Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 17 February 1949

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Thursday, 17th February, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Transport Commission Bill (By Order)

Second Reading deferred till Tuesday next at Seven o'Clock.

Clydebank Burgh Order Confirmation Bill

Considered; to be read the Third time Tomorrow.

Oral Answers To Questions

Coal Industry

Opencast Mining


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the acreage in Derbyshire now being worked and scheduled to be worked for coal getting by opencast method; whether it is his intention to continue this costly process; and whether he is contemplating taking any steps to mitigate the large number of complaints and protests arising out of the noise, dust and loss of amenities suffered by the local inhabitants.

At 31st December, 1948, 2,574 acres were being used for opencast coal production in Derbyshire, and another 1,900 acres, or thereabouts, will be needed during 1949. Opencast coal production must be continued at the highest possible level so long as our requirements at home and for export cannot be met from deep-mined production alone. The operations cannot be carried on without a certain amount of noise, dust and loss of amenities, but every effort is made to reduce these to a minimum. All complaints are carefully investigated, and, wherever possible, steps taken to overcome the difficulty.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the people who live near these sites are really angry about the noise and the dust, and cannot steps be taken to see that the hours of working are regulated so that the people who must sleep can get sleep by reason of these opencast sites being silenced during the night? With regard to the first part of the answer, if good agricultural land must be taken for this purpose, could not proper notice be given to farmers before the land is put down to wheat in order to make certain that the work involved is not wasted?

My hon. Friend and other hon. Members, of course, leave me in no doubt about the attitude to these operations sometimes adopted by the local inhabitants. I should be quite prepared to consider whether any modification of the arrangements could be made in order to ease the position for these inhabitants. I can assure my hon. Friend that, as regards giving notice to farmers, this is certainly done in time, and we should not start operations until the harvest had been collected.

Am I to understand from the Minister's reply that opencast working will have to continue until we can meet our requirements from deep mining, and will he say when he anticipates that will be?


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will consider the advisability of setting up a departmental committee of his Department and that of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to give consideration to the complete and satisfactory restoration of the land, after the operations of the Opencast Mining Branch of his Department, with the objective in view of bringing a degree of contentment to those whose land has been requisitioned for opencast mining.

Restoration of agricultural land is carried out under the supervision of the county agricultural executive committees, and sites are not released from requisition until the committees are satisfied that the restoration has been properly carried out. In the circumstances, there appears to be no reason to set up another committee.

Is the Minister aware that independent inspections have been made of the land which has been restored—so-called—to its previous condition, and that in 95 per cent. of the cases it has been recorded that there has not been that supervision which, is desirable to make this land something like it was before the coal was extracted?

I could not agree with that. I should have thought the county agricultural executive committees were the best people to advise us in this matter. If the Minister of Agriculture were to tell me that there was some other more suitable body, I would, of course, consult it.

Is the Minister aware that the county agricultural executive committees have never been near the land which has been restored?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply and the apparent complacency on opencast mining, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the widespread anxiety caused by the destruction of agricultural land by opencast mining, he will establish a board or commission with power to delay the initiation or extension of such operations until any protests made by those affected and/or by organisations of repute have been considered, such protests to include objections relating to land in the vicinity of ancient and historic buildings or monuments or land of outstanding beauty; and until the National Coal Board has been advised.

There is no need to establish such a board. Before work on any site is begun, the National Coal Board are consulted by my Department, and the Ministry of Works consult on our behalf the local authority; the regional controller, Ministry of Town and Country Planning; the Land Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture; the divisional road engineer of the Ministry of Transport; the area telephone manager, Post Office: the senior regional officer of the Ministry of Health; and the chief inspector of ancient monuments, Ministry of Works.

In addition, discussions may be held with national organisations such as the Council for the Preservation of Rural England or the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, and with local societies, if they show interest in a proposed working. In most regions a lively interest is taken by the local Press, and there is no evidence that projects do not come to the notice of possible objectors. Finally, the National Trust has already been told that none of their properties is ever likely to be affected by opencast coal workings.

Does not the Minister agree that his reply reveals the need for much simplified machinery?

It certainly does not reveal the need for the hon. Member's suggestion.

In view of the absence of the water interests from that very long list, will my right hon. Friend take care to see that those vital interests are also consulted, seeing that they were overlooked in at least one instance?

They are no doubt covered by the phrase "local societies, if they show interest in a proposed working."



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what are the prices of the main types of coal, both industrial and domestic, at the pithead and to the consumer, respectively; what are the transport charges; and what are the allowances to distributors.

The price of coal at the pithead varies according to its quality and to the district in which it is produced. The price delivered to the consumer varies with the distance the coal has to be transported and many other factors influencing the cost of distribution. The transport charges vary according to the method by which the coal is moved and the distance of the coalfield from the market. The allowances to distributors vary according to the nature of the service they render and to the costs of distribution in different areas.

As there seems to be some sort of variation in the answer, could my right hon. Friend provide me with some sort of standards on which I could make estimates in regard to these charges?

If my hon. Friend would be more precise in the Question he asks, I will endeavour to give him an answer.

Could the Minister say whether the price of domestic coal should be the same in all districts in a City such as Glasgow?

That all depends on the circumstances. At present some of the coal supplied in Glasgow has to be brought from Northumberland and has to carry extra transport charges.

Domestic Supplies


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that the supplies of house coal to the North-Western region for the period 1st November, 1948, to 30th April, 1949, are not sufficient to provide the maximum permitted quantity of 30 cwts. to every customer; and, as this quantity is in any case inadequate for reasonable comfort in the weather conditions of this region, whether he will take steps to have supplies for the North-Western Region increased.

The answer to the first part of the Question is: 'Yes, Sir." With regard to the second part of the Question, I would naturally be extremely glad to increase the allocation of house coal, but I cannot hold out any prospect of this in view of the urgent need to increase exports of this type of coal. Since, however, the North-Western Region has received a slightly lower proportion of its allocation than the average for the country as a whole, I have arranged for some additional coal to be sent to that region in the next few weeks.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that almost satisfactory reply, may I ask him whether the amount which he is prepared to send to the region will bring up the consumers' allocation to the maximum permitted quantity?

No, I am afraid it certainly will not. The allocation to the region has for a long time been far below the maximum permitted quantity multiplied by the number of consumers, and that applies to every other region as well.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the statement in the hon. Lady's Question that in any case this quantity is not sufficient for reasonable comfort?

Yes, Sir. I would not deny that there are many people who would like to have some more coal.

As there are many complaints about the inadequacy of the supply in the West Midland region, will my right hon. Friend consider taking the same action in that area?

If the proportionate alocation which they are receiving is below the average I will certainly consider it.

What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that at the earliest possible moment supplies will be adequate?


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will increase the ration of coal and coke allowed to domestic consumers.

There is a big demand in overseas markets for the type of coal required by domestic consumers, and owing to the necessity for exporting as much coal as possible I see no prospect at present of increasing the maximum quantities of house coal. As stocks of gas coke, on the other hand, are high, it may be possible to increase the maximum permitted quantity before long.

Until the Minister can increase the quantity of house coal, will he not take steps to improve the quality by asking his regional officers to get into touch with the collieries in their areas and see that the consumer gets better coal than he has been getting up to now?

Steps are always being taken to try to improve the quality, and there is perfectly well understood machinery for handling complaints of that kind. They can go through my regional coal officers, but that is not necessary in every case.

Is the quality of coal for export of the same standard as that of household coal?

The quality of coal for export varies just as the quality of household coal varies.

Petrol Supplies

Commercial Travellers


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if, in the discussions that are about to take place regarding the petrol allowance to commercial travellers, he will specially bear in mind the needs of firms who supply farmers in rural areas and, if possible, make them a special allocation.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that commercial travellers representing firms who supply farmers are particularly in need of extra petrol; and if he will now arrange for some special additional allowance to be made to such travellers.

I refer the hon. Members to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) on 3rd February. I cannot agree to a further increase in the maximum allowances for commercial travellers engaged in a particular class of business.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when he is likely to make a statement as a result of the negotiations now going on?

Is it not a fact that these particular commercial travellers have the maximum area to cover; and in view of the fact that the work of many of them has been brought to a standstill near the end of the period, would the Minister not review this application?

We have just had a long discussion with the representatives of commercial travellers to see whether we could devise a system whereby the ration varied according to the area covered. This has been found to be impracticable, and is recognised to be impracticable by all concerned. I have, however, increased the maximum allowance.

What is the good of the Minister of Agriculture appealing for increased production when the Minister of Fuel and Power withholds what is really the raw material of agriculture?

Standard Ration


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will consider restoring the full basic ration to all motorists, irrespective of whether they receive a supplementary allowance or not. by the Easter holidays.

I am afraid that, for reasons which I gave when I announced that the system of deducting the standard ration from supplementary allowances would be brought to an end, it would be administratively impracticable to stop the system of deductions before the end of April without introducing gross unfairness.

Is the Minister aware that the people of this country are conscious of the great saving which has been made since the introduction of red petrol, and that they expect at this time a concession from the Minister in order that they may take their Easter holidays? This would be a great benefit indeed to the seaside resorts.

I am afraid it is quite out of the question to make the change for which the hon. Gentleman asks. It would be unfair to all those people who have already had their ration deducted.

In view of the fact that the means of livelihood of a great many people depend on the holiday motorists, will the Minister consider giving a special ration just for the Easter holiday period?

Would it be possible, without increasing the amount of petrol, to allow supplementary coupons to be cashed in the middle of April instead of at the beginning of May, so that without giving more petrol in total, the fuel allowance might be used for the Easter holidays?

I doubt if that would be practicable, but I am prepared to look into the suggestion.

Is the Minister aware that the principle of deducting the basic ration against supplementary coupons was considered unfair by everybody in this country as well as in all quarters of this House? If he would make this concession for the Easter holidays, it would be appreciated by a very large number of people.

I would not agree that it was considered unfair by everybody, in view of the amount of petrol available. In any case, it will be brought to an end by 1st May.

If the Minister, as he told me a short time ago, has saved 150,000 tons of white petrol in five months owing to the introduction of red petrol, how on earth can he refuse this very miserable concession?

I have already explained that part of the saving which we made from introducing red petrol went to the needs of stocks for defence purposes, but from 1st May all savings will be absorbed by the standard ration.

Fuel Oil (Supplies)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what allocations of fuel oil were made to separate industries during 1948; and in what ways allocations will be altered during 1949.

Fuel oil is not allocated to separate industries, but firms authorised by my Department to use fuel oil received their agreed requirements in full during 1948, and will continue to do so in 1949.

Can the Minister, nevertheless, reveal the allocations which were made to various industries during 1948, which was the subject of this Question, as I understand that the information is available in his own Department?

No allocations were made to separate industries as such. If the hon. Member is asking for the consumption of fuel oil by different industries, I will endeavour to give the information to him.

Police Force



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what duties have been assigned to the 710 policemen who have been released from traffic duty as a result of the use of mechanical signals.

The process has been going on since 1932, and the men released have been assigned to other street duties such as beats and patrols.

While apologising for reiterating this, would it not serve the public interest to direct all these released policemen to preventing or detecting serious crimes rather than to dealing with the comparatively innocuous offences or infringements of the law such as those committed by motorists and others?

No, Sir. It is the duty of the police to see that the laws of the country are obeyed.

Housing Accommodation


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many members of the Metropolitan Police Force have resigned since 1st January, 1948, because of lack of living accommodation for married police officers and those wishing to marry.

Thirty-three members of the Metropolitan Police Force who have resigned since 1st January, 1948, gave housing difficulties as their main reason for resigning. No estimate can be given of the number of resignations, mainly attributable to other reasons, in which lack of accommodation was a contributory factor.

Has not the right hon. Gentleman reason to believe that perhaps his main difficulty in maintaining the numbers in the Metropolitan Police is the lack of housing?

I am not quite sure that it is the main difficulty, although it is a very serious difficulty. I am very glad to say that the allocation to the police of housing accommodation for the current year will enable me to make a very substantial contribution towards relieving the difficulty.

Is the Home Secretary satisfied that he is getting the degree of priority that he ought to get from local authorities in this matter?—because it is a common experience that housing is a very important part of the difficulty.

The help I alluded to in my answer to the previous supplementary question was the building that local police authorities will be able to do because of the allocation of housing to local police authorities. I shall still welcome greater co-operation on the part of housing authorities because, for one thing, I do not desire to have to erect terraces of policemen's houses; I think it is advantageous to all concerned if policemen can be placed in single houses dotted about among the rest of the community.

Child Care (Training Centres)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many training centres for training in child care and welfare work have been set up under the provisions of the Childrens Act; how many such centres are in process of being set up; how many further centres are contemplated; and what will be the total number of students able to be accommodated when the programme is complete.

The training arrangements approved by the Central Training Council in Child Care include six courses for boarding out officers at Universities; six courses of training for work in children's homes already started, and one about to be started, by education authorities and technical institutes; and three similar courses arranged by voluntary organisations. By the Autumn about 150 persons will have been trained as boarding out officers and 250 for work in children's homes. The programme is being expanded as rapidly as is consistent with giving adequate training, and I cannot at present say what the ultimate output of the courses will be.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many local authorities are finding it difficult to recruit personnel suitably qualified for this work and will he do everything within his power to extend facilities for training?

Yes, Sir. I know of the difficulties and I hope that an increasing number of suitable people will come forward for training. We are endeavouring to provide training facilities for all who volunteer.

Maintenance Orders (Payments)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the total number of women in Great Britain entitled to receive payments under court maintenance orders; how many such women have been waiting more than three months for payments to be brought up to date; and how many children have been left unprovided for by their fathers for a period of three months or more because of failure to meet the financial obligations imposed by courts of summary jurisdiction.

I regret that the information for which my hon. Friend asks is not available.

Cannot my right hon. Friend do something to see that the women who have been granted such orders are enabled to get the money which is due to them? Will he pay particular attention to the large number of children who are left unprovided for by their fathers in this way so that something can be done to bring to the fathers a sense of their responsibility?

Every step that can be taken is taken by the courts and I am quite certain that on occasions they reduce the amount of an order in the hope that a person will pay something rather than pay nothing if the order is maintained at its first high level.

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to admit that, although the statistics asked for are not available, a very large number of innocent parties are adversely affected under the present arrangements?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will consider whether the police could not give more assistance to these women in obtaining the addresses of these men when they have disappeared, because apparently at present the police are unable or are not allowed to give that assistance?

Is the Home Secretary aware that if a woman gets a maintenance order against her husband and he leaves his job and takes a job in an Admiralty yard, that maintenance order cannot be enforced? Can he do anything about that?

If it is a fact that the police do not give assistance to a woman to trace her husband, is it not time that machinery was evolved whereby assistance could be given to women in these circumstances?

Such help as can be given is given, but I have already been pressed this afternoon to find other duties for the police.

In view of the increasing seriousness of the position I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

Election Law (Candidates)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied that sufficient publicity has been and is being given to the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1948, particularly those governing the conduct of elections; and what steps he is taking to ensure that all candidates at the forthcoming local elections will be aware of the obligations placed upon them by the Act.

Leaflets drawing attention to the new obligations of candidates at local government elections will be on sale from Tuesday next, and I am asking returning officers to bring their existence to the notice of all candidates at the forthcoming elections. I will consider what other suitable publicity can be arranged for the changes in election law as they come into force.

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of having a short speech broadcast between now and the local elections, because there is a general lack of knowledge of these provisions among prospective candidates and their agents?

I will consider whether a broadcast would be helpful. The pamphlets with regard to local elections will be on sale as from Tuesday next. The price is 1d. for the pamphlet on parish council elections and 2d. for the pamphlet dealing with other local government elections.

Does my right hon. Friend propose to consolidate the laws relating to elections?

That is not a matter strictly for me, but we are hoping to do something on that matter.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Amending Measure providing for the continuance of university representation will be brought forward?

In view of such a Measure being introduced before long by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)—[Interruption]——

Can my right hon. Friend say whether a similar pamphlet has been prepared for use in Scotland?

I think my hon. Friend should put that question to the Secretary of State for Scotland.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he takes to see that candidates for Parliamentary and local government elections are British subjects.

The law provides machinery by means of an election petition for inquiring into a candidate's qualifications and it is not within my province, or that of a returning officer, to determine this question.

Is not this a most important question and should not the Home Secretary or somebody delegated by him be the authority for making the decision?

The matter was debated when the Representation of the People Act was before the House, and the power is not given to me.

Harvest Work (School Children)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has made to the Nottingham County Council in relation to their proposed by-law seeking to prohibit the employment of school children on the land at harvest time during school terms.

I have forwarded to the County Council the objections which I have received to the proposed by-law and have asked the County Council for their observations.

In view of the fact that many people have been protesting about the fact that they cannot get their children out of school to ordinary employment, would it not be very undesirable to encourage the practice of taking children out of school to work in the harvest?

I am asking the County Council to give me their views on the objections. In other areas in fact I have confirmed by-laws of the type put forward by the Nottinghamshire County Council, but I cannot give any decision on their application until I have considered the various replies to the objections.

I want to ask the Home Secretary whether the Government are seriously considering using some of the million men they have marking time in the Forces, and keeping the children at school?

Criminal Charges, Hampshire


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners were charged with criminal offences at the last meeting of the Hampshire Quarter Sessions, and of them how many were members of His Majesty's Forces; how many had previous convictions; and how many were under 21.

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been drawn to the remarks of the Deputy-Chairman of Quarter Sessions about the increase in crime being due to conditions of military service? Will he do something to prevent the Minister of Defence helping to increase crime in this way?

I have seen the remarks of the Deputy-Chairman of Quarter Sessions. I do not wholly agree with them.

Has the right hon. Gentleman also seen the remarks of Sir William Slim, which show how mischievous is his hon. Friend's question?

Remand Homes And Approved Schools


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent remand home and approved school accommodation has increased; how far it is meeting the existing need; and to what extent the employment of corporal punishment in these institutions has decreased during the last year.

Accommodation is constantly being adjusted to meet the needs of the changing situation, and where an increase is necessary steps are taken to provide it. At the end of 1948, some 650 cases were awaiting admission to approved schools; a sufficient number of schools is in preparation to overtake this deficiency. The figures for corporal punishment show little significant change.

Although the right hon. Gentleman has given a general answer, he has not indicated whether, in fact, the demand for remand home and approved school accommodation is being met better than a year ago. Could he give that information?

Juvenile Delinquency


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in what age—group the highest proportion of juvenile delinquency is prevalent during the current year.

Provisional figures for the year 1948 show that the number of juveniles found guilty of indictable offences per 100,000 of the population of their age group was highest in the 14–17 group.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the moral exhortations of a State honesty campaign suggested at a recent conference are not going to affect young people of this age, and that a little more co-operation between the home and the school will save hundreds of these children from getting into the courts? Many of them are merely bored and not delinquents.

I agree with my hon. Friend, but I am certain that it is desirable that every effort should be made to bring home to the general population of the country the necessity of maintaining the highest moral standards.

Mr Sydney Stanley

24 and 25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what action has been taken by him to enforce the deportation order made against Mr. Sydney Stanley; and if he will consider requesting the Government of Israel to grant Mr. Stanley an entry permit to territory under its control;

(2) if he will make a statement as to the result of his representations to the Polish authorities in the matter of the deportation order made against Mr. Sydney Stanley.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, as the Polish authorities are unwilling to accept Mr. Sydney Stanley, he is proposing to ask the Government of Israel if they are willing to admit him.

:Until the Polish authorities have replied to the representations made to them I cannot add anything to what the House have already been told about the intention to deport Mr. Sydney Stanley.

If I put down a Question to my right hon. Friend next week, shall I have some hope of an answer? May I put it to him that in any such representation as he may have to make subsequently to the Government of Israel he will emphasise that British, Jewish and Arab lives have been sacrificed for the proposition that every Jew has the right to enter Palestine if he likes, and that a painful impression will be created if it appears that the Government of Israel will take only the best and leave those few parasites who batten on the people of other countries?

:I am not considering any approach which I may ultimately have to make to the Government of Israel or anywhere else until I have received an answer from the Polish Government, and in view of other negotiations which I have had with that Government with regard to the deportation of aliens, I should not like to promise that I can give a final answer to my hon. Friend on this point next Thursday.

Would my right hon. Friend consider the desirability of inquiring, now that the new State of Israel are in the process of forming their constitution, whether on principle they are prepared to admit any stateless Jew who has no home of his own?

No, Sir. I think that it would be very undesirable that I should do anything at this stage which might militate against my getting Mr. Stanley into Poland.

Was it intended as a compliment to the Government of Poland to offer them the first refusal?

Mr. Sydney Stanley was originally described here as a Pole, and I think that it is our duty first to try to deal with him on that basis.

Can the Home Secretary say why on earth the people of the newly-born Socialist State of Israel should have this free-enterprise trained crook thrust upon them?

In the event of the Polish reply being favourable, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that this gentleman is not sent to the Polish Embassy in London as trade commissioner with diplomatic privileges?

I am quite sure if that were to happen my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would intimate that he was persona non grata.

Will my right hon. Friend resist the suggestion behind these questions because they involve an intolerable principle, according to which it could come to be considered proper that, for example, any undesirable Catholic should be transported to a predominantly Catholic country; which is a quite intolerable principle.

If that was understood as meaning Jewish race, that was quite wrong. He describes himself as a Pole. If the House prefer the word "nationality," I will certainly use it, but I would not like any wrong impression to be drawn from a word which I regard in this context as meaning the same.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in view of the fact that during the Lynskey Inquiry it was stated that Mr. Stanley's presence in this country was known to the Home Office since 1940, how many times he was visited by the police since then; if he notified every change of his address; and why the deportation order against him was not implemented.

Mr. Stanley reported daily to the Police from 10th May, 1940, until 17th June, 1943, when the Special Restriction Order requiring daily reports was revoked and since 1940 he has notified all changes of address. The deportation order made in 1933 had not been enforced by the outbreak of war because Mr. Stanley could not be traced and it was impracticable to enforce deportation orders during the war. The deportation order has not hitherto been enforced because until the recent Tribunal of Inquiry nothing to his detriment since 1943 had come to the notice of the police.

In the event of the Home Secretary failing to deport this gentleman, will he ask his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to appoint Mr. Stanley as Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Children's Officers


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Children's Officers have now been appointed; and what is the total cost of the new establishments set up under the Children Act.

One hundred and twenty-two local authorities have now appointed Children's Officers. In seven cases the same person has been appointed by two neighbouring authorities; and in one case the same person by three authorities. Posts in the new establishments set up under the Children Act are now being filled by local authorities and the total cost of the additional staff is not vet known.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he is responsible for the number of assistant officers who are also appointed, and will he see that these staffs are not so swollen that the children become a vested interest, and that they co-operate with the local education committee.

Inasmuch as I have to pay grants on the service, it will be my duty to see that the service is efficiently but not extravagantly conducted.

Can my right hon. Friend say how many of these children's officers are women?

Open Prisons


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the resentment on the Isle of Sheppey, arising from his decision to utilise Eastchurch Royal Air Force Camp as an open-air prison; whether he has taken the views of the local authorities concerned into consideration; and whether he will make a statement.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." As regards the remainder of the Question, I am informed that this camp is no longer required for use by the Royal Air Force and, as it is considered by the Prison Commissioners to be eminently suitable for use as an open prison to relieve the serious overcrowding in London prisons, negotiations for taking it over have begun. The proposal is now being considered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and it is his responsibility to take into consideration the views of the Kent County Council, as the local planning authority, before a final decision to take over the camp for use as a prison is reached.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is an open-air prison? Do the prisoners live in the open-air permanently, or what?

I do not think that I said "open-air." This is what is called an open prison, which means that the restrictions are rather less than in other prisons.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners have escaped from Leyhill since this barless prison was established.

Since this prison was established in June, 1946, 33 prisoners have escaped. The proportion of prisoners that have escaped compared with the total number of prisoners at Leyhill has steadily decreased. Nine escaped out of a total of 141 during the six months of 1946; 14 out of 377 during 1947; and eight out of 437 during 1948.

Is it the case that amongst these escapees one was serving a sentence for murder, another for manslaughter and another for using arms to avoid arrest; and does the Home Secretary consider that this proportion of escapes from this prison is entirely satisfactory?

I think that the figures of the number of escapes show that the position is entirely satisfactory, and from the visit which I paid to the prison I am certain that that is very largely due to the state of corporate feeling that the Governor and the officers of the prison have managed to build up inside it. I cannot, without having a Question on the Order Paper, answer the question with regard to the particular offences which may have been committed by persons who have escaped.

While having every sympathy with the character of this experiment, I must ask: Does the right hon. Gentleman think that it is quite a fair risk to the public to include among these people criminals convicted of offences against the person, and others of a violent character?

There is a later Question by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), on which I shall, I think, answer that point.

Is the Home Secretary satisfied that the staff at Leyhill is adequate?

No, I do not think the staff is adequate; but the fact that from this open prison, where any man can walk out if he feels inclined to do so, only eight out of 437 have escaped during 1948 does speak very highly of the spirit which the staff have managed to engender.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what disciplinary measures are being taken against the two prisoners guilty of crimes of violence who escaped from Leyhill.

As I indicated in my reply to the hon. Member's Question on 10th February last, both prisoners are now detained at Bristol. The punishment awarded in both cases was: 14 days' confinement to cell, 15 days' "No. 1 Restricted Diet," 168 days' forfeiture of stage, and 280 days' loss of remission of sentence.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what principle prisoners are gaoled in barless prisons; why the two men, one convicted of rape and of wounding with intent and the other of robbery with aggravation, aggravated assault with intent to rob and mutiny, were put into Leyhill Prison; what steps were taken to ensure that they did not escape and become a menace to the neighbourhood; and how many persons convicted of similar crimes of violence are now in Leyhill and Sudbury Prisons.

Open prisons are established for different purposes. Leyhill is a prison for first offenders with sentences of four years' penal servitude and upwards. Sudbury is a training centre for selected men, mainly first offenders, with shorter sentences. Their object is to protect society from crime by training suitable prisoners in conditions which are most likely to divert them from crime and fit them to lead honest and useful lives after discharge. No prisoner is sent to an open establishment until he has been confined in a secure prison for sufficient time to enable an assessment of his suitability for open prison conditions to be made, and the prison authorities attach great importance to careful selection.

The risk of escape from open prisons must be accepted. The general advantages of the open system for suitable cases has been abundantly demonstrated. Experience shows that the risks attached to it are small, and no prisoner who has escaped from Leyhill has, so far as is known, committed any offence in the neighbourhood. Of the 336 prisoners now at Leyhill 112 were convicted of crimes of violence of varying degrees. Of the 78 prisoners at Sudbury three were similarly convicted.

Henley Olympic Regatta


asked the Minister of Health for what reasons he sanctioned contributions from local authorities, amounting to —1,201 towards the expenditure of the Henley Olympic Regatta; and why, in view of the fact that some —900 of the expenditure involved was on account of providing dinner to competitors and officials, arrangements were not made for some proportion of the expenditure to be borne by the State.

I am not able to identify the figure mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member, but in respect of the Regatta I sanctioned payments totalling £460 as contributions by the local authorities to a voluntary fund in view of their interest in its success. Questions of Government hospitality are not for me.

Is this not a national rather than a local responsibility; and could it not have been, and should it not have been, appropriately charged to the Government Hospitality Fund?

I have answered that: Questions of Government hospitality are not for me.

In view of the amount of money this event brings into the immediate neighbourhood, in one way or another, is it not very reasonable that the local authority should make some contribution?

It was because I thought the initiative and interest of the local authority were reasonable that I sanctioned the payment.

National Health Service

Hospital Management Committees


asked the Minister of Health if he will consider allowing local authorities to appoint representatives on the committee of management of the hospitals within their area.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that local authorities are in a better position to judge the suitability of members of their local hospital committees than is the regional board?

Local authorities are asked for suggestions by the regional boards, but it would be undesirable for local authorities to be directly represented on management committees, because then those management committees would tend to become conferences of delegates and not corporate entities.


asked the Minister of Health if he is satisfied that the hospital management committees are carrying out his instructions to secure a written undertaking from patients admitted to beds, under Section 5 of the National Health Act, that they understand their obligations to pay all professional charges.

No. Sir; and I shall be pleased to take up this matter with the committees concerned whenever cases are brought to my notice.

Is not the Minister aware that the orders he has given from time to time are not effective; that there are many cases of people going into hospital expecting to get free treatment and then being faced with large bills which they are unable to pay; and will he give some more publicity to this question?

I have on two occasions called the attention of the committees to this matter. I hope that the hon. Member's Question will call further attention to it. If there are any individual instances I should like to hear of them.

Medical Partnerships


asked the Minister of Health whether he can now give any indication as to when he intends introducing legislation to implement the findings of the Slade Committee on medical partnerships.

Institution Staffs (Medical Service)


asked the Minister of Health when information is likely to be given to those concerned regarding payment of basic salary for those undertaking general medical services for the staffs of institutions, seeing they are free from the liability of having persons assigned to them.

The adjustment of remuneration of practitioners with limited lists is among the matters to be dealt with in the distribution scheme which I am about to discuss with the profession.

Will the consultations to which my right hon. Friend refers be at an early date?

Medical Treatment Abroad


asked the Minister of Health whether he will introduce amending legislation to empower regional hospital boards to provide or pay for treatment outside Great Britain in appropriate cases.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the case to which I have drawn his attention, this girl of very high educational attainment could only combine the continued study of languages with treatment for her ailment by going to a sanatorium in Switzerland? As many regional hospital boards are in favour of closing the gap in this legislation, will he do something about it?

The question whether exchange can be provided for people who want to have medical attention abroad is a matter for the Treasury and not for me.

I was referring to a case where the treatment could not be paid for by the patient.

I said that this is a matter for the Treasury and not for me. I certainly cannot add to the obligations of the Health Service by sending people abroad for treatment at this time.

What about officers and men of the Merchant Navy who are probably out of the country for 50 weeks of the 52 in the year?

Hearing Aids, Nottingham


asked the Minister of Health whether any estimate can be given of the time which must elapse before persons examined at the Nottingham General Hospital in August of last year for deafness are likely to receive their Medresco hearing aids.

Patients needing aids for their work get them first, and all in this group examined in August have had them. The waiting time depends on the supply of aids, which I hope will be substantially increased in the spring or early summer.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement that all the people who were examined in August have received these hearing aids, is not correct? I have seen a card dated August and I know that the holder has not yet got his hearing aid.

I did not say that all who were examined in August had received their aids but that all who were examined in August and who need aids for their work have received them.

Will the Minister make arrangements whereby people who have been examined and badly need hearing aids can have them quickly? I have evidence that hearing aids have been received by some people who were examined after August and are not at work.

If my hon. Friend will bring that case to my attention, I will have it inquired into.

Housing, Merthyr Tydfil


asked the Minister of Health if he will cause an inquiry to be made into the number of obsolescent, insanitary and overcrowded dwelling-houses in the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil, with a view to appropriate steps being taken for the early re-housing of the people who are at present compelled to occupy them.

No, Sir. For the reasons indicated in the statement on the housing programme in the Housing Return for 31st May, 1948, the stage has not yet been reached when such an inquiry could usefully be made.

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the mistaken decision he has come to; is he not aware that the overwhelming proportion of dwellinghouses now inhabited in Merthyr Tydfil and Dowlais were built 100–175 years ago; and does he not think that a burden of that kind on any local authority merits special consideration on the part of his, I hope, very progressive Ministry?

The local authorities have already been asked to screen their waiting lists for houses. When we have the replies we shall know what additional accommodation is needed. After that job has been done they can start on slum clearance.

Blind Persons (Guide Dogs)


asked the Minister of Health the number of guide dogs for the blind in use in England and Wales; how many training establishments are available and how they are financed; how many blind persons are on the waiting list for guide dogs; and what is the cost to the blind person to secure one.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association maintains a training establishment by voluntary subscriptions and the sale of dogs. About 160 of their dogs are in use in this country and they have some 200 suitable blind persons on their waiting list. Blind persons selected to receive dogs are invited to contribute to the cost but selection does not in any way depend on financial status.

Are local authorities eligible to contribute to the cost of this service?


Disabled Persons, South Wales


asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the number of registered disabled persons who are unemployed in South Wales at the nearest convenient date.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite the appreciation for the vast field of new industry which has been introduced into South Wales in the last three and a half years, there is still considerable disquiet about the employment of our disabled persons? Can he offer any promise that he is hoping to reduce the number in the near future?

I appreciate the disquiet in the locality. One of our problems in that area is silicosis. That problem is a little more difficult to deal with than that of the ordinary disabled person. However, I can promise that we hope that by steps now being taken, as I indicated the other day, we can tackle that problem.

Pools Industry (Disabled Persons)


asked the Minister of Labour what is the nearest estimate he can give of the number of persons employed in the pools industry in South Wales.


asked the Minister of Labour if he is prepared to consider taking action to schedule the pools industry under Section 12 of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944, to confine employment to registered disabled persons.

I have already considered this, but I am advised that I have no power to designate the pools industry under Section 12 of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act. I can only designate a "class of employment" irrespective of the industry in which it is provided.

Will my right hon. Friend consider putting this suggestion before the Commission to inquire into gambling which the Prime Minister recently announced?

That is a very interesting suggestion and I will look at it and see if it comes within the Commission's terms of reference.

Agricultural Workers, Kent


asked the Minister of Labour the number of agricultural workers registered as unemployed at employment exchanges in Kent at the latest available date.

At 6th December there were 102 men and 1,459 women registered at employment exchanges in Kent for employment as agricultural workers.

In view of those figures, will my right hon. Friend consider releasing agricultural workers from the Control of Engagement Order?

The women are mainly seasonal workers. The men are released from agricultural employment if their unemployment extends up to 14 days. We keep contact with them then with a view to returning them to agriculture if need for them arises again.

Civil Service Candidates (Fees)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that in the recent open competition for the appointment of principals in the home Civil Service there were some 4,000 applicants for 50 posts and that each applicant had to pay a fee of £1 for the registration of his name with the Civil Service Commissioners; and if he will discontinue the payment of such fees in future.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the answer given on the 8th February to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) and the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys). The reply to the second part of the Question is, "No."

Is it not extortionate to demand £1 just for registering a name?

When the hon. and gallant Gentleman's party was in power it was a good deal more. It was then £8.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the answers to which he referred were highly unsatisfactory, and that there is very strong feeling indeed among the numerous applicants from each of whom £1 was extorted and the great majority of whom were never even interviewed?

This was a special competition and the Civil Service Commission had to do something to keep down the number of applicants. Actually, 14,000 people wrote in for the forms, although only 4,000 in fact applied.

In order, as I said, to keep the number of applications down. Normally, except where the examination is written, even this fee is not charged, but here the Civil Service Commissioners had to charge a fee in order to keep the applications down to those who were in earnest and were serious in their desire to seek a post of this kind. I would also inform the right hon. Gentleman that the posts which were advertised carried salaries of well over £1,000.

Would not the object have been achieved by asking for a larger deposit which could be returned to unsuccessful applicants.

I imagined that the answer was quite obvious and I had no desire to humiliate the hon. and gallant Gentleman. If the fee was returnable to unsuccessful candidates, anyone would apply. The fee would not deter anybody.

Has my right hon. Friend any evidence that any person who is genuinely anxious to take the examination has been debarred by the fee?

National Finance

Industrial Production (Technicians)