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Commons Chamber

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 20 May 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 20th May, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

New Writs

For the Borough of Birmingham (Aston Division), in the room of Colonel Edward Orlando Kellett, killed in action.

For the County of Nottingham (Newark Division), in the room of William Arthur Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, commonly called the Marquess of Titchfield, called to the House of Peers.— [Mr. James Stuart.]

Private Business

Bridgwater Gas Bill {By Order)

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Oral Answers To Questions

Factory Accidents


asked the Minister of Labour the number of fatal and nonfatal accidents, respectively, in factories for 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1942; and the percentage of accidents to the total employed for each year?

Accidents reported under the Factories Act were for 1939, 1,104 fatal and 192,371 non-fatal; for 1940, 1,372 fatal and 230,607 non-fatal; for 1941, 1,646 fatal and 269,652 non-fatal and for 1942, 1,363 fatal and 313,267 non-fatal. Numbers employed are constantly changing, and I can only say that the percentage of such accidents to the total employed was roughly 3.4 in 1940 and 3.8 in 1941.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that he has a sufficient number of inspectors who are able to do the work for which they were appointed rather than to look atter A.R.P. and kindred problems in factories?

I do not think there are sufficient factory inspectors, but the difficulty is one of man-power at the moment. I have, however, done a good deal in relation to safety through personnel managers in our factories who have supplemented factory inspectors to a considerable extent.

National War Effort

Control Of Employment (Directed Persons) Order


asked the Minister of Labour whether, having regard to the wide powers affecting the lives of large numbers of persons taken by the Control of Employment (Directed Persons) Order, 1943, No. 651, he will withdraw this Order and substitute a new Defence Regulation which can be debated?

No, Sir. This Order does not take any additional powers to direct persons into employment. What it does is to provide safeguards as to conditions of employment for persons directed into employment under the existing powers provided by Defence Regulation 58A.

Does not the Minister think that generally speaking, in the interests of democratic practice, it is advisable that this kind of change should be made by a new Defence Regulation which can be debated in the House and not by a subsidiary Order over which Parliament has no control?

No, Sir. Defence Regulation 58A has given me power to direct all persons, and I see no reason for amending that power at the present moment. I think it is suitable procedure to safeguard people by means of Orders to protect them.

Will my right Friend be careful when he is moving men and women about the country?

Further, will the right hon. Gentleman hear in mind that the small round-the-corner shopkeeper has got to be protected further than has been done?

Food Distribution Firms {Workers)


asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the warning by the President of the National Union of Distributive Workers at their recent annual conference of the danger to the distribution of foodstuffs consequent upon denuding shops of skilled employees, whether he intends to take action in the matter?

I am satisfied that the arrangements recently made in agreement with my noble Friend the Minister of Food for the withdrawal of a limited number of workers from firms engaged in food distribution will not endanger the efficient distribution of essential foodstuffs.

Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to watch the statistics of sickness among shopworkers, consequent upon the heavy strain upon them these days and will he also inquire into the problem of housewives who are having grave difficulty in shopping because there are not sufficient skilled staffs left in the shops to serve them?

I have these things constantly under review, but I have to meet war circumstances.

Would my right hon. Friend consider the advisability of setting up a training school so that substitutes who are to take the places of trained assistants can obtain some little knowledge of the food trade beforehand?

Disabled Persons (Rehabilitation)


asked the Minister of Labour whether it is intended to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Disabled Persons; and whether a joint committee, representative of the Departments concerned, has been set up to supervise the preparation of such legislation?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for the Moss Side Division of Manchester (Mr. Rostron Duckworth) on 23rd March, of which I am sending him a copy.

Can the Minister give me an answer now to the second part of my Question?

My Department has been preparing preliminary details which will be discussed with other Departments.

Will the Department do what the Committee had no power to do—consult the voluntary agencies concerned in this work?


asked the Minister of Labour whether he has yet ascertained the views of the British Employers' Confederation, the Trades Union Congress General Council and the King's Roll National Council upon the proposals of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Disabled Persons; and whether he has any statement to make thereupon?

The Report of this Committee is under discussion with the British Employers' Confederation and the Trades Union Congress General Council. It has already been discussed with the King's Roll National Council, whose views on it are under consideration.

Transferred Women


asked the Minister of Labour how many girls have been directed from Scotland to England and from England to Scotland in connection with the war effort?

The number of women transferred from Scotland to employment in England after registration under the Registration for Employment Order and the National Service Acts was 3,385 up to 17th March, 1943, from i6th May, 1942, on which date my Department started to maintain records in this connection. In the same period 57 women were transferred from England to Scotland.

In view of the strong feeling among mothers, does not the Minister think that some exchange could be made, even though a comparatively small number of Englishwomen have been sent to Scotland, so that our Scottish mothers can be relieved in their minds?

The people we sent to Scotland went with certain firms. They were specially skilled and specially trained. Otherwise, we have sent no people from England to Scotland, although we get a constant influx of Scotsmen into England.

Sanitary Services, Eton Rural District


asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the closing down of arrangements for the disposal of sewage by the Eton Rural District Council in the parishes of Burnham, Datchet, Iver, Horton and Wraysbury, owing to the lack of man-power, and whether he will release sufficient personnel to prevent a serious epidemic?

My Department has already met some of the labour requirements of the Eton Rural District Council for the maintenance of its sanitary services, and further efforts are being made to meet those outstanding.

Could the Minister send down an inspector to inquire into the situation locally?

War-Time Prosecutions


asked the Minister of Labour what is the total number, to the best available date, of workpeople prosecuted by his Department for offences that did not appear on the Statute Book before the outbreak of war; the number sent to prison, male and female, respectively; and whether the number of these prosecutions has increased recently?

I am obtaining such information as is available and will communicate with my hon. Friend.

Does my right hon. Friend consider from time to time whether prosecutions of this kind actually further the war effort? Does he consider that sometimes we may poison the whole community by prosecutions of this kind?

Every prosecution is carefully studied. It is not to help me in my war effort, but the country's war effort.

Parsonages (Domestic Help)


asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to the special difficulties involved in the calling up of the only resident domestic helper in the case of large parsonages which the incumbent cannot get rid of, particularly where the wife of the clergyman is actively engaged in social ' and National Service; and whether he will make arrangements to permit of domestic help continuing to be possible in such cases?

Yes, Sir, the general arrangements made for the withdrawal of domestic workers permit of special consideration being given to cases of exceptional hardship arising in this way.

Flag Days (Man-Power)


asked the Minister of Labour whether any record has been kept of the number of people engaged in making, distributing and selling flags and similar tokens in aid of charitable causes, and the time spent by them in so doing?

Will not my right hon. Friend take steps to discourage this tiresome work by well-meaning ladies who might be engaged in some more useful occupation?

I addressed the Question to the Prime Minister, because I did not know under whose name it came. It was transferred to the Ministry of Labour.

I was asked for certain statistics which I have not got. I am not responsible for flag days.

Surely my right hon. Friend is responsible for the employment of these women whom we have seen wellmcaningly wasting their time.

Should we encourage those people who are too mean to put something in the box?

Is it not true that a large number of married women and come of their daughters do this flag selling?

Small Traders (Women)


the President of the Board of Trade whether he will confer with the Minister of Labour regarding the recent pronouncements in connection with the calling up of one-woman shopkeepers and the wives of small one-man family businesses where the husband has been called up, in view of the possibility of these women being directed to full-time or substantial part-time employment, which would necessitate the closing down of the businesses?

My right hon. Friend has done so, and has been assured by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that any woman in the position described may apply for her case to be considered on grounds of exceptional business hardship.

Is not the Minister aware that the attitude of the Government in regard to the small, round-the corner shopkeeper shows a definite failure to understand the apprehension and the uncertainty which are caused? Is it not a fact that to reprieve him is not enough? What he wants is an assurance. Will my hon. and gallant Friend ask the Minister of Labour to give further attention to this matter, which is not only not satisfactory but is thoroughly unsatisfactory?

Is not the Minister aware that the policy of taking one person out of a small business in which only two persons are involved is causing ruin to those persons in many instances? Is it not a mockery to suggest that the remaining person ought to get alternative labour, when it is impossible to do so?

I am well aware of the hardship in these cases and it is for that reason that the Minister of Labour has agreed that hardship shall be a consideration taken by these appeal tribunals.

Military Service

Farmers And Farm Workers


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now arrange for suitable young men who volunteer to serve with the Royal Navy to be accepted, notwithstanding the fact that they may be employed as farm workers or farmers?

On the application of the appropriate Service Department, the restriction on the voluntary enlistment of a farmer or farm worker may be waived. as it may in the case of persons engaged in other industries, if it appears, after consultation with the Government Departments concerned, that this is in the national interest.

Exempted Men


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now consider a system whereby a gradual exchange may be made between a proportion of those serving in the Forces and those who are fit and hitherto, for one reason or another, have sought exemption, or have been exempted from service in the Armed Forces?

Large numbers of men are being continuously called up who had previously been regarded as reserved or whose calling up had been deferred, and simultaneously a limited number of men with special qualifications required in essential industry are being released from the Forces. In general, however, I understand that the Forces are not in a position to part with their trained men.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some such system would be extremely popular with the Army and would do a great deal of good to many of those who have hitherto been exempt? Would he consider such a system for the future?

The matter has been considered on many occasions, but training in the Army is of such a character and is so intense that the Forces would regard themselves as being seriously prejudiced if they parted with highly trained men.

Could not German prisoners of war taken in Tunisia be brought here to relieve agricultural labourers and farmers?

Demobilisation (Policing Of Europe)


asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the fact that there will be a heavy demand on manpower for the policing of Europe after the war, he has made plans to direct to the Armed Forces those now engaged in civilian work in order that the men now in the Services, particularly those serving abroad, may be given the opportunity to return to their civilian employment as soon as possible after fighting ceases?

Until the circumstances likely to obtain at the end of the war can be more clearly envisaged, it is scarcely possible to anticipate the provisions necessary for meeting the post-war requirements of man-power for the Armed Forces. The suggestion made by my hon. Friend is one of many which the Government will need to examine in due course in the light of all relevant considerations.

Peace Organisation (Document)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the pronouncement by a peace organisation, of which a copy has been sent to him, suggesting that there should be no second front before a further definition is made of peace aims; and whether he will consider taking action against those whose aim is the subversion of the war effort?

Whatever view may be taken as to the wisdom or unwisdom of this document, my hon. Friend's description of it does not appear to be accurate. I have read it, and I do not think it is either likely or intended to have any harmful effect on the war effort, and I can find no ground for action on my part.

Is it not very unfortunate that this sort of statement should be made just now?

I am not concerned to defend the document at all, but I am rather doubtful whether the hon. Gentleman has read it himself. I think it hardly bears out the description he has given.

Civil Defence

Fire Guard Duties


asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider instituting district or area pools of male civilians from whom all necessary fire-watchers will be drawn, before housewives or women war workers in such districts are compelled to perform these duties?

The primary Tire guard obligation of men is to protect the premises at which they work. Subject to this primary obligation, men who live in a prescribed area, and are not exempt, may be formed by the local authority into a pool of fire guards to be posted wherever there is a shortage of fire guards in the area. Women are at present liable to share with men the fire guard duties at premises where they work, if compulsory arrangements are in force there, but under the revised Orders they will only he so liable if the available men who work at the same premises are insufficient to provide an effective fire guard. Women who do not perform fire guard duties where they are employed will only be liable to do fire guard duties as members of street fire parties.

While that answer is very satisfactory as far as it goes, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in some great industrial undertakings there is a very large number of men and very few women employed, and the men have a reasonably long period between their fire watching duties, whereas in other undertakings there are many women and few men and the women are forced to do fire watching while there are surplus men available in a nearby undertaking?

I think we have met the point as much as we can, and we have given the women equal compensation. My difficulty is that the premises must be protected, and I wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman would help me to get them protected rather than seek to diminish the labour force which is essential to the work. If and when fire watching becomes unnecessary, no one will be happier than I to be rid of that trouble.

The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I was not asking that we should not be protected, but that men should be more fully -employed wfiere they are available and surplus to present requirements, rather than women.

I think in the revised Orders the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find that we have met that principle as far as ever we can.

Motor Vehicles And Vessels In Inland Waters (Immobilisation)


asked the Home Secretary whether he is now in a position to make any further statement on the subject of the immobilisation of unattended motor vehicles and of vessels in inland waters?

Yes, Sir. The Government have given careful consideration to this matter and have decided that some relaxation of the existing orders would be justified at the present time. Amending Orders have accordingly been made by which the requirement of the immobilisation of unattended motor vehicles and of vessels in inland waters will cease to have effect, except in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and those parts of Essex and Kent which are outside the Metropolitan Police district. I must, however, make it clear that this requirement may again be imposed over the whole country at any time if the Government think that course necessary.

Does my right hon. Friend mean that cars need no longer be locked when unattended?

In the interests of public safety will my right hon. Friend consider a relaxation of lighting restrictions when the winter comes?

Northern Ireland (Exit Permits From Great Britain)


asked the Home Secretary whether he will, on compassionate grounds, make a regulation whereby any person from Northern Ireland in Great Britain presenting a medical certificate stating that it is essential for recuperation after illness to spend some time at home in Northern Ireland will be granted a travel permit for the journey?

No, Sir. I could not treat convalescence as a ground for the grant of an exit permit to Ireland without admitting so many cases as to defeat the object of the restrictions. I am always prepared to consider cases of exceptional hardship on their merits.

I should like the right hon. Gentleman to make that known to passport officials.

Personnel (Employment Of Casual Labour)


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Civil Defence units quartered in the country employ casual labour, which otherwise would be available for the agricultural industry, as domestic servants; and whether he will put a stop to this additional handicap on home food production?

Much of the routine domestic work at headquarters of units of the Civil Defence Reserve is performed by members of the units themselves so far as essential training and operational requirements permit, but a small additional complement of other domestic staff, including cooks and kitchen staff, is essential for the efficient and economical running of units. I am not aware that staff is being engaged for this purpose to the detriment of agriculture.

Allied Governments (Newspaper Attacks)


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the mischievous campaign of propaganda in regard to one of our Allies, and inimical to the resumption of friendly relations between Poland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, recently commenced by the "Daily Worker"; and whether any warning has been issued to that paper?


asked the Home Secretary whether, in order to safeguard the unity of the United Nations, he will take the necessary steps of warning or suspension to prevent the heads of allied Powers invited to these shores suffering such open insults as are exemplified in the abuse of the President and Government of Poland in the "Daily Worker" of 4th May and in Mr. H. G. Wells' article ridiculing General de Gaulle in the May number of "World Review"?

I share my hon. Friends' anxiety that the relations between the United Nations should not be prejudiced by irresponsible attacks on Allied Administrations. The war-time powers conferred on me for suppressing publications are, as they know, closely limited: but a careful watch will be kept, and I trust that these Questions will serve to direct the attention of the persons responsible for this mischievous propaganda to the dis-service they do to the cause for which we are all fighting.

Is it not peculiar that the Minister is very careful in his language when dealing with Fascist propaganda and very vicious with his language when it is a question of the "Daily Worker"?

Is it not possible that the Allied Governments, and this country, are already aware of the democratic principle that there should be as little interference as possible with the freedom of the Press except in cases where it is likely to interfere with the war effort or to give information to the enemy?

The hon. Lady's observation is perfectly relevant, and I am sure it is understood by all the Allied Governments.

Do my right hon. Friend's powers extend to papers published by refugee organisations and Governments in this country, some of which are themselves engaged in making unjustified attacks on Allied Governments?

As I understand it, my powers extend to any publications which come within the Defence Regulations, whether they are published under the auspices my hon. Friend mentions or not. I think the House should realise that propaganda is going on both ways.

As we are free to criticise our own Administration if it appears to be doing something which in our view is contrary to the war effort or to the best interests of the United Nations, surely we are free to criticise the Administrations of other countries?

It is quite true that the British public take the view that they have a right to criticise their own Government, and those engaged in it, in forceful terms from time to time. Therefore I have taken the view that I cannot lay down the doctrine that refugee Govern- ments, or the Governments of other countries, are exempt from criticism, whoever they may be.


asked the Minister of Information whether he is now in a position to make a statement about the ban on the export of the "Daily Worker"?


asked the Minister of Information whether, in view of the harm that is being done to the Allied war effort by the publication in Allied newspapers published in foreign langauges in this country of views hostile to and inconsistent with the policy of the United Nations, he will consider the possibility of withdrawing their licences from the journals concerned?

I have received representations from hon. Members of this House that the "Daily Worker" and also some other papers which are printed in England in foreign languages are stirring up trouble among the United Nations. The Ministry of Information is conducting an inquiry into the activities of these foreign language newspapers which are alleged to occupy themselves in attacking the Soviet Government. If this allegation is well founded, we shall be in duty bound to prevent the hospitality of Great Britain being abused by journalists who seem to be more interested in feuds than in news. Meanwhile the Chief Press Censor has been instructed to regard their activities as falling within the Regulation which prohibits the cabling abroad of extracts from newspapers which are likely to cause disunity between the United Nations. This Regulation must also be applied to quotations from the "Daily Worker" which has given up a good deal of its space to vilifying the Polish Government. My hon. Friend will realise that in these circumstances I am unable at present to lift the ban on the export of this newspaper.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that some of these journals are clandestinely produced and are not always printed? Will he see that those are dealt with also?

Yes, Sir. It is a very great problem, because these newspapers are printed in small printing factories throughout the country by a nationality for which I have a great admiration but of whom I may say this: Every time you find a Pole, you will find a newspaper.

Is not the answer just given by the right hon. Gentleman in contradiction to the answer given by the Home Secretary earlier to-day, in which he specifically said that he was not opposed to any criticism, by elements in this country, either of their own Government or of any other Government? If we are entitled to express our dissatisfaction, as we occasionally do, of His Majesty's Government, are we not entitled to express dissatisfaction with other Governments?

I am quite in favour of the British papers criticising the Government, because I think that criticism is the absolute basis of democracy, but I might point out that the contents of these small, obscure papers are wired abroad and do infinite harm. This is not a question of the freedom of the Press at all, it is a question of the grossest possible licence, and I do not intend to tolerate these people rushing around the country, publishing in foreign languages the most violent abuse of the Soviet Government, or the Polish Government, or indeed of any Government connected with the United Nations.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not examine the answer to which I referred? I do not object to a good deal of what he has said. To satisfy hon. Members, will not the right hon. Gentleman examine the answer given by the Home Secretary?

Yes, Sir, I read the Home Secretary's answer before I gave mine. They deal with quite different points. The Home Secretary was dealing with the question of suppression, but I am dealing with the editing of stuff that goes out of this country and that is likely to cause disunity among the United Nations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the material which appeared in the "Daily Worker" was justified by the very vicious and foul slanders which appeared in certain Polish journals in this country?

No, Sir. No justification could possibly be made for the scandalous language used by the "Daily Worker" about the leaders of Poland. The "Daily Worker" called into question the patriotism of the leaders of Poland; well, the "Daily Worker" is no authority on patriotism.


Public Elementary Schools (Classes)


asked the President of the Board of Education how many classes in public elementary schools there were, at the latest convenient date, with more than 5o on the roll and with between 40 and 5o on the roll, distinguishing between infant and junior departments on the one hand and senior schools and departments on the other?

For the reason given in reply to a Question on the same subject by the hon. Member on 5th March, 1942, I am unable to give particulars of the size of classes during the war period.

Cannot my right hon. Friend give some approximate information as to the number of these excessively large classes?

I cannot do it by way of statistics at present, because I have not got them, but I can say that there are a number of these classes and that we are doing our best to reduce them.

Women Teachers (Training)


asked the President of the Board of Education whether, in, view of the urgent need for more teachers on the conclusion of the war, any further measures are being taken to increase the supply of students in the training colleges and departments of education, having in mind that the entry of women students in 1943 is expected to be far short of the authorised number?

I assume that the hon. Member's Question refers particularly to women students. The Board's returns are not yet complete, but there is evidence to show that the number of women students in training colleges and training departments in 1943 will be substantially larger than it was in 1942. I keep the question of the supply of teachers under constant review, and only last February issued a statement, a copy of which I am sending my hon. Friend, designed to encourage recruits to the teaching profession.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that in spite of a certain increase, the number of entrants will still fall far short of that required, in view of the need for more teachers in future?

We could do with more teachers, and that is why we are doing all in our power to encourage entrants.

Has my right hon. Friend's Department taken any further action with a view to releasing some of the teachers in the Services of low medical category who can be of no possible use in many cases in the Services and so relieve the grievous shortage of teachers?

I am naturally in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, but I can give no general undertaking of that kind.

Are women students who are undergoing training being called up for the Forces?

Evacuated Schoolchildren


asked the President Of the Board of Education the present approximate number of evacuated schoolchildren; to what extent there has been a recent increase in child evacuation in the London area; and approximately what proportion of children are now not receiving full-time education?

According to the latest returns received from local education authorities, the approximate number of evacuated schoolchildren in the reception areas in December, 1942, was 222,000. There has been no material change during recent weeks in child evacuation from the -London area. The proportion of children who were receiving less than full-time education at the date of the last returns in December last was approximately one-half of 1 per cent.

Even though that is a gratifying and small percentage, what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to see that even the few that exist have full-time education?

We have reduced this problem to an absolute minimum under war conditions, and I shall squeeze the matter further, but it would be difficult to find any better result than we have achieved in any country in the world.

Education Bill


asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is now able to announce when he will introduce his new Education Bill; whether this will include proposals for a comprehensive, expanded school medical service; whether it will also include arrangements respecting religious instruction agreed by the principal ecclesiastical bodies; and if any agreed national syllabus of ethical or religious principles will be recommended?

As I have informed the hon. Member on a number of previous occasions, I will make an announcement on the Government's education proposals as a whole as soon as I am in a position to do so. In the meantime I have nothing to add to that statement.

As it is some time since we were told that a Bill would be introduced, will my right hon. Friend at least give some interim indications of the points to be covered in the Bill?

No, Sir, I will certainly not do that. I think it is much better to present the plans as a whole when they have received the approval and support of the Government.

Is it not the case that as soon as the hon. Member has been educated he will not need to ask so many questions?

Is not the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) taking the other Member for his looking-glass?


Agricultural Workers


asked the Minister of Health whether internal fittings required in the proposed scheme for the construction of 3,000 cottages for agricultural workers are to be supplied by open tender by builders' merchants, or direct from bulk supply?


asked the Minister of Health whether local builders' merchants are to be invited to tender for the supply of internal fittings for the 3,000 cottages which are to be built for agricultural workers?

Internal fittings will not be provided from bulk supply. Local authorities will make their own arrangements for purchasing the requisite supplies, and they can invite competitive tenders; but they are being asked to pay regard to the need for economising in transport when placing orders.

May I express my gratification at the Minister's answer and ask whether he will be good enough to look into a special case which a local council has turned down?


asked the Minister of Health on how many of the authorised 3,000 rural cottages has construction been commenced; whether he is satisfied with the progress being made; and, if not, what is the principal cause of delay?

No building has yet commenced, but the necessary preliminary arrangements have been largely completed. By May 14th, 1,065 sites to take nearly 2,700 houses had been selected and approved, detailed plans for some 1,30o of these houses had been approved and tenders for substantial numbers of houses are expected shortly. Bearing in mind the large number of separate sites throughout the country and the wartime difficulties of staffing I think that the rural district councils have carried out the preliminary work which is their responsibility with speed and energy.

In view of the fact that the House was given to understand that in not one instance anywhere has construction yet commenced, will the right hon. Gentleman take some steps to urge this matter as one of great urgency?

We are doing all we can, but when builders are invited to tender we must wait until the tenders come in.

The answer to that has been given before. The House has been told that this is the largest number that can be authorised in the light of the present stringency in labour and materials.

42 and 43.

asked the Minister of Health (I) whether he will arrange for each of the authorities who now separately examine the plans of wartime agricultural cottages, to delegate the task of examination and approval to one of their number to be selected by him; and if this is not possible can he state the reason preventing this procedure;

(2) how many authorities are now separately examining and approving each set of plans and proposals for each group of war-time agricultural cottages; and what is the approximate length of time it takes for the average set of plans to circulate to all these authorities and be returned to the persons responsible for them fully approved and available for immediate use?

As a rule, the rural district councils building these cottages submit the plans only to my Senior Regional Architect, who has been authorised to approve them, after consultation with the Regional Planning Officer of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. The delegation suggested has therefore already been made, and the remaining parts of the Questions do not arise.

Could my right hon. Friend, who has told the House 'on another occasion that there are something like half a dozen authorities who have to approve some of these plans, say whether there are any cases in which one person alone is allowed to approve them?

We have worked it out in this way and, I would describe it, in this simpler form. In the other case I was asked a question, and Ministers have to do their best to answer the questions which are put to them.

Could my right hon. Friend say that there are no plans for cottages now that require more than three authorities to approve them?

No, I would not say that, because I do know of rare and exceptional instances where a rural district council does not happen to be the planning authority and a particular case might arise there.



asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that under the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act, 1939, the standard rent of flats which were empty at 1st September, 1939, may often be fixed by reference to the highest rents charged at peak periods following the last war when demand exceeded supply; and whether he will amend the Act to equalise the rents of such flats, and of similar flats, which were tenanted at that date, and so to protect tenants of all similar flats irrespective of the dates of their leases?

I am aware that anomalies sometimes arise under the existing law in regard to the standard rents of similar dwellings, and, as I have previously stated, the point has been noted for consideration when amending legislation is undertaken. I am not quite clear, however, what type of case my hon. Friend has in mind and perhaps she would be good enough to send me details.


asked the Minister of Health whether he will give an assurance that all classes of property protected under the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act, 1939, will still receive legislative protection after the expiration of that Act, in order to prevent exorbitant increases of rent while a shortage of fiats and houses still exists?

I am not at present in a position to indicate the nature of any legislation which may be proposed to replace the Act to which my hon. Friend refers, which does not expire until six months after the termination of the present emergency. I recognise the close association between this problem and the supply of housing accommodation.


asked the Minister of Health whether he will print a White Paper explaining and giving full particulars about rent, in view of the complication of the subject as disclosed in the broadcast by Mr. Douglas Houghton, on Saturday night, 15th May, at 6.30 o' clock?

I am already considering the best means by which these most informative talks can be printed and will let my hon. Friend know the result as soon as a decision has been taken.

War-Damaged Areas


asked the Minister of Health when he will be in a position to assure the House that all local authorities, without exception, who are responsible for the rebuilding of enemy-damaged areas have their plans and lay-outs and financial arrangements ready to allow work of clearance and preparation of foundations to be started at short notice?

I am not at present in a position to add to the information furnished to my hon. and gallant Friend by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works on 5th May. I may say, however, so far as rehousing is concerned, that the preparations for the first year's programme by local authorities, in accordance with my circular of 4th March last, of which I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy, are making progress. It is realised that difficulties arise in some districts where the use of war-damaged areas for housing purposes is necessary and these cases will be discussed with my right' hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning.

In view of the urgency of the matter, will the right hon. Gentleman be able to give me further information if I put a Question down in a short time?

Can my right hon. Friend explain how he is able to prevent these new lay-outs, which he has called for, for the first year's post-war housing problem being situated within green belts which later may be required to girdle these built-up areas?

These are the very issues we are discussing with the Ministry of Planning. There are sites in many areas which would conform with any plan, however drawn.

House Property (Speculation)


asked the Minister of Health whether, in order to check speculation in house property, he will take steps to permit, for the duration of war, the sale of houses only to persons who require them for their own occupation?

I am having the whole question further examined, and I will certainly take into account the suggestion made by my hon. Friend.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he hopes to make a statement on the matter, in view of its urgency?

Will my right hon. Friend, in doing that, also bear in mind that some people cannot buy houses and that others, who do, may make available for letting some which had not been formerly to let at all?

Public Health

Alien Doctors


asked the Minister of Health whether he can make any statement as to the policy of the Government for the future of alien doctors allowed to practise under restrictions in this country for the duration and anxious, if possible, to continue to serve here or in the Colonies?

No, Sir. As my hon. Friend is aware, the present arrangements under which certain medical practitioners are temporarily registered under the Medical Acts by virtue of foreign qualifications will cease with the lapsing of the Emergency Powers under which they are made.

Will doctors who have served us during the war be given any kind of consideration for permanent residence in this country or the Colonies when peace is restored?

We should have to consider that. I have answered as to the facts and stated how they now operate their medical skill under the Emergency Powers.

Would it not be better for those doctors who belong to foreign countries to go back and help their own countries in their time of need?

Disabled Persons (Benefits)


asked the Minister of Health whether, when the Government are considering the question of sickness and invalidity benefits in connection with the proposals in Sir William Beveridge's Report, sympathetic consideration will be given to the claims of cripples and disabled persons who are ineligible for health insurance benefits and have not reached the age for the old age pension, for adequate provision to meet their needs?

Yes, Sir. I recognise that the position of the classes of persons to which my hon. Friend refers will need special consideration.

Will my right hon. Friend have a census taken of the disabled persons in the category mentioned in the Question?

I would like to look at the information available before I give any such undertaking.

Food And Drugs Act, 1938


asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the decision of the Divisional Court in the case of Collins Arden Products, Limited, versus Barking Corporation, given on 2nd April, 1943; and whether he proposes to amend, at the first opportunity, the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, to cover such cases?

I am aware of the case referred to. I do not propose to make Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act to deal with this matter, but my right hon. and Noble Friend the Minister of Food, in conjunction with my Department, is considering the establishment of suitable standards having regard to present-day conditions.

Local Authorities' Medical Officers (Hospital And General Practice)


asked the Minister of Health whether he approves of arrangements whereby in the present call upon medical practitioners, medical officers, both men and women, holding appointments under local authorities, voluntarily agree to assist in the work at hospitals and general practices in cases of special urgency; and whether he will consider taking steps to encourage this type of arrangement in present circumstances?

I am glad to learn of any co-operative arrangements between medical practitioners which will help to relieve the pressure on the profession at the present time, but owing to the great variation in local conditions I do not think that I could usefully commend any particular scheme for this purpose.

While realising the difference in local conditions, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman would let local authorities know that where practicable this kind of co-operative effort meets with his approval?

I think that they know that, and this Question will serve to spread the light further.

Day Nurseries, Liverpool


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the medical officer of health of Liverpool has received from employers, labour officers and factory welfare officers applications for the establishment of more day nurseries with the provision of which the local authority is prepared to proceed providing such schemes are given his sanction; how many schemes have been submitted to him by the city council for approval; how many have been approved by him to date; will he state the reasons for his non-approval in other cases; and whether his approval can be expedited in such cases so as to meet the local demand?

I am not aware of any applications for day nurseries in Liverpool having been put up for approval but not considered, Thirty schemes have been submitted by the City Council to date, and 29 of these have been approved. Any fresh applications which may be made will be considered without delay.

Venereal Diseases


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that only one man and 27 women have been treated under Regulation 33B, he will now consider the introduction of compulsory notification in order effectively to reduce the incidence of venereal disease?

No, Sir. The numbers mentioned by my hon. Friend relate to persons so far reported from more than one quarter as alleged sources of infection, and the figures are not in themselves a true criterion of the efficacy of the Regulation, which it is already evident is indirectly doing much to help in getting infected persons to undertake voluntary treatment.

In view of the fact that this disease is a great menace to public health, will the right hon. Gentleman say how serious must the incidence of venereal disease become before he will introduce effective measures?

I have promised the House that if, in the light of the working of Regulation 33B, I find it necessary to ask for further powers, I shall not delay taking action, but we ought to have time to see how it is working, because I am sure the House does not want compulsion for compulsion's sake.

Is not the issue of this Regulation merely trifling with what is really a terrible problem?

I would not agree. Those who are administering the Regulation locally in certain difficult places do not take that view.

Private Members' Time


asked the Prime Minister whether he can give an assurance that at the earliest possible moment after the cessation of hostilities the Government will take steps to restore to Members of Parliament the right to introduce Bills and other rights which have been suspended and dispensed with during the period of hostilities?

Yes, Sir. It is the Government's desire to restore Private Members' time as soon as practicable after the war.

Is it not a fact that the House has accepted gladly the restriction while the war continues, but Members want to regain their rights immediately after the cessation of hostilities, and will my right hon. Friend pay special attention to reducing the number of Orders in Council, which the House, in the main, does not care very much about?

My right hon. Friend says "as soon as practicable after the war," but surely it is the intention of the Government to restore Private Members' rights at once?

Would it not be the right of the House and not the Government to decide that?

That is quite right, but I am sure my hon. Friend would not wish the Government to do something that was not practicable.

North African Campaign


asked the Prime Minister how many of the casualties suffered by the United Nations in the North African campaign are prisoners of war?

About 70,000 of the casualties suffered in North Africa by the Forces of the United Kingdom, the Dominions, the Colonies and India are now prisoners of war. I regret that I have no figures of the prisoners from the Forces of the other United Nations.

Day Of National Prayer


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the setting apart of a day, preferably a week-day, of national prayer to give thanks for our recent victories?

I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the observances held throughout the country last Sunday and to the formal act of public thanksgiving in St. Paul's Cathedral yesterday.

Amended Orders


asked the Lord President of the Council whether he has observed the difference in methods of amending Orders in the recent cases, namely, 1943, NQ. 653 and 1943, No. 616; that in the former case the Minister of Food has adopted the method of amendment by reference and in the latter case the Minister of Supply has adopted the method of restating the Order in amended form; and whether the latter will be regularly followed?

I have been asked to reply. Order No. 653 of 1943 alters a permitted charge from 3s. to Is. To revoke and re-enact an Order extending over 36 pages to make this amendment would appear to be a course open to criticism, but where the nature of an amend- ment is such that a revocation and reenactment are necessary for a proper understanding of the amendment this course is followed and, I can assure my hon. Friend, will continue to be the regular practice of my Department.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary draw the attention of the Lord President of the Council to the desirability of reducing as much as possible in delegated legislation the evils and inconveniences of legislation by reference?

Pensions Appeal Tribunals


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can now give the House any information about the proposed independent appeal tribunals for war pensions?

The necessary legislation is being prepared and will be introduced as soon as possible. Meanwhile the practical measures for the setting up of Tribunals are being prepared.

Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider the possibility of paying the cost of dental treatment for dependants of serving men on the same scale as payment for medical treatment?

Assistance in respect of dental treatment is already given under the scheme of emergency grants explained in Command Paper 6318 of 1941, in all cases where such treatment is necessary for the relief or cure of a serious and prolonged illness resulting in a financial emergency in the household. The scheme does not cover other types of illness and there are no grounds' for making an exception in respect of general dental needs.

Can the hon. Member explain how it is that his Department refers such cases to charitable organisations as apparently they require dental treatment and is he aware that the principal charitable organisation concerned has a waiting -list of 500 people, for whom the funds cannot be found to give the dental treatment?

I am not aware of that, but what I am aware,of is that if dental treatment is necessary to cure a patient or to assist in his cure, it is paid for. In other cases it is not, because those cases do not come under the regulations.

Then may we take it that his Ministry are not concerned with people who want dental treatment unless it is regarded as being the cause of serious trouble?


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will again bring before his Central Advisory Committee the question of extending wives' and children's allowances to cases where the most severely disabled ex-Service men marry after disability is incurred?

Will my right hon. Friend call the attention of the Committee to the fact that this important reform has already been made by all our Dominions, so that they may take that fact into account?

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that all those points are placed before the Committee.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the House will be informed of the decision come to on this and other points by the Central Advisory Committee?

My hon. Friend knows, because I have told him already, that I am considering every point which was raised in the Debate, and also various points sent in to me by organisations representing ex-Service men, one of which would mean a very important and fundamental change in policy, and I think the House will agree that the best method I can pursue is to go carefully through all these suggestions and then bring comprehensive proposals before the House.

Can we have the assurance of the Minister that in bringing this proposal before the Central Advisory Committee he will give it his support, and his enthusiastic support?

My hon. Friend can rest assured that I shall put everything in front of the Advisory Committee that is likely to be helpful to them.

Has the right hon. Gentleman abandoned the idea of asking a Select Committee to consider all these questions and made a report to the House?

I think it would be better first for the House to hear my proposals. Then the House can decide whether there is any necessity for setting up a Select Committee.

May I ask for a specific reply to my question? It was not whether the Minister would put the relevant facts before the Committee but whether he would personally recommend this policy?

With all due respect to my hon. Friend, I do not think that is a fair question to put.


asked the Minister of Pensions why the allowances to disabled ex-Servicemen undergoing in-patient treatment under Articles 34 and 35 of the Royal Warrant, 1943, are less favourable than those granted under the Ministry of Labour scheme for the training and resettlement scheme of disabled persons?

The broad distinction between these two classes is that the pensioner undergoing in-patient treatment is comparable with the workman who is off work on account of illness, whereas the trainee is a fit person undertaking a course of training for a new occupation and at the same time drawing his pension. It must be taken into account that training allowances are subject to reduction in the event of sickness.

Surely a disabled person needing medical treatment and not undergoing training is more in need of adequate allowances for his family during that period than is the comparatively fit man who is undergoing a course at the Ministry of Labour? Is there not any collaboration between the Pensions Department and the Ministry of Labour in regard to these problems?

I think I have sent to my hon. Friend a list of the allowances both for in-patients and out-patients. As to the question relating to the Ministry of Labour, I think that should go to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

That is not my point. Will the Minister submit this matter, with all the other complaints that _we have made, to his Central Advisory Committee, and make a statement on it?


Officers' Webbing Equipment


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that officers joining the Indian Army are obliged to pay about £3 15s. for their webbing equipment which would be issued to them free in the British Army at home; and whether he will give an undertaking that British officers will, in future, in India be given their initial issue of necessary military equipment free?

I have asked the Government of India to let me know by telegraph the reason for this difference in treatment, and will communicate with my hon. and gallant Friend when I receive their reply.

Is the Minister aware that these charges are being imposed upon British N.C.O's as well as upon officers?

4Th Indian Division


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he will try to arrange for a contingent of officers and Men of the 4th Indian Division to be brought to this country so that a fitting tribute may be paid by the British people to them and to the Indian Army?

I am in full sympathy with the proposal made by the hon. and gallant Member and will certainly consider the matter in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. It must, however, be realised that the question of bringing a contingent from an overseas theatre of operations to this country is dependent upon operational necessities.

Would it be possible to send a few of these men to America in order to show that country that there are other people in India besides Congress supporters?

Political Prisoners And Detainees


asked the Secretary of State for India the approximate present number of prisoners for offences arising out of or in connection with political agitation; the total number of arrests or detentions during the past 12 months; the number discharged or released; the number of women arrested and now in detention; how many punishments by whipping have now been inflicted and how many of these were on youths under 18 years of age?

According to my latest information, which does not cover the North-West Frontier Province, the number of persons convicted of offences in connection with the Congress rebellion and undergoing imprisonment on 1st March was 23,071, and the number undergoing detention for an indefinite period was a little in excess of 8,000. The total numbers in either category for all Provinces from August until 15th March last were respectively 34,895 and 11,623. I have no reason to suppose there has been any substantial increase in the number of sentences of whippings which I gave in reply to the hon. Member's Question on 18th February. Separate statistics for the arrests of women and the whipping of youths under 18 are not available.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not inquire regarding the last matter? Can he say whether any steps are now being taken to stop this deplorable and medieval practice of whipping in India?

I do not accept the hon. Member's description Of this penalty, and I certainly could not get the information which he wants, involving different Provincial authorities, without a great deal of unnecessary trouble.

In view of the fact that the British Government are the one stabilising influence in India which enables many millions of our humble subjects to live in peace, does not the Minister think that the constant questions of the hon. Member are completely mischievous?

Has it been brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman that psychiatrists are of the opinion that whipping makes an individual anti-social?

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that a similar penalty in this country for a similar offence would be tolerated by any decent person in this House?

Income Tax (Wage Earners)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has considered the "pay-as-you-earn" Income Tax scheme operated by Mr. Francis J. Ferrie, of a Merseyside ship-repairing firm; whether he is aware that the scheme works smoothly to the satisfaction of the management and the workers; and whether he will press its general application in other establishments which at present deduct Income Tax during the low wage period of the year?

The scheme to which my hon. Friend refers is a domestic arrangement between the firm and its employees, and my right hon. Friend is not prepared to adopt the suggestion for its wider application. I may point out that the scheme in question is not founded on what is known as the "pay-as-you-earn" or current earnings basis, the possibility of introducing which is at present under consideration.

Poultry And Rabbits (Distribution)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fond whether the examination of the alternative proposals for the distribution of poultry and rabbits, referred to in the notice issued by the Ministry on 5th February last, has been completed; and, if so, with what result?