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Written Answers

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

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Written Answers

National Finance

Old-Age Pensions

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the cost to the Treasury if the present basic rate of 10s. a week was increased to £1 a week to all old-age pensioners who are in receipt of pension and not in employment?

The annual cost to the taxpayer of raising the rate of old-age pension to £1 a week to persons now pensioned who are not in employment is estimated at £40,000,000. This estimate is based on the following assumptions:

  • (a) that the rate of contribution under the contributory pensions scheme would not be raised;
  • (b) that the increase would apply to widow pensioners of 60 and over but not to younger widows;
  • (c) that no increase would be given to those who are receiving 10s. a week or upwards by way of supplementary pension, and that, in the case of those who are receiving supplementary pensions of less than 10s., the increase would be the difference between 10s. and the amount of the supplementary pension;
  • (d) that persons working on their own account would receive the same treatment as persons in employment; and
  • (e) that the wives of persons excluded as being in employment or other gainful occupation would also be regarded as ineligible for the increase.
  • The estimate is somewhat speculative owing to lack of information as to the numbers of pensioners in work. The cost would increase in later years owing to (1) the growth of the population of pension age and (2) the return to retirement of those who re-entered industry for the war only.

    Legacies (Income Tax Assessments)

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the Inland Revenue authorities claim to be entitled to levy double Income Tax, by way of supplementary assessment, upon the remaining property of deceased persons' estates because the destruction by enemy action of a substantial portion of such estates has reduced the income below the amount of annuities provided for widows by deceased testators; and whether he will consider the introduction into the forthcoming Finance Bill of an amendment to existing Acts to prevent such a claim being made in such cases?

    If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any case he may have in mind I shall be glad to make inquiries.

    Gifts To Trusts (Loss Of Tax Revenue)

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what will be the loss to the Exchequer in Income Tax, Surtax and Estate and other Death Duties on account of a recent gift to trustees of £10,000,000, assuming that the donor lives for three years after the date of the gift and the rates of taxation remain the same as they are to-day?

    I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply of 16th March to the Question by the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards), of which I am sending him a copy. Similar considerations apply to the gift to which my hon. Friend refers in his Question.

    Agricultural Engines (Road Use)

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the importance to food production of relaxing the restrictions on the road use of agricultural tractors that are licensed at the 5s. rate; and when he proposes to do this?

    Yes, Sir. At present a locomotive engine, tractor, agricultural tractor or other agricultural engine on which a licence duty of 5s. has been paid may only be used on roads

  • (a) for hauling its own necessary gear threshing appliances, fanning implements, a living van for those employed with it, or water or fuel for itself or for agricultural purposes; or
  • (b) if registered in the name of a farmer, for hauling agricultural produce of, or articles required for his farm from one part of his farm to another or to or from a railway station.
  • For more extended road use, higher rates of duty have to be paid.I intend to propose an amendment of the law so that a vehicle of the kind referred to above, if registered in the name of a person engaged in agriculture or of an agricultural contractor registered under the Agricultural Contractors (Registration and Control) Orders, 1940, or the corresponding Scottish Orders, and if used primarily for work on land in connection with agriculture, can be used on roads on payment of a licence duty of 5s. for hauling, without limit of starting point or destination, agricultural produce of or articles required for any farm or market garden. The necessary provision will be included in the forthcoming Finance Bill, but in view of the urgency of matters affecting the 1943 harvest I have felt justified in making the concession in anticipation of Parliamentary sanction. It will accordingly come into force immediately. I should add that this concession must be regarded as a purely temporary war measure which it will not be possible to continue in time of peace.

    Defence (General) Regulations

    asked the Minister of Production whether he will make a full statement on the consultations and discussions that have taken place on Statutory Rules and Orders, 1943, No. 196, Order, adding Regulation 54CA to the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, and give the names of every person who has taken part in the consultations?

    As stated in the House by the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) on 24th February last, I met certain hon. Members and have subsequently had two further meetings with them in regard to the Order in question. They have been informed that the Government will submit to His Majesty in Council shortly a revised Regulation which, when approved, will of course be open for discussion by the House in the ordinary way if hon. Members so desire. I would accordingly ask my hon. Friend to await its publication.

    Government Departments

    Press Cuttings

    asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury how many Departments maintain a staff for the purpose of going through newspapers day by day and cutting out extracts of interest to the Department; and whether he will consider having this work done more economically by having one central Press cutting service for all Departments?

    The information for which the hon. Member asks is not immediately available. I doubt whether any economies would be secured by having this work done centrally in all cases, as there are probably many instances in which departmental needs are most effectively met by having the cuttings extracted by a member of the staff.

    Non-Industrial Staff

    asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what was the total number of non-industrial civil servants at the date of the latest return made before the war and as at 1st January, 1940–43; how many such staff were employed at those dates in the main employment departments, respectively; and what were the corresponding numbers for the administrative group in each case?

    The total number of whole-time non-industrial staff (excluding Northern Ireland Reserved and Agency Services) at the relevant dates was as follows:—

    1.4.39.1.1.40.1.1.41.1.1.42.1.1.43.
    371,050417,171502,320621,497678,470
    At the same dates the staff employed by the main employing Departments was:—
    Post Office182,485173,380174,702189,441191,533
    Ministry of Supply15,94930,54954,12167,328
    War Office19,73328,09138,72054,86565,047
    Ministry of Labour and National Service28,12327,61430,11438,87441,418
    Air Ministry19,65726,88623,47435,38239,133
    Ministry of Food13,45528,05834,43336,589
    Admiralty12,92317,63823,93432,03041,839
    Inland Revenue24,22423,53723,24831,25035,437
    Ministry of Aircraft Production8,90912,92016,235
    *Ministry of Information (including Postal and Telegraph Censorship)53110,28813,10115,362
    Press and Censorship Bureau412
    Ministry of War Transport13,13115,110
    Ministry of Transport2,9563,1823,002
    Ministry of Shipping3,0468,082
    The corresponding numbers for the administrative group in each case were as set out below:
    All Departments2,1182,7233,3184,1694,571
    Post Office6152484844
    Ministry of Supply111177298308
    War Office596310995109
    Ministry of Labour and National Service5975113144142
    Air Ministry100125104140144
    Ministry of Food6581108169
    Admiralty5466166149180
    Inland Revenue4644455049
    Ministry of Aircraft Production77100105
    *Ministry of Information (including Postal and Telegraph Censorship)49847273
    Press and Censorship Bureau8
    Ministry of War Transport127147
    Ministry of Transport383940
    Ministry of Shipping3558
    Notes.—*The Postal and Telegraph Censorship Department's staffs are included in the War Office figure for total staffs for 1st January, 1940, at which date they numbered 2,886. These staffs were later transferred to the Ministry of Information and the figures for this Department for 1st January, 1941, 1942 and 1943 consist mainly of Postal and Telegraph Censorship Department staff. The Press and Censorship Bureau staff, shown separately for 1st January, 1940, were also transferred to the Ministry of Information and are merged in that Ministry's total in the returns for 1st January, 1941, 1942 and 1943.
    (†) The returns from 1st January, 1942, onwards reflect the amalgamation of the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Shipping (whose staffs are detailed separately in the preceding returns) in the joint Ministry of War Transport.

    Forestry (Post-War Policy)

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Report of the Committee on Replanting of Wooded Areas, which have been cut down, is now ready; and whether it is the Government's intention to publish this Report?

    No such Committee as that mentioned in the Question has been appointed by the Government. The Forestry Commission as a Government Department has had under consideration the question of post-war forest policy. This will, of course, form one of the topics for consideration in the Government's post-war plans and the question of any publication will be considered in due course.

    Palestine

    Government Employees (Cost Of Living Allowances)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the general demands throughout Palestine by Government junior employees for higher cost of living allowances; and whether, as these are long overdue, he will recommend the High Commissioner to consider favourably these requests and avoid the threatened dislocation of services?

    The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As regards the second, a wages committee, under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice, was appointed some months ago by the Palestine Government to make recommendations inter alia as to the method of computation of the scale of cost of living allowances, and their report is expected to be available shortly. In the meantime I have recently approved a recommendation by the High Commissioner for a new scale of cost of living allowances for junior Government employees for general application from 1st December, 1942, to be supplemented by local allowances, varying from place to place, the amounts to be decided after local inquiry, with retroactive effect to 1st October, 1942.

    Jewish Refugees

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any further statement to make as to the promised transport of 4,000 children and 500 accompanying adults from Bulgaria to Palestine; whether they are now on the way; and whether any of them have arrived?

    I am not yet in a position to add anything to the answer which I gave to a similar Question by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) on 24th February. As I anticipated in my statement on 3rd February, when announcing the proposals to admit to Palestine from enemy territories Jewish children with accompanying adults, the practical difficulties involved in connection with the provision of transport are considerable. But every effort is being made to overcome them.

    Food Supplies

    Fish Distribution (Leeds)

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the unfair and inadequate proportion of fish received in Leeds and district since the introduction of the Fish Zoning Scheme; and whether he will allot to Leeds supplying ports additional to those at present permitted?

    The answer to the first part of the Question is in the negative: figures supplied by the trade show that the quantity of fish received in Leeds and the surrounding districts has been slightly in excess of the entitlement on a per capita basis. My Noble Friend is now giving consideration to the suggestion made in the second part of the Question.

    Sweets (Points Rationing)

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will explain the points reduction in the sale of sweets and whether he is aware of the annoyance thereover of the retailers?

    Retailers of chocolate and sugar confectionery were allowed to purchase supplies points free during the first three ration periods, in which they collected points from their customers. Not all the points so collected were subsequently credited to retailers' points accounts, but nevertheless a substantial initial credit of personal points was granted in this way. Experience has shown that this initial credit has been more than sufficient to ensure the smooth working of the personal points rationing scheme; and, as it is undesirable to have more points in circulation than are needed, a deduction, equal to 10 per cent. of the points collected from their customers in ration period No. 7, has been made from the number of personal points credited to retailers. My Noble Friend has no reason to believe that the deduction has caused annoyance to retailers in general. A similar deduction has been made from the personal points credit available to wholesalers.

    British Restaurants

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what percentage of rationed food per day is represented by the food consumed in British Restaurants?

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the serious inconvenience caused by the closing of the British Restaurant, Brook Road, South Benfleet, Essex; and whether he will consult with the local council to reopen, advertise and popularise it, thus giving it a further opportunity?

    For more than a year unavailing efforts have been made to popularise the restaurant in question and put it on a self-supporting basis. The number of meals served has never been more than a fraction of the number which the restaurant was equipped to supply, and it has therefore been operated consistently at a loss. In these circumstances my Noble Friend, while regretting the inconvenience caused to the small number of regular customers, cannot see his way to alter the approval he has given to the closing of the restaurant.

    Clothing Coupons (Prosecution, Brighton)

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can give any information in connection with the case made out against Antoinette Suzanne Ascough, of Buckingham Road, Brighton; how she obtained 80,000 children's supplementary clothing coupons; and what action he intends taking to prevent a repetition of this occurrence?

    Antoinette Suzanne As-cough was prosecuted by the police on two charges of stealing 80,000 clothing coupons the property of the Board of Trade and of unlawfully transferring 69,000 coupons to Clarence Leo Swarbrick. She was sentenced to three years' penal servitude. She was at the time a local food enforcement inspector at Brighton, and stole the coupons from the Brighton Food Office where they were stored. Her employment had been terminated before the facts of this case came to light. Early this year special steps were instituted for improving the arrangements for storing ration documents and diminishing the possibilities of theft. This matter is being urgently pursued and will, I think, achieve the result my hon. Friend desires.

    Public Health

    Milk (Heat Treatment)

    asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the latest report of the Caerphilly medical officer of health, in which it is stated that the supply of heat-treated, not pasteurised, Carmarthen milk to schools will lead to a grave increase in bovine tuberculosis in the next few years; and what steps he is taking to provide that local authority with power to deal with this menace?

    I have obtained a copy of this report, which was not sent to my Department. As my hon. Friend is aware, pasteurisation is a form of heat treatment of milk. I do not know on what evidence it is said that the heat treatment of the milk in question has been insufficient to destroy tubercle bacilli and I will make further inquiry. I am in consultation with my Noble Friend the Minister of Food on the general question of providing the practicable maximum supply of adequately heat treated milk. In the meantime the milk referred to can be made safe by boiling it.

    Voluntary Hospitals (Grant)

    asked the Minister of Health whether the undertaking to pay voluntary hospitals from 1st April, 1943, a grant, equivalent to half the additional expenditure involved in carrying out the recommendation of the Rushcliffe Report, will apply to any expenditure arising from the adoption of the 96 hour fortnight during the war?

    The recommendation of the Committee in regard to a 96 hour fortnight was that it should be brought into national operation as soon as conditions permit. The undertaking which I have given relates to increases arising out of recommendations which the Committee desired should be operative from 1st April, 1943.

    Venereal Disease (Laws, Sweden And Russia)

    asked the Minister of Health whether he has any information which he can make available as to the powers and sanctions used in Sweden and Russia with regard to venereal diseases?

    Full information about the laws and regulations relating to venereal diseases in Sweden is contained in the Report on Anti-Venereal Measures in certain Scandinavian countries published by the Ministry of Health in 1938, The information at present available to me as regards Russia is less complete, but I understand that the law of 24th January, 1927, provides as follows:

  • (1) Any person suspected of suffering from venereal disease in a contagious form can be compelled to undergo examination whenever he refuses to submit voluntarily.
  • (2) The following categories can be compelled to undergo examination and treatment for V.D.:
  • (a) Those who have been found by the medical authorities to be suffering from V.D.
  • (b) Those who in the opinion of the sanitary inspector of habitations are living in conditions liable to infect their neighbours.
  • (c) Those who work in conditions which in the opinion of the sanitary inspector make them liable to infect domestic staff or fellow workers.
  • (d) Those attending schools of the first or second degree or apprenticeship schools whenever it is thought necessary by the school medical officers.
  • (e) Nurses and domestic servants when considered necessary by the public health inspectors.
  • (f) Pregnant women' who have been found by the medical authorities to be infected with syphilis.
  • (3) Punishment for failure to comply is provided for under lists 150 and 190 of the penal code.
  • (4) According to a regulation of 14th June, 1928, measures for dealing with prostitution are under a central interdepartmental committee.
  • The law also provides for all measures relating to the welfare and rehabilitation of women and girls without work who are suffering from V.D. This includes the establishment of work and treatment centres ("prophylactoria"), of rescue homes, and of homes for pregnant women and their infants.

    Nursing Homes (Domestic Staff)

    asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the communication from the Newcastle-on-Tyne local authority regarding the withdrawal of domestic staff from private nursing homes, he intends to recommend to the Ministry of Labour the need for the retention of staff?

    My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service and I are fully aware of the need for domestic staff in nursing homes. Such staff are not withdrawn except in agreement with officers of my Department. Withdrawals are infrequent in the case of nursing homes with no more than adequate domestic staff. I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend whether any further action is called for.

    Housing

    Rents

    asked the Minister of Health when it is his intention to introduce legislation to amend Section 8 (3) of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restriction) Act, 1920, with the object of removing abuse arising thereunder?

    I am not at present prepared to add to my recent reply in which I stated that the point had been noted for consideration when amending legislation became practicable.

    Farm-Workers' Cottages

    asked the Minister of Health whether he will describe the procedure to be followed by rural district councils in erecting houses for farm-workers under the latest scheme?

    The procedure for the war-time emergency programme of cottages for farm workers has been designed to be as simple as is possible in the special circumstances. Full authority has been delegated to regional officers to settle most matters locally. The details of the arrangements are given in a circular which has been issued to the rural district councils concerned, and I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

    Prices (Control)

    asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fictitious prices at which houses are being sold, he will take steps to end this abuse?

    The inquiries which I have made do not indicate a general increase which is disproportionate to wartime variations of costs and wages generally, and the increases are confined to the limited number of houses in the safer areas which are sold with vacant possession for occupation by the purchaser. I have re-examined the problem recently and in view of its limited nature and of the powers of billeting and requisitioning which enable me to meet the needs of people who are required to move in connection with the war effort, I do not consider that I should be justified at present in asking Parliament for the new powers which would be necessary.

    National War Effort

    Coal-Mines (Surface Workers)

    asked the Minister of Labour why men between 18 and 25 years of age, employed as surface workers, are not allowed the alternative of joining the Armed Forces to going underground by direction?

    This alternative is not offered because of the paramount need for maintaining and augmenting the number of men employed in the coal-mining industry.

    Canteen Workers

    asked the Minister of Labour whether he has scheduled under the Essential Work Order all canteen workers who are employed in canteens in essential works, which canteens are directly controlled by the factory employer; and what is the reason for differentiating between these canteens and those run by catering contractors?

    The scheduling of a works under the Essential Work Order, normally covers all parts which are under the same employer and would, therefore, include a canteen run directly by the employer. The scheduling of canteens run by catering contractors is a separate matter which I have at present under consideration.

    Sack And Bag Industry

    asked the Minister of Labour whether he has scheduled under the Essential Work Order all employees in the sack and bag industry; and whether he is satisfied that the requirements with respect to adequate wages are being observed?

    Certain firms in the jute bag section of the sack and bag industry have been provisionally scheduled under the Essential Work (General Provisions) Order. The wages in this section are regulated by a Trade Board.

    Disabled Persons

    asked the Minister of Labour whether he will initiate a survey of all occupations suitable for persons with particular disabilities, including the adaptation of processes, tools and machinery, and invite the co-operation of employers' organisations?

    Yes, Sir. The necessary steps will be taken by my Department to initiate a survey of this kind in accordance with the recommendation made by the Inter-departmental Committee on the Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Disabled Persons.

    asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now set up a register of persons handicapped in employment by effects of permanent partial service within the employment exchange machinery to deal with the placing of disabled persons in suitable employment and with follow-up work?

    The establishment of a register of persons handicapped by disability in obtaining or retaining suitable employment was recommended as part of the post-war scheme by the Inter-departmental Committee on the Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Disabled Persons and preparations are being made to give effect to this recommendation. It is not proposed to establish the register until the termination of hostilities. A specialised placing and follow-up service in the employment exchanges has been started under the interim scheme and will be developed for the purpose of dealing with the post-war problem.

    North Africa (British Exports)

    asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of tons of foodstuffs, the number of yards of cloth, and the number of tons of coal that have been sent to North Africa from the United Kingdom?

    No information can be given about military supplies and, as has been stated in reply to previous Questions, the publication of detailed figures relating to exports has been suspended since the outbreak of war.

    Education

    Pre-Nursing Courses

    asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will now circularise all local education authorities on the subject of pre-nursing courses, bearing in mind the recent experience of Hertfordshire and Essex on this important problem?

    The arrangements agreed between the Board and the General Nursing Council for the approval by the latter of pre-nursing courses in secondary schools and technical colleges have already been notified by the Board to local education authorities and governing bodies in circulars, copies of which I am sending to my hon. Friend.

    Local Authorities (Education Officers)

    asked the President of the Board of Education whether it is obligatory on borough or county councils to appoint an education officer or director of education?

    Research Expenditure (Grant-Aid)

    asked the President of the Board of Education whether expenditure by a local education authority on education research is liable for grant-aid?

    The power of a local education authority to aid research is defined in Section 74 of the Education Act, 1921. Expenditure incurred by an authority in the exercise of that power is eligible for the Board's grant.

    Public Institutions (Aged People)

    asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that in all public institutions where aged men and women pass their final years, there is some provision of simple amenities and avoidance of annoying regulations?

    Yes, Sir. The tendency is, I have no doubt, in the direction indicated by my hon. Friend. I am not sure that the policy is everywhere carried as far as it might be and this is one of the matters which my inspectors always look into when visiting the institutions.

    Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

    asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has given consideration to the request made in the resolution passed by the Staveley Urban District Council and forwarded to him by the hon. Member for North-East Derby; whether he will make known his observations on the subject matter contained in the correspondence that accompanied the resolution and state the policy of his Department on those cases that are compelled to obtain assistance from public authorities pending a settlement of their pension claims?

    Members of the Forces are granted four weeks' furlough with full pay before they are discharged on grounds of medical unfitness. This arrangement embraces the cases of men discharged on account of wounds or injuries, which are the subject of the urban district council's resolution. This furlough period is to enable the member to settle down once again in civil life and the Ministry to deal with any pension claim. In the case of a Wound received in action practically every case is settled within the four weeks. The same applies to accident cases where the evidence is clear. Where, in these latter cases, the evidence is insufficient but points to a service cause of the disablement, a provisional grant is made. Where the evidence is prima facie against the claim, the case is kept open in the interests of the discharged member so long as there is a hope that evidence in favour of the claim can be obtained. As a consequence a decision may not be reached within the four wekes' period but no special allowances are or could reasonably be granted pending settlement of such claims. I am writing to the hon. Member giving him further particulars.

    British Army

    Equipment (Polishing)

    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that for some time the Army Council Instruction relating to the polishing of brasses has been systematically violated by a regiment, of which he has been informed, and that the same regiment has been polishing its gun muzzles bright with sandpaper; and whether he will put an end to these practices?

    Fresh instructions have recently been issued on this subject. Army commanders are responsible for ensuring that the uniform and equipment of the soldiers under their command is maintained at the highest standard of cleanliness and smartness compatible with the conditions in which the troops are engaged. The same principles apply in the maintenance of major equipment such as guns.

    Artificial Limbs

    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that men discharged from the Army with the loss of a limb, due to an accident sustained when technically off duty, are only supplied with one artificial limb; and whether he will give instructions for a duplicate limb to be issued in such cases so that the disabled man should not be handicapped if the original limb breaks down, especially having regard to the fact that the Admiralty have decided to issue duplicate limbs in similar cases?

    Instructions have been issued that for the period of the war the issue of artificial limbs to soldiers suffering from non-attributable disabilities should be allowed on the same conditions as apply to soldiers suffering from attributable disabilities, but this concession does not, of course, constitute any admission of attributability in such cases.

    Lenin Memorial, Finsbury (Damage)

    asked the Home Secretary whether he can now state what organisation or individuals were responsible for the wilful damage to the memorial to Lenin?

    asked the Home Secretary whether he has anything to report as a result of his investigation into the damage to the Lenin memorial; and what further steps he proposes to take to prevent such acts of vandalism?.

    The outrage to the Lenin memorial took place on the 3rd February, between 9.5 p.m. when the constable on the beat noticed that the memorial was in its normal state, and 9.50 p.m. when he discovered the damage. The houses in Holford Square are uninhabited and the square was at that time dark and deserted. There was very little chance that the offenders would have been seen. Immediate inquiries were, however, made of local wardens and other people in the neighbourhood, but without result. Fingerprints found on a bottle of paint left near the memorial did not correspond with any in Scotland Yard records. In the absence of any direct clue the police could only make inquiries among persons whose records suggested that they might have some knowledge of the outrage. This they have done and very thorough investigations have been made, including the search of a number of premises and the comparison by chemical analyses of samples of materials found on the site and samples taken from the premises searched. Unfortunately these investigations did not produce any definite indication of the identity of the persons responsible, and in the absence of satisfactory evidence it is impossible to take criminal proceedings. I can assure my hon. Friend, however, that any fresh clue which may come to light will be followed up with the greatest energy, and that the police are on the alert to prevent and detect acts of vandalism of this kind.

    Civil Defence

    Personnel (Home Guard Training)

    asked the Home Secretary the numbers or percentage of members of Civil Defence services who have received training in the Home Guard; and whether it is proposed to institute any measure of compulsion in this connection?

    Several thousand members of the Civil Defence Services have enrolled and are being trained in list (ii) of the Home Guard. It is not desirable that I should give precise figures. The possibility of some measure of compulsion will have to be considered in some areas if deficiencies in the strength of the Home Guard cannot otherwise be met.

    Fire Guard Duties

    asked the Home Secretary what proposals he has to put forward for the reorganisation of the fireguard service?

    I have come to the conclusion that the time has arrived when in many areas the fire guard should become a separate Service, closely linked for operational purposes with the National Fire Service. I recognise, however, that areas exist in which there may be grounds for maintaining the present system and I have given Regional Commissioners discretion to authorise this, where they consider it desirable.

    Unexploded Bombs

    asked the Home Secretary whether the search for unexploded bombs is being consistently carried out in the bombed areas; and whether he has any further statement to make concerning the necessity and value of this work?

    All reports of unexploded bombs are communicated at once to the appropriate authorities by the wardens or the police; the most careful investigation of these reports is made and the site of the alleged unexploded bomb is carefully examined as soon as possible. If at any subsequent time there is any reason to think that an unexploded bomb has not been detected, a further investigation is immediately made on the spot. I have every reason to think that the methods adopted, both of reporting and investigation, reduce to a minimum the risk of an unexploded bomb remaining undetected.

    asked the Home Secretary whether he will issue more detailed information to the public concerning the dangers of the new anti-personnel bombs now being used by the enemy, especially in respect to the action to be taken where such explosives are discovered?

    It has already been explained in the Press and on the wireless that the special danger of this bomb (which is not a new bomb) is its liability to detonate at the slightest touch, and the public were warned on no account to approach or touch such a bomb, but to report it at once, to the nearest warden or police officer. I do not think any further instructions are required.

    Anti-Semitic Activities

    asked the Home Secretary whether he is satisfied with the existing law respecting anti-semitism and racial hatred; what further evidence he has of anti-semitic offences; and whether he will consider defining anti-semitic offences in appropriate legislation?

    The principle of our law is that it is no respecter of persons and it applies alike to all individuals and to all sections of the community. I am sure that the House will agree with me that it would be contrary to public policy to single out one section of the community and to afford to it preferential treatment and protection. At the same time I am fully alive to the potential dangers of anti-semitic prejudice. Happily manifestations of such prejudice are rare in this country, but I need not assure the House that appropriate action will be taken, whenever evidence is forthcoming, against any person who engages in activities that constitute an offence against the laws of this country.

    Silicosis (Foundry Workers)

    asked the Home Secretary whether any investigation has yet been made as to the extent to which silicosis has been contracted by workers in the foundry trade; and with what result?

    Certain processes in steel foundries are known to give rise to silicosis, and workers employed in these processes are covered by the compensation scheme for this disease. I have recently received representations that the scheme should be extended to cover other processes, e.g. work done on the foundry floor, which has not hitherto been thought to expose the workers to risk of the disease. Further inquiries are being made, but the results are not yet available.

    Royal Air Force (Artificial Limbs)

    asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that men discharged from the Royal Air Force with loss of a limb, due to an accident sustained when technically off duty, are supplied only with one artificial limb; and whether he will give instructions for a duplicate limb to be issued in such cases so that the disabled man should not be handicapped if the original limb breaks down, especially having regard to the fact that the Admiralty have decided to issue duplicate limbs in similar cases?

    Is has recently been decided on an inter-Service basis that for the duration of the war a duplicate artificial limb may be provided for any airman discharged from the Royal Air Force who requires an artificial limb. In the case of personnel already discharged and where only one limb has been provided a duplicate will be provided on application.