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Commons Chamber

Volume 48: debated on Tuesday 11 February 1913

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 11th February, 1913.

The House met at a Quarter before Three of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.

Telegraph Offices (Scotland)

Return presented, relative thereto [ordered 30th January; Mr. Cathcart Wason]; to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [514.]

Shops Act, 1912

Copy presented of Order made by the Council of the city of Bath, and confirmed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, extending the provisions of Section 4 of the Act to certain classes of Shops within the city and fixing the day on which the Shops are to be closed for the weekly half-holiday [by Act]; to lie upon the Table.

Public Revenue (Interception)

Return ordered "of the amount of all Public Revenue derived from taxes levied by Parliament and from any other sources which are not paid into His Majesty's Exchequer, for the years 1910–11, 1911–12, and 1912–13 (estimated), with the totals in each case (in continuation of Parliamentary Paper, No. 322, of Session 1911)."—[ Mr. Lees Smith.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Katanga (Imprisonment Of Mr Moore)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any further information relating to the case of Mr. Moore, editor of the "Livingstone Mail"; if he can say whether he is likely to be released from prison; and, if so, when?

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received any further information as to the trial and imprisonment of Mr. Moore in Katanga; whether the British Vice-Consul was present at the trial or on the hearing of the appeal; whether Mr. Moore had the assistance of counsel; whether the conditions of his imprisonment are satisfactory; and whether all communications between Mr. Moore and his friends in Rhodesia have now been stopped?

The acting British Vice-Consul was not present at the trial of Mr. Moore or at the hearing of the appeal. Mr. Moore was represented by counsel. The conditions of his imprisonment are reported by the Vice-Consul to be quite satisfactory and his health good. He has been permitted to communicate freely with any persons he chooses, but his correspondence is opened in accordance with official regulations. I understand that he could be released from prison if the fines were paid, and, though I reserve final opinion pending the receipt of a full report of the trial, I do not see on the information at present before me that there would be justification for the intervention of His Majesty's Government.

Has the Government assured itself, by due inquiry of the Law Officers of the Crown, that this arrest was a perfectly proper one—the arrest of a British subject for an offence committed in British territory—the trial taking place and the arrest taking place under another flag and in other territory?

I have had a report on the information before us from the legal adviser to the British Legation at Brussels, who advises that under Belgian law there was jurisdiction. I have made such inquiry as I can as to what would be the case under British law. I cannot say without all the facts before me, but it is not quite certain whether under British law also there would not have been a case for jurisdiction under similar circumstances.

Are we to assume, then, that if the editor of a paper in London committed a supposed libel upon a citizen of Belgium, and if he went to Belgium he could be arrested?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the fate of Mr. Stokes, and will he remember that Congo prisons are not particularly healthy for those who criticise the conduct of Congo officials?

That case occurred years ago under an entirely different regime from that which now exists. I stated I have been satisfied by telegraphic inquiry and telegraphic report of the acting Vice-Consul that the conditions in the prison are satisfactory and the prisoner's health is good.

Lake Nyasa (Murder Of Rev A J Douglas)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when the murder of the Rev. A. J. Douglas took place at Lake Nyasa; when the trial of the murderer took place; when His Majesty's Government first received a report of the murder; if there was any delay in a full report being sent of the murder and trial; and if he will lay the Report of His Majesty's representative upon the Table without further delay?

Mr. Douglas was killed on 10th November, 1911. The trial took place on 25th and 26th November, 1912. The first official report received by His Majesty's Government of the death of Mr. Douglas was contained in a telegram from His Majesty's Consul at Lourenco Marques of 15th November, 1911. There was no unnecessary delay in sending the report of the trial. The report of the trial will be laid.

Gulf Of Guinea

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is yet in a position to say when the British Consul will leave for the islands in the Gulf of Guinea, and on which of these he will reside?

One of the two salaried Vice-Consuls to be appointed under the superintendence of His Majesty's Consul at Loanda has already reached Fernando Po. It is hoped to appoint the second Vice-Consul shortly. The Vice-Consuls will reside for alternate periods of six months, respectively, at Fernando Po and San Thomé and at Lobito.

Mexico

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the extent of British interests in Mexico, and the prejudicial effect upon such interests of the continued unrest in that country, he has taken any steps, and, if so, what steps, consistently with the Monroe doctrine, to urge upon the Government of the United States the desirability of taking such action as shall conduce to the early restoration of order in Mexico?

The action of His Majesty's Government has been confined to approaching the Mexican Government with requests for protection for such British interests as are known to have been, or to be endangered, and to the dispatch of a ship on certain occasions to places on the coast where danger has been apprehended. It would be entirely contrary to international practice to approach the United States Government in the manner suggested by the hon. Member.

In view of recent occurrences has a ship been sent to Mexican waters?

The recent occurrence has been in the city of Mexico and not at a port. I do not think any ship is under orders immediately to go to a port, but if the hon. Member will give me notice I will ascertain.

Persia

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, before and since the killing of Captain Eckford, officers and men of the British troops now stationed at Shiraz have been repeatedly shot at, without reprisals; whether there is any prospect of any effective action being taken by the Persian Parliament; and, if not, what steps the Government proposes to take to restore the reputation of British arms and the opportunity for British trade in Southern Persia?

In reply to the first part of the question, it is a fact that on various occasions shots have been fired at officers and men of His Majesty's forces when in the neighbourhood of Shiraz, but I have had no reports as to similar occurrences since Captain Eckford's death. As regards parts two and three, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer returned to the question asked by the hon. Member for East Mayo on the 6th instant.

Is there any foundation for the suggestion in the question that the Persian Parliament is going to be called into being?

I cannot say anything more about that than I said before. There is no present prospect.

7.

asked whether the concession has now been granted to Russia by the Persian Government to construct a railway from Julfa, to Tabriz, with an extension to Lake Urumiah and a preferential right to build a railway from Tabriz to Kazvin; and, if so, when the concession will be granted to Great Britain for the construction of a railway from Mohammerah to Khorramabad, with a preferential right to similar further extension?

A concession has been granted to a Russian syndicate for a concession for a railway from Julfa to Tabriz, with a conditional preference for an extension from Tabriz to Kazvin. A two years' option for the construction of a line from Mohammerah, or a point adjacent thereto, to Khorramabad has been granted to a British syndicate, but the details are not yet finally settled and will partly depend on the results of the survey; the option does not carry with it the right for an extension which has not been asked for.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that a preferential right to further extension is granted to the British Concessionaires similar to that which has been granted to Russia, namely, from Tabriz to Kazvin?

There is no exact parallel for the extension from Tabriz to Kazvin. The line from Mohammerah to Khorramabad is of considerable length. I am not sure how it compares with the existing Russian concession.

Will the right hon. Gentleman compare the length of the British with the length of the Russian concession, and whatever number of miles may be in excess on the Russian side, will he obtain a concession for a similar amount for the British side?

Yes, I will compare the actual mileage, but I would guard myself against being presumed to say that the actual measure in mileage is necessarily the best standard of comparison in equality of merit as regards this particular concession.

In return for all these concessions, has any progress been made with the long-delayed loan?

If the hon. Gentleman will put down a question for Thursday, I might be able to say something more definite

8.

asked whether the Foreign Minister of Persia has signed an agreement whereby a Russian company acquires the right to build a railway from Julfa to Tabriz, with the option of making another from Tabriz to Kazvin; and when an agreement will be signed for the British railway from Mohammerah to Khoramabad?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which has just been returned to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Melton.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the concession for the Julfa-Tabriz railway has now been granted by the Persian Government; if so, what is the period of the concession; and in what way are Persian interests safeguarded?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative; the answer to the last two parts is that I am not in possession of a copy of the concession.

Trade With Portugal

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress, if any, has been made in the Government's negotiations with Portugal in regard to a commercial treaty referred to by him in his replies to questions on the following dates: 13th July, 1911, 14th December, 1911, and 14th November, 1912?

11.

asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the import duty to Portuguese territory for French and German chassis is £4 8s. 9d. while for British chassis it is £15 10s. 6d.; and that for French and German tyres it is £1 13s. 3d., while for British tyres it is £19 19s. 4d.; will he say at what date he began negotiations with Portugal for the rectifying of this inequality; whether that country gives him any hope of success; and whether he will try to expedite matters in view of the fact that British traders are much handicapped by the present tariffs?

With regard to the first part of the latter question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which is being returned to-day by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to the hon. Member for Worcester. In reply to the second part and to the question addressed to me by the hon. Member for Worcester, negotiations for the conclusion of a commercial treaty have been passing in one form or another between His Majesty's Government and the Portuguese Government at intervals since 1902. No reply was made by the Portuguese Government to the latest proposals that were laid before them, and these have been repeated to them last month, and a reply is expected.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the figures in the first part of the question of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Watt) are substantially accurate?

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any reason for this preference to Germany and France over this country?

Roughly, the course of the negotiations has been that we have not got the most-favoured-nation treatment from Portugal because the Portuguese Government have complained that in regard to their wines we have not given them the most-favoured-nation treatment. It is a most complicated matter, which has been, and still is, the subject of negotiation.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Portuguese Government that we do not think their action is fair, and that we will discriminate against them if they do not act fairly?

Unfortunately, the contention of the Portuguese Government is that we do already discriminate against their wines.

Putumayo Rubber District

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received a copy of the Report from the United States of the finding of Mr. S. J. Fuller, the result of whose visit to the Putumayo has now been laid before Congress; if so, whether the findings of Mr. Fuller gives ground for the belief that atrocities are still being perpetrated by collectors of rubber on the Putumayo; and whether, in view of this publication by the United States, the Report of Mr. Consul Mitchell on his visit to the Putumayo will now be laid upon the Table?

I have not yet received a copy of Mr. Fuller's Report, for which I have asked the United States Government. I hope to lay Consul Mitchell's Report early next Session.

Great Britain And Germany

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can make any statement with regard to the speech of Admiral von Tirpitz in the Budget Committee of the Reichstag, especially in respect of the naval situation; and whether he has any information, official or otherwise, as to the ratio of sixteen British ships to ten German ships being regarded as a satisfactory standard for the respective naval fleets?

102.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what importance he attaches to the statement of Grand Admiral von Tirpitz in the German Reichstag Budget Committee to the effect that his Government is content to acquiesce in the relative superiority in naval strength of 60 per cent. in favour of Great Britain which was claimed by the First Lord last March as being sufficient and satisfactory; and whether the statement now made on behalf of Germany affords ground to hope that the competitive building of the two Powers, so costly to their respective taxpayers, may now cease, and that a proportional reduction of existing fleets corresponding to the 60 per cent. formula may be gradually effected?

On behalf of my right hon. Friend the First Lord, and with the concurrence of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I will answer these questions together. It will, he thinks, be better for us to wait till the Estimates are presented, and then to deal with the naval position as a whole. In the meanwhile he desires to give expression to the general feelings of satisfaction aroused by the friendly tone which has characterised the recent German discussions on naval subjects.

Tibet

15.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the trade arrangement made between His Majesty's Government and Tibet has been violated by the imposition of internal transit dues; and what steps the Government proposes to take in the direction of posting a British representative at Lhassa?

Complaints have been received on several occasions from Indian traders of illegal duties levied by local Tibetan authorities on their merchandise. The most recent case that has been brought to the Secretary of State's notice was in September, 1912. I understand that the duties complained of have now been removed. As regards the second part of the question, no action of the kind suggested by the hon. Member is contemplated by His Majesty's Government.

Indian Opium Trade

16.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether His Majesty's Government has consented that Chihli and Kwangsi shall be added to the list of Chinese provinces into which the importation of Indian opium is prohibited; and whether it contemplates similar action in respect of Hunan, Anhui, and Shantung?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative; as regards the second part, His Majesty's Minister has been authorised to inform the Chinese Government that Hunan, Anhui, and Shantung provinces shall be subjected to joint investigation at the earliest possible date, and if the result is satisfactory His Majesty's Government will agree to their being placed on the prohibition list.

Indian Students (Edinburgh University)

17.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether Indian students at Edinburgh University have protested against the proposal to put them under official supervision; and, if so, what action has been taken on such protest; whether the permanent retention of the staff associated with Mr. Arnold and Mr. Mallet is contemplated; and whether the unofficial members of the Indian Legislative Councils have expressed their opinions on the need for the expenditure involved?

As regards the first part of the question I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh yesterday. The answer to the second part of the question is in the affirmative. No such expression of opinion as is referred to in the last part of the question has been brought to the Secretary of State's notice.

British Army

War Office Contracts

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any War Office contracts have been given out in respect of other works besides those at Tidworth and Bulford in which German cable has been used; and, if so, where it has been used?

20.

asked whether the inspectors representing the War Office are present throughout the manufacture at Eschweiler, Germany, of the cable for the Army camps at Tidworth and Bulford, or do they merely inspect and test the completed cable; and is the former practice followed in respect of cable manufactured for War Office use in this country?

The inspectors representing the War Office test the cable during course of manufacture in Germany and again when completed. The same practice is adopted in respect of cable manufactured in this country.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether there was any clause in the specifications for the work at Tidworth and Bulford camps in which the German armorduct cable is employed requiring the use of pure Para rubber only and excluding the use of re-manufactured rubber?

There was no such clause, but it was specified that the layer next to the conductor was to be of pure rubber, and the other two of vulcanised rubber. The quality of the whole was covered by a mechanical test.

Ordnance Department, Woolwich (Wages)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any decision has been come to regarding the representations made in November last in connection with the wages and conditions of service of the clerical staff in the store-houses of the Ordnance Department at Woolwich; and, if so, can he state the nature of such decision?

I hope to be in a position to reply shortly to these and other points brought to the notice of the Army Council on the same occasion.

New Machine Gun

22.

asked whether it is proposed to issue a new machine gun to the Regular Army; whether this gun is of an entirely new pattern and of British invention; and when the issue will be made?

It has been decided to issue a new pattern machine gun to the Cavalry; the question of issue to the Infantry is still under consideration. The gun is similar in principle to that with which the troops are at present equipped, but is much lighter. It is of British invention. Issue will probably commence next month.

Can the gun be placed in the Tea Room, or where we may be able to see it?

If there be a general wish that that should be done, I will consider the suggestion.

Royal Horse Artillery

23.

asked whether it has been finally decided to abolish the cadres of Batteries AA and BB, Royal Horse Artillery; and whether, before carrying such a decision into effect, he will explain to this House his reasons for so serious a step?

I have nothing at present to add to the information which I have already given the hon. and gallant Gentleman on this subject. I hope to be able to make a general statement on this subject on the introduction of Army Estimates next month.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has not answered the question?

It would be impossible to make a general statement as to the reorganisation of the Artillery rendered necessary by the return of troops from South Africa within the limits of question and answer.

I am sorry, having regard to the answer, I have to give notice that I will bring this question up on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House to-morrow.

Non-Commissioned Officers (Training)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, having regard to the importance of the efficient training of non-commisisoned officers of the Territorial Army, he will consider the advisability of providing greater facilities for week-end classes of instruction; and whether he is aware that at present the sum of money in the hands of general officers commanding districts is insufficient to provide such facilities?

It is the duty of the permanent staff, under the orders of the commanding officer of the unit, to secure that all non-commissioned officers are thoroughly trained in their duties, and that they are afforded facilities for obtaining the necessary instruction. The money allotted to general officers commanding-in-chief for the training and instruction of the Territorial Force is not considered insufficient.

Pensioners

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will say, with reference to the desire of the Army Council that it should be more widely known that an Army pensioner may, if he wishes, receive his pension by monthly instalments instead of by quarterly payments, whether he may not also receive it, if he wishes, by weekly instalments, seeing that that is the basis on which he has been in the habit of receiving his pay while in the Army and probably also afterwards when in civil employment?

Arrangements can be made for the payment of pensions quarterly, with the consent of the pensioner, to some responsible person for issue to him in weekly sums.

Could not the right hon. Gentleman make it clear by some further communication to the pensioners in addition to what has been done already that a pension can be paid weekly as well as monthly?

I hope the question put by the hon. and gallant Gentleman and this reply may give that information, but if any further notification is necessary, I will certainly consider whether it should be made.

Land Valuation

27.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he contemplates introducing a Revenue Bill in the next Session of Parliament in order to amend the valuation of the land under the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, so as to exclude from full site value of agricultural land the unexhausted value of such improvements on or under the soil as are at present included in that valuation?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Hanley on the 4th inst.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what good purpose is being served by this valuation, seeing that it is of no use for rating purposes? The answer given was that it was not customary to make a statement. This question has nothing to do with that. It merely asks whether the valuation could be amended.

This question asks about legislation for next Session of Parliament. I cannot make any statement about that.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me when the valuation is likely to be completed?

National Insurance Act

Midland Railway Friendly Society

28.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will instruct the Registrar of Friendly Societies and the Insurance Commissioners to refuse to sanction any alteration in the benefits to be received by the Midland Railway Friendly Society members if such alteration reduces the benefits to be re- ceived, in view of the fact that the Midland Railway employés were compelled, on taking service, to join that friendly society, and such proposed reduction of benefits would be a breach of contract?

I am informed that there is nothing in the rules of this society to make membership compulsory on employés of the railway company, and there has been no rule of such a kind, at any rate since 1879. I have explained in earlier answers the circumstances in which the benefits of this society were reduced. The alteration was in no way due to the Insurance Act and the Insurance Commissioners have no power to sanction or refuse to sanction, alterations of benefits which are not provided from, and are quite independent of, the Insurance Funds.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the person insured joined the society before 1879?

Was this society registered as a friendly society under the Friendly Societies Acts, and if so, is not the Registrar obliged to refuse sanction to an alteration which would limit the benefits to members?

I cannot answer the hypothetical part of the question, but I have information as to the other part which I will give to the hon. Gentleman.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that this has nothing to do with the Insurance Act? It has to do with a member of the Midland Railway Friendly Society.

I quite agree that it has nothing to do with the Insurance Act. I explained, in answer to earlier questions the circumstances in which the benefits were reduced. I shall be glad to send the hon. Gentleman copies of the answers.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give instructions that the benefits will not be reduced without notice to the persons concerned?

I should like to know whether I have any power to give such an instruction.

Medical Benefit

29.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that under the National Insurance Act doctors have issued notes for supplying appliances to patients; whether he is aware that articles scheduled as appliances are of a limited description and do not include kidney belts or appliances for relief of cases which are a source of trouble without this assistance; whether he is aware that before the National Insurance Act came into operation patients in possession of hospital notes could obtain kidney belts at 30 per cent. less cost than persons insured under the Act are able to do; and whether, as the average of insured persons requiring kidney belts would not amount to one in 1,000 insured persons, he will advise the inclusion of this article amongst appliances?

The prescribed list of appliances is subject to such revision as may be found advisable when more experience has been gained after working of the Act. I have noted the suggestion of the hon. Member and it will receive due consideration.

33.

asked if under the National Insurance Act medical benefits can be extended to Ireland except by way of additional benefits; what would be the additional cost to the United Kingdom of extending full medical benefits to Ireland; and if under the Government of Ireland Bill the payments to be made by the United Kingdom for the working of the National Insurance Act are limited to the purposes for which that Act is applied to Ireland?

The answer to the first question is in the negative. If medical benefit were provided in Ireland upon the same terms as in Great Britain and if the contributions were adjusted accordingly, the additional cost to the Exchequer over and above the present provision on the basis of those actually insured would be approximately £40,000. The general extension of medical benefit to Ireland could not be effected without legislation. Such extension would clearly appertain to the general subject matter of the Act of 1911 within the meaning of Clause 2 Sub-section (12) of the Government of Ireland Bill. An Exchequer Grant is already made to Ireland under Section 81 (10) of the National Insurance Act of the same amount as would be paid under the Act were medical benefit provided in that country.

The extension cannot be done without legislation. The legislation would arrange as to the conditions under which the money should be given.

43.

asked whether the insurance committees in the county of Middlesex, the Isle of Ely, and Sheffield have refused free choice of doctor outside the panels unless exceptional circumstances are proved; and whether any definition of exceptional circumstances has been laid down by them?

I am not aware that the three insurance committees mentioned have acted differently from other committees. As I have frequently stated, the Act only contemplates permission being given to an insured person to make his own arrangements in exceptional circumstances. It is for the committee to decide upon each application whether the circumstances of the case are or are not exceptional.

Is it left absolutely to the discretion of the insurance committee to deny the choice of a doctor to insured persons?

It is absolutely left by the Act to the discretion of the committee to permit or not to permit any case of what is ordinarily called "making their own arrangements."

Is that consistent with the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place?

Whitefield's Tabernacle, where he said all insured people would have the right to choose their own doctors.

If the hon. Member studies the speech to which he referred, he will find that it is not so.

Is it not the case that every insured person has the right to choose his own doctor among those doctors who are willing to serve?

Every insured person has the right to choose his own doctor among all the doctors willing to serve him and willing to serve under the Insurance Act.

Have arrangements yet been made by which nurses in hospitals are allowed to make their own arrangements, and have they received the forms to be filled in?

I do not know, but I believe that certainly in London those arrangements have been made.

65.

asked whether an insured person is entitled to the provision of the services of a herbalist, instead of a doctor, when desired; and what benefits will be provided for Christian Scientists under the National Insurance Act?

Duly qualified medical practitioners alone have the right to be included in a panel list. It is, however, open to persons who belong to an unorthodox school of medicine to apply to their insurance committee for permission to make their own arrangements for medical attendance and treatment, and if such permission is given the committee will make a contribution towards the cost of the treatment.

76.

asked whether an insured person who has paid all his contributions since 15th July, 1912, and has requested without success both his approved society and the Insurance Commissioners that he should be allotted to a doctor for receipt of medical benefit, is entitled, if taken ill, to call in any doctor available and recover that doctor's bill in full from the National Insurance Fund?

If an insured person has been refused by the doctor whom he has selected, he is entitled to be allotted to some doctor on the panel. The allotment, however, is not a matter for the approved society or the Insurance Commissioners, but for the insurance committee of the area in which he resides. I am inquiring, however, concerning the special case in Midlothian which the hon. and gallant Member brought to my notice in last week's debate, and will communicate with him on the subject.

If an insured person is not refused by a doctor, but the doctor is too busy to attend him, and if after much delay a doctor not on the panel has to be called in, will the insured person be entitled to claim the fee necessary for the other doctor?

He certainly is not entitled to claim the fee, but whether any fee could be allowed would depend on the circumstances of the particular case.

Approved Societies

40.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can give any estimate of the number of members of approved societies who have taken reduced contracts on the voluntary side of their insurance?

No estimate is possible of the number of members of approved societies who have reduced their contracts on the voluntary side. The Registrar has no information as to the number of members of societies who have reduced or have exercised individual options to reduce.

If the information can be obtained without undue strain on the Department I should very much like to do so.

Reserves (Release)

41.

asked whether the release of reserves promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been sufficient to cover the whole of the insured persons' compulsory weekly contribution in the Manchester Unity of Odd-fellows, the Foresters, and Hearts of Oak, respectively?

The valuations of the societies named for the purposes of Section 72 have not yet been completed, and therefore the information is not yet available.

Voluntary Insurance

42.

asked whether the right hon. Gentleman will instruct the Registrar of Friendly Societies. to draw up a Report on the basis of the actuarial reports which are being received by him as to the probability of friendly societies being able to work the voluntary side of their insurance successfully during the next ten years?

I understand that it would be impossible to estimate from the valuations received by the Registrar the probability of friendly societies being able to work their voluntary side successfully during the next ten years. I am unaware of anything which has happened which makes it likely that the societies will be less successful during the next ten years than they have been during the last ten years.

Contribution Cards

66.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that employers demand health insurance stamp cards for the new quarter before giving up those for the previous -quarter; that small societies, not having agents, are prevented from delivering the new cards in bulk and collecting the old ones at works and factory offices as in the case of the large insurance companies, thereby placing the members of small societies at some comparative disadvantage with their employers; and whether, under these circumstances, arrangements can be made whereby cards may be sent post free to insured persons or, alternatively, a regulation made by the Commissioners to the effect that the stamp card must be returned to each individual worker, and so avoid any interference with freedom of choice of an approved society consequent upon the collection of cards in bulk?

I am aware that in some cases employers have called upon their employés to produce the new quarter's cards before delivering up the old, although there is nothing in the Regulations authorising them to do so. It would not be possible without serious loss to the revenue to allow cards to be sent through the post free of charge between contributors and their societies, but the disadvantage to which the hon. Member refers could probably be obviated by the smaller societies appointing one of their members to collect and distribute the cards of his fellow members employed in the same workshop. The Commissioners would take a serious view of any case in which it was shown that cards had been handed by an employer to the agent of any society not authorised to receive them.

Sickness Benefit

67.

asked whether a person insured under the National Insurance Act who, being sick and unable to work on a Monday, becomes entitled to the receipt of sick pay on the following Thursday, but on the following Saturday forenoon is certified by the doctor to be capable of following his employment, is entitled to that day's sick pay, making three-sixths of 10s. for that week; or whether, Saturday being the day of his recovery, although he was prevented from returning to work that day by the fact that the doctor had not seen and certified him capable of work until after 10 a.m., he would only be entitled to two-sixths of 10s. for the week?

The question whether benefit is payable in any specific case depends on facts which are not within the knowledge of the Commissioners, and must be decided in the first instance by the society or insurance committee administering the benefit, subject to appeal to the Commissioners. It would be impossible for me to anticpate the judicial decision which the Commissioners would give upon all the facts in such a case even if all the relevant facts were included in the question.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many societies are desirous of guidance on this specific question?

There are some questions which I think will probably be the subject of judicial decision. It would be very improper for me in question and answer to forecast what that decision will be.

Great Western Railway (Worcester District)

68.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that the officials of the Great Western Railway Company in the Worcester district are asking insured workmen who have met with an accident the name of the society that they have made their approved society under the National Insurance Act; and if he will say, in view of the provisions of the National Insurance Act, what action he proposes to take to protect the men who refuse, in accordance with their rights, to give the information?

I have no information on this subject, but it may be that the company desired to send notice of an agreement for compensation to the society in accordance with Section 11 (1) (c) of the Act. I will make inquiries if my hon Friend desires.

Hearts Of Oak Approved Society

69.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury if he is aware that the Hearts of Oak Approved Society has adopted a rule the effect of which will be to suspend any of its members who have failed to pay a fine imposed by the society within four weeks from the date on which it was inflicted from all benefits under the National Insurance Act; and whether, having regard to the trivial nature of the offences for which under the rules of the said society fines must be imposed, such as, for instance, omitting to state the registered number on a written communication from a member to the society, or neglecting to give notice of a change of address in writing within seven days, and also having regard to the fact that the benefits which will be withheld under this rule are provided by funds contributed by the State and the employer as well as the offending member, he will take action to prevent the imposition of such penalties?

I am aware of the rule in question which also includes a provision giving an insured member who has been subjected to any penalty the right to have the case decided by arbitration with a further appeal to the Insurance Commission. A similar rule has been adopted by the great majority of societies in virtue of the power expressly given by Section 14 of the Act. I understand that the rules thus enforced by penalty are rules which the friendly societies have found essential for the proper working of sick benefit.

Medical Panel

70.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether insured persons under the National Insurance Act who do not select a doctor on the local panel may be allotted to a coloured doctor without their knowledge, and may not know that such has been done till illness compels them to requisition his services; and whether, in the event of an insured person's own selected white doctor not being available for any reason, he or she is compelled under the Act to accept the services of another panel doctor in the same administrative area, even though coloured, or else call in the services of a medical man not on the panel, the payment for whose services cannot be recovered from the Insurance Commissioners?

If an insured person fails to exercise his right of choosing a doctor, he thereby leaves to the insurance committee the duty of allotting him to one of the doctors on the panel. If the doctor who has undertaken the treatment of an insured person is precluded by urgency of other professional duties, absence from home, or other reasonable cause from personally attending, he is required to the best of his ability to provide that when he is so precluded from personal attendance some other doctor will give attendance as his deputy on his behalf.

Does not that make it possible for some of those who require assistance to have a doctor to whom they object?

Certainly not if they exercise the choice of doctor which is given to all insured persons, and I should think they could equally exercise the choice in desiring not to be attended by a particular doctor.

What is the position of affairs if a doctor refuses certain patients?

Most elaborate provision is made in the Regulations, of which I will send the hon. Member a copy.

Workmen Away From Home

72.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury if any arrangement can be made whereby workmen away from home on the business of their employers can be attended to, in the event of illness, by doctors on the panels in the place in which they may be taken ill; and is he aware that many men who habitually work away from home have not had their medical tickets endorsed because of the uncertainty on the point?

An insured person moving from the area of one insurance committee to that of another can, by giving notice to the second committee, obtain medical attendance and treatment from a doctor on the panel in that area. The endorsement of the medical ticket by a doctor on the panel in the first area would not prevent this arrangement from being carried out.

Operations

74.

asked if regulations have been made as to the arrangements to be followed for the performance of operations on insured persons who cannot be dealt with at hospitals; and whether these will in all or any cases have to be dealt with at the patient's home?

No such regulations have been made. Whether an operation should be performed at the patient's home, or at the doctor's surgery, or at a hospital must depend upon the circumstances of each particular case.

Supply Of Drugs

78 and 79.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury (1) whether he is aware that the sum of 6d. per ounce of 480 grains is allowed in the tariff under the National Insurance Act for benzoate of ammonia and that the price of well-known retail chemists in a large way of business is 9d. per ounce of 437.5 grains; and will he explain how chemists in a small way of business can give a supply at this price; and (2) whether he will explain why many articles are priced in the tariff under the National Insurance Act at 20 to 30 per cent. less than the wholesale houses charge retailers?

There is no "tariff under the National Insurance Act" applicable to every part of the country. Each insurance committee is required by the Regulations to prepare a drug tariff for its own area, and the prices included therein are a matter for negotiation between the insurance committee, the chemists, and the doctors of each area. As a matter of fact the drug tariff usually adopted is one that was drawn up by the Pharmaceutical Society themselves.

Are the qualities issued the same as those under the Insurance Act. tariff?

I have never heard the expression except from the lips of the Noble Lord.

May I send the right hon. Gentleman the wholesale catalogues of several firms in the country?

The Noble Lord may send them, but I do not think they would cheer me up at all.

80.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury if he will state the threat, or possible danger, to Scottish pharmacists which caused the Pharmaceutical Standing Committee (Scotland) to circularise pharmacists in Scotland, advising them to join the panel before 31st December in a letter dated 12th and 13th December, 1912?

No threat was made or authorised by the Scottish Committee to the Scottish pharmacists. In answer to specific inquiries from the Pharmaceutical Standing Committee (Scotland), the Scottish Commissioners explained to them that it would be their duty to authorise the insurance committee to make arrangements for the supply of medicines to insured persons otherwise than through a panel of chemists, if in any area no adequate panel was formed.

Do I understand that there was a threat that they were going to set up a State chemist's shop?

I do not think that there was any suggestion of setting up a chemist's shop. I think they were informed that it is a duty laid upon them by the Act to provide in sonic form or another medicine for every insured person.

81 and 82.

asked the Secretary to the Treasury (1) whether he is aware that in Holbeck, Leeds, there are eight chemists' shops to a population of 50,000 inhabitants, and that only two of the proprietors of these shops have the right of dispensing medicines under the National Insurance Act simply because these two proprietors are members of the Pharmaceutical Society; whether he is aware that the other six proprietors of chemists' shops have for years dispensed the prescriptions of qualified medical practitioners, but that under the National Insurance Act this business is taken away from them unless they dispense under the control or supervision of a member of the Pharmaceutical Society; and, having regard to the danger of such a monopoly, will he arrange that qualified, but unregistered, chemists shall be on local panels with the right to dispense doctors' prescriptions not containing scheduled poisons; and (2) whether he is aware that in the Parliamentary Borough of Oldham there is a population of 211,227 and that the number of chemists to dispense prescriptions on the panel under the National Insurance Act is eight resident and twenty-six non-resident, while in the same borough there are thirty-one resident and eleven non-resident drug-store proprietors Who are debarred from being on the panel for dispensing purposes; and whether, in view of the danger to health and life which these figures indicate, he will arrange for drug-store proprietors, whose business it has been and still is to dispense for doctors in private practice, to be members of the local panels to dispense prescriptions not containing scheduled poisons?

As I stated in reply to a similar question by the hon. Member on the 30th January, it would not be possible to authorise the supply to insured persons of medicines requiring dispensing to be arranged for by other persons than those entitled to make these arrangements under the National Insurance Act. The Commissioners are, however, seeing tomorrow a deputation on this subject.

New Main West Road (Metropolis)

30.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the scheme now before the Road Board to construct, at a cost approaching £2,000,000 sterling, a new main road as an approach to the Metropolis from the west; and whether, having regard to the public interests involved, he will refuse to sanction any such scheme without submitting it to Parliament by a legislative proposal?

No applications have yet been made by the highway authorities concerned to the Road Board for grants towards the construction of a western approach road. It would, therefore, be premature to consider questions of procedure at the present time.

Woodlands (Income Tax)

32.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that persons claiming reimbursement of Income Tax upon woodlands in consequence of the latter resulting in yearly loss to their owners are being informed by the authorities at Somerset House that the fact that an occupier who is an owner derives no profits or incurs a loss is not material except in a case where lands are occupied for husbandry only; whether such decision has his approval; if so, what authority there is for discriminating between agricultural husbandry and other forms of husbandry; and, if the cultivation of underwood is not deemed to be husbandry, whether the owner can claim to be assessed alternatively under Schedule D on realised profits only?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. Woodlands, like other lands, are chargeable to Income Tax, Schedules A and B, under the general rules of those Schedules on their full annual value in their existing condition; but, while relief in case of loss on cultivation is specifically provided for by Statute where lands are occupied for purposes of husbandry only, no such provisions exist with regard to woodlands which have never been regarded as falling within the description of "husbandry." There being no statutory authority to assess woodlands under Schedule D, an owner cannot claim to be charged under that Schedule on realised profits only.

Does that mean that although there may in fact be no annual value in woodlands yet income tax will be charged? Also upon what authority does the right hon. Gentleman say that woodland husbandry is not husbandry?

I never said that woodland husbandry is not husbandry, as the hon. Member will see if he looks at the answer.

Should not the Liberal party give up saying that they are going to assist forestry in this country?

Customs And Excise Department

35.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in the Customs branch of the Customs and Excise Department, a number of officers who were formerly receiving overtime payment at the rate of 2s. an hour have, since the 10th December last, suffered a reduction in rate to 1s. 6d. an hour; whether this is a direct breach of the principles laid down in regard to leave in paragraph 255 of the Amalgamation Committee's Report; whether a present actual loss of 6d. per hour is intended to be compensated for by a future contingent right to an additional 6d. per hour; whether there is any precedent in the Civil Service for such reduction; and will he say, taking into consideration all the circumstances, whether the £10 allowance made to all members of the former classes of Customs second-class examining officers and assistants is designed to cover the actual reduction in overtime rate in the case of the officers referred to?

I have nothing to add to my answers to the hon. Member's question of the 16th December last on this subject.

Increment Value Duty

36.

asked if an owner who had accepted an under-valuation of his house, in the belief that Increment Value Duty would fall only on an increased value of the site, would be subject to the duty in case he sold the house at its true value, but at a price greatly in excess of the official valuation?

In the case of a property being sold at its true value, Increment Value Duty would only be charged on an increased value of the site.

Is true value what would be fetched at a public or private sale or what an official valuer says?

True value is what is agreed on between the owner of the house and the valuation official.

Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the question: Is the true value of the house what it fetches at a public or private sale or what an official valuer would value it at?

The official value, when a valuation is put down and the owner exercises his right of appeal, which afterwards is decided by a Referee, will be the true value of the house.

Is true value in question at all, or has true value nothing to do with valuation nowadays?

I do not understand that question. The value has to be found every day for various purposes. It is found, for example, under the Death Duties Act.

True value for the purpose of Increment Tax is not true value, but Budget value.

True value for the purposes of Increment Tax is true value for every other question for which true value is arrived at.

Price is one thing. It máy be the same as true value or it may be different.

Mid-Scotland Ship Canal

37.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the importance of the proposal for a Mid-Scotland canal, which would accommodate war vessels in passing from the Irish Channel to the North Sea; and whether he is prepared to assist financially a preliminary survey to enable engineers to determine the type of soil or rock which would be met with on the proposed route, or whether such financial assistance might be got from the Development Fund?

52.

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether he will endeavour to secure from the Development Fund a Grant of £900 towards the cost of boring along the route of the projected Mid-Scotland ship canal for the purpose of enabling the engineers to secure the data necessary to form an accurate estimate of the cost of constructing a short and safe route for British shipping for European and American traffic and for the Empire's Navy?

The scheme referred to is so large in its scope and purpose as to suggest the necessity of caution in dealing with even such a preliminary survey as my hon. Friends contemplate. As the purposes covered by the Development Act, however, include the construction and improvement of inland navigations, I should be prepared, on the clear understanding that the Government is in no way committed to approval of any scheme, to consider any arguments which my hon. Friends may wish to lay before me in support of this proposal for a preliminary survey.

Has the right hon. Gentleman collected figures as to the expense of other countries in reference to canals and ascertained how this country compares in that respect?

No. I have not collated those figures. I believe that we have had reports upon the subject.

May I urge the right hon. Gentleman to make the same reply when we ask for a Grant to improve the Trent and Burton canal.

Land Tenure

38.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will have Return prepared from the data secured in connection with land valuation to show by appropriate schedules how the land of Great Britain is held, as was done in the case of Lord Derby's Return?

I presume what my hon. Friend desires is a Landowners' Return such as was printed on page 15 of Lord Derby's Return (C. 1097 of 1875), showing for each county of England and Wales the number of owners below an acre, the number of owners of one acre and upwards, the total number of owners, and the extent of lands occupied by them. My right hon. Friend will consider whether such a Return could not be prepared as soon as the original valuation is completed.

Agricultural Labourers' Cottages

39.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for the Newport Division of Salop, in which it is proposed to lend money at an artificially low rate of interest to landlords to build cottages for agricultural labourers; whether the Treasury have considered this or similar proposals; and whether they have recommended that such proposals would only result in keeping down the wages of the labourers, thus enabling the tenant farmers to pay higher rents?

My attention has been called to the Bill referred to. The Treasury are aware of the objections of the character described in the last part of the question.

What are the objections referred to? Is it not in the interest of workmen that they should be able to get cheap houses?

I cannot discuss the economic question of the effect on wages of giving houses below cost price.

Necessitous School Children (Scotland)

44.

asked the Secretary for Scotland what proportion of the £7,500 granted for the treatment of necessitous school children in Scotland has been allocated to the Highlands and Islands?

There is no formal allocation of the sum in question to the various districts of Scotland. Applications for assistance from this fund were invited from all school boards, and those boards which made application have as a rule had their claims allowed in full.

Free Church Of Scotland

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has received further information regarding the administration of the property allocated to the Free Church of Scotland by the Royal Commission under the Churches (Scotland) Act; whether that information discloses the fact that the Free Church are unable adequately to carry out all the trusts of the property; and, if so, whether he will consider the advisability of introducing legislation to provide for a new allocation of property?

My hon. Friend has sent me certain information which appears to support his contention. I have received no representations from the authorities of the United Free Church on the subject, and I think it premature to add anything to my previous answers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the "Monthly Record" of the Free Church of Scotland for January of this year the Church authorities state that there is only one minister available for every two congregations and stations, and will he not take facts like that into account in insisting that this Church should live up to its trusts?

I will take all relevant facts into account, and one of the most relevant of all, the United Free Church.

May I ask whether, in the event of a new allocation of these religious endowments being necessary, it is proposed to allot them to the county councils and the museums in Scotland?

Is the Prime Minister aware that the limitation in the Church of Scotland Act, 1906, has been recognised in Scotland as a permanent limitation; and may I ask whether, though under the Act of 1906, it is quite true that the vacant charges in the Free Church of Scotland number 146, and that number has been gradually decreasing since that time—

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are only eight students finishing their term in the Free Church now, and that only four of these are bi-lingual.

Land Reform

46.

asked if the Prime Minister will make a statement as to the position of the Government in the matter of land reform?

The Government are giving the question of land reform careful consideration.

Does the right hon. Gentleman endorse the statements recently made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the National Liberal Club?

Friendly Societies Act

47.

asked whether the Prime Minister will consider the advisability of introducing a Bill to amend the Friendly Societies Act, with a view to simplifying the machinery and giving the Registrar larger powers of control and administration?

I do not at present see any necessity for such amending legislation, but I am prepared to consider any points which the hon. Member may wish to bring to my notice.

Fatal Motor Car Accident (Barnes)

46.

asked whether the Prime Minister's attention has been drawn to the case of John Williams, acquitted at the Old Bailey on the 7th February, on a charge of the manslaughter of a lady at Barnes on the 7th December; that Williams admitted he knocked down the lady and did not stop the car; whether, seeing the car was travelling, according to the police, at thirty to forty miles an hour, he will say what steps he proposes taking, if any, to afford protection to His Majesty's subjects; and whether, seeing the large number of persons killed and injured by motor vehicles, he will now appoint a Royal Commission to report on the question of motor traffic, with a view to prevent this loss of life?

The Prime Minister has asked me to reply to this question. My attention has been drawn to the verdict of the jury in the case referred to, but I am not prepared to draw any conclusions from the result of a single trial. At the present time a Select Committee of this House is inquiring into the causes of street accidents, and nothing would be gained by appointing a Royal Commission.

Is it not the fact that the Committee at present sitting is only dealing with accidents in London, and that is has no reference to the country generally. With regard to the first answer given by the right hon. Gentleman, is he aware that the right hon. Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long). when he introduced the Bill of 1903, gave a definite pledge to the house that it was only a temporary measure, until motor traffic had further developed?

No doubt my hon. Friend is right in what he states, but it had escaped my memory. As regards the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, it is quite true that the investigations of the Committee relate only to London.

Has my Constituency, and have other constituencies in the country, no interest in this subject?

Oh, yes; there is great interest, but we would rather hear what the Committee have to say upon the first reference.

Several people have been killed in my district, and that interests them.

Small Landholders (Scotland) Act

49.

asked the Secretary for Scotland if he can say why there are only 550 applicants for land under the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act from twenty-five counties in Scotland, whereas there are 532 in Argyllshire; and why in the distinctively agricultural counties of Aberdeen, Forfar, Stirling, Selkirk, Kincardine, Banff, Linlithgow, Berwick, Haddington, Kinross, and Nairn, there were only ninety-three up to the 31st December, 1912?

Differences in the number of applications arise from a variety of local circumstances, but it may be that the applications from the crofting counties, of which Argyllshire is one, are more numerous because the benefits of landholding legislation have been experienced there since the Crofters Act, 1886.

Does my right hon. Friend not think that the deficiency in the applications in the counties I have mentioned is due to the fact that the necessary advertisements have not been made?

Is not another possible explanation that in these distinctly agricultural counties they are practical agriculturists who do not think much of the Bill?

50.

asked if, in view of the evidence given before the Land Court as to the depredations by deer, the Secretary for Scotland proposes to introduce legislation for the more adequate protection of small holders?

I would remind my hon. Friend that the Government has already legislated on this subject, both in Section 9 of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1908, and in Section 10 (3) of the Small Landholders Act, 1911. The effect of the latter provision is that damages claimed by a small holder suffering from the depredations of deer are assessed by the Land Court instead of by arbitration. In view of this recent provision it would be premature to propose further legislation at the present time.

Trawling (Scotland)

51.

asked whether the right hon. Gentleman will instruct the Fishery Board for Scotland to send an inspector with the trawlers to see and to report on the actual effect, of trawling and immature fish, as has been done by the English Fishery Board?

I have already communicated with the Fishery Board to that effect.

Sheriff Clerks' Deputes (Scotland)

53.

asked the Lord Advocate whether his attention has been called to the case of Mr. Macrae, who has been a clerk for twenty-nine years in the office of the sheriff clerk at Perth, but who has now become blind and has been forced to resign his office; whether he is aware that, although Macrae has been in the service of the State for such a long time, no fund exists out of which to pay him any honorarium or pension; will he make representations to the Treasury on behalf of this administration of the law in Scotland; and will he introduce legislation in the incoming Session dealing with the position and emoluments of the sheriff clerks' deputes and their assistants?

The answer to the first and second parts of my hon. Friend's question is in the affirmative. In answer to the third and fourth parts of the question, I refer my hon. Friend to the answers given by me to my hon. Friends the Members for the Wick Burghs and for Ross and Cromarty on the 1st August last

Is blindness a disqualification for judicial office, and is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a man who was blind for fifteen years justified his retention of his position on the ground that justice is proverbially blind?

Small Holdings

34.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the fact that the present system of rating small holder's improvements is making the administration of the Small Holdings Act difficult; and whether he contemplates relieving progressive agriculture from the burden of the present rates upon improvements?

I have no information as to the first part of the question. My right hon. Friend is unable to make a statement as to any contemplated legislation on the rating system.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture made that statement in this House some days ago?

54.

asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether his Department is considering the possibility of establishing a system of Rent Courts for fixing the rents and tenure of agricultural land; and, if so, whether they will bear in mind that agricultural experts now hold that it is not desirable to perpetuate the large grazing farms of the present day, and that it may therefore be undesirable to create a tenant right in such large holdings?

The Board are always ready to consider any proposal likely to affect the agricultural industry, and all relevant facts and opinions will be borne in mind.

55.