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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 7 April 1949

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

Election Ballot Papers (Secrecy)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to enable him to have numbers and other marks which can identify the voter removed from ballot papers; and if he is satisfied that the secrecy of the ballot in general elections, by-elections and local elections is assured under present arrangements.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." The ballot papers are marked so that particular votes may, if necessary, be scrutinised by order of a court on the trial of an election petition or in connection with other legal proceedings. The counterfoils are sealed on completion of the poll, and the used ballot papers are sealed in a separate packet on completion of the count. In the case of parliamentary elections, these packages must be kept in the custody of the Clerk of the Crown for 12 months and then destroyed; they can only be opened by order of this House, or of the High Court, in connection with legal proceedings relating to the election. For local elections the packages must be kept in the custody of the clerk to the local authority for six months and then destroyed; they can only be opened by order of a county court or an election court. I am satisfied that these arrangements assure the secrecy of the ballot.

In view of the widespread belief that the ballot is not secret, and of the fact that some people believe it is used to bring pressure to bear on people who vote anti-Socialist, will the Home Secretary give the further assurance that the ballot is secret?

I have no doubt that the ballot is secret, but I really cannot take into account the views of eccentric people.

May I thank my right hon. Friend for making it absolutely crystal clear that the ballot is secret, because there seems to have been a campaign recently to scare people into the belief that it is not?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) can really vote Labour without the fact becoming known?

If the hon. Member is under any fear that his vote might become known, I can give that assurance.

Homeless Children (Accommodation)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made since the publication of the Curtis Report in transferring to better accommodation children living in former public assistance institutions.

When the Curtis Committee reported in 1946, it was estimated that 6,500 children were living in public assistance institutions. According to the latest returns, the number of children in care under the Children Act, who are in accommodation provided under the National Assistance Act, is now about 1,600.

Foreign Visas (Police Information)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether Scotland Yard supplied information to the United States Government about four British subjects whose recent application for visas to attend a conference in New York was refused.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer will dispel the unfortunate impression that was created by the statement of an American official of the State Department that information had been supplied?

I want to make it quite clear that the answer I gave last week is absolutely correct, that no information as to people's political opinions or antecedents is ever given in this connection.

In view of the publicity given to this statement by this American official, will the Home Secretary make it clear that it was impudent presumption on his part to make such a suggestion?

Christening Ceremony (Filming)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police were on duty in the immediate neighbourhood of St. Aldhelm's Church, Edmonton, on the occasion of the christening of quadruplets on 30th March, when a number of parishioners were unable to obtain access to their parish church, and obstruction was caused largely by representatives of a film company which had secured a monopoly in the newsreel pictures of this event; and whether his regulations give full powers to the police to prevent such disturbance of public order.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in view of the disorder endangering a breach of the peace associated with the filming of the christening of quadruplets on 30th March at St. Aldhelm's Church. Edmonton, what steps he has taken by regulation or otherwise to prevent the filming of religious ceremonies in such a manner as to involve disturbances of public order.

The police have adequate powers for keeping order and preventing obstruction in the streets, and no special action was necessary on the occasion in question which, I am informed, was not attended with any disorder. Five police officers in course of normal duty were near the church.

Marriage Guidance Councils (Grants)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in the light of the recommendations of the Harris Committee, he is yet in a position to make a statement on the grant-aiding of local marriage guidance councils.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to implement the recommendations of the Harris Committee that local marriage guidance councils should receive financial support from public funds.

Under Section 136 of the Local Government Act, 1948, a local authority can, subject to the consent of the Minister of Health, contribute towards the expenses of a local marriage guidance council. Having regard to the general arrangements for Exchequer assistance to local authorities, His Majesty's Government do not propose to adopt the recommendation of the departmental committee, that half the expenditure so incurred by a local authority should be met by a special Government grant. I propose to ask the House to authorise for the current financial year the expenditure recommended by the departmental committee on grants towards the headquarters expenses of the National Marriage Guidance Council, the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, and the Family Welfare Association, and also on selection and training of marriage guidance counsellors by a body which I propose to set up for that purpose.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that local marriage guidance councils do not benefit from the grant made, or proposed to be made, to their headquarters, and that many of them are in serious financial difficulty and will probably will not be able to carry on unless some help is forthcoming soon?

That may be so. If that is the case they should make application to the local authority for their area.

Can my right hon. Friend say what type of person is serving on these marriage guidance councils; and has he any control over the nomination of people to serve on them?

No, Sir. On the whole these people are doing quite good public service in this connection, and I should hesitate myself to act as a censor.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether his proposal will necessitate a Supplementary Estimate; and, if so, does he hope to find the Chancellor of the Exchequer in either an imaginative or a receptive frame of mind regarding it?

These sums are included in the Estimate, and I took the precaution of securing the prior approval of my right hon. and learned Friend.

In view of the departmental committee report, will the Home Secretary ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to urge local authorities to see that adequate steps are taken to succour and assist these local marriage guidance councils, who are really in very desperate straits as a result of lack of funds?

I should have thought myself that it was the duty of the local marriage guidance councils to approach their local authority.

Was not the best advice to young persons about to get married tendered some years ago by "Punch"?

I think I should await the report of the Royal Commission on Population before I answer that question.

Young Children (Film Contracts)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to prevent parents from contracting with film companies or other persons for the commercial exploitation of their young children.

I propose to await the report of a committee which I appointed in May, 1948, to consider under what safeguards as to health, welfare and education the employment of children as film actors could properly be allowed.

When my right hon. Friend is considering that report, will he bear in mind the harmful effect on very young children of growing up always as the central showpieces of vulgar and disgusting displays, like that at a church last week; and, although these cases are extremely few, would he bear in mind that such exploitation is not in harmony with his generally more humane attitude on the treatment of children?

I should have thought that that was very good evidence to give to the committee.

Aliens (Distressed Relative Scheme)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what categories of persons are now admitted to the United Kingdom for permanent residence, both under the Distressed Relative Scheme and in other ways; and in what respects foreigners may now enter the United Kingdom for private service where their employers are prepared to go surety for them.

Admission of aliens for permanent residence is at present restricted to distressed relatives under the schemes which I announced on 13th November, 1945, and 3rd June, 1948, to refugees from Czechoslovakia who qualify under the categories I announced on 3rd May, 1948, and to the husband of a wife of British birth and parentage, or to the wife of a man permanently resident here. In addition, European Volunteer Workers who are brought to this country will be permitted to remain, subject to compliance with the conditions on which they were recruited. No objection is raised to the admission of suitable foreigners to take employment, provided they are in possession of a permit issued to their prospective employer by the Ministry of Labour and are able and willing to return to their country of residence if their approved employment comes to an end.

Will the right hon. Gentleman apply these tests to the Secretary of State for War?

National Health Service

Doctors (Payment)

13.

asked the Minister of Health if he will take the necessary steps to pay for a locum tenens when a doctor in the National Health Service is ill or incapacitated.

No, Sir. In fixing the remuneration of general medical practitioners, full account was taken of practice expenses. The cost of employing a locum tenens where necessary forms part of these expenses.

In the event of a doctor being sick and an urgent case coming along, what is to happen to the patient who wants immediate attention? Cannot the Minister arrange for the locum tenens to be paid for the service?

Maternity Cases (Dressings)

14.

asked the Minister of Health where expectant mothers attending ante-natal clinics should obtain maternity packs and dressings for the lying-in period; if he is aware that the West Ham local authority is refusing to issue such free packs and dressings, and that expectant mothers are referred to their general practitioners for the sterile dressings, etc.; and whether it is in order for practitioners to issue such prescriptions.

Local health authorities should arrange for maternity outfits for domiciliary confinements to be supplied at clinics, through midwives, or in some other convenient way, and for other dressings required during the lying-in period to be provided by the midwife in attendance. I understand that the West Ham Council are at once reconsidering their practice. Maternity outfits and sterilised dressings are not included in the schedule of appliances which a general practitioner may prescribe for his National Health Service patients.

Medicines (Tests)

15.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that the operation of the dispensing, testing, or analysis scheme will safeguard adequately the standards of medicines supplied on Form E.C.10, since previous testing applied only to medicines compounded and dispensed by pharmacists, compounded medicaments supplied by manufacturing and wholesale firms having been exempt from this inspection.

Does that mean that these compounded medicines will be examined during the visits of the inspectors to the pharmacists?

There is now a double test there is a test upon the manufacturing side, and upon the chemist.

Eyesight Testing

21.

asked the Minister of Health the number of persons who have had their eyesight tested under the National Health Act by ophthalmic surgeons and by opticians, respectively, since 5th July last; and how many have been diagnosed as not requiring glasses, in each category.

Would the right hon. Gentleman consult with the organisations involved with a view of using a discretionary dissuading influence on the demand for spectacles? We do not want to become a bespectacled nation.

I must, of course, rely upon the technical advice that is given by skilled persons. I am, however, about to consider an experiment by which I hope to be able to make a check on whether, in fact, it is necessary for so high a proportion of the population to have spectacles.

Could my right hon. Friend tell the House by what date he expects this information will be available?

Would it be possible to introduce a system of priority for people requiring spectacles, because there are some people who are operated on for cataract who have to wait a very long time for spectacles?

Well, I have asked the opticians to try to deal with cases of urgency before other cases. That applies particularly to children, for example, who often ought to have spectacles at once when they are prescribed. A priority system is very difficult in itself to arrange, and the best thing I can do is to rely upon the co-operation of the opticians themselves. I understand that that is now forthcoming to a much larger degree.

Hospital Beds

23.

asked the Minister of Health what increase there has been in the number of staffed beds for the acute sick in general hospitals in England and Wales since the date of the coming into operation of the National Health Service Act.

Figures for beds for the acute sick as such are not readily available, but between 30th June and 31st December, 1948, the increase in the number of staffed beds in general hospitals in England and Wales was 15,510.

Does the Minister agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer who yesterday stated that there were 60,000 beds unstaffed in the Kingdom, when the last figure given to this House by the right hon. Gentleman was 53,000?

It may be, of course, that we are not speaking of exactly the same institutions. In some instances, as the hon. and gallant Member knows, some institutions are left outside the statistics. However, I think the House will agree that an increase of 15,500 staffed beds in six months is a very remarkable rate of increase.

Analgesia

28.

asked the Minister of Health when he expects to receive the final recommendations of the Medical Research Council as to the latest types of analgesic drugs and apparatus suitable to be administered by midwives alone.

No forecast can yet be given. Although existing methods will no doubt be reviewed by the committee which has been set up, the question remitted to the Medical Research Council by the Working Party on Midwives was on the possibility of devising improved methods. This is a relatively long-term project involving the initiation and conduct of actual research work, and quick results are not to be expected.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement on the subject at the earliest opportunity, and ask the Medical Research Council if they are actively considering the matter?

The Research Council are actively considering the matter, but one thing we cannot do with a research body is to bring pressure to bear to make them hurry. They must carry out proper tests. The consequences of recommending apparatus not up to standard would be very serious.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that no final recommendations on this subject are possible? Instead, would he not consider the possibility of establishing a trial area, in which there could be scientific investigation of the appliances which are currently used by the medical profession?

The Research Council will take all those matters into account, and will have a controlled experiment of their own devising before making general recommendations.

How many research workers are engaged on this line of research, and how much will it cost?

I cannot say, but if the hon. and gallant Member will put down a Question I will try to give him the information.

Merchant Seamen

30.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that members of the Merchant Navy, although contributors to the National Health Service, are unable to make full use of the benefits of that service; and what action he proposes to take.

Merchant seamen, like anyone else who goes abroad, are not able to obtain treatment under the National Health Service while out of this country. It is the Government's intention to negotiate reciprocal arrangements with other countries wherever the opportunity arises.

When is that opportunity likely to arise? How many such arrangements are being negotiated at the moment?

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the fact that these men have not been able to obtain dental service owing to queuing and shortages? Would he consider establishing an emergency organisation in certain ports, to meet this problem.

That is an entirely different question, but I will make inquiries to find out whether sufficient facilities are available in ports.

Has my right hon. Friend observed that this Question seems to arise out of a very common and widespread misunderstanding about the way in which the National Health Service is financed? As he has repeatedly told the House, it is not, in the main, financed out of the weekly contributions. Will he take steps to make that more widely known?

I have tried, over and over again, to educate public opinion on this matter, and my hon. Friend's supplementary question will add to that education.

District Nurses (Superannuation)

31.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that great hardship is being caused to nurses who are ex-members of district nursing associations by the refusal of certain county councils, including the Stafford County Council, to continue superannuation and benevolent schemes such as those undertaken by the Queen's Institute of District Nursing; and what steps he is taking in this matter.

No, Sir. But if the hon. Member will let we have particulars of the cases of hardship to which he refers I will look into the matter.

Is it not important that when the district nursing associations are taken over by the National Health Service their obligations should be taken over as well? Otherwise, recruiting will be restricted?

I should like to have particulars of the obligations which have been incurred before making a general statement.

Coast Erosion, Robin Hood's Bay

16.

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is considering taking to deal with coast erosion at Robin Hood's bay, in view of the fact that there is imminent danger to a considerable number of houses.

I am not aware that anyone, except the owners, has power at present to protect these private houses from coast erosion, but when the Coast Protection Bill now before Parliament has become law I shall be prepared to consider any proposals put to me by the responsible authority.

When that time comes will the Minister, in fixing the amount of the grant to local authorities, bear in mind that many of them were unable to carry out normal work during the war because, for military reasons, access was denied to them?

I should have to take the facts of each particular case into account, of course, and that would be one of the factors.

Housing

Building Programme

24.

asked the Minister of Health if he will now give an estimate of the date by which he will have completed the erection of four million houses.

19.

asked the Minister of Health at what dates he expects to have provided under the postwar housing programme 750,000 new permanent houses, and a total of 750,000 new permanent houses and temporary houses taken together, respectively.

The course of the housing programme is fully indicated by the facts and figures in the published Housing Returns.

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has answered the right Question.

The housing programme is indicated in the Housing Returns which show, month by month, the number of permanent houses under construction. If we continue to build houses at that rate it is a simple arithmetical calculation to say how many will be built in a certain time.

Forgive me, Mr. Speaker, but there is something odd about this business. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Foreign Secretary stated, in 1945, that four to five million houses would be built in practically no time? As four years have passed since then, does not this require some explanation?

Subsidies (Iron And Steel Costs)

32.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will give an estimate as to the additional cost to the building of a house arising from the increases in the price of iron and steel; and whether he will increase the subsidies to local authorities in order to meet this additional expenditure.

The additional cost for an average house would be trifling. On the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to Section 16 of the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1946.

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into consideration the additional cost, which is trifling, and also the question of flats? More may be required.

Naval Personnel

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mrs. MIDDLETON

33. To ask the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the urgent housing needs of naval men in ports like Plymouth, which were heavily damaged during the war; and what proposals he has to make to meet the special circumstances of the situation.

I put Question No. 33 down to the Admiralty, Mr. Speaker, not to the Minister of Health. My right hon. Friend has already given great help to civilian housing in Plymouth, but this is a question of naval housing, in which the morale of naval personnel is intimately affected.

Account is taken of these needs in deciding from time to time the numbers of houses which can be authorised in the different areas.

Has any step been taken by the Admiralty to get into touch with my right hon. Friend about the allocation of houses for naval personnel in Plymouth? Houses are available for key workers in industry because special arrangements have been made by other Government Departments.

Consultations take place between the Service Ministers and myself about the provision of married quarters. The allocation to the Services forms part of the national housing programme, and has its proper place in that programme.

Dockyard Workers, Portland

83.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware of the impending loss to His Majesty's Dockyard, Portland, of the services of a number of men given notice to quit their flats by 20th April in favour of the new staff at the Verne Citadel Prison; and what steps he is taking, in conjunction with the Home Office, to secure alternative accommodation for these men near their work.

The Admiralty is aware that notice has been given to the tenants of accommodation belonging to the Prison Commission at Portland, including a number of Admiralty employees, and is in consultation with the Home Office.

Can the hon. Gentleman assure me that these 24 families in my constituency will not have to fend for themselves without assistance from the Government Department which is turning them out or the Government Department which is responsible for their work?

I can give no assurance with regard to these people. Out of the 24, there are only 11 who are Admiralty employees, and, as I have said, we are going into the matter with the Home Office to see if we can help them.

Irwell Water Area (Sheep)

25.

asked the Minister of Health what instructions he has issued to the Irwell Water Board as to the terminating of the grazing of sheep on their extensive gathering grounds; and whether he will consider, as an alternative, insisting on the installation of chlorination plant.

The Board were informed in April, 1948, that my Department agreed that the then existing arrangements for sheep grazing, which were causing anxiety to them on the score of pollution of the water supply, should be terminated. I am arranging, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, for officers of the two Departments to discuss the question with the Board. I am informed that chlorination plant is already installed, but I am advised that this alone is not a sufficient safeguard as, in addition, long storage and filtration is needed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if this action becomes general it will have a very adverse effect on our meat ration—perhaps further reduce it? Will he look at the matter again?

79.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that the Irwell Water Board have terminated all grazing of sheep on their extensive gathering grounds; and if he will say to what extent the meat ration will be affected.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture
(Mr. George Brown)

Yes, Sir. I am aware that grazing was terminated as from 23rd October, 1948, but the Department is at present in consultation with the Ministry of Health with a view to obtaining the utmost agricultural use consistent with reasonable safeguards for the purity of the water supply. I understand that formerly the stock grazed on these grounds was of the order of 4,000 sheep.

Will the Minister try to convert the Minister of Health from his attitude that the sheep befoul the water supplies? Throughout the country there are sheep on gathering grounds.

On the contrary, it is not the Ministry of Health but the people responsible for the gathering grounds who need to be converted. We are trying to do that.

On an earlier Question today the Minister of Health expressed the view that the sheep do befoul the gathering grounds.

That was not what the hon. Gentleman has just said. The question was whether sheep do befoul gathering grounds and impair the purity of the water supplies, which would be a serious matter.

Education

Teachers (London Area Allowance)

34.

asked the Minister of Education whether he has considered the representations made to him by the staff of the Tiffin Girls' School, Kingston-upon-Thames, on the subject of their deprivation of London area allowance; and what steps he proposes to take.

41.

asked the Minister of Education whether he has now considered the claim of teachers living in the boroughs of Chingford, Woodford and Wanstead for inclusion in those areas receiving the London addition to the Burnham scales; and whether he will make a statement.

I have received various representations about the London area allowance, which it is the function of the Burnham Committee to consider in the first instance. The Committee gave it full consideration when preparing the present Report and, as I stated in the House on 20th January last, I do not find sufficient grounds for asking them to reconsider the position at present.

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's concluding observation, has he considered the representations made to him by the staff of the school referred to m my Question? The fact is that 35 per cent. of their membership actually live in areas in which the London allowance is paid to those who teach in those areas. Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman took action in this very long delayed matter?

I know there are anomalies, but there always will be wherever a line is drawn. These teachers should approach the Burnham Committee through their association.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the areas mentioned in my Question it is not a matter of drawing a line. These are little tongues of territory entirely surrounded by areas in which the London allowance is paid. Further, it is not the teachers who are agitating but parents' associations, who say that children are suffering because teachers in these school are constantly moving to other schools?

Whether they are surrounded by other areas or not, a line must be drawn; otherwise, they would be included. As I have said, representations should be made by the teachers to the Burnham Committee through their association, and not to the Minister.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the boroughs of Wan-stead and Woodford civil servants, local authority officers and members of the Police and Fire services receive, the London weighting allowance, as do clerical and domestic staffs in the schools? It is only the teachers who do not.

This was known to the Burnham Committee when the question was considered and decided upon.

In view of the Minister's statement that the teachers should approach the Burnham Committee through their association and not through the Minister, may I ask whether the Minister did not himself give the answer to this when he said that this was not a case in which he would take the initiative and invite the attention of the Committee? Is not this just the class of case in which the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility as Minister is directly involved?

In my original answer I said that I saw no reason, in what has been put to me, for asking the Committee to consider the matter again at this time. But this does not prevent the teachers' association from making representations_

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Burnham Committee agreed at one time, that where local authorities and teachers' associations in an area agreed about the additional payments, those payments should be made in that area? Has that arrangement been discontinued?

It might have been, at one time, but it was not so in the last Report, on which the salaries are now being paid.

Teachers (Medical Examination)

36.

asked the Minister of Education why prospective entrants into the teaching profession are expected to pay the costs of their medical examination.

I do not think it unreasonable that a person who wishes to be admitted to the teaching profession should be expected to provide the necessary evidence of his fitness for it.

Is it not usual for the employer to meet the cost of an examination to ensure than an employee is fit for his employment? Why is an exception made in the case of the Ministry of Education?

If a student is examined at the end of his training college course, no fee is charged. This is an examination before he is accepted as a candidate for the profession.

When there is anxiety to secure teachers, is it not reasonable that the people who are anxious to secure them should pay for the medical examination?

I will consider that suggestion, but I have not seen the necessity for adopting it as yet.

University Awards (Report)

37.

asked the Minister of Education if he will now make a statement as to his intentions regarding the recommendations of the Working Party upon University Awards.

I have now received the comments of most of the main bodies interested in the report of the Working Party and I am considering them. I am not yet in a position to make any statement as to the action to be taken on the recommendations of the report.

When is my right hon. Friend likely to be in a position to make a statement? Can he indicate the policy of the Government in connection with the recommendations?

Palestinian Arab Students

38.

asked the Minister of Education if he will now state what steps have been taken to enable a number of Palestinian Arab students whose families are no longer able to maintain them, to complete their courses in this country.

I hope that a settlement of this matter will be reached shortly, and I will write to my hon. Friend.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for what sounds like an encouraging answer, may I ask him whether he will be good enough to consider circulating a short statement in HANSARD, when the statement is ready, instead of writing to me, because there are a number of people who are interested in this matter?

Further Education, Wales

42.

asked the Minister of Education how many education authorities in Wales and Monmouth shire have now a full-time further education officer; and how many have not.

The appointment of education officers other than chief education officers and the allocation of duties to such officers, are matters for the discretion of individual local education authorities, and I have no complete information.

In view of the importance, particularly to Wales, of a full county college provision, will my right hon. Friend consider bringing a certain amount of pressure to bear upon the educational authorities to make a full-time appointment?

I have no evidence that the local authorities are not giving full consideration to this matter. The fact is that I have not full information as to the numbers actually employed.

Cinematograph Industry (Investigation)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider setting up a Royal Commission to inquire into the cinematograph industry; and make recommendations as to its re-organisation.

In view of the fantastic discrepancy between the salaries of staffs and the wages of technicians, and in view of the further discrepancy between the profits of producers and those of the distributors, and because of the general mess in the industry, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that some form of investigation is needed?

Oh, yes, I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member. Some need for investigation is quite clear. That is why a special committee on film distribution and exhibition under Lord Portal is now actively at work. I am expecting the report shortly. There is also another committee working on the means of reducing film production costs.

When does the Prime Minister expect the report from the Portal Committee?

Employment

Direction (Women)

48.

asked the Minister of Labour how many women he has so far directed to any form of employment.

Formal directions to take specified employment have been given to 10 women since 6th October, 1947, when the Control of Engagement Order came into operation. None of these women was directed as the result of registration under the Registration for Employment Order.

Does the answer of the right hon. Gentleman mean that he regards it as desirable to maintain the machinery of direction of labour for women for the sake of issuing ten formal directions, or is it his intention to use it as a bluff to persuade large numbers to go in the direction he wants them to go?

The hon. Gentleman has gone very wide of his original Question. I have given him the answer for which he asked. I make no comment on the other points.

Exchanges (Functions)

49.

asked the Minister of Labour what business is transacted at employment exchanges apart from that falling directly within the purview of his Department.

For the Ministry of National Insurance, taking claims for unemployment benefit and proof of unemployment, computing and paying unemployment benefit, and allied matters; for the National Assistance Board, making payment of assistance grants; for the Foreign Office, services connected with applications for passports and travel identity cards; and, for the Board of Inland Revenue, making refunds of Income Tax to unemployed persons. In addition employment exchanges receive many inquiries from the public about matters dealt with by other Departments; every effort is made in such cases to assist in obtaining the information required.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is at the moment considerable dissatisfaction with the passport-signing facilities which he has mentioned in connection with employment exchanges, and that I have received several complaints?

I shall be very glad to have information of those complaints. I have made inquiries at all the employment exchanges which I have visited, and those are many, and the impression is that this service is an undoubted boon to the public. I have not had a solitary complaint.

Displaced Persons Camp, Full Sutton

50 and 52.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether, in view of the extensive and persistent damage to gates and fences on the farms in the neighbourhood of the Displaced Persons' Camp at Full Sutton, York, he will instruct the camp commander to take the necessary disciplinary action against those displaced persons who are responsible for this damage.

(2) whether he is aware that extensive damage is being caused to fences and gates by the displaced persons stationed at the camp at Full Sutton, Yorkshire; and whether he will take steps to see that this damage is fully made good.

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the behaviour of some of these displaced persons is causing grave disquiet in the rural areas? If the right hon. Gentleman cannot control their behaviour cannot he arrange to deport them?

Would it not be as well for the hon. Gentleman to get information before he makes an accusation? My information is that, prima facie, there is no case against these people. It is not right that if any damage is caused the blame for it should be put immediately upon these poor people.

How long on the average are these people kept waiting in these camps before they go out to industry?

These are mainly people who are actually working. There are a very few of them in the camps who are not doing so. Once they get here, they are sent from the holding camps to the working camps, and they go to work immediately.

Is the Minister aware that I would not make suggestions of this kind unless I had evidence upon which to make them?

It would be much more helpful if the hon. Gentleman, when he had evidence, had sent it to me, so that I could investigate it, instead of his making a wide allegation.

Clothes Rationing Staff (Releases)

51.

asked the Minister of Labour how many of the civil servants released as a result of the abolition of clothes rationing have been absorbed by Government Departments.

I have been asked to reply. The staff employed on clothes rationing had been reduced to about 1,000 by the date of its abolition. Of these, 180 have been or will be absorbed in the Board of Trade to fill current or accrued vacancies. I am unable to state how many will be absorbed by other Departments.

Is not the Minister aware that the figure he refuses to give was the reason for my putting down the Question? Why has the Question been changed from the Minister of Labour to himself?

I made it clear at the time of the announcement that a number corresponding to the total number at that time employed on clothes rationing would be released from the Board of Trade. I did not say that the same civil servants would in each individual case be released, but the Board of Trade would give up 1,000, the number at that time employed on clothes rationing.

Could the President of the Board of Trade tell us whether any of the civil servants released from the clothes rationing Department have been sent to the Ministry of Fuel and Power to supervise the checking of petrol stocks in garages?

May I seek your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on this Question. I put down a Question to the Minister of Labour asking for a certain number. This was answered by the President of the Board of Trade, who says, quite rightly, that he cannot give the figure I require.

No, Sir, I did not say so, but I did say that I was unable to say how many will be absorbed by other Departments. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman studied the normal arrangements for the release of redundant staff he would realise that most of them who may be employed elsewhere have not yet been released from the Board of Trade.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean re-employed when he says absorbed.

I am not competent to alter the terms of the Question put down by the hon. and gallant Gentleman

National Finance

Government Hospitality Fund

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much was spent in 1948 by the Government Hospitality Fund on wines, spirits and cigars, respectively; how much of this was spent on United Kingdom products; and how much on Empire products.

During 1948 the Government Hospitality Fund purchased wines for stock to the value of £1,252, spirits to the value of £1,570 and cigars to the value of £738. The total of £3,560 includes £1,033 for United Kingdom products and £1,361 for Empire products.

Will the Financial Secretary give an assurance that, in view of the reduction in Imperial Preference, he will use the growing amount of money used by Government hospitality to increase purchases from the Empire?

It has always been the Government's policy so to do and we shall continue that policy.

How much of this money has been spent on buying Algerian wine from the Ministry of Food?

If the right hon. Gentleman is interested perhaps he will put that Question down and I will do my best to answer it.

North Atlantic Pact

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a White Paper outlining the financial and economic consequences of the Atlantic Pact and indicating to what extent it will result in increased production of armaments and the diversion of labour and materials from the production of consumption goods, from housing and the social services.

Any such White Paper, like the estimate asked for in the hon. Member's Question of 31st March, would be premature at this stage.

The Chancellor intimated yesterday that there would be an increased burden of expenditure as a result of the Atlantic Pact. Will that involve a Supplementary Estimate, and will that not be against the policy that was outlined yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Postal Packets (Interception)

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many postal packets for overseas addresses have been intercepted which contained money or postal orders; and in how many cases the monetary contents were wholly or partly confiscated.

Since 1st October, 1947, there have been approximately 7,500 interceptions. Restoration has been made in some 1,200 cases while other cases are under consideration.

Is not the confiscation which has taken place in the majority of these cases altogether too severe a penalty for what in most cases was an innocent breach of the regulations?

Where it has been an innocent breach of the regulations, and representations are made we have in almost every case, if not in every case, made restitution.

Is the Minister aware that in many cases an appeal has been made and turned down and nothing is done further until the matter is taken up by a Member of this House?

If the hon. Gentleman has any case of that kind in mind and he will send it to me I will look into it personally.

Trade (Eastern Europe)

57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he proposes to carry out the third of the eight principles agreed to by the council of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, concerning the reduction of imports from the dollar areas; and what effect he anticipates that the restriction of exports to Eastern Europe will have on this objective.

The means by which the Government are carrying out this principle are explained in Command Papers 7572 and 7647. I do not expect the control of exports of certain classes of goods for security reasons to restrict the scope for mutually useful trade between ourselves and Eastern Europe, which will help in reducing our dollar deficit.

Does that answer mean that the Minister does not expect any reduction of our exports to those countries in exchange for imports? If that is what he means it will be useful for the House to know it.

The level of our exports to those countries will obviously depend upon the outcome of negotiations now going on with more than one of them.

House Of Commons Catering (Report)

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will indicate the attitude of the Government to the special report from the Select Committee on the Kitchen and Refreshment Rooms, and particularly to the Committee's recommendation in paragraph 14 that the cost of the staff and equipment of the refreshment department should become a charge upon public funds.

The attitude of the Government to this report, including paragraph 14, was shown in the Debate on Supply on 24th February of this year, as well as in past debates in the House and especially in my reply to the Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) on 5th November last.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that it is in accordance with the Chancellor's Budget speech for the cost of equipping and maintaining the refreshment department and the wages of the staff, totalling about £50,000, to be borne by the taxpayer?

Would not the acceptance of this report in the slightest degree involve a Supplementary Estimate, and why does not the Financial Secretary apply to it the ban on Supplementary Estimates imposed yesterday?

The hon. Gentleman, who himself is a member of the Kitchen Committee, and who I assume was a party to the representations made to the Chancellor when a subvention was asked for, should know that no Supplementary Estimate will be needed this year. It will come into the Estimates for 1950–51, if it comes at all.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that I proposed an Amendment to this proposal and that I voted against the Kitchen Committee's report?

Is it not the case that in almost every year in the last 100 years the public have, in fact, paid the deficits on the Kitchen Committee's accounts?

Clothing Ration Books (Printing)

59.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to what extent a new issue of clothing rationing books has been printed; and what was the cost to public funds.

The supply for 1949–50 had been completed at an estimated cost for paper and printing of £112,000.

Would not this expenditure of public funds have been saved if the Government had taken Lord Woolton's advice last summer and dispensed with clothes rationing?

The advice which presumably Lord Woolton gave to the Party opposite has cost this country many millions.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that Lord Woolton's advice two years ago was to cut out all capital development and public works expenditure?

"Monthly Digest Of Statistics" (Cost)

61.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what is the cost of producing and distributing the "Monthly Digest of Statistics"; how many copies are bought monthly; and how many distributed free at home and abroad.

The cost of printing, paper and distribution is about £625 per issue. Sales average 4,880 copies; 1,900 are supplied for official purposes of which about 300 are sent abroad.

Burma (Army Officers' Claims)

63.

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what steps are being taken to expedite settlement of the claims for loss of personal effects of Indian Army officers stationed in Burma at the time of the Japanese invasion, having regard to the fact that similar claims of British service officers in the circumstances are being met.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said in answer to a Question in the House on 15th February, I am examining the position of British officers of the Indian Army under the various compensation schemes. I regret that my investigations are not yet complete; I will write to the hon. Member as soon as their result is known.

Would the right hon. Gentleman give me any idea when the investigations are likely to be completed, because there is some hardship in the delay in dealing with this matter, and officers of the British Army have been dealt with?

I am aware of those facts and I am most anxious that no injustice should be done. I hope it will not be very long, but if the hon. Member will give me a little more time I might be able to get a better result.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say how many claims are outstanding?

I could not give a figure that I would like the hon. Gentleman to hold me to, but I do not think it is more than 200 at the outside.

Trade And Commerce

Sodium Chlorate

64.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that sodium chlorate can be purchased in France; and what steps he is taking to use this source to meet the shortage for agricultural purposes which exists in this country.

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied that importers are taking up all the sodium chlorate that is at present available in France for export to this country.

Can the President of the Board of Trade say why there is a shortage in France? I understood that there were unlimited quantities there. Surely it would be much better to bring this highly desirable sodium chlorate from France rather than to try to obtain it elsewhere?

The reason for the shortage is that the French producers are handicapped by shortage of electricity. We are continuing our pressure on the French Government to make more sodium chlorate available. Having done that, it is a question of the private importers acquiring all there is, which I am satisfied they are doing.

New Factory, Caernarvonshire

65.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when the local authority concerned will receive a further communication regarding the proposed new factory to be built in the Nantlle Valley, Caernarvonshire.

I understand from my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Health, that the Welsh Board of Health have now written to Gwyrfai Rural District Council.

Waste Paper Collection

68.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why he is issuing a request to local authorities to slow down the collection of waste paper.

No request has been made to local authorities to slow down the collection of waste paper. In one area, certain local authorities have been meeting with difficulty in disposing of the whole of their collections, but this difficulty is regarded as only temporary. I hope local authorities will maintain the excellent collections of recent months. I would like to take this opportunity of saying that the question posed by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) during the Adjournment Debate on Colonial Timber on 4th April, to the effect that local authorities were being discouraged from collecting waste paper as it is likely to become unsaleable because we are importing strawboard is entirely without foundation.

Petrol Supplies (Overseas Visitors)

69.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he has now come to any decision on the possibility of issuing petrol coupons, if necessary prepaid in dollars, for visitors to Britain who wish to use friends' cars.

75.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will consider removing the restriction on the allocation of petrol to overseas visitors who wish to purchase a secondhand car for use in this country, in view of the fact that dealers in secondhand cars are at present having to refuse large numbers of inquiries from such persons and are thus losing valuable dollars.

78.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is yet in a position to state the conditions under which petrol may be allocated to overseas visitors for use in motor cars belonging to British persons.

Overseas visitors who borrow or purchase a secondhand car in this country may use any standard ration available for the car, and may also obtain supplementary allowances for business purposes. My right hon. Friend is still considering whether, in addition, special allowances can be granted for overseas visitors using borrowed or secondhand cars for pleasure purposes.

In view of the fact that we are now at the beginning of the tourist season, will the hon. Gentleman see if it is possible to speed up a decision?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that visitors from America are completely misled in this matter by advertisements in periodicals in the United States?

Colliery Companies (Compensation)