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Commons Chamber

Volume 390: debated on Thursday 8 July 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 8th July, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Untitled Debate

Oral Answers To Questions

National War Effort

Children's Clothes And Industrial Overalls

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the information sent to him of a manufacturer of children's clothes and industrial overalls who had his employees reduced, in April, 1943, from 500 to 82 and has now been informed that they must be reduced to 12; and will he allow this firm to retain their present staff of 82, in view of the need for children's clothes and industrial overalls?

On the general effect of the concentration of the clothing industry, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given yesterday by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. As regards the firm referred to, I am having inquiries made and will communicate with my hon. Friend.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask whether he does not agree that in this essential home industry this reduction from 500 to 12 is a very drastic one?

Last Manufacturers

4.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the fear in the minds of last manufacturers that a still further reduction in their labour force will occur in the absence of special provision to prevent it; and whether, after consultation with the President of the Board of Trade, he will consider steps to preserve the small labour force needed for that industry?

Special arrangements have already been made in agreement with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade for safeguarding the labour necessary for this industry.

Tin Mine Workers

5.

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the conditions prevailing in the South Crofty Tin Mine, Carn Brae, in Cornwall; what steps he is taking to alleviate them; and whether, until such appropriate action has been taken, he will consider stopping drafting into this mine men who have never before worked below ground?

The control of safety and working conditions in tin mines is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power. The production of tin at home for essential war purposes is of first importance, and I am not aware of any reason which would justify me in placing special restrictions on the supply of labour to the South Crofty Mine.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some men who have been used to life in the fresh air and have never worked below ground have been drafted down, and conditions in the mines are so bad that they have been unable to stick it for more than a day or so; and can he also say how many men have been drafted to this mine in the last three months who have declined to stay there?

I could not answer that question without notice, but if there is a question of conditions in the mine being bad I will take that up with my right hon. Friend. So far, I have not had that point brought to my notice.

Industrial Disputes (Military Intervention)

6.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give details of the occasions during the present war when the Armed Forces have been called upon to intervene in industrial disputes; and who is responsible for deciding that they shall intervene?

As my hon. Friend is aware, stoppages of work are in general illegal in war time. There has never at any time been any conflict between the Armed Forces and the workers, who are absolutely at one in the vigorous prosecution of the war. In a small number of cases the Armed Forces have helped to maintain essential services at the request of the Minister responsible for these services and with my concurrence.

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to give us a list of the cases in which this has occurred?

I have not the figures available in the office at the moment, but I will write to the hon. Member.

Holidays With Pay

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give, up to date, figures showing the number of work-people now enjoying holidays with pay; how many are manual workers; and of those how many are persons employed in and around coalmines?

I regret that the information desired by my hon. Friend is not readily available.

In considering this problem, will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to bear in mind that the tendency always is to provide holidays with pay for non-manual workers, while manual workers somehow or other are left out of consideration by employers?

I do not accept that view, because the majority of trades are now covered by agreements for holidays with pay, and certainly all the trade board trades.

Are the miners, who do the most arduous manual work of all, included in holidays with pay?

I understand there is an agreement between the Miners Federation of Great Britain and the mining industry which provides for holidays.

Is it not a fact that although miners are provided with holidays they really come out of their wages? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes.

Payment for holidays or anything else is bound to come out of production somehow.

Schools (Kitchen And Canteen Staffs)

8.

asked the Minister of Labour what arrangements have been made to ensure the retention of adequate catering staffs at schools; and whether he is satisfied that these arrangements are working satisfactorily?

Women are not withdrawn from the kitchen and canteen staff of schools, recognised or approved by the Education Departments, except where the weekly hours of work are short and replacement by part-time workers is therefore possible. This arrangement has been made after consultation with the Education Departments, and I am satisfied that it works satisfactorily.

Women And Motherhood

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that some of the appeals made by the representatives of his Ministry for women for war industries definitely discourage the ideal of motherhood for post-war women, substituting that of wage-earning; and whether, in view of the vital importance to the race of maintaining the birthrate, he will take steps to correct this?

No, Sir, I know of no basis for the suggestion made in the first part of this Question.

If I send my right hon. Friend information showing that there are grounds for this belief, will he then be kind enough to look into this question again?

I certainly will look into it: but, on the other hand, I have been accused, as the result of the Orders I have made, of being responsible for the birthrate having increased last year.

Cost-Of-Living Index

9.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will inform the House of the amount of the increase in the cost of-living at the end of 1942, compared with 1936?

At 1st January, 1943, the official cost-of-living index stood at 199 points, as compared with 151 points at 1st January, 1937, and an average of 147 points for the 12 months of 1936.

Transport (Thefts)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to increase the penalties for thefts and pilfering on all forms of transport, in view of the growth in the numbers of this sort of crime?

I fully share my hon. Friend's anxiety about this type of offence, which must be regarded, particularly in war-time, as extremely serious and deserving of severe punishment. The existing maximum penalties, which range' from seven years' penal servitude in cases of simple larceny to 14 years for larceny by a servant or from ships or docks or if the stolen article is controlled, cannot, I think, be considered inadequate. The real problem is one of detection, and this has been the subject of consultations between my noble Friend the Minister of War Transport and myself. The action we have taken will, I hope, be effective in securing the conviction and adequate punishment of increasing numbers of offenders.

Police War Reserve (Promotion)

12.

asked the Home Secretary what opportunities for promotion are afforded to a member of the War Reserve police force?

I regret that under existing conditions there are no opportunities for the promotion of members of the Police War Reserve, but, following representations from the Auxiliary Police Association, arrangements have been made for the institution of a strictly limited class of auxiliaries, to be called Class 1 Reservists, who will receive additional pay at the rate of five shillings a week.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider ways and means of extending opportunities for promotion in the War Reserve police?

I have considered that very carefully indeed, but I am afraid that by the nature of the organisation I cannot provide avenues of promotion except to this limited extent.

Electoral Redistribution

13.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can now make a statement about the redistribution of seats for Parliamentary elections?

I regret that I am not yet able to announce the Government's decision on this matter.

In view of the fact that there is bound to be a General Election soon after the end of hostilities and that maldistribution at present exists, is it the intention of the Government to carry through some redistribution of seats, in time for that election?

I think it will be best for my right hon. Friend to await the statement that I shall make. I shall make it as soon as I can.

I presume that my right hon. Friend intends that the House shall have an opportunity of discussing the Government's plan?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the maldistribution which now exists will be still further distributed after the end of the war?

That is one of the complications. I am not sure when we shall reach normality in this matter.

In any negotiations or plans for the redistribution of seats, will the sitting Members be consulted?

It is a long time since there was a redistribution, but my recollection is that sitting Members and the agents of the various political parties did find avenues through which to make known their views.

Whatever proposals the Government make, will they be embodied in the Bill which is to be introduced dealing with registration?

It is not yet certain whether they will be embodied in that Bill or in a separate Bill.

May I ask whether the double representation of Ulster will be reconsidered?

Civil Defence

Crashed Aircraft Crews (Rescue)

14.

asked the Home Secretary whether the Regional Commissioners are informed of the special instruction now being given by the Red Cross Society in respect to rescue work on land of the crews of aircraft which have crashed?

Instructions as to the rescue of crews from crashed aircraft are given in a confidential training pamphlet issued by the Ministry of Home Security, to which the notice not only of Regional Commissioners but of all local authorities concerned with Civil Defence has been drawn, and many Civil Defence personnel have been specially trained on the lines indicated in the pamphlet. I understand that the instruction being given by the Red Cross Society to which my hon. Friend refers follows similar lines.

Fire Guard Duties (Aliens)

16.

asked the Home Secretary the number of male civilian aliens in this country between the ages of 16 and 65 years; and the numbers in that age category who will now be compelled to undertake fire-watching duties?

The number of male aliens between the ages specified could not be ascertained without prolonged and detailed examination of the records, and I am not in a position at present to give any figures as to those who may be required to perform fire guard duties when the Orders mentioned in my reply to my hon. and gallant Friend on 1st July have been made.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether this welcome decision in regard to the compulsion of aliens will give any further relief to those women who are already doing a full day's work?

It may do in particular cases, but the primary purpose is, of course, to enlarge the field of fire guards, which will be helpful, and to see that aliens play their part in this necessary service.

Air-Raid Warning System (Improvements)

20.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has any statement to make on the proposed changes in the national air-raid warning system?

The Government have had under consideration methods of improving the air-raid warning system. The efficiency of a warning system depends on the nature and speed of the information of the movement of enemy aircraft available to the warning officers and the speed with which warning messages can be transmitted from the warning officers to the districts to be warned. As a result of a reorganisation of Observer Centres carried out by the Air Ministry, means have been found by which both these processes will be improved, but in order to avoid giving useful information to the enemy, it is not possible to say more than that the steps agreed by the Secretary of State for Air, the Postmaster-General and myself are now in train and should result in an improvement in the warning system. They will involve an appreciable decentralisation in the method of giving warnings and some transfer of further responsibility to my Department. The necessary work is now in hand, and the new system will be brought into operation gradually as this work is completed and tested. The changes, while aiming at greater efficiency, will not involve an alteration in the types of warning issued nor any restriction or amendment of the existing warning recipients. The Government's policy remains as in the past, to restrict air-raid warnings to those areas in which an attack is considered likely to develop, and it should be borne in mind that whatever improvements are made in the warning system it is not automatic but depends on many human factors. While, therefore, every effort is being made to make it as effective as possible, no guarantee can be given that the presence or intention of every hostile aircraft can be correctly interpreted.

When my right hon. Friend has decided to make an alteration in the air-raid warnings, how is he going to convey that information to the general public before the warning starts?

It will be conveyed to the general public by the ordinary siren. There is no other method by which it can be conveyed. There will be nothing to tell the public, and there will be nothing for the public to do except to listen for the warning as now.

Is it not a fact that under the present system bombs have arrived in many cases before the sirens were sounded?

Sometimes that is so, and we are hoping by the new organisation to improve that situation, but I cannot guarantee that the same will not happen in the new circumstances.

Civilian Billeting Allowance

38.

asked the Minister of Health why a householder, required to provide full board, lodging and services for a civilian, is paid not more than three-quarters of the weekly rate paid for a soldier; and whether in view of the recent increase in the Army rates, civilian billeting rates will now be adjusted?

I am not clear what type of civilian my hon. Friend has in mind. The majority of adult civilians are billeted for partial board, as in the case of civil servants, or for lodging only, leaving the billeted person to make his own arrangements for board, as in the case of war workers. A small number of adult civilians are billeted for full board and lodging at. 21s. a week. These are exclusively evacuation helpers, expectant mothers, nurses, orderlies and other such workers. In general, I am not satisfied that further increases in the civil billeting allowances are called for at the present time.

Does my right hon. Friend dispute that in the case of the last-mentioned category far less is paid than is paid for similar accommodation by the Army?

I would not like to be drawn into answering that question without precise figures, certainly not in answer to a supplementary.

As the Army has recognised the increased cost to householders, why will not my right hon. Friend also recognise it?

I have pointed out that there is a difference between the two classes of accommodation provided.

Evacuated Children (Defaulting Parents)

41.

asked the Minister of Health how much money, due from parents of children evacuated at public expense, has been irrecoverable owing to the limitation period of six months for proceedings against parents in courts of summary jurisdiction, laid down in Section 11 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1848; and whether, in such cases, it is proposed to proceed against defaulting parents in the county courts for the whole of the arrears?

Separate aggregate records are not available showing the amounts irrecoverable from this cause. I am advised that proceedings in the county court are not available under Defence (General) Regulation 22, under which action is taken.

Will my right hon. Friend consider some amending legislation to supersede this 95-year-old Act?

I will look into the matter, but, as my hon. Friend knows, every effort is made to bring cases within the six months.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, owing to the lapse of time, sums owing by these parents sometimes amount to £60, £70 or £80?

Detainee (Removal To Isle Of Man)

15.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Mr. J. J. Kopp, who was detained in Brixton Prison, has been removed to the Isle of Man,- away from the home of the lady who wishes to marry him; and why this additional hardship has been imposed upon this couple who are refused the right of marriage by th2. Home Office?

It is generally preferable that a person whom it is necessary to detain should be kept in a camp rather than in prison. Mr. Kopp had been brought from the Isle of Man in order that he might have special medical treatment, and when this had been satisfactorily completed I came to the conclusion that there was no sufficient justification for keeping him any longer in Brixton Prison.

Can the right hon. Gentleman now review his rather savage refusal to allow these people to marry and thus enable their child to be an honest child and not a bastard?

I dealt with that fully at the time. I am bound to say that the more I get troubled about Mr. Kopp the less I think of Mr. Kopp in the whole of this matter.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to think of Mr. Kopp but of the child?

Local Elections (Register)

17.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider the advisability of making the new Parliamentary Register available for local elections and of arranging for the resumption of such elections, either by or annual, whether on the new Register or that now existing in any new legislation introduced on the subject?

The circumstances have not changed since I answered a Question put to me in April last by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) about the resumption of local elections. The negative answer I then gave still applies. I will send my hon. Friend a copy of it.

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to give careful consideration to this problem before proposing further legislation postponing local elections in the autumn?

Yes, Sir, I will, but not with a great deal of hopefulness. If my hon. Friend will refer to the speech I made on the subject last year, I think he will find some material points. I will certainly give it consideration.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the Committee were unanimous as to the undesirability of an election during war-time?

Police Pensions

19.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the hardship felt by police officers who retired on or before 31st March, 1918, on weekly pensions of £2 6s. 6d. for an inspector, £1 17s. 6d. for a sergeant and £1 10s. a constable, whereas the comparable pensions for those who retired on 1st April, 1918, and afterwards are inspector £5 l0s., sergeant £3 12s. 6d. and constable £3 4s. 6d.; and whether he will take steps to increase the pensions of police officers who retired on or before 31st March, 1918?

I am aware that, as a result of the adoption of the recommendation made by the Desborough Committee in July, 1919, that scales of pay should be increased and made retrospective to 1st April of that year, police officers who retired on or after that date received sub stantially higher pensions. Police pensions are governed by Statute and I regret that I cannot hold out any hope of legislation to revise pensions granted before that date beyond the increases which were authorised by the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1920 and 1924.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the ex-police officers affected by this decision have such confidence in him that they thought that, if the facts were brought to his notice, he would be able to put things right? Are they now to be told that he cannot do anything?

I am afraid so. I am sorry to disappoint them. It would be rather a novel principle to make pension increases retrospective to a time when the general rate of pay of the police was lower.

Is there not a much better case for increasing the pensions to the widows of police officers, a matter about which there was a unanimous Report 18 months ago?

Workmen's Compensation

21.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can make any further statement as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the recommendations of the Beveridge Report on Workmen's Compensation?

This matter is under active consideration by the Government, but I regret that I am unable to make any further statement at present.

Before any decision is finally come to by the Government will the right hon. Gentleman consult Members on every side of the House who realise the vital importance of reform of the present system? Is he not aware that wide interest is taken in the matter in every quarter of the House?

The House of Commons will of course have its opportunity, if and when legislation is introduced. Meanwhile, discussions are going on both with the trade unions and the employers and with other interests concerned.

It is not only a question of the interests concerned. Is it not a fact that Members of Parliament take a great interest in this matter?

Parliament has its rights, and Parliament will decide, but I think it would be prolonging the difficulties if I were to attempt to enter into negotiations with the various sections that make up the House of Commons, before the legislation is introduced. If particular bodies wish to see me or the Under-Secretary about the matter, I will, of course, consider it.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that the Consolidation Acts dealing with workmen's compensation ought to be renewed and overhauled?

In any case, apart from that matter, there will be a complete review of policy, in connection with the Beveridge Report.

Prosecution, Old Street

22.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information in connection with the charge made against Gustave Schleider and Isaac Yusk, who were charged at the Old Street police court, on Saturday, 3rd July, with being concerned in receiving go dozen forks, 133 dozen spoons, 52 gross of razor blades, 267 dozen spoons, 52 gross of tea knives and other goods, knowing them to have been stolen; whether the police have been able to find out where the men got so many articles from; who has now control of the articles and what will be clone with them?

I am informed that there is likely to be an appeal in this case. In these circumstances, it would not be proper for me to make any comment.

Education

Interchange Of Teachers, English-Speaking World

23.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will consider introducing Clauses into the coming Education Bill to facilitate interchange of teachers throughout the English-speaking world, particularly on the lines of inter-availability of qualifications?

I hope to see an extension, after the war, of the interchange of teachers throughout the English-speaking world, but this is not a matter which would require legislation so far as this country is concerned.

Size Of Classes (Teachers)

24.

asked the President of the Board of Education how many additional teachers would be required if all classes in elementary and secondary schools were reduced to a maximum of 3o pupils?

To make a close estimate would require an examination of the accommodation and staffing of every elementary and secondary school in the country; even an approximate estimate would have to be based on statistics which, owing to the necessity of reducing unessential work to a minimum, have not been collected during the period of the war. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to give my hon. Friend the information he desires.

Is it the policy of my right hon. Friend to try to bring about this reform as soon as practicable after the war, and, if that is so, is it not necessary to take the matter into consideration now?

It will be very difficult to obtain exact statistics, but we are already taking steps to get the necessary teachers.

Could not the President of the Board of Education, get approximate statistics, if not of the present situation, then based upon the pre-war figures, and taking account of events since that time?

I looked into that before deciding upon my reply, but I thought that that method would not be reliable now.

How will it be possible to take steps to get the necessary teachers if the Minister has not even an approximate idea of the number he wants?

Young People (Registration)

25.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether, in view of the general registration of young men at the age of 17 years 8 months and the reduction of the age for entering the Navy by the Y scheme to 16½ years, he will discontinue the present compulsory registration and voluntary interview of all youth at the age of 16, thus enabling overburdened authorities and voluntary societies to concentrate more attention on the neglected years between 14 and 16?

I have under consideration with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service the arrangements to be made for conducting future registration of young people, but it is not proposed to discontinue such registrations. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of circular 1630, which draws special attention to the needs of girls in the 14–16 age group.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the amount of work entailed for local authorities is out of all proportion to the results? They are not really getting hold of the difficult question at all.

I should have thought the recent White Paper on registration would indicate that it had already had most beneficial results.

Would not the best results be obtained if registration and interview took place at the same time?

Each authority adopts the procedure and machinery which it considers most suitable. No doubt notice will be taken of what my hon. Friend has just said.

Policy (White Paper)

26.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is proposing to issue a White Paper on Education during the present month?

I hope in the near future to be able to give the House some information on this question.

Would it not be better if the right hon. Gentleman would issue a White Paper within the next few weeks, outlining the general principles?

When the Government are ready to make an announcement I shall be very glad to do so.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the statement in one of this morning's newspapers furnishing details of the contemplated legislation? Are these details correct, and who is responsible for the leakage?

I have no responsibility for that information. That is all I can say on the matter.

Will examinations cease to be a method of finding out the standard of education?

When may we hope the right hon. Gentleman will publish the White Paper?

I can add nothing to what I have said. When the Government are ready to make a statement I shall be glad to do so.

Was not the statement the work of the Press Relations Officer? Why are such announcements allowed to be made?

Youth Advisory Council

27.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether the Advisory Council, under the chairmanship of Mr. Wolfenden, has made any report; whether it is to be continued for a further period; and, if so, what will be its terms of reference?

Yes, Sir, the Youth Advisory Council have reported on the remit which I gave them last year. I am considering some reconstitution of the Council, but I am not yet in a position to state the terms of its remit.

Adults (Residential Colleges)

28.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether in his prospective education proposals he will make special provision for the establishment by county councils of residential colleges for adults in which short courses of general cultural education could be given on the lines of the scheme adopted by the Essex County Council?

No special provision is required to enable local education authorities to establish such institutions as the hon. Member has in mind. I certainly regard the extension of facilities for adult education, which may well include some residential provision, as an important feature of future educational development.

In view of the unanimous report of this very important county council with regard to this proposal, will not the right hon. Gentleman at least circularise the various county councils in this country encouraging them to follow the same course?

I think that this subject will certainly come up in the course of our discussions on education. I should certainly like to take every possible step to encourage a development of this sort.

Housing

Building Subsidy

29.

asked the Minister of Health whether private enterprise, in their plans for post-war housing, should proceed on the assumption that there will be a Government subsidy similar to that granted to local authorities?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply, of which I am sending him a copy, which I gave on 1st July to a Question on this subject by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis).

What is the size of this subsidy? Will it be made irrespective of total costs?

If the hon. Member will read the former answer, of which I will send a copy to him also, he will see that his question does not arise.

What is the underlying motive of subsidising local authorities and placing them in a more favourable position than private enterprise?

It was found after the last war that there is a field of operations for private enterprise in which it can do its work and build the houses.

Could the right hon. Gentleman not tell the House whether he is seriously considering offering building subsidies to private enterprise?

Perhaps I had better read the answer which I gave:

"No, Sir, I would remind my hon. Friend that despite the absence of subsidy large numbers of houses were built by private enterprise during the years before the war."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 1st July, 1943; col. 1762, Vol. 390.]

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that means that the amount of subsidy given to local authorities is the measure of their inefficiency for building houses compared with private enterprise?

Not at all. It means that the vital experience of 20 years after the last war proved that there was a field in which local authority operation was the right operation and another field in which private enterprise was the right operation.

Agricultural Workers' Cottages (Cost)

34.

asked the Minister of Health whether he can give the highest and lowest tender received for the erection of rural houses; and whether he can provide an analysis indicating what part of the tender represents cost of material and of labour?

The highest approved tender for building is £966 per house plus £33 for roads, sewers, architects' fees, etc., and the lowest is £644 per house, plus £53 for those purposes. As to the second part of the Question, the proportion of the tender price which is attributable to the cost of materials and labour respectively will vary from tender to tender according to the conditions and the nature of the work and the organisation, circumstances and personal judgment of the tenderer and I am, therefore, unable to analyse the foregoing figures under those two headings. But I am advised that of the total cost of labour and materials used in building a working class house, roughly 6o per cent. is normally represented by materials and 40 per cent. by labour.

May I ask the Minister which of the tenders come from the local authorities and from private enterprise, the highest or the lowest?

The answer is that all the tenders have been submitted by contractors to the local authorities.

Will the Minister say whether in arriving at these estimates the cost of the services rendered by the six or more Ministers concerned and their staffs are included in those costs?

My hon. Friend must bear in mind that Parliament decided in the laws giving the powers to the Ministers concerned what functions each should perform.

Will the Minister say whether his analysis indicates quite clearly that these very high prices for houses are very much more due to increases in prices of materials than increases in cost of labour?

I would not like to draw that conclusion. There are other elements to be considered besides that, which no doubt will all be considered.

Is not the cost of labour a large element in the cost of material?

Local Authorities' Plans

35.

asked the Minister of Health what advice or instructions he has given to local authorities in the preparation of their post-war housing programme; and to what extent they are now authorised to proceed in their preparations?

I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of a circular which I sent to local authorities on 4th March, 1943, in which I suggested that there were in each local government area sites which, whatever the future local or national plan, are bound to be suitable housing sites. I asked them to decide, in consultation with the Regional Planning Officer and, where agricultural land is involved, with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, on sufficient of such sites for a one year programme. I informed them, with the ready approval of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that I was able to sanction the raising of loans for the purpose and I indicated my willingness to entertain compulsory purchase orders. Further, I requested the authorities to begin immediately after the selection of the sites on the preliminary work of surveying and of preparing the general layout so that it can be further filled in when the manual of post-war house plans and design is issued. I emphasized that local authorities must be ready to go ahead with a substantial programme immediately conditions permit. Up to date replies from 586 local authorities whose proposals relate to the provision of nearly 130,000 houses have been received.

Is the Minister aware that there is some doubt among local authorities as to how far his circular authorises them to move, and will he draw up another circular which will put it beyond doubt?

I cannot imagine that there is any doubt, but I will make inquiries among representatives of local authorities, and if there is we will clear it up.

Is the Minister aware that he might find, when local authorities have reported on this subject, that the undecided war between the Minister of Town and Country Planning and himself would interfere a great deal with them?

There is no war between myself and my right hon. Friend but the happiest co-operation.

Will the local authorities know how to get sanction from seven different Government Departments before going on with any scheme, and will the right hon. Gentleman take steps with his colleagues to reduce the number of Departments which have to give sanction for the building of houses?

We shall do our best, but I think my answer to a previous Question is germane—that Parliament has decided that certain Ministers have certain functions. Those functions will have to be carried out.

Does the Minister consider that 12 months is a sufficient length of time for the local authorities to plan ahead to meet housing requirements?

No, Sir, They are asked to do two things—the first as in the circular to which I referred in answer to the Question put by my hon. Friend, so as to be able to proceed as quickly as possible after the war with their short-term programme, but they are asked also to prepare a long-term programme covering their total potential needs.

Separate Family Dwellings

37.

asked the Minister of Health whether he can give an estimate of the number of houses required to be built to provide each family with a separate dwelling?

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, any estimate must depend on such factors as the definition of a family and a separate dwelling. It is accordingly not possible to be precise, but the figure is of the order of about 500,000.

Local Authorities And Private Enterprise

39.

asked the Minister of Health the pre-war cost of building houses containing 18,000 cubic feet, where the erection was undertaken by local authorities and private enterprise, respectively.

No, Sir. Houses of this size are larger than those built by local authorities, and I have no information regarding the cost of such building by private enterprise.

Would my right hon. Friend be surprised if I told him that the cost of local authorities' houses is 2d. per cubic foot higher than that of private enterprise houses?

I should be very happy to receive any information on the subject either in general or in detail.

Has my right hon. Friend detected any change on these matters among his hon. Friends behind him since the change in the military situation?

There is a field of operation, as my hon. Friend knows, for private enterprise and a field for local authorities.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the houses built by local authorities have fewer faults than those built by private enterprise?

I should not agree with that. Everybody knows that there have been faulty houses built under both systems.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that from 1920 onwards private enterprise found it impossible to build at the required price, and had to have a subsidy from the local authorities?

I have already pointed out that we welcome private enterprise in housing. Between the two wars we had the big boom, and private enterprise was able to build 3,000,000 out of the 4,000,000 houses which were built.

40.

asked the Minister of Health the period over which local authorities built 1,000,000 houses after the last war, and the period over which the 3,000,000 were built by private enterprise?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that local authorities did not build low-rented houses although they had subsidies, and that it was not until the Housing Act, 1933, was passed, and subsidies were terminated, that private enterprise built low-rented houses, without any subsidy?

My hon. Friend is now agreeing with the answer which I gave him originally. Nevertheless, there was a very definite and specific field for local authorities, perhaps mostly in slum clearance and the prevention of overcrowding.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any figures which would enable us to say what were the rents charged for similar houses built by local authorities and by private enterprise?

Unoccupied Houses

42.

asked the Minister of Health whether his Department has made an estimate of the number of houses remaining unoccupied in England and Wales which might otherwise have been let to tenants if the owners had an assurance that they could obtain possession at the end of the war?

As regards possession of a house which is let subject to the Rent Restrictions Acts, the Acts provide that an owner can obtain from the Court an order for possession of his house for occupation as a residence for himself without proof of alternative accommodation, unless the court is satisfied that greater hardship would be caused by granting the order than by refusing to grant it. No estimate has been made on the basis assumed by my hon. Friend.

Is it not a fact that houses are kept empty in consequence of the Rent Restrictions Acts, and is it not time that some modification was made in those Acts?

Is it not a fact that these houses are owned by the people who have been putting most of the Questions to-day?

Public Health

State Medical Service

33.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in his negotiations for the establishment of a universal State medical service, voluntary medical institutes will, in view of their long-established activities and wide experience, be afforded an opportunity to co-operate?

In connection with the discussion for a comprehensive health service, I hope fairly soon to issue a general statement which may serve as a focus for the views of all interested bodies, and I have undertaken at that stage to get into touch with the Associations of Medical Aid Societies, to which I assume my hon. Friend is referring.

Alien Doctors

36.

asked the Minister of Health how many doctors of the Allied and neutral countries are engaged as medical attendants and specialists in our hospitals; whether there is any bar to such doctors acquiring British medical qualifications; whether any application for such qualifications are subject to Ministry of Health approval; and whether this also applies to refugees from enemy countries?

The number of doctors of Allied and neutral countries employed as such in hospitals is 200. I regret that the number of specialists included in this total is not available. An oversea doctor may acquire a British medical qualification by passing one of the qualifying examinations after the appropriate period of study. He may also be placed temporarily on the British Medical Register if the General Medical Council are satisfied that he fulfils certain prescribed conditions as to the holding of medical diplomas and otherwise. My approval Is not required for the qualification or registration of an individual doctor.

I did not gather what the right hon. Gentleman answered with regard to the last part of the Question about refugees?

I was referring to both doctors of Allied and neutral countries, and to doctors of other foreign countries.

Hearing Aids

51.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the restriction of the importation of the Sonotone hearing aids is causing hardship amongst deaf people; and what are the prospects of increasing the importation of these supplies?

I am not aware that the restriction of the importation of these instruments is causing hardship, and in view of the urgent need to conserve shipping space and foreign exchange, I am not prepared to advise my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to authorise any increase,

Does the Minister realise that there are only a few of these instruments available, and will he reconsider the matter, as the amount of shipping space involved is very small?

I am aware that there are other instruments, but I would point out that at the moment, after consultation with the Board of Trade, the company concerned are now granted a licence to continue the supply of these instruments up to 50 per cent, of the pre-war importation and, for spare parts, 100 per cent.

As Minister of Health, does not the right hon. Gentleman have regard to the fact that there is very serious hardship caused by the failure of himself and his Department?

I have already said there is no failure here, and I ant not aware that the restriction on importation has caused hardship.

Is the Minister aware that no ordinary poor person can pay the price for these deaf aids?

The answer is, that this is one of the most expensive of all the instruments.

Tuberculous Persons (Diet)

43.

asked the Minister of Health what reply he sent to the Upton Divisional Labour Party concerning the resolution sent him about treatment and cure of tuberculosis and granting supplementary supplies of rationed food; and whether supplementary supplies of rationed food are now being granted?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for South Islington (Mr. Cluse) on 3rd December last, of which I am sending him a copy. The position has not changed since that date. A reply has been sent to the Upton Divi- sional Labour Party in the same sense, and I am sending a copy to my hon. Friend.

Mentally-Defective Children

44.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the increasing number of mentally-deficient children for whom appropriate institutional treatment cannot be given; that many are sent to general public hospitals; and whether he will take steps to deal with this situation and make adequate provision for the post-war period?

I am aware that there is at present a shortage of suitable institutional accommodation for mentally-defective children, with the result that they may be sent, as a temporary measure, to public general hospitals. The post-war needs in the matter of accommodation for mental defectives are already under consideration.

When can the right hon. Gentleman make some statement regarding post-war needs and the way they can be met? Meanwhile, cannot he do something to meet the very grave situation in regard to mental defectives?

Overseas Service (Recognition)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has finished his consideration of the need for the issue of chevrons to indicate service overseas, medals for service in big engagements, and some indication to signify that men or women have been wounded on service; and can he now make a statement on this matter making it applicable to all Services?

My hon. Friend will have learnt of the King's decision to institute the Africa Star and the 1939–43 Star. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister proposes to make a statement to the House on this subject before we rise.

Agriculture

Uncultivated Land (Golf Courses)

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will issue in- structions to the county war agricultural committees, in connection with those 18-hole golf courses throughout the country which have not cultivated any part of their land, urging on them the desirability of utilising nine holes, or part of the course, for cultivation, having regard to the fact that this would still enable healthy exercise to be pursued?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave him on 24th June.

Why does not my right hon. Friend make more widely known to the public the fact that there is less land now under cultivation than there was at the beginning of hostilities? Would people not realise then the need to get this land under cultivation? My right hon. Friend does not take any notice whatever.

Ploughing-Up Campaign

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is now in a position to make a further statement in connection with his instructions to the county war agricultural committees regarding the ploughing-up campaign for this autumn; and what is the Government's policy in connection with this matter?

The Government's primary aim in connection with ploughing up for the 1944 harvest is the maintenance of the 1943 peak tillage area. This implies the ploughing-up of additional grassland to take the place of land which it is necessary to reseed in order to restore fertility. In addition, it is hoped to increase the tillage area in particular districts.

Is it not easier to cultivate land which has already been drained than to plough up the slopes of Plynlimmon and to endeavour to cultivate derelict and waterlogged land? Why not plough up the drained fairways of the golf courses? Can I have an answer?

I have already explained to my hon. Friend why it would not be in the national interest to plough up certain golf courses.

Is it true that there is less land under cultivation now than at the beginning of hostilities?

That fact was published the other day, in some figures issued by my Department, stating that the amount that is lost to aerodromes, munitions factories and battle areas is appreciably in excess of the amount which my Department has been able to reclaim from derelict land.

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the decline in the amount of land under cultivation? Is it 100,000 acres a year?

Small Poultry Farmers

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will give an assurance that, after the war, everything possible will be done to re-establish the small poultry farmer as an agricultural unit in this country?

I cannot at present make any statement as to the position of particular classes of farmers after the war.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the poultry farmers suffer very badly as a result of the war, in comparison to other branches of agriculture? Will he bear this particular branch of agriculture in mind?

Wages And Prices

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the recent increases in wages fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board and the claim now before the Board for an increase in the national minimum wage for adult male workers, he can give an assurance that the prices at present fixed for farm products will be increased so as to meet the whole cost of increases in wages?

No, Sir. Last November, when the powers of the county wages committees to fix rates of wages in the counties were transferred by Defence Regulation to the Agricultural Wages Board, the Board and representatives of the National Farmers' Union and the Workers' Unions were informed as follows:

"That in any review of farmers' returns in. relation to costs of production, labour costs would be assessed by reference to the national minimum wage as fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board, and that in so far as the county rates exceeded the national minimum wage the difference would fall to be met out of the current returns of the industry and that the Government would not contemplate an automatic general increase in prices to cover the cost of any increase in the national minimum wage."

If the farmers have no control at all over wages, are they to have no say in the control of prices?

Armed Forces And Civilians (Pensions And Grants)

52.

asked the Minister of Pensions when he will be in a position to announce the removal of the anomaly which does not permit a man who has earned a service pension to draw it in full and at the same time receive any full disablement award to which he may be entitled under a new contract of service?

This is one of the matters which are under consideration and to which I shall refer in the general statement I am shortly to make to the House on war pensions.

53.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will include in his review of the pensions problem the case of the retired officers whose pensions were reduced in 1932 and have never been revalued and who are enduring hardship as a result of the costs and conditions of living at the present time?

54.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether in considering his new White Pacer on Pensions he will take into account the restoration of the to per cent. reduction from officers' Service retired pay made in 1934–35?

The Service pensions to which the Questions refer are outside the scope of my review, as this is necessarily concerned only with the war pensions for which my Department is responsible. I would, however, refer my hon. Friends to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) on 4th August, 1942, by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Why is it that retired officers are always treated as the Cinderellas of all the pensioners? They have no trade union and no organisations, and will not the Minister support them?

These pensions have nothing whatever to do with my Department. This question has not been put to me at all.