Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Thursday, 18th March, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

National War Effort

Nurses And Midwives (Welsh Representation On Council)

1.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the communication from the Monmouthshire County Council asking for the appointment of a representative from Wales upon the National Advisory Council for the Distribution of Nurses and Midwives; and the nature of the reply sent to the Council?

I have this matter under consideration and have not yet replied to the Council.

Am I entitled to anticipate that there will be a representative from Wales on this Advisory Council and that the claims of Monmouthshire will not be neglected?

Worker's Appeal, Stoke (Reinstatement)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that W. Berks, 11, Parkhead Drive, Weston Coyney, Stoke-on-Trent, in May, 1942, won an appeal, and the firm was ordered to reinstate the man and pay his wages and expenses; why that has not been carried out; and what action is it intended to take to carry out the Appeal Court's decision and pay the £25 owing to Mr. Berks?

I am aware that Mr. Berks was not reinstated by his employers, but I was advised that any proceedings which I might institute for contravention of the Essential Work Order would be unlikely to succeed. I have no authority to institute such civil proceedings for recovery of any wages that may be due. It is open to Mr. Berks to institute such proceedings himself in the civil courts.

Can my right hon. Friend say what action is taken against employers who refuse to carry out a decision? Are they prosecuted like other people?

They are prosecuted and fined. In some cases I have de-scheduled their works, and other cases I have dealt with through my right hon. Friends who are responsible for production.

In a case where a workman has to take his employer before a court how can he afford to do that? This is something new from the Minister of Labour.

That is the law at present, and I cannot alter it, but most workmen have a union which would help them if they had to go to court.

Will my right hon. Friend look into this matter again, because several cases have been reported already, and it does appear unfair to a workman that when a decision has been given in his favour he has to go to court to have it implemented?

The case of the recovery of wages has always been a civil matter, and unions have always maintained that. The question of fining an employer is a matter for the court. This is a case of the recovery of wages.

Protected Establishments (Managerial Staffs, Calling-Up)

4.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the dislocation that is caused by the calling-up of staff men under 30 years of age from protected establishments and of the pressure that is being applied to accelerate output; and will he, in future, give greater consideration to men who have been continuously engaged on the same work for more than seven years?

I assume that, in the first part of the Question, my hon. Friend is referring to men who are on the managerial staffs of the establishments which he has in mind. I am, of course, aware of the call for increased output but not of any dislocation caused by the calling up of the men in question who are under 30 years of age. With regard to the last part of the Question, while duration and continuity of a man's employment on the same work are taken into account in deciding whether his calling up should be deferred, the decision must rest mainly upon the importance of that work and the need for the man's retention for its continued performance.

Clydeside Rivetters

5.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the discontent, particularly among Clydeside rivetters, caused during recent wet weather, by the varying interpretations by employers of section 4, paragraph (d), subsection (11), of the Essential Work (Shipbuilding and Shiprepairing) Order; and whether, to assist union officials in their efforts to avoid friction and stoppages and to meet the discontent of the men, he will restate the obligations of the employers under this section and so place the subject beyond ambiguity?

There is an agreement between the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation and the trade unions concerned according to which questions arising in this connection should be settled by means of the ordinary industrial machinery. I am not aware that difficulties are occasioned owing to any ambiguous wording in the Order, but if my hon. Friend will let me know more precisely what he has in mind, I will consider the matter.

Transferred Workers (Post-War Employment)

6.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a worker compulsorily transferred from a civilian job to war work has no statutory right to reinstatement in his old job when the war ends; and whether he will take the necessary legislative steps to give those workers such a right?

This matter has been considered on a number of occasions, and the conclusion has been reached that it would not be practicable to make legislative provision on the lines suggested. I have no doubt that most employers will in any case wish to reinstate their former employees wherever this is practicable. In addition, it will be the aim of the Government to assist in ensuring that opportunities of suitable employment will be available for workers generally.

Old Age Pensioners

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give the figures of the number of old age pensioners who are working and of those who have taken up work since the war started?

I regret that the information asked for is not available. Certain information is contained in a reply I gave to the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) on 21st January, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

Marine Engineers (Wages)

8.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the basic rate of pay of marine engineers is 11¾d. per hour, raised by various bonuses to 1s. 8 13/16d. per hour for a 47-hour week; that wages have been reduced by the loss of Sunday work and overtime; that negotiations on the men's demands for an increased wage have been going on since September; and whether he will use his powers to consolidate wages, doing away with the bonus system and to grant the men a larger increase than has so far been agreed to by their employers?

No, Sir. I cannot accept my hon. Friend's suggestion. The question whether there should be any modification of agreed rates of wages is a matter for negotiation between the two sides, through the recognised machinery of the industry.

Is the Minister not aware that these negotiations have been going on officially since 5th November? My union have asked the Minister of Labour to intervene. Will he use his influence to have this matter settled as early as possible?

It is not correct to say that my hon. Friend's union have asked me to intervene. What they have done is to ask my hon. Friend not to intervene.

Probably the Minister is right as regards the executive of my union, but members of my union all over the country are asking me to intervene.

Is it not the case that the Minister has continually encouraged trade unionists to pay a political levy so that they could get their trade union activity supplemented by Parliamentary activity? Will he not encourage such supplementary Parliamentary activity?

Yes, Sir, but I have also encouraged trade unionists to do politically things which it is wise to do politically and industrially things which are more properly done through industry.

I will raise this matter again on the Adjournment. I have been here for 20 years and a member of my union for many years.

Widowers (Domestic Help)

9.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that widowers with families are being deprived of the services of their daughters for housekeeping even where the girls are only experienced in domestic work; that these girls have been told they must take work of national importance and that other girls, already engaged on munition work, will have to undertake household duties; and will he say what purpose is served by this action?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to cases where a widower father has two daughters, one of whom acts as housekeeper, and the other is employed on munitions. In an area where immobile women are available as substitutes it is in the national interest for one or other of the daughters of the widower father to leave home and go to work which has to be done by a mobile woman and for any consequent vacancy in munitions to be filled by a woman who in no circumstances could be expected to leave the district. I am prepared to leave it to the family to decide which daughter shall leave home. The other who remains at home will probably be available for some employment locally. In other areas where the daughter on munitions could not be replaced by the services of an immobile woman, the housekeeping daughter is not sent away from home, even though, when considered solely from the point of view of exceptional hardship, postponement would not be justified.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that a considerable amount of hardship is being caused through daughters who have been working as housekeepers being called up for National Service, so that no-one has been left to look after the house?

I have dealt with a number of cases, but if my hon. Friend has others and will let me have them, I will look into them immediately.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that in the last few weeks I have sent him a number of cases on the same point? Last week I had a reply from him which had the effect of depriving a widower of any female help whatsoever.

Childless Married Women

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the variations in practice among employment exchanges in different parts of the country, it is the policy of his Ministry to direct childless married women under 40 years of age, whose husbands live at home and who have no other domestic help, into full-time or part-time occupations?

The hours of full-time and part-time work vary very much with different occupations as do the arrangements made by employers for the convenience of their married women workers. Accordingly, each case has to be considered on its merits on the advice of independent women's panels who have knowledge of local conditions, of the work available, and the individual circumstances of the woman concerned. I have arranged for meetings of members of women's panels to be held in different areas at which common problems can be discussed, and have recently drawn their attention to the responsibilities of a married woman for running her home which must be taken into account in considering the work she should be asked to undertake.

Does that mean that where a woman has domestic responsibility, looking after her husband, and has no other domestic help she would be asked to do only part-time work and not engage in a full-time job?

International Labour Office (Consultative Committee)

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any information as to why the consultative committee of economists and statesmen to deal with reconstruction, which it was decided to set up as a result of the International Labour Conference in New York, in October, 1941, has not yet been formed?

I assume that my hon. and gallant Friend refers to the decision of the Emergency Committee of the Governing Body in April last, to set up an Advisory Committee on the Economic Conditions of Post-War Reconstruction. It was agreed that the International Labour Office, in consultation with the Chairman of the Governing Body, should enter into the necessary consultations for the nomination of members of this Committee and should submit names to the Governing Body in due course. I have no detailed information with regard to the progress of these consultations, which, as I have stated, are in the hands of the International Labour Office and the Chairman of the Governing Body, but I hope shortly to have an opportunity of discussing the matter with the Acting-Director of the Office, who proposes, I understand, to visit this country in the near future.

Housing

Rent Charges

15.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered a communication from the Urban District Councils Association regarding allegations of extortionate rent charges; and will he state the nature of his reply?

I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of my reply of 11th February to the Urban District Councils Association.

Small Gardens

29.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will give an assurance that the 4,000,000 houses, which it is proposed to erect immediately after the war, will in all possible cases have a small garden attached?

Public Health

Tuberculosis (Treatment)

16.

asked the Minister of Health when he expects to issue a report on the improved arrangements for the treatment of tuberculosis mentioned in Ministry of Health Circular No. 2741?

I hope to issue a further memorandum on this subject early next month.

Hospital Nurses (Rushcliffe Committee's Recommendations)

17 and 18.

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he has considered the letter sent to him by the Middlesex Medical Society in reference to the position of ward sisters as recommended by the Rushcliffe Committee; and whether he proposes to take any action to effect some improvement;

(2) whether he is aware that the recommendations of the Rushcliffe Committee relating to assistant nurses will not encourage suitable women to take up this work; and whether, in view of the special position they occupy through absence of the possibility of promotion, their position can be reconsidered?

27.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the dissatisfaction expressed by the 200 doctors of the Middlesex County Medical Society with the Rushcliffe recommendation that a ward sister should be paid only £130 per annum plus £70 living-out allowance; and whether he proposes to reconsider this recommendation?

The recommendations of the Rushcliffe Committee are the result of a full examination of the question by a Committee consisting of two panels representing employers and employed respectively. I have commended to hospital authorities these recommendations, the adoption of which will secure for the first time uniform national scales for all grades of hospital nurses. I do not propose to take any action likely to prejudice the agreement which has been reached.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that as the most progressive public health authority is not represented on the employers' side, the Report in effect makes some of the workers worse off than they were before, and will he give an opportunity for the reconsideration of the matter?

I could not agree with that. The individual representatives of the employers' panels and the Royal College, the trade union concerned, all agree that this is the greatest advance ever made in the history of the nursing profession.

What will be the estimated financial advantage to the nursing profession as a whole if the Report is implemented?

The total additional cost of the proposals in a full year is estimated at £2,000,000.

Is the Minister aware that before a ward sister obtains that position, she has to work for many years, and is also responsible for the training of the students, and can the Minister honestly say that £130 a year, plus £70 living-out allowance, is a fair and just remuneration?

The hon. Lady had better look at the Report. She will see that there are figures for recommended increases in the salary of £130, rising by increments of £10 to £180, with one additional service increment of £20 after 10 years service, so that with emoluments the salary goes to from £230 to £300.

That is not my responsibility. The Royal College, the trade union concerned, formed the panel, and it is to them that the hon. Lady should address her question.

Is it not the case that the Royal College of Nurses is in no sense whatever a trade union and that the trade unions that represent the staffs are appalled at the character of this Report?

Is it not a fact that not only were the nursing bodies represented on the Committee, but that the Trades Union Congress and all the local authorities were represented?

Is it not a fact that the Middlesex County Council has sent a letter to the right hon. Gentleman pointing out the anomalies?

That may be so, but over a large scale of various grades of nurses it is perfectly simple, when long negotiations have taken place and there have been general decisions about a national standard, for any body to say that it does not agree with this, that or the other thing. I am defending what is a great advance on a national basis for the first time.

I beg to give notice that, owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Beveridge Report (Dentists, Opticians And Pharmacists)

19.

asked the Minister of Health whether his conversations with the medical profession with regard to the implementation of the Beveridge Report will include discussions with allied professions, such as dentists, opticians and pharmacists?

Milk (Pasteurisation)

20.

asked the Minister of Health how many eases of epidemic summer diarrhoea have arisen in the last year in infants under two years of age; how many of such were fed on pasteurised milk and how many on raw milk?

The information received in the Ministry from local authorities shows, for the last full year, 878 cases of epidemic diarrhoea in children under five years of age, but I regret that I have no separate figures for children under two. Nor can I say how many of these children were fed on pasteurised milk.

Is it not true that pasteurised milk is good for children and far better than dirty fresh milk?

21.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that pasteurisation of milk kills the harmless lactic bacteria and thereby leaves a much better field for the growth of other dangerous diseases and putrefactive germs, he will prohibit pasteurised milk being fed to babies without notification?

No, Sir. I am advised that the keeping quality of milk is much improved by pasteurisation and that there is no scientific evidence for the statement that pathogenic organisms grow better in pasteurised milk than in clean raw milk.

Is it not a fact that in an experiment at Newcastle not many years ago, rats were fed on pasteurised milk and died of it?

Is the Minister aware that the suggestion contained in my Question is a fact which has been established both commercially and scientifically for many years and that it still holds good, and that pasteurisation does nothing towards destroying those bacteria which gain access to milk after it has been pasteurised?

I think my hon. Friend has overlooked the fact that when lactic bacilli have so soured milk that it is unfit for human consumption, the growth of other organisms may be inhibited by the acid produced.

If pasteurised milk is so bad for people, will the right hon. Gentleman feed Hitler on it?

23.

asked the Minister of Health in view of the fact that pasteurisation is claimed to destroy the so-called bovine tubercle bacillus, what is the cause of the large number of cases of so-called bovine non-pulmonary tuberculosis in the London area where practically all the milk for domestic consumption is pasteurised?

I know of no evidence to support my hon. Friend's suggestion that there is a large number of cases of bovine non-pulmonary tuberculosis in the London area, nor of any evidence incompatible with the supposition that the great majority of cases of non-pulmonary tuberculosis in the London area are due to human infection.

Are not the replies of the Minister on this matter getting somewhat muddled and ought he not to seek guidance from the House instead of from the employés and lackeys of the big milk producers, the bacteriologists?

Evacuated Mothers (Return Fares From Maternity Homes)

24.

asked the Minister of Health whether he can now make any statement regarding the payment of return fares to mothers who have been sent to hospitals outside London for their confinement?

Yes, Sir. While it is still the policy not to encourage the return to London of persons evacuated to emergency maternity homes outside London, I am making arrangements that will enable help to be given to mothers who are anxious to return but cannot pay their return fares without hardship.

Water Supply (Sedgefield Area)

25.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the protests from public bodies, individuals and the hon. Member for Sedgefield, complaining of the condition of the water supply which householders in Fishburn, Ferryhill and Sedgefield have to use, which is drawn from the local mines and which creates difficulty in washing and results in the bursting of hot-water pipes; and whether he has yet decided to deal adequately with the situation?

I have received representations on this matter, and I have had occasion to arrange for an inquiry to be held into certain applications which have a bearing on the point raised by my hon. Friend. He will appreciate, no doubt, that the responsibility for dealing adequately with the needs of consumers rests with the Water Board, but I will communicate further with him when I have had an opportunity of considering my Inspector's report.

Is the Minister aware that this has gone on for several months now and that he has actually refused the Water Board an opportunity of erecting a water softener, and that there is a real danger now in people lighting fires because it may cause burst pipes?

The hon. Member will understand that there are many more complications than that in this story, otherwise I would not have instituted an inquiry. I have received a comprehensive report and I shall be glad to talk to the hon. Member about it when I have had an opportunity fully to consider the report.

Armed Forces And Civilians (Pensions And Grants)

30.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will give the number of cases to which the Comptroller and Auditor-General has drawn attention in which persons have obtained pensions through the carelessness of officials and/or fraudulence by dishonest persons; and whether prosecutions have been instituted?

Full information as to our issues in the year is set out in the Notes to Subhead LL of the Appropriation Account for my Department for 1941, which has been presented to the House. It is not possible to specify the number of cases to which attention was drawn by the Comptroller and Auditor-General and not by my own Department, but these would represent a very small fraction of the total. Legal proceedings are taken in all appropriate cases.

31.

asked the Minister of Pensions how many cases have been refused pensions who have passed into the Army as being medically fit and then had to be discharged on medical grounds?

32.

asked the Minister of Pensions how many men accepted into the Services and since discharged as unfit have had pension claims disallowed as disability is not due to, or exaggerated by, war service.

The figures asked for by the hon. Members would enable an estimate to be made of the numbers invalided from the Forces, and it would not be in the public interest to give them.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the figures are very large and show considerable hardship?

India

"Calcutta Diocesan Record" (Articles)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has considered the reprint sent to him of the two recent articles in the "Calcutta Diocesan Record," regarding requests by the civil police that inhabitants of a residential district in Calcutta should move elsewhere, their houses being required for brothels for the military; and whether he will inquire into the circumstances in which such action was taken?

I have made inquiries and am informed that no brothels for troops have been provided by the authorities in Bengal and that there has been no question of turning residents out of their houses to make room for such establishments. The Government of India have recently stated in the Legislative Assembly that it is no part of the policy of the civil or military authorities to provide brothels for troops or to assist in such provision. Brothels in Calcutta are out of bounds to troops, and an old order to that effect was reaffirmed last June.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that, if a responsible church publication like this and the Bishop of Calcutta make detailed and grave charges of this kind, it is evident that some official who has made a blunder is being protected and the matter is being hushed up? Will he reinvestigate and make sure that, if people have been turned out of their houses, they shall be restored to them?

I have answered the Question in regard to the policy of the Government of India, otherwise administratively the matter is entirely within the province of the Government and Parliament of Bengal.

Can it really be left at that? Can this country disclaim responsibility for the disgraceful state of affairs indicated in this very serious report?

The matter is one entirely within the powers which Parliament a good many years ago gave to the Indian Provinces.

Convicted Prisoners, Kayyur

34.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any further information respecting the convicted prisoners in the Kayyur case?

The facts of the case to which the hon. Member refers are that an Indian police constable who was visiting the village of Kayyur in Madras for the execution of a warrant was attacked by a mob. He was beaten and thrown into a river and then stoned until he sank and died. A number of persons were arrested and tried and four of them were sentenced to death by the Sessions Judge. The sentences were confirmed by the High Court of Madras, and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has recently considered and dismissed an application for special leave to appeal. A remark by the Sessions Judge that "it may be that the person who dealt the mortal blow could not with certainty be picked out of the group, or perhaps is not even before the Court" has given rise to a wholly mistaken impression that there has been a miscarriage of justice in this case. Once it is established, as it was in this case, that the act which extinguished the life of the victim was done by one or more persons in furtherance of the common intention of them all, each of them is guilty of murder even though it can never be known by whose hand life was actually extinguished.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a certain parallel between this case and a somewhat similar case in Northern Ireland, Where some of the convicted prisoners Were reprieved? Could he say therefore whether the attention of the Viceroy has been drawn to this, and will he inquire of the Viceroy whether clemency is likely to be exercised?

No, Sir. A petition for mercy can always be sent in on behalf of the person concerned.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the legal position in which a man can be condemned to death for murder even though it has not been proved that he committed the murder?

Any question of an appeal for clemency goes to the Viceroy. I am not aware that such an appeal has been made.

Are we to understand that all who participated in the affair were equally guilty of murder but that only four are being executed? If four are being executed, why not execute the whole lot?

Non-Congress Leaders (Conference, Bombay)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has now considered the Report of the Bombay Conference of Non-Congress leaders; and what response has been made to their plea?

The resolution passed at the Bombay Conference contemplated an approach to the Viceroy. I am not aware that any such approach has yet been made, and in the meantime I am not prepared to make any further statement on the matter of the resolution.

If these non-Congress leaders desire contact with the Congress leaders, does the right hon. Gentleman know whether the Viceroy will allow contact to be made?

We had better wait until the resolution has been presented and then have the Viceroy's opinion on the matter.

Whatever the outcome of this resolution, will the right hon. Gentleman say that he continues to welcome the efforts being made by Indian leaders to get an understanding in India?

The hon. Member raises a broad question of policy which, I understand, must be debated shortly.

Fun Fairs (Juveniles)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the large number of juveniles who frequent the fun fair in Newport; and whether, in view of the many cases of juvenile delinquency which come before the courts, and the unfortunate influence which places of this kind have on the youth of the town, he is prepared to take steps to prevent the admission of young people to fun fairs of this kind?

I fully recognise that if young people have nothing better to do with their spare time than to idle about the streets or to go to a fun fair, there is a risk of their getting into trouble, but I am not satisfied that the remedy lies in prohibiting their admission to fun fairs. Last year I made some general inquiries about fun fairs, and after considering the representations which had been made to me, in conjunction with the reports from the police, I came to the conclusion—and so informed the House—that there were not sufficient grounds to justify me in proposing at the present time new statutory provisions with regard to these places.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that protracted correspondence with the local authorities has taken place and so far there has been no co-operation by the Home Office in the matter?

Will the right hon. Gentleman himself visit one of these juvenile courts and see what has happened? The Chief Constable of Plymouth, the head of the Watch Committee and everyone interested in the social welfare of children is against these fun fairs. I beg of him to remember his past.

We have been careful to get all the information we can about this, and really the wild and extreme allegations as to the effect of these fun fairs do not stand up. Unless there is a good case for interfering with people's enjoyments, I am not going to interfere with them.

Will the right hon. Gentleman continue to advise young boys and girls to join clubs to keep them out of trouble?

Yes, and that has been actively done by the President of the Board of Education.

Civil Defence

Fire Guard Duties

37.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the married, non-resident, full-time nursing staff at the emergency hospital, Rugby, have been informed that they are to do fire-watching duties at the hospital during their off-duty time; that many of these married nurses, in addition to their hospital duties, are on emergency call throughout the 24 hours and have home duties and shopping to perform; and whether he will inquire into this matter?

Under the forthcoming Orders women will only be liable for fire guard duty at the premises at which they work where, as in the present case, there are not enough men available to carry out the arrangements. I propose at the same time to make suitable provision to ensure that women working at business premises who have heavy domestic responsibilities may be exempted from fire prevention duties at those premises.

Are we not indebted to the trade unions in some measure for this modification?

Yes, there has been a good deal of co-operation from the trade unions.

41.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, when incendiary bombs fell recently on a building of which he has been informed, there was only one porter on duty who was available for service; that there is no allocation of staffs for fire prevention duty until 11 o'clock each night; and whether he will take steps to ensure adequate cover from 5 to 11 p.m.?

From preliminary inquiries it appears that three members of the staff were on fire guard duty on the occasion in question and that normally up to 11 p.m. there are two porters on fire guard duty in addition to a large number of hospital staff, all of whom have been trained in fire guard duties. These latter are available for fire guard duties in an emergency.

If I submit a letter from the staff, will my right hon. Friend go into this matter again as his reply does not accord with my information?

Motor Vehicles (Immobilisation)

39.

asked the Home Secretary whether, in order that loss of time may be avoided, he will cause the Regulations in regard to the locking or otherwise immobilising of motor vehicles to be relaxed at least during daylight?

I regret that I do not feel justified in adopting my hon. Friend's suggestion at the present time, but, as I stated in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne (Captain C. S. Taylor) on 21st January last, this matter will be reviewed from time to time in the light of current circumstances.

Personnel (Co-Operation With Home Guard)

42.

asked the Home Secretary how far the Civil Defence units, especially National Fire Service, are co-operating with Home Guard duties in sparsely inhabited localities; and to what extent reciprocity has been secured?

Co-operation naturally varies according to local circumstances, but I am glad to say it is improving and in some areas is already close and effective. The Civil Defence Services can help the Home Guard by enrolling in list (ii), and several thousands of such enrolments come from the rural areas. Conversely, in many country districts Home Guards undertake training and duty in the wardens' and other services, and instructions have been issued whereby in many places the Home Guard give their assistance after air raids. In addition the Home Guard depend on the Civil Defence casualty services in case of invasion, and co-operation in this and other activities is secured by joint exercises. In the case of the National Fire Service, while the same general principles apply, the nature of the duties which firemen will have to perform in time of invasion limits the numbers who can be permitted to enrol in list (ii). A certain number have, however, been permitted to enrol, and in some areas Home Guards are being earmarked and trained as members of fire pump crews. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and I wish to promote full co-operation between the Home Guard and the Civil Defence Services, and within the bounds of what is practicable no opportunity is lost of extending the system of mutual aid and dual training and duty.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to ensure that this information gets down to the lower ranks and is not confined to the higher ranks?

Depot Superintendents, London

44.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the grievances of superintendents of Civil Defence depots in the London area, who, though they are in charge of the combined service depots which comprise the heavy rescue services, have never had their status properly defined, and so have been granted neither the increases of basic pay allowed to Civil Defence personnel nor the cost-of-living bonus paid to local government officers; and will he take steps so that they may have treatment as favourable as that accorded either to Civil Defence personnel or to local government officers?

The great majority of depôt superintendents are enrolled as members of an appropriate Civil Defence service, and are employed under Civil Defence conditions. Local authorities are aware that it is open to them so to enrol the superintendents where that has not already been done. The maximum rates of pay of depôt superintendents were fixed in four grades in accordance with the responsibilities of the posts. The increases in Civil Defence pay have been authorised in full for the lower grades of superintendent. Holders of posts in the higher grades have not received the full increases because, except on the occasion of the last increase, their pay was above the rate up to which the increases in Civil Defence pay were applied.

Fascist Signs And Slogans, North London

57.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Fascist signs and slogans are being chalked all over North London arousing indignation on the part of local residents; and have orders been issued to the police to keep a careful watch with a view to the arrest of these Fascists?

I have no evidence to the effect that the practice is as extensive as my hon. Friend's Question suggests, but if my hon. Friend will let me have particulars, I will cause inquiries to be made.

Is the Minister aware that these pro-Germans actually tarred a picture of the Prime Minister the other night outside the Russian exhibition and that this is happening all over North London, according to Press reports? Surely if a few arrests were made and the people given a term of imprisonment and then internment for the rest of the war, it might have a salutary effect?

I can assure my hon. Friend that both I and the police are anxious to get hold of these people, and that if we do suitable legal proceedings will be taken. There is no lack of wish on the part of the authorities to make prosecutions.

Is it not amazing that the Labour Party are getting so anxious to put everybody in prison?

Young Persons (Intoxicating Liquor)

38.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the increase in alcoholic drinking among young people and the consequent difficulty of licensees being able to determine whether they are of the age fixed by Statute; and what remedy does he propose to solve the problem?

I am keeping a careful watch on this matter, but the information I have been able to obtain does not support the suggestion that an amendment of the law is called for to check alcoholic drinking by young people. In connection with any statutory prohibition relating to young persons, difficulties of enforcement are liable to arise because some of them may appear to be older than their actual years; but I can find no ground for the suggestion that there is any widespread failure to comply with the prohibition against selling intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 for consumption on licensed premises. The police and the licensing justices are fully conscious of the importance of seeing that this provision of the law is strictly observed.

Has my right hon. Friend seen a recent letter in "The Times," signed by a number of distinguished social workers, and the comments of the Chief Constable of Warrington and a large number of stipendiaries?

Yes, I have seen these important statements, and we have investigated them in so far as details are given, but despite our efforts I have not a great deal of evidence which would warrant me in proposing to amend the law.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider fun fairs a useful counter-attraction to the pubs?

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider issuing a special poster calling attention to the law and to the necessity of taking care not to serve young children?

Is it not the case that the young people are following the example of their elders, and if the old people will keep out of the pubs the young people will?

Allied Forces, London (Conduct)

40.

asked the Home Secretary how many arrests for drunkenness and misbehaviour in London there were on the average on Saturdays in 1942 of men serving in the Forces of the Allies; and how this compares with similar arrests on Sundays?

I regret that statistics are not available in the form asked for by my hon. and gallant Friend and could not be furnished without considerable research. In any case they would not include those cases of misbehaviour that are dealt with by the military police. I understand that, as in the case of the civilian population, drunkenness occurs less frequently among members of all Armed Forces on Sunday than on Saturday, but the number of cases on any day is relatively small. I would like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the public behaviour of the large majority of Allied troops in this country, which, I am informed, is most satisfactory in every respect.

Are not these statistics evidence against the Sunday opening of theatres?

Alien Refugees

43.

asked the Home Secretary whether visas for entry into this country are granted to victims of Nazi persecution who have been able to escape to neutral countries and who have sons serving in the British or Allied Forces?

Under war-time conditions it would not be practicable to treat the presence of an alien in this country as constituting in itself a claim for the admission of his adult relatives; and the general rule has necessarily been that the desire of an alien to bring his relatives here cannot be treated as a ground for granting the application. An exception has been made in favour of the wives and children of men serving in the British and Allied Forces, but it has not been possible to extend this to other relatives.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the harsh and ungenerous attitude in this matter is causing great concern to those who care for the tradition of this country as an asylum for refugees?

I think that that is a very ungenerous observation. This country has been exceedingly generous to refugees.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are men in this country whose parents are in Spain and are in danger of being imported to Poland and massacred if Germany invades Spain, and as some have as many as four sons serving in our Forces will they serve any better for knowing that their parents are exposed to that great and deadly risk?

I am sure that the sons are very glad to be here as refugees, notwithstanding the fact, or because of the fact, perhaps, that they subsequently joined His Majesty's Forces, and I cannot undertake that all their relatives can come here.

How does that declaration square with the declaration of the Foreign Secretary recently that all people who could be rescued would be rescued and given asylum here?

56.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider the possibility of interning in the Isle of Man refugees who can escape from the Continent and whose loyalty may be in doubt?

The possibility of using such limited accommodation as is still available in the Isle of Man for any fresh classes of persons whose detention may be necessary has been, and will be, kept in mind.

Are the Government aware that there is widespread feeling in the country that we are not doing enough for refugees from German tyranny? Only this morning I had two petitions on the subject.

I can only say that this country has a very fine record in the matter and has done more than any other country. This is a small country and is the base for future offensive operations.

60.

asked the Home Secre-Secretary whether he will supply figures showing how many visas for the United Kingdom were issued to natives or nationals of countries now dominated by the Axis Powers from the beginning of Hitler's regime in 1933 till 30th January, 1942; how many of these were issued since the outbreak of war; and how many or what proportion of those to whom visas were authorised succeeded in reaching this country?

Before the war nationals of most of the countries now dominated by the Axis Powers did not require visas to come to this country. Since the outbreak of war there has been a general requirement that every foreigner seeking to enter the United Kingdom shall obtain a British visa, but in numerous instances the British representatives abroad are authorised under general instructions to grant visas without referring the individual case to the Home Office. Consequently it is impracticable to give such figures as are asked for. I can, however, say that during the three years 1940, 1941 and 1942 over 50,500 nationals of countries dominated by the Axis Powers have been admitted to the United Kingdom as refugees. In a large proportion of these cases the circumstances in which they succeeded in reaching our shores precluded them from obtaining a British visa.

Government Departments (War-Time Records)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement regarding the practice, instituted by certain Government Departments, of installing an historian to write up the history of the Department since the outbreak of hostilities; which are the Departments who have already put into force this practice; and whether it is the Government's intention to extend it to all Government Departments?

Experience has shown the need for having available a record of the development of war-time administration of Government Departments, and that such a record cannot be adequately compiled if it is left entirely until the end of hostilities. With this object in view, a number of appointments have been made, under arrangements concerted generally by the Historical Section of the War Cabinet Office, formerly of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the Departments covered by these arrangements, which may be extended as thought necessary to other Departments whose war-time activities could with advantage be recorded in this way.

Is there any need for the employment of historians in so many Departments, and will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the public relations officers will not be utilised to whitewash the deeds of these various Departments during the war?

Is it not the case that when war-time Departments were set up valuable information was found in the records of similar Departments set up in the last war?

That is the point I was conveying in the somewhat different language of my reply.

In the compilation of this history of Departments, will my right hon. Friend allow a few interpolations from outside sources?

There is no reason why persons in unofficial positions should not compile histories of their own activities during the war, and I trust I may be given the opportunity of making some interpolations of my own.

Does the Prime Minister know of any historian who is compiling a history of the war day by day?

Is my right hon. Friend himself compiling notes in his spare time for the great benefit of us all in future?

Following is the list of Departments:

  • Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  • Ministry of Aircraft Production.
  • Colonial Office.
  • Ministry of Economic Warfare.
  • Board of Education.
  • Ministry of Food.
  • Foreign Office.
  • Ministry of Health.
  • Home Office.
  • Ministry of Home Security.
  • Ministry of Labour.
  • Scottish Office.
  • Ministry of Supply.
  • Board of Trade.
  • Treasury.
  • Ministry of War Transport.

Beveridge Report (Implementation)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government have consulted Sir William Beveridge on the setting-up of the new machinery for implementing the recommendations of his Report.

In view of the fact that the Government have accepted the large majority of the Beveridge proposals, would it not be wise and useful to consult the author on the best methods of implementing his proposals?

Is the visit of Sir William Beveridge to the United States an act of optimism or an act of pessimism?

Has the Prime Minister found anyone who wishes the recom- mendations of the Beveridge Report to be brought into operation without qualification?

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now any further statement to make as to the Beveridge Report and the Government's policy with regard thereto?

I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on 2nd March last, to which I have nothing to add.

In view of the fact that the newspapers report that the Prime Minister is to make a broadcast, will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity of making his own views on the Beveridge Report known to the nation?

Is it the Government's intention to introduce during the war the proposals in the Beveridge Report which they have accepted?

I am not prepared to add at all to the statements which were made during the three days' Debate followed by a Division which took place so recently.

But as there was considerable doubt in the minds of hon. Members as to the Government's intentions in point of time, is it not possible for my right hon. Friend, who so far has not made any pronouncement on this important subject and whose opinion we should value very highly, to say whether it is intended to introduce these proposals during the war?

I was asked a Question whether I had any further statement to make upon this subject, and I replied that I had nothing to add to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on 2nd March, which was to the effect that it is too soon for the Government to say when they will be able to make a further statement. Therefore, I considered that I have answered the Question on the Paper.

50.

asked the Minister without Portfolio whether the small body of experienced persons who will be concerned with bringing the Beveridge proposals into legislative form has yet been appointed; and whether he can give their names?

As was stated in the House by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, the greater part of the work involved in the preparation of the necessary legislation will have to be carried out by the Departments concerned. The small central staff which, under my direction, will deal with those matters which are not the concern of any existing Department, and will co-ordinate the development of the work as a whole, has been selected. It consists of seven civil servants of standing, seconded for the most part from the Departments concerned, but as my hon. Friend will appreciate, it is not our practice to refer to civil servants by name.

Mr Speaker's Seat

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether the opportunity will now be taken to review the position of the Speaker's seat?

His Majesty's Government have no intention to review this matter at the present time. A Select Committee of this House reported on the question of Mr. Speaker's seat as recently as April, 1939. I refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the Report of that Committee. (House of Commons Paper 98 of 4th April, 1939.)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give further consideration to this matter, in view of the fact that experience in the Daventry Division, in which I live, has shown that while there is a general desire on the part of all parties to respect the high office and person of the Speaker, it is felt that the present system is obsolete and results in a negation of the needs of present-day representation?

I do not agree at all. The matter was very carefully considered at the time of the last difficulty on this subject before the Report of the Committee which examined the problem, and it touches very deep-seated principles in the constitution of the House of Commons.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that there will be very strong objection to any change in the present system from conservative-minded persons like myself?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Speaker's seat requires no patching?

Agriculture

Workers' Cottages

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that at the present time four or more Ministries are interested in, and dealing with, the proposals for the erection of farm cottages for agricultural workers, he will give an assurance that effective co-ordination is being maintained, in view of the urgent national necessity for the speedy erection of these cottages?

Yes, Sir. I am assured that proper arrangements have been made for effective co-ordination at the departmental, the regional, and the local goverment level and that preparations for the erection of these cottages are in fact proceeding as fast as possible.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that food is a most important munition of war, and does he not realise that without sufficient cottages for agricultural workers we cannot get the maximum output of food? Is not the Government's target of 3,000 cottages too small, and should it not have been 30,000 to make it adequate to the needs of the case from the point of view of the country's food supply?

I have heard something about all those points, and I am well aware of the need for building cottages, but that need has to be fitted in with a great many other claims.

Would my right hon. Friend consider having a talk with Lord Beaverbrook on this subject.

Dairy Equipment

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will confer with the President of the Board of Trade with a view to ensuring that the Government should allow the purchase of udder cloths and towels to be made coupon free and, in general, expedite the supply of dairy equipment, in view of the national necessity of maintaining the maximum output of milk from the farms?

A scheme is nearing completion which will enable dairy farmers to obtain towels and udder cloths without surrendering personal clothing coupons. Production of farm dairying machinery in 1943 is expected to be considerably greater than in 1942 and should be sufficient to meet farmers' needs.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is still very great difficulty in getting dairy equipment, and will he do everything possible to expedite it, and is he not aware that the National Farmers' Union have called his attention to its many times, with no great result yet seen?

Farms And Holdings (Tenancies)

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many farms he has found it necessary to take over and how many individual tenancies have been terminated by his Department under the Defence Regulations?

Up to 1st March, 1943, possession had been taken under Defence Regulation 51 in 5,631 cases in England and Wales, including portions of holdings, undeveloped building sites, parts of golf courses, private parks, etc. The number of farms included in the figure cannot be separately stated. In addition, the tenancies of 2,502 farmers had been terminated by notice under Defence Regulation 62, without the necessity for possession being taken.

Can the Minister give an assurance that he will not terminate the tenancies of any farmers without a review in his Department in London and not merely upon the advice of his regional or area officers?

Animal Food (Yeast)

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has con- sidered the possibility of using yeast as an animal food for the production of milk and eggs and for the improvement of livestock generally?

Yes, Sir. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of a notice recently issued by my Department.

Workers' Motor Coaches (Drivers' Idle Time)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the drivers of motor-coaches who take agricultural workers to farms in Surrey, arriving about 8 a.m., stay with the coaches all day doing no work until the return drive in the evening; and whether he will take steps to prevent this waste of manpower?

I understand that the motor vehicles to which my hon. Friend refers are hired with their drivers by the Surrey War Agricultural Executive Committee for the transport of labour. The drivers are the employees of the owners of the vehicles, and neither my Department nor the Committee has any jurisdiction over them. Where possible, however, voluntary arrangements are made to employ the drivers in agriculture during the waiting period.

Detainee (Marriage Request)

55.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the case of a certain political detainee in Brixton Prison, whose name has been given to him, and whose request to marry his fiancée, a British subject by birth, has been refused; and whether he will reconsider this refusal, in view of the fact that it will entail the illegitimacy of their unborn child?

The man whom my hon. Friend describes as a political detainee was a German national, lived in Germany most of his life, and came here in 1938 on a German passport. He was admitted for temporary residence not as a refugee but on a claim that he had business reasons. Immediately after the outbreak of war the information available as to his associations and activities showed that his detention was necessary, but as he had just previously got himself naturalised as a citizen of the Republic of Haiti he was detained—not as an enemy alien—but under Regulation 18B. A few months ago he was allowed to go into hospital for an operation, and when he was convalescent the hospital authorities, I understand, allowed him to go out for short periods with a visitor, who is now said to be pregnant.

A number of applications have from time to time been made by aliens and other persons who are detained to be allowed facilities for marriage, and I should not be justified in granting in this case a concession which has been refused in other cases. The question, therefore, is whether the general rule should be to allow facilities for marriage, whatever may be the grounds of the application, and further whether requests should be allowed for the parties to spend at least a few days together after the ceremony, or whether all such applications must be refused. After reviewing the many and varied purposes for which detained persons ask for permission to go out, either under escort or on parole, I have been forced to the conclusion that the general rule ought to be against allowing facilities for marriage.

Although our law provides for the legitimation of children by the subsequent marriage of their parents, I am not unsympathetic to my hon. and gallant Friend's plea, but for the reasons I have stated I am sorry I do not feel able to regard the circumstances of this case as justifying an exceptional concession.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whatever may be the faults of the parents, by his decision he is condemning an unborn child to illegitimacy; and may I plead with him that when it can be so easily avoided he ought not to visit the sins of the father and the mother upon the child?

I have already considered that angle of the matter, but I really do not feel sympathetic about this case, and it must be understood that when the man comes out he can marry the woman, and the child will be legitimated. He is in no worse position than a certain number of members of the British Army serving abroad.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that this child will in fact if not in law be born illegitimate?

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into con- sideration the feelings of the woman in this case and whether they do not come before any consideration respecting the man? And is it or is it not true that she is pregnant?

I can only say that it is claimed that she is pregnant, but I do not think there is much point in my going into the position of the woman.

Arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's first reply, is it not the case that detention under Regulation 18B is regarded only as preventive and not punitive, but that in the circumstances of this case his ruling makes it punitive?

British National Party

58.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the British National Party is seeking to stir up racial prejudice and to bring about a negotiated peace; and whether he proposes to take any action with regard to it?

I am well-informed about this organisation, and if there were any danger of a revival, through its agency, of activities similar to those of the British Union, I should have no hesitation in taking appropriate action. But there has been gross exaggeration with regard to this group of people. It is a small body with about 100 members which in no way merits the importance which has recently been attributed to it, and which tends to give it a needless advertisement. The House can rest assured that a close watch is kept over all activities which may become injurious to the war effort, and that there will be no failure to take whatever action is necessary for purposes of public security.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that this organisation was able recently to secure a large London theatre for a meeting, and that the meeting was cancelled only as a result of the publicity given to it in this House, although we had not advertised the body by name?

It is not an offence for anybody to book a public hall. If this body ought to be suppressed, it is my responsibility to do it. I do not think that arrests are called for in this case, at any rate yet. Life is getting difficult for the Home Secretary, who is denounced as a tyrant sometimes and the next second is being pushed into more tyranny.

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the documents about this party which I sent him, at his request, and do they not indicate clearly the treasonable nature of its activities or intentions?

Yes, Sir. I have seen those documents, and, believe me, I have seen a lot of other documents too which my hon. Friend has not seen. I agree as to the potentialities in this matter. If there is public cause, I will crush this body, but I do not want to crush anybody unless there is good public reason.

Detainees And Internees, Isle Of Man

59.

asked the Home Secretary how many aliens were in internment or detention camps in the Isle of Man at the beginning of March, or other near date, in 1941, 1942 and 1943?

The numbers for the beginning of March in each of the three years are as follow: 1941, 8253; 1942, 4036; 1943, 3369. These figures do not inclure children living with their parents in the camps, some of whom are British-born.

Flowers By Rail (Concession)

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport
(Mr. Noel-Baker)

My hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) and Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher), together with other hon. Members, have asked me a number of Questions in recent weeks concerning the transport of flowers by rail, and I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me this opportunity of making this statement on a matter which has been of interest to them, and to the whole House.

The Government have reviewed the present arrangements, and have decided that the lengthening hours of daylight will make it possible, subject to the conditions which I will indicate, for some flowers to be carried by rail. The Transport of Flowers Order is, therefore, being suspended as from 25th March, and during the summer months. This suspension of the Order does not, however, mean a return to the conditions which existed before it was introduced. On the contrary, it must be clearly understood that the carriage of flowers will be subject not only to the state of railway traffic, but also to the following special conditions.
  • First: no special or additional trains will be run for the carriage of flowers.
  • Second: flowers or plants will only be carried subject to the prior claims of perishable foodstuffs and other essential traffic.
  • Third: flowers or plants will not be carried in any case where a reduction in the accommodation for passengers would be involved.
Unless these conditions can be fulfilled, flowers will not be accepted for conveyance. Thus they will not be carried on heavily occupied lines. No guarantee can be given of conveyance by any particular service, and conveyance will be only at owner's risk. Growers must, therefore, ascertain from local railway officials what services are likely to be available before they arrange to present their consignments. These new conditions do not, of course, apply to plants for producing food crops, or to those forms of hardy nursery stock which are excluded from the operation of the present Order. These plants, bushes, shrubs and trees, will continue to be carried as they have been hitherto. The Directions required to give effect to these arrangements are being issued to the railways without delay.

I must add this warning to the House and to the public. While my Noble Friend has been glad to make these small concessions for the transport of flowers, it must not be assumed that the need for the strictest economy in the use of all forms of transport has become less urgent than it has been in the recent past.

Is my hon. Friend aware that his statement will give great satisfaction to thousands of flower lovers, while the restoration of this amenity will not detract from the war effort?