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Commons Chamber

Volume 388: debated on Thursday 22 April 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 22nd April, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

National War Effort

Factories (Sight Testing And Illumination)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour, what steps have been taken by his Department up to date to implement the recommendations in paragraph 23 (ii) and (iii) of the Sixty-fourth Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure as to the increase in efficiency which could result if there was an extension of adequate sight-testing arrangements in factories and if proper illumination were provided at the point of work?

The Committee mentioned as calling for consideration the establishment of visual standards for various factory processes and the practical importance of sight testing in relation to the operations to be performed, particularly inspection work; but they made no specific recommendation on the subject. As regards lighting, improvements continue but shortage of labour, materials and fuel have to be taken into account.

If details of any particular case are sent, will my right hon. Friend consider them?

Married Woman, Bolton (Civil Defence Duties)

5.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Mrs. Mary Wood, Mason Fold Cottage, Horwich, Bolton, Lancashire, has been ordered to give 12 hours per week for Civil Defence work and one evening per week for a lecture in addition; that her husband is employed on an average 80 hours per week; that she is also employed for 48 hours per week; and will he allow her to leave her present employment as a textile worker altogether, or for a period each week, to enable her to keep house and comply with the requirements of Civil Defence?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it is really physically impossible for a married woman to do all that is required of her by his Department and by the Ministry of Home Security?

Mobile Women Mineworkers (Directed Employment)

6.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has now concluded his inquiries into the cases of the three sisters Gilbody, ages 24, 22 and 19, respectively, 15, Slackey Fold, Hindley Green, Wigan, employed at the pithead, Gibfield Colliery, who have been advised by the local employment exchange officials that they may have to leave their present employment for other work a distance away from home; and, if so, with what results?

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that female screen hands at the Manchester colleries, Atherton and Astley, have been told they must give up their work at the collieries and take up other employment; that if this is carried out it will mean a shortage of labour at the collieries; and will he have inquiries made and make a statement on the position?

I recognise, of course, the importance of the work of screening coal, but there are in this area immobile women with previous experience who can be engaged for this work, and in these circumstances I am not justified in allowing mobile women, who are urgently required elsewhere, to be retained on it. I understand that the three young women in question have applied for postponement on hardship grounds. These applications will be considered under the usual procedure.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that people employed in the mining industry in any area will be totally unable to understand the emphasis put upon the requirements for coal and then taking these three girls, who are working near their own home, and putting them to work eight or ten miles away from their home?

I must fill the preferences in accordance with the war needs. Where there are mobile women I have to transfer them to where the need is most urgent.

If persons are sent to another job where wages are less than those they have received at the work which they have to leave, what power has the right hon. Gentleman to readjust the position?

I am afraid my hon. Friend voted for the Bill in this House saying that I had to apply the rates to the job.

I know I voted for the Bill, and I have voted for a lot of things during the war, but we have to try and make things as good as we can while the war is in progress.

Dental Nurses (Reservation)

9.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is prepared to allow dental nurses to be reserved in all age group when they have received definite training from their employers?

I can give no general assurance of this kind. Some dental nurses may have other nursing qualifications more in demand for the war effort.

Allied Powers (War Service) Act

4.

asked the Minister of Labour whether it is proposed to apply the terms of the Allied Powers (War Service) Act to the subjects of other Allied nations now in this country, such as Americans and Russians; and whether in any action to be taken men and women will be equally affected?

I am considering, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether the Act should be applied to United States citizens in this country. I do not at present contemplate any further application of the Act, which can be applied only to men.

Can my right hon. Friend say why it is proposed to make this sex discrimination?

Because the agreement with other countries deals with conscripts for entering the Forces, and there is no conscription of women in those countries.

Members' Clubs (Catering Wages Regulation)

8.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he proposes to treat members' clubs on the same basis as private houses for the purpose of catering wages regulation.

The Catering Wages Bill will apply to workers employed in members' clubs in so far as a club or a part of a club is wholly or mainly engaged in the catering activities defined in the Bill.

Will the Minister give some guidance as to his intention? I asked this question on the Committee stage and failed to get an answer, and will the right hon. Gentleman give the matter his attention?

Have not employees in some clubs been underpaid and overworked for a long time?

The principle of the Bill is that it is not a question of whether an institution is run for profit or not but of the work on which a person is engaged. Therefore it is right and proper that there should be no differentiation in wages whether it is a club or a commercial concern.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the rules in force in the Carlton and other clubs are precisely the same as those in the Soviet Union on the subject of tipping—none is allowed?

Factory Accident (Chemical Fumes)

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can give any information in connection with the 36 workers who were overcome by chemical fumes in a certain factory on Friday last; how many received hospital treatment; and whether any of them had to remain in hospital?

The trouble appears to have been due to the escape of fumes from a degreasing plant as a result of a combination of mistakes by different people not all of whom can be identified. I understand that 66 of the workers are still in hospital, but that their condition is not serious. Methods of preventing accidents of this kind are being further explored.

Town And Country Planning

Reconstruction Areas (Acquisition By Local Authorities)

11.

asked the Minister of Town and County Planning what action he proposes to enable local authorities to acquire reconstruction areas as a whole for redevelopment to fit in with his Ministry's planning policy, in view of the fact that this policy has not yet been announced and approved by Parliament?

Legislation will be required for this purpose.

Can my right hon. Friend state when he will be able to give some indication of what he is going to recommend on the Scott and Barlow Reports, as it will be impossible for local authorities to proceed without this advice?

I do not agree that it is impossible for local authorities to proceed, and the question which my hon. Friend has now asked is a different one from that which is on the Paper.

Public Relations Officer

12.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what are the duties of his new Director of Public Relations?

The duties of the officer responsible for the Ministry's Public Relations work are to encourage an intelligent public interest in planning problems and in the measures adopted for their solution, and to keep me informed of developments of public opinion on the subject.

Armed Forces And Civilians (Pensions And Grants)

14.

asked the Minister of Pensions when, and how frequently, the Central Advisory Committee will meet; and what subjects will be on early agenda for consideration?

My Central Advisory Committee will meet again as soon as possible after the Parliamentary Recess and further meetings will be held as frequently as the business demands. Among the subjects for early consideration are those to which special reference was made in the recent Debates on war pensions.

In view of the statement of the Prime Minister that this Committee would be a flexible and swift instrument, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the matters raised in the House will be pressed forward urgently?

Certainly, Sir, and I would like to assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the Committee is very representative of all parties in this House, of the British Legion and of war pensions committees, and they will certainly see that I press on with this mattter.

15.

asked the Minister of Pensions on what grounds he declines to accept pension responsibility in the case of the late Leading Aircraftsman John Holden, 652526, Royal Air Force, whose home address was 67, Hawden Street, Liverpool, he having been accidentally killed while on duty driving a Service tractor at Catterick on 24th October, 1942?

Mr. Holden's death was due to an attempt on his part to drive a tractor without experience. This was no part of his duty, nor was he in any way authorised to use the tractor. He was thus solely to blame for the unfortunate occurrence, and I regret that I am unable to accept responsibility for his death.

Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that the officer commanding his unit and the Air Ministry have notified the relatives concerned that this man was actually on duty at the time?

I am not aware of that, but I do know that he was certainly at the aerodrome and that, quite unauthorised, he drove this tractor, which ran up a bank and overturned, and he was killed.

Will the Minister look further into the question if I send the correspondence sent by the Ministry and by the officer concerned?

16.

asked the Minister of Pensions for what reason he declined to deal with a claim to disability pension made by Mr. William Craig, of 2, Mona Street, Liverpool, who formerly served in the King's Liverpool Regiment from which he was discharged medically unfit and about whom the hon. Member for Everton wrote to him on 14th December, 1942?

Mr. Craig fell ill on 4th August, 1939, and his claim is that he is suffering from a disability due to service before that date. His case was accordingly referred to the War Office as only claims in respect of service during the war fall within the province of my Department.

Pensions Appeal Tribunals

17.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the setting up of pensions appeal tribunals?

I am authorised by the Government to say that they have accepted my proposal that arrangements should now proceed for setting up independent tribunals to heat appeals from all classes of claimants whose title to compensation is rejected under any of the various war pension schemes administered by my Department. Each tribunal will include a legal chairman, a doctor and a member of the service or class covered by the scheme under which the claim is made. It is the intention to establish nine tribunals to begin with. These will sit at various centres for the convenience of appellants. Their number will be increased as may be found practicable, but owing to the difficulty Which still exists in obtaining the full personnel required for the working of all the tribunals which may ultimately be necessary, the increase can only be gradual. Legislation will be introduced as soon as possible after the House resumes its Sittings, and active steps are being taken to complete preparations for the tribunals to begin their work with the least possible delay.

Is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to say now how many tribunals he thinks he will be able to set up for a start?

Is it proposed that all cases that have been refused by the Minister will be allowed to go to a tribunal for a re-hearing?

I have made it clear on many occasions that every person who thinks he ought to have a pension will' have the right to appeal.

When the Minister sets up the tribunals, will he be good enough to publish the names?

I am not responsible for the selection of personnel. That is a matter for my Noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, and I shall have to pass that request on to him.

Is the Minister aware that the fact that he sets them up will not keep us from expressing very grave dissatisfaction with their decisions?

If the experience of my predecessors and myself as to decisions reached by appeal tribunals after the last war is any criterion, I do not expect any decrease in my correspondence.

Will the. Minister supply the names of the medical personnel of the tribunals?

No, Sir; I want to make it quite clear that I do not intend to be in any way responsible for the selection of anybody; otherwise, how could it be said that the tribunals were impartial?

Will the tribunals deal with women in the Services, and, if so, will the Minister see that some women are on the tribunals?

We shall certainly have to deal with women claimants,; because there are so many women in the Forces now. The suggestion which the hon. Member has made will be passed on to the right quarter.

India

Indian Troops (Welfare)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for India the composition of the welfare service attached to our Indian troops; and whether this service is efficient for its purpose?

There is at Indian General Headquarters a Directorate of Amenities and Welfare which is responsible for welfare in the widest sense, including education, comforts, clubs, institutes, holiday camps, canteens, concert parties, radio entertainment, etc. A per capita grant is available for such expenditure on Indian troops overseas, and the Government of India hold reserves for expenditure on their behalf on sports gear, musical instruments, and other amenities which may be demanded by overseas commands. A great deal of most valuable work is also being done for Indian troops by voluntary agencies such as the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., and the Indian Comforts Fund, which receive financial assistance from Army Funds or from the Viceroy's War Purposes Fund, from which more than £800,000 raised by voluntary contribution in India has been allotted to such agencies.

May I assume from my right hon. Friend's reply that he is entirely satisfied that all proper and possible amenities are being supplied for these gallant troops?

Indian Army (War Services)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for India to what extent and in what theatres of war Indian troops are employed; and whether he can make a statement to the House on the part played by them?

I welcome this opportunity to pay tribute to the gallant and important part played by the Indian Army in many theatres of war. Indian troops are now serving in the United Kingdom, Tunisia, Middle East, Iraq, Iran, East Africa and Ceylon in addition to India and the India/Burma Frontier. Previously, as is well known, they served in France and played a prominent part in the Libyan, Eritrean, Abyssinian and Syrian Campaigns and the forestalling of Rashid Ali's coup d'état in Iraq and the Axis machinations in Iran. Indian divisions played a prominent part in Malaya, where they bore the brunt of the early fighting. Indian troops also fought in Borneo and Hong Kong. In the prolonged and gallant rearguard actions of the Burma Campaign our forces were mainly Indian. In speaking of these Indian formations I do not wish it to be forgotten that Indian formations contain a proportion of British troops.

I regret that within the scope of this reply I cannot do justice to all the gallant actions in which Indian troops have participated since the outbreak of war; but the House will no doubt wish to add its tribute to the prowess of the 4th Indian Division, whose achievements have recently been the subject of a congratulatory telegram from the Prime Minister to the Viceroy. It was in the forefront of General Wavell's Western Desert offensive in 1940, played a leading part in the conquest of Italian East Africa, has been engaged since then in nearly all the fighting in the Western Desert and Libya and is now adding fresh laurels to its record under General Montgomery in Tunisia.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him whether he will see that the facts he has just given are made widely public in the Press and on the radio in India, as well as in the great Allied countries of the United States and Soviet Russia?

Would my right hon. Friend consider giving these men a campaign medal for the long service they have had?

Military College (Advertisement For Assistant Masters)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for India why is it necessary, when advertising for two assistant masters who are to teach geo- graphy and history at an Indian military college, to emphasise that previous teaching experience is not essential but that candidates must be public school men?

The school in question is run on public school lines, and experience of public school life has consequently been regarded as a necessary qualification for masters.

Is the Minister aware that an advertisement such as appeared in "The Times" quite recently does irreparable damage to us in countries like America and does not help in any way to promote good will and understanding with the peoples of India?

No. Sir; these schools are based on residence and on a certain amount of self-government by the boys themselves, and it is necessary that masters should be acquainted with the method of organisation.

Will my right hon. Friend explain why half the Labour members of the Government wear the old school tie?

Can we take if that, generally speaking, for posts of this kind public school experience is a substitute for teaching experience?

Is not the Minister aware that many of us consider that in view of the rapid flux and iconoclasm of the times the qualification resented by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) in his Question is essential not only for the guidance of youth but also for the ruling of this great Realm and Empire?

Will the Minister keep in mind the fact that the Labour members of the Government who have been to public schools do not advertise for public school propagandists?

Indians, South Africa (Status)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any statement to make on the estimated effect on Indian emigration of the legislation recently passed by the Union of South Africa affecting the status of Indians in that Dominion?

As Indians are still members of the British Empire, and as the Minister has just finished paying a magnificent tribute to their fighting qualities and devotion to the Empire, is it his intention to make any representations to the South African Government regarding the depreciation of the status of Indians in South Africa?

Does the Minister realise what this involves to Indians in South Africa? Will he not take some steps to put the matter right?

Would the Minister be interested to know that I have received in the last few minutes a cable from West Africa, from the President of the Natal Indian Association, protesting against this and calling attention to the bravery of their men in Africa? Is not this a very curious requital for that bravery?

The matter is one which has been dealt with by the Government of the Union of South Africa.

Surely my right hon. Friend is aware that representations have constantly been made in the past, both by the Government of India and, I think, His Majesty's Government, when the Union of South Africa have taken action which, in the opinion of the Government of India, was derogatory and inimical to Indian interests?

This has been represented by the Government of India and discussed between the Government of India and the Union of South Africa.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Burma (Constitution)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Burma the intention of His Majesty's Government regarding the future Government of Burma; whether an alteration of the constitutional position is under consideration; and whether he will consider the advisability of announcing more precisely to the people of Burma the intention of His Majesty's Government respecting the future of their country?

The aim of His Majesty's Government is to assist Burma to attain complete self-government within the British Commonwealth as soon as circumstances permit. This policy has repeatedly been declared. No more precise announcement is possible in present circumstances, especially as it is impossible to foresee what the conditions will be when the liberation of Burma from the Japanese invader has taken place.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is highly desirable to impress on the Burmese people our intentions after the war, and is it not true that consideration of a future Constitution for Burma is taking place at present?

We have made it clear to the Burmese people what our general intentions are. Present circumstances do not allow of any more precise statement.

Is it not true that consideration of the matter is taking place at present?

Civil Defence

National Fire Service Pensions (Local Authorities)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the unfair liability imposed on fire brigade authorities, he will reimburse them any payments payable by them under the Fire Brigade Pensions Act, 1925, on account of the results of a war injury?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for North-Eastern Derbyshire (Mr. H. White) on 15th April, of which I am sending him a copy.

Trade Union Officials

24.

asked the Home Secretary under what regulation or other authority exemption has been granted to trade union officials from some Civil Defence and fire guard duties?

Trade union officials as a class are not exempt either from directions into the Civil Defence Services under Defence Regulation 29BA or from fire guard duties under the Fire Prevention Orders. As regards the former, the choice of persons to be directed into the Civil Defence Services is in the discretion of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, and there is a right of appeal to a local Appeal Board on grounds of exceptional hardship against such directions. In the case of fire guard duties, the Military Service (Hardship) Committees have power to grant exemption on grounds of exceptional hardship; in addition a Government Department may exempt any person from fire guard duties where they consider that exemption should be granted owing to the nature or length of hours of his work or any circumstances affecting the public interest.

Electoral Register

25.

asked the Home Secretary when he intends to make a statement or to issue a Report on the question which he has been considering as to the possibility of revising the electoral register in order to enable an increased number of adults to exercise the franchise?

28.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is yet in a position to make a statement on the revision of the electoral register particularly in relation to future by-elections?

I trust I shall be in a position to make a statement shortly after the House reassembles.

In view of the serious growth in Fascism and anti-Semitism in this country, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the real defence against this is the fullest possible working of political democracy, and will he expedite this Report?

In considering the matter, will my right hon. Friend realise that if the young, who are building up the future, are not allowed to vote, this House will lose all its authority and will become more and more representative of the folly of the past and the world which is disappearing for ever?

Anti-Semitic Pamphlet

26.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to an anti-Semitic pamphlet called "The Truth about the Jews," published by Alexander Ratcliffe, of 2, Endrick Drive, Bearsden, near Glasgow, and printed by R. Thomson, 11, Spout Mouth, Glasgow, C.1; and whether he will suppress the pamphlet and, if necessary, seek fresh powers to do so?

I understand that the appropriate authorities have under consideration the question whether legal proceedings should and can be taken against those responsible for the publication of this pamphlet.

Remand Homes (Accommo- Dation)

27.

asked the Home Secretary what progress has been made during the last 12 months in the provision of the requisite accommodation in remand homes; and whether there is still a deficiency in certain areas and, if so, in which ones?

In the last 12 months local authorities have increased the number of places available in remand homes in England and Wales by about 300. Work is in progress for the provision of another 440 places, and further schemes are under consideration. The shortage' is perhaps greatest in the Tyneside and South Wales, though there are other areas where more accommodation is needed, especially for girls.

Are the special measures being taken in the areas where there is still a shortage?

We are doing all we can. If there is anything the hon. Member can do which will be helpful, I shall be grateful.

Is any preparation being made to provide the necessary personnel for such further remand homes, with the very difficult qualifications needed?

Service Personnel Overseas (Marriage By Proxy)

29.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the further representations which have been made to him in favour of enabling men serving with the Armed Forces abroad to marry women in this country by proxy; and what action he proposes to take in the matter?

30.

asked the Home Secretary whether the Government have yet made a decision on the question of the legalisation of marriage by proxy for the men and women in the Services?

This matter has received the careful attention of the Government, who fully appreciate the motives which have prompted representations on this subject. The legal requirement that for the purpose of entering into a marriage contract both parties must be together in time and place is liable to give rise to cases of special hardship under war conditions; and the question whether war-time circumstances would justify altering the law so as to enable separate declarations to be made by each of the parties at separate times and places has received careful consideration. Such an alteration would involve large changes of principle, including abandonment of the principle that the man and woman shall exchange their marriage vows in the presence of each other. What would be the consequences on a long-term view of such changes in the marriage law is a question which would necessarily raise doubts and differences of opinion and there may well be apprehension as to the likelihood of abuse. The issues are important and far-reaching, and the conclusion which the Government have reached, after examining the problem, is that a desire to deal sympathetically with particular war-time cases of hardship would not justify them in proposing such large changes in the marriage law as a scheme for authorising proxy marriages would entail.

Is not the Minister aware that, in the special circumstances of the war, there ought not to be any more difficulty for this Government to make arrangements than for other Governments, and, in view of the vital consequences affecting this situation, ought not the Government to agree to reconsider the matter?

We have fully considered the aspects to which my hon. Friend has referred. I do not say it is impossible to deal with them, but the broad conclusion that the Government have come to is that it is undesirable to make the change proposed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Government's decision will brand a large number of innocent babies as illegitimate and will cause hardship and sorrow to thousands of decent British girls and create depression and lower the morale of many of our fighting men in the various theatres of war? Is he further aware that other countries have practised this not only in war-time but in peacetime? Surely the Law Officers of the Crown might have brought forward a scheme which would have made it practicable and avoided the abuses my right hon. Friend has outlined?

I fully appreciate the point to which my hon. Friend calls attention. We have personally discussed the matter, and she has given me great help in it. It is true, as she says, that there may be some tragic cases, but I think, and the Government think, that if we make marriage a little less serious than it is, we may have many more tragedies as a consequence of proxy marriages.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall take the earliest opportunity of raising the question on the Adjournment after the Easter Recess.

Information To Enemy (Convictions)

31.

asked the Home Secretary the number of persons in this country convicted for making statements useful to the enemy since December, 1942?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to convictions under Regulation 3 of the Defence Regulations. I regret that the figures for which he asks are not yet available.

If I send my right hon. Friend a report of a speech which named a certain firm in the North and specifically mentioned the type of gun produced there, the amount of T.N.T. and cordite produced and the number of Ministry of Aircraft Production factories in the area, will he make the necessary inquiries with a view to taking further action?

Will it make any difference if I point out that it was made by a Member of the House and a member of the Government?

May we have an assurance that no less serious action will be taken because the offender is a member of the Government than would be taken against anyone else?

I promised that I would consider the representations my hon. Friend makes, and I will still consider them very carefully.

Education

War Films (Schools)

32.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is aware that war films showing the dropping of bombs, the shattering of buildings and the destruction of human life, have been shown to elementary and secondary schools and to mentally retarded schoolchildren; whether he has approved of the display of such films; and whether, in consistency with the practice of cinemas and in consideration of ethical and psychological factors, he will prevent the display of such films to schools either as entertainment or otherwise?

I do not know to which exhibition of war films the hon. Member refers. If he will give me further particulars I will make inquiries.

If the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that this exhibition has been given, will he take steps to dissuade other education committees from presenting such films?

National Camp Schools

33.

asked the President of the Board of Education how many vacancies at present exist in camp schools?

The places in the National Camp Schools amount to 7,296, of which 5,320 were filled on 31st March.

Will the right hon. Gentleman do his utmost to see that these empty places are filled during the summer months?

We took steps in December to fill these places. We will do our best to prosecute the matter with vigour.

Luxmoore Committee (Report)

34.

asked the President of the Board of Education to what extent he is being consulted about action arising from the Report of the Luxmoore Committee; and what is the attitude of his Department?

I am taking the most active interest in this question and am frequently in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.

As this Report involves questions which go to the root of local government and the whole education system, will the right hon. Gentleman see that no decision is taken which will prejudice the comprehensive nature of his own Bill?

I, personally, am very keen on the subject and very interested in it, and I am in touch with my right hon. Friend about future policy.

United Nations (Co-Operation)

35.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether, in his discussions with Allied Ministers of Education, he will consider the establishment of a United Nations Education Office comparable in status to the International Labour Office, in order to cement the evident desire for close co-operation in these matters?

Yes, Sir; this is a question which I should like to see considered by the Conference of Allied Ministers, though I doubt whether the time has yet come for the working out of such a project in detail.

While grateful for what my right hon. Friend has already done, may I ask him to consider inviting representatives of America, Russia and China to this conference?

Billeting Allowances

37.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that the total cost, exclusive of taxation and interest on capital, per resident week in hostels managed by the National Service Hostels Corporation is £1 12s. 7d., he will give further consideration to the scale of billeting payments?

No, Sir. As indicated in my reply to my hon. Friend's Question on 25th February last, I cannot agree that these two matters are comparable.

Does not the comparison show that the £1 1s. paid to private householders is not adequate?

Housing

Agricultural Workers' Cottages

39.

asked the Minister of Health how many of the houses in the scheme for building 3,000 houses for agricultural workers have been commenced or completed; and when it is expected that the whole 3,000 houses will be ready for occupation?

No building has yet commenced, but the preliminary work is under way in almost all rural districts concerned and covering 2,962 houses. By 9th April sites had been selected and approved for 2,054 houses and plans had been approved for 126. As indicated on 4th February in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd) the rate of progress will depend on the labour and materials that can be made available having regard to the requirements of other important schemes. In view of previous experience of building in war-time conditions I would hesitate to forecast the date of completion of the whole 3,000 houses. The local housing authorities will, I am confident, spare no effort to achieve the aim set before them when the scheme was announced of having as many houses as possible ready for occupation by harvest-time.

Gracious heavens, what an answer! Is no progress to be made? Will the right hon. Gentleman report progress after the Recess or resign? He really must get on.

I know from experience that my hon. Friend speaks loudest when he has been asleep.

In view of the fact that this question of providing houses for food producers is of the utmost importance, is my right hon. Friend aware of the deplorable contrast between the celerity of erecting buildings for Service purposes and the slowness in erecting these buildings? Surely he should make representations to the War Cabinet so that a proper start can be made with this meagre scheme?

The rural district councils have done admirable work in having already done as much as I have reported, and I am sure that they will push ahead as quickly as labour and materials become available.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that what has been said is true and that he does not like it and cannot think of a suitable answer.

41.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the general objections to concrete floors for living rooms in the rural cottages which it is proposed to build; and why alternative forms of floors are not acceptable?

I am aware of the objections to concrete floors for living rooms, but I am afraid there is no alternative base while timber cannot be made available for the purpose. In accordance, however, with notes on materials and design and the specification prepared for the guidance of the local authorities by the Ministry of Works, in consultation with my Department and the other Departments concerned, the floors of the downstairs rooms may be covered with tiles or, in the case of parlours, with wood.

42.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in constructing rural cottages, he is aware of the dissatisfaction which exists in many parts of the country with the different designs; and whether, to meet such dissatisfaction, he will arrange, after stipulating the maximum financial outlay and the prescribed amount of accommodation, for greater latitude to be given to the local authorities as to what type of house they can erect within these limits?

As the reply is long, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the answer in any way acquiescent to the suggestion in my Question?

It is a very full statement, and I am in a dilemma. I must either read the whole of it or circulate it, hoping that all Members will read it.

Following is the reply:

I am not aware of any general dissatisfaction regarding the type plans, the bigger of which were drawn up by a sub-committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Dudley in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and after careful consideration of a large volume of evidence from housewives and others. As my hon. and gallant Friend will, I am sure agree, no particular plan is likely to receive unanimous approval in view of the differing circumstances, including taste, between various parts of the country and various sites. Some objections have been received on details of design and construction, such as flat roofs and concrete floors. My hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that limitations of this kind are, through shortage of materials, inevitable in war-time building schemes. This is, I know, fully understood by local authorities, who will do everything they can to overcome the many difficulties confronting them. From this scheme we shall gain experience which will be of great value in deciding whether further schemes can be undertaken whilst the present conditions persist.

As regards the last part of the Question, local authorities are aware that the type plans which in themselves cover a wide range of sizes—non-parlour as well as small and large parlour—are intended for general guidance only and that alternative proposals will be entertained, provided that substantially the same standards of accommodation and amenity are afforded and that regard is had to the limitations on materials. I do not think that there would be any advantage in adopting the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend but I can assure him that I am fully alive to the importance of finance and that the tenders will be carefully considered from the point of view of value for money.

61.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in connection with his scheme for constructing rural houses, he is prepared, in suitable cases, to approve thatched roofs?

I shall certainly be willing to give consideration to proposals on the lines mentioned.

Furnished Premises (Rents)

64.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to make available to this House the information collected from local authorities in connection with the charging of excessive rents for furnished premises?

Yes, Sir. I recently called for further information from the 1,468 local authorities concerned and have now received returns from 1,180. I will with permission circulate the gist of the information derived from these returns, as it is rather long, in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Could my right hon. Friend say when he proposes to take action, because what is going on is very embarrassing to our American friends, at any rate in London?

The hon. Gentleman had better read the answer. If he does that he will find that only 101 out of 1,468 authorities report having received complaints, that over half of them on investigation proved to be unfounded, and that in 75 of the remaining 87 the local authorities secured a reduction of rent by negotiation.

Following is the reply:

Only 101 authorities report having received complaints about excessive rents for furnished premises, the number of such complaints being 202. On investigation 115, or more than half, proved to be unfounded, and in 75 of the remaining 87 the local authorities secured reductions in the rent by negotiations with the landlord. Eleven prosecutions were undertaken, of which eight were successful.

These reports are very similar to those for the previous periods, and like them provide no support for the contention that the practice of charging excessive rents for furnished premises presents a grave problem all over the country. They confirm both the conclusion previously reached that the problem is relatively a limited one, and the view I have frequently expressed that the existing powers of local authorities are generally adequate to remedy abuses as and when they arise. The complete liquidation of this problem depends on the vigorous exercise by local authorities of their powers and of the cooperation with them of aggrieved tenants, without which they are helpless. I am hopeful that the greater publicity I have recently urged upon local authorities in supplementation of the great help given by the Press will remove any present reluctance on the part of tenants to take complaints to the authorities and will lead to much greater co-operation between them. I am keeping in close touch with the position and am asking local authorities for further reports in six months.

Public Assistance Institutions (Inmates)

40.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the rise in the cost of tobacco and the fact that it is illegal for public assistance committees to grant pocket money to occupants of public assistance institutions who receive no pensions and are under 65 years of age, he will introduce legislation to extend some concessions to these inmates who are unable to make purchases of any kind?

I think my hon. Friend may be under some misapprehension in this matter. Local authorities have power to provide tobacco for inmates of their public assistance institutions, so that the considerations referred to in the Question do not in themselves constitute any reason for extending the power to grant pocket money.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman consider granting a separate pension for all old folk in these institutions?

43.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has now considered a published statement, particulars whereof have been furnished, purporting to describe a visit to aged persons in a certain institution; whether he proposes to issue any observations thereon; and what steps are contemplated to ensure improvements in this and similar other institutions for the aged and infirm throughout the country?

Yes, Sir. This statement has been followed by a series of letters published in the same journal, which make it clear that the institution referred to is by no means typical. The allegations made had been previously communicated to me, and I had arranged for one of my inspectors to visit the institution. Some of the defects found had been remedied before the statement was published, and others are still receiving attention, but some, which involve structural alterations, cannot be fully dealt with until labour and materials become more freely available.

Where steps can be taken to improve the lot of these people will my right hon. Friend take steps and not wait for published statements to draw his attention to the matter?

Armed Forces (Saluting In Streets)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the desirability of abolishing saluting in the streets of London and other large cities where this practice is embarrassing to both officers and men because of its frequency?

No, Sir. A salute is an acknowledgment of the King's Commission and a courtesy to Allied officers, and I do not consider it desirable to differentiate between one city or town and another in this matter.

While appreciating what the right hon. Gentleman says, may I ask him whether he appreciates that the officers and men concerned will be deeply disappointed with his answer?

Has it not been usually understood that saluting is an acknowledgment of the King's uniform?

Invasion Warning

46.

asked the Prime Minister what arrange- ment have been made to replace the ringing of church bells as a warning of invasion?

We have come to the conclusion that this particular method of warning was redundant, and not in itself well adapted to the present conditions of the war.

Will my right hon. Friend say what alternative arrangements have been made? Will he consider the use of sirens?

I said that we came to the conclusion that this particular method was redundant. Therefore replacement does not arise. For myself, I cannot help feeling that anything like a serious invasion would be bound to leak out.

Is the Prime Minister anticipating an invasion between now and the next birthday of Hitler?

The improbability of invasion depends on the high degree of preparation maintained in this country.

How can the news possibly leak out when it is an offence to spread alarm and despondency?

Factual statements of that kind, especially if well-intentioned, would not fall within that category.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Secretary of State for War told me only three weeks ago that the sounding of church bells as an invasion warning was the only signal he could think of?

The matter has been exhaustively reviewed, and the Secretary of State fully accepts the conclusion come to.

Since permission has been given to ring the bells at certain appointed hours of service, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that they would still be an effective warning if they were rung, say, in the middle of the night?

The significance of invasion no longer attaches to the ringing of bells.

House Of Commons (Members' Attendances)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to formulate a plan under which a record of attendances of hon. Members of the House may be kept?

Regimentation And Compulsion

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that at the earliest possible date after the cessation of hostilities they will take steps to relax, to some degree, the present methods of regimentation and compulsion which have been brought into being as a result of the war?

The transition from war to peace will no doubt bring many changes in its train; but I do not desire at present to expatiate unduly on these topics.

Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend will recall that regimentation is a negation of all initiative, and seeing that he is the best exponent of initiative, will he be sympathetic towards this proposal?

Deputy Speaker Act, 1855

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether it is intended to introduce a Bill to amend the Deputy Speaker Act, 1855, to cover any vacancies in the Speakership?

Northern Ireland (Conscription)

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give further consideration to the desirability of extending conscription to Northern Ireland in view of the altered circumstances which now prevail since the matter was under consideration some two years ago; and, in particular, will he inform the House of the nature of the difficulties which would interfere with the imposition of conscription in Northern Ireland as elsewhere in the United King- dom of which Northern Ireland is an integral part, considering that the people and Government of Northern Ireland are in favour of the proposal and the need for the enrolment of additional men and women to assist the war effort?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some thousands of women whose sons and husbands are engaged on munition work in this country, are about to be called up by the Minister of Labour to work 40 hours a week, and that people in factories and offices are told that they will probably have to work 50 hours a week? In these circumstances is it not desirable that in Northern Ireland, which, as he recently told the House, is an integral part of the United Kingdom, the 20,000 men and women who are unemployed should be made available? Does not my right hon. Friend realise that people feel very keenly about this?

As the right hon. Gentleman has twice repeated that it is more trouble than it is worth to introduce conscription into Northern Ireland, from whom does he anticipate trouble? Is it from Northern Ireland or from a neutral State which has no jurisdiction over Northern Ireland?

Workmen's Compensation Benefits And Insurance

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can furnish time for a Debate on the Motion relating to Workmen's Compensation Benefits and Insurance standing in the name of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) and other hon. Members?

[ That in the opinion of this House employers should continue to have a direct responsibility for safety in their factories, and that the rates of benefit under the Workmen's Compensation Act should be raised so as to bear a closer relation to average earnings, and that all employers should be compelled to insure with an approved insurance company or mutual society or to enter into an approved form of bond.]

I regret that the present state of public Business affords no opportunity for discussion of the Motion standing in the name of my hon. Friend.

Agriculture

Dairy Farmers (Human Food Crops)

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it is his intention to compel farmers with 100 per cent. attested pedigree milk herds to grow such crops as potatoes, sugar-beet and wheat if this necessitates reducing the size or restricting the expansion of such herds?

As a general rule a dairy farmer is expected as a first priority to provide from his own land a substantial proportion of the feeding requirements of his cows. He is then expected, if he has further land available, to make his contribution towards essential human food crops. In some cases, however, it may be in the national interest for a dairy farmer to grow a high proportion of crops for direct human consumption and to be given supplementary coupons under the feeding stuffs rationing Scheme for the feeding of his dairy herd. The responsibility for administering these arrangements rests with county war agricultural executive committees acting under general instructions from my Department which are designed to secure the maximum production of milk and of crops for direct human consumption. If my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind and will let me have details, I shall be happy to investigate it.

County War Agricultural Executive Committees

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the method of appointment, election or selection of the members of county war agricultural committees?

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) on 23rd April last.

Is the Minister aware that considerable dissatisfaction exists among farmers with the composition of county war agricultural committees, and will he take steps or consider means towards making these more representative of all who are engaged in agriculture?

Perhaps the hon. Member had better read my answer, when he will see that his Question has already been answered by implication in that answer.

Dispossessed Farmers (Appeals)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether any, and if so what, rules of procedure have been laid down for the hearing of cases in which farmers have been dispossessed of their farms by county war agricultural committees; and whether there is any right of appeal?

In reply to both parts of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to my statement in the Debate on the Adjournment on 9th October, 1941.

Is the Minister aware that cases exist in which efficient farmers have been dispossessed, presumably with the intention of installing sons of farmers with a view to keeping them out of the Forces?

Flower Growing

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will permit market gardeners to grow a limited number of flowers for cutting, in view of the beneficial effect of flowers even in war-time and of the difficulty which horticulturists have of paying their overhead charges by growing vegetables only?

Under the Horticultural (Cropping) Amendment and Consolidation Order, 1942, flower crops (other than flower seeds to raise a flowering crop) may be grown in the open up to 25 per cent. of the acreage grown on the holding in 1939, or if no return was made for that year under the Agricultural Returns Act, 1925, up to 50 per cent. of the acreage grown to flowers on the holding in 1941.

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will relax the Cropping Order of 1943, which prohibits nurserymen from growing any flowers whatever from seed and substitute a reduction to 20 per cent. of the individual nurseryman's pre-war practice in that respect?

I regret that in view of the over-riding interests of food production, I cannot accept my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion. The provision in question was included in the Horticultural (Cropping) Amendment and Consolidation Order, 1942, in order to ensure that land which could grow a food crop is not used for non-essential purposes. County war agricultural executive committees have been instructed to allow exceptions to the provision in the case of plants of which the seed has a short germination life.

Workers (Civil Defence Duties)

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the arrangements which he has made in connection with the hours of duty as part-time workers in the Civil Defence services for full-time agricultural workers during the hay and harvesting season, having special regard to the short supply of labour available on many farms throughout the country?

Instructions have already been issued by the Home Office to Fire Force Commanders that in fixing the hours of duty of part-time personnel full consideration should be given to the ordinary employment and day-to-day obligations of the persons concerned. Similar instructions govern the service of other part-time Civil Defence personnel. I am assured by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security that he has no reason to think that local authorities will not pay full regard to the needs of agricultural workers at times of special pressure.

Will my right hon. Friend take active steps to ensure that all these local authorities really do realise the grave shortage of labour on farms? This really is a genuine matter which should receive every consideration. Local authorities are not always aware of the difficulties.

If my hon. Friend knows of any particular case and will let me know, I will have it looked into.

Rooks (Destruction)

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what representations he has received objecting to the destruction of rooks under the Rooks Order, 1940; and whether he will postpone the date on which the Order will come into force this year?

I have received a few representations, mostly from the same individual, objecting to the destruction of rooks under the Rooks Order, 1940. There is no question of postponing the date on which the Order will come into force this year, as it has been in force since 17th April, 1940.

Workers (Badge)

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will sanction a badge for agricultural workers to indicate that though they have no uniform they are doing vital war work?

The Minister said that it is not necessary. Is he aware that it is often not necessary to give recognition to various forms of war service, but the fact remains that it is done? Is the Minister further aware that when it is done it gives great encouragement and satisfaction to those who are giving good service to the country?

Public Health

Nurses (Civil Defence Service)

60.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will take steps to safeguard the interests of nurses who may leave a superannuate post to take a post as nurse under Civil Defence in consequence of their losing their superannuation rights if their post under Civil Defence is at a lower salary than their previous one?

Apart from the general provisions of the Local Government Staffs (War Service) Act, 1939, which preserve the superannuation rights of persons who cease to serve a local authority in order to undertake war service (which is defined to include Civil Defence service), there is specific provision for the preservation of such rights in certain circumstances where a person leaves a superannuable post and subsequently enters the employment of another local authority in Civil Defence service.

Is the Minister aware that if a nurse leaves one authority where she holds a superannuable post and takes a position at higher rates she can still be superannuated, but that if she takes a position at a lower rate she loses her rights? Is this fair?

Perhaps the hon. Member will call my attention to any case he has in mind. It would seem to depend upon the interpretation of war service.

National Health Service

62.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in the reorganisation of the National Medical Service, it is proposed to compensate doctors for capital invested in purchasing practices and premises used for professional purposes; and when it is proposed that a general statement will be made on the subject?

Compensation for loss of value of practices will certainly be one of the subjects with which my proposals will deal. On the last part of the Question, I would refer to the answer which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) on 15th April.

Tuberculosis

63.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to an article by Sir William Jameson in "Current Affairs," No. 37, of 13th February, 1943, entitled "National Health"; what special financial help is now being given to sufferers from tuberculosis to meet cases where treatment is put off or stopped for financial reasons; and how much has already been paid out under this head to the latest date for which figures are available?