House Of Commons
Tuesday, 22nd March, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Tyne Improvement Bill Lords
As amended, considered.
Standing Order 205 (Notice of Third Reading) suspended; Bill to be read the Third time forthwith.—[ Mr. Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.
Hurst Park Race Course Bill Lords
Read a Second time, and committed.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, in view of the fact that in rural districts many people have no desire to retire at the age of 65 or subsequently, and may therefore never be able to draw their pension, he will consider granting them the option of drawing their pension at 10s. a week at the age of 65 irrespective of whether they continue in employment.
Under present arrangements a person over pension age can draw retirement pension at 70–65 for a woman—whether he has retired or not. If he goes on working between 65 and 70–60 and 65 for a woman—he is covered against unemployment and sickness and can earn a larger pension. These arrangements generally make much better provision for insured persons than that suggested by the hon. Member.
Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that it is now possible for a man working beyond the age of 65 to draw his pension of 10s. or is he compelled to wait?
No, he does not draw a retirement pension at 65 unless he has retired. If he stays at work he contributes towards the scheme and is covered for unemployment and sickness benefits. He also gets an added pension. When he reaches 70 a retirement pension is paid to him whether he retires or not.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this reluctance to retire is not confined to rural areas?
Is not the Minister under a contractual obligation to pay a man a pension at 65, and ought not a man to have the right to do what he likes after that age?
If we were to regard it from the purely contractual standpoint, then a man would be paid 10s. a week which is the full amount of the contract. In October, 1946, we made pensions of 26s. and 42s. available for people who previously had only earned 10s.
Coalminers, Industrial Diseases
asked the Minister of National Insurance how many cases of epidermophytosis have been notified to his Department as occurring in coalminers using pithead baths and sustaining infection of the skin of their feet, and whether he accepts this condition as an industrial disease for which compensation should be given under the Industrial Injuries Act.
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he will consider adding to the list of prescribed industrial diseases the disease of epidermophytosis in cases where that disease has been contracted by coal-miners in pithead baths.
I regret that information is not available about the number of cases of this disease notified to the Department. I am considering the position in relation to benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act in the light of a recent decision of the Commissioner. In this case while stating that the disease is not prescribed under the Industrial Injuries Act, he suggested that in certain circumstances it might be regarded as contracted by accident and as such already within the scope of the Act.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these cases are quite numerous, tend to spread and that they are easily preventable? Would my right hon. Friend use his influence with the National Coal Board to see that the necessary steps are taken at the pithead baths to ensure that further contagion is prevented?
We have no evidence so far of any material increase in the number of cases, but I am given to understand they can in the ordinary way be prevented. I shall take what steps I can in association with my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Fuel and Power to see what improvements can be made.
Will my right hon. Friend provide a copy of the decision of the Industrial Injuries Commissioner on this particular point?
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, in order to secure greater equality of treatment between insured persons reaching pensionable age before and after 5th July, 1948, he will give to the latter who postpone their retirement the option of drawing 10s. a week while still at work in lieu of the increment of 2s. a week for each year worked after retirement age.
The exercise of such an option would be a matter of great difficulty for individuals and might result in the forgoing of substantial benefits now available. It would in any case run counter to the principles underlying the scheme of retirement pensions so recently approved by Parliament.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the strength of feeling on this matter among insured persons who reached pensionable age after the new scheme came into operation? If they continue at work not only do they lose the 10s., but they have to pay 4s. 11d. a week in addition. They are in a less favourable position.
There are those who regret very much the loss of the 10s. pension but there are 10s. pensioners who would like to come under the new scheme. It is too early yet to arrive at a decision about the effectiveness of the retirement provision.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many who would like the choice to operate the other way round; that there are many people receiving the 10s. a week who would prefer to remain in insurance in order to qualify for sickness benefits and qualify for the extra pension at the end?
That is what I have just said. There are some who would rather have the 10s. and others who would prefer to be under the new scheme.
Will my right hon. Friend reconsider this point. I have drawn his attention to a case of two men who were working at the same bench. Before the Labour Government came into power, one of them received the 10s. pension, but the other did not receive it afterwards. Is not that a retrograde step?
Perhaps my hon. Friend will have a word with them in two or three years' time when one of them is getting the increased pension and the other is not.
But they may be dead by that time.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is asking the House to believe that these people are not in a position to exercise their discretion in a matter of this kind? Why cannot he leave it to them to decide where, in their view, the balance of advantage lies?
The Act was passed by the House only recently. The question whether or not there should be an option was very fully discussed and it was decided—it was a recommendation of the Beveridge Report and was included in the White Paper of 1944 and in the Act —that the retirement pension should take the place of the old 10s. pension.
Will not my right hon. Friend agree that the proposal to make the pensions retirements pensions rather than old-age pensions was based on the desire to make them at the same time a contribution towards the relief of unemployment; and in view of the fact that labour conditions have wholly changed since then and that it is desirable now to keep people at work if they wish instead of encouraging them to retire, is there not now a case for reconsidering it?
The whole purpose of the new provision is to encourage older people who are able to do so to stay at work. Indeed, at the moment 64 per cent. of the men who reach 65 years of age do not retire. There is a very much larger proportion of old people at work today than at any time in the last 50 years.
Industrial Injuries Commissioners (Decisions)
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is prepared to make arrangements for the publication of the decisions of the Industrial Injuries Commissioners in cases which have arisen and which may, from time to time, arise under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts.
Yes, Sir. Arrangements have already been made for the publication of certain decisions selected by the Commissioner, on cases arising under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, copies of which are in the Library.
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, in view of the widespread hardship which is being experienced by large numbers who are unable to follow their employment due to illness and whose financial resources are insufficient to enable them to subsist until they are able to resume their employment, some steps will now be taken to expedite payment of sickness benefit to these people.
The increase in sickness in the last few weeks has led to delays in some places but I am not aware of any foundation for the suggestion that delays are widespread. If the hon. Member has any particular places in mind and will let me know I will have immediate inquiries made.
Is not the Minister aware that there are very large numbers of delays? Is it not a fact that to a large extent this is due to shortage of staff? Is it not possible to utilise the services of some of those who are no longer required in connection with clothes rationing to expedite these matters?
The fact is that in the last few weeks we have had a very substantial increase in sickness claims. This is not uniform all over the country; it is unfortunately confined to some places where we have been having a very stiff time. There are delays but with improvements in our organisation we are hoping that the situation will be remedied.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will see me afterwards.
Old Age Pensions
asked the Minister of National Insurance why an old age pensioner has his pension reduced by 10s. a week after he has been in hospital more than 56 days.
The rates of benefit at present in payment for patients maintained without charge in hospital are in accordance with the National Insurance (Overlapping Benefits) Provisional Regulations. The appropriateness of these rates is still under consideration by the National Insurance Advisory Committee.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this deduction presses very hardly on pensioners and it is very difficult for them to see why they should be dealt with in this manner when other people in better circumstances do not suffer the reduction?
I am awaiting the Committee's Report, and I will then consider the matter.
Will my right hon. Friend have a look at the category of case in which 21s. a week is deducted?
This works both ways. There are old age pensioners who for the first time in their lives under the new Act are receiving some proportion of a pension none of which they would have received before 5th July last.
Remploy Factories, Staffordshire
asked the Minister of Labour how many Remploy factories have been established in North Staffordshire; and how many more are considered necessary by him.
Three—at Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and Longton. On present evidence these should be sufficient for the needs of the area but, if they are not, others will be provided.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in an area where the majority of the workers are pottery workers and miners the incidence of industrial disease and accidents is inevitably high? Will he bear that in mind?
Yes, the incidence of disease is high there, but it is high in many other industries elsewhere. However, that is borne in mind. We take into consideration the number of persons requiring this special treatment and we hope to provide it.
asked the Minister of Labour how many men and women are employed in the Remploy Factory in Leek Road, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent; and how many of them have suffered from industrial accident or industrial disease before being employed there.
There were 43 severely disabled persons employed at 11th March, 1949, all of whom were men. Of these, 11 were admitted on the grounds of having suffered from industrial accident or industrial disease.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what a Remploy Factory is?
I thought that potted title was well known. It is the short name of the factories established by the Disabled Persons' Employment Corporation.
Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what method is used for the selection of these people, and the grounds on which they are selected?
If my hon. Friend will put that question down, I shall be very happy indeed to give him the information.
asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the total number of persons waiting to be admitted for a vocational training course; and how many of them have been waiting for periods of three, six and 12 months, respectively.
Two thousand, seven hundred and eighty-four. I could not give without special inquiry the periods for which individuals have been waiting.
Is it not a fact that the Minister has given that information previously? Will he assure the House that no man has waited for as long a period as 12 months before undertaking one of these courses?
I could not give a definite assurance of that kind. It depends on the trade which the man is seeking and the opportunities which exist for entering it. However, I can assure the House that on an average three months is the maximum waiting period.
asked the Minister of Labour how many of the 4,301 persons in Government training centres are women; and for what work the women are being trained.
Two hundred women are in training; for canteen cookery, cotton spinning, dressmaking, engineering draughtsmanship, hairdressing, shorthand typing, and retail bespoke tailoring.
European Volunteer Workers
asked the Minister of Labour what is the average number of European voluntary workers arriving monthly in this country; and what proportion are females suitable for the cotton, woollen and hosiery industries.
During recent months a monthly average of approximately 430 men and 275 women, plus 475 German women, have been brought to this country. The average number suitable for the industries mentioned was 290.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as far as the hosiery trade is concerned no E.V.Ws. have been available for some consider- able time, and will he take steps to see that that trade is treated equally with the cotton and woollen industries?
The hon. Gentleman should check his information. Within the last fortnight that trade has had a very large intake of German women.
Yes, but 1 asked about E.V.Ws.?
asked the Minister of Labour if he will give an estimate of the amount of the present short-time working in British industry; and whether he will arrange for the regular inclusion of a short time working figure in the published unemployment statistics.
Information as to the extent of short-time working in the manufacturing industries is obtained only at quarterly intervals. In the week ended 1st January when conditions were abnormal following Christmas. 35,000 operatives were losing an average of 18½ hours. The next figures will relate to the end of March. I will arrange for these, and the figures for subsequent quarterly dates, to be published.
asked the Minister of Labour how many workers were registered as unemployed at the end of February, 1949; and how many of them were coloured people.
The latest date for which figures are available is 14th February, when the total numbers registered as un- employed in Great Britain was 360,283. The number of these who were coloured people is not known.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the president of the West African Traders' Union quotes the "News Chronicle" of 14th February as stating that in the city of Manchester alone there were 3,000 coloured people unemployed? Can he tell us if that is a fact?
I do not care what newspaper the hon. and gallant Member quotes. I shall not endeavour to distinguish in these figures between coloured people and white men.
asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the figures of persons unemployed in the towns of Batley and Morley for the months of January in each of the following years, 1949, 1944, 1939, 1934.
As the reply includes a table of figures I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the reply
The Table below shows the number of unemployed persons on the registers of Batley Employment Exchange and Youth Employment Bureau and Morley Employment Exchange in January in the years in question.
Disabled Persons, Batley And Morley
asked the Minister of Labour how many of the persons signing the unemployment register in Batley and Morley in January, 1949, were classified as disabled persons.
Thirty-one at Batley and 52 at Morley. Of these eight at Batley and 26 at Morley are classified as severely disabled and needing sheltered employment.
National Service Hostel, Onslow Square
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that 800 single men at present accommodated by the National Service Hostels Corporation at Onslow Square, S.W.7, have been given notice to quit; that this notice expires on 9th April; and if he will give an assurance that these residents will be permitted to continue in occupation until they have been able to find or have been found suitable alternative accommodation.
About 700 men employed in less essential types of employment, in whose case the continued provision of subsidised accommodation in a Government hostel is not justified, have been given notice to leave the hostel. Local officers of my Department in London have been instruced to give all possible assistance to the men concerned to find other accommodation.
As our position in London is that we cannot find these men accommodation, either through the L.C.C. or through the Boroughs, is it not possible to continue their residence in that place, either subsidised or unsubsidised, through some machinery open to the Minister?
We must take this action. These hostels were operated by the Government and subsidised heavily to provide accommodation for men and women transferred to priority work. We have given every help we can to the persons concerned, but we must end the condition now operating.
Temporary Premises, Lewisham (Release)
asked the Minister of Labour the date when his Department will vacate the premises of 291 Airborne Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, in Ennersdale Road, Lewisham.
asked the Minister of Labour why women between the ages of 18 and 41 years are required to obtain his Department's consent to any engagement in domestic service, notwithstanding that his powers, under the Control of Engagement Order to refuse such consent, are never exercised; and if he will dispense with this formality.
The inclusion of employment in domestic service within the scope of the Order gives an opportunity to distinguish between employment in hardship households, hospitals, etc., and that in other places where the need is not so great. The answer to the last part of the Question is in the negative.
Did not the right non. Gentleman in the Debate on 10th March deny that the Ministry used its powers to prevent any of these engagements? In those circumstances, why should people be put to the necessity of reporting proposed engagements as a mere formality?
I did not deny that this was operating; what I said was that no young woman was refused permission to enter a hardship household in domestic service by the operation of the Control of Engagement Order, and that position stands. We cannot agree to one employer having three or four servants and another not having any
But is it not a fact that the Ministry requires these proposed engagements to be reported—
That is another question.
Ex-Service Men (Resettlement)
asked the Minister of Labour why, in his schemes for assisting ex-Regular members of His Majesty's Forces to resettle in civil life, he provides for grants to be given only in cases of financial necessity; and what standard he will use to decide whether there is financial necessity.
I assume the hon. Member is referring to the courses of business training for ex-Regular members of His Majesty's Forces recently introduced. All applicants approved for these courses will receive grants covering tuition fees, travelling expenses incurred in the course of training, and an allowance for text books. Maintenance grants will also be payable, where necessary, in order to provide broadly the reasonable requirements and standard of living to which the applicant is accustomed. For this purpose, as in the case of other comparable resettlement schemes, other income, including the pensions and retired pay payable in a large number of cases, is one of the factors to be taken into account. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the detailed rules governing the assessment of grant which are somewhat long and intricate.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make quite certain in working this scheme, and any future scheme he has in mind for ex-Regular members of the Forces, that he does not discourage savings by those members while they are in the Forces, and does not discourage them from staying on to earn their pension?
I can give the hon. Gentleman those assurances. These rules are administered generously and sympathetically. We are most anxious to help these men who come along for this service.
Dock Work, Middlesbrough (Dispute)
asked the Minister of Labour if, before any alterations were made in the time of attendance of dock workers at Middlesbrough, the fullest opportunity was given to the men to discuss the proposals; and if he is satisfied that the consultative machinery was properly used on this occasion.
I understand that this matter has been the subject of discussion for close on two years and that the appropriate joint machinery has been fully utilised.
Since this strike has been going on now for a month, does my right hon. Friend intend to use the services of his Department with a view to obtaining an early settlement, as the trade of the district is being seriously interrupted by this strike?
I submit, with respect, that that question goes far beyond the one on the Order Paper, both parts of which I have answered quite definitely.
Wells House Hotel, Ilkley
asked the Minister of Labour when he intends to use Wells House Hotel, Ilkley, for the accommodation of foreign labour, as it has not been required for a year; and if he will release this extensive accommodation so that it can be put to some valuable use at once.
Following rather prolonged negotiations with the American authorities, additional women are expected to become available under the Westward Ho Scheme in the very near future. If the numbers expected materialise, Wells House will be required to house these workers.
Cotton Mill Accidents
asked the Minister of Labour what are the reasons for the substantial increase of mill accidents in the cotton industry; and what preventative training is being undertaken.
I am not aware of such an increase. Fluctuations in accident statistics have been found to be largely affected by fluctuations in numbers employed, and during last year the number of persons employed in the cotton industry increased by about 20,000. More systematic training is widely developing in industry, a number of cotton mills now have special training courses, and encouragement is being given to the establishment of suitable training schemes at other mills.
Would my right hon. Friend agree that an increase of 4,000 in one year is a substantial number and requires some positive action?
I am afraid my hon. Friend is quite wrong. When the figures are published I think he will find that they are lower for 1948 than for 1946, and I must compliment some of the employers in the textile industry on the excellent progress that is being made in accident prevention.
Will my right hon. Friend take into account the abnormal incidence of hernia and double hernia among power loom overlookers due to their lifting weavers' beams by hand; and will he encourage employers, as far as it is in his power, to extend the use of mobile lifting equipment?
We are giving publicity to one mill which has established mechanical handling throughout, and we hope by that means to encourage other employers to do the same thing.
asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to find employment for the unemployed in Brighton and what opportunities are open to them; also in what trades in Brighton most unemployment is to be found.
The normal machinery of the employment exchange service is available in Brighton to assist unemployed workers to find suitable work. There were 850 vacancies outstanding on 16th March. In addition, I am informed that apart from the many building schemes in preparation in the district, industrial developments are projected which, it is expected, will provide employment for some 1,200 men and women. Unemployment is heaviest amongst general labourers and women hotel workers.
Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that the Postmaster-General stated that he could do nothing to improve the Post Office conditions in Brighton because of the national manpower situation? In view of the large number of unemployed, especially over 45, and the fact that many unemployed come to me and point out that the Employment Exchange are not optimistic about the future, can the right hon. Gentleman look into this matter and do something more about it?
I cannot comment upon the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question but the situation in Brighton is having active attention. There are 850 vacancies there which we cannot fill because the people are not all suitable for those jobs. The second point which I think Brighton and towns of that character must bear in mind is that if we do get other industries to go there, and those industries require 640 women, it will be difficult for those towns to get the women back into the hotel trade after they have entered other employment.
Industrial Disputes (Statistics)
asked the Minister of Labour the total number of strikes notified to his Department during 1948; and how many originated in the mining industry.
The number of disputes causing stoppage of work which came to the notice of my Department in 1948 was 1,758, of which 1,115 were in the coal-mining industry.
Does the Minister consider that this answer lends colour to the suggestion that nationalisation is the means of wiping out disunity in industry?
Many of those strikes affect a comparatively few people and last only for a day or so but, judging from the information as to the causes of them, I am afraid they would have been much wider and longer had it not been for nationalisation.
Could the Minister give the comparable figures for 1921?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland in how many cases in Scotland was analgesia administered by domiciliary midwives or nurses trained in midwifery in the years 1938, 1944, 1947 and 1948, respectively.
There could not have been any cases in 1938 and 1944 because it was only in July, 1946, that the Central Midwives Board for Scotland authorised the administration of analgesia by midwives. In 1947 there were 120 cases and in 1948, according to preliminary returns, about 800.
Will the right hon. Gentleman do everything in his power to make sure that this service is extended and is known and encouraged by his Department, because it is not so at the moment?
Would the right hon. Gentleman say, of the figures he has given for 1947 and 1948, how many of those cases were treated without the presence of a doctor?
In Scotland more than half the cases of births outside hospitals were treated with a doctor present, and in every case the doctor has the authority over the case.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say what proportion of the total number of births these figures represent?
About half the total number of 116,000 births in Scotland take place in hospital, more than half of them are under the care of a doctor, and less than half of them have the midwife only present at the birth.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is a terrible percentage in Scotland as compared with the figures which the English Minister gave the other day?
I think my hon. and gallant Friend is mistaken because in Scotland the tradition is different. As I mentioned last week, the doctor is in charge of the case, and until 1946 midwives were not allowed to take charge.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland at what rate he expects that midwives, and nurses qualified in midwifery, in Scotland will be trained during the next two years in the use of analgesia; and when he anticipates that such training will be completed.
Training in analgesia is now being given to certified midwives at the rate of almost 250 a year, and to all student midwives numbering about 600 a year. I have every hope that by the end of 1950 over three-quarters of the midwives then practising in Scotland will have had this training, and my aim is to have the process substantially complete by the end of 1951.
Does that figure include, not only midwives, but nurses qualified in midwifery, which is not quite the same thing?
The Question relates only to midwives. I take it that all the nurses are being trained.
The Question clearly says,
"and nurses qualified in midwifery."
If they are qualified in midwifery they have been trained in the use of analgesia.
Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that the mothers of Scotland, who have expected and been entitled to the services of a doctor, will not now be fobbed off by midwives; and will he hand the midwives over to hon. Members opposite who have been in labour pains since the General Election of 1945 and who have not yet produced a policy?
In view of the last question, is the Secretary of State aware that the midwives of Scotland will not like to be regarded as "fobbed off"—and may I ask him by what date he considers there will be a sufficient number of doctors to attend all confinements?
In Scotland the number of cases in which the doctor himself is present at confinements is increasing. We certainly have no intention of taking away from the doctor the responsibility of doing the job.
Local Authority Members (Payment)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will state in detail the schemes in operation in the cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow and the counties of Ayrshire, Dumbartonshire, Fifeshire and Lanarkshire to reimburse councillors for loss of salary or wage while on local government work.
Payments to local authority members by way of financial loss allowance are made in accordance with Sections 112 and 118 of the Local Government Act, 1948, and the Local Government (Travelling Allowances, etc.) (Scotland) Regulations, 1948, of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy.
Is the Secretary of State aware that miners attending council meetings lose a bonus shift and that this is not accounted for when meetings are arranged; and would he arrange a meeting with representatives of local authorities and the Coal Board in order to try to get something done about this very serious handicap to miners?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the dissatisfaction in local government in Scotland with the present system of compensating members of local authorities for loss of earnings while engaged on local government work; and if he will make some inquiries on the subject and. if necessary, take such action as he may regard as appropriate to ensure that no hardship will be involved by those who are prepared to devote themselves to the service of local government.
I have received a number of representations on the subject of financial loss allowances but these have not disclosed any conditions which were not before Parliament when it passed the Local Government Act. 1948, and there is no likelihood of any amendment being proposed.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the passing of the Act was intended to aid councillors, and would he be surprised when I tell him that in the city of Glasgow alone the councillor, because of the passing of this Act, now receives less by way of allowance than the permanent official; and is he aware of the treatment of miners in regard to wages for loss of employment which operates under the Act?
Both these points were discussed when the matter was before the House. I think that at that time it was resolved that the question of the miners' bonus shift was a matter for arrangement between the Coal Board and the Miners' Union. Certainly, there is no likelihood of our going back on that in the near future.
Is the Secretary of State aware, in spite of his contradiction, of the case where a member of the Airdrie town council was refused an allowance because he did not have a job at the time and was refused unemployment benefit because he was not available due to his attending the meetings?
I will look into that case if the hon. Gentleman will let me have particulars. I cannot speak of cases of which I have no knowledge.
Aged Infirm, Glasgow
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of aged infirm in Glasgow awaiting admission to hospital for treatment and care and the average weekly admission; and what system is adopted by the Regional Hospital Board to see that each hospital accepts its responsibility in this essential service to the aged infirm.
The Regional Hospital Board are at present inquiring into this whole problem in order to determine the responsibilities of each of the hospitals concerned for this class of patient, but no complete information of the kind for which the hon. Member asks is yet available. The Board have a Central Admission Bureau which is gradually assuming responsibility for hospital admissions in the Glasgow area and especially for this class of person.
Does my right hon. Friend say that the inquiry into the responsibilities for these aged infirm people has been taking place ever since the Act came into operation in July, 1948? Surely, whilst the inquiry is being made they should be entitled to some form of easing of their troubles.
The point is that until July, 1948, the voluntary hospitals had no responsibility at all for this type of patient; that was dealt with by the local authority. This is an entirely new responsibility. Unfortunately, however, a number of people are contracting tuberculosis because there are not enough nurses to permit of hospital treatment. Therefore, in deciding who shall go into hospital first, we must select the most urgent cases. I think that many old people would agree that those whose lives are at stake should receive priority in treatment.
I am not satisfied.
National Health Service (Aliens)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether an alien on a visit to Scotland, either in connection with his business or on holiday, is able to obtain dentures and spectacles free of charge under the National Health Service scheme.
Yes, Sir, if he remains in the country long enough to be fitted with them in his ordinary turn.
Is not this free gift scheme rather hard upon our taxpayers?
What arrangement exists to ensure that such an individual, who obtains a set of dentures or pair of spectacles in Scotland, does not cross the Border and obtain another set or pair?
Ex-Service Pensioners (Motor Cars)
asked the Minister of Pensions how many motor cars have been made available to pensioners.
Up to date, 101.
Is the Minister satisfied that pensioners in general prefer this new conveyance to the old type of single seater car?
It is quite optional. A pensioner who has a motor cycle may keep it if he so wishes.
asked the Secretary of State for War what uniform allowances are given to officers in the Territorial Army; and if he will give an assurance that all officers who joined or rejoined the Territorial Army since 1945 are eligible for these allowances.
As from 3rd November, 1948, Territorial Army Officers have received the following initial uniform allowances: £21 if commissioned for the first time or if joining more than four years after previous military commissioned service; £10 10s. if joining with a break from previous military commissioned service of between one and four years. No uniform allowance is granted if such a break in service is less than one year. Before 3rd November, 1948, all Territorial Army officers received an initial outfit allowance of £7 10s. I am not prepared to make officers who joined or rejoined the Territorial Army before 3rd November, 1948, eligible for the rates and conditions of uniform allowance which became operative from that date.
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why he wants to penalise those people who answered his call earlier? Why cannot he make this increased grant, which was welcomed by everybody, retrospective? What is the difference?
They have the advantage of not having been too long separated from actual service and, therefore, they had the uniform in hand.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now state the strength of Territorial Army personnel in the Anti-Aircraft Command; and the Territorial Army Establishment for that Command.
Since I answered a previous question by the hon. Member on this subject last Tuesday, I have looked further into this matter. It is quite true that in an answer which was circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT On 2nd March, 1948, the provisional Territorial establishment and the strength of Anti-Aircraft Command at that date were given, hut, since then, as I have already explained to the hon. Member, the question has been further considered very carefully from the point of view of security, and we have decided that it would not be in the public interest to continue to publish the figures of this Command separately.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this time last week he said he would give the figures if I put a question down? What has happened between last Tuesday and today which has made security so very important?
Oh, no, I said nothing of the sort. I was not quite so definite as that. Ali I did was to promise to furnish what information I thought should be furnished
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the increasing disappointment of Territorial Army officers at the continuing delay in the announcement of the conditions governing the award of the efficiency decoration and medal; why it has not been possible to make an announcement on this matter early in the New Year, as promised; and when the announcement will be made.
I regret the delay in this matter, but following the consultations with other Commonwealth countries, mentioned in answer to a previous question by the hon. and gallant Member, a number of points of detail remained to be settled. I hope that it will be possible to make an announcement in the course of the next few weeks.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this disappointment is shared by other ranks, as well as officers, who at present find that it takes about two years to establish a claim for a Territorial medal? Will he look closely at the claims of the Territorial Army Nursing Service in this regard?
I am as anxious to have this matter expedited as the hon. Member. There has been some difficulty about it, very largely in relation to the preparation for the Royal Warrant, but I hope to have it settled in a few weeks' time.
Rasc (Fleet Unit)
asked the Secretary of State for War if he has considered the correspondence, details of which have been sent to him, concerning the conditions of the Royal Army Service Corps, Fleet Administrative Unit; and if he is now in a position to make a statement.
In accordance with instructions recently given, officers of the R.A.S.C. Fleet will be placed on new and improved scales of pay with effect from the pay day nearest to 1st April, 1949. This is an interim arrangement which is without prejudice to further negotiations. As stated in a reply to a Question by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) on 7th December, 1948, advance payments have already been made on account of arrears of pay which will eventually become due when a final settlement, with a suitable antedate, has been reached.
Does the Secretary of State for War wonder that recruiting is slack, when there is such uncertainty about the future of these officers?
This has nothing to do with recruiting at all.
No 1 Dress
asked the Secretary of State for War what is the cause of the continued delay in the issue of blue uniform to the Army; and whether he is aware of the disappointment of all ranks at this unexplained delay.
It was explained in Army Order 54 of 1947, that owing to the general shortage of materials and difficulties of production some time must necessarily elapse before No. 1 Dress could be brought into general use. These difficulties still continue. In the case of Regular officers it has been possible to make a start in introducing No. 1 Dress by stages, because in their case it takes the place of Service dress, and is made from the same cloth. In the case of other ranks, this is not possible at present because for them it would be an additional suit, made from cloth superior to that used for battledress.
Is it not possible to, start now towards getting rid of this awful battledress as a walking out uniform by issuing No. 1 Dress to various arms of the Service, or even to separate units? Is there any reason to wait until there is sufficient No. 1 Dress for the whole Army at the same time?
I thought I had given the answer to that question already.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that men in the Army are much more concerned whether they will get a suit of civilian clothes when they come out than they are with a new uniform?
The right hon. Gentleman said he thinks he has given the answer, but I am not aware that he did. Could we have the answer now?
The answer is in the negative.
Training Area, Perthshire
asked the Secretary of State for War when he proposes to withdraw the training order in respect of the area known as Lurgan Hill on the estate of Strowan near Comrie, Perthshire.
It is not possible to withdraw the training order in respect of Lurgan Hill until the Department has acquired the use of an alternative area in the neighbourhood, which will release some land now covered by the order.
Will the Secretary of State take into account that this land comprises a very important agricultural unit, including a dairy farm, and that other land is said to be available? Will he look into the question?
I am very anxious not to cause disturbance of agricultural land, but we simply must have the land for training purposes. Otherwise, the men in the Forces will not be adequately trained.
National Service Men
asked the Secretary of State for War the number of National Service men who have been killed on active service overseas during each of the past two years; with particulars of their ages and length of service.
This information is not available centrally in the form asked for. I am, however, circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table giving such information as is readily available.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is a fact that some of the men killed in Malaya in fact only had five months' Service?
I have no information on that score and I doubt whether I could get it easily.
Can the right hon. Gentleman deny it?
It is very difficult to ask the officers on the spot to prepare information of this character, although I do not complain about hon. and gallant Members asking for it. But they have a pretty tough job on their hands at present, and I do not want to embarrass them unduly.
Surely that information comes over to the Casualty Branch of the War Office and can be checked without any interference with the officers on the spot at all?
I happen to know better than the hon. Member. This requires a disproportionate amount of work.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a matter of the greatest concern to all of us—at any rate on this side of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, certainly, and I am glad if I have the support of other hon. Members—to know that men are not sent into action with inadequate training.
I deny emphatically that men are sent into action without adequate training.
Following is the table
|British Army officers and other ranks who have been killed in action or who have died of wounds in Palestine and Malaya|
|Palestine, 1st January, 1947, to 7th July, 1948||15||160|
|Malaya, 1st May, 1948, to 28th February, 1949||8||21|
These figures include Regulars as well as National Servicemen. It would not be possible without a disproportionate amount of work to give separate figures for National Servicemen or to give particulars of their ages and length of service.
asked the Secretary of State for War the number of National Servicemen who have been sent overseas from this country during each of the past two years to stations where they are engaged on active service, such as in Palestine and Malaya.
This information is not readily available and could not be produced without a disproportionate amount of work.
Does not the Secretary of State have always in the War Office a list of personnel sent overseas and a return of casualties? Cannot that be checked as a normal routine matter in the "A" Branch without any additional work?
Yes, but the hon. and gallant Member has specified two particular theatres, Palestine and Malaya. Men are not always sent to a particular theatre in that sense. For example, men sent to Malaya would be posted to the Far East and then allotted to Malaya from there, and the same applied to Palestine, where men were posted from the Middle East. It is not quite so easy to get the information as the hon. and gallant Member suggests.
My Question was designed to cover areas considered as areas of active service and I instanced Palestine and Malaya not as specific areas but as active service areas.
Technically speaking, men in B.A.O.R. are on active service.
Is it not the case that Tories can at any time get any information they want at the War Office?
Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that all the information required in this Question must be in the possession of officers in charge of records and of the War Office? It must be, "A" branch is for that purpose.
Of course, if it must be, I would have given the information, but it does not happen to "must be."
Town And Country Planning
Development Charge (Charities)
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he is aware that the fear of a development charge is preventing charitable institutions, not run for private profit, from acquiring the properties essential for the carrying out of their responsibilities, and if he will take steps to provide exemption from development tax in such cases.
There is no ground for such fear. Provided that a charity pays no more for land it requires than the value of that land for its existing use, the total cost of the land after payment of development charge ought not to be more and might well be less than the charity would have paid before the Act was passed. For further details, I would refer the hon. Member to Part III of the Practice Notes on Development Charges which the Central Land Board have just issued.
Does the answer mean that it applies also to buildings acquired by charitable institutions? Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance to charitable institutions that there will be no development charge on properties they take over, as that is what they want to be assured about?
I think the hon. Member is confusing two issues. Land in the possession of charities on 1st July may be exempted from development charge. New land they acquire should be purchased at existing use value and then there may be a development charge.
New Towns (Factories)
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether he is in communication with local authorities with a view to compilation of a register of firms desirous of seeking factory accommodation in one or other of the new towns together with a list of operatives willing to transfer with their firms.
Responsibility for the distribution of industry rests primarily with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade with whose Department the New Town Development Corporations are in regular consultation as to the selection of firms for transfer to the new towns. Some New Town Corporations are already in touch with the appropriate local authorities who are supplying information of the kind suggested by my hon. Friend as far as it is available. Suitable arrangements for the interchange of information between all corporations and the local authorities concerned will be extended as circumstances require.
Is there any central place where all the available material collected by these sources can be referred to?
Yes, Sir, in general the Board of Trade is responsible.
Open Country (Access)
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he will make a statement on the result of his consultations with the Minister of Health on steps to be taken to implement the recommendations of the Gathering Grounds Sub-Committee concerning public access.
Provision has been made in the National Parks Bill for making open country available for access. Where such open country includes gathering grounds, my right hon. Friend has agreed with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health that there will be consultation between our two Departments about the application of the access provisions.
Is my hon. Friend aware that it is some months since his right hon. Friend informed me that consultations of this kind were taking place and only a few weeks ago that the Minister of Health told me that there was nothing to report? Must these developments await the passing of the National Parks Bill?
The answer I gave was that consultation would take place over particular gathering grounds to which it was thought access might be made and those consultations would take place at the time the order was about to be made.
Referendum (Proposed Inquiry)
asked the Prime Minister, in view of the adoption of a referendum in Newfoundland on the issue of self-Government, if he will consider setting up a committee to investigate the possibility of embodying this device in the British Constitution.
May I assume from that answer that the democratic device initiated by Graham Wallas, Robert Blatchford, Sidney Webb—[HON. MEMBERS "Lord Balfour."]—Lord Balfour was also an approver—this device, which is adopted by the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of New Zealand, does not commend itself to the Prime Minister?
It does not commend itself to me in the circumstances of this country.
Woollen Industry (Inquiry)
asked the Lord President of the Council what examinations of the woollen industry are at present being carried out by the Committee on Industrial Productivity and its four panels.
None, Sir. Neither the Committee on Industrial Productivity nor its panels are at present investigating the woollen industry. A preliminary survey of research and development of textile machines, including those used by the woollen industry, is, however, being made.
Would not it be more appropriate for the Committee to investigate the problems of the fibre qualities supplied rather than dealing with the machinery, which must depend on the quality of the fibre supplied?
The Committee has its hands pretty full and there must be a limit to new things to which we ask the Committee to give attention.
Would my right hon. Friend ask the Committee to look at one small but very vital job, which is the waste and duplication involved in the lack of co-ordination in research programmes as between the Torrington Institute, the Leeds University, the Shirley Institute and one or two other similar institutes?
I will consider that.
Festival Of Britain (Concert Hall)
asked the Lord President of the Council whether he is satisfied that in the permanent Concert Hall, which is to form part of the Festival of Britain building scheme, it will be possible to avoid the ill effect of severe vibrations caused by trains passing over the bridge and the fact that the whole site area is composed of made-up material; and whether he will reconsider the position and give support to the reconstruction of Queens Hall to be ready in time for the Festival opening.
I am assured by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research that modern acoustic methods make it possible to measure very exactly the amount of sound and vibration to be excluded. A great deal is known about what building construction and materials will be required for prevent the vibrations from entering the Concert Hall. The Department's Building Research Station has carried out for the London County Council a very thorough survey of the sound and vibration problems on the site, and a leading acoustic expert is being employed as an adviser. In addition experiments are in progress to reduce sound vibration at its source. Trial borings showing the nature of the sub-soil are also available. The question of made-up ground is not a factor at all, as the building will have its foundations on ballast over blue clay which is well known to be one of the best foundations available. On the basis of this evidence and advice measures have been incorporated in the plans of the Concert Hall to avoid any ill effects of vibrations. The Government are also giving facilities for the reconstruction of the Queens Hall, and it is hoped that the promoters will be able to complete the work in time for the Festival opening.
Can the right hon. Gentleman and whether the designs for all these buildings to be erected for the Festival of Britain are now agreed on and the contracts issued?
I can say that the greatest care is being taken about the designs.
Are modern acoustic methods as certain as the experts would like us to think they are? Was not there some difficulty about the County Hall a few years back?
I would not defend the acoustics of the County Hall for anything. They are very bad. But I understand that the science of acoustics has very much improved in recent years, though other people may have a different opinion.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that under head IV of the Purchase Tax (No. 5) Order, 1948, vaccines have been exempted from Purchase Tax so long as they are prepared for use by injection or by application to the scarified skin of the user, but that vaccines are chargeable with Purchase Tax if intended for oral administration; and whether, in view of the fact that there is a growing body of favourable opinion towards the latter form of therapy, steps can be taken to ensure that vaccines for oral administration are placed in the same position as other vaccines so far as Purchase Tax is concerned.
The trade organisation most concerned has already been informed that vaccines for oral administration will be considered when the next Treasury Exemptions Order is being prepared.
Motorcar Travel (Foreign Currency)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he proposes to restore the special allowance of foreign currency for running expenses to persons who take their motorcars abroad on short visits.
I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) on 17th March.
But why is the allowance only to be restored from 1st May? Why should it not be restored for Easter?
Because 1st May is the beginning of the next year in these matters.
Technical And Scientific Reports (Publication)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the Report on Water Pollution Research covering 1947 has only just been made available after a delay of 14 months, and the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for 1947 did not appear until the end of February this year; and whether he will take steps to expedite the publication of technical and scientific reports of this kind, which lose their value if unduly delayed.
Yes, Sir. I regret the delay caused mainly by printing difficulties which I hope will not recur.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider the repeal of the duty of 9d. per gallon on motor spirit used for research and experimental purposes and for engine testing by motor manufacturers; and if motor spirit so used will be placed in the same category as diesel oil used for engine testing.
The hon. Member will not expect me to anticipate the Budget Statement.
Having anticipated that reply, may I ask whether the Chancellor will keep this suggestion in the background in the preparation of his Budget?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give a list of all free and voluntary gifts in cash or kind that had been made to this country since the war by other countries; and what gifts of a similar nature have been made to other countries.
With permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the gifts referred to by the hon. Member.
Could my hon. Friend tell the House the total sum involved in each case?
The total of the gifts we have made greatly exceeds the gifts which we have received.
Following is the list of gifts
Apart from E.R.P. aid and post-war settlements with U.S.A. and Canada, gifts from other countries to the United Kingdom from the end of the war have been as follow:
|South Africa (gold)||1|
|Sundry gifts of food (excluding private gifts)||1|
2. In the same period, the United Kingdom made gifts in cash and kind to other countries, or wrote off debts, etc., as follow:
|Civil Affairs (not recoverable)||49|
|Greece Armed Forces initial equipment, maintenance, etc.||31|
|—Surplus stores and relief supplies||2|
|Poland—Welfare and Social Services June, 1946—March, 1947||5|
|Austria—before 1st April, 1946||10|
|—Surplus machine tools||0·125|
|Hungary—surplus machine tools||0·2|
|Italy—estimated value of surplus stores in excess of payments under financial agreement||55|
|Netherlands — military equipment and surpluses, estimated portion in excess of payment under Debt Settlement||16|
|Roumania—medical supplies and surplus Army foodstuffs||0·02|
|U.N. Fund for Arab refugees in Palestine||1|
|Ex-Italian colonies—cost of administration||11·3|
|Burma—cancellation of debt||15|
|— B.M.A. expenditure (cancelled claim)||23|
3. E.R.P.— As at 18th March the U.K. had received from E.C.A. dollar assistance to the value of £232,300,000 of which £64,100,000 had been notified as E.C.A. loan.
4. Intra-European Payments Scheme. —The use of drawing rights by the U.K. and by other participating countries on the U.K. has been as follow:
Up to end1948
Up to18th March1949
|Drawn by U.K.||5·6||5·6|
|Drawn on U.K. by other countries||11·9||34·6|
Currency Allowance (Usa)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that while his regulations permit parents of American brides to travel to America to see their daughters, it is not permitted for the parents to pay the return fare of their daughters in order for them to visit Great Britain; and if he will take steps to remedy this anomaly.
We cannot as a general rule afford to allow the payment of fares by residents on behalf of nonresidents because of the resulting loss of foreign exchange. My right hon. and learned Friend is, however, always ready to allow exceptions on hardship grounds; in particular he would be prepared in future, where close relatives are concerned, to consider sympathetically such payments in cases where the non-resident cannot afford to pay his or her own fare.
Would my right hon. Friend say what means test would be applied to this? Is he aware that in the case which I brought to his notice both parents desired to visit their daughter in America and were paying British currency to a British shipping company? When they decided to bring their daughter over to this country, and pay British currency to the same British shipping company, they were told that dollars were involved.