House Of Commons
Thursday, 14th December, 1944
The House met at Eleven o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
National War Effort
Plasterers, Sheffield (Direction)
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that the city of Sheffield still has in its employ 17 plasterers who are mainly engaged in maintenance work on their housing estates; and whether he will review the present staff engaged on grounds of urgency and redirect the surplus to the bomb-damaged districts of London.
A review has already taken place. Of 19 plasterers employed, seven were over 60 years of age and five were regarded as immobile. The remaining seven were directed to bomb damage repair work in London; four appealed successfully against direction on medical grounds and three were transferred.
Will the Minister again review the respective groups, either mobile or immobile; and does he recognise that sealing up the cracks and crevices and windows in London is so urgent, that five plasterers or five glaziers are as valuable now, as 50 other types of building workers?
Yes, but I cannot break the rule of not transferring men over 60 years of age nor disregard the right of the man to appeal. That goes far deeper than repairs in London.
Can my right hon. Friend use his persuasive powers with these people in Sheffield to encourage more of these men to come to London?
I will send my hon. Friend down there.
asked the Minister of Labour if in future he will include in the official figures of unemployment those employees who, although they have no work to do and are therefore unemployed, yet at the request of his Ministry are retained and paid by their employers, in order that the true and not the present artificial figure of unemployed persons may be given.
No, Sir. There is a limited number of men no longer needed on the work which they have been doing and who are being retained temporarily in employment pending their call up to the Services. It would not be appropriate to include these men in the statistics of unemployment.
Why publish unemployment figures at all, if they are inaccurate and misleading and do not represent the true unemployment position? What is the point of publishing unemployment figures which bear no relation to the actual unemployment?
The figures do bear relation to actual unemployment. Because I retain these men in the works pending their call-up, that does not mean that they are unemployed. They are rendering service. I try to arrange that men are not put out of work, when I know that probably, in a month, they will be going into the Services.
Control Of Engagement Order
asked the Minister of Labour whether, under the Control of Engagement Order proposed in Cmd. 6568, he will allow freedom for employers and employees to negotiate engagements directly or through any agency they choose, subject only, in the case of controlled engagements, to approval by a National Service officer; and whether he will inform the House as soon as he has reached any further decision of substance concerning the effect of the proposed Order.
As in the case of the existing Control of Engagement Order, engagements of the classes of persons covered by the proposed Order will in general require to be effected through the employment exchanges or through approved agencies. I am unable at present to say what agencies may be approved. I could not accept the proposal contained in the first part of the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) as that would render the proposed Order largely ineffective. If at any stage I have further information on the proposed Order which could usefully be imparted to the House I shall certainly be glad to do so.
As the House presumably will have no opportunity of approving or disapproving of the Order, will the right hon. Gentleman keep us very fully informed, particularly with regard to the agencies that he proposes to approve?
Certainly. I always answer the hon. baronet, and give him the fullest possible information.
Disabled Persons (Employment) Act
asked the Minister of Labour when the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944, will be brought into force.
Certain Sections of the Act have been in operation since 15th August last. The remaining sections, including in particular those relating to the obligation on employers to employ a quota of registered disabled persons will be brought into operation as soon as circumstances make this desirable and practicable.
Demobilisaton (Fire Brigade Service)
asked the Minister of Labour whether, for the purpose of the demobilisation scheme, he will consider a period of voluntary service in the fire brigade during the aerial bombardment as part of a soldier's active service.
Soldiers who were temporarily released for the purpose of returning to the Fire Service and were subsequently recalled to the Army will have that period in the Fire Service whilst on the Reserve counted as war service for the purpose of release from the Armed Forces after the defeat of Germany.
Pensions And Grants
asked the Minister of Pensions if he has considered the case of a Streatham naval pensioner, of whom he has been notified, who had to be moved to a London hospital on 3rd October and whose pension was stopped on 5th October for a period of seven weeks, during which time he was without resources; and what has been the result of his inquiries.
My inquiries show that, although the pensioner was admitted to a London hospital on 3rd October, no definite notification was received in my Department until the 20th October. On 4th November certain forms were sent to the man for completion and within two days of their return on 14th November, payment of treatment allowances was authorised with effect from the beginning of October. I regret that there should have been some delay in the issue of these forms. I cannot, however, accept the statements that the pensioner was without resources or that his pension was stopped on 5th October. He was in receipt of sick pay from his employers up to the 18th November and could have obtained payment of his pension until 14th November, when he returned the book. I should add that, owing to inaccurate information being furnished by the pensioner on the forms referred to, it has been necessary temporarily to discontinue payment of treatment allowances and that recovery will fall to be made of the amount which was overpaid to him in this respect.
Is it not a fact that this pensioner's job came to an end, and, while it is true that he got notice money, why should my right hon. Friend take advantage of that? Why this amazing speed in stopping the pension, and leaving a sick man without means?
My hon. Friend has been misinformed. There was no stoppage of pension. The system is that where a pensioner goes into a hospital—not one of my own hospitals where he would have been dealt with at once—when we receive the notification, we substitute for the pension a treatment allowance on a far more generous scale. When the man furnishes inaccurate information, we are bound to deal with it.
Jodhpur Railway (Trade Union)
asked the Secretary of State for India if he is aware of the dissatisfaction existing among the employees of the Jodhpur Railway Company, in India, because, under Government instructions, the executive committee of the men's trade union were suspended and a committee nominated by the Government put in control, the whole of the funds and effects of the union being taken over by this control; and will he hold an inquiry with a view to restoring trade union rights to the employees of the Jodhpur Railway Company.
The Jodhpur Railway is owned and operated by the Government of His Highness the Maharaja of Jodhpur and the hon. Member would appear to be referring to some action affecting its employees which has been taken by the State authorities. The Government of India has no jurisdiction in the matter, and I am not in a position to take any action in regard to it.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider some further information that I can give him on the subject?
Yes, but the matter is entirely in the hands of the State Department.
Congress Party Leaders (Release)
asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has considered a letter from the Keighley Rotary Club suggesting that the publication of the names of Sir Tej Sapru's Conciliation Board Committee provides a suitable opportunity for the release of the Congress Party leaders; and what reply he has given.
I have noted and acknowledged the Keighley Rotary Club's suggestion. As regards the release of the Congress Party leaders I have nothing to add to the reply which I made on 5th October to the question of the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen).
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this negative attitude will get us nowhere?
India Office (Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for India how many people there are employed at the India Office in a secretarial, administrative or clerical capacity; and, of this number, how many have been to India.
The answer to the first part of the question is 569; and to the second part 94.
Will my right hon. Friend consider giving as soon as possible opportunities of experience in India to more people in the India Office, and at the same time will he bring to the India Office more people with experience of administration in India, so that there will be a better knowledge in the India Office of practical affairs in India?
I will certainly keep that point of view in mind, but, of course, in war conditions it may not be easy to give effect to it.
British Personnel, Indian Army (Home Leave)
asked the Secretary of State for India if he can make an announcement about the application to the Indian Army of the 28 days' leave scheme recently announced by the Prime Minister.
I wish to take this opportunity of clearing up certain misconceptions which exist in regard to leave home for British personnel of the Indian Army. The War Office have for some time been operating a "home posting" scheme based on length of service overseas. As I have explained to the House this scheme cannot be applied as such to the Indian Army, but, in lieu of it, an Indian Army leave scheme for 61 days' leave at home has been introduced which is also primarily based on length of service overseas.On the announcement of the new 28-day leave scheme, which as my hon. Friend is aware is not based primarily on length of service, I felt that it was essential that it should also be applied to the British personnel of the Indian Army in addition to the existing leave scheme in order that those who would not be eligible by length of service overseas should nevertheless have the advantage of a scheme intended to benefit those who had borne the burden of campaigns fought often in the most adverse climatic conditions. I am glad to say that arrangements have been made for the application of the scheme to British personnel of the Indian Army. Both regular personnel and emergency commissioned officers will be covered and the scheme will be applied in the same manner, both as regards numbers and conditions of eligibility, as it is being applied to the British Service. The Royal Indian Navy will also share in it. As in the British scheme the allotment of passages will be at the discretion of the Commanders-in-Chief concerned and will be dependent on operational necessities.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that his statement will give great satisfaction to the personnel serving in the Indian Army?
As this scheme applies to the men who have been serving for long years in India and other parts, can he tell us when they are likely to come home on leave in view of the fact that it is dependent on the Command?
I ought to make it clear that there are two leave systems. There is the longer home-leave system which has for some time now been applied to the British personnel with the Indian Army as well as to the British personnel of our Forces here; and there is a short-leave system which is also being applied to British personnel of the Indian Army. Both are coming into force.
How did the widespread misunderstanding about this arise?
I think it arose because it was not possible, without first making special arrangements, to say at once that it applied to those belonging to the Indian Army. As soon as the special arrangements could be worked out I was in a position to make this announcement.
Many of these officers and other ranks, with long service in the British Indian Army, have wives and families out there; does this scheme make any provision for families being brought to this country?
I think that as far as possible and as far as the great difficulties of shipping allow, that point is being looked into.
Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the scheme he has announced will not interfere in any way with the normal scheme of repatriation for long service?
I trust that it will not in any way interfere with that.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is still widespread doubt about the ratio of troops who are allowed to come home on leave under any scheme, that in some cases it is one per 100 and in other cases one per 200 or 250 per month? Will the right hon. Gentleman's statement mean a change in that arrangement?
The purpose of the arrangement which I have announced is to enable British personnel of the Indian Army to enjoy facilities equal to those enjoyed by the British Army. The amount of facilities that can be granted either to the British Army or to the British personnel of the Indian Army necessarily depends on operational and shipping conditions, over which, naturally, I have no control.
Industrialists (Visit To Britain)
asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can give any information as to the proposed visit to this counry of a representative group of Indian industrialists announced some months ago; whether the plan for this visit has been cancelled; and, if not, when it is likely to take place.
The visit has not been cancelled. The party are most anxious to come here, and are likely to leave India at the end of February.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is now able to say when food and medical supplies will be sent to the Channel Islands; and in what quantities.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any statement to make about supplying food and medical necessities to the Channel Islanders; and what the present position in these Islands is in these respects.
I would refer my hon. Friends to the statement which I made in the House on Tuesday. I should like, if I may, however, to take this opportunity of acknowledging the part played by the War Organization of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John in generously making available the supplies which are being sent to the Channel Islands and the ship which is taking them, and also of acknowledging all that has been done by the International Red Cross in connection with these negotiations.
May I ask if the ship has already sailed and when it is likely to arrive? Can my right hon. Friend also answer the part of the Question which relates to the amount of food supplies which are being sent?
We hope that the ship will sail in a few days, but I do not know the exact time, or how long the journey will take. The total food supplies to be sent, which will not necessarily all be on the first ship, comprise 300,000 parcels of the type sent by the Red Cross to prisoners of war, and 10,000 parcels for persons on invalid diet. There are also two tons of medical supplies designed to meet acute shortages, and five tons of soap.
Will the 25-word messages, which have been suspended since D-Day, be resumed, because they are much appreciated?
There is a Question on the Order Paper about that.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any statement to make on the collection and delivery of mails in the Channel Islands.
Arrangements have been made by the International Red Cross for delivery in the Channel Islands of mail from prisoners of war in Germany, and of Red Cross messages of the usual kind from the United Kingdom; and for the transmission of mail from the Islands to prisoners of war in Germany. Proposals have been made by the British Red Cross for the transmission of Red Cross messages from the islands to this country. I have no further information on this head at present, but I am making inquiries.
Directed Mine Workers (Prison Sentences)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many boys directed to the mines have been sent to prison for refusing to take up that work; and whether in any of these cases hard labour has been imposed by the magistrates.
Of the youths—nearly 16,000—picked by the ballot and directed to training for underground coal mining employment, 143 have been sentenced to imprisonment for failing to comply or for leaving their employment without the permission of the National Service Officer. In a number of these cases a sentence of imprisonment with hard labour was imposed.
Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it is a monstrous injustice to send youths of 18 through the rest of their lives with a stigma of prison on them when they wanted to fight for their country?
It is no use my hon. and gallant Friend getting cross with me. It is not a matter for me at all.
Does not this Question convey to the House the hardship of the mines, and the necessity for something being done to improve the conditions?
I want to keep out of a Debate on merits; that is not for my Department.
Hon. Members can either have fewer Questions and more supplementaries, or fewer supplementaries and more Questions.
I am not satisfied with my right hon. Friend's reply, and I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
Police Constable's Widow, Keighley (Pension)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the fact that the late Police Constable Plant, of the Keighley force, met his death as the result of an unduly severe drill which he was required to undergo, he will grant a special pension to his widow.
Under the provisions of the Police Pensions Act, 1921, the question whether a special pension could be granted to the widow of this late member of the West Riding Constabulary is a matter for the police authority of that force, and I have no authority to give any directions to the police authority in the matter.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the police authority would certainly grant a pension if it were not for an interpretation of the Statute which appears to be made by the Home Office?
The Home Office has no power to interpret Statutes. The lady concerned has a statutory right of appeal to quarter sessions against the decision of the police authority, but she has not exercised that right.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the lady is in very reduced circumstances, having also lost a son in the war, and that she is in no position to take the matter to court?
I am very sorry, but I have personally no power in the matter whatever.
I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Stateless Persons (Deportation Orders)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many deportation orders have been served on persons who have lost their nationality; and what he proposes to do with such persons who are now detained under Regulation 12.5A.
It is not the practice to serve deportation orders on persons whom there is no prospect of deporting. Stateless persons holding valid Nansen certificates are generally received back on request by the national Government which issued the certificate. As regards a case in which a person who possessed a foreign nationality on arrival in this country has subsequently been deprived of it, it should not be assumed that the Government con- cerned should, or always will, repudiate obligation to receive such a person back into its territory on request. There are also detained under Article 12 (5) A of the Aliens Orders some persons whose national status can only be established by enquiries which are not practicable under war conditions. Endeavours will be made after the war to secure the return to their countries of origin of persons in these classes.
Having regard to the fact that all those people are, presumably, of bad character and that detention under 12 (5) A involves a period of imprisonment possibly for years, cannot my right hon. Friend consider a more humane method of detention that will still be consistent with public safety?
I am always willing to consider suggestions on that point, and these cases are regularly reviewed. The House may take it that if persons have been detained for some time there is good reason for doing so, although the cases will again be reviewed in the future and it may be that other decisions will be reached.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered the case of a stateless man, whose name has been sent to him, who has been detained in the Isle of Man for over three years on a deportation order made against him as the result of pre-war convictions for dishonesty; and whether in view of the fact that this man left Poland at the age of six, has resided in Great Britain ever since, has a British-born wife, three British sons and three step-sons, all serving in His Majesty's Forces and willing to undertake responsibility for his maintenance, he will now consider his release.
This case has been carefully considered. The claim that the alien in question is stateless is of doubtful validity; he is believed to possess either Polish or German nationality. He came to this country in 1914 as a refugee from Belgium at the age of 12. Since 1923 he has been convicted no less than 9 times on indictment and twice in magistrates' courts of serious offences. When, in 1941, he finished a sentence of penal servitude, every effort would, but for the war, have been made to deport him; and the fact that the war rendered deportation impracticable was not, in my view, a reason for giving him further opportunities to prey on the public. Like other similar cases, this case will, of course, continue to be reviewed periodically.
Can my right hon. Friend say why this man was not deported years ago?
I could not say, without notice. There are often difficulties about deportation. I could not answer about the details.
National Fire Service (Disbandment)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he proposes to introduce legislation providing for the disbandment of the National Fire Service and the retransfer to local authorities of their respective fire brigades.
I Would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the Answer I gave on 7th December to my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick).
Regional Organisation (Continuance)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what functions are now carried out by Regional Commissioners and their staffs; what is the annual cost of these organisations; and whether their continued existence is necessary under present conditions.
The primary function of Regional Commissioners and their staffs is to co-ordinate in their regions the activities of Government Departments and local authorities in civil defence in its broadest aspects. So long as any danger from air attacks continues, this function must remain, and I am, therefore, satisfied that the continued existence of Regional Commissioners is necessary under present conditions. As I have already stated in answer to previous Questions in the House, however, my policy is to adjust the civil defence organisation to public need. But I would point out that the process of reducing the civil defence services throws on the Regional organisation extra work which would otherwise have to be done centrally. The annual cost of the regional organisation is £901,750, of which £816,750 represents salaries and £85,000 travelling.
As the operational part of the Regional Commissioners' duties has practically ceased over a large part of the Kingdom, is there any reason why their staffs, at any rate, should not be very largely reduced as well as their administrative duties, in view of the fact that they really only create an extra link in the chain of correspondence between local authorities and Government Departments?
May I say, with great respect, that I disagree with nearly everything that my hon. and gallant Friend has said? There has been very substantial reduction in the regional staffs. Secondly, unless we are to disband the whole Civil Defence organisation everywhere, which I think would be foolhardy, we must have a regional organisation.
Was not the creation of these Regional Commissioners, in the first place, part of the organisation of our preparation far meeting invasion?
No, Sir, my hon. Friend is also quite wrong about that.
London Region (Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the total number of officers employed on the staff of the London region in connection with Civil Defence on 1st June and 1st December and the estimated number to be so employed on 1st January, 1945; and to what extent the reduction in staff corresponds with the reductions in the corresponding staffs of the London local authorities.
The staff employed at the London Regional Commissioners' Headquarters and on operational duties at group centres on the 1st June, 1944, and the 1st December, 1944, were 815 and 650 respectively. It is estimated that the number that will be in post on the 1st January, 1945, will be 615. It is not possible to give comparable figures for the administrative, supervisory, training and control staff of the local authorities without reference to such authorities. Some reductions are, however, being made, but I understand that they are not at present on so substantial a scale.
Is it not advisable, in order to keep the London Civil Defence organisation in some sort of order, to keep the local authority staff and reduce the Commissioner's staff. Is that being done? It is not clear from the answer.
The local authority staff is being kept, so far as possible, on an appropriate level, and exactly the same thing is being done with the London regional staff.
Shelter Accident, Bethnal Green (Inquiry)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has considered the comment of the Master of the Rolls when dismissing the appeal of the Bethnal Green Corporation against damages awarded against them in a lower court in connection with the air-raid shelter disaster, that the grounds on which the Ministry of Home Security had insisted upon the inquiry being held in camera were flimsy; and what steps he is taking to review his Department's action in this case.
I am obtaining a transcript of the judgment and I would like to study it before making any comment.
Motor Vehicles (Headlights)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now remove the war-time restrictions on car head-lamps, with a view to relieving the strain of driving during the hours of darkness.
I fear I cannot at present add anything to the answer I gave to a similar Question by my hon. Friend on 5th October last.
Will any discretion be given to the police regarding headlights during fog?
I will consider that suggestion. Discretion to the police is often rather embarrassing, but I will consider the point.
Who gives discretion to the police to light great flares in the streets during the fog?
I expect it is the chief officer of police.
Has my right hon. Friend taken into consideration the accident liability, which is now very prevalent, in regard to shaded lights and the pools of light created by the street lighting orders? Is he aware that these have created dark patches that are almost impossible to penetrate with the present head-lamps?
It is a hard world, I must say. When the argument was used from official quarters that the patchiness of the lighting might be a difficulty, the representative motoring organisations said "Not at all; get on with the lighting."
Maintenance Orders (Default)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider the possibility of changing the law under which a debt owed under default in payment of maintenance orders is liquidated by a term of imprisonment and will make it possible for the court to order a direct stoppage from earnings.
Legislation on the lines suggested would be highly controversial and I cannot hold out any hope of its introduction.
Is not the Minister aware that the present system is most unfair, as the claimant gets no benefit out of the husband, or whoever it may be, going to prison?
I quite agree that there are arguments both ways about the matter, but, in the present state of the legislative programme, I am afraid that I could not go into this very difficult and controversial matter.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider putting it in the queue?
Armed Forces Voting (Conference)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether His Majesty's Government propose to make any further provision to enable members of the Forces to vote at the forthcoming General Election.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what provision it is proposed to make to enable the maximum number of Service men and women to vote at the General Election.
As my hon. Friends are aware, provision has already been made by the Parliamentary Electors (War-time Registration) Act, 1943, whereby members of the Forces who, but for their service as members of the Forces, would be residing in this country, may be registered in the Service Register, but they may only record their vote by proxy if serving abroad at the time of the election. It is recognised, however, that voting by proxy is by no means the most satisfactory method of voting and that it would be preferable to afford postal voting facilities where such a system is feasible. His Majesty's Government have accordingly invited my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to convene and preside over a conference to consider the practicability of extending postal voting to members of the Forces and seamen overseas and war workers abroad over a wide geographical area as possible, on the assumption that the system would not be operated until the conclusion of hostilities in Europe. It is proposed that the conference should include Members of this House representative of the main political parties selected, registration and returning officers in England, Wales and Scotland, and officers of the Government Departments concerned, together with the chief party agents. If a suitable scheme is devised, it is hoped to give effect to it by inserting the necessary provisions in the Representation of the People Bill, which was introduced yesterday.
Although the House will be very gratified to hear my right hon. Friend's remarks, may we take it that he will set up this conference with the greatest possible speed, even though the House of Commons may be in Recess, in
View Of The Eventuality Of An Early General Election?
Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that, as a matter of fact, I have already issued letters inviting persons to serve on it.
Is it not a fact that if a system is adopted of postal voting for Forces abroad, it will mean very considerable delay between the casting and the counting of the votes?
It will presumably involve some delay, but we do not think that it will be sufficiently serious to cause us anxiety.
Will the conference be able to consider the rather difficult point of the considerable number of men in the Services who have no fixed domicile in this country and do not know exactly where they will be living after the war?
Yes, Sir, it will be quite competent for the conference to consider that point.
asked the Minister of Education if he has any statement to make regarding the financial position of uncertificated teachers.
I have decided that as from 1st April, 1945, uncertificated teachers who have then served for 20 years or more shall be graded as qualified teachers. Uncertificated teachers who have served for between five and 20 years will be eligible, as soon as they can be spared from the schools and suitable training facilities can be provided, to take a special one year course of training, the satisfactory completion of which will entitle them to be graded as qualified teachers. Appropriate maintenance grants will be made available during the period of training. An announcement giving details of these arrangements will be issued by the Ministry in due course. The fixing of salary scales appropriate to the grades of qualified and unqualified teachers is a matter for the Burnham Committee in the first instance.
Excepted Districts (Applications)
asked the Minister of Education if he will give a list, by administrative counties, of those county districts, distinguishing between boroughs and urban districts, who have applied under the terms of paragraph 4 of Part III of the First Schedule to the Education Act, 1944, to be an excepted district by reason of special circumstances, together with the decision of the Minister on the applications.
If my hon. Friend will put down a question next Thursday I shall be in a position to give him a more complete answer than is at present the case.
asked the Minister of Education whether he will reconsider the proportionate cost paid by his Department towards teachers' salaries in view of the recent recommendations of the Soulbury Committee.
I am not in a position to make any statement on this matter at the present time.
Houses (Sale Prices)
asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to cases in which dwelling-houses have recently been sold at such prices as remove them from the possibility of letting at an economic rent and, in view of the effect of this on the availability of such houses to those needing them as tenants and the possibility of controlling the selling prices within a reasonable limit, he will take the appropriate action.
asked the Minister of Health whether, in order to check the rising prices of houses for sale with vacant possession, he will make it essential for the vendor of a house to obtain from the district valuer a certificate showing the value of the property in March, 1939, and will fix a maximum price by adding a permitted percentage to this 1939 valuation.
I would refer my hon. Friends to the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Dorset (Major Digby) on 28th September last.
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say when the Committee which is now dealing with this matter will have finished its work?
There is no Committee dealing with this matter. The relevant Committee dealing with the question of rent control, which is very closely related to this matter, will, I hope, report not later than February.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is a very serious matter in Greater London, part of which he himself represents?
I am aware that it is a difficult matter, but I could not possibly deal with it until I have had a report from the Rent Control Committee, on which a very considerable number of hon. Members of this House are serving.
Has the right hon. Gentleman any statistical record regarding the volume of these houses, because it is a very burning question indeed throughout the North of England?
I have a considerable amount of evidence, but I would not like to call it a statistical record.
Nurses Registration Act (Fees)
asked the Minister of Health whether he will amend Section 19 of the Nurses Act, 1943, so that fees paid by registered nurses pursuant to the Nurses Registration Act, 1919, should be devoted solely to the benefit of such registered nurses.
No, Sir. I know the intention of the General Nursing Council to be that the part of their work relating to the enrolment of assistant nurses shall be financially self-supporting. No such amendment as my hon. Friend suggests appears, therefore, to be necessary.
In view of the fact that the Minister did not deny the great injustice, are we to look in vain to Ministers of the Crown to remove it?
No question was asked with regard to injustice. I know of none.
Gibraltar Evacuees, Northern Ireland
asked the Minister of Health if he has any statement to make about the recent visit by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Gibraltar evacuee camps in Ulster.
Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary informs me that, though the camps present some discomforts, particularly for those used to urban conditions and a warmer climate, she is satisfied that everything possible is being done for the welfare of the evacuees. She found that the health of the evacuees remains good, that the sick bays were practically empty, that the children looked particularly well and that the food was excellent. The Government of Northern Ireland, to whom I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks for all that they are doing to alleviate the difficult conditions of a prolonged exile, expect that all camps will soon have schools and nurseries in working order.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that those who have seen these camps, including myself, feel that the conditions are not suitable for the people in them? Is he also aware that these people can get no employment, and have practically no money?
I know the difficulties there are, and I am answering a further Question later this morning dealing with the points which my right hon. Friend has raised. We are doing our very best; we are very sympathetic indeed to these people. A great many of them have already returned to Gibraltar, and I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies with regard to those who at the moment remain.
Is it not a fact that the Government have, on the whole, been extremely good to these people from Gibraltar ever since they arrived? I think they should be deeply grateful for the attention they have received.
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the bad conditions in which some 5,000 Gibraltarian evacuees are now being housed in camps in Northern Ireland, many of them in the depth of the country where no work is available and practically no amusement of any kind; what was the reason for their deportation from England, where they were fully and gainfully employed; and will immediate steps be taken to deal with this matter, which is causing serious discontent among these subjects of the Crown.
On the first part of the Question I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier to my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill). I know of no alternative accommodation available in which materially better conditions could be provided. The evacuees, nearly three-quarters of whom are women and children, were moved from London during the flying bomb attacks, both as part of the general plan for evacuation and to release accommodation for repair workers and for homeless people. At that time I received urgent requests from the evacuees that they should be removed from London. I am aware that the evacuees are discontented that it has not been possible to send them back to Gibraltar more quickly. This is due chiefly to the difficulty of housing them in Gibraltar and also, in a minor degree, to that of transport. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and I are doing all that we can, in consultation with the Governor of Gibraltar, to find early means of over-coming these difficulties.
While I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, I hope he will regard it as very undesirable that a large number of people in the small population of Gibraltar should return there with a sense of grievance.
It would be very difficult if they returned there and found nowhere to live.
Dominion Governments (Consultation)
asked the Prime Minister if he can give an assurance that the Dominion Governments have been consulted at each stage in the action taken by His Majesty's Government in Greece; and whether this aspect of foreign policy has been approved by them.
It is not physically possible to consult the Dominion Governments as to every step which the fast moving developments of the war render necessary. They have however throughout been kept closely and continuously informed of what is taking place.
Does that reply mean that the Dominion Governments were consulted before the War Cabinet decision was taken, and before military action was taken, and not merely informed afterwards? Can the Prime Minister say if it is still the practice, as enunciated by him in this House, that the representatives of the Dominion Governments shall be invited to War Cabinet meetings when questions of this kind are being discussed?
The hon. Gentleman is mixing up several different kinds of things. Great questions of policy like whether we should go to the aid of Greece after the Germans were driven out, are made manifest to the Dominions by the continued succession of telegrams which are sent from this country, and which give them a perfect, full picture of the situation. The executive measures which are sometimes forced to be taken with the greatest speed, owing to danger to life and limb—these measures it is not possible to refer to Governments all over the world. But they have been kept fully informed of everything that happens as it goes forward, and the Dominions Secretary informs me that I could rightfully say that we have received from the Dominion Governments no indications that they dissent from the action we have been compelled to take.
How long do the Government intend to go on with this policy of murdering——
Is the Prime Minister aware that I am being inundated with telegrams from engineers all over England, threatening a down-tools policy against the part that is being played by the Government in Greece at the moment?
On a point of Order. Should not the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) be asked to withdraw his imputation against the Prime Minister?
Let us get on with the business.
Could I not get a reply from the Prime Minister? What am I to say to the engineers?
I am anxious to oblige in every way, especially my hon. Friend, whom I have known so long. I can quite believe that he would receive many telegrams from many parts of the country over a matter which causes so much heart-searching. I gave a long account of this matter to the House the other day, and I may take occasion to give some further account to the country; but we have laid our case very fully before the House, and it was discussed very fully and freely at the Parliamentary Conference yesterday. I have nothing at this moment to add to what has been said.
Liberation Campaign (British Casualties)
asked the Prime Minister what are our losses in men, ships and aircraft suffered since our landing in Greece, this year, up to 3rd December.
So far as can be ascertained, the total casualties sustained by the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Imperial Military Forces in Greece since our landing this year, in response to the appeal of the Greek Government, were, up to the end of November, under 300. This figure includes killed, wounded, missing or prisoners of war. About 160 additional military casualties—I have not the naval and air figures but they are not large—of whom 35 are killed must be added since that date Eight minor naval vessels and 32 aircraft have been lost in the same period.
Does not that mean that all these casualties were suffered in fighting against Germans, in Greece, on the mainland?
Yes, Sir. That was the point of the Question, and the answer was given so as to show the very heavy sacrifices we have made for the general liberation of Greece from the Italians and Germans. There is no harm in stating that.
War-Time Military Offences (Sentences)
asked the Prime Minister what will be the position at the end of the war with Germany of men in the Services undergoing terms of imprisonment or penal servitude for military offences.
So far as concerns the present Government, it is not the intention to grant any general remission of sentences. Offences such as desertion, which comprise the bulk of these sentences, involve at the best an added strain upon the man-power of this country, and at the worst forfeit the lives of other soldiers who have to fill the places of these deserters. Such very serious offences are happily rare, and in the opinion of His Majesty's Government there can be no reason why the men concerned should not complete their sentences, irrespective of the end of the war with Germany or the end of the war with Japan.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the deterrent effect of these sentences was very much decreased at the end of the last war by wholesale reductions? Will he bear that fact in mind, if any pressure is put upon him to reduce such sentences?
Yes, Sir. That is why I thought it my painful duty to make the pronouncement that I have just made to the House.
Does the Prime Minister know that there are other cases, besides those of desertion, where sentences have been passed and suspended, and the men have been sent back into the line? I know of two men who in such cases have given their lives for their country, and, I think, have expiated their crimes, which were not great crimes. Will the Prime Minister consider those cases, where sentences have been suspended and the men are retrieving their characters?
That system was introduced at the end of the last war. The sentence is suspended, and the man goes into the line, under certain restrictions as to leave, fatigue duty, and so on, but he has an opportunity of retrieving his character. There are cases of men not only having lost their lives, and so having retrieved their characters, but also of men having shown courage and bravery, and having retrieved fully their position among their comrades and having been relieved of the sentences altogether. I am talking of cases which do not fall within that well-established practice of the British Army.
Will such men as continue to serve their sentences be brought back to this country after the termination of hostilities with Germany, and allowed to serve the sentences in camps here?
Yes, Sir, certainly. I have no doubt that that would be the course that would be followed. In fact, in some cases I think they have already been returned.
Will the Prime Minister state that the dependants of these men should not suffer in perpetuity for anything that the men have done?
I could not answer that. That question should be addressed to the War Office. But I do not imagine that a man who is serving a long sentence, and is not actually fighting at the front, would have the advantages which come to him as a father or a husband in the ordinary circumstances. But a question addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will clear up that detail, on which I cannot pronounce.
May we take it that nothing in the Prime Minister's answer will interfere with the present practice, under which, even when a man is sentenced, if certain facts are brought to light afterwards, the Secretary of State for War reviews the position?
No, Sir, nothing can impede or impair the prerogative of mercy on which the Home Secretary advises the King.
Count Sforza (Italian Monarchy)
asked the Prime Minister whether the question of the retention of Victor Emmanuel as King of Italy was discussed at his interview with Count Sforza.
I informed Count Sforza that I welcomed the assurance he had given to the United States Government in his letter to Mr. Berle, which I read to the House on 8th December, that matters of internal politics, including the monarchy, should be adjourned until Italy was free. As regards the future that would be for the Italian people to decide.
I do not think my right hon. Friend has answered my Question. Has his attention been called to the statement, alleged to have been made by Count Sforza, that my right hon. Friend spent a good deal of the time of the interview urging the retention of Victor Emmanuel as King of Italy? How does that conform to the oft-repeated assurances, which he has given in this House, that His Majesty's Government have no desire to interfere in constitutional matters affecting these other countries?
That is not so at all. I gave at the time a full account of the matter to the House. The speech is on record in which I explained that I thought it better to go on with the King Victor Emmanuel-Badoglio regime until the military situation had got into better condition. We did go on for a very considerable time, the results not being unsatisfactory so far as our Armies are concerned. I certainly said nothing in my conversations with Count Sforza which I had not already made clear as being the policy of His Majesty's Government at that time. It is quite true that Count Sforza, as far as my memory serves me, descanted a great deal upon the evils which come to a country when the senior reigning family in the country is displaced by a junior reigning family, like the House of Savoy, but I was not quite clear, and I am still not quite clear, about all the implications of his conversation on that point.
Did not Count Sforza make it clear at the interview that he made a very sharp distinction between the institutional question of the monarchy, which is to be held in abeyance until the Constituent Assembly, and the personal question of King Victor Emmanuel, to whom he never promised any support?
He certainly expressed an animus against King Victor Emmanuel, with whom he had very lengthy, and not at all unnatural, disagreement, but the statements which I made to him were within the lines of the statement I made at that time publicly to Parliament. That is what I am responsible for.
Is it not true that Stalin backed up the Government in keeping the Badoglio Government in office? Was it not Stalin's wish, and did not he come with us?
It is quite true that the Soviet Government, of course, did recognise the Badoglio Government under King Victor, but the matter was not then so heated and lively a topic as it is now.
Is it not a fact that Count Sforza's support of the Badoglio regime was always dependent on the abdication of King Victor, and that he only gave his support to the Badoglio Government on that condition?
My hon. Friend had better make another speech like the one he made to the airmen.
Mr Rex Paterson, Hatch Warren, Basingstoke
asked the Minister of Agriculture if the dispute between the Hampshire War Agricultural Executive Committee and Mr. Rex Paterson, of Hatch Warren, near Basingstoke, has been brought to his attention, and, having regard to the findings of the committee appointed to investigate the case, which vindicated Mr. Paterson, what instructions is he giving the Hampshire War Agricultural Executive Committee to avoid similar interference being practised in future and to impress upon them the duty of co-operating with farmers if the maximum of food production is to be achieved and that this purpose will be defeated by adopting a vindictive policy.
By now, my hon. Friend will no doubt have seen the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Colonel Boles) on 7th December, which sets out the position in detail. I am sending him a copy.
May I ask if there is to be some form of supervision as regards the proper use of agricultural land after the war; and will the Minister give an assurance that those responsible for this supervision will be democratically elected from the industry, and that there will be a right of appeal to an independent tribunal?
That is a hypothetical question.
May I ask if the farmer in question was given an opportunity to state his case to the Minister of Agriculture, or to some independent tribunal?
As I explained in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Colonel Boles), if this farmer had carried out the undertakings he gave to the committee, none of this trouble would have arisen.
On a point of Order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I propose to raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment.
Prisoner Of War Labour
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will give instructions to his war agricultural executive committee officers in charge of prisoner-of-war labour that where labour is not required for farm work it may be allocated to woodland owners for cleaning and clearing woodlands.
It has already been done.
Markets And Prices (Guarantee)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider, at the February review of price levels, the extension of the four-year guarantee of markets and prices for one further year.
Will the Minister consult with his colleagues, particularly his Liberal and Labour colleagues, to see whether this small step should not be taken to further the stability of agriculture?
Bovine Tuberculosis (Treatment)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the rapid extension of the use of the homœpathic treatment of tuberculosis in cattle; and whether he will now arrange for tests of this treatment to be made.
I have no information as to the extent to which the treatment referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend is being used. With regard to the latter part of the Question, there is no scientific evidence of the efficacy of homœpathic treatment of bovine tuberculosis.
Is the Minister aware that, although there is no scientific evidence, there is great practical evidence of the value of this treatment; and, in view of the fact that a very large number of tuberculin tested herds in this country are now using it, would it not be a good thing for the Minister of Agriculture to look into it?
Women's Land Army, Norfolk
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the shortage of members of the W.L.A. in Norfolk; and whether he will take steps to rectify the position.
The shortage of Women's Land Army labour, although not very great, is now general throughout the country and I regret that I am unable to make special arrangements to meet the deficiency in Norfolk.
asked the Minister of Agriculture if discussion is now taking place between his Department and the agricultural industry with regard to a long-term policy for agriculture, particularly in relationship to other industries in this country and the Hot Springs resolutions.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, as distinct from the recent pronouncement for a transitional period in connection with the fixing of farm prices, the Government are considering formulating a definite long-term policy to incorporate and implement the recommendations of the Hot Springs Conference.
I have nothing at present to add to recent statements on this subject.
Is the Minister not aware that this is very unsatisfactory, in view of the fact that farmers do not know where they stand in regard to a long-term policy for agriculture?
I have said that, over a period of years, farmers will have to make a continued and sustained effort, and that it will be some years before that effort can come to an end.
Are we to understand that no conversations whatever on a long-term policy for agriculture have taken place?
My hon. Friend must not understand that.
There is nothing hypothetical about me.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House if he will state the Business for next week?
The Business for next week will be as follows:Tuesday, 19th December—Second Reading of the Representation of the People Bill, and the Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution; Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill. Wednesday, 20th December—Motion to adjourn on Thursday, 21st December, to Tuesday, 16th January; Committee stage and Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, and a Motion to approve the Cinematograph Films (Labour Costs Amendment) and (Quota Amendment) Orders. On Thursday, 21st December, the House will adjourn for the Christmas Recess.
Will Questions be taken on Thursday?
Yes, Sir. I think that is the normal practice.
Selection (Chairmen's Panel) (Parliament Act, 1911)
Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew reported from the Committee of Selection: That, in pursuance of Sub-section (3) of Section 1 of the Parliament Act, 1911, they had appointed from the Chairmen's Panel Sir Cyril Entwistle and Mr. McLean Watson to be the two Members whom Mr. Speaker shall consult, if practicable, before giving his certificate to a Money Bill.
Recruitment To The Civil Service
I beg to move,
The House will, no doubt, remember that in February last I made a short statement indicating in general terms the principles which, in the view of the Government, should be followed in regard to post-war recruitment to the Civil Service. I then made it clear that the Government contemplated restoring at the earliest possible date the normal system of recruitment for accruing vacancies, but that vacancies which had accumulated during the war, for which there has been no recruitment on a permanent basis, would be dealt with under special arrangements. I made it clear that, in the view of the Government, these arrangements should be such as to provide generous treatment for men who had served in the Armed Forces during the war, but that there would also be some special provision for those who had served during the war in temporary capacities in the Civil Departments. I ended my statement by saying that the Government proposed to remit the matter for further study within the limits indicated in my statement by the National Whitley Council for the Civil Service, or rather by a Special Committee of that body. As I think the House knows, the National Whitley Council for the Civil Service was set up, following the recommendations of the Committee presided over by the late Mr. Whitley, which applied over a wide field, to fulfil for the Civil Service certain functions which were clearly laid down, and which did include specifically a study of the problems of recruitment to the Civil Service. It was, therefore, perfectly natural that that body, which on the one side is representative of the Government Departments in their employing capacity and on the other side is very widely representative of the various staff organisations which have been recognised by the Government for purposes of negotiation, should have been entrusted with this particular task. I am now in the position of commending to the House and to Parliament the results of the work which has been carried out by the Special Committee of the National Whitley Council. Before I come to the substance of the Report, I ought perhaps to make this clear, that, as was to be expected, following the statement which I had made on behalf of the Government, they put suggestions of their own, which were submitted through the official side in the ordinary course, for consideration by the Committee, and at all stages during that consideration the Government were in touch with their own representatives on the Committee. So that this plan although it is a plan framed after close discussion by the Committee of the Whitley Council, does in fact embody proposals which have been adopted with the full approval of the Government, and which I am in a position to-day to commend to the favourable consideration of the House of Commons. Let me proceed to deal with the main features of the plan embodied in this White Paper. There are two or three matters of principle which should be clearly understood before one proceeds to deal with the details. First, as will be seen, it is contemplated that all the vacancies which have arisen during the period of the war in the permanent establishments, whether by death, retirement or in any other way, with the addition of any posts that may have been added to the establishment during that period, should be reserved, subject to certain points to which I will refer later, for competition between those persons who have been prevented by reasons directly connected with the war from taking advantage of opportunities that would otherwise have been open to them to compete for positions in His Majesty's Civil Service. There will, therefore, be that definite reservation of accrued vacancies for competition under special arrangements by those persons, male and female, whom I have described. Let me add that, in order to ensure that there shall be fair treatment as between one and another, arrangements will be made, in connection with the special competitions that will be held, to spread those accrued vacancies over a sufficient period to ensure, as far as is humanly possible, that candidates whose discharge from the Army has been of necessity deferred should not be at any disadvantage, as compared with those who are discharged in the earlier period after the termination of hostilities. The next point of principle that should be clearly appreciated, is that it is the intention of the Government, as I indicated in my earlier statement, that concurrently with the special competition for the accrued vacancies there should be resumed normal competition for accruing vacancies, so that the two systems will, over a term of years, be running side by side. The normal competitions for the accruing vacancies will be conducted subject to the ordinary age limits and candidates coming forward in the ordinary course from school, college and university, will, as before the war, be free to compete for those vacancies. It is our deliberate intention to avoid on this occasion what happened after the last war, when, for quite a considerable period after the termination of hostilities, vacancies in permanent establishments were allowed to remain unfilled, being blocked by people serving in a temporary capacity. We intend now to proceed in the manner I have described over a term of years, and, in order to have fair treatment as between man and man, and man and woman, we intend to fill permanently, to the fullest extent possible, vacancies on the permanent establishments, thereby reducing to an absolute minimum the posts which may still have to be kept filled for a time by temporary civil servants. We shall, in that way, avoid to a large extent, though probably it cannot be avoided altogether, the difficult problem that arose after the last war, in connection with the claims that naturally develop on the part of persons who have been recruited on no particular principle, but have served for long periods in a temporary capacity and have legitimate ground for complaint if they are got rid of, without being afforded proper opportunity of obtaining permanent positions."That this House approves the proposals contained in Command Paper No. 6567 for recruitment to established posts in the Civil Service during the reconstruction period."
Can my right hon. Friend clear up one point? I have received correspondence from many people who passed the examination to enter the Civil Service in various Departments but who were prevented from taking up their posts by the exigencies of military service, on joining the Forces. Are their places being kept open for them until military service ends?
I should think that that was so, certainly, but I was not aware of the type of case to which my hon. Friend has referred. Certainly, it is important that we should see that no injustice is done, if there be any such cases. I am not sure whether he means people who passed examinations before the war but had not been assigned to vacancies. If they will not be given appointments on the strength of the examinations which they have already passed they certainly ought to have facilities for competing in the special competition to be held now; but I will look into that point.As regards the details of the special recruitment scheme, I think it will be convenient for me to touch on certain points at the outset of this Debate. The idea is that the age-limits for the special competition should be the normal limits for the various classes of appointments with, added to those limits, the number of years of the war during which persons have been prevented from competing. That is the first principle that is to be applied—the age limits will be extended to cover the period of the war during which the potential candidates had no opportunity to compete. But the scheme goes a little further than that, because the Committee have suggested that in view of the disturbance caused by the war to those who had just entered upon a career not in the Civil Service, it would be reasonable that some facilities should be afforded to them—the course of their lives having been diverted in this way—to change their ideas as to their future career and offer themselves for competition in the Service. There must be, obviously, a limit to the extent to which effect can be given to that principle, but the proposal of the Committee has been met, in the plan before the House, by extending the age limits beyond the point which would be reached, on the principle I have defined, of adding the years of the war to the normal age limits, by making the upper age limit in all cases 30. Subject to the termination of the war, that should add quite a number of years to the upper age limit in the case of the clerical and executive classes and one or two years in the case of the administrative class. There is a point in that connection to which I would refer. The Committee have recommended that the candidates coming forward within the extended age limits should be divided, and that four-fifths of the vacancies should be reserved for candidates coming in on the ordinary age limits plus the years of the war and the remaining one-fifth reserved for competition among the older candidates. It seems to me that that is a reasonable recommendation, made with the object of avoiding what might be unfair competition between people who have been many years away from their studies and those who have comparatively recently left school, college or university. Those older men, therefore, will have a separate competition, except in the case of the administrative class, where the circumstances are rather different and where the effect of the age limit of 30 will be to add a comparatively small period of time to the limits that would otherwise apply. The competition—I am speaking now of what I call the special competition, not the new normal competition which is to be started at the earliest possible date, but the competition for those whose opportunities of entering the service have been affected by the war—will be open to all comers, male or female, who possess the prescribed qualifications, that is to say, who are within the limits of age prescribed and who have the educational qualifications which it is suggested should be laid down for the various classes of recruits. In arriving at the number of vacancies to be competed for in the special competition, vacancies which, I have said, would be reserved for the special categories of persons who had been denied the opportunity of competing in the ordinary course, there have been one or two reservations which I ought to make clear. In the first place, it is proposed that a certain proportion of vacancies should be reserved, in accordance with the principle I indicated in my statement of last February, for persons who have been serving in a temporary capacity in the Civil Service during the war, and the proportion of vacancies which it is suggested should be so reserved has been put at 15 per cent. of the vacancies in the executive and clerical classes. Over and above that there will be a small reservation for the higher posts in the Service, which will be open to persons who have shown by their performance during the war that they possess in a special degree the qualifications necessary in the public service. This is dealt with in paragraphs 32 to 34 of the Report. There will also be a small reservation, the extent of which has not yet been worked out, for permanent civil servants who in the ordinary course would have been free to compete for higher posts in the Service—for permanent clericals who might have been able to compete for executive posts, for executives who might have been able to compete for administrative posts, and so on. Many of these persons will not be eligible for the special competition, and unless some provision were made in a reasonable way for a limited number of vacancies for them, they would definitely suffer an injustice as a result of the war. But subject to those reservations, which, except for the 15 per cent. for the temporaries, will not affect materially the number of vacancies to be thrown open for this special competition, all the vacancies which are vacancies in the permanent establishment will be available for competition. Now I come to the very important question of the treatment of ex-Service candidates. In my statement in February, as I have reminded the House, I said it was the view of the Government that generous treatment should be given to men who had been in the Fighting Services during the war, and I conceive that it is my duty on this occasion to justify to the House, from that point of view, the proposals which I am commending to their favourable consideration. Hon. Members who have read the Report will have seen that the proposal is that a varying proportion, according to the different classes of the Service, should be reserved absolutely for ex-Service candidates. In the case of the administrative class the proportion is put in the Report at 75 per cent., in the case of the executive class at 66⅔ per cent., and in the case of the clerical class at 50 per cent. I propose to take the lowest, the 50 per cent., for the purposes of illustration in order to show how that percentage has been arrived at and why I think that it does fulfil fully the expectation that was held out in my earlier statement. Before I come to the actual percentage let me first point out that the very fact that some percentage of posts is absolutely reserved for ex-Service candidates, provided they reach the minimum standards laid down, does constitute a very definite preference. I shall explain to the House that a further prefer- ence has been given in these proposals in the percentages of reservation laid down. Taking the clerical class, the position is that before the war candidates in the examinations for the clerical class were successful in the proportions, roughly, of 60 per cent. men and 40 per cent. women. I feel sure that no one would suggest that the circumstances of the war constitute any reason why women in their candidature for the Civil Service should be treated less favourably in these post-war arrangements than would have been the case had there been no war, and, therefore, I suggest that 60 per cent. of the vacancies should in the case of the clerical class be regarded as prima facie men's vacancies. Now it is a question of how many of this 60 per cent. should go to ex-Servicemen by reservation, because there will be no limit at all as regards competition; the ex-Service men will always get as many of the vacancies as would come to them according to their order of merit in the examination. Taking the 60 per cent., it is a fact that in the age groups covered by the arrangements for the clerical class 70 per cent. of the potential candidates, excluding for this purpose manual workers, will be ex-Servicemen; that is to say, the field of possible recruitment, excluding manual workers, consists as to 70 per cent. of men in the Services and 30 per cent. of men not in the Services—men who had been directed into civil employment, men of low medical categories not considered fit for the Fighting Services, but not on that account, in the majority of cases, ruled out so far as the Civil Service is concerned. There will be 70 per cent. Service candidates and 30 per cent. non-Service. There can be no question, under these arrangements, of disqualifying anyone who would otherwise qualify within the age limits and has the necessary educational qualifications. Seventy per cent. of 60, which is prima facie the share of the men, is, if my arithmetic serves, 42. The proposal in the Report is a reservation of 50, which I suggest, on that approach is perfectly fair. A reservation of 50 as against a statistical figure of 42 does, in fact, constitute a very real preference, and amounts to the generous treatment which I promised would be given to ex-Service candidates.
Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer make it clear that 42 per cent. of the total, or 50 per cent. as the Report says, is a minimum, and that there is nothing whatever to prevent the actual percentage going to the ex-Servicemen being considerably greater if, on merits, they get it in the examination?
I said so in the course of my remarks—that there is nothing whatever to prevent ex-Service candidates getting on merit more than the minimum reservation.
It is a floor and not a ceiling.
It is a floor and not a ceiling. It will sustain a man, unless he falls through it, on the ground of not coming up to the requisite standard. I hope I have explained the point that I was seeking to make clear, that this reservation, in the case of the clerical class, where the figure is lowest—it is higher in the other classes—does, in fact, represent the generous treatment that we should all like to see given to the ex-Serviceman.Before I pass from this question of the preference for Service candidates, I must say one word about women in the Services. It is proposed in the Report that there should be a reservation for Service women, but the suggestion is that, in the case of women who, broadly speaking, have not had denied to them, to the same degree as the men in the Fighting Services, opportunities of preparing themselves for entry by competition into the Civil Service, the principle should be somewhat different. It is proposed that the reservation for women should be determined by the proportion of Service women candidates coming forward, and that they will get their numerical share—by way of reservation—of the vacancies other than those reserved for Servicemen. That is, I think, all.
Might we have an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman of what that means? Do I understand that that applies to each examination as it comes along, or does it cover the whole field?
That, as I understand it, will be applied to each examination as it comes along, that is to say, the number of vacancies reserved for women will not be determined until experience has shown in what proportion Service women candidates come forward for the particular competition, and then they will get their proportion. That is how I understand the plan.
I would like to ask the Chancellor if the whole basis of the argument for differentiation as regards women is based on the fact that they have had sufficient time to study compared with the men in the Fighting Services.
I am not going to suggest to the House that there is any differentiation against women.
The treatment of Service women.
It is not proposed to load the percentage. There is another argument, for what it is worth, and it is that if we tried to apply to women the same kind of formula—not necessarily the same in detail—as is being applied to men, the very small proportion of serving women in the total would make such an a priori reservation seem ridiculous; and it was thought that it would be better, on the whole, in the case of women, if the reservation were made in the manner I have suggested. It will be seen that it will depend entirely on the number of women who come forward, and I do not, prima facie, see any reason for holding that, to make the reservation exactly proportionate to the number of candidates who elect to come forward, represents in any way unfair discrimination.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the present proposal is not acceptable to the National Association of Women Civil Servants?
It is the first time have heard that, and I am sorry to hear it, but perhaps the National Association will be good enough to apply their minds to the considerations I am submitting to the House and to other representations that may be made in the course of the Debate, and I shall be delighted if, in the end, they feel moved to change their view. That is all, I think, that I need say about the features of this plan for special recruitment after the war. I want to say just a word about normal recruitment.
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, may I ask, although it is not specifically referred to in the Report, whether there will be correspondence courses so that those in the Services can take full advantage as soon as the scheme is publicly known; or have they started already?
I do not suppose they have started already, but from what I know of the enterprise of those who conducted such courses before the war, I should be greatly surprised if they did not start up again as soon as they think it worth while. They have never been carried on under Government arrangement, as my hon. Friend knows, but no one need have any apprehension——
There are 2,000 teachers' courses now.
Let me come to recruitment. Hon. Members may have observed that there are some special details to be introduced, and one involves the extension, in a downward direction, of the interview which has been a feature of the competition for, I think, the administrative posts. The Committee suggest that that innovation should be treated as experimental. In regard to recruitment to the administrative class, there is another change suggested which may prove to be of much greater significance. Hitherto, recruitment for the administrative class, like recruitment to the other classes of the Civil Service, has been entirely by way of competitive examination on a literary standard. It has often been suggested that an examination of an exacting kind is not, from every point of view, an ideal method of selecting those persons who are going to prove themselves best suited for responsible work in the public service. But no attempt has been made hitherto, so far as the home Civil Service is concerned, to introduce any alternative plan, though in the case of some of the overseas services—the Colonial Services and the Indian Civil Service—a system of what may be called competitive selection for a proportion of vacancies—and in the case of some of the Colonial Services for all the vacancies—has, I believe, been in operation for quite a considerable period, and has given satisfactory results.The Committee now propose that a plan should be tried by which, side by side with the ordinary written examina- tion, a proportion of vacancies should be set apart to be filled by what we call competitive selection, by a process of interview and consideration of educational record, and so forth, under the auspices of the Civil Service Commission. I think the suggestion is a good one and that it ought to be tried, but I think that the results should, as the Committee recommend, be reviewed after a comparatively short period, so that we can judge whether this system should be continued. There are other matters dealt with in the Report on which I do not think I need dwell at any length. There is the question of training, which is a matter that has rightly attracted a good deal of attention of late. It was the subject, I think, of a special Report by a Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General when he was Financial Secretary, and the House was informed that the Government had accepted the recommendations in that Report and were proceeding to put them into effect. It may, perhaps, interest the House to know that the Treasury have selected a director of training and education for the purpose of carrying out the recommendations. The appointment has been offered to, and accepted by, Mr. A. P. Sinker, who is a Fellow and senior tutor of Jesus College, Cambridge. Mr. Sinker is 39 years of age and has been working for the past five years in the Admiralty, where he occupies the position of a temporary Assistant Secretary. He knows the conditions of the Civil Service, and his qualifications for the post are, I think, admirable, and arrangements are being made by which he will be released at once to give practically the whole of his time to the new work on the lines visualised in the Report of the Committee. My right hon. Friend beside me tells me that I was wrong in saying that the special Report was the Report of a Committee presided over by the Postmaster-General. It was, I am told, the late Financial Secretary, the successor of the Postmaster-General in that position—the right hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Assheton)—who presided over that Committee. That concludes what I have to say in commending this plan to the favourable consideration of the House. In the process of recovery from the strain and disturbance of war, and for our future well-being, the quality of the Civil Service of this country will, as I am sure all hon. Members agree, be of first rate importance. In this regard, the matter of recruitment is fundamental, is of prime importance, and I hope the House will agree with me that we are greatly indebted to the National Whitley Council for the sober responsibility and constructive judgment which they have brought to bear on the matters entrusted to them. I think it augurs very well for the future of the Civil Service that it should have evolved so effective a joint body of representatives of the Government, as employers, and of the staffs of all grades, and should have tackled a job of this kind in the spirit and with the results exhibited in this Report.
On a point of Order. There is upon the Order Paper an Amendment in my name. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it is your intention to call that Amendment?
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for asking that question. I do not propose to call the Amendment, because I have no doubt that the point it raises can be made in the Debate and the Amendment might tend to limit the discussion.
Like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I would like to commend the terms of this White Paper to the favourable and cordial attention of the House of Commons, and I want to do that on three main grounds. The first ground is that this is a considered report; the second is that this is a balanced report; and the third is that this is an agreed report. I should like to say something under each of those three heads. I say first that this is a considered Report, and in that respect it presents us with a situation in very marked contrast to the situation which developed at the end of the last war. During that war, as during this war, open and competitive recruitment to the public service was suspended, with the result that very large numbers of vacancies in the established grades accrued during the war period. During the last war, too, as in this, there was a very wide recruitment of temporary staff to cope with the extended work of Government Departments arising out of war conditions. So that the last war produced features essentially similar to those which have been experienced in the public service during this war. However, there was this very great difference.In the case of the last war we did not, while the war was on, envisage the Civil Service situation which would have to be dealt with when the war came to an end. Nothing whatever was done by way of arranging to deal with that situation until 1920, when, in great haste, there was set up what was known as the Temporary Staff Committee of the National Whitley Council, which did its best, under pressure, to cope with a problem which should have been tackled some years before. It produced a Report which was accepted by the Government, and on which I will not comment to-day beyond saying that subsequent to that report, every kind of pressure group in the House of Commons got to work. The result was that instead of having a considered plan for dealing with the post-war situation, we had a hastily improvised plan, subsequently battered about from left to right by various pressure groups in the House of Commons, informed and guided from outside. As a result of that, while I do not want to be unkind to that previous House or to the Treasury, or even to the Service unions, it would not be unfair to say that we achieved a hotch-potch of arrangements decided upon without a clear realisation of the consequences of applying them. The result of that was that for something like 13 years after the last war had ended open and competitive recruitment to the public Service in Britain was almost completely suspended, and there was produced in the public Service a disturbance of the age groups which, the Chancellor will agree, has been a constant liability to the public Service ever since. Indeed, I regret to say that I fear the efficiency of the public Service of those years was adversely affected by the improvised character of the arrangements made at the end of the last war. In the case of this war, we are not waiting until the post-war crisis is upon us before we deal with this problem, and before peace comes we have a considered Report dealing with this very difficult problem of recruitment in the Service after the war. That is the first ground upon which I commend this Report to the House of Commons. The second ground is that this is a balanced Report. In considering this problem of post-war recruitment in the public Service, there are many interests to be considered. Doubtless some Members of Parliament will be more concerned with this interest than with that, and others still more concerned with another interest, but the Government and the Civil Service trades unions must be concerned not with one interest but all the interests that appear in considering this matter. One interest is the efficiency of the public Service, and on that I should like cordially to endorse what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his closing sentences. As time goes on, the more essential it is that the public Service should be efficient. Some three or four centuries ago, when the functions of the State were very limited, and the size of the Civil Service very small, a simple and uncomplex organisation might satisfy us. But to-day the State touches the life of the individual at every point between the cradle and the grave. As a matter of fact, the State does not wait until we are born before it starts on us; it provides ante-natal clinics before we put in our appearance. And it does not relax its hold on us when we are dead for, after we are dead, we still have to deal with the Inland Revenue Department over which the Chancellor used to preside not so long ago. At every point between the cradle and the grave our lives are touched by the activity of some Government Department or another. When we are born we become the concern of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. At five we become the concern of the Minister of Education. At 14 we become the concern of the Minister of Labour when we go out to work in the world. If we get sick we become the concern of the Minister of Health. If we are unemployed, we go to the Minister of Labour again for unemployment benefit. If we exhaust that benefit, we become the subject of the attentions of the Assistance Board. If we work in a factory, we come under the attention of the Factories Department of the Home Office. If we are bankrupt—a contingency which does occur sometimes—we come under the care of another Department, the Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade. So, at every stage in our life we come under the care of one Government Department or another and, even when we are dead, there is the Death Duty Department of the Inland Revenue to assess our estate, if any, and if there is any left at the end of that, there is the Public Trustee Department to invest for our dependants and look after them in the capacity of trustee. From before birth until after death we are concerned with some Government Department or another, and the result is that the modern Civil Service has a complexity which is altogether out of proportion to the comparatively simple organisation that would serve the national need at an earlier time. Therefore, efficiency is a consideration we must bear in mind. A second consideration to be borne in mind is the very proper preference that a country ought to show to those who have fought the battles of the State and the country in this war. There is, however, a third element we have to bear in mind, and that is this, that in this war, whether a man has served in the Army or not, or whether a woman went into the auxiliary Forces, or on to the land or into a factory, the decision has not been within the discretion of the individual. The State has taken charge of us all and to some it has said, "Go into the Army," and to others, "You must not go into the Army, you must do some other form of war-work." In a totalitarian war the gratitude of the State, while it is properly given to the soldiers, ought not to be confined to them. We must have some regard to the rest of the population too. There is a fourth interest, that of the men and women who have served the community in the Civil Service while the war has been on, and to whom, I submit, we cannot just bid a soldier's farewell at the end of the war and leave it at that. They have an interest which must be properly considered. Then there is a fifth, the interest of the serving permanent Civil Servant, now in the Army it may be, who, but for the war, would have sat for an examination which would have taken him into a higher level of the Civil Service itself—for example the young clerical officer who would have sat for the executive examination; the young clerical assistant who would have sat for the clerical officers' examination; the executive officer who would have sat for the administrative examination. All these have been blocked because of the suspension of competition, but those men, the bulk of whom will have served in the Army, and the women in the auxiliary Forces, have a right to be taken into account. This Report represents a genuine effort on the part of both sides of the National Whitley Council to take all those elements into account and to do reasonable justice between those half dozen, not hostile, but somewhat divergent claims. That is the second ground upon which I recommend this Report to the favourable attention of the House. The third ground is that this is an agreed Report. When you have a Civil Service as large as the British service; when you have a half million civil servants represented on the staff side of the National Whitley Council and organised in a very considerable number of different associations and trade unions; when you have on the other side of the Whitley Council a couple of score of heads of Departments, each concerned with the collective interests of the Service, and with the interests of his own Department, to reach an agreement over so wide a field as this and