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Written Answers

Volume 393: debated on Thursday 4 November 1943

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Written Answers

Mass Radiography Units (Gift To Russia)

asked the Minister of Health whether consideration has been given to assisting the Soviet authorities in dealing with tuberculosis in Russia by making available to them mass radiography apparatus such as is now being produced in this country for our own tuberculosis service?

Yes, Sir. I am happy to inform the House that an offer which I recently made on behalf of the Government to present to the Soviet Government two of the mass radiography units now being manufactured in this country has been accepted. They are to be sent to Russia almost immediately, and I learn from His Excellency the Soviet Ambassador that one is to go to Stalingrad and the other to Leningrad. Though our present resources of these machines are very limited, I feel certain that the people of this country will wholeheartedly approve the sending of two of them for the benefit of the heroic people of Leningrad and Stalingrad.

Education

Schools Meals Service

asked the President of the Board of Education what progress is now being made in regard to the provision of school children's dinners and the erection and equipment of the requisite accommodation in co-operation with Government Departments and local authorities?

Very satisfactory progress is being made in the expansion of the school meals service. The returns of school dinners provided on a day in October, 1943, are not yet complete, but I have reason to anticipate that the total number of meals provided in grant-aided schools is now in the neighbourhood of 1,300,000. In the last three months my Department have approved some 1,500 proposals submitted by local education authorities for kitchens and canteens which, when completed, will provide meals for nearly one-quarter of a million additional children in public elementary schools.

Educational Books

asked the President of the Board of Education whether, owing to the relative scarcity of paper, what is the extent of the shortage of educational books for the elementary and secondary schools?

Although the shortage of educational books is hampering the schools, it has not up to now been so detrimental as to imperil the efficiency of their work. As the books in use wear out the difficulties will increase, but I hope that the position will be helped by the increased allocation of paper which was announced yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey).

Expenditure

asked the President of the Board of Education why the pre-war expenditure on education is given in the White Paper at £123,000,000 when the actual expenditure for 1940–41 was £98,709,000; and whether this discrepancy means that the cost of the reforms envisaged in the White Paper will be more than the £67,000,000 there stated?

The figure of £123,000,000 to which my hon. Friend refers is not the pre-war expenditure on education. It represents the cost of existing services as it is likely to be immediately before the introduction of any of the proposed reforms, i.e., in an unreformed postwar year. To arrive at this figure the pre-war expenditure has been adjusted in two respects: first, by the addition of 15 per cent. to cover the general rise in costs, and, secondly, by an adjustment to meet the great expansion during the war of the provision of school meals and milk. The answer to the second part of the Question is therefore in the negative.

Private Lorry Owners, Northern Ireland (Petrol And Tyres)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the serious dissatisfaction among private lorry owners in Northern Ireland at the treatment they are receiving, he will give them equal treatment in the matter of petrol and tyres with the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board?

I am in correspondence with the Government of Northern Ireland, and will write to my hon. Friend.

Severn Barrage Proposal

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the present position with regard to proposals put forward for a hydro-electric scheme on the River Severn?

I have at present nothing to add to the reply which I gave on 26th October to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed).

Lend-Lease

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the interests of Anglo-American relations, he will consider issuing a White Paper to make understood in this country the working of Lend-Lease?

Post-War Road Policy

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, seeing that the success of all schemes for planning the use of land depends upon the provision of adequate road communications and that the position of the roads must be determined before land can be planned satisfactorily for any purpose, he has considered the need for a national road improvement scheme showing the approximate routes of new arterial roads and their connections with existing roads; and is he ready to announce such a scheme as the foundation of his national plan for postwar development?

The Government are at present considering the problems of road policy after the war, and I hope shortly to be able to make a general statement on the subject.

Damaged Houses (Repair)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he is aware that applications to repair damaged houses are frequently not made owing to the serious loss of time and labour involved in supplying plans and other requirements of the Ministry for which there is no compensation if the application is refused; and, in view of the urgent necessity for the provision of houses, whether he will consider paying reasonable costs of preparing plans or making alternative suggestions for carrying out the work by the Ministry in all reasonable cases?

A new application form is being introduced this week which makes it clear that if plans or specifications have not already been prepared, a decision in principle on the application is given and plans and specifications only asked for subsequently if required. The cost of preparing such plans or specifications cannot, in the circumstances, be met from public funds.

Agriculture

Oats

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will instruct the W.A.E.C. for Wales to give farmers farming land above the 800 feet level the option of growing oats instead of wheat?

County war agricultural executive committees are asked to secure minimum acreages of specified priority crops, including bread grains, and they naturally endeavour to obtain those acreages in the part of their counties favourable to the growing of the crops concerned. They would not serve directions for the growing of wheat on farms which, by reason of altitude or by any other cause, are in their judgment unsuitable, and I do not think any useful purpose would be served by an instruction limiting their discretion by reference to any particular level of altitude.

Special Grade Cattle

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why he took off the special grade for cattle seeing that beasts in that category are at their best, and to keep them longer means a waste of valuable food; whether he is aware that special grade cattle are the cheapest he can purchase as he always gets full weight; and as prime cattle, owing to there being now no special grade, are being withheld from the markets, will he revert to the previous position?

The special grade of fat cattle was withdrawn at the end of August because the killing out percentages of cattle are generally lower in the autumn than at other times of the year. Special grade cattle are not cheaper than other grades per lb. dressed carcase weight unless they kill out above the minimum percentages of the grade. I have no reason to think that well-finished cattle are being withheld from sale because the special grade is not operative at present. The published price schedule for fat cattle provides for the re-instatement of the special grade at the beginning of January, 1944, which is two months earlier than in the previous two years.

Cattle Breeding

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his post-war scheme for agriculture envisages the development of cattle breeding so as to diminish the need for importing store cattle from Ireland?

I outlined to the House on 28th July last my plans for the development of cattle breeding during the next four years, and specially referred to the rearing of more calves for both beef and milk production. As I announced or. 28th October, discussions with the agricultural industry on post-war policy have now been authorised. I cannot anticipate the outcome of those discussions.

Increased Tillage Programme, Scotland

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will state by counties the extra acreage in Scotland which is to be ploughed up in 1943–44?

The task assigned to agricultural executive committees in Scotland in respect of increased tillage in 1943–44 is to endeavour to obtain an extra 71,500 acres over 1942–43. The distribution of this acreage among the counties is as follows:

Acres.
Aberdeen6,500
Angus3,000
Argyll2,250
Ayr6,500
Banff3,000
Berwick7,000
Bute (including Arran)
Caithness2,000
Dumfries4,000
Dunbarton and Renfrew1,000
East Lothian1,500
Fife and Kinross2,500
Inverness1,500
Kincardine2,000
Kirkcudbright3,000
Lanark4,000
Midlothian2,000
Moray1,000
Nairn500
Orkney1,500
Peebles500
Selkirk250
Perth5,500
Ross and Cromarty2,000
Roxburgh5,000
Stirling and Clackmannan2,000
Sutherland
West Lothian1,000
Wigtown500
Zetland
71,500

Political Broadcasts

asked the Minister of Information whether he will see that political broadcasts in the Home and Forces Programme are more fairly arranged, having regard to the allocation of only 70 out of 174 such broadcasts to Conservatives during the past 12 months?

The hon. Member is wrong in supposing that 174 political talks have been broadcast by Members of this House in the past twelve months. That figure includes broadcasts on a variety of subjects which have no relation to politics. But in selecting speakers for political subjects the B.B.C. certainly aim at keeping the balance of parties even.

Evacuated Children, Canada

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he is considering arrangements for the return of evacuated children from Canada to this country whose parents are resident here and who are called upon to remit funds for their upkeep in Canada?

The agreement made with the parents of children sent to Canada under the official scheme provided for repatriation as soon as practicable after the war. This still represents the position, and lack of shipping would preclude any other general arrangement, though repatriation may occasionally prove practicable in individual cases, especially in the case of those approaching military age. It is hoped similarly to make provision for the return after the war of children evacuated to Canada privately.

Oil From Coal

asked the Minister of Labour (1), in view of the urgent need of motor spirit and diesel oil, whether he will grant improved labour facilities for the production of the same from coal to those who are prepared to do so at their own expense;(2) whether he will consider the question of securing the return to the Wellbeck oil-from-coal plant of the three key men necessary to restart the production of oil from coal?

I am in communication with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power on this subject and will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

New Capital Issues (Stock Exchange Dealings)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that the Treasury in certain recent cases has granted permission for new capital to be issued but refused sanction for Stock Exchange dealings in the securities concerned whereby criticism has been aroused, he will consider reviewing this procedure?

Circumstances vary from case to case; but for the great majority of new issues made with Treasury consent, it is the practice not to object to permission to deal being granted by the Stock Exchanges.

Industrial And Commercial Property (War Damage Payments)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the cost-of-works payment under the War Damage Act is equally applicable to factory and office property which has been completely destroyed by war damage where such property was erected after March, 1914, or where, in the case of properties erected before that date, the War Damage Commission is satisfied that the structure was practically as sound as at the date of building and that the design and lay-out were reasonably equal to similar buildings erected since 1914?

The recent Treasury Direction made under Section 20 of the War Damage Act, 1943, to which my hon. and gallant Friend evidently refers, was designed to further the requirements of the public interest as respects the provision of housing accommodation and was specifically restricted to dwelling-house property. At the same time, I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that it does not by any means follow that because an industrial or commercial property is completely destroyed a value payment and not a cost of works payment is appropriate. The classification depends upon the quality of the building destroyed and the value of the site on which it stood.

Greece (Food Supplies)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether, in view of the critical situation in Greece, an additional 4,000 tons monthly of meat, fish and rice, together with increased supplies of milk and fats can be sent in the near future?

The question of adding to the Greek relief shipments is constantly reviewed in the light of the reports and recommendations which reach us from the Neutral Commission. I regret, however, that I cannot give an assurance of the kind asked for in the Question.

Diphtheria (Immunisation)

asked the Minister of Health what is the meaning of the Ministry's advertisements in the Press and on the hoardings that immunisation is a protection against diphtheria, in view of the statement in the last Report of his Department that it has never been claimed that immunisation gives complete protection to the individual child and of the fact that 9,500 children, who have had the full course of inoculations against diphtheria, have developed diphtheria during the past three and a half years; and how he reconciles his advertisement with his Report?

There is no inconsistency between the advertisement and the Report. The latter shows that in 1942 the rate of incidence of diphtheria among immunised children was one-fourth or one-fifth of that amongst those not immunised and that the unimmunised child was from twenty to thirty times as liable to die from diphtheria as the immunised child. There is therefore a high degree of protection.

Merchant Navy (Widows And Dependants)

asked the Minister of Pensions what arrangements are made for the payment of pensions to the widows or dependants of personnel serving with the Merchant Navy under a Board of Trade certificate, valid for the duration of the war only, in the event of their dying from tropical diseases which they would not have been likely to have come into contact with in this country; and whether, having regard to the fact that their service is for the war only, their death under such circumstances could be regarded as being due to their war service?

It is presumed that the personnel to whom my hon. Friend refers are mariners who have been granted special permits to enable them to act in the capacity of navigating or engineer officers for the duration of the war. The grant of these special permits does not affect their position as regards entitlement under the War Pensions and Detention Allowances (Mercantile Marine, etc.) Scheme: like all other officers and seamen of the Merchant Navy they are eligible for compensation from my Department in respect of death or disablement attributable to war injury, war risk injury or detention sustained in the circumstances described in the Pensions (Navy, Army, Air Force and Mercantile Marine) Act, 1939, as amended by the Pensions (Mercantile Marine) Act, 1942. In determining eligibility for compensation under the Scheme, I could not make a distinction between persons whose normal occupation is that of mariner and those who are engaged in that role only during the war. Each case is considered in the light of the particular circumstances in which the disease was contracted and with regard to any abnormal conditions or special war risks for which provision has been made in the Acts.

Housing (Requisitioning)

asked the Minister of Health the total number of empty properties capable of use for housing purposes in Hampstead, Westminster and Chelsea; and what number have been requisitioned in these areas to date by local authorities for housing purposes?

I am having inquiries made and will send my hon. Friend the information as soon as it is available.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will amend the regulations under which local authorities may requisition houses for their local residents in need of better accommodation so that they are made the same as those under which houses are requisitioned for the benefit of war workers who have been directed to the locality from other towns?

The procedure which has been adopted in each case is that which is considered the most appropriate for the special object in view, and I do not on present information feel justified in suggesting a change.

Dog Population

asked the Postmaster-General what was the dog population of England and Wales at the latest convenient date before the outbreak of war and in 1943?

The total number of dogs in England and Wales is not known. The number for which licences were taken out in the year ended 31st March, 1939, was 2,836,649; in the year ended 31st March, 1943, it was 2,455,258.

Government Departments (Public Relations Branches)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will take steps, together with the Minister of Information and other appropriate Ministries, to co-ordinate the work being done by the numerous paid publicity agents attached to the various Government Departments, for the purpose of eliminating unnecessary overlapping and in order to secure a further reduction in the numbers employed?

I share my hon. Friend's view as to the importance of co-ordination and economy in the organisation of Public Relations Branches. As has been explained in previous answers, these arrangements have been frequently reviewed and a further review is at present in progress.

Old Age Pensions (Estimated Cost Of Extension)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can give a rough estimate of the cost of providing a pension of 30s. a week for all at 60 years of age without conditions?

I would refer to the very full reply given on 19th May to my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and Eastern (Mr. Woodburn).

India (Food Situation)

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can state, for the last five years for which figures are available, what weight of food was imported into India and what was exported from India?

I would refer the hon. Member to Section 6, Table 1, of the White Paper on the Indian Food Situation. These figures are however exclusive of imports on Government account.

Work Directions (Bespoke Tailors' Cutters)

asked the Minister of Labour whether it is in accordance with arrangements made by his Department with the Board of Trade that male bespoke tailors' cutters, born before July 1900, should now be directed to take up employment other than that of their own trade?

Under the arrangements which I have made in agreement with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, male bespoke tailors' cutters born before 1st July, 1900, will not for the present be withdrawn from their employment.

Film Renting (Restrictive Conditions)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the protection given to the British cinema industry, he will investigate the restrictive conditions which govern the booking of films by British exhibitors under which Hollywood insists on their taking mediocre films before they are allowed to rent the more pretentious productions?

No, Sir. It is a common practice among film distributors, both in this country and in the United States, to refuse to allow exhibitors to book only their best films, and to reject the rest. I have no reason to believe that British exhibitors regard this practice as unreasonable.