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Commons Chamber

Volume 416: debated on Thursday 29 November 1945

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House Of Commons

Thursday 29th November,1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Aliens

Armed Forces (Naturalisation)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give an assurance that aliens serving in His Majesty's Forces who have applied for naturalisation will be permitted to remain in this country after demobilisation while their applications are considered.

An applicant for naturalisation who fulfils the statutory conditions, and qualifies for special consideration under the policy which I have announced, would not be called upon to leave the country pending a decision on his application.

Germans And Austrians (Relatives)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has now been able to work out the special arrangements concerning distressed persons in Germany and Austria, so as to enable aliens in this country who wish to bring in relatives from Germany and Austria covered by the scheme, to communicate with those relatives and to give them the assurances which the scheme requires them to pass on to the officials specified; and if he will make sure that the arrangements are such that aliens here will be able to send letters to their relatives in Germany and Austria both inside and outside camps.

Detailed arrangements to this end are being worked out in consultation with the Control Commissions and with my Noble Friend the Postmaster-General. I will make a statement as soon as I am in a position to do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that it is two weeks since he made his announcement, and is he aware that great anxiety is naturally caused among people who are longing to see their only surviving relatives? Cannot he make further arrangements?

I am working on this as quickly as possible, and what I am exceedingly anxious to do is to make sure that, when I do make an announcement, it will be of machinery that will be expeditious.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say that his arrangement would also apply to countries other' than Germany and Austria in Europe, because there are a large number of people at present in such other countries awaiting similar possibilities?

I desire to make arrangements so that every eligible person under the announcement I have made shall be able to avail himself of those arrangements as quickly as possible.

Polish Citizens (Employment)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the officers and men of the Polish Forces and the Polish civilians in the late Government who do not desire to return to Poland will be granted the same facilities for obtaining employment in this country as the officers and men of the Polish mercantile marine; and do these facilities differ from those already in force.

Members of the Polish Forces who have been discharged with my approval, and other Polish civilians, are normally allowed the same facilities as other foreign civilians in this country for entering such employment as may be approved by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that extra facilities are really required by these Poles, who are not in the same category as ordinary foreigners resident in this country, and are not to be compulsorily returned to Poland, but will remain here? May I ask the Minister whether he will grant those extra facilities to them to find employment?

I think my answer indicates that these people are being treated quite fairly, but if the hon. and gallant Member has any specific cases which he regards as of exceptional hardship and will bring them to my notice, I will be glad to consider them.

Deportees, Brixton Prison (Disturbance)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he will make a statement respecting the recent disurbances among deportees in Brixton prison; and what were their alleged grievances.

On the evening of 22nd November, 13 aliens of various nationalities detained in Brixton Prison pending removal from this country, barricaded themselves in their cells as a protest against the delay in their deportation. Arrangements had in fact been completed the day before to remove nine of them; but when this was made known to them they refused to abandon their positions or to permit two of their number who were due to go immediately, to come out. They were allowed to stay where they were over night; but as they remained obdurate next morning, the Governor took steps to restore order, and after due warning the fire hose was used with the desired effect. The men made it clear that they were protesting not against prison conditions but delay in deportation. Less than half of the men had in fact been awaiting removal since dates earlier than October. Such delay as occurred in removing them is due primarily to the difficulty in obtaining passages and to negotiations with the men's national authorities for their transportation and reception.

Did any of these men use violence or threaten to do so? Does the right hon. Gentleman consider there were any other means than those taken to try to restore order?

No, Sir. I think that in the difficult circumstances with which he was confronted, the Prison Governor acted ex- peditiously, and, I think, with reasonable mercy.

Might I ask the Home Secretary whether he would reply to the first part of my supplementary question, in which I asked whether they used violence?

I have no information that they used violence, beyond barricading themselves in their cells.

Will the Home Secretary, in view of the behaviour of the Opposition on the Finance Bill, consider a judicious use of the hose?

Firearms Certificates

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will so 'far modify the new instruction issued by him in September last, regarding the possession of firearms, so as to permit chief constables, at their discretion, to issue licences to those who held one prior to the war.

An applicant for the grant or renewal of a firearm certificate must, in accordance with the Firearms Act, satisfy the chief officer of police that he has "a good reason" for requiring a firearm. If his application is refused he can appeal to quarter sessions. The fact that an applicant possessed a firearm before the war would not in itself appear to be a good reason for the issue of a firearm certificate. Although I have no power to give instructions to chief constables in this matter I have suggested to them that they should give sympathetic consideration to cases in which the weapon in question is a family heirloom or has been in the applicant's possession for a very long period of years.

Irish Citizens (Imprisonment, England)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many citizens of Eire and of Northern Ireland are now undergoing terms of imprisonment in this country for political offences; and whether he will now consider favourably an amnesty for all or for some categories of such prisoners.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. G. Porter) on 28th November.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the fact that he is unable to distinguish, in fact, between Northern Ireland and Eire is an indication of his desire to abolish that stupid border?

I do not think my action should be given so general an application as that.

Did the right hon. Gentleman have a border at all in his mind when answering the Question?

That just shows into what trouble a rather irrelevant supplementary may lead one.

National Fire Service

Surplus Vehicles, Rickmansworth

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many motor vehicles and of what types are in the open air N.F.S. dump at Rickmansworth; and for what period of time it is proposed to leave them there.

There are 33 National Fire Service vehicles lodged at Rickmansworth in a park adjoining a fire station. Of these, 18 were commercial vehicles, and 15 cars, of which nine have bodies specially converted to National Fire Service use. Of the 33, 28 have been reported as surplus to the responsible disposals Department, the Ministry of Supply, to whom the last part of the Question should be addressed. The other five await classification.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us on what date the 28 were reported as surplus?

Personnel (Privileges)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the dissatisfaction which exists among part-time and retained firemen because the privileges which they had enjoyed before the formation of the N.F.S. have not been restored to them, he will now remove the ban on the ar- rangement of social events on and from station premises in aid of local and other charities in which the firemen are interested.

I assume that the hon.Al ember is referring to the arrangement under which the only appeals for benevolent objects connected with the National Fire Service, which are allowed on or from National Fire Service premises are those for the Service's own National Benevolent Fund. I am not aware that this arrangement is causing any general dissatisfaction and as at present advised I do not propose to interfere with it.

:May I ask the Home Secretary whether, if I send him information showing that some units wish to organise these entertainments which they used to be able to do, he will look into the matter?

If the hon. Member will send me the information or come to see me about the matter, I shall be very happy to discuss it with him.

Requisitioned Property

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that the commercial garage premises belonging to Messrs. H. E. Burnham in the Cornmarket, Worcester, were vacated by the N.F.S. on 3oth September, 1945, and have not been used since that date; and when these premises arc to be derequisitioned.

These premises are being de-requisitioned now. I understand that the owner was given possession some little time ago in anticipation of this step.

Channel Islands (Visits)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whither he will consider reducing the amount of paper-work which has to be carried out by persons desiring to make business visits to the Channel Islands, having regard to the waste of time and money involved under present arrangements, especially where a stay of only a couple of days is involved.

:I am always anxious to avoid unnecessary work, both for members of the public and for my Department. The object of the present formalities for visits to the Channel Islands is to ensure that accommodation is available for the visitor. They are not unduly onerous or elaborate, but if my hon. Friend has any suggestions to make I will gladly consider them.

Deceased Wife's Sister Act

12

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider introducing legislation to amend the Deceased Wife's Sister Act, so as to include divorced wife's sister.

Foreign Service '(Franchise)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why diplomats serving abroad are denied the vote while paying United Kingdom Income Tax

The payment of Income Tax is not a qualification for the franchise. The persons referred to by the hon. Member are not entitled to the franchise because they do not possess the residence qualification required by Statute.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that all servants of the Crown, like members of the Forces, ought to be given qualifications to vote in this country?

The difficulty is to associate them with a territorial constituency. That is difficult enough with regard to certain members of the Forces and would be quite impossible in some of these cases.

Is not the only reason for refusing the vote to diplomatic servants of the Crown abroad the fact that they are few and silent?

No, Sir. If this were granted to diplomatic servants, it could not be refused to a large number of other people, and one would get involved, possibly,. in the end, in the creation of some extra- territorial constituencies.

If any of these people concerned could establish a constituency qualification, would they be given postal voting facilities?

If they were not on the register, certainly they would not get postal voting facilities.

Borstal Detention

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will appoint a committee to inquire into ways and means of reducing the periods spent in prison by Borstal boys awaiting allocation.

There is only one way to reduce the periods spent in prison by youths awaiting allocation to Borstal Institutions, that is by increasing the existing accommodation available for allocation centres and training institutions, and, therefore, I do not consider the appointment of a committee would serve any useful purpose. A complete survey has been made, and it is clear that it will be necessary to provide two additional allocation centres for boys, and seven additional training institutions, five for boys and two for girls.

As regards the additional allocation centres, it is expected that the premises which have been selected for these will be available early in the New Year. It is also proposed, by re-opening Pentonville Prison, and by a re-allocation of the London prison population, to make more room available in the existing allocation centre at Wormwood Scrubs. As regards additional institutions, premises have already been selected for two institutions for boys, and inquiries are being actively pursued with a view to obtaining suitable premises for the remainder.

Unfortunately, some time must necessarily elapse before all these additional premises can be brought into use. Not only will certain structural alterations be required but a sufficient staff must be trained and recruited and living accommodation provided for the staff and their families. I repeat my assurance to the House that the whole question of increasing the Borstal accommodation is being treated as one of the utmost urgency.

Was the Minister answering three Questions together? I was not quite sure.

Having regard to the fact, which I think will be accepted, that the practice which is now being adopted is contrary to what has generally been recognsed as right, is not the Minister aware that there is widespread dissatisfaction and concern about this whole question on all sides of the House, and would he not be fortified by the findings of a committee?

No, Sir. I think the appointment of a committee would only lead to delay in getting on with the equipment of the premises which I have already selected, and of completing the negotiations with regard to others.

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that his reply will cause satisfaction? Pending the provision of this new accommodation, could he take steps to see that the people who are at present detained in prison receive the tuition they should be receiving in Borstal institutions?

I am doing all I can to secure that. The matter is one of very great difficulty in view of the numbers involved, but I am trying to see that these lads shall get the training as soon as possible.

:In view of what my right hon. Friend has said about the necessity of altering the premises, does he not think that those premises, when the alterations have been made, would be better used as Borstal institutions themselves, instead of merely as allocation centres from which the boys go out?

No, I think I must do the two things simultaneously as far as possible. It is very desirable that the lad awarded Borstal training should be sent to a suitable institution, and that can only be effectively done if he passes through an allocation centre.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the severe comments passed by the Recorder of Liverpool in regard to Borstal arrangements?

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of Borstal boys now at Dartmoor convict prison; and the number of convicts who are also in the prison.

Forty Borstal boys are now at Dartmoor. No civilian convicts have been detained at Dartmoor since last July, but there are at present 350 military prisoners detained there in buildings physically separated from the premises where the boys are detained.

Will the physical separation of the buildings be sufficient to prevent the Borstal boys and the military prisoners coming in contact with each other?

:I think the only occasion on which they might come into contact would be if a Borstal boy and one of the military detainees were to be paraded outside the Governor's room at the same time.

In view of the fact that these lads are in Dartmoor, would the Minister consider applying in their case the Home Office scheme that worked so effectively in regard to conscientious objectors in the first part of the war?

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been called to the refusal of the Recorder of Liverpool to commit young offenders for Borstal treatment because they are liable to be sent to D art-moor; and if he will reconsider this matter.

:I have seen reports in the Press of the remarks by the Recorder of Liverpool to which my hon. Friend refers. The Recorder is reported to have said that so long as Borstal is administered in the present fashion with its headquarters at Dartmoor hewould want a lot of persuasion to send Liverpool boys for training to a place that is notoriously unfit for such a purpose. There is, of course, no question of using Dartmoor as the headquarters of the system of Borstal training, and I should make it clear, in case there is any misapprehension, that there is no intention of sending all youths who are committed to Borstal detention to Dartmoor; Dartmoor is merely one of a number of Borstal Institutions, and the question of the particular institution to which it is appropriate to send an individual is decided after careful consideration of all the circumstances of the individual's case.

I made a full statement in the House on 11th October as to the reasons for which I decided as a matter of urgency that Dartmoor Prison should be adapted for use as a Borstal Institution as a temporary expedient. As I then explained, Dartmoor is the only available establishment which could be taken into use at once for the purpose of carrying out Borstal training. I still think it desirable that some of the youths for whom the courts have decided that Borstal training is necessary should be given that training at Dartmoor rather than that they should be kept for months in local prisons where no training of any kind can be given them. There has been no change in the urgency of the need for the accommodation available at Dartmoor which would justify reconsideration of my decision.

I have spoken before about these long answers. I spent one and a half hours myself being cross-examined about Questions this morning. It is fairly well known, I think, that my own view always has been that these long answers ought to be read out after Questions in order to give more time for hon. Members' Questions to be answered.

Will the Home Secretary consider making provision for Members of Parliament to visit this institution to see how the boys are being housed?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that using Dartmoor for this purpose defeats the whole idea behind Borstal?

Would the right hon. Gentleman read what he said on 11th October, and can he say at what date he hopes to dispense with the use of Dartmoor?

As I told the House on firth October, as soon as I possibly can. I have told the House to-day that I am pressing on energetically with making alternative provision.

Who, or what body of persons,.decide what establishment these boys shall have?

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Depart- ment how soon will Dartmoor cease to be used as a Borstal institution for youthful offenders not beyond redemption.

Is the Home Secretary aware that there is considerable feeling, not only in this House but in the country, about Dartmoor, and would he be prepared to approach one of the Service Ministers with a view to getting him to give up a camp or disused aerodrome for this purpose?

That is precisely the kind of accommodation which I am hoping to bring into use at a very early date.

Can the Minister say, if Dartmoor is to be used for persons beyond redemption, when it will be occupied by His Majesty's Government?

It is quite clear that the proper order of priority would indicate that the Opposition would go there first.

Does the Minister mean that any young offenders are beyond redemption? Is it not true that no young offenders are ever beyond redemption?

Those were not my words; they were the words of the hon. Member who asked the supplementary question.

Corporal Punishment (Youthful Offenders)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the question of corporal punishment in remand homes and approved schools has had reconsideration, in view of the extent to which the punishment can now be applied.

The administration of corporal punishment in remand homes and approved schools is subject to close control under Statutory rules, and I have no reason to think that the rules require amendment or that they are not carefully observed.

Is the Minister aware that one of his predecessors said that this matter would be inquired into in the general inquiry taking place into remand homes?

Pensions And Grants

21.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in his review of disability pensions, he will consider raising the present maximum constant attendance allowance of 20s. a week to a higher figure, as the present allowance is inadequate under present conditions.

24.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he is now prepared to reconsider the formula, "fit for service—fit for pension," in view of the conclusion of general hostilities.

25.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether it is his intention to remove the condition regarding war pensions, that an allowance can only be awarded in respect of a child born before or within nine months of the date on which the injury to the parent is sustained.

27.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will now revise the Third Schedule of the Royal Warrant and increase the gratuities payable for specified minor injuries to bring these into line with the scales now proposed for injured workers under the Industrial Injuries Bill.

30.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will consider increasing the amount of disability pensions paid to ex-Servicemen and, in particular, the advisability of granting an extra allowance to those suffering from complaints the nature of which requires a special diet.

31.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he is proposing to raise the sum of £2 l0s. a week, the present pension for a Serviceman totally disabled in this war.

As the hon. Members arc no doubt aware, the whole question of War Pensions is at present under review, and in these circumstances I am not in a position to make a statement on any particular aspect.

Will the' Minister consider the pensions of the 200 people who have lost both their hands and sight during the war, and try to help them?

Pending the Government's decision, would the Minister do his best to acceler- ate the hearing of appeals by the tribunals, some of which have been outstanding for 12 months?

Is the Minister aware that there is a feeling of general dissatisfaction at the disability allowance paid at the present time, and will he take steps to improve the standard?

Can the Minister say whether it will be possible for him to remove some of these anomalies by administrative action now?

23.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will undertake that all future proposals respecting war pensions and allowances will be published as a White Paper so as to allow of Parliamentary discussion before they are embodied in a Royal Warrant.

:It has commonly been the practice to announce major changes in the war pensions code in the form of a White Paper. As the hon. Member is, however, aware, many minor improvements have been made from time to time, and the issue of a White Paper would not in my view be necessary or appropriate in such circumstances.

:In view of the expectation that major changes will shortly be made, will the Minister promise to do that by way of a White Paper, so that we nay discuss them?

26.

asked the Minister of Pensions why Sapper Frank Edwards of 34 Pembroke Street, Cowley Road, Oxford, who was discharged on 27th March, 1945, with a 30 per cent. disability pension has not yet received any money.

:I regret that this case was unduly delayed. However, a pension order book has now been sent to Mr. Edwards with a postal draft for representing the arrears.

While I thank the Minister for his frank reply, can he say whether he has looked into the question as to whether similar cases may not be happening, and has he taken any steps to see that they are not?

I think that I can rightly say that this is a very exceptional case. I am however very worried about it, and I am looking into the matter.

28.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether in view of the increased cost of living, he will effect a percentage increase in disablement pensions granted to 1914-1918 ex-Servicemen.

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

29.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider the granting of token cash pensions to parents of those killed on active service, so that their claim for a pension for the loss of a son or daughter would be established when, and if, they became dependent and in need.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to him on the l0th November, to which I need only add that a cash payment is not necessary for the purpose indicated in the Question.

Is the Minister aware of the widespread feeling that there is on this matter; and is it not a fact that after the 1914-18 war, disability pensions were paid in these cases?

Public Health

Radiograph Apparatus (Tuberculosis)

32.

asked the Minister of Health, what steps he is taking to ensure the availability of radiograph apparatus for the detection of tuberculosis in the county of Kent.

Facilities for civilian mass radiography will be increased as more apparatus can be manufactured, and more doctors become available, and the needs of Kent County will be considered along with those of other areas.

Is the Minister aware that there is a serious shortage in Kent of this apparatus, and that this problem is causing great concern to a number of people?

There is an inadequate supply of apparatus all over the country and we must try to increase supplies.

Tuberculous Patients (Food Rations)

40.

asked the Minister of Health, whether he will take steps to give to civilian patients in tuberculosis hospitals the same standard of food rations as are now granted to military patients.

All patients in civil hospitals are entitled to special supplements of ordinary civilian rations, and tuberculous patients to two pints of milk a day in addition. I am advised that, in nutritional value, this dietary compares favourably with that laid down for military hospitals.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the anomalous situation which exists in tuberculosis hospitals where there are Service and civilian patients, and where Service patients are receiving a higher standard of rations than civilians? Is he prepared to receive representations from medical authorities on the subject?

I am aware that the hospital system at the moment contains a large number of anomalies. I hope to clear up a number of them. I am certainly prepared to receive representations on the matter.

Housing

Satellite Towns

33.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider bringing in the necessary legislation to empower county councils to exercise the powers vested in local housing authorities so as to enable them to deal with the overspill population from surrounding cities and towns, and to enable county authorities to assist financially and otherwise in solving the housing problems in county districts.

The question of the most appropriate authority for building satellite and new towns is at present under examination by the committee appointed by my right hon. Firend the Minister of Town and Country Planning, under the Chairmanship of Lord Reith, and my hon. Friend will not expect me to express a view on this point in advance of the committee's report.

:Is the Minister aware of the anxiety that is being felt by county authorities who wish to assist him and the Government in dealing with the housing problem; and will he take the earliest opportunity in view of the urgency of this matter to take advantage of the assistance that they can give him?

I am aware of the anxiety of county councils to exercise housing powers, and I am equally aware of the anxiety of other local authorities that the county councils should not exercise these powers.

White Paper

34.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will now issue a White Paper giving the same information as in Cmd. 6609, issued in the last Parliament but revised to show the present plans of His Majesty's Government.

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made on 17th October, when I said that I would not commit myself to anything except detailed monthly progress reports, and that these reports would start with the New Year.

:Can the Minister say why it was possible for the present Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council to commit themselves to such a White Paper, when they have had the advantage of the advice of the right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and yet they are not prepared to commit themselves at the present time?

I am afraid the supplementary question is so obscure that I do not follow it.

Private Streets

39.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the difficulties of which he has been informed by letter, he is prepared at a convenient time to extend the powers contained in the Private Street Works Act, 1892, and Section 150 of the Public Health Act, 1875, to entitle local authori ties to require developers of housing estates to give security for the completion of the streets thereon to the satisfaction of the local authority, and to enable local authorities, in appropriate cases, to require developers to make up the streets finally in lieu of the frontagers.

While I cannot give any undertaking about legislation to amend the law relating to private streets, this suggestion will be borne in mind.

Landlord's Repairs

41.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider a limited increase in rents in order to enable landlords to carry out repairs which now cost considerably more than when the Rent Restriction Acts were passed.

:I can hold out no prospect of legislation to give effect to this suggestion.

Is the Minister aware that there are a large number of landlords who are not fulfilling their obligations under the present Rent Acts in respect of repairs, and can he take steps to see to it that local authorities inform tenants of their rights under these Acts?

I hope that the supplementary question of my hon. Friend will have the effect of drawing the attention of local authorities to this matter.

I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to speak louder. No one, I think, at this corner of the House could hear his reply.

Temporary Houses

42.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that housing sites in Macclesfield are now complete; and if he will state when the first temporary houses will be delivered.

:I am informed that the development works are not yet completed and that there should be no delay in the delivery of the houses when the site is ready for them.

:Could the Minister speed up the deliveries of these temporary houses to St. Marylebone, where sites have been ready for many months?

:Yes, but the temporary housing programme is still suffering from the lack of initiative of the previous Government.

:Will the Minister issue a time and progress schedule to all the places where these houses have been approved, so that the local authorities can know when they will arrive?

Local authorities are much more interested in the arrival of the houses than in a time and progress schedule.

North-Eastern Housing Association

44.

asked the Minister of Health what are his intentions towards the North-Eastern Housing Association; and will he discontinue the activities of that association and transfer all houses controlled by the association to the local authority in the area in which they are situate.

The question to which my hon. Friend refers is at present under consideration, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

When will my right hon. Friend be in a position to make a statement on this subject?

Local Authorities

Information Centres, Wales

36.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will issue a list of local authorities in Wales which maintain information bureaux and those which have citizens' advice bureaux; and whether it is his intention to continue grants for either or both of these activities.

:I have no complete information as to the local authorities in Wales which are maintaining information centres, but there are 72 citizens' advice bureaux, the majority of which serve as information centres for local authorities in whose areas they function. As explained in Circular 197/45, which I recently sent to local authorities on the subject, it is intended that the peacetime cost of this service should be borne locally and no direct Exchequer grant will be payable.

Public Relations Machinery

37.

asked the Minister of Health how many local authorities have set up public relations machinery; and whether it is his intention to inaugurate a national public relations organisation to co-ordinate such activity as recommended by the National Association of Local Government Officers.

:Local authorities generally have machinery for contact with the Press and public. My Department is consulting representatives of the local authorities associations on suggestions for the improvement of local government publicity both locally and nationally.

Is the Minister aware that the country has 26 public relations departments and does not want to begin the same racket with local authorities?

Rating And Valuation

38.

asked the Minister of Health what steps the Government propose to take for the reform of the present system of rating and valuation.

I cannot hold out hopes of early action in this matter owing to the many other more urgent questions which are fully occupying the time of all those concerned.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the urgency of this matter, having regard to the increase in the financial responsibilities of local authorities; and is he not aware of the general desire that an early step should be taken, particularly in the repealing of the Derating Act?

My hon. Friend will have ample opportunity to debate the matter and discuss all these aspects of local government finance. I appreciate the need for the overhauling of all the machinery of local government finance, but there are certain substantial changes to be made before very long in the functions of local authorities, and we ought first to see what they are before we overhaul their finances.

Sea Defence Works

43.

asked the Minister of Health if he will give the authorities concerned with sea defences a definite assurance that legislation will be introduced to enable him to make contributions towards the cost of schemes undertaken by local authorities.

No, Sir. Where drainage interests are involved, a drainage board which does approved capital works of sea defence is eligible for substantial grants under the Land Drainage Act, 1930. Other local authorities are not in general responsible for sea defence, but have the ordinary rights and duties of a property owner to protect their own property. The financial arrangements in these cases vary with the type of property to be protected. I am not satisfied that further special Exchequer assistance to local authorities as property owners is justified.

Does the Minister realise that there is a body of opinion in favour of sea defence being made a national charge?

:Is the Minister aware that in defence areas on the South-East coast we are losing some of the few houses we have?

Yes, Sir. I am aware that there is a problem here. It is one which is very substantial in character, and requires investigation and probably legislation.

Atomic Bomb (Cost, Great Britain)

45.

asked the Prime Minister what, so far, is the cost to this country of the discovery of the atomic bomb; and what are our future financial commitments upon it.

:The contributions which this country has made to the discovery of the atomic bomb were the result of scientific research carried out in many different fields over a number of years. It would be very difficult to give an estimate of the cost of this research. As regards future commitments, the initial cost of the research station at Harwell is at present estimated at about £1,000,000, and its running cost at about £500,000 a year. There are other important developments on which substantial expenditure is likely to arise in the future, but no estimate can at present be given of the amounts involved.

:Will the Prime Minister consider issuing a report to this House in the immediate future on the possibilities of atomic energy resulting from this discovery?

Will the Prime Minister take steps to see that the policy of the Government is such that the people of this country will have no reason to regret the discovery of the atomic bomb?

Scientific Manpower And Resources (Appointment Of Committee)

48.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether the Government will carry out an early survey of the national position in regard to scientific research and development work.

Yes, Sir. I have decided to appoint a committee of leading scientists and others to consider the policies which should govern the use and development of our scientific manpower and resources in the next ten years. Manpower is the most urgent problem, and I am accordingly asking the committee to submit an interim report on very broad lines at an early date so as to facilitate forward planning in those fields which are dependent upon the use of scientific manpower. At a later date the committee will be asked to make recommendations as to the establishment of permanent machinery for carrying out surveys as to the best use of our scientific resources in the national interest.

The committee will consist of Sir Edward Appleton, Sir Alan Barlow, Professor Blackett, Mr. Geoffrey Crowther, Sir Alfred Egerton, and Sir George Nelson. I am not yet in a position to announce the name of the Chairman, but to save time the committee have been asked to start their inquiry at once under the temporary chairmanship of Sir Alan Barlow, with a view to putting in hand as quickly as possible such preparatory work as they consider necessary.

:Will the committee have power to inquire into the scope of the work of the Department of Scientific Research? Will that form part of its task?

:I think so. My impression is that the terms of reference are fairly wide. I think that can be done.

Will the terms of reference be sufficiently wide to enable the relationship between this committee and the proposed National Investment Board to be fully gone into?

I am not quite sure on the face of it what the connection would be. The terms of reference broadly are to consider the policy which should govern the use and development of our scientific manpower and resources over the next 10 years. If there was a prima facie case that science should have some relationship to the work of the Investment Board it would certainly be a subject which could be discussed.

When the right hon. Gentleman states that the terms of reference "broadly are" so and so, does he mean that this is the first draft of the terms of reference, or, if the terms of reference are not already fixed, could we not have them in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

They are substantially as I have stated. I have not been quoting textually, but the hon. Member can take it that there is no conflict between what I have said and the actual terms of reference.

Western Europe (Food)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the Control Commission is utilising the processed fish surplus in Norway to relieve the food difficulties in Western Europe.

Yes, Sir. Negotiations are proceeding with the Norwegian authorities for the purchase of surplus processed fish for the civilian population of the British Zone in Germany.

Is the Minister aware that, owing to the extreme food shortage in Western Europe, we want action? Consideration is not sufficient where people are starving.

I did not say consideration, I said negotiations are proceeding for the supply of this processed fish to Germany. The other facts come under the Control Commission.

Has this decision been taken with the full approval of the Allied Food Control Board in America?

Germany (Potash Syndicate Bonds)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is aware that the potash syndicate of Germany has paid the interest on its bonds, since the war began, to Swiss holders, including the payment due on 1st November, 1945, whereas British holders have not been so paid since 1st January, 1941, although equally entitled to the funds out of which these payments have been made; and whether he will order the German syndicate to pay its British holders at the same time as other nationals who may hold its bonds.

I am not aware what arrangements the former German authorities made during the war for the service of Swiss holdings of the Potash bonds. If any payments have been made on them since the defeat of Germany, they must have been from sums in the hands of the paying agents. No money has been remitted from Germany since the defeat, or can be remitted in present circumstances, for the service of German foreign loans.

Employment

Unemployment Statistics

51.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the number of unemployed workers at present registered at the employment exchanges in Edinburgh and Leith on the most recent date for which net figures are available.

At 15th October there were 1,798 unemployed insured persons aged 14 years and over, on the registers of Employment Exchanges in Edinburgh and Leith, excluding 364 who had been classified as unsuitable for ordinary employment.

65.

asked the Minister of Labour what the latest available figures are for unemployment in the county of Merioneth; what percentage of the insurable population of the county these represent; and whether the figures show an increase or decrease in unemployment since VE-day.

At 15th October, 1945, the number of insured persons aged 14 years and over registered as unemployed at Employment Exchanges in the county of Merioneth was 234 or 4 per cent. of the number of unemployment books exchanged there. The corresponding figures for 16th April, 1945, the date nearest to VE-day on which a count of the unemployed was taken, were 110 and 2 per cent.

66.

asked the Minister of Labour what the latest available figures are for unemployment in Wales; and what proportion of the insurable population these represent; and whether they show an increase or decrease since VE-day.

:The number of insured persons aged 14 years and over registered as unemployed in Wales and Monmouthshire at 15th October, 1945, was 54,719 or 8 per cent. of the estimated numbers insured at July, 1945. The corresponding figures at 16th April, 1945, the date nearest to VE-day on which a count of the unemployed was made, were 12,195 and 2 per cent.

Dock Workers' Wages

54.

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the fact that dock undertakings are about to be nationalised, he will at once assume responsibility for the wage negotiations with the dockers' representatives.

What conceivable interest can the employers of labour take in the wage structure? What is to prevent them from fixing wages at any figure? Does the Minister not think that in the national interest these wage negotiations—

I think the employers are just as anxious to play the game as the workers are.

Woollen And Worsted Industry

59.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the number of operatives in the woollen and worsted industry who left the industry in the period from the end of June to the end of September, 1945.

:During the period in question there was a net increase of 1,700 in the number of operatives in the industry. I regret that information is not available as to the numbers who left the industry in that period.

:Could the Minister say what special step he is taking to augment the labour force in this industry, which is a conversion industry, upon which other industries employing thousands of workers depend for supply?

We are using all the powers available to the Ministry, but if the hon. Member will put down a question I will let him know if special steps can be taken.

Civilian Industries (Manpower Increase)

61.

asked the Minister of Labour to what extent the manpower in the civilian industries and services of the country have been restored since VE-Day.

Precise figures are not available as from VE-Day, but I am in a position to give my hon. Friend the required information as from the end of June last. During the three months from the end of June to the end of September, there was a net reduction of 1,263,000 persons in the Forces, Civil Defence and munitions, while it is anticipated that in the three months to the end of the year, there will be a further reduction of 2,460,000, making a total for the six months of 3,723,000, Not all these are available for civilian work. Allowance must be made for the fall in the working population, for unemployment and for ex-Service men and women taking their paid leave. After allowing for these factors, employment in civilian industries and services increased in the three months to the end of September by 739,000 and it is estimated it will increase by another 1,561,000 in the last three months of the year. The total increase in the half-year ending 31st December next will thus be 2,300,000.

This means that employment on home civilian work and exports will have increased from 12,312,000 to 14,612,000 during the last half of 1945. The manpower employed on home civilian work and exports taken as a whole will therefore have been more than half restored to the 1939 position in a period of six months. Even if there were to be no acceleration in the present provisional programme of releases from the Forces announced for the first half of 1946, a large part of the remaining gap will have been filled by the middle of next year.

No one rose quickly to ask a supplementary before I had called the next Question.

69.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give approximate figures for the number of persons in whole-time employment in retail distribution on 1st January, 1945, and the number employed on 30th September, 1945.

:Separate figures are not available for retail distribution, but for the distributive trades as a whole it is estimated that approximately 1,422,000 full time insured persons were in employment at the beginning of January, and 1,470,000 at the end of September.

in view of the remarkable answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave to Question 61, will he consider the transfer of more workers to the distributive industries, and thus help to reduce the queues from which so many shoppers are now suffering?

So far as the facts are known to us, it is not only the shortage of distributive workers but it is the fact that the goods and commodities are not there, and the two things must go together. The distributive forces are having a fair share of the labour available.

War Damage Repair Workers (Transfer)

62.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will set a time limit for W (T) Reserve men engaged on bomb-damage repairs in London to be transferred to their home districts, where they are urgently needed for building houses under local authorities' schemes; and if it is found impossible to spare single men from London, will consideration be given to the case of married men.

The general question of men from other areas who are engaged on war damage repairs in London is under consideration, and I anticipate that an announcement will be made very shortly.

Is the Minister aware of the feelings of resentment, especially on the part of married men, at being kept in London while their old jobs are waiting for them in the North of England for the erection of much needed homes?

Building Trade Workers

63.

asked the Minister of Labour how many building trade workers are now registered at employment exchanges as unemployed.

:The number of insured building trade workers registered as unemployed in Great Britain at 15th October, 1945, was 4,381.

Because it is mainly come and go. These are mainly men moving from one job to another on the register.

Engineering Instructors, Watford

64.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is in a position to state what steps have been taken to secure employment at adequate rates of pay for those men who have been engineering instructors at the Government training centre, Watford, and are now being stood off, owing to the conversion of the training centre to another purpose.

I am looking into this matter and will write to my hon. and gallant Friend.

Agriculture (Training Scheme)

67.

asked the Minister of Labour whether farm pupils under the Government Training Scheme are ineligible unless they have suffered unavoidable interruption from following their normal occupation before the war.

:I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles) on 24th October. The general conditions of eligibility are set out in the Pamphlet P.L.156 "Government Vocational Training Scheme," a copy of which is being sent to the hon. and gallant Member.

Unofficial Strikes

68.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the repeated inconvenience suffered by the public as a result of illegal strikes, His Majesty's Government will in future bring to bear the full force of the law upon those who lead or instigate strike action contrary to the whole principle of collective bargaining and in defiance of the established machinery for conciliation.

:The Government are conscious of the inconvenience occasioned by stoppages of work in certain industries and they will take any necessary steps to protect the public interest. What such steps should be must however, be determined in the light of the circumstances of each case.

Is the Minister conscious of Section 4 of the Conspiracy Act, 1875, and that the criminal law has been broken with impunity by a great number of workers?

All those who have had any service in the trade union movement are conscious of that particular Act. I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that if he looks at the matter, he will see that the power to authorise prosecutions does not rest with Government officials.

Mine Ballotees

75.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now make a statement about the release of young men called up compulsorily to the mines.

Yes, Sir. I am circulating a full statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.I should, however, like to take this opportunity of reinforcing what was said recently by my hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Secretary, in the Debate on the Adjournment. The majority of these young men called up compulsorily to the mines, and also of the optants and volunteers, have done, and are doing, an invaluable job of work in the pits. I cannot emphasise this more than by saying that we cannot do without them at this juncture. Were it not for their contribution, many thousands fewer men would at this time be working at the coalface, and the loss of the tonnage which they produce would add enormously to the gravity of the problem with which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power is confronted this Winter.

Following is the statement:

Position Of Coalmining Ballotees In Relation To Release From Coal- Mining And From Hm Forces

In replying to the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe) on 11th October, I promised to make a general statement about the position of young men called up compulsorily to the mines. While dealing primarily with those young men who were selected by the ballot for employment in coal-mining in place of being called up for H.M. Forces, I propose to refer briefly to the optants and volunteers.

As has already been announced, the coalmining ballotees will be given release from coalmining on the basis of age and length of service which is applicable to Class A release from the Army. They will be able, on release, to take advantage of the facilities for resettlement, including training, assistance in connection with interrupted apprenticeships and further education. They will have the same priority as is accorded to ex-Servicemen for admission to training courses. They will also be afforded an opportunity of choosing their own employment free from labour control, but, having taken this opportunity, will thereafter be subject to the same labour controls as may apply at that time to other civilians in comparable circumstances. They will not be entitled to gratuity or a period of paid furlough. A certain number—it is only a small proportion—of the ballotces have been, or will be, discharged from coalmining and called up for H.M. Forces. The majority of these are young men who have been released from coalmining for medical reasons such as defective vision or claustrophobia, but are quite fit for service in some branch of H.M. Forces. In calculating the release group of the men called up for military service, the period of training and the period of employment in coalmining will be counted for the purpose of Class A release.

There is another small category of ballotees, namely, those who have been released from coalmining, mainly for medical reasons, and have not been fit to be called up for H.M. Forces. They will be given the same facilities for resettlement as men discharged from H.M. Forces, and will also be given an opportunity of choosing whatever occupation or employment they desire, but, having taken this opportunity, will thereafter be subject to the same labour controls as other civilians in comparable circumstances.

I now come to the optants and the volunteers. The optants are those men who, at the time of their call up, took the option of going into coalmining as an alternative to service in His Majesty's Forces. To remove a misapprehension which was evident in the speech on the Adjournment by the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton, I should make clear that these optants have never been in His Majesty's Forces. There are also the volunteers who, in this context, are those who, before their actual call up, volunteered for coalmining in anticipation of their call up for His Majesty's Forces. They also have never been in His Majesty's Forces. (There are, of course, other men who volunteered for the coalmines to whom this statement does not refer. I will make a separate statement in the near future about the position of men released from His Majesty's Forces for employment in the coalmining and other industries). All that I have said above as regards release from coal-mining for the ballotees applies equally to the optants and volunteers. The only point in which I propose to make a difference between the ballotees on the one hand, and the optants and volunteers on the other, is that, in the case of those optants and volunteers who are discharged from coalmining, whether for medical or other reasons, and are thereupon called up for His Majesty's Forces, the period of coalmining training and employment will not be counted in calculating their release group for Class A, any more than it would be so counted in the case of the regular miner who entered the industry voluntarily and was subsequently discharged from coalmining in, say, 1941, and called up for His Majesty's Forces. It is necessary to draw the line somewhere, and I think a distinction can fairly be made before the ballotees who are required to enter coalmining against their will, having declined to exercise the option to undertake coalmining, and those men who opted or volunteered to go into the mines in the exercise of their own choice as an alternative to military service.

For the ballotees we are going farther than for any other class of persons in treating industrial work under civilian terms of employment and conditions of life, as the equivalent of service in His Majesty's Forces. This is right as these young men were directed into coalmining without regard to their own wishes, while many of them would doubtless have preferred service in the Forces. They have often been told that service in the coalmines is as essential as service in the Forces.

Military Service

Students

52.

asked the Minister of Labour what arrangements his Ministry are making whereby young men of 18 and 19 years of age who, having won bursary scholarships for a university education, can have their call up for military service deferred to enable them to take a degree.

Arrangements have been made for deferment to be granted to a limited number of students of scholarship standard to enable them to take arts courses at universities; I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of a memorandum containing explanatory details. In present circumstances, I am afraid, I cannot agree to any extension of these arrangements.

Is it not a fact that if one of these students who has gained a scholarship is in the Forces he cannot be released unless he has served three years? Is it not rather hard that a boy can be deferred altogether, whereas a man, who happens to be in the Services for six months, has to wait for another two-and-a-half years?

I could not give a definite answer; all I can say is that the principle is that people who have been in the Services should have a preference in coming out to continue their studies as against those who have not been in the Services.

What conditions have been laid down to determine the limit of those who will come within the limited number he has given? What principles determine the selection?