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Commons Chamber

Volume 419: debated on Thursday 21 February 1946

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House Of Commons

Thursday. 21st February, 1946

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Double Taxation Relief

The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household (Captain Snow) reported His Majesty's Answer to the Addresses, as followeth:

I have received your Addresses praying that the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (U.S.A.) Order, 1946; the Double Taxation Relief (Estate Duty) (U.S.A.) Order 1946; and the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (France) Order, 1946, be made in the form of the respective drafts laid before Parliament.

I will comply with your request.

Private Business

NORTHMET POWER BILL ( by Order)

Second Reading deferred till Thursday, 21st March.

Oral Answers To Questions

Housing

Permanent Prefabricated Houses

1.

asked the Minister of Health what contracts have been signed by his department for the building of permanent prefabricated houses; with what firms they have been signed;and whether there is provision in. these contracts for constant official supervision on the sites and the establishment of site committees.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer I gave yesterday to the hon. Member for Maid-stone (Mr. Bossom), of which I am sending him a copy.

Empty Houses And Flats, Londont

3.

asked the Minister of Health how many unoccupied houses and flats there are in the boroughs of Hampstead, Hornsey and Finchley, respectively.

On a point of Order. May I ask, Mr Speaker, whether it is not rather a waste of the time available for Questions down for oral answer to put down a Question for information which can be asked for and obtained from the town halls of the constituencies referred to or from hon. Members representing them?

"That is not a point of Order. The hon. Member is responsible for how he asks his Question.

Further to that point of Order. May I emphasise the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend that this information can be obtained from the hon. Member of a constituency? Anybody can obtain it from his Member.

That fact does not deprive any hon. Member of the right to ask a Question of this kind.

The number of unoccupied houses and flats other than those held on requisition is: Hampstead 440; Hornsey 320; Finchley 48. Very many of these properties are heavily war damaged and still awaiting repair and there is both in Hampstead and Hornsey a great deal of dry rot damage also.

18.

asked the Minister of Health the number of houses and flats which are at present uninhabitable by reason of war damage in the following London boroughs St. Marylebone, Paddington, Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster, respectively.

The number of houses and flats in these boroughs which are still uninhabitable by reason of war damage are: St. Marylebone, 541; Paddington, 295; Kensington, 806; Chelsea, 268; Westminster, 359.

Mr. Speaker, 1 thought the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) was going to ask a supplementary question to Question No. 18.

I have called the next Question, and the hon. Member cannot now ask a supplementary on the previous Question.

Costs And Standards

4.

asked the Minister of Health how many tenders for municipal housing schemes he has refused to sanction on the ground of high cost, and in how many cases he has insisted on a reduction in the standard of amenities in these schemes below that outlined in the Housing Manual in order to bring the tenders within a figure he would approve.

As regards the number of tenders refused, I would ask my hon. Friend to await the housing progress report which will contain this figure. As regards the standard of amenities I would refer her to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) on 13th December.

Is the Minister aware that there is a good deal of confusion and anxiety in the minds of local authorities about the reduction of amenities he is prepared to allow in municipal flats, and will he give an undertaking that he will not try to bring down housing costs by sacrificing amenities which experience has shown to be necessary?

I have stated on several occasions— and it is part of Government policy— that housing costs should not be reduced by a reduction of housing standards. Most housing authorities agree that that has been accomplished. There have been certain reductions in price which have been the result of cutting out, not amenities or standards, but, as I said last week, certain frills.

Is the Minister aware that the council of which I am a member has recently had to cut out what he is pleased to call "frills" in order to come down to what he regards as an essential price?

Would it not be better if the right hon. Gentleman were to face the unpleasant economic facts and fix an economic price for houses?

I regard the last supplementary. question as entirely irrelevant. With regard to the first, the answer is that I would be interested to find any local authority which would assert by resolution that housing standards have been reduced. There have been reductions in price, but not at the expense of standards.

War Damage Repairs, Stepney

6.

asked the Minister of Health if he is now in a position to make a further statement on the wastage of manpower on the repair of C (b) houses in Stepney.

The number of C (b) houses repaired in Stepney since 14th September, 1945, is 301, and in addition nearly 2,200 other houses have been brought up to the standard of "reasonable comfort." The labour force engaged on this work has averaged a little over 1,400. This is appreciably better than during the preceding four months.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the position has been resolved both in Stepney and elsewhere, because the question has an all-London bearing and applies not only to Stepney?

I am not satisfied, because many thousands of people are suffering grave hardship as the consequence of not having houses repaired, but in London alone there are 140,000 building workers on war damage repairs, and it is not possible to add to the number at the present time.

May I ask the Minister why it is I have had no further reply in view of the fact that on 22nd November he said that the Report was not yet complete, but that he would let me have a reply at the. earliest possible moment?

The hon. Member will find, when he sees the Report next week, that progress has, in fact, been made in war damage repairs in London as the result of the changeover in method.

7.

asked the Minister of Health on what grounds a representative of his Department urgently requested from the town clerk of the borough of Stepney a report upon the co-ordinating consultants, Messrs. Higgs and Hill, employed under the council in connection with C (b) schemes, the report to contain an appraisement of the firm's work and its efficiency, and asked if they are not already under an arrangement to leave and how long they need remain in the council's service.

This report was asked for in the course of the Department's normal work in supervising the organisation of war damage repairs by local authorities. I understand that the work done by Messrs. Higgs and Hill has been much appreciated by the Stepney Borough Council and the special arrangements with that firm are being terminated only because the local authority is itself now able to undertake the work.

Is the Minister aware that when the town clerk presented his report to the council, of which I am a member, he said it was at the request of the Minister of Health that this firm was being dispensed with? How does he explain that position?

If the hon. Gentleman will communicate with me, I will investigate his allegations. My information is that his council were anxious to undertake the work done by this firm, and I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should take the side of the firm against his own authority.

Slates

8.

asked the Minister of Health if he will give the weekly quantity of roofing repairs, in squares of 100 square feet, carried out over slates in the London area; and what proportion of these slates are used where roofs are completely stripped and recovered.

I regret that the information asked for is not available. The allocation of large slates to the London Region is 1,400 squares. Local authorities have been advised that large slates should be used only for patching and that where roofs are completely stripped and re-covered large slates should not be used even though the use of alternatives may involve an increase in the pitch of the roof.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the question of making tiles more readily available for this purpose in the London area and thereby save the freight costs at present involved in bringing slates to London?

I am deeply conscious of the necessity, not only because of the cost but because of the shortage of slates. We are doing everything we can to increase the production of tiles.

9.

asked the Minister of Health why the Welsh Board of Health has directed that a proportion of prefabricated houses to be erected in the Ogwen and Llanberis districts of Caernarvon are to be slate-roofed and a proportion tile-roofed, in view of the fact that the necessary slates can be made readily available in these slate-producing areas.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to him by my hon. Friend on 7th February, when he explained that there is an acute shortage of slates owing to the heavy demands of war damage repair. No doubt slates can be made readily available in these areas, but the result is that other areas where the need is greater, as it cannot be met by other methods, have to go without. Slates will, however, be made available for the roofs of the Swedish houses about which the particular Question has arisen.

Kingsclere And Whitchurch

10 and 11.

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether his attention has beendrawn to the application of a firm of builders and contractors to the Kingsclere and Whitchurch Rural District Council for W.B.A. priority on certain private enterprise housing which they are executing; that this firm have been informed that the rural district council are willing and anxious to grant this priority, but are unable to do so, as the requisite forms have not been made available by his Department; and what steps he proposes to take to expedite the matter;

(2) whether he is aware that his Department have failed to supply the requisite priority permits affecting the building of houses to the Kingsclere and Whitchurch Rural District Council; why permission to type such priority permits by the rural district council has been refused; and whether he will now take measures to permit local authorities to act in the absence of printed forms.

A supply of the necessary forms was sent to this local authority on 7th February, 1946, in response to a request received on 6th February. A further supply was sent as part of a general distribution on 18th February. These forms can always be obtained on application to my principal housing officers so that the question of allowing local authorities to produce their own does not arise. The same form is used for granting priority both to local authority and private building.

Is the. Minister aware that considerable delay occurs before these forms arrive, and does he not realise that until the builders are given a chance we shall not get any houses?

Waiting Lists

12.

asked the Minister of Health if he will state the national total of the waiting lists for houses now in the possession of all housing authorities.

I regret that this information is not available. It will, in any event, be appreciated that there is a good deal of duplication between the lists of different housing authorities, since many people have applied for a house in more than one district.

Is the Minister quite satisfied that his plans for meeting the demands of the unhoused population are sufficient to meet the needs of registered housing authorities?

I believe the plans are sufficient. Whether the development of the plans will be adequate I do not know.

Rawcliffe

14.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the building of 580 houses at Rawcliffe, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, has been held up since July, 10,45, through an attempt by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to sterilise this area from building; and whether he will secure that these housing schemes may now proceed.

I am aware of this case, about which I am in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation. I will inform the hon. Member of the result.

Does the Minister recall that this local authority wrote to him on 10th November last asking for his help, and is he aware that they have had no reply and no material assistance in consequence of that letter?

The hon. Gentleman will understand that there is in these matters a very considerable difficulty, because the claims of civil aviation, which are developing and which are still uncertain, have to be set off against the claims of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and other Departments. I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman, and I am trying to get a solution to the difficulty.

As the right hon Gentleman is paying a visit to York City next week, will he go out to the site and look at it at first hand?

Can the right right. Gentleman say whether there is any machinery for co-ordinating these Departments in this matter?

This is now done on a regional level by the Ministry of Health from 1st January this year.

Conglcton

15.

asked the Minister of Health when the 50 temporary Tarran-type houses will be delivered for erection at the Astbury Road site, Congleton.

It is hoped that delivery of the Terran houses to this site will begin next month.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the site for these houses was completed last July, and that tenants were selected and were supposed to be in occupation by last December? Is he further aware that the council were informed last week that the houses would be delivered in five months' time? Will the Minister ensure that Congleton gets a square deal in this matter, and that his Department will keep its promise?

It shows how unfortunate it is to give programmes in these matters The programme and the preparations were made by the last Government.

Macclesfield

16.

asked the Minister of Health when the first temporary houses will be delivered to Macclesfield;

A contract for the erection of temporary houses at Macclesfield has been let, and delivery is expected to begin by the end of this month.

Houses (Use As Workshops)

17.

asked the Minister of Health if he has any information as to the extent to which good habitable houses, particularly in the north-west area of London, are being used as workshops.

Middlesex

19.

:asked the Minister of Health how many local authorities in Middlesex have purchased land for

Land purchased by Middlesex local authorities outside their own boundaries.

Local Authorities.Location of siteAcreageNumber of dwellings to be erected.
(1) Brentford and Chiswick BoroughSyon Estate in Heston and Isleworth Borough1·8830
(2) Edmonton BoroughCuckoohall Lane in Enfield Urban District.35·83Approximately 400
(3) Southall BoroughHolly Cottage, North Hyde Lane in Heston and Isleworth Borough.4·750

Building Societies (Financial Resources)

24.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the fact that building societies are precluded by law from engaging in building operations, he proposes to consult with representatives of the building societies as to how their ex- housing purposes outside their own boundaries; and if he will give the location of any sites acquired, the acreage, and the number of dwellings to be erected.

I regret that the Department's records do not provide this information. My officers recall, however, three cases in which Middlesex local authorities have purchased land for current housing purposes outside their own boundaries, and I will, with permission, circulate these details in the Official Report.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that quite a number of authorities in Middlesex will have to go outside their boundaries to develop their housing schemes and, in view of the fact that between them they have more than sufficient on their housing registers to form the nucleus of a satellite town, would the right hon. Gentleman agree that instead of these authorities going their independent ways in developing housing schemes over a wide area, it would be better to coordinate their activities within a joint housing authority, acting on behalf of all the authorities concerned? Would he agree to such a course being adopted?

My hon Friend is probably quite right, and in that case it is a matter for the Minister of Town and Country Planning.

Following are the details:

perience and financial resources may be used in other ways to advance the Government's housing programme.

I should be pleased to consider any suggestions which the representatives of the building societies may be able to make to me with a view to making their resources available to facilitate the building of houses for letting, always bearing in mind that the limiting factor today is not finance but labour and materials.

Is the light hon. Gentleman aware that he has not really answered my specific Question which is: Is he willing to meet representatives of the building societies? In view of the misunderstandings between building societies and himself will he not agree to meet their representatives?

I hope there is no misunderstanding between myself and the building societies. I hope I have made my position clear. However, if it is necessary to meet them to clear up any misunderstanding I am certainly ready to do so.

Heathrow Aerodrome

20.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to state what arrangements he is making to provide housing accommodation for approximately 5,000, who will be dependent on the activities of Heathrow aerodrome.

I the right hon. Gentleman aware that the prospective workers who will be employed at Heathrow airport are becoming increasingly dissatisfied because there is no plan and no performance in this matter?

I understand that because of the performance of the Government in developing Heathrow aerodrome, certain housing difficulties are arising. I hope those difficulties will be dealt with. I have no direct evidence of anxiety except the statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Fuel-Burning Apparatus

25.

asked the Minister of Health in how many of the plans for new houses which have been approved up to date have satisfactory arrangements been made to provide for the installation of modern apparatus for burning coal in a scientific manner so as to extract the maximum heat and reduce smoke to a minimum.

I regret that no statistics are available of the different types of fuel burning equipment being installed by local authorities, but I have very much in mind the desirability of providing up-to-date fuel burning apparatus.

26.

asked the Minister of Health what is the present approximate cost of installing-in houses to be built under the Government's programme the latest scientific apparatus for burning coal; and whether, in view of the need to install such apparatus in order to save the country's coal resources and reduce smoke, he is prepared to take any special steps, by way of subsidy or otherwise, to ensure that all new houses are fully efficient from the point of view of utilising British coal.

If my hon. and gallant Friend will be good enough to let us know what particular apparatus he has in mind, I will be glad to furnish him with such information as is available. I do not think additional subsidy would be appropriate, but I am ready to take all other practicable steps toencourage the installation of proper equipment.

Cardiff

28.

asked the Minister of Health how many houses on the Cardiff City Council requisition list have been unoccupied for more than six weeks.

Twenty houses requisitioned by Cardiff City Council have been unoccupied for more than six weeks. Most of these are being repaired or are awaiting approval to a scheme of repair.

29.

asked the Minister of Health how many empty shops in Cardiff have been requisitioned by the city council and made suitable for house hold accommodation.

Plans And Bills Of Quantities

30.

asked the Minister of Health if, in order to help local authorities who are without adequate technical staff, he will make available to them plans and bills of quantities, to enable them to place their contracts for permanent houses immediately.

Yes, Sir. Plans and bills of quantities will be made available to local authorities very shortly.

Local Authority Members (Payment)

5.

asked the Minister of Health whether he proposes introducing legislation at an early date to ensure that membership of a local authority does not entail loss of income.

I regret that owing to the pressure on Parliamentary time, I cannot hold out hope of a Bill for this purpose this year.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that many worthy candidates for election to local authorities do not submit themselves because of the expense involved, and will he consider introducing legislation to help them to render such service?

I share the hon. and gallant Gentleman's views—which are the views held on this side of the House—about the great financial burden imposed on local authority members in attending to their duties without some form of subsistence. I am sympathetic to the point of view. If there were time, I think we should be able to deal with the matter, but, unfortunately, we are greatly pressed

Public Health Ddt

13.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that the commercial and domestic use of D.D.T. is in no way injurious to the public health, in view of the limited knowledge of its application.

:I am advised that, according to present knowledge, there is little risk attaching to the use of D.D.T. in the form in which it is commonly used, namely as a powder or a watery suspension. Further investigations are proceeding into the toxicity of D.D.T. in oily solution. In any form D.D.T. should be kept away from food since taken internally it is harmful.

Water Supply, Elham Valley

21.

asked the Minister of Health what progress is being made with the plans for improving the water supply to farms and farm dwellings in the Elham Valley district of East Kent, further to the information given to the-hon. Member for Canterbury in the letter from the Parliamentary Secretary dated 18th September, 1945.

Proposals for a main water supply in this area are included in a number of schemes which the rural district council propose to submit for grant under the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act, 1944. The council are still in consultation with the county council on these schemes, as the Act requires, and it is, of course, desirable that extensive schemes should be considered in relation to proposals for other parts of the county.

Can the Minister give any idea how long it will be before these schemes will be put into operation?

Greater London Water Area

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the proposals of the Metropolitan Water Board for a Greater London Water Area; and whether he has any statement to make upon them.

These proposals, which are very far reaching in character, are being examined. My hon. Friend may rest assured that no unnecessary time will be taken,but I am anxious that the matter should be very carefully considered.

Education

Text Books

33.

asked the Minister of Education if she will take steps to improve the supply of text books for medical, engineering and scientific students.

The production of text books is in the hands of the publishers, but supplies are necessarily affected by shortages of labour and materials. Recent increases in the quota of paper allowed for books and the release of printers under the Class B scheme will, I hope, result in better supplies becoming available soon. Where shortage of paper is holding up production, the publishers of text books have an additional source of supply from the reserve held by the Moberly Committee who are always ready to give sympathetic consideration to applications in respect of important books which the publishers cannot produce from their ordinary quota.

Is the main trouble in the binderies or is it due to lack of paper?

The trouble now is due not so much to any shortage of paper as to labour for printing and so on.

Single Area Schools (Church Of England)

34.

asked the Minister of Education the number and accommodation of single area schools under the control of the Church of England, in March, 1944, and January, 1946, respectively.

The number of Church of England voluntary schools in single school areas in England and Wales on 31st March, 1935, the latestdate for which statistics are available, was 4,141, and it is unlikely that the number has materially changed, though the tendency is for it to decrease. For the purpose of these figures a single school area is taken as a civil parish in which there is only one primary school. No account has been taken of the accessibility of schools in adjoining parishes. I regret that figures showing the accommodation in these schools are not available.

Is the Minister aware that when her predecessor introduced the Education Bill, he said he hoped that within a very short time at least 2,000 of these schools would come over to the local education authorities; and is she not of opinion that all of them should be taken over by the local authorities so that the children can get adequate and hygienic accommodation as well as adequate and hygienic education?

I shall have to await the development plans of the local authorities before it is possible to reply to the first part of the question. The second is a matter of opinion.

Teachers' Salaries

35.

:asked the Minister of Education how many cases involving determination of teachers' salaries have been referred to her Department by local education authorities; and how many cases have been settled.

My Department has received from local education authorities 56 schemes of allowances for assistant teachers under Section 9 (a) of the Primary and Secondary Schools Report of the Burnham Committee. Of these, ten have been approved. In addition a very large number of inquiries have been received from local education authorities as to the application of the new scales, but it is not possible to say how many individual teachers are concerned.

Will the Minister take the necessary steps to expedite decisions in these cases?

I am very sorry. The delay is owing to staffing and accommodation difficulties, and also because we are in the middle of the removal of the Department which deals with this from North Wales to London. I really cannot hold out much hope for the immediate future, but once the move takes places the difficulties will be dealt with.

Further Education Scheme(Grants)

36.

asked the Minister of Education the average time taken to deal with applications for grants under the Further Education Scheme; and in how many cases have grants been awarded but still remain unpaid, at the latest convenient date.

The time taken from the date when applications are forwarded to my Department to the date of the payment of grant has recently been on an average about eight or nine weeks. At the present date about 1,600 awards are waiting either to be assessed or paid.

Is the Minister aware that the very considerable delay which is taking place with regard to the payment of this grant to teachers who are under training is leading to their using their war gratuities and any savings that they have on which to live, and will she makean effort to expedite payment in order that they may not suffer unduly?

I am aware of the delay and the consequences and have been very worried about it. Owing to considerable improvement of the staff position within the last two weeks the situation has already got better. Of course the hon. Gentleman understands that the awards are retrospective.

37.

asked the Minister of Education whether she will consider revising and speeding up the system of assessing and awarding F.E.T. grants by simplifying the operation of the teachers and awards branch, so as to obviate hardship to students who too frequently now experience long delays before actually receiving the grants to which they are entitled.

1 am most anxious to speed up the assessment and payment of grants. The whole cause of delay since the autumn has been that the clerical staff has been quite insufficient to deal with the great volume of work. The situation has much improved during the last few weeks and I hope that my Department may soon be able to wipe off the arrears and keep pace with new applications.

Does the Minister realise that very often scholarships which have been won by these students are not now paid because of this grant? Does she realise the hardship that involves?

As we are having so many abbreviations, which accumulatefrom day to day, may they not be set out in full?

Would is not be possible to have a supplementary paragraph at the end of the Question Paper giving the explanations?

Unesco (Constitution)

38.

asked the Minister of Education whether the Government intend to accept the constitution proposed for a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Yes, Sir: the instrument of acceptance was deposited yesterday.

Post Office

Government Mail, East Africa

39.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General to what extent air-mail of Government Departments for East Africa is sent by the weekly Springbok service; and whether arrangements can now be made to give urgent business and Press air-mail the same privilege as Government air-mail and to arrange that, in return for a suitable premium, it will be carried definitely by the Springbok service if made available to British Overseas Airwaysheadquarters by a specified time on a specified day of the week.

Air-mail correspondence for East Africa posted by Government Departments is not given preferential treatment in the post, but is forwarded, together with other air-mail correspondence, by the Sprinkbok service, which now operates twice weekly, to the extent that this service offers advantage over other, and more frequent, a, services. It is not proposed to introduce arrangements of the kind suggested in the latter part of the Question, but certain types of Press material may be sent outside postal channels, and it is open to the senders to make arrangements directly with the air operators for the carriage of such material.

Our arrangements are concerned only with the carriage of correspondence and letters. This is an arrangement for other materials.

Telegrams (Delivery Time)

41.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will state the average time taken for delivery of inland telegrams in 1939 and the present average time.

Before the war the average time taken between the handing in of a telegram by the sender and its despatch by messenger from the delivery office to the addressee was just over 30 minutes; it is now about 70 minutes. The time taken by the messenger to deliver the telegram depends, of course, on the distance from the delivery office to the addressee's house.

Is the Minister aware that I have recently sent two telegrams, one on a priority, taking 28 hours, which the messenger boy pushed through the letter box without knocking at the door; the other, sent three weeks ago, which has not yet been delivered?

Is the Minister aware that telegrams in my constituency are not delivered at all?

Facilities, Cheltenham

43.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General why it is proposed to give less postal facilities to the public than they enjoyed under previous.Governments by the decision to close three sub-post-offices in Cheltenham, Whaddon, St. Marks and Six Ways; and as this would result in inconvenience and hardship, particularly to elderly persons, if he will arrange for these three offices to continue to remain open.

The decision to increase the standard distance between sub-post offices in towns to one mile was taken in 1939 and is being applied throughout the country. The closing of these three offices follows the resignation of the sub-postmaster or sub-postmistress. Each of these offices is within half a mile of a neighbouring office. My Noble Friend is sorry that he cannot agree to maintain the offices.

Is the Minister aware that since 1939 there have been queues at all post offices? Is this the timeto reduce the facilities of the public, particularly as two of these post office-; are on housing estates? Will not the Minister look at this with a fresh mind?

Within one mile of the first of these places there are three post offices; within one mile of the second there are four, and within one mile of the third there are four also.

Postal Reforms (Consideration)

44.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether a decision has yet been reached on the plan submitted to him by the Postal Reform League for penny postage on letters up to 2 ounces, posted before 1 p.m. for second delivery next day. to be called mid-day letters; and for the rates on ordinary letters, postable alwaysand speedier than pre-war letters, to be I½d. per ounce and a halfpenny each additional 2 ounces.

My noble Friend is at present considering the plan in conjunction with general improvements in the postal service.

Prisoners Of War (Employment)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether there is any Allied Agreement about the employment of German and Italian prisoners in Allied countries; for how long they are to be employed; why, with the present shortage of miners working in the mines in Great Britain, German prisoners are being allowed by us to return to Germany; whether he will consider using these prisoners to take the place of our young men directed to the mines until the date of their release group; and how many Germanprisoners are at present being employed in the mines of other Allied nations.

No general agreement has been concluded among the Allies on this matter and I am unable to say how long the various countries will continue to employ prisoners of war. As regards the employment of German prisoners in the mines in this country, the possibility of using prisoners of war on additional occupations of vital national importance is constantly under review having regard to the needs of allindustries where this type of labour may be suitable. I am not in possession of the detailed information asked for in the last part of the Question.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, which however is not very detailed, mayI ask him, in view of the fact that the whole of this question is, I understand, being reviewed today, whether he will bear in mind that the Bevin Boys are conscripted in this country, and if prisoners of war are to be used in the mines would he first make sure the Bevin Boys are released?

If the Minister decides to employ German prisoners in the coal mines of this country would he also employ some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite to supervise them?

Would the Prime Minister also bear in mind the question of employing women from the continent in their respective spheres when the whole matter is reviewed?

Sports Meetings (Industrial Production)

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he has considered the desirability of restricting football matches and other sporting functions in the middle of the week in order to improve production in industry; and if he will make a statement on the subject.

It is obviously desirable that in the interests of production these functions should be held so far as possible at times which are outside normal working hours, and I hope that those responsible for the arrangements will bear this in mind.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if he has any figures to show to what extent these midweek football matches are in fact impeding production? Will he make a general statement on the subject?

War Decorations And Medals (Miniatures)

47.

asked the Prime Minister if he aware that miniatures of the King's Badge are still being sold to people not entitled to them; and whether he is prepared to consider issuing instructions to shopkeepers that they must satisfy themselves that any would-be purchasers are entitled to wear the badge.

I certainly hope that persons offering Decorations, Medals, etc., for sale will satisfy themselves as to the credentials of the would-be purchasers, and I trust that the publicity this matter is receiving as a result of the hon. and gallant Member's Question will have a good effect.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that since he gave a similar answer in Decemberthe position has not improved, and that I only put this Question down at the request of the British Legion, who are worried about the matter? Perhaps he will keep an eye on it as far as he can?

Employment

Building Materials

48.

asked the Minister of Labour how many of the additional 130,000 workers required in the industries producing housing materials and components had been recruited to these industries by 31st December, 1945.

Returns rendered by a substantial proportion of employers in the more important of these industries show that their labour force increased by some 15,000 during the last quarter of 1945.

Does the right hon. Gentleman regard that as being a satisfactory increase, in view of the figure of 130,000 stated to be necessary?

The figure cannot be accepted with any definite accuracy because there is so much overlapping in the various things produced by those firms. Many of them producing those goods s employed on other work. It is difficult to get an accurate figure, but since last quarter there has been a further increase.

Catering Industry (Conditions)

49.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give the House the particulars of all the cases of alleged hardship amongst employees in the hotel and catering industry, of which he has been informed.

As action is proceeding on these cases I do not think it would be in the best interests of those concerned to follow the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. In so far as questions of wages and conditions of employment are concerned, I am hopeful that when the Wages Board has formulated wage regulation proposals there will be such a material improvement as to obviate the possibility of hardship.

May I ask if, in saying that action is proceeding, the right hon. Gentleman implies that these matters are sub judice? If that is the case, why did he refer to these matters in the House, and not give us particulars, and thereby make a breach of the arrangement he is now trying to make with me and the House?

If the right hon. Gentleman looked at the answer to the first part of the Question, he would have seen that does not arise. These are not sub judice as far as I am concerned. These are matters that came to my attention; and I find these grievances are so widespread that I propose to take whatever steps are open to me to see they are corrected.

May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman will lay before the House particulars of the cases which he mentioned to the House, and of which he gave us no particulars, according to the usual procedure of this House?

As I said in the first part of my original answer, I do not think it would be in the best interests of those concerned to follow that, and until I get all the information and get their consent I do not propose to disclose it.

If the right hon. Gentleman is intending to take further steps in this matter, will he guarantee that there will be no victimisation of any catering employees?

That is a part of the reason why I do not wish to give further particulars now.

Is the House to understand from the reply, that when the right hon. Gentleman gave these facts to the House the other night, he did not have full information in his possession?

No, Sir. I had full information on this, but since I gave those facts, I have been so overwhelmed by correspondents giving other facts of other places that I think it best to make investigation.

This is a very important point. Can I put this question? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it was in the interests of the only case he did mention, of which we have had the facts put before us in public, that we investigated the facts and found that they were not as the right hon. Gentleman stated?

The right hon. Gentleman seems to me very well informed. I did not give the names of the cases, and yet he says he has investigated them— [Hon. Members: "Oddenino's."] There is another Question on the Order Paper about that. I do not run away from that. Wait until we get to it.

50.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has submitted to the machinery established under the Catering Wages Act, 1943, particulars of those cases of which he has been informed, or whether he has caused the cases to be otherwise examined.

As the functions of the machinery established under the Catering Wages Act, 1943, do not include the settlement of disputes or differences between individual employers and workers, the answer to the first part of the Question is in the negative. As regards the second partof the Question, I am considering what action I can properly take to arrange a discussion between the parties.

May I ask, in view of the importance of these cases, to which we attach as much importance as the right hon. Gentleman, whether he will keep the House fully informed of the developments?

If Questions are put down about the course of these proceedings I shall be glad to answer them.

May I ask if the Minister will tell the House whether the facts he gave last week about Oddenino's are correct or not?

May I ask the Minister whether he agrees that it would be an advantage to the employers in the catering industry and to the employees, if the catering employers would have the decency to answer letters from trade unions?

I am most anxious not to say anything one way or another that may make further difficulties for those against whom the complaints have been made.

53.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the copy of the statement made by the employees of Oddenino's which has been sent to him; and what action he proposes to take.

57

asked the Minister of Labour what action heproposes to take as a result of the document, a copy of which has been sent him, issued by over 150 employees of Messrs. Oddenino's, and wherein it is stated that during the whole course of their employment they have at all times been treated with the greatest consideration; that their conditions of employment have been exemplary; and that they have never in any agreement of service been restricted in association with any trades union to which they desired to be associated.

58.

asked theMinister of Labour if he has considered the communication sent him from Messrs Oddenino's Hotel and Restaurant, Limited; and what reply he has made to it.

The hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Prescott) has kindly sent me a copy of the documents in question. I have noted its contents and no action on my part seems called for.

Will the Minister say what steps he took to check the accuracy of the information which he gave? Does he realise that this affects the prestige of the House, and will he give an undertaking that he will not make such reckless statements in future to bolster up a weak case?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that I made a reckless statement and has asked what steps 1 took to check up on it. I got that information from a source that is completely reliable. I have received information since which confirms the statement that I made. The document issued by Oddenino's, a copy of which has not reached me, except by courtesy of the hon. Member for Darwen, completely and deliberately ignores the statement which I made against them, and, therefore, I am not called upon to. answer anything further.

is it not obvious that the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman is inaccurate and misleading and has done great harm to this firm? In the circumstances, should he not withdraw that statement?

As to taking greater care in the future, I am always prepared to accept the results of my own actions. If I do anything that is careless, I will put up with it. I am satisfied that great care was taken in this case. Perhaps the hon. Gentlemen will read this statement from Oddenino's. They will remember that I said that Oddenino's made use of a form which contains certain information which I gave to the House. In the statement which they have issued, and which they have got their people to sign, there is not one word about that form at all. They have not dealt with one charge of the case which I made against them. What is more, 1 am prepared tosubstantiate that statement if called upon to do so.

In view of the fact that this statement is refuted by the whole of the persons to whom he originally applied it, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is in accordance with the ordinary practices of this House that he should either withdraw or make a further statement, explaining what he meant when he made the original statement?

The Noble Lord, who so frequently tells us about the procedure of this House—

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Am I not entitled to put a question to a Minister without the Minister dealing with a matter which is entirely irrelevant in his reply? Am I not entitled to have an answer to my question?

Further to that point of Order. Is it in Order for the Noble Lord to tell the Minister the way in which he should answer a question?

The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to raise a point of Order, but he must not tell the Minister how to answer a question. I did not catch any remark made by the Minister which was offensive.

My point of Order was this: My experience may be a short one, but I have yet to learn that a Minister replying to a question can give a lecture on thesubject of procedure and not answer the question. I never mentioned procedure. Shall I be.entitled to ask a further supplementary question of the right hon. Gentleman, and ask him what he knows about procedure? May I have an answer to that?

The Noble Lord should put a supplementary question to the Minister; I cannot answer it.

Perhaps the Noble Lord will allow me to answer first the last question which he put. It is because I take notice of his lectures on procedure that I was going to suggest that there are ways and means of—

Mr. Speaker, are we to have a new procedure at Question Time by which a Minister can give lectures to the House on matters of procedure? May I have an answer to that point of Order?

On a point of Order. Did you not, Mr. Speaker, call the next Question on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bere)?

The Noble Lord cannot put another point of Order before a previous point of Order has been dealt with.

I beg to give notice that owing to the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply by the Minister I propose to raise this matter again on the Adjournment.

65.

asked the Minister ofLabour what inquiries under Section 2 (1) (b) of the Catering Wages Act, 1943, were made by the Catering Wages Commission in order to obtain the views of Welsh associations and bodies before issuing their Report on the Development of the Catering Holiday Tourist Services, 1946.

I am informed by the Commission that in the course of their inquiries they took into consideration the views of the Welsh Reconstruction Advisory Council as expressed in their published report. In addition, many of the national organisations mentioned in the Appendix to the Commission's report as having been consulted include Wales in the scope of their activities.

Can the Minister inform the House what was the nationality of the members ofthe Catering Wages Commission and how many come from Wales?

I cannot say that from memory, but perhaps if the hon. and gallant Gentleman looks at the signatures he would know their nationality better than I do.

Domestic Service (Aliens)

51.

asked the Minister of Labour why he advised the Home Secretary to refuse a permit for a foreign domestic servant to enter the country to take up employment with a bedridden woman when the local employment exchange is unable to fill the vacancy.

The general question of the admission of aliens for domestic work in private households is under consideration, and I hopeto make an announcement in the near future. It would not be desirable to make individual exceptions to the existing rule, in advance of the decision on general policy.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that meanwhile old folk and people running private nursing homes and even hospitals, are, as a result of their inability to get domestic staff, in a real plight? Will he consider again employing female help from the Continent?

I can only repeat what has been said so frequently about the conditions of those employments. If they were made more attractive more people would go into them.

Is there any reason, except lack of sympathy and lack of imagination, why these individual applications should not be considered on their individual merits, pending the result of the investigation, which has been going on for a very long time?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not mean there is no sympathy in these cases. Every sympathy is given. [Hon. Members: "No."] I say "Yes," and hon. Members say "No." You can have it whichever way you like. But if hon. Members have individual cases in mind we will gladly see if anything can be done, but we cannot provide for all individual cases in advance of deciding our general policy.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether any action can be taken on the reports of the British Hospitals Association and the mental hospitals so that ward maids can be provided from those sources?

Thereis every prospect of the hospitals having attention because they have set up wages improvements. It is the individual domestic personal cases that are the problem.

Appointments Department (Technical Register)

52.

asked the Minister of Labour what purpose is served by the technical and scientific register compiled by the Appointments Department of his Ministry, and if he is satisfied that the results obtained justify the cost.

The purpose served by the Technical and Scientific Register of the Appointments Department during the war was to ensure the best allocation of scientific and technical manpower between the Forces and other forms of national service. The register, and its advisory committees, were also closely associated with the Technical Personnel Committee, of which Lord Hankey is chairman, and with the Wireless Personnel Committee, in framing measures for increasing the supply of technical and scientific personnel who were so urgently required for the Forces and for civilian service during the war.

Since the termination of the war, the register remains responsible for the allocation of young graduates in science and technology, and has performed valuable service in connection with re-settlement problems. The increasing voluntary use of the register by employers and by technically and scientifically qualified persons requiring appointments or seeking the advice of my technical and scientific staff satisfies me that the register fulfils a very useful purpose and that its continuance is fully justified.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that people object to filling up these forms? Are they compelled to fill them up now in peacetime?

Statistics

54.

asked the Minister of Labour the total number of insured workers and, of these, how many are employed as civil servants wholly engaged in non-productive employment.

The estimated number of persons injured under the Unemployment Insurance Acts in Great Britain at July, 1945, was 13,640,000. As regards the second part of the Question, I do not know what the hon. Member means by non-productive employment.

Is the Minister aware that there is a very real danger of the numbers engaged in unproductive employment—if it goes on at this rate— exceeding the numbers engaged in productive employment? There is far too much of that going on.

Munitions

59.

asked the Minister of Labour how many men and women are still employed on the production of munitions.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 14th February to a similar Question by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). Figures for a later date are not yet available.

Does not the Minister agree that the present figure is a very large one, and will he take all possible steps to reduce it?

Ex-Servicemen

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the growing amount of unemployment among ex-Servicemen, and the British Legion's anxiety on this matter; and what steps he is taking to keep himself informed of the large numbers of men affected and to insure that ex-Servicemen receive the most sympathetic attention of his employment offices in allocating jobs which come to their notice.

Following the very heavy increase in the numbers released from the Forces the number of unemployed ex-Servicemen has shown some increase in recent months, but at 14th January the figure represented only 1.3 per cent. of the number released up to that date. I am watching the position very closely and can assure the hon. Member that my local officers have explicit instructions to do everything in their power to place ex-Servicemen in suitable employment with the minimum of delay.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that his Department will keep in close touch with the British Legion who are greatly disturbed about this matter?

We will keep in touch with all those who are interested in this matter, but the key to the whole question is contained in the words, "suitable employment." We can offer employment to some of them, which is not suitable for them or for which they are not suitable. The situation is being kept in mind, and we recognise the responsibility of finding these men work.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any knowledge of the large number of men who have had recourse to their rights under the Reinstatement Act?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question on that, because the thing is working most satisfactorily, and I think that the public should know how very generally reinstatement is being. accepted by employers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a very great case of difficulty of ex-Servicemen is that they are trained when in the Services, but they are not acceptable apparently for similar offices in peacetime occupation? Will he go into that?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman gives me any examples of cases we will look into them, because when cases come to us, we generally find the trouble is due either to a misunderstanding or too ready an acceptance by the organisations of these people.

Military Service

Posting Delay

60.

asked the Minister of Labour if heis aware that married men called for medical examination, often have to keep themselves and families on unemployment pay for a number of weeks, as they are unable to get employment whilst waiting to be posted to the forces; and if he will arrange that these men are not called until they are about to be posted.

:I have recently given this matter special consideration with a view to avoiding, so far as practicable, delay in posting to the Forces men due for calling up. Unemployed men are given priority of posting, while in the case of redundant men employers are urged to retain them until enlistment notices have been received.

:Is the Minister aware that there are many cases of young men of 20 years of age being discharged from their employment, and during the time between being discharged and. called up, they receive no benefits of any kind?

We have had these cases drawn to our attention, and we are asking employers to keep them on longer, and, where that is not possible, wepropose to call them up more rapidly.

Personal Case

64.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that an aircraft worker who became redundant at a factory in the West of England was transferred to an aircraft factory in Hertfordshireand that within a week of being so transferred was called up for military service; and will he take steps to eliminate official incompetence of this kind with its resultant financial hardship and inconvenience.

No, Sir, I am not aware of this case, but if my hon. Friend will let me have the details I will make, inquiries.

Demobilisation

Agricultural Workers

56.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the approximate date. by which he expects the first 10,000 Class B releases of agricultural workers will be completed.

Agricultural workers are being released in Class B as quickly as possible, but I am not prepared to forecast when a particular number will have been released.

Students

62.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the number of releases from the Forces of students under Class B for the purpose of resuming university courses, in each of the last two quarters of 1945; and the distribution thereof between the various theatres of operations

Students did not begin to be released in Class B until August, 1945. The number released by 30th September, 1945, was 275 and between 1st October and 31st December, 2,100; the information asked for in the second part of the Question is.not available.