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Commons Chamber

Volume 388: debated on Thursday 8 April 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 8th April, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

National War Effort

Women's Land Army

1.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the shortage of land girls in Bedfordshire; and will he give instructions that girls who wish to serve in the Land Army should be permitted to do so and not directed to other forms of National Service?

Having regard to other even more urgent requirements in certain areas, I cannot go as far as my hon. Friend asks, but it is my policy to allow freedom of choice to suitable applicants to join the Women's Land Army wherever this is possible.

Is the Minister aware that in Bedfordshire we require about 2,000 land girls to help us with our harvest this year?

I know the demand is very heavy, but I do not know the exact number required.

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether facilities under the further education scheme will be available to members of the Women's Land Army?

Yes, Sir. Although the scheme is primarily intended for persons demobilised from His Majesty's Armed Forces and their Auxiliary and Nursing Services, together with the Merchant Navy, Police Auxiliaries, full-time Civil Defence and Civil Nursing Reserve, persons who have served in other forms of war work, including the Women's Land Army, will be eligible for consideration.

Hospitals (Domestic Workers)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is in a position to make a further statement on the supply of female domestic labour to the hospitals?

I am not yet in a position to add to the reply given to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) on 18th February, 1943, a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend.

Industrial Disputes (Work Stoppages)

4.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of working days lost in industry through strikes and disputes for the first three months of this year?

The aggregate number of working days lost in stoppages of work due to industrial disputes during the first two months of this year, so far as reported to my Department, is estimated to have been about 78,000. Corresponding figures for March are not yet available, but will be given in the April issue of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," to be published towards the end of this month.

5.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he took to enforce the special powers granted to him under the Strikes Act with regard to the 1,527,000 working days lost in 1942?

Prosecutions are instituted in all suitable cases, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that indiscriminate recourse to this remedy would not be likely to be effective. I cannot condemn too strongly any attempt to settle disputes in wartime by a strike instead of using the proper negotiating machinery, but I would point out that the number of working days lost in 1942, though higher than in 1941, was far below that experienced in any of the years of the last war.

While thanking the Minister for his reply, may I ask whether he is taking every possible step not only by means of his statutory powers, but also by persuasion, to try and get a 100 per cent. war effort throughout the country?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the stupidity of employers as well on some occasions?

Will my right hon. Friend bring in an Order to compel Members to attend in this House instead of elsewhere?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the recent award to the engineering industry in this country has left marine engineers seething with discontent?

Youths (Underground Work)

9.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Samuel Naylor, of South Hetton, Durham, whose age is 18 years, was ordered by the National Service Officer to work below ground; that the boy has expressed a horror of working underground, preferring to join the Navy or do anything rather than obey the instructions issued to him; that, in view of his refusal, he was sentenced to three months imprisonment; and whether, in view of all the circumstances, he will instruct the National Service officer in this and similar cases to use greater discretion before seeking to force anyone to engage in work underground to which they have a strong objection?

Mr. Naylor, whose age according to my information is 19 years, appealed against a direction to work underground given at the request of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, and the Appeal Board upheld the direction. In view of the grounds he gave for his refusal a special medical examination was arranged, as a result of which he was pronounced fit for underground work. There is no basis for suggesting that the National Service officer did not exercise proper discretion. In view, however, of the peculiar difficulty which cases of this type sometimes present, I am considering with my right hon. Friend whether any further precautions are practicable.

While I am exceedingly obliged to my right hon. Friend for the latter part of his reply, may I ask him whether it is possible to make it retrospective in this case? Further, does he recognise that this young man—whether he is 18 or 19 is beside the point—has decided that in no circumstances will he work underground and that he prefers to join the Navy or work in any other occupation, however dangerous? He has been sentenced to three months' imprisonment, which has made him a criminal, and the State is deprived of his services for a considerable time. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend is not happy about that, and I would ask him to look into the matter.

I ought to explain that in such cases I am really the agent of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, but I will go into the matter with the Minister.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while we regret and deprecate boys being sent to prison, we also regret that after an Order has been made, which they are determined not to comply with by not going down a mine, they walk about doing nothing?

Will the Minister see that the process is reversed, so that those who object to going into the Forces should have the opportunity of going underground?

We give an opportunity now to young men to go underground as an alternative to joining the Forces. A large number of men have exercised that option and in that way have assisted in keeping up man-power in the pits.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that boys outside the mining industry have two opportunities, either of joining the Forces or going down the mines? Why not give the same opportunity to boys working on the surface? Many of these boys are psychologically unfit for work underground.

I can only ask my hon. Friend to read his own speeches on manpower, which he has made in this House.

Military Service (Apprentices)

6.

asked the Minister of Labour what arrangements are made for youths whose term of apprenticeship is interrupted when they are called up to the Forces; and will there be opportunity either by subsidy or arrangement with employers for these youths to complete their apprenticeship when their term of service with the Forces is completed, or can opportunity be presented while in the Forces to complete such apprenticeship?

Provided that there are vacancies in the Service trades concerned when they are called up, apprentices are posted whenever possible to a branch of the Forces in which they will be able to continue at their trade. In those cases it is contemplated that, subject to appropriate agreements being made with the industries concerned, the experience which the apprentices will have gained will be regarded as part of the apprenticeship. I am in consultation with representatives of the employers' organisations and trade unions concerned on this matter and on the arrangements which may be necessary to enable young people to complete their apprenticeship when discharged from the Forces.

Government Departments

Ministry Of Labour (Reports)

7.

asked the Minister of Labour when it is intended to publish the usual up-to-date Annual Reports covering the work of his Department and the factory inspectorate?

In accordance with the general practice in this respect, the publication of the Annual Reports on the Work of the Ministry has been suspended since the beginning of the war. This does not apply to the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, but I cannot yet say when his Report for 1942 will be ready.

Can my right hon. Friend explain why the Ministry of Labour have not issued their Report when other Government Departments have issued theirs?

Ministry Of Health (Annual Report)

34.

asked the Minister of Health when he intends to publish the usual up-to-date Annual Report covering the work of his Department?

I hope to publish a summary Report in three months' time.

Would it not be much better if the Report was published to Parliament before the Chief Medical Officer makes pronouncements upon the statistics?

Ministry Of Town And Country Planning (Staff)

42.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning the present number of his staff; the number before it was transferred from the Ministry of Works and Planning; the estimated annual cost of his Department; and the annual cost when it was attached to the Ministry of Works and Planning?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning
(Mr. Henry Strauss)

The number of the staff is at present 183, of whom 145 were transferred from the Ministry of Works and Planning. The estimated cost of my Department for the current financial year is £172,430. Since certain services were common to the Planning Department and other Departments of the Ministry of Works and Planning, it is impossible to give a separate figure of the annual cost of the Planning Department of that Ministry.

India

Bengal Premier (Resignation)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for India the circumstances that have led to the Premier of Bombay relinquishing his office?

The resignation of Mr. Fazl Huq, who has been Premier of Bengal since the introduction of Provincial autonomy in 1937, occurred in the normal course of procedure under Provincial representative institutions. He was not dismissed from office.

Did Mr. Fazl Huq give any explanation for his resignation, and is it connected in any way with the political situation in India?

Political Situation

12.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is able to encourage the continuance of the efforts of Mr. Rajagopalachari and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru to bring about a measure of agreement among Indian leaders?

It should not be necessary for me to repeat my previous assurance that the efforts of Indian political leaders to find a measure of agreement continue to be welcome to His Majesty's Government and the Viceroy.

Would the Minister use his influence to see that some opportunity at a suitable time is found for conversations, which at present are impossible?

No, Sir. I think I made it clear the other day that there would be great objections to consultations with the Congress leaders without definite assurances and guarantees of a different line of conduct on their part. As regards other leaders, they have been meeting frequently but, I am sorry to say, without agreement.

Can the Minister say whether that method was applied to Irish prisoners in the last war?

Robbery With Violence, London

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the increasing number of assaults in the Metropolitan Police area during the black-out; and what steps he is taking through the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to put an end to these crimes?

I assume that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to cases of robbery with violence and assaults with intent to rob. In the first three months of this year the number which occurred in the Metropolitan Police District both indoors and in the streets, during black-out hours, showed a slight increase as compared with the corresponding period of 1942, namely 45 as against 42, but there was no increase in the number occurring in the streets. As I have previously stated, all possible steps are being taken by the police to prevent these offences, and they continue to be successful in detecting and bringing to justice a large proportion of the offenders.

Civil Defence

Motor Vehicles (Immobilisation)

14.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will now rescind or modify the Vehicles (Control) Order, 1940, concerning the locking of motorcar doors, so that it shall not apply in urban districts during the hours of daylight, in view of the considerable waste of police time involved in the Metropolitan police area in enforcing it?

I regret that I am unable at present to add anything to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor) on 18th March.

Is it not a fact that a large number of presecutions result from the locking of the doors, and that the police are wasting their time in that way? I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has heard of Mr. Frank Randle, the comedian?

I quite appreciate the point to which my hon. and gallant Friend has drawn attention. It is one of the factors I will keep in mind in reviewing this matter from time to time.

Tube Shelter Accident (Inquiry Report)

18.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has any statement to make regarding the Tube Shelter Inquiry conducted by Mr. Dunne?

When I informed the House on 10th March of the accident which had occurred in the previous week at a London shelter I stated that an Inquiry into its causes was to be held in private, but that, subject to security considerations, the conclusions would be published. Mr. Dunne carried out this Inquiry with thoroughness and expedition and made a lengthy and informative report which, whilst drawing attention to certain matters which might possibly have been contributory causes, shows the accident to have been due to a fortuitous combination of circumstances. It is impossible to make a fair summary of the report or even of the conclusions, without conveying information valuable to the enemy. The omission of some of the conclusions on security grounds disturbs the balance and must have the effect of misleading any reader who has not had access to the full text. In these circumstances the Government have regretfully felt bound to decide not to publish the conclusions. It is difficult to judge how far all the factors that contributed to the accident could have been foreseen and provided against, but after careful consideration I have reached the conclusion that acts of culpable negligence are not properly to be included amongst the causes. Certain suggestions were made by Mr. Dunne for modifications of existing arrangements which might reduce the risk of a further disaster of this kind, and action is already being taken to introduce these modifications, not only at this shelter but at similar shelters elsewhere. Mr. Dunne, I may add, dismisses as without foundation the rumours that the accident was caused by a Jewish panic or induced by Fascists or criminals for nefarious purposes.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not usual for the hon. Member who put the original Question to be called if he wishes to put a Supplementary Question?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise what deep resentment will be felt by the hundreds of relatives of the persons who were victims of this unfortunate disaster? Does he realise the bad effect there will be on the morale of the people if a suspicion arises that he wants to conceal the facts that have been stated to the magistrate who made the inquiry? Therefore, will he reconsider his decision, since we have to consider not only information, if any, which might be of use to the enemy, but also the morale of the people whose relatives were victims of the accident?

As the right hon. Baronet would expect, I have given that aspect very full consideration. I think the House and the people of the district concerned know me sufficiently well to believe that I would not wish to suppress this report in order to protect anybody. I would not do that, but I am in the dilemma that if I seek to make a summary, it will not be a fair summary if I eliminate those points on which there are security objections. If, on the other hand, I take risks about security, I may well be inviting further trouble for the district concerned. I am sure nobody would wish me to do that.

In view of the possibility of very widespread feelings of misgiving and misunderstanding in the absence of a report, will my right hon. Friend use his well-known ingenuity to try to discover some formula which would convey the main facts to the people without conveying facts that would be useful to the enemy?

If there should be widespread misunderstanding, I must take that and put up with it. It would not be fair that there should be misunderstanding. I can assure my hon. Friend that this has been most carefully considered by the Government, with every desire to publish the report, but we feel, with a full sense of responsibility, that we should be acting contrary to the national interest, and particularly the interest of the district concerned, if we were to make publication.

Seeing that a number of completely unfounded rumours have been going round, would it not be possible to produce what might be called a negative report definitely eliminating rumours about certain alleged causes that were found not to be causes? For example, my right hon. Friend himself referred to a rumour that spread like wildfire all over London that the accident was caused by panic among the Jewish inhabitants of the shelter. Cannot he do something to make it widely known that there was no panic?

I do not think I ought to be drawn into further discussion. I think the hon. Lady will agree that I have made a very handsome observation on that point in order to destroy the rumour.

Can the right hon. Gentleman see his way to give a clean bill of health in this unfortunate disaster to the London Passenger Transport Board?

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I can say straight away that the London Passenger Transport Board has no responsibility in the matter.

Motor Vehicles, London (Speed Limit)

15.

asked the Home Secretary how many motor-cars marked with a priority label were timed by the Metropolitan Police during the years 1941–1942, in view of the fact that motor-cars marked with priority are not permitted to exceed 30 miles per hour in built-up areas in war time; and what percentage of those timed were proceeded against for exceeding the statutory limit?

I regret that these particulars are not separately recorded, and I am therefore unable to supply the information desired.

Is not the procedure this, that Cabinet Ministers' priority cars are timed by the Metropolitan Police to exceed the limit and that then they are not proceeded against by the Commissioner of Police, because obviously it would not be in his interest to do so? Is there any truth in the rumour that the Gestapo timed Hitler going down the Unter den Linden, and that he is to be prosecuted for exceeding the limit?

The latter part of the question had better be addressed to the corresponding Minister in Germany, if there is one. On the first point, I have no information to that effect. The Commissioner of Police has to do his duty irrespective of who the person may be. I have no personal experience of having been timed myself.

Prisons (Sanitary And Hygienic Measures)

16.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is satisfied that all necessary sanitary and hygienic measures are taken in prisons to avoid the infection and contagion of disease; whether proper bathing facilities are available; and whether thorough medical examination takes place both on the entry of prisoners and at appropriate intervals during their terms of imprisonment?

In all prisons detailed precautionary measures are taken to prevent the spread of any infectious or contagious diseases. These include special arrangements with regard to bathing, and arrangements for the medical examination of prisoners both on admission and subsequently. The standard of health maintained in prisons is an indication of the general efficacy of these measures.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is some evidence that the medical examinations are somewhat cursory and cause the spreading of infectious diseases, and if I give him some part of that evidence, will he seriously consider it?

Certainly, I will examine any evidence the hon. Member may wish to send to me.

Youth On Probation

17.

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of a case where a condition was imposed by a court that a lad who was charged and bound over for stealing should join the Merchant Navy, he will take steps to prevent such a condition, which is strongly objected to by all bodies connected with the shipping industry, being imposed?

I have made inquiry and am informed that in the case referred to by my hon. Friend the lad was placed on probation, but no condition that he should join the Merchant Navy was inserted in the Order.

Did my right hon. Friend read the newspapers last Friday, when a full report of this case was given, and it was said quite definitely that such a condition was made, and if it was made, will my right hon. Friend agree that cases of this sort are so insulting to the Merchant Navy that something should be done in the matter very quickly indeed?

I quite appreciate the point. I did read the newspaper reports, but I am advised by the competent authorities that in this case the newspaper reports were, no doubt inadvertently, inaccurate.

Education

Green Book

19.

asked the President of the Board of Education to whom the Green Book, issued in connection with the promised Education Bill, has been sent; and whether he proposes to make it available for the general public?

I am sending to my hon. Friend a copy of the answer I gave to a Question on 31st July, 1941, containing a list of the bodies to which copies of the Green Book have been sent. This memorandum was prepared by officers of the Board to serve as a basis of preliminary discussions with the representatives of those with whom the Board are associated in the education service. It has now fulfilled the object for which it was prepared, and I feel that no useful purpose would be served by extending its circulation. In any case the stock is now exhausted, and I do not propose to reprint.

I think it would be better if the House awaited a rather more developed scheme.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that this book is being continually quoted against Members of Parliament?

I think perhaps it would be wiser if Members of Parliament awaited something rather more considered.

I do not think it would serve a useful purpose. If the hon. Member desires to discuss the matter with me, he is certainly at liberty to do so.

Community Centre Proposal, Wiltshire

20.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether his attention has been drawn to the proposal of the Wiltshire Education Committee to establish a community centre in the county for the greater development of the cultural life in the countryside; and whether the Board favour such proposals?

I have been interested to see from local Press reports that the Wiltshire Education Committee have recently discussed the desirability of establishing a community centre in the county. The Board have not received any definite pro- posal from the authority for that purpose. They would, of course, be glad to consider any such proposal should the authority decide to put one forward.

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking, if any, to encourage local education authorities to submit such schemes?

The possibility of starting community centres is well known to the authorities, and I should be only too glad to consider any such scheme put forward by the Wiltshire education authority.

Public Health

Merchant Seamen (Medical Service)

21.

asked the Minister of Health whether there has been brought to his notice the memorandum of the Glasgow Medical Officer of Health approved by the Health Committee of the Corporation, urging the creation of a permanent health and medical service for merchant seamen at the major British ports, to include the setting-up of a central representative committee which would unify, or at least co-ordinate, the minor functions now distributed over several administrations; and whether he will consider taking action on these lines?

I have seen this memorandum, and the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will keep it in mind in our consideration of the wider question of a comprehensive national health service.

Hospitals (Air-Raid Wardens)

25.

asked the Minister of Health why it is that air-raid precaution wardens in hospitals, in contradistinction to air-raid precautions wardens elsewhere, do not have any scheme of ranking?

The wardens referred to by my hon. Friend are not members of the Civil Defence General Services, and any scheme of ranking for them would be a matter of internal administration within the discretion of the governing body of the hospital at which they are employed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these men suffer a definite hardship just because they are employed by his Ministry instead of the Ministry of Home Security? They have to take orders from men junior to themselves who happen to belong to the Ministry of Home Security.

I should like to see that Question down in terms. I have not had any general representations about it.

Milk (Pasteurisation)

26.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the British Medical Association is advocating the pasteurisation of tuberculin-tested milk; and whether he is satisfied that the process is necessary and desirable?

The answer to the first part of the Question is: "Yes, Sir." On the second part, I am advised that, though the risk of contracting tuberculosis from drinking raw tuberculin-tested milk is remote, the danger of its conveying other milk-borne diseases can only be removed by adequate heat treatment.

In view of the fact that tuberculin-tested milk is frequently mixed with dirty milk, is not general pasteurisation desired by some in order to preserve for keeping purposes this filthy mixture which has not even the decency of turning sour in order to warn the general public of its danger?

When will the long-awaited statement on the subject be made? The Government have promised it for a long time past.

Rehabilitation Treatment

29.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will publish for public guidance the exact nature of his notification to the large hospitals throughout Britain of the coming review of rehabilitation measures for the sick and injured?

Yes, Sir. A copy of the letter which I have sent to a number of hospitals on the subject of rehabilitation treatment will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the letter:

"Ministry of Health,

Whitehall, S.W.I

SIR,

Rehabilitation Treatment at Hospitals.

I am directed by the Minister of Health to refer to the recently published report (Cmd. 6415) of the Inter-departmental Committee on the Rehabilitation and Re-settlement of Disabled Persons, presided over by Mr. George Tomlinson, M.P., Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. The report contains some important recommendations as to rehabilitation measures associated with the hospital services, but it will be seen that in the main it endorses what has already been done in this direction under the stimulus of the Emergency Hospital Scheme, and urges that further developments should be secured as soon as possible so far as wartime conditions will allow, for the benefit of patients suffering from general surgical and medical conditions, as well as of those suffering from fractures and other physical injuries.

The Minister agrees fully with the principle of these recommendations in their application not only to the patients included in the Emergency Hospital Scheme, for which he is responsible, but also to the general body of patients treated at hospitals. He recognises, however, the limitations imposed at the present time by other calls on skilled personnel and on labour and materials.

As a first step he has decided to conduct a detailed review of the rehabilitation measures at present carried out in the larger hospitals throughout the country and for this purpose has instructed his Hospital Officers in each Region and Sector to arrange for visits by members of their staffs, with whom may be associated other medical men with experience and interest in this field of medicine and having knowledge of hospitals in the area. The aim is to explore by full and frank discussion with those concerned what expedients hospitals can be advised to adopt to secure the greatest possible development of rehabilitation measures under wartime conditions. The Minister feels sure that hospital authorities will give every assistance to those who visit their hospitals in connection with this enquiry.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient Servant.

Hospital Ambulances (Petrol)

33.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the serious scarcity of petrol for hospital ambulances in the Black Country; and will he endeavour to remedy this state of affairs?

I am aware of only one instance in or near the area mentioned in which difficulty has arisen about petrol allowance for a hospital ambulance. In this case the Petroleum Officer, some months ago, questioned the amount applied for, which showed an increase on the previous rate of consumption. The matter has since been under negotiation with the Hospital Authority, who have now submitted a revised and much reduced application, which has been agreed. I will send my hon. Friend particulars of this case, and if he has any others in mind he will no doubt let me know.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a leading doctor at Bilston made a serious complaint a week ago?

Housing

Building Priorities

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether priority will be given in all building for civilian purposes to the reconstruction of council houses and those being bought through building societies?

The question of postwar building priorities is one for decision by the Government after consideration of the advice given to them by my Noble Friend the Minister of Works, who is surveying the whole field in consultation with the other Ministers concerned. But I gladly repeat the assurance which I gave recently in the House that I shall press for the highest priority for housing work in view of its vital importance to the health and well-being of the nation, and I shall certainly have regard to the important point raised by my hon. Friend.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider this point? Many people who have been buying their own houses want to know if there is any chance of their being rebuilt quickly after the war, because it will have some effect on whether they keep up their payments now or not.

Cottage Gardens

24.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in planning the erection of cottages after the war, he will state the contemplated average size of the gardens which shall be attached thereto.

The matter is under consideration by my Central Housing Advisory Committee, and I shall consider the advice I receive from them in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and County Planning.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the need for allotments to go with cottages?

Aged Married Couples

28.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in his scheme for postwar building, special attention will be given to the construction of small houses for the use of aged married couples?

Empty Houses (Leasing By Local Authorities)

31.

asked the Minister of Health whether local authorities in cases of acute lack of accommodation, are entitled to lease large empty houses which need a minimum of reconstruction, and accommodate therein sets of families under municipal supervision?

Local authorities have power to lease houses under Section 72 of the Housing Act, 1936, but reconstruction would be subject to the terms of the lease.

Plans (Disapproval)

32.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that Mr. and Mrs. Hilditch, of Binley, near Coventry, after having had a house built for them, found the plans disapproved by the local authority concerned; and whether he will warn the public not to order building operations to be started before the necessary approval of plans has been obtained?

I am informed by the rural district council that this building contravenes their by-laws in several important respects. This unfortunate position would have been avoided if the plans had been deposited with the council in the ordinary way. The building seems to have been erected by a person who was not ordinarily engaged in the building trade. All regular builders are aware of the normal obligation to deposit with the local authority plans of a proposed building, and I do not think that any special warning is called for.

Transferred War Workers

38.

asked the Minister of Health whether he can increase the minimum quantity of furniture supplied to transferred war workers in billets where they are accommodated in bare rooms only; and whether he will take steps to impress further on the householders concerned that hospitality to such workers is a social duty of importance in the war effort?

I am not clear what the hon. Member has in mind, but if a householder on whom a war worker has been billeted is unable to provide a bed or bedding, arrangements have been made for these articles to be supplied from public stores. If the hon. Member will let me know of any particular difficulties which have been experienced, I will have inquiries made, and I will look into the matters raised in the document to which he has referred in his recent letter to me. As regards the last part of the Question, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service and I take every opportunity to impress on householders the importance of this matter in the national interest, and I am glad to say that in general the response is very satisfactory.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the situation in the particular districts referred to in the document?

39.

asked the Minister of Health whether transferred war workers are permitted to go on living in private houses, in which they have been billeted, during the absence, on holiday or for other causes, of the householders?

In such circumstances it would be the normal practice to move the person billeted to other accommodation for the time being.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is an unpatriotic minority of householders who do treat billetees with rudeness and inhospitality and will even go away for a week or two in order to avoid having workers billeted in their houses? Can he do anything about this?

Air-Raid Victims, 1914–18 (Compensation)

30.

asked the Minister of Health the number of men and women, respectively, who are receiving compensation as air-raid victims in 1914–18, and, in addition, the scale upon which they are being compensated?

Fifteen men and twenty women. The awards, which were individually assessed, range from three to twenty shillings a week.

Industrial Hereditaments (Derating)

35.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will repeal the statutory provisions derating industrial hereditaments in view of the fact that the reasons for derating them, namely, unemployment and industrial depression, no longer exist?

I have nothing to add to the Answer which I gave to my hon. Friend on 23rd April, 1942.

What justification is there under present conditions for industrial hereditaments to be exempt?

Is not the only person who can give information on the point the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who made this ridiculous provision?

Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that most large authorities want this abolition?

Town And Country Planning

Approved Schemes

40.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning how many town planning schemes are in existence which were sanctioned before the outbreak of the present war?

One hundred and forty-seven planning schemes now operative in England and Wales had been approved before the outbreak of the present war, and 10 more have been approved and become operative subsequently.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the schemes are reputed to cater for a population of approximately 300,000,000 people, and that no consideration has been given to the preservation of agricultural land? Will the Minister see that when replanning these plans, full consideration is given to the preservation of agricultural land?

Certainly, Sir. The problem to which my hon. and gallant Friend calls attention is well known to my Ministry and will be borne in mind.

Planning Officers (Remuneration)

41.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether he is aware that many local authorities offer less than £6 per. week to planning officers; and whether he is satisfied that such remuneration is adequate to attract trained and experienced experts?

I do not think that the offer of such a salary would be sufficient to attract trained and experienced experts in planning, but I have no information which supports the suggestion that many local authorities are offering less than this amount to such officers.

Will my hon. Friend investigate? If he does, he will find that nearly all the advertisements for town and country planning officers before the war were for a salary of £6 per week or less? Did not the absence of authoritative knowledge largely cause the failure of the 1932 Act, and ought we not to avoid repeating the same failure?

Location Of Industries

43.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning, as the Minister of Health is now urging local authorities to proceed with their plans for postwar housing, whether he will restrict or define the location and approximate extent of new industries, or the revival of old ones, in any area?

The preliminary housing arrangements, which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has asked housing authorities to make, are limited to a one-year's building programme, on which the major problems of reconstruction referred to by the hon. Member are not likely to arise. In regard to these problems, I would refer him to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made to the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) on 10th March, 1943.

Does not my hon. Friend recall that the local authorities have been asked to acquire the full size of all areas of both bombed sites and sites that will be needed for housing; and can they do this intelligently without this information regarding the extent of new industries, and these sites will not be required only for the first year's work but will form a material part of their full housing programme?

Will the hon. Gentleman represent to his noble Friend that a good deal of confusion is arising in the country as to where the respective responsibilities for housing as between the Ministry of Health and his Ministry lie and what are the lines of demarcation, and will he take an early opportunity to clarify the position?

There must be some confusion because the hon. Member referred to my Minister as my Noble Friend. That is not my Department. I think that the confusion is being rapidly diminished.

Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

44.

asked the Minister of Pensions, how many ex-soldiers who served in the Boer war are receiving disability pensions; whether he can state approximately the rate of such pensions compared with present-day disability pensions in the 100 per cent. and 50 per cent. class; and what are the rates for men blinded in this war and in the Boer war, respectively?

About 4,000 ex-soldiers who served in the Boer war are still in receipt of disability pensions, the rates of which were brought up to the Great War level; thus the appropriate pension for a private assessed at 100 per cent. is 40s. and at 50 per cent. is 20s. The corresponding pension rates for the present war are 37s. 6d. and 18s. 9d. Ex-service men who have been blinded as the result of their service in any of these wars are regarded as 100 per cent. disabled.

How does the right hon. Gentleman justify pensions in this war 40 years after the Boer War being less than they are for that war?

The hon. Member did not quite understand my reply. The pensioners from the Boer War got considerably less pension than the pensioners of this war until 1919, when all the rates were brought up because of the then excessive cost of living, which was 215, with the proviso that with the first 5 per cent. increase on that figure there should be an automatic increase in pension and with a 5 per cent. decrease there would be an automatic decrease. No decrease of pension has ever taken place, however, because the Government in office at the time of the decrease in the cost of living did not exercise that right. The present pensions are based on the cost-of-living figure.

Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that pensions to-day are 2s. 6d. less than the Boer War pensions?

Post-War Reconstruction

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint a Royal Commission or an appropriate committee to investigate and report on the method of use of currency, the control of credit, investment and exchange, with particular reference to the need for the maximum utilisation of resources, productive capacity, full employment and the bringing about of international economic co-operation and the maximum export trade?

His Majesty's Government do not consider that the appointment of a Royal Commission in present circumstances to inquire into the matters mentioned would be desirable.

Has Sir William Beveridge appointed himself to this job because the Government are not going to do it?

What steps are being taken to benefit from our experience of the last 20 years and to avoid the mistakes that have been made in connection with this question?

Mass Unemployment (Prevention)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint a committee to inquire into the prevention of mass unemployment which may arise during the immediate post-war period and in the future generally; and whether he will regard this problem as of primary importance having regard to the public interest in the Beveridge Plan of Social Security and so-called freedom from want?

His Majesty's Government regard the prevention of unemployment after the war as of primary importance. It is clear, however, that this problem cannot be considered in isolation from our general economic policy, both in the immediate post-war period and subsequently. His Majesty's Government are already giving these matters the most careful consideration, and I do not think that any addition is required for this purpose to the existing machinery.

Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Government do not know at this time of day what the cause of unemployment is?

Is the matter being considered by the Government departmentally or by the Government as a whole, comprehensively, through some Cabinet Committee?

There are a number of ramifications of this subject. Some of them must necessarily be dealt with by Departments—for instance, the question of foreign relations in connection with commerce and so forth—but the general problem is viewed by the Government as a whole.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise the importance of a coordinated and comprehensive study of the problem and of not dealing with it in iso- lation departmentally, more particularly because, if Sir William Beveridge proceeds with his threat to investigate the question of unemployment, there will be created a rivalry as between an independent person outside studying this problem and the Government? Surely that is undesirable?

Can my right hon. Friend throw any light on Sir William Beveridge's statement that he is going to investigate this problem?

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the root cause of unemployment is the private ownership and control of land?

Cannot the Government come to some definite decision about mass unemployment before they start even considering this freedom from want plan?

Agriculture

Farm Workers (Civil Defence Duties)

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will confer with the Minister of Labour with a view to ensuring that full-time agricultural workers are not directed by the Ministry of Labour, through their local branches, to engage in part-time work with the National Fire Service, which entails their sacrificing some of their working hours on the farm; and, in cases where they have to travel long distances of three or four miles, whether they can be made immune from this form of duty, having regard to the importance of the utmost production from the land?

Conditions of employment and other personal circumstances are taken into consideration before directions to undertake Civil Defence work are issued; and there is provision for a directed person to appeal on grounds of exceptional hardship. I do not think it would be practicable to arrange for the exemption of all or any class of agricultural workers from liability to perform part-time Civil Defence duties, but I will be glad to look into any particular case where an obligation to perform such duties by an agricultural worker is causing interference with food production. In cases of this sort where hardship is involved, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has already expressed his willingness to look into the matter, but no complaints have yet been brought to his notice.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are three Departments concerned—the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Labour and the Home Office? Does he not realise that what is everybody's business becomes nobody's business? Is he not trustee for the agricultural community? Is not this interfering with food production, and ought not something really substantial to be done about it? I beg to give notice that, owing to the unconvincing nature of the answer, I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Rabbits (Destruction)

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider, in the interests of good farming and forestry, a national policy of the destruction of rabbits, except in suitable enclosed places where they can be grown for food?

A national campaign for the destruction of the wild rabbit has been in progress since the outbreak of war and has achieved a considerable measure of success. Even if it were desirable, it would not be feasible, in view of the shortage of wire netting, to enclose places for the production of wild rabbits for food.

Is it possible after the war to get enough wire netting for this purpose, and is it fair that when every other inhabitant of this country is being regulated to death Brer Rabbit should be free to do as he likes?

Statistics

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many farmers there are at work in agriculture; and how many agricultural labourers similarly employed?

I regret that these figures are not available for publication during the war.

Rural Crafts (Apprentices)

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has considered the resolution sent to him recently by a conference of Essex blacksmiths, saddlers, wheelwrights, thatchers and hurdlemakers, drawing attention to the small number of men now engaged in these essential trades; and whether he will introduce a scheme for training apprentices or take other steps to secure a revival of these trades?

My attention has been called to the resolution referred to by the hon. Member, and I am aware that the national bodies concerned are also considering the need for action to secure the revival of the crafts in question. For the steps which are being taken by my Department in the interests of rural crafts, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply yesterday to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Sir A. Baillie).

Taking one of these crafts alone, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, having regard to the acute shortage of rural houses, the importance of keeping alive the craft of the thatcher; and can he indicate whether these matters are likely to be covered in the forthcoming Luxmoore Report?

I cannot answer from memory the last part of the Question. As to the first part, I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on this subject.

Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme (Children)

51.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will inform the House why young people under the age of 15 years are ineligible for compensation under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme?

Young people under the age of 15 are not ineligible for compensation under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme. The Scheme covers every child, however young, but payment of pension does not begin until he is 15 unless, when he is injured, he has started work. Free medical treatment is of course available for war-injured children but there is no reason for making money payments to children who are not employed and have not reached the normal working age.

If the children have been injured, surely that will mean an expense to the parents, and therefore whatever is due to the children at 15 should be paid during the period of injury so as to help the parents to meet the increased expense.

National Finance

Entertainments Duty

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the theatrical productions on which in 1942 the Entertainments Duty was waived?

I regret that the information asked for could not be made available without a disproportionate expenditure of time and labour.

Post-War Currency Policy

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Memorandum on Post-war Currency and International Clearing, circulated to representatives of the United Nations in Europe attending the Treasury conference and to the observers of the United States of America, China and Russia, can now be made available to Members of this House?

As my hon. Friend is aware, this paper was available to the House yesterday.

Are we to understand that the whole of the Memorandum is embodied in the White Paper?

Lend-Lease

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the official statement made in America on the amount of Lend-Lease afforded to the Allies by the United States of America, he is able now to state the amount in sterling of Lend-Lease facilities afforded to the United States Government?

No, Sir. This mutual aid in a common task is not reckoned in terms of dollars or of pounds.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that very full statements have appeared in America on the aid given by the United States of America to the United Nations? Surely my right hon. Friend reads some books and knows what is happening, and would it not be in the public interest that we should know?

"Wings For Victory" Weeks

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that in the Manchester "Wings for Victory" week a separate record has been kept of subscriptions by stamps, certificates, deposits in the banks and Defence Bonds; whether he will have the final Manchester results published and cause all other organisers of "Wings for Victory" weeks to do likewise?

In reply to the first part of the Question, I am aware that the Manchester Committee, in common with other local savings committees, keeps a record of these particulars. In reply to the second part, it is open to any local committee to publish these particulars and many do so; I do not consider that it is necessary to issue any further instructions.

Is my right hon. Friend really interested in getting at what are the genuine savings of the people, and does he not agree that all these "Wings for Victory" weeks are inflated by the banks holding off investments for two or three weeks beforehand and then piling them all in?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has some particular views on this matter, and I shall be publishing shortly a White Paper in which many of the facts which he desires will appear.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Questions like this asked by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) are likely to discourage savings?

Service Men's Parcels From Overseas (Customs Duty Concession)

56.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that in the cases of men in the Services overseas who send small parcels home and pay postage duty on these parcels at the place of despatch, the parents or relatives of these men are being called upon to pay additional sums on receipt of parcels, amounting in three known cases to 5s., 8s. 8d. and 15s. 5d.; and whether he is prepared to take any action in the matter?

Customs duty is, of course, payable in this country on receipt of a dutiable parcel in addition to the postage paid by the sender. But I have recently authorised a concession by which each member of His Majesty's Forces serving overseas may send home free of duty four parcels a year subject to certain limits and conditions. The full details of the concession have been notified to the Forces.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how very discontented and disturbed both the parents and the soldiers overseas are that charges should be imposed such as have been set out in the Question, and of the hardship and discontent that arise when these men, who have very little money, learn that after they have sent these parcels home their parents have to pay these charges on receiving them?

It was in an endeavour to meet that situation that I have made this concession.

Is it possible for the Chancellor to make these new conditions known to Members of this House?

Certainly. I will put something in the Library which will give the information.

Unestablished Civil Servants

57.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he has considered the case sent to him of a temporary established civil servant who, after 12 years of service, received no pension or gratuity on retirement; and, in view of the fact that a woman clerk who was established received, on marriage, after the same years of service, a gratuity of £100, will he review the conditions of service of temporary established civil servants of 10 years standing and over?

Yes, Sir. The officer in question was an unestablished civil servant and as such was not eligible for pension. As he was retired on age grounds and his service was only 12 years he was also ineligible for a gratuity under Section 4 of the Superannuation Act, 1887, which requires a minimum service of 15 years in such cases. Marriage gratuities are payable only to established women civil servants, and the conditions of their award are entirely different.

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is a misuse of the English language to describe a man as a temporary employee when he has been in the service for 10 years or more?

Road Traffic Lights

58.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will consider reintroducing the pre-war size and scope of traffic lights in view of the longer hours of daylight now prevailing and the difficulty of distinguishing the different colours of the lights in sunny weather?

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

I regret that shortage of labour and material would make it impracticable to adopt my hon. and gallant Friend's proposal to return to pre-war standards of traffic lighting. Many improvements, however, have recently been made and they will continue. I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend details of what is being done.

Would it not mean just removing the plates which are in front of the lights? That would not involve great labour.

We cannot increase the lighting during the black-out. That is the difficulty, but my hon. and gallant Friend will find that nearly every highway authority has in fact introduced for daylight hours either a half-face or full-face light.

Is it not a fact that such an improvement has not been introduced on roads such as the Great West Road and others where there is fast traffic, but only in the cities where there is slow traffic?

Colonies (Labour Conditions)

60.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the publication of the Reports of his Labour Adviser into labour matters in Mauritius and Malaya may be expected; and whether he has in contemplation any further inquiries in other colonial areas by his Labour Adviser?

I have been asked to reply. With regard to the first part of the Question, I have been asked to refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to a Question on this subject by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) on 3rd February, to which he has nothing at present to add. The report referred to in that reply includes also a report on labour conditions in Malaya. With regard to the second part, it is one of the normal functions of the Labour Adviser to visit Colonial territories from time to time.

Will my hon. and gallant Friend convey to the Secretary of State that this reply is regarded as extremely unsatisfactory; will he also point out to him that we have been waiting for two years for the report on Mauritius, and that in view of the labour difficulties there it is important that that Report should be published? May I also ask that the Labour Adviser should investigate very quickly labour conditions not only in the East African but also in the South African areas?

"Drive Yourself" Motor Hire

61.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why, in view of the need to avoid unnecessary use of petrol, certain motor dealers are still able to hire out "Drive yourself" motor-cars and give hirers an allowance of one to one and a-half gallons of petrol a day without questions being asked as to the use for which the motor-cars are required; and will he put an end to this practice?

It is not possible within the ambit of Question and Answer in this House to deal with the present system. My Department has, however, had under examination for some time the question of hired cars, and I am proposing at an early date to make certain changes, on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend, details of which will be announced shortly.

British Army

Requisitioned Grammar School

62.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a certain grammar school, of which he has been informed, which was requisitioned in 1940, has been occupied since the beginning of 1943 by about 50 officers and men and that no combatant training is now being carried on; whether he is satisfied that there is further justification for this costly occupation which has created great inconvenience; and, in view of the availability of other suitable accommodation and of the urgent need of the school for educational purposes, he will consent to release these premises?

I am informed that until March of this year on the average about 280 non-commissioned officers and men and a few officers were accommodated in this school. Since then it has been put to a different use, and only about 170 of all ranks have been accommodated there, but as over half of them are officers the available space is fully taken up. Towards the end of last year the War Department carefully considered the possibility of giving up this accommodation, but I regret that no suitable alternative could be found.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the military authorities did actually inform the City Council that they could have this school back, but later on withdrew that permission and showed a great amount of indecision as to their actually needing the school at all. Will he please go into the matter afresh, when I am sure he will be able to come to a definite conclusion?

If my hon. Friend will give me particulars of any suitable alternative accommodation, I shall be glad to look into the matter.

Major-General Sir Percy Laurie

63.

asked the Secretary of State for War what he intends doing in connection with Major-General Sir Percy Laurie, who was convicted at the Bow Street police court on Saturday, 3rd April?

In accordance with King's Regulations, this officer was suspended from his appointment when the summons was served upon him relating to the charges on which he was convicted. He may exercise his right of appeal against the conviction; and meanwhile it would clearly be improper for my right hon. Friend to make any statement of his intentions.

May I take it that we shall have a report, when this gentleman makes an appeal?

Business Of The House