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Commons Chamber

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 6 May 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 6th May, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

National War Effort

Part-Time Workers (Probationary Training)

1.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he realises that the absence of any provision for probationary training by certain trade unions, details of which have been supplied to him, prevents the employment of part-time and spare-time workers; and what steps he is taking to obviate this waste of national effort?

I have written to my hon. Friend. According to my information the difficulty in the case to which he drew my attention was not due to the absence of provision for probationary training.

In view of the fact that for some considerable time 30 part-time workers have been engaged in manufacturing essential munitions of war and that because of the difficulties in arranging the correct rate of pay this part-time work has had to be stopped, is it not wrong that this state of affairs should continue? Should not something be done to make arrangements for this part-time work?

That point is not in my hon. Friend's Question. He asked me whether it was due to the absence of probationary training. I know the difficulties, about which I have written him, but they are not due to the cause mentioned in the Question.

I must give notice that, owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I will raise this matter at the earliest opportunity

Conscientious Objectors (Teachers)

3.

asked the Minister of Labour how many trained teachers have been sent by conscientious objectors' tribunals to work on the land; and whether as this is a serious waste of national effort, in view of the shortage of teachers, he will take steps to get the teachers back to the schools?

I regret that the information asked for is not available. As regards the second part of the Question, it rests with the tribunals to prescribe the work to be done as a condition of registration, and I have no power to vary their decisions.

Military Service

Hardship Committees

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is satisfied that Military Service (Hardship) Committees are composed of entirely impartial and independent persons and are, in fact, selected for these reasons?

The composition of Military Service (Hardship) Committees is prescribed in Part II of the Schedule to the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, 1939. I have every reason to believe that members of these committees are carrying out their duties in an impartial manner.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Glasgow Trades Council is seeking to exercise control aver these committees and has issued instructions to members of the committees as to how they should act under various circumstances? Does my right hon. Friend approve of such action?

If my hon. and gallant Friend will send me particulars, I will look into the matter, but I have never heard of it.

If I send the documents to the right hon. Gentleman, will he take action to prevent an unauthorised body of this character attempting to influence hardship committees?

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that he does not interfere with legitimate action taken by Glasgow Trades Council to secure the interests of the workers?

Home Guard

12.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will consider making arrangements whereby suitable men who fail to pass the medical examination for military service are considered for direction into the Home Guard?

Can the right lion. Gentleman say when he will be able to make an announcement?

Applications For Postponement

7 and 8.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether he will instruct Military Service (Hardship) Committees that, when interviewing applicants for deferment, they should not request that the relations for whom such applicants keep house should move into lodgings and dispose of their household effects;

(2) whether he will instruct Military Service (Hardship) Committees to grant deferment to the daughter of a widower if she is the only female relative available to look after his house?

I have no authority to issue such instructions to the Military Service (Hardship) Committees. It is the duty of the committees to consider applications for postponement in accordance with the principles laid down in the National Service (Postponement Certificates) Regulations, as interpreted by the Umpire. I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy of a leading decision recently given by the Umpire to indicate the circumstances in which postponement should be granted to the daughter keeping house for a widower father. The principles laid down in that decision would be applicable to the sort of case to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers in his Question No. 7.

Housing

Rents

15.

asked the Minister of Health what response he has had to his appeal to local authorities urging them to take steps to protect the people against the evasions of the Rent Acts; and whether he can give particulars of the number of authorities which are taking effective steps in this matter and with what results?

The response has been most satisfactory. No less than 737 local authorities have asked to be supplied with copies of the poster I had prepared a short time ago drawing attention to the salient features of the Rent Restrictions Acts. Reports I have recently received from local authorities for the period 1st April to 31st December, 1942, indicate that they received 4,028 complaints relating to unfurnished lettings of which 2,505 were proved on inquiry to be unfounded. Of the remaining 1,523 cases, rent reductions were secured in 1,479, or rather more than 97 per cent., the reductions ranging from a few pence to as much as 9s. per week. Twenty-nine prosecutions were undertaken by the authorities, 28 for rent book offences and one for charging a premium. All these prosecutions were successful. As regards furnished lettings, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Holmes) on 22nd April; of which I am sending him a copy.

What action does my right hon. Friend propose to take with those councils, many of which are in rural areas where a good many of these complaints come from, who have not taken any action in response to his appeal?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will give me some information about that. I will certainly make inquiries.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that 29 prosecutions bear any substantial relation to the number of offences of this kind which are being committed, up and down the country?

Local authorities are very active in this matter and have dealt with over 4,000 complaints, which is a very large number.

How many of these local authorities are located in London?

Will the Minister instruct local authorities to display all round their areas this poster, which is the most useful poster he has ever sent out in his life?

I would not like to accept it in that way, but I will certainly see that the poster is displayed everywhere.

Agricultural Workers

17.

asked the Minister of Health how many houses in the scheme for building 3,000 houses for agricultural workers have been allocated to the county of Durham?

19.

asked the Minister of Health whether full consideration has been given for securing maximum amenities of domestic lighting, space, heating, cooking and hot water supply in the 3,000 cottages being provided for agricultural workers?

Yes, Sir. I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement which I made in the Debate in this House on 4th May, in which I explained that the plans had been drawn up after the fullest and most detailed consideration of all the factors which he mentions.

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in connection with the proposed erection of 3,000 cottages for agricultural workers, he will take steps to ensure the co-ordination of the four Departments concerned, namely, the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Labour and Works, with special reference as regards the Ministry of Works to the adaptation and use of flying squads who could provide the necessary labour, transport and material-in those localities where the work was held up for lack of these?

As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave him on 18th March last. As regards the last part, all necessary steps will taken, within the limits of existing supplies, to meet the need for labour and materials wherever there is any fear that work might be held up.

Is it not a fact that so many Departments are concerned that there is no one man With power to see the whole matter through? Is not the matter being unnecessarily delayed? Would my right hon. Friend consider appointing Lord Beaverbrook, because he has ability in that direction and it might keep him out of mischief?

Any question with regard to the details should be put to the Minister concerned.

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect that some of these cottages will be erected?

Disabled Ex-Service Men

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will ensure that disabled ex-service men are given the same priority for houses by local authorities as is now given to persons bombed out of their homes?

The need for accommodation for persons rendered homeless by enemy action may arise at any time, and local authorities must be in a position to deal with the situation immediately. For this reason it has been considered necessary in certain areas to maintain a reserve of houses, the number of which is under constant review. Subject to this, local authorities endeavour to give consideration in regard to any accommodation which may be available to cases of exceptional hardship among which the men to whom my hon. Friend refers obviously take a high place.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of men who have been discharged from the Army owing to injuries caused by enemy action find that they are put at the bottom of the list when being considered for new houses, and priority is given to people who have been bombed out? Should it not be a question of "First come first served"?

I think people who have been bombed out must have first priority in these cases. A Member of this House called my attention to a particular case in the constituency represented by him only three weeks ago, complaining about certain houses, and within a week those houses were wanted.

Cannot my right hon. Friend give this matter further consideration, because it is most unfair when a man who has had to give up his house on being called up comes back to find that it has been ruined and he has no place to which to go?

I have shown by my answer that I am most sympathetic to these cases, and I know that the local authorities are.

I do not press for a reply to-day, but will the Minister consider whether, instead of providing for the hypothetical eventuality of bombed-out people, it would not be better to use those houses for disabled men and war workers?

The answer to my hon. Friend is that there has been nothing hypothetical about the raids on many towns in this country, and if anything happened in the Chislehurst Division and there was not accommodation for the bombed-out persons, my hon. Friend would be the first to complain.

Public Health

Tuberculosis

16.

asked the Minister of Health the number of cases of tuberculosis notified during the past year; if he will give separate figures for Wales, the comparable figures for 1938 and 1941, and indicate whether any particular age group shows an increase?

As the reply involves a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Birth-Rate

18.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider setting up a small expert commission to investigate the causes of the recent rise in the birthrate, especially whether or not it is likely to be permanent and its bearing on postwar organisation, especially in connection with the Beveridge Report?

I doubt whether long-range conclusions of any value could be reached with respect to post-war birth rates on the basis of the war-time birth rate movements under the abnormal war conditions; and I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by the appointment, in present circumstances, of the commission suggested by my hon. Friend.

Is it not necessary to have careful inquiry into the trend of population before we can in any circumstances adopt the Beveridge Report?

Any inquiry would need to be over such a period and on such a basis that it dealt not with abnormal war conditions alone but with the general trend.

Are not the facts of the trend of population perfectly well known to economic experts, so that the appointment of a committee would be time-wasting?

Milk-Borne Diseases

21.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in intensifying the offensive against pulmonary tuberculosis by mass radiography and appropriate treatment, together with certain financial allowances, he intends to extend these remedial measures to sufferers from non-pulmonary tuberculosis and other diseases acquired by consumers of infected milk supplied under the authority of the Ministry of Food, and which milk cannot be rejected by medical officers of health?

No, Sir. I would refer my hon. Friend to my previous statement in reply to his Question on 15th April.

As the previous statement made no definite reference to remedial measures on the lines mentioned in the Question, cannot we have something more specific?

There is a difference between pulmonary and non-pulmonary tuberculosis, in that the former is probably unique among common disease in combining great importance of early treatment with danger to the community if the disease is allowed to develop. The second factor is not present in non-pulmonary tuberculosis.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that scientific opinion is clearly in favour of early remedial measures with regard to non-pulmonary tuberculosis?

Our resources in this matter are limited, and it is my judgment that it is more important to deal with pulmonary than with non-pulmonary tuberculosis at this stage.

In spite of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, in view of the fact that the clinical symptons and pathological processes of all forms of tuberculosis are absolutely identical and indistinguishable, no matter what their supposed origin, does he not think that with this in mind the hon. Member's Question is completely pointless?

National Health Service

22.

asked the Minister of Health whether steps will be taken as far as practicable to enable medical men, women and nurses serving with the Fighting Forces abroad to express their views in the discussions now proceeding on the future of medical and health services, especially seeing that these discussions go beyond anything contemplated before the war, and that the success of any new type of services will be impossible without their co-operation?

I contemplate publishing as soon as practicable a statement of the general nature of the Government's proposals, which will enable everybody, including men and women in the Forces, to see for themselves what is suggested and to discuss and, if necessary, criticise them before the stage of legislation is reached.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it would be practicable for him to get this detailed information into the hands of doctors and nurses overseas who will be affected?

I think that in this matter there should not be undue difficulty. As my hon. Friend will know, the several professions have verb clear and regulated channels of communication.

Will my right hon. Friend remember that these proposals do go outside anything which was before the profession before the war?

National Health Insurance

24.

asked the Minister of Health whether, as the weekly sums being paid as sick benefit under the Health Insurance Act to persons unable to work owing to ill-health are inadequate to provide the necessaries of life, apart from the special sick nourishment they require, he will take immediate steps to make such provision for these persons as will raise them above the bare margin of existence?

The provision to be made during sickness and invalidity is, as my hon. Friend is aware, receiving consideration in connection with the Government's examination of the proposals contained in Sir William Beveridge's Report.

This matter is very urgent, and does my right hon. Friend consider that it is worthy of our country that so many of those who have paid for sickness benefits should be deprived of the bare necessities of life and have to go to public assistance committees to obtain enough for their bare existence? To me it is a crying shame.

Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

26.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will increase the rate of the attendant allowance and extend it to all men of both wars who have been disabled in the highest degree?

This Question relates to one of the matters raised in the recent Debate to which, as I then undertook, I am giving consideration.

How many weeks must my right hon. Friend reasonably need before he will be in a position to tell us the result of his consideration of all the matters raised in that Debate?

As my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, a large number of matters were raised in that Debate, and I must consider them as a whole and also separately, and I cannot give any definite date.

:-Could not the right hon. Gentleman say approximately the date? Will it be a matter of weeks or months?

27.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has studied the declaration of policy submitted by the British Legion (Scotland); and whether he can make a statement?

The declaration, which involves fundamental changes in the pensions system, only reached me a few days ago. I am not at present prepared to express an opinion on it.

Can my right hon. Friend state any time within which he will be able to make a statement?

Is it not time that the whole pensions system was overhauled on lines which have already been recommended by a Committee of this House?

28.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will arrange to increase the allowances to neurosis patients who accept his offer of hospital treatment, in order that their homes may be maintained during their absence?

The provision for cases in which the neurosis is accepted as attributable to or aggravated by service is the same as in all cases of other accepted disabilities and is at the rates laid down in the Royal Warrant. Where the neurosis is not accepted as attributable to or aggravated by service and, therefore, the Warrant allowances are not payable, special provision is made which places the patient in approximately the same position as the war injured civilian in receipt of injury allowances during a period of incapacity for work and the person in receipt of Workmen's Compensation for total incapacity. The provision in both classes of case seems to me reasonable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these persons are asked to go to hospital as a measure which will be good for them, but have to leave their homes and their wives with only £I per week for their maintenance?

No. I think I had better send the hon. Member a full list of the allowances. It is rather too long to read out now.

May I say that I shall be glad to have that list, because in the particular case I have in mind I have confirmed the fact that £1 was what a man was asked to accept in going to hospital?

Will the hon. Member send me particulars of that case? I should like to look into it.

Pensions Appeal Tribunals (Northern Ireland)

29.

asked the Minister of Pensions when the Pensions Appeal Tribunal will be set up in Northern Ireland; and whether all dissatisfied with the decisions of his Department for the past years will have the right of appeal to that tribunal?

A Pensions Appeal Tribunal will be set up in Northern Ireland as soon as possible after the Bill which is in course of preparation becomes law, and there will be a right of appeal against past decisions of my Department on appealable issues.

Will my right hon. Friend see that all aggrieved in this matter shall sooner or later have a right of appeal to this tribunal in Northern Ireland?

India

Mr Jawarharlal Nehru

30.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether Mr. Jawarharlal Nehru is under detention in India or has been transferred to another area; whether he is completely isolated from other Congress leaders; and whether communications can be sent to and received by him?

Mr. Nehru is under detention in India and is in the company of other members of the Congress Working Committee. He is permitted to correspond with members of his family on domestic matters.

May I ask whether Members of this House might please communicate with him on other matters, provided they supplied the right hon. Gentleman with a copy of the letter?

Mr Fazl Huq (Resignation)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has a copy of the letter of resignation prepared by the Governor for signature by Mr. Fazl Huq, late Premier of Bengal; whether he has considered the protests from the Progressive Coalition Party of Bengal against the enforced resignation of Mr. Huq; and whether consideration has been given to the statement of Mr. Huq that he commands a majority of the Legislature, and is prepared to co-operate in establishing an all-parties government in Bengal?

I have no copy of the letter of resignation signed by Mr. Huq nor of any draft, and have nothing to add to my reply to the hon. Member's Question on 8th April.

Is it not true that a certain amount of pressure was, in fact, exerted on this gentleman, and will the right hon. Gentleman make further inquiries and give a report to this House as to the circumstances under which Mr. Huq was required to resign?

It was not any question of being required to resign; and in any case the matter is one dealt with in the Parliament of Bengal.

Political Situation

32.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of recent events in India, he will take the opportunity of endeavouring to bring all parties there into a negotiation with His Majesty's Government?

I regret to say that there have not been any recent developments that would hold out a prospect of such negotiations leading to any fruitful results.

While I appreciate the difficulties which beset my right hon. Friend, will he not consider whether, in view of the gravity of the issues involved, we have not now reached a time when the Government of India might take a more constructive line?

Is the Minister aware that I have received an invitation to visit India, and if he will ensure that I get a permit to go there, I will see into things?

White Immigrants From South Africa

33.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether it is the intention of the Government of India to pass, with respect to India, a trading and occupation of land restriction Bill, to operate against white immigrants from the Union of South Africa, similar to that against Indians which is now before the South African Parliament?

I understand that a private Member's Bill was introduced some time ago which, if enacted, would give the Government of India powers of the kind indicated by the hon. Member; but I am not aware of the present position of the Bill nor of the Government of India's attitude towards the Measure.

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to speed up that Measure in view of the regulations being passed against Indians in South Africa?

I am afraid that it is not my duty to speed up Bills in another Parliament.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any further information regarding legislation affecting Indians in South Africa?

Motoring Convictions, London (Appeals)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of appeals against convictions for motoring offences which came before the appeals committee of the London Sessions in 1942; the number which were dismissed; the number in which the penalties were reduced; and the number in which the penalties were increased?

As the answer is in the form of a tabular statement, I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the convictions in our courts are severe enough, in view of the loss of life, and should not the attention of the courts be called to the very serious loss of life?

I hardly think that it would be desirable for me to make any general observations about how the courts do their business.

Following is the Table:

The appeals to the County of London Quarter Sessions during 1942 against convictions for motoring offences numbered 21. The results were as follow:

Convictions affirmed—without modification of sentence12
Convictions affirmed—penalty increased1
Convictions affirmed—penalty reduced4
Convictions quashed2
Appeal abandoned2
21

Detainees, Isle Of Man

39.

asked the Home Secretary how many persons are now interned or detained in the Isle of Man camps; how many officers and rankers, respectively, of the Army and the police force and other civilians are engaged in the work of the camps; and whether he is satisfied that in the case of at least some of the camps the staffing is not excessive?

There are, at present, approximately 3,300 persons interned under the Royal Prerogative, and 600 detained under the Defence Regulations or the Aliens Order, and there are, in addition, over 100 children. The administration as well as the guarding of the camps is carried out chiefly by military personnel, and, as it would not be in the public interest to state their number, I do not think that there are any figures that I can usefully give to my hon. Friend in reply to the second part of her Question. All the various staffs of the camps are constantly under review, with a view to adjusting the numbers to the needs, and, certain reductions are at present in contemplation.

Fire Guards

40.

asked the Home Secretary when he is likely to be in a position to announce the decisions of the Government in relation to the recommendations of the Select Committee on National Expenditure on Fire Guards?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Report from the Select Committee has only recently been received. I am giving it consideration.

Can the Minister give any indication to the House when he is likely to be able to make a statement on the matter?

No, Sir. I am afraid I could not do so, but I contemplate that some consultation must take place, and I cannot be sure how long the consultation will take.

42.

asked the Home Secretary what restrictions are imposed on allied and alien personnel in this country in respect of the Compulsory Fire-Watching Order?

Aliens are not at present liable for compulsory fire guard duties, but, as I stated in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. W. H. Green) on 4th February last, it is proposed to render certain classes of aliens liable for such duties subject to certain conditions, and an Order for this purpose will be issued as soon as the necessary consultations have been completed. In the meantime, it is open to any alien, who is exempted from the curfew restrictions imposed by the Aliens (Restriction of Movement) Order, to volunteer for such duties.

Is it the intention of my right hon. Friend to ensure that our women are not in future to be called upon to look after the safety of foreign men, whether they are aliens or Allies?

Is the Minister aware that a great number of aliens are only too anxious to take up these duties and are very mortified at being excluded, and that some of them are not merely 35 but are about double that age?

With regard to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, it is true that a considerable number of aliens are voluntarily fire watching, but it is the case that a fair number who could voluntarily do it are not doing so.

43.

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the dissatisfaction among various sections and classes of women with the Compulsory Fire-Watching Order he will consider amending the Order so as to provide that no woman over 35 years of age will be called on to fire-watch unless she volunteers to do so and that all women will be given equal opportunity of fire watching at their homes or business premises?

No, Sir. In view of the need for fire guards, I could not contemplate a reduction of the present age limit for compulsion for women. For the same reason it is not practicable to allow women to choose where they will perform their fire guard duties, but they will only be required to do so at their place of work if insufficient men are available for the purpose.

My right hon. Friend must realise that there are certain disabilities to which women are prone when over 35. Under those circumstances it is very much disliked and resented by women at that period and also very much disliked by men. Would he not reconsider this matter and establish an age limit over and above which women should not be called upon?

That point has, of course, been considered, and I have made inquiries, as well as one can. I am advised by many women that the men worry much more about it than the women do.

Police (Military Service)

41.

asked the Home Secretary why members of the regular police force are being called to the Armed Services and younger men of the war reserve police retained?

My hon. Friend appears to be under a misapprehension. The police war reservists who have been retained are those who were over 30 on 1st May, 1942; whereas the call up of regular police under the National Service Acts applies to men under 25 at the date of registration, that is, to men born after 9th March, 1915.

Service Pay And Allowances

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether in view of all the relevant circumstances, His Majesty's Government will now introduce an increased scale of pay and allowances for soldiers, sailors and airmen?

This matter was very fully examined by the Government in the summer of last year, and as a result a number of general increases were announced by my right hon. Friend the then Lord Privy Seal on l0th September last. It was explained that the Government were unanimously of the opinion that with the additions then made substantial justice would be done to all ranks of the Services and that the rates of pay should be stabilised at the new level so long as prices remain at the existing level. His Majesty's Government do not now see any ground for departing from that opinion.

In view of the fact that these proposals fail to meet the position and that there is great public concern about this serious matter, will the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues not reconsider the matter broadly?

Before the right hon. Gentleman does so, will he remember that the last Budget increased the price of beer and cigarettes?

United Nations (Consultation)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now consider the advisability of holding a conference, or of establishing some kind of council, of the United Nations, with the object of achieving a measure of agreement about political, as distinct from purely military, objectives?

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of recent events, new methods of obtaining the maximum of unity between the Allied Governments are in operation?

No, Sir. I am satisfied that, having regard to the geographical and other factors involved, existing methods of consultation among the United Nations are for the present the best that can be devised.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that if better machinery for consultation between the Allies had existed, certain recent regrettable developments might have been prevented?

Is it not clear that existing methods of consultation do not prevent differences? As political issues impinge on the war situation, is it not desirable to have machinery to reconcile differences that occur?

I do not think my hon. Friend is logical. The fact that differences arise is not necessarily cured by a particular kind of machinery. There has been no suggestion that differences will be prevented by any other machinery than that which we have at present.

In that event, in view of what recently occurred, and particularly in view of the fact that the differences have not been reconciled, is machinery not in being to deal with that situation and any new situation that might emerge?

I have already replied to that point. In the opinion of the Government the present methods of consultation and the present machinery are the best that can be devised under present circumstances.

Would not the Minister have a private consultation with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) instead of raising the matter in public?

Women's Land Army

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that a considerable number of country-bred women with agricultural experience, other than those of conscription age, are lost to the agricultural industry as they are not allowed to enrol in the Women's Land Army and prefer to join one of the other Services open to women rather than stay on the land because in those Services they are supplied with clothing, boots, and other equipment free of charge and without having to surrender clothing coupons; and whether he will consider amending existing Regulations to permit of these women joining the Women's Land Army?

No, Sir. Regular women agricultural workers are not called up by the Ministry of Labour under the National Service Acts or the Registration for Employment Order, and I do not think that any appreciable number of them are offering themselves for the women's Services for the reason mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend. The reasons for not enrolling women agricultural workers in the Women's Land Army were explained in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Kerr) on 4th February, 1943.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that there is a grievance among a large number of these women, whom I might call civilian women, that the women of the Land Army should receive clothing and equipment, since 1st January, 1943, equivalent to 107 coupons? How is it possible for any ordinary woman to provide herself with clothing and equipment on the present clothing ration?

My hon. and gallant Friend, like some other people, is labouring under a misapprehension. Perhaps he had better read exactly what is the situation. He would then realise that agricultural workers who earn their permanent living in agriculture are not really under any disadvantage.

Education

Administrative Areas

50.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether it is his intention to institute an impartial inquiry before introducing a Bill dealing with the question of educational administrative areas?

As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah) on 21st January last, I invited my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio to advise me on this matter, and I am now considering the advice which he has given me. I have therefore nothing further to add to this reply at present.

Is it the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to publish the proposals before they are embodied in any Bill which comes before this House?

I think it is important for the House and the public to see all my proposals together. When the time comes I can assure the hon. Member there will be plenty of time to look at them and express opinions on them.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that some of the smaller authorities are some of the most progressive and efficient and will very much resent being legislated out of existence in the interests of larger and less efficient authorities?

Yes, Sir, I am aware of the excellent work done by many of the Part 3 authorities—by the Part 3 authorities as a whole—and it is not my idea to cut away local interests in education.

London County Council Teachers (Other Work)

51.

asked the President of the Board of Education how many qualified and unqualified teachers employed by the London County Council are engaged in work other than that of teaching?

One thousand four hundred and forty-five elementary and secondary school teachers employed by the L.C.C. are engaged in work other than that of teaching.

In view of the shortage of teachers, will the right hon. Gentleman try to find out how many L.C.C. teachers are employed in the meals centres, and get them returned to the work for which they were trained and are paid?

Yes, Sir, I have made some inquiries, and I find that very few are now working in the Londoners' Meals Service. They are doing valuable work there, but I agree that the work of teaching is most important at the present time.

Elementary Schools (Cost)

52.

asked the President of the Board of Education the cost to the State in elementary schools per child in 1913 and at the latest date for which figures are available?

The cost to the Exchequer per child in average attendance in elementary schools in 1913–14 was £2 3s. 8d. In 1938–39, the latest year for which figures are available, the comparable figure was £7 18s. 8d.

Pre-Service Training

53.

asked the President of the Board of Education the nature of the pre-service training provided for boys and girls of 16 to 18 years of age who have now to register on reaching the age of 16 for such training?

I am sending my hon. Friend copies of Circulars 1577 and 1585, together with other memoranda issued by the Board, which will, I think, give him the information he desires.

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how many girls and boys between 16 and 18 have availed themselves of some form of pre-service training?

Organised Youth Movement

54.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will inform the House as to the numbers of boys and girls in the London area and in the country as a whole between the ages of 14 and 16 years; and what percentage of these have joined any form of organised youth movement?

I am unable to give up-to-date population figures, but I estimate that the total number of boys and girls in the age group 14–16 in England and Wales may be of the order of 1,100,000 of whom 80,000 to 90,000 may be referable to London. As regards the second part of the Question, I regret that no figures are available.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a report, I think in September last, of the L.C.C. said that only 17 per cent. of the girls and boys interviewed had joined any youth movement? Is that figure approximately correct, and, if so, is it not very unsatisfactory?

I remember that there was a certain amount of discussion at the time about those figures. The position was not so clear as the hon. Member makes out. I shall be glad to give him exact information for him to judge if he will let me send it to him.

Teachers (Supply)

55.

asked the President of the Board of Education what plans he is making to ensure that an adequate supply of teachers will be forthcoming for the next three years?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I am taking such steps as circumstances allow to ensure adequate staffing of the schools from year to year. The circumstances of the time do not, however, admit of my making a three-year plan.

I was not thinking so much of a three-year plan but of whether my right hon. Friend has not evidence that classes are now getting larger and absenteeism is growing among school children, and that the accumulating shortage of teachers is partly responsible for this state of affairs?

Over the country as a whole we are maintaining a remarkable average of pupils to teachers. In certain areas the difficulties to which my hon. Friend draws attention do exist.

Demobilised Personnel (Education And Training)

56.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether his Department is represented, and by whom, in the body which is set up to consider the further education and training of demobilised men and women?

I assume that my hon. Friend refers to the Interdepartmental Committee of which Lord Hankey is Chairman. The Board is represented by the Deputy Secretary.

Could not my right hon. Friend ask the Minister of Labour jointly to issue the recent memorandum as a White Paper, and would he see that there is somebody representing the Board with education experience on the body which takes executive action inside the Appointments Department, so that potential teachers can be found from those now being demobilised?

I will certainly discuss that with my right hon. Friend. As to the suggestion made with regard to the executive action by the Board I think there has been a tendency to under-rate the part which the Board is playing in this matter and the interest which I intend the Board shall take in the administration of this scheme.

Young Persons (Hours Of Work)

57.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether the material available, as a result of the registration of young persons, has been collated by his Department; what light it throws on excessive hours of work; what consequent action is being reflected in policy; and when he is proposing to publish a report?

Yes, Sir, a White Paper is being prepared, and I hope that my hon. Friend will await its publication. He should then obtain the information which he desires.

National Finance

Income Tax Evasions, Sheffield

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many prosecutions have taken place for Income Tax evasions, involving amounts of £50,000 or more, in the Sheffield district during the last 10 years?

Wage-Earners (Income Tax)

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that in many branches of industry girl piece-workers receive no wages during sickness and that when they recover and return they find accumulated Income Tax charges awaiting them so that they have not enough to live on for the time being; and whether he will investigate such tax enforcement with a view to mitigating its severity?

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

Following is the answer:

The regulations governing the deduction of tax from wages provide, with a view to avoiding hardship, that the wages for any week shall not be reduced by deduction of tax below certain specified amounts, the amount in the case of a single person being £2. With regard to the recovery of arrears of tax, the general rule in the case of manual wage-earners is that any tax which cannot be deducted in a given week, owing to the absence of the employee through sickness or for any other reason, is carried forward and deducted in the last fortnight of the deduction period. There may, however, be some advantage from the employee's point of view in recalculating the weekly deduction when the employee returns to work, as the deductions of the accumulated tax is thus spread over a longer period. No objection is taken to the adoption of this alternative method where the employees concerned desire it.

61.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what experts, other than the Trades Union Council and the British Employers' Confederation, he has consulted in his efforts to find a satisfactory system of levying Income Tax on the current wages of industrial workers; and whether he can state their views?

While, as indicated in the Budget Debates, I look to the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation as the principal consultative bodies in considering any changes that may be proposed, the Board of Inland Revenue, who are now actively engaged in considering the question, will gladly consider representations or suggestions from any quarter in regard to the arrangements for deduction of tax. Various suggestions for a current earnings basis have been made from time to time, but I do not consider that any useful purpose would at present be served by entering into any exposition of them. Certain aspects of the matter are discussed in the White Paper issued last year.

Is the Chancellor keeping in close touch with America and Canada in connection with pay-as-you-go arrangements?

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member will remember the controversy that has arisen there.

Has the Chancellor made inquiries among the working people themselves, who, like most people, appear to say that they would much prefer to have the deduction made from their pay and then recover what remains afterwards as a bonus? It seems to me to be a universal desire.

The hon. Member will see a full statement on the matter in the White Paper.

War Damage Payments

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the extent to which the War Damage Commission has in its payments overdrawn the amount provided by the public in premiums and contributions?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave on 22nd April to the hon. Members for South-West St. Pancras (Sir G. Mitcheson) and Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle).

64.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been paid out in war damage payments up to 31st December, 1942, or other convenient date?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to him on 15th April last; as regards payments by the War Damage Commission, he will doubtless remember that the Chairman announced on 5th April that they had reached the sum of approximately £100,000,000.

Blind Persons' Pensions (Wives, War Work)

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will take action to remove the hardship caused to blind persons who lose their pensions if their wives, responding to the call for more female labour in factories of national importance, go out to work leaving their husbands unattended?

The conditions under which these pensions are.awarded are laid down by Statute. Entitlement to pension depends upon the amount of the claimant's yearly means, and the Act provides that, in calculating the means of a person who is one of a married couple living together in the same house, the means shall be taken to be half the joint means of the couple.

Does the Chancellor not agree that this does constitute in fact a particularly grave hardship, and will consider the possibility of making some alteration?

External Loans

63.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount in borrowing, up to 31st December, 1942, or near date, from each of the countries who are making common cause with us and whom we are defending, together with interest rates attached to such borrowing?

I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the external loans contracted by His Majesty's Government in the course of the war as at 31st December, 1942. This figure must be distinguished from the much greater figure of the external liabilities of the country at large, which mostly takes the form of deposits of sterling or sterling securities held by overseas countries.

Can the Chancellor give the House some indication what these rates are? Would it be correct to say there are no interest rates above 3 per cent.?

Following is the list:

The following table shows amounts borrowed by His Majesty's Government and outstanding at 31st December, 1942:

Country.

Rate of Interest.

Amount.

Per cent.

£000
Canadian GovernmentFree157,303
U.S.A.: Reconstruction390,819
Finance Corporation.
Belgian GovernmentFree25,200
Indian Government30,054
East African Governments2½ & Free5,650
Ceylon Government3, 2½, & Free4,324
Federated Malay States Government.Free2,038
Trinidad Government3, 2 & Free2,016
Newfoundland Government.Free1,528
Miscellaneous Loans from Colonies, etc. (under £1 million).4,759
323,691

House Of Commons Staff Canteen

65.

asked the hon. Member for Dulwich, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, what improvements he proposes to make in the House of Commons Canteen?

The Kitchen Committee have not recently considered any proposal for making further improvements in the House of Commons Staff Canteen, which we understand is giving every satisfaction to those using it.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a common feeling that they are not supplied efficiently? Is he further aware that the servants of the House, the soldiers, the messengers, and the clerks are not able to obtain a meal at a reasonable price, and will he consider whether it is possible to instal something on the lines of a British Restaurant here for the workers?

I can assure the hon. Member we have not had any complaint or proposal. If a proposal is put before us, we shall be very glad to consider it.

May I ask the hon. Member whether he himself has taken the opportunity of lunching in that canteen recently, because I can assure him that, if he will consult some of the staff who are in this Chamber at the moment, he will find that there is considerable dissatisfaction.

There are five canteens in the Palace of Westminster under licence by the Ministry of Food, in addition to certain mess rooms.

Will my hon. Friend accept the, assurance that at some of these staff canteens very excellent meals are provided at a very moderate price?

Food Supplies

Soft Fruit Prices

68.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is now in a position to make a statement in connection with the fixation of soft-fruit prices?

Yes, Sir, An Order prescribing maximum prices for soft fruits will, it is expected, be made this week and will operate as from Monday next, 10th May. A statement is being issued to-day as to the maximum growers' prices and maximum wholesale and retail prices which will be prescribed in the Order. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the needs of the small producers, in view of the difficulties they found last year?

Aged People (Rations)

69.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that numerous resolutions arc being passed by local authorities, food committees, old age pensioners' associations and other bodies requesting price concessions and increased supplies to old age pensioners in respect of milk, tea, sugar and tobacco; and whether the Government is prepared to give further consideration to any of these requests?

A number of resolutions have been sent to my Department urging that some classes of consumers, including old age pensioners, should be allowed increased rations. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson) on f4th April, to which I have nothing to add. As regards price concessions, no representations have been received except in regard to the National Milk Scheme, but as has been explained on several occasions my Noble Friend feels bound to restrict the benefit of the National Milk Scheme to the mothers and young children.

Iron Ore, Northern Ireland

73.

asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the pressing need for iron required for war purposes, he will order a fresh survey to be taken of the Dromara and Dechomet districts of County Down, where iron-ore is available to meet many of our war needs?

The iron-ore deposits in these districts were examined by experts two years ago. The results of this examination were given to my hon. Friend in reply to a Question on 16th October, 1941. I do not feel that any fresh information would be obtained by holding a further investigation.

In view of the most unsatisfactory answer and the fact that I have visited the Dromara mines and have formed my own opinion, I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware that what is required to make the Dromara mines a paying proposition and useful in the war effort is the installation of a thorough pumping system, and that electricity is there awaiting it? Will he do that, as it is a shame and a crime that this state of affairs should exist?

What is needed is a higher grade ore in the ground. These deposits have been examined by experts, and the bulk of the deposits have been found to contain a high measure of impurities and not to be suitable for steel making. We have plenty of low grade ore all over the country.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House the percentage of iron in this ore, or give any indication of it?

Mine Accidents

72.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents in the mining industry during this year in each district and the comparative figures for 1942 and 1938?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power
(Mr. Tom Smith)

As the answer involves a tabular statement, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

ACCIDENTS AT MINES UNDER THE COAL MINES ACT
(Excluding the Stratified Ironstone Mines in Cleveland, Lincolnshire and Northampton).
DISTRICT1938.1942
No. of Persons killed.No. of Persons seriously injured.*No. of Persons disabled for more than 3 days.No. of Persons killed.No. of Persons seriously injured.*No. of Persons disabled for more than 3 days.
Northumberland441787,34831110Not yet available.
Durham8841818,834122331
South Yorkshire9930418,378114319
West Yorkshire391356,55243167
Lancashire and Cheshire552008,93160165
North Wales6481,500632
North Derbyshire1212617,48035221
Nottinghamshire251398,25441166
South Derbyshire123484727
Leicestershire8401,3741341
Cannock Chase13842,5791873
North Staffordshire271423,31676136
South Staffordshire and Worcestershire917727914
Shropshire412440213
Warwickshire8763,2711154
Cumberland10211,375719
Forest of Dean421571519
Bristol431
Somerset1943456
Kent5161,521116
South Wales and Monmouth-shire15457825,564149543
Fife and Clackmannan27892,8512765
Lothians (Mid. & East)15731,7891550
Lanarkshire, etc.611835,93857154
Ayrshire and Dumfries27681,7541445
Great Britain8513,135131,3088692,786

* Injuries which, because of their nature or severity are, under the terms of Section 80 of the Coal Mines Act,1911 required to be reported to His Majesty's Divisional Inspectors at the time of their occurrence.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether there has been an increase in the number of accidents or a decrease in the period mentioned in the Question asked by my hon. Friend?

I have had two complete years got out—last year and 1938—and the figures are somewhat similar. If you take the figures for this year and compare them with the figures for the same period of last year, there is a decrease. If my hon. Friend has any particular period in mind, I shall be glad to get out the figures for him.

The statement as follows:

Housing, Scotland (Re-Conditioning)

74.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take to recondition condemned houses in the urban districts of Scotland in order to relieve the urgent prevalent shortage of houses for the wage-earning classes?

My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the limited supplies of building labour and materials at present available can be used to the best advantage in the completion of the houses which local authorities have under construction and in the building of the 1,000 new houses to be provided under the new Scottish interim programme. In the special cases where it is urgently necessary to find accommodation for bombed-out families the Defence Regulations give local authorities power, with my right hon. Friend's consent, to license the temporary reoccupation of condemned houses made-reasonably fit for occupation.

While I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, does he not realise from the Debate which took place last Tuesday that, despite all these pious aspirations, the houses do not exist and that the houses this House decided upon have to be provided? Will his right hon. Friend take steps to bring to the notice of the War Cabinet that Scotland demands these houses and the reconditioning that may be necessary?

We are taking all the steps that are possible to deal with this problem at the present time.

Food Supplies Conference

76.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any statement about the agenda and objectives of the forthcoming food conference at Hot Springs?

The agenda of the Conference, which has been published, is rather long, and I am therefore circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The primary object of the Conference is to give the United Nations an opportunity to exchange information and views on longer term problems concerning the production and consumption of foodstuffs and other essential agricultural products. The Conference will devote particular attention to the production and imports of the various countries, with an eye to the general improvement of levels of consumption, and the extent to which productive resources can be made to match the needs of consumption. The Conference will no doubt also consider what international arrangements would be required to improve the efficiency of production and distribution, with due regard to the interests of both producers and consumers. Relief is not included within the scope of the Conference.