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Commons Chamber

Volume 390: debated on Thursday 3 June 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 3rd June, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

National War Effort

Hospitals (Nursing And Domestic Staffs)


asked the Minister of Labour what representations he has received of the serious shortage of nursing and domestic staffs in infectious diseases hospitals; and whether he has had any consultations with the Minister of Health with the view of remedying the position?

I am fully aware of the serious shortage of nursing and domestic staffs in certain hospitals, including hospitals for infectious diseases, and I have discussed the position with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. Local appointments officers of my Department are already reviewing the position of nurses and midwives who registered on l0th April under the Nurses and Midwives (Registration for Employment) Order, 1943, and in placing available women, priority is being given to vacancies in those hospitals, including hospitals for infectious diseases, where the shortage is most acute. As regards domestic staff, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) on 13th May, of which I am sending him a copy.

Transferred Women, England And Wales


asked the Minister of Labour how many men and women, respectively, have been transferred from Wales to England, and from England to Wales, by direction of his Ministry?

The number of women transferred from Wales to employment in England after registration under the Registration for Employment Order and the National Service Acts was 1,455 up to 1st June, 1943, from 16th June, 1942, on which date my Department started to keep records in this connection. In the same period 114 women went from England to work in Wales.

In view of the effect of these transfers on the life of Welsh towns, will the right hon. Gentleman see that only voluntary transfers are made in future?

Dog Trainer


asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the remarks on 27th May of Sir Gervais Rentoul when convicting a dog trainer of the international circus for cruelty; and whether he will direct the man concerned to work connected with the war effort?

I am having inquiries made into this case and will communicate with my hon. and gallant Friend.

Ex-Cotton Workers


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that many persons had to seek other employment when cotton mills went on short time or closed down; that they are being recalled now and some are objecting to it and wish to remain at their present work; and whether full consideration is given to them?

Yes, Sir. Owing to the urgent need for experienced workers in some sections of the cotton industry, I am asking ex-cotton workers, including some engaged in munitions production, to return to their former employment. Where workers are transferred compulsorily to cotton by direction under Regulation 58A the normal procedure of appeal to a local appeal board against the direction is available.


Are there any further efforts they can make if the appeal board rejects their appeal?

Will my right hon. Friend have some regard to the conditions obtaining in the cotton industry, and could not efforts be made to make the cotton workers' position a little better than it is at the present time, because they are being driven back to conditions they did not like from positions where they have been getting better wages?

I have to follow the rate for the job, and wages in the cotton trade have been arranged with the cotton Union, and I am happy to say that there have been material improvements made in the cotton trade during the war.

Accountants' Staffs


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that, because of the withdrawal of members of the staffs of professional accountants' offices, apprehension and unrest are being caused among members of the public who are unable to obtain the skilled advice and assistance they require in connection with their tax affairs; and will he state the number of women within the scope of the National Service Acts who are at present employed in the offices of the Inland Revenue in connection with the administration and collection of Income Tax, Excess Profits Tax, National Defence Contribution and War Damage Contribution?

I have had no evidence that apprehension and unrest are being caused among members of the public owing to the withdrawal of staff from accountants' offices. Deferment of calling-up has been granted to a very considerable number of accountants and male members of their staffs who are liable for military service, and men over military age are not being withdrawn from the profession. Deferment is not normally granted in the case of women who are liable under the National Service Acts, but other women possessing special qualifications are not being withdrawn. The second part of the Question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In regard to the reply to the first part of my Question, is it not a fact that in certain cases arrangements were made that essential members of professional accountancy staffs would not, in fact, be called up unless suitable substitutes could be found, and is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the cases which I brought to the attention of the Ministry such substitutes were not found and considerable hardship is being caused to my constituents?

I am advised on this matter with regard to accountants by a headquarters committee, who go into the thing very carefully. I cannot guarantee prior substitution in every case, and I take this occasion to say that I am afraid that prior substitution will have to go very shortly altogether, because when I send substitutes people want to keep their own staffs, and they make it difficult to take on the substitutes.

Is the Minister aware that in certain cases such a guarantee was given?

Is it to be understood that professional chartered accountants are exempt from military service at all ages?

Workers' War Record


asked the Minister of Labour whether it is intended to publish a book containing the war record of the Ministry of Labour, an account of the achievements of industry in organising and utilising man- and woman-power and the contribution made by the organised workpeople in the workshops in the training of workers; if so, when will it be published; and will he see that a large sale is organised and that copies be sent to all military units and to all His Majesty's ships?

A book on the mobilization of the man- and woman-power of this country has been written and is now with the printers. Publication and distributional arrangements are in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information.

Will my right hon. Friend convey this suggestion to the Minister of Information with a view to getting as large a sale as possible organised, and will he also see that the suggestion in the Question that copies should be broadcast to all people serving in His Majesty's Forces is carried out?

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that there will be enough paper to supply everybody with a copy?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the achievements of the workers in this war are such that they should be made known, and would not paper be well used on a publication of this character?

Will the Minister see that this book gives some recognition to the work of industrialists, who have not been referred to at all?

Post-War Overseas Policing


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will forthwith call for volunteers to form the Armed Forces or part of those Forces necessary for the occupation or policing of such areas overseas as may have to be occupied or policed after the war, in order to release naval, military and Air Force personnel who have served abroad either to return home or to civilian employment as soon as possible?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given to him by the Secretary of State for War on 1st June and to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) on 20th May, of which I am sending him a copy.

Military Service (Cinema Technicians)


asked the Minister of Labour whether, in considering applications for postponement or deferment of military service, technicians engaged in cinema production have their specialist work fully taken into consideration; whether interested Government Departments are consulted in the matter; and whether the advice of these Departments is taken, particularly respecting the avoidance of handicaps to production?

Applications for the deferment of calling-up of men engaged in film production are referred to an independent Advisory Committee which gives careful consideration to their specialist work. Interested Government Departments are afforded the opportunity of making representations to this Committee, and due weight is given to their advice on all matters affecting production.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the appropriate trade union is taken fully into consultation?

The Department is in the habit of consulting everybody who asks to be consulted.

Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that, under the present provisions for pensions and allowances for the widows and children of deceased members of His Majesty's Forces, these dependants may be reduced on the termination of war service grant, especially in areas where rents are high, to a standard of living far below that deemed proper during the life of the deceased man; and whether he will consider as an urgent matter the application of the minimum unit standard of 18s. in such cases?

The question raised by my hon. and learned Friend is among the matters which I am examining following the Debate in this House on 23rd March last.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not prepared to say that it is an urgent matter to ensure that these widows, who may be bearing another child or may be bringing up a number of children and may be quite unable to work, are assured of a minimum standard?

This and many other matters mentioned in the Debate are indeed matters of importance. I am doing my best to get down to the consideration of all of them so that I can make a comprehensive statement to the House.

My right hon. Friend says that it is a matter of importance; is he not prepared to say it is a matter of urgency?

In view of the fact that a war service grant is given to a wife in order to bring her up to a minimum level of subsistence, will my right hon. Friend inquire into the reasons why, as soon as a wife becomes a widow, her pension automatically reduces her income below the Minister's own standard of minimum subsistence?

My hon. and gallant Friend is behind the times; I am considering that and have been doing so for some time.

Does not the present position leave these women below the standard which will be achieved for civilian widows under the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill?


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider the introduction of the principle of ante-natal allowances in the case of posthumous births on the lines already applied by the Service Departments in the case of births during the father's life?

I am glad to have the opportunity of stating that from the outset of the scheme my Department has paid a pre-natal allowance to a widow in receipt of a pension in any case where the pre-natal allowance period began after the termination of the period for which pay and allowances are continued by the Service Departments. Payment is made by the Service Departments in any case where the pre-natal allowance period begins whilst Service pay and allowances are still in issue.

Can my right hon. Friend say why, as many months have elapsed since the Services adopted this principle, his Department have not announced their adoption of the principle?


asked the Minister of Pensions the maximum amount of pension now awardable to a parent, or to parents, respectively, in respect of the death on active service of a private soldier son in respect of whom dependency is established; and the date of the Warrant fixing these amounts?

Under the Royal Warrant of 12th January, 1943, the maximum pension awardable to one parent is 16s. 6d. and to two parents 19s.

Arising out of this disclosure, does my right hon. Friend think these meagre figures are in any way related to the reasonable considerations of compensation for dependency? Will he not merely consider the matter but take steps to put an end to this shocking rate of pension?

This is also a matter which is being fully considered by my Advisory Committee.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Could you make an appeal to Members to speak up instead of whispering?

Is the Minister also reviewing the case of a mother whose son has been making an allotment but now receives no pension at all?

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the time has gone by for consideration and that the time has now come for some action?

During the recent Debate 14 propositions were put to me by Members who regarded them as being equally as important as the question which my hon. and gallant Friend has just put to me. I have already stated that it would be far better that I should come forward with a comprehensive scheme dealing with all these matters.

When will my right hon. Friend be in a position to make an announcement?

I do not take the hon. Member's example. I will make an announcement as soon as it is possible to do so.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware of the case of the late Lieutenant E. McPherson, Royal Naval Reserve; that this officer was twice torpedoed and then developed a nervous condition due to the torpedoing and later a disability which proved fatal; that his widow and orphans are entirely without means; and will he reconsider his refusal to grant a Service pension?

As I have explained to the hon. Member, Mr. McPherson's death was due to a malignant disease of the abdomen which I am advised was neither caused nor influenced in its pro- gress by the officer's war experiences. In these circumstances, I regret, therefore, that a pension cannot be awarded to Mrs. McPherson.

Can the right hon. Gentleman really justify that statement to this House after the advice which has been given to him, namely, that this man's death was completely unconnected with the Service, seeing that he was twice torpedoed, that he was subjected to an operation under Service conditions, and that he was, in fact, accepted as A.I when he went into the Navy?

This is a case of cancer. I have consulted my medical advisers and other medical experts, not merely on this particular case, but on the general question of this disease, many times. The advice given to me is that this officer's death cannot be ascribed to war service. Mrs. McPherson will have an opportunity now of presenting her case to an appeal tribunal, and we shall get a decision from someone outside the Ministry.

In the meantime will not the Minister temporarily reconsider his decision, because the widow and children are now completely dependent upon charity?

The hon. Membér is a little impatient. He asked me to answer when I was getting up to do so. I am always courteous to the House, and I hope Members will be courteous to me. In reply to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes), I will go carefully into this matter, but I must repeat that the advice which has been given to me up to now is that deaths from cancer have nothing to do with war service.

Will the Minister reconsider the whole question of cancer, because it is constantly used as an excuse and a reason for escaping liability by the Ministry?

We shall have an opportunity shortly, now that tribunals are set up, of having this matter determined outside my Department or my advisers. In the meantime I will see what can possibly be done in this case.

Is the Minister not aware that the country is becoming impatient about cases similar to this where something is done only after pressure? There is a deep-rooted impression that, the men in the Minister's Department are using their skill and ingenuity to cheat these men.

I have travelled widely and extensively, interviewing war pensions committees and branches of the British Legion throughout the country—I have just returned from an extensive tour of Scotland—and I do not agree at all with the view that has been expressed by the hon. Member.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can inform the House as to the number of cases of members of the Forces, who have been discharged from the Forces owing to disability, who have made application for pensions and whose claim has been rejected; and what percentage of such rejection have been psycho-neurosis cases?

I regret that it would not be in the public interest to give the figures asked for in the first part of the Question. As regards the second part, the percentage is about 17.


asked the Minister of Pensions the number of meetings held by his Central Advisory Committee during 1943; and the matters submitted to the Committee for their advice?

The Committee have held three meetings, and in addition there were three meetings of a subcommittee. The following matters have been put before them for consideration:

Pensions Appeal Tribunals and related issues;

Position of widows on cessation of service allowances and War Service Grants;

Parents' Pensions;

Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider the granting of family allowances to disabled ex-Service men who marry, after becoming disabled, in cases where there is definite proof that a contract to marry was entered into before the date of disablement?

The granting of family allowances to disabled men who marry after receipt of their disability is a matter which I have already promised to bring before my Central Advisory Committee.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has yet any announcement to make with regard to improvements to the Royal Warrant for Pensions as a result of the views expressed and representations made to him?

No, Sir, I have not yet completed my consideration of all the various matters affecting the Royal Warrant which have been represented to me.

In addition to the matters brought forward in the Debate and representations which have been made to me from various organisations representing ex-Service men, I have received a suggestion from the British Legion in Scotland which is of a fundamental and drastic nature, and I felt it my duty to consider that suggestion along with the others before making a clear statement to this House. I have been to Scotland for interviews, and I am going on with my investigation.

Would not the Minister consider working on the principle of "Fit for service, fit for pension"?

In view of the fundamental changes in the administration of the Pensions Warrant suggested by the British Legion in Scotland, does the Minister intend to hold up his proposals until he has given complete consideration to their views?

It is not a question of administration. The suggestions made by the British Legion in Scotland deal with a principle which goes to the root of the matter, and I feel that I ought to give it due consideration before making a statement.


Armed Forces (Income Tax)


asked the Secretary of State for India the rate per £1 of income levied for Income-Tax purpose on members of His Majesty's Forces serving in India; whethere there is a personal allowance relieved of tax and, if so, what is it; and why reliefs are not given in respect of family commitments?

Members of His Majesty's Forces serving in India are assessable, in the same way as other persons, to tax under the Indian Income-tax Act. Incomes to £112 10s. are exempt. Those above that level are taxed on a sliding scale. For example, an income of £300 would in effect be taxed at 11¾rid. in the £, and one of £1,200 as 2s. 9½. in the £ There is no personal allowances as such, but in the case of total incomes exceeding £150 the first 1£112 10s. is not subject to tax. As regards the last part of the Question, the power to legislate on these matters rests with the Indian Legislature.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the principle of family and married reliefs is a very good one, and will he represent those views to the appropriate authorities in India in view of the dissatisfaction on the part of our men there?

It is not a question of my agreement. It is a question for the Indian Legislature.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that many of these men serving in India are in fact so badly off that there is no comparison with men of equal rank serving at home, and will he not make an allowance to the Indian Army people which will enable them to pay the high rate of tax that they are now paying?

In most cases officers and N.C.O.'s in India are better off, but in the case of some senior N.C.O.'s and junior officers with large families, they are liable to Indian Income Tax when they would not be liable to tax here. It is not possible to reconcile those anomalies.

Is it not the case that there are certain officers serving in the Forces in India who pay double Income Tax—in India and in this country?

That question would more properly be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It depends, I imagine, on whether they have private incomes in this country.

Food Situation


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he will make a further statement respecting the food situation in India; whether the prices of primary foods are still 10 and more times their pre-war level; whether rice is in substantially greater supply; and what further steps have been taken to meet the shortage of foodstuffs?

The latest reports from India are that the wheat just reaped is a bumper crop, and the other spring crops are good. The crop is moving slowly to the market and prices are still high. The rice situation still causes anxiety and must continue to do so so long as the Burma crop is lost to us. The chief concern at present is for Bengal and especially Calcutta, where the price of rice is shown as more than eight times pre-war, though this is not true of India generally. The Government of India have taken into their own charge the adjustment of supplies between surplus and deficiency areas throughout the country, divided into six regions, each under a Central Government Commissioner, and each comprising several "food provinces."

As the position is alarming, and famine conditions in many areas are very acute, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to see that all possible steps are taken to provide food for these people?

Surely something can be done to bring the price down from the level of 10 times more than it was before the war.

Indians, South Africa


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any information as to the result of the representations made by the Indian Government to the South African Government regarding the Trading and Occupation of Land Restriction Bill and the restrictions this imposes on Indian nationals; and whether any modification has been accepted by the South African Government?

I understand that the Bill referred to passed into law on 28th April on the lines originally proposed. It is a temporary Measure, for three years only, and the Union Government announced in connection with it their intention to set up immediately a commission, under a high judicial authority, on which Indians would be invited to serve, to inquire into matters affecting the Indian community in Natal and make recommendations. The persons described by the hon. Member as Indian nationals are for the most part South African nationals of Indian origin.

Are the Indian Government satisfied with the situation; is this a committee on which certain Indians may sit, and are these Indians Indian nationals or Indian citizens of South Africa?

Industrial Fire Brigades (Uniform)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the result of his consultation with the Minister of Production with regard to the issue to members of industrial fire brigades of suitable uniform clothing and boots on the same terms as are already given to members of the National Fire Service; and, if not, when it is likely that a decision will be made?

I regret that I am not yet in a position to add anything to the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend on 17th March last. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Production has been giving very full consideration to the whole question of uniform supplies, but, as my hon. and gallant Friend will realise, the supply position is becoming more difficult as time goes on.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that men discharged for inefficiency from works fire brigades and joining the N.F.S. at once get a full issue of uniform, while the only issue available to industrial fire brigades on payment is made of cotton twill which is quite unsuitable?

I do not think I should be disposed to accept the assumption on which that question is based.

If I bring a definite case before the right hon. Gentleman where such a thing has happened, will he look into it?

Civil Defence



asked the Home Secretary the number, up to the last available date, of persons prosecuted for violating the several regulations covering air-raid precautions, Civil Defence, fire-watching and kindred services; and how many have been imprisoned, male and female, respectively?

I regret that the information asked for is not available, and, in view of the pressure upon local authorities and their staffs, I should not feel justified in asking them to prepare statistics of this nature.

Travel Permits To Northern Ireland


asked the Home Secretary whether, owing to the largely increased acreage under tillage, he will grant to teachers from Northern Ireland in Great Britain who can satisfy him that they have arranged with farmers to assist in harvesting operations during the summer holidays permits to enable them to travel to Northern Ireland for that purpose?

No, Sir. Under the change in the Regulations made last year such persons 'were allowed to pay two visits to Ireland in the 12-month period which commenced on 1st October, 1942. My hon. Friend appears to be asking that three visits should now be allowed, but I am not prepared to make this further concession.

Will the arrangements already entered into with Northern Ireland farmers to act as land girls and harvest workers, when their help is so much needed have to be cancelled owing to the slavish adherence to the letter rather than to the spirit of the law bearing on the granting of travel permits?

I am delighted, and the Minister of Agriculture will be delighted, to know that teachers are anxious to work on the land. If the hon. Member knows of any such cases, the Minister of Agriculture will be glad to fix them up in Great Britain.

Emergency Water Supplies (Protective Safeguards)


asked the Home Secretary when he proposes to implement the promise given in November last to place protective safeguards on the emergency water supplies?

The necessary instructions were issued on 26th November last and the provision of protective safeguards is proceeding as rapidly as available resources in labour and materials permit. Progress on the whole has been good, and in most Regions the above ground installations will have been provided with barbed wire protection within the near future. The protection of basement installations by brick walling will take a little longer in certain places where the work to be done is extensive and the labour situation difficult, but special efforts have been made to mobilise labour resources for the purpose in those areas.

Can my right hon. Friend say where protective safeguards have been placed, because it is difficult to find them? With the advent of fine weather the casualties are mounting again.

My recollection is that the barbed wire is to be placed somewhere about the top of the wall.

Speed Offences (Police Timing)


asked the Home Secretary how many police forces in England and Wales time the speed of motor-vehicles by a system of hand signals by police officers; and whether this method is considered satisfactory?

I regret that I have not the information to enable me to answer the first part of the Question. There is no reason why, in competent hands, the method of timing referred to should not produce accurate records of speed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this practice is continually being condemned by judges and chairmen of quarter sessions owing to the likelihood of error' which always works against the motorist?

I have not been aware that there was general discontent in the Courts. I am aware that any motorist who gets caught for speeding feels that there is something wrong about it.

In view of the fact that private motoring is now nonexistent and the only motor cars on the road are those engaged on essential services, will the right hon. Gentleman abolish the system?

On the other hand, it has been impressed upon the public by the Supply Departments that unnecessary speeding is wasteful of petrol and rubber. In any case I am really not concerned with the merits of the law. I find the law as it is, and I have to enforce it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although there are fewer cars on the road, the public are greatly alarmed at the number of fatalities?

Electoral Reform


asked the Home Secretary whether he can now make a statement regarding electoral reform, especially with regard to by-elections in war-time?

I regret that I am still unable to add anything to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State gave to the Question on this subject by my bon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) on 12th May.

Does my right hon. Friend recollect that the Prime Minister said that a statement would probably be made before. Easter and that he himself a few weeks ago told me he hoped to make a statement before Whitsuntide?

What the Prime Minister said was that he might be able to make a statement before Easter, and I said that if I could not make a statement before Whitsuntide, I. should be very disappointed. I hasten to add that I am.

I think not. I propose to make a Parliamentary statement in answer to a Question or otherwise, but I cannot commit myself that legislation will be involved. I think that it probably will be, in which case there would be ample opportunity for the House to debate and examine the proposals.

Explosion, West End (Inquiry)


asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information about the explosion at the junction of Dean Street and Romilly Street on the night of 29th May; what amount of damage was done; if any people were injured; and what was the cause of the explosion?

I am informed that this incident is the subject of a criminal charge, the trial of which is pending. In these circumstances all I can properly say is that the damage was not extensive and that happily nobody was injured.

Dog Trainer (Conviction)


asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the remarks on 27th May of Sir Gervais Rentoul when convicting a dog trainer of the international circus for cruelty; and whether he will see that the act concerned is withdrawn?

I have seen news reports of these remarks. Power to suppress the training or exhibtion of a performing lies not with me but with a court of summary jurisdiction, which, on complaint of cruelty in these connections by a constable or officer of a local authority, has power by order to prohibit the training or exhibition, or to impose conditions thereon. Further, in addition to, or in lieu of, a penalty imposed for an offence under the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, the Court has power to order the removal of the offender's name from the Performing Animals Register, or order his permanent or temporary disqualification from registration.


Knightley School, Staffordshire


asked the President of the Board of Education whether his inspectors have drawn attention to the unsatisfactory conditions of the Knightley School, Staffordshire; and whether he proposes to take any steps to compel the governors of the school to effect some improvement especially in hygiene and sanitation?

I understand from His Majesty's Inspector that the premises of Knightley Church of England School do not fall below the general standards commonly found in village schools. The sanitary arrangements are kept under periodical observation by the school medical officer.

Is it not possible for the Minister to take some definite action to prevent this sort of thing where children are being educated under primitive conditions?

Youth Organisations


asked the President of the Board of Education, on what grounds youth organisations sponsored by political parties have been forbidden to affiliate to local youth committees; and whether, in view of the disappointment which it has caused, he will consider modifying this decision?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 1st October, 1942, to the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) a copy of which I am sending to him.

School Camps


asked the President of the Board of Education whether he can make a statement with regard to the experience of the 30 school camps-built by the Government at the outbreak of war, including the uses to which they are now being put?

The national camps, which were originally designed as school camps for occupation by successive groups of children drawn from town schools, have, as a result of the war, been utilised as boarding schools for evacuated school children. 25 of them are occupied by elementary schools, two by secondary schools, two by schools for defective children and one by an orphanage. The educational and physical advantages derived by the children attending the camps are beyond doubt.

Widows' Pensions


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the increasing number of widows who have been deprived of pensions under the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1936, owing to the failure of their husbands to make the necessary 104 contributions under Section 5 (1) of the Act, for various reasons, and the hardship caused thereby, he will consider the advisability of steps being taken to modify the number of contributions to be made under that Section of the Act?

The point raised by my hon. Friend will be considered in connection with the Government's examination of the proposals contained in Sir William Beveridge's Report.

Public Health

Emergency Domiciliary Medical Service


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the need for an emergency domiciliary medical service; and whether he proposes to take any steps to meet this need in view of the shortage of general practitioners?

The ordinary practice is for a doctor to make arrangements by which his patients may obtain treatment from a colleague in an emergency when he himself is not available, and I am not aware of any general need for the establishment of collective schemes for this purpose. I do not think therefore that it is necessary for me to take steps for the promotion of such schemes, but where such a scheme is adopted by general consent I am ready to do what I can to facilitate its working.

Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman has not received the report of the Medical Practitioners' Union on this question?

Is there any arrangement between the right hon. Gentleman's Department and the Fighting Services so that districts shall not be denuded of medical practitioners?

Tuberculosis Cases (Accommodation)


asked the Minister of Health whether he can give, by counties, the number of reported tuberculosis cases and the shortage of beds needed to accommodate patients?

I am uncertain for what figures my hon. Friend is asking in the first part of the Question, and I am communicating with him on this. As the reply to the second part involves a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

In view of the increasingly serious position with regard to tuberculosis, will my right hon. Friend exert a little more pressure—I know that he has exerted some—on the Ministry of Supply to release the material necessary to complete a lot of sanatoria?

We are doing all we can, but the House is aware that the priorities are considerable.

Is it not possible to transfer beds from places where there is not sufficient staff and where there are empty beds to places where they are required?

Following are the figures:


England And Wales

Number of patients on Waiting List, at 31st March, 1943, who had been waiting for a bed for more than 10 days.

PulmonaryNon Pulmonary
West Hartlepool31
Isle of Ely21

PulmonaryNon Pulmonary
Gloucestershire Joint Board
Lincs. Kesteven91
Lincs. Lindsey123
East Ham32
West Ham3

Wolverhampton and Dudley Joint Board616
East Suffolk1
East Suffolk1
East Sussex3
Warwick and Coventry Joint Board for T.B.3526
Wight, Isle of22
Yorkshire—East Riding
Yorkshire—North Riding
Yorkshire—West Riding15619



Merthyr Tydfil92
Newport, Mon.145

National Health Service (Discussions)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to say when a White Paper on the subject of Assumption B of Sir William Beveridge's Report is to be issued?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave on 26th May to my hon. Friend the Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little).

In view of the misapprehensions arising from the reported statement of my right hon. Friend to the effect that his proposals are "in the discard," will he give an unequivocal assurance that the Government's acceptance of Assumption B in the Beveridge Report has not been abandoned?

Will there be an opportunity for the House to discuss Assumption B?

Sickness Incidence


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that there is evidence from recent statistics of approved societies that there is a substantial increase in the incidence of sickness among the insured population; and will he inquire as to the extent to which long hours of labour and fatigue resulting from Civil Defence and Home Guard duties are responsible for this and issue a Report on his findings?

I am aware that there has been an increase in the incidence of short-term sickness among the insured population. I have however no evidence to suggest that the increase is attributable to the factors indicated in my hon. Friend's Question and I do not think that an inquiry on the lines contemplated by him would serve a useful purpose, since it would be impossible to dissociate these factors from other circumstances arising out of the war.

Is there any contact between the medical department of the Ministry of Health and the Ministries of Labour and Home Security to prevent undue physical strain being brought upon workpeople and thus sending then on to the funds of approved societies?

Water Supply, Ripon


asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the unsatisfactory position of the water supply to the city of Ripon, caused by the lack of supervision, particularly at night, of the reservoir installations; and whether he will rectify the position by arranging for the release of one of the prewar staff from the services?

I am aware of the difficulty to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has agreed to the release from the Army of one of the men previously engaged on this work.

Death Rates


asked the Minister of Health, respectively, the male and female death rates for 1942 and their comparison with those of 1938?

The death rates for males and females in 1942 (civilians only) in England and Wales were 14.4 and 10.7 per i,000 population, and in 1938 they were 12.5 and 10.8 respectively. Direct comparison between 1938 and 1942 is vitiated by the exclusion in 1942 of young and medically selected persons in the Forces.

Is the reduction not very largely due to the introduction and use of the new sulphonomide M. & B. 693 in infectious cases?

That is one element, but there are many other factors. These figures do show the extraordinary strength and character of the British people.


asked the Minister of Health the child mortality in 1942 and its comparison with that of pre-war years?

The mortality rate for infants under one year of age in England and Wales in 1942 was 49 per 1,000 births. The corresponding rates for 1936, 1937 and 1938 were 59, 58 and 53, respectively. The death rate for children at ages one to five in England and Wales in 1942 was 3,424 per million population. The corresponding rates for 1936, 1937 and 1938 were 5,508, 5,121 and 4,600, respectively.

Does that answer imply that there has been something like a reduction of one-half in about half-a-dozen years in the case of children under five?

The country will draw its own conclusions, but it is a most satisfactory statement.

Is this due to the fact that so many doctors are abroad on active service?

That is a very pleasant jibe, but it does less than justice to the magnificent services rendered by the doctors.


asked the Minister of Health the death rate in 1942, at ages under 15 years, from diphtheria and its comparison with that of previous years?

The death rate from diphtheria at ages under 15 in 1942 in England and Wales was 192 per million population. The corresponding death rates in 1939, 1940 and 1941 were 228, 266 and 280, respectively.

Partly to that and partly to adopting modern devices and skilfully using them.

Is it not due to the campaign for immunisation which we hope to extend very largely in the present six months?

Maternity Cases (Accommodation)


asked the Minister of Health whether in his consideration of future adequate national health and medical services, special attention is being given to the need of providing efficient municipal maternity homes throughout the country; and whether he will state the present number of private and municipal maternity homes and their respective number of beds?

In the schemes for the future the provision of adequate accommodation for maternity cases is being considered in common with all other classes of case needing institutional care. According to the latest figures in my Department, there are some 4,100 maternity beds in voluntary institutions, 8,000 in municipal homes and hospitals and over 3,000 in the emergency maternity homes established by my Department, making a total of between 15,000 and 16,000 beds in all.

In view of the shortage of beds in maternity hospitals at the present time, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that plans are being prepared to see that every area in the country has an adequate maternity service?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has given that answer on many other occasions? Is he further aware that expectant mothers are turned away from hospitals in this country every day, for lack of accommodation?

No doubt the hon. Lady knows that there are thousands more beds than there were when the war broke out and that their number is still being added to.

To what extent has the recent call for an increased service of nurses and midwives affected the situation?

I would like to see that question on the Paper. As the House knows, we have been taking very active steps in this matter.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman make a special inquiry into this urgent matter?

There is no need for a special inquiry. We know the facts, and we are working hard to make the maternity services as effective as they can be made.


Agricultural Workers


asked the Minister of Health whether he has conferred with the Minister of Agriculture with a view to arriving at a programme and target to be achieved in building farm-workers cottages for 1944, in view of the inevitable delay which arises after the programme has been sanctioned?

I am keeping in close touch with my right hon. Friend with a view to undertaking the maximum possible programme that the resources of labour and material may permit.

Do the Government really take any account of the time factor, and is it not a fact that in all probability there will be no completed houses for farm workers in 1943? It really is not good enough.

My right hon. Friend knows better than to argue against the facts; it is very wise.


asked the Minister of Health whether tenders for the authorised 3,000 rural cottages will be allocated on a basis of time of completion as well as of price; and whether, as yet, he is in a position to give an estimate of the average number of weeks required for completion of building and the estimated all-in cost per cottage?

The answer to the first part of the Question is that price is at present the primary consideration, but the period for completion will also be borne in mind. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir."

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects the first real, active steps will be taken for the erection of the first of these cottages?

Is the Minister aware that quotations as high as £2,400 for a pair of cottages are being received, and does he think that in these circumstances the proposition is worth proceeding with?

My hon. Friend is taking something he has seen in the newspapers. He had better wait until I can give an answer and he can see the whole lay-out. He will find the figures much below that.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that before the war we were building twice as many houses as this every week?


asked the Minister of Health whether the attention of his Central Housing Advisory Committee has been drawn to the model of a rural worker's dwelling on exhibition in Edinburgh embodying the ideas of 30,000 Scottish women as to the style and interior of the dwelling best suited to the needs of the rural worker; and whether, in view of the year's housing programme which rural district councils in England and Wales are being asked to prepare, he will have the best ideas of English and Welsh housewives embodied in models and sent on tour through the rural centres of this country?

I understand that this model was designed by an architect in private practice at the request of the Scottish Women's Rural Institutes to illustrate suggestions put forward in evidence by members of the Institutes to the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. The Sub-Committee of my own Central Housing Advisory. Committee which is also considering the design of post-war dwellings under the chairmanship of Lord Dudley is in touch with the Scottish Committee and has been supplied with copies of all the evidence submitted to it. Lord Dudley's Sub-Committee has also received evidence from a number of bodies well qualified to represent the point of view of working housewives in England and Wales and the type plans circulated to Rural District Councils in connection with the emergency scheme for agricultural cottages included plans recommended by the Sub-Commitee after considering this evidence. These were, however, interim recommendations, and I understand that the Sub-Committee's final report will not be ready before the end of the summer. I intend that the recommendations in the Report shall receive the widest publicity, and I will certainly give sympathetic consideration to my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Does that relate to the circulation, on tour, of a type of model for the inspection of housing authorities as well as the community?

The English Committee are very keen on models, and the Rural Housing Sub-Committee recommended to the main Committee in January last that consideration should be given to their preparation.


asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in the erection of the 3,000 rural cottages which the Government have stated are to be completed this year?

By 28th May sites had been selected and approved for 2,734 houses, and plans had been approved for 1,624. Tenders for substantial numbers are expected soon, and I hope shortly to be able to make a general statement on the scheme.

Could the Minister say what has been the cause of these delays in building these cottages and also whether the Government are still deter' mined that the cottages shall be built this year?

That, of course, is our intention, but my hon. Friend will understand that there is a mass of detailed work to be done to get to the point where tenders can be approved, and the selection of sites in 382 rural districts has meant a considerable amount of hard, detailed work.

When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the approval of tenders does he mean approval by the local authorities concerned or approval by himself?

I meant the approval of tenders by myself. My hon. Friend will understand that all the tenders have to come to me for approval.

Is it not a fact that a good many tenders have now been approved by local authorities?

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that his colleague the Minister of Labour has agreed to release sufficient building labour to enable these cottages and others to be built?


asked the Minister of Health the latest estimate of the shortage of cottages required to house married workers permanently employed in agriculture; and whether such an estimate includes cottages condemned before the war under the Housing Acts but still occupied?

The Government have in contemplation a ten-year programme of house construction, which would include about 300,000 cottages for agricultural workers, to cover all needs including the replacement of unfit property and other needs.