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Commons Chamber

Volume 443: debated on Thursday 30 October 1947

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 30th October, 1947

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Member (Sentence)

I have to inform the House that I have received the following letter from the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, W.C., dated 30th October, 1947:

"DEAR MR. SPEAKER,

I have to inform you that Mr. David Weitzman, a member of the House of Commons, was tried at the Central Criminal Court before me on an indictment charging him and others with conspiring to contravene orders made by the President of the Board of Trade (by virtue of powers conferred upon him by Regulation 55 of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939), for the control and limitation of the manufacture and supply of toilet preparations, by causing a Company called the Newington Supply Co., Ltd., to supply goods in excess of any that they were lawfully entitled to supply.
Yesterday evening, after a trial lasting 25 days, the jury found him and some of the others guilty, and I sentenced him to imprisonment for 12 months and a fine of £500

Yours faithfully,

A. T. DENNING.

The Right Honourable
The Speaker of the House of Commons."

Oral Answers To Questions

Housing

Farmworkers And Miners

1.

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the methods by which the decision to give the highest priority to houses for farmworkers will be implemented, and indicate the extent to which it will be necessary to expand the housing programmes of rural authorities.

20.

asked the Minister of Health what form of undertaking regarding priority for mineworkers and agricultural workers must be given by local authorities to secure approval of new housing contracts.

33.

asked the Minister of Health if he will advise Rural District Councils that farmworkers who have established the need for better accommodation should receive first consideration when the new houses to be erected in connection with the Government's new food drive, are available.

I am sending my hon. Friends copies of the circular already issued. No specific form of undertaking has been issued. Each case will be examined by my Department in the light of knowledge of the local circumstances.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have seen the circular to which he refers, and which will - undoubtedly achieve, in due course, the desired objective; but does not he think it possible for some immediate machinery to be set up to bring the farmworker and farmer into contact with the local authority so that immediate benefit may accrue from any houses that may now become available in the rural areas?

I believe that when the machinery now being set up is in full operation the farmworkers will be met, but I think it is necessary for this House to realise that ancillary industries in the rural areas are almost as important to farming as the farmworker himself.

Is the Minister aware that the terms of the circular, which most of us have probably seen, are still at variance with the promises held out by the Minister of Agriculture to the farming community, that priority of a high order will be given to the provision of houses for agricultural workers and miners?

I cannot accept that imputation, and I am quite certain that the National Farmers Union does not endorse it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the terms of the circular merely instruct local authorities to have regard to agricultural workers as well as other applicants? Anyone who thinks that those words are the equivalent, in the ordinary sense, of "high priority" should learn the English language.

The right hon. Gentleman, as usual, misinterprets the circular. We cannot accept that all questions of need should not be taken into account when selecting tenants. What we are saying is that special consideration should be given to the needs of the agricultural community.

Will my right hon. Friend assure that a measure of discretion shall still be left to local authorities to erect houses on a basis of need, and that the priority for agricultural workers and miners shall not be an absolute one?

Is it not a fact that this circular applies only to the allocation of tenancies and not to the building of houses, and is it not clear that it will throw into confusion the points scheme of rural districts and cause great disappointment in the countryside unless allied to a great expansion of rural building?

The hon. Gentleman had better arrange his differences with his right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson).

Was not the whole emphasis by the Minister of Agriculture on priority for rural workers' houses, and is it not a fact that what the Minister has said indicates quite clearly there is not to be a priority in houses but in selection?

Neither the Minister of Agriculture nor any Member of the Government has ever stated that there is absolute priority, but what has been stated is that conditions have been specially weighted in favour of the agricultural worker for whom there are special considerations. As the hon. Member knows very well, a mechanic in rural areas attending to rural machinery is doing agricultural work just as important as that of a field worker.

32.

asked the Minister of health whether he intends to introduce before Christmas a Bill making provision for the improvement and reconditioning of houses occupied by agricultural workers.

What has happened to the legislation that the right hon. Gentleman promised on 31st July? Has that shared in the basic cut?

There was no promise that that legislation would be introduced this Session.

In that case, what happens to the promises and hopes held out by the right hon. Gentleman's colleague the Minister of Agriculture, to the farmers about providing increased accommodation?

In future the right hon. Gentleman had better furnish himself with the exact words used by my right hon. Friend—

Do we understand from the answer that the recommendations of the Hobhouse Report have been shelved completely for this Session?

The House can understand from the Gracious Speech that no provision is made for legislation for the reconditioning of cottages, the view of the Government being that if there were legislation for reconditioning rural cot-ages, it would be at the expense of new accommodation in the rural areas. We are anxious to get new houses built.

Does the Minister realise that either through ignorance or prejudice, the provision of housing accommodation in the rural districts is being much impeded by his decision?

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that he will give immense pleasure in rural areas if he will concentrate labour and materials on the building of new houses rather than using it for patching up old houses, many of which are completely outworn and should be demolished?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the view just expressed is not the view of those occupying cottages which should be reconditioned?

It is however the view of the vast majority of agricultural workers that they would rather live in new houses than the miserable houses you built for them.

Is it not a fact that the very insanitary condition of these houses is due to neglect in the past on the part of the Tory landlords who owned them?

In answering questions, will the right hon. Gentleman remember that Ministers of the Crown owe a duty of courtesy to all Members of Parliament irrespective of party.

Building Costs

5.

asked the Minister of Health when the Committee appointed by him on 5th June, 1947, to keep under review the costs of house building will be making their recommendations.

This is a matter for the Committee to decide and I have no information on this subject at present.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a Committee of this nature will give news and not history, and that it will be no help to the trade at all unless the report is published.

I would not be as discourteous as the hon. Member in reflecting on the Committee.

Heating Services (Coal Charges)

6.

asked the Minister of Health whether it is his intention that landlords who provide services such as central heating and hot water which require quantities of coal to premises which are rent controlled at 1939 prices, will be allowed to charge the recent statutory increased prices of coal to the tenants who enjoy the services provided by the consumption of the coal.

This would require legislation to amend the Rent Restrictions Acts, of which there is no early prospect.

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that it is fair and just that the landlord should be forced by the Minister of Fuel and Power to pay the increased price of coal whilst at the same time the tenant who consumes and enjoys the coal is not allowed to pay anything?

The practice is that where time is to be provided for legislation the question should be addressed to the Prime Minister or to the Leader of the House of Commons.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into account that the Ridley Committee made this point one of their highest priority recommendations?

I thought the hon. Gentleman was addressing the Question to the Government and not to the Ridley Committee.

Construction Programme

7.

asked the Minister of Health what modifications in the housing programme he proposes to make; and if he will make a full statement.

11.

asked the Minister of Health whether his new regulations to stop all new house building apply to the Stevenage satellite towns.

I would refer the hon. Members to the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Economic Affairs in the course of the Debate on the Address on 23rd October. I am sending the hon. Members a copy of the circular which was sent to local authorities today.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that when building recommences—it should be "commences" instead of "recommences"—it will be necessary to have a nucleus of trained workers, and unless a very much more comprehensive statement can be given to the public and to the trade there will simply not be a building industry to be called upon?

The hon. Gentleman has not yet seen the circular to which I have referred and I would advise a study of it before he reaches any conclusion. There are 350,000 houses already under construction and under contract and that will be sufficient to keep the building industry occupied for a little while to come. As he will have seen from the statement of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Economic Affairs, the whole position will be reviewed in the early summer of next year.

The hon. Member's question is mixed up a little bit, as the latter part of it should have been addressed to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why priority is given to the ill-advised Socialist Stevenage scheme and, if it has been given, will he also say, as regards farm cottages, why priority over them has been given to the Stevenage scheme? He has not answered my Question.

The hon. Gentleman has based his inquiries upon a number of assumptions which have no reference to reality either here or anywhere else.

On a point of Order. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you are aware that I did not expect to get a silk purse out of a sow's ear?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the provision of houses is a very essential capital expenditure?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the 350,000 houses of which he has spoken are permanent houses?

Will the Minister impress on his colleagues in the Cabinet that there should be no curtailment of the housing programme whatever else may happen, because it would cause widespread resentment and injury?

I am sure we are fully aware of that, especially as we have received endorsement from hon. Members on the other side.

Will the Minister tell the House whether or not he still adheres to the view he expressed to the House on 28th July that any reduction in the housing programme will gravely jeopardise national progress?

Rent Control (Legislation)

14.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act is due to expire at the end of the year, he will take steps to re-enact its provisions together with others designed to give tenants greater protection from eviction.

21.

asked the Minister of Health if it is his intention to renew at the end of the year the Rent Tribunals Act; and if he will consider extending the provisions of the Act to cover unfurnished rooms and flats.

The Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946, will, subject to the approval of Parliament of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, be continued in operation until the end of 1948, but the extension of its scope would require separate legislation for which no time is at present available.

Would it require a great deal of Parliamentary time to introduce a short, non-controversial Bill to strengthen this useful Act, and at the same time bring within its provisions the thousands of working class and middle class tenants of newly converted unfurnished flats and premises who at present enjoy no protection at all?

I am afraid a Bill is not made less controversial because it is shorter, and I am afraid that the Government cannot find time for this Bill at the present time. Had they been able to find time it would have been included in the Gracious Speech.

27.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the manner in which the purpose of the Rent Restriction Acts is being defeated by the demand for premiums, in some cases amounting to £200 for a flat; and will he consider immediate legislation whereby such demands shall be made illegal.

Such demands are in many cases illegal under the existing provisions of the Rent Restrictions Acts. There is no early prospect of the legislation which would be required to extend these provisions.

Will my right hon. Friend be prepared to give some consideration to the urgency of this matter, if possible, during this Session?

I have already said that matters concerning the legislation for this Session are for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Having regard to the fact that the Rent Restriction Acts have been described upon the highest judicial authority as a jungle of meaningless verbiage, will the right hon. Gentleman, even now, consider the preparation of a consolidating and amending Act which will turn them into something which expert lawyers can begin to understand?

I think the House will not find us far behind in preparing legislation to amend the Rent Restrictions Acts. The limiting factor is the availability of Parliamentary time.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Acts already make illegal the payment of key-money or premiums, but we have the greatest difficulty in bringing cases to court because those who pay premiums will not come forward and say so?

Schemes, Lyme Regis (Local Labour)

19.

NUMBER OF HOUSES COMPLETED IN ENGLAND AND WALES BETWEEN IST JANUARY 1919 AND 31ST DECEMBER 1924.
Period.Local Authorities.Private Enterprise.
Subsidised.Unsubsidised.
1st January, 1919 to 31st March, 1920576Subsidised.13930,000 (estimated)
Half-year ended 30th September 19202,9262,486
Year ended 30th September, 192147,65120,294
192285,97620,189
192325,24174852,749
192414,54421,91573,032

Application Lists

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will give the number of applicants for houses on the list of each of the housing authorities in Nottinghamshire including the City of Nottingham together with the number of houses to help the Lyme Regis Borough Council to find the labour required for their permanent housing and electricity schemes, now that all prisoner-of-war labour has been withdrawn.

As the hon. Member has been informed, no local labour is at present available and the absence of suitable accommodation makes it difficult to import any. My officers, in co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Works, both in London and in Dorset, are, however, continuing their efforts to secure more labour.

Is the Minister aware that these unfinished schemes have been held up for nearly three months and that there is a great risk of deterioration?

We cannot at the moment add to the amount of local labour available and I gather that the Opposition are not in favour of direction.

Statistics

22.

asked the Minister of Health how many houses were completed by local authorities in each of the years 1919 to 1924 inclusive; and how many working class houses were completed by private enterprise in the same years.

The exact figures cannot be given, but I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the figures which are available.

Following are the figures:

completed, building and authorised in each case.

I am sending my hon. Friend approximate figures which have been provided by the local authorities concerned. On the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the Monthly Housing Return.

24.

asked the Minister of Health the number of applicants for houses on the list of each of the 17 largest cities and of the London County Council together with the number of houses completed, building and authorised in each case.

I regret that the information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available. On the second part, I would refer my hon. Friend to the Monthly Housing Return.

It would be possible to obtain them from the local authorities concerned, but I am not anxious to give them, for the simple reason that they are by no means accurate. Many of the lists are entirely out-of-date, many of them have duplicated applications and in many instances individuals who have found other accommodation have not notified the authorities. Therefore, the lists are not reliable guides to the situation.

25.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will give the total number of applicants for houses on the lists of local housing authorities in England and Wales.

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept a suggestion from me and circulate to each of the applicants a full statement of the various promises made by hon. Members opposite about housing?

It would be awfully difficult to select the applicants from the non-applicants, and an army of clerks would be required.

Police House, Kempston (Tenancy)

29.

asked the Minister of Health whether it has been brought to his notice that the police authority in Bedfordshire is taking steps to secure the eviction from 63, Spring Road, Kempston, of ex-P.C. W. J. D. Martin, invalided from the constabulary as a result of an illness contracted during overseas war service for which he receives a small pension; and whether, in view of the grave hardship involved, he will arrange for this man's replacement to reside elsewhere until Mr. Martin and his family can be found alternative accommodation by the local authorities.

I have no responsibility for Questions relating to the tenancy of police houses. I understand Mr. Martin has applied to the Kempston Urban District Council for a council house and his application is being considered.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no Government Department will take responsibility for this or any similar case? Is not that a real disgrace?

It is no use Government Departments accepting responsibility if they cannot discharge it. If the counsel of the Opposition had been taken, there would be no houses to rent available for anybody.

Public Health

Deaf Aids

8.

asked the Minister of Health why, in view of the fact that 80 per cent. of deaf aids now manufactued are one-piece aids, he has decided on a two-piece aid for free supply to the deaf under the National Health Service.

The decision has been taken owing to the disproportionate cost involved in using the miniature batteries required for one-piece aids.

In view of the fact that the Government aid is being manufactured on a mass production basis surely it is possible to make a one-piece aid on a cheaper basis?

That is another question. I have said that they will be available when the National Health Service starts on 5th July next year.

9.

asked the Minister of Health what scales of spares and replacements have been allowed for to service the two-piece deaf aid now being manufactured for free supply to the deaf.

The general basis adopted has been an annual replacement rate of 25 per cent., with a higher rate for valves owing to their shorter life.

Can the Minister say why a very much higher rate of replacement was decided upon in the case of his unit than is customary in normal commercial practice?

I understood that British valves are being used in order to save dollars and we could not be sure what the experience with them will turn out to be.

Water Supply, Newark Rural District

16.

asked the Minister of Health if he will give any indication of when a piped water supply will be made available to villages in the southern part of the rural district of Newark.

Proposals for supplying the area cannot be considered until a new source under a scheme for an adjoining area has been tested. A local inquiry will be held shortly into the latter scheme. I am unable to say when the villages in question will be supplied.

Is the Minister aware that the farmers in that area will be quite unable to carry out their task unless water is supplied? Will the Minister, therefore, give attention not only to this scheme, but to schemes of a similar nature in all rural areas?

We should be far better able to supply these needs if hon. Members opposite had done their duty many years ago.

Can the Minister give an assurance that there will be no slowing down of the plans and the work of providing a piped water supply to rural districts in general?

There is no slowing down. There is rather a hastening, and more is being done now than has been done for many years.

Mass Radiography Sets

17.

asked the Minister of Health what progress is being made in the provision of mass radiography sets; how many are now in operation, and how many persons have been examined for tuberculosis by this means.

There are 23 sets operating in England and Wales. Arrangements are in progress for starting 14 more, and further expansion is planned as apparatus comes forward. Up to the end of June 1,669,000 persons had been examined.

Can the Minister give an indication of when a sufficient number of these sets will be available to provide every major local authority with one of them?

I cannot give that information at the moment, but we are doing our very utmost to provide them as quickly as we can.

Municipal Nurseries

18.

asked the Minister of Health how many municipal nurseries have been opened during the past 12 months, and how many closed during the same period.

In view of that answer and of the urgent need to recruit female labour into industry, will not the Minister do something to stimulate local authorities to open more municipal nurseries; furthermore, will he go back to the system which operated during the war, when his Department took the whole financial responsibility?

It does not necessarily follow that nurseries are closed down because local authorities are lethargic. They are sometimes closed down because there is no demand for them, and in other cases because the sites are required for houses. There are one or two instances where nurseries have been closed down for reasons which I do not think to be adequate. I am having further inquiries made into those cases.

Sutton Coldfield Hospital (Linoleum)

28.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that an application was made by Messrs. Batemans on 20th January, and granted by his Department on 15th April, to cover with linoleum the stairs and landing at the Good Hope annexe to Sutton Cold-field Hospital; and why an application for a permit to purchase this linoleum was refused by letter dated 1st October from his Department to Messrs. Batemans under reference Py.20578/M.

The shortage of supplies makes it necessary to impose severe restrictions on the use of linoleum, and permits cannot be issued to enable linoleum to be used for corridors, staircases and landings of hospitals and nursing homes. As regards the first part of the Question, I am looking into the matter and will write to the hon. Member.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Ministry of Works has said that no permit was necessary, whereas the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Health have said that a permit was necessary? Are such conflicts among Government Departments settled by a majority? If so, is that the explanation of the extraordinary muddle?

St Lennard's Hospital, Shoreditch

30.

asked the Minister of Health if he has considered the memorandum signed by 33 medical practitioners in Shoreditch and neighbourhood regarding the threatened closing of the inpatient wards of St. Lennard's Hospital, Shoreditch, and asking that he should intervene and cause a public inquiry to take place before action to close the hospital is taken; and what action he is taking.

Yes, Sir. The London County Council have appealed to me, under the Nurses Registration Act, 1919, against the decision of the General Nursing Council to withdraw recognition from this hospital as a training school for nurses. I am arranging for the appeal to be heard shortly.

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that poor people in this area to whom this hospital is a great necessity are looking to him to maintain a firm front against the General Nursing Council on this matter?

I will certainly take all relevant considerations into account, including the General Nursing Council.

Hospitals (Staffing)

15.

asked the Minister of Health how many hospital wards have had to be closed for the lack of staff; how many hospitals are affected and what part of the country is most seriously affected; what is the cause of this situation; and how he proposes to overcome it.

My information is that at the end of June, there were over 50,000 beds closed for lack of staff. The hospitals were situated in most parts of England and Wales, though more in the populous counties. Causes and possible remedies have recently been examined in the Report of the Working Party on the Recruitment and Training of Nurses, on which I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) on 23rd October.

In view of the very serious statement that 50,000 beds are to be closed for lack of nurses, I would ask the Minister if he will bear specially in mind the needs of the hospitals in rural districts when getting more nurses, in view of the fact that in those cases there are no neighbouring hospitals near by.

Certainly, I am fully aware of the needs of the rural areas, and when I receive advice from the various professional bodies on the Working Party's report, I hope to reach certain conclusions which will help the situation.

Arundel Hotel, London (Release)

13.

asked the Minister of Health if he is now prepared to release the Arundel Hotel, Arundel Street, W.6.2, for commercial purposes, as it is urgently required as office accommodation by firms wholly engaged in export business.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why there has been such a terrible delay in this matter?

There is often delay in many of these matters because existing users have not yet been terminated.

If the hon. and gallant Member puts a Question down, I will give all the information he requires.

Local Authority Employees (Territorial Army)

31.

asked the Minister of Health whether it is his intention to recommend by a circular to all local authorities that they should encourage their employees to join the Territorial Army and in particular whether he will recommend local authorities to grant extra holidays with pay to any of their employees who attend the full period of annual training.

No, Sir. Local authorities will already be aware of the Government's views on this matter as stated in the Debate on the Territorial Army on the 21st July last. The question of granting additional leave with or without pay remains however one for local authorities to decide.

While assuming that the right hon. Gentleman is quite uninterested in the efficiency of the fighting Forces does he not think that his Department might give a lead to local authorities, particularly in view of the fact that many large employers are doing their very best?

Local authorities are perfectly well aware of this, and there is no need for a circular. There are various other desirable matters on which we might circularise local authorities.

School, Highbridge (Examination Papers)

34.

asked the Minister of Education whether he has completed his investigation into the alteration of examination papers at the Church of England School, Highbridge, Somerset, and with what result.

As a result of my further inquiries I am satisfied that the local education authority have done everything they could to meet the situation and that there is nothing more I can usefully do.

Could the right hop. Gentleman make one point clear? Was the culprit traced who was responsible for this particularly mean action which might have jeopardised the whole educational future of the children of this school?

Yes, Sir, traced and removed from a position in which anything of the sort could happen again.

Newfoundland (Future Status)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement on the recent negotiations between Canadian and Newfoundland representatives as to the future status of Newfoundland.

In pursuance of a Resolution in March by the National Convention of Newfoundland, a Delegation of the Convention went to Ottawa. Their terms of reference were to ascertain from the Canadian Government

"What fair and equitable basis may exist for the Federal Union of Newfoundland and Canada."
On their return to Newfoundland, the Delegation presented to the National Convention an agreed record of their discussions in Ottawa, and other papers bearing on all the main issues involved in Federal Union. I understand that the Canadian Government will shortly convey to the Government of Newfoundland, for communication to the National Conven- tion, an answer to the Delegation's questions about a possible basis for union, if, in the forthcoming referendum, the people of Newfoundland should declare themselves in favour of Confederation. My hon. Friend will, no doubt, recall that the function of the National Convention is to make recommendations to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom about the possible forms of future Government to be laid before the people of Newfoundland in the Referendum.

Indian Army Personnel (Memorial Scrolls)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations why memorial scrolls have not been granted in respect of British officers of the Indian Army, who were killed in action or died on service between 1939 and 1945; and whether he will arrange for scrolls to be granted in respect of such officers in the same way as for members of the British Forces.

Before the transfer of power, the Government of India agreed in principle that" memorial scrolls based on the British model should be issued to the next of kin of Indian Army personnel. I understand that the detailed arrangements are now being made.

Trade And Commerce

Scientific And Technical Periodicals (Paper)

39.

asked the President of the Board of Trade in view of the urgent need to disseminate scientific and technical information in Britain, when he will increase the domestic paper ration for scientific and technical periodicals.

Steps are being taken to ensure to journals devoted primarily to original research their full requirements, and I hope to exempt technical periodicals from the reduction which it is necessary to make in the paper available for periodicals generally.

Will the Minister take immediate steps with regard to the British publication "Nature," as more copies of that publication are now available to Russian scientists than to British scientists?

Could the right hon. Gentleman say how a technical periodical can be defined and how a non-technical periodical can make itself sufficiently technical to qualify for the increased ration?

Personal Case (Reply To Letter)

40.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why no reply has been sent to a letter addressed to him by the hon. Member for Orpington, dated 26th August, 1947, concerning a disabled ex-Serviceman, Mr. D. Carter-Clout.

The Minister will realise that this Question was put down before the reply was received, but that does not explain the extraordinary delay in answering this letter, which caused great inconvenience. Is it not further proof that the administration has broken down under State control?

I will be quite honest with the hon. Member. This case was temporarily overlooked. In view of the extremely large number of cases and letters that come from the hon. Member, it is hardly surprising if one is overlooked.

American Non-Fiction Books (Import Restrictions)

41.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the average annual expenditure in respect of the period 1940–45 upon non-fiction books imported from the U.S.A.; the amount spent in 1947 during the free period; and the estimated dollar saving expected from the recent restrictions placed upon the importation of such books.

The value of imports in 1940–45 averaged some £170,000, and the value from 1st January to nth September, 1947, when the open general licence was revoked, was £729,000. The monthly rate of imports was increasing and it is estimated that an annual saving of nearly five million dollars will result from the restrictions now imposed.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that this cut will not adversely affect scientific and medical research, particularly having regard to the shortage of paper and the resulting shortage of technical books and the like in this country at present?

We are arranging for imports of non-fiction to come in up to the rate of 100 per cent. by value of pre-war imports. I recognise that is not 100 per cent. in volume, but this new change has only recently been made. We are watching the position and if we see evidence that essential books are being kept out, we will certainly look into the matter again.

Can the Minister relate these import figures to corresponding export figures?

Development Councils

42.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps are being taken to set up development councils as provided for in the Industrial Organisation Act; what industries are affected; and when the development councils are to commence their work.

Discussions are at present taking place concerning the establishment of Development Councils in the following industries:—cotton, pottery, furniture, hosiery, wool, jewellery and silverware. I hope before the end of this year to bring before the House for its approval Orders setting up Councils for some of the industries named.

Hedging Gloves

44.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that, while coupons for hedging gloves are obtainable from county agricultural committees, there is an acute shortage of the actual gloves; and if he will take steps to increase the supply.

No, Sir. My information is that supplies of hedging gloves are in general adequate. If the hon. and gallant Member will give me particulars of any local shortage, I will look into it.

Is the Minister aware that there is a shortage in certain districts, that an agricultural policy which is intended to increase livestock production necessitates the making and repair of hedges and fences, that labour for this purpose is difficult to find, and that the lack of these gloves makes it even harder to find it and particularly hard to employ unskilled men?

The manufacturers have informed us that they are not aware of any shortage, but if the hon. and gallant Member will give me particulars I will look into it.

Burma (Anglo-Burman Community)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether before introducing the Burma Bill foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech, he will receive a deputation of Anglo-Burmans, and make arrangements for the early return to Britain of its members at the public expense.

In 1944 by a resolution adopted at the Simla Conference, the Anglo-Burman community decided to throw in its lot with Burma and to ask for no special privileges. I have received no indication that the community as a whole have abandoned this policy, and their representatives took part in the recent Constituent Assembly. In these circumstances no useful purpose would be served by sending a deputation to this country. The Bill, of course, has already been introduced.

Is the Prime Minister aware that I have received a heart-rending letter from Anglo-Burmans in Burma, and in view of the changed circumstances will he reconsider his point about receiving a deputation? Is he further aware that the withdrawal of British influence from Burma will have an effect similar to what is happening in India where there have been troubles of all kinds, and will he receive this deputation?

With regard to the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary Question, it is very unwise to draw comparisons of that kind, and make unwarrantable assumptions. With regard to the first part, if the hon. Member can give me evidence that there has been a change in the position of the Anglo-Burman community on this matter, I will certainly look into it, but my information is that the Anglo-Burman community have accepted the position and are co-operating in framing the new constitution.

While I would not contradict that statement of the Prime Minister, may I ask is he aware that many Anglo-Burmese are anxious to leave Burma? Will he bear in mind the extraordinary suffering of that community at the hands of the Japanese during the war, far worse than any other community in the world?. Will he look sympathetically on individual representations or group representations that are made to him?

Certainly, I will always consider any individual hard cases, but the point put to me was rather one of the Anglo-Burman community than any particular person.

Would not the Prime Minister agree that the Anglo-Burman community is not completely integrated and cannot be spoken for as a whole?

Cost Of Living Index

46.

asked the Minister of Labour in what industries wages are based upon his Department's Cost-of-Living Index; how many people are affected; and what difference would it make to the Cost-of-Living Index if all food subsidies were withdrawn.

Only two agreements have come to the notice of my Department under which wage rates are to be subject to adjustment in correspondence with movements in the new index of retail prices. These agreements relate to the building industry in England and Wales and waterproof garment manufacture, and cover about three-quarters of a million workers. If all food subsidies were withdrawn, and if retail prices were adjusted by amounts equivalent to the subsidies, it is estimated that the retail prices index would rise by about 12 points.

Is it not a fact that all civil servants' salaries depend upon the fluctuation in the Cost-of-Living Index, and why has he omitted them? In view of the Chancellor's earlier promise that food subsidies would have to be revised, if not entirely eliminated, what progress is he making with the T.U.C. on this very thorny and important problem?

There is quite a bunch of supplementary questions there, but so far as the Civil Service is concerned, I was not asked that question; I was asked about industries and I have given the fullest information I have. There are two industries concerned. With reference to the Trades Union Congress, and so on, those organisations which had a sliding scale in their agreements before the index was changed are at present in negotiation as to what changes shall be made in the future.

Employment

Farmworkers (Military Service)

47.

asked the Minister of Labour how many men who registered as farmworkers on enlistment are still serving in the Forces; and whether he proposes that all experienced farmworkers should be allowed immediate release provided that there is definite farm employment awaiting them.

The information asked for in the first part of the Question is not readily available, but experienced farm workers have not been called up since February, 1946, and those who were called up before that date have already been offered release in Class B.

Will the Minister widen the scope of this release scheme so that any experienced farmworker can take it, if there is employment waiting for him, not merely on a farm where he was employed previously?

All those with agricultural experience have been offered release in Class B.

What about those who were in regular engagement as farmworkers before they were originally called up, and who enrolled voluntarily?

That is quite a different question. I understood this Question to relate to those called up under the Military Service Acts. As to those who have enrolled voluntarily for full-time service, that is quite another question, but I shall be glad to look at it.

Trade Practices

48.

asked the Minister of Labour what progress he has made in obtaining the removal of restrictive practices in industry.

I understand that the hon. Member's Question refers to practices covered by the Restoration of Pre-War Trade Practices Act, 1942. The National Joint Advisory Council have recommended that, in order to avoid any disturbance to production during the coming months, the fixing of the appointed day under that Act shall be deferred for a further twelve months. The Government have welcomed this expression of view, and the necessary steps are in hand.

In dealing with this question, will my right hon. Friend keep in mind the wide practice in restraint of trade which is carried on just now by many suppliers of various commodities?

That is a matter for the President. of the Board of Trade. My right hon. Friend has asked me to say that if particulars are given to him of any such practices, he will look into them.

52.

asked the Minister of Labour, what action he is taking to implement the recommendation of the National Joint Advisory Council that the appointed day under the Restriction of Pre-War Trade Practices Act be postponed for twelve months from 30th December, 1947.

I assume that the hon. Member means to refer to the Restoration of Pre-War Trade Practices Act. The Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill presented on 23rd October contains a provision extending to the 31st December, 1948, the period during which the appointed day for the end of the war period under this Act must be fixed.

Would the right hon. Gentleman look again at that Clause in the Bill to which he has referred, and will he consider whether its effect is not merely to enable the right hon. Gentleman, if he so wishes, to make an Order extending the period? Will he look into that aspect?

I am not a lawyer or the person who drafted it, but I can assure the hon. Member and the House that industry on both sides have readily and willingly agreed to the request I made to them that they will postpone the operation of that Act for another year. That has been put into the Bill. Whether it has been put into the Bill in precise terms, I cannot say, but that is the purpose of it.

Wages And Conditions (Departmental Branch)

49.

asked the Minister of Labour the composition and duties of the new branch of his Department concerned with rates of wages.

It was recently decided to develop the machinery within the Ministry for the collection and collation of up-to-date information regarding movements in wages, hours and other conditions of employment and to assign these duties to a new branch of the Industrial Relations Department.

Petrol Ration Withdrawal (Effect)

50.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the number of people he estimates will be put out of employment as a result of the termination of the basic petrol ration.

This is extraordinary. Are we to gather from that answer that the Government took this grave step so casually and so lightheartedly that they did not even examine what its repercussions were to be on our industrial economy?

I am not quite sure whether the running of petrol garages is a part of our industrial economy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I adhere to that statement—but so many of these places have been opened all over the country by individuals who are not registered at the Ministry of Labour that I have no information about them, and cannot get the information.

Is the Minister serious in the statement he has just made that he is not certain that the running of garages has anything to do with the industrial economy of this country? Is he serious?

I am serious in what I tried to convey to the House. I am asked about a lot of garages all over the country. We will get it right down to its basic principle. I am not satisfied that a little garage somewhere in some part of the country is essential to our industrial economy.

Is it not a fact that it is estimated that an amount of £300 million of business will be sacrificed due to the withdrawal of the basic ration?

I was asked a specific Question whether I could estimate the number of people unemployed. I have said that I am unable to answer that Question, and make that estimate, and I cannot be expected to answer questions outside that.

Industrial Electricity Load

51.

asked the Minister of Labour what progress has so far been made by the Regional Boards for Industry in securing agreement for arrangements to spread the industrial electricity load.

The reports so far received are very encouraging and the regional boards and their district and other committees deserve the highest praise for the way in which they carried out the task entrusted to them. They have received a very full measure of co-operation from both sides of industry and the results are a tribute to the value of full joint consultation in such matters.

May I ask the Minister whether he has found it necessary to impose sanctions on any of these undertakings?

No, Sir. I am glad to be able to report to the House that it has not been necessary to impose or threaten sanctions in any of these industries. All this has been done by co-operation and goodwill.

European Volunteer Workers

53.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are taken to check the qualifications of volunteers recruited on the Continent for employment in this country who are classified as skilled workers in specific trades.

European volunteer workers are recruited on the basis of suitability and adaptability for broad ranges of employment, mainly for manual work in the essential undermanned industries, and for textiles, and only to a very limited extent because of actual experience in specific trades. In all cases, selection on the Continent is undertaken by experienced and specially chosen Ministry of Labour officers, who interview each volunteer to determine whether he is generally suitable: Allocation to particular jobs in this country is undertaken by experienced placing officers of my Department, who are attached to the holding hostels here for this purpose.

But is the Minister aware that this does not always work out satisfactorily? His Department brought four Italians to this country classed as skilled moulders, and, on arrival at a factory in Bridport, it was found that they knew nothing whatever about the job.

Part of' the difficulty arose in Italy. There was a great deal of difficulty in sorting out the right types for work here; we found the methods in Italy differed so much from methods here.

57.

asked the Minister of Labour why a husband and a wife coming into this country as volunteer workers under the Displaced Persons Scheme, are separated on arrival; and whether volunteers are allowed to bring their young families with them.

It is now the normal practice for husbands and wives among the European volunteer workers to be sent on arrival in this country to the same holding hostels, from which every effort is made to place them in employment, either together or as near as possible to each other. The arrangement is for non-working dependants to be brought to this country after the actual workers, as soon as provision can be made for their accommodation. The European volunteer workers are informed in writing of the above conditions at the stage at which they are recruited.

Can my hon. Friend make any statement yet as to the numbers of relatives of people who have already come over here from Europe, expected in the near future?

The first batch of dependants arrived in this country yesterday; two very large batches are expected next month, and we hope to clear the queue by the beginning of next year.

Statistics

54.

asked the Minister of Labour to what extent employment has varied in the mid-1947 period by comparison with mid-1945 and mid-1938 in the Development areas, London and Greater London, respectively.

I regret that statistics of employment at mid-1947 in the areas in question are not yet available, but I will send them to my hon. Friend as soon as they are ready.

01.

asked the Minister or Labour the number of persons employed in industry in this country at the present time; and how many of these he estimates to be engaged in actual production.

It is provisionally estimated that at the end of August, 1947 (latest date for which figures are at present available), the total number of persons employed in industry, commerce and the professions (including employers and the self employed) was approximately 18,600,000. The numbers in agriculture, mining, building, and civil engineering, and the manufacturing industries, was approximately 10,400,000, but this total includes administrative, technical and clerical staff, as well as workers employed in stores, warehouses, and in transport duties. Separate figures are not available in respect of workers engaged in actual production.

Can the Minister tell us how that figure of 18,600,000 compares with the corresponding figure in, say, 1938?

I am afraid I could not give the actual figures, but there is an increase. I will get the actual figures, and send them to the hon. Gentleman.

Does the right hon. Gentleman include people working in garages as persons in industry?

Emigration

55.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the serious position of production, he will consider making conditions in this country so attractive to working men and women that the value of their labour is not lost by emigration.

The question of emigration must be regarded not solely from the standpoint of our production needs, but also from that of the long term advantages of the interchange of population within the British Commonwealth. Nor could the natural flow of emigration, which is already limited by the available transport facilities, be stopped except by the imposition of special restrictions, and I do not intend to take such a course.

Is the Minister aware that week by week some of the very best of our young workers are leaving this country because of conditions which are offered? Cannot he consider a wages and profits policy which will keep workers in this country, and drive parasites out of the country?

Is it not rather strange that none of the workers of this country wants to emigrate to fully Socialist Russia?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many workers are emigrating to Australia, and New Zealand, where excellent Labour Governments are in power?

Does the Minister know whether it is the policy of Communism abroad to prohibit workers leaving their country, or do they seek to retain them by attractive conditions?

Prisoners Of War (Skilled Workers)

58.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, owing to a considerable number of prisoners of war skilled in industries in which there is a shortage of British manpower having been repatriated to unemployment in Germany, when they were anxious to stay and help this country's export drive, he will revise the present regulations, which only allow of prisoners of war remaining in Britain in the category agricultural employment.

No, Sir. I hope that the efforts being made to increase the skilled labour force in those crafts where it is deficient will prove successful, without the retention, in a civilian capacity, of German prisoners of war at present in this country. Furthermore, I understand that there is a demand for men in most skilled trades in Germany itself.

Armed Forces (National Service Intake)

56.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the planned intake of National Service men to each of the three Services, respectively, for 1948.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 28th October to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler), to which I have nothing to add.

National Finance

Customs Regulations (Personal Effects)

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what instructions are issued to Customs and Excise officials at ports in this country as to the value of personal articles of jewellery and apparel that those leaving this country on temporary travel permits can take with them; what steps are taken to ensure that the House of Commons and the public were made aware of these regulations; and under what authority Customs and Excise officials demand the surrender of such articles where satisfactory assurances that they will be re-imported are given.

As regards the first and third parts of the Question, the present instructions give the officers a wide measure of latitude to allow personal articles to be taken abroad if they are satisfied that they will be brought back again. As regards the second part, the prohibition rests upon Export of Goods (Control) Orders made by the Board of Trade under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act, 1939.

Would not the very desirable objective of seeing that unnecessary amounts do not go out of this country be achieved if the public were aware beforehand of the sort of figures involved?

It is very difficult, because if in any given circumstances an announcement were made of what a person would be allowed to take, that would become the rule. We have given the Customs officials some latitude in the matter.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries to see whether in fact this discretion is being exercised at all? I can give him cases which tend to show that Customs officers are operating a very low and very rigid monetary value, and without any discretion as to the likelihood of sale at all.