House Of Commons
Tuesday, 17th May, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Shoreham Harbour Bill (By Order)
Second Reading deferred till Thursday.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Minister of Labour the unemployment figures in Cornwall to the latest available date.
Two thousand, five hundred and forty-eight at 11th April.
Can the Minister account for the rise in this unemployment figure, and has he any satisfactory solution for it?
Until I had checked this with the previous figure I could not say that there was a rise. I will look at the figures, and if there is any further information, I will give it to the hon. Gentleman.
I am surprised that the Minister does not exactly know the figure until he checks it up. The most pertinent point I wish to put to him is, will he see to it that he does everything possible to see that this figure decreases?
I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman's surprise. He asked me for the latest figure and I got it for him. If he had asked me how that compared with the previous one I would have done it for him. As to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, we are always doing what we can.
Kodak, Limited, Wealdstone
asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the recent notices of redundancy issued by Messrs. Kodak Limited, to 260 of the workers in their Wealdstone factory; and what steps are being taken by his Department to assist them in finding alternative employment.
Yes, Sir, and in accordance with normal arrangements employment exchanges are assisting redundant workers to obtain alternative employment.
In view of the highly specialised nature of the work for many of these men, is it not possible to give any assurance that their particular services will be used in the export drive where they are most useful?
Yes, Sir. I am very glad that my hon. Friend asked that Question. There were 248 persons actually displaced, and on 12th May only 19 of that number remained unemployed.
Remploy Factory, Wolverhampton (Site)
asked the Minister of Labour what progress has been made with plans for a Remploy factory to serve the Wolverhampton area; and when such a factory is likely to be opened.
The Disabled Persons Employment Corporation proposes to establish a Remploy factory to serve the Wolverhampton area; search is being made for suitable premises or a site but so far without success. It is not possible at present to say when the factory will be opened.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this search for a site has been going on now for well over a year and no progress seems to have been made? Would he keep in touch with the Corporation, because a number of disabled workers in this area cannot find employment and they see no prospect of getting into a Remploy factory?
I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern in the matter, and in the last few days I have been looking into it. The Corporation are actively seeking a site but there is none that they can find at present. If my hon. Friend or anybody in the area could help us we should be much obliged.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he can give the total number of persons engaged on hospital administration in Scotland on 1st July, 1948; and the total number at present engaged.
Information as to the number at 1st July, 1948, would have to be obtained specially and I do not feel justified in asking hospital authorities to compile it. The present number of officers engaged in administration, including clerical and typing staff, is about 2,200, which comprises the staffs of the five regional boards, the 84 boards of management and the 425 hospitals in the service.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that last week he was able to give precise details to my hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Tweedsmuir) in respect of the Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen? Why could he not possibly give us the figures for all hospitals in Scotland? In view of the concern expressed in Scotland as to the possibility of the present system being somewhat over laboured and too expensive, surely he agrees that the lack of answer which he has given may well further increase these suspicions?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has cast these aspersions upon the ladies and gentlemen who are giving their services to running these hospitals. I have every confidence in the way they are running these hospitals. They were running them in many cases before we took over, and they are equally conscientious today. The hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Tweedsmuir) asked me a specific Question, but to discover the details for which the hon. Gentleman asks would involve a great deal of effort on the part of these hospitals. I can give the hon. Gentleman a percentage administration figure, which is about 3½ per cent. of the total expenditure. That is a very good percentage for effective and efficient management.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no question whatever of casting any slur on the people who are doing this work? Many of the people running these hospitals are worried about the increases for administrative staffs.
Can the Secretary of State tell us whether it is a fact that these figures will be reduced in view of the cut in the National Health Service?
Hospitals will be effectively managed, and if any economies can be effected I am sure that all the boards will take whatever steps they can. We shall give them what guidance we can in this direction.
New Towns (Report)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the first reports made under Section 13 (6) of the New Towns Act, 1946, in respect of the proposed new towns in Scotland, will be published.
The fiat statutory report of the East Kilbride Development Corporation covering the period to 31st March last will, I understand, be submitted to me shortly and as required by the Act, I shall lay it before the House. The first report of the Glenrothes Development Corporation will cover the period to 31st March, 1950.
Hill Cattle Subsidy
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications for Hill Cattle subsidy have been refused in respect of land which was classified as hill land when the agricultural executive committees were responsible for making such recommendations but which has been re-classified and excluded since the Department of Agriculture's livestock inspectors have been responsible for making recommendations.
Of the 12,700 applications received in 1948, 11,874 have been passed, 424 have been refused and 383 remain to be dealt with. Of those refused to date, 133 come within the category to which the hon. Member refers.
Does not the Minister think that it is more likely on the face of it that agricultural executive committees will be in a better position to know from their local knowledge whether land is qualified as hill farming land or as upland than his inspectors? Will he look at this again and see if hardship can be avoided by making grants in cases which were formerly covered?
Naturally everyone who deals with the matter thinks he knows best. The advantage of having an inspector is that it does not lead to discrepancies between the judgment of one area and the judgment of another. The inspectors are judging by the same standard for Scotland as a whole, which is fairer to the farmers.
Will the Secretary of State make a political test of these applicants, and if there are any rotten Tories, not give them a bean?
Glasgow City Council (Ex-Officio Members)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the fact that they are not subject to election by democratic methods, he will abolish the posts of Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener as ex-officio members of the Glasgow City Council.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the fact that the Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener are not posts filled by democratic election, he will introduce legislation to exclude the holders of these offices from the Glasgow City Council.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider introducing an amending Bill to abolish the offices of Dean of Guild and Deacon Convener of the city of Glasgow since these offices are relics from before the era of democratic election.
I am looking into the whole question, but as this will involve detailed inquiries, I am not in a position to make any statement.
In looking into the question, will my right hon. Friend keep before him the fact that the retention of this extraordinary privilege whereby certain electors-have two votes in the council elections of Glasgow and the other towns concerned violates the principle of "one elector, one vote" contained in the Local Government Act, 1947, and the Representation of the People Act, 1948? Will he seek to give effect to that provision in whatever decision he reaches?
Can the English know what a Deacon Convener is and what he does?
All the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) will be kept in mind in the inquiries I am making.
When he is making these inquiries, will my right hon. Friend also pay particular attention to the fact that the Deacon Convener, whatever be his responsibilities, and the Dean of Guild, whatever be his responsibilities, both decided against the will of the people of Glasgow in electing the Lord Provost?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when the Deacon Convener and the Dean of Guild exercised their right to vote in that direction they gave great satisfaction to the citizens of Glasgow?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great indignation throughout the City of Glasgow that people who returned a majority by means of their democratic vote have now been defeated by some office which dates back to the fifteenth century? Will my right hon. Friend advise that these offices should be abolished now that we are a democratic country?
Will the right hon. Gentleman also take counsel with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and also have the anomalies corrected which resulted in the gerrymandering of the London County Council in the recent elections? Will the right hon. Gentleman also note that the result of the voting in the Glasgow City Council is identical with the vote of the people of Glasgow, namely, a Progressive majority?
Naturally, many of these points have already been brought to my notice. I would not go so far as to describe either of these things as gerrymandering. Needless to say, all these things will be taken into account.
Has my right hon. Friend any idea when he will be able to reach a decision on this matter and intimate it to the House? Is he aware that the use of these offices to vote out the majority party and to vote in the minority party causes great satisfaction to the Tories and very great anger to the Labour majority?
I am unable to say when, because the matter is more complicated than appears on the surface. Moreover, the hon. Gentleman will agree that they have been in existence for a long time and the urgency of the contention seems to have disappeared for the moment.
What about these "jobs for the boys"?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the many occasions on which these dignatories have voted for Labour proposals there has never been any question of the abolition of their offices?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the City of Edinburgh, which is in a position corresponding to that of the City of Glasgow, it is possible for a ratepayer, whether he has a good, bad or indifferent character, to purchase a life-time vote for the Lord Dean of Guild for two guineas? Is he also aware that nobody knows who constitutes the franchise for the Deacon Convener?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that the number of men engaged on the construction of permanent houses and preparation of housing sites has fallen from 31,000 in December, 1948, to 26,600 in March, 1949; what effect this will have on the housing programme; and what steps are being taken to arrest this decline.
The provisional figure for March has now been adjusted to 28,069. The figures quoted however exclude men directly employed by local authorities; if these men are included the comparable figures become 35,300 in December and 32,500 in March. Many factors affect the totals of men employed on housing but the fall in the first quarter of this year probably results from the high rate of completion recently achieved. During the past few months the starting of a large number of new houses has been authorised and as they come into construction, this should be reflected in the number of men employed.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these men are likely to drift out of the housing programme altogether? In view of the very great need, will he give urgent consideration to increasing the number engaged?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this Spring probably for the first time for a long while many householders are able to get their houses redecorated and brought into repair. There is no check on the people who do that work outside the normal building industry. Naturally there is no desire to keep men unemployed if they can be used to do that work while the other work is being prepared.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the revised figures show that the labour force in Scotland is still declining while the comparative figures for England show that the labour force there is increasing? Is the Secretary of State aware that there is grave anxiety among Scottish local authorities about the labour position?
It is possible that that conclusion could be drawn but it would not necessarily be accurate. The fact that the number of men employed on new housing has gone down is no indication that they are not employed on other housing work which is not recorded in these figures.
Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the reduction in the numbers employed is not the result of Government policy?
It is partly because we are very anxious that fewer people should be employed on building the houses on which larger numbers were employed last year. We must get the cost of housing down, and that can only be attained by improved efficiency in building.
In view of the serious situation which exists, will the right hon. Gentleman consider keeping these men in the building industry whatever form of building they are engaged in? Is not the building of new houses the most serious problem in Scotland?
The hon. Gentleman has just made the point I have been trying to make. The important thing is to build houses and not to keep the people employed if they are not actually building houses.
In view of the concern felt about this matter, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this subject on the Motion for the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many open-air or other special schools for delicate children there are in Scotland; and in the areas of which education authorities they are situated.
No schools have been established in Scotland primarily for delicate children but a number of pupils attending special schools for physically handicapped children belong to that category.
In view of the service that such schools have given elsewhere will the Secretary of State consider investigating the need in Scotland and, on the basis of what he finds out, consider whether it would be worth while establishing a similar system in Scotland?
This matter is at present being considered by the Scottish Advisory Council on Education. I am awaiting their report before we decide to take any steps.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the battledress uniforms which are being issued to Territorial recruits are of poor quality and badly matched; and whether he will take action to ensure that Territorials are issued with battledresses of better quality and colour.
In the issue of battledress no differentiation whatever is made between units of the active Army and units of the Territorial Army. Some stocks of battle-dress produced during the war still exist, in some sizes, which are inferior in quality to present production. These garments are fully serviceable and must be used up. They are, therefore, issued in satisfaction of demands from units both of the active Army and of the Territorial Army.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that battledress issued to the Territorial Army is very badly matched and of very poor quality? Cannot he now give an assurance that there is some immediate prospect of the issue of blue uniform?
I should like to see all sections of the British Army immaculately attired, but the cloth is not available.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this complaint applies also to the Regular Army and that the shortage of battledress there is just as noticeable?
There is no shortage of battledress for the Regular Army, but we are using up the existing stocks.
Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that, in the case of the Territorial Army, where men get only one suit of battledress, it is of superior rather than inferior quality?
I have already answered that question. We have to use the stocks we have.
Vehicles And Equipment
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that owing to poor recruitment many Territorial Army units are not able to maintain adequately vehicles and equipment; and whether he will consider the possibility of increasing the civilian permanent staff on the establishment of Territorial Army units in order to ensure that vehicles and equipment are properly maintained.
Territorial Army units should only draw the vehicles and equipment which they are in a position to maintain. Units which have not recruited many men neither need nor have issued to them the same amount of equipment as those with larger numbers. A review of the permanent staff is at present taking place in the War Office; the maintenance of equipment is receiving consideration in this review.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that if units drew only the amount of equipment which bore some relation to their numbers, the result would be that they would not have one vehicle or one particular piece of equipment on which men should train? Will he give this matter further consideration and see whether it is possible to increase the civilian assistance that these units get?
As I have said, we have the matter under review.
Is the Secretary of State aware that this situation can lead to a vicious circle? If units recruiting few men get no equipment it means that the men will be bored and then the unit does not recruit any more men.
I cannot imagine that the Territorial Army is bored.
Married Officers (Servant Allowance)
asked the Secretary of State for War what servant allowance is payable to married officers, serving at home or abroad, who cannot have the assistance of a batman owing to the fact that married quarters are not available.
On the introduction of the post-war code of pay and allowances on 1st July, 1946, servant allowance as a separate emolument was abolished and for married officers became absorbed into marriage allowance. Since that date married officers accompanied by their families serving at home or abroad, and whether living in or out of quarters, have accordingly not been eligible for any servant allowance when batman service in kind at public expense is not available.
I cannot quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's answer. Does it mean that if a married officer is so unlucky as not to be able to live in married quarters, as very many officers are unable to do, he cannot get the use of a batman and cannot have a servant allowance? Is not that a most anomalous situation?
They have the servant allowance, which was incorporated into the revised pay and allowances, an arrangement reached some time ago. They cannot have the services of a batman.
Could not the officers who find it a hardship to be without batmen, be provided with bowlers?
Married Quarters, Canal Zone
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the great disappointment of married officers and other ranks serving in the Canal Zone at the continued shortage of married quarters and the apparent lack of effort to remedy the situation; and by what date it is planned to provide sufficient married quarters in this area.
I am well aware of the disappointment of married officers and other ranks serving in the Canal Zone at the continued shortage of married quarters and every effort is being made to improve the situation. Unfortunately however, the Army is faced with an enormous programme of building of all kinds, and the available resources have to be apportioned between commands and between the different kinds of buildings needed, including accommodation for unmarried soldiers as well as married quarters.
Can the Secretary of State give any indication at all when there will be an improvement in what is a most disgraceful situation? Will he consider going out to the Middle East himself to see the appalling circumstances in which officers and other ranks have to live?
I know that the conditions are most unsatisfactory. They have been so for a long time. They are being improved, though not so rapidly as I should like.
As one who knew this district at one time only too well, may I ask the Secretary of State if he will look into this matter again? General considerations really do not apply here, because there is cheap accommodation. One of the things that militates against recruiting is the lack of married quarters.
I cannot say about recruiting. I have other opinions about it. The facts are all against the noble Lord. I can assure hon. Members in all quarters of the House that this matter engages my attention at all hours of the day. My staff are trying to improve the position.
Is the domestic building programme of the Army in the Canal zone concentrated upon Fayed?
Fayed is naturally included, being headquarters, but I would not say offhand that it is entirely confined to it.
Overseas Service (Training)
asked the Secretary of State for War what are now the minimum periods of training and service which a soldier must have completed before embarkation to the British Army of the Rhine, the Middle East and the Far East, respectively.
Before embarkation for B.A.O.R. a soldier must have completed the period of basic training appropriate for his arm and trade, for the Middle East 10 weeks' training and a total of 12 weeks' service, for the Far East 16 weeks' training, and a total of 18 weeks' service.
Will the Minister say since when these limits have been enforced and whether they are now strictly enforced?
They have been enforced and strictly enforced within the last two or three weeks.
asked the Secretary of State for War what charge is made at the Port of Aden for the conveyance from troopships to the shore of formed bodies of British troops landing for the purpose of exercise; and from what funds such charge is met.
Regulations do not permit formed bodies of troops to land at Aden for the purpose of exercise. The Question does not therefore arise.
As it takes more than 36 days to get to Singapore, is it not very desirable for the health of the troops that they should be allowed under proper supervision to land at Aden for exercise purposes? Is not that in the interests of the Service and should not the State foot the bill?
That is not the Question on the Paper.
Yes, it is.
asked the Secretary of State for War why the increases necessary to bring the rates of pension of Army schoolmistresses up to the revised Burnham Scale of 1948 have not yet been granted as promised; and, as the present pension rate of these schoolmistresses, namely, 3d. per day for each year's qualified service, is inadequate, if he will accelerate the grant of these increases.
The pension terms for Queen's Army schoolmistresses are under review, but I am not yet able to say what the result will be.
As these mistresses retire at the age of 50, which is much younger than the comparable age for civilian mistresses, will the right hon. Gentleman make an early announcement of new rates of pension, which should be comparable with those enjoyed by civilian mistresses?
We are having a review of the general position affecting Queen's Army schoolmistresses. I am not in a position to say when an announcement will be made.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether Army schoolmistresses who, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, are to be retired on reaching the age of 50 years, will be given any guarantee of further employment; or whether assistance in obtaining employment as teachers under local educational authorities will be given to them.
I regret that I cannot give a guarantee of further employment elsewhere for Queen's Army schoolmistresses after their retirement, but I understand from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education that suitably qualified teachers are experiencing no difficulty in obtaining further employment, although choice of locality cannot be guaranteed.
Has not the education given in Army children's schools always been of a very high order and ought not the Army in dispensing with the services of these excellent schoolmistresses, to ensure that they get further suitable employment?
I gladly pay a tribute to the work undertaken by the Queen's Army schoolmistresses in the past. We cannot, of course, guarantee suitable employment after their retirement. As I have said, the Minister of Education will do his best to assist.
In view of the excellent work that the Army school-mistresses do, will my right hon. Friend undertake to have a consultation with the Minister of Education about the transfer of these women, rather than that they should be expected to find posts for themselves? We are very short of women teachers and I am sure that such a transfer could be arranged.
I will take note of what my hon. Friend says. I think there is something in it.
Would the right hon. Gentleman also try to persuade the Secretary of State for Air to employ these schoolmistresses where the education of children is sadly lacking?
I have no doubt that the Ministers concerned will have taken note of these questions.
Scottish Soldiers, Hong Kong
asked the Secretary of State for War how many Scottish soldiers are being sent to Hong Kong.
The information asked for by my hon. Friend could not be given without a disproportionate amount of work.
Is the Minister aware that it has already appeared in the Press that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are being sent to Hong Kong? Can he tell us if these are conscripts or recruits, and if they have had the 16 weeks' training which he has stated is necessary?
That is an entirely different question.
German Ex-Prisoners Of War
asked the Secretary of State for War how many German ex-prisoners of war are serving in bomb disposal units or otherwise in the British Army; what is their status; and what are the terms of their engagement.
Six hundred and forty-five German former prisoners of war are employed with bomb disposal units in the United Kingdom. A further 550 German former prisoners of war employed by the War Department are serving as volunteer civilian workers in the Middle East. Those in the United Kingdom are paid at rates varying between 103s. and 113s. per week of 44 hours. When accommodated and rationed at public expense a deduction of 30s. a week is made. In other respects such as leave, sick leave, insurance and Income Tax, their conditions of service are comparable to those of British industrial employees of the War Department. Those in the Middle East are paid at monthly rates varying from about £14 for semi-skilled workers to about £36 for medical officers and garrison engineers. They work a 48-hour week, get free accommodation, rations and medical treatment, and pay only local taxes. Both categories are employed under contracts which expire on 31st December, 1949.
They are all civilians are they?
Yes, they are all civilians; they are what is described as "civilianised."
Bridging Camp, Halton
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give instructions that works of a permanent nature at the Halton, Lancashire, Bridging Camp, are to cease forthwith, in view of the fact that a public inquiry into the use of this site by his Department has been fixed for 30th June.
The works are designed to improve in certain essential respects, including sanitation, a camp which stands on land owned by the War Department since before the war and is required for training this year. The public local inquiry relates primarily to the continuance of a war-time extension of the training to other land. In the circumstances I do not regard these improvements as prejudicing the inquiry.
Field Marshal Von Manstein (Trial)
asked the Secretary of State for War what are the charges against Field Marshal Von Manstein; and whether he will now consider the abandonment of such trials and review the sentences that have already been passed.
It would not be proper to disclose the charges until they have been considered by the convening officer and served on the defendant. His Majesty's Government do not intend to bring to trial in the British Zone of Germany any other persons accused of crimes against the laws and usages of war, apart from trials already begun and that of ex-Field Marshal von Manstein. I have already set up boards to review all war crimes trials undertaken by the military authorities.
But surely my right hon. Friend will agree that conditions today are entirely different from what they were in 1945, and that it is high time we abandoned the trial of Field Marshal Von Manstein and of any others on my right hon. Friend's list?
No, in view of the allegations that have been made against ex-Field Marshal Von Manstein—I repeat, allegations—we are not prepared to abandon the trial.
In view of the fact that it is nearly four years since these delicate questions of international law have been handled by the Department of the right hon. Gentleman, can he without impropriety give the House an assurance that he is open to advice from the Attorney-General and not merely from the highest judicial authorities of the Army.
I have already said this is a Government decision.
Does not the Minister realise that large sections of public opinion condemn the cat-and-mouse policy which has been followed in this and other cases, and owing to the long delay in bringing this man to trial, will not my right hon. Friend look at it again and decide to call it off? It would be a good gesture, which would help our future relations with the Germans.
In a matter of this sort justice cannot be so satisfied.
In spite of the fact that strict justice may require that this man should be charged and perhaps punished, would not larger interests be better served by dropping the whole thing just at the moment when it is important that conditions in West Germany should become as normal as possible?
No, I rather think that would cut both ways.
Town And Country Planning
Berry Head, Devon
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning when he will make a decision on the inquiry which was held on 8th January, 1947, about Berry Head, South Devon.
Since the inquiry was held, a good deal of further detailed investigation has been necessary, on a number of points. This is now almost complete and I hope to be able to issue the decision this month.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman why it is that the inquiry into a very simple matter should take so long? Is he aware that there is a large amount of quarrying which is detracting enormously from the amenities of the district?
The reason is largely that my right hon. Friend is anxious to secure agreement by consultation. Many parties are involved, there have been many consultations, and we hope for an agreed solution.
Is the hon. Gentleman quite sure that the only delaying factor is not another Minister, and is he not aware that the local authorities and everyone connected with the locality are perfectly aware that they can come to an agreement at once?
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning how many applications have been made since the appointed day for certificates in respect of dead ripe land under Section 80 of the Town and Country Planning Act; and what area of land that represents in London, in England outside of London, in Scotland and in Wales, respectively.
Since the appointed day, 13,785 applications have been received in respect of land in England and Wales; my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has received 246 applications, covering 903 acres, under Section 77 of the Scottish Act. It is regretted that figures indicating the areas of land involved are not available for England and Wales.
May I ask my hon. Friend whether the figures he has given to the House are up to his expectations, or was he expecting more?
I think they are pretty well what was expected. I do not know that we ever went into estimates in detail.
Could the hon. Gentleman describe a little more accurately the land concerned, which appears to be simultaneously "dead" and "ripe"?
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is surely aware of the conditions described in the 1947 Act. If not, he has only to read the Act.
Does my hon. Friend understand that the Chairman of the Committee does not think that these figures are all that they should be?
We are anxious to get in all applications under this Section as soon as possible. I think my right hon. Friend has given public expression to that desire.
Proposed Garage, Cheadle
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether he is aware of the strong local feeling against the erection of a garage immediately next to St. Chad's Roman Catholic Church, Cheadle; and whether, in view of the fact that the project is calculated to interfere with the orderly conduct of Divine Service, he will reverse the decision to approve it recently given by the Cheshire County Council.
I understand that this matter is at present being discussed between the local authorities and the other parties concerned. I hope these discussions may lead to a solution that can be accepted by both sides.
Is not my hon. Friend aware that the attitude of the Cheshire County Council in this case has so far been extremely high-handed, and that, if their proposal to endorse the erection of this garage next to the church is carried out, it will represent an act of vandalism?
I understand that the priest in charge and the county council are now in consultation one with another, and I hope they may reach agreement.
Development Charge (Payment)
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning in how many cases the assessed development charge has actually been paid; in how many cases the charge has not been paid, but has been merely set off against the right to receive payment out of the £300,000,000 fund; and if he will state, together with the sums involved, how many of such latter cases belong respectively to single plot owners and how many to owners of near ripe land.
Up to the end of April, 1949, development charge amounting to £715,000 had been paid in respect of 7,259 cases. In addition £731,000 in respect of 3,844 cases—all single plot cases—had been set off against claims up to 31st March, 1949—the latest date for which figures are available.
Is my hon. Friend aware that if his Department or the Central Land Board go on at this rate, it will take them something like 300 years to collect the £300 million to be paid out in 1952?
We shall not go on at this rate.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some of my Socialist opponents are getting angry with his Department because of these iniquitous charges?
Form And Leaflet
asked the Minister of National Insurance how many forms C.F.(N). 68 have been sent out; and how many copies of leaflet N.I. 38.
The figures are 9,000 and 271,000, respectively.
In view of the fact that this Government have brought the country to bankruptcy why, in order to advertise the Socialist policy, do we offer free services to the whole world?
The purpose of these leaflets is to explain to British persons leaving the country how they can maintain their insurance in this country, which would be to their advantage.
Office, St Neots (Opening)
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware that his Department's local office at St. Neots is open on Thursdays only and that one day per week is insufficient to meet the needs of the people of St. Neots and the large rural area which surrounds it; and whether he will take steps to have that office opened more frequently, preferably each weekday.
The office at St. Neots is linked with that at Huntingdon. I am not aware that the provision made at St. Neots by opening the office on one day a week is inadequate.
Is the Minister aware that there are at least 20 villages whose bus services are centred on St. Neots but whose people cannot get to Huntingdon, which is eight miles from St. Neots, and that it is a great inconvenience to these people to have only one day of the week on which to go to the office; and will he look into this matter further?
The highest number of callers on any one day has been 13, which proves, I think, that our provision is quite adequate.
33 and 34.
asked the Minister of National Insurance (1) how many men and women, respectively, in receipt of retirement pensions on 5th April, 1949, were also receiving supplementary assistance from the National Assistance Board;(2) the numbers of men and women, respectively, who were in receipt of retirement pensions on 5th April, 1949.
The numbers of men and women in receipt of retirement and contributory old age pensions on 5th April, 1949, were approximately 1,550,000 and 2,600,000, respectively. I am informed by the National Assistance Board that, of these, about 205,000 men and 425,000 women were receiving supplementary assistance. In addition there were 445,000 men and women in receipt of non-contributory pensions (including blind pensions) numbering 140,000 and 305,000, respectively. Of these 40,000 men and 65,000 women were in receipt of supplementary assistance.
Do the figures show any evidence of an increasing tendency for people to remain at work beyond retirement age?
Yes. If my hon. Friend will put down a Question I will give him the exact figure.
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware that Keith Brougham, of 17, Ramsey Road, St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, reached the age of 15 on Saturday, 30th April; that he worked for four and a half hours on that day; that the local office of his Department have insisted that he and his employer should pay their insurance contributions for the whole of the week commencing Monday, 25th April; and what is the reason for insisting on payment of the contributions for that week.
I am having inquiries made and will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as possible.
Will the Minister bear in mind that this young man voluntarily worked for four and a half hours on his birthday, which was a Saturday; and will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether it was a favourable entry into the great National Insurance scheme that he should have a deduction for the few hours he worked on that one day, which was the only day of the week for which he was liable?
I have made inquiries from the local office. The hon. Member's Question is the first we have heard about this case. That is why I am having further inquiries made.
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, in view of the fact that the 5s. family allowance may not be spent in the interests of the child, he will introduce legislation providing for this to be issued in tokens which can only be exchanged for articles, clothing or food which are for the benefit of the child or children concerned as intended by this grant.
The Family Allowances Act provides that the allowances shall be paid for the benefit of the family as a whole. I have no evidence which would justify me in seeking to remove from parents the responsibility of deciding for themselves how the money can best be used.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the children are benefiting so much that it is impossible to distinguish them in appearance from children of the highest station in the land, and will he consider sending a message of congratulation to the mothers for the splendid work they are doing on this small allowance?
All our evidence shows that the family allowance has been a boon to mothers and I think it has been a very great advantage to the nation, for the health of the children, by all statistics, was better last year than at any time in history.
Broadcasting (Committee Of Inquiry)
asked the Lord President of the Council whether the Committee of Inquiry into the organisation of broadcasting will be empowered to hear evidence and make recommendations on whether a separate broadcasting corporation should be set up for Wales.
Will the members of the staff of the Broadcasting Corporation who are employed in Wales be able to give evidence before the Committee on this matter?
That will be a matter for the Committee of Inquiry. I should not like to dogmatise about it.
Canadian Foodstuffs (Payment)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what grounds the Canadian Government have refused to accept sterling in payment for food supplied to this country.
On the purely technical point, I am not aware that the Canadian authorities have refused to accept initial payment in sterling for our food purchases. In present circumstances, however, as sales by Canada to the United Kingdom and the rest of the sterling area greatly exceed sales to Canada by the United Kingdom and the rest of the sterling area, the excess of the sterling area's purchases over its sales has in effect to be paid for in dollars.
May I ask my hon. Friend two questions arising out of that reply: first, are we to understand that no representations have been made by the Government suggesting to the Canadian Government that they should accept sterling; and second, is he aware that there are a large number of people in this country who manufacture goods which could quite easily be sent to Canada but that Canada prefers to buy from America?
As Canada is a dollar country——
—and as our purchases from Canada exceed Canada's purchases from us, it is inevitable that the excess has to be paid for in dollars.
Has my hon. Friend considered the extraordinary state of affairs that Canada is the only part of the British Empire which refuses to accept sterling, and what does he propose to do about it? Sooner or later they will have to send their food to America.
The answer is that Canada is in the American continent. That is no responsibility of this Government.
In view of the very grave situation and the light-hearted way in which my hon. Friend deals with this matter I propose to raise the whole question on the Adjournment.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give an estimate of the loss to Purchase Tax revenue which would result if the present turnover, exempt from purchase tax of £500, was raised to £1,000 or to £1,500.
It is impossible to make a reliable estimate. The loss would probably not exceed one or two million pounds. But there are, of course, other considerations.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the purchasing power of the £ has been whittled away for five years, and will he reconsider the adjustment of this matter? It is now impossible to make a bare living at the original figure, and will he consider raising it?
I do not think that this estimate would be affected very much one way or the other by any changes in the value of the £ in the last few years.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has considered a resolution passed by the Methil Co-operative Society and sent to him by the hon. Member for West Fife, condemning the increase of food prices arising from the Budget, and protesting against the failure to withdraw the Purchase Tax from household goods and every day necessities; and what reply he has made.
This Society wrote to my right hon. and learned Friend on 22nd April, and also to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who forwarded their letter. I have already replied to the hon. Member, and I am sending him a copy of the reply which was sent to the Society on behalf of my right hon. and learned Friend.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it was not a favourable reply that he sent to me and that I am raising this matter here in the hope of getting a favourable reply? Would he not consider this resolution in view of the fact that it expresses the desire of very many people in this country, and would he not revert to the policy of soaking the rich? There is still a lot of soaking to be done before they are down to their last soak.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the 100 per cent. Purchase Tax has now been added to engraved glassware which is not a luxury article.
The tax on glassware of cut glass includes glassware decorated by any form of cutting. It would not be practicable to exclude such examples of cut glass as might not be regarded as luxury articles.
Is my hon. Friend aware that this Tax was not paid on engraved glass at the beginning, probably due to pressure from cut glass manufacturers? Is he further aware that it is quite fantastic to pay a tax of half-a-crown on a tumbler, which probably cost twopence? When will he allow us to have a bit of decoration without paying a ridiculous tax?
This House has laid down the rate of tax and, unfortunately, in practice it has proved impossible to distinguish between one form of cut glass and another.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has considered a resolution from the workers of John Langs, Johnstone, and endorsed by the Paisley District Committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, protesting against the increases in food prices arising out of the recent Budget, a copy of which has been sent to him; and if he will now reconsider his attitude to this question.
Yes and No, Sir.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would seriously consider reversing these answers and give a "Yes" to the propositions of the workers?
Double Taxation (Eire)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether citizens of Eire working in this country pay the same Pay As You Earn as British subjects.
Yes, Sir, subject to the provisions of the Double Taxation Agreement made between this country and Eire in 1926 and confirmed by Section 23 of the Finance Act, 1926, under which a person resident in one country only may claim exemption from tax in the other.
Capital Issues Committee
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what directions he has given to the Capital Issues Committee concerning proposals that provide for reducing costs.
Specific reference was made to such projects in a memorandum addressed to the committee on 4th April. The terms of the memorandum were given in the reply which my right hon. and learned Friend gave to my hon. Friend, the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) on 14th April.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the total in each year from 1945, and in 1949 to the latest convenient date, of sums withdrawn from sterling balances by other countries in agreement with His Majesty's Government.
I am preparing a table for circulation in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
As these sums are very large, and as they constitute a charge upon our productivity and result in exports for which we receive no return, can the hon. Gentleman say what action the Government are taking to cut down these releases to ensure that everything we make brings some return by way of imports to this country?
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware, we have made and are making a number of agreements for the special purpose of limiting these releases.
Customs Search, Dover
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why Mr. F. Vanderzypen, a Belgian visiting the British Industries Fair, was separated from his British-born manager when the Ostend boat arrived at Dover on 2nd May, put into a room, required to undress and bodily searched; whether any money, valuables or dutiable goods were found upon him; whether any apology was offered to him for the indignity and inconvenience he had undergone; and whether he is aware that this procedure must discourage foreign purchasers from visiting the British Industries Fair.
Separation of British from non-British passengers is a routine process which expedites immigration control of passengers. Mr. Vanderzypen was searched by the Customs on suspicions which happily proved to be unfounded. The inconvenience caused him is much regretted and Mr. Vanderzypen was so informed at the time. As regards the last part of the Question, I am afraid that it would be impossible to grant immunity from Customs examination to business visitors to this country.
Has the right hon. Gentleman inquired as to what were the grounds of suspicion upon which the Customs officers acted?
I obviously could not answer that question here.
Has the right hon. Gentleman satisfied himself that there was any sufficient reason to justify the action taken by the Customs officers?
The Customs officials have the right to search anyone on suspicion and that is a right which they exercise with great circumspection. We must leave it at that.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.
Regional Petroleum Boards (Staffs)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if his attention has been called to the increasing numbers of middle-aged persons who are being discharged from employment under regional petroleum boards in consequence of redundancy caused by measures of decontrol; and if he will see that other State Departments do not confine their advertisements on offers of employment to young persons only, but engage older ones who satisfy the requirements of competency, availability, and experience, as in the cases of those displaced.
The staff of the Petroleum Board were not Government servants. In selecting applicants for submission to vacancies for temporary staff in Government Departments, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service has special regard to the claims of older persons.
Paye (Agricultural Workers)
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware of the unfairness of existing regulations for Pay As You Earn, whereby an unmarried agricultural worker in group 35 who lives in, may receive £4 8s. free of tax, but that, if he lives out and has to pay for his board and lodgings, though in the same group he may only get £2 18s. free of tax; and whether he will take steps to end this anomaly.
The liability to Income Tax in these cases is governed not by the P.A.Y.E. regulations, but by the general Income Tax law. Apart from the provisions of Part IV of the Finance Act, 1948, charging benefits in kind provided for directors and highly paid employees, the general rule is that where an employer undertakes to provide free board and lodging or other benefits which cannot be converted into cash, the value is not income for taxation purposes.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the case of the agricultural worker I have quoted, who lives out and pays his own board and lodging, that board and lodging money is subject to tax, but, if the employer pays the board and lodging, it is not subject to tax?
That is exactly what I have been saying.
Coi Exhibition (Attendance)
asked the Economic Secretary to the Treasury what was the approximate number of people who visited the exhibition "On Our Way" in Oxford Street organised by the Central Office of Information.
During its six weeks' run, the exhibition was visited by approximately 150,000 people.
Is the hon. Member aware that the figures he has given work out at about 3s. 6d. per head of the public who attended and does he consider this taxpayers' money well spent?
Subject to the mental arithmetic of the hon. Member, which I think is not quite correct, he should not suppose that the effect of the exhibition was confined to people who went there and he might like to know that, as a result, a number of speeches, lectures and film shows were arranged to propagate the exhibition.
Trade And Commerce
Housing Units (Export)
asked the President of the Board of Trade how many prefabricated housing units have been exported to Eire or any European country during the last 12 months; and how many under the headings of temporary and permanent, respectively.
Prefabricated housing units are not distinguished separately in the export statistics. I understand, however, that no applications have been received in the last 12 months for an allocation of timber for exports of housing units to the areas mentioned.
Photographic Materials (Export)
asked the President of the Board of Trade the value of photographic apparatus and material exported from the United Kingdom to European markets in the first quarter of 1949; and what were the comparable figures for the last quarter of 1948.
The value of exports of photographic apparatus and materials to European countries in the first quarter of 1949 was £458,000 compared with £439,000 in the last quarter of 1948.
asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of new factories and extensions, respectively, that have been erected in each of the 11 regions; also the number approved since December, 1944, up to the latest available date.
As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the statement:
|NUMBER OF NEW FACTORIES AND EXTENSION TO EXISTING FACTORIES OF 5,000 SQUARE FEET AND OVER APPROVED AND COMPLETED, DURING THE PERIOD DECEMBER 1944 TO THE 31ST MARCH, 1949.|
|Regions||New factories||Extensions to existing factories||Total new factories and extensions|
|2. EAST & WEST RIDINGS:|
|3. NORTH MIDLAND:|
|5. LONDON & SOUTH EASTERN:|
|7. SOUTH WESTERN:|
|10. NORTH WESTERN:|
Overseas Buyers Club (Catering)
asked the President of the Board of Trade to what firm he gave the contract for catering at the Overseas Buyers Club, Earls Court; whether a list of proposed prices was submitted to him in advance; and what are the charges for a cup of tea, a cup of coffee and a sandwich.
The catering arrangements for the Earls Court buildings, including the Overseas Buyers Club, are carried out by the owners, Earls Court Limited, as part of the tenancy agreement and no separate contract is placed by the Board of Trade. The proposed tariff for the club was discussed with the caterers before the opening of the Fair. The charge for a cup of tea is 4d. and for a cup of coffee 5d.; the price of a sandwich varies from 1s. upwards. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the complete tariff of charges.
Will the hon. Gentleman check up on the amounts he has given, because my information—from a reliable source—is that the charge for a cup of coffee was one shilling and for a cup of tea, eightpence? Is he aware that these high charges are likely to create a very unfavourable impression on those who attended and undo a great deal of the advantage provided by the exhibition?
I will have a look at the disparity in the charges mentioned, but that is the information given me. The Board of Trade have to accept the arrangement with the Earls Court association. It is private enterprise which is carrying out the work, not the Government.
Is my hon. Friend aware that during the war the Minister of Food laid down that the minimum number of cups of tea to be obtained from one pound of tea was 250 and that generally 250 to 300 cups of tea are obtained? Will he make a calculation at fourpence a cup to see how much they are drawing in from one pound of tea and he will find that there is more profit in tea than in whisky, or in any other beverage?
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the experience of textile exhibitors at the British Industries Fair was that British producers found it difficult to make their prices sufficiently competitive under present conditions; and what steps he proposes to take to assist the textile industry to effect price reductions.
I understand that some buyers have commented on certain of our textile prices, but such comments are far from being general. One object of the Government's drive to increase the output and efficiency of our textile industries is to secure lower costs and therefore lower prices, but high world prices of raw materials, particularly of wool, are a severe handicap.
Is there now any possibility of relief to the textile industry from quota and currency restrictions, especially in view of the effect of the dominating influence of the Italians in the Latin-American market?
British Industries Fair (Results)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he can give an indication of the amount of business transacted at the British Industries Fair; and how this compares with last year.
It has never been found possible to make even an approximate assessment of the amount of business transacted at the British Industries Fair, but, according to reports received from exhibitors and from the officials concerned with the Fair in London and Birmingham, both the volume of orders received and the nature of the inquiries from overseas suggest that the ultimate results are likely to surpass those of the 1948 Fair.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has happened to the balance of the 10 per cent. retained by the Racecourse Betting Control Board from their 1948 totalisator turnover over and above the surplus of £490,000 announced as having been put back into racing.
Broadly speaking, the moneys to which my hon. Friend refers are applied to meet the costs of operation, administration, taxation and certain miscellaneous expenditure. Detailed information will be published in the Racecourse Betting Control Board's Annual Report and Accounts for 1948, which will shortly be presented to Parliament.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the amount mentioned in the Question is only 19 per cent. of the amount distributed? Does not this make a mockery of the Chancellor's contention that this 10 per cent. is for the encouragement of horse breeding?