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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 408: debated on Thursday 8 March 1945

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National War Effort

Employment, Cumberland

1, 2 and 3.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) the total number signing the register weekly at Cleator Moor, Millom and Whitehaven exchanges, for light work only, during the last three months; how many have been registered for 12 months, six months and three months, respectively; and how many times during the last six months have these registrants been offered for employment and employers have refused to engage;

(2) the number of work-people paid off during the last three months at High Duty Alloys, Limited, Distington, and the cause for the reduction in the number employed; and how many have been reinstated in other employment;

(3) the total number of unemployed, male and female separately, who have signed on week by week during the last three months at Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Millom exchanges, respectively; how many have been placed in employment during the period under notice within the areas covered by these exchanges; and how many have been directed to or found work outside the exchange areas referred to, giving the localities where employment has been found.

I will, if I may, write to my hon. Friend giving him such information as is available in reply to these Questions.

Directed Ex-Officers

6.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is satisfied that officers who have been called on to resign their commissions on account of inefficiency or misconduct are at once directed either to service in the ranks or to other work of national importance; and how long a period elapses before such ex-officers are so directed.

Officers who relinquish their commissions for reasons other than medical unfitness are, if within effective age for calling-up, required to register or re-register under the National Service Acts. They have the usual statutory rights under the Acts and are subject to the normal deferment arrangements. In addition, those officers who have not had their commissions terminated because of misconduct are given the opportunity of making representations against being called up for service in the ranks. Such representations are considered on merits by my Department in consultation with the Service Department concerned. I am satisfied that there is no undue delay in dealing with these cases, but if my hon. and gallant Friend has any particular case in mind I shall be pleased to look into it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there have been reported cases of ex-officers of this description going about doing nothing for some considerable time after they have resigned their commissions? I will certainly send information to him.

Strike, London Docks

11.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the strike in the London docks.

Yes, Sir. The strike was started at the Royal Docks by some 500 stevedores, and spread rapidly. I am glad to say that the men at Tilbury have resumed work this morning. The main body of dockers has decided to resume work when the stevedores resume and the Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers are meeting this morning with a view to securing a resumption of work forthwith. The immediate cause of the dispute was the transfer of the place of proof of attendance to an office inside the Royal Docks. The existing huts used for this purpose were regarded as unsuitable. Another question which has caused grave anxiety throughout January was the increase of absenteeism at the Royal Docks and it became necessary for those responsible to deal with it. Happily however this did not apply to the rest of London. The strike is completely unjustifiable. The machinery of the National Joint Council for the Dock Industry, which was established following the Shaw inquiry twenty years ago, is both capable and adequate to deal with any legitimate grievance in a constitutional way and it should have been used and the war effort not impeded by this reckless act. The Government have taken all the necessary steps to deal with cargoes required for operational purposes and to safeguard civilian supplies at home. As there is an opportunity now of complete resumption and I have undertaken that an inquiry will be held into the alleged grievances, I would ask to be excused from saying any more at present.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us the difference between the two calling-on stations?

Is it not a fact that the food situation in London will be very seriously affected if the strike continues?

No, Sir. Steps have been taken to feed London. It is the duty of the Government to see that action of this kind does not interfere with supplies during war-time. Therefore, I do not fear any consequences under that head.

Is the Minister satisfied that the employers have themselves used the machinery which is set up for settling disputes, and that they are not guilty of some prolongation of this dispute?

I can assure my hon. Friend, from my experience of the joint council machinery which I used for over 20 years, that any problem connected with the dock industry can be discussed within hours, if necessary. Therefore, if there had been feeling about this matter, the local committee in the region should have been summoned, and should have dealt with the thing right away, with a right of appeal to the National Council.

Building Industry

4.

asked the Minister of Labour when he discontinued the calling up for military service of men in the building trades; how many such men were called up during the calendar year 1944; and whether any such men have been called up in 1945.

Apart from a small number of cases where men have been required as tradesmen in the Forces, the calling-up of men in craftsmen's occupation in the building industry has been restricted since the end of June, 1943, to fresh registrants who were not granted deferment as apprentices and to young men whose deferment as apprentices came to an end. Since October, 1944, however, apprentices have not been called up when their deferment as apprentices has ended. The number of such men in the building industry called up in 1944 was approximately 8,000 and consisted almost entirely of young men reaching the age of 18. A corresponding figure for the first two months of 1945 is not yet available.

Only in certain cases where the Forces need certain tradesmen whom they must have to make up for casualties, and to meet other requirements.

8.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of operatives at present employed in the building industry; the number so employed at the outbreak of war; and how many of these are now serving in the armed forces of the Crown.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave on 25th January to a similar question by the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor).

9.

asked the Minister of Labour in view of the fact that the great problem in housing is man-power, whether he is taking steps to use women who are available for handling certain sections of the work in the building industry or to use building trade mechanics from amongst Italian collaborators and prisoners of war.

The employment of women in the building industry in the present emergency is provided for by an industrial agreement and a certain number are already so employed. In reply to the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) on 28th February.

Can my right hon. Friend say that there is no objection to the use of women in this industry in this great emergency?

74.

asked the Minister of Works whether, in view of the considerations of national man-power, productive capacity, finance and export demands for building components over the next 10 years, he will review his proposed expansion of the building industry so as to provide for such expansion as is practicable for the economic efficiency of the industry in the light of these factors.

I am not aware of any new material factors which would necessitate a reconsideration of the proposed expansion of the building industry. The considerations referred to in the Question were fully taken into account when the size of the post-war building labour force was projected in the Government White Paper on Training for the Building Industry (Command 6428).

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it is intended to review this proposed expansion of the building industry a short time from now?

Public Health

Hospitals (Employment Of Women)

5.

asked the Minister of Labour, whether it is his intention to introduce legislation to deal with the employment of women in hospitals.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that great resentment was caused by a recent speech of his, in which he referred to "slut-minded charwomen" employed in hospitals; and does that represent his point of view?

I did not know there was any resentment. What I suggested was that the practice of employing charwomen in the manner in which they had been employed, must be ended, and must be put on a proper footing.

Does my right hon. Friend think it fair to describe these charwomen, who have worked under great difficulties during the war, as "slut-minded"?

Medical Schools (Women Students)

7.

asked the Minister of Labour, if he is aware that many women over the age of 19 have had their medical studies since 1943 interrupted, after passing their first medical examinations, by national service; that two of the three London medical schools which admit women are about to hold entrance examinations to select students for the second medical course starting next October, but that successful candidates in the above age category cannot be allotted vacancies without his approval before the examination results are known; and if he will allow such of these women who reach the requisite standard at these examinations for securing admission to the schools to accept places provisionally.

In consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, I am making arrangements by which medical schools may consider provisionally applications from women of any age who wish to be admitted next October. The question whether selected candidates will be permitted to begin their courses at that date will, of course, depend upon the national situation.

Refuse Collection (London)

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that garbage in certain parts of London is not being collected for as much as five weeks owing to the shortage of labour and the nature of the labour available; and whether he will allocate more labour to the Metropolitan boroughs concerned so that a more frequent collection can be made and in order to avoid an outbreak of disease.

I am aware of the difficulties to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, which arise from the general shortage of labour in London to meet the requirements of essential products and services. I am however giving urgent consideration to the means whereby the most pressing of these particular demands may be satisfied.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that unless an improvement is made in the collection of refuse there will be a real danger of epidemics when the warmer weather comes; and will he do everything he can to improve the labour supply?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some otherwise well-run boroughs in London, the position is even worse than that stated in the Question, that six to eight weeks elapse between collections, that there is a difficulty in some parts in getting the proper servicing of vehicles and the labour of many kinds which is wanted, and that the health question is causing considerable concern?

The difficulty in London is that, with bomb damage repairs and so many other claims upon me, it is difficult to meet all the requirements. I wondered whether some new method could be introduced which would result in pooling some of the services, and I propose to meet the local authorities to look into that, and to see whether I can economise labour and, at the same time, give them some relief.

In considering that will my right hon. Friend bear in mind a reply of the Minister of Supply yesterday that certain kinds of salvage which are collected are in short supply and are badly needed?

Sanatorium, Bramshott (Staff)

12.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the difficulties experienced by the King George's Sanatorium for Sailors at Bramshott, Hampshire, owing to the impossibility of obtaining adequate staff to carry on its work; and whether he will assist this sanatorium to obtain at once the services of two sisters, two staff nurses and six student nurses, for whom vacancies exist and who are now urgently required.

I am doing my best to provide additional nursing staff for this sanatorium, which has been given the highest priority. My hon. and gallant Friend will, however, be aware of the great difficulties which arise as the result of the acute general shortage of nurses.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this admirable institution has had to close one ward, and that we have a long waiting list with which we are unable to cope?

I appreciate very much that there is a shortage of nurses but, as I explained to the House some time ago in answer to a Question, I cannot make good the lack of nurses, particularly with the extra demand made upon them in war. The situation ought to have been foreseen and allowed for before the war. That is the great difficulty I am in.

Nursing Mothers (Unpasteurised Milk)

43.

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to ensure that expectant and nursing mothers may be able to secure supplies of natural unpasteurised milk.

I should not be prepared to take any such action. It is not practicable at present to supply safe milk except by pasteurisation and by handling it throughout with strict hygienic precautions.

Is the Minister aware that quite eminent medical authorities regard pasteurisation as devitalisation? If people want unpasteurised milk, should they not be free to get it?

It is not a question of whether they should be free to get it. I could not, on a supplementary question, enter into this controversial matter of the value of pasteurisation.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the statement of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) does not accord with scientific facts?

Demobilisation (Reinstatement And Resettlement)

13.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are being taken to inform members of the Forces while they are still serving of the arrangements made to assist in their resettlement after release.

As I stated in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle) on 1st March, a booklet entitled "Release and Resettlement" will shortly be issued to all serving members of the Forces. In addition I have arranged, in agreement with my colleagues, to send 15 officers from my Department to meet men and women of the Forces who are stationed abroad in various theatres of war, including Europe, the Middle East, India and Burma. These officers will explain and discuss on the spot the resettlement plans which are described in the booklet.

Can copies of that leaflet be supplied to Members of this House?

Civil Defence

Bethnal Green Shelter Accident (Claims)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the Bethnal Green shelter case; and particularly as to the position of Servicemen whose claims are Statute barred.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has now made any offer of assistance to the Bethnal Green local authority to enable them to settle outstanding claims arising out of the shelter accident.

After careful consideration of the whole of the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate accident, I have come to the conclusion that it would be right that the Bethnal Green Borough Council should receive exceptional financial assistance from the Exchequer in meeting the liability which attaches to the council as a result of the decision by the Court of Appeal in the proceedings, brought by Mrs. Baker. The council have agreed to deal with outstanding claims in the following manner, and the whole of the expenditure thus entailed, and that already incurred in defending and settling Mrs. Baker's claim, will be reimbursed by the Exchequer, less the sum received by the council under an insurance policy. Persons now receiving pensions from the Ministry of Pensions will be free to elect whether they will maintain their pension position or pursue their rights at law. Those who choose the latter alternative will continue to receive their pensions for a reasonable period while negotiations are proceeding. Payment of the pensions will cease on payment of damages. Damages assessed in the light of the judgment delivered in Mrs. Baker's case will be paid to claimants on whose behalf writs were o issued within 12 months of the accident. As regards Statute barred claims, a category in which I believe my hon. Friends are particularly interested, the Statute will not be relied upon in the case of claims lodged on or before 31st December, 1944, provided that good and substantial cause is shown to the satisfaction of the Treasury Solicitor for failure to put the claim forward at an earlier date. In the case of claims lodged after 31st December, 1944, the decision not to rely upon the Statute will be confined to those where the delay in submission is due to absence of the claimant outside the jurisdiction.

While thanking my right hon. Friend, may I ask him whether he can give any estimate of the probable cost?

I am afraid I cannot, because all the claims are not in and negotiations have not yet taken place.

Personnel (Gratuities)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he can now make a statement regarding gratuities for the C.D. service.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to make a statement regarding war gratuities for Civil Defence workers, the National Fire Service and the Police War Reserve.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making a statement at the end of Questions, in which he will deal with this matter.

Air Raid Warning System, East Coast

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what system of air-raid warning was used during the recent raid by piloted aircraft on the East coast area; and if he is satisfied with these arrangements.

The air raid warning system is that which has been in operation throughout the war, with the improvements introduced a year ago. I have made inquiries into its working during the raid referred to by my hon. Friend and I am satisfied that in general it operated efficiently.

In view of the fact that some of the towns and villages were attacked during the dim-out or when lights were showing, would the right hon. Gentleman consider instituting a separate or special warning for piloted aircraft raids?

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the danger to our own aircraft returning in the conditions in which our Civil Defence has to be carried out?

Perhaps we are getting too close to operational matters to pursue this point further.

Local Authorities (Evacuation Grants)

44.

asked the Minister of Health the amount, as on the last convenient date, of the allowance made by way of grants and by interest-free allowances to local authorities in the evacuation areas.

The advances made to authorities of evacuation areas and other local authorities in need of assistance, amounted, on 28th February last, to £14,348,880.

Ill-Treatment Of Children (Convicted Parents)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of the parents convicted in any recent period of cruelty to their children have been fathers and mothers, respectively.

I regret that I am unable to give the information asked for by my hon. Friend, since the available statistics do not distinguish parents from other persons convicted of ill-treating or neglecting children. I can say, however, that of 1,611 persons found guilty of such offences by magistrates courts in 1943, 509 were men and 1,102 were women, and my information is that in the great majority of such cases the defendants are parents. Many of these cases are cases of neglect, not of actual cruelty or ill-treatment.

Channel Islands (Relief Supplies)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what progress is being made in organising and delivering relief supplies to the Channel Islands.

Since my reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hornsey (Captain Gammans) on 22nd February, the "Vega" has made a further voyage, and was due to arrive in the Islands on or about 5th March with a cargo of flour, yeast, Red Cross parcels, soap, salt, medical and surgical supplies and a small quantity of petrol for the local ambulances. I hope that it will be possible in the near future to send a consignment of clothing, footwear and certain other commodities.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he considers that one ship is sufficient for the purpose, and whether he would not consider using additional ships, or even aircraft?

Aircraft would not be suitable, and as to ships, the Ministry of War Transport are in very great difficulty about shipping. I will keep the point in mind.

I answered a Question about sick people last week. We are making arrangements, where local medical facilities are not adequate, to get people evacuated to this country.

In view of the fact that there has been very much criticism of the Government on this matter, may I suggest that, in order to prevent a bad relationship existing between us and our fellow subjects in the Channel Islands after the war, the right hon. Gentleman might consider issuing a White Paper on the whole subject, showing the difficulties, and also what has been done?

I will consider that suggestion, but I doubt whether the time would be suitable for it yet. I will keep it in mind. I thought that, broadly speaking, the islanders and their friends here were satisfied that we are doing our very best.

Murder Charge (Woman's Legal Aid)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department at what stage in the case of Mrs. Jones, condemned to death for murder, this woman first had legal advice.

I am informed that on her first appearance before the Feltham justices on 14th October, 1944, Mrs. Jones was granted a legal aid certificate entitling her to free legal aid, and that on the resumed hearing before the justices on 3rd November she was represented by counsel who was instructed by her solicitors.

Capital Punishment

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons under 21 years of age have been hanged for murder since the year 1900 and how many of these were women.

Since 1900 the sentence of death has been carried out in the case of 28 persons under the age of 21 convicted of murder, none of whom was a woman.

Might I on this occasion thank my right hon. Friend for his clemency and—

Detainees (Isle Of Man)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many British subjects are still interned in the Isle of Man; how many are in the fourth and fifth year of detention, respectively; and whether such detainees can now be given improved conditions of detention and, in particular, a separate camp should they so desire.

Of the 45 British subjects detained in the Isle of Man, 40 have been detained for more than four years and one over three years. The great majority of these persons are persons of hostile origin or associations, and many of them at their own request have for a long time been accommodated in the camps set apart for aliens of enemy nationality. Owing to the reduction in numbers through releases, it was decided that the maintenance of a separate camp for the few others detained under the Regulation could not be justified, and indeed was hot in their best interest, and in order that they should have the better recreational and welfare facilities of a larger camp, they were transferred to other camps. I am satisfied that they enjoy as good facilities as are possible in the circumstances.

While appreciating the need for economy that governs this decision, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the wishes of the persons concerned as to the particular camps where they are to reside?

I will certainly bear that in mind, but it is also the case that they themselves may well be having a better time in larger numbers than if they were isolated in very small numbers.

Evacuee Child's Death, Wallasey (Medical Evidence)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of important additional medical evidence submitted to him recently with regard to Brian Baldock, a two years old evacuee to Wallasey, who was dead when a local medical practitioner was called in, he will now order a public investigation into the failure of the coroner to hold an inquest on the deceased child.

The medical practitioner who was called in in this case immediately reported the death to the coroner. The coroner directed the police surgeon to hold a post mortem examination and the coroner's officer also took statements from Mrs. Baldock and from Mrs. Budd. The police surgeon, having made the examination, reported that there were no signs of violence, that the body was well nourished and that death was due to natural causes, namely cardiac syncope due to broncho-pneumonia. I am informed that there was no information before the coroner or the police at that time to suggest ill-treatment either of the dead boy or his brother; and the coroner, in view of the post mortem report, decided that an inquest was unnecessary and issued his certificate of death from natural causes to the Registrar. This is the action which the coroner is authorised by law to take in a case where he is satisfied, as a result of post mortem examination, that an inquest is unnecessary. I may add that the coroner died on 15th December, 1944. The hon. Member has sent me some information in which it is suggested that the doctor who was called in should have been consulted by the coroner, but I understand that he was asked by the coroner's officer if he wished to make a statement but declined to do so.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the medical practitioner who was called in has given me a signed statement, which I will pass to him, in which he says there was a blue bruise on the forehead of the child, that the body was ill-nourished and the abdominal wall was contracted; and is the right hon. Gentleman now prepared to take that into consideration, jointly with the fact that the brother, aged 3½, was the subject of a cruelty charge, which was found proved by the magistrates?

That was not known at the time of this medical examination. If this is the doctor who was first called in—I take it that is so—I cannot understand why he did not call the attention of the coroner to this. There was a post-mortem examination by the police surgeon, who reported quite contrary to what' has just now been said. Finally, the coroner himself is dead. Therefore I do not see how an inquiry can proceed.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman must have regard to the evidence that has just been produced by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Reakes). If that evidence is to the effect that the hon. Member has said, it would be monstrous if there were not to be a further investigation.

With great respect, I am not sure. If the hon. Member sends me that statement I will consider it, but I am really at a loss to understand, if it is the case, as appears, that the doctor was of that opinion, why, when he was asked by the coroner's officer if he wished to make a statement, he declined to do so.

Service Voters (Proxies)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that Mr. W. R. Hipwell, organiser of the Allied Ex-Services Association, is inviting Service personnel to send him A.F. B2626 and similar forms not fully filled in so that he can appoint proxies of his own choice without the Service voter knowing anything about the proxy; if such proxies will be valid under the Regulations; or if it is proposed to issue further regulations to deal with this situation.

I am not aware of this practice. The completion of proxy appointments by Service voters without specifying the name of the proxy is not barred by the Regulations, but it is an irresponsible procedure which is to be deprecated. As no person may hold more than two proxy appointments in any one constituency—unless a close relative of the Service voter concerned—and must in general vote in person, it is very unlikely that any such practice can have any material result. It is not therefore proposed to deal with this point by an amendment of the Regulations.

Will the Home Secretary take care to examine how this practice is developing, and if he finds it is working contrary to the spirit of democracy will he consider the matter further?

The hon. Member may be quite sure that, if I find anything is working contrary to the spirit of democracy, I will take notice of it. I do not think they can get very far, but I will certainly keep this matter in mind.

Is it not definitely illegal that anyone, apart from the soldier himself, should appoint a proxy?

I think that is not so. A soldier can fill up the form without putting in the proxy's name. There may be a few cases where the soldier might wish to have the advice and help of people at home in selecting a proxy. I do not think it is illegal, but it is undesirable, and' should be discouraged, but I am not sure that it would not be going too far to make it illegal.

Housing

Dwelling-House Prices (Committee Of Inquiry)

28.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to announce the names of the persons appointed to the committee of inquiry set up to consider and report on the practicability of controlling or regulating the price at which dwelling-houses may be sold.

Yes, Sir. I am glad to be able to inform the House that Mr. John Morris, K.C., has agreed to act as Chairman of the Committee and, with permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the names of the members who have agreed to serve.

Will it be permissible for Members to submit to the Committee letters they have received from their constituents on this subject?

Can we know the terms of reference of this Committee? Do they specifically include the right to inquire into the need for retrospective action?

The terms of reference were announced by the Lord President of the Council on 13th February. They are as follow:

"To consider, and report, whether it is practicable to control effectively the selling price of houses with or without vacant possession and to prevent undue financial advantage being taken of the present housing shortage; and, if so, what measures should be adopted to effect such objects."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1945; Vol. 408, c. 29.]

Yes, I was aware of that, but would the right hon. and learned Gentleman see that the terms are extended to make them retrospective?

I cannot possibly, without notice, and in reply to a supplementary question, consider the extension of the terms of reference.

Following are the names of the Members:

Committee on the Control of the Selling Price of Houses

  • 1. Mr. John Morris, K.C. (Chairman).
  • 2. Mr. H. W. Butcher, M.P.
  • 3. Commander T. D. Galbraith, M.P.
  • 4. Mr. L. Silkin, M.P.
  • 5. Mr. W. S. Allison.
  • 6. Mr. Leslie Raymond, F.S.I., F.A.I.
  • 7. A representative of the local authorities.
  • 41.

    asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that small house property continues to be offered and sold at three and more times its pre-war value; and whether prospective legislation to deal with this problem is to be applied retrospectively.

    As already announced, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are appointing a Committee to consider the practicability of controlling the selling price of houses. The question of legislation, and its scope, will be considered in the light of the findings of that Committee.

    Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer the latter part of my Question, as to whether legislation will be applied retrospectively? Numerous houses are now being sold for three or four times their value, and can nothing be done about it?

    The latter part of my hon. Friend's Question postulates prospective legislation. We have appointed this Committee to consider whether legislation will be practicable.

    Will it be applied retrospectively, to deal with houses now sold at abnormal prices?

    I cannot say what the contents of the legislation will be until I know whether there will be legislation.

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend give instructions to the Committee to expedite the report?

    I have intimated to the chairman that I hope he will proceed as rapidly as possible.

    Sites (Acquisition)

    35.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he has confirmed a compulsory purchase order for the acquisition by the Keighley Town Council of 86¼ acres of land at Bracken Bank for housing purposes; for what reason the effort to purchase by agreement failed; what award the arbitrator has given; and what is the value at which the land was assessed for local taxation.

    No, Sir. The Keighley Town Council purchased this site at the agreed price of £14,500, and the second and third parts of the Question do not, therefore, arise. As regards the last part, the land is agricultural and therefore derated.

    36.

    asked the Minister of Health why he informed the Huntingdon Town Council that it would be better to employ friendly arbitration rather than resort to a compulsory purchase order for the acquisition of a housing site; where is the land in question; what is its area and rateable value; and whether the council approached the owners asking them to agree to arbitration and with what result.

    There appears to be some misunderstanding. The council were not advised in the sense suggested, and a compulsory purchase order was in fact made and was confirmed last December. The land, which is about seven acres in area, is at Ambury Hill, Huntingdon, and is derated.

    37.

    asked the Minister of Health whether the Leeds City Council has confirmed a recommendation by its improvements committee for the purchase of land on the Golden Acre Park Estate, adjacent to the Leeds-Otley Road for a sum of £18,500; what area of land is involved and what is its rateable value.

    I understand that the City Council have confirmed the recommendation in question. The area involved is 146 acres. Only part of the estate is being purchased and I regret that the figure of rateable value is not therefore available.

    42.

    asked the Minister of Health why he has granted compulsory powers for the acquisition of some of the best agricultural land in the parish of Barley for housing purposes, in preference to other available sites of less agricultural value.

    Before the compulsory purchase order was made it was ascertained, in accordance with the procedure agreed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and myself, that the Ministry of Agriculture did not feel justified in objecting on agricultural grounds to the use of the land for housing.

    Rent Control (Committee's Report)

    38.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he has yet received the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Rent Control.

    Air-Raid Evacuees (Southampton)

    39.

    asked the Minister of Health whether some of the number of vacant houses set aside for air-raid evacuees in Southampton can now be released in order to relieve the housing shortage in that town.

    My information is that the houses which were, until last autumn, held vacant under requisition in Southampton as a reserve of accommodation for persons who might be made homeless by enemy attack, have been made available to relieve the housing shortage, and that any that are now vacant are being prepared for occupation by families inadequately housed. So far as I am aware, no houses have been requisitioned in Southampton for occupation by evacuees.

    Foamslag (Price)

    73.

    asked the Minister of Works whether he will state the price that was agreed between his Department and the producers of foamslag; and whether it is still available at this price.

    I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) on 14th February when it was stated that the precise figures of cost could not be quoted. I have no reason to suppose that the figures which were discussed with the industry will not be largely met when the necessary markets have been created to justify regular continuous foaming on a large scale. The present price is of course very much higher.

    Building Permits

    34.

    asked the Minister of Health, as his Memorandum on Plans for Houses and other Buildings does not specifically state the number of Departments and authorities that must give approval before a substantial building can be erected and occupied, can he give a complete list of the different Departments and authorities to which local authorities or owners must apply before each different type of building can be built and occupied.

    As the answer is rather long and detailed I am circulating it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    The normal system of referencing, apart from war-time controls, and consultation with statutory undertakers, may conveniently be set out as follows:

    Type of building to be erectedBy whom erectedReference Authority(ies)
    I. Domestic Building.(i) Local Authority.
    (a) London County Council(i)Minister of Health.
    (ii)Sanitary Authority.
    (iii)Planning Authority, where other than the Council.
    (b) Metropolitan Borough Council.London County Council.
    (c) Provincial Council(i)Minister of Health.
    (ii)Planning Authority if different from the Council.
    (iii)Highway Authority if different from the Council.
    (2) Private Enterprise.
    (a) in London(i)London County Council.
    (ii)Metropolitan Borough Council.
    (b) in Provinces(i)Local Authority.
    (ii)Planning Authority if different from (i).
    (iii)Highway Authority if different from (i).
    II. Public Building.(i) Local Authority(i)Minister concerned.
    (ii)Planning Authority if different from Local Authority.
    (iii)Highway Authority if different from Local Authority.
    (iv)Licensing Justices when necessary.
    (2) Other bodies or persons(i)As in I for domestic buildings erected by private enterprise.
    (ii)Licensing Justices when necessary.
    III. Commercial Building.Private Enterprise(i)As in I for domestic buildings erected by private enterprise.
    (ii)Licensing Justices if necessary.

    Upper Gwendraeth River (Silting)

    40.

    asked the Minister of Health what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the silting of the Upper Gwendraeth river does not cause pollution, interference with sewerage and their consequent serious effects upon the

    that everyone who is to be responsible for the construction of a substantial building or of a housing estate will know exactly to what authorities and Departments he must apply, so that the work in question may proceed to completion and be occupied?

    I have promised to circulate the answer for which my hon. Friend asks, which is a complete list.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that not only is the answer long but too long a time has been taken to consider it?

    Following is the answer:

    health of the adjacent inhabitants of Pontyates.

    I have had the public health aspect of the flooding of this river investigated and have come to the conclusion that the effects are not sufficient to justify my pressing, on public health grounds alone, for the execution of a scheme of the magnitude which would be required; but I am keeping in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries on the matter.

    Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that the conditions are worsening here year after year, and that the reports of the Medical Officer of Health are directly contrary to what he now says?

    This matter was specially examined from the public health point of view. It is a difficult problem, not affecting any large number of houses, and a method of dealing with it in a satisfactory way has not yet been found. The present scheme is very expensive. I have discussed this matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and he and I agree that this is not an appropriate time to undertake it.

    I beg to give notice that owing to the nature of the reply I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

    Service Personnel (Political Meetings)

    45.

    asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that persons in the Services who are delegates to the forthcoming Conservative Party conference have been forbidden to speak thereat, despite the fact that many such persons spoke at the recent Liberal and Labour Party conferences; and will he take steps to remove this discrimination.

    Members of the forces are allowed to attend political meetings, but are not allowed to speak at them, as such action would amount to taking an active part in the affairs of a political organisation or party, which is forbidden by the King's Regulations. This does not apply to serving Members of Parliament, who during the war may speak on any occasion. Prospective candidates may speak in their own constituencies only.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that certain people broke the law by speaking at a Labour Party conference?

    No, Sir. I think it is all run very fairly, with full agreement between the heads of the various parties represented in the Government. We would not in any circumstances allow the stealing of marches and unfair tricks in a matter of this kind. We would be very glad to discuss the matter with all other parties.

    My right hon. Friend can surety be relied upon not to encourage the Conservative Party to break the law?

    The suggestion in the Question is that the other parties break it. I can only say that I trust that the Conservative Party will long remain a model in this respect.

    Does my right hon. Friend's answer mean that delegates attending these conferences who are members of His Majesty's Forces are unable to take part, even if they are wearing civilian clothing?

    Yes, Sir. But, of course, if they were in civilian clothes it might not be noticed.

    General Election (Public Holiday)

    46.

    asked the Prime Minister whether, with a view to securing the fullest expression of the will of the people at the forthcoming General Election, he will give an assurance that the day of the General Election will be a public holiday.

    No, Sir. Nothing of the sort has ever been deemed necessary before.

    Television Committee (Report)

    47.

    asked the Lord President of the Council whether he is now able to make any statement about the Report of the Television Committee.

    I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir. The report of the Television Committee is being published as a Stationery Office paper, and copies will be available in the Vote Office before the House rises to-day. The recommendations of the Committee are now under consideration by the Government.

    Agriculture

    Women's Land Army

    48.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture if he can now make a statement with regard to demobilisation benefits for the W.L.A.

    49.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is now able to announce the Government's proposals regarding the W.L.A.

    54.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture when he expects to make a statement with regard to his negotiations on the payment of a war gratuity to members of the W.L.A.

    I would ask my hon. Friends to await the statement to be made at the end of Questions by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

    Home-Grown Leeks (Market)

    50.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will confer with the Minister of Food with a view to ensuring that a market is available for the home-grown leeks, the market for which has been somewhat interfered with owing to the importation of foreign onions.

    I can assure my hon. Friend that I am in constant touch with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food concerning the marketing of agricultural produce. I do not think that the small importation of onions will have any appreciable effect on the market for home-grown leeks, which should be able to absorb remaining supplies of good quality.

    Does my right hon. Friend not appreciate the importance and vital necessity of the leek growers having an cutlet for their produce? It is a very important matter.

    Livestock (Marketing)

    51.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the difficulties now facing the markets committees of local authorities in making plans for the future of cattle markets generally; and whether he is in a position to make any statement with regard to post-war policy for the marketing of livestock.

    I am aware that certain local authorities have the future of their cattle markets under consideration, but regret that I am not at present in a position to make any statement about post-war arrangements for the marketing of livestock.

    Is my right hon. Friend fully aware of the urgency of this matter, and does he not consider a state-men long overdue?

    Prices

    52.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can now make some statement regarding farm produce prices and any proposed increases or cuts in prices for the next 12 months.

    I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement on this subject which appeared in the Press this morning.

    Are we to be guided entirely by statements in the Press? Is it not better to have these matters raised in the House?

    Is it not essential that an important statement, affecting agriculture and the country, should be made to the House, and that we should not be advised through the Press?

    It is a very long statement indeed, going into very great detail. I considered whether I should make it to-day, but, in view of its extreme length and detail, I felt that hon. Members would not like to hear it read out.

    But a statement contributed by the Minister to the Press is not debatable in this House. We can debate statements by Ministers only if they are made here. Can provision be made for Members to hear the statement, and discuss it?

    In view of the fact that Members on all sides of the House have been asking questions about this matter for a number of weeks, and that there has been no answer, will my right hon. Friend use his influence with the Leader of the House to see that we are given an early opportunity of debating the statement which appears in the Press to-day?

    It is not a matter for me, but if my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House could find the time, I should be very glad to have a Debate.

    This Question has been on the Order Paper for some days. Would it not have been better for my right hon. Friend to have answered it here, instead of doing so through the Press? It is a little hard on the hon. Member for Evesham.

    It may possibly be hard on my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère), but I must have regard to some 300,000 farmers, who want to know at the earliest possible moment what prices they are going to get for the crops they have been ordered to plant.

    Man-Power

    55.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that many farmers have carried out their cropping orders made by the war agricultural executive committees, but now find that they will no longer be able to do so in view of the shortage of labour, he, in conjunction with the Minister of Labour, will take steps to provide additional labour throughout the present year.

    Man-power requirements in agriculture in relation to the food production programme are kept under constant review by the Government, and everything possible will be done to provide the labour needed.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware of the appalling shortage of labour on the farms now, and that the question of food is vitally urgent for the future? Something further must be done about this matter.

    Housing Sites (Agricultural Land)

    56.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the contemplated seizure of valuable agricultural land in the parish of Barley for the erection of council houses, although other sites of less agricultural value are available; and if he will take steps to prevent inroads upon the agricultural resources of the country.

    My Department was consulted about the proposal of the Hitchin rural district council to erect houses on a site of about 3½ acres at Barley. After consideration, including consultation with the county war agricultural executive committee, the site was approved, no equally suitable alternative being discovered. In regard to the second half of the Question, housing proposals by local authorities are examined by my rural land utilisation officers, and my hon. Friend may rest assured that the agricultural interest is taken into account before sites are approved.

    Limestone Quarries (Exchequer Grant)

    57.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of complaints of delay by his Lime Department in settling payments of the subsidy for the inauguration of limestone quarries; that, in particular, the company which has opened up the quarries at Dufftown, Banffshire, are unable to procure their subsidy or any draw towards their expenditure which has been expended over two years; and what steps he is taking to arrange these matters to work more quickly and smoothly.

    I assume that my hon. and gallant Friend refers to the Exchequer grant towards the cost of plant for the production of ground limestone for agriculture. I was not aware that undue delay had occurred in the payment of these grants, or of instalments of them, which are, however, subject to the execution by the producers concerned of a deed embodying the conditions attaching to the grant. In the particular case mentioned, an advance payment has been applied for by the company, who have, however, questioned certain clauses in the deed which they have been asked to execute. The matter is now under examination, and an advance payment will be made to the company as soon as the necessary deed has been executed.

    Footpaths And Bridle Paths

    58.

    asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning, what action has been taken to implement the recommendations of the Scott Committee with regard to the marking of public footpaths and bridlepaths; and whether the local authorities have been requested to take steps to carry out these recommendations.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on the 21st December last. I have not yet received the report in question, but understand that work on its preparation is proceeding as rapidly as the exigencies of war permit.

    Would my right hon. Friend say whether the local authorities, in the meantime, are taking any steps to mark footpaths and bridlepaths in view of the urgency of the matter?

    Yes, Sir. I understand that most of them are interesting themselves in this matter.

    Pensions Appeal Tribunals

    60.

    asked the Minister of Pensions if he will give the gist of the new instructions recently given to those representatives of his Ministry who attend Pensions Appeal Tribunals as to the scope of their functions.

    There has been no change in the scope of the functions of the Ministry Representatives and consequently there has been no need to issue to them any new general instructions.

    Pensions And Grants

    62.

    asked the Minister of Pensions why a pensioner of the last war, promoted after first removal from duty on account of a disability for which pension was subsequently awarded, is granted a lower pension than would have been the case if his disablement had been sustained in the present war; and if he will take steps to bring the 1919 Royal Warrant into line with the 1943 Warrant.

    Substantive advancement after removal from duty counts for pension purposes in Great War cases as in present war cases. The present war code is more beneficial in the special case where, broadly speaking, a higher paid acting rank is held on removal from duty for aggravation of a condition for which there had been a previous removal. I cannot, however, undertake to bring the Great War instruments into line in every detail with those for present war cases.

    If the present code is more beneficial in this matter, as the Minister says, and, having regard to the fact that it is a real hardship for a man to get a pension below the rank he had previously held, will he assimilate conditions for the two wars?

    I am prepared to look into any case where hardship can be proved, but it is not worth while going through the process of issuing an amending Warrant for a particular case.

    Perhaps my right hon. Friend will include it in a new Warrant, not necessarily a special Warrant, as it is a small matter.

    If my hon. and gallant Friend will bring a case of alleged hardship, I will certainly look into it and consider the matter.

    63.

    asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that the Civilian Injuries Scheme makes no provision for the dependants of an injured civilian who are completely dependent by reason of ill-health; and whether he proposes to remedy this defect.

    Under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme an injured civilian receives, in addition to his own pension, allowances for a wife to whom he was married at the time of his injury and for any eligible children. His position in this respect is broadly comparable with that of disabled service pensioners and I do not feel justified in making provision for the grant of additional allowances in respect of other categories of dependants.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if a family have been maintaining a sick child of 17 or 18, and find that the breadwinner is incapacitated, they get nothing at all in respect of that child, and it means that it has to be sent to an institution?

    I am very much puzzled as to what the hon. and learned Member really means, and I should be very glad if he will talk to me about the case he has in mind.

    64.

    asked the Minister of Pensions will he seek powers to pay wounds or disability pensions to disabled men retained in His Majesty's Forces and bring them into line with re-engaged war disability pensioners.

    It is a long established principle that a war disability pension is not payable before the termination of the member's period of full paid service. This, in my view, is the proper and, indeed, the only practicable, arrangement. An existing pensioner who re-enlists is specially treated on the grounds that he enters upon a new engagement and that it is reasonable that he should continue to draw any disability pension awarded to him in respect of a previous completed engagement.

    India

    Legislative Assembly (Government Defeats)

    65.

    asked the Secretary of State for India, how many times the Government has been defeated in the Legislative Assembly during the last six months, and on what issues.

    I understand from Press reports that the Government of India have been defeated six times in the present budget session of the Legislative Assembly. The first occasion was a vote of censure relating to the grievances of Indians in South Africa; the second issue was that of the methods used for the sale of National Savings Certificates by Government agents in Bihar; the remaining four issues arose in connection with the railway budget.

    Would the right hon. Gentleman say which he considers more adequately expresses the opinion of India—the Government of India, on the one hand, or the Legislature, on the other?

    Political Situation

    69.

    asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the desirability of effecting an early solution of the Indian problem, he will consider, without prejudice to the Cripps proposals, taking the initiative in bringing the various interests together for the purpose of another discussion.

    66.

    asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the recent speech by Sir Zafrulla Khan to the Commonwealth Conference regard- ing another approach by His Majesty's Government to the Indian situation, he can make any statement on this matter.

    I do not think there is need at this juncture to make any fresh statement on the Indian policy of His Majesty's Government, which has been made fully clear to the world in the Draft Declaration published on 29th March, 1942, and in subsequent pronouncements by His Majesty's Ministers. The fulfilment of that policy depends on a common measure of agreement between the principal parties which His Majesty's Government sincerely wish to see attained. The fact that a committee of Indians under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru is at present studying the problem is welcome evidence that Indians appreciate the importance of the part they must themselves play in shaping the political future of their country.

    In view of the conciliatory speeches made recently by Sir Zafrulla Khan and other moderate Indian leaders on this subject, which seems to indicate a new line of approach to a solution of this problem, and, as it is necessary that somebody must take the initiative, is it not desirable that His Majesty's Government should make a friendly gesture in the hope of effecting a rapprochement?

    While attaching every importance to a speech made by any distinguished Indian, the fact remains that, at present, the leading parties have not yet come into sufficient touch to enable the corresponding gesture from His Majesty's Government to be of any real effect.

    But, at a time when every effort is being made by the British Government and the Allied Governments to effect a solution of world problems is it not desirable that the Indian problem, at some stage, should be included?

    May I ask my right hon. Friend whether this is not the time to make a démarche of the kind suggested in the Question, and whether he will take very serious note of the practical nature of this suggestion, which may be, at some time, the proper measure to be taken by the Government?

    Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it would be useful if he would renew his assurances on the efforts constantly being made in the Section 93 Provinces to bring about a resumption of constitutional government?

    It is well known that, in all these Provinces, as soon as there is a willingness to resume constitutional government. Governors will respond to that willingness, as they have done in several Provinces.

    Burma (Service Personnel, Property Losses)

    67.

    asked the Secretary of State for India why no compensation is given to military personnel who lost personal property in Burma when it was invaded by the Japanese; how many officers and men are affected; and whether he will consider the grant of some compensation in view of the losses sustained.

    Payment of compensation to military personnel for personal kit lost as the result of enemy action in the Far East and Burma up to or in connection with the evacuation of Burma in 1942, was provided for in Army Instruction (India) 314 of 1943. As regards claims to compensation for other personal property lost in Burma, military personnel are in the same position as civilians. Their claims are registered by the Government of Burma for consideration after the war. The number of claims so registered is not on record in my office.

    Colonies (Double Taxation)

    71.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will arrange with the Secretary of State for the Colonies to co-ordinate as far as possible the provisions of the Income Tax Bill with the financial ordinances of the various colonial Governments to ensure equal treatment for industrial concerns registered in this country but operating in the Colonies and therefore affected by double taxation.

    I shall be glad to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies to bring the provisions of the Income Tax Bill, when enacted, to the notice of Colonial Governments concerned, so that those Governments may consider what action is desirable.

    Great Britain And Sweden (Monetary Agreement)

    72.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has any statement to make about the conclusion of a payments agreement between this country and Sweden.

    A Monetary Agreement between His Majesty's Government and the Swedish Government was signed on 6th March. It provides a satisfactory mechanism of payments between the sterling area and Sweden and will thus facilitate trade. The text of the Agreement is being presented to Parliament and copies will be available in the Vote Office after Questions.

    May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is quite clear that this bilateral currency and trade agreement does not conflict with the Bretton Woods proposals?

    Seac (Tobacco And Beer Supplies)

    77.

    asked the Secretary of State for War when the troops under S.E.A.C. are to receive the increase in the rations of tobacco, cigarettes and beer promised after Lord Minister's visit.

    I am not aware of the promise to which my hon. Friend refers. The present ration of cigarettes or tobacco which is issued to all officers and men on field service in S.E.A.C. is 50 cigarettes or two ounces of tobacco a week. An increase of this ration to 100 cigarettes or four ounces of tobacco for British troops in the forward areas has now been authorised. Considerable efforts are being made to step up the supply of beer, and it is hoped to achieve an appreciable increase from June onwards.

    If I send my hon. and learned Friend a copy of a letter I have received from people in S.E.A.C. in which they say they have been promised this increase but have not had it, will he look into the matter?

    I would remind my hon. Friend that the increase has just been authorised.

    May I ask the Minister to re-read Lord Munster's report? Is he aware that it is not so much the quantity but the quality of the cigarettes and the fact that they are produced in India, and that they are very unpopular? Are we sending cigarettes from this country?

    I hope my hon. Friend will realise that the quality of the cigarettes depends on imports of American tobacco but we are hopeful that in the near future some improvement may be possible.