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Commons Chamber

Volume 380: debated on Thursday 11 June 1942

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 11th June, 1942.

[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 out 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.]
Petition referred to the Committee of Supply.

Private Business

Bilston Corporation Bill

As amended, considered.

Ordered,

"That Standing Orders 240 and 262 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the Third time."—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

National War Effort

Essential Work Orders (Discharged Men)

1.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he proposes to take to relieve the hardship of men who, having been conscripted for war work by his Ministry and being in consequence, debarred from obtaining other employment, find themselves unemployed through the termination of the particular job upon which they are engaged, with no means of support except unemployment benefit?

The instructions to local offices provide that the necessary action for placing men in other employment should be taken without delay when permission to discharge is given by the National Service Officer under the Essential Work Orders. If my hon. Friend has any case in mind, I shall be glad to look into it.

Farmers' Daughters And Domestics

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will reserve farmers' daughters, daughters-in-law and similar persons, and domestic servants on farms, because during the present labour shortage they are making a direct contribution to the general running of the farms and are accordingly essential workers in a vital industry?

My right hon. Friend' has taken steps to ensure that special consideration is given in these cases to ensure that women who are substantially assisting in running the farms are not withdrawn.

While thanking my right horn Friend, through my hon. Friend, may I ask whether he will see that wide publicity is given to that, because it will give great satisfaction.?

Appeal Case, Hounslow

3.

asked the Minister of Labour, whether he is aware that the chairman of the Appeal Board at the Hounslow employment exchange altered the grounds of dismissal in the case of 44/1 from inefficiency and unsatisfactory service to unsuitability, afterwards deciding against the appellant; and, seeing the case was not decided on the grounds for which the appeal court was called, will he have the case reheard by another tribunal?

No. Sir. The Board's recommendation was that the National Service officer's decision should be confirmed, and I am not aware of any irregularity in their action or that of the chairman.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that it is fair that, when a man is charged with two specific offences which presumably cannot be proved, the chairman should be allowed to bring in a further charge presumably on evidence upon which he cannot judge himself?

I do not accept all that, but the case is long and complicated. I have been through all the papers, and if my hon. Friend would like to discuss it with me afterwards, I shall be only too pleased to see him.

Would the fact that this man has resisted pressure to become a member of the Oxford Group be considered to come within the category of un-suitability? May I have an answer to my question?

Cotton Operatives

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is satisfied with the response to the appeal made by him in conjunction with the Cotton Controller for operatives to return to the mills; and how many have volunteered for part-time employment?

It is too early as yet for the measures which have been taken to have shown results upon which my right hon. Friend can say whether he is satisfied, or for figures to be given. The matter is being pressed forward vigorously, and I will let my hon. Friend have the figure he requires as soon as the results can be assessed.

Can my hon. Friend say whether everything possible is being done to encourage part-time employment among women, because I think that the solution largely lies along those lines?

Certainly, Sir, we are doing everything we can to support that scheme.

Unemployed Workers

9.

asked the Minister of Labour the reason why there are now 108,963 wholly unemployed on the employment exchange register; and what steps are being taken to find them suitable work?

This total, which is a very small proportion of the number in employment, consists mainly of persons who are passing from one job to the next or juveniles about to obtain their first post. Though unemployed on the day of the count, they remain so, as a rule, only for a short time. Special attention is given by the exchange to any case in which a person remains on the register for any length of time.

I agree that the numbers are comparatively small, but does it not seem to be wrong that 100,000 people should be out of work at the present time? Is my hon. Friend aware that my object is to get greater efficiency on the part of the Department in putting these people in work? There are 10,000 boys and 10,000 girls who are out of work, and, surely, something can be done to get them into employment?

We are always doing our best to hasten the change-over from one job to another and to keep these people from being unemployed for any length of time. I am sure that this has nothing to do with any long-term unemployment.

Is it not a fact that twice the normal proportion of these people happen to be in my constituency, and is the Minister aware that they are not all changing jobs, but that some have been out of work for quite a long time?

India

All-India Congress Committee Offices, Allahabad (Police Search)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any information respecting the police raid on the Congress offices at Allahabad; what was the object of this action; and whether any prosecution has arisen therefrom?

I understand that in the last week of May the offices of the All-India Congress Committee at Allahabad were searched by the police as a routine operation following the prohibition of the publication of certain Congress resolutions about which I replied to the honourable Member's Question on 7th May. The police carried away copies of the banned resolutions and also certain cyclostyle typewriter machines. I am not aware that any prosecution has followed from this action.

Can we take it,' therefore, that the documents apprehended by the police were not all of such a character as would justify a prosecution, and will the right hon. Gentleman obtain, for the use of Members of this House, copies of the resolutions that were apprehended by the police?

The second part I have answered before. I imagine the resolutions were of an undesirable character but not necessarily justifying prosecution.

Political Situation (Negotiations)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any further statement to make respecting the political situation in India; and whether recent events preclude His Majesty's Government from initiating the reopening of negotiations on the constitutional issue or on interim proposals respecting the government of India?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) on 9th June.

Are we to think, therefore, that the Government are not prepared to assist negotiations unless the move first comes from the Indian side?

Both the Lord Privy Seal and myself made it clear that the Government would give careful consideration to any proposals submitted in agreement by leaders of Indian public opinion.

Should they not stop political propaganda for a time and give the Indian Fighting Force3 a chance?

Burma

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Burma whether all members of the Burmese Government are now meeting on Indian soil; and whether all political prisoners were removed from Burma before the Japanese occupation?

Two Burmese Ministers, namely the Premier and the Finance Minister, are at the Headquarters of the Government of Burma in India; the others preferred to remain in Burma. As far as I am aware no prisoners, apart from interned enemy subjects who were transferred to India, were removed from Burma before the Japanese occupation.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what has happened to Mr. U Saw and others? Are they still in Burma, or co-operating with the Japanese authorities, or what?

The other Ministers preferred to remain in Burma, and I daresay that they are looking after their compatriots there.

What about Mr. U Saw, who was interned by the British Government? Has he been left behind or been carried along with us to India?

Civil Defence

Detainees

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will permit individuals detained under Regulation 186 to consult their legal advisers without official supervision.

As regards persons who are detained for purposes of public security, I should not be justified in relaxing the rule that all interviews must be supervised.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of these people who are interned are preparing an action against his predecessor; is it not natural, but perhaps foolish, that they imagine that their interviews with their legal advisers are being supervised for a special reason, and would it not be wiser to allow them to put their cases to their legal advisers, who, after all, are solicitors above reproach?

I hope that the last point is right. I agree that my hon. and gallant Friend raises a fair point, and, in order that persons who are taking or contemplate taking legal proceedings against the authorities may not feel that they are liable to be prejudiced, arrangements are made in such cases to allow confidential instructions and replies to be passed between a solicitor and his client if the solicitor gives an undertaking that no other communications will be received or passed by him without sanction. I think that meets the essence of my hon. and gallant Friend's point, and I am afraid that I cannot go further than that.

18.

asked the Home Secretary the nature of the work supplied to persons detained under Regulation 18B who are without private means; and what are the hours of labour and the rates of payment for this work?

Most of the persons detained under this Regulation are now in a camp in the Isle of Man. The number who are willing to undertake work is limited, and for most of these work is found in the camp services, such as cooking, cleaning, clerical, and other duties. Some of them also go to outside employments, such as work on farms. Generally speaking, the payment for their services ranges from 6d. to a 1s. per day. The daily hours do not exceed eight save in exceptional circumstances, such as harvesting, when extra payment is made. Of the men detained under this Regulation at Brixton Prison only one at present elects to work. He is employed on making mail bags at which 3s. a week can be earned. For the women at Holloway Prison laundry work, needlework and cleaning are available. The daily hours of labour are about 5¼ and the rate of payment is 6d. a day.

Is not the rate of payment based on the allowances granted to prisoners, and ought there not to be some differentiation in the case of untried persons who have been detained and who have no means of support?

I hardly think so. It must be remembered that we are maintaining them at the public expense. In the bulk of the I8B cases they do not wish to work, and we do not compel them to do so.

Would it not be possible to furnish these people with more useful and remunerative work, or even compel them to do more useful and remunerative work, so that they can support their families outside?

I doubt whether that is practicable. As to the point whether we should compel them to work, I think the House has taken the view that because of the nature of these cases we ought not to impose compulsion upon them. I wish they were all willing to work, but, as I have said, in the majority of cases they prefer not to work.

Fire Watching (Hospital Staffs)

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. MESSER:

15. To ask the Home Secretary whether any alteration is to be made in the position of resident staffs of hospitals and institutions which will affect their right to obtain allowances under the fire-watching order?

Since I put down this Question, an alteration has been made that may affect the answer.

Subsistence allowance is intended to cover additional expense incurred through fire prevention duties, and there is therefore no justification for its payment where a man performs those duties in premises comprised in the building where he lived. An amendment of the Business Premises Order covering this point came into operation on 25th May.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great injustice that this really causes, for it means that there are many staffs, who are compelled to do fire-watching duty, and that that particular duty necessitates sleeping three nights in the institution, which brings them within the resident category, in which they would, therefore, normally be entitled, as they are not now entitled, to their allowances? Is he further aware that a member of the staff living next door to the institution can get the allowance and that members living inside the institution cannot?

Would my right hon. Friend meet a deputation from these people to hear their side of the case? Most of us have had complaints about the matter?

I think there is a wrong angle about this. This payment is not in the form of remuneration or wages. It is compensation for expenses incurred, and therefore a line must be drawn somewhere. The line taken is that if a person is normally or fairly normally sleeping on the premises, it would be wrong for him to claim payment out of public funds, because he is doing a civic duty which many others are called upon to do in residential areas. I do not think a deputation is necessary, because this matter was discussed with representatives of the employers and the T.U.C. and an amendment of the Order was made with their concurrence.

Will the Minister look into the matter again, because it is causing great dissatisfaction?

We must insist upon the principle that people not put to additional costs must play their part in preventing their towns burning. Where there is inconvenience or cost involved, we give subsistence allowances, but we must distinguish between the two cases.

Would not my right hon. Friend admit that there is extra cost if men are kept up all night as well as being up all day at their normal work, owing to extra meals? Should not some compensation be made to them on that account?

Will my right hon. Friend take into consideration the point about compulsory stand-by duty?

Evacuation (Kingsmead House, High Wycombe)

38.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the overcrowding of Kingsmead House, at High Wycombe, where the four evacuated families originally billeted have now been increased by the fathers on discharge from the Army, so that the eight rooms are now occupied by seven adult persons and 16 children; and whether, as this overcrowding is the direct result of the Government evacuation scheme, he will help the local authority by removing one or more of these families to some district where alternative accommodation may be available?

I am aware of this difficult case, and my regional officers, who have already been in touch with the local authority, are endeavouring to assist in finding a solution.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that this local authority has been in touch with the regional authorities for some months and nothing has been done, and that the local sanitary officer is very much disturbed?

It it a very difficult and complicated case, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows.

Laid-Up Motor Cars (Immobilisation)

17.

asked the Home Secretary whether Official Notice No. 8, issued by the Midland Regional Commissioner, referring to the immobilisation of motor-cars, was issued on the instructions of his Department and have similar instructions been issued throughout the country; and will he consider eliminating that part of the direction that enforces the deposit of the spare parts at the nearest police station?

21.

asked the Home Secretary the policy of the Government with regard to the immobilisation of laid-up motor-cars, the removal of certain parts and their storage at centres; and whether it is intended that this should apply throughout the whole country and from that date?

Directions relating to the immobilisation of unlicensed private cars have been made by Regional Commissioners with my authority in certain areas at various times during the past two years. If invasion comes, vehicles will be immobilised to the extent deemed necessary by Regional. Commissioners, in consultation with the military authorities. The object of the steps taken hitherto is partially to relieve the police of what would be an intolerable burden if left till the time came. As to the future, I would refer to the answer given to the hon. baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) on 9th instant.

Is the Minister aware that the order affords no protection whatever, because half the cars will still be in service? Further, is he aware that it has caused considerable dissatisfaction in Birmingham and has created a good trade in spare parts?

I know there has been misapprehension in Birmingham, for which I am sorry, but I tried to clear it up in a statement I made to the Press on Saturday. If a car is unlicensed, it is not available for service, and the Government view is that in appropriate cases, where the Regional Commissioner and the military authorities think it right, spare parts should be stored for the time being so as to prevent their use in disturbed conditions.

Is it not possible for the Minister to give further consideration to this problem?

I am always willing to give further consideration to any problem. If any new facts arise, I will, of course, consider them.

Is the decision left to the Regional Commissioners, and in what other parts of the country is this in operation?

It is actually in operation—I am speaking from memory—in four Regions. It is left to the discretion of the Regional Commissioner, in consultation with the police and military authorities, because circumstances may vary. I would point out that this Region, as my hon. Friend knows, is what might be called a highly motorised Region.

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is widespread misapprehension and misunderstanding as to the scope and reasons for this policy, and will he give the widest publicity to these reasons?

If my hon. Friend will look at the newspapers which circulated in the Midland area last Monday, I think he will find that I made a full statement.

Fire Service

19.

asked the Home Secretary whether, when an aggrieved fireman desires to appear before the Fire Force Commander in accordance with Rules of Procedure and Punishments 7 (2) his application must be made in any special manner or form; to whom it must be addressed; through how many officers it must pass and be scrutinised before it reaches the Fire Force Commander; and whether there is direct access?

Under recent instruction, a from is provided for this purpose to be addressed to the Fire Force Commander, to whom the fireman will have direct access. The number of officers through whose hands the form will pass depends upon the station in which the man is serving, and usually will be one or two.

Old Age Pensioners (Fire-Watching)

29.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that old age pensioners, who are in receipt of supplementary pensions and who do turns of fire-watching, are having the subsistence payment for fire-watching treated as earnings and that their supplementary pensions are accordingly reduced; whether this action is in accord with the policy of the Government; and under what authority are subsistence payments treated as earnings?

I am informed by the Assistance Board that payments received by pensioners for turns of fire-watching within the limits laid down by the compulsory Orders are in pratcice disregarded. Where, however, the pensioner is doing what is virtually a full-time job, the Board feel that payments made to him can only be regarded as wages.

Am I to understand that where old age pensioners are doing an ordinary rota of fire-watching the subsistence payments are wholly disregarded, and will the Minister also have regard in this connection to the definition of subsistence payments given by the Home Secretary' recently?

The facts are that where the pensioner is performing fire-guard duties for no more than the 48 hours in each period of four weeks, which persons to whom the relevant Orders apply may be required to perform, the subsistence allowance will rarely exceed 6s. a week, and it is the Board's practice to disregard payments of this amount without inquiring whether or not they are actually spent on subsistence. Where, in exceptional cases, a larger weekly sum is received, the cases are considered on the facts.

Does not the Minister agree that what the Board are really doing is applying the statutory earnings rule to what is a subsistence payment?

Is it not a fact that in notions, a form is provided for this purpose, case are these payments anything other than subsistence payments, and that by the definition given by the Home Secretary in reply to a Question, these payments are compensation and not income in any sense, and should not be treated as income?

Double Summer-Time

20.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has now decided to extend the period of Double Summer Time this year, with a view to effecting a saving in the consumption of fuel used for lighting purposes?

As previously stated the question of fuel consumption is one among a number of considerations which have to be carefully weighed. I hope to be in a position to make a statement in the near future.

Does not the Minister agree that a speedy decision to extend Double Summer Time would considerably help the propaganda for the voluntary rationing of fuel?

I agree that a decision should be made as early as possible, but what the effect of the decision should be I do not think I ought to say. Other considerations have to be taken into account, including agriculture, which has abided by the present decision very loyally, and the length of darkness in the morning.

Education

Women's Junior Air Corps

23.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether it is proposed to grant official recognition to the Women's Junior Air Corps; and to continue to allow girls to join, as volunteers, whatever pre-Service Corps they wish?

Recognition of voluntary organisations of this kind by the Board is limited to recognition for grant. An application for grant aid from one unit of the Women's Junior Air Corps is now under consideration by my Department. There is no proposal to prevent girls joining existing units of this Corps.

Is it not the case that girls now in this Corps are being asked to merge with another Corps, the Girls' Training Corps, and is it not a fact that the Women's Junior Air Corps, which has something like 1,800 members, pay for their own uniforms, which would be wasted if there was a merger? They are very averse from merging with another body.

I do not think that of necessity any uniforms which have been purchased will be wasted. The National Association of Girls' Training Corps is a national body to which various other units are affiliated. I can only say that while there is no undertaking that any girl in the Women's Junior Air Corps will be accepted in the Women's Auxiliary Air Service, it is felt desirable that this body should be affiliated with the body that covers all the girls in the nation between 16 and 18 years of age.

I must press the hon. Gentleman. Is it not the case that these are purely voluntary bodies, and if these girls prefer to remain in their own Corps, is there any particular object in forcing them to merge with another body?

I have not suggested that they should merge. No such suggestion has been made by the Board of Education, but I think it highly desirable that this unit should affiliate to a national organisation to which such well-established units as the Girl Guides and the Girls' Life Brigade have affiliated.

Camp Schools

24.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether it is possible to arrive at any conclusions from a comparison between the figures of heights and weights of children in the camp schools and those of a similar age in day schools, as to the benefits to health of residence in camp schools for town children?

My right hon. Friend hopes to receive before long the figures relating to heights and weights of children attending camp schools and of those who have remained in ordinary day schools. Until the data have been considered it will not be possible to arrive at any conclusions.

Shall I be able to get the figures when the Board of Education get them?

I am sure my right hon. Friend will see that my hon. Friend gets the information as soon as it is available.

Are steps being taken to make full use of the camps provided, which are most inadequately used at the present time?

My right hon. Friend is continually doing all he can to ensure that recruitment to these camps shall continue from the areas to which they have been assigned.

30.

asked the Minister of Health what is the status of the National Camps Corporation in relation to the camp schools set up in various parts of the country; whether they are allowed to make any profit out of these schools; and, if so, for what purpose is such profit used?

The National Camps Corporation, which built, maintains and manages the camps in pursuance of Section 1 of the Camps Act, 1939, placed them soon after the outbreak of War at the disposal of the Government under an agreement made with the Ministry of Health. The Government arranged for their occupation by the camp schools. The only functions of the Corporation in regard to the schools are the maintenance and management of the camps. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No." The third part, therefore, does not arise.

33.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the charges for boarding at the camp schools vary considerably for similar services; and whether he can state the reason for the variation?

I am aware of the variation, which is due to the difference in the numbers of children in the camp schools. The actual cost per head of food is practically uniform, while the overhead charges (which are considerable and are not capable of much alteration for varying numbers) are divided by the number of children in the camp, and where the number in camp is low, the cost per head is correspondingly high.

Is not this a national concern? Because the number in the school is low, why should the charges be higher? I should think the Minister can see to a thing of that sort; otherwise, it is not worth his having the job.

The hon. Member will have to consider more than that. He will have to consider where the charges lie, and if he will read an answer that was given last week, I think he will find that his statement is not warranted.

Could the Minister publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT some figures concerning these charges?

Teachers (Conscientious Objectors)

25.

asked the President of the Board of Education how many education authorities have in any way, and by what methods, penalised men and women teachers, respectively, professing pacifist views or who are conscientious objectors; what the total number of such teachers has been since August, 1939; and for how many children would such teachers be responsible if they had not been penalised?

The responsibility for terminating the appointment of teachers and for any disciplinary action in regard to them rests with the local education authorities or Governing Bodies of schools, as the case may be, and my right hon. Friend has not the detailed information for which the hon. Member asks. He is aware that some authorities have terminated the engagement of teachers on the ground that they have registered as conscientious objectors.

Certificated Teachers (Third-Year Courses)

26.

asked the President of the Board of Education why third-year courses for school-teachers have been discontinued; how many students are affected by this ruling; and whether, in view of the fact that the dearth of third-year trained teachers in specialised subjects is likely to have serious effects, particularly on future educational development, he will have the ban on third-year training removed?

Third-year courses are normally available for a limited number of those who are already qualified as certificated teachers. My right hon. Friend has felt obliged temporarily to discontinue the recognition of these courses owing to the present urgent need for certificated teachers in the schools. About 60 women are affected by the decision. The loss entailed is realised, but immediate need outweighs considerations of the future and my right hon. Friend does not feel able to modify this decision.

In view of the fact that the school-leaving age will in all probability be raised to 16 years when the war is over, and the need for fully-trained teachers will be greater, will the Minister be prepared to give further consideration to the matter?

That consideration has been in my right hon. Friend's mind, but the need for teachers in schools at the moment is so great that we cannot contemplate leaving people who are already qualified out of the schools.

Will my hon. Friend agree to give the matter further consideration still?

I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the hon. Member's insistence.

Teachers' Pensions

27.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether, having regard to the war bonus granted to teachers in accordance with the Burn-ham Committee's recommendations, consideration has been given to the difficult position of many retired teachers in receipt of teachers' pensions or superannuation allowances; and whether any steps can be taken, in co-operation with local education authorities, to remedy the situation that has arisen?

The general question of increasing teachers' pensions to compensate for the higher cost of living is part of a larger question affecting pensioners of all classes. Teachers cannot be considered alone, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has more than once indicated that he cannot contemplate an all-round increase.

Although teachers cannot be considered alone, could not the President of the Board of Education put their very hard case before the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

May I say it is clear from the answer that my right hon. Friend has been in touch with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter?

Old Age Pensions

31.

asked the Minister of Health whether the instructions issued by the Assistance Board which preclude the payment of retrospective supplementary pensions, also preclude the making of an immediate payment to meet accumulated need; and whether, in view of the delays in determining the right to old age pensions, he will request the Assistance Board to be more considerate in their interpretation of the regulations?

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." As regards the second part, it is the policy of the Assistance Board to interpret the regulations considerately, but if my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind I shall be glad to look into it.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that particularly in Wales there is very great delay in establishing the right of pensioners to pensions, and that they get their pension sometimes two or three months after it has fallen due, and that then the Assistance Board refuse, on the ground that they have received instructions, to make a retrospective award? Cannot the matter be dealt with so that an immediate payment can be made?

If the hon. Member has any facts concerning this matter, I should be glad to receive them, but, as he knows, sometimes difficulties arise at the other end.

43.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he proposes to take to implement the terms of a resolution passed by the Burnley Trades Council and sent to him, calling for an increase in old age pensions from 10s. to 20s. per week without a means test, plus an increase to meet the cost of living on the same basis as that given to civil servants under Whitley Council awards?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) on Tuesday, 3rd March.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the constant inflow of resolutions from public bodies indicates the concern that is felt throughout the country with regard to the position of these old age pensioners, and does he not propose to do anything?

Did the Burnley Trades Council give any advice as to how the money was to be raised for this charge.

Midwives (Use Of Anaesthetics)

32.

asked the Minister of Health how many local authorities instruct their midwives in the use of an anaesthetic for the purpose of relieving pain at childbirth; and how many fail to exercise their powers in this respect?

Out of 188 local supervising authorities in England and Wales, 61 had made arrangements, before 31st December, 1941, for the instruction of their midwives in the administration of analgesics at childbirth.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider circularising the backward authorities with a view to pressing them to adopt more humanitarian means of conducting confinements in the country?

Is not this part of the regular training of midwives, and, if not, will the Minister see that it is introduced?

Hackney Borough Council (Surcharge)

34.

asked the Minister of Health what steps he intends to take in connection with a surcharge of £68 9s. 11id. imposed upon members and officers of the Hackney Borough Council?

I have received an application for relief under Section 230 of the Local Government Act, 1933, from the persons surcharged, and the matter is under consideration.

Can the Minister say how many bottles of beer, whisky and brandy were included in this figure?

Local Authorities

Building By-Laws

35.

asked the Minister of Health how many authorities are entitled to administer building laws, regulations or building by-laws; and how many of these have the right to make special regulations applying to their own individual areas with his approval?

Outside London, where the relevant provisions are in the London Building Acts and in by-laws which do not require my confirmation, there are 1,440 councils of boroughs, urban districts and rural districts having power under the Public Health Act, 1936, to make building by-laws for their own areas. These by-laws require my confirmation. Of these local authorities eight have special Acts of Parliament, and have not thought it necessary to make by-laws under the ordinary law. Three have in force under a temporary arrangement by-laws which, although of recent date, had been made before the Public Health Act, 1936. Whatever by-laws were in force before that Act have in all the remaining areas ceased to operate; the by-laws which are now in force are substantially uniform in their requirements and have been confirmed since 1936.

Does not the Minister think it would be desirable to reduce the very large number of separate authorities?

Clerical Officers (Hours Of Work)

37.

asked the Minister of Health the minimum number of hours per week which clerical officers in the employ of local authorities must work under existing agreements; whether or not it is the general practice of local authorities to pay for hours worked by clerical officers in excess of the weekly minimum; and whether he will issue any guidance to local authorities on the matter?

I regret that I have no detailed information as to the first two parts of my hon. Friend's Question. He will understand that this is a matter which is within the discretion of local authorities themselves, and I do not think it appropriate for general guidance.

Welfare Of Young Children (Advisory Committee)

36.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is in a position to make any further statement as to the appointment of an Advisory Committee on the welfare of young children?

Yes, Sir. The constitution of the Committee has now been completed, and I will circulate a list of the members in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I intend to act as Chairman of the Committee, with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary as Vice-Chairman. The function of the Committee will be to advise me on any question affecting the welfare of expectant and nursing mothers and of children under five which may be referred by me to the Committee. I con-Template that the Committee will do most of its detailed work through sub-committees appointed for the investigation of particular problems.

Following is the list:

ADVISORY COMMITTED ON THE WELFARE OF YOUNG CHILDREN—MEMBERS.

Chairman:

  • The Rt. Hon. Ernest Brown, M.C., MP.

Vice-Chairman:

  • Miss Florence Horsbrugh, C.B.E., M.P.
  • Mrs. B. Wright, M.P.
  • Mrs. A. Hardie, M.P.
  • Miss F. Hawtrey.
  • The Marchioness of Reading.
  • Lady Galway.
  • Lady Allen of Hurtwood, F.I.L.A.
  • Mrs. E. V. Parker.
  • Mrs. Ronald Carton.
  • Mrs Rupert Scott.
  • Dr. Charles M. Smith, M.D., M.B.
  • Dr. Dennis H. Geffen, M.D., D.P.H.
  • Dr. Ethel Cassie, M.B., Ch.B.
  • Dr. Alan Moncrieff, M.D., F.R.C.P.
  • Mr. Arnold Walker, M.A., M.B., F.R.C.S., F.R.C.O.G.
  • Dr. William S. Macdonald, M.C., M.B.
  • Dr. Letitia Fairfield, C.B.E., M.D., D.P.H.
  • Dr. Annie Rowlands, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P.
  • Dr. Edith Williamson, M.B., D.P.H.
  • Miss J. M. Calder, M.B.E.
  • Miss B. Shenton.
  • Miss K. V. Coni.
  • Miss J. Pearse.
  • Miss D. R. Robus, S.R.N.
  • Mr. A. L. Binns, M.C.
  • Miss E. Stevenson, O.B.E.
  • Mrs. D. Barton, M.B.E., J.P.
  • Mrs. Parry, J.P.
  • Mrs. F. E. Cayford, J.P.
  • Mrs. Esther Martin.
  • Mrs. K. Lovibond, O.B.E., J.P.

Armed Forces And Civilians (Pensions And Grants)

39.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that many parents who lose a son in the service of the country also lose the allotment of such soldier, airman or seaman; that such parents often receive no pension; and whether he is prepared to remedy this situation by granting a fixed amount of pension in every case?

I am not prepared to recommend a general flat-rate pension for these cases. The Select Committee of 1920 took the view that to justify the grant of a parent's pension the test of need, broadly interpreted, should be satisfied. This principle was incorporated in the 1940 Warrant, the provisions of which were fully considered by my Statutory Advisory Committee.

Is it not a fact that in many cases the parents have lost both their son and the allotment he has been giving them? Is that not a wrong to the parents?

It is a fact that in many cases where sons have been making allotments to the parent they do lose the allotment, but it is not a wrong, because a pension is an annuity for life and not an allowance for a short period. In accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee, I included in the Royal Warrant a provision that pensions would be given where there was need, instead of providing a flat-rate pension which many people would have to include in their Income Tax returns. That would have been a mere paltry 5s. a week, but now I am able to give a substantial pension in cases where there is the most need.

Is the Minister aware of the great sense of grievance on the part of parents who feel there is no sense of gratitude to them for having given their sons?

No, Sir. Does the hon. Member think that if I lost my son, I should consider 5s. per week a recompense for that loss? Certainly not.

Does not the Minister agree that, where the son has been making a voluntary allotment to his parents from his meagre earnings, the test of need has already been established by the son's action?

No, Sir. We are bound to take that into account according to the Royal Warrant. We ascertain the actual facts, and the facts are that, where there is more than an appropriate income limit which we consider a fair income limit, we inform the parents that their right to pension has been established as and when other conditions are fulfilled.

Will the Minister consider appointing a Committee to reconsider this and other questions? Are we to take the decision of the 1920 Committee as binding for evermore?

The 1920 Committee was a very representative Committee which went fully into every aspect of pensions, and its recommendations are standing at the present moment. I would, however, strongly recommend the appointment of a further Select Committee immediately after the war is over to examine the whole position in the light of experience and existing circumstances.

I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter again on the Adjournment.

40.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that a large number of men, graded in a high medical category when joining the Forces, have subsequently been discharged suffering from psycho-neurosis and are not awarded a pension; and whether, as clearly there is some connection between the development of this ailment and the conditions which such men have experienced while on service, he will take action to remedy this hardship?

The grant of pension for any disability, including psycho-neurosis, depends on whether the condition is accepted as attributable to or materially aggravated by service. It cannot be assumed that a disability can be so accepted simply because it leads to discharge from the Service: the question must be determined in each case in the light of the nature of the disability and the service and medical history of the claimant. Provision is made by my Department for the treatment in special neurological centres Under the Emergency Medical Service of the Ministry of Health of men discharged from the Services suffering from a condition of neurosis provided they are likely to benefit by such treatment. This treatment is granted whether the condition is accepted by the Ministry or not; if it is accepted and disablement cannot be removed by treatment pension is awarded.

Is the Minister not aware that the British Legion are very seriously concerned about the facts outlined in this Question?

I am in constant and almost daily touch with the British Legion, and I know exactly what their representations are on this matter and what resolutions were passed at a recent conference.

How does the Minister justify the refusal to make a grant to men who, prior to being drafted into the Army, were fit to do a full day's work and have now been discharged and are unable to work?

If the hon. Member will bring such cases to my notice, I will look into them, but I am not aware of any such cases.

The right hon. Gentleman appointed a Departmental Sub-Committee to advise him on these matters a long time ago, and when are we to have their report?

The hon. Member is mistaken. Neurological experts were appointed to go into this, and they made their recommendations, which were published and circulated. The Committee is my Advisory Committee, which is not a Select Committee or a Departmental Committee; it is an Advisory Committee, and we meet from time to time and discuss these questions.

41.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that his continued refusal to establish appeal tribunals, similar to those established after the last war, is leading to a growing volume of dissatisfaction throughout the country; and whether he will reconsider his decision and have these set up at an early date?

I regret that I can add nothing to the statement which I made on 14th May in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for North Camber-well (Mr. Ammon).

Does not my right hon. Friend think that, in view of the criticisms made in my previous Question on this subject, there is justification for establishing these tribunals?

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend has not looked up the reply I made. That reply was to the effect that the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) was being considered. I am consulting with the T.U.C., the British Legion in England and in Scotland and all others who are interested in this matter, and, after receiving their views and opinions, I shall call my Advisory Committee and put the facts before them.

As the Minister so frequently mentions the Advisory Committee, will he make it clear that he does not invariably accept the recommendations of that Committee, of which I am a member?

National Finance

Acquisition Of Securities (Payment)

42.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that interest is lost to holders of securities acquired under the terms of the Acquisition of Securities (No. 4) Order, 1940, owing to the delayed capital payment by the Treasury; and how does he propose to deal with this matter?

I am not aware that the Treasury is responsible for any delay in payment for securities acquired under the Order to which my hon. Friend refers. Payment (including an allowance for the period up to 26th November, 1940) was made on 26th November, 1940, for securities, the documents of title to which were delivered punctually in accordance with the Directions made under the Order, and where delivery was delayed beyond the stipulated date, one month after delivery.

If I give my right hon. Friend particulars of cases where delay has caused loss, will he make some concession to the holders?

Is the amount included in the price based on 2½ per cent. gross or net?

Dividends (Distribution)

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the great diminution in the amount of money paid out in dividends since the beginning of the war as compared with the great increases in the amount paid out in wages and salaries; and whether he will encourage companies to disburse to their shareholders as much as they are permitted to earn in order that the latter may be able to maintain their commitments in face of the continually rising cost of living?

For various reasons, I do not think it serves any useful purpose to draw the comparison in the first part of my hon. Friend's Question, and I could not support any policy which would involve, in the normal case, the distribution of dividends in excess of the pre-war level. I would at the same time remind my hon. Friend that the cost of living is not continually rising. The index has been practically stable for about 18 months.

Czechoslovakian Loan

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what grounds the loan of £6,000,000 granted by Britain to Czechoslovakia in 1939 is being used to make payments on account of coupons and interest on private investments in the Skoda works and other Czech corporations?

These payments are being made in accordance with the provisions of the Order of 7th March, 1940, made by the Treasury under Section 2 of the Czechoslovakia (Financial Claims and Refugees) Act, 1940, and approved by this House.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this report has gravely offended the sense of public decency and that money is being paid by British taxpayers to people with certain investments while other people have had to make tremendous sacrifices in investments both at home and abroad?

No, Sir. I have seen one observation made by a particular individual on this matter which, I think, must have been made under a misapprehension. The reply is that when investors bought the loan, the Skoda Works could fairly be regarded as of vital anti-German importance. The interest payment has no connection whatever with the earnings of the works at the moment.

Have the dividends been paid only to British holders domiciled in this country, or have any been paid outside?

Was not this part of the loan originally granted to Czechoslovakia for the assistance of refugees both inside and outside Czechoslovakia who were injured by the Munich Agreement, and is it not part of that money which is being diverted to the payment of this interest?

I think so, and I am obliged for my hon. Friend's assistance in the matter.

Women's Auxiliary Services

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will regulate the intake of women into the women's auxiliary services so as to ensure that women are not called up until such time as their services can be fully utilised in the particular branch of the Forces for which they are recruited?

This is already done. Women for the Auxiliary Territorial Service are not recruited by categories for different types of work, but after enrolment are allocated to and trained for the work for which they prove to be best fitted. Since there are still many vacancies full use can be made without delay of the services of all. The Women's Auxiliary Air Force and Women's Royal Naval Service recruit for individual trades, and do not call women up till there are vacancies in their particular trades.

Is it not the case that a considerable number of Army units would much like to have a great many more A.T.S. than they can get, and are there not other units where the Commanders themselves are deliberately keeping men in jobs which women could do?

Perhaps the hon. Lady will put that Question to the Secretary of State for War.

Hong Kong

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether the decision to reinforce Hong Kong, shortly before its fall was recommended by his military advisers; and how long it was anticipated that such reinforcements would enable Hong Kong to hold out?

His Majesty's Government have no further statement to make on this matter at the present time.

Are the Government likely to receive a copy of the report by the Lord Chief justice of Canada to the Canadian Parliament on Hong Kong, and will they study it?

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the report of the Chief Justice of Canada, made to the Canadian House of Commons, on the organisation, authorisation and despatch of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to Hong Kong; and why permission to reproduce the telegram inviting the Canadian Government to send reinforcements to Hong Kong was refused by His Majesty's Government?

Yes, Sir. As regards the second part of the Question, it was felt by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that publication of the document in question would be contrary to the public interest at the present time.

Are we to understand then that it is the Government's view that the Chief Justice of Canada would make a request to publish a document which it would not be in the public interest to publish?

Malaya And Singapore

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has yet received a report from the officer appointed at his request by General Wavell to collect information about the conditions precedent to the loss of Malaya; and when he expects to make a statement thereon to this House?

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken in assuming that the report by the officer appointed by General Wavell was to be made to the Prime Minister. The officer was appointed to collect information for General Wavell, who has not yet reported. I must not be understood to suggest that when the report is received it will be suitable for publication.

Surely it was the Prime Minister's intention to have the report sent home in order to enable him to make a constructive and comprehensive statement in the House, and when is the report likely to be received?

Is any statement to be made to the House after the information is collected?

My hon. Friend had better wait until we have it. We cannot make a statement on a report which we have not received.

49.

asked the Prime Minister what was the staff, service and civilian, respectively, of the Department of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when at Singapore and the aggregate expenditure of his Department at Singapore during the period of its existence?

The staff with which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster left England in August, 1941, consisted of a military adviser and a private secretary. The Mission was joined in the United States by a principal adviser, who was at that time employed by the Ministry of War Transport. Two additional members joined the Mission at Singapore—one a member of the Diplomatic Service who was then serving at the British Embassy at Chungking and the other a member of the Malayan Civil Service. All these members of the Mission received the pay and allowances to which they were entitled in the services to which they belonged. There was also a small clerical staff—principally recruited in Singapore. Owing to the loss of documents in transit, the final accounts of the Mission are not yet available.

Could not the right hon. Gentleman make a guess at how much was spent?

Did the personnel and expenditure lead to any report, and, if so, could we have it?

Do we understand from that answer that no report has been received from the Chancellor of the Duchy?

My hon. Friend's question was quite a different one. He asked "whether the fact of the appointment of the staff led to a report? I said that the appointment of the staff does not necessarily lead to a report.

Agriculture

Denbighshire

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of losses caused to sheep farmers and to the country in the uplands of Denbighshire through there being no facilities for sheep dipping; whether he will arrange with rural authorities to make such provisions; and whether farmers who have already suffered losses will be compensated?

I am not aware that losses among sheep have been caused through a lack of dipping facilities in Denbighshire, but if the hon. Member will furnish me with particulars, I will have inquiries made into the matter.

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that there is no representative on the Denbigh County War Agricultural Committee of an extensive rural area comprising Llangollen, Ceiriog Valley and the part of Denbighshire beyond Oswestry, comprising over a quarter of the county; and whether he will arrange for its representation?

The personnel of all county war agricultural executive committees is under constant review. It is not, however, the function of members to represent any particular county area, and I am not prepared to make a fresh appointment merely because no existing member lives in a particular part of a county.

While the committee has done its work well, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it very undesirable that over a. quarter of a county, and that an agricultural part, should be disfranchised from a committee of this character, and would it not be conducive to harmony and efficiency if this area had an agriculturist to represent it?

I have explained that I do not consider it is the function of members of a county agricultural executive committee to represent any particular part of a county.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. Does he think it right to disfranchise a quarter of a county from representation?

I have explained that members of war agricultural executive committees are not appointed in order to represent particular parts of counties. There is no question of a part of a county being disfranchised.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that oat crops grown on some upland farms in Denbighshire have been condemned as unfit for horse-feed; that 50 cwts. of expensive oat seed on one farm resulted in a crop of only 40 cwts.; and whether, in view of these facts, he will review his policy of compulsory cultivation of land which is unsuitable and is best left for sheep-grazing?

I am aware that individual crops sometimes fail in Denbighshire, as elsewhere, for one reason or another, but in the absence of particulars I cannot identify the instances mentioned. With regard to the second part of the Question, I have no reason to suppose that unsuitable land has been cultivated.

Tenant Farmers (Security Of Tenure)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will safeguard tenant farmers against being compelled to pay increased rent on the expiry of lease, by a measure providing security of tenure, fair rent and compensation for improvements?

In only a small number of cases do farmers in England and Wales occupy their land on lease, the customary tenure being annual tenancy. The Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, provides for arbitration as to rent during the currency of a tenancy but, apart from this, no landlord can obtain an increased rent except by agreement with the tenant. Failing agreement, the landlord before obtaining an increased rent from a new tenant is obliged to give at least 12 months' notice to quit to the old tenant and pay him compensation for disturbance and improvements.

Is there no other way of protecting tenants? Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that, by increasing rents because of the increased profits of farmers, money which should go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going into the pockets of the landlords?

I think we can trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get it out of the pockets of the landlords.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that landlords are reaping excess profits and are not subject to Excess Profits Tax? Will he ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to impose it upon them?

No, Sir. I cannot accept that. Speaking generally, the owners of land are about the only section of the community who have had very largely increased costs, in the way of repairs and so forth, and have had practically no increase of income to meet the increased costs.

Potatoes (Child Labour)

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it is intended to use child labour for lifting potatoes; and to what extent this could have been avoided if farmers had been permitted to follow the normal procedure of riddling and despatching potatoes throughout the season?

Children will probably be employed in most districts to assist with potato lifting as well as potato planting. The position is not materially affected by the arrangements for the riddling and despatching of potatoes which have been adopted during the present season.

Salmon Netting

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that a system of netting salmon, applied to the whole coastline of Great Britain, would provide an additional food supply of fresh and tinned salmon, more than is needed for home consumption; and will he submit a Government controlled salmon-netting scheme to a Committee, so as to avoid the production of a plan at the last moment and in a hurry?

My information is that— at an optimistic estimate—the total year's supply of salmon that could be secured from the waters of Great Britain would not justify the organisation and gear required.