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Written Answers

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 20 May 1943

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Written Answers

National War Effort

Transferred Women Workers, Scotland (Billeting)

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the inadequate arrangements for the reception and billeting of women, aero-engine fitters, recently transferred to a town in Scotland, of which he has been informed, from their training centre; and whether he will take steps generally to improve the accommodation?

Arrangements were made in advance for the billeting and feeding of the women in question, they were met on arrival, a hot meal was ready for them, and they were taken to their billets, where I understand they were well received. Other accommodation was found for them within a few days, and I do not think the initial arrangements can fairly be described as inadequate in the circumstances.

Domestic Workers

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is yet in a position to make any further statement with regard to his plan for providing a service of mobile domestic workers to assist housewives?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) on 13th May, 1943.

Mineworkers (Prosecutions)

asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons employed in and around coalmines in the South Wales and Lancashire and Cheshire coalfields, respectively, who have been prosecuted by his Department for offences that did not appear on the Statute Book before the outbreak of war and the percentage of those prosecutions to the total number employed in that industry?

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

Prisoners (Task Work)

asked the Home Secretary what he considers responsible for the fact that disciplinary awards for idleness in His Majesty's prisons were 75 per cent. higher in 1942 than they were in 1938, whereas the corresponding increase in the prison population was approximately 19 per cent.; and whether he will make inquiries to ensure that no prisoners are punished for failing to perform unreasonable cell tasks such as that of 1,920 stitches on mailbags in an hour.

The standard of industry required of prisoners is liable to be affected by the amount of work available; and in the past when at times there has been difficulty in providing enough suitable work, it has not been practicable to enforce a high standard of industry. At present when prisoners are employed on many kinds of work which contribute to the war effort a better standard can be maintained. The tasks that are required are settled on a uniform basis and are within the competence of the average prisoner after instruction. There is no task prescribed requiring 1,920 stitches an hour on mail bags, and if my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any case in which such a task has been imposed I will have inquiries made.

"Polish Royalist Association"

asked the Home Secretary whether he has seen the map and circular issued by the Polish Royalist Association; and what steps he is taking to deal with this campaign of abuse against our Russian Allies, whilst demanding a negotiated peace with Hitler?

The so-called Polish Royalist Association is an imaginary projection from the brain of an individual who styles himself King of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Silesia and the Ukraine, Hospodar of Moldavia and High Priest of the Sun. He and his forebears appear to have had no association with Poland for several generations, and, needless to say, there is no connection between this eccentric and our Polish Allies. The map purports to show this person's dominions and the pamphlet to be a royal proclamation. The language of these documents is so extravagant, and their author's claims so preposterous, that his eccentricity must be obvious to the reader. While I do not think that nonsense of this kind should receive undue attention, I fully sympathise with my hon. Friend's view that a close watch should be kept on propaganda calculated to impair relations with our Soviet Ally.


State Bursaries (Age Of Applicants)

asked the President of the Board of Education for what reason it is not possible for boys trying for State bursaries to qualify until they reach the age of 17; and whether, in view of the fact that parents are in some cases discouraged from keeping their children at school until the age of 17, although they may have qualified for a State bursary for science at 16½ years or less, he will consider the modification of the present arrangements?

The minimum age at which a candidate can apply for a State bursary is 16 years 10 months. This means that when the bursary courses start, successful candidates are aged not less than 17 years 3 months. In view of the fact that the bursaries are tenable at universities or university colleges, I do not think that any lowering of the age is desirable.

Youth Registration

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he can yet give any further information about the results of the registration of boys and girls which took place last year?

Yes, Sir. The White Paper on Youth Registration in 1942 is now available for Members in the Vote Office.

Education Bill (Religious Instruction)

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is aware of the uneasiness in the teaching profession and parents generally concerning the proposals to be made for religious instruction in schools after the war; whether these proposals are to be incorporated in the forthcoming Education Bill or left to subsequent arrangement; and whether, before finally deciding on the method of post-war religious instruction, he will consult the various religious denominations as to the willingness of the clergymen themselves arranging for such instruction, if given the use of the schools for the purpose, to the children of parents who signify their wishes in that respect, such classes to be made up after ordinary lessens have finished?

The proposals which I have in mind for incorporation in any educational Measure that may be introduced, including those dealing with religious instruction, have been fully discussed with representatives of the interests concerned, including teachers, parents and denominational bodies, and I have no reason to think that, as suggested in the Question, they will cause uneasiness to teachers and parents generally.

Boarding And Hostel Facilities

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will define the attitude of his Department towards the establishment by education committees of residential schools in their respective areas?

I appreciate the advantages which boarding school education can offer. War-time restrictions necessarily limit the provision of new school accommodation, whether boarding or day, to the most urgent and immediate needs, but I hope to see, and intend to do all I can to encourage, a wider establishment of boarding and hostel facilities.

Public Health

Tuberculosis Patients, Canterbury (Accommodation)

asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made with the scheme for the organisation of relief units for the institutional treatment of tuberculosis as outlined to the representatives of the Canterbury city council, at an interview at the Ministry of Health on 24th March last; and whether he can now give any date when the present serious position in Canterbury will receive attention?

The interview to which my hon. Friend refers appears to have been a discussion between the medical officer of health of Canterbury and officers of my Department, at which it was suggested that certain beds at the municipal isolation hospital might be used to relieve the waiting list of tuberculosis cases. I am informed that this has now been done.

Milk Supplies (Medical Officers' Powers)

asked the Minister of Health whether medical officers of health have authority to reject milk on sale in their areas which. by appropriate tests, is shown to contain pathogenic organisms which might be productive of disease to consumers?

Medical officers of health of local authorities have powers for stopping a supply of milk where they have evidence that the milk has caused infectious disease or that the milk has been infected with the causative organisms of such a disease. It is also an offence to sell the milk of a cow which has given tuberculous milk or is suffering from certain scheduled animal diseases.


War Damage (First-Aid Repairs)

asked the Minister of Health what are the conditions under which supplies of labour and materials for the repair of damaged houses are made specially available by the Government; and, in particular, what pressure of accommodation in such areas is considered necessary to justify such supplies being made available?

First-aid repairs carried out by local authorities to war damaged houses are given the highest priority and the necessary labour and materials are provided as rapidly as possible. Under the scheme recently instituted by the Government for accelerating the repair by local authorities of seriously damaged houses in order to restore them to use, a special priority is given and labour and materials are being made available. Other repair work is dependent upon the immobile labour in the district after high priority requirements have been met and the arrangements provide for the supply of labour and materials and for the issue of licences for controlled materials such as timber as may be required. For the position of private owners wishing to do their own repairs, I would refer to the reply given on 12th May to my hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Mr. Rostron Duckworth) by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works.

Agricultural Workers' Cottages (Roof Timbers)

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that most architects and surveyors in country districts consider that the lightness of the timber scantlings, as ordered in his plans for agricultural cottages, is not sufficient to enable the rafters to carry plain tiles and will lead to roof troubles in a few years; and whether he will increase the measurements, of the three inches by one and a half-inch rafters spaced at 16-inch centres, to avoid this danger?

My hon. and gallant Friend no doubt has in mind the notes, prepared in consultation with the Ministry of Works, which have been issued to my regional architects as a guide to the sizes of roof timbers which would in normal circumstances secure the maximum economy in timber in the construction of the cottages. These notes are not intended as instructions to the rural district councils concerned. It rests with the responsible designer employed by a council to specify an appropriate roof structure having regard to the type of covering to be used and the exposure of the site. A proposal to use a design involving an amount of timber exceeding that indicated in the notes will be given full consideration.

National Finance

External Borrowings

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amount of each of the following net sums raised in the form of other debt since the war began represented external borrowings: 3rd September, 1939, to 31st March, 1940, £1,370,000; financial years to 31st March, 1941, 1942 and 1943, £34,699,000, £119,580,000 and £216,233,000, respectively?

Of the net sums referred to, the following amounts represented external borrowings:

3rd September, 1939, to 31st March, 1940—Nil.

Year ended 31st March, £1,536,000.

Year ended 31st March, 1942—£8,079,000.

Year ended 31st March, £152,774,000.

Musical Education (Assistance From Public Funds)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the effect of the war on the finances of certain institutions on which the supply of professional musicians depends; and whether he is prpared to take any action in the matter?

Yes, Sir. I have been in consultation with my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Education on this matter, and we have appointed a Committee with the following terms of reference:"To inquire

  • (1) whether, in order to maintain the standard of professional musicianship, it is necessary that increased assistance from public funds should be given to institutions (other than Universities) in England and Wales providing advanced musical training and education; and
  • (2) if so, to what institutions, on what scale, in what manner and subject to what conditions such assistance should be given; and to make recommendations."
  • My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland informs me that the only institution of this kind in Scotland is already in receipt of grant from the Scottish Education Department. The constitution of the Committee is as follows:

    Sir Walter Moberly, D.S.O. (Chairman).

    Mr. H. Claughton, C.B.E.

    Dame Myra Hess, D.B.E.

    Mr. R. J. F. Howgill.

    Sir Frederick G. Kenyon, G.B.E., K.C.B.

    Dr. Malcolm Sargent.

    Dr. E. de Selincourt.

    Mr. W. C. Chesterman, O.B.E., Secretary of the University Grants Committee, will act as Secretary to the Committee.

    Fuel And Power

    Petrol Rationing (Infirm Persons)

    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in the case of people engaged in business who, through infirmity, are unable to make use of public conveyances to their places of business, he will give instructions that, on the presentation of a medical certificate to that effect, a moderate supply of petrol be granted them?

    Applications for petrol, in the circumstances mentioned by my hon. Friend, already receive sympathetic consideration. I will be glad to inquire into any case where this practice was not observed if my hon. Friend will give me particulars.

    Stutley Colliery (Miners' Transport)

    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that miners employed at Stutley colliery, near Worksop, who travel from Clown, Whit-well and Creswell by omnibus, are unable to use the pit-head baths and canteen they have for over 12 months used whilst at work at this colliery; and will he consider the effect such arrangements may have on the attendance of those miners at work?

    The discussions between my regional controller and the regional transport commissioner to which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport referred in his reply to my hon. Friend yesterday, have now taken place and steps are being taken immediately to alter the bus service in such a way as to meet the requirements of the workmen.

    Royal Navy


    asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has prepared plans to build a number of Creed or similar type seadromcs for use in the Atlantic as soon as labour and materials become available?

    No, Sir. The Admiralty have recently given further detailed consideration to the possibility of constructing and operating seadromes of the type advocated by Mr. Creed. It has been decided not to proceed with the scheme. The diversion of effort and material from other war production, the time needed for construction, and the need for special docking, fitting out, and repair facilities were all among the factors taken into account in reaching this decision.

    Dependant's Allowance

    asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that Mrs. Swann, who has a son in the Fleet Air Arm, was allowed 24s. 9d. a week by the Admiralty until February, when her daughter, who is 15 years of age, had her pay increased by Is. 6d. a week; that the Admiralty then reduced the mother's allowance to 16s. 3d. a week; and whether he will review this decision?

    Under the rules governing the issue of dependant's allowance, which are common to the three Services, when a member of the household earns 20S. a week or more he or she is regarded as self-supporting and no longer as a sub-dependant. In this case the increase of Is. 6d. a week brought the daughter's earning from 19s. 6d. to 21S. a week, and it was consequently necessary to re-assess the amount of the dependant's allowance paid to the mother. I am, however, having inquiries made into the possibility of assisting Mrs. Swann further, and I will let the hon. Member know the result in due course.

    War Crimes (Captured Enemy Leaders)

    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will he make inquiry whether any of the German leaders captured in North Africa are wanted on charges of mass murder in Eastern Europe?

    It will be open to any United Nations Government to submit to the proposed United Nations Commission for the investigation of war crimes any evidence in its possession regarding war crimes committed by enemy leaders now in Allied hands.

    Prisoners Of War (Italy)

    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider the possibility of coming to an agreement with Italy, under Article 72 of the Geneva Convention, for the direct repatriation or accommodation in a neutral country of prisoners of war in good health who have been in captivity a long time?

    As I informed my hon. and gallant Friend on 5th May, His Majesty's Government do not feel that the moment has yet arrived when the conclusion of an agreement such as he suggests can usefully be considered. I can, however, once more assure him that when the right time comes his suggestion will receive every possible consideration.

    Nigeria (Pawning Of Personal Service)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has received a report from the Governor of Nigeria on the practice of the pawning of persons as security for debt; and whether further steps are being taken to protect persons who pawn themselves as security for debt?

    Yes, Sir. The Governor states that since 1938, he has caused a return to be rendered of all prosecutions under Section 369 (3) of the Criminal Code which provide that any person who places or receives the services of any person in servitude as a pledge or security for debt is guilty of slaving and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years. The resulting figures are as follow:

    Year.Prosecutions.Persons. Convicted.
    From these figures and from the fact that the Governor has had no report which in any way indicates that pawning in its more objectionable form is prevalent, he is satisfied that the practice is gradually dying out and that the present position need cause no disquiet. The subject was discussed at the 1942 Conference of the Western Province chiefs and a clear distinction was made between the pawning by one person of the services of another and adult self-pawning in which the services rendered go towards the reduction of the original debt and interest. It was agreed that the former could not be countenanced in any circumstances, and in the case of self-pawning it was recommended that the debtor should have the right to ask the native courts to assess the amount owing and order repayment either by work for a definite period or cash payments by instalments. Steps are being taken to implement this recommendation and the Governor has also under consideration the question of giving jurisdiction to certain native courts to enforce Section 369 (3) of the Criminal Code.

    Property Maintenance (Licences)

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works what are the conditions upon which licences authorising the expenditure on buildings of a stated sum in respect of maintenance work are granted by his Department, under paragraph 6 of the Notes for the Guidance of Applicants, issued on the 1st January, 1942.

    Maintenance licences are granted by my Department in cases where the amount expended during a period of twelve months on a single property (including the cost of maintenance on that property) exceeds £100. They are ordinarily on an annual basis and for amounts sufficient to maintain the structures on the lowest efficient level. When application is made for the first time in respect of a property, it is the practice to issue the licence for an interim period, for an amount which has regard to the annual expenditure on the property during the previous three years. On any application for a renewal of the licence, the amount is fixed by reference to the actual sum spent during the currency of the licence previously in force and the estimated expenditure on maintenance over the next twelve months.

    Company Meeting Reports (Size)

    asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that companies, whose chairman's statement to shareholders does not form part of the annual report and accounts, the size of which with envelope or wrapper may not exceed a superficial area of 120 square inches, are sending to shareholders after the annual meeting a report of the chairman's speech and other speeches then delivered; what limit is applied to the size of the paper including envelope or wrapper which may thus be used; and whether he will take steps to put an end to this use of paper?

    The Control of Paper (No. 59) Order limits the permitted size of the circular required by the Companies Acts to be sent to all shareholders before the general meeting. I doubt whether it would be feasible to apply a similar precise restriction to any further circular that a particular company may find it necessary to send out after the meeting, but I will look further into the possibility. I hope that those responsible will restrict any such use of paper to the minimum.

    Food Ration Books (Distribution)

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that householders living at Middleton-in-Teesdale, Newbiggin, Forest and Harwood, must travel to Barnard Castle, distances of from eight to 18 miles, to receive the new ration books; and whether he will consider, in the interests of transport and convenience to householders, having sub-offices as was done on the occasions of former issues of ration books?

    This year's distribution of documents, which include the new identity card, is not comparable with that of last year, and it is not possible for my Department to set up a large number of sub-offices. The issue is to be spread out over a number of weeks, and detailed arrangements will be at the discretion of the local officers of the Ministry who will do all they can within the limits imposed by considerations of security, man-power and the essential intricacy of the procedure to minimise the inconvenience which is inevitable for some members of the public.

    Sign-Posts (Rural Areas)

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether a decision has yet been reached in regard to the restoration of sign-posts ill rural areas?

    I am glad to inform my hon. Friend that it has been decided, in consultation with the military authorities, and within certain limits and subject to certain conditions, to re-erect sign-posts in rural areas. I am taking steps to give effect to this decision as soon as possible.

    Tractor Drivers (Age Limit)

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will grant permission for the age limit of 18 to be reduced to 17 years for persons to drive tractors on the public roads?

    As a temporary war measure, and in view of the present urgency of food production, the age limit for drivers of agricultural tractors (up to 7¼ tons) has already been reduced from 21 to 17 years, but I do not think it is desirable to reduce the existing minimum age limit of 21 for drivers of tractors used for general road haulage.

    Omnibus Service, London

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport when the decision reached by the London Passenger Transport Board, in December, 1942, to extend route 74, during peak periods, will be put into operation; and what is the reason for the delay?

    There has been difficulty in finding a suitable site for the terminus of the extension, but I am glad to inform my hon. Friend that a site has now been agreed upon and the construction of a lay-by is being put in hand.

    Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

    asked the Minister of Pensions whether in view of the fact that the wife or widow of a member of the Forces whom she has been compelled to divorce is deprived of any benefit for herself and her children, he will consider an alteration in the regulations in order to remedy this injustice and the hardship it frequently imposes?

    The hon. Member is under a misapprehension in thinking that the children of a wife or widow who has divorced her husband are deprived of the benefits provided by the instruments administered by my Department. As regards the woman herself, I should not be justified in proposing that those instruments should confer on her rights additional to those already provided by law for the community as a whole.

    asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that delays are taking place in the issue of war service grants; and whether he will expedite the approval and issue of such grants?

    I am not aware that there is any general delay in the issue of war service grants by my Ministry though there is always a small percentage of cases where the facts can only be elicited after protracted inquiry. We are always improving the machinery and shall continue to do so, but if the hon. Member has any particular cases in mind where undue delay appears to have occurred, I should be glad to investigate them.

    Home Guard Duties (Factories)

    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give an assurance that no officer of a factory Home Guard, who is also a foreman at that factory, will, against a man's wishes and during his ordinary employment, discuss Home Guard problems with him because he is under his control in that Home Guard?

    Home Guards have only a limited time to devote to their Home Guard duties and those responsible must take advantage of the most convenient opportunities for all concerned for arranging the necessary training. The good sense and friendly co-operation of Home Guards in general can, I am sure, be relied on in these matters, and I do not consider that a hard and fast rule on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend is necessary, or indeed that it would be welcomed by Home Guards.

    Sheep (Artificial Insemination)

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in the interests of increased home food production he proposes to urge upon sheep farmers in Great Britain the use of artificial insemination which is reported to have been tried with great success in Australia, thus increasing the annual lamb yield?

    In the absence of evidence that artificial insemination of livestock on a large scale is appropriate or practicable under ordinary farming conditions in this country, it would be premature to en- courage the general adoption of the practice. In the case of cattle, two large-scale field experiments have recently been instituted at Cambridge and Reading but I am not of the opinion that the time is yet ripe for their extension to sheep.

    Allied Governments (News Paper Attacks)

    asked the Minister of Information whether, with a view to assisting in the. re-establishment of friendly relationship between our two Allies, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Poland, he will take steps to prevent any publication or broadcast of an anti-Soviet nature in this country?

    I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to-day to my hon. Friends the Members for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) and for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander).

    Business Of The House


    "That the Proceedings on the Second Reading of the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill and on Pensions and Determination of Needs [Money] be exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House) for two hours after the hour appointed for the interruption of Business."—[Mr. Attlee.]