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Commons Chamber

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 1 November 1945

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 1st November,1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

New Writ

For the Borough of South Kensington, in the room of Sir William Henry Davison, K.B.E., now Lord Broughshane of Kensington, called up to the House of Peers.—[ Major Sir Arthur Young.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Housing

New Houses (Statistics)

1

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the feeling of apprehension about the housing position among men returning from the Forces, how many houses of a permanent or temporary nature were completed and occupied in the month ended 30th September, 1945.

One thousand two hundred and eighty-two temporary houses were completed and 1,118 were handed over to local authorities in that month. The new records to be available as from January next, as promised in my statement on the 17th October, will provide information as to the number of permanent houses completed.

Is the Minister aware that in my constituency in Sheffield there are streets, like Franklin Street and Washington Road, where the housing conditions are extremely bad and where action is required; and will he give an assurance that he will speed up the present programme?

Action is being taken every day, but these conditions have prevailed for a very long time.

In view of the fact that no figures have been given with regard to permanent houses, is the House to understand that none have been built?

I do not want to ask local authorities to spend their time sending in records. I have already promised the House that at the beginning of the year all these records will be available.

In view of the totally inadequate number of houses, will the right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that he will provide an opportunity for private enterprise, which has built by far the largest number of houses?

2.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has given his staff any instructions by means of which a target for the total number of new houses of all types to be built within the year ending 1st August, 1946, can be ascertained.

I am unable to add anything to what I said on the 17th October on the subject of housing targets.

Will the Minister say whether he is going to get down to this planning as he has promised; and, if he is going to do any planning, will he give us figures?

I have already explained my policy to the House. There are targets for planning in regard to housing components and materials, but there is no housing programme in the sense in which I was asked about it during the Debate.

I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Stourport-On-Severn

3.

asked the Minister of Health the number of houses for which the approval of his Ministry has been requested by the Stourport-on-Severn Urban District Council and the number of houses approved.

The Urban District Council have applied for permission to seek tenders for the erection of 104 houses as their short term programme. They have been authorised to obtain tenders for 24 houses as a first instalment, and have been informed that as soon as satisfactory prices have been obtained for these I shall be ready to consider proposals for a further instalment.

Is the Minister aware that there are before this Council over 500 applications for houses, of which over half are from ex-Servicemen, and that they have a site ready for 104 houses? Why, therefore, is the Minister allowing only 24 houses to be built?

The answer which I have given is perfectly clear. In that area there are only enough men available to build 24 houses, and it would be absurd to have tenders accepted now for a larger number of houses, when the next instalment of houses ought to be built more cheaply.

Rural Districts (Survey)

4.

asked the Minister of Health what progress had been made by the rural district councils in England in the survey of working-class houses; whether the reports so far received give any indication of the number of houses required in rural England in order to properly house the rural workers; and whether he will call upon these councils to compile lists of men who have served in the Forces during the war and are without houses of their own.

:Progress with the housing survey in rural districts has been hampered by shortage of staff, and for this reason I have not so far asked local authorities to report on the results of the survey. I am anxious that all staff who can be used on the preparation of new housing schemes should be so used. Forms of application for accommodation have been distributed to men serving in the Forces, and local authorities are aware that the names of applicants should be entered on the list of those wanting houses.

Building Costs

5.

asked the Minister of Health how the maximum approved cost of a house to be built by a local authority compares, respectively, with the maximum cost for which a private builder can get a licence to build and the cost of a temporary aluminium house; and whether in each case the figure includes the cost of land, sewers and other services.

I do not think it would be wise to publish details of maximum approved prices at a time when I am trying to get prices down. Moreover, the types of houses mentioned are not necessarily comparable and I am, therefore, unable to give a valid comparison of the costs. The cost of temporary aluminium houses was given in the White Paper, Cmd. 6686.

Would the Minister agree that private builders are at a disadvantage in this matter?

Mining Subsidence

10.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the wastage of labour, materials and money arising from the erection of houses on land affected by mining subsidence; and if he will consider the prohibition of further building on land so affected.

Every case must be considered on its merits, and I am not prepared to issue a general prohibition.

Is the Minister aware that in my division the local authorities are prohibited by his Department from building, but the speculative builder is allowed to build as he chooses?

Of course, private builders have far greater freedom of action to build rather foolishly.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in some of these areas, timber houses have been erected in order to avoid subsidence?

It is very difficult to increase the number of timber houses which are available for us, because of currency difficulties.

Local Authorities (Financial Assistance)

11.

asked the Minister of Health what financial assistance he intends to give to local authorities in carrying out the housing programme.

Proposals will be submitted to Parliament as soon as I have completed my preliminary consultations with representatives of local authorities. I am about to begin these forthwith.

Is the Minister aware that no more recent instruction is available to local authorities than that given by his Department in his predecessor's time last April, and that it was based upon an Act passed before the war; and that the local authorities are meanwhile gravely handicapped in that respect?

Local housing authorities are perfectly well aware that the arrangements which will be arrived at will apply to houses that are being erected now, and it is perfectly obvious that it would be very foolish indeed to establish permanent subsidy conditions until we have a clear idea of building prices.

Building Work (Service Personnel)

12.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to give a decision with regard to the offer made by the commander of the R.A.F. Station, War boys, to the St. Ives R.D.C., Hunts., to provide R.A.F. personnel for building houses, as explained by the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire in a letter dated 16th September, to which he replied on 12th October to the effect that the matter was being considered by His Majesty's Government.

Yes, Sir. While Service personnel are employed on work of national importance in appropriate cases, I do not regard their employment as appropriate in this particular case. The outstanding labour demand on the contract, which is one for permanent housing, totals only eight.

Repairs

16.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that in Stepney, between 16th May, 1945, and 12th September, 1945, only 106 C (b) dwellings were repaired; that the average number of man-hours occupied in repairing these houses was 4,000 man-hours per house; that the average cost of repair of these houses was £750 per house or £400 per dwelling; and what steps will he take to stop this waste of labour and public funds and to direct this effort immediately to the erection of new houses.

I am causing inquiry to be made and will communicate with the hon. Member.

31.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that many cinemas, large shops and similar buildings, are effecting extensive repairs, decorations and painting; and whether he is satisfied that such activities do not interfere with corresponding work being done to dwelling-houses and cottages.

Building work of the kind referred to costing more than £10 needs a licence. Licences are issued in some instances by my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Works, and in others by local authorities acting on his behalf; and in neither type of case should a licence be issued if avoidable interference with housing work would result. If my hon. Friend is aware of cases in which, in his opinion, avoidable interference is being caused, I should be glad to have particulars.

Rent Control (Ridley Committee)

17.

asked the Minister of Health when he expects to be in a position to announce the Government's decision as to the recommendations of the Ridley Committee.

29.

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

To give full effect to the recommendations of the Committee would involve a complicated Measure for which, I am afraid, Parliamentary time cannot be found this Session. The Government, however, have decided to seek powers to control the rents of furnished lettings and of premises let with services, and a Bill for the purpose is being introduced to-day.

Having regard to the chaos which at the moment exists in the county courts in these cases, may I ask whether the answer means that no effect whatever is to be given to recommendations which give preference to the Serviceman returning to his own house?

I am hoping to deal with the most urgent kind of case, that is, the individuals who have no protection under the rent law as it is now, such as people in furnished lettings. We have no time for the much larger and more complicated Measure.

Pending the introduction of this legislation, will the Minister issue instructions to local authorities to give detailed information to landlords of tenements in respect to the present provisions of the Acts and will he take other steps to make those Acts as clear as he possibly can?

I could not possibly undertake to send a circular to local authorities which might amount to an interpretation of the law in a matter where the courts themselves find difficulty.

Prefabrication (German Methods)

18.

asked the Minister of Health whether his Department has studied German methods of manufacture of prefabricated houses; and whether he will consider bringing over German technicians and experts to give advice on the subject.

Yes, Sir. These matters are being examined in consultation with the Ministry of Works.

Building Authorisations

20.

asked the Minister of Health what procedure must any of the properly equipped small builders follow to enable them to get permission to start building houses.

A builder can reply to a local authority's invitation for tenders and if successful would be authorised to start building; or he can apply to a local authority for a licence to erect houses within the provisions of Circular 125/45, issued by the Ministry of Health, of which I am sending a copy to the hon. Member.

21

asked the Minister of Health if he will give a complete list of all the authorities, national, regional, local and others, from whom a builder must obtain approval before he can decide upon the site, obtain the water, electricity, gas and sewage arrangements and build a permanent house costing £1,300 in London or £1,200 outside.

A private builder has to obtain the approval of the planning authority to a site for a new house, and, during the current shortage of building labour and materials, a licence from the housing authority, before he may begin to build. The plans of the house have to be approved by the local authority under the building byelaws and also, so far as the elevations are concerned, by the planning authority. In certain cases the consent of the highway authority may also be necessary. As regards public services, the builder must arrange for connection with the supplying authority or company.

:Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his colleague the Minister of Town and Country Planning yesterday announced that he would like to see all these permits arranged under one heading; will he try to do the same thing?

:I also declared at the Building Congress yesterday that I was already making plans to see that these various licences and controls were cleared at the regional level by the Ministry of Health.

Scottish Operatives, London (Release)

25.

asked the Minister of Health if he is prepared to release Scottish building trades operatives in London who are employed making garden gates, repairing garage roofs, leaded lights and ceiling mouldings for the task of building houses for the Scottish people.

I am prepared to consider the release of Scottish operatives, wherever it can be done without prejudice to essential war damage repairs to houses in London.

Whilst I would be the last to deprive England of the help of Scotsmen in the solution of their problems, may I ask whether the Minister does not recognise that the overcrowding problem in Scotland is six times worse than in England; and whether he would not consider a reciprocal agreement whereby Englishmen might come to the aid now of Scotsmen, to equalise the position?

I think my hon. Friend will discover before very long that all the Scottish building operatives who are in London and who want to go home to Scotland, will be allowed to do so.

Price Limit

26.

asked the Minister of Health if he will consider applications to erect houses, which may cost slightly more than the prescribed limit, where roads and sewers are already in existence.

I am not prepared to consider any variation of the limit which has been so recently imposed.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are approximately 30,000 acres of land in this country where sites have already been passed and roads and sewers laid before 1939, and would he consider some steps whereby this national asset can be properly used?

If they could be used for the building of houses to let I should be prepared to consider the erection of houses upon them.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the total cost includes the cost of the land, which I asked for in Question 5 and which the right hon. Gentleman did not answer?

Contracts (Variation)

27

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the high cost involved to the public in varying a housing contract once a contract has been placed, he will consider issuing an instruction to local authorities that contracts once placed cannot be varied without his consent.

I am not clear what the hon. and gallant Member has in mind, but if he will give me particulars of the type of case where difficulty has arisen, I should be glad to consider the matter again.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that every variation in a contract once placed, whether it is an addition or an omission, adds a very high cost to the contract, out of all proportion to the work produced?

I am afraid I do not really understand what the hon. Member has in mind, because these contracts are not in fact varied. If he will let me have particulars, I will inquire into the matter.

Huts (Us Naval Base, Exeter)

32

asked the Minister of Health whether is aware that the U.S. Naval Base, Countess Wear, Exeter, con- tains 100 huts which can be converted in a short time, and without much expenditure, into temporary houses; and whether, in view of the housing shortage in the bombed city of Exeter, he will take the necessary steps to ensure that this accommodation is used to secure additional temporary homes for the people.

I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty with regard to the future use of this base, and will communicate with the hon. and learned Member.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give me supporting cover when I close the range with the First Lord of the Admiralty?

I will give my hon. and learned Friend every support in every reasonable eventuality.

Building Workers

53

asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the housing situation, how many more workers were employed in the building industry, as recognised for Class B purposes, at the end of September, 1945, than at the beginning of August, 1945.

I have consulted my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, who informs me that returns are obtained on a quarterly basis and separate figures for the beginning of August and the end of September are not available.

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that, in view of the slownessof the Minister of Health in getting on with the housing programme, he will give his right hon. Friend every assistance he can?

Day Nurseries

6

asked the Minister of Health whether he will now take steps to require local authorities to provide day nurseries for children under two, in each area in place of or in continuation of the wartime day nurseries; and what grants will be given to the local authority in respect of such day nurseries.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 29th October to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs.. Castle). Local needs vary widely and the appropriate method of caring for children under two—who are particularly susceptible to cross infection when congregated together—can best be judged by the responsible local authorities.

Is the Minister aware that, in spite of the answer which has been given, hardship has been caused to many mothers who desire to put their children in nurseries which have now ceased to function? Is he also aware that local authorities are uncertain as to how they should proceed in the matter because of the cessation of these grants, and will he therefore take steps to remedy this unsatisfactory situation?

There ought to be no uncertainty among local authorities about the grants, because they have been informed of what the position is.

We cannot have a lot of supplementary questions and get on with the Questions at the same time. I hope we can get on with some more Questions.

Public Health

Nursing (Vads)

7.

asked the Minister of Health what opportunities are to be given to V.A.D.s to continue in the nursing profession.

I assume the hon. and gallant Member has in mind those who have been serving as V.A.D.s with His Majesty's Forces. Such V.A.D.s can train for State registration and may be eligible for a six months' remission of the period of training, or they can train for the Assistant Nurses Roll, if they are not already eligible for admission. I hope to announce soon a scheme of special allowances for persons undertaking nursing training who have served in the Forces or done other work of national importance. V.A.D.s who satisfy the conditions would be eligible for such allowances.

Alien Doctors (Temporary Registration)

8

asked the Minister of Health if any decision has been reached as to the cancellation of the temporary regis- tration of alien doctors practising in this country; and whether, in this connection, he has considered the position of the anti-Nazi Sudeten doctors and others who have no country to which to return.

The Government have been considering these matters in connection with the Bill recently foreshadowed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for keeping alive for a transitional period certain Defence Regulations which would otherwise lapse in February next. My hon. Friend will see what is proposed in the Bill, which I understand will be introduced very shortly.

:In view of the tremendous shortage, not only in the medical profession but in the dental surgery and nursing professions, will the Minister be good enough to consider them at the same time?

I have already indicated in my answer to the last Question that the position of nurses is under the most urgent consideration, and a campaign in connection with new conditions is just about to be started.

Disseminated Sclerosis Cases (Treatment)

13.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider arranging for a special hospital to be allocated for the care and investigation of patients suffering from disseminated sclerosis, in view of the present difficulty in providing for the adequate care and treatment of these cases in existing hospitals.

I am advised that segregation in a specialised hospital would not necessarily be in the interest of this type of patient. Moreover, it would add considerably to nursing difficulties and in the present shortage of hospital staff this could not be contemplated.

Vaccination

14

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that with regard to the vaccination of children the view point of the father is alone sufficient in law; why the mother has no legal status or rights in this matter; and if he will introduce legislation to change this position.

The relevant requirements of the Vaccination Acts are imposed on the parent having the custody of a child and I am advised that it is the father who ordinarily has this legal custody. The system contained in the Vaccination Acts is among the matters under examination in framing a comprehensive health service.

:I take it that that is so legally, but surely the mother of a very small child has the right to a very emphatic opinion as to whether it should be vaccinated or not?

Influenza

19.

asked the Minister of Health whether he can make available figures showing the incidence of influenza this autumn compared with similar periods in previous years; and whether he will make a statement on the likelihood of an influenza epidemic in this country during the coming winter.

:For the six weeks ended October 20, influenza deaths in London and 126 great towns numbered 54 as compared with 96, 75 and 60 in the corresponding period of the last three years. I will not risk a prophecy about the likelihood of an influenza epidemic this winter.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the increase in sore throats and feverish colds, which are often the precursors of an influenza epidemic?

:I am very well aware of the increase in sore throats, and this long list of Questions has something to do with it, in my own case.

Hospital Treatment (Poor Law Relief)

23.

asked the Minister of Health the names of the local authorities which, in spite of the Local Government Act, 1929, are still providing hospital treatment under the Poor Law system.

I am circulating in the Official Report a list of county and county borough councils who have made declarations, under Section 5 of the Local Government Act, 1929, that hospital treatment shall not be provided by way of Poor Law relief. Other local authorities, in so far as they provide general hospital treatment, do so partly under Poor Law powers and partly under Public Health powers.

Following is the list:

Declarations under the Public Health Acts have been made by the under-mentioned public assistance authorities.

County Councils (5)

  • Cheshire.
  • Herts.
  • Holland.
  • Rutland.
  • East Sussex.

County Borough Councils (34)

  • Barnsley.
  • Barrow-in-Furness.
  • Bath.
  • Birkenhead.
  • Bournemouth.
  • Bradford.
  • Brighton.
  • Bristol.
  • Derby.
  • Dewsbury.
  • Doncaster.
  • Eastbourne.
  • Gateshead.
  • Grimsby.
  • Halifax.
  • Huddersfield.
  • Ipswich.
  • Leeds.
  • Leicester.
  • Lincoln.
  • Manchester.
  • Middlesbrough
  • Oldham.
  • Oxford.
  • Preston.
  • Reading.
  • Rotherham.
  • Salford.
  • Southampton.
  • South Shields.
  • Stoke-on-Trent.
  • Wakefield.
  • West Bromwich.
  • West Hartlepool.

Rheumatic Fever

24.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that rheumatic fever is the main source of heart disease; and if he will consider including rheumatic fever among the list of compulsory notifiable diseases to permit of its early diagnosis before heart disease has taken hold.

:I am very well aware of the evil consequences of rheumatic fever. The whole problem of how best to fight this disease is being intensively examined and the question of notification will not be overlooked.

Norfolk County Isolation Hospital (Nursing Staff)

30

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the shortage of nurses at the Norfolk County Isolation Hospital; and what steps he is taking to help the county council to meet the present difficult situation.

:Yes, Sir. My officers and those of the Ministry of Labour and National Service are doing their utmost to fill the vacancies at this hospital. In addition, permission is being given to the hospital authority to advertise, and the use, if necessary, of alternative accommodation is being considered. As the hon. and gallant Member knows, there is a general shortage of staff and measures designed to deal with it will be announced shortly.

Household Equipment (Government Stocks)

28

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that there are still Government stocks of household furniture, bedlinen and crockery being held in some reception areas and that these articles are becoming valueless through dampness and inattention; and whether he will arrange for these goods to be disposed of at reasonable prices, the first opportunity to purchase being given to people who have had household equipment worn out by housing evacuees or have lost their homes by enemy action.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) on the 9th October, of which I will send him a copy.

Education

Training College Accommodation

33

asked the Minister of Education in view of the shortage of accommodation for the training of teachers, whether she will take steps to acquire the temporary use of The Mansion, Gunnersbury Park, W.3, for the purpose of a day training college for teachers.

Arrangements were made with the joint committee of local authorities which ad- ministers this property to enable it to be used as an emergency training college. Alterations were about to be undertaken when the Committee was threatened with legal proceedings by an association of adjacent property owners. This association were relying on a restrictive covenant which had been given in favour of their property, laying it down that The Mansion would not be used except for such public purposes as might be ancillary to the use of the park as a public park or sports ground. The property owners have refused to withdraw their objection and have stated that if the proposal to lease Gunnersbury Park is not dropped they propose to apply to the court for an injunction. The matter is under consideration.

Is my hon. Friend aware that his appointment is one which will give great satisfaction throughout the educational world, and that I do not propose to ask him any supplementary questions?

36

asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware that 200 women students have been ordered to report at the new Government training college in Hampton, Middlesex, without any arrangements being made for their living accommodation in this overcrowded area; and what action she proposes to take.

The emergency training college at Hampton is a day college primarily for students who can attend while living at home. A limited amount of hostel accommodation is also available. Offers of places have been issued, first to candidates living within daily travelling distance of the college, secondly to persons to whom hostel accommodation was available, and thirdly to women who stated that they could find accommodation for themselves, sometimes with friends or relations, near the college. It appears from information that the hon. Member has sent my right hon. Friend that some of the latter category are having difficulties in finding the accommodation which they hoped to get. If necessary, they will be offered places in other colleges that will be opening in the new year.

Teachers' Salaries (Increments)

34

asked the Minister of Education whether she is aware of the dissatisfaction among teachers because of the failure of some education authorities to authorise the payments of salary increments due from April of this year; and why some local education authorities have paid the said increases to some of their teachers and not to others.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which my right hon. Friend gave on this point to my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Robens) on 25th October, a copy of which she is sending him.

Handicapped Children (Advisory Committee)

35

asked the Minister of Education when she proposes to announce the constitution and membership of the Advisory Committee on Handicapped Children, the chairman and technical members of which were announced by a previous Minister.

The Committee consists of the chairman, the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer), a vice-chairman and two other members, and was appointed to advise the Minister on such matters relating to children requiring special educational treatment as might be submitted to them or as they might consider required investigation. No occasion has yet arisen for adding to the membership of the Committee but when necessary my right hon. Friend will be ready to make additional ad hoc appointments to enable the committee to consider specific references.

Having regard to the very grave neglect of this problem in the country in the past, and the insufficient provision for handicapped children which exists at present, may I have an assurance from my hon. Friend that the Minister will consider adding to this Committee, not people with theoretical expert knowledge but people who have practical knowledge of the work?

I think the hon. Lady can rest assured that those with expert knowledge and experience will certainly be added to the Committee when required.

Coleg Harlech, Merioneth (Warden)

37

asked the Minister of Education, what steps are being taken to appoint a warden for Coleg Harlech, Merioneth.

My right hon. Friend has been informed that the Council of Coleg Harlech propose to appoint a Warden and she understands that advertisements have appeared in the Press.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his informative reply, may I ask whether he is satisfied that the viewpoint of the W.E.A. and of the trades unions is adequately represented on the sub-committee which is drawing up the short list of applicants for this rather important post?

While having every sympathywith the point of view expressed, I think notice ought to be given of that Question.

Shaftesbury Grammar School (Grant)

38.

asked the Minister of Education whether, before refusing a direct grant to the Shaftesbury Grammar School, any member of the Dorset County Education Committee or Governors' Board was consulted; and on how many occasions in the last nine months has an inspector from the Ministry visited the school.

The application for recognition was submitted on behalf of the governing body through the Dorset Local Education Authority; and, in considering the case, my right hon. Friend had before her the views both of the governors and the County Education Committee. My right hon. Friend regrets that she is unable in the time available to give precise information on the second part of the Question.

May I ask why the Minister of Education refused to see a deputation from the governors, and in view of the widespread concern at her refusal to give a direct grant, may we have an assurance that certain of these cases will be reconsidered?

I think that all I can do is to report the observations to my right hon. Friend.

May I give notice that I shall raise the whole question of direct grants to schools on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity?

King Edward Vii School, Sheffield

39

asked the Minister of Education whether she will now institute a public inquiry into the decision of the City of Sheffield Education Committee to alter the status of King Edward VII School, Sheffield, in view of the petition submitted to her signed by over 10,000 Sheffield residents, in order to avoid any suggestion that party politics influenced the Education Committee's decision.

No, Sir. The school became a county secondary school on the 1st April last in accordance with the provisions of Section 9 (2) of the Education Act, 1944, and the hon. Member is under a misapprehension in suggesting that the decision of the Sheffield Education Committee involved any change in the status of the school.

If that is the case and everything is clear, why will the Department not appoint a committee to see that everything is above board and there is no suggestion of political pressure?

If my hon. Friend's reply correctly represents the policy of the Department, may I ask him whether he will apply the principle to the infants' schools? Has the decision been reversed?

May I ask the hon. Member to give assurance to the House that this matter will be dealt with justly?

Schools (Milk Distribution)

40

asked the Minister of Education, in view of the dismay caused among teachers in London and parts of the Home Counties by the Ministry's circular of 15th October, asking them to distribute milk in the schools from churns to the children's beakers, she will take every step to see that supplies of bottles are made available by the end of this year in order that the teachers are relieved of this task.

My right hon. Friend is advised that the urgent steps already taken should result in this temporary arrangement for the use of churns being discontinued by the end of the year.

Post Office

Evening Collections, Inner London

41

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when he intends to restore the evening collections in Inner London at 7.30, 9 and midnight.

A review has been made of the improvements possible in the postal services with the staff now available. Pending the return from the Forces of more of the regular staff it has only been possible to introduce some improvements of a relatively minor character, though they include the restoration of four of the main travelling post offices and later posting times in London and elsewhere for first delivery next day. The full programme of post war postal services cannot be introduced until a much greater proportion of the regular staff now with the Forces has returned to the Post Office and the services have been comprehensively overhauled; and my Noble Friend proposes to make a full statement well in advance of its introduction.

Until the whole of the scheme is put under review, it is impossible to say whether these particular services will be restored.

When the hon. Gentleman undertakes a comprehensive survey, will he realise that in many parts of the country there is only one collection a day?

Will the hon. Gentleman give full weight to the views of the staff associations concerned in this matter before he comes to any final decision in regard to these very late collections which impose hardship on the staff concerned?

Telephone Call-Box, Shetland

42

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware of the demand for a telephone call-box at Mid Walls, Shetland, to meet the needs of the people of Dale of Walls; and if he is prepared to provide it.

Yes, Sir; a telephone call office can be provided if the local council is prepared to pay £4 a year for five years towards the cost, and they are being approached accordingly.

Telephone Exchange, Oxford (Conditions)

43

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he has now inquired into the complaint transmitted to him concerning the working conditions of the telephone girls in the Oxford exchange; and what is the rate of sickness amongst the girls.

Yes, Sir. I have made inquiry and I am sanguine that when the hon. and gallant Member visits the Oxford Telephone Exchange on Saturday he will agree that the allegations made are unsubstantiated. The rate of sick leave for the first nine months of this year was 11.62 days per annum, which compares favourably with the pre-war rate, and with the rate in outside industry.

Books Of Stamps

44

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether, in view of the increased volume of the postal services, he will arrange to issue 10s. books of stamps, in addition to those now available.

No, Sir. I do not consider that the demand for 10s. books would be sufficient to justify the extra work of stocking and distribution.

War Decorations And Medals

46

asked the Prime Minister if he will review the qualifications for war medals and decorations and consider sympathetically the anomalous position of men who served in the Burma campaigns but are not eligible for the Burma Star.

I have been asked to reply. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Tufton Beamish) on 16th October. The position of men who served in Burma is at present under consideration.

Overseas Service Commands (Manpower)

47

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint a committee of Members of Parliament to examine the use of manpower in overseas Service Commands, and to report what economy of manpower can be effected in H.Qs. staffs and Base Establishments.

No, Sir. Effective machinery already exists for the constant review of these establishments. I doubt whether any practical benefits could be derived from the appointment of a committee on the lines suggested by the hon. Member.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great and growing belief in the country that demobilisation is being slowed up owing to the misuse of manpower in the Services, and as we now have no review of current expenditure, would it not be a good thing to give an opportunity to hon. Members to check this belief?

The Question relates to the machinery and not to the merits, and in the view of the Government the existing machinery is adequate, and the machinery suggested in the Question would not be the right kind.

Armaments Manufacture (Private Firms)

50

asked the Prime Minister whether, in consequence of His Majesty's Government's decision to continue the Ministry of Supply as a permanent Ministry, the private manufacture and sale of arms in this country will in future be prohibited.

The manufacture of armaments will be the responsibility of my right hon. Friends the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production. In maintaining war potential they will utilise both private and State owned capacity as circumstances may require.

May I ask the Lord President of the Council whether, in so far as private manufacturers are used, the Government will continue to insist on the examination of costs, whether the arms are provided for this country or anywhere else?

Ensa

51

asked the Lord President of the Council whether the National Services Entertainments Board have now considered a request for an inquiry into E.N.S.A.; and whether he has any statement to make.

The National Service Entertainments Board are of opinion that there is no need whatsoever for an independent public inquiry into E.N.S.A.'s activities. I have also consulted the Service authorities concerned, who consider that the scope of the task undertaken by E.N.S.A. and the enormous difficulties which they have had to face in bringing entertainment to the Forces all over the world have been insufficiently appreciated. It is natural that there should have been local failures and criticisms, but, viewed as a whole, the work of the organisation has been highly commendable. The complaints may perhaps be seen in a better perspective if it is mentioned that between the outbreak of war and the 8th May, 1945, E.N.S.A. performances to the troops and factory workers numbered over a million, and the attendances exceeded 318,000,000.

May the House take it from that answer that the Government are perfectly satisfied that there has been no misdirection of public or N.A.A.F.I. funds in connection with the management of E.N.S.A.?

I have no information to that effect. Certainly the reply may be taken to indicate that the Government see no prima facie case for a Governmental inquiry.

Displaced Persons, Germany (Food Supplies)

52

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster why U.N.R.R.A. is prohibited from supplying food to the camps of displaced persons in the British zone in Germany.

The Council of U.N.R.R.A. resolved in August last that the Administration should operate in regard to displaced persons in Germany, but that responsibility for the provision of basic supplies should remain with the military authorities. The provision of food for displaced persons in assembly centres in the British zone in Germany is therefore a military responsibility.

Is the Minister aware that recently, in consequence of this decision, the rations in displaced persons' camps were reduced, and is he aware that if U.N.R.R.A. were permitted to feed them it would help the displaced persons and assist the food problem in Germany?

It cannot be admitted that as a result of this decision the rations have had to be reduced. It may be that they have had to be modified because of supplies being limited, but it is not because of this decision, which was taken by the Council of U.N.R.R.A. itself.

Armed Forces (Manpower)

54

asked the Minister of Labour if he will establish a system of small civilian commissions to visit R.N., Army and R.A.F. stations with the object of ensuring that no superfluous personnel is being retained and to make detailed recommendations for economies in manpower wherever possible.

Does not the Minister consider that such a step as is suggested in the Question, in addition to producing precious economies in manpower, might also go a long way towards providing a sense of reassurance to the troops?

I am afraid my hon. Friend is asking me for an expression of opinion, which I am not prepared to give.

Arising out of that reply and the reply to Question 47, will the Government take an early opportunity of making a statement as to precisely what is this machinery which reviews the use of manpower in the Services?

I could not follow the supplementary question, but I will study it in HANSARD, and if anything can be done, it will be done.

Demobilisation

Agricultural Workers

55

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any statistics to show the number of men demobilised from the Forces who are returning to work in agriculture under Class A, Class B and Class C, respectively.

In view of the critical position with regard to food supplies not only in the world but in this country, does not the right hon. Gentleman think he ought to get this information?

:I can say that considerable assistance has been given to agriculture and we are giving my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture all the help possible to get the workers he requires.

The right hon. Gentleman has already asked one supplementary question. We must have fewer supplementary questions if more Questions are to be taken.

Building Workers

63

asked the Minister of Labour the method of operation of Class B block releases of building workers from His Maesty's Forces; which Department makes and presents the lists of the men where release is recommended; how such lists are prepared; and what is the order of priority.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made on 11th October on the procedure for release, from the Forces in Class B, a copy of which I am sending him.

Will the Minister investigate the possibility of giving some prior indication to the men of the probable date when they are likely to be released similar to the procedure adopted in the case of Class A releases?

Is the Minister aware that the procedure is not working well, and that there are a great number of key men like hand tile moulders who cannot be released, and will he look into the whole process of Class B releases?

I cannot accept the suggestion that the procedure is not working well. It is taking time to get into its stride, but many of the difficulties are due to incorrect designations of the people applied for.

Teachers

64

asked the Minister of Labour how many secondary and elementary teachers, respectively, had been released from the Forces under Class B at the latest date for which figures are available.

The total number of school teachers released in Class B by the end of September was 1,046. I regret that separate figures for secondary and elementary teachers are not readily available.

Is not that total deplorably small, in view of the number of teachers in other classes of schools; and will the right hon. Gentleman do everything he can to accelerate the matter?

We are doing what we can within the scheme to expedite the release of all, but not to give special preferences to one against the other.

One-Man Business Owners

68.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will consult organisations representing individual traders before drawing up the conditions under which the owners of one-man businesses may apply for release from the Forces.

Applications for the release of owners of one-man businesses are usually based on considerations of a personal nature and are therefore dealt with by the Service Departments under the arrangements for compassionate release. There is no question of my laying down the conditions on which release on compassionate grounds shall be granted.

Did not the right hon. Gentleman promise to draw up some general guide by which the Service De- partments might be influenced in this matter?

I do not think I quite promised that. I promised to look into the matter and see if it was possible to do anything. I am doing that, but I have not yet been able to reach a conclusion.

:Is the Minister aware that in some cases the men making these applications have been informed that they must have the backing of their local M.P.; and is not this entirely outside his intention?

Can the Minister say what considerations the commanding officer would have in mind when asked to deal with applications for release on these lines?.

Group Releases

69.

asked the Minister of Labour how many men have been demobilised under Class B block releases and Class B individual specialists..

79 and 80

asked the Minister of Labour (1) the number of men and women released from the Forces during October;

(2) what is the average number of men now being passed daily through the demobilisation centres.

I would ask my hon. Friend to await the next monthly statement on the progress of releases from the Forces.

Industrial Volunteers

70.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will arrange that time spent by Army personnel on Class W (T) Reserve, on work of national importance, should now count as service in assessing age and service release group numbers.

71.

asked the Minister of Labour if the period of release for Servicemen who volunteered for entry into the mining industry will count as service towards their current engagement.

No, Sir. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) on 9th October, a copy of which I am sending him.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some Servicemen who volunteered for the mining industry were handed instructions stating definitely that their service in the industry would count as service to their current engagement? Surely a pledge contained in these instructions should be answered.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there has been a deviation from this principle in the matter of airmen who volunteered for the engineering industry and that it has given great satisfaction to these men? Will he not consider extending this principle to other industries and also to men released from the Army in Class W (T) Reserve?

73

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the recent concession given to men of the R.A.F. that time spent in industry, during temporary release, should count as service for grouping, he will consider giving the same concession to men in the R.N.

No, Sir. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air to the hon. and gallant Member for Waterloo (Captain Bullock) on 10th October, a copy of which I am sending him.

Mining Volunteers (Reinstatement)

72.

asked the Minister of Labour what are the reinstatement rights which can be claimed by Servicemen who volunteered for and entered the mining industry.

Any right which a member of the Armed Forces may have to reinstatement with his former employer under the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act, 1944, is not prejudiced by the fact that he was released from the Forces in order to take up work in the mining industry. In these circumstances, such work is treated as a further period of war service under the Act, and application for reinstatement may be made to the former employer when the war service comes to an end.

Is the Minister aware that some men now engaged in the mining industry have already reached their release group number? Can they claim their reinstatement rights now from the local National Service Officer?

If the hon. Member would send me particulars, I would be glad to look into that.

Munition Workers (Transfers To Agriculture)

56

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any information showing the number of men or women who have been transferred from munition work to agriculture since VE-Day.

Why is it that when the House desires information from the right hon. Gentleman it is never available?

Military Service

Skilled Men

57

asked the Minister of Labour if he will take steps to prevent trained engineers and other trained men from being posted to useless positions in the Forces.

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the call-up for general service of men in certain engineering and other occupations. I cannot agree that any particular class of men should be exempt from military service on the grounds that they are not immediately required for service in a trade capacity. If such a proposal were adopted it would be impossible to meet the manpower requirements of the Armed Forces.

Recruits (Posting)

58

asked the Minister of Labour why men are still told on enlistment that they may choose the branch of the Services in which they desire to serve and are subsequently posted to another branch.

The National Service Acts require me to record a man's preference for a particular Service. Posting, however, depends on the relative intakes of the three Services and on an individual's suitability, in the light of his medical grading, industrial experience, etc., for vacancies in the Service for which he has expressed preference.

Is there any purpose in continuing to record these special preferences when they are invariably not granted; and does not that lead to dishonesty and irritation?

I cannot accept the suggestion that they are invariably not granted. If a man expresses a wish to go into the Navy and there is a vacancy, he is put where he desires to go, but if everybody wants to go into the Navy and there are no vacancies then they have to go somewhere else.

Would it be possible to allow 18-year-old apprentices to go to sections in the Forces where they could, to some extent at least, carry on with their trades?

Students (Deferment)

59

asked the Minister of Labour, consequent on the Government's decision to limit the deferment of students who are taking scientific and technical courses and who are in the age group 1st October, 1926, to 30th September, 1927, to 80 per cent. of the number deferred in each institution in the session 1944–45, by whom and in what manner is the distinction between the relative merits of the different students made.

It is the duty of the university joint recruiting board to select the most promising students for the grant of deferment.

Does not the Minister feel that this power of discrimination is asking too much of this board?

Industrial Employees

76

asked the Minister of Labour how many men, apart from youths of 18 years of age, who were previously employed in industry, it is intended to call up to the Armed Forces during each quarter of 1946.

I am not yet in a position to announce the numbers to be recruited for the Forces next year.

May I ask if the Minister is aware that the calling-up, now that the war has ceased, of these boys of 18, and taking them away from their studies and apprenticeships, has a very detrimental effect both on their education and on industry?

Conscientious Objectors

60

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that persons registered as conscientious objectors are employed on work other than their usual pre-war occupations; whether those with qualifications, such as schoolteachers, are likely to be released from manual labour and engaged in occupations where their knowledge and skill can be more usefully employed; and, if so, on what conditions it will be done.

65.

asked the Minister of Labour if he wall introduce a release scheme for persons registered as conscientious objectors to enable them to resume their normal occupations.

Yes, Sir. Under the National Service Acts conditionally registered conscientious objectors are ordered by Tribunals to undertake work of a civil character until the end of the present emergency, and in the Majority of cases the work they have been ordered to take up is outside their usual occupation. I have already presented a Bill to provide for the release of conditionally registered conscientious objectors under a scheme based on age and length of time conditionally registered and related to the Army timetable of releases in Class A.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of these conscientious objectors are school teachers?

Is it not the case that men are released from the Army under Class B, not at all on their own account, but because the service they can render to the community elsewhere is more valuable than in the Army, and cannot this be rationalised and extended to conscientious objectors in the same way?

I have been asked to answer a question in relation to releases under Class A, and if the hon. Gentleman will put down a question relating to Class B releases, I shall be glad to answer it.

Holiday Credits

61

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that payment of holiday credits as at present arranged is causing dissatisfaction among workers who have to change their place of employment; and if he will take steps to remove this difficulty.