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National Insurance

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 8 November 1945

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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.