but the needs of our people have to be weighed up, the one against the other. It might be found that other goods might be exported to fill the gap. I would like to know whether the Secretary of State is aware of these things, and if he is, what representations he has made to the Board of Trade. Or is this another example of the Labour Government's coordinated plan? The permanent housing programme has been a disappointment, and so also has the temporary housing programme. The Government received 12,700 sites and 14,700 layout plans when they came into office. In spite of that, they have completed only 6,100 houses up to the end of August. I do not know that the blame lies on the Scottish Office. After all, they provided the sites and the layout plans have been approved, and it seems to me that the Ministry of Works has fallen down on the job of erecting the houses. I noted particularly the statement made by the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. T. J. Brooks) about the Ministry of Works, and it seems that the Undersecretary himself is not too well satisfied about them if what appeared in this document is correct—the Labour Press Service of 9th October, 1946—in regard to temporary houses. The Under-Secretary seemingly has this to say: Let me say a word about the temporary housing programme. Here there have been constant delays and production difficulties and we might well have been tempted to cancel our programme and concentrate on permanent houses. It seems from that that it would be a good thing if the Ministry of Works took some steps to put their house in order so far as Scotland is concerned. Here again in the matter of temporary houses Scotland is lagging behind. We had an allocation of 34,300—

Mr. Buchanan


Commander Galbraith

Thirty-two thousand three hundred as against 130,800 houses for England. Eighteen per cent. of the Scottish allocation has been completed as against 31 per cent. in respect of England. Why is it that the Scottish situation should be worse than in England? Is the Ministry of Works not paying the same attention to work in Scotland as it is in England? After all, I have always understood that the housing situation in Scotland was considerably worse than that in England and that it was the intention of the Government to give Scotland a priority so far as that was concerned. The Ministry of Works should see that Scotland at least gets an equal share with England.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead and several other hon. Members referred to the lack of progress with the non-traditional houses. It is deplorably slow particularly in regard to the Swedish houses. As far as I can discover, 2,500 were in this country last February and 1,440 of them were under construction, yet up to the time of the last report, 108 had been completed. I understand that these houses are simple to erect and that they can be speedily erected. I do not know why more of them have not been completed. I think the Secretary of State suggested that it was due to the lack of components, but that difficulty should have been overcome by now.

I was very glad indeed to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he was paying attention to the rural housing problem and that he was not concentrating entirely on urban housing. The situation in the rural areas is every bit as serious as it is in the towns, and indeed the effect of bad housing in the rural areas may have a more serious economic effect than anything that is happening in the towns. Agriculture is held up today because of the shortage of housing, and what is going to happen when the prisoner of war labour is withdrawn it is difficult to predict. Unless housing accommodation which will attract men to the land is provided, we must look for a very large fall indeed in our agricultural production. Houses that will attract men do not exist in the countryside today.

Reconditioning would go a very long way towards solving the problem, but whether or not the Minister has powers to recondition no doubt he will tell us. If not, I should like to know what steps he proposes to take to deal with what is an urgent and vital situation. I hope, indeed I am sure, that neither the Secretary of State nor the Under-Secretary imagines that the building of houses in villages will solve this problem. If he does think that, I suggest he takes an hour's walk round any agricultural community and I am certain he will be satisfied that the problem will not be solved in that way. We must have better housing on the farms themselves, and if he has not powers to recondition existing houses, then the sooner he starts building houses on the farms, the better for all concerned. However, new houses alone will not solve the problem of the countryside in time.

The Secretary of State told us today that 143 camps had been taken over by squatters and that these camps now house 6,800 people. Might I have the attention of the Under-Secretary for a moment, because I would like him to reply to this question: What steps were taken by the Scottish Office in an endeavour to get these camps from whomsoever was in possession of them prior to the squatters taking over? It seems to me that a far stricter and sterner line has to be taken with Government Departments which are holding on to accommodation such as that, and who are also holding on, as the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) said, to buildings which could be transformed into good housing property. Many of these Departments— and the fighting services are the worst of the lot—are holding on to property today which they do not need and never will need again, and yet they will not get out. The sooner the Secretary of State takes stern measures with them, the better for us all. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will answer the question put to him by the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew, on whom will the cost of these camps fall?

The progress of the building programme has to my mind been highly disappointing, and the situation is not improved when the Secretary of State tells us that he has no apologies to make, that he is doing a magnificent job under most difficult conditions. Well, if less than 10,000 houses in 13 months is a magnificent job, words do not mean the same to me, or to many of the people of Scotland, as they do to the right hon. Gentleman. The truth is that in the last 13 months the Government have failed to live up to their promises, they have failed to deliver the goods. No matter what the cause may be, that failure is a Government responsibility, and I can only express the hope which I have myself, and which I put forth as the hope of those who sit on the benches behind me, that in the interests of this country during the next 12 months the Government may redeem its past failures, and that the rosy picture which the Secretary of State painted for us today as to the future may indeed become a reality.

9.29 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Buchanan)

We have had a very important Debate today. It has been not merely a Scottish Debate because, even when I sat on the back benches, I always thought it was a mistake merely to treat a housing Debate on Scotland as merely a Scottish Debate. The welfare of housing in Scotland affects this country as a whole, and I have constantly thought that it might be better for us all if in these Debates affecting our country we could broaden them and bring within them other people besides the Members from our own particular country. The Debate is an important one. Many things have been said about me which seemed rather hard, or about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, but no one has any right to complain, either of the tone or tenor of the Debate. I would be the last to complain. As to complacency, I do not know how other people are constituted, or whether I will ever make a good Minister, but far be it from me to be complacent. I worry about this morning noon and night; who could help but worry? Even if the figures were far better, I would still be anxious and annoyed and would wonder what the result would be. Far from being complacent, easy going and bright, I tend the other way. No matter how things are going, I constantly tend to be rather pessimistic about the position.

There was some dispute between the right hon. and learned Member for Hill-head (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) and the Secretary of State for Scotland about a statement made by the Secretary of State, or alleged to have been made, at a Press conference. In the hand-out at that Press conference, the words used were— Twenty thousand built or building. Those are the actual words. It may well be that someone ought to have corrected the statement in the Press. I have the document here, addressed from St. Andrew's House and headed: Call for present housing drive. Secretary of State's message to local authorities.

Lord William Scott

What is the date?

Mr. Buchanan

The date is 20th August. The relative passage is as follows: It is essential that the fullest advantage should now be taken of these preparations of the Government's progress so that we will have at least 20,000 houses built or building in Scotland by the middle of next year.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the words which appear to have been used by the "Glas- gow Herald" have no authorisation at all: quite confident that Scotland would be in possession of 20,000 permanent new houses within the next 12 months?

Mr. Buchanan

I cannot say. I have here the actual hand-out, and if he likes, the right hon. and learned Member can have a look at it.

I will admit that I have now become unduly cautious. I am almost frightened to say anything because no matter what one says it is bound to be wrong. For instance, on the Scottish Housing Bill which dealt with the subsidy, the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead pressed on me with great force the need for alternative methods of housing. He asked me to make steel available, but now I am attacked and told to leave these things alone and get on with brick building. If we get on with brick building, they go for us for not using steel. Those who form the Opposition, if they mean to form a Government, might at least agree on policy. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) with that great gusto which I have always envied— in fact, if I had one-half of it, with my natural debating ability, I might have been a statesman—comes in, sticks out his chest, and says "I told you to take this line to speed up building in Fife. But," he says, "ultimately you take it and meet my wish. You are forced to do it."

May I make two confessions? One is that there is this difference between me and a very great friend of the hon. Member's who held Cabinet rank, and who was the Leader of his party—that at least at one time I could be forced to do something and that he was a long time in office and no one could force him to anything. That at least is an improvement, I say to the hon. Member that although I could have done all that Fife was asking for, we do not want merely tenders on paper; we want much more to have houses translated into the reality of building. All that Fife was pressing me for was more tenders on paper, the right to get more houses passed for tender. Frankly, I have reached the stage, and I had reached it then, when with the material and labour available in Scotland I have got practically all the tenders I need. We have now got tenders from every county council in Scotland. We have got tenders from 95 per cent. of the local authorities; the other 5 per cent. include the local authorities which are the smallest in size and comprise less than 1 per cent. of the population. The tenders which the hon. Member for East Fife was pressing me about are not my problem. The problem now is to correlate the tenders we have got and to make them a reality—getting the houses tackled and built and then completed. That is our problem. That is why I said to the hon. Member on the matter of Fife that if it pleased them I could do as they wished but that in relation to the real programme it mattered little.

I have been tackled about many issues in this Debate. May I say a word about the camps, an issue which was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith)? May I repeat what I said when I met local authorities in Scotland on the matter? If the camp is for a short term, say a period of less than two years, in other words, if it is pretty bad and would be difficult to make semi-permanent, or even equal to a temporary house, the whole cost falls on the State. That relates to the great bulk of the camps—an overwhelming number. There the State meets the cost, but if it is a camp about which, after review and proper survey by the local authority and us, we come to the conclusion that it can be made into the equal of a temporary house, the matter proceeds on the same basis of finance as does a temporary house.

Major Lloyd

Would the hon. Member excuse me intervening, as this is a point in which I am interested? I accept the point of view about the expense of altering or improving the structure of the house, but what about the actual week to week administration, such as the sanitary arrangements?

Mr. Buchanan

I think that the local authority must pay a sum. The hon. and gallant Member talks about Glasgow people going into East Renfrew. I remember that I once sat with a distinguished Member from the other side of the House on the problem of shifting population from place to place under the Poor Law. This business of trying to keep people in an area in relationship to a border will not work. While Renfrew may get a few people from Glasgow it will probably be balanced in the long run by people coming from Renfrew to Glasgow. We have enough trouble in running the borders of the world. Do not let our borders in Scotland become too parochial and narrow.

I wish to speak about a number of other matters. The question has been raised about the supply of materials, timber, glass and other necessaries. I cannot, and really hon. Members must not expect me to defend speeches made even by Members of the Government when they are suddenly flung at me. I have enough to do to defend my own. This speech which was quoted was made last night. Really, I did not know about that speech until I heard about it this evening. All that I can express is my own view and that is all I will take responsibility for. There is an improvement in the position. Take, for example, the position when I broadcast at the beginning of August. In the preceding month the supply of bricks was not good. The month of July had passed and I was worried. Production in July was less than 30,000,000 bricks. That was not enough. I do not think the broadcast did it, and I would be the last person to claim that, but the fact was that at the end of August production rose to 45,000,000 which, while not wholly solving the position, combined with the importation of English and Belgian bricks, went largely to meet the position. Bricks are not now the anxiety which they were formerly. To say that the position was eased and solved absolutely would be nonsense. What I say is that there are enough bricks at the moment to carry on that particular job.

Let me discuss the position with regard to other components. At all the meetings I attend with my English colleagues I hear the grumble that Scotland is getting more than her share. One of our chief shortages is of plaster and plaster board. May I say I have no doctrinaire views? I was so anxious that I went to a Conservative Member about it. I hope the Tory caucus will not meet and discipline these people to whom I talk. I went to a Conservative Member from Northern Ireland and asked him whether he could get me plaster from Northern Ireland. He entered into negotiations, but owing to developments in Northern Ireland and the requirements there we were not able to get what we needed. I still have the hopes—

Major Haughton (Antrim)

I did my very best.

Mr. Buchanan

I was going to say that the hon. and gallant Member did his very best. I am hopeful that the best may have a good effect. In regard to plaster production, I brought here last night the chairman of what I think is one of the biggest companies operating in Britain. He told me that, whatever grumbles there may be, the Scottish allocation of plaster was much above that for the country South of the Border.

I now refer to the question mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok, the allocation of temporary houses. He said that it appeared that more temporary houses were being supplied to England than to Scotland. The answer is that this Government, and indeed the Government of which he was a Member, properly decided that in the allocation of the early temporary houses the bombed out districts must have preference. That is what was decided. If one takes away the bombed districts such as London, Portsmouth, et cetera, and considers the parts of England which have not been bombed, it will be found that Scotland is far ahead of them. Who will deny that that policy was right? I hope we shall not take the line in this House that because people who are bombed are across the Border we have not to assist them. I would refuse to take that line, and I hope nobody else will. The facts are that, if we take the bombed parts of the country out of the English figures—that is, London, and such places as Portsmouth and Plymouth, and I say that it is good Socialist doctrine to help them—and you come to other parts of the country, like the North-East Coast and parts of Lancashire, which were not so badly hit, our Scottish figures are far ahead. That is the answer.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

Before the hon. Gentleman passes from materials, may I point out that he has not answered my question? I quoted the words of a Cabinet Minister, who declared that in England the materials are there. My question was: "If that is so, why are they not in Scotland?"

Mr. Duchanan

The hon. Member made a quotation from the speech of a Cabinet Minister which was made last night. I must ask the Cabinet Minister if he really said that. Surely, the hon. Member would at least grant me the right to go to the man and say, "Did you say it?" I do not know exactly what was the context or its meaning. The hon. Member for East Fife knows very well that one can take a little bit out of a speech and alter its whole meaning. I do not know what was meant, but what I say about materials is that we have enough to speed it up, though there have been shortages in certain respects.

I was asked by the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) about rainwater goods. I have never been fully satisfied about that. One of the reasons for the difficulty is that it is a section of the industry which was most unpopular. It was dirty, hard work and not highly remunerated in the old days. We have had meetings with the union and employers, and, indeed, I am meeting the employers again on Friday next. We have got the union to agree to an upgrading scheme to allow more labourers in the foundries to move up to semi-skilled and even to become skilled men so as to add to the labour force in the foundries. I have met employers in places like Barr-head and Falkirk and they are now equipped with the latest and most modern machinery so as to increase production in Scotland. Anybody who knows the position will understand that these matters take time and experience, and, in the matter of rainwater goods, certain types which we have examined have not turned out a success. We have spent some time on a specific alternative, which we had sent up from England but which, for certain reasons, proved defective. I am sorry it occupied a lot of time, but we had to try it. We are now using, as an alternative to some extent, an aluminium gutter.

May I say a word or two about the aluminium house? On the temporary housing programme, I say frankly that I thought we would have been further ahead than we are, but that is not due to the Ministry of Works alone. Scotland was allocated 32,000 temporary houses, and of that number 12,000 were aluminium—two-fifths of the total. The aluminium house is a factory-produced house, and. in my view, apart from the Weir house, undoubtedly the nearest to prefabrication that you can get. It is made in a factory at Dumbarton, where men and women are engaged upon it, and I have visited that factory. The firm, with the best will in the world, thought they would have been able by this time to have given us a figure much in excess of the 102 which they delivered last week. They have been faced with shortages of machine tools and the non-delivery of cranes. Before the contract was taken over they placed an order for cranes which have not yet been delivered. No Government controls intervened and, with every kind of priority given to them, the full complement of cranes ordered has not been received. They want tippers for cement, and they have to compete with the building trade contractors. On the whole they have made progress, but not the progress which they and I thought they would have made.

In these days when so many people seek to depreciate Scotland, let me say that I have seen the factory at Blackburn and seen the men and women at work, and also the management. I was proud of my fellow countrymen in that part of the world after I saw their production. They were doing an excellent job. That is also the answer with regard to Crail. May I say to the hon. Member for East Fife that I said to my officials who allocate the aluminium houses, "You allocate them because if I do so it may be that I shall be accused of giving Socialist town councils preference over some others. You are likely to be as fair as anybody. You have no political sympathies that I know of. Go and do the job fairly and decently. Do it well and I will not interfere with your work." Crail was put on that list, and I understand they have been supplied with the houses, although I am not certain. If it is any consolation to the hon. Member for East Fife, I will say quite frankly that I do not propose to alter the procedure with regard to the allocation of the aluminium houses made by my officials from whatever part of the House I may be attacked.

Let me say a word or two about the Special Housing Association. It has come in for a certain amount of criticism, and it may be as well if I give a little of its history. I inherited it, as did my predecessor. The right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead inherited it. It dates back to a purely Conservative Gov- ernment. That fact should be a great inspiration to the hon and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison) because the Tory Party could do no wrong. There was not even a National Liberal in that Government. The Association has had a rather chequered career. During the war it was given other work to do. When I entered office there were two lines I could take: one was to abolish it and the other was to try, by trial and error, to make it a workmanlike body. Supposing I had come to this House and said I was abolishing it, what would have been said? I would have been attacked. I took the right and proper course of keeping it in being and seeing if I could improve it. I set out to improve the membership of the Board by various methods. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) why certain members had been asked to retire. I thought that, in a Board charged with this great task, we ought to try out some younger men, men who I thought would be able to devote their time to it. I have appointed them. I do not say that I have got rid of my troubles yet—far from it—but I do say that I have now got a number of men drawn from many walks of life. This week I have started on a new road, with a new experiment. I will not say that it will be successful, but neither will I say that it will fail. All I will say is that I will try experiment after experiment, and I hope that one day I will get a solution to the housing problem in Scotland.

I wish to say a few words on the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire concerning technicians. He complained that we were going to pay these people a salary higher than is paid by local authorities. I hope we will never reach the stage when, because a local authority pays a certain salary, we regard that as the right salary. Surely, we have not reached that stage yet. This body is a semi-government body. It is not part of the Civil Service, but it is related to it in some ways. In fixing the salaries we took more or less the salary that would apply to the same status in the Civil Service. If this body is to succeed, as I trust it will, we must attract the very best type of men in the various professions in order that it shall be given every chance.

With regard to the figures for the construction of houses, we have had a good deal of criticism. I would like to have seen the figures much higher. I was asked by the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead about the "Finish the houses" campaign. We do not intend to let it interfere with the present building arrangements. All we are proposing is to have a businesslike arrangement to deal with those houses which are nearly finished. With reference to the Swedish houses, so far as the Government supplied parts are concerned, everything has been supplied. The only parts that are missing in the Swedish houses are those that are supplied by the private merchant to the local authority. For the sake of getting a house let quickly, and getting people into shelter, why should we not take an extra step if we possibly can and have the job finished at once? That is all we are proposing. Many figures have been quoted, but I would like to refer to the case of the town of Clydebank. Up till 2nd October, we have built 8,500-odd temporary houses and 3,600-odd permanent houses, a grand total of over 12,000. I was looking at the figures for the year 1912, when private enterprise was responsible for all the building in the country, and they never came near the figure that I have just quoted. Even in 1930, 1931 and 1932, when bricklayers and material were 10 a 1d., the total production of houses in Scotland reached a total of only 20,000. Here am I, shortly after the war, when I have had to build up a labour force, and I have already reached that total.

Take the town of Clydebank for example. There are four towns in Scotland that were badly bombed. They are Greenock, Clydebank, Aberdeen and Dumbarton. Clydebank is usually accepted as the worst bombed. Between the wars Clydebank built 2,200-odd houses. That was the total number built, taking into account private enterprise and everything.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid

Permanent houses?

Mr. Buchanan

Permanent houses. That was their total. Today, at the end of 13 months, they have completed in temporary and permanent houses, and have in the course of construction, almost as many as were built in the 20 years between the two wars. That is Clydebank.

I say quite frankly, while those figures move we have been disappointed. I can assure this House that I will work, and work, and work at anything. including private enterprise. Why do hon. Members opposite never show any generosity in their character? It amazes me. Take for example, the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow. He knows I went to the Glasgow Town Council. That is something hon. Gentlemen opposite would never have done, because I have seen predecessors of mine who were afraid to look at Glasgow. I met the Glasgow Town Council, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) knows, and asked them to adopt private enterprise, and today the biggest contracts placed in the hands of private enterprise have been placed by the City of Glasgow Corporation. I have no prejudices or feelings in this matter. However much we may differ, I only hope this Debate will result in a combined effort to make Scottish housing progress speedier and faster towards its ultimate solution.

It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.