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Commons Chamber

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 13 May 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 13th May, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Banbury Water) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Banbury Water Company"; presented by Mr. Ernest Brown; read the First time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills; and to be printed. [Bill 34.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Bucks Water Board) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Bucks Water Board"; presented by Mr. Ernest Brown; read the First time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills; and to be printed. [Bill 35.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Chiltern Hills Spring Water) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Chiltern Hills Spring Water Company"; presented by Mr. Ernest Brown; read the First time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills; and to be printed. [Bill 36.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Harrogate) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the borough of Harrogate"; presented by Mr. Ernest Brown; read the First time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills; and to be printed. [Bill 37.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Wetherby District Water) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Wetherby District Water Company"; presented by Mr. Ernest Brown; read the First time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills; and to be printed. [Bill 38.]

Oral Answers To Questions

National War Effort

Holidays

1.

asked the Minister of Tabour whether he will make a statement on the holidays and week-end rests for all engaged in industry as there is a misapprehension on this matter?

The Government's views with regard to holidays for workpeople during this year were expressed in an announcement issued to the Press on 27th February last, a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend. I have not been made aware of the misapprehension referred to by my hon. Friend, and if he will let me have details, I will do what I can to clear it up.

Is the Minister aware that owing to the stress of continued working the workers are not quite sure what holidays they are entitled to, and that to clear up this matter would be beneficial both to the workers and to the State? That is why the Question was put down.

Holidays vary for different industries, but the principle is the same. It my hon. Friend refers to miners, I have left it to the industry to settle. That is why it is difficult to give an answer covering every industry.

Would the Minister encourage employers to make reasonable agreements with the workers to work on holidays on which they are anxious to work?.

I doubt the wisdom of that. If holidays are organised for the purpose of giving reliefs from fatigue, I do not think I ought to play up to the other principle too much.

Uncompleted Houses, Staffordshire (Labour)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that there are two uncompleted houses in the neighbourhood of Madeley Collieries, Staffordshire, of which the brickwork is completed, the roofs on and the window frames and door frames fixed; and whether he will now release sufficient building labour to enable the houses to be completed?

I am having inquiries made and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

Domestic Workers

4.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is now in a position to make a statement with regard to the setting-up of a committee to investigate the best way of organising the service of domestic workers?

I am still investigating this matter. My immediate concern is with the problems arising out of the shortage of domestic workers in hospitals and public institutions, in hostels and canteens, and also in private households when there is special need for such help owing to such circumstances as confinement or sickness. I hope to be in a position to make a statement on this phase of the problem at a fairly early date.

If I put a Question down again in a fortnight, would my right hon. Friend be in a position to make a more complete statement then?

Would the Minister also consider the possibility of drawing off some of the superfluous domestic workers from households which are employing too many, by means of the raising and lowering of the registration age and making those workers available for householders who need them more and who are having to do without domestic help altogether?

England and Wales.

31st March, 1938 (last complete figures available).
Number of public elementary schools maintained by local education authorities.Number of pupils on registers.
Council schools10,3633,513,032
Voluntary schools10,5531,522,244
20,9165,035,276
On 31st March, 1943, there were 203 council schools and 495 voluntary schools on the black list. The number of pupils in these schools is not available.

Farriers

5.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the difficulties placed in the way of those who use horse-drawn transport for commercial purposes by reason of the call-up of farriers who, as distinct from blacksmiths, are alone expert in the shoeing of heavy commercial horses; and whether he will review the present position in order to ensure that an adequate number of expert farriers is left available for the work?

Applications for the deferment of call-up of farriers, liable for military service, are dealt with by District Man-Power Boards, and I have no reason to suppose that the present arrangements fail to ensure that an adequate number of such experts is retained to meet the requirements of industry. I may add that farriers are not called up unless required for a Service trade in which their skill as farriers would be utilised.

Council And Voluntary Schools

7.

asked the President of the Board of Education Whether he will give the number of provided and non-provided schools in the country and the number of scholars attending such schools in each case; and the number of schools blacklisted, giving the figures separately for provided and non-provided schools and number of scholars?

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

Public Health

National Health Insurance (Ex-Service Men)

9.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the unfairness caused to discharged ex-Service men who are unable to obtain sickness benefit for a period of 26 weeks after discharge if the cause of sickness _arises out of the disability for which a pension is being paid; and whether he will take steps to remedy this hardship?

The rates of contribution payable under the National Health Insurance Acts are based on the expectation of incapacity under normal conditions and do not cover the risk of incapacity due to war service. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to propose any amendment of the specific provision of the Statute whereby a man discharged from the Forces becomes temporarily disentitled to sickness benefit in the circumstances referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend. I would point out, however, that the period of 26 weeks which he mentions runs from the beginning of the week in which the man was injured or was removed from duty and accordingly a substantial part of that period will ordinarily have expired before the date of discharge.

Is it not a fact that when a man is in the Services the State pays his contributions? If that is so, why should there be this discrimination when he leaves the Services?

There is no unfair discrimination. The issue is whether he has been subject to the normal conditions on which the scheme is based. Perhaps my hon. Friend would discuss the matter with me afterwards.

Tuberculosis

18.

asked the Minister of Health, the percentage increase in the rate per i,000 living of cases of abdominal tuberculosis in children under 15 years of age in the London area in 1914, as compared with 1938?

War-time fluctuations of population do not permit of any precise calculation of such a percentage as my hon. Friend mentions for any year during the war.

Has not the London County Council medical officer stated in the British Medical Journal recently that the rate is 141 per cent. higher than 1938?

Yes, Sir, but this figure was based on assumptions, not detailed in the article, about changes in population. I am not asked for calculations of that kind; I am asked for precise information; and I have given my hon. Friend the answers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that most of the cases of abdominal tuberculosis are attributable to infected milk?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware too that the milk in London is nearly all pasteurised? How then does he explain the increase?

Beveridge Report (Cash Benefit)

12.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the disquiet felt by many independent workers and traders about the proposal in the Beveridge Report that for the first 13 weeks of disability they, unlike employed persons, are to receive no cash benefit, but are to continue to have to pay contributions as though fit for work; and whether, in his examination of the Report, he will investigate the possibilities of rendering the scheme less harsh to such persons in this respect?

This proposal is one of the recommendations in the Beveridge Report which is being examined by the Government. My hon. Friend will be aware that Sir William Beveridge states in his Report that the main ground for his proposal lies in the importance of avoiding the difficult administrative questions that will arise in regard to the control of benefit for short illnesses in the case of people working on their own account. The secondary reason put forward by Sir William Beveridge for the proposed limitation is that it makes a substantial difference to the contribution.

Will my right hon. Friend advise those who are examining the plan on his behalf that the results of their work will be quite unacceptable to a large body of people unless something can be done to meet this point?

The hon. Member has rendered a service in calling attention to this, although I have not received other representations on the matter.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is very real concern about this question in the minds of a very considerable number of people who would be affected?

Venereal Diseases

20.

asked the Minister of Health how many persons, men and women, have been informed against under Regulation 33B; how many have refused treatment and subsequently been imprisoned; and whether the informers are compelled to complete their own treatment?

Information now received from all but a very few authorities in England and Wales shows that 36 men and 475 women have been reported to medical officers of health as alleged sources of venereal infection, of whom one man and 27 women have been the subject of more than one report, which is necessary before Regulation 33B can operate. Of these 28 persons, two women have refused treatment, one expressly and one by default, and have been prosecuted and imprisoned. On the last part of the Question, no civilian voluntarily undergoing treatment for venereal disease is subject to compulsion to complete it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that this Regulation has made a substantial contribution to reducing the incidence of venereal disease? Is he aware that, as we anticipated, this Regulation is operating unfavourably against women?

I do not agree with that at all. It is quite clear to me, from the reports I have received, that the Regulation is assisting local authorities in their voluntary work in this matter to a marked degree.

In view of the fact that only 36 men have been informed against, can the right hon. Gentleman say that this is a marked reduction?

The hon. Lady is interpreting the Regulation in a sense different from that in which the House received it. It was not the intention of the House to use compulsion for compulsion's sake, but in order to secure the desired end of an improvement in the position.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask local authorities and other authorities to see how far this Regulation is' contributing towards a reduction of the disease?

I have given the figures for the last quarter. I shall ask each quarter for a regular report. Of course, there is intense interest in this matter, stimulated by the widespread social and educational campaign we are carrying on.

Housing

Old People

10.

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

11.

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.

16.

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.

17.

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?

22.

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

15.

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.

19.

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.

23.

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)

25.

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.

26.

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?

27.

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?

India

Royal Air Force Personnel (Income Tax)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that members of the Royal Air Force serving in India have the Income Tax payable in that country on their Service pay deducted at source, irrespective of whether tax is paid at home, without filling in a form and without any married or family reliefs, upon the full daily rates of pay including allotments made to dependants at home; that this practice is creating hardship for the men concerned; and whether he will take steps to abolish it.

Under Indian Income Tax law no provision is made for rebates for earned income, for married persons, and for children. The result is that although the rate of Indian Income Tax is considerably lower than that of British tax it may happen that a senior N.C.O. or junior officer who has a family is liable to tax in India where he would escape liability in this country. United Kingdom tax is not deducted from pay issued in India, nor from allotments of pay or family allowance paid in the United Kingdom. In the case of officers, Indian tax is levied on gross pay, including family allowance, but in the case of other ranks the compulsory allotment is included in gross income for the purpose of determining the rate at which Indian tax is to be charged, but it is not taxed in India. The Government of India have recently had under consideration the adequacy of the pay of other ranks and of junior officers, with reference both to the cost of living in India and to the tax position, and certain ameliorative measures have already been introduced. I am, however, closely watching the situation.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, might I ask whether, in view of the fact that this was a specific complaint from members of the Force serving in India, he can make it clear whether they are liable to pay tax in both countries?

The Indian Income Tax is on an entirely different principle from ours, and is levied in India. If an officer has an income in this country, and is taxed on that as well as paying in India, that is a question for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Orders, Validity (Federal Court Judgment)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any statement to make respecting the recent decision that Congress leaders and members had been illegally imprisoned since their arrest; whether legislative action has now legalised this irregularity; and what redress or compensation is being made to those who for several months have been illegally deprived of their liberty?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) on 4th May. In view of the Ordinance made by the Governor-General confirming the validity of orders previously made under Defence of India Rule 26, no question of redress or compensation arises.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is extremely grave to keep men in detention for nine months or more, and would it not be some compensation at least to release them for nine months as an equivalent?

Will the right hon. Gentleman take this matter into consideration again, in view of the case around about 1923 when natives of Ireland were similarly treated and all received compensation for illegal detention?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the Government of India really have the power to make retrospectively an illegal imprisonment legal by legislative action?

Hindus And Moslems (Mr Jinnah's Speech)

3o.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any statement to make respecting the recent speech of Mr. Jinnah, in which he appealed for joint action between Hindus and Moslems in antagonism to British Government in India; and whether the internment of Mr. Jinnah along with Congress leaders is contemplated?

We are all, I think, agreed that a lasting solution of the Hindu-Moslem question is indispensable to India's constitutional advance. The reports of Mr. Jinnah's speech do not, however, indicate that in stressing the need for unity he outlined any specific solution likely to be acceptable to Hindu opinion. In any case he did not associate himself with the kind of subversive activity for which it became necessary to intern the Congress Party leaders. On the contrary, in the same speech, he is reported to have said in reference to them:

"If it had been our own Government I would have put these people in gaol in order to prevent a powerful organisation from letting loose an anti-war campaign."
The last part of the Question, therefore, does not arise.

Would it not at least be equitable, since Mr. Jinnah used deplorably strong language against this country, that the Congress. leaders should be put into the same position as 'Mr. Jinnah and given their liberty?

Is it not the fact that Mr. Jinnah, in contradistinction to the Congress leaders, has constantly and persistently supported the war effort of the Government of India, however much disagreement he may have with them on other questions?

Electoral Machinery

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he can now make a statement with regard to the intentions of the Government in bringing up to date the electoral register to enable an increased number of the electors to exercise the franchise?

34.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has now come to a decision about electoral reform, particularly in regard to a scheme of redistribution of the large electorates?

I would refer to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State gave yesterday to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White).

Can my right hon. Friend say whether all local authorities are now placing men and women on the register that are entitled to be placed on the register?

In view of the assurance given on this matter some weeks ago, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is any chance of the House having his statement before the Whitsuntide Recess?

Police

Widows' Pensions

32.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that widows of ex-police officers, some of whom served in the House of Commons, are receiving only us. 6d, per week; and whether he will review these pensions and increase them?

The figure to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, amounting to Lao a year, is that of the ordinary rate of pension granted under the Police Pensions Act to the widows of +he lower ranks of the police service, and I regret that I can hold out no hope of legislation increasing the general rate of pensions already existing.

Suspected Officers

37.

asked the Home Secretary what arrangements exist at Scotland Yard for keeping a watch or check upon police officers who are suspected of offences or against whom any adverse reports or allegations are made?

If occasion arises for investigating some offence of which a member of the police force is suspected, the procedure for assigning the investigation to appropriate officers is similar to that followed in regard to any other investigations. There is no group of detective officers whose sole or main duty is to investigate cases where members of the police force are suspected; and a statement recently published by a newspaper that there is a special department at Scotland Yard which was created to keep a watch on police officers is mistaken.

Is is not a fact that, with a very few exceptions, the conduct of the police during the war has been exemplary, and are not such suggestions as are contained in the Question to be deplored?

It is the case, as my hon. Friend says, that the general conduct of the police during the war has been admirable, and they have performed services of great value to the nation.

Is it possible for my right hon. Friend to take any action against papers that spread such wrong reports about the police?

I am afraid not. When I take action against newspapers I find that I am in deep water, and I had better not take that line.

Clothing Coupons

63.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the number of clothing coupons allowed to be retained by policemen, for the purchase of civilian clothing, underclothing, socks and household linen, is now approximately 33 for a period of 12 months; and if he will consider reducing the number of coupons which the police are required to surrender.

No, Sir. The number of coupons which policemen refund annually for uniform is no more than is spent by the average sedentary worker on comparable working garments. The number of coupons remaining for other purposes is therefore the same for both.

Is the hon. Gentleman really suggesting that policemen, especially in rural areas, who have to cycle on an average 3o to 40 miles a day in the course of their duties, are sedentary workers?

Certainly not, but in so far as they are not sedentary they are the more fortunate under this arrangement.

Civil Defence

Fire Guard Duties

33.

asked the Home Secretary whether he proposes to issue amended fire-watching regulations, with particular reference to boys under i6 years of age?

The forthcoming Orders will include a provision preventing boys between the ages of 15 and 16 from volunteering for fire guard duty at schools and other business premises except where the appropriate authority is satisfied that adequate fire prevention arrangements cannot otherwise be made and even then allowing it only where the parent or guardian of the boy gives his consent in writing. Boys of under 15 will not be allowed to volunteer for fire guard duties at such premises.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that even that regulation has not been entirely satisfactory, and will he consult with his colleague the President of the Board of Education, who has expressed his disapproval of schoolboys under 16 years of age doing fire-watching duties?

My recollection is that consultations have taken place, but the circumstances of these educational buildings are often very difficult. Many of the boys rather like to do fire-watching, and I am constantly being pressed to take people off fire guard duties; and on the other hand, if fires occur, I am afraid that the House will be after me for letting them off.

Is my right hon. Friend sure that schoolboys under 16 years of age could cope with the circumstances he has just mentioned?

Yes, Sir, they could do a job on fire prevention; experience has proved it.

42.

asked the Home Secretary the terms of, and reasons for, the instructions issued by his Department, whereby the Fire Guard is given priority over the Home Guard in respect of male civilians directed by the Ministry of Labour to these services?

No such instructions have been issued, but with the concurrence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War I have arranged with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service that in issuing directions under the Home Guard Regulations due regard shall be paid to the fire guard needs of the premises where a man works or of the local authority by whom he has been enrolled.

Then it is quite clear that no priority is to be given to fire watching as against the Home Guard?

Not in the sense of the Question which has been put down by the hon. and gallant Member. But obviously there must be some administrative discretion as to relative urgencies by the Ministry of Labour and National Service.

43.

asked the Home Secretary how many fire-watchers are furnished, under the compulsory Fire-Watching Order, by friendly aliens, enemy aliens and neutral aliens, respectively, who are at present resident in this country?

No alien is at present compelled to undertake fire guard duties. There are no statistics regarding the extent to which friendly aliens have volunteered, or other aliens have been permitted to volunteer, for such duties.

Is it not ridiculous and very disturbing that hard-working housewives and girl war workers should have to care for the safety of thousands of these aliens throughout the country who, apparently, are doing nothing to safeguard themselves or the country which is giving them sanctuary?

I have sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member's point of view. There are technical difficulties, but he can be assured that I am giving the matter consideration.

Women (Convictions Under Defence Regulations)

35.

asked the Home Secretary how many young women under 21, and between the ages of 21 and 25, have been sent to prison on conviction for failing to comply with directions of National Service officers?

Statistics of offences against the various Defence Regulations divided into men and women under and over 21 years are being prepared, but are not yet available. Further sub-divisions of offences or age groups would require a special investigation involving additional expenditure of man-power, which I consider would not be justified under present conditions.

Shelters And Damaged Property (Convictions For Offences)

36.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the Report of the Emergency Committee of the Deptford Borough Council calling attention to the inadequacy of penalties imposed on offenders found guilty of damage to air-raid shelters and thefts from property damaged by enemy action and asking for the imposition of penalties adequate to the offence; and can he make a statement on this question?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for sending me a copy of the Report to which he refers, and I am in full agreement with the comments therein on the despicable conduct of those individuals who damage and impair shelters provided for the protection of the public, or inflict additional loss and injury on people whose homes or shops have been damaged by enemy action. I have already called the attention of the courts to the seriousness of these offences. The question what is the appropriate penalty in a particular case is for the court to determine after consideration of all the relevant circumstances.

Austrians (Registration)

38.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will now consider the advisability of permitting Austrians, now described as Germans, to be re-registered as Austrians in view of the declaration made on behalf of the British Government, on 9th September, 1942, concerning non-recognition of any change affected in Austria since 1938, and the terms of Article 21 of the Aliens Order, 192o, as amended 1939; and whether he is aware of the action taken on these lines in Canada, Palestine and other countries?

I have considered this matter carefully, but have not felt justified in altering the present practice as regards the registration of Austrians here, whatever may be the practice outside the United Kingdom. As I have previously stated, the suggested change in registration Would not alter the status or treatment in this country of any of the aliens affected.

Will my right hon. Friend take into consideration the action of the Palestine authorities, who have recently, in view of statements made by the Government in regard to Austria in this House, made arrangements to re-register Austrians as Austrians, and cannot we do the same here?

I have no control over the Government of Palestine, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, and while it may or may not be right in their case, it would be inconvenient in this country, and I do not think that I ought to engage in it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his practice of registering Austrians as Germans is in conflict with the declared policy of His Majesty's Government not to recognise the German conquest of Austria?

Not at all. I have to take the facts as they are. All Austrians hold German passports, and they are subjects of the German Reich. [HoN. MEMBERS: "No."] The Austrians are at the moment subjects of the German Reich. It is really absurd to assume that every person who comes from Austria is not a Nazi.

Could not the same kind of thing be said about Czechoslovakia? Is not Austria in more or less the same category?

Prisoners (Clothing Coupons)

39.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has reviewed the regulation under which prisoners forfeit a number of their clothing coupons while in prison and, in some cases, have not had enough coupons to procure necessary clothing on their discharge?

In connection with this question certain points are being examined in consultation with the agencies responsible for the after-care of discharged prisoners, and I think it will be better that I should defer making a statement for the present.

Does the Minister realise the great hardship on men who have to leave prison without an adequate number of coupons?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I have applied the necessary incentive to the Department to move as quickly as possible.

Work Direction (Sentence)

40.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will now recommend the release of Samuel Naylor, now serving a sentence of three months for refusing to work underground, but who offered to join the Navy, and who has already served six weeks of the sentence imposed on him?

No, Sir. I regret that I can find no grounds for modifying the decision which was communicated to my hon. Friend by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security in reply to his Question OR 21st April.

But is not my right hon. Friend aware that in similar circumstances only fines have been imposed, whereas in this case a young man has been sent to prison when he was, in fact, quite willing to join the Forces? Why is he allowed to languish in gaol, so that the nation is deprived of his services, and why should he be suffering under a very savage sentence?

My hon. Friend is getting indignant, but his indignation is misplaced so far as I am concerned. The issue is whether courts of law are courts of law or whether their functions are to be usurped by the Home Secretary. I am not passing any judgment on the merits of the particular sentence of the court, which was acting within its legitimate discretion. If the Home Secretary is to interfere with the detailed decisions of courts, the Constitution will be upset.

Is it not true to say that the Minister has interfered in other cases and has used his discretion? Further, is he aware that the Minister of Labour, in relation to this case, said that the whole situation would be reviewed and that young men generally would have an opportunity of going into the Forces if they so desired? Would he not reconsider this special case?

With regard to the first point, there have been cases of an exceptional character where I have thought it right to modify a decision, but I must stop myself from making a general habit of interfering with the legitimate discretion of the courts. As to the second point, I think my hon. Friend has exaggerated what the Minister of Labour has said, but in any case the Ministry of Labour do not consider there is anything to distinguish this case from many others, and neither they nor the Ministry of Fuel and Power recommend any remission.

I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter again on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

Aliens (Statistics)

41.

asked the Home Secretary the number of male foreigners over the age of 16 at present located in this country under the headings "friendly aliens," "enemy aliens" and "neutral aliens," respectively?

Aliens are not registered under the headings "friendly," "enemy," and "neutral," but according to their nationality, and I am not in a position to classify them in the way desired by my hon. and gallant Friend.

But surely the police must have this information, if only for security reasons, and would not the information also be available from identity cards?

It is not so easy to classify, and it would be very difficult to have a clear classification of a friendly alien, for example.

Refugees (Visas)

44.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the case, of which particulars have been furnished him, of a young refugee in an enemy-occupied country whose parents are in this country and have guaranteed his maintenance, who has been promised a visa for a neighbouring neutral country on the condition that a visa for this or some other country of safety is known to the neutral country to be available; and when he expects that the regulations which have hitherto prevented the admission of such refugees to the country will be modified so as to permit the reconsideration of this and similar cases?

I have considered the particulars furnished to me, but they do not bear out the statements made in the first part of my hon. Friend's Question. I am, however, prepared to authorise a visa for this country if the youth can succeed in reaching a neutral country. Instructions are being issued to this effect, but I have no information which suggests that this authorisation will be of any assistance to him in escaping from enemy occupied territory, where he appears to be at present. As regards the last part of the Question, I am not in a position to make any statement on this subject at present.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the neutral country in question definitely said that they would issue a visa if we did? Now he has said that he will probably issue a visa if the neutral country first of all takes in the youth. Is it not about time that we stopped this game of ball between one country and another and in this case gave a visa first, thus showing a generous example?

There is no game of ball. I have made it perfectly clear that I am willing to grant a visa if the youth escapes into neutral territory. My hon. Friend is asking me about the issue of visas into enemy-occupied territory. No machinery exists for that, and it is an extraordinary proposal that the British Government should issue visas into enemy-occupied territory. It would be most dangerous, and if I did it in this case, it would be more likely to do the youth harm than good.

But that is not what was asked in the letter from the neutral country, a copy of which I sent to my right hon. Friend. All that was asked was that the neutral country should be informed that a visa from this country would be available if the youth first got into the neutral country. The Minister is preventing entry into a neutral country unless he gives this visa.

Early Marriages

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the number of girls of 16 and 17 years of age who marry at that age has increased; whether he has statistics of these cases since the beginning of the war; and whether, in view of the undesirability of these early marriages, he will consider the desirability of not paying marriage allowances unless or until the wife has reached the age of 18, or has a dependant child?

No, Sir. Having regard to the general increase in the number of marriages since the outbreak of war, there has not been any great change in the number of marriages of women of 16 and 17. Of every 1,000 women marrying in 1938, 3.52 were aged 16 and 14.15 aged 17. The figures in 1940 were 2.86 and 12.46 and in 1941, 3.47 and 15.01. Figures for 1942 are not yet available. I assume that my hon. Friend's suggestion in the last part of his Question refers to wives of men in the Forces. As long as the law allows the marriage of women at 16 there seems to be no justification for discriminating in this way only against the young wives of men in the Forces.

While I appreciate the Minister's reply, would it not be in the national interest as well as in the interest of these girls to discourage marriages at the age of 16? [HoN. MEMBERS: "No."] Is it not a fact that there have been occasions when girls have married primarily to secure the marriage allowance?

Is it not of national importance to marry early and marry often?

Church Bells (Ringing)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider with favour permission being granted to all churches to sound the Angelus bell?

In accordance with the announcement already made the existing orders have been relaxed to permit the ringing of church bells on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day to summon worshippers to church. The relaxation therefore does not extend to the sounding of the Angelus bell. I cannot at present add to that statement.

Will my right hon. friend try and meet the wishes of those who are favouring a revival of religion in this country by granting this most desirable observance, if only for its good propaganda?

In view of the Prime Minister's statement that the significance of invasion no longer attaches to the ringing of bells, what is the reason for any restraint at all?

Why is it more dangerous to ring the bells of St. Margaret's than Big Ben?

Children's Allowances

47.

asked the Minister without Portfolio whether, in the proposed Government scheme for children's allowances, he will take into consideration the advisability of seeing that these allowances are paid direct to the mothers?

Yes, Sir. This is one of the points that are being considered.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the large body of opinion in the country in favour of these allowances being paid to the mothers?

Agriculture

Flower Growing

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture why many districts are being permitted to grow from seed flower crops and bedding plants while in Staffordshire this is forbidden to the loss of seedsmen and nursery gardeners.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills) on 22nd April. I am not aware that permission is being given by county war agricultural executive committees for the growing of flower crops and bedding plants from seed, otherwise than in accordance with the instructions which have been issued. If my hon. Friend has any cases in mind and will furnish me with particulars, I will have them investigated.

I beg to give notice that in the exceedingly remote possibility of my being called I will raise this point, which calls for good nature and brevity.

Rooks (Destruction)

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will arrange for his Department to issue instructions with regard to the killing of rooks, as much difference of opinion exists as to the usefulness or otherwise of these birds?

Such instructions have already been issued to county war agricultural executive committees by my Department, which has also published an advisory leaflet on the subject. I am sending copies of these documents to my hon. and gallant Friend.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that official organisations working under his Department, such as the Nottinghamshire agricultural committee, are practically ordering the wholesale destruction of these birds?

It may well be that it is justified in view of the excessive number of birds in particular localities.

Credits

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will consider introducing legislation to widen the statutory powers of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, Limited, so as to enable them to handle short term and intermediate credits as well as grant mortgage loans, having regard to the fact that the Corporation have at the present time cash and investments of over £3,000,000 not being utilised for agricultural purposes?

No, Sir. I have no reason to think that existing facilities for short-term and intermediate credit to farmers are inadequate for present needs.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, even if the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation is not a suitable body, farmers do not want to go on paying five per cent. for short-teim credit? Why is it that something really intelligent cannot be done?

Downland Sheep

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is taking any steps to encourage an increase in the sheep population on the downlands, with a view to preserving soil fertility?

I am aware of the importance of hurdled flocks of sheep on light downlands in the interests of soil fertility. It was for that reason that the Ministry of Food, in consultation with my Department, in the autumn of 1941, increased the price of fat sheep and lambs by Id. per lb. for the winter and spring, the period when sheep from these flocks normally go for slaughter. The return from this class of land depends also on prices of corn crops, principally barley, which have been fixed at remunerative levels.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a shortage of experienced shepherds for registered flocks, and will he take some steps to ensure a supply of trained shepherds?

Italian Prisoners Of War

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that Italian prisoners of war have been used to evict furniture from farm workers' cottages; and whether he will issue orders which will put a stop to this practice?

I am aware of a case which occurred last December where two Italian prisoners of war who were working on a farm assisted the police with the removal of furniture from a cottage. Instructions have been issued that prisoners of war supplied to farmers are intended for employment on farm work only, and I think this is generally understood, but I will consider whether the instructions need strengthening.

>National Finance

Gifts To Clergymen (Taxation)

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether any gifts of money which may be sent direct or handed to a vicar at Eastertide should be regarded as forming part of the Easter offering, the amount of which is often publicly announced and, therefore, are subject to Income Tax as are contributions to the Easter offering made either through a churchwarden or placed in the collection bags; whether such direct gifts of money to a vicar made at any other time of the year. are subject to Income Tax, as are fees and other moneys which form part of his stipend; and what conditions regarding Income Tax liability apply to a Whitsun offering paid over to an assistant clergyman?

I am advised that the taxation liability of Easter offerings is not affected by the circumstance that the money may be handed to the vicar direct instead of being placed in the collection or given through a churchwarden. I would remind my hon. Friend that the Easter offerings which were considered in the leading case of Cooper v. Blakiston included sums. given in all three of these ways, and the decision Of the House of Lords drew no distinction between them. Any other gifts to a clergyman which accrued by virtue of his ministry would similarly be taxable. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the case of Slaney v. Starkey ((1931), 2 K.B. 148), in which it was held that the proceeds of a voluntary collection made for an assistant curate at Whitsuntide were assessable to Income Tax as emoluments of his office.

Although I did not hear a word of his answer, I would ask my right hon. Friend to make it widely known that gifts to rectors and curates can be given as free gifts?

Could not the churchwardens use the collection to supply the parson with free groceries which, being in kind, are not asessable?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Easter offerings do not accrue to an incumbent in virtue of his office, but in virtue of his personality?

Estate Duty (Wives' Savings, Co-Operative Societies)

56.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether a wife's savings in a co-operative society are treated by the Inland Revenue Department as her property, and, in the event of her death, are subject to Death Duty as part of her estate?

I can only say that any property belonging to a wife forms part of her estate for purposes of Estate Duty.

Can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the statement he has already made with the ruling which a judge has just given in the Oxford County Court to the effect that the savings of a wife in a co-operative society belong to her husband?

>Poultry (Imports From Northern Ireland)

6o.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that the non-inclusion of Northern Ireland in the Ministry's scheme for the control and distribution of poultry is having a harsh effect on former importers in the North-west of England; that practically no imports are now received by wholesalers from Northern Ireland, and that retailers are consequently deprived of their former supplies from this source; that such supplies are diverted into other channels at prices' beyond the legal maximum; and will he include Northern Ireland in his poultry distribution scheme so that importers and retailers in the Northwest may be supplied in relation to the standard trading year of 1938?

My Noble Friend is giving consideration to the method of marketing Northern Ireland poultry in Great Britain and hopes to be in a position shortly to introduce modifications in the existing arrangements.

Will the hon. Gentleman endeavour to bring the new arrangements into force as early as possible?

Is the hon. Gentleman considering the general question of the distribution of food in this country as well as in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland (Conscription)

62.

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he can now inform the House of the nature of the representations made by Mr. de Valera with regard to the introduction of conscription in Northern Ireland; what were the grounds put forward by Mr. de Valera in support; and whether he is aware that the failure to introduce conscription in Northern Ireland as requested by the Ulster Government is largely responsible for the unemployment now existing in Ulster?

As regards the first two parts of the Question, the substance of the representations made on behalf of the Eire Government on this subject in 1941 is contained in a lengthy statement made by Mr. de Valera in the Dail on 26th May, 1941. I am placing the full text of this statement in the Library of the House. As regards the last part of the Question, I am not aware of the grounds for this suggestion, but the matter is, of course, one for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

In view of the great services rendered by Ulster to Great Britain and the Allies, as stated by the Prime Minister in his recent letter to Mr. Andrews, why is the request of the Ulster Government turned down to meet the demands of Mr. de Valera, whose action in refusing the British and American Navies access to Southern Irish ports has cost hundreds of British and American lives?

Is it not a fact that the twice repeated unanimous recommendation of the Government of Northern Ireland is entitled to more weight than the representations of a neutral country?

Is there anything to prevent people in Northern Ireland enlisting, and is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is no unemployment in Eire and there are a great number of Irish people in the Forces in this country?