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Commons Chamber

Volume 409: debated on Thursday 29 March 1945

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 29th March, 1945

The House met at Eleven o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

New Writ

For the Borough of Middlesbrough (West Division), in the room of the right honourable Harcourt Johnstone, deceased.—[ Sir Percy Harris.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Institution, Cockermouth (Staff)


asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to the shortage of staff at the Dovenby Hall Colony Institution for Mental Defectives, Cockermouth; whether this institution will be permitted to advertise for candidates; or what steps are being taken by his Ministry to make available sufficient staff to deal with the 335 patients.

Since last December vacancies have been notified to my Department by this institution for four nursing assistants, one assistant seamstress, and one painter decorator. Two nursing assistants have been submitted, one of whom has been engaged, and one is still under consideration. I shall do my best to provide the additional staff needed. I would point out however, that the position compares not unfavourably with that in some other similar institutions, and whilst the institution can advertise for staff under 18 or over 40, I do not feel that I can agree to special treatment as regards advertising for men and women within the controlled-age groups.

May I take it that my right hon. Friend will really try to meet the additional requirements, because it is commonly known in this part of the country that the institution is very short of staff indeed?

I am doing my best for all these institutions, but the position is very difficult.

Industrial Reconversion

Business Administration Traininģ (Committee)


asked the Minister of Labour why on Sir Frank Newson-Smith's Committee to advise on training for business administration there is no representative of small independent traders; and if he is prepared to add such a representative in view of the number of Service men who wish to enter this type of business on demobilisation.

If my hon. Friend will look at the terms of reference of the Committee, a copy of which I am sending him, he will see that it would not be appropriate to extend its membership as suggested.

Architects And Surveyors (Release From Forces)


asked the Minister of Labour whether architects and surveyors now in the Forces will get special emergency releases as soon as regular demobilisation commences.

Under the Government scheme for release from the Forces after the defeat of Germany, it will be open to the appropriate Government Departments to apply for the release of architects and surveyors as individual specialists, provided they are shown to be necessary, and do not involve the reduction of those entitled to come out under Class A.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that these are key people, and that if they are not available the building trade operatives will be prevented from getting ahead with their work?

I think we can overestimate the value of these specialists. I want to make it clear that I cannot be a party to reducing the number of people entitled to come under Class A. if I did, the whole demobilisation scheme would break down.

Joint Production Committees


asked the Minister of Labour the present position with regard to the negotiations with the Trade Union Congress and the employers' federations on the future of joint production committees and the maintenance of such machinery of collaboration in the post-war period.

I cannot add to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend, in reply to a similar Question, on 28th September last.

As a considerable period has gone by since that reply was given, surely my right hon. Friend is able to report some progress on this important matter? Has there been any development?

No, Sir; this question is being discussed between the unions and the employers all the time. I have not endeavoured to bring it down to a rigid formula for all the unions in the country. This matter is being developed every day, in almost every agreement that is made.

House Equipment Manufacture (Scotland)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the concern felt by foundries and engineering firms Scotland that similar firms in England are now offering immediate delivery of cookers and other parts, for which workshop space and plant is available in Scotland; and whether, for these and other industries, he will give an assurance that Scottish workers directed to England for essential war work will, on becoming available for the manufacture of peace-type products, be made available to such industries in Scotland, before they are transferred in England to such work.

I am not aware of any general concern such as is suggested, and I understand that Scotland has been given a substantial proportion of the total production of housing fitments so far allocated. Existing arrangements for reallocating war workers provide for their return home so far as this is possible, having regard to the heavy demands for work of immediate urgency which are still current.

While these firms generally agree that war work must come first, is my right hon. Friend aware that certain firms are being asked to proceed with the manufacture of meters, cookers, and other things required for homes, that the girls formerly employed are now in England, and that these firms are concerned about the girls being transferred to work on peace-type products in England, instead of being allowed to come home? If he could assure us that that matter was being attended to it would be an advantage.

I will attend to it; but it is rather striking that the girls who have been transferred to England are not showing a keen anxiety to go back to Scotland.

Mineworkers (Recall To Forces)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that men released from the Army to work underground in coalmines and placed in W. T. Reserve, are being notified to hold themselves in readiness for medical examination for recall to the Colours; and whether, as this action of recalling efficient coalmine workers will increase the difficulties of coal production and mean an increase in selection and training expense of young men as coalminers who would otherwise be posted to one of the Services, ho will reconsider the question.

No, Sir. Men on release from the Forces for employment underground in coalmines are not being recalled to the Forces so long as they remain in that employment. If they leave underground coalmining or are reported as being physically unfit for that work, they are, of course, considered for recall.

Will my right hon. Friend communicate with the R.A. (H.A.A.), Record Office, Dunchurch Road, Rugby, about their issuing orders recalling men in these circumstances, or shall I send him the names of men who have been recalled?

If my hon. Friend will let me have the particulars, I will look into them.

Town And Country Planning

Proposed Reservoir, Manifold Valley


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning the position with regard to the proposal of the Leicester Corporation to erect a new reservoir in the Manifold Valley; and whether he will take steps to prevent the area being damaged as a national park.

So far as I am aware the Leicester Corporation have not yet taken any formal steps in this matter. I should, however, if authority is sought for these works, consult with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health in the matter.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this will have a most serious effect on one of the most beautiful valleys in this national park; and will he watch the matter most carefully?

Yes, Sir, I will see that full consideration is given to all these aspects of the matter.

National Parks (Report)


asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning when it is proposed to publish the Report on National Parks by Mr. John Dower.

I hope to be able to publish the Report shortly, but I am not in a position to state the precise date of publication.

In view of the fact that, from all accounts, the Report has been available for many months, and that my right hon. Friend said the other day that he would publish it, why not fix a definite date?

Will my right hon. Friend remember that last September he said, in reply to a question of mine, that he hoped to publish it shortly?

That is quite true. Since then we have had the matter considered by all the Departments whose activities are involved, and that consideration is very nearly finished. I hope to get the Report out very shortly.

Will my right hon. Friend let the country know, in general, the areas that he proposes to reserve in this way, so that there will not be the complications which have already been indicated as developing?

Pensions And Grants


asked the Minister of Pensions how many men who have served in the present war and have been discharged and granted a pension have since had their pensions reconsidered following medical examination; and how many have had their pensions increased and how many decreased.

I regret that the information asked for by my hon. Friend could not be obtained without a disproportionate expenditure of time and labour.

War Orphans (Adoption)


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he allows the adoption of war orphans not already in the care of relatives; how long is the waiting list of persons who wish to adopt them; and how many war orphans have been placed in public or charitable institutions.

I have no general objection to the legal adoption of war orphans, but in view of the serious issues involved for the adopting parents and the child I do not give my support to a proposed adoption until an adequate period of trial has shown that it is likely to be a practical success. If satisfied after a reasonable period that adoption would be for the child's permanent benefit, I have supported it. The waiting list of people anxious to adopt war orphans numbers just over 3,000. The number of war orphans under my control who have been placed in public or charitable institutions is seven, and in each instance there is some special reason why the child cannot be placed in a private home. There are, of course, some war orphans who are receiving the benefit of secondary education at one or other of the well-known charitable schools and spend their vacation with relatives or friends.

Does that mean that persons on the waiting list are given a child for a probationary period, after which the question of adoption is considered?

Certainly. I think it is most essential that I should be thoroughly assured that the child will suit the foster parents, and that the foster parents will suit the child, before allowing adoption.


Cloth Supplies, Benģal


asked the Secretary of State for India if he is aware of a severe shortage of cloth in Bengal; what action is being taken to meet the need; what contracts for cloth have been given by die Government; and whether tenders were asked for these.

War conditions have led to a reduction throughout India of the supply of cotton cloth available for civil consumption. Supplies allocated to Bengal as to other provinces are on the basis of a proportion of previous consumption, but there are local difficulties of distribution, and complaints have been made recently of severe shortage in some parts of the province. Ministers of the Bengal Government are answerable for distribution within the province and detailed information is not available here as to the remedial measures they contemplate.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reply more fully to the latter part of my Question—whether tenders were asked for contracts given by the Government?

The matter is entirely one for the Bengal Government; and I do not know whether, they have asked for tenders, or mean to ask for them.

Indian Army Officers


asked the Secretary of State for India if he is aware that there is no scheme of repatriation for temporary officers in the Indian Army similar to that in force for British Army officiers attached to the Indian Army; and if he will take steps to correct this anomaly.

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Sir W. Wayland) on 14th November and to my hon. Friend the Member for the Cathcart division of Glasgow (Mr. F. Beattie) on 14th December of which I am sending him copies.

As this matter arouses considerable feeling and the anomaly is one which could be ironed out, will the right hon. Gentleman look again, to see if something cannot be done for these officers?

I believe that everything has been done that could be done. If the hon. Member looks at my previous answers, both to Questions on the Paper and to supplementaries, I think he will find his point completely covered.


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that emergency commissioned officers of the Indian Army are being subjected to hardship on release from Army service in India, owing to delays in settling up their pay and allowances; and if he will take steps to remedy this.

I am sure that the Government of India endeavour to avoid delays in the settlement of the accounts of officers released from service; I will, however, specifically bring to their notice the question of my hon. and gallant Friend.

Political Situation (Discussions With Viceroy)


asked the Secretary of State for India if his discussions with Lord Wavell will include consideration of the political situation in India.


asked the Secretary of State for India to what extent the visit of Lord Wavell to this country indicates a reconsideration of political issues and the possibility of fresh negotiations towards a settlement; and whether the question of the release of political detainees is likely to be discussed.

As I stated in the Rouse last week, I hope to discuss all political issues, as well as many other issues, with Lord Wavell.

Will these discussions cover such points as the early Indianisation of the Viceroy's Council?

Does it also include reconsideration of the question of releasing political detainees?

Will the Secretary of State not only consider the release of political leaders but also consider the representation of the political leaders at San Francisco?

Press Aģencies (Payments)


asked the Secretary of State for India the amounts paid to Reuters and the Associated Press by the Central Governments and the Provincial Governments either as subsidies, fees or subscriptions and the increase in these amounts during the past six years; what amounts are paid to any other agency of a similar character; and whether there is any Indian representative on Reuters.

I am making inquiries of the Government of India and will inform the hon. Member of the outcome.

Prison Libraries


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the expenditure per prisoner on books for prison libraries has been or will be raised to cover the increase since the outbreak of war in the cost of books.

Under a Treasury ruling common to all Departments with grants for buying books, the grant for books for prison libraries was cut by 25 per cent. in 1940. I am glad to say that it has now been found possible to restore this grant to the pre-war figure. In the meantime, however, with the goodwill and encouragement of the County Councils Association, very valuable help, which I gratefully acknowledge, has been given to prison libraries from various county libraries and also from other libraries and from private gifts. Arrangements have now been made at some prisons for prisoners to have access to the prison library and to choose and exchange their own books; this, wherever it has been instituted, has resulted in a marked decrease in destruction of books, and it is hoped to extend this experiment to other prisons as soon as the staff situation permits.

Does my right hon. Friend think that, as a result of these arrangements, for which I thank him, the supply of hooks available per prisoner is as great as it was before the war?

I think so, and, indeed, the county libraries arrangement, I think, should enable the number of books to be greater than before the war.

Can the Minister say whether HANSARD is supplied, and, if not, whether he will consider supplying it?

Cruelty To Children (Sentences)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the strong public feeling that the sentences being imposed by magistrates in cases of cruelty to children are inadequate; and whether he will take early steps to circularise those concerned or to take such other action as appears to him to be desirable to ensure heavier sentences in such cases.

It is the responsibility of magistrates, in this as in other classes of offence, to decide what is the appropriate penalty having regard to all the circumstances of the particular case. I have no information which suggests that there is any general failure to do so where offences of cruelty to children are concerned, as distinct from neglect due to ignorance or lack of training, and a circular from me is not necessary for the purpose of calling the attention of magistrates to public feeling on this matter. Moreover, in the exercise of judicial functions it is of paramount importance that magistrates should address their minds to the merits of the individual case and should not be carried away by waves of feeling which may occur from time to time in the direction of either leniency or severity. My hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that, for these reasons, it would be wrong for me to recommend an indiscriminate increase of sentences for this class of offence.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask if he is aware of the very great public feeling that there is at present about this class of case?

Yes, Sir, I certainly am, and I am quite sure that the magistrates are also aware of it.

Is my right hon. Friend also aware that there is a great deal of feeling about circularising magistrates?

Service Register (Prisoners Of War)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to ensure that British prisoners of war returning to this country between now and the General Election will not be deprived of their right to vote because they have been unable to complete the service electoral registration forms by the appointed day.

Section 20 of the Representation of the People Act provides that an electoral declaration by a member of the Forces who has been a prisoner of war, if endorsed to this effect, will entitle him to be included in a service register provided the declaration is received not later than four clear days before nomination day. The Service Departments have taken steps to give effect to this provision.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him whether the provisions are being made known to the prisoners of war, or whether they will automatically he made known to them on their return to this country?

My hon. Friend will, of course, appreciate that it is not too easy to let them know as things are, but steps have been taken to see that, immediately they are released, they shall be informed.

Street Musicians And Mendicants


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that a gradually increasing number of street musicians and other mendicants are making their appearance in London; and whether, in view of the continuing shortage of labour and the more generous treatment now available from the appropriate social services, he will take steps to check this growth.

I am not aware of any recent marked increase in the number of street musicians or mendicants, but I am in sympathy with the object which my hon. Friend has in mind, and I have been in consultation with the Commissioner of Police on the subject. The Metropolitan Police are well aware of the desirability of doing everything they can to deal with those who exploit the mistaken generosity of many members of the public, and I am satisfied that there will be no failure on the part of the police to make the fullest use of their powers to mitigate this nuisance.

Would my right hon. Friend arrange for the powers of the Metropolitan Police to be somewhat strengthened in this respect, particularly in view of the fact that the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Pensions have made appropriate arrangements now for training and rehabilitation schemes, which could be applied to the people described in the Question?

I will consider the point. I am afraid that it will involve legislation, to which it might be difficult to give time, but, as I say, I will look into the point.

No, Sir. That would be a grave abuse of the powers of delegated legislation under the Emergency Powers Act—an offence which I should be shocked to commit.

Is it not a fact that most of these people are old and decrepit?

They are a mixed lot, but I would not attempt to make any general description of them.

Will my right hon. Friend pay special attention to the barrel organ grinders?

Publication, "The Vanguard"


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered the copy sent to him of a leaflet, signed Alexander Ratcliffe, advertising a publication called "The Vanguard," which is being circulated to Members of Parliament and others, in which Hitler is held up as

"the saviour of Europe if he succeeds in sweeping hack Bolshevism, which is blessed by the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the American President";
and that action he is taking to prevent the, irculation of leaflets designed to haper our war effort.

Yes, Sir, I have considered the leaflet which my hon. Friend has sent me. It is very similar to the propaganda which this man has been disseminating since the beginning of the war, and objectionable though it is, I have found no evidence that he has succeeded in persuading the British public to accept his extraordinary views. Intervention on my part would appear to be unnecessary.

Will my right hon. Friend say why this Mr. Ratcliffe and his pernicious paper should not be dealt with under Regulation 18B, under which far less notorious and more humble persons have been dealt with; and what is the reason for this differentiation?

Regulation 18B was never meant to be used to put inside everybody we disagree with, and it is most important that that should be remembered. If I were convinced that this man was a danger to security, and the prosecution of the war, in he would go, but I am convinced that he is not, and that he is not worth the distinction that 18B would confer upon him.

While agreeing with my right hon. Friend that this man and his activities are beneath contempt and should be ignored, is the Minister aware that the same man issued a regular stream of publications advocating a sort of racial hatred and anti-Semitism of the most violent form, and that he is doing real harm among ignorant people, and cannot that side of his activities be repressed?

It is objectionable, but, again, the only question for me is this—Is it endangering security and the prosecution of the war to such an extent that I should take extreme action? I do not think it is and I beg of the House to treat with respect the instinct at the Home Office that we should not use these exceptional powers, unless it is really justified in the public interest.

Is there the slightest likelihood of this publication altering the further progress of the war now?

In view of the shortage of paper, surely paper ought not to be supplied to such a publication as this?


Salary Scales (Uncertificated Teachers)


asked the Minister of Education whether newly-qualified teachers, with reference to the scale of salaries, are those who have 20 plus years of experience; whether that means they are in the same position as new inexperienced persons entering the teaching profession; and whether he will reconsider the position created by the suggested one increment above the basic scale for every three years' service over 20 years, so that the period of service should entitle such teachers between 55 and 60 years of age to the maximum of the scale of pensions.

As indicated in paragraph 10 of Circular 30, uncertificated teachers who, at any time between 1st April, 1945, and 31st March, 1950, have completed not less than twenty years' service as uncertificated teachers may be regarded as qualified teachers. I do not think a comparison can properly be made between these teachers and others who have completed a course of training before entering the teaching profession and are thereby eligible to enter at the minimum of the scale for qualified teachers. As the hon. Member realises, some allowance is made for past service in excess of twenty years in the starting pay of uncertificated teachers, who, under the new arrangements, will proceed on the basic scale for qualified teachers, and I see no reason to question the recommendations of the Burnham Committee in this respect.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that 20 years is a very long period to serve under present conditions in this respect; and can he say whether any of these uncertificated teachers will ever reach the maximum?

I think that only a few months ago the uncertificated teacher would have been very surprised if he had been able to get as far as this. I believe that there is a sense of gratitude among uncertificated teachers for the course of action I have adopted, and I am afraid that I cannot go any further.

Fleminģ Report (Scheme B)


asked the Minister of Education what conclusions were reached at his recent interview with the school authorities to whom Scheme B of the Fleming Report may apply; whether that scheme has his support; and when and if it can be carried into effect even without the adherence of all those to whom it is designed to apply.

The representatives of governing bodies and of the associations of headmasters and headmistresses who recently met me expressed their readiness to co-operate with my Department in examining the details of Scheme B. of the Fleming Report. I have gladly accepted this offer, and until the examination has been completed, I think it would be premature for me to express any general opinion on the merits of Scheme B. or on the methods of putting it into effect.

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted that Scheme B has been applied to entry into Dartmouth College in its entirety by the First Lord of the Admiralty; can he say by what means Members of Parliament can keep up to date in this very important matter, and finally, what measure of support and of opposition he got at the recent meeting?

I cannot add anything in respect of the last part of the question. In respect of Dartmouth College, I can only say that the scheme for Dartmouth College has a certain similarity to Scheme B and appears to be very successful.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, in principle, he will be prepared to accept the scheme which is applied to some of the schools, or does he feel that he will have to wait until it applies to all schools?

May I ask my right hon. Friend how it comes about that the proposal of Scheme B, which has been out and published for such a very long time, is now only being examined by the people to whom it is designed to apply?

I should think there has been enough activity on the educational front to account for a certain delay, but I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the implication of Scheme B had to be considered and fully examined by the parties interested. They then requested to see me and I acceded to their request, and had a very fruitful meeting. Had the matter been rushed the meeting might not have been so fruitful. This accords with my policy throughout the negotiations for educational reform.

Requisitioned Schools (Southampton)


asked the Minister of Education if he is now satisfied with arrangements made to return the use of the Southampton schools to the education committee before the summer term.

Two of the four secondary schools Concerned have been de-requisitioned, but I shall not be satisfied until all the schools are returned to the local education authority, and I am exploring every available means, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, of securing that this should be brought about at the earliest possible moment.

Can my right hon. Friend make representations with regard to the return of St. Dunstan's College, which has been half occupied by the military for a very long time?

Public Health

Women Medical Students

33 and 37.

asked the Minister of Health (1) what steps he proposes to take to provide tuition for the large number of women medical students who are unable to obtain entrance to hospitals, pending a change of policy of the teaching hospitals reserved for men;

(2) if he is aware that whereas male medical students are not called upon to sit for competitive entrance examination, the competition for the small number of vacancies allotted to female students is severe; and if, in view of the large additional numbers of doctors which will be required after the war, he is taking steps to increase the facilities for female medical students, and to abolish competitive examinations in their case.


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that a large number of women students who have taken their first M.B. are unable to obtain places in medical schools; and if he has any proposals to make to deal with this situation in view of the shortage of doctors.

It is necessary, in order that man-power may be allocated in the best way, to fix quotas for the numbers of men and women to be admitted as medical students. The women's quota is fixed by reference to the number of women students admitted in the three years 1937–40, and in addition a medical school which admits both men and women may make good the deficiency in male students by admitting women. Neither the teaching staff nor the accommodation is at present available for extending teaching facilities. I would, however, refer my hon. Friends to the statements of policy made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 13th February, and by myself on r8th January, in which the Government have given every encouragement to universities to formulate plans at once for development of their medical schools a soon as conditions permit, with special reference to the needs of women students.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman fully alive to the urgency of this problem? Does he realise that there are hundreds of brilliant young women who have passed their first medical who are now regarded as redundant, although there is an urgent need for doctors; and is he also aware that the quota that was fixed was determined by the fact that only four hospitals in London admit women, whereas every hospital admits men—

In view of the fact, Mr. Speaker, that I have two Questions on the Paper, may I ask a supplementary on the second Question now, instead of having to get up again? Is the Minister aware that this competition, which men do not have to take, is so severe that questions, such as, "Who is Dennie Cherrol?"; "Who painted the Folies Bergères'?"; and "Who was in possession of Memel in 1937?", were asked of these girls in February of this year?

I cannot possibly answer all these questions, but I am fully aware of the urgency of the matter, not less because I have a daughter who is a prospective medical student. The real difficulty is the shortage of teachers at the moment, and that is one of the matters to which we are paying particular attention.

May I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware of the fact that there are many students who are allowed to get up to their second M.B. but they cannot get into hospital and they thus waste all the time they have spent in study; is he aware of the fact that much of the difficulty arises from lack of accommodation; will he consider the possibility of public hospitals becoming medical schools; and is he aware that what he has just said relates to men and does not relate to women?

The possibility of the use of public hospitals for medical schools was, of course, fully considered by a very responsible Committee, the Goodenough Committee, on whose conclusions I have already made a statement.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that some nurses who volunteered are anxious to pursue their medical studies, and will he facilitate their release from public hospitals to which they are now attached?

Tuberculosis (Wales)


asked the Minister of Health the number of cases of tuberculosis notified in Wales during the past year; what is the number of persons now awaiting admission to sanatoria; and what steps are being taken to increase the accommodation at sanatoria.

The answers to the first and second parts of the Question are 4983 and 729. Building work, which is expected to be completed within the next six months, is proceeding at the Glan Ely and Cefn Mably Tuberculosis Hospitals to provide 96 additional patient beds. One hundred and fifty beds have also been secured at the Ministry of Pensions Hospital, Chepstow, and are being brought into commission as staff becomes available.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether those figures show an increase or a decrease on the previous year?

Artificial Insemination (Experiments)


asked the Minister of Health in how many clinics and by how many physicians are experiments now being conducted in the artificial insemination of women; how many children have been or are expected shortly to be born in Britain as a result of such experiments; how many of these children are the offspring of their mother's husband; how many of anonymous donors; and in the latter case, how the facts are recorded in the register of births.

I have no information on the first part of the Question beyond what has appeared in the medical Press, from which I understand that artificial insemination has been carried out at a voluntary clinic at Exeter. On the subsequent parts of the Question I have no information, but, so far as I am aware, no births have been registered as resulting from artificial insemination.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that this is a very serious development, with tremendous social and legal, as well as scientific, implications, with great possibilities and great dangers; and will he call for a full report from the physicians concerned, and make all the facts known to the House?

I will consider that question, but I am in some doubt whether I have power to call for a full report from physicians acting in a private capacity.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend consider having this added to the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on Population, who would have power to call evidence?

No, Sir, I doubt very much whether that body would be the appropriate body to consider this question.

Is this not of sufficient importance for the Minister to seek these powers?

Is there any way by which this House can be informed on this tremendously important development?

Surely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not going to let a practice of such great importance to this country go uncontrolled while he is Minister of Health; and will he not take legal powers to deal with a matter of this kind?

This obviously has every possibility of being a most difficult and controversial subject. On the information I have at present, which, as I have told the House, is restricted to what has appeared in the medical Press, it is clear that it has many facets and many possibilities, but I will consider what has been suggested and whether I can obtain fuller information than has appeared so far.

Civil Defence

Bombed-Out People (Billetinģ Allowances)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that hardship is caused to some bombed-out people when their billeting allowance stops and they are called upon to pay rent and other expenses involving them in a loss; and if he will amend the regulations so as to provide for payment of allowances to cover any such loss.

No, Sir. Where bombed-out people are temporarily accommodated under official arrangements and hardship would be caused by the withdrawal of the billeting allowances, the billeting authority has discretion to continue payment and, in assessment for recovery, any continuing liabilities in respect of the original home are taken into consideration. If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any specific case of hardship, I shall be glad to look into it.

London Ambulance Service (War Service Chevrons)


asked the Minister of Health if members of the London Ambulance Service will be entitled to wear war service chevrons in view of the fact that under the Civil Defence (Employment), No. 2, Order, 1940, they were enrolled as C.D. workers.

As I indicated in reply to my hon. Friend on 2nd November last, members of the London Ambulance Service are entitled to wear war service chevrons if they have in fact been enrolled as whole-time Civil Defence workers. The order cited by my hon. Friend, which required men employed in certain specified services to continue in their employment until released, did not provide for enrolment, its application to any particular person being a matter for decision by the courts.


Council Houses (Rents)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the decision of the Ampthill, Bedfordshire, rural council to increase the rents of their houses by 1s. per week to meet the increased cost of repairs; what percentage this increase is on the net rental; and under what authority local authorities owning houses are in a more favourable position in this -respect than private owners.

My attention had not previously been drawn to this decision. The increase represents 18.4 per cent. on the average rental, excluding rates, and is made under the authority of section 83 of the Housing Act, 1936, and section 3 (2) of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act, 1939.

Has the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman been drawn to other local authorities since I put my Question down, such as the L.C.C., who are also increasing their rents by as much as 5s. per week? Also, he has not answered the part of my Question where I asked why should local authorities be more favourably placed than private owners.

If the hon. Gentleman will look again at his Question he will find that he did not ask for reasons or causes; he asked, "Under what authority local authorities owning houses are in a more favourable position." The answer that I gave him indicated that it was under authority given by Parliament.

When will private owners be placed iii the same position as local authorities?

My hon. Friend is perhaps aware that I have very recently received the report of the.Rent Control Committee, which is now under consideration.

On that point, could I ask my right hon. and learned Friend, since he has had this report now a fair time, when it is likely to be published?

I think that that Question is on the Paper to-day. The answer is that it will be published shortly after Easter.

Architects And Surveyors


asked the Minister of Health if it is with his approval that newspaper and B.B.C. advertisements are being issued calling for architects and surveyors to serve in occupied Germany; and how this appeal is reconciled with the known shortage of these skilled men whose services in the housing programme are in such demand in this country.

The advertisements to which my hon. Friend refers were issued by the Minister of Labour and National Service on the recommendation of an Inter-departmental Committee. The Government are fully aware of the need for technical staff in this country and the staff required for the Control Commission will be recruited with due regard to that need.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, in the opinion of all the local authorities with which I have been in contact, it is a preposterous suggestion to induce British architects and surveyors, who are in such short supply, to go to Germany to rebuild that country?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Minister of Labour this morning demonstrated great hesitation about releasing architects and surveyors, and if more are affected in this way will it not jeopardise the success of the housing programme?

No one could be more fully aware than I that local authorities should increase their technical staff. On the other hand, the policy of the Government with regard to the control of Germany quite obviously necessitates the use of a proper number of officials in many categories, of which this is one.

Prefabricated Components


asked the Minister of Works whether he has considered installing assembling plants for prefabricated materials so enabling a saving of time and cost in post-war housing schemes.

For the purpose of the temporary housing programme steps have already been taken to set up depots where prefabricated components are assembled for distribution to sites. We already have in mind the possibilities of similar arrangements for the components of permanent houses when these come into production.

Would my hon. Friend look into this question again and see whether it is possible to have them in the major regions, because it has been proved that where they have been used not only money but time as well has been saved?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the country is well covered with the depots we are now setting up; we have roughly 240,000 square feet available at this moment and are speeding up to well over 1,000,000 square feet.

National Finance

Currency Notes (Desiģn)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the first issue of the designs now in use of £5, £1 and 10s. notes was made; and the nominal value of forged currency notes of each denomination withdrawn from circulation since these issues were made.

In reply to the first part of the Question, the present designs of the £1 and 10s, notes were introduced in 1928 and that of the £5 note in 1855. It would involve a very disproportionate amount of labour to extract the information asked for in the second part of the Question, but the number of forgeries received is insignificant.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the making of a new issue of notes and the invalidation of the old issue is long overdue now in order to counter the activities of the forgers and tax evaders?

Arising out of that unsatisfactory reply, I give notice that I will raise the subject on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

Holidays With Pay (Taxation Liability)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether any company, promoted with the object of guaranteeing builders and engineering firms against disbursements in connection with holidays with pay, have claimed exemption from taxation under Section 34 of the Income Tax Act, 1918, of interest on funds accumulated under such a scheme; and whether such accumulated funds are liable for reimbursement to the employers who have subscribed to such a scheme but who, during the accounting year, owing to the transference of labour to other industries have made no claims.

I am not clear what my hon. Friend has in mind, but I gather that he is asking me to make a statement as to the taxation position of a particular concern, and I am afraid I cannot express any opinion as to the liability to tax in particular cases.

Is the Chancellor aware that a certain company collected, in about 15 months, £1,700,000 from employers, for holidays with pay, and disbursed only £250,000, and invested £1,300,000 in War Bonds, which brought in £17,000 interest, on which the Revenue authorities admitted a claim for exemption? Does he not think that in such cases some tightening of the law is necessary?

Leģislation (Post-War Cost)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will inform the House of the estimated probable cost involved by the Education Act when fully in operation and other schemes recently approved in principle by Parliament, such as the 5s. a week grant for the second child, additional meals and milk for schoolchildren, gratuities for the Forces on demobilisation, Colonial development, building subsidies, etc.

The cost of supplying free meals and milk to children at school is estimated to be £60,000,000 when the service is fully developed (see Cmd. 6550, Paragraph 51). The estimated cost of war gratuities for the Forces on demobilisation is £200,000,000 and other release benefits (release leave, civilian outfits, post-war credits and foreign service leave) are estimated to cost a further £500,000,000. Estimates of the cost of the other items mentioned in my hon. Friend's Question are included in the statement published in the OFFICIAL REPORT for Wednesday, 28th March, in response to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) on 13th March. I should perhaps make it clear that the figures shown in this statement under the heading of "Education" do not include the cost of free meals and milk to children at school, which I have given above.

Can my right hon. Friend say what are the approximate totals of these figures, including those given by him to my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams)?

I would ask my hon. Friend to be good enough to look at today's HANSARD, where he will see a tabular statement which gives the fullest information.


Women's Land Army


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is yet in a position to state whether arrangements will be made to enable those members of the W.L.A. who would like to make a career in agriculture at the end of the war to receive the necessary training facilities to do so.

As I stated on 22nd February, the further education and training scheme, and the vocational training scheme, particulars of which have already been announced, will be available for suitable members of the Women's Land Army in common with men and women released from other forms of war service. So far as the present position is concerned, W.L.A. members can now be released to take courses at colleges and universities with a view to securing teaching and advisory posts in agriculture; and members who are considered suitable and can find vacancies at shorter courses at farm institutes may be allowed to take those courses while retaining their membership of the Land Army.


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that women are still being recruited into the W.L.A. at the approximate rate of 300 per month, steps are being taken to make clear to these women that they will not receive the same pecuniary benefits at the end of hostilities as if they entered other Services.

No, Sir. There is no need for the special steps suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend.

Piģs And Poultry


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the decrease in the poultry and pig populations of this country since the commencement of the war and the importance of maintaining and increasing these to provide additional food, he can now make a statement on the Government's intentions in these matters.

The Government's intention in these matters were clearly stated in the announcement which I made in this House on 5th December last, namely, to encourage an expansion of production of pig-meat, poultry and eggs to the fullest extent permitted by the supplies of feeding stuffs which can be made available.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the world food position and that those remarks, while they may be true, will need to he carefully investigated and every endeavour made to get more additional feeding-stuffs in view of the shortage, which is very serious?

May I thank the Minister of Agriculture for the extra rations which he has given to poultry keepers during the last six months?


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the shortage of meat and the possibility of a cut in the meat ration, he will encourage the pig breeders to market pigs at smaller weights for pork and pork products; and whether he will give special consideration to the difficulties of the pig producers in getting pigs to the larger weights, in view of the shortage of feeding-stuffs.

The numbers of pigs marketed at the lighter weights suitable for pork have already increased during recent months without any specific encouragement; but it does not follow that this will lead to a greater output of homegrown pig meat, owing to the relatively higher requirement of concentrated feeding-stuffs of the small pig. An expansion of pork production in these circumstances might well take place at the expense of bacon production.

But does my right hon. Friend appreciate the difficulty of getting the small pig to the correct weight in view of the feeding shortage and the necessity of putting down more land for feeding-stuffs?

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that owing to the world shortage of meat which we are facing, the time has perhaps come when the Government should review their price scales which give such overwhelming emphasis to milk, in order to expand the whole production of meat in this country?

Yes, Sir, but not only is there a world shortage of meat; there is also a world shortage of available feeding-stuffs.

Fat Cattle (Marketinģ)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, with a view to increasing food supplies, he will give encouragement to home producers to market fat cattle at smaller weights; and whether he will endeavour to avoid fluctuation in the price of fat cattle throughout the year.

Encouragement has been given for some time, through the operation of the existing price scales, to the marketing of fat cattle at weights most suitable for the highest production of home produced meat consistent with good quality. The answer to the second part is No, Sir.

But does my right hon. Friend appreciate that the fluctuations are very bad and farmers really do not know where they stand?

On the contrary, they are very good, and they are made in agreement with the National Farmers Union.

Opencast Mininģ (Land Restoration)


asked the Minister of Agriculture how many acres of land have been taken for opencast mining; how many have been restored; and how many complaints he has had from farmers since restoration about the land not retaining its level.

The total area of land in England and Wales taken for opencast mining is 19,370 acres and the total area so far completely restored is 1,85o acres. A number of complaints have been received of restored land not retaining its level, and where these prove to be justified and where there is sufficient top soil available, the County War Agricultural Executive Committees do what they can to regrade the site.

Could I ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep a watch on this matter, because I have been informed that many parts have sunk after being filled up, with the result that it is going derelict? Surely it is the duty of someone to watch it?

Yes, Sir, I am well aware of the situation. It is giving me considerable cause for anxiety because, in the course of my travels round the country, I have been to see a number of places where complaints were made of unsatisfactory restoration of the site. Of course, one of the best ways of avoiding that would be if we could get more coal from proper pits and not have to rely on opencast mining.

May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Minister of Fuel and Power has consistently told us from that Box that land in every case has been restored, and it is not only as good after the restoration but in many cases even better? That does not fit in with his statement this morning.

I am not aware that my right hon. and gallant Friend has made such a categorical statement as that. There is no doubt that in a number of cases the restoration has been very satisfactory and in some cases the land has been improved, owing to improved drainage; on the other hand, the experience of the last six months has shown that, in a number of cases, sites which we thought had been properly and satisfactorily restored have, in the light of experience, proved not to have been so satisfactorily restored as we thought at first.

Is it not the case that many hundreds of acres which have been laid waste by iron ore mining have not been restored, and are not included in the figures which my right hon. Friend has just given?

That is true. As my hon. Friend knows, that matter is receiving my attention at the present moment with a view to discovering practical methods of restoring such land.

Bretton Woods Conference Proposals (Informal Discussions)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now prepared to give the House detailed information of the scope and object of the discussions between Lord Keynes, a number of Members of this House and himself.

These were informal talks between certain hon. Members and myself arranged, so far as I am concerned, partly in order to meet requests that had been made to me and partly in order that I might have the advantage of hearing any views that those hon. Members might care to express. I do not think it would be in accordance either with the practice or with the general wish of the House that a Minister should be called upon to give an account of such proceedings on the Floor of the House. Nor do I think that the House would wish to interfere with the long-established practice of holding informal talks of this nature.

Would it not entirely destroy contact between colleagues in the House if any such statement was made?

Is the Minister aware that there is a feeling that in the contacts he had he gave a certain preference to a group of Members in their approach to him? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, that is so, and it is no use saying, "No."

I did my best to afford facilities to all Members whom I thought might like to take advantage of my offer to see them. I had certain consultations as to whom should be invited. Some Members took the initiative in writing to me, and if my hon. Friend or anyone else who has not been included in this series of conferences likes to come, I shall be delighted.

Is the Minister aware that there is a feeling, which I share—and I also say this to the Leader of the House, because it applies on other issues as well—that there are certain groups of privileged Members, who are picked for these discussions? I have been in the House for a long time and never once have I been invited, and I do not think that I am less intelligent than other Members. I have never been approached in any way in these matters, on which there is a feeling that a privilege is given to certain Members.

Would it not be quite useless to ask Members to interviews of this kind, unless they had some understanding of the subject under discussion?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is the feeling that these meetings have been called for the purpose of endeavouring to get Members to support the Bretton Woods proposals, so that he can inform the Prime Minister that the House will be in favour of any Motion which the Government put forward on this matter?

Clothing Purchase (Inquiry)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to a contract for the supply of night-shirts and pyjamas entered into with Messrs. Hodgkinson, Limited, and Messrs. J. B. Limited, and that his Department are refusing to pay for a large quantity of such goods for which formal acknowledgments have been given; and whether he will cause an investigation to be made into the matter.

The Board of Trade do not purchase clothing, and I have no knowledge of the matters to which my hon. Friend refers.

Do I understand that these contracts have not been before the Board of Trade? One of my constituents has been complaining to me that he cannot get payment until deliveries have been approved.

The Board of Trade do not purchase any clothing and, therefore, such contracts could not have been before the Board.

Fishing Vessels, Fife (Release)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that a number of fishermen from the Fife coast are being paid off from Admiralty service, and have no boats with which to earn a living; and, if in order to prevent unemployment, he will arrange for the release of a few fishing vessels for the use of such men.

My right hon. Friend understands that a few former fishing craft previously employed in the Forth have been withdrawn for duties elsewhere, and that since the engagements upon which crews were serving did not bind them to these new duties, they were paid off. He is in communication with my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty in regard to the earliest possible return of fishing vessels to the area.

While being appreciative of that reply, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will bear in mind that the admitted excessive withdrawal of fishing vessels from the Fife coast has resulted in that part of the coast, more than any other, being depleted of the necessary vessels?

British Army (Overseas Service)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will consider the introduction of an age limit for men serving in the Army being sent to the Far East; and if men of 40 years of age and upwards will receive preferential posting to the European theatres of war and home service.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies given by my right hon. Friend to my hon. Friends the Members for Whitechapel (Mr. Walter Edwards) and Spen Valley (Major Woolley) on 27th February and 13th March. The shortage of man-power does not, I regret, enable us to go further than this towards the object my hon. Friend has in mind.

Has not my hon. and learned Friend had before him very harsh and difficult cases of this kind? Will he review the situation sympathetically?

My hon. Friend will know that every case of hardship that is alleged is dealt with on that basis, but the fact that a soldier is 40 years of age is not regarded, in itself, as being a hardship.

Is not my hon. and learned Friend aware of the widespread feeling on this matter?

Will my hon. and learned Friend see that men of 40 years of age and over are given a special medical examination before they are drafted for service in the Far East?

I hope every medical examination is a thorough one, and I am not prepared to say that there should be a special examination.

Does my hon. and learned Friend realise that some of these men of 40 years and over have been engaged in heavy manual labour for many years, and will he consider the desirability of consulting his medical advisers as to whether these men should have a special medical examination before they go to the Far East?

Certainly, but in view of the fact that the age of the soldier who is being examined is within the knowledge of the examining doctor, the doctor would have regard to the physical attributes of the soldier in relation to his age.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there is a great deal of feeling on this subject, and that men of over 40 years of age are sometimes brought home from the Middle East and then sent to the Continent, while men who are 15 years younger are not sent? Is he aware that there is a feeling among the men that there is some sort of unfaifness in this treatment, and will he explore the general position to see whether anything can be done about it?

I will look into the suggestion of my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend will remember, of course, that there may be two men, one 40 years of age and the other a younger one who has not served abroad; but if the younger soldier is not a tradesman and the older one is a tradesman in a trade that is required in Europe, the older one must go in preference to the younger one.

Train Explosion (Bootle, Cumberland)

(by Private Notice) asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he can state the cause of the explosion that occurred on Thursday, 22nd March, to a southbound train near Bootle Station, Cumberland, causing the death of an L.M.S. engine driver and also damage to adjacent private property, and also whether any steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence of this sort of accident?

The Minister is not present now, and therefore will have to give an answer when he arrives.

On a point of Order. As we had a similar experience yesterday with a Minister, would it not be possible to apply the Essential Work Order?

Allied Prisoners Of War, Far East (Exposure To Bombing)

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Sir CHARLES EDWARDS:

62. To ask the Secretary of State for War to what extent Allied prisoners of war in Japan are compelled to work in war factories; and if, as they are housed in wooden sheds near these factories and the bombing now going on endangers the lives of these men, he will take whatever steps may be possible to have them removed from the danger zone.

At the end of Questions

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I. would like to make a statement in reply to Question 62. Article 9 of the International Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war provides that

"no prisoner may at any time be sent to an area where he would be exposed to the fire of the fighting zone, or be employed to render, by his presence, certain points or areas immune from bombardment."
This article precludes the establishment of prisoner of war camps in close proximity to areas or targets which are liable to bombardment from the air. We and our Allies have conscientiously observed this principle and shall continue to do so.

I regret to inform the House that the Japanese authorities are not conforming to this principle. Early in 1943 the first reports on prisoner of war camps in Metropolitan Japan reached this country. We noted with anxiety that many of the camps were situated in the dockyard and factory areas of Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and other cities. After consulting our Allies, we represented through the Protecting Power that these camps should be moved from areas which constituted important military targets. These representations have been renewed on several occasions, but without effect. The Japanese have stated that they are "always very careful to establish camps outside danger areas," but none of the camps of which we have complained have been moved. During the construction of the Burma-Siam railway the camps were close to the line and casualties inevitably occurred from Allied bombs.

The railway is a primary objective of our bombing attacks since it is the principal line of supplies to the Japanese forces opposing the 14th Army in Burma. I regret to say that evidence is accumulating that the Japanese are attempting to hamper these attacks by the very means which are specifically forbidden by Article g of the Convention. In other words, they are moving prisoners of war into close proximity to the line with the obvious intention of "rendering it immune from bombardment."

It is essential that attacks on targets vital to the prosecution of the war should go on and that the task of our troops in Burma and elsewhere should not be made more difficult than it already is. The House may be assured, however, that all possible care will be taken by all Allied Air Forces engaged to avoid endangering our prisoners of war. A protest in the strongest terms has been made through the Protecting Power to the Japanese both by His Majesty's Government on behalf of the Commonwealth Governments and by the United States Government.

Will the Minister consider treating the Japanese who are responsible for this as war criminals?

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman realise that his statement will cause anxiety to a great many relatives? Can he say more definitely who are the prisoners of war, whether they are naval or military, and what actual steps have been taken to remove them from these places?

It is not within the province of His Majesty's Government to remove these prisoners. It is a matter for the Japanese Government. The difficulty is that it is the policy of the Japanese Government not to move them away from, but to move them into close proximity to, bombing targets.

Control Commission, Germany (Technical Staff)

I ask leave of the House to make a brief statement about the advertisement issued recently by the Ministry of Labour appealing for technical and scientific staff to deal with future industrial activities in Germany, including armaments, heavy engineering, shipbuilding and aircraft. This advertisement was inserted by the Ministry of Labour at the instance of the Deputy-Commissioners of the British Element of the Control Commission for Germany and with the approval of my Department. I am fully aware of the competing demands for British technical and scientific personnel, and the staff required for the Control Commission will be recruited with due regard to the industrial needs of this country. But it is a class of personnel which is indispensable for the task of disarming Germany and rendering German war industries innocuous. These tasks must have as high a priority as any, and we have agreed with our Allies on the establishment of a Control Commission to carry them out. That, Sir, is the reason for the advertisement, and the high priority which is needed in the matter.

Could not this have been done in some other way than by a wholesale advertisement, with no limitations, appealing for people in large numbers? Are there not some associations for these technicians which, if they had been applied to, would have secured the people necessary in a much better and easier way than this wholesale, slap-dash method? When the Admiralty wanted some men, they applied through well-known associations of employers and workers and their requirements were met. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this advertisement is almost an affront to people who are homeless?

It is because I had that in mind that I wanted to make this statement. Consultations did take place before the advertisement was issued. The qualifications are difficult ones and highly technical ones, and the range is wide, which made consultation difficult. I hope that as a result of what I have said it will be plain that the numbers are not going to be very large and we hope to get them without causing undue dislocation. It is a matter of hundreds and not of thousands.

Will my right hon. Friend make it quite clear that there is no suggestion at all that these men are being sent out to rebuild Germany?