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Commons Chamber

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 31 March 1949

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 31st March, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Coal Industry

Registration Arrangements (Publicity)

6.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps he has taken to advise the public that they may change their coal merchants.

My preliminary statement in the House on 27th January, 1949, was given considerable publicity in the Press and by the British Broadcasting Corporation. A further announcement giving full details of the arrangements was issued on 28th February and circulated to newspapers and news agencies. Broadcast announcements were made on 3rd and 10th March and advertisements inserted in most national newspapers and in more than 300 provincial newspapers between 7th and 26th March.

Lower Grade Coal (Replacement)

8.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the machinery for replacing inferior supplies of coal with satisfactory coal in the case of the consumer and merchant respectively.

I have repeatedly emphasised that, owing to the shortage of cleaning plant and the urgent need to export good quality coal, it is inevitable at present that some of the lower grade coals should be allocated to the domestic market. There can therefore be no question of consumers or merchants having any general right to replacement of deliveries. In certain circumstances, however, replacement may be justifiable and practicable. A procedure for dealing with complaints was agreed between the Chamber of Coal Traders, the Co-operative Union and the National Coal Board last summer, and all merchants were informed of the arrangements. Merchants are asked to deal sympathetically with legitimate complaints from consumers, and should themselves make representations in the first place to the marketing manager for the area supplying the coal. Failing satisfaction, they can then appeal to the divisional marketing director and ultimately, through their trade associations, to the Board's headquarters.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it takes a very long time to go through this machinery and that months elapse between the consumer rejecting fuel and the supplier getting replacements?

I have recently discussed this matter again with the merchants and the Coal Board. I invited them to review it, but they seemed to be perfectly satisfied with the arrangements.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of the merchants have been receiving supplies of inferior coal for the last two years and have not yet been able to change their suppliers? Would he tell us what steps will be taken to enable those who want to change their source of supply to do it quickly?

Arrangements will be made for merchants to change their source of supply, I think from 1st May.

Can my right hon. Friend say why this inferior coal should have such a superior price; and should not the consumer who has a low grade quality pay a low grade price?

Broadly speaking, the price of coal is in accordance with its quality, but I think it is likely that in the course of the year further price adjustments will be made by the National Coal Board.

Merchants' Stocks, Northern Region

9.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what system operates in the Northern region to reimburse coal merchants with stocks of coal delivered against licences.

In the Northern region a proportion of the regional bulk allocation is set aside to provide coal to meet the estimated requirements for licences granted by local fuel overseers. From the quantities which become available each week under this arrangement merchants can draw additional supplies on presentation of the licences to the National Coal Board. Should the quantities available be insufficient for the purpose, merchants must meet the deficiency from the stocks laid down in the summer or from their normal weekly allocation.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that merchants with licences are finding great difficulty in getting the requisite amount of coal to meet those licences, and would he not allow some other system such as that which prevails elsewhere—where the merchant gets a fixed percentage of his registered customers' supplies to meet licences—to operate in the North-East?

I have always understood that the merchants in the Northern region preferred that particular arrangement, but I will certainly look into the possibility of a change.

Fuel And Power

Burning Oil (Quality)

7.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the poor quality of present-day supplies of paraffin, which result in the inefficient operation of incubators and brooders and the danger to stock from fumes and fires, he will allow petroleum distributors to market burning oils of better quality.

I am prepared to consider proposals from the petroleum industry for the marketing of a better quality burning oil, provided this can be done without causing serious storage or supply difficulties.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the vital necessity to poultry producers of pure paraffin in order to maintain the poultry population, and might I say that his answer is an agreeable surprise and that all concerned, including myself, are grateful?

Fuel Oil (Supplies)

10.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether oil can now be provided for those firms whose conversion from coal to oil burning was deferred.

Yes, Sir. The fuel oil position has now improved sufficiently to make it possible to supply those firms whose conversion to oil burning, though approved, had to be deferred in December, 1947. As regards new applications for fuel oil, these will be granted, for the time being, only where the use of oil has exceptional economic advantages or the use of alternative fuels is impracticable.

Eire Citizens (British Registration)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether an Eireann citizen, domiciled in the City of Manchester, may register as British before, or after, 18th April, 1949.

I presume that the hon. and gallant Member is referring to a notice under Section 2 (1) of the British Nationality Act, 1948, claiming on certain specified grounds to remain a British subject. Such a notice may be given at any time.

Would the right hon. Gentleman make it widely known, through the Press or otherwise, how the people concerned can obtain the necessary forms in order to apply for registration?

There is no need to use a form at all. If a person desires to make certain that his request is made in the proper language, he should write to the Home Office, who will supply him with a draft letter, which can be copied and returned.

In the case of the British subject by birth—the person who has never lived in the Irish Free State, Eire or the Eireann Republic, but who was born and lived in Ireland when it was part of the United Kingdom—does he need to do anything?

Police

Oaksey Committee (Report)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of the urgent need to improve the pay and other conditions of service of members of the Police Force, he can say when he hopes to receive the report of the Oaksey Committee and is it his intention to take prompt action on its findings.

I hope to receive the report at a very early date, and, as I have already assured the House, there will be no delay on my part in considering the Committee's recommendations.

May I ask my right hon. Friend, in view of the concern among members of the police forces, whether by "an early date" he meant before Easter, and whether he intends to publish the report?

I have already said some weeks ago that I expect to receive the report before Easter, and I know of no reason for revising that estimate of when I shall receive it. Naturally, the report will be published.

Metropolitan Police Estimates (Precept)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will provide machinery to enable the local authorities concerned to have some say in framing the annual precept for the Metropolitan Police.

No, Sir. This would involve the submission of the Metropolitan Police estimates to the local authorities before they are available to this House. I have, however, indicated that I am prepared to meet representatives of the local authorities and discuss the estimates with them after they have been submitted to Parliament.

Does my right hon. Friend realise the concern with which local authorities in the London area have received the increased precept this year? Would it not be possible, when the estimates are being submitted to the local authorities, to have some kind of joint committee which could have some say in framing the precept? Is it not a sound principle—"no taxation without representation"?

It is a perfectly sound principle, and my hon. Friend is vindicating it by putting this Question to me. I am responsible to this House for the Metropolitan Police, and the "representation" is secured by hon. Members of this House taking a lively interest in the matter, as they have done in recent weeks.

Is not my right hon Friend aware that an important constitutional principle is here involved, in that the estimates on which the precept is based, have not yet been approved by this House or by anyone except my right hon. Friend, although, tomorrow morning the ratepayers of London will be called upon to pay this precept?

A very important constitutional principle is involved. It is that laws passed by this House shall be carried out, and that is being done in this instance.

Cruelty To Animals (Committee)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now in a position to announce the terms of reference of the committee to be set up to inquire into alleged cruelty to animals.

Not yet, Sir, but I hope to be in a position to make a statement in the near future.

May I ask the Home Secretary by whom the terms of reference will be drafted, and whether this House will have an opportunity of debating them before a final decision is taken?

I am drafting the terms of reference and they will be reported to the House.

May I further ask the Home Secretary, bearing in mind the great importance of keeping these terms of reference as wide as possible, if he can say, for example, whether there will be inquiry into alleged cruelty to fish?

No, Sir. I think it is desirable that these terms of reference should be such that a report can be made and submitted to the House in a reasonably short space of time.

Foreign Visas (Police Information)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in how many cases in the last 12 months have requests from foreign Governments for information about British subjects trying to obtain visas been received by Scotland Yard; and in how many such cases has the information been given.

The Metropolitan Police receive from time to time inquiries from foreign police forces on the question whether applicants for visas have criminal records in this country, and normally this information would be given. I regret that details are not available of the number of such requests received in the past twelve months.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm or deny, in connection with the recent refusal by the United States to give a visa to four British subjects to attend a conference in New York, if information was supplied by Scotland Yard to the State Department?

It is not the practice, in any case, to supply information about the political opinions of persons to foreign police forces, and, if there were no criminal convictions, no information would be given, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will put down a Question about these four specific cases, I will see that an answer is provided for him.

Is the Minister aware that Members of Parliament may wish to obtain visas for the United States, and could he say if their fingerprints are taken and if those fingerprints are handed over to Scotland Yard?

May I ask the Home Secretary whether he is sure that, if a Question is put down about the four cases referred to, it will be accepted and answered?

It is not for me to say what Questions will be accepted, but, if a Question is accepted, it will be answered.

National Health Service

Doctors' Lists

23.

asked the Minister of Health what estimate he has made for the purposes of the National Health Service of the number of patients which a doctor may reasonably be expected to see in a day or an hour.

The number of patients whom a doctor can attend varies according to the circumstances of his practice and no precise estimate is possible.

The Minister told me last week that certain doctors have 4,000 patients on their panels, and that caused them to have more than they are able properly to attend to. What provision is he making to remedy that particular situation?

I think the hon. Gentleman will find that that is the maximum which the British Medical Association agreed for any doctor to have upon his list, but there are doctors with 4,000 people on their panels who have less patients to attend than some doctors with lists of only 3,000. It is not possible to make such a sweeping generalisation in this field.

Does not the Minister realise that certain doctors today are having a great number of patients whom they have to try to look after in an hour, and that the point of my Question was how many the Minister himself expected a doctor to look after in the space of one hour?

Obviously, the hon. Member ought to realise that the number of patients whom a doctor can attend to in an hour depends upon the physical condition of the patients whom he is seeing. Some patients require more time than others, and in some parts of the country, where the age of the population is higher, a higher percentage of people will need to see the doctor, so that it really is not possible to make a generalisation of the kind which the hon. Member desires.

Opticians (Payment)

26.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the fact that some opticians to whom he owes considerable sums under the National Health Service are being charged interest on overdue Income Tax, he will expedite payments of the sums owed.

I am unaware of any general difficulties, but if the hon. and gallant Member will give me the particulars of any cases he has in mind I will gladly look into the matter.

When I send him the case, will the Minister also inquire whether the tax which is being claimed is not in part due on the money which he has failed to pay?

As the hon. and gallant Member has not yet brought the incident to my notice, it is not good enough to say that I have failed to pay in a case which he has not proved.

Hearing Aids (Batteries)

27.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the fact that the issue of deaf aid equipment under the National Health Service is taking longer than originally expected, he will now reconsider his previous decision and provide free batteries for existing holders of deaf aid equipment.

Because we do not think it desirable to extend the deaf aid service which we are giving at the moment.

Streptomycin

28.

asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made in the production of streptomycin; and what increase there has been since July, 1948, in the number of hospitals where streptomycin treatment is normally available.

Production is now sufficient to cover all medical needs for which the use of the drug is reliably indicated and to provide small but increasing quantities for export. Further expansion is planned. Since July, 1948, the number of hospitals in England and Wales where streptomycin treatment is available has been increased from 30 to 220.

Analgesia

30.

asked the Minister of Health at what date he asked the Medical Research Council to solve, as quickly as possible, the problem of finding a safe and effective analgesic agent for midwifery, and to devise for its administration, apparatus that is light, simple and requires a minimum of maintenance.

There was no need for me to make that request because the Medical Research Council, as I was aware, took into consideration the recommendation made in this matter by the working party on midwives, and they have decided to set up a committee in accordance with that recommendation.

Can the Minister tell the House what stage the researches have now reached, and can he also give an assurance that he will press forward with the provision of transport and the present forms of analgesia in all districts, and not wait until new forms are known?

The hon. Lady knows that there is a very considerable change taking place in this field. A lot of alterations are being made in the apparatus, and I am hoping that before very long very much cheaper and more easily transportable apparatus will be produced. However, that will not be allowed to interfere with the provision of transport for midwives, which is proceeding at a much accelerated rate.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some local authorities are using as an excuse for not providing any additional apparatus, or any apparatus at all, the possibility that at some unknown date new apparatus will become available, and will he make it perfectly plain that they must not delay providing apparatus on that account?

I think it is true that some local authorities might be tempted to postpone the use of this apparatus in the hope that a lighter one will be available. I have impressed upon them that they must not allow that consideration to influence them, and we are making very considerable progress in the provision of the apparatus.

34.

asked the Minister of Health how many domiciliary midwives are employed by the West Riding County Council; and how many of them have now been trained to administer analgesia in childbirth.

Two hundred and sixty-nine whole-time and 117 part-time domiciliary midwives are employed by the West Riding County Council. Two hundred and thirty-three are trained to administer gas and air analgesia.

Could my right hon. Friend venture an opinion as to when all the domiciliary midwives serving in the West Riding will have completed their training in this important relief of suffering?

I cannot give an estimate, but I should have thought very soon indeed. Very remarkable progress is being made over practically the whole country, and I should think that we ought lo have all the midwives trained in two years at the outside.

36.

asked the Minister of Health which are the 11 local health authorities in which no analgesia is being used in the domiciliary midwifery service.

Name of Country or County BoroughNumber of domiciliary midwives qualified to administer gas and air analgesiaPosition as to gas and air apparatus
Merioneth County43 sets on order.
Bath County Borough31 set available. Ministry in touch with Council.
Burnley County Borough24 sets being ordered.
Chester County BoroughNil, but first one now in training.Ministry in touch with Council on acquisition.
Dudley County Borough10ditto.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough15 sets on order.
Nottingham County Borough116 sets of apparatus now obtained: further sets to be acquired. Ministry in touch with Council.
St. Helens County Borough6Ministry in touch with Council on acquisition.

is now eight. With permission, I will circulate the names and other particulars in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Could not the right hon. Gentleman read out the names of the eight counties who have done absolutely nothing about this at all?

As there has been a reduction in one week of three, and as very considerable progress is being made—very much more than has been made in the course of the last 10 years, and very much more in six months than was made in three years before the war by the Opposition when in office—I hardly think the hon. Gentleman ought to hold up local authorities to contumely in this matter.

I am not holding up local authorities to contumely, but if the right hon. Gentleman claims that he has power to impose this duty on local authorities, what has he been doing?

The answer is—more in three months than was done in five years by the party opposite.

Is the Minister aware that, as this fight for the provision of analgesia for every mother in the country has been a fight against the prejudice of the entire community, it is quite unnecessary to make party political points?

I am indeed happy to hear that there is no desire to make party prejudice and capital out of this matter, but the fact is that if there is any prejudice against analgesia, it is on the side of the party opposite and not on this side.

Following are the particulars:

37.

asked the Minister of Health how many midwives are practising in Monmouthshire; how many of them are provided with motor cars; and whether motor car allowances are paid to them.

There are 85 domiciliary midwives employed by the County Council; 24 have their own cars and are paid a mileage allowance.

If the right hon. Gentleman has power to give these instructions to local authorities, why does he not do something about the recommendation of the working party which said that every midwife ought to be provided with a motor car and the means to run it?

In fact, steps are being taken at the present time to organise the provision of motor cars and the Monmouth County Council is organising a special scheme for this purpose. The number of cases in which mothers have received analgesia at home was lifted in Monmouth last year from the 1947 figure of 14.3 per cent. to 21.6 per cent., and the figures are increasing at as high a rate as that at which it is possible to train midwives.

While the right hon. Gentleman's answer does not seem to have much to do with the Question, would he not agree that even his answer means that three out of every four mothers get no relief whatever?

Yes, but it also means that we are providing for the mothers of Monmouthshire the possibilities of analgesia which were withheld from them by the party opposite.

38.

asked the Minister of Health how many midwives are operating in Watford; how many of them possess a motor car; and what means are employed to transport the gas and air apparatus and the midwife to the mother.

There are five domiciliary midwives. They have one motor car and the County Council are obtaining a second one for them. Transport is by car, cycle or ambulance vehicle. In 1948 there were 321 domiciliary confinements in Watford. Gas and air analgesia was given in 219 of them.

I cannot see from the right hon. Gentleman's answer quite what is meant about transport by one motor car or by bicycle. Surely some better arrangements could be made in the case of this local authority to enable this apparatus to be provided for the mothers?

Indeed, it is quite correct that there is a very large increase in the number of cases of analgesia in the Watford area. For instance, I am sure hon. Members would like to know that in 1939, after three years, there were 53 cases of analgesia, while in 1948, after six months of the Health Service, it was at the rate of 1,126 in a year.

As the right hon. Gentleman appears to have a certain licence in his answers, so far as their relevance is concerned, may I ask him to look very seriously at the report of his own working party? I ask these questions because the midwives ask me to put them. They are working under intolerable conditions which would not be accepted in the ordinary way. Can they be provided with some mechanical transport so that they can do their job?

I have explained that the scheme for the transport of analgesic apparatus is being continued and on the 21st of this month—I think that is the date—a circular was sent out to the local health authorities informing them how they can obtain priority for motor cars for this purpose. I hope that before very long ambulances or motor cars will be available all over the country for this purpose and when we have provided them I hope we shall not be accused by the Opposition of wanton extravagance.

58.

asked the Minister of Health whether a reserve pool of midwives can be made available in certain areas during periods when regular midwives are overworked.

This is a question of organisation of the local service which must be decided by the responsible local authority having regard to local circumstances and the supply of midwives.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that cases of bad timing may occur when a midwife may have as many as seven confinements on her hands at a given time; and would it not be desir- able to recruit an emergency pool among married midwives who may be willing to volunteer their services?

I think that it is very difficult for me, and I am sure for the House, to know what the hon. Member means by "recruit"—whether all over the country or in particular places. It is for those who are responsible for the administration of the service to make what arrangements they can in their area; and to talk of a general pool in this matter is entirely beside the point.

Will my right hon. Friend at least seek to encourage the formation of a pool in certain areas where these difficulties have arisen?

If the hon. Member will show me where the difficulties have arisen, we can then apply ourselves to the facts.

59.

asked the Minister of Health what is the lowest cost of apparatus for the administration of trilene analgesia in obstetrics; whether he is satisfied that it is sufficiently portable; and whether any areas will now be designated as trial areas for intensive scientific investigation into the suitability of this apparatus for use by midwives in domiciliary cases.

There are several types of apparatus, all of which are portable. I understand that the lowest price of the types on the market is about £7. The suitability of existing apparatus for use by midwives in domiciliary cases will, no doubt, be among the matters investigated by the expert committee appointed by the Medical Research Council.

In view of the very low cost of this particular apparatus and the fact that it is easily portable, would it not be advisable to equip every midwife with this trilene apparatus and encourage her to use it wherever possible?

I understand from the information at my disposal that it is not yet certain that it is safe for midwives to use the trilene apparatus without assistance, and I certainly would not advise this course.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that trilene is usually conceded to be the most popular, the most simple and the most easily transportable analgetic and that its use by midwives has been prohibited by the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians; and in those circumstances does he feel it advisable that he should counter a decision which has obviously been taken in the interest of the mothers themselves?

I have already pointed out that I think it is undesirable for this analgesia to be given without assistance. I mean by that without specialised technical assistance, and I certainly would not override the technical advice given by the Royal College of Gynaecologists.

Spectacles

31.

asked the Minister of Health in view of the fact that it takes about four months to make up spectacles to a prescription, what steps he is taking to reduce this time.

Production of spectacles has increased by 52 per cent. since July, 1948. Further expansions of lens and prescription manufacturing capacity will be effective this year.

Is the Minister aware that in some cases it takes as long as six months, and as the suggestion is made in a later Question on the Order Paper today that more priority should be given to children, that time may be lengthened to seven or eight months? It is a very serious matter, because people's sight may change in the meantime.

I have asked the opticians to try to deal with cases of special urgency as quickly as possible, and these, of course, would include children who need spectacles badly. There is an inevitable delay in this matter because no one could have estimated such a huge demand for spectacles as we have received.

Does the Minister mean that enterprising aliens who come to this country in order to get free spectacles and free teeth have to wait as long as four months for them?

I should have thought it would hardly have paid an alien to spend four months in Great Britain in order to get a pair of spectacles.

40.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will give special priority to all children in respect of applications for spectacles in view of the injury which their eyesight may suffer through early neglect.

Opticians are doing what is possible to give priority to specially urgent cases and such arrangements would certainly extend to urgent cases among children.

While appreciating the splendid work that ophthalmic opticians are doing in supplying spectacles, would my right hon. Friend ask them, as infants really need preference, to give priority to infants wherever possible?

If the hon. Member has any instance of children who are unable to obtain priority, I will certainly attend to it.

What facilities have opticians through the right hon. Gentleman's Department for repairing spectacles broken by children? Do they have to go through the whole scheme again and have their eyes tested, or can simple repairs be made?

Spa Treatment

33.

asked the Minister of Health if he will make available under the Health Service, out-patient spa treatment to patients of other hospitals than the spa hospitals when such treatment has been advised by the specialist.

No, Sir. I am advised that spa treatment should only be given under the supervision of the appropriate specialist at the spa hospital.

Is the Minister aware that there is a large number of people waiting for spa treatment; that spa hospitals are full, and that this treatment has been recommended by specialists who are capable of prescribing it, and could not he do something to make this treatment available to the people requiring it without their having to go to the spa hospitals?

I understand that the Question on the Paper is about special treatment and special hospitals. If the hon. and gallant Member has treatment for rheumatism in mind at other hospitals, that is now provided under specialist care.

44.

asked the Minister of Health what facilities there are in Wales for spa treatment under the National Health Service; and whether he will make a statement.

I understand that the regional hospital board have made arrangements for hospitals at or near Llandrindod Wells to use the spa facilities there.

Hospital Maternity Cases (Visiting Facilities)

35.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that in some hospitals husbands visiting their wives and newly born babies are informed that they can see the new child on one occasion only; and what arrangements can be made for fathers to see their new offspring more often.

While I hope that all reasonable facilities will always be given, the arrangements at individual hospitals must be left to each hospital management committee and board of governors.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in one hospital there was a refusal to allow a father to see his child, and that the reason given for that was that the nurse in the hospital knew much more about the progress of the child than did the father?

If my hon. Friend will give me particulars of the case, I will have it inquired into, but I think hon. Members must rest upon the assumption that the hospital committees are at least as much concerned about this matter as we are ourselves.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is rather a shock to an infant to look upon its father, and does not he think that, in this modern age when the interest of the child is paramount, the child should be considered first?

I am not certain that the infant is always able to establish the identity of its father.

South-Western Hospital (Proposed Transfer)

43.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will make a statement on the reasons for the proposed transfer of the South-Western Hospital to St. Thomas's Hospital.

I have not yet received the final views of the regional hospital board about this proposal and I cannot for the present make any statement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Lambeth group hospital management committee is strongly opposed to the whole project and that the delay in arriving at a decision, which has now extended over a period of at least six months, is denying very much-needed hospital beds to acute cases and chronic sick in the neighbourhood?

It is not correct to say there has been a delay of six months. It was only on 5th July last year that the regional hospital board was statutorily set up to re-organise the hospitals in the area and it is quite unreasonable to imagine that this complicated re-organisation could be done almost overnight.

Hospital Patients (Comforts)

56.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that hospital patients in former Public Assistance institutions, are no longer receiving a weekly allowance of sweets or tobacco; and if he will make arrangements to restore these comforts to them.

I can see no justification for differentiating in favour of patients in this type of hospital; but all hospital management committees can, of course, provide comforts from their own funds, which are intended for purposes of this kind.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the local management committee whom I consulted about this matter said they were acting in accordance with the Ministry of Health circular; that many of the people concerned are chronic sick who are sleeping in the same beds and building as they occupied some months ago and that in the same building able-bodied people, by arrangement with the Ministry of National Insurance, are receiving these comforts; and will he look at the matter again to see if, by arrangement with his right hon. Friend, some similar arrangements can be made for chronic sick people?

I am sure that the Question and answer will come to the attention of the committees concerned and that they will see that they are in error.

Emergency Cases (Beds)

57.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will arrange for at least one bed for the admission of emergency cases to be reserved nightly in all hospitals of over 200 beds.

No, Sir. Hospitals normally reserve the number of beds shown by experience to be needed, and in emergency put up extra beds.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a great deficiency of beds for acute emergency cases and many lives have been endangered through lack of these facilities?

It is certainly true that there is more demand for beds today than there was before, and that there are many more beds to meet the demand. What is now happening is that we are hearing of these cases where formerly we did not.

Is it not the case that before this Act came into force no hospital in London, or anywhere else, refused emergency sick cases? Now that it is the Minister's responsibility, is he aware that, in London particularly, medical men are harassed and have to be on the telephone for over an hour every day trying to get sick people into hospital, and will he go into the whole matter again?

The hon. Gentleman is inaccurate in his statement. It was often very difficult to get emergency cases into hospital. What is now happening is that there is fixed responsibility for this whereas formerly responsibility was diffused and no one knew about the complaints.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that certain emergencies can arise where an hour or two's delay may mean a matter of life or death? Beds ought to be made available for this particular type of emergency.

They are made available. The hon. Member is unaware of the situation. All vacant beds in London are filled up by the end of the day. Where there are emergency cases, emergency beds are established in order to deal with them. There will inevitably be one or two instances of delay, and we will try to cut down that delay to the lowest possible margin.

Housing

Leicester

24.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the unsatisfactory condition of many houses in Leicester which are still being occupied, although condemned before the war as being unfit for human habitation; and whether he will encourage the erection of houses on the adjoining sites and on the sites of those condemned houses if they are demolished.

Yes, Sir. The local authority propose to redevelop the areas, building new houses on the sites when cleared, as circumstances permit.

Will my right hon. Friend do what he can to remedy this matter as speedily as possible, because in Leicester itself people in one of these houses are being told that the condition of the house is such that they cannot get sanitary certificates to enable them to obtain a reduction in their rents for want of repair? Is he aware that the house is condemned, and yet, at the same time, they have nowhere else to go?

In connection with representations from the City of Leicester, I would say that the only limitation on the plans of that local authority, as with every other authority in the country, is the number of building workers available, and I have not heard that there are any unemployed building workers in Leicester.

Salford

25.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that 30,000 dwelling houses in Salford have no bath or hot water system, and have to rely upon a coal or coke fire; and what steps he is taking to provide this need.

I am aware of the position. I hope that the Housing Bill at present before the House will facilitate the improvement of the houses in appropriate cases.

Am I to understand that the new Housing Bill will allow £100 to be spent on houses no older than 30 years? If that is so, may I inform the Minister that there are numbers of houses in the industrial areas which are 40 and 50 years old which might be dealt with in a similar manner?

It depends entirely upon the condition, and not necessarily upon the age of the house whether it would qualify for the grant under the Bill now before the House. Up to £100 can be spent at present, which is the limit of licence-free repair.

Local Loans (Interest)

29.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the high rates of interest still being paid by local authorities on outstanding housing loans, and if he contemplates any action to obtain a reduction and thus enable many local authorities to ease the burden on their working-class tenants.

I am aware that outstanding housing loans of local authorities carry interest at varying rates. The interest factor was of course taken into account at the time the Exchequer subsidy was fixed under the different Housing Acts. I have no power to alter the terms of the loans.

Agricultural Workers

42.

asked the Minister of Health how many permanent and temporary houses have been let to agricultural workers in England and Wales since 1st April, 1945; and for how many of these the higher subsidies have been paid.

On the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the Housing Return. The answer to the second part is 7,274.

Flood Prevention (Salford)

32.

asked the Minister of Health what steps are being taken to prevent flooding at Salford, similar to the flood in 1946; and what financial assistance he intends to give to Salford towards the estimated cost of £1 million prepared by the Mersey and Irwell Catchment Board.

I understand that the Mersey and Irwell Catchment Board have a scheme in preparation for the relief of flooding at Salford, which would be considered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for drainage grant. It would be open to the Salford Corporation to make a contribution towards the cost of the scheme, but I have no power to make a grant to them in aid of such contribution.

Refuse Disposal, London

41.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the unsightly dumps of refuse disfiguring the countryside, especially in the area to the East of London, he will take steps to ensure that the London County Council dispose of their refuse by other means, such as by burning it or by dumping it into the sea.

The L.C.C. do not dispose of London refuse. This is the responsibility of the Metropolitan borough councils and the problems involved are at present under consideration.

May I ask the Minister which authority disposes of his refuse? May I ask him, also, whether he will take a trip from the City of London to Southend-on-Sea to see acres and acres of land devastated by these refuse dumps? Will he do something about this matter?

This is indeed a problem of very long standing and we are doing our best to deal with it.

National Reconstruction

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the achievements of the British people in the common effort towards national reconstruction since the end of the war, and in view of the tasks yet to be accomplished, he will consult with religious leaders with a view to arranging a day for national thanksgiving and rededication.

I have considered my hon. Friend's suggestion but cannot see my way to adopt it.

Is the Prime Minister aware that if he could favourably consider this suggestion it would be very widely appreciated in the country; and would he bear in mind that May Day this year falls on a Sunday and that that would be a very appropriate day?

Is the Prime Minister sure that his decision in the matter is not influenced by the growing reluctance of himself and his friends to admit that anyone outside the Labour Party has ever done anything for humanity?

When the right hon. Gentleman considers this matter, will he also consider whether the same day could be a day of repentance in which Ministers could do penance for describing their fellow citizens as lower than vermin?

If the Prime Minister should consider this matter with the Tories and the religious leaders, will he see that the dollar god of America gets due reverence?

Armed Forces (Pay And Conditions)

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider the setting up of an all-party committee to investigate the pay and conditions of officers and other ranks in the Armed Forces, in view of the present unsatisfactory position which is resulting in a lowering of morale of those already in the Services and the failure of the recruiting campaign.

Since the Service man has no independent trade union to represent his case, does not the Prime Minister agree that confidence would be restored in the Forces if it were seen that such an independent committee as that suggested in the Question had been set up to investigate the matter, in view of the loss of faith which has occurred because the new pay code in some cases shows an actual loss?

I do not accept the hon. Member's allegations. I am quite sure it would be entirely wrong to have the pay and conditions of officers considered by an all-party committee of this House. That would be quite wrong. The Government must take responsibility in this matter.

In view of the fact that this is not a party political matter, as shown in every defence Debate and in Debates on all three Services, could the Prime Minister give some assurance that there is some committee or some body in the Government at a high level considering this urgent question, especially in view of the fact that Ministers have said they are giving consideration to it?

In view of the failure of the recruiting campaign, which has been referred to, and the number of Regular officers seeking to retire, would the Prime Minister say what action he is proposing to take to put the matter right?

That is another matter. The hon. Member's assumption that it is necessarily entirely a matter of pay, is incorrect.

Employment (Orders, Revocation)

47.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will now state which of the orders, made under Regulation 58A or 58AA, he proposes to revoke; and which he proposes to consolidate.

I have today made an Order revoking the 13 orders, set out in my reply to the hon. Member on 8th March, as being partly in operation or as not being operated. I have also formally revoked all registration orders relating to specific dates in the past. I find on consideration of the remaining orders that there is very little scope for consolidation, and no useful purpose would be served by such small measure of it as might be possible.

While congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the revocation, may I ask him why the view of the Ministry has been changed since the Parliamentary Secretary said on 10th March that it was proposed to consolidate the remaining orders into one or two orders?

Because in approaching the subject with that object in mind, we found that we could do without some, and one or two of the orders were due to expire at the end of the year, so we thought it best to sweep away those we could, leaving the others.

National Finance

Feedingstuffs (Dollar Purchases)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, with a view to strengthening the domestic economy of this country and improving the health of the people, he will now authorise the spending of Marshall Aid dollars in purchasing feedingstuffs for livestock, since the present shortage is retarding increased home food production.

Supplies of animal feedingstuffs from non-dollar sources have so far proved sufficient to meet the requirements of the livestock rationing scheme at current ration levels, including the extension of the scheme to include new entrants to pig and poultry keeping and the special bonus issues for pigs and poultry announced in November, 1948. Negotiations for the sterling purchase of feedingstuffs are now proceeding. If it should become necessary at a later date to consider the purchase of feedingstuffs from North America for dollars owing to their non-availability in other markets for sterling, we shall be prepared to contemplate the possibility of using some dollars for that purpose. The possibility of making further improvements in ration scales is dependent on the longer term prospects of supplies of feedingstuffs from all sources, including home production.

Does the hon. Gentleman really think it right to give an answer of that sort to the House? Is he not fully aware that every farmer in the country knows that the difficulty of producing more beef and pork and of keeping livestock is the shortage of feedingstuffs? In view of the shortage of food throughout the country, is it not time that Ministers who make remarks like that should be asked to resign forthwith? The hon. Gentleman has no right to give an answer like that.

I think that the hon. Member does not quite realise that if we can buy additional feedingstuffs with sterling, we shall not be in a position to buy less food as a result. If we spend more dollars on feedingstuffs we shall have less food—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and in those circumstances it is more sensible to try to buy feedingstuffs for sterling first.

Does my hon. Friend's answer mean that requests for feedingstuffs which have recently been refused will now be granted?

What I said was that if it were impossible to obtain additional feedingstuffs from sterling sources, we should consider using dollars for that purpose. I was not referring to individual applications for feedingstuffs in this country.

Can the hon. Gentleman say, in view of the fact that he stated that there is no demand for this, why it is that every branch of the National Farmers' Union and every branch of the Central Landowners' Association is complaining of the lack of feedingstuffs? Are they right, or is he?

I did not say there was no demand, or anything like it. I said that supplies, so far, had proved sufficient for the present rationing scales.

Has the hon. Gentleman read the reply of the Minister of Food saying that he is having to store feedingstuffs at the present time, and that no more is coming in for some considerable time? Will the hon. Gentleman check up between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food to find out what has happened to the feedingstuffs?

Of course, it is the case that we had very large supplies from Argentina and Russia last year. The supplies coming at the moment are not so large, and it is only prudent in those circumstances, to store them against the demands of the coming months.

Is the hon. Gentleman really going to suggest to the House and the country that anyone is satisfied with the present rationing scales? Is he suggesting that the present rationing scales are sacrosanct and ought not to be increased if we can get more feedingstuffs?

No. I said nothing of the kind, as the right hon. Gentleman will see if he will read my answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow.

Tractors (Exports To France)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make available to France, through the Intra-European Payments Scheme an extra sum of sterling on the understanding that this sterling is spent on the purchase of British tractors.

Since more tractors for France mean more employment in Britain, and, in the long run, more food for Britain, will my hon. Friend consider providing alternative credit facilities?

We have considered that point very carefully indeed for the reasons my hon. Friend gave, but we have already made very large sums of sterling available to the French Government under the European Payments Scheme, and there must be some limit to free gifts made in this sort of way.

In view of the serious situation created in Coventry, and the unemployment throughout the Midlands, what action does the Administration mean to take to raise employment in the motor industry?

There is, of course, other action, such as the opening of export markets in many other countries. This problem does not depend simply on exports to France.

Purchase Tax

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the present Purchase Tax on gas heaters is 66 per cent. while it is 100 per cent. on electric heaters which is adversely affecting many citizens in council houses where only electricity is available; and, in view of the necessity of having hot water in every home, if he will abolish this tax.

My hon. Friend will not expect me to anticipate my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget Statement.

In view of the fact that these things are now really necessities, will the Chancellor of the Exchequer give this matter special consideration next Wednesday?

North Atlantic Pact

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the increased expenditure likely to be incurred next year by our commitments under the Atlantic Pact.

Has the Treasury given any estimate to the Foreign Secretary before he signs the Atlantic Pact, or is he going to sign a blank cheque—the Atlantic Pact—without any idea of what it will cost?

National Land Fund (Properties)

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many properties have now been accepted by the National Land Fund; to whom have they been transferred; what costs has the fund incurred to date; and what expenditure has the fund incurred in acquiring tracts of country for public use, and in assisting the National Trust and other appropriate bodies.

Seven properties have been accepted, at a total cost of about £275,000, of which five have been or are about to be transferred to the National Trust, one to the Youth Hostels Association and one to the Minister of Agriculture. This expenditure has served the purposes mentioned in the last part of the Question, but there is no statutory power to use the Fund for paying grants or for acquiring land other than land offered in lieu of Death Duties.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the National Trust receives no annual grant from the State?

Students (Currency Allowances)

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now prepared to grant the necessary currency to students in this country to enable them to attend universities or schools in France or Switzerland.

Currency is already provided for students to attend full-time courses at universities abroad. Limited facilities for education at schools in Switzerland, under arrangements agreed upon with the Swiss authorities, have also been in force for some time. So far as France is concerned, my right hon. and learned Friend is now prepared to make reasonable amounts of currency available to enable children to be educated at schools in that country.

Could the right hon. Gentleman give us some indication of what the figures are? He said "reasonable amounts" in his answer.

Civil Service Pensions

55.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury how many civil servants who had become established after a period of temporary service retired last year; and by what total sum the annual pensions payable to them would have been increased if the whole instead of half of their temporary service had counted for pension.

This information is not available, and its collection would involve disproportionate expenditure of time and labour.

But would the right hon. Gentleman not promise that these and other figures will be available for the Committee considering the Superannuation Bill?

It is very difficult to form an estimate. It would take a lot of time to get out the figures even for the limited period referred to in the Question. Obviously, when we reach the Committee stage of the Superannuation Bill this matter will be discussed, and then I shall do my best to give the Committee all the information I can collect.

In order to avoid hereafter the necessity for asking for the supply of such figures, would the Financial Secretary undertake on the Superannuation Bill now before Parliament to get rid of the system under which temporary service does not count for pension?

Education

Human Rights Declaration

60.

asked the Minister of Education what action he proposes to take to publicise the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in schools and other educational institutions in this country, in view of Article D.1, by which all member States are recommended to use every means in their power to do so.

It is for local education and school authorities to decide whether any particular matter shall be given publicity in schools. I am, however, considering how best to bring the Declaration to the notice of schools and other educational establishments, so that teaching about it may be incorporated in their normal curriculum.

At the same time as the right hon. Gentleman brings this to the notice of schools, will he also bring to their notice the answer given by the Minister of Labour on Tuesday, that while this country is observing this Declaration in spirit it is breaking it in the letter?

Children (Theatrical Employment)

61.

asked the Minister of Education what steps are being taken to improve the working conditions of children in theatrical employment.

The licensing of children to take part in entertainments is governed by Section 22 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, as amended by the Education Act, 1944, and the regulations made thereunder. This and related questions are being re-viewed by a departmental committee set up, in consultation with myself, by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Has my right hon. Friend any information as to when the report of this departmental committee will be available, or when action will be taken on it after it becomes available? What is he doing in the meantime to prevent these children from having to work in squalid conditions scarcely fit for animals, referred to in the recent report submitted to the committee?

Knowledge of these conditions was the reason for the setting up of the committee. I think that before we are asked what action we are taking we should await the committee's decision.

School Journeys

62.

asked the Minister of Education what additional permanent hostel, camp or hotel accommodation is being provided this year for the use of organised school journey parties in England and Wales.

I regret that I have no information available. Arrangements for school journeys are within the discretion of local education authorities and do not require the approval of my Department.

Is the Minister making inquiries of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the use of properties taken over by the National Land Fund in this connection?

Secondary Schools (Local Surveys)

63.

asked the Minister of Education to what extent social and economic local surveys are being carried out as part of the courses in the various types of secondary schools; and whether travelling expenses necessarily incurred, especially in rural areas, in carrying out these projects are completely met by the local authorities and rank for grant.

Local surveys are undertaken by many secondary schools. The expenses involved, including that of any necessary travelling, are met by the local education authorities who receive grant on their expenditure.

Welsh Joint Education Committee

64.

asked the Minister of Education whether he will appoint at least one representative of Monmouthshire to the Joint Education Committee for Wales in view of the special educational problems existing in the county.

The representative members of the Welsh Joint Education Committee are appointed by the county and county borough councils and include eight appointed by Monmouthshire.

Will the Minister see that there is representation by one teacher outside those members nominated by the County Council?

As I have acceded to eight times the number asked for by the hon. Member, I think that he can trust me in one particular.

Comprehensive Schools

65.

asked the Minister of Education whether he will issue an instruction to local educational authorities who have established comprehensive schools that children in those areas are not to be debarred from taking the county examination for grammar school education.