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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1949

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Employment

Working Population

2.

asked the Minister of Labour why the latest manpower returns show a rise to 23,146,000 in the total working population.

A detailed explanation is given in an article entitled "New Series of Manpower Statistics" published on page 40 of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" for February, 1949.

Does not this enormouse increase show the inefficiency of Government Departments; and will the right hon. Gentleman employ a chartered accountant engaged in free enterprise to be his statistician?

I think that the figures show the efficiency of the Government Department, and to employ another person from outside would swell the number of persons employed in the service.

Scotland

3.

asked the Minister of Labour how many men and women were registered at Bo'ness employment exchange as unemployed at a recent convenient date; and what were the numbers, actual or approximate, travelling from Bo'ness to work outside the burgh on the same date.

Twenty-one men and 29 women at 14th March. Statistics showing the numbers who travel from Bo'ness to work outside the area are not available.

Will my right hon. Friend accept from me the fact that much larger numbers of workers than those he has given travel outside the burgh for work? Will he be kind enough to keep special watch on the employment position at Bo'ness in view of the possibility of developments taking place in the greatest seasonal trade in the port, that of pitwood handling?

Yes, we will keep watch on the position there, as we do in all areas. As to the numbers who travel outside the burgh for work, I must point out that we do not keep a record of them, but it is often a fact that men prefer to work outside their own area.

12.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the figures relative to Ayrshire and Scotland of the number of people unemployed for at least six months; and how these figures compare with 1947 and 1948.

At 6th December, 1948, the latest date for which figures are available, the numbers were 657 in Ayrshire and 15,535 in Scotland. In March, 1948, the numbers were 738 for Ayrshire and 15,520 for Scotland; and in March, 1947, 929 for Ayrshire and 19,985 for Scotland.

Building Workers

4.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he intends taking to release men formerly employed in the building industry and now serving in His Majesty's Forces for work urgently required for housing people now living in overcrowded houses, and houses condemned as unfit for human habitation.

There are no arrangements for the early release of men in the Forces to take up civilian employment and an exception cannot be made in the case of men formerly employed in the building industry.

Can my right hon. Friend tell us if it is his policy to give the Armed Forces priority over housing?

Is the Minister aware that when an effort was made to get a bigger allocation of houses for Fife, into which many miners are coming from other areas, we were told that it could not be done because of the lack of labour? Will the Minister make a special effort to get the War Office to release men for building work?

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the housing situation is so serious that the need for men for the building of houses is more important than the need for these men to be in the Army?

Parliament decided what classifications of workers were to be excluded and I am applying that decision.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that priority industries, especially in Scotland, are languishing for lack of the necessary housing, and that this is the bottleneck which is holding up everything? In view of that fact could he not reconsider the whole matter?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the questions which have been asked by Members on his own side of the House do not quite tally with what the Minister of Health has recently been telling us about housing?

10.

asked the Minister of Labour how many building workers are registered as unemployed at the employment exchanges of St. Albans, Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City; and how many were registered at comparable dates in 1938 and 1937.

At St. Albans, four; at Hatfield, none; at Welwyn Garden City, four. In March, 1938, the numbers were 133 at St. Albans and 79 at Welwyn Garden City; and in March, 1937, 117 at St. Albans and 52 at Welwyn Garden City. There are no separate figures for those two years for Hatfield which was then included in the other two.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Conservative propaganda is suggesting that, owing to Government policy, there are idle builders in this district? Do not these figures show that to be completely false?

There is an old saying that figures cannot lie. I will not use the second half of that saying.

Brighton

5.

asked the Minister of Labour what are the types of jobs which have 850 vacancies in Brighton which cannot be filled locally; why no suitable people can be found; and whether he proposes bringing in suitable people from outside.

Of the 850 vacancies which I mentioned in my reply of 22nd March over 200 have since been filled. Vacancies for which local labour cannot be found, but for which labour from other districts might be available, are circulated to other employment exchanges. The vacancies for men were mainly for skilled engineering and building and civil engineering workers. Those for women were mainly for hotel and catering, clerical and clothing workers and in private domestic service.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me why, if a fortnight ago 850 jobs were there and nobody could be found for them, he was then able to fill 200 of these vacancies?

That happens every week. At the moment the count is taken a certain number will be shown on the register. Probably that day or the next day, or during the following few days, those men are placed in work. That happens all the time.

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that the population of Brighton is about one-third of 1 per cent. of the population of the whole country, whereas the unemployment in Brighton now is something just over 1 per cent., or over four times more than it ought to be; and will he do much more to try to solve this problem?

No, Sir. If the unemployment in Brighton is somewhere about 1 per cent. it is less than the national average. It is mainly seasonal. The men and women are employed in domestic service.

7.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the number of unemployed registered disabled persons in Brighton; what percentage this represents of the total number of registered disabled persons; and what special steps are being taken to introduce new industries into this area which would be specially suitable to provide additional jobs for the disabled.

Seven hundred and eight at 21st February, 1949, which represents about 12½ per cent. of the total number of registered disabled. In addition there are 64 severely disabled needing sheltered employment. I understand that the projected industrial developments include production of a light nature which should provide increased employment opportunities for the disabled.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether that 12 per cent. is, roughly speaking, the same all over the country or is it exceptional for Brighton?

I must admit that it is exceptional for Brighton. We are taking active steps in the matter. On the industrial estate one factory is already at work making electric lamps. Other products suitable for work of this kind is the manufacture of typewriting sundries, jigs and gauges, clothing and many types of electrical goods. When the industrial estate which is planned is completed, we expect to find employment for 1,200 men and women.

Tractor Workers, Coventry (Dismissal)

6.

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the mass dismissal of 1,700 tractor workers by the Standard Motor Company, Coventry; and what action he is taking to find them employment.

Yes, Sir. The employment exchanges through the normal machinery are assisting redundant workers who register to find suitable employment.

Will my right hon. Friend say how many vacancies exist for these men in this district, and how soon he expects to find jobs for the men now redundant?

The work of finding new jobs for them is already in progress. There are 250 workers actually registered. They were dismissed with a week's wages in lieu of notice, and up to Friday last 65 out of the 250 had already been placed. The vacancies in the area are: Coventry, 1,600; Birmingham, 4,104; Wolverhampton, 844.

Disabled Men, Newport

8.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now state when the new factory for disabled men in Newport will be started; how many men will be employed and when it 'is likely to be available; and how many disabled men in Newport were receiving unemployment pay at the latest known date.

A suitable site has now been agreed and tenders for the erection of the factory will be invited as soon as plans adapted to the site conditions have been completed. Until then I cannot give the date when the work will be started. The factory will provide employment for 100 men. There are in Newport 282 unemployed registered disabled persons of whom 55 are considered to be in need of sheltered employment.

Can my right hon. Friend say on what type of work these people will be employed in this factory?

Registration For Employment Order

9.

asked the Minister of Labour how many of the people registered under the Registration for Employment Order he has directed to any form of employment.

Seven thousand, five hundred and sixty-three persons who registered under the Order made in November, 1947, were placed in employment. The use of formal directions was found to be necessary only in one case.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on Thursday night his Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that it was a justification for the use of compulsory powers that he had registered 30,000 people? Does the right hon. Gentleman really regard as wise the registration of 30,000 people in order to direct one person?

It is quite easy to omit the essential part of the answer I have already given. One was directed; 7,563 accepted the employment offered. The number of registrations was 37,072 men and 58,893 women. I think a tribute must be paid to the people who did voluntarily come forward to register.

National Institute Of Houseworkers

11.

asked the Minister of Labour what number of students during 1948 attended training centres established by the National Institute of Houseworkers; what was the average cost per student per month; and what was the total cost of the institute to public funds.

Two hundred and eighty-nine. The average cost per student per month was £27 for an adult and £23 for a younger girl. These figures include rental or equivalent capital charges, the cost of maintenance allowances, and in the great majority of cases board and lodging. The total cost of the Institute to public funds during 1948 was approximately £105,000, including approximately £41,000 on capital assets, mainly premises, and £31,000 running costs of the Institute's Headquarters.

As this institute was started in June, 1946, is not it time it showed better value for money?

We cannot get the finished products at the beginning of the course. We have to wait until they have finished training. I would emphasise that this institute is having the effect of raising the status of those employed in this kind of work. Instead of being what was commonly termed in the old days a "skivvy," they are coming out as people ready for employment which should be recognised as worthy of the highest possible regard.

Is the Minister aware that a cheaper and more efficient way of training these students would be to attach them to the household of a selected efficient housewife, when they would learn the practical household duties.

It is quite the contrary. It is because that kind of training was found to be insufficient that this institute was started.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is as important to train properly for housework, as for any other profession for which training is given by the Government?

Control Of Engagement Order

13.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is satisfied that the Control of Engagement Order is in accord with the Declaration of Human Rights; and what steps he proposes to take to ensure this accord.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Article 23 of the Charter states that everyone has a right of free choice of employment and does that right hold good in the Control of Engagement Order?

If the hon. Member would read Article 29 (2) of the Declaration he will find there an explanation of this scheme; and it refers to the Charter requiring to meet the just requirements of morality, public order, and the general welfare—[HON. MEMBERS: "Under a Socialist Government."]—I know it makes hon. Members opposite laugh when we talk about the general welfare—public order and general welfare in a democratic society.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Article 23 is a categorical statement and there is no qualification in it whatever? Do the Government propose to hold to that statement?

Does not the Minister think it would be better to keep the Declaration in the spirit as well as in the letter?

That is exactly what this Order intends to do—it keeps it in the spirit and not in the letter.

Are we then to understand that the right hon. Gentleman now admits that His Majesty's Government are breaking the letter of this international agreement?

If it is possible to twist what I have said in answer to a supplementary question — [Interruption]. If hon. Members say it is not, well and good. The answer on behalf of His Majesty's Government is that we intend to adhere to the intention and the purposes of this Order, and we do not consider that at the moment we are in any way deviating from it.

Scotland

National Health Service (Chemists)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware of the continued delay in payments to chemists in Aberdeenshire under the National Health scheme, which are now in some cases six months overdue; and what steps he is taking to overcome this.

I regret that final settlements are outstanding, owing to shortage of staff for pricing prescriptions. Advances representing the whole of the estimated payments due to the end of 1948 have however been made, together with advances of roughly 80 per cent. for January and February. Discussions are taking place with representatives of the Scottish chemists about the adoption of new methods of pricing prescriptions, which would reduce delay in final settlement without requiring the employment of additional staff.

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept it from me that some chemists have not received payment at all and would he look into specific cases if I bring them to his notice?

Clean Milk (Report)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish immediately the Report of the Philips Committee on Clean Milk, in order that its recommendations may be available for the Committee now considering the Milk (Special Designations) Bill.

Will the Minister explain why this Report has been held up for eight months and why it has only been submitted after the Committee considering the Bill has concluded its deliberations; further, will he consider incorporating the provisions of this Report when we come to the Report stage of the Bill?

Housing

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that the grates and duct system in the Blackburn houses are not regarded as satisfactory; and if he will state the cost of this heating system.

There have been no complaints about the heating installation in the Blackburn two-storey house, but some tenants have expressed dissatisfaction with the grate installed in the aluminium bungalow. I have asked the Ministry of Fuel and Power to investigate this and will let my hon. Friend know the result. The cost of the system is estimated at £20.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the installation of the duct heating system in Blackburn houses will not be continued?

Of course, these houses are now completed. No more of this type are being made.

In view of the complaints, of which the right hon. Gentleman is aware, about dampness in the aluminium houses in Fife, will he be good enough to send me a copy of the information which he proposes to send to the hon. Lady?

The hon. Lady has a Question down on that subject. It is usually considered improper to anticipate the next Question.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what complaints he has received regarding dampness and condensation in the Blackburn houses; and what steps are to be taken to deal with this trouble.

No complaints have been received about permanent aluminium bungalows or about the permanent Blackburn two-storey house. There were some years ago spots of trouble over condensation in a few of the aluminium temporary houses and recently some more cases have arisen. My Department are at present considering what steps they should advise local authorities to take to put matters right.

Might I explain that I referred to aluminium houses on the last Question because the right hon. Gentleman referred to them in his answer? With regard to his last answer, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he undertook to make immediate inquiries into complaints in East Fife and that he has not carried out his obligation?

If the hon. Gentleman means that the inquiries have not yet been completed, that may be so, but I am certainly having inquiries carried out.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the cost of the erection of Swedish houses in the Highlands generally, and in the county of Ross and Cromarty in particular.

The average tender price of the 1,000 Swedish houses is £2,030 per house. The average in the county of Ross and Cromarty including the burghs is £2,056.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a private firm in Scotland is able to erect these houses at an all-in cost of £1,189, and how does he account for this extraordinary difference in price?

I saw that report in the Press and naturally I made inquiries into it. My Department have discussed with the firm which originally mentioned this figure whether it is applicable to Highland conditions. I understand that the firm have indicated that they take no responsibility for the way in which their quotation has been used by the Press or by local authorities. Their price relates to houses delivered at a Fife port and assembled within a radius of 40 miles in numbers of not less than 50 houses per site. In addition, the price excludes certain items. Incidentally, the firm estimate their total capacity of Swedish houses at some 100 per annum and, in discussion with my Department, they agreed that their price for building under the con- ditions in which the Highland tenders were submitted, would not differ substantially from the figures which have been quoted to local authorities.

Will my right hon. Friend clear up one point? Is this the cost of assembly, including roads and services, or is it the cost of a completed house?

The price mentioned by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. MacLeod) excludes, for instance, travelling time allowance, fares, transport, subsistence, overtime, guaranteed time, messing, drains, manholes, clothes poles and a whole series of other items.

Might I have an answer to my question? Is this the cost of assembly or is it the cost of the completed house?

Analgesia

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many women received analgesia in childbirth in their own homes in the city and county of Aberdeenshire, respectively, in the years 1947 and 1948, who were attended by midwives only.

No apparatus was available in Aberdeen City in either of these two years. Four sets were available in the county towards the end of 1948 and 12 women received analgesia when attended by midwives alone in their own homes.

Could the right hon. Gentleman give the percentage for the county, compared with the total births at home during these years?

They were very small because this only became available at the tail end of 1948 and, of course, the births were taking place throughout the year.

Is not this a disgracefully low average; and might I ask the right hon. Gentleman what orders he has issued to the local health authorities on this matter, and under what section of what Act he has issued those orders?

If the hon. Gentleman knew Scottish health authorities, he would know that issuing orders was not the way to get their co-operation. A second point is that Aberdeen refrained from purchasing this apparatus in the belief that a more efficient or a more economical apparatus was coming along shortly—and that is quite a good Aberdeen reason.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the standards set under the Scottish Midwifery Act, which are very much higher than those in England, will be adhered to; that the mothers of Scotland will not have any class distinction; and that services suitable for hon. Members opposite and their wives shall not be lowered for the women of Scotland?

Will the Secretary of State tell the House whether, in fact, he has power to impose a duty upon local health authorities in Scotland?

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question whether he has power to impose a duty on a local authority?

The original Question only asked how many women received analgesia. It said nothing about powers.

Weaving Classes, Kilmarnock

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many adult education classes on textiles are being held in Kilmarnock; and how many are attending these classes.

Two classes in weaving are held in Kilmarnock Technical School on Saturday mornings. The session extends over 25 weeks and the total number attending these classes this session is 16.

Crafts Centre (Membership)

61.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a further statement on the establishment of a crafts centre for Scotland and his recognition of such a centre for the purposes of the scheme for the relief from Purchase Tax introduced last July.

As I stated in my reply to a question by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) on 8th February, my right hon. Friend will be prepared to consider, in consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, any suggestions which may be made in connection with the establishment of a crafts centre for Scotland. So far no such suggestions have reached us.

62.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that Scottish craftsmen are not accepted for membership of the Crafts Centre of Great Britain, and are, therefore, precluded from obtaining relief from Purchase Tax under the scheme introduced in July, 1948; and what steps he intends to take to remedy this injustice.

I am informed that membership of the Crafts Centre of Great Britain is open to Scottish craftsmen on the same terms as to those living elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It is also open to any craftsmen, without becoming a member of the Crafts Centre, to apply for relief under the scheme, details of which were announced in July, 1948.

If I send the hon. Gentleman details, will he investigate a case of a constituent of mine, a silversmith, who has tried un-successfully for four months to become a member of the Crafts Centre of Great Britain>

I shall be happy to look into any case the hon. and gallant Gentleman sends me.

Ministry Of Pensions

Staff

21.

asked the Minister of Pensions why, when the expenditure of his Department is declining, there has been an increase of 33 in the staff between 1st October, 1948, and 1st January, 1949.

The recent increase of 33 in total staff resulted from the recruitment of additional nurses and orderlies for the Ministry hospitals, which are still not up to full strength. At the same time there was a small reduction in non-hospital staff, notwithstanding that since 1st July last I have undertaken certain work for the National Health Service as the agent of my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Health. This reduction followed a 10 per cent. reduction of non-hospital staff in the preceding two years.

Welfare Service

22.

asked the Minster of Pension whether he has considered the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cambridge that me whose pensions are administered direct by a Service Department should have the benefits of his welfare service; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friends the Service Ministers welcomed the suggestion made by my hon. Friend. Henceforward the War Pensions Welfare Service will be available to peace-time disablement pensioners. Explanatory leaflets will be issued by my right hon. Friends the Service Ministers which will include an invitation to these pensioners to consult the appropriate War Pensions welfare officer if they require help or advice.

In thanking my right hon. Friend for this welcome announcement, might I ask if he expects that the present number of welfare officers will be able to cope with the additional work, or does the anticipate that an increase in their numbers will follow?

It is a little hard to say in advance. We do not quite know what the demand from these pensioners will be. At the moment the number of welfare officers is adequate for the task they have before them.

British Army

Ambushed Soldiers, Malaya

23.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will made a statement regarding 22204837 Gunner C. M. Bailey, who was ambushed, together with three other young soldiers, and killed by Communists near Mentakab, Malaya, on 19th January last.

This soldier and three other gunners were killed on the afternoon of 19th January while on military duty in aid of the civil power. A party of civil officials and police, with a detachment of soldiers as escort, was travelling in two vehicles along a road which, in the area mentioned in the Question, passes through thick jungle. The vehicles were travelling together but became separated, and the second vehicle was ambushed by bandits as it neared a road bend. Their opening bursts of fire knocked out the driver and overturned the vehicle. The bandits then murdered all the occupants, except one seriously wounded civilian, who was left for dead. After searching the bodies, stealing all available weapons and setting fire to the vehicle, the bandits withdrew.

I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my sympathy with the families of the victims of this brutal outrage.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this 19-year-old soldier joined up on 5th May last year, that he had had only five months' training, had his embarkation leave in September, embarked for Singapore on 5th October and arrived there on 4th November; that, in a matter of a week or 10 days, he was actually taking part in jungle warfare; and does he really consider that this boy had had adequate training for such an operation?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is completely misinformed.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, completely misinformed. The facts are as follow. The four soldiers concerned were all Regulars. Two of them had had six months' service before disembarkation in Malaya and a further two and a half months' and nine months', respectively, since disembarkation. Of the remaining two, one who was 23 had had four and a half years before disembarkation and a further two and a half months in Malaya, and the other, who was 19½, had 13 months' service before disembarkation and another 13 months after.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the vehicle to which he refers was a proper vehicle for carrying out these duties, and whether there is a shortage of armoured and protected vehicles in Malaya at present?

On a point of Order. As I have letters from Gunner Bailey himself to his parents and grandfather, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest opportunity on the Motion for the Adjournment, in order to bring the facts to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman and the House.

Customs Dues (Currency)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are made to provide Service men returning from overseas with sufficient British currency to pay Customs and Excise dues for which they may be liable on disembarkation.

Service men returning from overseas are provided with sterling in exchange for foreign currency which they have received as pay and allowances, and in some cases they receive advances of pay in sterling en route. They can use this sterling to pay the dues for which they are liable.

As in many cases the pay departments concerned are so far in arrears that they are not able to provide the necessary sterling, will the Minister arrange for these accounts to be kept up to date?

If the hon. Gentleman can give a specific instance where the accounts are not kept up to date, I should be obliged if he would give me the information before making allegations of that kind.

Extended Service

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are made to enable time-expired warrant officers and senior noncommissioned officers to extend their period of service in suitable cases.

Soldiers who have completed 22 years' Colour service may be allowed to continue to serve for a year at a time beyond 22 years, provided that there is a vacancy, and that they are medically fit and recommended. Subject to the same conditions, warrant officers Class I may be allowed to extend their service beyond 22 years for as long as is necessary to allow them to complete five years in the rank of warrant officer I.

Is it not a fact that many of these men with long experience are at present being denied the opportunity of carrying on with their service?

As it happens, there is a surplus of warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s in infantry, and we must have regard, all other things being equal, to the need for promotion.

Pay Department, Canterbury

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War why ex-Service men of the 1914–18 war, employed in the pay department at Canterbury Barracks, have been down-graded from T.C. Grade II to T.C. Grade III, the down-grading becoming effective on the same day as their dismissal.

Any temporary clerk who becomes redundant in a grade higher than the basic grade III is allowed to revert to any lower grade from which he has been promoted, so that he can be given further employment in the lower grade, if there are vacancies. If he does not want to revert, he can be discharged in the higher grade. The clerks referred to in the Question were surplus in both Grades II and III. There was no point, in this case, in the down-grading, and instructions have been issued that the clerks in question should be discharged as Grade II clerks.

No 1 Dress

28.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give an approximate estimate at present prices of the cost of supplying blue uniform to the Army.

As No. 1 dress for other ranks is not in production, it is not possible to give any accurate indication of what the cost at the present time might be. It is, however, estimated that the cost of providing No. 1 dress for other ranks of the active Army would amount very approximately to rather more than £4 million in the first year and to about £3 million in succeeding years.

In view of the high cost of the blue, is the Minister considering going back to red?

War Injuries (Compensation Scheme)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for War when he will be able to announce the rates and conditions of the new scheme, which is to take the place of the scheme, framed under the Injuries in War (Compensation) Act, 1914, and which covers Women's Auxiliary Air Corps and others who were disabled while serving abroad as civilians in the 1914–18 war.

This scheme is in an advanced state of preparation. I cannot say exactly when details will be announced, but I hope it may be possible to do this during the next few weeks. In the meantime, however, persons affected by it have been given the revised rates of compensation which are embodied in the scheme.

When this scheme is announced, will it cover members of the Auxiliary Nursing Yeomanry who were wounded on active service in the 1914–18 war?

Yes, I rather think so, but perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to look into the matter.

War Graves, Italy (Relatives' Visits)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether visits to war graves in Italy can now be arranged.

Provisional arrangements have been made to extend to Italy the scheme for helping relatives to visit war graves in France, Belgium and Holland, which I announced in reply to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (General Sir G. Jeffreys) on 13th April, 1948. I will, with permission, circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can my right hon. Friend say how this information will be made available? Will it be given direct to the relatives concerned or not?

I think my hon. Friend had better see the full reply and the details which I am providing in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but, at the start, the matter will rest with the British Legion, who have voluntarily offered their services.

Following are the details:

The British Legion have arranged for parties of 24 to fly to Italy and Sicily and back in specially chartered aircraft. They are now ready to receive applications, which should be submitted eight weeks in advance of the intended visit. It is hoped to continue these visits throughout the summer, except that they will not be arranged to Sicily in July and August, owing to the excessive heat in those months. It should be realised that in a number of cemeteries the erection of headstones and other structural work will still be in progress.

Special arrangements will be made for those relatives who do not wish to fly, but surface travel to Italy under this scheme presents many difficulties. Application to travel by surface route may, however, now be submitted to any of the five voluntary organisations handling the scheme. The British Legion do not expect to be able to make arrangements for surface travel before 1st October, 1949, and even then visits will be limited to cemeteries north of Bologna.

It is unlikely that visits under this scheme to war graves in Italy will be possible in 1950, as it will be a Holy Year and accommodation will therefore be extremely difficult to obtain.

Town And Country Planning

Development Charge (Charities)

32.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he will exempt from development charges land acquired or to be acquired by charitable organisations for the purpose of building homes for the aged.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning
(Mr. King)

No, Sir. A charity holding land on 1st July, 1948, for the purpose of building homes for the aged can secure exemption from charge under Section 85 (5) of the Act. Land purchased after that date for that purpose should be acquired at existing use value and with development charge should cost no more than it would have done had the Act not been passed.

Is the Minister aware that in many cases, this development charge is both unfair and onerous, and will he make exceptions in the case of these charitable organisations on land which they may purchase in future?

No, Sir. If the concession which the hon. Gentleman has in mind were made, it would benefit not the charity, but the seller of the land, who would obtain more for it than he ought to obtain.

Premises, Plymouth (Business Use)

35.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning, whether he will make a statement concerning the decision, under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, not to allow Mr. Foxford, of 48, Bernice Terrace, Plymouth, to carry on his business as a snobber in the garage adjoining his property; and what alternative accommodation has been offered to this man for the purposes of his business.

I understand that Mr. Fox-ford is carrying on a business without having obtained planning permission in an area which is allocated for residential purposes. The City Council accordingly have decided to take action under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, to stop this contravening use. However, in order to enable Mr. Foxford to find suitable accommodation in a business area, the City Council propose to suspend any formal action for a year. Mr. Foxford's solicitors have been so informed.

Has my hon. Friend seen the rather garbled account of this incident which appeared in the "Evening Standard" of 16th March last in an article contributed by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), and has his Department taken any steps to correct the misunderstandings that have been caused by the publication of the article? If not, is anything going to be done about it?

I have seen the article in question. The Public Relations Officer of my Ministry wrote to the paper to correct a misstatement in it, and a portion of what he wrote appeared in the paper.

Arising out of that supplementary question, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that there was not a single statement contained in the article referred to which had not been published as a news item in the "News Chronicle" of 8th March, to which there had been no correction issued by his Department; and may I ask him what his Public Relations Officer was doing?

It is apparent that we cannot be wholly aware of all statements published throughout the Press, and that, if we were to contradict every false statement that appeared in the Press, we should have to be busier than it is, in fact, possible to be. But we did make a point of correcting a gross misstatement in the paper in question.

Was my hon. Friend aware before this, that the "Evening Standard" relied for its news service on the "News Chronicle"?

Building Land (Leaflets)

36.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what leaflets of advice or instruction issued by his Department are available to people who own, or are contemplating buying, plots of land for building purposes; what the reference numbers of such leaflets are; and where they may be obtained.

With permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of leaflets which have been issued in this connection by my Department and the Central Land Board, and indicating where they may be obtained.

Is the Minister aware of the necessity for making it widely known where these leaflets can be obtained because, at the moment, there is a considerable amount of misapprehension as to rules in connection with the Town and Country Planning Act?

I am aware of that fact. There are two forms of leaflets, some issued by our Ministry and some issued by the Central Land Board itself. But, broadly, they are free, and can be obtained from the Central Land Board, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning or local authorities.

Following is the list:

The Ministry of Town and Country Planning have issued leaflets entitled:

  • 1. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. Notes for the guidance of buyers and sellers of land for development purposes in the period between the passing of the Act and the Appointed Day.
  • 2. P.R.2. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1947—Its effect on private developers and landowners.
  • 3. P.R.3. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1947—Claims for exemption from Development Charge by owners of land ripe for development.
  • 4. P.R.4. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1947—Land held for charitable purposes.
  • All these leaflets are free and can be got from the Ministry.

    The Central Land Board have issued leaflets entitled:

  • 1. House 1. Advice on buying and selling a site for building a house.
  • 2. House 2. Payments and Development Charges on single house plots owned on or before 1st July, 1948.
  • 3. Explanatory Pamphlet on Payments in respect of depreciation of Land Values. (Form S.I.A.).
  • 4. Explanatory Pamphlet on Development Charge. (Form D.1.A.).
  • All these leaflets are free and can be got from the Central Land Board, the Ministry or local authorities.

    National Insurance

    Voluntary Contributors (Married Women)

    37.

    asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he will permit married women under 60 to contribute voluntarily to the National Insurance scheme, when their husbands are over 65.

    I would refer the noble Lady to the reply given to the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) on 22nd February a copy of which I am sending her.

    Is the Minister aware that, while this is a transitional stage, nevertheless great hardship is caused to widows who have to start paying insurance just at a time when they are less able to do so than when their husbands are alive?

    This Question refers to married women, and not to widows. So far as widows and others are concerned, if they do not come within the scheme, we have made provision under the National Assistance Act to cover any case of hardship.

    Perhaps I did not make myself clear. Is the Minister aware that I was referring to women who are younger than their husbands and who want to contribute voluntarily while their husbands are alive, because, if they are not allowed to do so until they become widows, it means that they have to start contributing at a time when they can least afford it?

    The question of allowing these women to come in voluntarily has been discussed on many occasions in this House. The fact is that we cannot possibly allow a certain section of married women to become voluntary contributors because it would involve a very heavy additional burden on the fund.

    Self-Employed Persons

    38.

    asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he will consider introducing legislation whereby a self-employed person may be placed in a position which will enable that person to obtain an increased rate of benefit in case of accident similar to that receivable by an employee.

    I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on this point to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) on 3rd March last, a copy of which I am sending him.

    Does not my hon. Friend think that this position discloses a very serious flaw in so far as the provisions of the Act are concerned, particularly in view of the fact that a self-employed person may be maimed for life without having any opportunity of getting what an employee would get; and is there any possibility of reconsidering the position with a view to correcting the situation which at present exists?

    The fact is that this matter was discussed during the Committee stage of the Bill. At that time, my right hon. Friend said that he was prepared to receive representations from any organisations of self-employed people on the matter, but no organisation has made any such representation. In fact, one particular organisation, after considering the matter, decided not to press the point.

    Oath Of Allegiance

    39.

    asked the Prime Minister what are the categories of public office which require the taking of the Oath of Allegiance; and whether he will examine the desirability of extending these categories and also of instituting the taking of the Oath by candidates competing to enter such office.

    Ministers of the Crown, Privy Councillors, certain high officers of State, Members of both Houses of Parliament, judicial officers, members of the clergy and members of the Armed Forces are required by statute to take the Oath of Allegiance. I am aware of no need for extending these categories.

    In view of the fact that we harbour in this country a considerable number of Communists, declared and undeclared, many of whom on their own showing are potential traitors, would it not be advisable to make the taking of the Oath of Allegiance a more general qualification for other appointments under the Crown?

    I should not have thought that a person who was preparing to engage in treason would boggle at an oath or two.

    Is the Prime Minister aware that an oath would make very little difference to one who was a potential traitor; and could he say whether there is an oath of allegiance for the Grand National, and why Russian Hero was not "purged" before the race started.

    Is the Prime Minister aware that 40 yeas ago the Oath of Allegiance was even exacted from junior civil servants, the lower ranges of civil servants; and can he say why it has fallen into disuse since then? Does not he think it would be a good plan to re-impose it?

    I understand that the requirement that civil servants should take the Oath of Allegiance was imposed under Defence Regulations, and was allowed to lapse in 1921. I can see no reason why it should be reimposed; I do not think there is any special desirability in the matter.

    Vegetable Imports (Policy)

    40.

    asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of the dissatisfaction amongst home growers of vegetables at the lack of co-ordination between the Ministers of Agriculture and Food in relation to imports from abroad; and what steps he is taking to bring about closer liaison between the two Ministries.

    I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Gooch) and to the one which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries gave to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) yesterday.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those answers were far from reassuring to the horticulturists, and will he, as between the two Ministries, give us an assurance that he will give whatever support is necessary to the Minister of Agriculture so that proper protection and encouragement can be given to the home producer?

    As I explained in my reply, one has to bear in mind the rights of producers and consumers, and, therefore, I should not be prepared to say that, regardless of any reason, I should come down in favour of one Minister against another.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman give very sympathetic personal consideration to this matter in view of the fact that thousands of pounds are going to be lost by producers in the South of England at any rate, that it is likely to lead to serious unemployment, and that many of the men will be ruined by the operation of the scheme?

    I have given careful consideration to that. There is no scheme which would ruin them.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on Monday he stated that in order to get certain goods we have to import other things which we do not want, and that the horticultural industry, because of that answer, feel that they are being used as a pawn in the game?

    Oh, no, they are not. It applies to numbers of industries in matters of trade regulations. The horticultural industry are not being made a pawn in the game.

    National Finance

    Postal Packets (Monetary Contents)

    42.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many postal packets for overseas addresses have been intercepted which consisted of cloth registered envelopes containing money or postal orders not being deliberately concealed; and in how many cases were the monetary contents wholly or partly confiscated.

    I regret that separate information relating to interceptions of currency in cloth registered envelopes is not available.

    Does the Minister realise that where such money is exported in cloth registered envelopes, there is no attempt at concealment, and that his arbitrarily imposed fine of confiscation is wholly inappropriate to the trivial nature of the offence?

    Sometimes the best way of concealing a thing is to take the obvious way of doing it.

    Purchase Tax

    43.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take alleviating action to allow mixtures of substances scheduled under Head II or Head III of the Purchase Tax (No. 5) Order, 1948, and substances which are the subject of monographs in the British Pharmacopoeia and the British Pharmaceutical Codex to be sold free of Purchase Tax.

    The Purchase Tax (No. 5) Order, 1948, covers substances of a character rather different from the others mentioned. It is, therefore, difficult to see where acceptance of this proposal would lead us. Perhaps the hon. Member would let me have particulars of the mixtures he has in mind, and say what they are used for.

    45.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why aluminium hydroxide has been exempted from Purchase Tax under Purchase Tax (No. 5) Order, 1948, and can be sold free of such tax even under a brand name and when made up for oral administration, whilst other antacids, equally approved by medical opinion, such as magnesium trisilicate and magnesium hydroxide, are subject to Purchase Tax when sold under such conditions; and what is the machinery by which anomalies of this kind can be reconsidered.

    The trade organisation most concerned has already been informed that magnesium trisilicate and magnesium hydroxide will be considered when the next Treasury Order exempting medicines is being prepared.

    49.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that food-shops in Salford and other towns are compelled to have a sufficient supply of hot water available under Section 13 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938; and if he will therefore remove the Purchase Tax from the geysers required to provide hot water.

    Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least allow suitable exemption where hot water heaters have been properly modified?

    The hon. Member will still not expect me to anticipate my Budget Statement.

    Customs And Excise (Legal Judgment)

    44.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has considered the observations of Mr. Justice Vaisey on 16th March in Sebel Products Limited v. Commissioners of Customs and Excise; and if he will indicate his future policy with regard to the retention by the Crown of tax paid under mistake of law.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) on Monday, 21st March.

    As the Prime Minister then said that the matter was under consideration, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say when a decision is likely to be reached; and will he agree that, in view of the increasing complications of the law, this is a matter of increasing importance?

    I am afraid I cannot say when a conclusion will be reached; I can only say that the matter is still under consideration.

    Is it not a fact that a mistake in law was first made by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise and that the firm only assented to it under protest, and is this not a thoroughly discreditable piece of work of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not be guilty in his private life?

    I do not think it is at all a discreditable piece of work. I think it arose out of a desire to arrive at an accurate conclusion in the matter.

    Economic Survey (Misprint)

    46.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that in column 3, table 22, on page 37 of the Economic Survey for 1949, the items do not in fact add up to the total given; whether it is the items which are wrong or the total which is inaccurate; and, as the difference is £900 million, what steps are being taken to make the actual figures known.

    Yes, Sir. The figure of 2,890 in column 3 of Table 22 should read 1,990. A correction was issued in the "Board of Trade Journal" dated 19th March; and a corrigendum slip has now been printed and is available in the Vote Office today. The Press were informed of the misprint at the time of publication.

    Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether this misprint was discovered by the Treasury or by the public? Would it not have been better for these items to have been set out separately instead of being lumped together, as they are in this book?

    No. On the last part of the question, we thought it was more convenient, on the whole, to do it in the form in which it has been done. Obviously the misprint was discovered by the Treasury because the Press were informed at the time of publication.

    Public Appointments (Selection)

    47.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the recent letter from the Treasury to the Bank of England asking for the names of persons in the City willing to be considered for appointments in socialised industries was sent with his approval.

    53.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he authorised the letter which was sent recently by the Treasury to various institutions in the City, asking for names to be given of any young men who might be willing to serve on Royal Commissions, committees or public boards; what is the list of institutions to which this letter was sent; what methods of selection are used to decide what are suitable institutions to which to send such letters or to ensure the suitability of the names submitted; how many replies have been received; and what is the number of names put forward.

    The request to which these Questions refer was one for names of persons thought suitable (not of persons willing to be considered) for important public work of all kinds, including service on advisory committees and the like, and had no particular reference to socialised industries. The arrangements for improving His Majesty's Government's lists of such persons—of which this request was a part—are necessarily of an informal and confidential nature, but I can assure the House that they have my entire approval.

    Will the Chancellor say whether he expects that this appeal, which was circulated through the City by the Bank of England, will be successful in rescuing these organisations, which certainly included the socialised industries, from their difficulties about directing and advisory staff?

    There is no question about it being successful for any such purpose. It has long been the custom to keep a list of such persons at the Treasury and from time to time it is necessary to renew it.

    In view of the overwhelming importance to the Government of men being chosen for public posts entirely on merit and suitability for the job which is vacant at the time, would the Chancellor give consideration to the adoption of some selection procedure which is clearly recognised and which is most likely to throw up the most suitable man when the occasion demands?

    The way in which people are selected for different posts differs according to the post. The responsible Minister is responsible for the selection.

    Fire Service Fees, Scotland (Tax)

    48.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that part-time retained firemen in Scotland are being taxed retrospectively on fees earned during the lifetime of the National Fire Service; and if he will waive the accrued tax in these cases.

    If the hon. Member will let me have particulars of the cases he has in mind I will make inquiries, but I cannot waive tax that is properly payable.

    While thanking the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his reply, may I ask him if he is aware that these were sums of money paid to the men which they earned while actually firefighting? On those grounds alone would he reconsider the matter?

    If the hon. Member will let me have the particulars of any case which he has in mind I will make inquiries.

    Canada (Trade)

    51.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now consider modifying his fiscal policy so as to ensure that Canada is not shut out from the sterling market areas, with special regard to the difficulties which exist at the present time.

    We are making a sustained effort to increase our trade with Canada precisely in order that we may have the means to pay for Canadian goods which we greatly desire to import. In this connection it is hoped that the limited concessions recently made by the British West Indies the Bahamas and Bermuda in regard to hard currency imports will have proved of benefit to Canada.

    Is the Chancellor aware of increasing Canadian anxiety about the trade position? Why is it that the contract formerly placed with Canada for timber, bacon, apples and newsprint has been given to Iron Curtain countries?

    I think I appreciate the object of the hon. Member's supplementary question. The reason why we cannot buy all the things we should like from Canada is because we have not got the dollars.

    Confiscated Food (Disposal)

    57.

    asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury how many parcels of meat have been confiscated by officials of the customs at sea and airports since 1st January, 1949; what was their total weight; and what happens to them.

    I assume the hon. Member is referring to fresh meat. Imports of this from the Continent are prohibited under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, in the interests of animal health, and parcels seized in the Customs are destroyed. I regret that the statistical information asked for is not readily available.

    May I ask the Financial Secretary why he assumes anything at all? I asked a straight Question. May I also ask him, in view of the disastrous results of the policy of the Minister of Food, whether it is in any way an encouragement to our generous friends overseas that these food parcels should be confiscated?

    59.

    asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if he is aware that, on 17th March, 1949, Miss Winifred Rowley, of Vicars Moore Lane, Winchmore Hill, Middlesex, brought with her from France a 20-1b. cured ham, wrapped in cellophane paper and that, on arrival at the Customs sheds at Victoria Station, she declared the ham and a Customs officer, without unwrapping the paper, threw it into a large dustbin to join pounds of other food; and if he will make a statement as to the reason for this procedure.

    The importation from the Continent of all uncooked meat and of cured meat unaccompanied by an official certificate is prohibited under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894. Miss Rowley's ham was seized under this prohibition and destroyed under instructions issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Since the date of this incident, the Ministry have agreed that a certificate may be dispensed with for small private importations of fully-cured bacon or ham.

    Is the Financial Secretary aware that cured and smoked ham are immune? In view of the change of policy may I ask him whether Miss Rowley will be reimbursed? Is he further aware that if I had my way I should put the Ministry of Food into the dustbin?

    Is the Financial Secretary aware that the farming industry trusts that he will continue to destroy meat from the Continent, where foot-and-mouth disease is rife?

    Is it not the case that Miss Rowley made a mistake by bringing in this ham in a red wrapper?

    Civil Service

    Non-Industrial Staffs

    56.

    asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what was the total number of non-industrial civil servants employed in all Departments on full-time duties on 1st January, 1949, and 1st September, 1939.

    There were 684,748 at 1st January, 1949 and 374,301 at 1st April, 1939. Figures for 1st September, 1939, are not available.

    Staff Reductions

    58.

    asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what policy is followed when reductions in the staff of the Ministries are made, due to redundancies occurring through the recent elimination of controls; and whether the older temporary civil servants of 55 years of age and over are in all cases the first to be dismissed.

    Reductions in staff on account of redundancy are made in accordance with a National Whitley Council agreement of 1945. The agreement does not prescribe special treatment for those of 55 years of age and over, who are, therefore, not necessarily the first to go.

    While appreciating that the question of efficiency should be a first consideration, may I ask the Financial Secretary if he can give any assurance that younger temporary civil servants are not retained in the Service, in comparison with older civil servants, since the younger men in most cases can more readily find alternative employment in productive industry?

    I have answered the Question. I have indicated that those of 55 years of age and over are not necessarily the first to go.

    60.

    asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what steps are being taken to find employment for those civil servants rendered redundant as a result of the removal of certain controls; and if he will give an assurance that they will be offered employment in productive industry and not transferred to other Government Departments.