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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 161: debated on Wednesday 14 March 1923

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Mexico

2. 3, and 4.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he has invited the British Representatives of the Bankers' Committee, which arrived at a settlement with the Mexican Government, to furnish him with a report of the proceedings; whether, in view of the interest displayed by hon. Members in this matter, he would cause such report to be printed;

(2) whether, with a view to regularising our relations with Mexico, he will now appoint a Minister Plenipotentiary to that country;

(3) whether he is aware that certain bonds of the Huerta Government of Mexico, known as the De Kay bonds, were not included, owing to their doubtful legality, in the settlement arrived at between the Mexican Government and the Committee of International Bankers; and whether it is the policy of the Foreign Office to insist upon the recognition of bonds, the validity of which has not been upheld by the Bankers' Committee, previous to according official recognition to Mexico?

5.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Govern- ment still declines to enter into an agreement with the Mexican Government to set up a mixed Commission to examine and adjudicate upon claims made by British citizens, on the grounds that the Mexican Government will not consent to certain bonds issued by the Huerta Government being taken into consideration; whether he is aware that the legality of these bonds has always been disputed by successive Mexican Governments; and whether he will see that the satisfaction of just claims is not prejudiced by an insistence on claims which have been disputed by all Mexican Governments?

With the hon. Members' permission, I will circulate the reply to these four questions in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The claims agreement which was pro posed by His Majesty's Government to the Mexican Government was, in substance, identical with similar agreements, under which satisfactory settlements of claims by and against other foreign countries have been secured. It applied equally to claims by British nationals against the Mexican Government, and by Mexican nationals against His Majesty's Government. The negotiations broke down at the end of 1922 because the Mexican Government demanded recognition before any Commission was set up, and insisted on the exclusion of certain categories of claims from the purview of the Commission. Among these categories were claims arising out of expropriations carried out under the Mexican agrarian laws, and also those of the British holders of certain issues of bonds, including the Mexican National Packing Company, or De Kay bonds, which the Mexican Government did not recognise. His Majesty's Government cannot accept the repudiation of these issues, but consider that the liability, or otherwise, of the Mexican Government is a question which should be submitted, in the same way as other claims, to the proposed Commission, the whole object of which is to obtain an impartial decision about claims which are not recognised by one or other of the Governments concerned. The responsibility for the breakdown of the negotiations on this ground, therefore, as on the other grounds which I have mentioned, rests wholly with the Mexican Government.

The agreement concluded last year between the Mexican Government and and the International Bankers' Committee has been published, and copies have also been communicated to the Foreign Office. The Committee was a purely private organisation for which His Majesty's Government have never accepted any responsibility. It is, therefore, not proposed to print their report officially. The appointment of a Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico would imply recognition of the present Mexican Government, which His Majesty's Govern-are at present unable to grant.

Egypt (Law And Order)

6.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the failure of martial law in Egypt, the Government will entrust to an Egyptian Government the task of maintaining law and order; and whether, in order that a government may be established in Egypt which has the confidence of the Egyptian people, it will release Zaghloul Pasha?

When an Egyptian Ministry has undertaken the task of government and has shown its ability to maintain law and order, the Noble Lord's suggestion may be considered.

What steps are being taken to give the Egyptian Government an opportunity of showing that it can keep law and order?

If the hon. and gallant Member had been in the House recently he would have heard a number of explanations.

Passports

7.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether there is any penalty for using a passport out of date, or whether it is open to any British subject living abroad to return to England with an out-of-date passport; and whether, seeing that, as it is possible for any British subject to leave England at the present time without a passport or with an old passport, the rules for renewal have practically been abrogated, the Government will immediately arrange for a public statement that these rules are no longer in force?

The possession of a passport is not necessary for leaving the United Kingdom, but British subjects proceeding abroad require valid passports in order to conform to the. Regulations of the countries they desire to visit. Failure to comply with these Regulations may involve great personal inconvenience and the probability of being refused admission. As regards the entry of British subjects into the United Kingdom a passport is not compulsory, although, as has been frequently staled, the possession of a valid passport is a great convenience, as it enables the holder to secure admission without delay. Under existing Regulations which are based on the recommendations of the Paris Conference of 1920, British passports are available for two years only. They may be renewed for four further periods of two years. The hon. Member will be aware from my reply to his question on the 5th instant that the question of extending the period of validity of British passports is under consideration.

North Sea Convention(Trawling)

8.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can state the territorial limits claimed, respectively, by the various Powers' signatories to the. North Sea Convention of 1882, and within which trawling by vessels belonging to other nationalities is prohibited?

All the signatories of the North Sea Fisheries Convention of 6th May, 1882, claim a three-mile limit of territorial waters for fishery purposes.

Peace Treaties

Hungarian Reparation

9.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Reparations Commission has yet apportioned the general liability in respect of the secured pre-War debt of the former kingdom of Hungary in accordance with the provisions of Article 186 of the Treaty of Trianon; and, if so, will he request the Reparations Commission to fix without further delay the date upon which the liability is to be assumed by the successor States of Hungary, seeing that the question of date has now been standing open for a year and a half?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The Reparation Commission have now decided that the date from which the liability is to be assumed by the successor States is the 1st July, 1919.

German Reparation

55.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the Note of the French Foreign Office on 8th March, according to which the German ambassador at Paris, at the time of the Paris Conference, on 2nd January, declared that he had received instructions to inform M. Poincaré in an official manner that his Government had drawn up a plan to settle the reparation question, and had obtained assurances of the help of the representatives of German industry and finance for the carrying out of the programme thus elaborated, and that the German Government asked to be allowed to submit this plan to the meeting of the Allied Ministers; and why this plan was not considered by the Paris Conference and has never been considered by His Majesty's Government?

I am not clear to what Note of the French Foreign Office the hon. Member is referring, but the British Government have published full particulars of the Paris Conference, and., as regards this statement of the German Ambassador at Paris and the action of the Conference thereon, I would refer the hon. Member to Command Paper 1812, page 68.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of formally inviting the German Government to explain this offer which was not explained, together with such conditions as may he laid down for the offer being re-made?

For the reasons I have already given, I do not think there would be any advantage in taking such a step at present.

Was the offer that. Herr Bergmann brought to Paris ever laid before the British representatives in Paris?

Russia

British Citizen's Arrest (J Martin)

13.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that over six months have elapsed since the British agent at Moscow was instructed to demand of the Russian Government an explanation of their conduct in imprisoning from the 7th November, 1919, to 6th March, 1920, the British citizen, Mr. Joseph Martin, now blind as a result of his imprisonment, he can say what measures the Government is prepared to-take to secure the explanation without further delay?

His Majesty's Government have not relaxed their efforts to obtain the desired explanation, but have so far been unsuccessful. Beyond continuing these efforts on the lines hitherto-pursued, His Majesty's Government do not see what other measures they could usefully adopt.

Trade Representatives In England

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the statement of M. Latvinoff that His Majesty's Government are now refusing to admit to this country Russian buyers and sellers, representative of economic organisations, unless voucher? for by particular English firms, thereby committing them in advance to dealing with these particular firms; and what is the reason for this restriction?

I have been asked to reply. I have not seen the statement to which the hon. Member refers. No such restriction as is suggested is imposed on the admission of bonâ fide Russian buyers and sellers who desire to visit this country under the terms of the Trade Agreement with Russia.

German Officers

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any evidence that German officers are rendering assistance in the development of the Russian army based on a Russo-German understanding with regard to an anti-French policy; and whether, in the new circumstances, he contemplates any change in the British policy towards Russia?

Although it is known that a few German individuals are employed in military institutions in Russia, His Majesty's Government have no information to the effect that their employment is based on any such Russo-German understanding. The second part of the question, therefore, does not arise.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Russian official authorities have denied the existence of any military collaboration with Germany?

France And Ruhr District

British Travellers

14.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether British subjects are allowed to enter and travel in the Ruhr district now occupied by the French whether the ordinary German visa or British passport is sufficient for entry into this district or whether in addition any French visa or permission is required; and, as part of the district includes many places in the Rhino district visited by British travellers, can he make any statement on the subject?

No foreign visa but a special endorsement granted by the British Passport Office or a British consular officer abroad is required on a British passport to permit the holder to enter occupied German territory. So far as I am aware, the French authorities have not imposed any conditions on the entry or movement of British subjects in the districts recently occupied by them. On account of the disorganisation of the railway services in the occupied areas and the consequent delays and discomforts to which travellers have been subjected, it has been decided, on the advice of His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin and the High Commissioner at Coblenz, that permission for British subjects to proceed to the occupied territory should under existing circumstances only be granted for important business or for reasons of exceptional urgency.

British Naval Forces

20.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any British naval forces are employed on the Rhine in the British area of occupation; if so, will he state how many and what craft are used; and can he state what naval forces and craft are employed on the Rhine by the French and Belgian Governments?

Five British motor launches are employed on the Rhine in the British area of occupation. France is employing 5 river gunboats, 2 submarine chasers and 9 Vedette boats, and Belgium 15 motor launches, 2 steam launches and 9 small tugs.

Unemployment

Benefit

26.

asked the Minister of Labour if he can give the numbers affected by the gap in unemployment benefit in the month of February, 1923, of the following: Married men, married women, single women, single men, boys and girls, respectively, between 16 and 18 years of age, and boys and girls, respectively, between 18 and 21 years of age; and will he arrange to have a monthly statement issued showing the figures for each category in each week of the month?

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the numbers of men, women, boys and girls respectively, who had exhausted benefit up to 26th February. Similar figures will be available week by week, but a sub- division of the figures into the categories mentioned in the question could not be made without what I fear would be excessive labour.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is already done in at least one of the Exchanges of Scotland, for the benefit of the manager of the Exchange? Could it not be extended?

It is, of course, possible to do it in one particular Exchange, but, obviously, when you apply it all over England the work that is entailed is very much increased.

In the information to be circulated, will the right hon. Gentleman give us the numbers affected by the gap? He is giving the information as to exhausted benefit.

The figures are lengthy, and I am circulating them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

In his reply, the right hon. Gentleman has stated that he is circulating the figures relating to those who have exhausted benefit. The figures I want are as to those who are affected by the gap.

I am circulating information as to the number affected by the gap, thought it was a rather different point that was put by the hon. Member.

Following 'is the statement referred to:

At 26th February, the numbers who had exhausted the maximum benefit permissible under the existing Acts:

Men25,081
Women2,343
Boys (aged 16 to 18)282
Girls (aged 16 to 18)132

In addition, the following numbers had been refused further benefit by the local employment committees before reaching the maximum:

Men9,795
Women3,800
Boys (aged 16 to 18)1,177
Girls (aged 16 to 18)716

Contributions And Benefit (Certifiedcopies)

27.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that persons who are called upon to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance have no direct and written evidence as to the amount standing to their credit; and will he make arrangements for this to be done on lines similar to that which is done in connection with Health Insurance, namely, by each contributor having in his or her possession a record card?

Under the Unemployment Insurance scheme provision is already made for any insured contributor to be supplied on demand with a certified copy of his contributions and benefit. This provision is widely known and utilised, and I doubt whether any commensurate advantage would be gained by placing on the unemployment fund the expense of issuing such notification in all cases.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of trade and labour councils are extremely anxious about this point, because they have had a lot of complaints made to them?

I am aware that on occasion complaint has been made, but I think that if the procedure I indicate is adopted, there is no substantial ground for the complaints suggested.

Allotment Holders

29.

asked the Minister of Labour whether instructions have been issued by his Department that unemployed persons who are allotment holders, and who work their allotments during the day, are to be deprived of unemployment pay; and, if so, for what reason have such instructions been issued?.

As stated in my answer to the hon. Member for Stratford on the 7th March last, I am not aware-of any cases of the kind referred to, but I will make inquiry if particulars can be furnished.

Jute Industry Dispute (Dundee)

30.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that there is a strike amongst women jute workers in Dundee due to the introduction of an improvement in machinery which is to displace one in every three workers concerned, thus adding to the unemployed; and whether such persons will be eligible for the unemployment benefit?

I am aware of the dispute. Claims to benefit made by the spinners concerned have been disallowed by the Insurance Officer on the ground of the trade dispute disqualification laid down in Section 8 (1) of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920. It is open to the claimants to appeal to the Court of Referees if they wish to do so. Claims to benefit made by other classes of workers affected are still under consideration.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that we have a contribution towards relieving unemployment, decided on after discussion in this House; and can he state what are we prepared to do in a case like that to which I have drawn attention, a case which is not due to any economic conditions but simply to an improvement in machinery? Since we do not apply intelligence to production, how can we expect anything else, but that improvements in machinery will produce un-employment.

Domestic Service

33.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will institute an inquiry into the conditions affecting domestic service, in order that the objections raised by those who would be available for such service and the difficulties of those who are unable to obtain such service may be investigated, with a view to bringing about an adjustment that would be beneficial to all concerned?

I have been considering action on the lines indicated by the hon. Member, and I hope to be able to make a, statement on the subject at an early date.

Has this not already been done by the women's committee on unemployment?

I do not think so. The work of the Central Employment Committee is for the purpose of training, not for the purpose of holding inquiries of this kind.

Agricultural Labourers

34.

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the Government Bill granting improved treatment for normally insured workers now unemployed, he can state what special steps are being taken to assist agricultural labourers who are in extreme destitution?

Agricultural labourers cannot, of course, be assisted out of the Unemployment Fund, to which they are not contributors. I may mention, however, that special steps have been taken to promote relief schemes in rural areas by means of grants from the Ministry of Agriculture for land drainage and water supply schemes, from the Forestry Commission for schemes of afforestation, and from the Unemployment Grants Committee for improvements in unclassified roads.

Is the right hon. Gentleman considering the question of including agricultural labourers in the Insurance Bill?

I have received no requests from the agricultural labourers themselves, or from the agricultural interests, that they should be so included.

Glasgow

50.

asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been directed to the fact that the numbers of unemployed in Glasgow have increased during the past year, while the number of men employed on relief work has decreased, and that no work has been provided for women; will he say what steps he has taken to carry out his promise to the deputation on unemployment which met him on December last in Glasgow; and will he state when the schemes then promised will be started?

With regard to the first part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by the Minister of Labour on the 8th March to a question by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). As the hon. Member is aware, relief works do not provide suitable employment for women, although of course in many cases they benefit indirectly by the schemes guaranteed by the Trade Facilities Committee.

With regard to the second part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a question by the hon. Member for Mary-hill (Mr. Muir) on the 5th March.

With regard to the last part of the question, it is not possible to say exactly when schemes will be started as that must depend upon the completion of surveys and upon the local authorities concerned. I may add, however, that the plans and schemes for the Glasgow-Duntocher-Bowling road have been completed and tenders for the construction works are being invited shortly.

Boards Of Guardians (Loans)

75.

asked the Minister of Health why the loans to boards of guardians to enable the payment of outdoor relief to unemployed persons are limited to big industrial areas; whether he is aware that, as a result, in some districts unemployed who have fallen into the gap are practically starving; and will he cause an immediate inquiry to be made into the subject?

While it is usually in large industrial areas that expenditure on the relief of unemployed persons has been so large as to render it necessary that part of the charge should be met by borrowing, it is not the case that other boards of guardians are refused authority to borrow moneys for this purpose. If the hon. Member will give me particulars of any case which he has in mind I shall be glad to inquire into it.

Royal Navy

Government Contractors (Poplar)

17.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether Messrs. Green, Silley, and Weir, and Messrs. Fletcher, Son, and Fearnall, of Poplar, are on the Government's list of contractors doing ships' repairs and engineering work; and whether either of these firms have recently done any work for the Government or are now doing any work; for the Government?

Both firms are noted in the list of firms eligible to carry out ship-repair work for the Admiralty. The Admiralty have not had occasion to utilise their services for some time past, except that a small order has recently been carried out by Messrs. Fletcher, Son, and Fearnall.

Clasps

19.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that the grant of the clasps for the Royal Navy sanctioned by His Majesty in 1920 are still delayed; can he say if such delay is due to waiting for the Army or to expense; if the latter, if the delay would be obviated if officers and men paid for such clasps; and if he can give the approximate cost of such clasps?

23.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty whether it is yet settled what clasps are to be issued for Naval service during the War; and, if so, when are they to be issued?

The conditions governing the award of Naval clasps are laid down in Admiralty Fleet Order 2051 of 1920, but all action as to their free issue has been suspended owing to the urgent necessity for economy. The sale of clasps is considered undesirable. The total cost, including the issuing of Naval clasps is estimated at £120,000.

Is it a fact that the delay is due to the junior Service standing in the way, the cost to the junior Service being £1,500,000?

Of course there is always a prime necessity for the two Services working together in the matter

Is it not a fact that His Majesty has approved of the Naval clasps, and that the Army clasps are not as yet being considered? Is the Navy to wait until the Army demand is accepted?

Artificer-Apprentices

21.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if the artificer-apprentices who are now being discharged and who are to be taken on in the Royal Air Force will be allowed to engage for long service; will they be fully-fledged tradesmen after serving in the Royal Air Force and will the Admiralty take them back as engine-room artificers in the event of there being vacancies?

These artificer-apprentices will be transferred to the Royal Air Force to serve the un-expired part of their 12 years' engagement in the Navy. The answer to the second part of the question is in the affirmative. With regard to the third part of the question these men will transfer to the Royal Air Force for the purpose of serving in that Force, and the question of re-entry in the Royal Navy will not arise.

Does my hon. and gallant Friend mean that all these apprentices will be accepted into the Air Force?

I hope so, but I am not in a position to give quite a definite answer.

Commissioned Wardmasters

24.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Admiralty will now consider the appointment of commissioned ward-masters as secretaries to the surgeon rear-admirals at Plymouth and Portsmouth, respectively, in view of the fact that this would mean economy and would facilitate promotion from the sick-berth staff to warrant rank?

I will look into the question raised and let my Noble Friend know the result, but I may say at once that the new arrangements suggested would be considerably more expensive than the arrangements now in force.

Ex-Service Men

King's Roll

31.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will consider, in conjunction with the King's Roll National Council, the advisability of publishing a list of all those local authorities employing a staff of inure than 20 persons who are not on the King's Roll.

I have arranged to place this suggestion before the King's Roll National Council at their next meeting.

What effect has the question of the King's Roll had upon employment by local authorities throughout the United Kingdom?

I think it is probably rather too early to say what the effects have been.

Are we to understand that if the Council of the King's Roll desire that these names should be published, the Minister will immediately take steps to publish them?

Ministry Of Labour, Kew

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether, owing to the acute state of unrest which exists at Kew amongst ex-service civil servants, he can give the House any further information as to the inquiries which he has made, and thus avert further trouble; and if he is satisfied that all temporary women still retained are genuine hardship cases.

The discharges— both of men and women—which have been effected at the Kew office have been made because of a falling off in the volume of work to be done. In making the discharges, the possibility of retaining as many ex-service men as possible has been kept in mind, and arrangements have been made for all the temporary clerical work to be performed by ex-service men and not by women. No temporary women are retained except those engaged on routine and semi-manipulative work which, in accordance with the Lytton Report and the practice throughout the Government Service and in business houses, is more appropriately performed by women. A searching examination was made some time ago into the family circumstances of every temporary woman employed at Kew, and I am satisfied that all the women now retained were at that date entirely dependent on their earnings, and in many cases had others dependent on them. I have, however, arranged for a further investigation of a similar nature to be made immediately, and if it can be shown that any of the women now retained are not entirely dependent on their earnings at Kew, their services will be dispensed with. The Joint Substitution Board has full particulars of all the ex-service men who have been discharged from Kew, and will make every possible effort to find them posts in other Government Departments.

Housing

Condemned Houses

37.

asked the Minister of Health how many towns have reported surveys made of houses not reasonably fit for human habitation; how many houses have been so condemned by medical officers of health and local authorities; and the total population covered by these reports?

As the reply is somewhat long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

Reports received from medical officers of health for 1,060 boroughs and urban districts for the year 1921 show that, 994,005 houses were inspected under the Public Health Acts and Housing (Inspection of Districts) Regulations. 13,279 houses were reported as unfit for habitation and 226,713 as not in all respects reasonably fit.

Notices under Section 28 of the Housing Act, 1919, were served in respect of 30,818 houses, and of these 23,453 were rendered fit by the owners and 912 by the local authorities.

Notices were served under the Public Health Acts in respect of 266,549 houses; in 240,310 of the houses concerned the defects were remedied by the owners and in 2,757 houses by the local authorities.

Defects were remedied in 223,546 houses without the service of formal notices.

Closing orders were made in respect of 1,416 houses, while in the case of 287 houses closing orders were determined after the houses had been made fit.

There is no information regarding the population inhabiting these houses.

Building Materials (Prices)

38.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the demands made upon the building operatives for a reduction of wages in order to reduce the cost of houses, he will state what is being done by his Department to secure a corresponding reduction in the cost of building materials by breaking up the rings and trusts which are artificially inflating prices to the great detriment of the public?

64.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the urgent necessity of a large number of houses being built in the near future at a reasonable cost, he will state what steps he proposes to take to prevent, the rise in price of building material through the operations of rings, trusts, and combines?

The Ministry of Health and the Board of Trade are fully alive to the question raised by the hon. Members. The situation is being carefully watched and the question of what steps can be usefully taken is now under consideration.

is the Noble Lord aware that a similar reply has been given in this House every time a question on this subject has been put for the last 18 months. Cannot the Noble Lord, who is fresh to office, expedite action in this matter?

I am very glad to know our predecessors also appear to have carefully watched the situation.

If that is the only satisfaction Parliament is going to get, will the Noble Lord—still strictly in accordance, with the line followed by his predecessors—institute an inquiry after the exploitation has been going on for a year or two?

The hon. Member is aware there have already been a number of inquiries. I can assure him the Government do not propose to sit idle on this question, but it would be exceedingly ill-advised to do anything without careful consideration first.

Is it not a fact that the present President of the Board of Trade told the House in March, 1921, on the Board of Trade Vote, that the Government would introduce legislation?

Has the Board of Trade any knowledge of any shortage of any class of building materials for houses?

Shortage

39.

asked the Minister of Health the latest figures available, showing the balance of houses still required to make good the shortage reported by local authorities in 1919, as the result of the official survey of their requirements made under the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919; and how soon he anticipates this shortage will be met?

The difference between the number of State-assisted houses completed up to the 1st February last and the gross estimate of shortage due to overcrowding, according to the survey referred to, is 312,505. Information is not available as to the number of unsubsidised houses built since 1919. In view of the difficulty of obtaining reliable estimates the hon. Member must not take it that I regard this as representing the present effective demand for houses. With regard to the last part of the question, I regret that I cannot at present express any opinion upon the subject.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House any idea as to how soon he will enable the local authorities to start building houses, by the introduction of the Bill promised for so long?

Upon what basis does the right hon. Gentleman form his estimate that there will be 312,000 houses short, because before the War we were building houses at the rate of 80,000 per year, and there has been a shortage now, for eight years?

Land (Transfer Fees)

42.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will, in connection with his housing scheme, consider the desirability of recommending to the Government the cheapening of transfer fees in respect to land?

I will give the matter careful consideration, and if my hon. Friend has a concrete suggestion to make I shall be glad if he will send me a note of it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the transfer of a house value £400 costs about £15, including £5 for registration and £2 10s. Stamp Duty, whereas on the Stock Exchange you can transfer £400 worth of stock for £2.

If the hon. Member will give me any suggestions he has to make, I will consider them.

State-Aided Houses (Average Age)

43.

asked the Minister of Health whether he can give the estimated anticipated average age of the houses built under the subsidy scheme of the late Government?

It is the practice of my Department to allow a period not exceeding 60 years for the repayment of loans by local authorities for the erection of houses under the Housing Acts by ordinary methods of construction, and it may be taken that this period represents a conservative estimate of the life of the houses.

Is the Minister aware that under the Rutherglen housing scheme a term of 60 years is given, and the average payment of interest on that becomes £60 per year? How does the Minister think working people can pay the interest, apart altogether from the rent?

Empty Houses

44.

asked the Minister of Health if he has any information as to the number of empty houses in the United Kingdom which are to be sold arid which are not available as ordinary tenancies?

Statistics on this point are not available, and I am afraid that they could not readily be obtained.

Is it not possible to obtain these particulars from the local authorities, as they have a very important bearing on the housing problem? Will the right hon. Gentleman make application to the local authorities?

I will consider that, but I am afraid it will be difficult for the local authorities themselves.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the London County Council said recently that there are 3,800 empty houses in London?

56.

asked the Minister of Health if he will include in the forthcoming Housing Bill a provision for the rating of empty houses?

I am not at present in a position to make any statement as to the provisions of the Bill.

When the right hon. Gentleman does make a statement, or when he does consider the question, will he also consider the advisability of taxing as well as rating land values?

Unoccpied Workhouses

57.

asked the Minister of Health if, as only 204,000 persons are being relieved by the Poor Law authorities in workhouses whereas there is accommodation for 282,000 persons, he will consider the possibility of converting the unoccupied portions of the workhouses into workmen's flats and thereby relieve the rates to the amount of the rents received?

It would seldom be practicable or economical to convert temporarily unoccupied portions of workhouses into dwellings, but I am quite ready to consider any proposal that may be made for this purpose.

A large number of dwelling houses are occupied by the rich, or rather only partly occupied; would the right hon. Gentleman consider turning them into houses for working people?

That does not arise out of the question; this reference is to workhouses.

Local Authorities' Schemes

53.

asked the Minister of Health if he will issue a return giving the names of local authorities who have undertaken building under the Housing Acts, the number of houses erected by each, the various rents at present charged for the several types of houses, and the rents charged when the houses were first let?

The preparation of such a return would involve considerable time and labour and it is not considered that ifs value would be sufficient to justify the cost of preparation and publication. A return showing the rents agreed with local authorities for each type of horse in the assisted housing schemes of those authorities was given on the 21st ultimo in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Woolwich, West.

Colliery Companies

63.

asked the Minister of Health how many colliery companies received a subsidy under the Housing Act, 1919: how many houses were erected for which subsidy was received by colliery companies: and can he state how many mine workers have been turned out of these subsidised houses because they, went to work at some colliery other than the one which owned the houses?

There is no information in my Department which would enable a reply to be given to the hon. Member's question.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the more unscrupulous kind of colliery officials can inflict intolerable conditions upon the workmen residing in colliery houses, and will he refuse any further applications for subsidies to colliery companies unless he gets a guarantee that evictions shall not take place?

I have no information to that effect. If the hon. Gentleman has a case in mind I shall be glad if he will communicate with me.

Dwelling-Houses (Factories Andworkshops)

69.

asked the. Minister of Health whether he has received a communication from the Stepney Borough Council urging the Government to introduce legislation granting to local authorities, including Metropolitan boroughs, powers similar to those contained in Section 6 of the Housing (Additional Powers) Act, 1919, to prevent the user of dwelling-houses as factories or workshops; and, if so, whether he is in a position to state what action he proposes to take in the matter?

I have received the communication referred to and the suggestion is receiving my careful consideration, but I am not yet able to make a statement.

Subsidised Houses

71.

asked the Minister of Health whether all the houses built under the subsidy scheme of the late Government have now been completed and, if completed, are occupied; and whether any steps are taken or can be usefully taken to ensure that untenanted houses are not kept vacant for sale only?

It is assumed that the hon. Member refers to the State-assisted houses erected by local authorities and public utility societies. On 1st March, 157,235 houses had been completed, and I think it may be taken generally that there is no delay in the occupation of these houses. As regards houses built under the private builders' subsidy scheme, information as to the occupation of the houses is not available, but I may point out that this scheme was limited to houses completed so long ago as last June. With regard to the last part of the question, I have no information which would lead me to suppose that any action by my Department is required.

Will the Government provide in the new Bill that no subsidies shall be given for houses built for sale, and not to be let?

Leonards Place, Kensington

74.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the fact that the London Couny Council, notwithstanding the opposition of the Kensington Borough Council and of the residents in the locality, have recently granted a licence for the erection of a super-cinema in Leonards Place, Kensington, which will involve the destruction of a considerable number of middle-class houses; and whether he will make representations to the London County Council and other local licensing authorities that, during the existing serious shortage in houses, it is undesirable for them to grant licences for the erection of cinemas or other places of amusement which will involve the destruction of residential property?

I have made inquiries, and find that the facts are as stated. I have no power to intervene in a case such as this, but the tenants will have the protection afforded by the Rent Restrictions Acts. The suggestion in the latter part of the question will receive my careful consideration.

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider in connection with the forthcoming Bill whether it would not be well to take temporary powers to prevent the destruction of private houses during the existing shortage in order to build cinemas and theatres?

Local Authorities (Reports)

83.

asked the Minister of Health how many local authorities for the purposes of Part II of The Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, have failed to furnish reports, as required by Section 44 of that Act, for 1921 and 1922 respectively; what is the form required by the Ministry of Health under that section; and what particulars are required to be furnished by the local authorities?

The Return referred to was discontinued for the period of the War by Sub-section 4 of Section 13 of the Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916, and the provisions of this Sub-section were further extended by the Expiring Laws Act, 1922, to 31st December next. Medical officers of health have, however, been required to include in the annual reports a statement as to action taken by their authorities in relation to unsatisfactory houses, and a summary of these reports is given in the Annual Report of the Ministry of Health.

Can the hon. Gentleman say what action he proposes to take against the local authorities who have failed to furnish these reports?

I have hardly had time yet to look into this question, but I will see about it.

Water Supply (By-Laws Andregulations)

40.

asked the Minister of Health Whether his attention has been called to the draft model bylaws and Regulations which have been submitted by the British Waterworks Association for approval by the Ministry of Health; whether he is aware that in the specification attached to the proposed Regulations many onerous conditions would be imposed, involving increased outlay on the part of the public; whether he has received a deputation from the owners of artisan dwellings in the County of London praying that the sanction of the Ministry of Health may be withheld until a public inquiry has taken place; whether the Ministry intend to hold a public inquiry as suggested; and what action it is proposed to take in the matter?

The proposals of the Association are under consideration. Various written representations against the proposals have been received, but no deputation. I doubt whether a public inquiry would be of advantage, but I can assure my hon. Friend that any representations made by interested parties will be carefully considered.

Shop Tenants

41.

asked the Minister of Health what steps he proposes to take to Protect small business people who occupy shops to which there is no home attached?

Miners' Wages

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that miners' wages are so much below the cost of living as compared with the year 1914, he will consider the amendment of the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act, so that the cost of living will be considered in relation to the fixing of wages?

The wages of coal miners are governed by an agreement with the coal owners which contains provision for minimum "subsistence" wages being fixed in each district. I cannot regard as practicable any scheme for fixing wages in relation to the cost of living regardless of the general state of trade. Coal miners, I regret to say, are not peculiar in being financially worse off than before the War.

Are we to understand from that answer that the miners have no hope of legislation by this Government, and that they must rely entirely on industrial action?

I cannot at present hold out any hope of legislation on the subject.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minimum Wage Act, 1912, would ordinarily have come to an end in 1915, and that this question does not arise out of the agreement between the two parties, but under the Minimum Wage Act?

But since then an agreement has been made between the two parties, which, I think, largely supersedes it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the agreement is an entirely different thing from the Minimum Wage Act?

Empire Trade

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is in a position to state when a Cabinet decision will be taken with reference to Grants-in-Aid to the Crown Colonies; whether the present Trade Facilities Act will permit of loans to Dominion Governments for purchases made in this country; and, if so, at what rate?

I hope to be able to announce a decision shortly. It is open to any Dominion and Colonial Government to ask for a guarantee under the existing Trade Facilities Act.

Is it contemplated that new legislation will be necessary to effect loans to the Overseas Dominions?

Committee Of Imperialdefence (Meetings)

49.

asked the Prime Minister how many meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence have been held during the past year; and how does this number compare with previous years?

From March, 1922, until the present date the Committee of Imperial Defence, including the Standing Defence Sub-Committee has held 15 meetings, and there have been 115 meetings of its Sub-committees, making a total of 130. These figures compare with 8 meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence and 117 of its Sub-committees for the same period in 1912–13. In addition, there have been 133 meetings of Cabinet Committees dealing with defence questions, the secretarial service of which have been supplied by the staff of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The total number of meetings, therefore, is 263.

State Assurance

51.

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that the Queens-land Government by instituting State Assurance has reduced rates 33 per cent., saving the insured .£350,000 in five years and building up a. surplus of £70,000; if the Government Assurance Office doubled the weekly rates of compensation for accidents and also the compensation paid for deaths; and if, in view of this, the Government will consider the advisability of introducing State Assurance in this country instead of proceeding with the Industrial Assurance Bill?

A State scheme of life insurance is already in operation in this country under the direction of the Post Office, premiums being payable weekly if desired, and the Health Insurance Scheme provides a small measure of accident insurance under State auspices. I am not prepared to extend these facilities, and I think it would be very undesirable not to proceed with the Industrial Assurance Bill.

Ireland

Deportations From Great Britain

52.

asked the Prime Minister if he will place upon the Table of the House immediately a full Report of written as well as verbal communications that passed between the Irish Free State authorities and the Prime Minister or other members of the British Cabinet which caused the Home Secretary to issue orders for the arrest and deportation of numerous citizens to be tried by ordinary and extraordinary Courts in the Irish Free State?

I have been asked to reply. No, Sir. I can add nothing to the statements made by the Attorney-General and myself on Monday last. As I explained then, nothing more than internment is proposed at the present time.

Is it within the constitutional power of the Government of this country to prevent the Irish Free State from taking any measures against persons who are now deported and interned there?

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether any persons were wrongly arrested in connection with these deportations?

I do not think that arises out of this question, but I have no information that anybody was wrongly arrested.

Have the Government received any assurances from the Free State as to what is to be done with these men who have now passed without the jurisdiction of the British Government?

When is the Advisory Committee which is to deal with the cases of these men to be set up?

(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health if he is aware that James Hickey, Gallowgate, Glasgow, one of the men deported to Ireland on the night of Saturday, 10th March, is a native of Glasgow, the son of a Glasgow policeman, and that a prominent local clergyman is prepared to testify to his complete innocence of any connection with Irish rebel organisations, and if in view of these facts he will take immediate steps to restore this man to his home.

Each of the persons interned was made aware, by the terms of the Internment Order, a copy of Which was served on him, that it is open to him to submit representations against the Order. Any such representations will be referred to the Advisory Committee to be presided over by Lord Trevethin. Representations from any other persons who may have personal knowledge of a particular case will also be considered.

Am I to understand that the onus for putting right an illegal act on the part of the Government rests on the victim and not on us?

Obviously I cannot accept the assumption that this act was illegal on the part of the Government. It was agreed by all sections of the House in the Debate on the question that it was perfectly legal. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, Sir."] The fact that the onus of proof lies on the person involved is contained in the Regulations which were sanctioned by this House, and they cannot be reviewed by any party.

Have I the assurance of the hon. Gentleman that proper facilities will be given .to these men to make their claims for consideration and that the claims will be considered at once? I ask this because I have been in prison and know how difficult it is for an imprisoned man to make any representation.

We have been told that this Committee will sit in Britain. Will these interned men be brought back from Ireland to Britain in order that they may be present at the inquiry, or will it be held in their absence?

As far as I am informed, their representations will he submitted to the Committee, and if the Committee desires further information on the subject it will have the right to examine the accused person. It is within their competence.

Does not the hon. Gentleman see I am not asking as to the rights of the Committee? I am asking what is the right of the individual. Is it his right, if he wishes to appear before the Committee which is to decide his fate?

The next question will raise that point better, because it is in more general terms. This question applies to one individual case.

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister if he will inform the House what arrangements, if any, have been made, either by His Majesty's Government or the Free State Government, to give the persons deported from this country to Ireland, there to be interned, an opportunity of communicating with their friends in order that legal advice may be provided for those of the prisoners who desire it; and further, will the British Government take steps to ensure that the legal advisers of the deportees proceeding to Ireland from England shall be allowed freedom of access to them for the purpose of advising as to an appeal to the Advisory Committee?

The Free State Government will see that every reasonable opportunity is afforded to these persons to communicate with their friends in order to procure legal advice as to any representations they may wish to make to the Advisory Committee, and their legal advisers will be allowed freedom of access to them for this purpose.

Who is going to judge as to the exact significance of the word "reasonable"?

May I ask the Home Secretary the question which I put to the hon. and gallant Gentleman speaking for Scotland, namely, will these men have the right to appear before the Advisory Committee, which I think the Home Secretary told us would be constituted and set up in Britain, or is their fate to be decided in their absence?

I am not quite certain about the right, but my impression is this, that they will make their representations, if they wish to do so, to the Advisory Committee, and it will then rest with the Advisory Committee as to whether they think that these persons should be brought over here. [Interruption.]

In the previous cases in which action was taken under this or a similar Order under the Defence of the Realm Act in the last few years, had not the accused the right given to them to appear before the Advisory Committee if they chose, and is it not the fact that they did appear?

Will this Committee sit in public when these men appear before it, or in private?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Irish prisoners who were interned after the Easter Week Rebellion, were allowed to make personal representations to the Advisory Committee then sitting?

Is the Advisory Committee yet set up, and who are the Members? Can they apply at once?

They can apply, certainly. I hope the Advisory Committee will be set up very shortly. As I said in answer to the previous question, Lord Trevethin has undertaken the duties of Chairman, and I have asked two other gentlemen to serve, to make three. One has not yet answered, and the other, who has accepted, is Sir Henry Mather-Jackson, barrister and chairman of the Monmouthshire Quarter Sessions.

Would the Home Secretary make inquiries of the judges—Mr. Justice Sankey, for example—who presided over corresponding committees during the War, as to whether it was not the practice during the War for the President of the Committee to give an opportunity to the man who was interned to be seen by the Committee if there was reason to do so?

I will certainly make those inquiries, and I thought. I made it plain that the Committee would see them if they thought that there was a reasonable case for so doing.

Will the man be seen, not if the Committee asks him to appear, but if he himself asks to be seen by the Committee, as was the custom on previous occasions?

I have made very careful inquiries as to previous action in this matter, but I cannot give an answer at this moment.

Is it a fact that the third member, who has not yet replied, is Sir Hamar Greenwood?

I am still dealing with my own specific case, and I want to know if there is going to be no difference in treatment between men against whom there is no primâ facie case and who are British-born subjects. This man was born in Glasgow, and you have handed him over to an enemy Government— [Interruption]—

I think it would be very desirable. It must be perfectly obvious that this is not a matter for humour so far as I am concerned—to the Government of another country with whose internal affairs we have been told we have no right to interfere—will that do as a definition?—and, therefore, this man, a citizen of my city, and most of these men who have been seized are citizens of my city, without the consent of the local police, but with the instruction of the English Home Office. I am just coming to my question, Mr. Speaker. I want to know if the Government are not going to admit their mistake and return this British-born citizen at once, without investigation and without an Advisory Committee?

The answer is equally applicable to England and Scotland in this ease. It is that, if there be any person who has been interned without any primâ facie case against him, and he is brought before the Advisory Committee, they would clearly order him to be returned.

But I am bringing it before you is this Advisory Committee to supersede your powers, suspending the ordinary law of the land— [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!")—

Malicious Injuries (Compensation)

53.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that a large number of Persons in Southern Ireland are still awaiting payment of the compensation awarded them by decrees obtained in the Courts as long ago in many cases as 1920, such decrees having been obtained after an appearance had been entered by the local authorities who were the defendants to the same; and whether, as this failure is a breach of the agreement arrived at between the British Government and the representatives of the Irish Free State who signed the Treaty, he will make representations to the Free State Government on the matter, asking that immediate payment may be made with a view to mitigating the hardships and privations which are being suffered by a large number of British subjects who have been driven from their homes and have so far received no compensation?

I have been asked to reply. I would remind the hon. Member that the fact that a claim for compensation was de- fended by a local authority does not take the case outside the terms of reference of the Compensation (Ireland) Commission unless the local authority in question was the county council or the county borough council in whose area the destruction or injury occurred; and I am not aware that any large number of persons who have obtained decrees which were defended within the meaning of the Commission's terms of reference are still awaiting payment. If the hon. Member, however, brings any such case to my notice, I shall be happy to make inquiry into it.

Will the Government agree that, if any of the arrests recently made under the Defence of the Realm Act are illegal, they will grant compensation for the wrong done to them?

Deer And Fox Hunting

54.

asked the Prime Minister whether he proposes to introduce legislation to bring within the scope of the Acts for the prevention of cruelty to animals the infliction of cruelty upon wild deer and foxes by causing them to be torn to pieces by dogs for sport?

Is it not a fact that carted deer are too valuable to be torn to pieces by hounds?

Northleach Rural Districtcouncil

58.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the North-leach Rural District Council, Oxon, is violating the provisions of The Local Government Act, 1894, Section 46, Sub-section (6); and, if so, what action, if any, he proposes to take?

A complaint has been received, but I have no power to take any action in the matter.

Illegal Operations (Women)

60.

asked the Minister of Health the number of women whose deaths were attributed to illegal operations during the years 1914 and 1922, respectively?

Figures are not yet available for the year 1922. In some cases in 1914 it was not clear, on the information given, by what means abortion had been procured, and accordingly the numbers are given of all cases of death classified under the heading "Attempt to procure abortion," namely, in 1914, 35, and in 1921, 41.

Deaths (Certification)

61.

asked the Minister of Health if he can give, for each of the five years 1918 to 1922, the number of deaths registered on a certificate of a registered medical practitioner, the number registered on a coroner's certificate after inquest, and the number of uncertified deaths on which no inquest was held?

I will circulate, with permission, in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table giving the information required.

Following is the table promised:

DEATUS REGISTERED.
On Medical Certificate.On Coroner's Certificate.Uncertified.Total.
1918570,73533,0128,244611,991
1919466,06831,4886,698504,254
1920429,45631,0115,663458,710
1921424,16629,3045,240458,710
1922450,99630,3465,487486,829

National Health Insurance

Panel (Maximum Of Patients)

62.

asked the Minister of Health the maximum of patients a doctor may have on his panel; and to what extent he may increase this number by having an assistant?

The maximum number of patients for whom an insurance practitioner working single handed tray accept responsibility is 3,000. The Insurance and Panel Committees have power to fix a lower number as the limit for their particular area or for any portion of it. The extent to which the number may be increased in the case of a practitioner who employs a permanent assistant is a matter within the discretion of the local committees. The information available indicates that in general the employment of an assistant is held to justify the increase of the number by approximately 50 per cent.

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that a doctor can deal with 3,000 patients?

What are the restrictions on a veterinary surgeon when he is dealing with cattle?

Is it not the fact that the numbers given are not patients, but only potential patients—that there is only a small number of actual patients?

Drugs

82.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the Medical Sub-Committee of the Durham County National Health Insurance Committee have recently fined medical practitioners on the panel for alleged excess in the cost of drugs given to panel patients, asserting that drugs of a less expensive character should have been given and that medicine should have been ordered to have been given at greater intervals: and will he have inquiries made into this with a view to the proper treatment of those suffering from ill health?