Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 414: debated on Thursday 25 October 1945

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Thursday, 25th October, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Disabled War Pensioners (Motor-Chairs)

3.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he is now in a position to make a statement regarding provision of wheel chairs with motors for legless and other badly-disabled war pensioners; and whether the motor-chairs are to be supplied at State cost without contributions from the pensioners or charitable organisations,

I am glad to say that it has been decided that all pensioners who have suffered double leg amputations, of which at least one is above the knee, will be eligible for the supply and repair of a motor-propelled invalid tricycle at State expense. Machines will also be supplied to other badly-disabled war pensioners who require them in order to obtain or keep employment. Supply must necessarily be conditional on certification by my medical officers that the pensioner can safely be allowed to use a motor. Tests of a new motor unit capable of being incorporated in present hand-propelled machines have now been completed, and the question of production in sufficient quantity to meet the increased demand is being pursued.

Pensions And Grants

4.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the increase in the cost of living, he will review the pensions granted when the expenditure on the necessities of life were lower and grant a proportionate increase.

1.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the great rise in the cost of living, he will now make an increased grant to pensioners of the last war.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Major Boyd-Carpenter) on 11th October last, of which I am sending them copies.

Does not the Minister consider that a proportionate increase of pension should be granted to these pensioners as a bare act of justice?

If the hon. Member will examine my previous answer, he will find reference to it.

Local Government Boundary Commission (Membership)

5.

asked the Minister of Health the names of the members of the Local Government Boundary Commission as approved by the Local Government Boundary Commission Act, 1945, and when the regulations prescribing general principles by which the Commission are to be guided will be placed before the House for consideration.

Yes, Sir. His Majesty has been pleased to appoint:

  • Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, Bart., M.C., T.D., K.C. (Chairman).
  • Sir Evelyn John Maude, K.C.B. K.B.E. (Deputy Chairman).
  • Sir George Hammond Etherton, O.B.E.
  • Sir James Rees, and
  • William Holmes, Esq., C.B.E.,
to be members of the Commission. As required by the Act, I am in consultation with the Associations of Local Authorities concerned, and I hope to be in a position to lay the regulations before Parliament shortly.

Can the Minister say what is the earliest date at which they can commence their duties?

It will certainly not be for some time, for the Regulations have to be approved before they can start.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve is not the gentleman who is already engaged in assessing war damage?

Has he not got a considerable leeway to make up in that other department?

Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve's will be a part-time appointment, and the other appointments are part-time, with the exception of that of the Deputy-Chairman.

Public Health

Tuberculosis Patients (Allowances)

6.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the alarm which is created when the allowances are stopped, he will arrange for allowances to tuberculous patients to continue, in cases which are considered incurable, on the same terms as for curable cases.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) on 18th October, of which I am sending him a copy.

Would the Minister look again at this situation, because these people, when they are deprived of their allowances, are, in effect, receiving a death sentence?

This is a most grievous and painful affair. I have not, however, any powers to alter the situation. I will look into the administration to see whether I have sufficient powers to alleviate it but, as my hon. Friend well knows, this and other anomalies will, I hope, be ironed out when we have the all-in scheme of National Insurance.

Health Centres

10.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has made himself acquainted with the work carried out in the interest of public health, by the Peckham Health Centre, before the outbreak of war; whether it is his intention to encourage such health centres in other parts of the country; and whether, with this object in view, he will make provisions for including them amongst his proposals to come before the House.

Yes, Sir. I am aware of the excellent work carried out by the voluntary organisation to which my hon. Friend refers. With regard to the second and third parts of the Question, I have the proposals for a National Health Service, including the provision of health centres of various types, at present under active review.

Mental Deficiency Cases (Acccommodation)

11.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the present shortage of accommodation in the country for cases of mental deficiency; and what degree of priority is being given to the reconstruction of the necessary buildings and to such new construction as is necessary.

Yes, Sir. I hope that, when building operations of this kind can be allowed to proceed it may be possible to accord a high degree of priority to the work to which the hon. Member refers.

River Thames (Sewage Effluents)

15.

asked the Minister of Health what representations have been made to his Department by the Thames Conservancy Board, supported by the Metropolitan Water Board, with regard to the concern that both these authorities feel at the low standard of a number of sewage effluents in that part of the Thames under the control of the Conservancy; and what action he proposes to take.

Representations have been made to my Department by these two boards that facilities should now be given to enable the local authorities concerned to carry out works for improving the sewage effluents. I am pressing the local authorities to complete the preparation of their schemes as quickly as possible, and the labour requirements of the schemes are receiving special attention. I will keep the matter under constant review.

Rural Water Supplies Act (Schemes)

16.

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take with those authorities who up to the present have not submitted schemes under the Rural Water Supplies Act, 1944.

I am keeping in close touch with the progress made by rural authorities and I am encouraging them to complete the preparation of their schemes so that work on them may be carried out as soon as the labour position allows. I have no reason to think that these authorities are not proceeding as rapidly as they can with the present shortage of technical staff available to them.

Doctors (Hayes, Middlesex)

17.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the supply of doctors for the urban district of Hayes, Middlesex, is one for every 4,000 inhabitants and in the near future will be reduced to one for every 5,000 inhabitants; and whether he has any proposals for the supply of doctors in order to remedy this state of affairs which is a menace to the health of the people in this area.

I am aware that the medical position in the area referred to is difficult and I am in communication with the Central Medical War Committee who are going into the matter with the local committee. I will let my hon. Friend know as soon as possible what steps are proposed to improve the situation.

In view of the reference in that Question to the shortage of doctors for the number of patients, will the right hon. Gentleman consider in the interest of patients who do not require the services of orthodox doctors, the recognition of unorthodox practitioners?

Arising out of the answer to the original Question, as this is surely a matter of interest to the nation and not to one part of the country only, would the Minister make a statement in the House upon this subject at the earliest possible moment?

Yes, Sir, I am doing all I can to try to increase the supply of doctors for civilian purposes and I hope shortly there will be a very substantial increase in the number.

Diphtheria Immunisation (Advertising)

18.

asked the Minister of Health the total cost of all advertising matter in connection with the immunisation campaign during each of the last five years.

The expenditure on publicity for the immunisation of children against diphtheria has been as follows:

£
1940–41800
1941–422,276
1942–4319,909
1943–4430,777
1944–4532,467
I may add that since the immunisation campaign began, the number of deaths from diphtheria has fallen to one-third of the pre-war average. Apart from this saving of children's lives, the number of cases has fallen by 28,000—and as each child suffering from diphtheria costs about £30 for hospital care, this means a saving of over £800,000 a year.

Sickness And Disability Certificates

19.

asked the Minister of Health whether it is his intention in the new health service Bill to permit any qualified practitioner, even if he or she is not necessarily recognised by the British Medical Council, to issue certificates of sickness or disability.

I am afraid I cannot add anything to the answer which I gave my hon. Friend on 18th October.

Needy Persons (Choice Of Doctor)

24.

asked the Minister of Health whether pending the establishment of a national health service, he will encourage public assistance authorities to introduce the open choice system of medical assistance for needy persons not covered by the health insurance Acts, so that they may be able to obtain free medical treatment from their own doctor.

I am prepared to consider favourably any application for my consent from a public assistance authority which finds it practicable to introduce the open choice system.

While thanking the Minister for his reply, may I ask him to go further and circularise the appropriate local authorities, inviting them to consider the introduction of the open choice system so as to remove the Poor Law atmosphere from the administration of medical assistance for old people and others in need?

I sympathise very much with the desire behind the supplementary question. I am anxious not to send too many circulars out just now, I am already sending a storm of them, but probably this Question and answer will be given sufficient publicity to stimulate local authorities to apply the system.

Vaccination (Compulsory Powers)

27.

asked the Minister of Health whether in view of the fact that there are a larger number of claims for exemption from vaccination than those submitting to the operation, he will consider abolishing the compulsory powers of the Vaccination Acts.

This is among the matters under examination in connection with the proposals for a comprehensive health service.

Will the Minister consider whether any useful purpose is served by having these exemption forms witnessed by a Justice of the Peace?

I would not like to anticipate the provisions of the new Act at the moment.

Nurses (Training)

34.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the shortage of nurses, he will reconsider the regulation by which former V.A.D.s and auxiliary nurses, wishing to qualify as State registered nurses, will only be exempted from six months of their four years' training.

This is primarily a matter for the General Nursing Council, who decided after full consideration and discussion that the remission to be allowed in suitable cases should not exceed six months, thus reducing the minimum period of training from three to two and a half years. I have agreed to approve a rule to that effect.

When the right hon. Gentleman uses the word "primarily," will he be good enough to explain whether he does or does not accept Ministerial responsibility for the conditions under which State registered nurses are serving?

Yes, Sir, I believe the ultimate responsibility rests with me, but I am sure the Noble Lord will realise that if you reduce the period of training, the nurse is not necessarily helped thereby, because she has to acquire qualifications in a shorter time, which means a very great strain on those who are at the moment, unfortunately, having to do a great deal of domestic work in addition to their own work as nurses.

In view of the fact that the Minister admits that he is constitutionally responsible for this matter, and in view of the calamitous shortage of nurses, both in municipal and voluntary hospitals, is there any chance that he will be able to make a statement at an early date as to how he proposes to deal with the shortage?

I believe there is another Question on the Order Paper raising that point. I am extremely anxious about the nursing position, and I am taking most urgent steps to deal with it.

Hospitals (Nursing Staffs)

43.

asked the Minister of Health the number of nurses estimated to be required adequately to staff the hospitals of this country; and what steps he is taking to obtain them.

According to returns submitted to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, there were on the 30th June, 1945, vacancies for about 30,000 nurses of all grades in hospitals and allied institutions, including nursing homes, in Great Britain. I am consulting my right hon. Friend and the organisations principally concerned on the whole nursing position and hope to make a full statement in two or three weeks' time.

In the meantime, as it is obvious that there must be a very reduced need for nurses now in the Services, since the war is over, would he not consult with the Minister of Labour to see if there could not be some immediate releases?

I have already done so, and releases have started. I think the hon. and gallant Member must realise that a large number of nurses in the Forces when they are released, will go home, and not necessarily into hospitals.

Can the Minister say which authorities he has consulted, and whether these authorities include local authorities, and members of hospital boards throughout the country, who are seriously concerned?

Housing

Rent Control (Report)

7.

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take on the recent Ridley Report on Rent Control.

90.

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take with regard to the recommendations contained in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Rent Control.

I would refer the hon. Members to the answer given to the hon. Members for Finchley (Captain Crowder) and Swindon (Mr. Reid) on 11th October, of which I am sending them copies.

Is the Minister aware of the fact that a considerable amount of difficulty is created in consequence of the very complicated nature of the Acts in question, that poor persons have considerable difficulty in taking their cases to the Court of Appeal, and that it is really necessary something should be done as speedily as possible in order to put the law on this matter on such a footing that every individual in this country will be able to understand it?

I fully appreciate what my hon. Friend has said, but I cannot agree that this matter should take priority over other legislation which the House is being asked to consider this Session. I am, however, preparing a Bill for submission to the House at an early date to deal with certain outstanding difficulties.

Could the Minister separate the figures for Wales, from those for England in his answer?

If the hon. Member will put that Question down, I shall be pleased to give him an answer.

Overcrowding

8.

asked the Minister of Health the number of dwellings in England and Wales, separately, which have been condemned as unfit for human habitation but are still occupied owing to the shortage of housing accommodation; and the number of overcrowded families revealed by the standards of the Housing Act, 1936, for whom no alternative accommodation has been made available by local authorities.

Exact information is not available, but, of the 460,000 houses in England and 19,000 in Wales included in the pre-war slum clearance programmes of local authorities, roughly 93,000 in England and 5,000 in Wales were still in existence and occupied at the 31st March last. At the end of 1938, there were approximately 188,000 families in England and 14,000 in Wales living in overcrowded conditions.

Central Advisory Committee (Order)

12.

asked the Minister of Health the purpose of the Ministry of Health (Central Housing Advisory Committee) (Amendment) Order, 1945 (S.R. & O., 1945, No. 1240).

The purpose of this Order is to provide that all the members of the Committee due to retire in any one year, shall cease to hold office on the same day. This appears to have been the intention of the original Order constituting the Committee, but appointments have, in the past, been made from time to time, at various dates.

Could we have an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman will not use this Order to get rid of members of the Committee with whose political views he may disagree?

The purpose of this Committee is to afford the Ministry of Health advice and information, drawn from a vast variety of people and organisations having special knowledge of housing; and I think the hon. Gentleman will see from recent appointments, that I have not exercised the political discrimination which he fears.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these Nazi views are the exclusive possession of the hon. Membersopposite?

Sites

13.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered relieving local authorities from the burden of having to pay for mineral rights when choosing housing sites, where no other sites are available, in or about mining villages.

Such costs are among the many considerations which will have to be borne in mind in settling the terms and conditions of post-war housing subsidy.

Would the Minister reconsider the granting of a supplementary subsidy, because this is a worry to local authorities?

I quite appreciate the point, and, as I have said in my reply, full weight will be given to this matter in considering the subsidies for these areas.

Would tine right hon. Gentleman consult the Ministry of Fuel and Power with a view to erecting pack walls on long wall faces in the mines to prevent subsidies and not sterilise the land for housing?

39.

asked the Minister of Health if he will state the sites desired to be acquired by Government Depatments or local authorities for housing purposes where there is delay in acquisition and the reason there for.

I am afraid that I could not give an estimate of the number of sites for housing purposes which local authorities have under consideration, but have not yet had approved, without a great deal of work which would not, in my opinion, be justified. I am, however, examining the whole question of speed in procedure in relation to housing.

Are we to understand that there is no delay in the acquisition of land by local authorities for building purposes?

There are considerable and protracted negotiations going on, which I hope to speed up by another procedure.

Possession Order, Spennymoor (Ex-Service Man)

21.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that Mr. W. J. Anthony of 2, Ash Grove, Spennymoor, a discharged soldier, has been summoned to appear in court on Tuesday, 23rd October, 1945, by the North-Eastern Housing Association, Newcastle, for possession of this house; and, in view of the shortage of houses in Spennymoor and the difficulty of obtaining any accommodation, will he take steps to see that men who have fought in this war are not put out into the street.

I understand that the Court has made an order granting the North-Eastern Housing Association possession of the house on the 31st December next. Local authorities have been asked to give all possible consideration in the provision of housing to serving and ex-Service men with families who are without separate homes.

Is the Minister aware that this man, a discharged soldier, actually applied for an empty flat and was informed that because they had a baby in the house he could not have the flat?

I will call the attention of the local authority to what my hon. Friend has said.

Financial Policy

22.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the heavy financial burdens placed on local authorities, when he will be able to declare the Government's financial policy in relation to housing.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made on the 17th October.

Repairs (Certificates)

23.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the considerable delay in the granting or refusing of applications for certificates of essentiality to carry out repair to houses; and will he take steps, in conjunction with councils, to expedite their decisions.

I am not aware of such delay. If the hon. and gallant Member will let me have details of any case he has in mind I will have it investigated.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that with winter coming on it is essential that these orders and decisions of the local authorities should be made at the first available moment?

But is the Minister not aware that the information given in my question is correct?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will send me particulars, I will have them investigated but I cannot accept generalisations which do not give specific instances.

Residential Flats, Westminster (Bbc Extension)

25.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the tenants of approximately 40 small residential flats in Westminster have been given notice to quit, in order to make room for an extension of the B.B.C; and what steps he is taking to prevent this further encroachment on housing accommodation, in view of the shortage.

I am aware of the case, though I am informed by the B.B.C. that they have not arrived at any decision yet in regard to these premises. The new powers I foreshadowed in the Debate last week are designed to prevent encroachment on housing accommodation for office purposes.

When shall we have some definite pronouncement on this subject, which is of tragic importance to the people concerned?

Statistics

28.

asked the Minister of Health how many permanent, temporary and factory-made houses have been erected to the latest convenient date; and how do these figures compare with the target figure.

The number of temporary houses completed in England and Wales on the 20th October was 4,964. I hope to be able to publish early in the New Year full details of the progress made with the provision of permanent houses. I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the statement I made in the House on the 17th October in regard to the Government's housing policy.

Contracts

29.

asked the Minister of Health if he will publish the particulars of contracts for both permanent and temporary houses let by his Ministry and by local authorities showing details of cost in a. form which gives the percentage increase in the case of permanent houses as compared with pre-war figures.

I am considering the form of the progress report which I promised in my statement on 17th October and will certainly take account of the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman give the figures now of contracts which are already let—not for the future, but what has happened up to now?

I think it would be extremely difficult at the moment because, in the first place, it requires some administrative preparation to get these details out, and I want to present them to the House, when I start, in a form which will be intelligible and fairly permanent.

Requisitioned House, Chiswick (Rent)

30.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the borough council of Brent ford and Chiswick, are continuing to requisition 8, Arlington Park Mansions, Chiswick, at £3 18s. 10d. per annum less than the present permitted rent; and that the homeless tenant put in, by the authority is being charged 20 per cent. more than the rent paid to the landlord; and if he will take steps to end the policy by which local authorities are permitted to pay less than the standard rent to landlords and charge more than the standard rent to tenants.

I am aware that it is contended that the compensation rental is less than the standard rent; and that the occupant is paying more than the former sum. I have recently sent a circular to local authorities on the subject of the charges to be made for requisitioned premises and I will send the hon. and gallant Member a copy.

Do I understand then that the local authority can do what a private landlord dare not do, that is, charge rent to an unfortunate dispossessed person higher than the standard rent? Is that the legal position?

There have been previous instances where the local authorities have been doing that, and they do not appear to have aroused the indignation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman earlier. He will see, however, from a circular, that I have anticipated his indignation.

Would my right hon. Friend bear this point in mind when he comes to consider any legislation based on the report of the Ridley Committee—whether local authorities should be governed by the Rent Restriction Act or not?

I will certainly do that but I cannot promise that the Bill I shall bring before the House, which will be a comparatively modest Measure, will make provision for these things.

Am I right in understanding that local authorities may charge rents above the standard rents, whereas private individuals may not?

Prefabricated Houses, Lewisham

31.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that only 132 prefabricated houses have been delivered and completed for the borough of Lewisham; and whether he can give any estimate when the balance of 1,400 prefabricated houses can be expected.

By 13th October, 148 temporary houses had been completed and handed over to the local authority. A further 103 had been erected and were in the final stages of equipment. Components for further houses have been delivered and work is proceeding in preparing the remainder of the sites for a total of 975 houses. Plans for the balance are in preparation. It is not possible to estimate the date of completion.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we still have 5,000 families—and I emphasise the word, "families"—who are homeless?

I certainly realise the need for urgency in this matter. The completion of the temporary houses is being hurried up as far as possible but, as I told the House last week, there have been inherent difficulties.

Local Authority Technicians (Release From Forces)

32.

asked the Minister of Health what action he is taking to ensure that local authorities receive adequate technical assistance in carrying forward their housing plans.

All possible steps are being taken to secure the release from the Forces under Class B arrangements, or from employment in Government Departments, of such technical officers of local authorities as are urgently required for housing work. Also, local authorities have been furnished with the names of architects, engineers and surveyors in private practice—both firms and individuals—who are able to give professional assistance on housing work.

Is the Minister aware that, many local authorities are not able to get enough technical assistance, and that he reminded us of this when speaking in the House on 17th October? What further steps has the right hon. Gentleman taken to help the situation?

I took steps before that date, and I am taking steps all the time. The hon. Member will realise that I am as anxious as he is to get these technical officers back to the local authorities. A large number have been released and are being released, and my Department will provide, regionally and centrally, technical assistance to help those local authorities who are behind in the preparation of their plans.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Royal Air Force have civilian architects in their employ whom they refuse to release for housing purposes?

Would the Minister do his utmost to get these men released from the Services when cases are brought to his attention?

I want to make it clear that these are not group releases, but special releases. Lists have been put in, and releases are taking place quickly now.

Local Authorities' Programmes

35.

asked the Minister of Health if he will state, as at the most recent convenient date and with regard to England and Wales, the number of sites approved for permanent local authority houses, in addition to those stated in Cmd. 6686 to have been approved for temporary houses; and the number of such sites that have been acquired.

By 30th September, 1945, local authorities in England and Wales had received approval to the acquisition for permanent houses of sites totalling 67,900 acres, of which 32,200 acres had been acquired. At a average density of 10 houses to the acre, these sites would be sufficient for 679,000 and 322,000 houses respectively.

Is it not clear that whatever the difficulties at the moment shortage of land is not one of them?

I cannot agree that these figures would necessarily give rise to that conclusion, because the acquisition is not uniformly spread. A large number of local authorities possess land far in excess of their immediate housing possibilities, and a large number have no land at all, so I do not think the hon. and gallant Member would be wise in anticipating the Debate on this subject.

Can my right hon Friend say what was paid for these 32,000 acres, if I put a Question on the Order Paper?

Can the Minister indicate what percentage of these sites have been serviced?

Can the Minister divide the figure given to the House today as between the different parts of England and Wales, as was done in the White Paper on Temporary Housing?

Certainly, if the hon. and gallant Member will put down a question I will see what can be done.

36.

asked the Minister of Health if he will state, as at the most recent convenient date and with regard to England and Wales, the number of local authority houses for which plans have been approved; and the number of such houses for which tenders have been approved.

Plans are often approved before the exact number of houses to be built has been determined and, therefore, I am unable to give the information asked for in the first part of the Question; by 20th October prices had been approved for 11,198 houses in England and Wales.

37.

asked the Minister of Health if he will state, as at the most recent convenient date and with regard to England and Wales, the average, highest and lowest, of the approved tenders for local authority houses per superficial foot; and the average of approved tenders for such houses per superficial foot in 1938.

In the period of four weeks to 20th October, the approved tenders for local authority three-bedroomed non-parlour houses have averaged 20s. 11d. per superficial foot. The average cost per superficial foot in 1938 was 9s. 3¼d. When comparing these figures, allowance has to be made not only for the substantial increase in building costs, but also for the fact that a higher standard of accommodation and amenity is afforded in the houses now being approved. I do not think it would be helpful to state the full range of the approved tenders, as it would not be possible within the limits of the reply to give the reasons which account for variations from the average.

Ministerial Responsibility

40.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the delay caused to local authorities and others, by having to deal with a number of Government Departments in connection with housing, he will endeavour to arrange that plans, materials, labour and other cognate matters relating to housing, are all canalised through his Ministry.

I am looking into this with a view to achieving the greatest possible simplification, and I hope to make a statement in the near future.

New Houses

44.

asked the Minister of Health how many new houses, permanent or temporary, will be completed, and how many will be started, between now and the end of this year.

I can give no forecast, as progress must depend on the labour available, and the supply of building materials and equipment, which, again, is a question of labour. At present some 900 temporary house sets are being delivered to places in the United Kingdom each week and from 300–350 houses are being completed weekly. As regards permanent houses, tenders have been approved for 11,000 in England and Wales, but I am not able, at the present time, to say how many of them have actually started.

In view of the high hopes that were raised by the right hon. Gentleman's Party before the Election, may we take it that the Minister is extremely dissatisfied with his reply?

If the hon. and gallant Member asks me whether I am satisfied, the answer, of course, is "I am not."

Repairs (Ex-Servicemen, Employment)

51.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that owners of house property, who carry out the repairs of their property by employing men for the purpose, are being prevented by Labour Exchanges from re-employing their former skilled workmen discharged from the Forces who have a statutory right to such employment; and if he will issue instructions to change this practice.

No, Sir. The only circumstances in which this would arise would be where a man was discharged before the end of the war in Europe and is now engaged on urgent and essential work on which his retention is necessary to avoid grave dislocation. In these circumstances, any reinstatement rights he may have with his old employer would be preserved. I should be glad to look into any case which the hon. and Noble Member may have in mind.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I know of a case where a man is about to be discharged, and has informed the exchange that he is going to be discharged? He wishes to return to his own employment, and he has been informed that he cannot do so, as it is the policy of the Ministry of Labour to send such men for employment with public authorities and not private employers.

Will the hon. Gentleman issue instructions to the exchanges in the terms of his reply?

I hope that the publicity that will be given to this reply will have the effect desired.

Will the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to see that similar instructions are issued regarding applications for releases under Class B, because a number of cases have been brought to our attention in which employers have been refused the release of men who were former employees, under Class B, unless the men are prepared to take up other work.

Applications under Class B, the block release, come from various Departments, and in this case which has been raised to-day, if the application for release under Class B comes not from the employer himself but from the Department to whom the employer has made application it is passed to the Ministry of Labour, and, in turn, to the Service concerned. The employer does not come into it except through the interested Department.

Will the hon. Gentleman look into this, because there is a serious point involved?

Building Industry (Wages And Conditions)

52.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to expedite negotiations on wages and conditions in the building industry between representatives of the Employers' Federation and the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives.

The adjustment of wages and working conditions in the building industry is a matter for the well-established machinery of negotiation in that industry, and I see no reason to intervene.

Hornsey Borough Council (Loan From Prudential Assurance Co)

26.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that Hornsey Borough Council is saddled until 1950 with a loan of £50,000 from the Prudential Assurance Company at a rate of interest of 7 per cent.; that the Company have refused to reduce this interest to a figure more in conformity with prevailing rates; and whether he will sanction a loan to enable Hornsey Borough Council to convert this debt into one bearing a lower rate of interest.

I am aware of this transaction. I understand that the outstanding amount in respect of this loan is about £16,000. The council have power without the consent of any sanctioning authority to borrow for the purpose of paying off any moneys previously borrowed by them which are intended to be repaid forthwith, but I understand that the company are not prepared to accept the immediate repayment of the balance of the loan.

In view of the refusal of the company to be reasonable in this matter, and the policy of the Government in regard to cheap money, is there any action the Minister can take to prevent this company demanding its full pound of flesh under the bond?

It is very difficult for me to answer such a question as that on the spur of the moment. All companies of this sort must base their plans on expectation of loans maturing at certain dates, and it would be very difficult to interfere with estimates of that sort. It would be very disturbing if that principle were universally applied.

May I ask the Minister whether the trouble is not that the Prudential have managed to inveigle a large number of local authorities into what are called "no break" clause agreements which land them with this iniquitous rate of interest?

I think my hon. Friend will now realise that since the extension of the powers of the Public Works Loans Board, fortunately, contemporary local authorities do not get into those difficulties.

Can the Minister reveal the political complexion of the local authorities at the time when this loan was made?

Public Institution Patients (Relatives)

33.

asked the Minister of Health if he will consider sending out a circular to public assistance committees putting liable relatives of indoor patients in public institutions on the same basis as outdoor relief, such as 7s. per week maximum.

Local Government Service (Appointments)

38.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will inform local authorities of the desirability, when notifying vacancies in permanent appointments, of taking steps to see that these vacancies are brought to the notice of the Forces serving overseas.

I am fully in sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion, and I will consult the representative associations of local authorities upon the extent to which effect can be given to it, consistently with their pressing on with urgent matters of reconstruction.

Emergency Medical Services (Gratuities)

41.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will reconsider the decision not to grant gratuities to members of the E.M.S. in view of the fact that this was full-time employment; that such personnel were under orders from the War Office and wore the uniform of CD. workers.

The award of gratuities is limited to the Armed Forces and to members of the Civil Defence Services whose remuneration has been related to Army rates of pay. The case put by the hon. Member could not be reconsidered without re-opening the claims of many other classes.

Vagrancy (Conference)

42.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to make a statement upon the representation made to him by the Yorkshire Casual Poor Assistance Committee, contained in their letter of 10th October; and will he give an assurance that an early conference will be called to discuss the increasing problem of destitute wayfarers, and that the Joint Vagrancy Committees will be given direct representation at such conference.

The representations contained in this letter are receiving my attention. I hope to arrange an early conference with representatives of the local authorities to discuss this and other problems, and no doubt the associations concerned will ensure that the conference will include persons acquainted with the work of the Joint Vagrancy Committees.

Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman's reply to mean that the Association to which I have referred will definitely be invited to send a representative?

I think that it would be as well to leave that to the local authorities, who will probably want to arm themselves with expert advice on, this subject.

Fisheries (Ministerial Responsibility)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider separating the Department of Fisheries from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Does not the Prime Minister think that the fishing industry ought to have a separate department of its own, and cease to be the Cinderella of British industries?

I do not know about its being the Cinderella, but there is a separate division of the Ministry, and I have often heard hon. Members, in all parts of the House, say that they do not want to have too many new Ministries created.

Will not the Prime Minister consider appointing a special Under-Secretary?

I also think that it may be undesirable to multiply Under-Secretaries.

Atomic Energy (Government Policy)

47.

asked the Prime Minister when he hopes to be in a position to make a statement on the Government's policy in relation to atomic energy; and when the House will have an opportunity to debate this subject.

A full statement of the Government's policy on this subject cannot be made until the international aspects have been discussed with the United States and Canadian Governments. In the meantime, I do not think a Debate could usefully take place; but a statement will be made as soon as possible.

British And Russian Scientific Publications (Exchange)

49.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he is satisfied with the present arrangements for obtaining without delay and circulating as necessary in this country all Russian scientific publications of outstanding importance; or what steps he proposes to take to secure the rapid and effective exchange of scientific publications between this country and Russia.

A considerable number of Russian scientific publications reach this country under a system of exchanges between British scientific institutions on the one hand and the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Lenin Library on the other. Others are received by the British Council each quarter and distributed by them to scientific institutions or individual scientists. A survey of Soviet scientific periodicals received in this country has been made by the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux, and is being kept up to date with the help of the British Council. The volume of these exchanges has been restricted during the war by difficulties of transport and suspensions and changes of publication. A former member of the British Council's Science Department has now been attached to the staff of His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow, and I hope that, as a result, the exchange of publications will be extended, and supplemented where desirable by purchases.

Military Service

Call-Up Regulations

53.

asked the Minister of Labour if he proposes to alter the present regulations for calling up youths to the Armed Forces in order that adequate preparations for their future careers will not be irreparably disturbed by a premature period of military service.

No, Sir. If this proposal were adopted it would be impossible to meet the necessary call-up to the Armed Forces.

Export Industries

67.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to prevent the present call-up to the Services seriously interfering with production for export.

District Man-power Boards have been instructed about the importance of avoiding serious interference with production for export. Employers who are concerned about the call-up of key men are advised to make representations through the Government Department interested in their production.

Is my hon. Friend aware that when these representations are made it is such a long time before there are any results that trained men are actually called up, and are employed in pettifogging blind-alley jobs in the Forces?

I should like to see particulars of a case of that sort. In cases of complaint we have stopped action being taken and had an investigation on the spot. If any hon. Member has a similar complaint, we shall be only too glad to have the facts.

Will the hon. Member remember that I have submitted such cases and have not had a very satisfactory result?

It is very difficult for the Ministry of Labour to say that a man should be reserved if the Department con- cerned with that form of production is of the opinion that a man should be called up.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Department concerned is not given enough time to advise the Manpower Board before a decision is taken?

I must correct my hon. Friend. At least a fortnight's notice of a man's call-up is given to the employer.

Is it not all important that adequate time should be given to the employer so as to avoid dislocation?

In view of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter again.

Building Trade Workers

74.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the number of building trade apprentices who have been called up into the Forces since the end of the war with Germany; and whether, in view of the urgent need for such workers, he will request the future deferment of all those engaged in the building trade or who are apprenticed to it.

I regret that information on the first part of the Question is not available. As regards the second part of the Question, building trade workers who are likely to become craftsmen are not now called up to the Forces and the call-up of other young workers is being postponed for the time being.

Demobilisation

Prospective Nursing Trainees

54.

asked the Minister of Labour in view of the shortage of nurses, if he will now consider granting immediate release to young women in the Forces who are willing to train for the nursing profession.

Yes, Sir. Arrangements are being made under which women who are willing and suitable to be trained for the nursing profession may be released from the Forces in Class B.

Will the hon. Gentleman inform the various institutions throughout the country of this decision, because it is a very serious matter to many of them?

Do the hospitals or the Minister of Health have to make application for the release, under Class B, of these nurses in the Services?

The procedure will be that the various Commands will be asked to invite volunteers for release under Class B who are prepared to go into training. Neither local authorities nor hospitals figure in the picture.

Science Students

58.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is satisfied that a small number of university students reading natural science, who are to be released under his present arrangements, will be sufficient to meet the demands for extended research and technological development in this country during the next few years; and whether he will consider increasing, at an early opportunity, the number of science students who can be released under special arrangements

I hope that releases from the Forces and from civilian employment, together with the fresh entrants for whom deferment has been agreed, will fill the available places at the universities. Recognising the urgent need for more trained scientists, my right hon. Friend has under constant review the possibilities of increasing the supply without prejudicing the general scheme of demobilisation.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider revising the circular issued by his Department last May regarding the deferment of students? For example, in the Wigan Mining and Technical College, only six out of 24 students have been deferred, and there is great feeling about this.

"Man-Power Budget"

59.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will publish the derails of the "Man-power Budget" prepared before the recent decision was taken with regard to the number of men to be released from the Forces by June, 1946.

The numbers to be released from the Forces by June, 1946, were determined by reference to military requirements and transport facilities. The expansion required in the home civilian and export industries and services following the end of the Japanese war is so large that it was not necessary to draw up a detailed "Man-power Budget" for this purpose.

Teachers

60.

asked the Minister of Labour how many teachers have been released from each of the services to date under Class B; and how many more it is estimated will be released by the end of the present year.

65.

asked the Minister of Labour how many primary and secondary teachers, respectively, have now applied for their release under Class B, or had it applied for by their employers; and how many have actually been released.

School teachers are selected for the offer of Class B release by reference to the Service records of pre-enlistment occupation and not by application from the teachers themselves or their employers. The number of school teachers released in Class B by the end of September was 1,046, of whom approximately 600 were released during the second half of that month.

For the three Services the figures are:

Royal Navy and W.R.N.S.96
Army and A.T.S255
Royal Air Force and W.A.A.F695

The present programme provides for the release of up to 10,000 school teachers in Class B. The Services are dealing with these releases as quickly as possible, but no estimate can be given of the number of teachers who will be released by the end of the year.

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether, on the basis of his experience, he knows of any ground of complaint that teachers of other ranks, who have for the most part been teachers in primary schools, are being released more rapidly than officers, who for the most part have been teachers in secondary schools?

I have not discovered any grounds for that conclusion. Our experience so far is limited.

Can the hon. Gentleman give the figures for which I asked in my Question, distinguishing between the figures for primary and the secondary teachers?

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that while these Class B releases are being investigated the men themselves will not be posted overseas, as that has happened?

I am not in a position to give an assurance, but I will certainly take that matter up and try to avoid any undue travel.

71.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that 14933769 S. I. Swann, A.E.C., of No. 1 P.D.C., Oswestry, whose Class B release was applied for by the Dorset County Education Authority on 8th October and details of whom were sent to his Department on 11th October, has now been placed under orders to proceed to India to teach English to the Indians; and whether, in view of the shortage of teachers in this country, he will arrange that this man shall not be sent to India and shall be released under Class B.

I am making inquiries and will communicate with the hon. and gallant Member.

Can we have an assurance in regard to the last part of the Question, that the man will not be despatched to India, as he is due to end his embarkation leave within three days? It is a matter of urgency upon which I should like a reply.

I do not happen to control the Armed Forces, but I will certainly draw the attention of the Service chiefs to the point raised in the Question and we will take such steps as are open to us.

Will the hon. Gentleman make this matter one of urgency? I have sent half-a-dozen names to the Secretary of State for War with little result.

Agricultural Workers

61.

asked the Minister of Labour whether agricultural workers are being, or will be, released from the Services in Class B; and, in this conection, whether he will bear in mind the desirability of offering immediate release to occupiers of agricultural smallholdings and estate carpenters and masons

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my right hon. Friend's reply of 9th October to the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings), a copy of which I am sending him.

Does not the Minister agree that in view of the need for maximum production, and the very much greater contribution these men can make in their own jobs, there is a strong case for a very rapid rate of release in these categories under Class B?

As long as the rate of release under Class B does not interfere with our general demobilisation rate, we do not mind how quickly they come.

Unofficial Strikes

56.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will consider introducing legislation to make trades unions liable for losses inflicted on the community by their failure to control their members.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these unofficial strikes are becoming a sort of recognised technique by which trade unions are enabled to bring pressure to bear, while disclaiming all responsibility?

Directed Mineworkers

57.

asked the Minister of Labour when men who, while serving in the Army, responded to the Government's appeals for volunteers for the mines and who were subsequently released for work in the mines in W (T) T.A. Reserve and who, in some cases, have been living and working away from their homes for up wards of four years and are still liable on release from the mines to be called to complete their service in the Army, will be permanently discharged.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Surrey, Eastern (Mr. Astor), to a similar Question on 9th October.

Polish Nationals, Great Britain (Employment)

63.

asked the Minister of Labour how many Poles have applied for and been granted per mission to accept employment.

I regret that statistics are not available in a form which would enable me to give the hon. and gallant Member the information for which he asks.

It is a general question of how many have sought employment, and how many have been granted employment, under the conditions laid down. There is an enormous number of foreign nationals in this country, and it is right that they should be employed, if only on a temporary basis.

The hon. and gallant Member might have stated whether he wanted figures for the last two, three, four or five years, and whether for civil servants or for other categories. If he will indicate what he requires, we will do our best to help him.

Resettlement (British Empire Schemes)

64.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in the schemes for resettlement of members of the Forces, provision is being made for those members who desire to settle in the Colonies or Dominions.