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Commons Chamber

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 2 May 1935

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 2nd May, 1935.

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

Private Business

Derwent Valley Water Board Bill (King's Consent signified),

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Easington Rural District Council Bill (King's Consent signified),

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Corporation (Quay Extension) Bill [ Lords] (King's Consent signified),

Bill read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Harrogate Corporation Bill (by Order),

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Oral Answers To Questions

Unemployment

Non-Manual Workers

1.

asked the Minister of Labour whether the Unemployment Statutory Committee have reached any decision regarding insurance against unemployment of black-coated workers?

No, Sir. The Committee have not yet completed the hearing of evidence on this subject.

Employment Exchange Cleaner, Newcastle-On-Tyne (Gratuity)

5.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has received particulars of the case of Mrs. Forrest, of 20, Nutley Place, Ferguson's Estate, Scotswood, Newcastle-on-Tyne, who on leaving her employment as a cleaner at the local Employment Exchange after a period of 15 years was permitted to continue to work for over a year beyond the normal retiring age of 65, in order to permit her to qualify for a pension or gratuity, and on completion of 15 years' service was denied such pension or gratuity; and what action does he propose to take?

I am fully aware of the particulars of this case. Mrs. Forrest would, in the normal course, have been discharged on reaching the age of 65, but owing to her domestic circumstances she was allowed to continue in her employment as cleaner for a further period of rather more than a year, by the end of which time it was thought that she would qualify for a retirement gratuity. Application for a gratuity was made in due course, but it was found that, as she had not given full-time employment for the required minimum of 15 years, she was ineligible. While I regret that a gratuity cannot be awarded, I cannot admit that any hardship has been caused; on the contrary, by being allowed to continue her employment she was treated more favourably than if she had been discharged in the normal course at the age of 65.

Exchange Accommodation, Darlaston

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the representations made to his Department from the Darlaston Urban District Council, asking that suitable arrangements should be made to ensure that persons attending at employment exchanges and waiting there could do so under shelter from inclement weather and away from public view; and what steps, if any, he proposes to take?

I have considered this resolution. It is not usually necessary, however, for applicants to have to wait outside employment exchanges for any length of time, if they attend at the time previously indicated, and no provision of the kind mentioned is normally made. If the hon. Member has any particular case in mind I shall be glad to look into it.

Unemployment Assistance

8 and 10.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) how many applicants for unemployment allowances are receiving less and how many more than they received under transitional payment assessments; and

(2) the number of cases in which applicants for unemployment allowances are receiving payments based on the scales of the Unemployment Assistance Board and on the public assistance scales, respectively?

Precise figures are not available, but for the last period for which comparisons have been made it is estimated that about one-third of the recipients of unemployment assistance were receiving under the Unemployment Assistance Regulations more than they would have received by way of transitional payments; the remainder were receiving the same amount as transitional payments either under those Regulations or under the terms of the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Is the hon. Gentleman informing the House that none of the unemployed are receiving less than they received before?

I have been asked what is the position under the standstill agreement, and the answer is that one-third who are under the Regulations are receiving more, and the remainder are not receiving more either under the Regulations or under the Act.

I gathered that the question asked was how many applicants for unemployment assistance allowance are receiving this and how many more than they received under transitional payments.

9.

asked the Minister of Labour what progress has been made in setting up local advisory committees to the Unemployment Assistance Board, as provided in the Unemployment Act, 1934?

I am informed that the board is giving this matter active attention and has made considerable progress in preparatory work incidental to the setting up of these committees.

12.

asked the Minister of Labour whether the regulations from the Unemployment Assistance Board have been received?

Can the Minister give an assurance that the regulations will be brought into the House for discussion before a general election takes place?

If the hon. Lady will inform me when the general election is to take place, I may be able to give her an answer.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the regulations will be brought in soon, and before the autumn elections?

Is the Minister aware that the rumour is current that the Government will not introduce the regulations until after the election has taken place? It is to allay those rumours that I am asking the question.

45.

asked the Prime Minister how much time will be allowed to Members of the House of Commons to study the new regulations of the Unemployment Assistance Board before they are discussed in the House; and when these are likely to be made known?

The board have not yet submitted a draft of new regulations and, while I understand they have made considerable progress with this matter, I am not yet in a position to say when they will be able to submit a draft. Every endeavour will be made to allow Members of the House full opportunity for considering any draft regulations that may be made after they are laid before Parliament and before a day is fixed for their discussion.

Will sufficient time be allowed on this occasion for hon. Members to see how they will work out in their own constituencies?

Special Areas (Expenditure)

11.

asked the Minister of Labour what proportion of the £2,000,000 allocated for expenditure in the special areas remains unexpended?

Schemes involving expenditure of approximately £1,500,000 by the Commissioner for England and Wales have been approved, and other schemes are under consideration. Actual expenditure will of necessity be in arrear of commitments entered into, as grants will only be issued as required to meet the outgoings on schemes assisted. As regards schemes in Scotland, perhaps my hon. Friend will address a question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Can my hon. Friend state definitely whether when the £2,000,000 allocated is expended there will be financial support coming to carry on any schemes which have been recommended by the commissioner?

Is the Minister satisfied that the commissioner is able to cut through all ordinary methods and to exercise discretion? The money is only approved, I gather.

If by "ordinary methods" my hon. Friend means ordinary rules of caution, the commissioner is still observing them, but I do not think the commissioner is hampered in any way by what I believe is described as "red tape."

13.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps the commissioner for special areas is taking to deal with unemployment in such areas?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) on 30th April.

Is the Minister aware that there is no sign that the commissioners are making any impression whatever on unemployment in the special areas?

As I informed the House in the reply to which I have referred, it is hoped that the commissioner will issue a progress report towards the end of next month, so that the House will then be able to judge what progress he is making.

Trade Boards Act

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is satisfied that the provisions of the paper-bag trade board and the stamped or pressed metal-ware trade board are being properly observed in Willenhall; and whether any recent investigations on the subject have been made by his officials?

According to the records of my Department there are no Willenhall firms engaged in the paper bag grade. Firms on the list of the stamped or pressed metal-wares trade board have not been inspected recently, but at the last inspection the amount of work falling within the scope of this board was found to be negligible and no infractions were disclosed.

If I draw my hon. Friend's attention to a certain case, will he be good enough to have it investigated?

Yes, I shall be only too glad to do so, if the hon. Member has any information to give me.

His Majesty's Silver Jubilee

4 and 6.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether he has considered the resolution sent to him by the Hull Public Assistance Committee recommending that the additional allowances for persons in outdoor relief and those in receipt of unemployment insurance benefit during Jubilee week be accepted as a charge on the Government; and whether he can make a statement on the subject;

(2) whether he has considered the resolution sent to him by the council of the Association of Municipal Corporations, asking the Government to make provision for the payment of special Jubilee allowances to persons receiving standard unemployment benefit and to include in that payment dependants of 14 years of age and over; and whether the request will be acceded to on this special occasion?

I have considered the resolutions to which my hon. Friend refers but, as I have already stated in reply to previous questions, I have no funds out of which to make such payments.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether any evidence has been brought to his notice of retail shopkeepers, or organisations of retail shopkeepers, who have proposed to deprive their employ¹s of the statutory weekly half-holiday during the week commencing 6th May, on account of the incidence of a bank holiday on 6th May; and, if so, what organisation or organisations are concerned?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to a question on this subject by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) on the 29th April. My right hon. Friend has no definite information on the matter, except that he understands that several of the leading organisations of employers in the distributive trades are specifically discouraging any arrangement of the kind suggested.

I do not know anything about co-operative societies, but I hope that the publicity given to the previous reply and to this reply will discourage any proposals of this kind in every quarter.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the reply given by the Home Secretary on Monday has had the desired effect in some quarters, but that one very large local authority in England has sent out a notice to the shopkeepers in that city informing them that they will be quite within their rights in employing their shop assistants on the statutory half-holiday, having given them next Monday as a bank holiday?

Is not the Under-Secretary's reply that no shopkeepers intend to do this sufficient proof that the question asked by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) last Monday had absolutely no foundation, and has had an undesirable effect on the retail shopkeepers of this country?

I have just said that, so far as I know, several of the leading organisations are specifically discouraging any suggestion of the kind.

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman be good enough to look at a telegram which I have received to-day stating that a few shopkeepers are doing what I suggested?

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is the intention of the Government to supplement old age and contributory pensions in Jubilee week?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on the 25th March, 1935, by the Financial Secretary to a question by the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot).

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many recipients of old age and contributory pensions are in a far worse position than those in receipt of unemployment benefit, and should not something be done in the special circumstances to entitle them to receive that little meed of pleasure which is to be enjoyed by those in receipt of public assistance?

Factory Acts (Lift Workers)

14.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the question of bringing lifts at residential and office premises under the Factory Acts?

This suggestion has not been overlooked, but my right hon. Friend is not in a position at present to come to any conclusion.

As the number of such lifts is increasing, will the Home Office bear that fact in mind?

Will the Home Office also bring in some regulation in respect of the 300,000 juveniles who are working all sorts of hours and whom the Government have promised some day to protect?

Debtors (Imprisonment)

15.

asked the Home Secretary whether it is proposed to introduce legislation at an early date embodying the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Imprisonment in default of payment of fines?

22.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is now able to make any further statement with regard to the introduction of legislation dealing with the imprisonment of debtors?

The question is under consideration and my right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position to make a statement at an early date.

Sunday Trading

16.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the growing practice of the opening of shops on Sundays for the sale of all kinds of commodities apart from the sale of perishable articles; and whether he will consider the setting up of a committee to inquire into this matter?

My right hon. Friend has received representations on this subject, but he is not satisfied that in the present circumstances an inquiry of the kind suggested would be desirable.

In view of the known fact that Sunday trading in this country is increasing very considerably, does not the hon. Gentleman think that the time has arrived when we ought to know the facts better than we do at the moment?

Will the hon. Gentleman take into consideration also, before answering that question or considering the matters entailed by it, the fact that a large number of fish and chip shops are owned by Socialist councillors in South Yorkshire?

Transport

Motor Vehicles (Identification Plates)

17.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can state the number of motorists that have been warned or summoned for having dirty or improper number plates during 1934; and whether, in view of the difficulty of identification of index plates due to dirt and inefficient lighting, he will take the necessary steps to see that the regulations are carried out?

The only figures available are those for the metropolitan police district. In that area during 1934 there were 1,149 summonses and written cautions for offences connected with identification marks. In addition there were 14,519 verbal warnings for irregularities connected with number plates. The police are fully aware of the requirements of the law in this matter and I have no doubt that they do their best to enforce them.

Hyde Park (Albert Gate)

26.

asked the Home Secretary if and when the Albert Gate is to be re-opened?

The Albert Gate was closed as an experiment last summer, and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis informs my right hon. Friend that traffic conditions in the vicinity have shown considerable improvement since then. The question for decision is whether this improvement has caused any additional inconvenience elsewhere, e.g., at Hyde Park Corner, and, in order that this question may be determined by actual trial, it has been decided, after consultation with my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works and with the Commissioner, that the Albert Gate should be re-opened for an experimental period commencing on the 13th May.

Government Departments (Motor Drivers)

54.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether, in view of the establishment of a national joint conciliation board for the road motor goods transport industry, with the establishment of area boards throughout the country, it is the intention to advise all Government Departments who employ motor drivers to pay wages and observe working conditions not less favourable than those accepted by the various boards for the areas in which such drivers may be employed?

The nature of the employment of motor drivers in Government service is in many cases not precisely analogous to that obtaining in outside industry, and the action to be taken, when the National Joint Conciliation Council for the road motor goods transport industry formulates final rates and conditions of service, is at present under consideration. The hon. Member may, however, rest assured that in accordance with the principle embodied in the Fair Wages Resolution, the rates and conditions of service of drivers in the employ of the Government will be generally not less favourable than those prevalent in comparable outside employment.

De-Restriction Signs

71.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that many local authorities have not yet erected de-restriction signs; and will he call their urgent attention to this neglect?

In addition to the steps which I have already announced, I have decided to issue a circular letter to all local authorities pointing out that it is essential that any de-restriction signs not yet in position should be erected without delay.

While thanking the hon. Member for his reply, may I ask whether he appreciates the fact that a motorist never knows whether he is inside or outside one of these cat-and-mouse areas until these de-restriction signs are erected?

The statement of the hon. Member is rather too sweeping. There may be some areas where these signs are not erected, that I am willing to admit, but I am doing my best to remove the grievance.

Special Traffic Sign (Weighing Vehicles)

72.

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he is taking to prevent unauthorised persons using the sign authorised by the Minister of Transport, under Section 27 (1) of the Road Traffic Act, for the purpose of inducing motor vehicles to stop; and, having regard to the fears of motorists in general, and of women motorists in particular, will he give instructions that the sign to be displayed shall only be used by police constables in uniform?

If I have evidence that there is any unauthorised use of these signs or any abuse arising from the system, I will discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I have already issued directions under Section 48 of the Act limiting the use of the sign to properly authorised persons and prohibiting its use during the hours of darkness.

How is a motorist to know that the person who uses the sign is an unauthorised individual until he has stopped his vehicle?

Parliament has placed certain obligations upon me which I have to discharge. I have informed some authorities that it is desirable that these signs should be temporarily fixed by the roadside instead of being exhibited by an authorised person, and, if necessary, I will issue general instructions to that effect. But I must carry out the obligations placed upon me by the Act.

Is the hon. Member aware that the late Minister of Transport made the statement when the Road Traffic Act was going through the House that it was not right that vehicles should be stopped on the road except by a police constable in uniform?

If my hon. and gallant Friend will call my attention to the particular reference he has in mind, I shall be ready to honour any obligation undertaken by my predecessor.

Voters' Lists (Women)

20.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will cause inquiry to be made as to the system in force in the Isle of Man, in the city of Glasgow, and in certain other places, whereby the register of electors is marked in such a way as to indicate in the case of a woman elector whether she is married or single; and, in particular, whether he will cause inquiry to be made as to the increase of cost involved in providing this information, with a view to making provision for all registers of electors to be so marked in future?

My right hon. Friend has no jurisdiction in connection with preparing the register of electors in either the Isle of Man or the city of Glasgow, and, as stated on the 18th April, the differentiation suggested by my hon. Friend is not necessary for voting purposes. If, however, there is any general desire for the change proposed, my right hon. Friend is prepared to consider the question, provided the cost, of which he is not at present able to make any estimate, is negligible.

Steeplechasing

21.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has any information as to the numbers of riders and horses killed or injured in connection with steeplechasing during the last three years; whether his is aware of the increasing public resentment at this sport; and whether he will consider introducing legislation to prevent the urging of horses to negotiate dangerous obstacles, and control or prohibit any form of sport involving cruelty and risk of life to both rider and horse?

The answer to all three parts of the question is in the negative.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that on some of these courses the obstacles are perpendicular, thereby causing cruelty to the animals, and probably accidents to the riders; and, in view of these facts, will he consider making an agreement with the Hunt Committee in order that these brutalities and fatalities may be avoided?

May I be permitted to ask the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves), whether he would get on a horse and try to ride one of these jumps before he puts a question like that?

Uniforms Act, 1894

24.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, under Section 2 of the Uniforms Act of 1894, the wearing by unauthorised persons of any dress having the appearance of military uniform is prohibited, without reference to whether such conduct may bring contempt upon that uniform; and whether he will now take steps thereunder to prevent the continuance of the practice, which it was the specific object of the Act to prevent, at any theatres at which "Lives of a Bengal Lancer" is exhibited in this country?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, I can only refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the statement made on the 29th April by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for India, to the effect that, while the dress in question bears a general resemblance to the uniform of Indian cavalry regiments, it is in fact a fancy dress.

Does my hon. and gallant Friend think that this is good for recruiting for the Indian Army?

Petrol Storage (Licences)

23.

asked the Home Secretary the number of licences to store petrol that were in force in the Metropolitan Police area at the latest convenient date, distinguishing between licences to store up to 1,000 gallons and licences to store above 1,000 gallons?

I regret that this information could not be furnished for the whole of the Metropolitan Police area without a considerable expenditure of time and labour. I can, however, inform the hon. Member that the number of licences in force in the London County area on the 30th April was 3,594 for quantities up to 1,000 gallons, and 1,162 for quantities exceeding 1,000 gallons.

Crane Accident, Oxford Street, London

27.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has received a report from his factory inspector in connection with an accident to a workman when a skip containing gravel fell from a crane at the site of a new building in Oxford Street, London; and whether there was a safety hook attached to the skip and the crane's lifting cable?

My right hon. Friend is having inquiry made, and will communicate with the hon. Member later.

Herr Jakob (Disappearance)

28.

asked the Home Secretary whether the inquiries recently carried out by the Metropolitan Police in connection with the kidnapping of Herr Jakob have now been completed; and whether he can make any statement with regard to them?

Certain inquiries are still proceeding, and my right hon. Friend does not think it would be desirable to make any statement or to indicate beforehand what action, if any, may be required.

Can my hon. and gallant Friend say whether any persons have been deported up to date as a result of this inquiry?

Covent Garden Opera House

29.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to a proposal that the doors leading to the auditorium at the Covent Garden Opera House should, on special occasions, be locked at the commencement of the performance to prevent late comers from disturbing the audience; and whether he will consider what steps should be taken to prevent the adoption of this practice, either at the Covent Garden Opera House or any other place of entertainment in this country, having regard to the great danger of such a course in the event of panic arising from the outbreak of fire or any other cause?

My right hon. Friend has not heard of any such proposal, and he is informed that no doors leading to the auditorium were locked at the Opera House on Monday. Such a practice is generally forbidden by the authorities licensing places of entertainment, and, in the Manual of Safety Requirements in Theatres and other places of public entertainment recently issued by the Home Office to local authorities, it is definitely recommended that there should be no locks or bolts other than panic bolts on any exist door or barrier while the public are present.

Education

Teachers

30.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education how many supplementary teachers are employed in Lancashire, giving separate figures for those employed by the Lancashire County Council?

On 31st December, 1934, 268 supplementary teachers were employed in the public elementary schools in the geographical county of Lancashire. 135 of these were employed by the Lancashire County Council.

31.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education the number of unemployed trained certificated teachers in Lancashire at the latest date on which figures are available?

I am afraid that I have no information which would enable me to add anything to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) on the 18th February last.

Is the hon. Gentleman's Department taking any action to reduce the number of unemployed in this section of teachers?

So far as the question on the Paper is concerned, we only get information about the students who left the training colleges during the last two years, and we do not keep a live register of teachers who are seeking employment at any given moment.

Is the Department taking any action to reduce unemployment among this class of teachers?

Board Of Education

33.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education who are the members of the Education Board; how often have they met; what are the functions of the Board; and on what date the Board last met?

The Board consists of a President, the Lord President of the Council, His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, the First Commissioner of His Majesty's Treasury, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I can find no record of any meeting of the Board.

In view of that answer, does not the Under-Secretary think it is about time we changed the name of the Board?

Does not the hon. Gentleman think it is time that the Government appointed a board which was really interested in education, and would do something about it?

Junior Technical And Commercial Schools

32.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education the number of new junior technical and junior commercial schools, respectively, that were sanctioned during each of the last four years, giving separate figures for Lancashire?

As the answer involves a tabular statement of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The number of new junior technical schools and new junior commercial schools recognised by the Board in England and Wales during the last four years is as follows:

YearNew Junior Technical Schools.New Junior Commercial Schools.
1931–3272
1932–3374
1933–344
1934–3561

No new junior technical schools or junior commercial schools were recognised by the Board in Lancashire during these years.

Public Health

Venereal Disease

36.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the death-rate from syphilis for 1933 was higher than for 1924, and the total number of reported new cases of venereal disease higher in 1933 than in 1925 or in 1932; and whether he will now consider the need for legislation to require compulsory notification and segregation of cases of these infectious and disabling diseases on lines similar to those in force under the Infectious Disease (Notification) Extension Act, 1899?

With regard to the first part of the question, the crude death-rate from syphilis per million persons living was the same in 1933 as in 1924, but the standardised rates show a decline. The numbers of new cases attending the treatment centres provided for venereal diseases show an increase over the years mentioned for all forms of venereal disease, but a decline for syphilis. These figures, however, do not necessarily reflect the actual incidence of the disease. With regard to the second part, I see no reason for disagreeing with the Committee of Inquiry of 1923, which came to the conclusion that compulsory measures on the lines suggested were not desirable in the case of these diseases.

Is the Minister aware that Great Britain is practically the only large country in Europe where the rates have not shown a very substantial decline?

Does my right hon. Friend also realise that Great Britain is the one country where vital statistics are the most real and extensive?

Water Supplies

40.

asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made with the survey of the water resources of the country; and how long the survey will take?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary during the Debate on the Easter Adjournment.

41.

asked the Minister of Health how much of the Treasury provision for grants in aid of water supply schemes has been expended; and what is the total expenditure on new water supply schemes since this provision was made?

The amount of grant provisionally allocated is now £528,000 in respect of schemes of a total capital cost of £3,320,000. It is not possible to state the total expenditure on water supply schemes since the Act providing the grant was passed in March, 1934, but during this period the loans for such schemes sanctioned by me or by Parliament in local Acts amount to £4,370,000, including £1,400,000 for rural water schemes.

In view of the warning already given by water undertakers, including the Metropolitan Water Board, as to a water shortage this summer, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is really satisfied that he is doing all that can be done to avoid or alleviate a water shortage and its consequences?

My reply to that question is a suggestion that there is no apprehension of a water shortage this summer.

Maternal Mortality

42.

asked the Minister of Health the numbers of deaths from and arising out of childbirth for the year ending 31st December, 1934?

Deaths registered in England and Wales in the calendar year 1934 included 2,747 classified to pregnancy and childbearing and 748 not so classified but returned as associated with those conditions, amounting in all to 3,495. The figures are provisional.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of these deaths are due to the fact that there is a considerable lack of maternity services throughout the whole of the industrial areas?

No, Sir. The suggestion contained in the question is entirely without justification.

Has my right hon. Friend had his attention drawn to the experiment in Rochdale where, as a result of intensive propaganda of existing organisations, they were able in the course of three years to reduce maternal mortality to about one-third of what it was previously?

Is it not a fact that there were 51 more deaths than the year previous, and that the percentage is going up?

Is it not true that people dare not face up to a great many of the causes of maternal mortality even in the House of Commons, and that until we do face up to some of these causes, such as disease and the lack of birth control centres, we shall never get down the death-rate?

It has been found to be entirely the case, after investigation, that the causes of maternal mortality are many and varied. It requires most careful investigation into particular cases, and it cannot be ascribed to any single or general cause.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that these services are provided in industrial centres?

Local Rating (Railway Assessments)

43.

asked the Minister of Health what will be the effect on local government authorities concerned occasioned by the decision of the railway assessment authority that the London and North Eastern Railway Company's hereditaments have no value; whether that decision will affect general Exchequer contributions on account of loss of rates; and, if so, by what amount?

The effect of this decision, if maintained, would be the loss to local authorities having hereditaments of the company in their area of the rates on such hereditaments. If would not affect the total of the general Exchequer contribution, which is settled by the Local Government Act, 1929, but would necessitate readjustments between local authorities of their shares in that contribution.

Does my right hon. Friend think that this valuation can reasonably be taken as a guide should the Socialists at any time wish to nationalise the railways?

Will my right hon. Friend consider the case of the dock areas and areas where the railways have large possessions, as it is a difficult matter for local authorities to find any extra rates?

My hon. and gallant Friend will be aware that it is not for me to settle the valuation but for the assessment authority.

If such decisions are valid, can any representations be made by the Minister to the various bodies concerned with regard to them?

In view of such a decision being taken as genuine, is there any likelihood of the Minister calling the attention of the local authorities to such a decision?

I can assure the hon. Member that it is not necessary for me to call the attention of local authorities to decisions of which they are immediately aware.

Housing

Rent Restriction (Decontrol)

44.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to a ruling that, in the case of a controlled house, the mere act of the tenant giving the landlord possession of the key decontrols the house; and, as this is contrary to general interpretation, is he prepared to introduce legislation to ensure that a house must be actually vacated and empty for a specified time before it becomes decontrolled?

I have seen a Press report of the case to which the hon. Member apparently refers. I do not think that amending legislation is called for.

Can the Minister state the spirit and the intention of the Act upon this particular point?

Loan Interest

55.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether, having regard to the reduction in the rates of interest previously charged by building societies on loans to their members, he will make such arrangements as will lead to a reduction in the rate of interest on existing loans obtained under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) on 25th March, of which I am sending him a copy.

Coulston Road Baths, Whitechapel (Death)

48.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will inquire into the circumstances of the death of L. Block, aged 15, of Commercial Street, Stepney, who, while diving at Coulston Road Baths, Whitechapel, struck his head and suffered injuries which proved fatal; and whether adequate supervisory staff is provided to ensure that no diving takes place at any place except in deep water?

I have no present information of this accident but am making inquiries and will communicate with the hon. Member.

National Health Insurance

46.

asked the Minister of Health when legislation will be introduced to deal with persons whose rights under National Health Insurance have expired?

I hope to be in a position to make a statement on this subject within the next two or three weeks.

47.

asked the Minister of Health what would be the approximate cost to the State of providing dependants allowances for the wives and children of persons insured under national health insurance upon the basis recommended by the Report of the Royal Commission on National Health Insurance, 1926, or upon any other basis for which estimates are available; what, if any, would be the increase in workers and employers' contributions made necessary; and what would be the cost of dependants' allowances on the same scale if the State bore the entire cost?

The only available information on the subject referred to by the hon. Member is contained in the second report of the departmental actuarial committee to the Royal Commission on National Health Insurance, which is to be found on page 376 of the Report of the Commission. In so far as the whole of the information desired by the hon. Member cannot be obtained from this source, a lengthy investigation by the Government actuary would be required and I am afraid that I should not be justified in asking him to undertake this at the present time.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to furnish a statement of the total cost on the basis of the Royal Commission's figures, because I think I am right in stating that no ground as to the cost was given in the report?

I will consider the request of the hon. Lady and see if it is possible.

Trade And Commerce

Foreign-Milled Flour (Imports)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that to manufacture here the flour at present imported into this country would have the effect of causing more employment in the British flour-milling industry, he will state the reason why on the two occasions when applications were made to them the Import Duties Advisory Committee refused to make any recommendation for an increase in the rate of duty upon this manufactured product?

As my hon. and gallant Friend will be aware, the committee make a report to the Treasury only when they recommend a change in the existing position in relation to any class of goods. I understand that it is not their practice to publish a statement of their reasons for rejecting applications.

Aeroplane Engines (Exports To Germany)

64.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will state the number of aeroplane engines exported from this country to Germany in the year 1934 and the first three months of 1935?

The number of aeroplane engines of United Kingdom manufacture exported during the year 1934 and registered as consigned to Germany was 96. No such exports were registered as consigned to Germany during the first three months of 1935.

In view of the illegal arming of Germany, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to stop the exportation of any more of these aeroplane engines, and is he aware of the great feeling that is growing up in this country against this treasonable traffic?

Have the exporters of these machines to have a licence in the same way as they have to have a licence for war materials?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of these engines are used for military aircraft as a rule?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Board of Trade encourage or discourage the exportation of aeroplane engines to Germany?

We have no reason to suppose that engines manufactured for civil aeroplanes are not fit and proper subjects for export.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to stop the further exportation of these machines?

Cotton Industry (Legislation)

67.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can now give the date for the introduction of the Bill to deal with redundant cotton-spinning mills?

I fear that it is not yet possible to name a date for the introduction of the Bill to which my hon. Friend refers.

Can my right hon. Friend say what is holding up the introduction of the Bill? Is he aware that Manchester is not responsible?

There is no suggestion that there is any responsibility in Manchester. It has proved to be a very difficult Bill to draft.

National Finance

Expenditure (Social Services)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total net expenditure in 1934 on social services, excepting sums spent on war pensions?

I am afraid that the information asked for is not yet available. As the hon. Member is no doubt aware, full details of expenditure on social services are given in the Return of Public Social Services published each year. The latest issue of the Return (Command Paper 4749 of 1934) contains the figures for 1933 and those for 1934 will be included in the next issue which will be published in the autumn.

Is it not a monstrous thing that the figure of £500,000,000, so often quoted in this House, is grossly misleading, and is it not the fact that the increase in social services during the last few years has been largely offset by the increasing taxation borne by the people indirectly?

Is it not the fact that we spend each year more than any country in the world on social services and that we get the best results?

Is it not the fact that there is more stopped out of the wages of the working class in this country than is the case in any other country?

Floating Debt (Interest Charge)

52.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what was the total gross amount of the interest charge of the floating debt for the financial year 1934–35?

Miscellaneous Revenue

53.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what items in the estimated miscellaneous revenue for 1934–35 failed to realise the estimated figure, and by how much?

The aggregate amount receivable under this head is necessarily a matter of conjecture at the beginning of the year: many items which may be expected to yield some revenue are quite incapable of being accurately forecast. Particulars of actual receipts are published in very full detail in the annual finance accounts.

Can the hon. Member say when the figures for 1934–35 will be published?

Coal Industry

Gas Detectors

60.

asked the Secretary for Mines the position with regard to the regulation for the compulsory use of gas detectors underground?

The Mineworkers' Federation have withdrawn their objection to the draft regulations. I have agreed for my part that the working of the regulations will be reviewed by a committee before the expiration of a trial period of two years. I have accordingly made an Order by which the regulations are established in the form of the draft already published; it is provided in the Order that the regulations shall be in force for two years from 1st October next. Copies of the Order will be published and circulated as soon as possible.

Can the Secretary for Mines say whether this committee of inquiry will be representative of those engaged in the industry—the Ministry of Mines, the workers and the owners?

It is much too early to say that, but the intention is to observe how the various types work in order to arrive at the best conclusion in regard to safety in the industry.

Will the Committee be kept acquainted with the number of automatic detectors in use and the collieries using them?

Boldon Colliery (Brick Manufacture)

61.

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he has received any information in connection with the making of bricks from stone at the Boldon Colliery; and whether he can state the number of workers employed and the number of bricks that have been made to date?

I have made inquiries and am informed that since 8th March, when brick making began at Boldon Colliery, 681,600 bricks have been made from an old heap of stone, shale and other refuse which has been standing for some 20 years. Forty-nine men in all are engaged in the brickworks.

Post Office Contracts (Fair Wages Clause)

62.

asked the Postmaster-General whether it is the practice of his Department, in placing contracts, to proceed on the basis that firms to which Government contracts are assigned shall be required to observe the principles of the fair-wages resolution on their private work, in accordance with the terms of paragraph 4 of the letter from the Ministry of Labour, of 26th June, 1934, to the Trade Union Congress general council; and whether that has been and will be carried out in respect of contracts in the cooperage trade in the Potteries and elsewhere?

Broadcasting (Wave-Lengths)

63.

asked the Postmaster-General whether, seeing that the recent change in wave-lengths imposed by the British Broadcasting Corporation has deprived many persons over wide areas of satisfactory reception of the national programmes, he will consider arranging for the reduction of the price of wireless licences in such areas to 5s.?

I am informed by the British Broadcasting Corporation that the recent changes in wave-lengths were made in the interests of listeners generally and with the object of making the best possible use of the wave-lengths available for the broadcasting service in this country. In some districts reception of the national programmes from the nearest station has been rendered some what more difficult; but in these districts listeners are, I am told, able to receive the national programmes from the long-wave transmitter at Droitwich. I am unable to entertain my hon. Friend's suggestion that a reduction in the wireless licence fee should be allowed to listeners in these districts.

While thanking the hon. Member for his answer, is he prepared to receive representations on this subject, and can he assure the House that the Postmaster-General has any power whatsoever to permit those who have paid their licences for the reception of programmes to have the facilities of such programmes?

These new arrangements have been made to secure the greater happiness and convenience of the greatest number of licence holders. If the hon. Member has any specific case of hardship, I will look into it.

Is the hon. Member satisfied that it is fit and proper in this country to accept money from persons in respect of services about to be rendered when no guarantee whatsoever can be given that such services will be rendered.

Is the hon. Member aware that we are much more concerned in Newcastle over an increased reception than a decreased subscription?

Enemy Debts Clearing Office

65.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the estimated gross and net cost of the Clearing Office for Enemy Debts, including the Enemy Property Department and the Russian Claims Department, for the current year; the number of years during which the Clearing Office has been in existence, and whether he can give an approximate date for the termination of its labours?

The estimated gross cost of the Clearing Office, for the current financial year, is £13,663, and the net cost is £350, which is the estimated cost of the Russian Claims Department. The difference represents fees, etc., receivable by the Clearing Office and accounted for as Appropriations in Aid. Full details appear on pages 26 to 29 of the Civil Estimates for 1935, Class VI. The Office has been in existence for various purposes since 1920 and is now in process of liquidation. It is hoped to close the Office this year.

Steamship "Hendrik"

69.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the British steamship "Hendrik" (ex-steamship "Purley Downs"), owned by the Euxine Shipping Company, Limited, of London, stranded near Gibraltar on 15th April and has become a total loss; and that in this ship, which was on a voyage from Rotterdam to Mediterranean ports, including Palestine coast ports, the only British subject was the wireless operator, that the captain and both mates were Russians, the chief engineer a Jugo-Slav, the second and third engineers Dutch, the donkeyman a Turk, the cook a Chinaman, and all the remainder of the crew Finns, Letts and Greeks; whether this steamship was exempt from the provisions of Section 5 of the Aliens Restriction Amendment Act, 1919, as being a ship employed habitually in voyages between ports outside the United Kingdom; and whether he will consider amending the Act to exclude from the exemption vessels trading in any port in the British Empire or mandated territory?

I am informed that this vessel was acquired by her present owners in October last, having previously been laid up for four years. The officers and crew, engaged at Rotterdam on 26th November, 1934, consisted of aliens of various nationalities, with the exception of a British wireless operator. Changes have since taken place, but the composition of the crew at the time of stranding is not exactly known. The vessel had not, so far as I am aware, called at a United Kingdom port since her Articles were opened in November. The other ships of the Euxine Shipping Company are employed habitually in voyages between ports outside the United Kingdom, and I have no reason to believe that the "Hendrik" was not similarly employed.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of the question? Does he consider it satisfactory that a ship which could not operate with a British crew and British officers can be purchased by a foreign company which is registered in London, and then proceed to trade with ports in mandated British territory, Palestine ports, and take trade which would otherwise be done by ships with British crews?

Is not this an example of why 40,000 Britishers are unemployed because of the employment of foreigners at cheaper rates?

I have no reason to believe that if the crew had been made up otherwise, it would have resulted in the greater employment of British seamen.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give me an answer to my question? Does he propose to take any steps to amend the Act that I have mentioned, the Act of 1919, to amend the exception to the rule to employ British officers on ships flying the British flag, so as to limit that exception, not only to vessels trading with the United Kingdom, but to vessels trading with any port of the British Empire or any port of mandated territories?

I think my hon. Friend is probably aware of the Section of the Aliens Restriction Act, 1919, which deals with this subject and which provides that:

"No alien shall act as master, chief officer or chief engineer of a British merchant ship registered in the United Kingdom, or as skipper or as second hand of a fishing vessel in the United Kingdom except in the case of a ship or boat engaged in voyages outside the United Kingdom."

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it desirable so to amend the Act as to make it applicable to vessels trading not only habitually outside the United Kingdom but outside the British Empire or mandated territories?

No, Sir. I do not think that would be a suitable arrangement to make, and I doubt very much whether it would be to the advantage of the British Mercantile Marine.

Is it not an insult to the British flag and to the British Mercantile Marine that we should have a vessel sailing from this country with a cosmopolitan crew of this description?

Naval And Military Pensions

73.

asked the Minister of Pensions how many applications have been made for pensions where the husband and father has died through war wounds, but the marriage took place after war service; and what has happened in such cases?

I am sorry not to be able to give the information asked for by the hon. Member. The Ministry have no record of applications made where the applicant is ineligible for benefit under the Royal Warrants, as would be the case in the circumstances referred to.

Will the right hon. and gallant Member make inquiry into this matter to see if something can be done for these people in Jubilee year in recognition of the services they gave the country in the time of war?

No, Sir, this question has been fully considered on more than one occasion, and it has been consistently held by Governments of all parties that the liability of the State in respect of the deaths of ex-service men should be limited to the men's family obligations as existing at the date of the contraction on service of the fatal disability.

Since the report of the Committee the widows of ex-soldiers have frequently suffered hardships inasmuch as they cannot qualify for an ordinary State pension. Will the right hon. and gallant Member not now reconsider the matter?

I am not prepared to suggest any alteration of the principle which is obviously right. If the hon. Member has any particular case in mind I will examine it, but the principle must be adhered to.

Will the right hon. and gallant Member consider the point that because of his injuries the man cannot be fully employed, and, in that case, will he see that the widow in the case of his death gets a pension and does not suffer that disqualification?

Aviation

Petrol Duty

74.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the present approximate annual yield from the petrol duty levied on petrol used by civil and commercial aircraft in Great Britain?

No details for an exact computation are available, but as a rough estimate the yield for 1935 may be taken as about £55,000.

Air Services

76.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is prepared to inform companies who are willing to consider opening new air routes between England and countries abroad, including America, what contracts are available and what financial assistance would be given by His Majesty's Government?

The Air Ministry will be ready to supply to any company desiring it all information available regarding possible routes which are not already covered by present or pending agreements, but my Noble Friend is not prepared to give an undertaking that financial assistance of the nature of subsidy would be given by His Majesty Government.

Can the Under-Secretary say whether the Air Ministry are actively investigating the possibility of running British air liners on world trunk routes which are now entirely operated by foreign aircraft?

Imperial Airways, Limited

76.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air to what extent His Majesty's Government is bound to Imperial Airways, Limited, on routes not at present operating?

Perhaps I shall best answer my hon. Friend's question by saying that His Majesty's Government is under contractual obligation to confine to Imperial Airways the grant of subsidy for services in Europe and on the routes to the East. As regards routes in the Mediterranean area and in Africa, there is also a contractual obligation to give the first offer of subsidy to that company.

Is the House to understand that on all other routes new companies will stand in exactly the same favourable light as Imperial Airways, Limited, in connection with any possible negotiations with His Majesty's Government?

The policy of His Majesty's Government is to make use of this one great commercial company under proper guarantees of efficiency rather than dissipate available supplies in other ways.

Does not the Under-Secretary understand that that policy is preventing a large number of desirable companies, including great shipping companies, from undertaking trans-oceanic services from this country to South America and to North America?

British And German Armies (International Courtesy)

77.

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether the pre-war system of attaching a number of German officers to the British Army and a number of British officers to the German Army has now been resumed; if so, to what extent; and whether he will give the reasons for the resumption of this practice at the present time?

Yes, Sir. Three British officers are being attached to the Germany Army and three German officers to units of the British Army in the United Kingdom, the period of attachment being for six weeks. The grant of such facilities betwen the Powers is an ordinary act of international courtesy. The request from the German Government was received in October, 1934.

Can the hon. Member say whether these officers are entitled to report to their respective Governments what they have seen?

We have just as much to gain by having British officers attached to the German Army as Germany has in having German officers attached to the British Army, and you cannot have one without the other.

Russia (Communist Propaganda)

78.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, during his recent conversations with the Soviet authorities in Moscow, the Lord Privy Seal made any representations to them with regard to the subversive activities of the Comintern in this country; whether his attention has been called to the manifesto launched last Saturday by the Comintern setting forth a new programme for a Soviet Government in England; and what action he proposes to take in this matter?

Lieut.-Colonel J. COLVILLE
(Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)