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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 8 November 1945

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Education

Students (Demobilisation)

1.

asked the Minister of Education whether in view of the shortage of schoolmasters, she will take steps to secure the release from the Forces of men whose university or college education was interrupted by military service, so that they can resume their studies immediately instead of waiting for the next academic year, thereby speeding by 12 months the influx of trained schoolmasters into the schools.

:Arrangements can usually be made for men released from the Forces to resume their studies immediately, without waiting for the next academic year. Now it has been agreed that in view of the shortage of teachers, special arrangements shall be made for the early release of a number of men whose courses at university training departments or training colleges were interrupted by military service, and I shall be announcing details shortly to the Departments and colleges concerned.

:Will the statement include a reference to those officer-teachers who are in the B.A.O.R. and whose release groups have been deferred?

That Question should be addressed to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Conscientious Objectors

2.

asked the Minister of Education what progress is being made in the scheme to facilitate the return of teachers, who are conscientious objectors, to the teaching profession.

:A Bill has been introduced dealing with the release of conscientious objectors from work which they may have undertaken as a condition of their registration. Teachers are not specifically mentioned in the Bill, but they are covered by the general proposals.

Will the right hon. Lady say if these teachers havebeen released to take the place of clergymen who are not allowed to teach?

The question shows a complete misapprehension of the situation as regards clergymen.

Vj Holidays

3.

asked the Minister of Education why a letter sent by a head master on 30th August, inquiring whether two additional days should be added to normal boarding school holidays on account of VJ celebrations was not answered by her department until 4th October, on account of which 300 boys were deprived of their VJ holidays; whether she is aware that letters addressed to her Department by headmasters rarely receive a reply under three or four weeks and that replies when received, are habitually couched in that circumlocutory style and doubtful grammar which other departments have abandoned; and if she will remedy this

:The inquiry to which my hon. Friend refers came from an independent school, and the question of additional holidays on account of VJ celebrations was a matter for determination by the Governors in the light of the Prime Minister's announcement. As the hon. Member is the headmaster concerned, he could have arranged his own holidays without sending a letter to an already overworked and understaffed Department.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, and for the advice for which a new Member is always grateful, may I ask whether she thinks five weeks is a reasonable time in which to reply to a letter, and whether, also, it is not due to the fact that the Ministry of Education has been something of a Cinderella under her predecessors, when personnel were taken away by other Departments? May I also say how confident we are on this side of the House that the right hon. Lady will improve these matters?

Teachers (Emergency Training)

asked the Minister of Education if she will give particulars of the measures taken to speed up emergency training of teachers in order to secure the additional teachers necessary to implement the Education Act of 1944.

Five emergency training colleges for teachers are now open which, with two small groups in permanent colleges, provide for some 830 students. A sixth college for 200 women students will open next week. Premises have now been secured for a further 14 colleges to be opened early next year, bringing the total up to the 20 which were promised by the end of January. I am making every effort to secure that further colleges shall be opened as rapidly as possible thereafter.

May I ask the right hon. Lady if she is aware that it will require at least 30,000 additional teachers in three years'time in order to raise the school-leaving age and reduce the size of classes, and whether she will have the 150 emergency training colleges, with an average of 200 students each, ready by the end of the year?

:I think my hon. Friend, with the best will in the world, has got his figures wrong. I have never suggested that 30,000 teachers should go through the emergency training colleges. There are at least 20,000 teachers to come back from the Forces, and it was never intended, nor have I made any promise, that more than 13,000 should be trained by the emergency training colleges.

Is the right hon. Lady satisfied that the arrangements made will provide sufficient teachers to enable the school-leaving age to be raised this time next year?

7.

asked the Minister of Education what is the main factor militating against the opening of emergency training colleges for teachers.

:The chief difficulty is the supply of buildings. New building is out of the question, and most of the existing suitable buildings are already in Government occupation of one kind or another. In determining whether they can give up such buildings, the Government Departments concerned have to bear in mind the demand for surrendering other premises which they are occupying such as dwelling houses and hotels.

May I say that, as this matter is being raised tomorrow, I will not pursue it now?

10.

asked the Minister of Education, in view of the shortage of teachers, if she will take steps to acquire requisitioning powers for the purpose of acquiring suitable properties for use as emergency training colleges

:I already have requisitioning powers and the possibility of using such powers for this purpose in suitable cases is not being overlooked.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether those powers will be used in the acquisition of The Mansion, Gunnersbury Park, W.3 as an emergency day training college for Teachers, to which proposal a small number of residents in the immediate locality have raised objection?

I am afraid that this is a very complicated question, because it involves a lot of legal difficulties. We are taking the matter fully into consideration, but we are not quite sure how far our powers extend in that matter.

11.

asked the Minister of Education the number of students enrolled for training under the Teachers'Emergency Training Scheme who are waiting to begin their training.

:On 6th November, 1945, the number of candidates who had been notified of acceptance and who were known to be available for training but had not yet been placed in a college, was 2,584. Of these some 200 will begin training next week.

:Is the right hon. Lady aware that considerable inconvenience is being caused to many persons who have been accepted for training under the scheme but who are given no indication as to when it is likely to commence?

:I am sorry for the inconvenience, which I recognise, but every candidate is told at the time of acceptance that it is not possible to say when he will enter any particular college, as that depends on the colleges being made available as quickly as we can possibly get them.

Independent Schools

5.

asked

the Minister of Education what steps she has taken to secure the registration and inspection of independent schools.

:Under Section 119 of the Education Act, 1944, Part III of the Act, which deals with this matter, will come into operation on a date to be appointed by Order in Council. In present circumstances, I am unable to give any indication of the probable date to be appointed.

asked the Minister of Education whether fully qualified teachers in independent schools have the same opportunities of early demobilisation as teachers employed in local authority schools; and, if not, whether she will take steps to secure such opportunities in view of the urgent need of these schools to make good their now undermanned teaching staffs.

Yes, Sir; all schools and institutions recognised by my Department as efficient have the same opportunities of benefiting by the block release of teachers in Class B of the Re-allocation of Manpower Scheme.

Is there any such facility for teachers in schools which do not happen to be on the Board of Education list but which have been very long established and subject to inspection by H.M. Inspectors?

:Any independent school which is recognised as efficient, which is of good standing and has, for some reason, been precluded from obtaining recognition, may make representa- tions to my Department to be put on the same footing as any of the other schools.

Scholarships (University Education)

8.

asked the Minister of Education what steps she has taken to equalise the accessibility of university education as between different local education authorities.

:The Regulations for Scholarships and Other Benefits, 1945, made under Section 81 of the Education Act, 1944, empower local education authorities to grant scholarships to pupils to enable them to obtain university education. In paragraphs 15 to 18 of Circular 26, which accompanied the draft Regulations, authorities are given guidance regarding the scope of their awards, and my Department endeavours to stimulate the less progressive authorities to make adequate provision.

:In view of the very encouraging statement made by the present Home Secretary, when Parliamentary Secretary, on this subject, will my right hon. Friend say whether she proposes toincrease the number of State scholarships or increase the grant to local education authorities, especially in order that prospective doctors, among others, can get assistance to go to the universities?

I doubt if my right hon. Friend ever said anything about doctors, but, as regards the others, these matters are under constant consideration.

Direct Grant Schools

9.

asked the Minister of Education if she will give the numbers of direct grant schools on 1st January, 1945, and at the present time; and how many applications for direct grant status have still to be determined.

:The number of direct grant grammar schools on 1st January, 1945, was 231. At present, 86 schools have been so recognised and 102 applications have still to be determined.

:In view of the very large sums of public money involved in these grants to schools, will the right hon. Lady say what measure of control her Ministry exercises over them?

:Would the right hon. Lady inform the House at the earliest opportunity of the terms of availability of the direct grant to these schools? As the Minister knows, the Opposition desire to raise this matter at the earliest possible moment.

:I shall be glad, on the occasion to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, to deal with it as extensively as I can.

Divisional Executives (Travelling Expenses)

12.

asked the Minister of Education if she is now able to state her intentions with respect to amending legislation to empower local education authorities to pay the travelling expenses of members of divisional executives incurred in attending divisional executive meetings in the area of the division and sub-committee meetings and approved deputations at the central office of the local education authority, respectively.

My hon. Friend's Question raises issues which affect other fields of local government than that for which Iam responsible. I am, however, aware of the difficulties of the position in so far as divisional executives are concerned and am in communication with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that long distances have to be travelled, and in the industrial county of Lancashire it is not uncommon for divisional executive members to have to travel distances of 10 to 15 miles to meetings?

I am aware of the fact, and I am very concerned about that, but I cannot deal with it departmentally.

School Kitchens (Norfolk)

13.

asked

the Minister of Education whether in approving plans for the construction of school kitchens in Nor folk, she will agree to a normal type of tiled roof in preference to the more costly and less satisfactory flat roofs such as were necessary when timber was not available.

:In the case of small kitchens and sculleries, to which I understand the Question refers, I am now prepared to approve tiled or slated roofs provided that all appropriate steps are taken to restrict the amount of timber used.

Special Responsibility Posts

14.

asked the Minister of Education whether she has yet approved any schemes of payment relating to posts of special responsibility under the Burn-ham scale; whether she is aware of the divergent awards being offered as between different authorities; and whether she will use her discretionary powers where mini mum awards are offered, in view of the increased cost of livingand the increased remuneration in comparable professions and in the identical profession in Scotland

:Twenty schemes of allowances under the Burnham scale for teachers in primary and secondary schools have so far been submitted to me by local education authorities. Of these one has been approved and the others are now under consideration in my Department. I am aware that there are divergencies between the proposals of different authorities. As the hon. Member will be aware, the determination and distribution of the value of these allowances is primarily a matter within the discretion of the local education authority, but I shall have regard to the point which he has raised as to disparity between different authorities in my consideration of these schemes.

Coleg Harlech, Merioneth

15.

asked the Minister of Education whether she is satisfied that the interests of the trades unions and the Workers Educational Association are sufficiently represented on the sub-committee appointed by the Governing Council of Coleg Harlech, Merioneth, to draw up a short list of applicants for the post of warden of the college.

:I understand that the Council of Coleg Harlech includes representatives of trade unions and of the North and South Wales Districts of the Workers Educational Association and I have no doubt that in appointing the subcommittee they had regard to those interests.

Will the Minister assure the House that she will use her best endeavours to see that the great work done by the W.E.A., which is a non-political body—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—it is a non-political body—does not become the subject of a political party squabble?

Will the right hon. Lady realise that this admirable institution is an autonomous body?

:The only thing with which the question is concerned is whether they are represented on the Council, and their honorary secretary is a member of the Council.

Post Office

Postal Facilities

16.

asked the Assistant Postmaster General whether the arrangement, announced early in the war, is still operative, whereby letters posted by midday to any address in the country, will be delivered by the first post the following morning, or whether an improved arrangement is now in existence.

:Since 1st October, the posting time on week-days in London for delivery by first post throughout England and Wales on the following week-day has been 3. p.m. in Head District Areas (3.30 p.m. at Head District Offices), and 1.45–2.15 p.m. in Sub-District Areas—two hours later than formerly. The corresponding posting time on Sundays, at a restricted number of posting boxes, is now 2 p.m. in Head District Areas, and 1 p.m. in sub District Areas—one hour later than formerly.

:Is the hon. Gentleman aware that those times are very far from being adhered to, and that the postal delivery service at present is very bad indeed in many parts of the country?

:These times represent an improvement and, as my Noble Friend has stated in another place, he hopes to make a further announcement at an early date when staffing difficulties can be overcome.

Do I understand from the hon. Gentleman's reply that these hours are applicable in the provinces? Is he aware that a letter takes 48 hours to travel 14 miles?

Will the hon. Gentleman look into the other end of the case and see that some improvement is made in the delivery of the letters?

:This Question, of course, refers to deliveries from London to the country, but we are looking into the whole of this matter. The main difficulty has been shortage of staff. As soon as staffing can be improved, we shall improve the services, but it should be borne in mind that these services can only run parallel with improvements in transport.

Parcels (Pilfering)

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware that there is pilfering from parcels, etc., mailed to and by members of the Forces serving in S.E.A.C.; and what steps he is taking to check this practice.

:I am not aware of any general complaint relating to the South East Asia Command such as is suggested by the Question. But if he will forward me particulars of the cases he has in mind, I will gladly have them investigated in co-operation with the Army postal authorities.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have already forwarded some such cases to his Noble Friend, andthat I received from his Noble Friend this morning a letter which shows that his Department have not the faintest idea of how serious and widespread this trouble is? Will my hon. Friend look into it himself with the Army postal authorities?

Bradford (Office Site)

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if, in his Department's long-term building programme, he will arrange for the transfer of Bradford G.P.O. to a more suitable site in order to facilitate the re-planning of the city centre.

:The present site of the Bradford G.P.O. is suitable in every way and will meet requirements for an indefinite period. There is no reason therefore, so far as the Post Office is concerned, for its removal to another site. I shall be willing, however, to consider the matter further when the replanning of the city centre has taken a more definite shape.

:Whilst I thank my hon. Friend for his very encouraging reply, will he define a little more closely what he means by "an indefinite period"? Does he not realise that the city council and authorities of Bradford are unable to proceed with their replanning of the city until they know with greater certainty about the intentions with regard to this bureaucratic abortion of a building?

:Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the post office hides a very beautiful cathedral, and that it should never have been put there?

Yes, Sir, representations were made in 1922 about the post office being opposite the cathedral, but it was pointed out that the building was perfectly good for its purpose, and at the present time, owing to the shortage of labour, it would be impossible to contemplate moving the building.

Radio-Telegraph Service (Ships)

19.

asked the Assistant Postmaster General when it is proposed to re-open the radiotelegraph service between the United Kingdom and ships at sea.

British and Allied Naval authorities still have to exercise some measure of control over the movements of merchant shipping, and the resulting volume of wireless traffic restricts the possibilities of handling commercial messages to and from ships. For this reason, only messages on ships'business can be accepted at present, but it is hoped to reopen the full service of private radio telegrams in about two months' time.

:Now that the movement of ships is no longer secret, cannot the hon. Gentleman say what is the real reason for the delay in denying to the public the facilities they should have and did have in peacetime?

:There are physical limits to the amount of traffic that coast stations can absorb, and naval authorities still have to guide ships for safety purposes and for routing. Until the Admiralty have finished with that job we cannot accept any more traffic.

Is the present volume of traffic bigger than the volume in peacetime?

There was not the work in peacetime that there has been during the war, and we have not got back to peacetime conditions.

Telephone Service

21.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is the reason for the continued inefficiency of the telephone service.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the answer given to his question on 25th October. As I explained then, the effect of the steps which are being taken to improve the telephone service is bound to be gradual.

In view of the fact that only two days ago I, as one user among millions, experienced five wrong numbers within an hour and a half, will the hon. Gentleman consider handing over the system to private enterprise?

26.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is the cause of the high proportion of wrongnumbers which telephone callers now experience; and whether there is any technical remedy.

:The percentage of wrong numbers at present averages about 1·5 per cent. in London, and 1 per cent. elsewhere. War conditions—both actual damage and shortage of maintenance staff—have inevitably resulted in some deterioration of telephone equipment. Technical improvements are continually being developed, and as these are put into service and as additional staff becomes available gradual improvements in the quality of service should result.

:While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that hopeful answer, may I ask whether subscribers are charged for this inefficiency on the part of the Post Office in getting wrong numbers?

:I do not accept the charge of inefficiency. Subscribers are not charged. They sometimes get their own wrong numbers, and always feel certain that they are right, although they are not always as right as they feel they are.

Withregard to the standard of service, can the hon. Gentleman say what has happened to the vast network of telephone lines which served the needs of the Services during the war? How much of that equipment has been released to the public in order to improve the service?

:Two thousand five hundred new trunk lines have been laid during the past few months, but I must point out that many lines which were laid by the Services were laid in remote districts, and are not usable by the ordinary population.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that all automatic exchanges are now fitted with adequate earphones?

Postal Facilities

22.

the Assistant Post master-General whether he is aware that there is neither a post office nor public telephone in the village of Foxley, Nor folk; and if he will provide better postal facilities for this village.

:There is a sub-post office and a telephone kiosk at Foxley. So far as postal facilities are concerned, the wartime service generally will be improved as soon as staff are demobilised and transport facilities improve.

asked the Assistant Post master-General why he is closing the post office serving the village of Beetley, near Dereham, Norfolk; whether another office will be openedin the village; or what arrangements will be made to pay old age pensions and otherwise serve the needs of this village.

:The sub-postmistress of Beetley resigned on 2nd November at short notice owing to ill-health. A successor will be appointedas soon as possible. In the meantime, as from 9th November, a Post Office clerk from Dereham Head Post Office will attend on Mondays and Fridays from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to deal with postal business.

24.

the Assistant Postmaster General whether he is aware of the inadequate post office facilities on the Hollyhedge housing estate, Manchester; that people have to queue to purchase stamps and transact post office business; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this state of affairs.

:No part of this estate is more than one mile from a post office. The Hollyhedge Post Office is a busy one, and there was some congestion until a third assistant was engaged a few weeks ago. I am advised that the service is now satisfactory.

:On a point of Order. Would it not save time, Mr. Speaker, if such Questions were put in for non-oral answer?

asked the Assistant Postmaster General when it is intended to link up the Isle of Scarp, Harris, with the main islands and the mainland.

:A telephone connection to the Isle of Scarp, Harris, would be very little used and could not be provided by the Post Office without contributions from the interested local authorities. The extension of telephone service to the mainland from islands round Scotland has already involved heavy burdens, and the Post Office would not be justified in incurring a further heavy loss in providing service to such a small island.

Can my hon. Friend say why about 90 British citizens have been denied these facilities in this part of the Empire, for which they fought alongside the City of London and other places?

The provision of telephone services to the islands around Scotland has involved considerableloss, and in this case we do not think that we would be justified in incurring more loss.

But can my hon. Friend justify this discrimination against this body of British citizens?

Is it now the principle of the Post Office that every section must be on a self-supporting basis?

No, Sir, that is not the principle, but there are limits to which the principle of spreading can be carried.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

Sub-Post Offices

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether in relation to applications for sub-post offices in crowded urban areas the limit of one mile as between such offices is the fixed condition, or if the convenience of the local inhabitants, after the inquiry, is taken into consideration.

The standard interval in urban areas is one mile, but it is applied with due regard to the convenience of the local inhabitants.

Will the hon. Gentleman give consideration to special circumstances affecting Birmingham?

Yes, Sir, if the hon. Member will send on particulars of any case we will look at them.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this Question was put on the Paper after a very long correspondence?

Are sub-offices sited without any regard to the population involved?

No, Sir. As I said in my answer, the convenience of the public is always considered. The rule is not rigid; it can be departed from if circumstances warrant it.

28.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General at which sub-post offices in the Outer Hebrides, at present without money-order facilities, it is in tended to provide this service.

:There is, so far as I am aware, no public demand for the extension of money order facilities to any office in the Outer Hebrides, but if the hon. Member will let me have the name of any particular office he has in mind I will have inquiry made.

29.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the intentions of His Majesty's Government in respect of conditions and hours of service and staffing in sub-post offices; provision and improvement of premises; and pay and super-annuation of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses.

:The matters referred to by the hon. Member are being discussed with the Federation of Sub-Postmasters, and no decisions have so far been reached.

Can my hon.Friend give any indication as to Government policy in connection with a very inadequate payment of sub-postmasters and postmistresses? Is any improvement to be expected?

It would not be right for me, while negotiations are going on through the accepted machinery, to make a statement now.

:Would not my hon. Friend agree that the most effective way of improving the present situation lies in the making of these small sub-offices into Crown offices? Would he do that quickly?

It is the general policy of the Department to convert sub-offices into Crown offices.

Business Reply Service

30.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when he proposes to restore the business reply service.

I am glad to be able to announce that the service will be restored on 1st December next.

Radio Reception, Hampshire

20.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware that residents in the Winchester and Southampton areas have repeatedly complained to the B.B.C. of poor radio reception; that these complaints have not been treated satisfactorily; and whether he will take the necessary action to get better transmission of both Home and Light Programmes

.

:I have been asked to reply. The difficulties in this particular area arise, to some extent, from a misunderstanding on the part of listeners as to which of the available wavelengths is most suitable. Reception of the West of England Home Service on 514 metres is satisfactory. The B.B.C. are considering methods of improving the transmission arrangements of the London Home Service. Reception of the Light Programme on 1,500 metres should be as satisfactory as in the case of the National Programme before the war.

:Is the Minister aware that there is a large part of the country which extends further North than Hampshire, into Berkshire, where reception is always unsatisfactory? My set makes a noise like a hive of bees.

:Is the Minister aware that this dissatisfaction is widespread on the South coast, and that to make representations to the B.B.C. is futile? Is he further aware that the Government have taken no action to improve reception, or to ensure that sets receive on the frequencies that are used? Will he do something about it?

:I am not accepting the castigation from the hon. Member. The President of the Board of Trade indicated on Monday last that we are dealing with the long-wave band. All the Departments appreciate the difficulties, and we are trying to tackle them in a practical way.

National Insurance

Unemployment

31.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he contemplates introducing an improved unemployment insurance scheme to meet the necessities of redundancy and demobilisation

.

:The Unemployment Insurance (Increase of Benefit) Act, 1944, was passed by Parliament for the express purposes which my hon. Friend has in mind. I do not contemplate any further alterations of the Unemployment Insurance scheme before the introduction of the comprehensive Insurance Bill which will come before Parliament this Session.

In view of that answer, may I ask the Minister if he is aware of the great hardship on many people because of redundancy? Will he bring in an interim Measure to deal with it?

The comprehensive Bill, which I am preparing, will be before the House in the near future.

Vibrational Diseases

32.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether any reports have yet been made to him of the number of cases with an increasing incidence of alleged Raynaud's disease or dead hand or disabilities classified as vibrational diseases as the result of handling by work men at work of vibrating rotating machines in a factory at Trafford Park, Manchester; what medical inquiries or investigations have been or are being conducted by his departmental officers; whether he is aware that many such cases have been so diagnosed and certified by local medical practitioners; and that claims for compensation cannot succeed because the disease is not scheduled and the judge in common law cases will not accept the medical evidence as sufficient.

:I have no information in regard to such cases at a factory at Trafford Park. Extensive investigations have been carried out by the Medical Inspector of Factories and the Medical Research Council, in collaboration, into the effect of electrically-driven vibrating tools in factories in Lancashire and Cheshire. These have not so far disclosed evidence of disability beyond frequently-recurring transient effects, which in some cases may be sufficient to cause the man to seek a change of employment.

I am advised that there is not as yet sufficient evidence that Raynaud's disease is so specific to employment as to justify its inclusion in the Schedule of Industrial Diseases under the Workmen's Compensation Act.

Is the Minister aware that there is one trade union that produces, today at least 20 cases of persons handling vibratory machines in Lancashire?

:I should be obliged if the hon. Member would submit particulars of those cases. Knowing his interest and experience in these matters, I shall be glad to discuss this subject with him.

Middlewood Remand Home, Rochdale

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the average period during which boys are detained at the Middlewood Remand Home, Rochdale, whilst awaiting removal to approved schools; and if he is satisfied with the administration of this remand home.

:During the last year, the average length of stay at this remand home for boys awaiting vacancies in approved schools was between five and six months for Roman Catholics, and about three months for others. As a result of a report made by a Home Office Inspector on the administration of this remand home, the responsible local authority is at present holding an inquiry into it. Some improvements have already been made, and I hope others will be made in the near future.

Will the report of that inquiry be made public, and available to those of us concerned?

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that boys committed to Middlewood Remand Home, Rochdale, are detained there for months without any educational facilities; and if he will take steps to remedy this.

:Boys of school age at this remand home have daily instruction but the teaching staff available at present is insufficient to give all the educational facilities that are needed. The local authority is, I understand, making every effort to obtain additional staff and I hope that this defect will soon be remedied.

Treatment Of Offenders (Advisory Council)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many meetings of the permanent advisory committee, of which Mr. Justice Birkett is chairman, have been held; and what recommendations made by them to him have been acted upon.

:The Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders have held 13 meetings, in the course of which they have surveyed certain parts of this large problem with a view to making recommendations as to the general lines upon which developments should proceed. They have submitted useful suggestions with regard to the probation service and with regard to certain problems of diagnosisand treatment which are met with in juvenile courts. They are now giving special attention to the prison system. The value of their work is not to be measured by reference merely to the number of their specific recommendations. Their discussions frequently direct attention to matters which can at once be taken up by my Department with a view to effecting administrative improvements; and recommendations involving legislation or large changes which it may not be practicable to bring into operation at the present time, may nevertheless be valuable in assisting the Home Office to keep in view future objects in carrying on its day-to-day activities.

I should think that a very good opportunity for that would be on a Supply Day, when this whole question will be open for discussion by the House.

Naturalisation

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now state the policy of His Majesty's Government, with regard to the reopening of naturalisation

.

93.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects' to announce the future policy of His Majesty's Government regarding the naturalisation of desirable aliens and the reception into this country of liberated victims of concentration camps who have near relations here willing to receive them and who are unwilling on grounds of racial prejudice, or for political reasons, to return to their countriesof origin.

:I am anxious to make statements as early as possible on each of these two matters, and on the second point raised in Question No. 93 I hope to do so next week.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider particularly those-people who have applied for naturalisation who served with the British units, and fought with great gallantry in the front line with the British troops?

That and various other aspects of this matter are under active consideration, and will, I hope, be included in the statement which I hope to make next week.

:Does the Minister not think that some of his staff at the Home Office would be better engaged in dealing with cases of these Allied nationals, who served us so well in the war, rather than in preparing schemes of police amalgamation which nobody wants?

:No, Sir. I am not sure that the staff at the Home Office is quite as interchangeable as that; and I have every evidence that the only people who do not desire police amalgamation are the criminal classes.

:Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that a number of poor persons are deterred from applying for naturalisation on account of the high cost?

Aliens (Repatriation)

38

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many aliens, other than those deported on account of criminal records, have been forcibly repatriated during the past three months, or have been listed for early repatriation; and to which countries they belong.

:During the past three months the only aliens repatriated under prerogative powers have been 255 Germans, almost all of whom had applied voluntarily for repatriation. Twenty-two Austrians and 101 Italians are due to be repatriated in the near future.

39.

asked

the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered the cases of certain aliens, of whom particulars have been sent him, now under detention at Stanmore, Middlesex, and threatened with forcible repatriation to Germany or Austria; and, in view of the conditions of starvation, housing congestion and lack of fuel, in these countries, will he refrain from such action until the winter is over, especially where the men have wives or children.

:Every case is considered individually on merits. An enemy alien is not repatriated unless I am satisfied that, in the public interest, he cannot be left at liberty here and that the Control Commission is prepared to accept him.

:Is it not a mistake to choose this time of tremendous difficulty for our representatives in Germany to unload upon them a number of people who, if they are undesirable, would do much more mischief there than here, and, if they were harmless refugees, would probably add to the difficulties there?

As one who had some official responsibility for moving these people here, will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that a number of them came during the war as temporary refugees, and it was never understood that they would remain here permanently?

I would not like it to be thought that, in every case, the period of temporary refuge is really ended. This is a matter of very great difficulty, and it gives me the greatest personal concern in every case. I do not want unnecessarily to alarm quite useful people in this country with the idea that they may be very suddenly pitchforked out. There is no such intention.

:May I assure the Minister that I was not asking for these people to be left here permanently; but is this a good time, at the very beginning of the winter, to send these people back?

:These cases vary so much in merit that it is impossible to give a reply to a general question of that kind. I assure the House that in carrying out my very difficult duties in this particular I have every regard to the long and honourable traditions of this country.

Holloway Prison

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now satisfied that the prisoners in Holloway prison are co-operating with officers and are conducting themselves in an orderly manner; and whether he has yet succeeded in recruiting additional members of the staff to relieve the present shortage

.

:I am glad to be able to say that the prisoners in Holloway have at no time shown a disposition to take advantage of the difficulties resulting from shortage of staff, and both the Governor and the Visiting Committee are satisfied with their conduct taken as a whole. Since 1st August ten officers have been added to the staff at Holloway, 26 more have been selected and will join shortly, and over 25 candidates have just been interviewed.

:Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer will give considerable satisfaction to a large number of people, who were very severely distressed about the attacks which had been made in the Press and elsewhere on those unfortunate prisoners, all of whom really had done their best to assist the authorities?

National Fire Service (Government Proposals)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he proposes to release men who enlisted in the N.F.S. for the duration of the war, in view of the fact that retained men are capable of dealing with any fires likely to occur.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the present dissatisfaction in the personnel of the N.F.S. regarding their release and the method adopted by his Department for their discharge; how many persons it is proposed to retain in the N.F.S.; when it is expected that this number will be reached; and what are the prospects of release for those still retained in the service.

As the answer is necessarily rather long, I will give it by way of a statement at the end of Questions.

Later

The whole-time strength of the National Fire Service in England and Wales has already been reduced from about 128,000 to about 35,000 which includes a reduction of 26,000 since May, and further reductions are in process of being made. I am not in a position to say what will be the ultimate figure nor upon what date it will be reached. The latter depends to a large extent on uncertain factors, such as the rate at which retained men can be recruited to take the place of whole-time men in districts where the latter can be dispensed with.

I am anxious, as soon as possible, to convert the Service from a compulsory to a voluntary basis. The removal of the restrictions on leaving the Service has, however, to be considered in relation to the arrangements for securing new recruits to the number necessary to maintain a sufficient protection against fire. In collaboration with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, I am engaged on plans for obtaining recruits both from men at present serving in the National Fire Service and from the Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy. These plans are in an advanced state of preparation, and I have undertaken to discuss with the Fire Brigades Union, in the course of December, in the light of the state of recruitment, the date upon which the present restrictions areto be removed.

Pending these discussions I am not in a position to announce a definite date, but the latest which the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have in mind is the 30th April, 1946. In the meantime, discussions are proceeding with the Union on the revision of the present procedure for the release of men who do not wish to remain in the Service and it will certainly be possible to release large numbers before the date which I have mentioned.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how the present figure of the strength of the National Fire Service compares with the numbers employed before the war?

:It is very substantially larger, because the number of cities and towns in the country which had whole time fire-men on any adequate scale was comparatively few.

:Is the right hon Gentleman aware that one of the difficulties which confronts some of the men in the Fire Service when they make application for discharge is that they receive no satisfaction, many of them who have been discharged having no posts to return to while others who have posts to go to have been refused discharge?

That is one of the points which will be taken into consideration when discharges are made.

Atomic Energy

German Research

45.

asked the Prime Minister how many German scientists were employed on atomic re search on the island of Bornholm; whether he can state their present where abouts; and whether representatives of this country have made contact with them.

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether the German plant connected with atomic research on the island of Bornholm has been dismantled; and what has happened to the German scientists previously employed there.

No German research work on atomic energy was being done at Bornholm.

:Is the Prime Minister aware of repeated reports that have reached this country of the presence of German scientists engaged in this work in Bornholm? Can he say what has happened to them?

United States (Prime Minister's Visit)

50.

asked the Prime Minster why the published list of those who will accompany him to America at the end of this week to discuss the atomic bomb with President Truman is confined to Foreign Office officials and Service chiefs; and what are the reasons for the exclusion of scientists from the delegation

.

As my hon. Friend no doubts knows some of our leading scientists in this field are at present working in North America. It has already been arranged that one of these, Professor J. D. Cockcroft, should be available in Washington while the talks are in progress.

Wales (Capital City)

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to make a statement giving official recognition to Cardiff as the capital city of Wales.

Does the Prime Minister not think that the Principality of Wales is due to have recognition of a capital city at this time?

Yes, Sir, but I am not aware that there is unanimity as to which city should have this honour.

In view of the controversy lurking behind the Question, will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that before reaching a conclusion he will be good enough to consider representations from other municipalities, equally with those of Cardiff?

War Leaders (Thanks)

4

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government propose to place a Motion before the House in the near future, expressing the especial gratitude of this House to its principal war leaders and Service chiefs.

No, Sir. The gratitude of this House to the principal leaders of our Armed Forces was expressed in the Motion of Gratitude to the Forces which was passed on 30th October.

:Is the Prime Minister aware of the great dissatisfaction with which that answer will be received throughout the country, especially among the Armed Forces?

Germany

Refugees And Displaced Persons

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will now state the number of displaced Germans, excluding those returning to their own homes, who have entered the British zone in Germany from the U.S., U.S.S.R. and French zone's, respectively, since 1st August, 1945; the average daily influx from each of these zones since 1st October, 1945; and what steps are being taken to put a stop to these large movements of refugees.

:The vast movement of population now taking place in Europe, of which the House will be aware, makes it impossible to obtain accurate information about the number of refugees entering the British zone. A high proportion of the movement takes place at night, rendering close control impracticable. It is estimated that about 380,000 Germans have crossed from the Russian to the British zone during the past three months, of whom 25 per cent. were refugees and the remainder returning evacuees. So far as is known, no refugees have entered the British zone from either the American or French zone, although a small influx of evacuees has taken place.

The daily average number of refugees arriving from the Russian zone since 1st October is approximately 2,000. The Combined Repatriation Executive, which is a quadripartite organisation operating in Berlin, co-ordinates, on behalf of the Allied control authority, agreed movements of refugees between the four zones of occupation. No movements are allowed without the approval of this organisation, but much unauthorised movement is still occurring. Local formation commanders consult with their opposite commanders to prevent unauthorised movement as much as possible.

Will the Chancellor say to what extent the Russians are co-operating in this vital problem?

The answer is given in the reply I have just read, that the matter is being dealt with by the Combined Repatriation Executive, which is a quadripartite organisation.

:Is the Chancellor aware that this influx, whether intentional or unintentional, will jeopardise the whole of our administration in the British zone this winter, and is he prepared to take action now to stop that happening?

:I am vividly aware of the fact that this situation complicates very seriously the administration of our work in the British zone. As I have indicated, all possible steps are being taken, with the manpower at our disposal and the plan we have in hand, for extending the control to supervise this movement of refugees, which in present circumstances it is not possible to control completely.

As the flow from these zones into the British zone is largely affected by the flow from further East into those zones, what steps are His Majesty's Government taking to make representations to the Governments concerned to stop forcible expulsions now?

British Zone (Welfare)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what function of military government in the British zone in Germany is charged with the responsibility for supervising the distribution of public assistance and the activities of the free welfare societies.

:I am not entirely clear what the hon. and gallant Member has in mind, but I understand that the Manpower Division of the Control Commission is mainly responsible for supervising these matters. However, if the hon. and gallant Member has any particular point on which he would like further information, perhaps he would communicate with me.

Demobilisation

Building Trade Workers

57.

asked the Minister of Labour what action he has taken, or proposes to take, in the lowering of the demobilisation group numbers of operatives essential to the building trades, especially those engaged hitherto on wartime constructional work, having regard to the need of homes for the people

.

Action of the nature suggested is not contemplated. Provision has already been made for the release of 60,000 building trade operatives in Class B—that is, in advance of their age and service groups.

Icannot give a specific answer to that question without notice, but the numbers now coming out under Class B are increasing rapidly week by week.

Rate Of Release

64.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the present average rate of weekly releases from the Services; how far the present rate of weekly releases falls short of the maximum capacity of release centres; how many must be released each week in order to achieve the target of 1,500,000 releases by the end of the year; and whether he is satisfied that at the present rate of release 1,500,000 will, in fact, be released by the end of the year.

:I would ask the hon. and gallant Member to await the next monthly statement on releases from the Forces which I will make in about a fortnight. As regards release centres, I would point out that the numbers released have not been determined by the capacity of these centres.

Could not the Minister give us some idea of the average rate of weekly releases required to achieve the target of 1,500,000 by the end of the year, so that when he does make his state- ment we can check up whether, in fact, the figure of 1,500,000 will be reached by the end of the year?

Labour Control And Direction

66

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will place all men and women, on demobilisation or discharge from the Armed Forces, entirely outside the scope of direction by National Service officers so that they retain full freedom of action as re-gards employment, except in the case of Class B releases.

:Men and women discharged from the Forces under arrangements which provide for a period of paid leave have full freedom during that period from all labour controls including direction and, apart from ClassB, are not subsequently withdrawn from any employment which they may have taken during that period. After their period of paid leave these people are treated exactly like other workers.

Rate Of Release

70.

asked the Minister of Labour whetherhe is aware that dissatisfaction in the three Services on the question of the speed of the demobilisation has increased during the past two months; and what steps he proposes to take to deal with it

.

No, Sir, I think the hon. Member is misinformed. Recently the Government have announced an increase of over 400,000 in the numbers to be released from the Forces this year, and the speed of release has substantially increased in the last few weeks.

Is the Minister aware that almost every Member has masses of letters expressing dissatisfaction on this subject?

Volunteers

71.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will take steps to give a priority in demobilisation to youths who volunteered for military service during their apprentice ship, so that they complete the same with out delay.

No, Sir. It would not be possible to single out this class for such exceptional treatment.

Unemployment

58.

asked the Minister of Labour the numbers of unemployed men and unemployed women for the last avail able date.

:The last unemployment figures to be published relate to 16th July when the numbers of insured men and women aged 18 years and over registered as unemployed in Great Britain were 63,474 and 30,851 respectively A count of the unemployed was taken on 15th October, and I will send the figures for that date to the hon. Member when they are available.

65.

asked the Minister of Labour the numbers of male and female unemployed registering at the exchanges in the administrative county of Durham at 31st October, 1945.

:A count of the unemployed was taken on 15th October, and I will send the figures for that date to my hon. Friend when they are available.

Have we always to wait a month before the figures are published?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will have to wait until they are ready, anyway.

67.

asked the Minister of Labour when he proposes to resume publication of monthly statistics by geographical divisions, of the actual numbers and percentages of insured workers un-employed in the engineering and shipbuilding and repairing industries.

I propose to make an early statement on the question of the monthly publication of unemployment statistics. Publication will be resumed in the near future of as much as possible of the detail that was published before the war.

Surgical Footwear(Manufacture)

59.

asked the Minister of Labour to what extent there is a shortage of labour for the manufacture of surgical boots for disabled ex-Service-men; and what steps he is taking to improve the situation.

:This work is highly skilled, and though the number of unfilled vacancies is relatively small, suitably qualified applicants are hard to find. Where suitable workers become available they are placed, if possible, with firms making surgical footwear. My officers are in close touch with the Ministry of Pensions and Board of Trade.

Will the Minister pay particular attention to this matter, as considerable hardship is being caused?

:Yes, I can assure the hon. Member that the special attention of the employment exchanges has been directed to the matter

Holidays (Staggering)

60.

asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the shortage of accommodation in British holiday resorts, he will take steps to arrange for a proper spread-over of holidays in 1946.

:Holiday arrangements are primarily matters for settlement between employers and workers. I am consulting their principal organisations with regard to recommendations made by the Catering Wages Commission in a report now published, a copy of which is available in the Library, on measures which might be taken to promote the staggering of holidays. Thereafter I will consider what assistance the Government can appropriately give in the matter.

:Will the Minister also undertake to consult with the Minister of Education on this matter, in accordance with the recommendations of the Catering Wages Commission?

The recommendations of the Commission are being studied, and action will be taken where necessary.

Conscientious Objectors

61.

asked the Minister of Labour how many conscientious objectors have been directed into the building trades and educational work, respectively, since the end of hostilities in Europe

.

:I am not able to state how many conscientious objectors have been required to undertake the work referred to since the end of hostilities in Europe. The civil work which a conscientious objector is required to perform, as the condition of his registration, is prescribed by the Statutory Tribunals and there is no authority to direct such persons to work outside their conditions.

Directed Mine Workers (Absenteeism)

62.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he intends to prosecute boys conscripted for work in mines who leave their colliery and return home; and, if not, whether he will call them up for military service.

:Yes, Sir, it is necessary that these lads should remain in the industry until the date when they would have been released in their age and service order had they served in the Forces, and I am therefore prosecuting in appropriate cases those individuals who, unlike the majority of young men called up to the mines, have not been willing to carry out their national service in this way.