House Of Commons
Thursday, 3rd March, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
The Clerk, at the Table, informed the House of the unavoidable absence, through indisposition, of Mr. SPEAKER from this day's Sitting:
Whereupon Major MILNER, The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, proceeded to the Table and took the Chair as DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Minister of Health how many permanent houses have been completed in the boroughs of Kensington, Westminster, Chelsea, Hampstead and St. Marylebone, respectively.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the Housing Return, 31st December, 1948.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Kensington Tories are trying to blame their bad housing record on him, by alleging that he has been guilty of discrimination in favour of the Labour boroughs? Will he refute that slander?
I have not heard what individual Tories or anybody else have been saying about this but that is, of course, without any foundation whatsoever. There is no discrimination between one local authority and another, and I doubt very much whether the local authorities concerned will officially say there has been.
Will the Minister agree that it takes much longer to build blocks of flats in built-up areas than to build houses on vacant sites? Will he also agree that at least in the City of West minister there has been no lack of keenness to build flats?
Obviously it is more difficult to build blocks of flats, especially when there are difficulties about sites. There should be, of course, comparison of like with like. I am not aware myself of any resistance on the part of local authorities.
Bombed Property, London
asked the Minister of Health how many applications he has received from the local authorities of London for permits to restore the bombed sites of London; and how many he has refused.
If the hon. and gallant Member will indicate what type of rebuilding he has in mind I will see what information is available.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman know of the vast blitzed areas in London, which constitute ugly and dreary gaps in our main thoroughfares? It is those to which I am referring.
All I can say is that the Question has a most delightful ambiguity. It was not possible for me to see to what, in fact, the hon. and gallant Member was referring. In so far as the rebuilding of cost of works houses is concerned, only about 300 cost of works houses above £5,000 now remain to be rebuilt. I am considering what facilities to give for their rebuilding.
Has the right hon. Gentleman read my Question, in which I have asked about applications "for permits to restore the bombed sites of London "—in other words, to put buildings on the bombed sites—and so give some greeting to our visitors in the Festival of Britain?
With all respect, a person does not restore a bombed site. The only thing which can be referred to, as far as I am concerned, is the rebuilding of cost of works houses.
:Yes. The hon. and gallant Member must address his Questions about other matters to other Ministers. I am concerned primarily with those houses. I have replied that there are only 300 cost of works houses to be rebuilt above the £5,000 limit and that I am now considering what steps can be taken to get them rebuilt.
asked the Minister of Health how many applications he has had from private individuals to rebuild or restore bombed homes in London; and how many he has refused.
For the statistics of rebuilt houses, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the Housing Return. No figures are available as to the applications refused.
Would it not greatly facilitate the accommodation of the homeless people of this great city of ours if more speedy steps were taken to fill up the gaps in the streets through which we pass every day?
I have already answered the hon. and gallant Member on his previous Question. 25,316 houses have been rebuilt in England and Wales under licence.
We want more.
The first priority was given to "rebuilds" costing less than £3,000. The figure is now £5,000. The only remaining category are 300 above the £5,000 limit.
asked the Minister of Health what is the total amount of advances made, to the last available date, under Section 6 of the Building Materials and Housing Act, 1945; by how many housing authorities advances have been made; and in respect of how many houses.
I regret that the information asked for is not available.
May I ask the Minister whether, before these advances are made, permission is secured first from the Treasury, and what is the good of his making advances in view of the ever-depreciating value of the £ sterling?
Would the Minister mind sitting down? I have not finished.
The hon. Member's supplementary question did not arise out of his original Question.
Sutton And Cheam
asked the Minister of Health whether 148 Mulgrave Road, Sutton, Surrey, has been requisitioned for housing purposes by the local council; whether it is still unoccupied; how long has it been allowed to be unoccupied; and for how long the unoccupied part of 136 Mulgrave Road has remained untenanted.
No.148 Mulgrave Road is held under requisition for local authority housing and is now occupied by four families. As regards No.136 Mulgrave Road, there is a letting difficulty, and I am communicating with my hon. Friend about it.
Will my right hon. Friend say how long these requisitioned premises have been allowed to remain unoccupied?
I would ask my hon. Friend to await my communication. Then I think he will find that his supplementary questions are not necessary.
asked the Minister of Health why the number of families in the borough of Sutton and Cheam who are in need of housing accommodation is not available.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin) on 20th January, of which I am sending him a copy.
Rest Centres, London
asked the Minister of Health how many families are resident in London County Council rest centres; what is the present average family weekly payment; what is the increased average family weekly payment now demanded by the London County Council on behalf of his Department; and what new circumstances warrant this increase.
The number of families in residence at present is 505. The average family weekly payment on the old basis of charge was, for the week ended 19th February, £2 7s. 10d. This is for full board and lodging. The new charges come into force this week, but, as the L.C.C. have full discretion to reduce the amount of the increases to avoid hardship in individual cases, it is not yet possible to calculate the new average weekly charge. The reason for the increase is that the old charges were too low in relation to the cost of running the centres.
Is it fair to attempt to impose on these people, or on any who are suffering such hardship, an economic rent, as the economic rent should not be imposed on them unless they have some say in how the expenditure is incurred and there is much evidence to show that the expenditure is unwarrantable? It is not really fair, so will the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter?
There is no attempt to charge an economic rent, but the losses on these centres are exceedingly heavy. I think the hon. Member ought to wait the result of the rebates, when he will know whether the new charges are in fact very hard to bear.
Do the numbers my right hon. Friend has given include those at present lodged in institutions?
No, in rest centres.
National Health Service
asked the Minister of Health whether patients attending eye hospitals are restricted in their choice of optician to the contractor for the hospital from which their prescription was issued.
asked the Minister of Health whether any emergency system exists for supplying spectacles immediately to users where the loss or breakage of these renders them unable to carry on their normal occupation.
I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) on 24th February.
Is the Minister aware that there are people who are anxious to have their spectacles repaired immediately and there seems to be a great deal of delay?
I am trying to arrange for ophthalmic opticians to give priority to cases of special urgency. I do not want to have a rigid scheme, because that would only give rise to a lot of form filling and unnecessary delays. I am hoping to work out a voluntary arrangement.
Heanor Hospital (Amenities Fund)
asked the Minister of Health on what authority the auditors of the Heanor Hospital accounts demand to audit the accounts of a local amenities fund which is promoted by an outside body and maintained wholly by voluntary contributions, the hospital being only one of the beneficiaries; and if he will make it clear to all would be contributors that these voluntary funds form no part of the financial structure for the maintenance of the hospital service.
The funds of the local amenities committee included sums received by the hospital management committee. As these sums are held on trust by the hospital management committee it was the duty of my auditor to see that they were properly brought to account. When gifts are made direct to the amenities fund, the auditor is not concerned.
Could my right hon. Friend say whether there is an obligation on the part of his auditors to audit accounts which are no concern of the Ministry? I appreciate what my right hon. Friend says in his answer, that the allocations which go to the Ministry ought to be audited, but not the other funds.
These funds are entrusted to the local hospital management committees and, therefore, ought to be audited. Surely there can be no objection to an audit?
No, but these are independent funds created by bodies altogether outside the hospital.
But the only interest is where the funds that are collected by an amenities committee are handed over to a hospital management committee. In such a case the funds, should be audited, and I can see no objection whatever to a proper audit of accounts.
But the Minister must be under a misapprehension. This is a separate fund, of which the hospital is only one of the beneficiaries.
I think my hon. Friend had better read my reply, and then he will see that the point is covered. It is only in respect of the fact that amenities funds are entrusted to a hospital management committee that the question of audit arises.
asked the Minister of Health by what authority he issued N.H.S. leaflet, No. 2.
By the authority of the National Health Service Act, 1946, and in performance of the duty imposed upon me by that Act.
May I ask the Minister whether he really has authority from this House to issue this leaflet to all aliens who arrive in this country and to offer them free health services, including dentures and spectacles; and is he aware that many aliens are taking advantage of these facilities at the expense of the British taxpayer—
Wait a moment—and is he aware that French doctors, to quote one case of which I have knowledge, are losers by this practice?
The answer to the hon. Member is what I have already given him in my reply: I am discharging the duties imposed upon me by the Act of Parliament. The aliens who receive these leaflets are not those who are on short holiday visits but those who acquire registration cards. The leaflets are being held for distribution amongst seamen who may not have seen the original leaflets describing the facilities under the Act. They are obtainable from information bureaux. The new leaflet is more up-to-date than was the original leaflet and I do not want to waste public money by reproducing unnecessary leaflets.
Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.
asked the Minister of Health the total number of doctors registered with the National Health Service in the first six months from 5th July last, or nearest date; and what are the average salaries earned by doctors concerned in that period.
The total number of general practitioners on the medical list at 5th July was 18,165. Six hundred and sixty-one other practitioners have been admitted since then and approximately the same number have left for a variety of reasons. I have no information as to the average salaries earned by doctors in that period.
Am I justified in concluding that these doctors are now receiving much greater remuneration than before the Act came into force?
I must see how the average turns out before I am able to reply to that question. Certain payments are, of course, made to doctors outside the National Health Service Act.
Can the Minister say whether payments have been made to doctors for all midwifery and temporary residence cases which they have treated?
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put that question down I will try to obtain the information.
Can the Minister give to the House the percentage figures of doctors already in the scheme compared with the number who are entitled to join it, and is he satisfied that the number of medical practitioners in Britain is sufficient to meet the needs of the extra demands made upon them by the National Health scheme?
The two supplementary questions, of course, go substantially outside the original Question. There are more general practitioners taking part in the administration than we estimated for at the beginning. There is, of course, a general overall shortage. Perhaps there is a shortage of doctors in some places and a surplus in other places. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There is a surplus of doctors in some places and, as they redistribute themselves, there ought to be adequate doctors for all.
asked the Minister of Health if within the Health Service, there is provision made for any form of appeal from the decision of a doctor not to recommend a hearing aid.
No, Sir. On treatment the specialist's clinical judgment must be final.
Do I understand the Minister to say that there is no appeal and that a doctor's opinion virtually will condemn a man to deafness for life in the event of that opinion being against the man?
It is not the specialist who condemns the patient to deafness; it is nature. What we have provided for is that a person who has something wrong with his hearing goes first of all to a G.P. He then has what he never had before: the opportunity of seeing a specialist at a hospital and a proper otologist. He then is examined. If a specialist says that a hearing aid is of no use to him it is hardly conceivable that there ought to be an appeal against that decision. It is not a judicial matter.
Does the Minister really mean to say that before the National Health Service Act came into force people could not go to a hospital and get free treatment?
The answer is to be found in the distribution of the Medresco Aids. A very large number of people are now having for the first time the opportunity of an aural aid and, therefore, of getting their hearing tested.
asked the Minister of Health if he will name the persons who are inquiring into the delay in the supply of false teeth; whether they will consult organisations representing independent technicians; and whether they will reconsider the proposals in the minority report of the Teviot Committee.
I am not aware of any special inquiry into delay in the supply of false teeth and the second and third parts of the Question do not, therefore, arise.
Will the Minister say what he meant only last week by referring to those who are inquiring into this matter? May I also ask him this as the Teviot Committee reported that we should not have enough dentists for 20 years, and as there was a minority report that dental mechanics ought to be used independently by the Health Service, how does he propose to overcome, except by consultation, what appears to be a deadlock?
The inquiry into the matter referred to is an inquiry into the time which it takes dentists to perform certain operations in order to bring about a revision, if necessary, of the scales of remuneration. As to the supply of dentists, the dental schools are full and we are doing our very best to give them additional facilities.
Hospital Schemes, Birmingham
asked the Minister of Health if, in view of his request for reductions in the estimates for Regional Hospital Boards, 1949–50, he will keep in view the high standard of hospital administration in Birmingham and the various schemes in process for expansion and development, and will consider representations from the Regional Hospital Board on the limits within which economies can be effected.
While I thank the Minister for his reply may I ask are we to assume that in the administration of this country's hospitals our medical service will always take precedence?
I do not know whether the hon. Member has the permission of his Party to make that request.
Is not this a direct attempt to slash our hospital services?
Does my right hon. Friend agree, while, if need be, acknowledging the high standard of administration in Birmingham, that there are some areas with a legacy from the past of a low standard of administration, whose estimates should be reduced least, and will there be some elasticity in this matter and not a flat-rate reduction over the whole country?
It is not a flat-rate reduction, but a reduction which takes into account the hospital needs of each particular area.
asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the high cost involved in the issuing of new bottles with every prescription dispensed by chemists, he will devise a scheme which will encourage the public to return used bottles.
Yes, Sir, and discussions are taking place with representatives of the pharmaceutical organisations.
asked the Minister of Health why it is not considered feasible to establish facilities for physiotherapy at Spilsby, Lincolnshire.
Shortage of trained staff makes it impossible at present to provide physiotherapy for out-patients at every hospital.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very high cost of sending quite a large number of patients who need this treatment to Boston to get it there? Will he take the very earliest opportunity of providing facilities at Spilsby?
There is a shortage of physiotherapists at the moment and that is a limiting factor.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider using private practitioners, especially ex-Service men in their own homes, instead of clinics?
I think the hon. Member is to see me towards the end of the month on a deputation on this matter and perhaps he will await that interview.
Community Centres Aged People)
asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the rapidly growing demand among aged people for recreation and social facilities such as community centres; and whether he will introduce legislation to grant powers to local authorities to provide such amenities.
In view of the existing powers of local authorities, including those recently conferred by the National Assistance Act, I do not think further legislation on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend is necessary.
Is the Minister aware that local authorities have power to farm out this work of establishing social centers, but that they have not the power to establish and control the centers themselves? Will he, in the new Bill, confer powers upon local authorities to do this work rather than to farm it out?
I think my hon. Friend will find that the powers conferred upon local authorities are fairly wide, but if the local authorities find any difficulty. I wish he would let me know.
Are they wide enough to establish these centers for the old age pensioners who are now demanding them in all the cities?
I would like to see what is the precise proposal before I can say whether it comes within the Statute.
Voluntary Welfare Services
asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that public support of voluntary organisations for the welfare of the blind and other handicapped persons is being adversely affected by his recent pronouncement regarding hospital collections; and if he will make it clear that the State does not defray the cost of this welfare work.
My pronouncement referred solely to hospitals in the National Health Service. The National Assistance Act fully recognises the valuable work of the voluntary bodies referred to and I am glad to take this opportunity of correcting any impression that they are no longer playing an effective part in the provision of welfare services.
Will my right hon. Friend also make it clear that the social security services cannot possibly function without the voluntary welfare services, which depend very largely on the goodwill of the public for voluntary funds? Will he also make it perfectly clear that blind and deaf persons are not necessarily sick persons?
I have always, elsewhere—and I do. so with great pleasure here—expressed the view that in my opinion the voluntary organisations are the only means by which effective assistance can be given to handicapped classes of all kinds and I therefore very much endorse what my hon. Friend has said.
asked the Minister of Education if he has considered the communication sent to him from the Secretary to the Governors of the Archbishop Sandy's Fund for the education of children and young people in the Hawks-head, North Lancashire, area, asking for approval of a scheme for university scholarships; and when he will be able to determine the matter.
A large number of proposals for schemes have accumulated since the beginning of the war and only in special circumstances can priority be given to any particular case. Moreover, the proposals for this foundation included the provision of facilities for a community center and youth work as well as for other educational benefits and the powers to make schemes for those purposes have only recently been acquired by the Ministry. I am, however, prepared to give prior consideration to this case and I am informing the governors of that fact.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask if he can spare the staff to expedite these schemes generally, because much money is being sterilised, instead of being used for educational purposes?
Yes, but it was only in this last year that we got power to do this and we are taking the cases as well as we can in the order in which they come.
asked the Minister of Education how many applications have been received up to the present from persons anxious to take advantage of the State-aided university scholarships awards for students of mature age; how many of such applications have been accepted; and in which universities these scholarships are tenable.
As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
While thanking my right hon. Friend, may I ask if he is satisfied that the amount of publicity necessary for the full use of these facilities is being given?
Yes, I am quite satisfied.
Following is the information:
|Number of Applications||…||135||169|
|Number of Awards||…||19||19|
Universities at which Awards are held:
Note.—Five of the awards in 1948 were postponed and one was not accepted.
School Medical Officers
asked the Minister of Education what steps he is taking to maintain the school medical services, arising from the inability of the local authorities to secure medical officers.
No local education authority has reported to me any difficulty in securing school medical officers.
I cannot give my right hon. Friend particulars, but it has been put to me that such is the case and that all local authorities are a little apprehensive about their ability to get medical officers because of the changed circumstances in the medical profession.
I think my hon. Friend is confusing this with the difficulties we are having in regard to school dentists, into which we are inquiring at the moment. If he will let me have particulars in regard to school medical officers, I will go into the matter.
Denominational Teaching (Complaints)
asked the Minister of Education whether he has considered a number of complaints regarding the action of the City of Oxford Education Authority in providing facilities for denominational education in the High School; whether he is aware that there is a church hall next door to the school where such teaching could be given; and whether he is satisfied that this case should be dealt with under the proviso to Section 26 of the Education Act, 1944.
I am aware of these complaints, which are being investigated.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this action will be taken as a precedent by the whole country and does he accept the interpretation of the proviso given clearly in the White Paper 6492?
That is the reason for the investigation.
Harvest Work (Children)
asked the Minister of Education if he will make a statement regarding the employment of children in agriculture this year.
I shall shortly be sending a circular to local education authorities indicating that it will again be necessary to ask for the help of older school children in gathering the country's crops, though not, I hope, to the same extent as last year.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing opposition on the part of local education authorities to the continuance of the employment of school children on the land, and will he give a guarantee that this is the last year in which the practice will be continued?
I cannot possibly give a guarantee that this will be the last year, but I am just as anxious as local education authorities to dispense with the services of school children in this connection as soon as possible.
Will my right hon. Friend consult the Minister of Agriculture to see if this work can be done by machinery, instead of by child labour? Was not this a wartime emergency measure? Why should it be considered in times of peace?
I have consulted the Minister of Agriculture and, wherever possible, machinery is used to assist in this work. It is true that this was a wartime measure, but I would point out that for all practical purposes the same conditions obtain now in regard to gathering in the crops as obtained in wartime.
Managerial Training (Engineering)
asked the Minister of Education if he has now considered proposals for the extension of training in management in technical colleges and schools with special reference to the engineering industry; and if training, with this object in view, will be encouraged in the technical departments of secondary schools.
Yes, Sir. A scheme for the issue of certificates and diplomas in management studies has been drawn up by my Department in co-operation with the British Institute of Management. The scheme closely follows the recommendations of the Urwick Committee, and I hope that it will be acceptable to the engineering industry. I do not think specific training for management would be appropriate in the curricula of secondary schools.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask if he will keep in contact with the Institution of Production Engineers and the Institution of Management Engineers, both of whom are anxious about this matter?
Yes, we are in touch with them through the Technical Committee.
asked the Minister of Education how many chairmen of committees or sub-committees of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation were British subjects in December, 1947, and December, 1948, respectively.
Three in each year.
asked the Minister of Education on how many days in 1947, 1948 and 1949, respectively, senior officials of his Department were absent from this country on duties connected with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
One or more administrative officers of my Department of the rank of Assistant Secretary or above were abroad on such duties on 80 days in 1947, 82 days in 1948, and eight days so far this year.
Is it not a fact that the Permanent Secretary and these other important officials have been absent for a considerable time? Is it not very bad for education in this country, which is going through a very difficult period, that these very important officials should have been absent all this time?
It is true that the Permanent Secretary was there, as he happens to be a member of the Executive Board. Time and again in this House we have heard criticism of U.N.E.S.C.O., and if we are to make a contribution which is worth while it is essential that someone of standing should be there from this country.
Can my right hon. Friend assure us that he is satisfied that the absence of this official was justified by the results obtained, and when shall we have an opportunity of hearing about them in this House?
It is always difficult to say whether the absence of an individual is justified. I would say that the contribution made by the officials from my Department has been second to none so far as U.N.E.S.C.O. is concerned. If there is any credit to be awarded to U.N.E.S.C.O. I think it belongs to this country.
Will the Minister say whether the Permanent Secretary was there in his capacity as a representative of the right hon. Gentleman's Department or in a personal capacity, as no civil servant is allowed to be a member of the Executive Board of U.N.E.S.C.O.?
The figures I have given account for the days that official was there both in his personal capacity and his other capacity. Although he may not be there as an official when he is attending the Executive Board, he is still an official of my Department when he is there.
asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he intends to send a judicial or other commission of inquiry to Basutoland to investigate the general situation which has led, amongst other things, to a number of ritual murders.
I agree with my hon. Friend that an inquiry into the sociological and other causes of ritual murders in Basutoland is now required, and I am, in fact, already considering with the High Commissioner how this can best be done. As at present advised, I am inclined to doubt whether a judicial or other large and formal commission of inquiry would be the wisest plan.
When my right hon. Friend says that, will he bear in mind the fact that some men are apparently under sentence of death and awaiting execution?
Yes. There are other Questions about that on the Order Paper.
asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what steps he is taking to forward the appeal of the representative gathering of Basutoland Chieftains to the United Nations or to make sure that they know of the alternative means by which any grievances which they allege may he considered.
I have not so far received any such appeal from the Chieftains of Basutoland. I think the native authorities in the territory are well aware that any appeals or grievances may be sent to me.
Accused Persons (Appeals)
asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations how many prisoners awaiting the hearing of appeals have been held in prison in Basutoland for more than six months; whether he is aware that an accused person in a recent case had been imprisoned for over two years and under sentence of death for 14 months; and what changes in the methods of sending appeals to the Privy Council are proposed to remedy such conditions.
The High Commissioner reports that 19 prisoners at present under sentence of death have been held in prison for more than six months. I much regret the long period for which one prisoner has been confined; it has been due to the delays which an appeal to the Privy Council inevitably involves at present. Rules have now been drawn up to expedite the hearing of appeals to the Privy Council from Colonial Territories and my hon. Friend may be assured that every step possible is taken to avoid unnecessary delay.
Would my right hon. Friend consider the establishment of a court of appeal in Basutoland itself, as that might obviate these long delays in trials.
Yes. If another Question which is on the Order Paper today had been called, I should already have said that I am now consulting with the High Commissioner as to what can be done about providing a court of appeal.
India (Murdered British Subjects)
asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement on the murder by Communists of three European British subjects near Calcutta.
asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what representations he has made to the Indian authorities regarding the loss of four British lives in the recent attack on a factory near Calcutta; and whether he will make a statement.
On 26th February, three British members, and one AngloIndian member, of the staff of Jessop's Engineering Works at Dum Dum, were killed by armed assailants. Three other British members were assaulted and injured. On that day, attacks were simultaneously made at three points by small armed gangs, with the apparent object of seizing arms at the Airport and munitions factory. The attack on Jessop's Works is thought to have been a diversion to cover the other two. In the pursuit of the raiders by the police, a number of arrests were made but some members of the police were killed. The Prime Minister of India has said that the arrested men belong to the Revolutionary Communist Party of India.I deeply regret this tragic event, and the House would wish me to express our sympathy with the relatives of those who lost their lives. But I am glad to assure the hon. Members that, so far as we can tell, no anti-British significance should be attached to the attacks. Our representatives in India have, of course, maintained the closest contact with the authorities throughout. There have been no further disturbances, and the situation is at present quiet.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is true or not that these three unfortunate men were thrown alive into a furnace? Further, is he satisfied that this was not in any sense an attack on Europeans, and that no special precautions need be asked for to protect Europeans?
I am afraid that I cannot confirm what the hon. Member says as to how the men died; I am not informed. As to the second point, I think that there was no anti-British significance in these attacks. Our High Commissioner is quite clear on the point. Thirdly, the responsibility for protecting British subjects in India lies, of course, with the Indian authorities, who are fully alive to it, and have done their best, and who, as I have said, already suffered fatal casualties among their police in these affrays.
Has the right hon. Gentleman satisfied himself in any way that the protective measures will in fact be sufficient? He has told us that effective measures are being applied. Is he satisfied that they will be sufficient? Further, while compensation is a poor recompense, has any offer of compensation been made?
The question of responsibility must first be looked into. I do not think that it can possibly be held that there was any negligence in any way. These were attacks planned against the Government, the authorities and the public order of India, planned, as it is believed by the Indian Prime Minister, by the Communists—carefully planned and a moment chosen when the police were holding sports in Calcutta. It is very difficult to lay blame upon anybody for what occurred.
In view of the last remark of the right hon. Gentleman about the Communists, may I ask if it is not the case that these raiders, while they may have used a particularly high-sounding name, have no association whatever with the Communist Party of India, and are completely repudiated by the Communist Party of India?
I am prepared to accept the word of Pandit Nehru, and I think that his evidence is confirmed by that of events in Malaya and in many other parts of the world.
Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to give a reply to the second part of the question put by my hon. and gallant Friend as to the possibility of compensation for the families of these unfortunate men?
I am afraid that I cannot give any answer now. I will certainly look into the matter and let the hon. and gallant Member have a reply.
While being in the fullest sympathy with the questions put, may I ask as a matter of information whether the internal affairs of a Dominion such as India, Canada or Australia, can properly be discussed across the Floor of this House.
I have been asked about what happened to British citizens, and it is perfectly right for me to answer about what has happened to people who are subjects of His Majesty in this country.
Trade And Commerce
Newspaper, Congleton (Paper)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will reconsider his decision in the case of Mr. Head, Editor of the "Congleton Chronicle" newspaper, who wishes to print his paper on a 305 square inch sheet as a tabloid, on the understanding that no more paper is used in so doing, in view of the fact that when Mr. Head placed an order for a new printing press which produces this sized page, there were no restrictions in force as to the size printed.
It is my practice on such matters to seek the advice of the newspaper proprietors through their own rationing committee. I understand that they might be prepared to advise me that the "Congleton Chronicle" should have a page size of 305 sq. ins., but in this event it would necessarily cease to be a tabloid or small newspaper, the maximum size of which is limited to 250 sq. ins., and the maximum number of pages which the newspaper could print would therefore be reduced to that which is appropriate to large newspapers.
As the matter has been under discussion for some time, will the Ministry try to reach an early decision? Is he aware that the only other similar case in this country is at Mansfield, that he will not be setting a precedent and that no additional paper will be required?
I will endeavour to bring it to a quick conclusion, but this matter has to be considered and gone into by the newspaper proprietors advisory committee.
Iron And Steel (Exports)
asked the President of the Board of Trade why Canada received in 1948 less than half the quantity of iron and steel, including railway tyres, etc., from this country as compared with 1938, whereas the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Sweden and Finland have received many times the 1938 volume.
The steel made available in 1948 to the Soviet Union, Sweden and Finland was in each case supplied in order to secure agreements necessary to safeguard essential supplies and our financial reserves establishing an approximate balance of overall trade. This did not, however, prevent us from sending Canada more steel (excluding tinplate) in 1948 than before the war, and the hon. Member will be glad to know that we hope to ship more steel to Canada in 1949 than to any other overseas market.
Wool Control (Cost)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what was the cost to the State of the Wool Control organisation in the year 1948; how much of this sum went in payment of wages and salaries; what is the contemplated cost to the State in the year 1949; and how much will be spent on salaries and wages.
The total administrative expenses of the Wool Control for the calendar year 1948 amounted to approximately £90,000, of which £60,000 was in respect of wages and salaries. For the calendar year 1949 the estimated total expenses are approximately £50,000, of which wages and salaries amount to £37,000.
Does not the President think, as the Wool Control after 1st April will have only two duties left to perform, duties which could be performed efficiently by the trades' associations, that he ought to do away with this unnecessary expenditure by doing away with the Wool Control?
No, Sir. I certainly could not do away with the Wool Control. I am trying all the time to reduce the burden of control in connection with the wool industry, and, I wish, as soon as I can, to get rid of all control.
Does wool carry this burden, or does the taxpayer?
asked the President of the Board of Trade what cases he has referred to the Monopolies Restrictive Practices Commission; and when he expects a report.
On 1st March six references were made to the Commission. The goods are:
Is my right hon. Friend aware that that answer will be very welcome to many hon. Members on this side of the House, and will he also say whether it is the intention of the Government that the minutes of evidence and the reports should be published and made available when inquiries are completed?
I am sure that the announcement will be welcomed by hon. Members in all parts of the House in view of the support given to the Monopolies Act last year. I can certainly undertake that all the reports will be made available to the House, unless any of them should happen to contain anything which would be regarded as involving questions of security.
Following are the details of the references:
Whereas it appears to the Board of Trade that it is or may be the fact that conditions to which the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948, applies prevail as respects the supply of:
Now therefore, the Board in pursuance of Section 2 (1) of the Act hereby refer to the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission for investigation and report the matter of such supply.
The Commission shall as respects such supply investigate and report on:
References in similar terms have also been made to the Commission relating to the supply of the following goods:
A reference in similar terms has also been made relating to the supply of matches with the addition that exports of matches are also to be investigated.
The terms of this reference are as follow:
Whereas it appears to the Board of Trade that it is or may be the fact that conditions to which the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948, applies prevail as respects—
(1) the supply of matches, and (2) exports of matches from the United Kingdom, either generally or to any particular market.
Now, therefore, the Board in pursuance of Section 2 (1) of the Act hereby refer to the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission for investigation and report the matters of such supply and exports.
The Commission shall as respects such supply and exports investigate and report on:
In this reference "matches" does not include Bengal lights.
Paper Supplies (Elections)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he yet contemplates any relaxation in the restrictions on the use of paper for Parliamentary and local government elections.
As I informed my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) on 18th January, control of the distribution and use of paper will be largely removed as from 6th March. Thereafter, there will be no restriction on the amount of paper which may be used for electioneering purposes, or generally by political parties, except in the case of newsprint or of paper used in the publication of any newspaper or periodical, in which cases the existing limitations are unaffected by the changes which are being introduced.
Factory Inspectors, Midland Area
asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the fact that there are only three factory inspectors available in the Coventry district to inspect 1,800 factories, he will increase this number, and so ensure that the provisions of the Factory Acts are complied with in all cases.
My hon. Friend would seem to have been misinformed. Five inspectors, apart from the specialist staff, are available to carry out inspection work in the Coventry district, and I have no reason to believe that the district is not getting a fair share of the Department's attention.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the information contained in the Question was supplied by his own Department; is he also aware that the number of inspectors is totally inadequate to supervise safety precautions in these factories, and will he increase the number of inspectors in order to reduce the number of accidents?
It may be that my hon. Friend was told about the three inspectors who are actually located in this particular town, but the number available to them is five, and there is an additional specialist staff. We are in the process of increasing the staff. Over all, there is not a sufficient number of factory inspectors in the service at the moment, and advertisements have been issued and people are being interviewed. It is not correct to say that inspectors can prevent accidents. They inspect premises as far as possible and do the best they can to see that all the recognised customs and rules are observed.
Is not it a fact that both the management and the precautions against accidents are at a very high level in all the factories in that locality?
I would not care to assent to or dissent from that without an opportunity of looking into the matter.
Will the Minister bear in mind that throughout the Midlands there seems to be a considerable grievance over the lack of inspectors? In the City of Birmingham I understand that there are only 15 for 8,000 factories and quite a considerable number are owner-occupier factories.
I have already stated that we are taking active steps to increase the inspectorate. It is not always possible to base the inspectorate upon the number of factories, because an inspector may see a factory, may pass it, and, with everybodys' consent, think there is no need to go back again. We cannot have inspectors walking into every factory every day.
Is not it a fact that the mere number of inspectors does not necessarily reduce the accidents and that there are a great many other factors concerned?
I have already endeavoured to make the point that they do not reduce accidents, but they are able to advise people in the proper observance of established customs.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the breaking off of trade negotiations by the Swiss Government, he will give favourable consideration to varying tourists' allowances in favour of soft currency countries.
As my hon. Friend will be aware, we have now concluded a satisfactory agreement with the Swiss Government. An announcement will be made very soon on the arrangements for holiday travel abroad in the travel year beginning 1st May.
While welcoming the agreement, which has been made since this Question was put on the Order Paper, may I ask whether the Chancellor subscribes to the suggestion that we should differentiate between hard and soft currency countries in order to encourage people to take their holidays in soft currency countries?
The agreement with Switzerland, which, of course, is a hard currency country, already provides an absolute ceiling for the amount of Swiss francs to be spent in this way.
Does that agreement mean that there will be more foreign currency available for the treatment of people who cannot get treatment in this country for their condition, and who wish to go to Switzerland for their treatment?
That is a separate question which has been answered several times already.
Cable And Wireless Award (Interest)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what rate of interest will be paid as from 1st January, 1947, on the portion of the Cable and Wireless award payable to non-governmental bodies, namely, £32,195,000.
Three percent. per annum.
Can my hon. Friend say why, after this very lavish and extravagant award of £32 million, which has delighted the City, he should follow it up with a further award of £1,148,000 in interest after payment of tax, which has made the City delirious with joy?
Because it is in accordance with the Act. This interest goes back to 1st January, 1947.
Although it is in accordance with the Act the rate of interest was decided by the Treasury. Is not this wrong treatment of the national finances?
The rate of interest was decided by the Treasury in accordance with the terms of the Act.
State Industry Employees (Elections)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will state the policy of the National Coal Board and the British Electricity Authority in relation to their officers and other employees who wish to offer themselves for election to the Commons House of Parliament and local authorities.
I am assured by the National Coal Board and the British Electricity Authority that they fully accept the broad principles to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred in a statement which he made on 1st May, 1947, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Charles Smith).
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will consider the removal of the Government restrictions which have prevented the laying of an electric cable in Hill Street, Bristol, to enable the inhabitants of that street to have electric light installed in their homes.
No, Sir. As was explained to my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) on 24th February, it is not at present possible to supply electricity to all who want it and priority must be given to industry, farms and new houses with no other installed means of lighting.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that people in this street, which contains 60 houses, made application for a cable in 1938; that they have been waiting for ten years; and that they have also sent a petition to the local authority? Can my hon. Friend do something to expedite the laying of the cable?
I am aware of those facts. I assure the hon. Gentleman that supply will be given as soon as practicable.
Why does the Ministry persist in giving priority to new houses over houses where the inhabitants applied for a cable many years ago and are still waiting?
It is rather important when one builds new houses that at least there should be some lighting in them.
Why is it more important for new houses than for old houses? Why should people in the old house have to use an oil lamp while the new house is provided with electric lighting?
At least the old house has got some form of lighting.
Domestic Tariff, Glasgow
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the average increase for domestic user in the current electricity account, as compared with the price at the previous tariff for consumers in the City of Glasgow; and what part of the average increase is due to the surcharge.
The fixing of prices for electricity in Glasgow is a matter for the South-West Scotland Electricity Board and detailed information about accounts is not in my hands. I understand the Chairman of the Board informed a deputation of the Glasgow Corporation that in the case of over 80 percent. of the domestic quarterly accounts issued in Glasgow up to the middle of February there has been a total increase of less than £1. It was further stated that a check of about 70,000 accounts showed that the average increase was 18s. 3d. of which 10s. 6d. is in respect of the winter surcharge. Over the nine months, following the surcharge period, these consumers will of course be entitled to a rebate of 0.1d. per unit.
In view of the fact that the surcharge is falling much more heavily on the consumer than the increased price, will not my hon. Friend agree that the question of this surcharge might be considered again in order to abolish it for this area?
No, I do not think so. If there is hardship occasioned to people served in Glasgow, it will be met by the representations made to the Board. We asked them to do something about making arrangements for the payment of accounts by instalments. This the Board have agreed to do, and consumers are able to take advantage of that.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will state in detail the increased distribution costs on coal which have necessitated the increase of 11d. per ton in the selling price; what are the margins of profit allowed to the wholesaler and the retailer; and what will be added to these margins by the increase of 11d. per ton in the selling price.
The costs of the retail distribution of coal and coke are ascertained by a periodical review made by my Department from returns supplied by a representative cross-section of the trade. Adjustments in retail prices, where these are necessary, are based on the results. The latest review completed last year showed that the costs of distribution had increased, mainly due to increases in wages and transport costs. In the London area the merchants' average profit margin on retail sales had fallen to 2d. per ton and the recent increases of 11d. per ton in the price of coal and 1s. per ton in the price of boiler fuel are designed to bring the profit margin enjoyed by the average retailer up to 1s. a ton on retail sales of coal, boiler fuel and coke taken as a whole. The margin of profit of the wholesaler varies according to the service he renders and is not affected by these price increases.
While I should like to study that answer in HANSARD and follow it up subsequently, I should also like to ask the Minister whether it is not the case that the policy of the Government is to ask private enterprise and other organisations to reduce prices; and, if that is so, why in this case do the Government themselves deliberately announce an increase of price at a time when they also want wages to be frozen?
The hon. Gentleman's party is busily engaged in a campaign to increase wages. Increased wages are reflected in the prices of articles to the consumer.
Would it not be possible to avoid these increases by making a cut in the compensation to the former coal owners?
Redundant Staffs (Compensation)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether a scheme his yet been drawn up for the compensation of officials and staffs declared redundant since the nationalisation of the coal industry.
Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend approved the National Coal Board's scheme of compensation for redundant staff and officials on 5th February, 1949.
Are there still officials receiving salaries from the National Coal Board under agreements made with their former employers before the vesting date?
I should require notice of a particular case.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that applications of country doctors for more petrol are being refused; and what steps he is taking to ensure that doctors have sufficient petrol to enable them to give proper care and attention to their patients.
As my right hon. Friend told the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) on 10th February, regional petroleum officers have standing instructions to allow doctors sufficient petrol to meet their essential requirements. I am not aware that reasonable applications are being refused, but if the hon. Member will let me have details of any cases he has in mind, I shall be glad to review them.
May I ask how regional petroleum officers can be expected to know the reasonable requirements of doctors; and, is it not plain that any economies must be made at the expense of the patient?
Not at all. The regional petroleum officer has the advice of the medical liaison officer nominated by the British Medical Association.
Is the doctor allowed any priority over the ordinary user of petrol in his neighbourhood—as regards the patient he has to visit, for example?
The standing instruction to our regional petroleum officers is not to set any limit at all to the amount of petrol a doctor requires in the legitimate work of looking after his patients. In that connection, we have the advice of a medical liaison officer appointed by the British Medical Association.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether in connection with petrol for sports meetings and in particular football organisations, he will reconsider his decision and allow some petrol to enable the officials of the selection committees to attend meetings in connection with their duties.
No, Sir. As I have already fully explained to the hon. Member, in my recent letter to him, we cannot make allowances to enable honorary officials of selection committees to attend meetings in connection with their duties.
Is it not really all nonsense to suggest that we are so short of petrol that we cannot do something which is both just and commonsense in order to enable people to organise recreation which is vital in these times? Surely, the whole thing is absolutely fantastic.
Bma Liaison Officers
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what are the functions of British Medical Association liaison officers in relation to his Department; what payment is made by his Department in respect of those functions; and what is the estimated total cost to His Majesty's Treasury.
The liaison officers appointed by the British Medical Asociation are available for consultation by the regional petroleum officer on any matter affecting an application by a doctor for an allowance of petrol; doctors themselves may also ask the medical liaison officer to support their application. The appointments are unpaid and no cost falls on the Treasury.
Might I ask again how the medical liaison officer can be expected to know better than the doctor himself what the doctor requires; secondly, is it not very wrong that the Ministry of Fuel and Power should shift its responsibility in this regard to some other organisation?
It seems to me that it is a good thing always to get the best advice one can. I should have thought that a medical liaison officer of the standing of those appointed by the B.M.A. should know something of doctors' requirements and, indeed, that he should be a very good adviser. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular cases in mind, I should be very glad to look at them and let him know the result of my inquiries.
Aliens (Hungarian Nationals)
69, 70 and 71.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) why he allows some Hungarian nationals and not others to visit this country for holiday purposes; and on what basis he reaches his decision;(2) what is the basis on which he decides whether or not to permit Hungarian nationals to take up permanent residence in this country; (3) if he will state the total number of Hungarian nationals that he has allowed to enter this country to take up permanent residence for each year from 1945 to the latest convenient date; the numbers that have been refused permission for the same period; and the same details concerning those Hungarian nationals who have asked for permission, to visit this country for holiday purposes.
Apart from one or two special exceptions, only those Hungarian nationals who come within the scheme for the admission of distressed relatives are permitted to take up permanent residence in this country. Since the beginning of 1948 it has not been possible to admit to this country for holiday purposes Hungarian nationals who are resident in Hungary, since the Hungarian authorities have been unwilling to grant intending visitors passports enabling them to return to Hungary; but visits from Hungarian nationals resident in other countries are allowed provided that the visitor has the necessary re-entry permit. The numbers of Hungarian nationals admitted to this country under the distressed relatives scheme in 1946, 1947 and 1948 were 347, 75 and 19, respectively. The number of applications made under the scheme which have been refused and the number of applications for permission to visit this country for holiday purposes which have been granted and refused are not available.