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Commons Chamber

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 27 May 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 27th May, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Post-War Education (Women's Land Army)

1.

asked the Minister of Labour why the Women's Land Army is not specifically mentioned in the published list of services which are eligible for consideration under the Government's scheme for post-war educational facilities?

Members of the Women's Land Army stand in relation to the scheme for further education and training in the same position as workers in the war industries. While the scheme is intended primarily for persons in the categories named in the published list, a number of places under the scheme will be available for persons who have done war work of other kinds.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great disappointment and dissatisfaction felt by members of the Women's Land Army that their great service is not specially mentioned in his scheme, and would he be prepared to reconsider this matter?

I am afraid that I cannot include the Women's Land Army in the same category as the Services. They are exactly in the same position as munition workers, and there would have to be a mention of everyone if I set a precedent here.

Discharged Service Personnel (Rehabilitation)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour what powers he has to direct men and women discharged from the Services on grounds of neurosis or temporary instability to undergo training at residential or other centres under his control; and what steps he is taking to rehabilitate these persons?

The treatment and rehabilitation of persons discharged from the Services on grounds of neurosis or temporary instability are undertaken in appropriate cases at special centres under the Emergency Hospital Scheme. The centres under my control are vocational training centres, and in so far as persons leaving neurosis centres are in need of learning a new trade, arrangements are made for their admission on a voluntary basis. I have power to direct persons where necessary to the training centres, but I doubt whether compulsion in these cases would be in the best interest of those concerned.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a danger in these cases that if action is not taken to direct people to training, they may drift into crime or, alternatively, may be a burden on the State for the rest of their lives?

It is very doubtful whether in neurosis cases compulsion is the right method to use. It is a very difficult subject.

39.

asked the Minister of Pensions what arrangements he has with the Minister of Labour to afford residential training to men and women discharged from the services on grounds of neurosis or temporary instability as part of their rehabilitative treatment?

The special arrangements made in October, 1941, in consultation with the other Departments concerned, ensure that the provisions of the interim scheme for the training of disabled persons introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour are readily available to all disabled ex-Service personnel who are admitted to the special neurological centres administered by the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland, and who are in need of vocational training; and for this purpose, these institutions maintain an active liaison with the appropriate local office machinery of the Ministry of Labour.

Could my hon. Friend tell me how many cases in fact have been trained by the Ministry of Labour?

Life Assurance Agents (Cost Of Living Bonus)

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will see that machinery whereby life assurance agents can have their claim for a cost-of-living bonus considered is established forthwith?

Such machinery already exists in the arbitration procedure provided by the Conditions of Employment and National Arbitration Orders, 1940–42.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many offices, in spite of their huge profits, have given no war bonus at all to their workers while others have granted totally inadequate amounts, having regard to the high rise in the cost of living, and as a consequence thousands of insurance agents are suffering acutely? Will he give further consideration to this matter?

It is open to the unions representing the men, if the facts are as the hon. Member has stated, to report a case, and I pass it on to the arbitration court, where they can argue it. I cannot take on the responsibility of actually fixing wages.

Mr. Mack: I take it, then, the right hon. Gentleman will go into any cases which are reported to him?

Workpeople (Sympathetic Strikes)

4.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of prosecutions of workpeople instituted by his Department since the outbreak of hostilities where those proceedings have resulted in sympathetic strikes; how many strikers were involved; and the number of days' work lost by such strikes?

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

India

Congress Leaders

6

asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been drawn to the recent plea of Sir Tej Sapru and other non-Congress leaders that Mr. Gandhi and Congress leaders should appear before a judicial tribunal in order that opportunity may be given them to refute allegations of pro-Japanese sympathy and other charges contained in the White Paper; and whether any response will be given to these representations?

I have seen a Press report of the matter referred to. The Government of India have no intention of staging a trial of Mr. Gandhi and the Congress leaders who were placed in detention, as the honourable Member is aware, subsequent to the passing of the resolution of the All-India Congress Committee of 8th August last year. The Government of India's statement re-published in the White Paper was issued in response to a demand for the justification for their action. It does not make charges of pro-Japanese sympathy as the honourable Member's Question suggests.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there is to be any response to these frequent pleas by non-Congress leaders for further action by his Department?

Would the Secretary of State kindly reply to my supplementary question?

Do I take it there is to be no response to these frequent appeals by non-Congress leaders?

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the only indication of Mr. Gandhi's pro-Japanese sympathies was contained in his own letter to the Working Committee of the Congress, in which he said that if he had power, he would probably open negotiations with the Japanese: and, secondly, whether Mr. Gandhi—

British Troops (Income Tax)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for India what is the rate of Income Tax liability of British officers and men serving with His Majesty's Forces in India; and whether any reliefs are given in the way of marriage or dependants' allowances?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply to Question No. 28 addressed to me on 13th May by the hon. Member for the Eye Division of East Suffolk (Mr. Granville), of which I am sending him a copy.

Married Women (Nationality)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether any opportunity has yet arisen of implementing the pledge made in March last respecting further consultation with the Dominions with a view to seeking a way round the difficulties regarding a revision of the law relating to the nationality of married women?

No suitable opportunity of consultation with the Dominions has yet occurred. The matter will not be lost sight of.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this is another half promise which has been given to women and which the Government have no desire to implement?

The Government have not decided whether to implement it or not. The Government said they would take the opportunity, when it arose, of consultation with the Dominions, who are involved.

In view of the fact that the Debate took place two months ago, could the right hon. Gentleman say when an opportunity will arise?

I cannot say. My hon. Friendis always looking for injustices to women when they do not always exist; she is over-conscious about it. It is a question of the right sort of consultation, and it is very difficult to do, in the midst of war, by telegraphic communication. I am afraid it may have to be personal consultation when the opportunity arises.

Civil Defence

Fire Fighting Party (Prisoners' Aid)

9.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the good work done by some prisoners as members of a fire-fighting party when recently a prison in the South of England was damaged by enemy action; and whether any recognition has been made of the services rendered by these prisoners?

Yes, Sir. In accordance with the practice adopted in other cases, a fortnight's remission of sentence has been granted to 14 prisoners who, as members of a fire-fighting party, gave most useful help to the prison staff. I would like to take this opportunity of expressing appreciation of the fine way in which the prison staff dealt with a difficult and dangerous situation, and of the good behaviour and co-operative spirit of the prisoners.

Can the statement of the Home Secretary be communicated both to the prisoners and to the prison staff?

Yes, Sir. The Governor of the prison will have the statement which I have made read out to all the prisoners in assembly at the first convenient moment.

Air-Raid Warnings

10.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will examine the possibility of having two types of air-raid warning signals, one of which would indicate that a small nuisance raiding force was approaching, while the other would indicate that an attack in strength was to be expected?

15.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is considering making any alteration in the method of air-raid warning.

The possibility of using two types of warning signal to indicate the strength of an enemy air raid has been considered, but, for reasons which it would not be in the public interest for me to disclose, it is not considered practicable to do so.

Is the Minister not aware, that the siren has an even worse effect on the nerves of many women than the guns?

I am not going to boast that the siren is a particularly tuneful thing. I think that any air-raid warning signal, whatever it may be, is calculated to have a little disturbing effect.

If the right hon. Gentleman intends to make any alteration in the siren warning, I take it the House will be informed?

That will be my wish, unless reasons of security operate otherwise. I should imagine it would be necessary and right to inform the House.

Fire Guard Duties

1.

asked the Home Secretary whether, where the husband or wife is a registered blind person or is disabled in the highest degree, he will grant exemption from fire-watching duties to the other partner?

I agree that blind and other highly disabled persons ought not to be left unattended during air raids, but in view of the great variety of individual circumstances I consider that the best way to secure this end is to leave it to the hardship tribunal to decide who should be exempted for this purpose.

Does my right hon. Friend intend his answer to convey to local officers that they may use their discretion in this matter?

Norfolk Broads (Restrictions)

13.

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the changed circumstances, he will now review the regulations made over three years ago restricting the use of the Norfolk Broads and bring them up to date, so as not to deprive the public of these amenities?

I presume my hon. Friend is referring to the restrictions on mooring of pleasure vessels in the Broads imposed under a Direction issued by the Regional Commissioner. As I indicated in reply to a Question on 20th May, it is still considered necessary to maintain the requirement of immobilisation of unattended vessels in inland waters in certain counties, of which Norfolk is one. Whether in these circumstances it will be possible to remove the restrictions to which my hon. Friend refers I feel doubtful, but I will consider the matter in consultation with the Regional Commissioner and the other authorities concerned.

May I ask whether these prospective journeys on the Broads are really necessary?

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider allowing a limited use of the Broads to local inhabitants for fishing and similar purposes?

Regional Commissioners (House Of Commons Official Report)

12.

asked the Home Secretary whether the offices of Regional Commissioners are supplied with a copy of Hansard?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the North-East Region the Regional Commissioner and his staff read Hansard most religiously every day?

I am very glad to hear that. I hope they have time for other things as well.

Speed Offences (Police Timing)

16.

asked the Home Secretary in how many cases he has authorised the prosecution of motor-car drivers for alleged speed offences in built-up areas when they have been timed by one police constable on a motor-cycle by reference to his speedometer and without any corroborative evidence?

The question whether the evidence reMered in support of a charge is sufficient to satisfy the court that the offence is proved is one for the court itself to decide. I have given no authorisation in the sense indicated in the Question, nor have I any power to do so. Prosecutions, of course, are not undertaken by my authority.

Having regard to the impossibility of one constable keeping his eye continuously on the speedometer and at the same time watching the traffic, will my right hon. Friend discourage this method of timing?

If I were to accept that argument, every motorist would be able to plead that as he was not able to keep his eye on the speedometer he did not know how fast he was going. There is a provision about this in law. The Road Traffic Act, 1930, provides that a person shall not be liable to be convicted for the offence of speeding solely on the evidence of one witness to the effect that in the opinion of the witness the motorist was driving at an excessive speed, and it is for the court to decide on the evidence whether the speedometer is the opinion of the witness. I think the matter could only be dealt with by a change of law rather than by instructions to the police.

Is not the difference that the motorist does not need to keep his eye continuously on the speedometer whereas the constable has to judge speed, and it is necessary for him to do so?

I think every motorist will know that that is not an insoluble problem.

Church Bell Ringing (Removal Of Restrictions)

17.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is now in a position to make any further statement as to the operation of the Order relating to the ringing of church bells?

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of misunderstanding in regard to the ringing of church. bells on 3rd June, being Ascension Day, he will now regularise the position by allowing those responsible for the ringing of such bells discretion in the use of them on week-days?

The Government have now decided that the present restrictions on the use of church bells shall be removed. I have, therefore, made an Order revoking the Control of Noise (Defence) (No. 2) Order, 1943, which prohibited the sounding of any church bell except for the purpose of summoning persons to public worship on a Sunday, Christmas Day or Good Friday. The effect of this revocation is that church bells may be rung for any purpose at any time provided that their sound is not liable to be mistaken for a signal in connection with an air raid or a gas attack. The Government must, of course, be free to review the position in the light of changing circumstances.

I take it that the local authorities still have the power to prevent boys and girls going about with hand bells?

Yes; if the handbell is likely to be confused with a warning connected with an air raid or gas attack, they have the power to stop them.

Prison Commissioners (Information)

18.

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the cessation of the issue of Annual Reports of the Prison Commissioners, he will issue a White Paper giving in brief summary form the essential information usually to be found in the Annual Reports?

As my hon. Friend knows, the need for economising manpower and paper is still urgent but, while I cannot at the moment give a positive undertaking with regard to the publication of this information, I will certainly consider how and in what form it can be made available.

Public Health

Diphtheria (Immunisation)

20.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he has considered the letter from John C. Dixon, 14, Johnson Street, Newton, near Barrow-in-Furness, asking him to investigate the case of his son, aged five years, who was inoculated against diphtheria at school without his patents consent and who has since had septic rashes all over his body and frequent screaming fits during the night; and whether he will reprimand those responsible for inoculating the boy without the consent of his father, who had a strong objection to this inoculation?

I understand that a form asking for Mr. Dixon's consent to the immunisation of his son was sent to him in March, 1942, and that he took no action upon it. The boy was immunised in March and April, 1942, but I am informed that no protest was made at the time by Mr. Dixon and that he did not seek medical advice about his son until nearly a year later. While I naturally regret any anxiety caused, I cannot accept all the implications in the hon. Member's Question.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what authority the doctor or nurse had to immunise the boy without the consent of the parents?

The hon. Member is perfectly correct. The consent of the parents ought to have been assured before immunisation was undertaken. I am drawing this matter to the attention of those concerned. I think this Question will have served that purpose.

Are not parents who refuse their consent to the immunisation of their children a danger to other parents?

I would like to say, in answer to that question, that I have taken the trouble myself to issue a special message drawing the importance of immunisation to the attention of parents, in view of the very serious results of diphtheria on children.

Are we to understand that immunisation is still voluntary in this country?

Venereal Diseases

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that a woman informed against under Regulation 33B was imprisoned for failing to complete treatment, he will consider penalising the men who informed against her for any default in treatment?

No, Sir. There is no power under the Regulation to deal with the persons indicated in the latter part of the Question.

Can the Minister justify the position in which an individual informed against under Regulation 33B can be sent to prison but the two informers, people suffering from the disease and liable to transmit it to innocent people, are not penalised in any way?

They themselves are undergoing treatment, and the House fully understood that when the Regulation was made.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those individuals can default in their treatment and not be penalised?

The answer is that I am watching the operation of the Regulation to find out whether the hon. Lady's supposition is actually working out in fact.

While the right hon. Gentleman is watching the operation of the Regulation, is he aware that these people who are defaulting in treatment are transmitting this disease to their innocent wives?

I am aware that the hon. Lady makes these assumptions, but she does not give us the facts.

Disabled Persons (Rehabilitation)

24.

asked the Minister of Health, whether, in view of the growing importance of the rehabilitation and resettlement of disabled persons and the fact that the Tomlinson Committee was not entitled to take evidence from any quarter, he will consult those who have,had experience of handling these cases in order that the scheme may prove successful?

The recommendations of this Committee which affect my Department are concerned for the most part with the development and extension of measures of rehabilitation already adopted under the Emergency Hospital Scheme. In this matter my officers are proceeding in consultation with those having experience in this field of medicine, not only centrally but in the hospitals throughout the country, where a special review of the subject is now in progress. I have also had the advantage of a discussion with representatives of the Trades Union Congress. If my hon. Friend has any suggestions as to other persons who should be consulted, I shall be happy to consider them. The Committee's other recommendations are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service.

It is very well to consult trade unions and employers in this connection, but will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the doctors who are actually doing this very special work feel that they are not consulted adequately in connection with rehabilitation? Will he look into that?

I do not accept that. I shall be glad to have a talk with my hon. Friend and give him details of the consultations with the bodies which are specially interested.

Mental Treatment Services

30.

asked the Minister of Health whether further consideration has been given to the necessity of including mental treatment services in his plans for a more effective national health and medical service; whether he will ensure an organic relationship between mental and medical health services; and what reply he has given to representations on this issue?

The ideas in my hon. Friend's Question are having full consideration in the preparation of plans.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that all those who are interested in the mental services of this country regret very much that mental services should be divorced from the general health services?

Does the right hon. Gentleman include mental deficiency, as well as mental disturbance?

National Health Service (Discussions)

34.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the. announcement by the British Medical Association, published in the "Lancet" for Saturday, 22nd May, of which a copy has been sent to him, about the discussions upon a national health service; and whether he has any statement to make thereon?

35.

asked the Minister of Health the position with regard to his negotiations with the medical profession concerning a full medical service free to all; and when a White Paper will be published?

I would refer my hon. Friends to the answer which I gave yesterday on this subject to my hon. Friend the Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little).

In view of the fact that that answer does not refer specifically to the British Medical Association's statement, and in view of their statement that in the opinion of their representative Committee the proposals are quite unacceptable to the great majority of the medical profession, will my right hon. Friend now consider issuing a White Paper setting out the proposals made as a basis of discussion between the medical profession, the local authorities, and the voluntary hospitals, and can he arrange for a debate in this House?

Is it not a fact that the B.M.A. put forward counter proposals of their own and does my right hon. Friend intend to publish those and his own proposals?

I am glad to say that we have had very fruitful discussions in the last few days.

Is it not a fact that the voluntary hospitals do not know what the proposals made by the medical profession and the local authorities are, and that the local authorities do not know what the proposals of th,e other bodies are? Would it not clear the air if the Minister issued a White Paper?

My hon. Friend is misinformed. With regard to the voluntary hospitals, I have received definite and constructive proposals from them only last week.

Maternity Accommodation, West Riding

36.

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is still taking to make available maternity accommodation in the southern portion of the West Riding of Yorkshire; and whether he is aware that concern exists among the local authorities, including the West Riding County Council, at the failure of his Ministry to give permission to these local authorities to proceed with maternity accommodation?

I have approved the provision of 89 additional maternity beds in five separate institutions in the West Riding of Yorkshire during the last six months. Five more projects are under active consideration, in consultation with the appropriate Departments. Only one proposal has been refused approval. My hon. Friend will appreciate that the present stringencies of labour and materials make it essential to restrict approval to proposals of outstanding urgency.

Education Bill

21.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he has considered the resolution of the Sheffield Council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, a copy of which has been sent to him, calling for the raising of the school-leaving age for secondary education, common standards of staffing adequate nursery schools, &c.; when he proposes to introduce the Education Bill; and whether he proposes to include all or any of these matters therein?

Yes, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) on 20th May, a copy of which I am sending him.

Housing

Overcrowding

22.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the grave overcrowding which exists in many parts of the country; and whether he will cause the necessary local surveys to be made in the over-populated areas with a view to allocating surplus accommodation according to need?

I am aware of the serious problem presented by overcrowding. Surveys have already been made in 862 districts in connection with arrangements for finding lodging accommodation for transferred war workers where conditions were difficult so as to assist in putting any existing surplus accommodation to the fullest use and these surveys have been of great assistance. I should be glad to consider any area in respect of which my hon.' Fnend cares to give me information.

Has the Minister seen a pamphlet by Henry McShane dealing with overcrowding in Glasgow, and will he get it and confer with the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Do I understand, with regard to the last part of the Question, that surveys have or have not been made where gross overcrowing exists?

Agricultural Workers?

25.

asked the Minister of Health whether he can state either the highest or lowest all-in estimate accepted from any.contractor for each type of the 3,000 rural cottages?

Could the right hon. Gentleman say when he will be able to give information to the House?

I am not sure. Perhaps the hon. Member will put a question down for the next series of Sitting Days.

Do I understand that of this plan for 3,000 cottages not a single tender has yet been accepted?

Have any tenders been called for for the construction of cottages in chalk?

Is the Minister aware that it is several months since he decided to proceed with the erection of these 3,000 cottages? When is he going to speed up delivery?

28.

asked the Minister of Health whether it is officially proposed to use English green unseasoned timber for roof works in connection with the Government scheme of houses for agricultural workers, or whether seasoned imported timber will be available?

The answer to the first part of the Question is, "No, Sir." I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, who is responsible for timber control, that every endeavour will be made to supply suitable timber where timber is to be used, but operational and Service demands for which seasoned timber is essential must, of course, have precedence.

War Damaged Areas

31.

asked the Minister of Health approximately how many local authorities have now prepared provisional plans for rebuilding houses in their localities; how many houses these will provide; and whether he is satisfied that all possible preparations are being made, in view of the shortage that now exists, and that will be accentuated by the end of hostilities?

I am not in a position to add to the general information I gave my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Leicester (Major Lyons) on 20th May. The particular question of rebuilding war damaged houses, whether by the local authority or by the private owner, will be given further consideration immediately labour and materials are available, as a matter of the highest priority.

Can the Minister at least give some indication of how far local authorities have been making the preparations urged upon them some time ago? Can we have an answer?

If my hon. Friend win look at the rather long answer that I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Leicester, perhaps he will decide, in the light of that, whether he wants to put another question.

If my memory serves me right, that answer does not cover my Question. Could we have an answer to that Question, in view of the very grave situation?

The answer points out that the, preparations for the first year's programme by local authorities, in accordance with my circular of 4th March, are making progress.

Standard Rents

32.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that, as under the present law the first rent becomes the standard rent, owners are able to charge high rents in new tenancies, first rents in some areas in houses of equal value have varied from £70 to £100; and whether he will introduce amending legislation to provide that where a standard rent has never existed, the first rent fixed shall have some relation to rateable value and the rents charged for similar houses?

I am aware of this anomaly in the Rent Restrictions Acts, and have already noted it for consideration when amending legislation is undertaken.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that under the present Act a person who was an owner-occupier in 1939 could let his house in December, 1940, at £125 per annum when the rateable value of that house was only £22? Is not that an example of profiteering and taking advantage of the law of supply and demand as it operates at present?

I am not aware of that particular case, but my attention has been drawn to several others. Only a small proportion of the total number of houses in the country are affected add as I have said in my answer, I have noted the matter.

Is my right bon, Friend aware that landlords can keep getting round this Act? Will he give the matter his attention? It is a growing scandal as a result of the growing shortage of houses partly due to the lack of building and partly due to destruction.

I have already said that I have noted the point for consideration when the time comes for amending legislation.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in the end he will find it impossible to control rents adequately unless he is prepared to control prices too? Has he abandoned the idea that he once entertained of asking a Committee of this House to consider the whole question of rent restriction with a view to abolishing the anomalies that exist?

33.

asked the Minister of Health, whether he will consider making it obligatory on all landlords to register with local authorities the 1914 and 1939 standard rents?

No, Sir. I do not consider that the adoption of my hon. Friend's suggestion would be of any practical advantage.

Would not the suggestion assist local authorities in their work of preventing profiteering in rents?

It might add to the difficulties. If my hon. Friend will address his mind to the number of houses built between 1914 and 1939 and the changes that have occurred, he will see that it might add to the difficulties.

Police (Part-Time War Work)

27.

asked the Minister of Health, whether policemen, both regular and war reserve, who, when off duty, are doing part-time work at local factories and have therefore to pay health insurance, are entitled when their part-time work ceases to become voluntary contributors, thereby becoming eligible for the old age pension at 65 years of age?

Regular members of the Police Force who have taken up part-time insurable employment when off duty are entitled to become voluntary contributors for health insurance or contributory pensions, or both, on the cessation of their part-time employment if by that date they have been so employed for not less than 104 weeks. I should mention, however, that where a policeman within this category has attained the age of 45 before taking up part-time insurable employment and subsequently retires from the Police Force on superannuation, the rate of old age pension payable to him at age 65 by virtue of his insurance will be lower than the full rate of 10s. a week, the amount of the reduction depending upon his age at the date of his becoming insured. Whole-time members of the Police War Reserve are, with few exceptions, cornpulsorily insurable in respect of their police service and their position in regard to insurance would therefore not be affected by reason of their taking up part-time work in addition to their police duties. These men will become qualified for voluntary insurance on completing 104 weeks of service with the Police War Reserve.

Old Age Pensions

29

asked the Minister of Health whether it is competent for the Assistance Board to take into account the rise in the cost of tobacco when considering applications for supplementary pensions?

The scales in accordance with which supplementary pensions are determined. have been approved by Parliament, and the Assistance Board have no power to vary them, except to meet some special circumstances of an individual case.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note, when drawing up the forthcoming Regulations, of the point raised by my hon. Friend? Will the Minister answer?

Are we to understand that the reluctance of the right hon. Gentleman indicates that there is no intention on the part of the Government to provide any increase in the scale?

Does not this Question show that it is just tinkering with the matter? Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence with the Board to get them to give adequate consideration to the question?

Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

40.

asked the Minister of Pensions what advice he has given to the British Legion about their attitude towards the policy of trade unions representing their ex-Service men and women members on pension questions; and whether he will make a statement on the matter?

My right hon. Friend has not given, nor would he presume to give, advice to the British Legion as to their policy in this matter.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the "British Legion Journal" for May reports a speech by his right hon. Friend, in which he states that the British Legion should prevent trade unions from interfering with the question of pensions of ex-Service men and women? Will he look at that journal, and ask his right hon. Friend whether he is prepared to withdraw that statement?

My attention has been called to that report, and I can give the assurance that it was never intended to apply to trade unions as understood by my hon. Friend. It was intended to apply to ex- Service associations catering for these people.

Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend, when making speeches on such occasions, to make his meaning more clear?

41.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will reimburse claimants for pensions for the expenses they incur in obtaining medical certificates or other evidence to satisfy his Ministry's inquiries or to prove their cases before the forthcoming appeal tribunals?

No, Sir, my right hon. Friend is unable to undertake to reimburse claimants for these expenses.

Will the hon. Gentleman represent to the Minister that it ought not to cost an old soldier money to sustain his claim and to bring the necessary evidence?

I will represent that to my right hon. Friend. But we do not find that there is any difficulty in getting these statements, particularly from a man's own doctor.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is because the doctor, being in sympathy, nearly always gives his services free? There is no reason why the doctors should have to do so, though I hope they will go on doing it until such expenses are allowed.

Can we have an assurance that when the necessity of obtaining such evidence has caused additional expense, that expense will be met?

42.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the fact that the legal presumption in pension claims before appeal tribunals is that the State is not liable until the contrary is proved, he will insert a Clause in his forthcoming Bill which will ensure that the tribunals to be set up to judge the cases of this war shall give the benefit of reasonable doubt to the claimants?

My right hon. Friend does not accept the premise on which this Question is based, as the terms of the pensions instruments are sufficiently wide to enable the benefit of any reasonable doubt to be given to the claimant. The tribunal will be required, in the same way as the Ministry, to have regard to the terms of the pensions instruments, so far as they relate to the issue before the Tribunal.

In view of the fact that there is grave uncertainty where the presumption lies, would not the Minister take advantage of forthcoming legislation to make it clear?

The answer already deals with that, where it says:

"The terms of the pensions instruments are sufficiently wide to enable the benefit of any reasonable doubt to be given to the claimant."

Is not this a question of interpretation, and is my hon. Friend aware that up to date the interpretation has not been read in the way that my hon. and gallant Friend asks the question?

Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance on this matter that the presumption shall be upon the Minister?

If the benefit of the doubt is already there, as already indicated, I see no necessity for giving an assurance on this matter.

But will not the hon. Member agree to make it perfectly clear, as it is not so at present?

Afforestation And Amenity Planting Report

43.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Report on Afforestation and Amenity Planting after the War will be published?

The Report will, I hope, be published before the Whitsun Recess.

Food Supplies

Favoured Customers

44.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that preference is being given to certain favoured customers in the supply of food at some large stores and restaurants; and whether he will, with a view to securing equal and fair treatment to the general public, consider making regulations prohibiting these practices?

If my hon. Friend will be good enough to let me have particulars of the preferences given to favoured customers to which he refers, I will gladly have inquiry made and communicate with him.

Rabbits

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture want rabbits destroyed irrespective of any consideration of their food value and that the Ministry of Food, by controlling the price of rabbits, has discouraged their destruction; and will he, in view of this conflict of policy, give instructions for the decontrol of rabbit prices?

There is no conflict of policy. Price control for wild rabbits was introduced by the Ministry of Food in full agreement with the Agricultural Departments. There is no evidence that the present maximum price is discouraging rabbit destruction where trapping can be effectively used. Complete extermination normally involves gassing during the breeding season under arrangements made by the Agricultural Departments. Decontrol of prices would conflict with the extermination policy and might lead to the retention of a nucleus of breeding stock, apart from the risk of exploiting consumers of rabbit flesh.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider organising the poachers in order to get rid of the rabbits?

Cake And Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance

50.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what percentage of the voting rights of the Cake and Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance, Limited, is controlled by his Department?

The Articles of Association of the Cake and Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance, Limited, presently provide that the Minister of Food or his duly authorised representative shall have on the Committee a number of votes exceeding by one the total number of votes which could be cast by all the other Committee men entitled to vote. It is expressly stated, however, that the Minister or his authorised representative may not vote upon any resolution fixing the amount or basis of a contribution to be made by members or affecting the finances of the Alliance nor upon a resolution whereby any recommendation is made to the Government or any Minister or Department thereof.

The Minister's voting powers have not, so far, been exercised at any time and notice was given to the Alliance on 11th December, 1942, that in accordance with my Noble Friend's policy in regard to the relationship between my Department and "War Time Companies" it was proposed to relinquish such powers and to retain only the right of veto at a General Meeting of members of the Alliance. The Articles of Association are now in course of revision with the object of giving effect to this and other changes on the occasion of the next General Meeting of the Alliance.

Would it be permissible to ask the Minister to read that answer over again and to read it more slowly, so that we can get to know what he says? Nobody knows what he says.

As the Question was simply, What percentage of the voting rights of the Cake and Biscuit Wartime Alliance, Limited, is controlled by his Department, will my hon. Friend say what the percentage is?

I am sorry. It was rather a long answer, and I thought I had better not go too slowly, as the House is sometimes a little impatient at long answers. It is not possible to state a precise percentage because there are complicated conditions governing the exercise of voting rights which I have set out in my reply; and further, there is shortly to be a material change in the exercise of control, and that is clearly set out too, and I think that my hon. Friend will appreciate this.

Do I understand the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the Government representatives have rights of voting they are now giving up?

Shop Assistants (Tipping)

51.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to. the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the widespread complaints about the tipping of shop assistants in some areas; and whether he intends to take any further steps to stop this practice?

I would refer by hon. Friend to the reference I made to this practice during the Debate on Thursday, 13th May, 1943.

I am aware of that reference, but as there are such widespread complaints about this and peculiar annoyance at the unfairness that arises or may arise from tipping, cannot the Minister take some definite and quantitative action to stop this abuse?

I indicated that it is an offence, particularly in connection with price-controlled goods, but I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate the difficulty of getting complete evidence, because neither the tipper nor the tippee is likely to reveal the offence.

In view of the very serious position to shop assistants, has the Minister actually any evidence that there is any tipping of shop assistants in this country, and would he be good enough to take it from me that there is no tipping among Co-operative employees?

I do not know about that, but I am afraid that there is undoubted evidence which appears to have very substantial foundation in fact that the practice of tipping is employed by certain members of the public and in certain establishments.

Is it possible to have notices displayed in all the big stores that this practice is illegal and that penalties can be inflicted for indulging in it?

I would be glad to consider that, but there is the disadvantage of calling attention to an abuse though it exists.

Is not a great deal of this tipping in kind and not in cash?

Bombing Policy

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that no representations made to His Majesty's Government by neutral countries suggesting the abandonment of air-bombing will be considered and that it is the policy of His Majesty's Government relentlessly to pursue all forms of military attack upon the enemy?

The destruction Of the Axis war potential by air bombing is a vital and indeed major feature of our strategy, and neither the enemy nor anyone else will divert us from it. Nor shall we relax the vigorous prosecution of the war by this and other legitimate methods until the complete victory of the United Nations is achieved.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is an ever-growing volume of opinion in this country which considers the indiscriminate bombing of civilian centres both morally wrong and strategic lunacy?

There is no indiscriminate bombing. As has been repeatedly stated in this House, the bombing is of those targets which are most effective from the military point of view.

Can we have the kind of thing that the hon. Gentleman calls public opinion on this matter?

On a point of Order. Is there any way of preventing statements like this being made in the House?

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his answer will be appreciated by all sensible people in this country?

Will the right hon. Gentleman at least give consideration to any representations made by Christian Churches on this matter?

Agriculture

Italian Prisoners Of War

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the rule whereby Italian prisoners must number 10 before they can be employed has operated to the disadvantage of the small farmer and smallholder; and whether he will allow single Italian prisoners to be employed as in the last war?

Wheat Subsidy (Payment)

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, to provide money for harvest wages, he will arrange that the payment of £3 per acre wheat subsidy be made on 9th August to all wheat growers who rendered their 4th of June return to the Ministry of Agriculture by l0th June?

No, Sir. It would not be practicable to adopt my hon. Friend's proposal.

Machine Tools

52.

asked the Minister of Production whether he is satisfied that we are utilising the machine tools capacity to obtain the maximum output; and what action has been taken recently to deal with the problem?

I can say that having regard to the many factors which govern production the fullest practicable use is being made of machine tool capacity. This is a matter which receives the constant attention of the Supply Departments. In addition the Machine Tool Control exercises a general supervision of the use of machine tools. The measures adopted for this purpose are described in a reference book which the Control has recently issued for the guidance of contractors and others concerned. I am sending a copy of this book to my hon. Friend.

Can my hon., Friend say whether a recent survey has been made by the Ministry with a view to seeing that machine tools throughout the country are utilised in order to obtain the maximum production?

Yes, Sir, a survey was made recently, and any necessary action is being taken upon it and in fact has been taken.

Is not the complaint in this Question largely due to late realisation by the Ministry of Labour that excessively long hours are not desirable?

Is it not a fact that there is a large surplus of machine tools at the present time, whereas there is a shortage of springs, ball bearings and things like that?

I do not think I could accept the broad generalisation of my hon. Friend. There are some classes of machine tools for which at the moment full use cannot be found, but I do not think they are a large number.

53 and 54.

asked the Minister of Production (1) why so many machine tools are not working at a factory of which he has been informed; why, on the 14th April night-shift, 32 costly machines did not operate; how frequently that has occurred; who is responsible; and what action has been taken to improve the output;

(2) Whether he is aware of the important product being manufactured at a factory, of which he has been informed; that the internal management and the workpeople are efficient and eager; and who is responsible for the failure to obtain maximum production?

I have had investigation made and find that, generally speaking, production at the factory referred to is up to programme. In one section, however, as I have already informed my hon. Friend in correspondence, action to improve machine tool utilisation as a whole has been impeded through a change in production involving modifications in jigs, fixtures and tooling. This cannot be accomplished without some machine tools temporarily standing idle.

In view of the fact that the Ministry of Supply nominated certain directors to run this place and that action has been taken against workpeople when they have been responsible for slackness, can my hon. Friend say what action has been, or is being, taken against the directors who have been responsible for this situation in this firm?

My hon. Friend's Question refers in the main to the utilisation of machine tools. I can tell him that the position has been closely examined and that in so far as it has been possible to make any improvement by removing surplus machine tools, of which there were a certain number there, that action has been taken.

That is appreciated by the men, but in view of the fact that it is the directors who have been responsible for neglect, as has been proved, what action has been taken against them?

I think my hon. Friend ought to give me notice of that question, because what he has put on the Paper does nut refer to management at all.

Iron And Steel Railings (Collection)

55.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works the approximate total tonnage of iron railings collected for conversion to war material since the inception of the scheme; and whether it is the intention of the Government to endeavour to increase still further this tonnage by improved methods and organisation?

Over 500,000 tons of iron and steel railings have been collected since the commencement of the campaign in September, 1941. The quantity, which remains to be recovered, is estimated to be comparatively small, and I am not persuaded that any change in the organisation or in the methods employed is called for.

Can the hon. Gentleman assure me that the scrap which is lying about in many parts of the country is receiving his attention?