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Commons Chamber

Volume 425: debated on Thursday 18 July 1946

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 18th July, 1946

The House met at Half past Two o' Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Bread Rationing (Petitions)

I beg to present a Petition to the honourable Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. This humble Petition of the undersigned persons resident in Ruislip, Middlesex, showeth:

" That your petitioners view with grave apprehension the determination to bring into force a bread rationing scheme which is considered unnecessary and unjustified by utterances previously made by the Food Minister. Your petitioners further feel that this ultimate in rationing strikes a cruel blow at the housewives of this country and is, moreover, a very poor and untimely reward for all the suffering "——

The hon. Member must not read out the whole Petition. He must give the heading and say what the petitioners humbly pray.

I am sorry—

" and devoted toil so willingly given over the past seven years."

On a point of Order. In view of the spate of Petitions, which are ill-founded——

I told the hon. Gentleman yesterday that whether a Petition is ill-founded or not, the hon. Member is entitled to present it.

On a point of Order. More seriously, Mr. Speaker, I must ask whether there is nothing in the Rules of this House, or in Erskine May, which can put a stop to this dangerous agitation——

Petition to lie upon the Table.

I beg leave to present to this honourable House two Petitions from certain citizens of the loyal city of Exeter. The material allegations in the first Petition are that the bread rationing will impose unnecessary hardship, particularly on the poorer classes and the aged people, and bring an added burden to the housewife. The petitioners pray this honourable House that means be sought to alleviate the imposition of the rationing of bread, flour and confectionery at the earliest possible moment, and humbly request an assurance that all possible means of relief have been, are being and will continue to be pursued to their utmost limit; and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. The second Petition is like unto it.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is there nothing that you can say in connection with these Petitions and the statements outside the House that Members who vote on this question——

There can be no point of Order about presenting a Petition. Any Member may present a Petition, and that is one of the historical rights of this House. It may seem a nuisance to one side or to the other, but, in spite of that, I will not give way for a moment.

Petitions to lie upon the Table.

I beg leave to present to this honourable House a Petition' signed by 11,890 housewives from all parts of Blackpool. The housewives pray that bread shall not be rationed, that there shall be no further food cuts, that the former soap ration shall be restored, and certain other things.

" Wherefore your petitioners humbly pray that this honourable House will be pleased to grant them such relief as to your honourable House may seem fit."

On a point of Order. Might I respectfully draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Petitions at present being presented will prevent the Questions addressed to the Minister of Food from being reached today, and might I ask you to consider extending Question time on days when there are these frivolous and repetitive Petitions?

Further to that point of Order. Could not these Petitions be taken as bread?

There really can be no points of Order. These Petitions are correctly presented. They may be a nuisance and they may seem to hon. Members to be frivolous, but that is not the point. They are the right of hon. Members, whether they interfere with Question time or not. It is up to hon. Members, and I am going to defend their rights.

Petition to lie upon the Table.

I beg leave to present two Petitions, the first signed by a number of housewives in the borough of Wareham, Dorset:

" Whereas the rationing of bread inflicts a great hardship on both consumers and distributors, and will involve both wastage and shortage… wherefore your petitioners pray that the bread rationing Order be cancelled with the least possible delay."
The second Petition, signed by a large number of housewives in Portland, Dorset, makes the same statement and concludes with the prayer:
" Wherefore your petitioners pray that further cuts in foodstuffs be not proceeded with and that a public inquiry into the country's food situation be instituted without further delay. And your petitioners, as in duty hound, will ever pray."

Petitions to lie upon the Table.

Private Business

Manchester Corporation Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Oral Answers Toquestions

Education

Transport, Fringford

1.

asked the Minister of Education why a child living at Hardwick has to cycle to school at Fringford, Oxfordshire, while children living nearer the school are provided with an omnibus service.

Hardwick is not on the route of the nearest school bus service and owing to the isolated position of the village, the cost of diverting the bus through Hardwick would be considerable. The Local Education Authority do not consider that this cost should be incurred to provide motor transport for one child only.

Emergency Training, Wales

2.

asked the Minister of Education the number of students accepted by Welsh interviewing boards for the Emergency Training Scheme; and what proportion are men.

One thousand, seven hundred and eighty-two candidates have been accepted by the Welsh interviewing boards. Of these, 83 per cent. are men. Many of these candidates were English Servicemen and women stationed in Wales, but I am unable to say precisely what proportion.

In view of the fact that these figures mean that almost 10 per cent. of the students accepted for training under the Emergency Training Scheme come from the Principality, does the Minister propose to give a greater number of colleges for Wales than has already been proposed?

As I said in my reply, a large number of these candidates are English Servicemen and women. Actually, rather less than 5 per cent, are Welsh, and we are planning three colleges which will represent rather more than 5 per cent. of the total number of places to be provided.

Is it clear that these students who are accepted by Welsh inter- viewing boards can go, and are going, to the training colleges across the border?

Maintenance Grants (Emergency Training)

3.

asked the Minister of Education whether she will take steps to ensure the prompt and up-to-date payment of maintenance grants due to ex-Service students undergoing a teachers' training course.

I took steps several months ago to expedite the payments to students in emergency training colleges, and I am satisfied that these payments are now being made at the earliest possible moment.

Medical Examinations (Children)

5.

asked the Minister of Education whether, in view of the necessity for obtaining comparative statistics, she will direct local education authorities to make examinations to ascertain the comparative heights and weights of schoolchildren of five to 14 years of age, as soon as possible this year and at the close of suitable periods of, say, five or 10 years.

The view of my medical advisers is that records of height and weight should be made of each child at least three times a year, not only from the point of view of comparative statistics but in order to watch and record the growth rate of individual children. I am afraid that this cannot be undertaken yet, because of the shortage of medical and particularly nursing staff, and, incidentally, of weighing machines. A standard medical card is, however, being prepared in the Ministry, and with it will be issued a memorandum to local education authorities on its use and on medical inspection generally, including advice about the periodic weighing and measuring of children.

Could not this work he undertaken just as well by the teachers?

I feel that I can hardly ask the teachers to do any more than they are doing at present.

School Meals, Manchester

6.

asked the Minister of Education how many schoolchildren in the city of Manchester receive meals at school; and how these numbers of children compare with the figures before and during the 1939–45 war.

The number of children in grant-aided primary and secondary schools in Manchester who had dinner at school on the day of the return in February last was 32,313. As the answer to the second part of the Question is long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following are the comparable figures for the war years:

October, 194113,486
February, 194215,120
February, 194319,430
February, 194427,284
February, 194529,176

Comparable figures for prewar years are riot available, but it is estimated that, for public elementary schools only, the average daily number of children who received school dinners during the year 1938–39 was approximately 10,000.

" The Nation's Schools"

7.

asked the Minister of Education if she is aware that the publication called "The Nation's Schools" is still on sale in unamended form at His Majesty's Stationery Offices, Cardiff; and when she proposes to withdraw this pamphlet.

As I have already stated, I have given instructions that no further copies of this pamphlet should he printed when the present stocks, which are now small, have been sold.

May we take it that this publication will be withdrawn this week from Cardiff?

I have repeatedly stated that I have no intention of withdrawing it. What I have said is that this pamphlet is now out of date, that it does not represent the views of the present Government in one or two respects, and new pamphlets are in course of publication.

Do I understand the Minister to say that, although the pamphlet does not represent her point of view, she wants it to be sold?

We are dealing with a pamphlet a very large proportion of which is a mere statement of fact, and one cannot withdraw statements of fact. [Laughter.] No, but one can express regret for having stated them. There are certain expressions of opinion in that pamphlet, and I have stated categorically that those expressions of opinion do not represent the views of the present Government.

Forces Preliminary Examination (Universities)

8.

asked the Minister of Education which universities accept the Forces Preliminary Examination in lieu of their ordinary entrance examinations.

I am sending my hon. Friend a list of the universities and university colleges which accept the Forces Preliminary Examination as prima facie evidence of a candidate's eligibility to be considered for admission.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a general impression among members of the Forces, arising from the prospectus of examinations issued by the Civil Service Commission, that the purpose of this examination is to take the place of the ordinary entrance examination for the universities; and that some universities are now refusing to accept candidates on the grounds that they do not regard that examination as any longer acceptable?

I have no control over what the universities do or do not accept as eligibility for admission. I have said I will send my hon. Friend a list of those that do.

In view of the fact that the Secretary of State for War told me the week before last that the results of those examinations which were held in February are only just known, and that the universities are pretty well full up, could my right hon. Friend reconsider this question; and could she state how many people are involved, because they do think they are entitled to go to a university?

I do not think I quite see the relevance of that supplementary question in connection with my answer. There is a list of universities and colleges which do accept these preliminary examinations. As my hon. Friend knows perfectly well, the Ministry of Education has no control over what the universities will or will not accept.

If the list submitted by my right hon. Friend does not coincide with the list given in the prospectus which I have in mind, will she take steps, in concert with the Civil Service Commission, to rectify the impression that is being given?

I think my hon. Friend had better see the list first. If he then has any question to raise on it I shall be delighted to discuss it with him.

Corporal Punishment

9.

asked the Minister of Education whether she will abolish all forms of corporal punishment in all schools under her jurisdiction for both boys and girls.

The question of corporal punishment is generally left to the discretion of school authorities. I believe this discretion to be wisely exercised and, apart from what is said in the "Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers," I see no cause for general directions on the point. There has been a welcome decrease in the infliction of corporal punishment as a means of maintaining discipline in schools, and I am confident that this will continue.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider it is an anachronism that children are kept disciplined as a result of force and fear, and does she not consider it should be abolished?

I think my hon. Friend has not kept in touch with the conditions of discipline, and of the changed conception of discipline which has taken place.

Post Office

Letter Collection And Delivery

10.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General why he proposes to withdraw the second delivery of letters at it 11 a.m. in the Lyonshall Kington, Herefordshire, district, seeing that this service was in operation both prewar and during the war period.

As from the 30th June an afternoon delivery beginning about 2.30 p.m. has been restored in the Lyonshall area. A house to house delivery has never been made in this area at 11 a.m., but I presume the hon. Member refers to the morning caller's delivery, which was introduced as a wartime measure and has now, on the introduction of the afternoon delivery, been withdrawn.

14.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he will give an assurance that the hours of collection and delivery of letters will be determined solely by the convenience of the public.

My noble Friend's policy is, with due regard to the wider interests of the community, to strike a fair balance between the convenience of the public and the interests of the postal staff.

Is there not a very obvious distinction between the question of hours and wages, on which the union is very properly consulted, and the question of what facilities should or should not be given to the public, on which the public alone and the Government are concerned?

Telephone Service

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what steps have been taken to improve the telephone lines in the neighbourhood of Finmere exchange, Oxfordshire, and, in particular, Featherbed Lane, where the trees are continually causing interruption in the service, and subscribers are thereby unable to use the telephone.

Conditions in the Finmere exchange area are similar to those in many other rural districts where overhead telephone wires are used. These are sometimes damaged during high winds, but I regret that in present circumstances it is not possible to contemplate any general modification of our methods of supplying telephone service in these districts. Damage in Featherbed Lane appears to have been exceptionally frequent recently, and I will see what can be done there to reduce the liability of interruption of service as soon as labour is available.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some of these subscribers are without the use of the telephone for about 25 per cent. of the year; and will he consider allowing a rebate, as they cannot use the telephone during that time?

They are without it for only short periods of very inclement weather, and there are only four of them altogether.

15.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many new telephone instruments have been installed in Aberdeenshire during the last six months; and how many would-be subscribers in Aberdeenshire are on the waiting list at the present time.

In Aberdeenshire 1,551 applicants have been given telephone service during the past six months, and there are at present 1,870 outstanding applications.

Does the hon. Gentleman expect to be able to accelerate the rate of supply so that we can have these subscribers fitted out with instruments by the end of the year?

Yes, there is a general acceleration. While, on the face of it, it would take another six months to clear off those at present outstanding, every time we put in a new telephone we are liable to get another two applications.

Can the hon. Gentleman saw how many of those two classes of figures apply to the City of Aberdeen?

Air Mail (Newspapers)

12.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Post Office is charging 10s. air mail postage on a single copy of a Croydon weekly newspaper addressed to a member of His Majesty's Forces in Burma; and whether he will reduce this charge to a reasonable amount.

Newspapers can be sent by air to the Forces in Burma at the rates applicable to the air conveyance of letters, namely, 1½d. up to one ounce, and, for heavier letters, 6d. for the first 1½oz, and 6d. for each succeeding half-ounce. A charge of as much as 10s. would thus be appropriate to a packet weighing 11 ounces. This seems very high for a single copy of a newspaper at the present time and the charge may have been wrongly assessed. If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of the packet, including the weight, the address, and the office of posting, I will gladly have inquiry made.

Mail Service, Ussr

20.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General why postal communication with the U.S.S.R. is so slow.

The mail service to the U.S.S.R. is, so far as I am aware, reasonably satisfactory. Air and surface mails are despatched from this country daily via Prague and Berlin respectively and should occupy about four and seven days in transmission to Moscow. The incoming surface mails from the U.S.S.R. take about seven days to reach this country. No inward air mails have been received from the U.S.S.R. since the Berlin route was adopted for surface mails in April last, but proposals have been made to the U.S.S.R. postal authorities for the exchange of air mails via Berlin. Their reply is awaited.

Has the hon. Gentleman received any complaints regarding this matter from the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)?

Football Pools Circulars

22.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what special or other facilities are provided by his Department for the posting of circulars and other material from football pool firms; what is the number of Post Office staff engaged wholly or largely in dealing with packages posted by such firms; and whether he is satisfied, in view of the present labour shortage, that such staff could not be more usefully employed.

No special facilities are provided which are not available to other equally large users of the post. I regret it is not possible to segregate staff time engaged in handling pool correspondence; the time so occupied is expected to assist materially in promoting economical staffing and in improving the duties of the Post Office delivery staff in connection with the postwar postal services now in course of introduction.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in addition to circularising all their prewar clients, the pools are today sending out hundreds of thousands of packets of circulars to people who have neither asked for them nor want them, including my wife, and can we have his most specific assurance that in no circumstances, in view of the present staff shortage, will Post Office workers be diverted from essential work to handle these mountains of football pools?

They are not. The work is very carefully arranged. What happens is that in the time between deliveries, when the staff might otherwise be unoccupied, they are economically employed.

British Broadcasting Corporation

Ex-Enemy Wavelengths

18.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many enemy wavelengths became available for use by the liberating Powers after the liberation of Germany and Austria; to which nations they have been provisionally allocated pending a general revision of the Lucerne Plan- and for what purpose any wavelengths allocated to this country are being used.

19.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will make representations under the Lucerne Agreement for the temporary or permanent acquisition of ex-enemy medium wavelengths not at present in use, so that listeners in the South-West may be provided with a reasonable wireless service.

Fourteen wavelengths were allocated to Germany and four to Austria under the Lucerne Convention. They are all still in use in those countries for broadcasting by the occupying powers to the inhabitants, displaced persons, and the occupying troops, with the exception of one which is used to carry German broadcasts from Moscow. There are thus no ex-enemy medium wavelengths not at present in use which could be used for listeners in the South-West.

Could my hon. Friend assure the House that His Majesty's Government will not agree to the allocation of these wavelengths to other Powers, pending any general revision of the Lucerne Agreement?

Will my hon. Friend explain why 14 wavelengths are in use in Germany at the present time? Would it not be possible for some to be used by this country?

Fourteen wavelengths were allocated under the Convention. Germany is a larger country than this, and if my hon. and gallant Friend will consider the proportion of wavelengths in this country and those in a country the size of Germany he will perhaps see the reason.

Regional Amalgamation

21.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will hold an inquiry in Bristol or the West of England into the merging of the Midland and West Regional services of the B.B.C. before taking definite action; and if he is satisfied that Birmingham is the most suitable place for H.Q. in the event of this merging taking place, seeing that the reception in the west is likely to be adversely affected by such a change.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." The location of the headquarters of the amalgamated region is a matter for the B.B.C., who, I understand, consider that Birmingham is the most advantageous centre for the administrative headquarters. Offices and studios will, however, be maintained in Bristol, and there will be a Bristol director. The location of the headquarters will not affect reception conditions in the West of England.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the disquiet that has been caused in the West of England by the proposed change, and that people think that an inquiry would cause him to change his opinion?

I am aware of the feeling about it, and I have a good deal of sympathy with it, and in so far as it is possible for us to improve reception technically, we will do all that we can.

Bearing in mind the strong feeling aroused in the West of England over this decision, is the hon. Gentleman quite satisfied that every possible avenue has been explored?

Yes, Sir, I am perfectly satisfied, having regard to the requirements of the whole of the country and the allocation of our wavelengths, that everything possible has been done in the circumstances.

Has my hon. Friend thought of the possibility of getting Northern Ireland merged in Eire as an alternative?

Cannot the hon. Gentleman recover for the West of England programme one of the wavelengths he has apparently allocated to Germany?

We have not given any wavelengths to Germany; the noble Lord is mistaken. What we have done is to keep for ourselves two medium wavelengths for use in Europe.

This Question, after all, dealt with Western England and not with Northern Ireland.

National Insurance

Ministry Staff (Recruitment)

23.

asked the Minister of National Insurance what steps have now been taken to ensure the employment, on conditions not less favourable than those which previously obtained, of individuals who were concerned in the operation of workmen's compensation with ordinary insurance companies.

I cannot add to the statements regarding the recruitment of the Ministry's staff made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and myself during the Committee stage of the Industrial Injuries Bill.

Can the Minister give an assurance to the House now that no single employee will lose as a result of the operation of this Act?

I cannot give any such undertaking. The undertaking I gave was that we would recruit, from both the employers' and trade unions' side, suitable persons to administer the new scheme.

Sickness Benefits

24.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is yet in a position to announce the appointed day on which increased sickness benefits will be payable under the National Insurance Bill.

I cannot at present add to what I said on this subject in the course of the Debate on the Third Reading of the National Insurance Bill.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of the people who are trying to manage on the existing sickness benefit rate are really desperate, and will he give them an assurance that they will stand high on his list when he comes to apply the different parts of his insurance scheme?

I have received representations on behalf of sick persons, and on behalf of others too, to bring special parts of the new Bill into operation as soon as possible, but I would warn my hon. Friends that if we were to attempt to introduce this legislation piecemeal it would delay the coming into operation of the full scheme, and I think that would be a mistake from everybody's point of view.

Workmen's Compensation

25.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he intends to renew the Workmen's Compensation (Temporary Increases) Act, 1943, which expires on 31st December of this year.

There is provision to this effect in Clause 88 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill now before Parliament.

Family Allowances (Widows)

26.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he has considered the communication concerning family allowances paid to widows from the Cardiff District Committee of the Transport and General Workers' Union; and whether he is able to meet the request made in this correspondence.

This letter raised a paint with regard to the net increase in the payments to widows with young children when family allowances begin to be paid. This is governed by statute and I have no power to alter it.

Do I understand then that this anomaly exists, that a widow will lose the benefit of the family allowance while it will go to the family which has an income from the wage earner?

Yes, Sir, that is part of the Bill. My hon. Friend will know that when the full scheme comes into operation there will be other provisions for widows and children.

Pensions Order Books (Renewal)

27.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware of delays in forwarding new old age pension order books to the Post Office for pensioners before the time of expiry of the old one; and why, despite the assurances to the contrary, neither the original new order book nor a duplicate which was promised have reached the local post office for a pensioner, particulars of whom have been sent to him, despite the fact that the pensioner's old book expired on 13th June.

In general, the renewal of pension order books, averaging nearly 80,000 each week, is carried out without a hitch. In the particular case to which the hon. and gallant Member refers a book containing orders available from 2oth June was issued to the proper Post Office on 24th May. As the book could not be found on 10th June when the first payment from it was due, the Post Office made an emergency payment of pension for that week. A duplicate order book was issued to the Post Office on 5th July in response to letters from the pensioner, and this book is now in his possession.

Prisons And Borstal Institutions

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the number of persons now undergoing sentences of imprisonment, indicating penal servitude as a separate item; what is the present accommodation for these prisoners; how far are these numbers in excess of that for which prison buildings were designed; and what steps it is intended to take to provide for these abnormal number of persons.

As the answer involves a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide extra accommodation for the bakers?

Following is the answer:

On 18th June there were in local prisons and Borstal reception centres 11,327 men and 915 women, convicted and unconvicted. There is cell accommodation in these prisons and centres for 10,594 men and 1,034 women, and hutted accommodation in occupation by 680 men. These figures include 770 young men and 6o young women who were awaiting removal to Borstal institutions and 1,380 men and 65 women serving sentences of penal servitude. On the same date there were in the convict prisons, with accommodation for 1,580 men and 70 women, 1,174 men and 53 women serving sentences of penal servitude.

In order to meet the need for additional accommodation, Pentonville Prison has been reopened, and the prisons at Northallerton, Reading, and Canterbury will be reopened shortly. A hutted camp has also been taken over for the star class convicts now at Camp Hill prison, to enable that establishment to revert to its former use as a Borstal institution. Negotiations are also proceeding for the acquisition of a mansion and a hutted camp to serve as regional training prisons for the Midland and South-West regions. I hope that when all this accommodation is in use there will be adequate accommodation available for at least the present level of prison population.

29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many youths undergoing training in Borstal establishments have escaped from custody during the past six months; how many have, after release from these establishments, been sentenced to various terms of imprisonment during the same period; and to what extent recent attempts to find adequate and suitable accommodation have been carried out.

From 1st January to 30th June, 1946, 299 youths escaped from custody in Borstal institutions of whom all but 19 have been recaptured up to date. During the same period 771 persons whose previous sentence was a sentence of Borstal detention were sentenced to imprisonment. Since 1st January two additional Borstal institutions have been opened, two more will be opened next month, and premises for two more will, it is hoped, be ready for use in the near future. In addition, a Borstal reception centre has been opened in new premises, and Northallerton Prison is to be used for collecting boys awaiting removal to a reception centre.

As the right hon. Gentleman stated in this House some time ago that he was dissatisfied with present arrangements, and the record he has just recited shows that the situation is not satisfactory, can he assure the House that nothing will be done to prevent the proper treatment of these youths at a Borstal institution as originally laid down, and that they will not be put into criminal gaols?

I am doing all I can, and the latter part of the answer I read gave some indication of what is being done to improve the unsatisfactory position, which is already less unsatisfactory than it was. I hope that when the full programme I have described to the House is completed, the desires of us all for the proper treatment of these lads will be realised.

In order to diminish overcrowding in prisons and in Borstal institutions, will the right hon. Gentleman consider calling in aid some of the large buildings which were built for war purposes and which are now redundant?

Nfs (Surplus Buildings And Materials)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements are being made for the release of surplus N.F.S. buildings, materials, equipment, etc.

It is the general practice to give up possession of National Fire Service buildings when they are no longer wanted for service or other Governmental purposes. As regards surplus materials and equipment, local authorities have been allowed to acquire what they wanted, and the rest is being dealt with under the procedure for disposing of surplus Government stores set out in the White Paper of July, 1944. Large numbers of surplus vehicles have also been sold by public auction.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether surplus N.F.S. buildings will be offered to local authorities for temporary housing accommodation?

It will all depend upon the original ownership of the buildings. If the building was a local authority building, it goes back; but if it belongs to a private individual, it may very well be that he has first claim to it.

If they are reported as redundant I hope they will, in the majority of cases, go to local authorities.

Aliens

American Aircraft Technician

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that an American, required by a British firm to train aircraft crews in the operation of apparatus used in survey work for Government Departments and local authorities, has been trying for nearly two months to get permission to remain in this country; and whether, to avoid further delay in the preparation of maps required for housing and town planning, he will now give a decision.

The first application to my Department in this matter was dated 6th June. I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that British subjects, with specialised qualifications in photogrammetry, including ex-members of the R.A.F., are available for this type of employment, and that further men with these qualifications are expected to register on the Technical and Scientific Register as they become demobilised. In the circumstances, I regret that permission cannot be given for this American to enter this employment.

The 6th June being six weeks ago, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these long drawn out delays are holding up the work of the country? Could he not in some cases get the officials concerned to settle the matter round the table, instead of firing minutes at one another?

The hon. Gentleman put his Question down on the first occasion on 28th June for answer a fortnight ago. The matter has been disposed of.

Naturalisation

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the number of applicants who have been granted naturalisation since the revised regulation was issued, giving the number separately for those who have served in His Majesty's Forces and those who have been granted priority owing to special services rendered; the total number of applications now pending; and how many of these are in a priority category.

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many certificates of naturalisation have been issued this year; how many applications have been received each year since 1939; and when he anticipates being able to deal with all those who applied before the war.

I have granted 1,123 certificates of naturalisation this year up to 30th June. The machinery for dealing with applications by persons who have served in His Majesty's Forces, and those who claim priority on the ground of the value of their work to the nation, is only just beginning to produce results, and it will be some time before I shall be able to give figures illustrative of the speed at which the machine is working.

The total number of outstanding applications of all categories is over 24,000, of which over 6,000 are in priority categories and over 2,000 were submitted before the war. Prewar applications are being considered, concurrently with priority applications, as rapidly as the staff position allows, but it is too early to say when they will all be dealt with. I am circulating the remaining figures asked for by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are a few applications referring to elderly people who are very distinguished in their particular walks of life, and whose naturalisation would do credit to this country? Would he put them in a special category?

I do try to have regard to the individual claims, but with so large a number as 24,000 I have to be very careful, lest, by granting a whole number of priorities, I really cancel all the priorities out.

May I ask whether merchant seamen are getting priority, because there is a large number at Cardiff clocks, and I understand that a large number have not yet received their certificates?

If a merchant seaman is recommended to me specially by the appropriate Government Department, he gets priority in the same way as does any other skilled worker.

Following are the figures:.

Applications for naturalization

Year

Number

19402,345
1941564
1942479
19431,160
19442,349
19455,225
1946 (to 3oth Tune)10,658
22,780

Distressed Relatives Scheme

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why the British passport control officer in Vienna has declined to authorise a visa to Mr. Johann and Mrs. Karoline Gräbner, 5, Margaretenstrasse, Vienna, for the purpose of visiting their son in this country under the Distressed Relatives in Europe Scheme; and if he will reconsider the application with a view to the visa being granted to Mrs. Gräbner.

The distressed relatives scheme applies to cases where a man and wife living together abroad are unable to look after and support one another, and are in special need of filial care. These persons are not infirm, and they have a married daughter and, between them, three brothers and three sisters in Austria. They have not suffered from Nazi oppression, and there is no reason to distinguish them from numerous other enemy nationals whose circumstances are similar. I regret that they cannot be regarded as having a special claim to come to this country for protection and help.

Does the Secretary of State in such cases consider it fair that poor people in this country, like this son, should have to get a certificate from a Commissioner of Oaths, for which they have to pay a guinea; and that the parents have to get a certificate abroad from a doctor, which also costs them their last money? Does he think this quite fair?

The list of categories of persons I was willing to consider was read out in this House, has been published, and is generally available; and if people who are clearly not within the categories put forward claims, I really cannot be held responsible for that.

Arrested Persons (Property)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that there are cases where, on arrest, property belonging to accused persons is taken from them by the police without a receipt being given; and whether he will take steps to see a uniform practice is adopted and such acknowledgment made.

For many years the practice in the Metropolitan Police District has been for details of property taken from an accused person by the police on arrest to be entered on the charge sheet and for the property itself to be secured and marked by the station officer. I know of no complaints having been made, but it is, of course, the desire of the Commissioner and of myself that there should be full safeguards, and if my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any case of difficulty which has come to his notice, I shall be glad to look into it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, as the details are entered on the charge sheet, the record in regard to the property remains with the police, and that if the accused person dies, or anything happens in regard to him, there is no record of the property taken from him? Does he not think it advisable that when property is taken from an accused person a receipt should be given?

I am looking into the matter to see whether this could be made more efficient, but I would point out that a substantial number of people, who are in the position of having their property taken from them at police stations, are not always, at that time, in a condition to appreciate whether the receipt is accurate or not.

Deserted Wives, Scotland (Maintenance)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider amending the present law so that a deserted wife who resides in Scotland may not be prevented from suing for maintenance because her husband resides in England.

I agree that amendment of the existing law is desirable, but I regret that, in view of the complexity of the subject, and the many other demands on the Government's legislative programme, I cannot hold out any hope of legislation at the present time.

While I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties, may I ask if this would not be a good time for helpful legislation?

Is it possible for a deserted wife in England to claim maintenance from her husband in Scotland, or is there no hope in that case?

There is a case for reciprocity in this matter, which I am examining with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Adopted Children (Intestacy)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that adopted sons have made allotments to their adopted mothers and, in certain cases, these mothers have banked money in their adopted sons names in order to have a nest egg for them; that if the adopted son is an orphan and has been killed in action without having made a will his estate becomes the property of the Crown; and whether, in these circumstances, he will introduce legislation to allow the adopted parents to be considered as next-of-kin with regard to the estate.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) on 4th July, and I would remind him that under Section 46 (1) (vi) of the Administration of Estates Act, 1925, the Crown has power in cases of intestacy to provide for dependants, whether they are kindred or not of the intestate, and I understand that this power can be exercised in favour of adoptive parents.

If I send a case to the right hon. Gentleman will he give it sympathetic consideration?

Football Pools

40.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he proposes to introduce legislation imposing a legal obligation upon football pool proprietors and firms to pay out a stipulated percentage of their total receipts to clientele returning correct results; or what other action he proposes to safeguard the interests of the large section of the public participating in football pools.

As I told my hon. Friend in reply to his Question on 13th March, I shall be glad if he will let me have any information which supports his suggestion that a large proportion of the receipts of some of the pools is not returned to the public in winnings.

Is the Home Secretary aware that I and a number of friends are collecting some evidence, and that meantime it remains a fact that a gambler on football pools has no protection whatever that the total amount accruing into a pool will be paid back to those investing in it?

I shall be very pleased to receive the evidence when it has been collected, and then to consider whether any action should be taken.

Is the Minister aware that a considerable section of sensible opinion in the country would like to see legislation banning football pools altogether?

Neurosis Cases (Mental Institutions)

42.

asked the Minister of Pensions why men who are suffering from neurosis trouble are sent to mental institutions and placed among patients who are considered to be other than neurotic cases; if he is aware that in two recent cases men who have been sent by his Department have applied to leave the institution as it was found that their condition was worsening considerably having regard to their surroundings; and what he is prepared to do to obviate this position in the future.

It is not the practice of my Department to send patients suffering from neurosis to mental hospitals for treatment, unless they develop mental symptoms which make treatment in a mental hospital necessary. Neurosis cases needing in-patient treatment are recommended by my Department for admission to E.M.S. neurosis centres under arrangements made with the Ministry of Health, but exceptionally when it is certified by a psychiatrist that a patient is unsuitable for such a centre on account of his mental symptoms, he may be advised to enter a mental hospital as a voluntary patient.

Both pensioners referred to were admitted to a mental hospital in May last as voluntary patients. In neither case did the man make application to my Department for treatment, nor were the arrangements for admission made by my Department. A notification in one case was not received until the course of treatment had been terminated, and in the other case the treatment already arranged was ap- proved by my medical officers for the purpose of payment of treatment allowances and the cost of treatment. I am making further inquiry about the two cases and will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible. If my inquiries indicate that the existing arrangements require modification, I will go into the matter.

What arrangements are made before ex-Servicemen are sent to these institutions? Are the medical advisers satisfied that they are not placed with those who are insane? Are they satisfied that the institutions to which they are being sent at the present time can properly cater for them?

Housing Policy (Departmental Responsibility)

45.

asked the Prime Minister if he will state the precise responsibility of each ministerial department for the housing policy of the Government; in what way their various functions are coordinated; and how the conclusions of the separate Departments, when in conflict, are resolved.

The Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland are responsible for housing policy, including the design of houses, in England and Wales, and Scotland, respectively. The Minister of Works has a general responsibility for the organisation and efficiency of the building industry as a whole, and advises on questions of building technique. He is responsible for erecting temporary houses, and for estimating the total requirements of building materials and components. He is also production authority for certain of the main building materials and components. The Minister of Supply is production authority for materials and components falling within the scope of the general engineering industry. The President of the Board of Trade and Minister of Transport are production authorities for certain other materials. Coordination is secured by regular meetings of the Ministers concerned under the chairmanship of the Minister of Health.

In view of the experience already gained in coordinating the housing functions of the separate Ministries, can the Prime Minister hold out any prospect of evolving from this experience a single Ministerial Department?

No, Sir. On the contrary, I think that anyone who examines this problem carefully will see that for a specific purpose like this it is quite impossible to pull to pieces Departments which necessarily have wider scope. It is quite a mistake to think that there is any economy in trying to lump everything on to a single Minister.

In order to win the last election, did not the Prime Minister specifically promise a Ministry of Housing?

If hon. Members would not make so much noise, they would have heard that the answer was "No, Sir."

Will the Prime Minister say, in view of all this machinery, what steps can be taken by anyone in order to get a house?

Yes, Sir. I think we are all familiar with that. I should have thought that it was common ground among Members on all sides of the House that no one expected that the entire housing deficiency resulting from the destruction of five years of war could possibly be overtaken in 12 months.

Germany

Control Commission Service

46.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, in view of the conditions prevailing in the British Zone in Germany, he will introduce a long-term British civil service there in substitution for the short-term service now in operation.

I have been asked to reply. The Chancellor of the Duchy is considering this question.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will establish in the British Zone in Germany a Whitley Council to which relevant matters affecting the British personnel of the Control Commission may be referred.

Rations

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what rations are received by unemployed displaced persons in U.N.R.R.A. camps in the British Zone in Germany; and how these compare with the rations received by the working German population.

Displaced persons who are not working have been receiving 1,840 calories per day in rationed foods, but this is being reduced to 1,550 calories as from tomorrow. Ordinary German workers receive from 1,250 calories per day for moderate heavy work, to 2,330 calories for very heavy work.

Does that ration include Red Cross parcels of which all these men have been in possession?

I do not think that is quite an accurate statement. The figures I have quoted refer to the issue of rations to these people.

Displaced Persons (Employment)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether in view of the fact that many displaced persons have been maintained for 12 months without making a contribution to their support by way of work, he will now give them the option either of returning to their countries of origin or of performing such work in Germany as they may be directed.

My hon. Friend is at present considering what further steps can be taken to encourage the repatriation of remaining displaced persons, and to make those meantime in Germany undertake useful work.

Will the Minister prosecute more actively the search for opportunity of emigration for the very great number of displaced persons who are industrious and skilled, and cannot be thrown out into Germany or forced back into their country of origin without gross inhumanity?

The Government have never lost sight of this second question which the right hon. Member raises, and they will not deal with it inhumanely. Our first consideration must he to see that where repatriation can be fairly achieved no obstacle shall be placed in the way.

Prisoners Of War (Repatriation)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will prepare a release scheme for the repatriation of non-Nazi prisoners of war now in this country, with priority for those who were in concentration camps or prisons under the Nazis; for those who were anti-Nazis before 1945, or who refused to join the Hitler Youth for political or religious convictions; and for politically reliable qualified experts not reckoned within the Oberon Scheme.

Arrangements are now being made for the repatriation of non-Nazi prisoners of war on a larger scale than has so far been possible under the Oberon scheme. My hon. Friend's other suggestions will be taken ito consideration in working out the details of the scheme.

Will the Minister also try to obtain the release of those members of the 999 division who were recruited from concentration camps and were forced into the German Army?

Wild Pigs (Damage)

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is aware that in British-controlled Germany wild pigs are seriously interfering with the potato crops and that the shooting of sows with young has been forbidden; and what has been done to make shooting and trapping effective.

I am aware of this danger, but the amount of damage done is relatively small. Firearms cannot be issued freely to the German population, but in areas where wild pigs constitute a real danger the German police have been armed to shoot these vermin, including sows with young. Trapping has, so far, been found to be ineffective. It is not true that the shooting of sows with young has been forbidden.

Can the Minister tell us what figures he has about the seriousness of this threat to the food of the popula- tion? How many thousands of lbs. of potatoes are supposed to be destroyed in this way?

I am sorry that I have not the figures, but I can assure the hon. Member that while I was there we investigated this question, and where there is any prevalency British officers as well as the German police are encouraged to shoot wild pigs.

Political Delegations (Visits)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the object of the recent visit to Germany by a delegation from the National Council of Labour; and whether visits to Germany can now be made by delegations from all political parties.

The object of this delegation was to make contact with the Social Democrat Party and the trade unions and co-operative movements in the British zone and in Berlin. Each application will be dealt with on its merits.

Can the Under-Secretary state whether any charge is made against public funds?

Can the Minister tell us what constitutes "merits" on the part of any political organisation?

Most certainly—so far as they might contribute towards rebuilding a democratic Germany.

Does the reply mean that some hon. Members on the other side of the House would be able to re-establish their associations with the Nazis of Germany?

German Nationals (Visits To Uk)

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the present regulations governing visits by German nationals to this country.

Germans are allowed to leave Germany only if their journey is directly in the interests of the Allied occupation authorities, or is necessary on strong compassionate grounds. Their entry into this country is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Dr Adolf Griemme

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at whose invitation Herr Adolf Griemme recently visited this country; what was the object and duration of the visit; and whether any limits were set to his freedom of movement.

Dr. Griemme visited this country as a private individual at the invitation of German Educational Reconstruction, a society organised by British educationalists and anti-Nazi refugees in this country. He visited here to arrange for the return of anti-Nazi educationalists to the British zone, and to see something of British educational institutions. He was in this country for 18 days. No restrictions were imposed on his freedom of movement, but his proposed itinerary had been approved by my hon. Friend.

Business Of The House

May I ask the Leader of the House if he can give us some indication of the Business for next week?

The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 22nd July, and Tuesday, 23rd July—Report stage of the National Health Service Bill.

Wednesday, 24th July—Supply (18th Allotted Day), Committee. Debate on the Coal Situation.

Thursday, 25th July—Supply (19th Allotted Day), Committee. Debate on the future of the Malay States until 6.30 p.m. (or earlier), and afterwards the future of the South Tyrol will be discussed on the Foreign Office Vote. At 9.30 p.m. the Committee stage of all outstanding Votes will be put from the Chair. Report and Third Reading of the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Bill [ Lords].

Friday, 26th July—Third Reading of the National Health Service Bill.

During the week, we shall ask the House to consider Amendments to the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill which are expected to be received from another place; the Motion to approve the Biscuits (Charges) Order; complete the Debate on the three outstanding Government of Burma Orders and make progress with the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill.

We, of course, realise the difficulties of the Leader of the House in tidying up the Business programme at this stage of the Session. I would like him to consider whether some more convenient time could not be found for dealing with the remaining stages of the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Bill. It has been the subject of animated piecemeal discussion, and it is now proposed to take it at the end of a long day's Business. We have not raised difficulties with regard to a great deal of uncontroversial legislation, but, as the Minister of State will perhaps have informed the Leader of the House, this particular Bill does not come within the category of uncontroversial legislation. There is one other point which I should like to mention, if I may do so, with your indulgence, Mr. Speaker. I do not know when it is proposed to fit the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill into our affairs. There are a number of Lords Amendments to be considered. It has not yet been fully considered in another place, and we do not know what that other place may do to it. Therefore, we cannot tell how much time we shall require for this business.

With regard to the latter point, we shall have to see what another place does about it.

That is a good ancient Liberal doctrine. With regard to the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Bill, this is one of those little Bills which Ministers describe to their colleagues as "an uncontroversial Measure," and, as such, it was embarked upon. I admit that this has proved otherwise; but as it has had a fair amount of time spent upon it since it was returned here from another place, it cannot be said that it has been inadequately discussed. Some people may think otherwise. I should have thought that it would be reasonable, after the Guillotine has fallen on the outstanding Votes, to resume this matter and dispose of what we thought was rather an innocent suggestion of the Foreign Office.

Would my right hon. Friend give an indication when we are to have a Debate on Palestine?

We anticipate that there will be a Debate on Palestine the week after next.

May I ask the Leader of the House if any action is to be taken with regard to the return presented recently, dealing with the financial position of the House of Commons Members' Fund? The annual contribution of £12, deducted from every hon. Member's salary, produces a sum nearly four times that needed to cover the present expenditure, and the future liabilities on the Fund will be reduced by the passing of the National Insurance Bill. Last there was a surplus of over £6,000 and the reserve is over £40,000, £9 out of every £12 contributed is being invested by the trustees.

I understand that this is one of the financial ventures on the part of Parliament which has turned out to be exceedingly prosperous, and, no doubt, actuarial advice will be taken. I think that it might be discussed through the usual channels, and, if there is general agreement, we may be able to meet hon. Members' wishes and deal with it expeditiously. I hope that we may be able to deal with it after the Summer Recess.

In view of the interest which every hon. Member of the House must have in this scheme, would my right hon. Friend not consider, after the Summer Recess, allowing the House to have an opportunity to discuss it? The prosperity of the scheme may easily indicate, what I think is the truth, that the scheme is utterly inadequate for its declared purpose as it is at present run and organised. There is a very obvious reason why the whole set-up of this Fund should be reviewed by the House.

I think that we had better stick to the Business, and not debate the Members' Insurance Fund now.

In view of the prosperous nature of this Fund, could we not have a bonus for all-night Sittings?

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the House will adjourn for the Summer Recess?

I cannot say yet. Discussions are proceeding through the usual channels. There is certain Business which the Government feel that they must get through, and I hope to be able to say next week when the Adjournment will take place, but I am not in a position to be certain now.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is proposed to have a two days' or a one day's Debate on Palestine?

That will be discussed through the usual channels. I cannot say at the moment.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it wise to postpone the Debate over next week and have it the week after? If there is a Debate, it must be a full Debate, because a great many hon. Members, on both sides of the House, have views on this matter; and the views are by no means united on either side of the House.

That is very true. I appreciate that. We shall be willing to discuss this matter through the usual channels, but we must be careful not to get into the habit, on any subject of substance, of a two days' Debate becoming the standard. We will discuss it through the usual channels, in a quite friendly way.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether it will be possible to consider the present Rent Restriction Acts, particularly in view of the very serious position created, by as much as £1,000 being asked for a flat, in certain districts?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is asking me about legislation which is highly complex and potentially controversial, and on which many hon. Members, including the legal Members, will thoroughly enjoy themselves.

Privilege (Poster)

In accordance with notice, which I have already given you privately, Mr. Speaker, I beg to draw your attention to a matter concerning the Privilege of this House. I have here a copy of a poster which has been posted up in London this morning, and concerns the vote which hon. Members may record in the Lobbies tonight. I have also a photograph taken by the "Star" newspaper which shows the poster in situ, and both I myself and the photographer are prepared to certify that it is correct and accurate. The poster is published according to the imprint by an organisation known as "Face The Facts Association," of which I understand the secretary is a certain Mrs. Tennant, already known to hon. Members of this House and to the Home Secretary. If you, Mr. Speaker, will be good enough to direct that the contents of this poster be made available to the House, I shall beg leave afterwards to move that such a poster is a high breach of the Privileges of this House.

Before I can say whether it is a breach of Privilege, I think the contents of the poster ought to be read out.

The contents of the poster are as follow:

" Names of M.P.'s voting for bread rationing in the Commons on Thursday will be published here as public enemies and dictators. Face the Facts Association, 6, Lower Sloane Street, S.W.I."

After what I had to say the other day, it must be perfectly obvious that I must declare this to be a prima facie case of breach of Privilege.

The CLERK (Sir GILBERT CAMPION) read the poster complained of.

You, Mr. Speaker, having declared that prima facie this does constitute a breath of Privilege. I beg to move,

" That the Committee of Privileges do inquire into the authors, printers and dispersers of the said poster."

It is always usual when you, Sir, rule that a matter is prima facie a breach of Privilege, that the House sends it to the Committee of Privileges, and the course which the Leader of the House has taken is entirely in accordance with precedent in that matter. I should be very loth to separate myself from the course of referring the matter to the Committee of Privileges, but I trust I may be permitted to submit to you one or two observations upon this peculiar case, the like of which I have not seen in my experience of 42 years' actual service in this House. Are we really to understand that the Members of this new House of Commons, just elected by the people, fresh from contact with the people, are going to be frightened out of their wits by something like this? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Are they really? [Interruption.] I know hon. Members opposite do not want free speech anywhere. They will go further and further along the road to destroy it. Why should we suppose that Members of this House, many of whom enjoyed great majorities at the Election and are in close contact with their constituents, will be deterred from doing what they conscientiously believe is their public duty because——