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Written Answers

Volume 393: debated on Tuesday 2 November 1943

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Written Answers

Operatives And Office Staffs (Hours Of Work)

asked the Minister of Labour what he is fixing at the present time as a fair working week in hours for engineers' technical staff, draughtsmen, clerical staff and mechanics, respectively?

I presume my hon. Friend has in mind the statement I issued in the early part of last year. If so, I would point out that the hours mentioned therein, namely 52 hours for operatives and 46 for office staff, were intended only as a general guide in dealing with withdrawals and deferments and the position in that connection remains unchanged.

Agriculture

Women's Land Army

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will reconsider his decision not to allow a resumption of recruiting for the W.L.A., in view of the enlarged campaign for food production and the shortage of labour on the land?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) on 21st October, 1943.

Post-War Fruit Stocks

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will release the small acreage of land necessary for the laying down of stool-beds of pedigree stocks, so that there shall be an adequate supply of these stocks to meet the needs of post-war fruit-tree production both at home and on the Continent of Europe?

The hon. Member's suggestion will be borne in mind in connection with an examination which is new proceeding into the question of the supply of fruit stocks for post-war purposes.

Cereal Acreage

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he proposes to insist on cereal culture next year in those districts where, owing to the heavy rain customary in the localities concerned, the harvest this year was disappointing?

National needs require the maintenance of a high acreage of cereals, and war-time risks must be taken in agriculture as in other spheres. The acreage of cereals in any district or on any farm is a matter for consideration of the local agriculturists comprising the county war agricultural executive committees and their district committees. It is their task to interpret the national needs in regard to home food production in the light of local circumstances and sound farming practice.

Italian Prisoners Of War

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the healthy condition of Italian prisoners in this country and the probability of a food shortage in the near future, he will take steps to have discipline tightened up among these prisoners so that they could make a larger contribution by their increased work to the present effort for maximum food production?

I have been asked to reply. Commandants have instructions to investigate all cases of slackness which are reported to them and to take disciplinary action when appropriate. I am satisfied that these instructions are generally observed, but employers must report to the Commandant concerned incidents at the time when they occur; this is not always done. The number of prisoners punished for offences relating to their work has averaged 5 per cent. during the last six months.

National Finance

Non-Residents (Sterling Accounts)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the estimated amount of foreign exchange His Majesty's Treasury will lose as a result of the recent relaxation of control in favour of non-resident holders of blocked sterling?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) on 28th October.

Tax Tables

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many pages the Tax Tables contemplated in Cmd. 6469 extend to; how many entries there will be on each page; and what size of type they will be printed in?

Modifications of the Tax Tables are at present under consideration, and I am therefore not able at present to state how many pages the Tables will contain, how many entries there will be on a page or what size of type will be used.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many copies of the Tax Tables, contemplated in Cmd. 6469, will be required in order to operate the scheme if extended to persons earning up to £600 a year?

It is thought that perhaps half a million copies of the Tax Tables will be required in all.

Trade And Commerce

Men's Heavy Boots (Cord Laces)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will arrange for adequate supplies of cord boot laces to be available for men's stout boots for farmworkers, landworkers, bricklayers, etc., as leather laces are now forbidden?

Yes, Sir. I have already made arrangements, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, for adequate supplies of cord laces for men's heavy boots.

Men's Clothing (Restrictions)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has yet considered the proposals of the Bespoke Tailors' Guild that permission should be given to make double-breasted suits without waistcoats for men, in view of the saving of material involved, and that it should be permissible to distribute pockets about a suit as desired by the customer; and what decision he has come to?

Yes, Sir. I have considered these proposals, but I am not prepared to relax any of the restrictions on men's clothing at the present time.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered the submissions from the Bespoke Tailors Guild showing how bespoke tailors can make appreciable savings in wool, rayon and cotton if allowed to make two-piece suits and asking permission to make trousers with turned-up bottoms so that these garments may be repaired; and whether he is also to make a statement?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to-day to my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley (Mr. Salt).

Women Railway Workers (Clothing Coupons)

asked the President of the Board of Trade why women railway workers have to give up 12 coupons per annum without receiving comparable return in uniform garments; and whether he is now prepared to make them a concession?

I have already reduced to eight the number of coupons which uniformed women railway workers have to give up. In return for these coupons, these workers receive coupon-free, on joining the railways, an outfit of uniform worth at least 36 coupons, and they get replacements coupon-free when the garments are worn out.

Play Centres, London

asked the President of the Board of Education how many centres are being run by local education authorities and voluntary organisations in the Greater London area; whether he can give any estimate of the number of boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 14 years who attend them; and what proportion this represents of the total child population of the area between these ages?

I am unable to give the desired information for the Greater London area, but in the London County Council area 130 play centres for children aged 11 to 14 are now conducted by the local education authority, and it is estimated that there are 2,850 clubs and other units for children of this age conducted by voluntary organisations in this area. The estimated number of boys and girls aged between 11 and 14 years who attend is 52,250, or about 60 per cent. of the total of 86,600 children of this age now in the area.

Inshore Fisheries (Trawling By Amateurs)

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the warnings issued at the meeting at Bournemouth of the Southern Sea Fisheries District Committee against trawling by amateurs from yachts; and how far in normal times inshore fishermen are thereby prejudiced in their activities?

I have seen a report of the meeting of the Southern Sea Fisheries Committee to which my hon. Friend refers, and I understand that the Committee believe that in normal times damage is done to their local fisheries as a result of trawling by amateurs over inshore nursery grounds. The problem is, however, so far as I am aware, a local one which could be best dealt with by the Committee themselves by means of an appropriate by-law such as they have power to make with my approval.

Inland Revenue Head- Quarters And Probate Registry

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the incon- venience which is being suffered by the business community, arrangements can now be made for the return of the Inland Revenue headquarters, particularly the Probate Department and the Companies Register, to London?

The considerations which led the Government to order the evacuation of certain staffs from London still hold good and current policy remains, in general, opposed to their return. In a few cases a change of circumstances has made it particularly desirable that staff should return to London, but this is not the case with the headquarters of the Inland Revenue Department. As regards the Principal Probate Registry, which is not part of the Inland Revenue but is under the Supreme Court of Judicature, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. W. J. Edwards) on 26th October.

Scotland

Miniature Radiography Sets

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether he can now say where the miniature radiography units will operate in Scotland and when they will be in operation?

Miniature radiography sets have been allocated to the Corporations of Glasgow and Edinburgh and to the County Council of Lanark. The Glasgow set has been delivered and the corporation are now arranging for the appointment and training of the team which will operate it. Difficulties of supply are, however, delaying deliveries of the other sets.

Voluntary Hospitals (Staffs, Pay)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether all Scottish voluntary hospitals are paying their staffs the increased scales recommended by the Taylor Committee?

I am informed by the Scottish Branch of the British Hospitals Association that 77 of the 120 voluntary hospitals in Scotland have decided to adopt the Taylor scales. Information with regard to the remaining 43 hospitals is not yet available.

Tubercular Patients (Dependants' Allowances)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications from tubercular patients for treatment or dependants' allowances have been refused since the inception of the scheme on the grounds that the applicants were not suffering from acute pulmonary tuberculosis or were unlikely to be fit for work within an ascertainable period?

Returns from all Scottish local authorities except two show that at 15th October, as compared with 1,503 applications granted, 594 had been refused on the grounds stated in the Question.

Balmacaan Estate

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the price originally paid for the Balmacaan estate at its sale at Whitsunday, 1942; the prices paid at its subsequent sales in August, September and November, 1942; how much of the estate was sold in January, 1943, and the price paid for this; and whether he can give any reason for the frequent sale of this estate within a period of seven months?

The particulars asked for in the first three parts of the Question were included in the answer I gave to my hon. Friend last Tuesday. I have no basis for any theory as to the reasons for the frequent transfers of ownership of this property.

Potatoes (Reserve Supply)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what is the proposed reason for the large potato store which he is asking farmers to form next year; whether shortage is expected, or a greater demand, both here and abroad; and what guarantee will be given that the clamps will be preserved in all weathers?

Following the precedent of the last three seasons, a substantial reserve of long-keeping potatoes is being bought by my Department for end-of-season use, not in anticipation of shortage but in order to spread supplies to the best advantage over the whole season, thus enabling any increased demand to be met more easily. In reply to the last part of the Question, no guarantee can be given that the potato clamps will be preserved in the event of abnormally severe weather, but growers entering into contracts are required to exercise reasonable care in storage, and to provide adequate protection against winter weather.

Repatriated Prisoners Of War (Surgical And Medical Treatment, Germany)

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of prisoners of war, recently returned from Germany, who received surgical attention in Germany as the result of wounds received during the war; how many were fitted with artificial limbs by the German authorities; and whether he has received a Report respecting the general surgical and medical treatment our soldiers received?

Detailed information is, I regret, not yet available, but it is being collected. Very few of these men were fitted with artificial limbs by the German authorities. Most of them had reasonably effective appliances improvised in camp workshops. In general there were few complaints from the prisoners about medical treatment, much of which was, however, carried out by British medical personnel.

British Army

Overseas Service (Home Leave)

asked the Secretary of State for War the reason for the difference in practice between the Army and the R.A.F. in respect of home leave; and why it is that in the Army this is only granted after six years' foreign service whereas in the R.A.F. it is granted after three years' service; and is he prepared to consider making a change?

As I have stated in answer to a number of Questions recently every effort is being made to bring home those officers and men who have been abroad for long periods. We are now bringing back those who have been abroad for six years and as soon as our resources and the military situation permit I hope to reduce this qualifying period to five years or less. The disparity between the Army and R.A.F. practice in regard to the duration of the tour of service overseas is due to the differences in operational, technical and administrative conditions between the two Services.

De-Requisitioned Houses, Northern Ireland

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make immediate payment towards repairs when houses occupied by the military in Northern Ireland are de-requisitioned with the request to the owners, owing to the housing shortage, that the houses be repaired and made fit for habitation at once?

I fully realise the importance of settling these claims promptly; 730 out of 780 have been settled in Northern Ireland. Payments on account can be made when negotiations are prolonged. But we cannot pay compensation until claims are received and some 800 are outstanding. As to the last part of the Question, I have no power over the use to which claimants put the money.

Pay Corps (Officers' Promotion)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider the promotion to the rank of captain of all lieutenant-paymasters in the R.A.P.C. who were commissioned prior to 31st December, 1939, in view of the fact that so many of these officers at middle age left profitable private practices to come to the aid of the R.A.P.C. and are now so frequently passed over by younger officers of less service?

Promotion, which is given in recognition of the higher responsibilities and duties which an officer is called upon to perform, has been open to all the officers referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend, and nearly two-thirds of those in the category referred to still serving in the R.A.P.C. have in fact been promoted since their appointment as lieutenants and paymasters.

Ex-Members, National Fire Service

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will take whatever steps are necessary to allow of members of the N.F.S., when called up for military service, being granted recognition of their period of service as entering into their qualification for promotion, pay and pension in the Army?

Armed Forces (Vaccination)

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the considerable num- ber of soldiers whose health has been affected by vaccination and of the cases of encephalitis in the Army caused by vaccination, some of them fatal, he will instruct the Service Departments to follow the advice given on several occasions by the Ministry of Health in its official reports and stop the vaccination of young persons who have not been vaccinated in infancy?

Vaccination is not compulsory in the Armed Services, but in the view of the Ministry of Health it is desirable that any persons going abroad or otherwise liable to be exposed to smallpox infection should be vaccinated even if they are young persons who have not previously been vaccinated. In the circumstances I am not prepared to issue instructions as my hon. Friend suggests.

Palestine

Arms Smuggling

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can now say whether he will publish as a White Paper the evidence and proceedings in the recent trials relating to the smuggling of arms in Palestine, in which the Jewish agency, the Hagana and the Hisdatruth are mentioned and include in the White Paper a verbatim report of the speech impugning the honour and integrity of the British military courts, officials and witnesses delivered by Mr. Ben Guision on Monday, 4th October, to the Jewish National Assembly in Jerusalem?

I have not yet seen the complete vebatim reports of the trials, and I have nothing to add to previous statements that have been made in reply to Questions on this subject.

Jewish Agency

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what powers His Majesty's Government possess over members of the Jewish Agency in Palestine; and will he assure the House that he will not hesitate to exercise these powers to the full in defence of the British military courts and British officials responsible for maintaining law and order and the terms of the White Paper in Palestine?

The position of the Jewish Agency is defined in Article 4 of the Mandate for Palestine. Members of the Jewish Agency are subject to the laws of the country in the same way as any other member of the community. There is no question of special powers. As regards the second part of the Question, the hon. and gallant Member may rest assured that His Majesty's Government is fully alive to its responsibilities for the maintenance of law and order in Palestine.

Government Policy

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will assure the House that His Majesty's Government still intends to enforce the conditions of the Palestine White Paper and is giving full protection to all British officials, military and civil, acting in the proper discharge of their duties in that regard?

As regards the first part of the Question, I can only refer the hon. and gallant Member to the replies given by the Prime Minister to the hon. Members for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) and the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) on 30th July, 1941. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the affirmative.

Public Assistance

Capital Assets

asked the Minister of Health what are the conditions under which public assistance authorities need not have regard to capital assets, which normally they disregard or from which a notional income is assumed to be derived?

It is lawful but not compulsory for a public assistance authority in granting outdoor relief to observe the rule relating to capital assets, which, as it applies from 1st November, 1943, is in the following form:

"All money and investments treated as capital assets and taken into account shall
  • (i) in so far as the value of all such money and investments considered in the aggregate does not exceed £25, be disregarded; and
  • (ii) in so far as that value exceeds £25 but does not exceed £400, be treated as equivalent to a weekly income of 6d. for every complete £25."
  • Reimbursement For Relief

    asked the Minister of Health in what circumstances public assistance authorities claim reimbursement for relief granted in the preceding 12 months; and how the exercise of this right is reconciled with the normal practice of disregarding certain capital assets?

    Where any person in receipt of relief has in his possession or belonging to him any money or valuable security for money the public assistance authority may take so much of the money or the produce of the security as will reimburse them for the amount expended on the relief of that person during the last 12 months. This power is one which it is the duty of the authority to exercise with regard to the circumstances of the case, but they would not normally reimburse themselves from capital assets which, in granting relief, they had disregarded or treated as equivalent to the appropriate weekly income.

    Loans

    asked the Minister of Health why relief by public assistance authorities is treated as a loan rather than a grant in cases where substantial sums of money are expected to accrue to the applicant in the near future, having regard to the arrangements for ignoring capital assistance otherwise respected?

    It is in general within the discretion of the public assistance authority to give relief by way of loan, but most authorities would not give relief in this way if the only prospect of recovering the amount of the loan were from capital assets which, in granting relief, they had disregarded or treated as equivalent to the appropriate weekly income.

    Fire Guards

    asked the Home Secretary how many of the 100,000 or so paid fire watchers are of military age?

    Exact statistics regarding the number of paid fire guards are not available. I am not aware of any case in which a fit man of military age is employed whole-time as a paid fire guard.

    Town And Country Planning

    asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what action he is taking to ensure that the N.F.S. and other war-time bodies are not erecting buildings with disregard of town planning schemes and without prior consultation with his Department and the local authorities concerned?

    It has been agreed between the Departments concerned that local planning authorities and my regional planning officers shall be consulted about the requisitioning of sites and the erection of new buildings thereon. While this is the normal procedure, it cannot always be followed in cases of extreme urgency, and war-time necessities must sometimes override the provisions of town planning schemes.

    Admiralty Pharmacists

    asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it has been decided to take any action upon the recommendation of the Kennet Committee to cancel the deferment of pharmacists in the pharmaceutical department of the Admiralty between the military ages of 25 and 30 years?

    No recommendation has been made by the Kennet Committee to cancel the deferment of pharmacists in the Admiralty who are aged 25 or over at the date of their registration.

    United Nations Relief And Re- Habilitation Administration

    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Report of Sir Frederick Leith-Ross, prepared in collaboration with the Inter-allied Post-war Requirements Bureau for submission to the Allied Governments, can be made public; whether the Government have yet considered this Report and has he a statement to make on it?

    The Report of the Inter-Allied Committee, presided over by Sir Frederick Leith-Ross, has been submitted to the Allied Governments, but no decision has yet been taken as to publication. His Majesty's Government are of opinion that the proposals made in that Report, as far as they relate to relief measures, can only be satisfactorily dealt with when the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration is set up. They accordingly propose, subject to the concurrence of the Allied Governments concerned, that this Report should be remitted, for consideration, to that Administration when it has been established.

    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is intended that the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration shall have the necessary powers to arrange for the planning of production of primary commodities in order to supplement the decreasing stocks so that adequate supplies may be available to meet the known needs of the overseas areas?

    It will be for the Council, when the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration is set up, to determine in consultation with other interested authorities, national and international, what body should be made responsible for making which plans. His Majesty's Government for their part will afford the Council all the help that lies in their power.

    War Crimes Commission

    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is proposed to invite Ethiopia to serve with members of the other United Nations on the commission to consider war crimes?

    The Commission will no doubt be prepared to consider any information which the Ethiopian Government or any other United Nations Government may wish to submit to it regarding crimes committed against their own nationals by our common enemies during the course of the present war. It is not, however, the intention to invite Governments not hitherto associated with the discussions on war crimes, which have been proceeding for some time past, to serve on the Commission.

    Coal Industry

    Mine Managers, South Wales

    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of mine managers in the South Wales coalfields; and in how many cases these managers have been appointed as the responsible person under the provision of the White Paper?

    The number of mine managers in the South Wales coalfield is 182, and the number of these managers who are "nominated persons" under the White Paper is 13. A considerable number of colliery agents have also been nominated, and, in some instances the general manager or area manager.

    Open-Cast Coal (Sale And Distribution)

    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what arrangements have been made to market the output of open-cast workings in South Wales; and what are the financial provisions of the arrangements?

    The arrangements for the sale and distribution of all open-cast coal now being worked has been placed in the hands of selling agents on behalf of the Ministry. The selling agencies will receive an agreed remuneration for their services but the amounts payable are subject to examination by my officers so that they may be satisfied that they are reasonable. They are subject to audit and revision every six months. Where the selling agents' services are required as factors, they receive the normal margins payable for such services.

    Fuel Economy Devices

    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is prepared to authorise a test of devices known as fuel economisers to be conducted under the supervision of a committee to be appointed by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers; and whether he will be pre- pared to act in accordance with the results of such a test?

    No, Sir. A great deal of information on the performance of devices described as fuel economisers is already in the possession of my Ministry. On any further tests that may be required, I should be advised by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and my Fuel Efficiency Committee as to what body is best qualified to conduct them.

    Royal Air Force (Omnibus Accident, Knottingley)

    asked the Secretary of State for Air the total number of R.A.F. personnel seriously injured in a motor omnibus accident at Knottingley, Yorkshire, on 6th February, 1943, which resulted from dangerous driving; the number of R.A.F. personnel subsequently discharged on account of disabilities resulting from these injuries; and what compensation these men are entitled to receive in lieu of the damages recoverable in the case of civilians?

    As a result of this regrettable accident, five airmen were killed, three others died from their injuries, and nine were seriously injured. Two of the injured men have been discharged on account of disabilities resulting from their injuries. As regards the last part of the Question, the appropriate compensation to be paid to the two discharged airmen and to the dependants of the eight airmen who were killed is being considered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions.