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Written Answers

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 26 May 1943

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Written Answers

Food Supplies

Regulations (Administration, Belfast)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food in what circumstances his Department decided not to prosecute a person named Mackie, of Whiteabbey, Belfast, director of the firm of James Mackie and Sons, Limited, Belfast, after it was discovered that this person had been guilty of hoarding food in excess of a four weeks' supply, including 200 lbs. sugar, 134 lbs. tea, 170 tins sardines, 20-dozen tins soups, fruit, etc., 30 tins biscuits and of using rice to feed turkeys?

This case was fully investigated by my Department. After the most careful consideration it was decided that there was no ground for a substantial charge under the Acquisition of Food (Excessive Quantities) Order, 1942, from the provisions of which all rationed foodstuffs are excluded. A warning was therefore given to Mr. Mackie. A sample of the rice to which my hon. Friend refers was examined by the Belfast city analyst, who reported that it was not fit for human consumption.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that, in connection with the prosecution by his Department of the firm of Evans, Bridge End, Belfast, for supplying veal to restaurants in that city, inquiries revealed that certain private persons had illegally purchased the veal but that no proceedings were taken against them; whether he will give the names of the persons concerned in these illegalities against whom his Ministry decided not to take proceedings; and why distinctions were made between the small trader who supplied the veal and the customers who unlawfully bought it?

It is the general practice of my Department, on the direction of my Noble Friend, to avoid prosecutions for first offences when the nature of the offence would seem to make a warning more appropriate and effective. In this case warnings were given to the private purchasers who could be identified. Proceedings were, however, taken against catering establishments which had illegally purchased veal from the trader referred to. In the case of the trader herself, the principal offence with which she was charged was illicit slaughter.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will cause an inquiry to be made by an independent investigator into the protection from prosecution given by his Department to certain persons in Belfast who have been guilty of food offences; and whether he will invite members of his staff in Belfast to volunteer information in their possession bearing on this matter, giving them an assurance that no adverse action will be taken against them in consequence of any assistance they may render in this matter?

The allegation against my Department made in the hon. Member's Question is most serious and in the opinion of my Noble Friend is entirely without foundation or justification, and he can find no reason to justify such an inquiry as is suggested.

Statutory Rules And Orders

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why no explanatory note was attached to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Manufactured and Pre-packed Foods) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 666), in order that the significance of this Order might be appreciated without the necessity of obtaining two earlier Orders published in 1942?

I would refer by hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Members for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) and Stretford (Mr. Etherton) to-day.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why no explanatory memorandum was attached" to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Cereal Fillers) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 629), as it is not possible to understand the significance of this Order without consulting one Order published in 1941, four Orders published in 1942, and one Order published in 1943?

I would refer by hon Friend to the reply given to the hon. Members for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) and Stretford (Mr. Etherton) to-day.

British Guiana (Medical And Nursing Service)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he now has any further information respecting the medical and nursing service in British Guiana; and whether improved conditions of service have been considered or put into operation?

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member on 7th April as the Governor's report for which I have asked has not yet arrived. I will let my hon. Friend know when the report has been received.

Paint (Supplies)

asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the fact that members of the public may not purchase oil paint, etc., for the protection of their homes until such houses become actually insanitary, he will consider modifying this regulation so that dwellings, by way of prevention, can be placed in a sanitary condition before they deteriorate badly, or before new tenants take over, particularly in view of the risks of tuberculosis infection?

Although supplies of linseed oil paint are necessarily limited, certain quantities are available for such work as the Health authorities consider necessary. Moreover, as a result of a recent relaxation of the restrictions on the sale of distempers not containing linseed oil, it is expected that increased quantities of such distempers will become available for interior work in private dwellings. I am in touch with my right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland in regard to this matter.

Supplementary Teachers (Pay)

asked the President of the Board of Education how the £100 salary rising to a maximum of £120 paid to supplementary teachers compares with the salary paid to other people doing similar work in other branches of commercial activity?

My right hon. Friend feels that it is not possible to equate the work of supplementary teachers employed in elementary schools with that of young women engaged in any branch of commercial activity.

War Casualties (British Empire)

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to bring up to date the figures in categories of British and Imperial casualties, as previously announced, for the period 3rd September, 1939, to 2nd September, 1941?

It is hoped to publish shortly the figures of casualties for the first three years of war.

Park Seats (Service Personnel)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he will consider granting to the uniformed members of the Allied Forces the free use of chairs in the royal and public parks?

I would refer to the reply given on 5th May to the hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Captain Crowder). The possibility of my Department taking over this contract is still under examination and I regret that I am not yet in a position to make any statement on the matter.

Royal Air Force (Officers, Overseas Service)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will consider the advisability of detailing Volunteer Reserve married officers to proceed overseas, particularly those who expressed their willingness, on Form 1020, to serve abroad instead of asking them periodically to volunteer to do so?

The normal practice of the Air Ministry is to ask commanders-in-chief for recommendations for overseas appointments and to place under orders for service overseas those officers who are considered to be suitable. Before submitting their recommendations, commanders-in-chief may find it expedient to call for volunteers and I see no reason why this practice, which has obvious advantages, should not continue. Subject to medical fitness, however, all officers, married and unmarried, are liable for overseas service and are detailed for it if necessary. The form to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers does not provide for an expression of willingness to serve abroad.

Lifeboats (Improved Devices)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he can arrange for the demonstration of new devices for providing additional safety for the men of the Merchant Navy, already given on board H.M.S."Chrysanthemum" in the river Thames, also to be given at Liverpool?

This demonstration was arranged to give representatives of the national Press an opportunity to see at work several types of lifeboat stills for the conversion of seawater into drinking water; the opportunity was also taken to exhibit a number of the new or recently improved life-saving devices which I mentioned in the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) on 18th May. I have reason to believe that representatives of the Liverpool Press were also present at this demonstration. Two of the stills are installed at the lifeboat instruction school at Liverpool, where they can be inspected by shipowners and others, and where I shall be happy to arrange for my hon. Friend to see them, if he so desires. I hope my hon. Friend will agree that for these reasons, it is not at present necessary to arrange a further demonstration of the kind he proposes.

Public Health

National Health Service (Discussions)

asked the Minister of Health what answer he has given to a large meeting of medical practitioners held recently to discuss future arrangements for medical practice?

I am not sure to what meeting my hon. Friend is referring, but I think it may be well to make clear the situation which he obviously has in mind. After the announcement by the Government in February last that they accepted in principle Assumption B of the report of Sir William Beveridge and would proceed with the preparation of a comprehensive national health service for the whole population, I began discussions with representatives of the medical profession, voluntary hospitals and local authorities as to the best ways and means of organising such a service. These discussions were, by agreement, to be nothing more than confidential and preliminary talks without commitment on either side, and for the medical profession they were conducted by a representative committee of medical men and women brought together by the British Medical Association in collaboration with the Royal Colleges. As a basis for discussion I have from time to time put ideas of my own before this committee and have invited them similarly to let me have their ideas and their full and free criticism of mine. In this way my intention was to arrive at a stage when I could review the whole subject in the light of these discussions, and could then pass from the preliminary stage by publishing a general statement of proposals for open and public discussion in Parliament and elsewhere.Recently this committee came to me with the suggestion that the whole subject should now be referred to a Royal Commission. We considered this suggestion together, however, and it was agreed that the discussions between the committee and myself should continue on the basis— which I for my part had always tried to emphasise in the previous discussions— that the Government was in no way committed to any particular method of organising the new service, that every kind of proposal which might be put forward on the subject would be equally carefully reviewed and that as before the discussions would commit neither side. The discussions have already been resumed in a very helpful spirit, and I feel sure that before long I shall be able to look at the question as a whole, in the light of all the views expressed to me by this and the other representative groups, and then to publish a statement of the general proposals which I feel should be put before the House and the country for full dis- cussion before any legislation is embarked upon.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the resolution forwarded to the Minister of Health by the Medical Representative Committee and subsequently endorsed by a meeting on 16th May attended by about 1,000 doctors, declaring that the only effective way to deal with the problem of future medical practice was to place it before a Royal Commission, he will now take steps to appoint such a commission?

I think this Question is based on a misapprehension. A suggestion for a Royal Commission was made by the representative committee to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, at a recent meeting, but after it had been considered by the Minister and the committee together it was agreed that the discussions which had previously been taking place should be continued. I understand that my right hon. Friend is explaining the situation in answer to another Question of the hon. Member today, and I would refer the hon. Member to that reply.

Seaside Hotels (Requisitioning)

asked the Minister of Health whether it is, or has been, the practice of his Department, in connection with seaside hotels and similar institutions, not to requisition but merely to earmark such establishments for potential use; and whether in that case any monetary recognition is given in such instances?

Earmarking for a public purpose imposes no restriction on the use or disposition of premises by the owner or occupier, and merely prevents the requisitioning of the premises for other public purposes. This procedure is appropriate where it is not certain that the premises will in fact be used for the purpose for which they are earmarked. In a small number of cases, seaside hotels have been earmarked for the purpose of serving as reserve hospitals in case of grave emergency. If it should be necessary to use the hotels for this purpose, they would be requisitioned and compensation would become payable under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, but anless, or until, they are requisitioned no question of compensation or monetary recognition arises.

Diphtheria Immunisation

asked the Minister of Health whether the 8,000 children under five years of age in Northamptonshire, who had been immunised, were immunised in 1941; and, if not, how many had been immunised in the first six months of ' 1941, in the second six months of that year, in the first six months of 194a and in the second six months of that year, respectively?

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." In regard to the second part of the Question I have received half-yearly returns only for the period since January, 1942. The figures for the first and second half-years after that date were approximately 990 and 2,540.

asked the Minister of Health how many children under 15 years of age in the county districts of Northamptonshire were registered as having contracted diphtheria in each six-monthly period from January, 1941, to December, 1942?

According to information received from the county medical officer of health, 102 children under 15 in the county districts of Northamptonshire were notified as suffering from diphtheria in the period January, 1941, to December, 1942. To give figures for each of the six-monthly periods referred to would involve calling for a special return involving labour which I do not feel justified imposing on the authorities concerned.

asked the Minister of Health whether his returns received from each of the district medical officers show how many children under five and over five years of age have been immunised; whether these returns cover each half-year from January, 1940; whether they show the exact number of children immunised; and, if not, how the estimates are arrived at?

Local authorities are asked for half-yearly returns of the actual numbers of children under five and between five and 15 immunised against diphtheria under the auspices of the authority in the six months concerned. These half-yearly returns began from January, 1942, but were preceded by returns giving composite figures for the period January, 1940, to December, 1941. They do not include children immunised outside the arrangements made by the authority.

Orphans' Pensions

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider amending the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1936, Section 4 (1), which deals with orphans' pensions so as to grant orphans' pensions to children of divorced parents in addition to the children of married men, widowers, or widows, provided the child was born in wedlock and one of the parents was insured at the time of death?

I regret that I could not undertake to introduce legislation amending the provisions of the Contributory Pensions Acts which relate to orphans' pensions pending the completion of the Government's comprehensive review of the social insurance and allied services.

British Prisoners Of War, Italy (Letters)

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the anxiety of British parents in the United Kingdom, whose relatives are held as prisoners of war in Italy, at the length of time, some nine or 10 weeks, it takes a letter to reach this country from the said prisoners of war camps; and will he take all steps possible to expedite delivery of such mail?

As explained in the reply to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) on 18th February last (a copy of which I am sending to my hon. and gallant Friend), the delay of letters from British prisoners of war in Italy occurs before despatch from Italy and is due to censorship or other reasons. Delay of the order mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend affects only a proportion of the correspondence; appreciable numbers of letters are received in this country within a month of writing. The excessive delays on some letters has been a matter of serious concern to all the Departments interested in the men's welfare, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs caused representations to be made to the Italian authorities through the Protecting Power in January last. The question was raised again in March with the Protecting Power who were asked to take urgent action to expedite the treatment of letters to and from the prisoners. No reply has yet been received to these representations. Relatives themselves can make some contribution towards relieving congestion in the Italian Censorship by exercising restraint in the number of letters they send to the prisoners —no family should send more than one letter per week; letters should be brief and clearly written, typewritten for preference.

Dominions Income Tax

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs what rates of Income Tax were levied in Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, respectively, during each of the years 1938 to 1942?

Kenya (Gold Mining)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many gold mines are in operation in Kenya as compared with 1939; how far gold production has increased since that year; what are the chief companies operating in the Colony; what dividends are being paid to their shareholders; and what benefit does the local exchequer derive from these operations?

I have no information as to the number of gold mines in operation in Kenya. Total exports of gold, which are approximately equal to production, increased from 101,149 oza. in 1939 to 115,908 oza. in 1941. Available information suggests that production declined in 1942 but official figures have not yet been published. The chief operating companies are:Rosterman Gold Mines Limited.Kavirondo Gold Mines Limited.Kenya Gold Mining Syndicate Limited.Kenya Consolidated Goldfields Limited.I am not aware of the dividends being paid by these companies. The local Government receives royalty from gold mining companies at the rate of 15 per cent, of their profits calculated on the same basis as for Income Tax. The companies are also liable to local Income Tax at the rate of 5s. in the pound and Excess Profits Tax of 60 per cent.

West Indies (Economic Conditions)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make a statement as to the report of Professor Richardson on the economic conditions of Bermuda: what steps are being taken to implement the recommendations of the report; and what steps are being taken to prepare similar plans for other West Indian Colonies?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on the 18th May to the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams). I then explained the nature of Professor Richardson's work in Bermuda. The taking of action on the recommendations of the local Economic Advisory Committee over which Professor Richardson presided is a matter for the Government of Bermuda, and I understand that a good many of the committee's recommendations have already been put into force. As regards the last part of the Question, it has not hitherto been necessary to set up similar machinery in the West Indian Colonies to deal with current problems, but if the hon. Member has in mind the preparation of plans for future development he is no doubt aware that that is the primary task of Sir Frank Stockdale and his advisers, in collaboration with the Colonial Governments.

Aircraft Factories Managerial Staffs (Women)

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production in view of his advocacy of the admission of women to the higher grades of managerial staffs in factories, whether he can state with precision the type of work they should perform?

Women, where suitable, should, in my view, perform the same work as men in all grades* of managerial staffs. The distinction between individuals should be on the ground of capacity and not of sex.

Stockings (Utility Schedule)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that women requiring large sizes in stockings are finding great difficulty in purchasing them; whether they are still being produced; and whether he will take steps to provide a better supply?

The utility schedule of women's stockings includes specifications for large sizes, and manufacturers have been asked to spread production over the various sizes in the proportion indicated by their past experience. I have, further, recently taken special steps to increase the production of the larger sizes.

Soap Substitute (Definition)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can amplify the definition of soap substitute contained in the Emergency Powers (Defence) Soap Substitutes Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 638), having regard to the fact that it is not generally understood?

My noble Friend knows of no reason for supposing the definition to be obscure, but if my hon. Friend will indicate any points of difficulty I shall be glad to have them examined.