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Commons Chamber

Volume 345: debated on Thursday 30 March 1939

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 30th March, 1939.

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

British Museum

I have been asked by the trustees of the British Museum to present a petition which they have to submit to this House annually, explaining the financial position and praying for aid. The petition recites the funded income of the trustees and points out that the establishment is necessarily attended with an expense far beyond the annual production of the funds, and the trust cannot with benefit to the public be carried on without the aid of Parliament. It concludes with this prayer:

"Your petitioners therefore humbly pray your Honourable House to grant them such further support towards enabling them to carry on the execution of the Trust reposed in them by Parliament for the general benefit of learning and useful knowledge as to your House shall seem meet."—[King's Recommendation signified.]

Am I in order in asking how much is being asked for by the Government as a contribution towards these funds?

The amount will be in the Estimates.

Petition referred to the Committee of Supply.

Private Business

Sea Fisheries Provisional Order (Tollesbury and West Mersea) Bill,

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

Oral Answers To Questions

Unemployment

France, Germany And Italy

1.

asked the Minister of Labour the latest information in his possession as to what extent unemployment at present obtains among the workers in France, Germany and Italy?

In France, the number of persons registered at employment exchanges as applicants for work at 18th March, 1939, was 443,061. In Germany, the latest official statistics relate to the end of February, 1939, when the number of persons reported by the employment exchanges as unemployed in Greater Germany (including Austria and the incorporated Sudeten areas) was 455,621. Both as regards France and Germany the figures given are not strictly comparable with those for this country, as they are compiled on a different basis. No statistics are published relating to the numbers unemployed in Italy.

Are not such figures published in the Ministry of Labour Gazette?

We do give figures, but I would not like to say on what basis they have been compiled.

Is it not a fact that Italy is sending a very large number of men into Germany to help carry on agriculture?

Special Areas

2.

asked the Minister of Labour what complaints he has received from manufacturers wishing to establish businesses in Special Areas that the terms of assistance under the Special Areas Reconstruction Act are less favourable than those generally obtainable from commercial banks?

Does the Minister consider that this experiment has been prolific or barren, and does he claim that these conclusions could not have been obtained through ordinary means?

There is no doubt that the experiment has been a great success, so much so that there is not much left in the fund.

I could not give an answer on that subject in reply to a supplementary question.

Is it not a fact that industries in other areas are complaining of the competition from the Special Areas?

I could not go as far as that. I have seen complaints from individual industries.

Assistance Board Area Office, York

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that two subordinate officers employed in the area office of the Unemployment Assistance Board at York have been compulsorily transferred as a result of reports rendered by them to their official superiors relating to alleged irregular acts on the part of the officer immediately in charge of the York area; that the staff organisation representing these two men have produced evidence to the headquarters of the board in support of the charges made; and that the officer in charge of the area office has conveyed to members of his staff an expression of his displeasure that they should belong to their recognised staff association; and whether he will consult with the chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board with a view to his reconsidering his refusal to receive a deputation from the recognised staff association in respect of these matters?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the third part, the board are satisfied with the manner in which the officer in charge has conducted the York area office and that he has not discouraged members of his staff from exercising their rights as civil servants to belong to a staff association. As regards the second and fourth parts of the question, the whole circumstances of the case were made the subject of a special inquiry at the headquarters of the board in the course of which the two officers in question, assisted by representatives of their staff association, were given the fullest opportunity of submitting their representations. The chairman of the board, with whom I have been in consultation in the matter, informs me that he sees no grounds for reconsidering his refusal to receive a deputation on a matter which has already been the subject of careful and detailed investigation.

Liverpool

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any evidence to show that unemployed persons from other places go to Liverpool for the express purpose of seeking employment in that city; whether such persons have been employed to the disadvantage of Liverpool unemployed persons and ratepayers in general; and whether he will instruct managers of Employment Exchanges in Liverpool, when sending persons to employers of labour to fill vacancies, to send only those unemployed applicants who, other things being equal, have a reasonable period of residence in Liverpool?

I have no such evidence as that which is referred to in the first part of the question. As regards the last part of the question, the Employment Exchanges give a preference to local unemployed, but it is not the practice to have regard to the period of residence of applicants, except where a stipulation in this respect is made by the employer.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the last part of the question and give an answer; and in regard to the first part of his reply, may I ask if I am to understand by that, that very few of these people are taken on in Liverpool and other Merseyside places?

It has always been the practice of the exchanges to place local persons, if they are suitable for the jobs concerned. The last part of my answer referred to the regulations made by the Corporation of Liverpool.

Unregistered Persons

8.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can give an accurate or approximate total figure of the unemployed who are not registered at the Employment Exchanges, and who have to be added to give the total number of the unemployed?

No, Sir; but I have no reason to suppose that the number is at all considerable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the statements alleging that there are hundreds and thousands of such unregistered unemployed men and is he able to supply me with the facts with which to refute such statements?

It is the general practice of public assistance authorities to require able-bodied unemployed persons who apply for relief to register at the Employment Exchanges as applicants for work. The suggestion underlying the question of my hon. Friend is that those who apply do not register, but that is not so. In January, 1939, the latest date for which I have figures, the number of persons ordinarily engaged in some industrial occupation, who applied for relief, and who were not registered as unemployed, was under 4,000.

Is the Minister not aware that a large number of people who are refused benefit under the means test refuse to sign the register at the Employment Exchange?

Do not public assistance authorities say that large numbers of people on their funds are without registration?

I do not agree that that is so. They may say that there are numbers of people on relief who are not under the Unemployment Assistance Board, but that is an entirely different matter. I am pointing out to the House that it is a complete misapprehension to think that those who get public assistance are not registered at the exchanges; they are almost entirely so, except for 4,000, at the latest date.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number are on relief in Glasgow?

Transference (Juveniles)

11.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of young persons under the age of 16 years who have been transferred from the provinces to the metropolitan districts of London for various kinds of employment during the two years ended the last convenient date under the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1934; and how many of these persons are in their original employment or have returned to their homes?

During the two years ended December, 1938, 1,8oo boys and 776 girls, under 16 years of age, were transferred from areas scheduled under the Juvenile Transference Scheme to employment in the Metropolitan area. I regret I cannot say how many of those are in their original employment or have returned home.

Can we be assured that special care is given to these juveniles when they are sent to London?

Yes, Sir; there is a most elaborate system of after-care, and in some cases hostels have been arranged for in areas where it is not easy to get suitable lodgings.

Are they given the opportunity of returning home if they become unemployed again?

That has often been stated. I could not give an answer except by making a speech which would last at least 10 minutes.

Trading Sites (Underlying Coal)

13.

asked the Minister of Labour the amount of coal that has been purchased by the Sites Company under the Pallions and St. Helens trading sites, respectively, and the price paid per ton; and whether the coal can be worked by the coal owners and the Sites Company left without any right of support?

The mineral rights under the site at Pallion are reserved to the owners, but the Commissioner for the Special Areas is advised that, even though working the coal should be resumed, it would not involve any serious risk to buildings. The Commissioner owns the coal under the site at St. Helen Auckland, and arrangements have been made with the lessees to secure support for the surface. It would be contrary to general practice to disclose the financial details of such arrangements.

With regard to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's answer may I ask whether he is satisfied that the coal measures in this case are of such a nature that, if they were worked, it would have little or no effect as regards subsidence?

Benefit Claim, Holloway

14.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that when a claimant to benefit, Mr. W. Bailey, of 33, Frederick Street, N.7, appeared before the Court of Referees at Holloway on 21st February, the chairman of the court refused to allow a friend whom he had brought to be present during the proceedings, and later, told the claimant that he should not bring his girl friend next time; and, as it is undesirable for a chairman to advise a claimant as to whom he shall bring with him in the capacity of friend or to use expressions of this character which had nothing to do with the matter in hand, will he have inquiry made into the matter?

I am having inquiry made into this matter, and will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that the person taken was not a personal or intimate friend of the kind implied; that an unemployed man is entitled to have anyone he pleases to assist him at a Court of Referees; and that there is far too much of this sort of impertinence at the expense of unemployed people?

With regard to the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, the answer is "Yes" My preliminary inquiries lead me to believe that the statement complained of was made more as a joke than anything else.

International Labour Conventions

4.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the draft conventions adopted by the 1937 session of the International Labour Conference have been submitted to the Senate of Cuba for approval by a message from the President of the Republic; and whether he will indicate the action taken by the other States members of the International Labour Organisation with regard to these conventions?

I understand that action has been taken in Cuba on the lines indicated in the first part of the question. As regards the second part, I received no official intimation of any action short of formal ratification, taken by other States members of the International Labour Organisation with regard to conventions. The International Labour Office publish information on the matter from time to time in "Industrial and Labour Information," which is issued weekly, and copies of which are sent to the Library of the House.

What action do the Governmen propose to take in respect of this convention?

Insurance Employés (Trade Union Membership)

5.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the Guild of Insurance Officials have been trying for some time to get a meeting with the representatives of their employers to bring to their notice several matters which require attention; and whether he will consider trying to get them together to see whether agreement can be reached?

I am aware that the Guild of Insurance Officials has made applications for meetings with many insurance companies, but I am afraid that I cannot make any useful statement without an indication of the particular cases which the hon. Member has in mind.

If I let the right hon. Gentleman have information which is in my possession, would he be able to get them together?

I would not like to go as far as that. The hon. Member knows that the Ministry of Labour has to judge whether there is a favourable opportunity for the use of their conciliation machinery.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that employers have, in particular cases, special powers which have been given to them by this House?

Is the Minister aware that the attitude in the case of one large employer, an insurance company, is more like what one would expect in Germany than in England?

It is not so much a question of the machinery for conciliation but whether the conciliation shall be internal to the organisation.

12.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in connection with the difficulties which have arisen between the London and Manchester Insurance Company and its employés, he is aware that membership of the staff association is automatically imposed upon members of the staff and membership of an appropriate trade union is prohibited; and whether, having regard to the recognition by this House of the advantages of trade union organisation, he will take action calculated to terminate this encroachment upon the civil rights of the employés concerned?

I am not aware of the position stated in the first part of the question. As regards the second part, I understand that the question is not one of refusal to recognise trade union organisation, but of a difference between the company and the Guild of Insurance Officials as to the particular organisation which should be recognised as representative of the staff.

If I send the Minister evidence showing, first, that members of the staff are literally compelled to join the so-called staff association; and, secondly, that they are prohibited from joining a bona fide protective organisation, will the right hon. Gentleman intimate to the company that that is out of line with public policy in this country?

Would the right hon. Gentleman be willing to receive a deputation of Members of the House who would put before him certain facts with regard to the unreasonable attitude of this company in prohibiting its employés from belonging to their own organisation?

Dock Workers

6.

asked the Minister of Labour whether the discussions with the National Council of Port Labour Employers has led to a preliminary agreement as to the registration of dock workers and the decasualisation of labour; and whether such agreement includes the guarantee of a full week's work and holidays with pay?

The discussion with the representatives of the National Council of Port Labour Employers, to which I presume the hon. Member refers, took place at their suggestion for the purpose of elucidating certain points arising in connection with discussions which they are carrying on with the representatives of the trade unions with a view to making joint proposals for the decasualisation of labour. There was, therefore, no question of formulating any agreement at that meeting.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the negotiation that is going on is satisfactory to all interests concerned?

We have been discussing, in the preliminary stage, proposals that were made, but I should prefer to say no more at the moment.

Bakery Trade, Scotland

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that for the purposes of the Bakery Trade Board, Scotland has been divided into five regions fixed upon a county basis, and irrespective of the trade and industrial location of borderline towns and villages; why the village of Lennox town in Stirlingshire has been included in Region III although its business competitors are in Division V; and whether, in view of the anomalies and difficulties that this grouping will provoke, he will arrange that Lennox town will be included in Region V?

Under the Trade Boards Acts, the Trade Board has the responsibility of determining the area for which a trade committee shall act, and I have no power to vary areas which have been so determined. If my right hon. Friend would care to be put in touch with the Trade Board, I shall be glad to arrange it.

In view of the facts stated in the question, will the right hon. Gentleman give his attention to this matter, because the whole thing is so ridiculous?

Pro-Nazi Organisation

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the activities of a pro-Nazi organisation in this country known as the Link; whether his attention has been called to certain methods of propaganda adopted; and whether he will take steps to deport the German subjects concerned?

I understand that the organisers and principal officials of this body are all British subjects. The last part of the question does not, therefore, arise.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this organisation does all it can to glorify Hitlerism, and derives support from Nazi sources; and is it not desirable that the British public should realise what its precise but undeclared objects are?

I understand that this organisation is mainly for the purposes of pro-Nazi and anti-Semite propaganda. More than that I do not know.

Will not the Home Secretary see that any person who desires Hitler rule instead of British rule is allowed to go back to Germany?

Bogus Clubs

17.

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the long delay which has transpired since the Government have expressed their intention of introducing legislation to deal with bogus clubs, he is now in a position to make a further statement on the subject?

The Government had hoped to introduce a Bill to deal with this subject during the present Session of Parliament, but the claims of foreign policy and National Defence on Parliamentary time has been such that there is now little prospect of finding the necessary time, especially as it seems clear that the difficulties of reaching any measure of agreement on the subject are great. Despite these difficulties, the Government are, however, convinced that some amendment of the law is required which, without prejudicing the interests of reputable clubs, will deal with undesirable resorts which misuse the liberty allowed to genuine clubs, and they intend to introduce a Measure on these lines as soon as it is practicable.

Will consultations take place with the Club and Institute Union before the Government Measure is introduced?

Yes, Sir; we shall certainly hope to have consultations of this kind and try to obtain a basis of general agreement.

Industrial Accidents

18.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information in connection with an accident at Messrs. W. H. Healeys, chair factory at High Wycombe, at which a man was killed on Thursday, 23rd March, and what was the cause of the accident?

I understand that the deceased workman obtained a ladder and, without switching off the power, climbed up to some overhead shafting (for what purpose is not clear), and that his clothing became caught by the shaft. The coroner's jury brought in a verdict of accidental death.

20.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information in connection with the accident at Kynochs factory, Aston, Birmingham, where a man was killed; and what was the cause of the accident?

This accident, which occurred on 22nd March at the Kynochs Works of Messrs. I.C.I. Metals, Limited, Witton, Birmingham, was caused by an explosion in the building in which lead styphnate is dried. Only one person was in the building at the time, and I regret to say that he was killed instantaneously. The building was completely wrecked, but no other damage was done to persons or propery. An inquiry into the accident is in progress, and the precise cause of the accident has not yet been ascertained. From such preliminary investigation as has been made, it does not appear that there was any breach of the conditions of the licence permitting the manufacture of explosives at the factory.

Vaccination (Exemption Certificates)

19.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that some magistrates refuse to sign vaccination exemption certificates on the ground of conscientious objection; and will he circularise magistrates to make it clear that a statutory declaration of belief that vaccination would be injurious to the health of the child is the only requirement to be observed by the applicant?

My attention has recently been drawn to certain newspaper reports regarding the alleged refusal of a magistrate to attest statutory declarations made under Section 1 of the Vaccination Act, 1907, and I am having inquiry made. I believe it is well understood that the attestation of the statutory declaration by a magistrate is a purely ministerial act, and that, if a declaration is brought to him at a convenient and proper time, he should not refuse to attest it; and on the information before me I do not think there is any need for a general circular to justices on this subject.

Air-Raid Precautions

21.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what type of explosive was used in the recent air-raid precautions test in Northampton when the first attempt to demolish a derelict house failed through the charge not exploding and in which the second attempt succeeded but shattered the windows in houses and buildings 150 yards away; and whether he will ensure that a better type of detonating explosive is used in future tests?

Inquiries into this matter are still in progress, and, as soon as they are complete, I will communicate with the hon. Member.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to see that such experiments are not indulged in in places that are so close to other buildings as to be likely to cause damage; and also that they are carried out with a greater degree of efficiency?

I will consider the whole matter in the light of the results of the inquiries.

23.

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many rescue parties so far have been organised in the county of London?

Nearly 4,000 men have been enrolled in the County of London as members of rescue parties, but I am not in a position to say how far these recruits have yet been organised in parties. The London County Council have undertaken the responsibility for organising rescue parties in the county, and, in consultation with the metropolitan boroughs, their officers are engaged in working out plans for centralised recruiting, for training as parties in peace-time, and for central control and co-ordination in war-time.

24.

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many first-aid parties have been established and know their posts in the county of London?

Some 4,500 men have been enrolled as members of first-aid parties in the county of London; but I cannot say how far these recruits have been organised as parties and allocated to particular depots. Arrangements have been completed with the St. John Ambulance Brigade, in conjunction with the Metropolitan boroughs, for the collective training as parties of those enrolled for this service who have received preliminary first-aid training. A special organisation for this purpose is being set up under the control of Colonel Wallace Benson, who is getting into touch immediately with the medical officers of health of the boroughs in order to work out locally the arrangements for collective training. It will be for borough authorities to allocate the parties trained by the brigade to particular depots in their areas.

Is there not a great shortage of first-aid workers, compared with the need, in London; and will my right hon. Friend do everything he can to increase recruitment, both for first-aid parties and for rescue parties?

Yes, Sir, it is perfectly true that there is a marked shortage for those parties. Everything possible is being done to promote increased recruitment.

25.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether officers of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross Society receive the same allowances as the voluntary organisers of air-raid precautions services and auxiliary nurses?

I am not quite clear what my hon. Friend has in mind. If he is referring to the fees paid to instructors, members of the brigade or society who are qualified as instructors should receive the same fee as any other instructor similarly qualified.

26.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the position of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross Society in the scheme of civil de fence; and whether, in providing additional services in this direction, it is proposed to proceed by increasing the membership of these organisations, or by setting up new and competitive organisations?

The St. John Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross Society are rendering valuable assistance to the local authorities responsible for recruiting, organising, and training the air-raid casualty services, in the training of volunteers for those services, and they also encourage a number of their trained members, whose age and experience makes them suitable, to enrol with the local authorities in those services for duty in first-aid posts or first-aid parties. Both bodies retain their position as voluntary first-aid organisations, and there is no question of setting up competitive associations.

27.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has received recently any reports from Major Broadhurst, regional officer, as to the progress of air-raid precautions in Liverpool, stating whether his Department is satisfied with progress to date?

From information received from my regional officer, I am satisfied that considerable progress has recently been made, and that the situation is now developing satisfactorily.

Is the relationship between the regional officer and the A.R.P. committee in Liverpool quite satisfactory? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the different reports to the city council as to the progress being made?

My information is that there has been a marked improvement in the situation in recent weeks, and I have no reason to suppose that personal relations are not satisfactory.

Can my right hon. Friend say when this area is to be scheduled as vulnerable?

The list has been published for certain purposes, and in connection with the Bill which is shortly to come before the House further lists will have to be issued, and work is proceeding on these lists now.

How long will it be before the improved progress reaches the stage at which the right hon. Gentleman can say that he is satisfied?

28.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the situation which has arisen in Warwickshire as a result of the removal by the county council of the air-raid wardens from the control of the chief constable?

While I understand that there was at first a certain amount of opposition among the wardens in certain parts of the county to the change control of their organisation which was decided upon by the county council, I have every reason to think that the members of the service generally will co-operate loyally with the authorities in making a success of the new arrangements.

Does my right hon. Friend mean that he has agreed to the decision of the council, and, if so, is not this a complete reversal of policy, involving the scrapping of police control, which has given every satisfaction in Warwickshire?

The Department have never made known any rigid conditions in regard to air-raid wardens. They have, it is true, in circulars to local authorities given a general guidance in favour of control by the chief of police where that was suitable, but an element of discretion was left to the local authorities, and in this case the county council, after consideration, decided in favour of alternative arrangements.

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider that decision if I scan show him that he has been much misguided in regard to conditions in Warwickshire?

I must make it clear that the decision did not require the approval of the Department, but I would, of course, consider any representations which were made.

30.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether expenditure incurred by the local education authorities in carrying out work imposed upon them by Circular No. 1461 of the Board of Education will rank for grant at the same rate as expenditure incurred by the air-raid precautions committees of the same authorities?

Measures necessary for the protection of school buildings and their occupants are primarily the responsibility of the appropriate education authorities, and fall outside the scope of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, which governs the financial position of local authorities in relation only to the organisation of general air-raid precaution services.

37.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, upon whom the expenditure will fall, as between sending and receiving authorities under evacuation schemes of local education authorities; will the grant on such expenditure be the grant available under the ordinary grant formula; and what will be the position with regard to expenditure arising out of the facts of evacuation which falls outside the expenditure of a local education authority as such?

Expenditure on the education of children evacuated from the area of one local education authority to that of another will fall on the sending authority and will be recognised for grant in the education account for that authority. It is proposed that a local education authority should receive in respect of its total net recognisable expenditure for the year a grant bearing the same proportion to that expenditure as held good for the last year for which complete audited accounts are available. Expenditure due solely to evacuation, and falling outside the expenditure of a local education authority as such, will not be a charge upon the local education authority. Provision is made in the Civil Defence Bill for defraying from the Exchequer such non-educational expenditure.

Do I understand that the education authority will be allowed to carry out the work under the direction of another authority or another department?

No, Sir, the education authority, which is the sending authority for children, will send in in the ordinary way and will receive grant in accordance with the provisions.

The question I wish to ask with respect to expenditure which is due to the evacuation rather than to educational expenditure, which the education authority is called upon to bear is, What grant will be available for the expenditure which will fall upon the local education authorities?

I do not think that it will fall on the local education authorities, but I cannot give the exact figure at the present moment.

38.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has had time to collate the accommodation returns from reception areas; and when he will be able to decide on the exact boundaries of those areas?

The survey of accommodation is now practically complete and my right hon. Friend hopes very shortly, in the light of the information available, to be in a position to consider the representations which have been made to him regarding the use of certain districts for reception. As regards the second part of the question I am not in a position to give a date at present

39.

asked the Minister of Health exactly what household equipment it is expected that householders in the reception areas are expected to provide for the accommodation of their allotment of evacuated children and adults?

My right hon. Friend intends to deal with this question in the circular which he is about to issue to local authorities and of which I will send my hon. and gallant Friend a copy.

56.

asked the Minister of Health how many emergency ambulance stations have been set up in Kensington and the addresses thereof?

I understand that the London County Council has provisionally earmarked premises at 10 points in the Royal Borough as emergency ambulance stations, but the addresses cannot properly be published until the London County Council have completed the necessary arrangements with the owners.

60.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in connection with his plans for evacuation, it is proposed to take an emergency census of the whole of the country or part of the country, and, if so, of what nature?

I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend has in mind. A survey of accommodation in the areas provisionally classified as suitable for the reception of persons evacuated has been carried out by the local authorities and is now substantially complete. The local authorities in the towns to be evacuated will shortly be taking steps to ascertain the number of children whose parents would wish them to be evacuated in case of emergency. Neither of these operations is, however, quite in the nature of a. census.

Are not the Government planning to find out how many aged and infirm will have to be evacuated in each area?

Will the hon. Member bear in mind that one of the difficulties in the matter of taking a census is the impossibility of local authorities knowing how many people are going to evacuate themselves? Unless that information is known, it is impossible for any census figures to be reliable.

61.

asked the Minister of Health whether, before the sites of evacuation camps are settled, he proposes to institute any sort of public inquiry as to the most suitable places; and whether in each county all the chief local authorities will be consulted?

I would refer my hon. Friend to yesterday's Debate on the Second Reading of the Camps Bill, when my right hon. Friend explained the arrangements for the selection of sites for the proposed camps.

65.

asked the Minister of Health what payment is to be made to-male and to female helpers, other than teachers, who volunteer to accompany those who are to be evacuated in the first and second priority groups, and who are accepted for full-time employment in this capacity?

The matter to which the hon. Member's question refers is at present under consideration.

May we hope to have early information in regard to this matter, since practically nobody is volunteering, because people know nothing about the conditions under which they would be expected to go away with children or adults in the first and second priority groups?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that this is being borne in mind by my right hon. Friend who is anxious to do all he can in the matter.

If I put down a question in a week's time, will the hon. Gentleman be able to give an answer?

66.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that local authorities are charging rates on houses which remain unfurnished and unoccupied if it is disclosed that they have been purchased for the evacuation of people in time of war; and whether he will take steps to remedy this in the interests of air-raid precautions?

I am not aware that local authorities have acted as stated in the first part of the question. My right hon. Friend has no jurisdiction to determine liability for rates, but if my hon. Friend would care to bring any particular case to my notice I will make inquiries.

Education

Milk And Meals, School Children

31.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education the number of school children in the county of Durham who receive milk at school, also what percentage of these are in receipt of free milk upon grounds of penury or malnutrition, with the total weekly charge to the authorities concerned?

:On 1st October, 1938, the latest date for which figures are available, 63,724 children in the administrative county of Durham for purposes of elementary education were receiving milk at public elementary schools. During the month of February, 1939, 37,746 children, or 59 per cent. of the total number, received a pint of free milk a day, at a cost to the local education authority of about £900 a week. Grant is payable by the Board of Education at the rate of 50 per cent. on this expenditure.

Are the Government not shocked at the state of gross penury prevailing in County Durham under this head?

33.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education what action he proposes to take following upon the representations made to the Board by the Children's Minimum Council for the extension of the provision of free meals to children attending school?

At an interview with a deputation from the Children's Minimum Council on Monday last my noble Friend explained the action which is already being taken by the Board of Education to secure a fuller exercise by local education authorities of their powers to provide free meals and milk for school children. This action includes a survey of the conditions in all areas, and, where necessary, representations to the local education authorities, urging them to extend or improve their arrangements.

Is the answer an indication that the Board agree with the representations, and that they will do everything, including the provision of the necessary classrooms, to enable the committee's representations to. be adopted by the authorities?

If the hon. Member will wait, there is a question distinctly relating to that.

35.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education the number of local education authorities that have been urged by his Department to improve their provisions for the feeding of schoolchildren, giving separate figures for Lancashire; and in how many cases has the response been satisfactory?

Local education authorities have for many years past been urged by the Board to improve their provision for the feeding of school children. Since the more intensive survey of the position in each area was begun in July last, representations on the subject have been made to 89 authorities, including 10 in Lancashire. In many cases replies from the authorities have not yet been received, but in 31 cases improvements have been effected or promised as a result of the Board's representations.

Failing a satisfactory response, what action do the Ministry intend to take?

I announced some of them in the Debate last week, but I will certainly let the hon. Member have a list.

36.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education the estimated cost of the suggestions made by the deputation organised by the Children's Minimum Council and received by the President of the Board on the 27th instant; and whether he is aware that these suggestions are strongly supported in the country?

The cost of the suggestions made by the Children's Minimum Council depends on a number of uncertain factors, and it is impossible to give more than an approximate estimate; but on the assumption that the allowance of free milk would be two-thirds of a pint per day, that the provision of milk and meals would be continued during school holidays, and that the charge to children paying for meals at school canteens would cover only the cost of the food, it is calculated that the additional cost to public funds would be about £34,000,000 a year. While it is very desirable that the existing powers for the provision of free meals and milk for school-children should be more fully exercised, and that additional provision for the supply of meals on payment should be made in rural areas, I am not aware that there is strong support for expenditure on the scale proposed by the Children's Minimum Council.

If the hon. Gentleman estimates the cost of the recommendations of the council at £34,000,000 per annum, can he give any estimate of the failure to provide such free meals?

All that I can say is that there is no reason why there should be any under-nourished child in this country if the local education authorities will use their existing powers.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that in some destricts they are feeding the children, and that in other cases they are not; and is it not wrong that children should be subjected to injustice in the areas in which they live?

As long as you have local government with optional powers, that is inevitable, but, as I pointed out last week, we are bringing pressure to bear upon local authorities which do not do so.

Maintenance Allowances

32.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether in the light of the recommendations contained in the Consultative Committee (Spens) Report on Secondary Education and the suggestion that all post-primary schools should enjoy parity of conditions, the Board is prepared to revise those sections of the new grant regulations which would prevent the payment of maintenance grants to pupils in schools where they have hitherto been paid?

:No, Sir. As the hon. Member will recall, the question of the payment of maintenance allowances to children while still under the obligation to attend school was decided by this House in the negative after a full Debate on 12th February, 1936, and I have already stated in replies to questions the reasons why my Noble Friend is not at present in a position to accept the administrative recommendations of the Spens Report.

Is the Minister aware that this right of the education authorities has been admitted by this House and administered out of existence by the Board of Education? Will he see that it is restored, so that the authorities who have been paying maintenance allowances with the approval of his Department may continue to do so?

It will continue as long as the children are not under the obligation to attend school. There is no change of policy whatsoever.

Reorganisation (School Premises)

34.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether, in view of the necessity of the development or reorganisation of many schools on account of the paramount importance of the welfare of school children to which the Board called attention in Circular No. 1444, a general survey has now been made of all school premises, especially in country areas?

:The schemes of reorganisation upon which local education authorities, including those for country areas, are actively engaged involve a survey of all school premises. Only in this way can the authorities determine what part each school shall take in the schemes of reorganisation.

May we be informed how many schools are without water for drinking and other purposes?

Measles (Serum Inoculation)

40.

asked the Minister of Health where the 37 cases, with seven deaths, after inoculation with convalescent measles serum, referred to on page 39 of the last Annual Report of his chief medical officer, occurred; whether any inquests were held on the fatal cases; whether his medical officers held an inquiry into the circumstances and, if so, will he consider the desirability of publishing their report with a view to such steps being taken as may, if possible, prevent a recurrence of similar disasters?

Eighteen of these cases occurred in Oxfordshire, eleven in Essex, six in Berkshire and one each in Surrey and Sussex. With regard to the second part of the question, I am informed that an inquest was not held on any of the fatal cases. With regard to the third and fourth parts of the question, investigations into this group of cases, which I am advised are of a highly exceptional character, are still being carried out by the medical staff of my Department, with the assistance of representatives of the Medical Research Council and other medical authorities, and I am not at present in a position to make any statement about the publication of a report.

Can the Minister inform me why no post mortem inquests were held in respect of these deaths, and does not he think it also advisable now further to investigate the merits or demerits of this dangerous serum?

The question of inquests, is, of course, a matter for the coroner over which my right hon. Friend has no control. With regard to the second part of his question, of course the most careful investigations are being made.

Housing

41.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the increased number of unemployed men in the building industry and of the continued shortage of houses and overcrowding in certain areas, he will bring pressure to bear on local authorities to speed up house-building where such shortage and overcrowding exists?

Local authorities are for the most part making good progress with house-building. As the hon. Member was informed in answer to his question on 15th December last, my right hon. Friend thinks that the local authorities are, generally speaking, fulfilling their duties under the Housing Acts with energy and efficiency, and I would again express willingness to make inquiries into any particular case which the hon. Member may have in mind.

Is not the answer which the hon. Member has just given to me an admission that certain authorities are not doing their duty; and is it not common sense that where there is overcrowding and houses are needed, and they are not doing their duty, the right hon. Gentleman should make some representations to them, and will he put that point to his right hon. Friend?

Yes, Sir, and if any case of that kind is brought to our notice, my right hon. Friend immediately makes representations.

59.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that many local authorities are being compelled to raise the rents of their municipal houses owing to the inadequate subsidy provided by the Government for the abatement of overcrowding and the rehousing of persons from unfit dwellings; and will he introduce early legislation to increase the subsidy and obviate hardship to working-class tenants?

With regard to the first part of the question, my right hon. Friend is not aware of any general increase in the rents of municipal houses. With regard to the second part, my right hon. Friend has no reason to suppose that the rates of Exchequer subsidy for slum clearance and overcrowding which were fixed by Parliament only a year ago are inadequate for their purpose.

Can the Minister inform the House from what source he anticipates that the reduced subsidy, which will amount approximately to £5 per house, is going to be met? Is it not clear that it will have to be met from the general rate of the local authority or by increasing rents to the tenants? Will he, therefore, give further consideration to the matter, because he result will be a slowing down of the building of houses which are to deal with the evil of overcrowding?

If I can produce evidence in respect of the Birmingham City Council and other local authorities in the Midlands, will consideration be given to it?

My right hon. Friend will be glad to consider any representations which the hon. Member makes.

Old Age Pensioners (Public Assistance)

42.

asked the Minister of Health the number of old age pensioners within the area of the Leyton and Walthamstow Employment Exchange; and what number received Poor Law relief during the 12 months to the latest available date?

I regret that the information desired is not available. The records of old age pensioners are not kept on a territorial basis, and the returns made to my Department by public assistance authorities of the number of persons in receipt of poor relief do not contain separate particulars for parts of an administrative county.

44.

asked the Minister of Health the number of people in the country, at the latest available date, who are in receipt of old age pension and who are also recipients of assistance from public assistance committees?

On 1st January, 1939, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 250,291 old age pensioners in England and Wales in receipt of poor relief.

Will the hon. Gentleman draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this appalling figure and ask him to do something for these poor people?

Is it possible to state what will be the cost for one year of raising these pensions to £1?

57.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to make a statement to the House showing the amount each local authority is paying annually to old age pensioners; and what this represents in rates to each authority?

My right hon. Friend is still awaiting returns from a few public assistance authorities giving the particulars for which he has asked. He hopes to be in a position to circulate a statement in the course of next week.

When the Minister gets sufficient information will he present it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a recommendation that these pensions should be increased?

63.

asked the Minister of Health the number of old age pensioners residing in the Kingswinford Division who are in receipt of public assistance?

I regret that the information desired is not available. The returns made to my Department by public assistance authorities of the number of persons in receipt of poor relief do not contain separate particulars for parts of an administrative county.

Local Authorities' Employés (Emergency Service)

43.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to Circular 1,466 of 21st February, 1939, issued by the Board of Education as an inducement to teachers to join His Majesty's Forces by the promise of safeguarding salary and pension if called up for service in war; and whether he will now issue to local government authorities a similar inducement concerning their employés?

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend has already issued a circular to local government authorities and I will send my hon. and gallant Friend a copy. As regards the pensionable position of the employés in question, I would refer to the reply given to him on 9th February last.

International Co-Operation

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the need for an international exhibition and fair to be held during the year 1940 at Trentham, Blackpool, Manchester, or some other suitable centre; that all forms of trade, sport and other human activities should be represented; that an international conference be held at the same time at which representatives of all nations shall be invited to consider what steps can be taken to develop economic co-operation; that at the same time a conference shall be held to deal with a limited number of political questions after the terms of reference for the conference have been agreed upon by the Governments that will be represented; and will he make a statement as to the Government's policy on this matter?

His Majesty's Government are precluded by the terms of the International Convention of 1928, relating to International Exhibitions, from organising in 1940 any exhibition of the kind contemplated by the hon. Member. As regards the second part of this question I would refer the hon. Member to the statement which I made on this subject in reply to questions in the House on 27th February.

Trade Disputes And Trade Union Act 1927

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now considered the case presented to him by the deputation representing the Trades Union Congress that the time has arrived for the restoration of the pre-1926 trade union rights, the repeal of the Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act, 1927, and the restoration to the Union of Post Office Workers of their pre-1926 rights, and the restoration of all rights taken from the organised people by the Act of 1927; and is he now in a position to make a statement on this matter, and indicate what action it is pro posed to take?

I am not yet in a position to add to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member in reply to a question which he addressed to me on 16th March last.

Control Of Flying (Committee's Report)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether an opportunity will be given to the House to discuss the report of the Committee on Control of Flying?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air hopes to make a full statement shortly, and to indicate the steps that will be taken to give effect to the approved recommendations of the committee. I think that the question of discussion must await that statement.

Does that mean that the Government are going to adopt all the recommendations?

Territorial Army (Increase)

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether any decision has now been reached by the Government as to the further measures to be taken for the recruitment of the armed forces of the Crown; and whether any pledge has been given to France to introduce compulsory national service?

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now state the result of the review of our defensive position in the light of the changed conditions in Europe, and, in particular, what is the Government's policy with regard to in creasing the land forces available to re pulse attack upon British possessions and to defend our allies against aggression?

I would refer the right hon. Gentleman opposite and my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave yesterday in reply to a private notice question by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood).

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not correct to say that even with the welcome increase announced yesterday we are still relatively less well prepared on land than we were in the summer of 1914?

May I ask whether my right hon. Friend has finally ruled out the possibility of universal service?

May I ask whether the Government have any steps in contemplation for stimulating recruiting for the Regular Army in order to overcome the shortage which exists at the present moment?

Is the Prime Minister aware that during my life I have been in favour of a compulsory citizen army, but that I have changed my views now?

Pacific Conference, New Zealand

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether a proposal to set up a permanent Pacific Defence Board will be included in the agenda of the forth coming Defence Conference in New Zealand?

The object of the Conference, as already announced, is to consider matters of common concern in the Pacific with particular reference to Defence questions. I am not in a position to give details of any particular matters which may be discussed.

European Situation

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make an up-to-date statement of the progress of negotiations with other Governments with respect to the position in international affairs before the House rises for the Easter Recess; and whether he will give an opportunity for the House to debate the position before any decision is come to, undertaking, if necessary, to interrupt the Easter Recess for this purpose?

Perhaps the hon. Member would be good enough to await the statement which I propose to make on Business.

52.

asked the Prime Minister whether, as part of the review of the whole position which is being undertaken, the Committee of Imperial Defence is making a special and ad hoc review of the Defence arrangements put forward by the Government in the recent Defence Service Estimates in order to decide if these arrangements are commensurate with commitments now contemplated and with the changes in the military strengths of other European Powers which have occurred since the Estimates were framed?

The hon. and gallant Member can rest assured that every aspect of the present situation has been, and is being, kept under review by the Committee of Imperial Defence.

May I ask whether the review of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks is the day-to-day review which it is the duty of the Defence Departments and the Committee of Imperial Defence to make, or whether it is a special review which has been instituted since the Prime Minister's statement on 17th March?

Will similar announcements be made in respect of the Navy and the Air Force to that which the right hon. Gentleman was able to announce yesterday in regard to the Territorial Force?