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Written Answers

Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1922

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Written Answers


Garston Scheme, Liverpool

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is aware of the decision of Mr. Justice Branson, on 25th August, 1921, that the Corporation of Liverpool had overpaid about £300,000 to the contractors for the Garston housing scheme; whether the inquiry into this matter, to be held in Liverpool on the 19th instant, will be public;(2) whether the contractors for the Garston housing scheme are proceeding with their contract; and, if not, what steps his Department is taking with regard to the £300,000 overpaid to the said contractors; whether the Liverpool Corporation proposes to make arrangements with another building company regarding the Garston contract and whether he will take steps to prevent a fresh contract being proceeded with before the Ministry's inspector has reported regarding the overpayment of the £300,000?

I am aware of the fact of this overpayment, and I have given directions for a public inquiry into it by the Inspector of Audits for the district, which opens on the 19th instant. Pending the receipt of his Report, I propose to defer decision on it. As regards further progress with the scheme I am not yet aware of the proposals of the Liverpool Corporation, but I should naturally desire to avoid any postponement of the completion of a much needed housing scheme.

Ex-Service Men (Mortgage Interest)

asked the Minister of Health whether municipal corporations are allowed to charge £2 per cent. in case of monthly repayments and £5 per cent. in the case of weekly repayments for administrative charges on mortgages granted to ex-soldiers who have purchased houses under municipal housing schemes; and whether, in view of the reduction in the bank rate, consideration can now be given to ex-soldiers for the reduction of interest on mortgages from 6½ to 5½ per cent.?

In the case of houses sold on mortgage payable by monthly or weekly instalments, local authorities, with my approval, may make a charge (to cover administrative expenses) equivalent to 2 per cent. of the instalments for monthly instalments and 5 per cent. for weekly instalments. In the case of a purchase over 20 years by monthly instalments, the charge would amount to 3s. 8d. per cent. per annum of the capital. In view of the fall in the rates of interest for new loans, I have already agreed that the rate of interest on mortgages in respect of sales effected since the 1st April may be calculated at 5½ per cent. per annum.

Local Authorities (Surcharges)

asked the Minister of Health what is the number of surcharges made by the auditors of the Ministry of Health upon members of local authorities in the past two years; in how many cases has application been made to remit the surcharge; and in how many cases has the Ministry of Health remitted the surcharge?

The number of disallowances and surcharges made by the district auditors in the accounts of local authorities during the two years ended 31st March, 1922, was 3,221. In nearly 90 per cent. of the cases (namely, 2,834) the amounts disallowed and surcharged were refunded by the persons concerned, and appeals were made to me against the district auditor's decision in only 387 cases. I upheld the auditor's decision in 356 cases, and granted remission in 339 of these.

Poor Law Institutions

asked the Minister of Health if he has received from certain boards of guardians and other local authorities a request to promote legislation with a view to enabling statutory forms to be altered by substituting the terms mental patient for pauper lunatic, mental hospital for lunatic asylum, and institution for workhouse; and if he is disposed to take the proposal into favourable consideration?

Representations in this sense have been received and the suggestion will be considered whenever any general revision of the Lunacy Acts is undertaken.

Local Administration (Defaulting Authorities)

asked the Minister of Health whether he will take steps to secure the power to supersede local authorities who refuse to carry out the duties imposed upon them by the Legislature?

I hope that it will not be necessary to take such powers. Should the necessity arise, I should be prepared to submit proposals to Parliament.

Unemployment Insurance

Benefit (Amount Paid)

asked the Minister of Labour whether a number of women who were unemployed for several weeks before the engineering lock-out commenced, and who drew Unemployment Benefit during the dispute, have now had their benefit stopped, on the ground that their unemployment is now due to a trade dispute: and if such an instruction was issued from his Department?

So far as I am aware, benefit has not been disallowed on account of the trade dispute in cases where claimants definitely lost their employment before the dispute. If my hon. Friend will give me particulars of the women to whom be refers I will have inquiries made.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the amounts paid out in Unemployment Benefit for each of the last six months; whether the existing financial arrangements permit of the continuance throughout the summer of this rate of payment without further provision both by the State and by the contributories; and, if not, what action he proposes to take?

The amount paid out in Unemployment Benefit (including Dependent's Grants) for each of the last six months for which figures are available is as follows:

December (5 pay weeks)6,217,000
March (5 pay weeks)5,760,000
I have no reason to suppose that I shall not be able to carry out the provision contemplated by the Act passed last April, without further demand upon the three parties contributory to the fund.

Cost Of Administration

asked the Minister of Labour how much per payment to members drawing benefit the cost of administering the Insurance Act, Part II, through the exchanges, works out at?

During the financial year 1921–1922 the approximate cost of administering the Unemployment Insurance Acts at exchanges and elsewhere (including services rendered by other Departments and the payments made to associations administering State benefit) divided by the number of payments made during the year would show a cost of 1s. 2d. per payment. The total cost referred to covers all work under the Acts, including the collection and recording of contributions, the determination and payment of claims, and the testing of claims by the offer of suitable employment. The approximate total cost of administration involved as above is 25,150,000, of which sum approximately 23,635,000 is borne by the Unemployment Fund.

Jute Trade Board

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that there is a vacancy on the workers' side of the Jute Trade Board, Great Britain; and, if so, what steps, if any, are being taken to obtain nominations for the vacancy?

I am aware of the vacancy upon the workers' side of the Jute Trade Board. I have invited the Scottish Council of Textile Trades Unions to nominate a representative of workers in the trade with a view to an appointment to fill the vacancy.

Court Of Referees, Newcastle-Under-Lyme

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has had complaints as to the attendance at the Court of Referees for the Newcastle-under-Lyme and North Staffordshire area; whether anything can be done to secure proper representation on these Courts and to replace those who do not attend by persons who will do so; whether he is aware that the divisional inspector promised to supply the Trades and Labour Council with these particulars but has not yet done so; and what action he proposes to take?

I am making inquiry in this matter, and will communicate the result to my hon. and gallant Friend as soon as possible.

Fishing Vessels

asked the Minister of Agriculture the total number of fishing vessels registered in the British Isles; and how many of such vessels are lying up in British ports, exclusive of such vessels as are undergoing refitting and repairs?

22,277 vessels of 348,406 net tons were on the Fishing Boats Register on 31st December, 1920, at ports in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, and Isle of Man. The figures for 31st December, 1921, are not yet available. As regards the number of fishing vessels which are lying up in British ports, I would refer to the reply given by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries on the 12th June to the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Royce).

Ordnance Maps

asked the Minister of Agriculture why the item for impressions of the one-inch or smaller scale maps, printed direct from the copper-plate, has been withdrawn from the catalogue of Ordnance Survey productions, though there is a demand for such impressions by an influential section of the public; whether the copperplates are still in existence and in such condition as to make it possible for the Survey Department to supply these prints; and whether he will give instructions that this particular form of map shall again appear in the catalogue at an early date?

The item referred to has been withdrawn from the catalogue of Ordnance Survey productions as a result of an investigation made by the Ministry in 1914 into the number of forms of the one-inch scale map. There were then five forms of this scale map, a number of which tended to confuse buyers and sellers alike and interfered with the sales. There will, in future, be two forms only, both in large sheets, one coloured and one in outline. In my opinion the needs of those who require an outline map have been fully met by the issue of the edition printed from zinc, which was approved by the chief representative engineering: bodies in the country. The copper-plates of the previously issued one-inch maps are still in existence, but it would be unwise and costly to revert to their issue, and I am not prepared, therefore, to give instructions of the nature suggested by the hon. Member.

Royal Air Force (Outfit Allowance)

asked the Secretary of State for Air if his attention has been drawn to the hardship caused to those officers joining the Air Force whose outfit allowance is granted on a reduced scale if they have had any previous service in other branches of the forces; whether account is taken of the fact that the previous uniform may have been quite worn out or may be quite unsuitable in design, such as is the case where previous service was in the Royal Navy or Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve; and whether he is prepared to make concessions in such cases?

Outfit allowance is given on an officer's first joining the Service; all subsequent upkeep has to be met by the officer himself. The officers referred to in the question were not joining for the first time, and it is not admitted that they experienced hardship in receiving a special or reduced rate of outfit allowance as compared with officers who continue in their original service and may have to renew their uniform completely more than once when worn out without receiving any fresh allowance. The question of the allowance to be given in these cases was very fully considered when the scales were fixed, and a further concession cannot be made.

Married Women (Presumption Of Coercion)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the British law of coercion in respect to the wife is adopted in the various courts in the different parts of the British Empire; and, if not, what law is followed in this respect?

As regards the Self-Governing Dominions, I could not undertake to set forth the law that is followed on such a point without consultation with the Governments concerned. In many Colonies English common and statute law in force at comparatively recent dates has been applied, and where this is the case it may be assumed that the doctrine of coercion extends also unless subsequent legislation in any particular Colony has abolished it. In other Colonies, however, the foundation of the local systems of law is not English law but some other code, and I cannot undertake to pronounce an opinion as to whether this doctrine forms a part of the various systems concerned which include Roman Law, Roman Dutch Law, the Indian Penal Code, the Code Napoleon and Ottoman Law, to mention a few instances.

Telephone Service (Middle Class Union)

asked the Postmaster-General whether he has issued an official inquiry to all London telephone exchanges asking whether any branches of the Middle Classes' Union exist in the neighbourhood served by each exchange; whether the inquiry refers to the body now known as the National Citizens' Union; and, if so, why special consideration and attention are being given to a political organisation of that character?

Russia (Japanese Troops)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any further statement on the situation in Eastern Siberia and the maritime province; and whether the Japanese Government have yet commenced to withdraw their troops from Russian soil?

M. Merkuloff's administration was reported to have been overthrown at the beginning of June and a new Provisional Government to have been set up at Vladivostok, of which General Dietrichs has been elected President. The Japanese still occupy Vladivostok and the surrounding district, Northern Saghalien, and points on the mainland opposite the island. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative.

Italy And Spain (Import Duties)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether attention is being continuously directed to the enhanced tariffs in Italy and Spain, which are injuriously affecting the manufacturers of engines and machinery in this country; whether he is aware that in Italy tariffs against British-made oil engines have been increased by over 20 per cent. above the pre-War amount: and what practical action the Government has taken or intends to take in this matter?

The answer to the first and second parts of the question is in the affirmative. His Majesty's Government have made representations to the Italian. Government in regard to the greatly increased duties now leviable on certain British goods (including oil engines), while as regards Spain, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given him on the 23rd May.

Government Hospitality Fund

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the annual grant made to the Government Hospitality Fund; how much has been spent out of such grant in each of the last two financial years; and whether any arrangement exists by which money not spent can be carried forward into subsequent years?

The Government Hospitality Fund receives money from the Exchequer as a grant-in-aid, and any balance unspent at the end of a financial yer is not surrendered to the Exchequer, but is carried forward into the next year. There is no fixed annual grant to the fund, but an estimate is presented to Parliament, when necessary, for the amount required to cover expenditure in the forthcoming financial year, less whatever balance may be in hand. No such Estimate was necessary in 1920–21 or 1921–22. The balance in the fund on the 31st March, 1920, was £164,567, the expenditure in 1920–21 was £32,524 and in 1921–22 approximately £73,600. In addition, in view of the size of the balance at, the end of 1920–21, which was more than sufficient for current requirements, the sum of £35,000 was surrendered to the Exchequer in March, 1921.

Income Tax And Super-Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much of the estimated reduction in the revenue from Income Tax for the current year as compared with the preceding year is due to the exclusion of the revenue of Southern Ireland; and how much of the estimated reduction in the revenue for Super-tax is due to the same cause?

If the Budget Estimate of Income Tax and Super-tax for 1922–23 had been framed for the United Kingdom as a whole without exclusion of Southern Ireland, it would have been increased by £5,250,000 (£4,420,000 Income Tax and £830,000 Super-tax).

Honours (Women)

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government, in advising His Majesty on the conferment of honours for services to the State, will in future sympathetically consider the claims of women of distinction, in view of the fact that such recent honours have practically been confined to men only?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to a question on this subject on the 29th June last, to which I have nothing to add.

Canadian Cattle Embargo

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he can now fix the day for the discussion of the suggested raising of the embargo on Canadian cattle; and whether, prior to the Debate, any further official statement will be issued by the Government dealing with considerations of national policy on the matter?

As I said on Monday, I had hoped to fix a day between the Committee and Report stages of the Finance Bill, but I have received representations that that week would be inconvenient to the Labour party on account of the meeting of their Annual Conference. The next week is the week of the Royal Agricultural. Show and would be equally inconvenient to many county Members. I propose, therefore, to try to fix the discussion on some day in the week beginning 10th July. The question of the publication of a statement containing a summary of the relevant facts is under consideration.