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Scotland

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 17 May 1949

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Hospital Staffs

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he can give the total number of persons engaged on hospital administration in Scotland on 1st July, 1948; and the total number at present engaged.

Information as to the number at 1st July, 1948, would have to be obtained specially and I do not feel justified in asking hospital authorities to compile it. The present number of officers engaged in administration, including clerical and typing staff, is about 2,200, which comprises the staffs of the five regional boards, the 84 boards of management and the 425 hospitals in the service.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that last week he was able to give precise details to my hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Tweedsmuir) in respect of the Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen? Why could he not possibly give us the figures for all hospitals in Scotland? In view of the concern expressed in Scotland as to the possibility of the present system being somewhat over laboured and too expensive, surely he agrees that the lack of answer which he has given may well further increase these suspicions?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has cast these aspersions upon the ladies and gentlemen who are giving their services to running these hospitals. I have every confidence in the way they are running these hospitals. They were running them in many cases before we took over, and they are equally conscientious today. The hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Tweedsmuir) asked me a specific Question, but to discover the details for which the hon. Gentleman asks would involve a great deal of effort on the part of these hospitals. I can give the hon. Gentleman a percentage administration figure, which is about 3½ per cent. of the total expenditure. That is a very good percentage for effective and efficient management.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no question whatever of casting any slur on the people who are doing this work? Many of the people running these hospitals are worried about the increases for administrative staffs.

Can the Secretary of State tell us whether it is a fact that these figures will be reduced in view of the cut in the National Health Service?

Hospitals will be effectively managed, and if any economies can be effected I am sure that all the boards will take whatever steps they can. We shall give them what guidance we can in this direction.

New Towns (Report)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the first reports made under Section 13 (6) of the New Towns Act, 1946, in respect of the proposed new towns in Scotland, will be published.

The fiat statutory report of the East Kilbride Development Corporation covering the period to 31st March last will, I understand, be submitted to me shortly and as required by the Act, I shall lay it before the House. The first report of the Glenrothes Development Corporation will cover the period to 31st March, 1950.

Hill Cattle Subsidy

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications for Hill Cattle subsidy have been refused in respect of land which was classified as hill land when the agricultural executive committees were responsible for making such recommendations but which has been re-classified and excluded since the Department of Agriculture's livestock inspectors have been responsible for making recommendations.

Of the 12,700 applications received in 1948, 11,874 have been passed, 424 have been refused and 383 remain to be dealt with. Of those refused to date, 133 come within the category to which the hon. Member refers.

Does not the Minister think that it is more likely on the face of it that agricultural executive committees will be in a better position to know from their local knowledge whether land is qualified as hill farming land or as upland than his inspectors? Will he look at this again and see if hardship can be avoided by making grants in cases which were formerly covered?

Naturally everyone who deals with the matter thinks he knows best. The advantage of having an inspector is that it does not lead to discrepancies between the judgment of one area and the judgment of another. The inspectors are judging by the same standard for Scotland as a whole, which is fairer to the farmers.

Will the Secretary of State make a political test of these applicants, and if there are any rotten Tories, not give them a bean?

Glasgow City Council (Ex-Officio Members)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the fact that they are not subject to election by democratic methods, he will abolish the posts of Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener as ex-officio members of the Glasgow City Council.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the fact that the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener are not posts filled by democratic election, he will introduce legislation to exclude the holders of these offices from the Glasgow City Council.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider introducing an amending Bill to abolish the offices of Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener of the city of Glasgow since these offices are relics from before the era of democratic election.

I am looking into the whole question, but as this will involve detailed inquiries, I am not in a position to make any statement.

In looking into the question, will my right hon. Friend keep before him the fact that the retention of this extraordinary privilege whereby certain electors-have two votes in the council elections of Glasgow and the other towns concerned violates the principle of "one elector, one vote" contained in the Local Government Act, 1947, and the Representation of the People Act, 1948? Will he seek to give effect to that provision in whatever decision he reaches?

All the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) will be kept in mind in the inquiries I am making.

When he is making these inquiries, will my right hon. Friend also pay particular attention to the fact that the Deacon Convener, whatever be his responsibilities, and the Dean of Guild, whatever be his responsibilities, both decided against the will of the people of Glasgow in electing the Lord Provost?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when the Deacon Convener and the Dean of Guild exercised their right to vote in that direction they gave great satisfaction to the citizens of Glasgow?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great indignation throughout the City of Glasgow that people who returned a majority by means of their democratic vote have now been defeated by some office which dates back to the fifteenth century? Will my right hon. Friend advise that these offices should be abolished now that we are a democratic country?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also take counsel with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and also have the anomalies corrected which resulted in the gerrymandering of the London County Council in the recent elections? Will the right hon. Gentleman also note that the result of the voting in the Glasgow City Council is identical with the vote of the people of Glasgow, namely, a Progressive majority?

Naturally, many of these points have already been brought to my notice. I would not go so far as to describe either of these things as gerrymandering. Needless to say, all these things will be taken into account.

Has my right hon. Friend any idea when he will be able to reach a decision on this matter and intimate it to the House? Is he aware that the use of these offices to vote out the majority party and to vote in the minority party causes great satisfaction to the Tories and very great anger to the Labour majority?

I am unable to say when, because the matter is more complicated than appears on the surface. Moreover, the hon. Gentleman will agree that they have been in existence for a long time and the urgency of the contention seems to have disappeared for the moment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the many occasions on which these dignatories have voted for Labour proposals there has never been any question of the abolition of their offices?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the City of Edinburgh, which is in a position corresponding to that of the City of Glasgow, it is possible for a ratepayer, whether he has a good, bad or indifferent character, to purchase a life-time vote for the Lord Dean of Guild for two guineas? Is he also aware that nobody knows who constitutes the franchise for the Deacon Convener?

House-Building Workers

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that the number of men engaged on the construction of permanent houses and preparation of housing sites has fallen from 31,000 in December, 1948, to 26,600 in March, 1949; what effect this will have on the housing programme; and what steps are being taken to arrest this decline.

The provisional figure for March has now been adjusted to 28,069. The figures quoted however exclude men directly employed by local authorities; if these men are included the comparable figures become 35,300 in December and 32,500 in March. Many factors affect the totals of men employed on housing but the fall in the first quarter of this year probably results from the high rate of completion recently achieved. During the past few months the starting of a large number of new houses has been authorised and as they come into construction, this should be reflected in the number of men employed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these men are likely to drift out of the housing programme altogether? In view of the very great need, will he give urgent consideration to increasing the number engaged?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this Spring probably for the first time for a long while many householders are able to get their houses redecorated and brought into repair. There is no check on the people who do that work outside the normal building industry. Naturally there is no desire to keep men unemployed if they can be used to do that work while the other work is being prepared.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the revised figures show that the labour force in Scotland is still declining while the comparative figures for England show that the labour force there is increasing? Is the Secretary of State aware that there is grave anxiety among Scottish local authorities about the labour position?

It is possible that that conclusion could be drawn but it would not necessarily be accurate. The fact that the number of men employed on new housing has gone down is no indication that they are not employed on other housing work which is not recorded in these figures.

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the reduction in the numbers employed is not the result of Government policy?

It is partly because we are very anxious that fewer people should be employed on building the houses on which larger numbers were employed last year. We must get the cost of housing down, and that can only be attained by improved efficiency in building.

In view of the serious situation which exists, will the right hon. Gentleman consider keeping these men in the building industry whatever form of building they are engaged in? Is not the building of new houses the most serious problem in Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman has just made the point I have been trying to make. The important thing is to build houses and not to keep the people employed if they are not actually building houses.

In view of the concern felt about this matter, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this subject on the Motion for the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Special Schools

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many open-air or other special schools for delicate children there are in Scotland; and in the areas of which education authorities they are situated.

No schools have been established in Scotland primarily for delicate children but a number of pupils attending special schools for physically handicapped children belong to that category.

In view of the service that such schools have given elsewhere will the Secretary of State consider investigating the need in Scotland and, on the basis of what he finds out, consider whether it would be worth while establishing a similar system in Scotland?

This matter is at present being considered by the Scottish Advisory Council on Education. I am awaiting their report before we decide to take any steps.