Department of Health, Scotland.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum, not exceeding £2,795,513, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of Health for Scotland; including grants, a grant in aid and other expenses in connection with housing, certain grants to local authorities, etc., grant in aid of the Highlands and Islands medical service, grants in aid in respect of national health insurance benefits, etc.; certain expenses in connection with widows', orphans' and old age contributory pensions; a grant in aid of camps; and other services."—[Note: £1,500,000 has been voted on account.]
Against the background of the Prime Minister's speech and the great events of which he spoke, I think hon. Members will want me to submit these Estimates as briefly as I can. The work covered by the Estimates is of very great importance to the welfare of Scotland, and, therefore, to the welfare of Great Britain, and, in normal times, it merits and receives the close study and constructive criticism of hon. Members. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day, however, I judge that it would be out of place if, in introducing the Estimates, I did more than make a brief reference to some of the outstanding branches of work that are directly connected with our war effort.First, perhaps I may be allowed a personal word. I have taken over from my predecessor only a few weeks ago, as every hon. Member knows, and I find myself in charge of four great main Departments, three of which are represented by the Estimates submitted to-day. It is an unusually wide range of responsibility and the work is of absorbing interest. I have now had a fairly long experience as a Scottish Member and I feel that Scotland owes a very great deal to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Midlothian (Mr. Colville) for all that he has done during his period of office to improve the public services and the machinery of government of Scotland. Since the beginning of the war, all four Departments have been swung over to a war basis, and their main energies have been directed to our national war effort. Perhaps it would be well if I dealt first with the provision which has been made for the emergency hospital service. This great task has naturally fallen to the Department of Health, and it involves organising the emergency hospital service and the recruitment of medical and nursing personnel.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he obviously proposes to review work which is covered by all four Votes which are on the Paper. I have no doubt that that would be a convenient thing to do, but it would require the general assent of the Committee, and perhaps I may make that suggestion from the Chair.
On behalf of hon. Members on this side of the Committee I may say that it was our intention to ask that such should be the scope of the discussion. I believe there will be general agreement to that course by the Committee.
I hope it will be convenient to the Committee. As I said, I do not intend, in the circumstances, to do more than deal with some of the outstanding work of the Departments which are specially concerned with the war effort, but the speeches of hon. Members will, no doubt, take their course under your direction, Sir Dennis.It was necessary, in order to deal with civilian casualties from enemy action and, as arranged with the Service Departments, to accommodate sick and wounded from the Armed Forces, to provide and mobilise a great additional service. The accommodation required is being found by the building of new hospitals, by the building of annexes to existing hospitals, the conversion of large mental institutions, hotels and other buildings and the adaptation of large private houses to hospital purposes. Altogether, 25,000 casualty beds are now ready. Another 6,000 or more will be ready within the next two or three weeks, and strenuous efforts are being made to complete the whole programme with the utmost despatch. In a recent visit to some of these new hospitals, I was very much impressed by the whole-hearted reception that the men on the job gave to my appeal for the earliest possible completion of the work. Some of our Scottish hospitals have already been in commission, in receiving convoys of Service sick and wounded who have come from overseas. I should like to point out to the Committee one special development. Arrangements have been made for special units to be set aside in certain hospitals included in the emergency hospitals scheme, for the treatment of patients suffering from special types of injury. These special units will include units for brain surgery, ophthalmic units, orthopaedic units, thoracic units, units for the treatment of mental cases, and occupational therapy units. In addition, we are providing facilities for physico-therapy treatment at all important base hospitals. I mention these facts because the value of the special units is very great, both in their positive results and in the resulting economy in the use of highly-skilled personnel and of expensive and scarce special equipment. Instructions are being given to all hospitals to ensure that appropriate cases will be transferred as soon as possible to the special unit which can give them the treatment they need. The medical and nursing staffing of our hospitals is being carried out through the Emergency Medical Service and the Civil Nursing Reserve. We have taken all the necessary steps to ensure that the specialist and other medical teams will be adequate to any calls upon them. Nursing staffs are being recruited widely. Recent appeals to nurses in the Press and by broadcast have stimulated the flow of nurses to the Service. In the last ten days or so 500 trained and asssistant nurses applied to join the Civil Nursing Reserve for employment in the casualty hospitals. We shall need more nurses and nursing auxiliaries who will be prepared for whole-time mobile service anywhere in the country. There is another direction in which we need more volunteers. I refer to the need for women workers in the wards and kitchens, and generally in and about the hospitals. We shall want them both for whole-time and part-time service, and women or girls who find that they can give only part-time service near their homes should not hesitate to come forward and register at the nearest Employment Exchange for service. Their offers will be cordially welcomed. In building up this emergency hospital service we have had the co-operation of the managements of voluntary hospitals, the local authorities, the leaders of the medical and nursing profession and private citizens. I want to thank them heartily for the great service which they are rendering us. Some of the hospitals will be directly administered by the Department of Health, and to assist the Department of Health we have appointed a hospitals advisory committee under the chairmanship of Sir John Fraser, the eminent Edinburgh surgeon. I have asked the Lords Lieutenant of the Counties to consider setting up, in association with existing voluntary agencies, local committees who would take a friendly interest in the patients. Their co-operation is assured. A number of eminent physicians and surgeons are also giving their services as consultants, without payment. We are very grateful to all these gentlemen because their advice and assistance based on wide experience of hospitals and hospital patients gives us confidence in thinking that when the testing time comes our emergency hospital scheme will be equal to the strain which will be imposed on it. There are many forms of voluntary service associated with the hospitals. Here is an instance in the related services of first-aid posts. The story is told in a report which I have received on a first-aid post in a town in Fife. In the area not less than 200 persons have been fully trained in first-aid, and in spite of the fact that most of the men are working on the shift system in the pits and many of the women are occupied, calls for first-aid exercises have provided an average attendance of 70 trained workers in ten minutes. One hundred secondary school children, under a scheme encouraged by the Department of Education, have already been trained, the boys in ambulance work and the girls in nursing. The voluntary committee which runs this post has secured nearby premises which would serve in emergency as a temporary hospital. They provided out of their own funds more than 40 beds, blankets and bed linen, as well as chairs and other furniture. By collecting scrap linen they have laid in stores of triangular and roller bandages, and used the waste material from this work as padding for splints. This is an illustration of the work being done in many parts of Scotland, and I quote it because it indicates the spirit which is wanted for this great and valuable service. The ancillary services such as blood transfusion, bacteriological services and others are also receiving attention. They are all of importance and we are giving them the closest attention so that the most satisfactory arrangements can be made. I am afraid I have not time to deal in detail with them now. I would like to refer to the peace-time services of the Department. As hon. Members know, early in September—
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of voluntary work, may I ask Whether his remarks about bandages mean that there was a shortage of supplies of such essentials?
Not at all. This was a special local first-aid post and many undertook to do this particular work which will be of great assistance in the future. Before I was interrupted, I was going to say something about the peacetime service of the Department. As the Committee knows, early in September local authorities were asked to suspend new housing schemes and to concentrate on completing houses then under construction. I think the Committee would like to know the figures showing what the new policy has meant during the last year. Despite all the interruptions and difficulties in regard to the supply of materials 19,170 houses were built in Scotland in 1939. In all, if we include 5,980 houses built by private enterprise, the total output of houses in 1939 suitable for occupation by working-class people was 25,150. That figure was exceeded in 1938 when private enterprise made a larger contribution, and the total number of houses built in that year was 26,064. Of the houses under construction when war began, 8,676 were completed by 31st March this year.A good deal has also been done to improve rural housing. Here improvement was made as part of the drive for increased food production, and a considerable amount of building has been done in erecting houses for workers in service establishments and factories engaged on urgent war work. In all, there are in Scotland at present about 20,000 houses either in course of construction or approved for building. I would like to mention here the willingness with which certain local authorities have co-operated with us in methods of house building which reduce the amount of timber normally required. Naturally, they would prefer to build in the way to which they are accustomed and which experience approves, but they are facing up to the hard facts of the situation, realising that it is better to get the houses than to fail to get them by adhering too rigidly to orthodox methods. I have no time to speak of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, the Milk Scheme, the Public Assistance and National Health Insurance and other services that are administered by this Department. I would like to refer to the general health during the last year. Hon. Members will be glad to know that 1939 was a healthy year. The general death rate, it is true, was slightly higher than that of 1938–12·9 per 1,000 compared with 12.6. But the increase in deaths was mainly among the old people—the average age of the population, as everybody knows, is rapidly increasing—and there was a great saving of life among the young. The infant death rate touched a new low record, 69 per 1,000. The maternal death rate was the lowest recorded—4·3 per 1,000 total births. Perhaps the subject that has excited most controversy and is most relevant to immediate conditions is that of evacuation—
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman referred to the maternal death rate.
The right hon. Gentleman did mention it, but I think he should qualify it a little because although it is the lowest recorded in Scotland, it is still a very high death rate.
As the hon. Lady and the Committee know, it is one of the most difficult of all subjects in the realm of our national life, and it must be regarded as satisfactory to know, even though the hon. Lady states that the rate is high, that it is the lowest recorded.
The reason why I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman was this: He says it is the lowest on record. It should be so, because the House of Commons gave very special powers and spent money specially to make an attack on this problem. It is only right that in this last year that expenditure should be showing results. Can the Minister tell us what is the drop as compared with a year ago?
In 1939, deaths from pregnancy and child-birth were 390 as compared with 432 in the previous year. That is the figure for which the hon. Gentleman asked and the Committee will see that it is an improvement.
The other figure was a percentage.
These are facts and figures.
This matter is very important. Could the Minister say why women in Scotland are not using the clinics, why only about 36 per cent. of expectant mothers use the ante-natal clinics and post-natal clinics, and why, in fact, in the last few years there has been no increase in this figure at all?
Perhaps the hon. Lady will await the answer which the Under-Secretary will make at the end of the Debate. I am anxious not to be too long on these issues, and the Under-Secretary may have something to say on that subject later. I was saying that the subject which has excited most controversy is that of evacuation. I am absolved from discussing the general principles of the Government's policy to-day, because we had a full statement from the Minister of Health on the position as a whole last week. But I would like to say a word about the facts in Scotland and to reiterate the basic idea of the original scheme of evacuation, which is the advantage secured by dispersal. Absolute safety cannot be guaranteed anywhere. Such a claim for the scheme has never been made, but on the average there are 14,000 persons to the square mile in the sending areas of Scotland, and in the receiving areas the average density per square mile is only 100. There is no doubt about where it is safer to be when bombing starts. The present position is that about 20,000 children evacuated under the Government scheme are still in the receiving areas. Just over 100,000 were evacuated originally in September of last year. The new plans, which were prepared in the early spring and which we are putting into operation when the Government decide, contemplate the evacuation of about half the school children still left in the sending areas—about 115,000. Parents, however, are still slow to register their children for evacuation. In the three main sending areas, for instance, only about 37,000 children out of about 110,000 prepared for have been registered. In the past few weeks, however, there has been an increase in registration. Hon. Members will know from the speech made by my right hon. Friend last week that this subject is under daily review so that in the light of particular circumstances the Government may know when alterations are necessary.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is anybody from the Scottish Department on the committee dealing with the question of evacuation?
Yes, there will be a Scottish representative. I am discussing at the moment with my right hon. Friend the arrangements for the committee which he is proposing to set up. In the preliminary Ministerial discussions my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary took part.Everything Possible is being done to ensure the sound physical condition of the children evacuated. For months there has been intensive inspection of the children. The sending authorities are tackling the matter thoroughly. If defective conditions are discovered at the last moment, the worst of these will be dealt with at clearing houses on the outskirts of the sending area. In addition, there is the setting up of clearing houses through which minor or doubtful cases can be passed before they are billeted. Use is also being made of camps and hostels as a supplement to billeting in private houses. Five camps have been provided in Scotland; three are already occupied, another will be occupied in a day or two, and the fifth will be ready for occupation in a few weeks.
How many children will each of these camps accommodate?
An average of 300. Then there is the question of hostels. Although you can put children into small houses, you cannot put casualties into them. Where a hostel is available, it should be used, first, for the children who cannot reasonably be put into ordinary billets, but I am prepared to consider proposals by local authorities who feel that hostels are required for ordinary children, and can find suitable buildings and the necessary staff. This difficult problem of evacuation puts a great strain on all concerned. The receiving areas—the local authorities, the officials, the voluntary workers, and, above all, the householders—deserve a special word of thanks from the nation. I want to emphasise that this is as great a form of national service as any that I know; and I am sure that if we have to call on the receiving areas again they will not fail us.When war broke out there was in full swing in Scotland a great programme of educational reform. The authorities were preparing for the raising of the school-leaving age to 15, preparation that involved the adjustment of courses, new school-buildings, and many other changes. They were also modernising buildings, and adjusting the whole educational system to the needs of our time. In the midst of this, the authorities had to bear the full shock of war, with the result that the programme, alas, had to be suspended. The first great problem was the impact of evacuation on the educational service. It was followed by the steady drift back from the receiving areas to the sending areas. I can best convey what evacuation involved if I remind hon. Members that more than a quarter of the schools in Scotland are so small as to require only one teacher, that nearly half the primary schools have not more than two teachers, and that the schools range from these levels to the other extreme of large schools in the cities, with rolls running up towards 2,000. The normal school population of receiving areas, which is approximately 250,000, was swollen by evacuation by about 50 per cent. There was a call for improvisation of all sorts, especially in the areas where accommodation is very limited. Accommodation is one of our basic problems, because, a t best, accommodation in the receiving areas is limited. It may be that in certain areas it will become even more limited. Schools were filled to capacity, many halls were pressed into service, and a double-shift system had to be resorted to on a very large scale. A number of large houses were turned into temporary boarding schools. Sixteen boarding schools were established for mentally and physically defective children. The main city residential schools for blind children and for deaf and dumb children were evacuated as units. A considerable number of private schools also established themselves as boarding schools, in the less vulnerable parts of the country. Work was pressed on with school camps, three of which are now occupied, while two others will be ready soon. There has been a steady and comprehensive effort to maintain the tradition of Scottish education on the fullest possible scale. A few figures may illustrate the progress of that effort. If we represent full-time education for all people by the figure of 100, the position may be summarised in this way. In the receiving areas the figure at Christmas was 95; by Easter it had risen to 97·8; and in April and May, to 98. Thus, over the receiving areas as a whole, and taking all children into account, education is 98 per cent. normal. In the neutral areas, the figure at Christmas was 50, at Easter 53, in April 82, and by May it had reached 92. In the sending areas, at Christmas it was 14, at Easter 36, in April 47, and in May 54. In the country as a whole, it can be said that in May the position was 84 per cent. of normal. These figures, I think, reflect great credit on education authorities, the Educational Institute of Scotland, the teachers and everybody concerned. I will give just one illustration of the very interesting experiments which group teaching calls for. One science teacher met pupils in his own house after having converted one of his rooms into a reasonably well-equipped laboratory. During the very cold weather the pupils of one group each brought a lump of coal daily to the house, so as to save the teacher the expense of buying the coal that in this instance was so essential. I like this incident for its revival of an old Scottish custom in education, and for its manifestation that the spirit that has built up the great tradition of Scottish education still lives. One of the difficulties in the way of recovery of full-time education in the sending areas is the problem of air-raid precautions in schools. Here, however, good progress has been made. By the end of April over £670,000 had been spent on shelters and the other essentials of A.R.P. There are a few special points about the war-time adjustment of Scottish education that are worthy of mention even in this short statement. There is, for instance, the introduction of a senior leaving certificate, specially designed to meet war conditions. The usual written examination, conducted by the Department, was eliminated, and the basis on which a candidate's claim for a certificate was assessed was the teacher's estimates of his efficiency in the several subjects of his own course. The adjustment of these estimates was undertaken by panels of teachers, appointed in the areas, with His Majesty's inspectors as conveners; and a board of assessors, consisting of the local headmasters and a director of education, under the convener-ship of His Majesty's inspector for the district, awarded the certificate. The advantage of this scheme may be summed up broadly by saying that it attempts to make allowance for the disturbance of war conditions, and, because of its decentralisation, it can be operated even if that disturbance becomes severe. The scheme is working well on the whole; and thanks are due to the teachers, the panels and the boards, and to the education authorities and the directors of education, for the manner in which they have contributed to the success of this bold experiment. The war has also hastened the trend of Scottish education towards more practical work. I need not go into details, but some items are especially interesting. Gardening has been greatly stimulated, and school gardens, with the encouragement of the Department and of the authorities, are now a common feature. The Department also are doing everything possible to encourage the teaching of first-aid in schools, and to facilitate training for the nursing profession. In agreement with the General Nursing Council for Scotland, a circular is being issued shortly, suggesting the establishment of part-time and full-time courses leading up to Part I of the Nursing Council preliminary examination. As a result of this proposal, it is hoped that girls who have decided to adopt nursing as a profession will find it possible to learn the elementary theory of their work before taking up hospital duties. The practical classes in schools also are helping in the provision of trays, bedside tables, etc., for hospitals, and in turning out barrows and other implements required for the school gardens. The education authorities, governors of central institutions, and managers of other technical institutions are providing facilities for the training of industrial personnel. This will include personnel for engineering and allied trades and for the aircraft industry. A great deal is being done in this direction, not merely in training, but in research and in the testing of materials. I am glad to say that youth welfare is also receiving a stimulus, and the work of the Scottish Youth Committee, in association with the Department and the education authorities, is going ahead. Continuation classes and adult education, after the first shock, are adjusting themselves to war conditions. There are signs that the war has created new and wider interests, and has stimulated intellectual inquiry among the people. There have been one or two interesting experiments carried out especially in Kincardine and Aberdeen, in connection with adult education. On the whole, the war has brought some losses to education in Scotland, and some gains. The disturbance of evacuation upon many pupils cannot be dismissed lightly. On the other hand, children who have been evacuated have gained in health and have learned something of the country. By first-hand contact with nature they have had their horizons widened. At the same time, the country children have gained something from the quicker responses of the town children. One broad effect on teachers and pupils throughout the country has been to stimulate individual initiative; and, throughout the whole organisation, there has been a great response and a readiness to improvise and experiment. I am sure that some of the results will have permanent value. With regard to the Home Department, time does not allow me to do more than refer to that. I want to mention it because it is a new Department, formed only last September. Frankly, I do not know what we should have done in the war emergency without that reorganisation. The Home Department, like the other Departments of the Secretary of State, has had to carry a very heavy war burden, especially in the case of services such as police, security, local government and fire brigades. I have said a public word of thanks and testimony to all who helped us in the work of the other Departments. Here I should like to say a word of appreciation for the loyal, zealous and devoted service, given under conditions of very great stress and difficulty, with all kinds of sudden emergencies arising, by the Scottish police forces. I should like to thank men of all ranks in that force. I hope that I have not taken an undue amount of time, but I thought that by referring to the effect of the war effort, I could best explain the work of my Department during the year.
I think I may say, on the first occasion, I believe, that the Minister has delivered a speech in the capacity of Secretary of State for Scotland, that we welcome the type of statement which he has made, we congratulate him upon compressing into a very small compass a great deal of information which we have been glad to receive, and we hope that, as time goes on, the services upon which he has commented will show even greater progress than he is able to record to-day. Nevertheless, in the special and difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves there is a good deal with which we may fairly well be satisfied. May I say a personal word with regard to the right hon. Gentleman? He is my Member of Parliament, and it was far from my thoughts that one day I would find him, an Englishman, in charge of Scottish affairs. Whatever anyone may think about that turn in the wheel of fortune, as far as the right hon. Gentleman and Scotland are concerned, we can say very heartily indeed that we welcome him there much more readily than we would welcome those who at: the present time are making a strenuous effort to obtain control of this our Island home. The right hon. Gentleman kept his statement within a very brief compass, recognising that the preoccupations of the Members of the Committee are such that to-day we would not wish to have an extended Debate while our minds are so preoccupied.He made reference in his concluding words to the value that has come about through the reorganisation of Scottish Departments, and made the statement that he did not know how affairs could have been carried on so effectively in Scotland had it not been possible for the reorganised Departments to be housed in the main in that great new building at Calton Hill—St. Andrew's House. He may live to see—I hope he will—even greater developments take place in Scotland and greater progress made in the organisation of Scottish Departments, so that St. Andrew's House may in time become a real, national rallying point, as indeed it is to-day, but with more power given to it. Arising out of the conflict in which we are engaged at the present time there must be, at the end of the struggle, consideration as to how best to organise affairs in this Island of ours, and many of us are hoping that out of that will come greater opportunities for Scotland to look after her own affairs. The right hon. Gentleman in his review made reference to the hospital services, and paid a very fine tribute to those who are responsible for those services. He also made a strong appeal for additional assistance in respect of the work that is being carried on at the present time, especially with regard to the war emergency. From my own knowledge of the instruction of the kind that he pointed out would be obtained by those who give that service, I can say that those who give their services and obtain instruction will never regret the opportunity of learning how to help our fellow citizens in time of accident or other mishap. The instruction which is given in respect of these things lives with one all one's life and is a valuable asset to one's equipment. The appeal that the right hon. Gentleman made is one that can be supported by every one of us. We hope that it will be successful, and we can make the definite promise to those who take up this work that they will never regret it, because they will be equipping themselves in a way which will be very useful in the years that lie ahead whatever their sphere of life may be. I am sure that We were gratified to find that, in spite of the difficulties with which we were faced during 1939, and especially towards the end of it, there was considerable progress made in Scottish housing, which, of course, is very much needed. The right hon. Gentleman made reference to the necessity for getting away from orthodox methods of building and using other materials than timber in the construction of houses. My knowledge of the desperate need of houses by many people causes me to ask whether there could not be some temporary relaxation of the standards that are called for in respect of reconstructed houses. I do not want to let down the standard of houses—we are trying to build up in Scotland—but there are many old houses which have not been demolished and can by a certain amount of reconstruction and re-equipment be made reasonably fit for human habitation, although it would hardly be economical fully to develop these houses up to the standard that is required by the Department of Health at the present time to enable them to be recognised. I hope that we may have some indication of the point of view of the Scottish Office with regard to that suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman stated that in Scotland at the present time there are approximately 20,000 houses in course of building or which have been approved for construction. I am afraid that we cannot get a very great deal of comfort out of that, because we need the 20,000 houses and more. I am afraid that 20,000 houses in these categories may not represent a very great deal in respect of housing development in Scotland at the present time. We regret that, although we recognise the difficulties that are in the way of making progress in this very vital respect. As to death rates, the comment of the right hon. Gentleman was quite justified when he said that there is something for which to be grateful in respect of certain improvements, but we are hopeful and anxious to see still further improvements in respect of the maternal death rate. We want to see the efforts that were planned for last year developed to the fullest possible extent, and I have no doubt that those who are in charge of these services are just as anxious as any of us here with regard to that devlopment. We are glad to have the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman of the progress of Scottish education. I intend to make special reference to what he said in respect of the education of children who have been evacuated and of those who have remained at home. The only comment I want to make on his statement relates to the opportunity that is still afforded for young people to obtain their leaving certificates. We are very grateful for the arrangements that have been made recognising the fact that the leaving certificate is very important to young people who are about to go out into the world to seek employment. In my own profession the school-leaving certificate is the basis of any examination of a candidate for entrance to the railway clerical service. We look upon the putting down of these Votes to-day as an opportunity for following our English friends into a consideration of the question of evacuation, and I am glad, thanks to your guidance from the Chair, Sir Dennis, that we are able to look at all the aspects of the evacuation problem in a way that was not open to our English colleagues in this House who were hampered by the fact that, in calling for other Votes to be discussed at the same time in the way that we are doing to-day, it would mean the calling in of more than one Minister. There are advantages in the fact that we have one Minister in Scotland who looks after, and is responsible for, a variety of Departments. May I ask a question about the numbers of evacuated children who are still in the reception areas? We were told by the right hon. Gentleman that out of 100,000, roughly, who were taken into reception areas in the original evacuation there are now only 20,000 of them left. I recollect on a previous occasion the late Secretary of State for Scotland was able to tell us where these children were, giving the percentages in the different reception areas. I do not know whether such details are available now, or whether indeed it is in the public interest to ask for them, but it was agreeable to some of us to find how well some parts of the country had done in the way of being able to retain the children who were sent into those particular reception areas. There are differences in reception areas and in the estimate of what ought to be reception areas which arise between different Government Departments. I have had experience with regard to my own constituency concerning an area that was considered suitable for the reception of children in order that they might be dispersed and made more normally safe under conditions of war and the possibility of air raids, but which was not considered by another Government Department as suitable for the establishment of a Government factory. That seemed to be a curious difference of opinion and there is the further fact to be taken into consideration that since the opportunity of establishing a Government factory in that area has been turned down there has not been the slightest justification for the fears that existed at that time that there would be any interruption through air raids of work in such a factory had it been established there. I had intended to ask whether we could have in broad outline the reasons which have caused 80 per cent. of evacuated children to return to their homes. I know any number of cases where the cost of maintaining children in evacuation areas has fallen so heavily upon parents that it has caused them to bring their children hack home. I do not want unduly to complain about that, because many have been able to stand up to the responsibility of the payments. But in other cases they have not. Certain concessions have been made, but, in my judgment, they have not been sufficient to permit parents to continue paying with any degree of ease the maintenance charge demanded of them. I know cases where parents have felt that their children ought to be brought home because the cost has been such a drain upon the family exchequer. I know cases, too, where parents have been to the evacuation area to take their children home, but, on seeing their reluctance at being taken away from pleasant surroundings, have reconsidered the position and undertaken the financial sacrifices involved so that their children could benefit. I make the plea that where there is real hardship and where it can be proved—as it can in many cases—that payment of the billeting charge is an undue drain on a family, the Secretary of State should look at them very sympathetically and do whatever is possible to relieve them. The right hon. Gentleman is looking forward to the possibility of the further great evacuation of school children. Is he ready with sufficient accommodation for all children who require to be removed from so-called vulnerable areas? I am afraid that many areas not looked upon as vulnerable have, in our opinion, proved to be so. Has the right hon. Gentleman had sufficient acceptances from those who will accommodate children to enable him to look forward confidently to the time when all who will be taken from their homes are to be accommodated in reception areas? He looks forward more to private billeting than any kind of institutional billeting, if I may put it in that way. I think it is a pity; I think ideal billeting is done in the larger houses, and I have in mind two outstanding examples of that kind which are to be found in my own constituency. In a large house that is one of the homes of the hon. Baronet the Member for Tonbridge (Sir A. Baillie), which was lent to the authorities, about 100 children are housed and educated. There is no question of children going out across dangerous roads to school; teachers are there, and the children receive their education in the house. They are under the best possible conditions, and the attitude of parents towards that arrangement is very good indeed, so much so, that some of them are anxious for the day when their younger children will be old enough to enable them to join the other members of their family in such pleasant surroundings—
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that where private billeting can be arranged it is highly preferable to institutional billeting?
I do not think there could be any private billeting so advantageous to children as the billeting carried out at Polkemmet House, and at Craigs, near Linlithgow. I am sure my hon. Friend, who lives near, would be welcome either at Polkemmet or Craigs, and I suggest to him that he should try to get into touch with the reception officer and visit those places. If he did, I am sure he would be converted to the idea that the best possible way of dealing with evacuated children is to deal with them in the way in which they are being provided for at these places.
So that there may not be any misunderstanding between us, will my hon. Friend not agree that where private billeting is obtainable that question should be canvassed?
I have asked the right hon. Gentleman what are his acceptances from those who are prepared to have children in their homes. One reason why I put that question is that I have been informed that there has been reluctance on the part of possible receivers of children in reception areas to register themselves for the reception of evacuated children. I sincerely believe it would be a better plan to have the children provided for in the way in which they are being provided for at Polkemmet and Craigs rather than in private billets. However, I think I have made sufficient reference to this question of evacuation to enable the Under-Secretary, who is to reply to the discussion, to make a more extensive reference than the right hon. Gentleman himself made to the question. We are looking forward to what he has to say; we are keenly interested in this question and invite him to give us the greatest possible information he can on the subject.I will make only one further reference to evacuation, and that is, in relation to the percentage of children who are receiving education. I am sure we are all glad to note that in reception areas 98 per cent. are now receiving the normal amount of education, but I would ask the Under-Secretary what further steps are being taken to increase educational facilities in evacuation areas in view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement that only 54 per cent. of children in those areas are receiving full-time education. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to give us some useful information on that point.
I would like to join with the last speaker in welcoming my right hon. Friend to the Administration in Scotland. I think our general experience of his long and distinguished occupation of the office of the Ministry of Labour has convinced us that we are in good hands. I would also like to pay a tribute to the proverbial generosity of the Scots in accepting this representative of an alien minority to take over the job of looking after Scottish affairs. I feel sure that when his period of office is over, my right hon. Friend and the Scottish people will mutually congratulate themselves on the success of their co-operation.I will not deal with any part of my right hon. Friend's speech except that referring to evacuation. I listened to most of his remarks, and most of those made by the Minister of Health the other day, and must say, candidly, that I am not satisfied with the arguments which nave been advanced in regard to compulsion and the reasons why it should not be adopted. I do not think the voluntary system of evacuation will ever succeed until bombs begin to drop, and then it will be too late. The Minister of Health, I recall, gave as one of the reasons for the Government's decision in favour of voluntary evacuation that mothers were so determined in their resistance that they might resort to physical force, with the result that police might have forcibly to remove children to safety and mothers to prison. I think that is undoubtedly an exaggeration, because our experience of Parliamentary life is that any Measure or Bill affecting the freedom and action of any member of the community is resisted, but that once it becomes an Act it is more or less generally accepted and every step is taken to make it a workable success. So I trust my right hon. Friend will not be unduly carried away by sentimental, although honest, statements, that compulsory evacuation will be a great and perhaps harmful break in the continuity of the life of young children. We have had experience in the past few weeks and months of the invasion of other countries, and we have seen refugees hampering attack and defence. We must never allow that to happen in this country. Probably one of the reasons why the battle for France has been lost is that there has been the pitiful stream of evacuated mothers and children pouring through France from Belgium and Holland to the South—
Does not the hon. and gallant Member realise that the failure of the evacuation scheme last September, so far as Scotland was concerned, was because we evacuated mothers with children? If we had evacuated children only, the scheme would have been much more successful.
I was not responsible for the initiation and carrying out of the scheme. That is the Minister's responsibility.
I was buttressing your point.
Thank you so much. We have so much experience that history and mothers will never forgive us if we do not take advantage of it.
In the light of France?
The Minister of Health made it plain last week that in certain circumstances the Government would very likely find it necessary to resort to compulsion.
I can see my right hon. Friend's point, but the only criticism that I make is that the Minister of Health said that it was only in certain circumstances that the Government might be compelled to order compulsory evacuation. That gives rise to the belief that these circumstances will not be considered until they arrive, and I am in some doubt whether it may not be too late. That is what I want to impress on my right hon. Friend—not to leave it until the bombs begin to fall and disorganisation takes place. We were told by the Minister of Health that 120,000 school children were in process of being evacuated from London and a proportionate number from other great cities. That is a mere fleabite. If evacuation is really to be successful, it must be compulsory at both ends; that is, there must be compulsion in the evacuation areas and in the reception areas, and these compulsory powers must be exercised with severity.
Does the hon. and gallant Member realise what compulsion at both ends means?
I fully realise it, and it is the only way in which to convince the people of the intention to make evacuation a success and that it is a genuine effort on the part of the Government. As to the reception side of this problem, it is said that recourse to large houses will be undertaken. I hope it will be carried out with the intention of making it a success. In every constituency in the West of Scotland there are large houses which are now empty, from which the owners or the occupants have had to go. They would make ideal reception centres, without having to put the unfortunate householders very often to the grave difficulty of looking after these evacuated children without an adequate staff. If that proposal is adopted, what about the furniture and equipment? That has not been mentioned, and it is a point which is gravely disturbing local authorities. They ask, Is it their responsibility or the Government's, and who is going to do it? I hope the Under-Secretary of State will say exactly where the responsibility lies for equipping these empty houses. If it is the responsibility of the local authorities, have they been given instructions or guidance or advice as to getting on with the job now rather than wait until it is again too late?Then there is the question of the utilisation of camps. I know it is impossible to build in addition to the existing camps because of the lack of timber. Is the question of raw material being thoroughly examined? If alternative material is not for the moment found in sufficient quantities or is not suitable for building the camps that are necessary, has the Secretary of State thought that the traditional place for the British soldier is under canvas? That would release a tremendous number of military camps in Scotland during the whole of the summer and the early autumn for the accommodation of these children. They could be made to accommodate the teachers as well, with cinemas and churches, and all the social amenities which are necessary if evacuation is to be a success. I hope the Secretary of State will study the question of camps, because they do preserve that communal spirit which makes children so much happier than when they are spread in homes. My final point is one which affects my constituency very closely, as well as other seaside resorts. We have been told by the Minister of Labour in broadcasts that the munition workers and factory workers, who are putting up such a magnificent show, must have holidays. I thoroughly agree. You can drive the human system beyond endurance. Where the workers of Glasgow usually go for their brief holiday is to the Ayrshire seaside resorts, Ayr, Prestwick, and Ardrossan. Glasgow usually goes to Ayrshire. It will come to this, that the Ayrshire landladies will be forced to turn away either the evacuees or the holiday-makers from Glasgow. Both are necessary. It is a problem for which a solution must be found, and the solution, in my opinion, is the camps to which I have referred. These landladies are not hard-faced, grasping people, but they are people who make up the whole of their year's rent during two or three months' letting to Glasgow visitors, and if you deny them the ability to take in the holiday-maker, you deny them the ability to earn their rent for the year. Therefore it is in the interests of these seaside resorts that some alternative arrangements should be made to take the children during the holiday season so that these landladies can accommodate their usual holiday visitors. I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman will weigh these few suggestions I have made. When a Member of Parliament goes to a local authority and asks, "What are you doing about this?" the town clerk of the local authority says, "It is a matter on which we are waiting for guidance from the central Government." If you go to the central Government, they say it is a matter entirely for the local authority. It is a tradition of our local administration that we do not interfere with local authorities. That is not good enough, and the Government cannot get out of their responsibility. They must give guidance and instruction to local authorities so that they cannot get out of their responsibilities. It is only by the closest co-operation that this question of evacuation will be undertaken with success, in view of the misery and terror of which we have read in other countries.
Like hon. Members who have preceded me, I welcome the present Secretary of State for Scotland to his office. He is the eighth Secretary of State to whom I have appealed on behalf of Scotland. He is the first Englishman of that number, although he is not the first Englishman who has been Secretary of State for Scotland. Sir George Otto Trevelyan was Secretary of State for Scotland.
He was Secretary for Scotland.
That is a mere technicality. The fact remains that Sir George Otto Trevelyan was Secretary for Scotland. I welcome the present Secretary of State not because of what he has done as Minister of Labour—I think he might have done more—but because I see in him the possibility of something being done for Scotland. He is a man of boundless energy; there is no denying that. My country requires a man of boundless energy. We have never had a Secretary of State out of the eight who has done what might have been done for Scotland, and there is just a danger now that because of the war Scotland may be neglected. I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman that he has taken on a very responsible and a very big job. It presents him with an opportunity of making a name for himself. The condition of Scotland to-day is absolutely appalling. Scotland is ridden with landlordism.
Will the hon. Member allow me—
No, the hon. Member will get his chance if he waits long enough. The landlords of Scotland have nearly bled Scotland white. They have driven the best blood out of Scotland across the seas.
That is a mere bagatelle compared with what the Duchess of Sutherland has done over the whole of the Highlands. I appealed to the last Secretary of State for Scotland on behalf of the farmers and asked for an assurance from him that there would be no increase in rent because of the subsidy of an acre which the Government were giving to the farmers to plough up more land. He could not give me that guarantee. He gave me the usual reply which is drawn up for every Secretary of State by civil servants in the office. We shall see whether the new Secretary of State is going to be any different from those who have gone before.
May I ask my hon. Friend—
No. I could not get the right answer, and, therefore, the farmers in Scotland are afraid that if they put their backs into it, along will come the landowner and ask for increased rent. That is what they did in the last war. They not only raised rents but put up the price of the farms and told the farmers that they would either have to buy or quit. These are facts. I want the Secretary of State to see that he stands, not by the powerful families of Scotland, but by the Scottish people. I can tell him that that will not be an easy job, but the Scottish people will never forget a Secretary of State who stands up for them. The Highlands of Scotland are a standing disgrace. The way in which the Highlanders have rallied to the defence of their native land, considering the way they have been treated up to now, is beyond me. I do not want to say anything that might be to the detriment of my native land, but, no matter what it costs me, I am not going to allow the conditions that appertain at the moment to continue, war or no war.
Scandalous conditions in which you could not live.
How do you know?
Because I know you.
I am sure the hon. Member does not mean to be rude to me.
I am sure the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) would like to be one of those landowners.
The hon. Member has no right to ascribe to me wishes which I have never expressed.
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to proceed. I know that the landowners, from the highest landowner in the House to the most humble landowner, detest me for raising these questions. They do not want them to be raised. But it seems so ridiculous that I should send my son to defend Scotland when he has not an inch of Scotland, which belongs to certain individuals who, in certain parts of Scotland, would not allow me, a Scot born and bred, to put my foot on that land. I have raised this matter time and again. The particular instance I have given is the Island of Rum. I have said time and again that if the Germans, in the last war, had wanted they could have bought that island. The owners would have sold it to "Old Nick."
Who is he?
A friend of yours. Then, I should like the Secretary of State to take into his confidence the farmers of Scotland, who have to deal with the bracken menace. Bracken is over-running Scotland; it is a menace nearly as great as the Germans might be; There will soon be no land left for the people or the cattle, because the bracken is travelling over the country.
I am afraid I shall not be able to allow the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to deal with that question to-day. It is not covered by any of the Votes now before the Committee.
I mention it only in passing.
On a point of Order, Sir Dennis. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) used the term "Old Nick." When I asked question about it, the hon. Member said "Old Nick" was a friend of mine. Is that a Parliamentary expression?
I am afraid I did not hear it.
Further to my point of Order—
At any rate, if the hon. Member wished to raise a point of Order of that sort, he should have done so immediately.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer. It concerns the housing conditions in my own constituency. I have given the Secretary of State two letters to which I hope he will attend. The housing conditions are absolutely scandalous. It would not be so bad if those conditions had only just arisen, but I have been raising this question, particularly in regard to Dumbarton, for years in order to try to get the Secretary of State to do what the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) has asked him to do with regard to other matters that is to say, when the local authorities do not do a thing, the central authority should step in and do it. I ask the Secretary of State to take action in this matter. I have raised these matters to such an extent that the town council of Dumbarton has moved a vote of censure on me for doing so. The former Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is at present in the Army, the hon. Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Wedderburn), agreed to come to Dumbarton and see the conditions for himself. The town council of Dumbarton wrote to him and asked him not to come, and he did not come.This is not a new question, but the longer these conditions exist, the worse they become. I ask the Secretary of State to take the matter seriously. I ask him to understand that, in taking up this high and honourable post, if he plays the game there is no Member who will be more willing than I shall be to render him what useful service I can. I will do anything I can to assist the right hon. Gentleman to rectify the conditions which prevail in my country, not only in my constituency, but in other constituencies, and even in the constituency of the hon. Member for Galloway—for I have received letters about the housing conditions in that part of the country. Even Lord Baldwin, when he was Prime Minister, gave a greater subsidy to Scotland than to England, because when he saw the conditions that prevailed in the West of Scotland, he realised that they were scandalous and required something extra. I welcome what I think will be the something extra that we have got in the new Secretary of State for Scotland.
I should like to welcome the Secretary of State on the occasion of his first Estimates speech and to wish him success and happiness in the tenure of his high office. Among the many bitter disappointments which the past year has brought, it will have to be recorded that education, our one sure hope for the future, has suffered severely. We were to have had the raising of the school-leaving age, there was to have been one unified code of regulations for all schools, nursery schools and camp schools were to have taken their rightful place in the national system of education. Worst of all, through the commandeering of schools by the military authorities and the closing of schools in vulnerable areas, very large numbers of school children had no instruction of any kind for many weeks.Speaking here in November last, I said I had been told that 100,000 children in Glasgow were then out of school. I have since learned that that number was nearer 200,000. Through the autumn months, the Government were repeatedly urged to reopen schools, using double or even treble shifts where necessary. On 23rd April, the then Secretary of State, in replying to a Question, gave figures which showed that at that date, after nearly eight months of war, some 60 per cent. of the children of Scotland were receiving full-time instruction, 35 per cent. part-time instruction, and over 4 per cent.—something like 30,000 children—no instruction. I am sorry that I was prevented from hearing the right hon. Gentleman's remarks on education this afternoon, but I understand he gave figures which, at any rate for the reception areas, were much more favourable. However, I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. Member who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench as to the arrangements made for children who remain in evacuation areas. On the general problem of evacuation, I hope that the lessons of the first scheme have been taken to heart. Something has to be said of the way in which evacuation has affected the teachers, without whose help, generously given, the scheme would never have accomplished even what it did. There is no denying the fact that the sacrifices called for from many teachers have been inexcusably severe. Owing to various causes, chiefly the inadequate billeting allowances, many teachers have been seriously out of pocket. Teachers do not object to taking their fair share of hardship in war-time, but is there any reason why they should be forced, in their capacity as teachers, to pay for National Defence measures? After long negotiations with the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Health, teachers obtained the same conditions as evacuated civil servants, but that augmented allowance was fixed to begin from 29th January, the date when the concession was made. As things have turned out, those who were keenest to do their bit, and who volunteered at first, have suffered most. Many of them have worked and suffered for the children's sake—that has been freely recognised—and they will do so again when the call comes, but that is no reason why plain justice should not be done to them. It seems to me that a lack of courage somewhere permitted this state of affairs to exist for five months. An increased billeting allowance would surely have been a legitimate charge on the evacuation funds. Might not something be done even yet? I should like to say a few words on the question of supplementing the pay of teachers on military or naval service. There is great diversity in the treatment of this problem by local authorities, and the consequent sacrifice is by no means equally shared. Incidentally, the authorities in England have done much better than the corresponding bodies in Scotland. The Government gave a clear lead in their treatment of their own employés. Moreover, the Scottish Education Department, in Circular 118, announced that it was the intention of the Government to introduce legislation safeguarding the salary and pension rights of all who entered national service. Unfortunately, all that the promised legislation did was to empower the authorities to supplement salaries. Unfortunately, also, the Joint Industrial Council, a body on which teachers are not represented, issued a less favourable set of regulations. There exists in Scotland the precise machinery for settling such a problem. The National Joint Council, on which authorities and teachers are equally represented, considered the question and unanimously decided to recommend education authorities to make up the naval and military pay to 100 per cent. of the civil pay. In face of this, it is highly regrettable that many local authorities in Scotland have done so little, some indeed nothing, and that the Government, which overrode local autonomy in stopping school building and postponing the raising of the school-leaving age, have shown themselves in this case so tender to the susceptibilities of local authorities. I doubt whether those who control education, whether locally or nationally, realise the bitterness that has been caused. That Circular should never have been issued in the terms that it was; and something should be done to implement the promise. I should be glad to have an assurance that timely consideration is being given to the question of the supply of men teachers, in view of the raising of the exemption age to 30 and the enlistment of students in training centres. I should also like an assurance that the claims of unemployed teachers will not be overlooked in the filling of vacancies, before for instance, retired teachers or married women are brought back into service.
I join with others in congratulating the Secretary of State for Scotland on his new appointment. The fact that he sits for a Scottish constituency makes him almost Scottish in our eyes, and makes him a proper representative of Scotland. Present circumstances make this Debate seem almost unreal. I was pleased to note that there has been a slight fall in the death rate among children and mothers, although a great deal more needs to be done in the provision of health services to deal with the problem. The hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) intervened in the Debate—and we are always grateful to her for her help—to ask why, in regard to the death rate in Scotland, better provision was not being made to deal with this question. There is a prejudice among Scottish women about sitting at home, and where the housing conditions are good there is nothing wrong about that. But we want to do a great deal more for the health services because bad housing conditions and poverty, more than anything else, cause a high death rate among mothers and children. Scottish women have a very strong sense of responsibility towards the home—indeed, they are not easily able to leave their homes—and for this reason we have to see that the conditions under which they live are improved.The main question now confronting us is that of evacuation, and I should like to raise one or two points which, I think, are worthy of consideration. It has been suggested that mothers are very reluctant to take part in the evacuation scheme, and two hon. Ladies who spoke in the English Debate on evacuation put for ward the suggestion that it was the great affection the mothers had for their children which prevented their taking part in the scheme. They gave instances—and I have no fault to find—showing that they themselves had evacuated their children. The fact is that very few mothers in Scotland would object to having their children evacuated under similar conditions. They would not object if they could go to the places beforehand to ensure that suitable arrangements had been made, and that their children would be welcome and no one would grumble. They would know that their children would be well looked after and that if they wanted to see them, they could do so. What makes the bulk of the mothers in Scotland object to allowing their children to go is not so much that they do not wish to part with them, but that they are not sure what treatment will be given to them at the other end. I do not wish to be critical of the areas which receive the children because many of them did all they possibly could. There is no doubt that many children from industrial areas were sent away in a condition in which they should not have been sent, but that again is more due to poverty and bad housing conditions. In some of the receiving areas there was a feeling that they did not want the children. An illustration was given during the Debate of the type of mind of some of these people, when it was asked that children should be pushed out of holiday resorts so that people could have their holidays. I know enough of that type of mind to realise that this excuse is put forward not as a desire to give a Glasgow worker a good time, but to make a profit out of those two holiday weeks. If there is that spirit, you can understand that children will not be very welcome or happy in those houses where people want them pushed out. That was the complaint of the women. They complained that children were frozen out. Even the question of dirty children was greatly exaggerated, and I know that women in my constituency—and I do not represent altogether a slum area—in the Springburn Division, which is a good industrial area, did not send their children away in a dirty condition. It was the fact that the children were not welcome and that the arrangements made were not suitable. I do not say that there was physical cruelty, but there is such a thing as mental cruelty which can be just as detrimental to a child, and especially in the case of a sensitive child. When they are not welcomed it reacts upon them, and they want to go home. I believe that these evacuation schemes could have been made one of the greatest social experiments. If we could work as far as possible on boarding-school lines, it would give the working-class child the benefit of that kind of education which most middle-class and upper-class children receive. I remember listening to an address by a man with rather unorthodox ideas on education who said that children were far better away from their homes. I do not know whether that is true, because many clever people can talk a great deal of sense and also a great deal of nonsense. It is, however, true that where conditions are good children soon forget and do not wish to go back. As far as possible bigger houses should be taken over and a scheme worked out on the lines of a boarding school. I remember the late Secretary of State for Scotland telling us that where the scheme had been most satisfactory was in a big house where a domestic science teacher was in charge. In that case, he said, there had been no sickness, and everything had been most satisfactory. A great deal has been said about the mothers going with the children but I find that when mothers went away they found themselves worrying about their home. But, for myself, see no objection to children being taken away "on their own," providing there are nursery schools they can attend between the ages of two and five.
I think the hon. Lady will realise that in the very hasty evacuation scheme of September last the children were older than from two to five years, and that the mothers were definitely a prejudicial factor in making the scheme a success.
I can understand that where you have two women in a small house sharing a kitchen there are serious difficulties. The real objection is that many of the houses to which they were sent were too small. In many cases there were only three apartments, and they had to share the parlour, and anyone knowing what the parlour is to a housewife in Scotland will know what that hardship is. In many cases the kitchen in a Scottish home also provides sleeping accommodation, and that again shows the difficulty of two families trying to share the same house. I believe that when the danger is brought nearer people will forget all these little difficulties. I know that round about Perthshire the complaint was made that children were not welcomed, and that sometimes mothers and children were put into old derelict cottages with no cooking provision. That is not a statement made by the women themselves, but a statement made by the headmaster. I sent it to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he promised that never again would children be put into huts or derelict cottages, and I hope that the present Secretary of State will also give that assurance. When complaints were made about the conditions, they were told that the mothers and children could not be expected to have anything better than they had at home; but in this case the people came from an estate where they were used to better things. If we can give the mothers a definite guarantee that when children are taken away they will be properly looked after and welcomed, I do not think there will be any need for compulsory evacuation. Most mothers would be only too glad to let their children go.
I would also congratulate the Scottish Secretaries on the very high and responsible duties they have now undertaken. I hope that they will make the greatest use of their opportunities, because they have, probably, one of the best sections of this country from the point of view of planning with which to deal. I should like to refer to the Minister's statement on hospitals in Scotland. The hospitals of Scotland are rightly famous for the very great work they have done. The Under-Secretary of State was a member recently of a commission dealing with the hospital services of Scotland, where the whole position was reviewed, and certainly there has never been an occasion like the present for getting rid of the anomalous, overlapping, and almost chaotic state of organisation among the different types of hospitals. The voluntary hospitals are finding great economic difficulties, and at the same time there are growing up alongside them municipal hospitals which, because of the greater amount of money behind them, are rapidly becoming at least equally as efficient as some of the great voluntary hospitals of which we are so proud. In addition to these, we are building emergency hospitals. There is a large one in my own constituency.I would suggest to the Minister that this question of hospital services should be tackled as a whole. I know a certain degree of planning has been taking place, but there is still a lot of rather silly obsolete prejudices among the doctors over the question of civilian control. There is a disinclination among doctors to have anyone managing a hospital except a doctor. I agree that some of the medical men in Scotland are, perhaps, among the greatest we have, but because they have medical skill that does not necessarily mean they have equal administrative skill. I have never been able to understand why doctors want to bother about managing civilian affairs. The idea that civilians want to dictate to doctors how to carry through operations and other treatment of patients is nonsense. If the medical schools will realise that what we want is co-ordination and planned location of hospitals instead of chaos, in order to avoid carrying patients up and down the country to get to certain hospitals, I am certain that we would build in Scotland a hospital and medical service that would be second to none in the world. Changes have to take place during the war, and they should be made with a view to their usefulness after the war. Anything that is done which does not fit in with what will be needed after the war is waste. Everything done with a view to what is coming after the war reduces the cost of the war. Turning to the evacuation problem, the last scheme in Scotland broke down in some respects because two dissimilar authorities were working with each other. The education authority conducted the evacuation and the county council received the evacuees. I am advised by the officers of the education authorities in my counties, so far as they were receiving areas, that the scheme would have worked much more smoothly had the two authorities been similar and had the evacuation been from one education authority to another.
The education committees in the counties received the evacuees.
In some cases, perhaps, but the county council was the receiving authority.
Were they not acting for the education committees?
I am giving the Ministers the advice of the education committees on the matter. The hon. Gentleman can make his own contribution. I am conveying what the education committees consider to be the best way of working the machinery.I have a complaint to make which does not refer to either of the Ministers who are present to-day. In the provision of air-raid posts I should think that the most important person, the key man, is the doctor. Yet it has taken me four months to get even second-hand gas masks supplied to some of the doctors in Edinburgh. Even yet they have not steel helmets, while the people who have to go into the streets to carry cases into the posts are plentifully supplied. As the result of my efforts some of the doctors, I understand, have gas masks which have been taken from men in the air-raid squads, but even after four months of writing to the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Home Security I have not been able to get the doctors, who are the key men, supplied with their necessary equipment. The doctors in Edinburgh are advised that when an air raid takes place they must make their way to the posts, but how they are to get there through gas or bullets, or whatever may be flying about without the necessary protection, is more than I can understand. I hope the Minister will find out who is responsible. Judging by my experience, it is high time that someone was made responsible for seeing that these things are done. This war has brought about many tragedies, and we have to admit that we are suffering now from the inefficiencies of the past. It is not very encouraging when one finds that vital matters of this kind are being dealt with so carelessly and in so slovenly a way that even after they are brought to the notice of the Department they are not put right. They are passed on from one person to another and often in these matters we fall between two stools as we have fallen between two stools in more important matters in the recent past. Scotland, like other parts of the country, is being dislocated considerably as a result of the war. The Scottish Secretary has perhaps a greater opportunity than exists in England, where the divisions of authority are spread over many Ministries. On him falls the responsibility not only for education and health, but for the general planning of the country. I hope that someone will be set aside in his Department to see that what is being done in Scotland in connection with the war is not done in such a way that it will create insoluble problems after the war. The planning of industry is an important matter in conection with housing. If industries are plumped down where there is no housing a serious problem will arise. Therefore, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Supply and every Department which has to do with the location of industry should consult the Scottish Secretary with a view to seeing that industry is planned having regard to the existing population and amenities and to industrial location after the war. There is a certain aerodrome which, I understand, is to be the greatest airport in the North after the war. If there is to be location of industry it would seem sensible that somewhere in that area the aircraft industry should be located. There is no point in putting down aircraft industries far removed from the places which will use their output. There are facilities for such an industry in the locality of this airport, and I hope the Scottish Secretary will bring it to the attention of the Department concerned. I would like to stress a question which I have raised in the Scottish Office concerning the Forth fisheries. I know that there are many difficulties about settling the disputes among the various interests on the Forth, but the fishermen are anxious to get the question settled. I know that the Scottish Office are anxious to settle it amicably and I shall be pleased to learn that same progress has been made.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has been universally greeted today with congratulations on his appointment, and so far as it is a matter of personal affection for the right hon. Gentleman and admiration for his work in the past, I join warmly in the messages that have been conveyed to him. I should be less than frank, however, if I did not say that I regretted at the time and regret now his appointment on political grounds. At the risk of being regarded as ungracious, I want to put it on record that I feel that the appointment of one who can claim neither birth nor upbringing in Scotland to an office which Scotsmen regard as second only to that of the Prime Minister is a dangerous precedent. I leave it at that and join with others in the personal tributes that have been paid to my right hon. Friend, who has been very kind to me in the past. The hon. Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) surprised me by what seemed to me a most unjustifiable attack upon the housewives in the reception areas.
I did not make an unjustifiable attack. I gave credit to many women for the way they had taken the children in, but I said that a good many people did not act so well towards the children and that that was why so many children came home.
I thought the hon. Lady made rather a point of the mental cruelty to a considerable number of children who come from her division. Speaking for my own part of the country, I would say that extreme mental cruelty was imposed on the women and children in the reception areas when they had imposed upon them and their families children in the scandalous, verminous condition which characterised many of the evacuees. I am not going over past history, but I am prepared to justify every word I say. The hon. Member for Springburn said that this condition was due in large measure to poverty. That is true, but it is also due—and let us face the facts—to the maladministration of the public health services in Scotland. Whatever we think of our beloved country, let us not blind our eyes to the fact that our medical and school health services have been proved to be disastrously inefficient. I hope that my right hon. Friend, so far as his war duties will permit, will make it one of his tasks to secure efficiency in these vital services.The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), who is so gallant a champion of the landed interests in Ayrshire, suggested that there should be compulsion all round—compulsion in the sending and receiving of children. The hon. and gallant Member may be speaking for the householders in his area, but I warn him, as I warn the Scottish Office, that if compulsion is applied in other parts of Scotland and is accompanied by the same ill-arranged scheme as the last one, they will face the greatest possible objections on the part of the housewives. The householders of Fife and other parts of East Scotland are as ready as any othed people to play a patriotic part, but they are not to be made the victims of a few petty officials sitting in St. Andrew's House or anywhere else. If they are satisfied that the scheme is a good one and is essential and sound, they will do their duty. My right hon. Friend is aware that there are parts of the East of Scotland which are the location of several immense and vital military establishments which will necessarily be objectives of enemy attacks. I am informed that the authorities have information to satisfy them that that is most likely, but strange as it may seem—and this is an example of the inefficiency about which I complain—the bulk of the evacuated children from the centre of Scotland is to be centred round those objectives. I warn my right hon. Friend that that is the kind of objection which my constituents put when they resent having children forced upon them. In the words of the town clerk of a town in my constituency:
The county council in that area have been evolving elaborate measures to cope with the children resident there in the event of an invasion or a landing of troops from aeroplanes, and the task is an immense one, and yet the Department of Health proposes to throw upon that vulnerable area many hundreds, indeed, I believe I am right in saying many thousands, more children from Glasgow, Edinburgh and other centres. What is the sense of such a policy? How can we induce those in reception areas to play the game with a muddled scheme of that kind as the offspring of the Department? My right hon. Friend comes new to this office from another great office in which he had wide experience, and I invite him to deal with this new problem if he desires to make the evacuation scheme a success. If he refuses to consider the problem, if he does not call some of his officials before him and talk to them in the plainest language, I tell the right hon. Gentleman that he will be classed as a failure as regards one of the most vital sections of his work. The odd thing is that these same places in the East of Scotland which are to be compelled to take these children are but a mile or two away from other places which are regarded as highly vulnerable. On one side of a river only a mile and a half wide it is supposed to be absolutely safe; on the other side it is dangerous. How absurd it is. How the people laugh at it when a scheme of that kind is put forward. I beg my right hon. Friend to look into the whole system of evacuation. It broke down before, and I do not want it to break down again. I hope he will take the advice of the hon. Lady opposite and examine the question of making use of large empty houses. It may be that private billeting is in some ways the better plan, but it is accompanied by a good many difficulties, and if we could organise a system of running big houses for the evacuees, I think it would be better. I was told by Mr. J. M. Hodge, who was for a long time convener of the County of Perth, and knows his county better, perhaps, than any other man, that there are enough large empty houses in that county to accommodate the whole of the children whom the Department would evacuate there. The right hon. Gentleman said that he must have private accommodation because otherwise there would not be sufficient accommodation. I challenge that statement. I tell him he is wrong about that. In Fife, where there are much the same conditions, there are enough empty mansions to take a very large proportion of the children to be evacuated. For 18 months I have pleaded with the Department to consider this problem. The late Secretary of State for Scotland went to St. Andrew's recently and saw a large house which has been turned into a hostel, and I understand that he was well satisfied, but that hostel suffers from the same difficulties as others. Nobody knows who is responsible for what. The ladies who are running it, giving their services voluntarily and working far longer than trade union hours, are burdened with financial difficulties and do not know where to get the balance made up. Why should those magnificent women have that constant anxiety? Why not take over the place and give them all they need to run it? Let us organise the thing properly and in a businesslike way, and we shall then find the evacuation problem solved much sooner than we imagined. Another matter to which I would refer is the housing question. Although some may say that this is not a moment when we can do very much about housing we must remember that some day the war will end. If events turn out as fortunately as was indicated by the Prime Minister to-day, the war may end sooner than some of the gloomy people think; but one day it will end, and then we shall have to face the problem of housing in Scotland. Why should my right hon. Friend wait till that day before he takes steps to prepare his plans? Why can he not now set up a strong committee of inquiry to examine the whole problem of housing after the war? I know that certain inquiries are being conducted now, but I think he might make a better effort. I invite his attention to a confidential report, which I am not able to quote, presented to the Scottish Development Council which was sent to and examined by the Department of Health. I assume that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has read it?"The Department have no business to put on the householders in X the responsibility of looking after people's children in an area which without doubt must be considered really dangerous."
I have; I helped to frame it.
Then he will recollect this paragraph, which appears at the end:
"No local authority in Scotland"—
I would remind the hon. Member that he told us this report was confidential.
I beg the hon. and gallant Member's pardon, it is confidential; but I think it is permissible to summarise it, and a summary of that report, which was made by a most competent official in Scotland, is that no local authority has yet tried out anything like the full possibilities of building materials alternative to timber. The suggestion of that expert was that the Department of Health ought to inform every local authority in Scotland of the possibilities in the way of concrete, steel and other forms of house construction, because until they know those possibilities there will be no advance in alternative forms of house building, and we all know that some advance must be made, even during the war. If we were short of a quarter of a million houses, or whatever it was, before the war, then when the war ends, and we have to provide for the thousands of war marriages, the problem will be immense, and it will take a superhuman Government to cope with it. I should like to hear from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary what steps his Department has taken in response to the suggestions made by this expert. What assurance can he give us that the Department is looking ahead, that it is not overwhelmed, as indeed it might be by its present duties but has the imagination to look forward and plan forward so that one day we shall make ours a better and grander country than it is now?The Under-Secretary has often made vigorous, eloquent and moving speeches from the other side, appealing for a more enthusiastic and noble policy for our native land. He now has the opportunity to do what for the last seven or eight years he has been urging should be done. I shall watch the career of the hon. Member with the keenest interest, and I shall hope that in a year or two years' time we shall see arising that citadel which he has often painted for us so eloquently in this House. I know that he will not disappoint us; he has such a reputation in Fife for achieving that which he promises. I am sure that he will give us proof positive that we are not looking ahead into gloom and darkness but into a clearly-planned future from which shall arise a greater and nobler Scotland.
At the outset I wish to associate myself with the remarks which have been made in paying tribute to the Minister upon his appointment. When the appointment was first made, bitter resentment was felt in many areas in Scotland. At the same time, when we consider the thrustful personality which the right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly possesses, and remember that he will be backed up by the hon. Member for Falkirk and Stirling (Mr. Westwood), I feel that we can look forward to something better being done for Scotland in the future than has been done in the past. I would like to refer first to evacuation. I assume from the speech of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) that he is opposed to a compulsory system.
Until there is a proper plan.
My only comment is that it is clearly established that the evacuation scheme which was put into operation immediately on the outbreak of hostilities was a catastrophe, due, undoubtedly, to complete lack of any organisation of any kind. Surely we can guide our conduct in the future by our experience in the past, and although I agree to a very great extent with what the hon. Member said concerning the failure of many evacuating authorities to see that the children were sent to the reception areas in a proper condition I feel that we can rid ourselves of that disability for the future. I am certain that the evacuating authorities know that there is now a serious challenge to the public health services in Scotland, and that they will accept that challenge and see to it that similar conditions do not arise in the future. If we accept that premise what follows?We know also that many children who were evacuated filtered back to their home towns. With what result? With only one result, that many of the children were compelled to run about the streets with nothing to do. I am satisfied that the hon. Member for East Fife would not tolerate that. Equally has difficulty arisen with regard to education. The question was raised repeatedly in the House of Commons, hon. Members from all sides pointing out to the Minister of Education that, if children were to filter back to evacuation areas, something should be done to compel the parents to give adequate education facilities to them. I wish to make my position perfectly clear. I am satisfied that a strong and ruthless hand must be applied to any scheme of evacuation if it is to have the slightest hope of success. It must be compulsory upon the parents to send the children to the reception areas and allow them to remain in the reception areas. On that point, the hon. Member for East Fife was justified, and more than justified, in pointing out to the Minister that in Scotland the whole scheme of selection of safe areas is positively futile and hopeless. On more than one occasion I raised with the former Secretary of State for Scotland points with regard to towns on the East Coast which I, personally, considered should be evacuated. There was one town in particular, the name of which I do not intend to give. The only reply I received from the Minister about it was that a town across the river had been scheduled as an area to be evacuated, and as such a small percentage had left that area it was considered ill-advised that the area across the river should be dealt with in the same way. That is, frankly, a thoroughly spineless and irrelevant argument. We can well accept what the hon. Member for East Fife said on this matter. There is abundance of opportunity for exploring our country to ascertain the facilities available, to provide buildings and take over large mansion houses to accommodate evacuated children. We are entitled to have some information and definite assurances in the Committee today, from the Under-Secretary of State, with regard to any difficulties with which we may presently be faced. We should be assured that his Department are fully aware of the seriousness of the situation in our country. We hope that he will tell us that something at least is being done on the lines indicated by the hon. Member for East Fife. Although I agree to a very great extent with what was said by the hon. Lady who spoke earlier in regard to many of the children, I am satisfied that many of those children left without just cause of any kind, in many cases stimulated by their parents going with them or visiting them. There is a natural psychological reaction. I have asked the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) whether he has any children. He tells me that he has not. Undoubtedly, he must be in a very difficult position in judging the maternal instinct. I wish it to go forth that, on the whole, the people living in reception areas, who accepted these children, almost universally treated them well. So far as my own constituency is concerned, that was certainly the case. I have only two other points to raise. With regard to the question of agriculture, I wish—
Agriculture is not one of the Votes.
So be it. With regard to housing, to which many Members have referred, my view is that we must plan for the future. Although it is true that we are faced with a very serious situation, surely we shall not forget that this war must be fought on two fronts. I am satisfied that, unless we do something to show our people that we are anticipating our future housing problems we shall, undoubtedly, help to sap the morale of the people of the areas concerned. Perhaps I might give one typical illustration. In my own constituency we have that wonderful beauty spot, Loch Lomond, but at the south end of the loch we have the most shocking housing conditions. A large number of children are accommodated in wooden huts which have no proper sanitary conveniences. I would be the first in this Committee to admit the difficulties with which the Government are faced, concerning the erection of new houses, but it is very difficult to understand one thing. Take for example Bellshill where the county council housing scheme is held up, on one side of the street, while, on the other side, we find luxury building in progress.
Yes, at the present moment. There is a new picture house in course of erection. It cannot be said that the Department do not know about it. The former Secretary of State for Scotland knew about it perfectly, because the facts were put before him and he was asked to see what he could do. The only reply I could get was that the contractors had held that wooden material for a considerable period of time, and that nothing could be done. If that is the spineless way in which our Scottish administration is to be carried on in the future, God help us. What the Secretary of State ought to have done in the circumstances was to step in and commandeer that material and use it for the purpose of allowing the provision of proper housing accommodation to proceed.I have nothing more to say other than that I welcome very much, not particularly the appointment of the late Minister of Labour as Secretary of State for Scotland, but the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk and Stirling Burghs as Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. If there is one man in this House who is expert, knowledgeable and progressive in local government matters it is he. In the hon. Gentleman, my Friends and I on this side place our trust and our confidence. We are satisfied that our country is in good keeping under his control.
I must apologise to the Minister for not having been present during his speech, but I had to attend other meetings. I understand that he spoke not only of evacuation but of education. The only point which I particularly want to bring to his notice and to that of the Under-Secretary of State—whom many of us, and especially those interested in local government, are very glad to see in that office—is the fact that some eight months ago we set up in Great Britain a National Youth Committee. I had the responsibility for that committee in England and Wales, but as to Scotland I had no authority at all for its progress or success. This is the first opportunity that I have had of speaking about it, and I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman one or two questions. The whole purpose of this movement was to combine the prestige and the authority of the local education authorities with the enthusiasm of voluntary societies, and I am not at all happy about the progress which has been made in Scotland during these eight months. One reason is that from the beginning the local education authorities were not solidly behind this movement, and until they are solidly behind it, it is impossible to get the full benefit of continued education as some of us see it. On the other hand, there is still jealousy and confusion among the voluntary societies, and until they can work together it is impossible to get the youth movement going in Scotland. This I consider to be of the greatest possible importance. Just as in England and in Wales, the vast majority of children leave school at the age of 14, and, apart from a few with the enterprise to go to evening classes, there is, literally, nothing for thousands of young boys and girls in Scotland. The few experiments which have been made have proved that we are short of youth centres, short of leadership and of organisation, and, above all, of enthusiasm, and until these things can be combined, we shall see not only deterioration, which has been going on for years in Scotland among young children, but also a complete absence in many cases, on new housing estates, of any provision for them. They have literally nowhere to meet.There has been some talk of housing this afternoon. I hope that no fresh housing estates will be set up unless at the same time there is some sort of provision for young people. What of the future? There have been set up what are called panels. I only wish they had been called youth committees. In my own constituency the local education authority has refused any assistance to voluntary bodies. There is very little co-operation. For months we have been trying, with no success so far, to start an ordinary girls club for the thousands of girls working in the factories in Kilmarnock and district. Unless the hon. Gentleman can find time to give some of his enthusiasm and knowledge to this movement—I know there are many calls on his time, but I believe he is peculiarly suited for this work because of his unique experience of local education authorities—and unless he has the local education authorities solidly behind him, he will never succeed in this work with the few voluntary societies which exist. They cater for only 10 or 15 per cent. of the young people. What is wanted is some trained people such as Scottish teachers, freer use of the schools in the evening time, development of old scholars' associations and the development of what was happening in Morayshire and Edinburgh, namely, proper tests of fitness and physical education. I know the hon. Gentleman is not altogether enamoured of these suggestions—
I am in favour of the tests.
I am glad to know that the hon. Gentleman approves of the tests. From experience in many other parts of Scotland, I say that young people will respond to anything which gives dignity to achieving specific standards of physical recreation. There is no country in the world with greater possibilities in this respect than Scotland, because the mountains and rivers and countryside are comparatively near most of the great cities, a condition which does not obtain in certain parts of the Midlands and the North of England. I hope that during his tenure of office the hon. Gentleman will help to develop nothing less than a youth service. It is not only facilities such as swimming-pools or enrolments in voluntary associations that are wanted. These young people themselves are only too anxious to give something back to the community in which they live. It is not only a question of physical fitness. It is a question of all-round physical and social development and the beginnings of a training in citizenship. Therefore, I urge the hon. Gentleman to give his personal attention to this movement and help to develop it. I am glad to see that Glasgow is contemplating six youth centres; it has got no further than contemplating, unfortunately. That seems to me to be on the right lines. I hope that although these may be run by the education authority they will be assisted by voluntary help. The most successful youth centres so far established have been a combination of statutory and voluntary organisations.I would like to say a few words about evacuation. From my little experience—because I have had to attend to matters more in England and Wales—I am convinced that there is not yet a proper scheme in Scotland for evacuation. I will not go over the lamentable experience of the last evacuation because, as far as my own constituency is concerned, the story hardly bears telling. But it is still true that if, by evacuation, we mean getting children out of danger into comparative security, we have not yet begun to tackle the problem in Scotland. If Glasgow is a dangerous area, it is not good enough to have the registration which already exists and to leave behind vast numbers of children, many of whom have not had any education at all. I am afraid I am not filled with constructive suggestions to-day because I have only just begun to analyse the problem, but I am convinced that we have not yet exhausted the places to which children can go. We know the results were excellent in the places where the children stayed in the first evacuation, and, as I understand it, the reasons given by parents, children and teachers alike were first, that the education and health facilities were better, and, second, that they were afraid of the possibility of danger in the places from which the children came. The situation now is very different. In the present stage of the war I hope that the Department are considering the matter on completely new lines, if they have not done it afresh, in view of the dangers with which we are surrounded. I am sure that medical attention will be given before any child leaves the great cities again—that is too obvious to mention—and I also hope that the other possibility which has been mentioned by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), namely, the possibility of using not only large houses but of having an extension of communal feeding, and all the other arrangements, will be explored thoroughly. As far as I remember, there were two or three examples of communal feeding in the first evacuation, only because some voluntary person with keenness and enthusiasm helped to organise it in advance. There can be no excuse in this case for lack of co-operation between the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education because they are one and the same person. I hope also that the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary, with his great experience, will see that the reception area side of evacuation is looked after from the point of view of education. I am glad that he is an educationist; it is time we had one in his position. It has been too much the tendency in many ways—partly because it has been done by the Ministry of Health—to make all the arrangements for putting the children out, and to make none for education at the other end. I admit that we are in the middle of a war, and cannot expect too much; but I know, from my own experience, how much unusual education can come to children in the reception areas; the possibilities there are for imaginative teachers to do things which could never have been done in the great cities, because of the rather restricted atmosphere and rigid lines, which are just as evident in Scotland as they are anywhere else. There is room for a great deal of experiment throughout the whole field of Scottish education at this moment; and, therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will see, not only that every house is used where children can live in common—as well as the private billeting which, I know, must be the mainstay of any such policies—but also that all possible arrangements for extra feeding and accommodation shall be made; and that if the time comes and the plans are really ready, he will not assume that some form of compulsion is necessarily a wrong policy. I am not advocating compulsion, here and now; but I see very strong arguments for it. If the new evacuation is to be an improvement on the last—and it might well be—I beg my right hon. Friend to bear some of these questions in mind.
Like many of the previous speakers, I wish to join in congratulating my right hon. Friend, who now occupies the post of Secretary of State for Scotland, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood), who now occupies the position of Under-Secretary. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells)—if he does not object to my calling him my hon. Friend—made some allusions to my being in the unmarried state, and suggested that, therefore, I knew nothing of evacuation. Of course, I am in the unmarried state; but I ask him to believe that I have some experience of evacuation. I housed some 25 children, and I have only in the last week parted with two of them. My experience was a very pleasant one, as all the children were very good; but, of course, that has not been everybody's experience. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) alluded to some of the more unpleasant experiences of many householders in Scotland.In the middle of September a deputation from the Glasgow Town Council came to me, to ask me to hand over my house for evacuees. At that time feeling was rife in the reception areas with regard to—I do not say this offensively—the insanitary conditions of many of the children. One member of the deputation, who at one time was a member of this honourable House—I will not mention his name—took me on one side. He pointed out that the evacuation was happening at the end of the school holidays, and added, "Do you not realise that if this had happened in the last week of June or the first week of July the children would never have been dispatched in the insanitary condition about which many householders in the reception areas have complained?" My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and several other speakers have stressed the point that a good many empty houses in the reception are as might be used now for the purpose of housing children. I ask hon. Members to believe that I have no axe to grind when I say that I think it very desirable that houses which might fall into a ruinous condition could well be used for this purpose subject to the payment of a rate of interest which is suitable from the point of view of the owner of the house and of the authorities in the evacuation areas. I hope that I shall be in order in what I now wish to say. If I am not, I am sure that you, Colonel Clifton Brown, will at once call me to Order. I understand that the Vote covers health services, education services, and the Home Department of Scotland. As the Home Department is under discussion, I do not think that I shall be transgressing the Rules of Order if I touch upon the question of Fifth Column activities in this country.
The police administration, which is under the Home Office, cannot be discussed. Fifth Column activities come under that.
Would I be out of Order in alluding to the desirability of those who are responsible for administering the Home Department of Scotland—and, after all, they are under the Home Office —being fully cognisant of the activities of certain individuals in lonely parts of the country who are not very friendly disposed towards the present policy of His Majesty's Government? I see that the Under-Secretary of State smiles. He will be fully aware of the activities of certain persons whom I have in mind; I know of one person in my own constituency. Perhaps in view of the Ruling that has been given I should not be in Order in referring to him by name; but questions have been asked about him. I will mention him—the Marquess of Tavistock. He is a resident in my constituency, and a tenant of my own. Questions have been asked about him in this House, and no satisfactory answer has been returned. In view of the fact that we are engaged in a life and death struggle, and in view of the Prime Minister's solemn words to-day, I think that the Home Department should take this matter into serious consideration. I myself have received several letters from this individual, who is a tenant of my own—[An HON. MEMBER: "Does he pay his rent?"] He asked me to release him early in the war, because, he said, owing to the increased taxation, he would not have money enough to pay.
I must now stop the hon. Member pursuing this matter. I have given him a lot of rope.
I wish to take this opportunity of raising a matter which, I submit, is relevant to this Vote.
I told the hon. Member to start with that this comes under the police section of the Home Office Vote and that it would not be in order to deal with it here.
Would I be in Order in raising it at a later stage in the proceedings?
I do not know of any later stage in the proceedings during which the hon. Member could raise it.
Surely, with very great respect, Colonel Clifton Brown, this is a general question for the Home Department of Scotland, and if we are not to have a chance of raising a question which is of very vital importance to the nation at this time and we put it off, when can we raise it?
When that Vote is put down for discussion; we cannot have a discussion now.
Is it possible to raise this matter on the question of the police not doing their duty? Is that not covered by the Vote in question?
When I raised the question with the Chairman concerning police administration, I was informed that it was incompetent for me to raise it on this Vote, and if it was incompetent for me to do so, surely it is incompetent for the hon. Gentleman?
That is exactly the Ruling I have given. I am afraid that I have allowed the hon. Gentleman to go rather too far.
I apologise, but I did not hear the Ruling as far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned. I only wish to take the opportunity of calling the attention of the Home Department in Scotland to this very glaring case concerning the activities of a certain individual who is personally well-known to me in view of the present situation.
I think the hon. Gentleman has already said that twice, and he cannot say it again.
I will not mention any individual, but merely confine myself to saying that I have been thinking a good deal after hearing some of the rather paltry points—I do not say this offensively—put by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee regarding health, evacuation, etc. We are engaged in a life and death struggle, and the Home Department of Scotland is as well aware of that as any other Department in the State, and as well aware as I am of the vulnerability of Scotland. If I am not allowed to refer to the activities of a certain individual, I hope that you will at least allow me to say that the Home Department of Scotland ought to take to heart the words of the Prime Minister this afternoon and realise that we are engaged in the grimmest struggle in which this country has ever been engaged and that many of us are deeply disturbed with regard to the activities of quite a number of people in Scotland.
I would not have intervened in this Debate but for the reference made by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) in which he recommended that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office generally should use compulsion in respect of the introduction of evacuees into various areas. I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend is aware that at the time of the evacuation in September venereal disease and all sorts of infectious diseases were introduced into the homes of the people of Scotland. They were threatened with a fine of £25 if they did not take these people into their homes, and a very great trespass upon the acknowledged liberties of the people of this country took place on that occasion. In my opinion, any person in England or Scotland has as much chance of being hit by a bomb as he has of winning the Irish sweep, no more and no less. There are numerous cases where children have been moved into an area, which, in the course of military operations, is transferred from being a safe area into one of very great danger, and it is very undesirable that the Scottish Office should say, "We will fine you £25 unless you take most undesirable people into your homes."
I did not say that. I said that if evacuation had to take place, it ought to take place before the bombs fell so as to prevent the roads being covered with refugees hampering defence and attack as was the case in the Netherlands.
One cannot guarantee which district will be bombed and which will not. In a time of crisis like this we should stay at home and take the risks associated with the dangers that may beset us. It is far better than dragging people for scores of miles into an area that may be equally as dangerous as that from which they have been moved.The Secretary of State for Scotland has succeeded to an office which is very often open to the criticism of persons who are very much versed in the art of criticism. In my constituency of Dumfries there are cases of housing that are a positive disgrace to any civilised country; seven people living in one room, 14 people living in two rooms. The expenditure of £2,000 or £3,000 would remedy that state of affairs. It is most desirable that steps should be taken to spend a little money to remove these very ghastly cases which have gone on year after year. Scotland itself would feel that it had something more worthy to defend if these things could be remedied at a comparatively slight cost rather than that they should be allowed to go on year after year imposing lamentable conditions upon the people. I trust that we shall not have arty repetition of the evacuation scandal which occurred in September, and that the Secretary of State for Scotland will examine very carefully all the schemes that are put before him. We do know this, that an area that might be admirable for the reception of evacuees might be, a fortnight later, a most undesirable place to take children, with or without their parents.
I do not propose to detain the Committee for many minutes, but first of all I would beg to join with other Members in the chorus of welcome that has gone out to the new Secretary of State for Scotland. It is true that there have been many problems left unsolved, but the opportunities now granted to him and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State are great, and we wish them much success in their endeavour to solve these problems. The question of evacuation has been discussed from various points of view, and on previous occasions I have endeavoured to say one or two words on the subject. So far as my constituency is concerned, it is in the position of Laodicea; it is neither hot nor cold; it has no interest in evacuation or reception, although from the point of view of several Members who have spoken it might well be judged to occupy a very important place with regard to this matter.I think the Under-Secretary might consider very seriously the suggestions which have been made with regard to large houses which are in country districts. It is lamentable to see mansion houses in country districts in Scotland with their roofs off for no other reason than that the owner of the house, not being able to maintain it, and in order to rid himself of the burden of rates, has deliberately despoiled the house. That condition applies not only to big houses but to cottages in the country. When motoring was easier and petrol was more plentiful than at the present time it was an appalling sight to find the cottages in the country with their roofs off and bigger houses, mansions, made into ruins just because of our rating system in Scotland. I suggest that the Under-Secretary should keep that in mind. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Fildes) said a thing that was very true when he asked pertinently: What areas in Scotland are safe and what are not safe? In the part of Scotland which I represent I was asked pointedly in the early days of the war how it is that this war was being fought out in Scotland, as all air raids seemed to be there at that time. But they were not air raids on technically vulnerable areas. I do urge that our ideas with regard to evacuation should be bigger and bolder. I think the right method of evacuation is to take our children of Scotland out of the country altogether. Last week I had a Question on the Paper with regard to this, and I have been in communication with the Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions. I am glad to know that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is on the committee which is actively dealing with this matter. It may be difficult for children to be evacuated a few miles away from their original homes and expect them to remain there. The attraction back is very strong. But of all the people in the world, surely the Scots from time immemorial have been famed for their ability to transplant themselves overseas. I think the greatest possible advantage should be taken of the many invitations that have been sent from across the Atlantic to receive our children. The ties between the old country and the countries across the Atlantic Ocean would be strengthened if such an evacuation took place. It would be really effective evacuation, because in no argument to which I have listened during the last few months has it ever been suggested that on the other side of the Atlantic there is a vulnerable area. In America, Canada and the United States you have, in the truest sense of the word, good reception areas, and it is by having that fact in mind and reiterating it that we shall find our people will take quickly to the idea of our children being sent overseas for the duration of the war. The war cannot be expected to last very long in the real condition of things in Germany. Such evacuation as I have indicated would be eminently suitable to many children in my own constituency, and I do not see why it should not be attractive to other constituencies in Scotland. One word on the matter of housing. I welcome suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) on the need for what I may describe accurately as communal centres in our housing schemes. We have a very effective communal centre in one district, at least, in Greenock, and the greatest possible credit is due to those who have organised it and make it the great success that it undoubtedly is. But in many of the housing schemes in my constituency there is great difficulty with regard to the distribution of commodities. There are no shops in these housing schemes, and as these schemes are awkwardly placed so far as the shopping centres in Greenock are concerned, the greatest possible inconvenience arises. Were there more shops for distributing commodities in these housing schemes then a very great service indeed would be done to those who are living there. This is a matter I have brought up before, by the means of Questions, and I hope my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will have the matter in mind and use all the influence at his disposal, coupled with the powerful drive that we on this side know him to possess, in order to see that there are suitable and effective centres for the distribution of commodities placed in housing schemes in Scotland in general and in my own constituency in particular. I do not wish to delay the Committee any longer except cordially to wish success to the new Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary in the discharge of the duties imposed on them.
I do not wish to pass more than a few remarks, but with regard to the Estimates I would like the Under-Secretary to tell me whether the 1940 Estimate of £3,144,109 for housing grants, which is £163,273 more than 1939, is accounted for by the extra cost of building material. It is quite easy to put figures down in the Estimates, but it is not easy for hon. Members to understand exactly what they convey, and hon. Members are under the disadvantage this year of not having a report upon which to base their criticisms.I am glad that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not in his place at the moment, because I do not congratulate him upon his appointment. I do not believe that any hon. Member was in earnest in congratulating him to-day. I think he is entitled to a considerable amount of abuse, I mean within reason; just the amount of abuse which we are allowed to give to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I think it is grossly unfair to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the one hand and abuse him on the other, and I can assure him that as time goes on he will get plenty of abuse. There is no doubt that the housing conditions in Scotland are bad and responsible for a great deal of the expensive medical services which would otherwise not be needed. No Government that I can remember have done very much towards removing these conditions. May I ask the Under-Secretary of State whether since he took office he has come across communications from the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) and myself to his Department? We waited upon his predecessor in office. One particular case was given to us by a committee, composed not of labour men and women, but of Tory men and women, of working-class conditions in Glasgow. They told us of the case of a man who had been living in such conditions. This committee hat gone to the local authority and proved the case, but nothing was done. We have heard no more about it from the Scottish Office. Perhaps the Scottish Office is like the War Office; if you get a reply within two months, you have done very well. At any rate, the Scottish Office is getting very near to the two months, and the hon. Member for Govan and myself are anxious to have this case cleared up. Has the Department given up all intention of dealing with overcrowding in the big industrial cities and towns of Scotland? It is getting worse. If you bring down Englishmen, key-men, as they are called, to the munition works in Glasgow and the vicinity, the houses are inhabited by their men and their families and the overcrowded conditions become worse. The trouble is increasing every day, and I want the Under-Secretary of State to tell us whether he is going to give a little attention to the matter in which he himself was very much interested when he sat on this side of the House. I do not suppose the mere fact of his removing to the other side of the House has changed his views. I hope he will give me a reply to these questions.
I am not sure that the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State should be the subjects of congratulation on their new appointments. They inherit a legacy of administration in a country which has been neglected, starved and misgoverned. Scotsmen for several generations have been the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for the people in this country; they have produced the wealth which has been expended to a large extent in England. The drift south, riot only of the population, but of the wealth, has gone on for ages, leaving behind a starved, underfed and ill-housed population. As far as I have been able to understand, very little has been done by this House to help the people of Scotland. I wonder whether in all this shouting for freedom there will be left an opportunity of shouting for freedom for Scotland. Even in armament works Scotland gets very little of its share.
The hon. Member is getting far away from the Vote under discussion. He seems to be discussing the question of Home Rule for Scotland, which cannot be discussed now.
I should like to refer to the question of evacuation, which is now a very important factor in the life of the people, especially as we are about to embark on a new scheme of evacuation. Steps must be taken to ensure that the second evacuation is not a fiasco like the first. It is very little use to try and assess the blame for that. There were many causes for the failure, many of them real and many of them imaginary. I live in a reception area and consider the question from that point of view. So many complaints arose between the receiving and sending areas that there were almost enough to cause a civil war between them. It is to be hoped that the new scheme will run more smoothly and that the children will be established in real homes for the duration of the war. From the tenour of the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon that period may be one of pro- longed duration, and, therefore, it is the more important that greater care should be taken in the question of evacuation. I am definitely of the opinion that evacuation should be overseas, to Canada and Australia and New Zealand.If the war is to be fought here, then surely the first thing to do is to clear the decks for action. The first thing to do should be to remove the women and children from the danger zone. It seems to me that the reasonable thing to do would be to take them thousands of miles away from any danger of bombing. The worst thing that one has read about the war has been the horrible condition of the civil population fleeing before the advancing army, and the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) has stated that, from a military point of view, these refugees were in the way of the fighting men. We may not have an advancing German army to contend with, but it is beyond dispute that we shall have bombing raids, probably in the very near future. We may adopt a complacent attitude and say that we are not temperamental like people on the Continent, and that we shall not get into a state of terror when the bombs begin to fall, but I am not quite so sure about that. I saw the state of terror in which some poor Italian shopkeepers were the other day when mobs began to smash the shop windows. Whatever is to be done should be done quickly, and people should know exactly what is to be done. I am sure that this question will never be settled without compulsory evacuation, because there are many people who would rather have their children die beside them than be taken away. Therefore, the element of compulsion must enter into the question. It is staggering to learn that only 21,000 children out of a school population of 157,000 in Glasgow have been registered under the voluntary scheme. Voluntary evacuation in Glasgow is an abject failure. The question has been asked as to whether there are any safe areas. At any rate, one can say that Glasgow would not be considered a safe area, and that probably it would be one of the most vulnerable areas in the country. The figures to which I have referred show an amazing lack of imagination on the part of parents and guardians and a failure to appreciate what is taking place on the Continent. Undoubtedly, serious difficulties would arise not only with compulsory evacuation, but with the compulsory acceptance of these people. Those difficulties ought not to stand in the way, although they may be serious difficulties owing to the fact that the war may be of very long duration. The Government have failed in their duty during the nine months we have been at war by failing to provide sufficient hostel accommodation for the people who are to be evacuated from these areas. If these people remain in the country, they ought to be evacuated to what are termed safe areas en bloc, so that they will be properly looked after. Communal centres are necessary in every phase of life. In Scotland, there ought to be communal centres in every town for the purpose of properly regulating the feeding of people if food becomes scarce. The question of education is one to which the Scottish Office must pay particular attention. During the nine months of war, education has been at a standstill in many areas, and education will suffer again immediately the evacuation scheme commences, Crowds of children will be sent to areas where there is no school accommodation. We have tried every method—the double shift in schools, increasing the size of classes far beyond their normal numbers—but the result has been that in Scotland, both in the evacuation areas and the reception areas, education has seriously suffered. The Scottish Office ought to pay particular attention, in removing the school population, to the religious persuasion of the people. Roman Catholic children have been sent to areas where there were no Roman Catholic schools. This has added very seriously to the difficulties of the education authorities. Housing is a matter that must not stand in abeyance until this long war comes to an end. To-day, Scotland is still probably the worst-housed country in Europe. Housing progress is now to be suspended. We are told that there is a scarcity of timber, but surely that ought not to bring housing progress to an end. There are alternative methods of construction which have been carried out very successfully in many areas. We expect the Scottish Office to pay attention to this matter. The miners' row is still an outstanding disgrace in Scotland, and the Scottish miners' row is one of the blackest things in the history of any country. Surely, we are not expected to wait until the end of the war before something is done to remove this disgrace. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give us some help in this matter.
Like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who opened the Debate, I am fresh to this work, although I am not new to it. I have always enjoyed Scottish Debates, whether it was a matter of taking part in them, or whether, as on previous occasions, it was a matter of having to answer criticisms levelled against Scottish administration. I am sure that my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate would have desired to remain to the end if it had been possible, but he has had to go to a meeting. I, personally, shall always welcome criticism when it is directed towards helping the administration, and, speaking on behalf of my right hon. Friend and myself, I am always willing to consider helpful and constructive suggestions. To-day's Debate, I think, has produced both helpful criticism and constructive suggestions and all of them will be taken into consideration in weighing up the Debate to-morrow. Sometimes when one goes through the record of a Debate, as I propose to do in this case to-morrow, it is possible to get a clearer picture. If I fail to give a reply to any hon. Member on any point he has raised to-night, it is not because I do not want to deal with it, but because of lack of time or the necessity of making further inquiries. As on previous occasions, I will see that every point raised is dealt with by communication if it is not dealt with during my speech to-night.Much has been said about compulsory evacuation, and arguments have been put forward both in favour of it and in favour of the voluntary principle. But, when there are two points of view on such a question, the Government have to determine the policy which ought to be pursued. The policy of His Majesty's Government, and the principles governing it, were dealt with by the Minister of Health, last Thursday. In eloquent language, and in a very clear manner, he gave the case for voluntary evacuation. He outlined the policy of the Government. That policy must apply not only to England but also to Scotland at a time such as the present. He outlined the policy as being one of dispersal, but, no matter what may be done in existing circumstances, no Minister of the Crown with responsibility can guarantee safety anywhere within our own shores. All he can say is that with a policy of dispersal there is less danger from bombs when the enemy seeks to attack us. Therefore, the principle governing evacuation is that of dispersal based upon a policy of voluntaryism. It would be taking up the time of the Committee unnecessarily if I were to elaborate further the arguments used by the Minister of Health on the accepted policy of the Government. The problem is not an easy one. We have been trying to face some of the difficulties created by the first evacuation. In our new plans we shall try to avoid the mistakes of the last scheme. It is not criminal to make mistakes when dealing with administration, although it is criminal, when mistakes have been made, not to profit by them and avoid them when dealing with a similar problem again. We have gained experience from the first evacuation, and we are trying to benefit from it, and to avoid as far as is humanly possible the criticisms which were justified on the last occasion. I shall try, in the time at my disposal, to deal with the points that have been raised during the Debate. I was asked by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) whether it was possible to give the latest details of the number of evacuated children still in reception areas. The latest figures we have are in respect of January, but we are having another survey made with a view to finding exactly what the position is at the present time. In January there were about 30,000 children still in reception areas, and we now estimate the figure at about 20,000. We have refrained from asking local authorities to make counts since January, but as I have already indicated we now propose that a further survey which will enable us to deal more easily with the problem. The second question asked by the hon. Member was whether there was room for all the children who have to be evacuated. It is much easier to put a question of that kind than to answer it. In the original survey places were found in the areas designated as receiving areas for approximately 300,000 children. There are about 270,000 school children in the sending areas. We do not know, however, exactly what demands may have to be made. The suggestion was made that we are neglecting the possibility of using hostels. That question has been raised by several hon. Members. I can assure those who have raised the point, that we are not neglecting the possibility, but we cannot find nearly enough houses of the type referred to during the Debate. Such houses have been used in some cases and have proved useful, but there are a lot of problems involved in taking over a large house. First, it has to be provided with a staff, and in many instances reconstruction is necessary if it is to be made habitable for the children. Under present conditions, it is difficult to obtain wood for huts or camps, and it is equally difficult to obtain the material necessary to carry out constructional alterations which may be required in the case of large houses. Therefore, we have to base the scheme of evacuation on a policy of private billeting. If anyone asked me where my sympathy lay, my reply would be that it was equally divided between the sending and receiving areas. I have seen the difficulties in the receiving areas, and in the sending areas, I have seen heartbreaking scenes where mothers were parting with their children. Bearing in mind some of the criticisms about the receiving areas, I can tell the Committee that I have seen some of the children received with open arms in good homes, even in the case of Perthshire which was referred to by the hon. Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie). I happened to be living there when the original scheme took place. It was wonderful to see in Kindallachon—a little place of 14 houses—how the people were looking forward to receiving the evacuees as if they were their own children. I do not say that was the case in every place. Some of the criticisms were justified in some cases, but in others they were not and were rather unfair to the receiving areas. If we are to have success in this problem there must be the closest co-operation between the sending and the receiving areas. The children still belong to the sending areas, who have a responsibility to see that they are sent out in a proper state. In order to try and avoid some of the legitimate criticisms directed against the last scheme we are seeing that there is careful and almost continuous medical examination of the children who have been registered. We are, of course, carrying out the examination of the other children as well, but we are carrying out this examination so that any defect can be remedied before the children are sent into the receiving areas. Thereby we hope to avoid the criticism, which was legitimate in some cases, of what took place in the last evacuation. We are not neglecting the possibilities of hostels and large houses. We cannot find nearly enough of the type of house that is required. Last Friday I met a deputation in Edinburgh to discover what some of the problems of the local authorities are and to see whether it is possible to help them in taking over large houses. I would emphasise that large houses of themselves cannot solve this problem. Therefore, the basis of our scheme is private billeting. In that way we get war service on the part of the housewife in the smallest household. She is doing as good a war service in looking after evacuees as anyone else. The greatest credit is due to those who have been able to keep the 20,000 who still remain out of the first evacuation. It is commonly stated that the use of large houses as hostels would provide an adequate alternative to billeting with householders and solve the problem of evacuation. It is clear that in general, even if suitable houses were available, they would be insufficient to house all the children because large houses may have to be used for other purposes. If there are many casualties we may require to extend the number of hospitals, and it is clearly desirable to take large houses for that purpose rather than put casualties into small houses. Consequently, we have to look at this problem not merely from the point of view of the evacuation of the children, but from the national point of view because of the possibility that the houses may be required for other purposes. Large houses can make a useful contribution in providing hostels for normal children as an alternative to private billeting, in addition to hostels for children who for various reasons may be unsuitable for billeting in private households. Much use can also be made of them as sick bays for children needing medical attention. Half the difficulties of the last scheme would have been got over if at the beginning the sick bay idea had been given effect to by the receiving authorities. I do not want to offend the susceptibilities of mother or child, but there were cases where, after a child had been cleaned in the home to which it had been sent, it came back after a week-end or holiday at home and had to be cleaned again. If there had been a sick bay arrangement the child could have been sent to it before it returned to the people who had agreed to receive it. We are trying to develop the sick bay idea with a view to avoiding some of the difficulties of the last scheme. My right hon. Friend and I have been giving careful consideration to the question of large houses, and local authorities have been informed of the various purposes for which they can be used with advantage in the evacuation scheme. They have also been asked to consider the establishment of hostels wherever they think that that course is necessary to facilitate the scheme and the welfare of the children. In recent weeks proposals have been made by local authorities to set up over 100 hostels which would accommodate about 5,000 children. I give that as an indication of the work we are doing to avoid some of the mistakes of the last scheme and to make the present scheme workable and successful so that the children will be as well attended to as they can be in the present circumstances. It is up to the local authorities to send in their proposals. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) asked what we were doing about furniture. There ought to be no real difficulty about that and I hope to be able to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman a reply later. The hon. Member for Linlithgow asked whether enough householders had offered to take children. In March, when a count was taken, the response was small, but conditions have changed since then. I am still a strong advocate of the voluntary system. I know the difficulties that are bound to crop up when children from one home go into another home, but I have sufficient faith in the common humanity of the people of Scotland to realise that we shall not have any real difficulty when the crisis arises. The hearts of our people will open. It is true that we did not recently get the response we had wanted, but when the crisis comes along the hearts of the people will be all right.
Will that not be rather late?
No, not in the way that we review this problem from day to day. Bear in mind that we are under war conditions, and the whole problem of evacuation is being discussed and reviewed by Ministers every day, including Sunday.
The hon. Gentleman has said, and I think we all agree, that when the bombs begin to fall every heart in the reception areas will open and every house wilt open, and the problem of evacuation, voluntary or otherwise, will be solved; but in our opinion that will be too late, and that is why we are all pressing that it should be dealt with now, before the bombs begin to fall.
I have already pointed out that it was announced on Thursday that the policy of His Majesty's Government is based on the voluntary principle. If for military reasons there should be need for compulsory evacuation it will be an entirely different matter. It is interesting to recall that last year there were 300,000 voluntary offers. Everybody expected the bombs to fall then, and the hearts of our people opened at once.
Is it not the case that they cloned just as quickly after a fortnight or three weeks?
There were difficulties at that time, and there were grounds for criticism. I have pointed out that we are trying to avoid a repetition of the things that: gave ground for that criticism and to guarantee that such things shall not happen under the present scheme. Another point made was that the scales of recovery of the cost of the children that were evacuated were rather high. The scales of recovery are generous and there have been hardly any complaints. A wide discretion is left to local authorities in dealing with special cases. There have been only 1,200 appeals to referees since last November, when the scheme started. In that period the number of children evacuated has varied from 50,000 to 20,000. If there is any grievance in Scotland it is certain that Scottish Members of Parliament will write to the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary, and they can rest assured that we shall go immediately into the matter with a view to making the scheme work as easily and successfully as possible.
May we take it that that means that any proved case of hardship will be sympathetically considered by the Scottish Office?
Without hesitation. Any proved case of hardship will receive the sympathetic and favourable consideration of my right hon. Friend if it is sent direct to him, or of myself if it is sent to me. I think I can speak for my right hon. Friend in saying that he will not have a hard heart.
He used to be Minister of Labour, you know.
I leave the question of evacuation to come to housing. An hon. Member asked if there was a possibility of some relaxation in the standards for the reconstruction of houses. The question of housing has been receiving the most careful consideration, but we have to face up to the facts. As a member of the Scottish Development Council I did what I could to have an investigation made into a report prepared on the question of using alternative materials. There is a definite scarcity of materials. We can pass all the resolutions we like in favour of the development of housing, but if we cannot get the materials we cannot get the houses.
There is a scarcity of timber.
There is a real scarcity of other materials too. I am speaking now from the knowledge I have. The steel we have at the moment may be required for other purposes than houses. We have to face hard facts, and it would be a waste of time to pass a resolution to say that the Scottish Office must get on with housing unless the materials were available. Under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act a local housing authority which has adopted that Act can purchase houses for reconstruction. What Kirkcaldy did other authorities can do. They purchased sound well-built houses which at a reasonable outlay could be made into quite modern houses. Under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act a local authority can get a grant from the State to enable it not to purchase the house but to meet the cost of reconditioning or reconstruction. Many local authorities, East Lothian being an outstanding example, have taken full advantage of that Act, and have made a tremendous impression on the housing position. If they can get the material for the reconstruction they can get a grant and get on with the job.The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. G. A. Morrison), in an eloquent speech, pointed out that one of the first casualties of the war was the educational progress which we in Scotland had promised to make. Undoubtedly the problem of education is associated with that of evacuation. No one knows better than my hon. Friend that in the rural districts to which we have to send these children there are not the accommodation and the equipment to afford the children the same educational facilities as are provided in the urban areas. The question was raised about further consideration being given in regard to allowances to teachers and the possibility of legislation to compel local authorities to make up the difference between the Army pay and the pay the teachers were receiving from local authorities. It is optional and not mandatory upon the local authorities to do so. We are asking the authorities favourably to consider making a concession to the teachers, but as it would require new legislation to take away that optional power, I am not sure that it would be in order to discuss the matter now.
How can local authorities discriminate against teachers as against other servants?
I am replying to the questions which have been raised, and I am not arguing the matter one way or the other. All I know is that if a county council provides these conditions for the teachers, it is just as legitimate as providing conditions for the street sweepers, because they are all employés of the same body. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) stressed a point about large houses, but I have already dealt with that matter. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs raised a point about furniture and equipment. The responsibility for equipping large houses rests with the local authorities. We have given them guidance about equipment. They are asked to try to get the equipment by gift or loan. Women's voluntary services are doing great work and giving great help in trying to get equipment, etc. We also ask local authorities to tell the Department what they cannot get in this way and then, from a central store, we can give them such things as bedding. We have an arrangement to meet these demands. We are giving them power, where small utensils are required, to buy them, as well as other equipment required locally.
Do local authorities know that?
Yes, we have sent them a circular giving them the facts which I am mentioning. I hope this meets the hon. and gallant Member's points. He also stressed the point about landladies in holiday resorts. It can be said definitely that it is not possible to build more camps. I wish that this matter had been taken up before the war, not merely for war purposes, but to enable us to deal with the physical training and recreation of our children. The five camps referred to by the Secretary of State for Scotland are already completed—or almost so. They will each provide accommodation for 360 children. It is possible to have a slight increase in the number of children accommodated.
I realise that the difficulty in regard to material will prevent further camps from being built, but what I suggested was that during the summer period, military camps should he used by the evacuees, if the military look to the traditional method of canvas.
This matter will receive consideration. In May, we gave local authorities what suggestions we could about holiday resorts, and suggested that landladies could get relief in one of three ways. They might get relief by transferring the children elsewhere, by billeting the children with some other household, or by putting the children into a hostel for a while. The number of children now put up cannot actually cause any serious difficulties to the landladies. If further evacuees have to be sent out, we cannot help sending them to seaside resorts, and landladies may suffer. That is part of the price that we all have to pay in seeing that there is the minimum of suffering among our people and the possibility of getting that victory which we are determined to get as speedily as possible.The suggestion was made by the hon. Member for Springburn that the children were not being welcomed, but I have dealt with that point. The hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) suggested that the education committees should deal with the problem of evacuees. In the landward areas the receiving authority is the county council, but, as county councils are both housing and education authorities, it comes to one and the same authority. This is a matter for their own administration, and there is no reason why they should not give the work to some committee—possibly the education committee. One of our big problems is in Dunbartonshire, where both sending and receiving bodies are one. In the landward areas, the receiving authorities deal with both housing and receiving. If the education committee has not been brought in, there is no reason why that should not be done. In March and April, the Department made a special point of writing to directors of education, inviting them to a conference about the new evacuation plans. A point was raised by the hon. Member for East Stirling about fishing in the Forth area. I am pleased to be able to tell the hon. Member that, as a result of negotiations between the proprietor and the fishermen who wanted to lease the fishing, we were, on Saturday, able to get a satisfactory agreement, and I understand that, at the end of the week, everything will be all right, and the fishermen will be getting on with the job, as a result of the negotiations carried through in Edinburgh. With regard to the question of compulsory billeting, I am sure that, if a real necessity arises, we can be sure that the vast majority of householders will open their doors to the children. There may be a few exceptional people who refuse to take their share. It is not fair that these people should get off, and the Government will expect the local authorities to use compulsory powers against such people. Compulsory powers already exist for the local authorities to operate against unwilling people who would seek to shirk their responsibility during a national crisis of this kind and it is the intention of the Government that such powers should be used. I have tried to deal briefly with the main points raised during the Debate. The hon. Member for East Fife informed me that, as a result of another meeting, it would be necessary for him to leave the Committee before the winding-up of this Debate. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock spoke about the Scottish Youth Committee. As chairman of this committee, to which I have had the honour of being appointed, I might say that it is dealing with a subject in which I am very interested. I want to see the youth movement developed in Scotland as it ought to be. I want to see it developed with an entirely different philosophy to that of Nazism, and I believe that is possible with the freedom of spirit and of action in which we believe and with co-operation between the local education authorities. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) that we cannot make a real success of this scheme unless we get the whole-hearted co-operation of the local education authorities. This scheme must also have the closest co-operation of the great voluntary organisations which have done such splendid work in connection with the effort of our country. I can assure the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and this Committee that I will do all I can to help the youth organisation in Scotland. It is a job which lies close to my heart, and everything I can do to make it a success will be done. If there are points with which I have not dealt, I have already given a guarantee—
What about the housing conditions in Dumbarton?
My right hon. Friend has assured me that he is taking the necessary action, that he is communicating with the local authority and trying to get them to deal with it. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will realise that the responsibility for housing is mainly the responsibility of the local authority. They have the grants—
But the local authority may not do it.
Then certain action would be open to the Secretary of State for Scotland, though I do not know whether that particular action would be of any use under the existing circumstances. I have already assured the hon. Gentleman that what action can be taken by my right hon. Friend will be taken with a view to getting the local authority to look into this particular problem.
On that point, is the hon. Gentleman aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) repeatedly raised with the late Secretary of State for Scotland the deplorable housing conditions associated with Loch Lomond? I have also raised it, and the local authority concerned has done nothing up to the present. May we have an assurance on that particular problem that something will be done immediately by the Minister responsible, so that the authority concerned are made cognisant of the responsibility which they undoubtedly have?
All that I can promise is that they will be reminded of their duty. I can give no guarantee that immediate attention will be given to it under existing circumstances, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs will not expect me to give a promise or a pledge which I cannot fulfil, because I have never given a pledge which I cannot honestly fulfil. I know that the hon. Member will not ask me to give the matter immediate attention, but I will draw the attention of the local housing authority to this particular problem.One other point was raised with regard to the total expenditure of housing as contained in the Vote before the Committee. I was asked whether the increased Vote is due to the increased cost of housing, and if so how much is due to the increased cost of housing. The answer is: None of it. If I have missed out any point, as I have already promised, I will carefully look through the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate to-morrow. If there is any point which has been raised by any hon. Member and with which I have not dealt, I give the assurance that I will communicate with him, and the questions and points which have been raised will receive every consideration. I ask for the Vote with the confident knowledge that what can be done in the interests of administration to make Scotland a better place, even in war-time, will be done so far as my right hon. Friend and I are concerned.
We will keep you to that.
We cannot promise to do the impossible. We can only promise to do our best by decent administration to make Scotland a better place.
I want to raise one or two points. While taking a good deal of pleasure in listening to the percentage of attendance in regard to education, I have a certain amount of doubt, because I know that in some parts of Fife and in other parts of Scotland, instead of children receiving full-time education, they have received only half-time education or even less than that. Some of the children have been known to say to their fathers that they were on the forenoon shift and that other children were on the afternoon shift. I would like everything done to ensure that the children will receive a full day's education, and a full week's education wherever possible.Another point has been raised concerning one or two places in Fife, and that is the occupation of the schools by the military. We all understand the difficulty in connection with that point, but I would ask the Under-Secretary wherever possible to endeavour to get other accommodation for the military, so that the maximum number of schools shall be available for the children. Another point was raised by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) about the re-population of the Highlands. In the situation that now exists a real effort should be made to find some way of repopulating the Highlands. It is a great area; it is safer than any other part of the country, and an effort should be made to re-populate it. I have one other point, and that is in connection with a letter, one of a number which I have received. In this letter the writer says:
This refers to school shelters at Cross-ford."Dear Sir, I have your letter of the 28th instant intimating that you are taking the matter up with the Secretary of State."
This is a very important question. This village is adjacent to the Forth Bridge, to Rosyth Naval Base and the many munition dumps around that area. This question of the care of the children who are attending school and the necessity for providing shelter is of the greatest importance, and I hope that the Minister will take it up with the local authority and see that everything possible is done."This morning I have received a letter from the County Clerk of Fife intimating that the A.R.P. sub-committee have decided to provide a baffle wall. I have replied stating that this is a clear evasion of the main danger, namely, the housing of children underneath a wooden constructed building, and that the danger from fire is very evident and in my opinion must be ruled out entirely as a place of shelter. I trust you will make this clear to the Secretary of State should he present the facts as supplied by the County Council. I do not intend to allow this matter to rest and if need be I shall convene a meeting of the parents in the village so that a united protest can be made to the County Council."
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask
leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.— [Mr. J. P. L. Thomas.]
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.