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Volume 389: debated on Thursday 13 May 1943

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Old People


asked the Minister of Health whether he will co-operate with other Government Departments, responsible for the comprehensive housing schemes of the future, with the object of including in the housing schemes, houses suitable and at a rental that the old age pensioners can afford to pay?

Provision of the kind to which my hon. Friend refers will certainly be considered, and a special Sub-Committee of my Central Housing Advisory Committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Dudley, who are considering the design and planning of dwellings suitable for all types of people for whom accommodation may have to be provided under the Housing Acts, are specifically including dwellings for old people.

Agricultural Workers


asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to make a statement regarding the Government's intentions to schedule agricultural cottages which are at present occupied by agricultural labourers, so that these dwellings shall remain available permanently for the agricultural community who are working in the vicinity of the dwellings; and whether he will consider setting up a Departmental Committee to look further into the matter?

I promised my right hon. and noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) in the Debate on 4th May that I would look again at the suggestion that agricultural workers' cottages should be scheduled, and I am not yet in a position to make any further statement.

Does my right hon. Friend realise it is no longer a question that it should be done? It must be done. Does he not realise further that the delay has gone on too long in this matter, and will he really get on with the matter? These cottages are urgently wanted for the agricultural labourers.

I have said that I am not in a position at the moment to make any further statement.


asked the Minister of Health when he expects to receive the Interim Report of the Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee upon the Design and Planning of Post-War Dwellings?

I have already received interim recommendations from this Sub-Committee on the planning of rural cottages, and type plans recommended by the Sub-Committee are being used in the war-time scheme for 3,000 agricultural cottages. I expect to receive the Sub-Committee's final report covering all phases of their present investigation by the autumn.


asked the Minister of Health, in view of the erection of only 26 cottages for agricultural workers in county Durham, when and what number, a further supply will be initiated?

Thirty-six cottages are allocated to the County of Durham. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and I regret that mole cottages cannot be allotted to the county, as all the 3,000 in the Government scheme have now been allocated.

That is not an answer to my Question. I asked when we shall have a further supply in order to supplement the needs, which are very urgent.

As there are 9,000 agricultural workers in the County of Durham, does the Minister consider that 36 cottages are adequate, and in any event has he proceeded with the erection of these cottages, and, if not, when does he propose to do so?

On the first point, the Minister of Agriculture has said that the allocation of cottages under the present scheme was based essentially on the agricultural needs of the counties in the light of the facts at present available.

When does the Minister propose to proceed with the erection of the cottages?

What does the Minister mean by "the earliest moment"? What is the Government's interpretation of "the earliest moment"? Will he explain?

Arising out of that reply, is it not a fact that the difficulty in this matter of these emergency houses is due to the fact that the Minister of Labour refuses to release sufficient building labour?


asked the Minister of Health whether any rural district council has refused to build cottages for agricultural labourers under the 3,000 scheme; and what action he proposes to take?

Five rural district councils have expressed a disinclination to build under the conditions which attach to this scheme. As their objections are being discussed or are about to be discussed with them, it would be premature to regard them as having refused to build. All the other of the 382 authorities concerned have agreed to build. In the five cases in question, the first course is to discuss the councils' objections with them, and, as I have indicated, this is being done.

In view of the fact that this was not an ordinary housing scheme but that the cottages were carefully allocated by his Ministry, does the right hon. Gentleman propose to set any time limit for these negotiations, and, when this time limit has ended, to take more drastic action?

We have, as my Noble Friend knows, statutory powers of default, but the question of exercising them has not yet arisen.

How many of the authorities have agreed to build, and how many of the cottages which the councils have promised to build have been built?

Is it not a fact that the vast majority of rural district councils are anxious to help in every way? Will the Ministry help by cutting down its cumbrous procedure?

I agree that they have done very fine work, and I am doing my best, in the present conditions, to make the procedure as simple as I can.

Local Authorities' Schemes


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of his recent appeal to municipalities to prepare schemes for after-war housing, he will make a statement at an early date as to the amount of Government grant they may expect in order to accelerate the preparation of such schemes?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 17th March to my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom), of which I am sending him a copy.

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable anxiety all through the country as to the position of municipal authorities on this question? They are unable to prepare schemes.

As the House knows, I have been seeing a considerable number of the authorities on the issues concerned so far as they relate to my Department.

Will the Minister consult with the Minister of Town and Country Planning so as to make sure that these schemes will not be allocated to areas which will later be needed for the green belt?

Yes, Sir. One of the problems I have to face in all these things is to see that we do nothing departmentally to interfere with anything that has to do with wider schemes of planning.


asked the Minister of Health what Circular he has recently issued to local authorities in regard to the purchase of land for post-war house construction?

The Circular is numbered 2778, dated 4th March, 1943. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

Does not this circular suggest to local authorities that they should act before the Government have made their decisions on the Uthwatt and Scott Reports? Also, does it not suggest, too, to the local authorities that they -should obtain land if possible at a lower valuation than in March, 1939, and that the Minister will take compulsory powers if necessary? Does the right hon. Gentleman think this is just and equitable?

I think my hon. Friend had better read the whole Circular, and then he can put another question down on those supplementary points.


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that instances have occurred of private individuals and public companies demurring to selling land to rural district councils for the erection of cottages: and whether he will issue a circular urging them to use their compulsory powers rather than engage in long negotiation for the purchase of land?

The answer to the first part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir." On the second part, in connection with the present programme of 3,000 agricultural cottages the attention of rural district councils has already been drawn by circular to their compulsory powers, and I have no reason to think that they will hesitate to exercise these powers where circumstances so require.

If my right hon. Friend finds that there has been undue delay, will he write to the councils concerned and tell them to exercise their compulsory powers?

Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)


asked the Minister of Pensions what method he adopts in calculating cost-of-living standards on which present war pension rates are based; and whether he has any new proposals to make?

The cost-of-living index figure is assessed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. The method of calculation was explained by him in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W Davison) on 24th July, 1941. With regard to the last part of the Question, the current rates of war pensions were among the subjects discussed in the Debate on 23rd March, all of which are receiving my attention.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this method of calculating pensions for the present war on some fictitious figures—because they are not accurate—prepared by the Ministry of Labour is causing great discontent in the country? Will he bring the present rates of pensions up to the rates for the Boer War and the last war?

I am not aware of this vast amount of discontent that the hon. Member is talking about. If my hon. Friend has any question regarding the cost-of-living figures, it should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

Is the House to understand that the Minister does not propose to give any effect at all to the widely-expressed desire in the House that the whole subject of pensions, and of the Royal Warrant on which they are based, should be inquired into and amendments made?

I am inquiring into all the questions that were raised in the Debate. In addition, many other questions have been raised by various bodies throughout the country and forwarded to me. The subject is so wide and comprehensive that it requires some time to consider.

If the right hon. Gentleman is not aware of the discontent in the country, is he satisfied with the present pension rates?

Is it hypothetical to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the present pension rates or not?

I think the hon. Member had better await the full statement I intend to make when I have made inquiries.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has considered the statement sent to him by the British Legion, Scotland, outlining their recommended policy in regard to the complete reconstruction of the whole aspect of compensation to Service men and women and their dependants, and the necessity for a comprehensive scheme for rehabilitation and resettlement; and whether he can yet make any statement on the subject?


asked the Minister of Pensions what he intends doing in connection with the memorandum sent to him by the British Legion in Scotland about policy on pension, rehabilitation and resettlement; and whether he intends taking any action in the matter?

My Department are giving full consideration to this matter, but a wide field of policy is involved, and I regret that the stage has not been reached at which a statement could be made.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that Service men everywhere are most anxiously awaiting definite assurances from His Majesty's Government in regard to all these questions, and does he realise that it is of most serious consequence to Service men and their dependants?

Where there is a will there is a way. Why not got on with it right away?

Having regard to the wide knowledge possessed by the British Legion in Scotland on this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman consent to meet them and discuss the matter before he makes up his mind?

I have forestalled the hon. Gentleman for once. I am going to Scotland in a fortnight's time, and I have arranged to meet the British Legion there.

Will the Minister meet the British Legion in England, before the conference at Whitsuntide?