House Of Commons
Thursday, 2nd December, 1943
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
National War Effort
Manchester Training Centre
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the management at the Alms Hill Labour Training Centre, Cheetham Hill, Manchester, insist that trainees must reach the place by 7 a.m.; that, owing to transport difficulties, those resident in the Wigan and Bolton areas must in some cases get up at about 3 a.m. and waste time on the way to reach the centre at that hour; that complaints are made about messroom accommodation there; and will he cause inquiries to be made into the administration of this centre, more particularly that covering shift A and arrange that the hours of training at the centre shall, if possible, correspond to transport facilities?
I am satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of efficient training for trainees on the first shift at the Manchester Training Centre to attend at 7 a.m. Those who cannot conveniently do this from their homes are normally expected to go into lodgings near the centre under conditions similar to those applicable to transferred war workers. To assist trainees who continue to live at home arrangements have now been made for a special bus to meet trains from Wigan and Bolton which are due at Manchester at approximately 6.50 a.m. This should enable trainees from these towns to travel by a later train than formerly. No complaints have been made to the centre authorities about messroom accommodation.
Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman intends to uproot these people from their homes just for a few weeks' training; and do we under- stand that the management at the training centre will allow them to enter the centre even though they are a little late if the lateness is due to transport difficulties?
The arrival of the people who come by train and bus is determined, of course, by transport arriving on time. I am not uprooting these people any more than other people, but I cannot have training centres everywhere, and so I have to bring the people to the training centres.
Girl, Widnes (Work Direction)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Miss Jean Price, age 19, 10, Farrant Street, Widnes, is threatened with a direction to go out to work though her grandmother living in the same house is a chronic invalid; that her sister living with them is already working under direction; that the local woman employment exchange officer who threatens the direction has stated that the grandmother could be left alone in spite of a medical certificate to the contrary; that she sat on the hardship tribunal with only one other person to determine her own direction; and will he allow one of these two sisters to remain at home to perform household duties and care for the invalid?
This case has been reconsidered, and while circumstances remain as at present no further action will be taken to transfer Miss Jean Price to other work. I understand she is performing part-time work at a local cinema. The Women's Panel which considered the case was properly constituted, and consisted of two independent members.
I take it, then, that this woman will be left where she is for the time being.
Do I understand that an official of an employment exchange can sit in a judicial capacity on a hardship committee with only one independent member?
What is the position, then?
If I am asked about the constitution of hardship committees, the hon. and gallant Member should put the Question on the Paper.
Did I understand the Minister to say that an employment exchange official could sit in a judicial capacity on a hardship committee?
asked the Minister of Labour whether for public information and guidance, he will in future issue a brief official statement on any serious strike or cessation of work, official or unofficial, giving the reasons alleged by both sides and the wages of those concerned, actual and demanded?
I regret that I cannot adopt this suggestion. The circumstances of trade disputes are seldom such that a statement of the kind indicated would serve a useful purpose without an examination of the validity and merits of the reasons alleged by both sides, and this would require a formal and impartial inquiry. I have power to order such inquiries, and I exercise this power whenever it seems appropriate to do so.
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will state, in relation to deferment given to theatrical artistes conditionally on work for E.N.S.A., what are the maximum and minimum periods of work for E.N.S.A. that have been so imposed; whether the salary is fixed and at what sum for such employment?
Deferment is granted for theatrical artistes subject to their undertaking to give their services to E.N.S.A. for not less than six weeks each year. Salaries are fixed by E.N.S.A. in accordance with their normal rates of pay.
First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
asked the Minister of Labour whether girls of 19 years of age are permitted to enter F.A.N.Y. now that the Services are closed to girls of this age?
No, Sir, except where submissions are made through my Department to certain approved vacancies.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us who is this mysterious F.A.N.Y.?
Discharged Service Men (Rehabilitation And Training)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that men are being discharged from the Services on medical grounds and entering civil employment for which they are physically unfit, and will he make arrangements for all men discharged from the Services to be interviewed at an employment exchange for the purpose of receiving explanations of rehabilitation and training schemes?
The arrangements for interviewing men and women who are discharged from His Majesty's Forces on medical grounds or because of disablement include interviewing at hospitals and other invaliding establishments as well as at employment exchanges. Special steps are taken, by means of reports and discussions, to get expert medical advice as to the individual's condition and as to the most suitable kind of occupation. All local offices of the Ministry have full particulars of the training and other schemes designed to assist the satisfactory resettlement of persons suffering from any form of disability—whether as the result of service with His Majesty's Forces or from other causes.
asked the Minister of Labour what trades are now being taught in classes for disabled men?
There are at present special classes in progress in 21 trades for disabled men, and, in addition, disabled men are being trained with fit men in ten trades under the ordinary munitions training scheme. As the list of trades available for training of the disabled is lengthy, I will circulate it if I may, in the OFFICIAL REPORT, indicating which of the trades are now being taught.
Are there at present any classes for training men in shoe repairing, jobbing tailoring, bookbinding and basket making?
I cannot answer that. I have had to confine the main training at the moment to people who can find occupation in the munition industries, as stated when I announced the interim scheme. If the hon. and gallant Member after examining the list in the official record has other suggestions to make, I will certainly take them into consideration.
Following is the List of Trades available for the Training of Disabled.
- Commercial (Book-keeping, shorthand, type-writing).
- Inspection and Viewing.
- Instrument Making.
- Machine Operating.
- Motor Mechanics.
- Sheet Metal Working and Panel Beating.
- Radio Fault-finding and Testing.
- Spray and Brush Painting.
- Surgical Appliance Making.
- Telephone Switchboard Operator.
- Typewriter Mechanics.
- Watch and Clock Repairer.
- Welding (Oxy-acetylene and Electric).
- Inspection and Viewing.
- Instrument Making.
- Machine Operating.
- Motor Mechanics.
- Sheet Metal Working and Panel Beating.
- Ships Riveters and Rivet Beaters.
- Welding (Oxy-acetylene and Electric).
- Canteen Management.
- Canteen Cook.
- Boiler and Dynamo Attendant.
- Concrete and Shuttering.
- Dental Mechanics.
- Garage Mechanic and Light Lorry Driver.
- Gas and Hot Water Fitting.
- Glass Blowing.
- Scientific Instrument Assembly.
- Slating and Tiling.
- Metallurgical Analyst.
A = Special Classes for the disabled.
B = Normal Classes in which disabled men are trained with fit men.
C = Classes which can be set up for disabled men as required.
Directed Women Workers (Lodging Allowance)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will pay subsistence allowances to women directed to work in places away from their homes, as is done in the case of evacuated civil servants, since their earnings in many instances do not enable them to meet their living and other reasonable expenses.
As my hon. Friend will be aware, any transferred worker who was living with and maintaining dependants before transfer receives a lodging allowance of 24s. 6d. a week from my Department in order to assist with the extra expenses where two establishments have to be maintained. In addition, I have recently made arrangements in the case of transferred women not eligible for these allowances to pay a "settling-in" grant of 25s. a week for the first week after transfer, 20s. the second, 15s. the third, and 10s. for the fourth week, unless the women are living in a Government hostel, when these payments are reduced by 5s. per week. I have made these arrangements to help tide the women over the initial period during which she may need to acquire proficiency to enable her to secure a reasonable level of earnings. Further than that I am afraid I cannot go. The adequacy of earnings in any given industry is a question for settlement through the normal negotiating machinery of that industry, and where an industry is depending on an intake of transferred women, it will be necessary for the industry to see that full account is taken of their needs.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in practice it is not sufficient to provide these allowances for four weeks only, when he has taken these women to work away from their homes has he not a responsibility to see that their income is sufficient to meet reasonable expenses? Will he not treat them at least as favourably as evacuated civil servants?
I cannot undertake to subsidise low wages in an industry. If the man or the woman—because there is exactly equal treatment—has not two establishments to maintain I am afraid that it is not possible for me to recommend my colleagues in the Government to make up wages. What I do is to take what steps I can through the negotiating machinery to see that the wages are put right.
Will my right hon. Friend explain why the figure should be 24s. 6d. in the case of industrial workers and 21s. in the case of civil servants?
I always thought the appetite of a civil servant was not that of an industrial worker.
Unemployment Insurance (Salary Limit)
asked the Minister of Labour what representations he has received in favour of raising the salary limit in unemployment insurance to £600 a year; and what reasons were given for the suggestion?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given yesterday to a very similar Question put by the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Hepworth).
As some hon. Members may be unemployed after the next General Election will the right hon. Gentleman not give serious consideration to this matter?
We hope to have the Beveridge Scheme ready by then.
Mentally Defective Children (Occupation Centres)
asked the President of the Board of Education whether it is intended to take over the occupation centres for the training of mentally retarded children and so make them a part of the regular educational system of the kingdom?
No, Sir. These occupation centres are intended for lower-grade defective children who are unable to benefit by any kind of school training.
Mcnair Committee (Report)
asked the President of the Board of Education when he expects the Report of the McNair Committee will be available?
I hope to receive the Report of the McNair Committee during the first quarter of next year.
asked the President of the Board of Education what progress he has met with in regard to the recruitment of teachers?
The first in the series of conferences referred to in my answers of 21st October and 11th November last has been held. The programme of meetings will, I hope, be completed by the middle of January. The correspondence courses for members of the Services are expected to be available early in the new year, thus every practicable step is being taken pending the release of men and women from the Forces.
Will my right hon. Friend consider issuing a White Paper setting out the short-term policy far the training of teachers?
I will certainly take any steps which commend themselves, in order that hon. Members may know about it, but I think the scheme was, in general, set out in the answer given to the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) on. 21st October. If my hon. Friend wants any further information, I will certainly consider her request.
Will the Minister confer with the Minister of Labour in order to ensure a reasonable priority of demobilisation, so that these men may be returned in order to train for their avocation?
All those matters are under consideration.
asked the President of the Board of Education what is the present state of discussions between the National Union of Teachers and the Burnham Committee on the question of teachers' salaries?
I understand that the teachers' panel of the Burnham Elementary Committee, the members of which are appointed by the National Union of Teachers, have given notice to terminate as from 1st April, 1944, the salary scales contained in the Committee's current Report of 1938. I have not been informed of the stage at present reached in the discussions between the two sides of the Committee.
In view of the fact that the present agreement is due to run out shortly, is it not apparent that the discussions should be conducted sufficiently rapidly to ensure that we shall not find ourselves without a new agreement, at the end of the present agreement?
Yes, Sir, I am aware of all those difficulties, but I think that I had better receive the Report to which I referred at the end of my statement.
Is the Minister not aware that if he waits until then he will be waiting until the present agreement has expired?
We usually move in very good time at the Board of Education, and my hon. Friend had better rely on our usual perspicacity.
Industrial Hereditaments (De-Rating)
asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the representations of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee and other municipal associations in favour of the repeal of the de-rating provisions of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928; and, having regard to the unfair burden that shopkeepers and other ratepayers are bearing, will he take immediate steps to bring these excess profits tax-paying industrial concerns into full rating?
Before this Question and the other Questions addressed to the Minister of Health are answered, Mr. Speaker, may I put a question to the Patronage Secretary about the absence from the Treasury Bench of the Minister of Health, who has just been appointed? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is indisposed, that is another matter, but if he is absent because of other engagements it does seem to me that, so soon after his appointment, it is very desirable that he should attend to answer Questions.
I regret to say that the Minister has influenza.
Then I beg his pardon.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend's predecessor gave him on 4th November.
Is it not a fact that the conditions of distress which de-rating was designed to relieve no longer exist, and is it right that the wives of Service men and small struggling shopkeepers should have to pay full rates while other classes of the community are paying only part of their rates?
I think my hon. Friend might look again at the answer which was given by my right hon. Friend's predecessor about the difficulties of introducing legislation for making any change in the rating of this country at the present time.
Is it not a fact that ever since the war broke out we have been bringing in amending legislation to correct anomalies? Is there any greater anomaly than this one?
Local Authorities (Acquisition Of Sites)
asked the Minister of Health why his Department is advising local authorities against the acquisition of housing sites beyond those required for building in the first year after the war?
The advice is given in accordance with an arrangement made early this year by my right hon. Friend's predecessor with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning which removed the embargo against the purchase of land by local authorities so far as a first year's housing programme is concerned. My hon. Friend will be glad to know that my right hon. Friend is looking into the practicability of some further relaxation.
Does not this answer indicate the desirability of the Government coming to some conclusion about general policy on land acquisition?
I pointed out to my hon. friend that the sites that are already in the possession of local authorities will provide for housing to a great extent beyond what is possible at the moment.
Is the Minister keeping his eye on speculators to see that they do not get away with it?
I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will have the assistance and the information required from my hon. friend.
Rural Districts, Essex
asked the Minister of Health how many rural cottages have been built in the county of Essex, respectively, during the war and since June; whether he will give the cost per cottage and price of land per acre for those constructed this year in comparison with those previously built and those built immediately before the war; what are the rents plus rates for those built this year; and how many new cottages are needed?
As the answer is rather long, I will with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Meanwhile, will the hon. Lady at least say how many houses for occupation have been constructed in rural districts since the war broke out?
Nine hundred and forty-four houses were completed in rural districts in Essex between 1st August, 1939, and 31st March, 1943. If the hon. Member will look at my answer, which is rather long, I think he will be able to obtain a better picture.
Surely most of these houses were completed just after the beginning of the war and from that time onwards practically no houses have been completed?
It has been the policy of the Government that labour is not to be taken during the war from other essential work to build houses. The Prime Minister has made that clear in this House.
Is the hon. Lady sure that that is the reason and that it is not due to the high price of land?
Yes, Sir. The reason as has been stated, is that labour and materials are required for essential war work and should not at this stage be diverted to housing.
Following is the answer:
944 houses were completed in rural districts in Essex between 1st August, 1939, and 31st March, 1943 (the nearest dates for which figures are available). Practically the only houses built in Essex since June last are the 66 agricultural cottages now being completed under the War-time Agricultural Cottages Scheme. The estimated average cost of these cottages is £875 for a parlour house and £691 for a non-parlour house, excluding the cost of land, roads, sewers and architects' fees and contingencies such as workmen's travelling expenses, overtime, etc. The average price of the land is £85 an acre.
The average cost of houses built by all rural district councils in June, 1939, was £462 (parlour type) and £374 (non-parlour type).
The rents of the war-time agricultural cottages will not exceed 10s. a week for parlour houses and 8s. 6d. for non-parlour houses, plus rates.
The number of new cottages ultimately needed cannot yet be assessed. It will certainly be substantial.
asked the Minister of Health whether he will use for the building and repair of rural houses Irish or other labour engaged hitherto in the construction of airfields as and when such airfields are completed?
My right hon. Friend will be glad to make use of any suitable labour as and when it becomes available.
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the clause in many leases for flats, that the floors must be carpeted; and whether he will take action in the matter in view of the fact that it is often impossible to buy carpets except at prohibitive prices?
My right hon. Friend has no evidence that in so far as such clauses may be included in leases, action is being taken to enforce them unreasonably at the present time. He does not think, therefore, there is any need for him to seek special powers.
Is the Minister aware that my information is absolutely to the contrary, and that while certain firms such as Plus Flats do meet the requirements of people, other firms absolutely insist on the letter of the agreement?
If my hon. and gallant Friend will give me particulars, we will be very glad to look into them.
Is it the policy of the Ministry not to prevent an evil of this kind before it arises, when it is threatened, or is it to wait until it has occurred and then try to do something to cure it?
I think we have found in wartime that if we spend time looking for evils which may arise we shall not get on with the work. When these difficulties have arisen we have generally with goodwill been able to solve them.
asked the Minister of Health, whether, in any future plans for housing, he will consider the provision of a percentage of almshouses in country towns and villages for old people?
The Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Dudley, is giving special attention to the type of accommodation most suitable for old people, and my right hon. Friend will certainly give advice to local authorities on this very important matter when he has considered the Sub-committee's report.
Would the hon. Lady impress on local authorities that such accommodation must be in an accessible position, and will she bear in mind that some of them made the most crashing mistakes? I hope she will do more than advise them and that she will almost compel them.
Will the hon. Lady consider if this praiseworthy aim is adopted, the objection to the word "almshouses"? In my opinion it is objectionable.
I will take note of that, but I think that people's opinions differ. I think we may be able to call such houses one name in one place and another in another, according to local feelings.
Are we to understand that the post-war policy of the Ministry of Health is to segregate old people into separate dwellings rather than to leave them among the rest of the population?
No, I think if the hon. Member will look at the reply, he will see that we are calling attention to the type of accommodation most suitable for old people.
Will the hon. Lady take as an example the houses provided by Glasgow Corporation just outside Glasgow as an indication of what can be done?
There are several very good examples. I could tell the hon. Member of a very good one in Dundee.
National Health Insurance
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that materials used for treatment of special diseases prescribed by doctors under the National Health Insurance Act are exorbitantly priced and, in one case, rose from £1 10s. to £30 a ton; and whether he will take steps to have such materials prepared under Government control at the minimum cost?
My right hon. and learned Friend is not aware of the facts stated by my hon. Friend. He understands from him that the Question relates particularly to pancreas glands used in making insulin. I am informed that the price of these glands is now slightly less than in 1922, though considerably higher than at the outbreak of war. But the price of the raw material has only a slight effect on the price of insulin itself, which has fallen very much since insulin was introduced in 1923 and is not now much higher than just before the war. My right hon. and learned Friend does not see any necessity for instituting such control as is suggested in the last part of the Question.
If the facts are as stated and if offal was sold at 30s. per ton before insulin was discovered and at £30 a ton afterwards, somebody must be getting the profit. Is it not right that the matter should be looked into, when the life of people depends upon it, so that they should get it with the least possible cost and there should be no profiteering?
I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that the case is as I have stated. This matter of the price of insulin has been looked at on several occasions, as some hon. Members know. The facts are as I have stated them.
Does the Minister deny that since the discovery of insulin the price of offal has risen from 30s. to £30 per ton? Surely that cannot be justified.
asked the Minister of Health whether he will explain the purpose of the change in National Health Insurance effected by the National Health Insurance (Additional Benefits) Amendment Regulations, 1943 (S.R. & O., 1943, No. 1515)?
The purpose of the Regulation to which my hon. Friend refers is to widen the field for the supply of artificial eyes to insured persons who are in need of these appliances and are entitled to obtain them as part of ophthalmic benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts. The field of supply had previously been limited to opticians and the manufacturers of artificial eyes; by the Regulation in question it is now extended to include firms which, although not manufacturers, are customarily engaged in the supply and fitting of such eyes.
Might it not be desirable to include that explanation in an explanatory memorandum? Will the hon. Lady bear in mind the desirability of explanatory memoranda with Regulations of this nature, particularly in view of the undertaking that the Government have given in this regard?
Certainty, Sir, but it was thought that this Regulation concerning eyes was fairly clear and distinct.
asked the Minister of Health what representations he has received from the Corporation of Liverpool during the past 12 months as to the shortage of beds for tuberculosis patients in the Liverpool area; what reply he has given to the Corporation; and whether he will make a statement to the House on this matter?
Proposals for providing additional beds for tuberculosis cases in Liverpool by an extension of one of the Corporation's hospitals have recently been discussed between representatives of the Corporation and of the Ministry, and the Corporation has been informed of my right hon. Friend's approval of this project in principle. The plans for the extension are under immediate consideration.
May I ask the hon. Lady whether her Ministry is fully seized with the urgency of this problem, having in mind the large number of persons suffering from this complaint and unable to get beds?
Yes, I think we are. The difficulty of course is again materials, labour and staff.
Has the Minister considered the question of using some of the accommodation available in the emergency hospitals provided for military purposes, a large part of which accommodation at the present time is not used and is not now, I think, likely to be used to its full extent?
Yes. Some of this accommodation is being used and has been used for some time. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman that this accommodation is not likely to be used to its fullest extent.
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that tuberculosis patients at the Sully Hospital, who are not likely to be discharged for periods over six months, have had their allowances terminated; and whether he will take steps to have the whole position examined?
My right hon. Friend is not aware of any failure to apply the tuberculosis allowances scheme correctly to patients at the Sully Hospital, or of the application of a condition in such terms as my hon. Friend suggests, but I will look into any individual case of complaint if he will send me particulars.
Service Patients (Christmas Amenities)
asked the Minister of Health whether his Circular 2884 issued to local authorities and others notifying them that 6d. per head may be granted to wounded soldiers, sailors and airmen for Christmas amenities, represents his final decision upon the amount adequate for the men's needs and generous enough at this season?
This authority to incur extra expenditure on Christmas amenities for Service patients was issued to hospitals in the emergency hospital scheme at the request of the Ministers for the Service Departments and is not a matter for my right hon. Friend's decision.
Will the hon. Lady consider withdrawing this rather paltry Order and substituting something more in accordance with her own generous instincts?
I would point out that we have been asked to do this by the Service Ministries. I do not quite see why the generous instinct of an individual should not be shown to an individual patient or patients in hospital. It is not necessary to do it out of public funds.
The hon. Lady's Ministry is adopting these proposals and surely can alter the Order under these circumstances?
No; perhaps I did not make it clear to the hon. Member that the Services Ministries asked us, as agents, to allow this grant where there are Service patients in the emergency hospitals.
Will the hon. Lady warn the hospital authorities to see that Service patients do not get intoxicated over the festive season with this 6d.?
I think hon. Members will agree when they go to hospitals at Christmas time that a great deal is done for and is appreciated by the patients?
Did the Service Departments in asking for this concession ask specifically for 6d.?
Yes, the amount was laid down.
Does this mean that in this particular case, as in many others, the Ministry is prepared to depend on private charity?
My opinion is that Christmas season's gifts and giving pleasure to other people may be called by the hon. Member private charity, but I am glad that it still exists.
Can the hon. Lady give any idea of the total amount involved in this giving of 6d. a head?
No, I am afraid I cannot without notice. It is quite a considerable sum, which will be used in the hospitals for entertaining and brightening the time for the patients.
Institution Inmates (Pocket Money)
asked the Minister of Health whether he will take steps to enable public assistance committees, who so desire, to grant in suitable instances pocket money to inmates of public assistance institutions who are under 65 years of age?
My right hon. Friend has noted this question for consideration at an appropriate opportunity, but he certainly could not undertake to introduce legislation in the sense suggested in the early future.
Can the hon. Lady say when this consideration will be forthcoming?
I am afraid I cannot answer that.
Service Men's Children (Residential Nurseries)
asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the difficulties at present experienced by the wives of men serving in His Majesty's Forces who, having to enter hospital for illness or confinement, are unable to make arrangements for their children, other than sending them to some public institution; and whether arrangements will be considered for the provision of residential hostels to which such children could be sent?
My right hon. Friend is aware of the difficulty referred to. Some provision for such cases is already made by welfare authorities and by means of the residential nurseries established under the Government evacuation scheme. If my hon. and gallant Friend has any particular cases in mind, I shall be glad to have inquiries made.
Does the hon. Lady not realise that the present arrangements do not really meet the case, and would she consult with the Ministers of the Service Departments to see whether some special arrangements cannot be made which would deal with the cases that arise among the wives of Service men?
I may inform my hon. and gallant Friend that my right hon. Friend has discussed this matter with the Service Departments. It simply comes down to the difficulty of staff. If the Minister of Labour gives us more staff it will be possible to make further arrangements.
Is it not true that there is a great shortage of places to which to send these children, and that some of these places, under the direction of the Ministry of Health, have charged as much as 36s. 6d. a week?
In these nurseries, which are run under the Government evacuation scheme, the accommodation is exactly the same for every child. The noble Lady is referring to a particular area, where the local authority had not room in their home for a child. In such cases the local authority would have to pay, in order to send the child to another home, the amount it would cost to keep the child in their own home.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Soldiers,' Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association are maintaining residential nurseries of this kind for the special benefit of the wives of serving men?
Yes. It is through the help of the Ministry of Health that they obtained the buildings, and I have been in close touch with them. They have the same difficulty as we all have because of the shortage of staffs.
Nurses' Salaries Committee (Second Report)
asked the Minister of Health whether he is in a position to make any statement about the Second Report of the Nurses' Salaries Committee and the action he proposes to take thereon?
Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend has received the Committee's Second Report from my noble Friend Lord Rushcliffe. The Report deals with male nurses in hospitals, with nurses employed in the public health services, with nurses engaged in domiciliary work, and with trained nurses employed in nurseries. The Report is being presented as a Command Paper, and copies will be available to-day in the Vote Office. Hon. Members will see from the Report that, as with the Committee's First Report, the work has been detailed and complicated and that the Report covers the ground very comprehensively. My right hon. Friend is to-day communicating with local authorities, the British Hospitals Association, and the Queen's Institute of District Nursing, commending to them the recommendations as to salaries, emoluments, and conditions of service, and informing them of the grant which is payable, as in the case of the previous Report. Hon. Members will join with my right hon. Friend in thanking the Committee and their noble Chairman on the conclusion of this part of their work.
Will the House have an opportunity of discussing this Report before it is commended to the local authorities? The first Report was carried through without such an opportunity being given.
Are the recommendations of the Report more generous than those of the last Report?
Perhaps if the hon. Lady will read the Report she will form her own opinion.
Local Authorities (Boundaries)
asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider the appointment of a committee to make recommendations for the revision, if necessary, of the present boundaries of local governments and for the representation of the electorate in those authorities?
The matters to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers could not adequately be considered apart from a comprehensive inquiry into the general machinery of Local Government. For the reasons indicated in the reply given on 22nd September by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills) and my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère), the Government do not propose to institute such an inquiry at the present time.
Is the hon. Lady aware that local authorities are very much worried about the future? Some of their powers have been filched from them, and they do not know where they stand.
I think that local authorities need not at present be worried about these things. I think it would be more worrying if a complete inquiry began at this moment, as they would not then know how they were to carry on in the difficult period immediately after the war.
Is the hon. Lady aware that if they do not start worrying now, it may be too late?
Town And Country Planning
Covent Garden Opera House And National Theatre, London
39 and 40.
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning (1) whether, when the replanning of London is under consideration, he is prepared to take steps to preserve the Covent Garden Opera House for use as an opera house, and to provide it with properly-planned approaches;(2) whether he is taking steps to see that a suitable site is provided for the proposed national theatre in London?
It will be for the local planning authority, in the first instance, to consider for what purposes land should be allocated and how existing buildings should be dealt with. Perhaps my hon. Friend will bring his suggestions to their notice.
Are we to understand that the Minister is not going to give any direction at all to local authorities where buildings or sites of national importance are concerned?
We shall watch what is done by the local authorities, but I think that they have the point in which my hon. Friend is interested well under consideration at present.
While they watch we shall pray.
Will the right hon. Gentleman, in giving consideration to the Covent Garden Opera House proposal, bear in mind this is very nearly the only country in Europe which has not subsidised grand opera?
I will bear that point in mind.
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning, in view of the recommendation contained in the Uthwatt Report regarding the land values ceiling at 31st March, 1939, why it is not possible to consider to-day's values as well; and whether he will issue instructions that purchases, if any, should not be made above the 1943 or 1939 ceiling, whichever is the lower.
The adoption of the recommendation referred to would not entail purchase at prices above the market value at the time of purchase. The second part of the Question, therefore, does not arise.
Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)
asked the Minister of Pensions why he refuses to meet the account of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society for the funeral expenses of a Streatham soldier who died of tuberculosis at Ventnor after long service in France and the Middle East.
As I have explained in correspondence with the hon. Member, a payment has already been made to the undertakers on behalf of the relatives in accordance with the scale approved for those cases in which the responsibility for funeral arrangements is assumed by the family.
Is it not a fact that the arrangements made for this funeral, comprising a motor hearse and one coach, could not be reduced, and is not the scale quite inadequate if it does not meet these reasonable expenses? Is it not his duty to get powers to improve the scale?
My Ministry undertake to convey the body from the hospital where the person has died to the person's home town, and then to carry out all the funeral arrangements, without any cost to the relatives. If the relatives object to this, and undertake to do it themselves, and run up a very extravagant bill, it would not be fair to pay out of public funds that amount. But we are quite prepared to deal with the arrangements ourselves.
What were the reasonable expenses charged by this co-operative society?
The bill from the society amounted to £40 0s. IId. According to my Regulations, we were able to pay £16 18s., which we have paid.
asked the Minister of Pensions why a totally disabled captain of the last war receives £30 a year less pension than a captain of the present war suffering the same disability; and will he take steps to make the pensions the same for all ranks for both wars?
The increased rate payable in respect of the present war arises from a change in classification which originated after the end of the Great War, and I could not agree that it should be extended to officers whose war service had already terminated before the change was introduced.
In view of the dissatisfaction which this matter has caused, does my right hon. Friend not think that this is one of a number of anomalies which might very well be considered by a Select Committee of this House?
No, Sir. It was one of the anomalies which existed before, and which we tried to remedy that caused the further anomaly.
It does not matter how it arose; we want to put it right now.
We have put it right.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether the concession abolishing the need qualification for the award of family allowances with disability retired pay, granted to officers disabled in the present war, can be extended to officers of the Great War?
I am glad to be able to tell the hon. and gallant Member that I have now obtained authority to pay family allowances in addition to the normal disability retired pay of officers of the Great War without the test of pecuniary need hitherto required. The allowances will be at the same rates as for officers of the present war, and will be subject to the usual condition that marriage took place before disablement except where the officer is seriously disabled and in receipt of the unemployable supplement. The new arrangement will operate as from the beginning of the present month. Cases will be considered on application, as my Department usually has no information as to an officer's family. The change will not apply to the small group of officers of the Great War in receipt of special rates of disability retired pay which have no counterpart in the present regulations.
Are any special steps being taken to give publicity to the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made?
I thought it to be my duty to announce this to the House of Commons first, and I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall make every endeavour to make it known throughout the country.
Defence And Evacuation Areas
asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower) and 164 other hon. Members about the defence and evacuation areas; and whether an early opportunity will be given to debate this Motion?
[ That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that a Departmental Committee should be appointed to consider the position of the Defence and Evacuation Areas and to report what steps are necessary or desirable for the alleviation of present hardships and for the reinstatement of the means of livelihood of the populations of these areas.]
I have considered this Motion. The hardships which have befallen many of the inhabitants of the areas evacuated under the Defence Regulations, serious though I know them to be, are not by any means confined to them. My hon. and gallant Friend will be aware that the Defence (Evacuated Areas) Regulations, 1940, gave a considerable measure of relief from their current liabilities to persons who evacuated from these districts. The reinstatement of the livelihood of these populations will be considered as part of the Government's examination of the problems of reconstruction, and I do not think there is any need for the establishment of a Departmental Committee. I have noted the request for a Debate. The subject would seem to me to be one that might well have been raised on the general Debate on the Address. I cannot hold out any prospect of an early day being made available for the Motion.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that at the beginning of this Session, we, as private Members, agreed to give up our rights of Private Members' time, on the condition that the Government, if there were a widespread desire for a Debate in the House, would give time for that Debate? Surely the fact that 165 Members have signed the Motion indicates a widespread desire?
I quite agree, but one of the principal opportunities for such a Debate would have been the Debate on the Address. I should have thought that this matter might well have been ventilated then.
Will the right hon. Gentleman not consider whether in this new Session the time has not come for the Government to give time for the discussion of specific Motions on the Order Paper to which a substantial number of Members have appended their names?
Surely my right hon. Friend does not rule out the possibility of some time being made available during this Session for discussing this Motion, or any other?
My hon. Friend is quite right. I said "an early day." I did not by any means rule out a discussion. There are many opportunities for raising this matter, and I pointed out one of them. Members will be well advised to take such opportunities. I do not think there is any possibility of an early day being given.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that a considerable number of milk producers are changing from milk production to other forms of farming owing to continued changes of regulations and interference by Government Departments; and to what extent the present abnormal drop of milk supplies has been added to by the decline in the number of producer-retailers?
I have no evidence which suggests that a considerable number of milk producers are giving up milk production. There has not been an abnormal drop in milk supplies. During the year ending 30th September last sales were larger than in any other war year. Sales in October, 1943, were, with one exception, the highest recorded for any month of October.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will take steps to control the disposal of cows which have reacted to the tuberculin test, with a view to preventing further infection?
Control on the lines suggested by the hon. Member would, I am afraid, not serve any useful purpose in view of the very much larger number of untested cattle which, if tested, would react. Reaction to the test does not, of course, in itself imply infection in the milk of a reactor.
Is it not a fact that reactors at present tend to get on to the market and to spread infection, and is that not a matter which the Ministry should take into consideration?
No, Sir, I do not think you can say that it is a fresh infection, because the herds are already severely infected.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will take steps to protect the public from the sale of small packets of fertilisers which, on analysis, are found to be of no value?
If my hon. and gallant Friend will let me have particulars of the cases he has in mind, I shall be glad to consider them. If allotment holders and private gardeners purchase National Grow-more Fertiliser, they will have a satisfactory fertiliser at a reasonable price.
Indians, South Africa (Status)
asked the Secretary of State for India what communications His Majesty's Government in London or in India have had with the Government of South Africa concerning the discrimination in Natal against Indians possessing landed or house property, and with particular regard to the prosecution of P. R. Pather?
As regards communications between the United Kingdom Government and the Government of the Union of South Africa, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given him on 4th May by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, to which I have nothing to add. I have not received the text of the Government of India's representations to the South African Government, but their general purport was to take strong exception to the proposed legislation and to suggest various alternative solutions which the South African Government were unable to accept. I have no information regarding the prosecution of Pather except that I have received a telegram purporting to be from his advocate.
Can we have a little more information on this subject, and, in particular, can my right hon. Friend tell us whether His Majesty's Government are supporting the Government of India, in view of the widespread feeling in India, both among Europeans and Indians, about the treatment of these Indians by the South African Government?
Yes, Sir, I am aware of that feeling, but in accordance with what has been the practice now for some considerable time in Imperial relations, this matter is one which is dealt with directly between the Government of India and the Government of the Union of South Africa.
What is the position of Indians in South Africa, particularly in Durban, who have protested against what they feel to be entirely unfair treatment of themselves, and have they no redress?
Do I understand from the reply that under the Statute of Westminster it is not open to His Majesty's Government to support another Government, namely, the Government of India, in a protest which they make?
No, Sir, I would not say that. It is always open to His Majesty's Government to make any representation to any other Government in the Empire or outside on any matter, but in accordance with usage and convention, even before the Statute of Westminster and going back to the Conferences of 1921 and of 1923, these matters have been left primarily for the Governments of the Empire to deal with each other, and in this respect India has long been recognised as enjoying the status of a Dominion Government.
Would it be too much, in view of the representations made to hon. Members on this subject, to mention—I shall not say remind—to the Union of South Africa that every citizen of the British Commonwealth of Nations has democratic rights?
Questions of citizenship are in every member of the Commonwealth a matter for the Parliament of that Commonwealth itself.
Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has told us now he can offer no protection whatever to these Indian citizens?
I understand that the persons mostly affected are not Indian citizens; they are British subjects of South Africa of Indian origin.
Indian Seamen (Conditions Of Service)
asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the complaints of the All India Seamen's Centre, 35, Portree Street, Poplar, E.14, against the low wages and unfair conditions of employment covering Indian seamen; and whether his Department is interesting itself in this problem?
Yes, Sir, I have forwarded a memorandum by the All India Seamen's Centre to the Government of India, who already have under active consideration the conditions of service of Indian seamen. In the meantime I am glad to say that steps were taken some time ago to alter the methods of recruitment at Calcutta and to improve shore accommodation in this country.
Is there any Department of State in India akin to our own Ministry of Labour which interests itself in the conditions of employment of Indian seamen, and will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that these seamen are employed on British-owned ships and that we therefore have some responsibility in the matter?
Yes, Sir, there is, of course, an efficient Department of Labour of the Government of India, but I understand the question of seamen comes under the Department of Commerce and is engaging the active consideration of the member of the Executive Council in charge of that Department.
asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any further statement to make respecting the Indian famine; the number of deaths from famine in Bengal to the latest date; how many persons are now being fed by public authorities and voluntary bodies; to what extent cholera has spread; and what is the present position of the food shortage in other parts of India?
The most important development in the Indian food situation in the last few weeks is that the main rice crop, which is just coming to harvest, is reported to be excellent, particularly in Bengal. Military assistance in Bengal is getting into its stride, and the outlying centres, as well as Calcutta, are now receiving adequate supplies, though distribution from those centres to the more remote villages still presents a problem. Plans for rationing in urban areas are proceeding and should be in operation in Calcutta by the middle of this month. Deaths in Calcutta for the fortnight ending 28th October totalled 3,132. I cannot give figures for Bengal as a whole. It is reported that 2,233,000 people are being fed daily from free food kitchens.I regret to say that a serious outbreak of cholera in Bengal has followed upon the famine. During October deaths in the Province from this disease averaged 5,349 per week. In the first week of November they were 4,464. Assistance in the provision of doctors and medical equipment is being provided by the Army and a mass inoculation campaign is being planned. Some drugs are being flown from this country. As regards the other difficult areas, Bombay is improving its position, and the crops in Bijapur, where they failed last year, are reported good. The Malabar and Cochin area is still very short of foodgrains, but equitable distribution is being maintained, and supplies have been arranged from Sind. In Madras it has been found possible to close all famine camps with the exception of a few in Anantapur and labourers are employed on normal agricultural work. Elsewhere the position gives no particular ground for anxiety.
Can we take it that although there is a slight improvement throughout the greater part of Bengal, famine still rages severely? Is the Minis- ter satisfied that everything that can be done is being done? Further, is he aware that some weeks ago I asked about the spread of cholera and the provision of medicines and drugs, which, at that time, the right hon. Gentleman said was unnecessary? Does he realise now that it would have been much better to have take action then regarding cholera?
If I may answer the last part of the hon. Member's Supplementary Question first, when I replied to him on 17th October I had no information from India giving ground for anxiety. I suggested that there was no undue spread of cholera—although I did mention that there was some—or any special deficiency in drugs. I undertook to inquire from the Government of India, and I subsequently heard in November that cholera was very much on the increase and that there was a deficiency in certain drugs. As I pointed out in my answer, vigorous measures are being taken, and drugs are being sent from this country, some of them by air. As regards the general situation, there are still elements of disquiet owing to the difficulty of getting food to the more outlying villages. Broadly speaking, there is sufficient food in the Province to meet all its requirements. The Government of India have undertaken to look after Calcutta itself for the next 13 months leaving all the crops available in Bengal for country districts.
Has the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who asks so many Questions about India, ever been there? If not, is it not about time that we sent him?
asked the Secretary of State for India whether any special steps have been taken in Bengal to ensure that adequate relief measures are brought to the families of Indian seamen?
Village food committees in Bengal have been instructed by the Bengal Government to give particular attention to the families of seamen serving overseas and district magistrates have been asked to take special measures to ensure adequate relief for them wherever necessary. In Calcutta cheap grain shops have been opened for serving seamen and their families exclusively. The prospects of this year's crop in the districts from which most seamen come are above; average.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the very natural apprehension of these Indian seamen, who are serving both in the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service and who are bound to be away from home by reason of their service?
Yes, Sir, that is why the Government of India are taking the measures to which I have referred.
asked the Secretary of State for India whether the the food situation in India and measures to be taken respecting this was the sole business of the recent two days' conference between the Governor General and the provincial governors; whether political matters in conjunction with food shortage were also considered; and whether the release of political detainees is being considered?
The conference was held for the purpose of an exchange of views and not to take executive decisions. I understand that the food situation and post-war reconstructtion were the main subjects discussed. The answer to the last part of the Question is in the negative.
In view of recent incidents, would it not be advisable to release political prisoners in India, seeing the excellent example which has been set?
There is no connection between the two matters.
There is this difference. No one can accuse the political detainees in India of ever being sympathetic to Japanese or Fascist aggression.
Is it not essential to give them a little food before stuffing them with politics?
Civil Servants' Wives
asked the Secretary of State for India whether any decision has yet been arrived alt with regard to the wives of some 200 civil servants who are anxious to rejoin their husbands in India?
Passenger accommodation for civilian needs continues to be extremely scarce. The Government of India are undertaking an examination into the cases of wives awaiting passages with a view to allocating such few Pas- rages as may become available to those whose circumstances involve the most serious hardship. The number of berths likely to be available is, however, very few indeed and I am afraid that there is little probability of the position improving in the near future, or, consequently, of any considerable number of these distressing cases being relieved.
asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can give the House any information about the archaeological work of the Indian Government, especially the proportion of Indians and Europeans employed?
Archaeological work in India, as in other countries, has of necessity suffered somewhat as a result of war conditions, but the Government of India are considering the question of strengthening the Department. On 1st January, 1942, the latest date for which figures are available, the strength of the superior staff of the Archaeological Department was one European and 14 Indians.
Is my right hon. Friend convinced that we are doing the utmost we possibly can to show Indians our deep sympathy with their glorious past?
Yes, Sir, I hope so. [Laughter.]
It is not a joke.
No. This is one of the matters which is naturally entrusted to the Government of India themselves, a Government in which, I might add, Indian members are in the large majority.
Burma (Political Future)
asked the Secretary of State for Burma whether in order to counter Japanese propaganda he can make a statement regarding the political future of Burma after its re-conquest?
I have nothing to add to the answer to a Question by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) on 22nd April, except that the best counter to Japanese propaganda is Allied victory.
While I agree with the last part of the statement, does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that the Burmese opposition to Japanese aggression would be far more resolute if the Burmese people knew what they are fighting for as well as what they are fighting against?
As I pointed out in my previous answer, the general policy of this Government towards Burma has been made amply clear on more than one occasion.
Three-Power Conference, North Africa (Premature Broadcast)
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that the news about the Conference between the Prime Minister, President Roosevelt and General Chiang Kai-shek was broadcast yesterday morning on the European Service in a programme relayed by the B.B.C. and why this broadcast was permitted to take place many hours before news was made available to the British Press or the B.B.C. Home Service programme?
My hon. and gallant Friend must be referring to a report about the Conference based on a Press message from Lisbon which was included in an official American programme to Europe. Although this report was given over a B.B.C. transmitter, neither the Ministry of Information nor the B.B.C. have any responsibility for the decision to broadcast it.
But if this news is broadcast to Europe through the agency of a transmitter in this country, surely the Ministry of Information must accept that responsibility for that broadcast?
No. We have given a certain amount of time to the American publicity authorities. We do not censor what they put out, and unless we withdraw that time we cannot take responsibility for what use they make of that transmitter.
Do I understand, then, that if someone in America sends me a gramophone record of a Secret Session, I can reproduce it here?
There is no analogy whatsoever.
In view of the fact that the machinery of the B.B.C. is paid for out of public funds is it not quite impossible for my right hon. Friend to disclaim responsibility?
I am not disclaiming it at all. I accept responsibility for giving this time to our Allies. We get considerable concessions from broadcasting companies in the United States in relation to British news. I think it is very unfortunate that all these leakages occur. I have seen four or five of these Conferences, and I am absolutely certain that publicity arrangements will always break down because they depend upon three or four nations. All sorts of people do their best to preserve secrets, but they leak out, and the best thing, I think, is either to have no publicity at all or full publicity.
This point is of some importance. The imminence of the Conference taking place leaked out from Washington about ten days ago. Is it not important that a statement of the results of such a highly important Conference should be made contemporaneously by agreement, and ought not His Majesty's Government to make representations to the United States to get a common practice in this matter?
As a matter of fact the Press here were placed in a difficult position by the fact that this broadcast was made yesterday, but we gave an undertaking that we would follow a certain publicity programme, and I decided that we must fulfil our undertaking, whatever happened. As regards the leakage from Washington, there has been a good deal of speculation in America. I am quite certain that there has been no bad faith in this matter, but so many people are in this secret, and if somebody falls down you must not blame the American authorities, because they sometimes protest against the British Press scooping them. This sort of case can go on for ever. When you have 60 or 70 of the best journalists in the world, and the most enterprising, together at Quebec or Cairo, and you do not give them any news whatever, what do they do? They send whizzing messages to their papers at home, and they always end up by blaming the Ministry of Information.
On the subject of leakages, has the right hon. Gentleman observed in this morning's Press a report of the speech by the High Commissioner for Canada, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald), to the effect that another Conference, mentioning the names of the personalities who are likely to be present, is about to take place?
It was in the "Daily Worker" last week.
I did see a report of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who is acting as British High Commissioner in Canada, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes to put down any Question about this so-called disclosure, he must put it to the Dominions Secretary. I shall get a lot of messages from America blaming us for any leakage.
How was it, in view of the secrecy with which the Government desired to surround this Conference, that it happens that the original factual report of Reuters correspondent at Lisbon was allowed to pass via this country to Washington through channels under the control of His Majesty's Government?