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Written Answers

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 19 May 1949

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Written Answers To Questions

Thursday, 19th May, 1949

Closed Factory, Portsmouth

asked the President of the Board of Trade on what date his Department's regional office was notified by Messrs. R. K. Dundas, Limited, of Portsmouth, who closed their works on 6th May last, of their intention to cease operating; and what action he proposes to take to ensure that the factory is used for industrial purposes at an early date and to aid in the provision of employment for those discharged.

The regional office of the Board of Trade was notified by the regional controller of the Ministry of Labour and National Service on 29th April of the intention of Messrs. R. K. Dundas, Limited, of Portsmouth, to close their works on 6th May. The regional office of the Board of Trade made contact with the firm on the same day. The factory is privately owned and its disposal is, therefore, a matter for the owners, but my Department is doing all it can to bring the factory to the notice of industrialists who are known to be in need of premises.

Building Industry (Apprentices)

asked the Minister of Works whether the agreed rate of intake of apprentices to the crafts within the building industry is adequate to maintain the present scale of operations and permit future expansion of the industry to meet the demands likely to be made upon it.

The rate of intake of apprentices to the building industry crafts suggested by the Building Apprenticeship and Training Council—22,000 per year—would, if achieved, be adequate to attain the objective referred to by my hon. Friend. Up to 1947 the numbers coming into the industry were reasonably near that total, but available information indicates that since that date there has been a decline. The rate of recruitment is receiving the attention of the Building Apprenticeship and Training Council, and of the Government Departments concerned. Every effort is being made to stimulate the entry of apprentices to the industry.

Private Property Guards


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the number of private special guard organisations being set up stating that their object is to protect properties, etc., from burglaries, at a charge; to what extent these organisations are leading to breaches of the peace; and what advice he proposes to give to watch committees in this matter.

I have been keeping in close touch with the activities of private organisations of this kind, but I know of only one case in which action taken by a member of one of them led to a breach of the peace. I have no doubt that if the law is infringed by any of these organisations appropriate action will be taken by the police and I do not think that any special advice to watch committees is required.

Air-Raid Shelters


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will withdraw his instructions to local authorities that Civil Defence shelters shall not be removed, where they stand on private property and are a nuisance to the owners thereof as, for example, in small gardens.

I do not feel justified in authorising the removal of shelters except where necessary in the public interest.

Spanish Nationals

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has decided on the steps to be taken regarding the deportation of Aquillino Diaz; and if he will make a statement.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I give today to my hon. Friends the Members for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and Winchester (Mr. Jeger).

National Health Service

Health Centre, Newcastle


asked the Minister of Health what plans have been submitted to him for the building of a health centre or centres in Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and whether, in view of his recent sanctioning of new health centres in Stoke Newington and Birmingham, he will now sanction the creation of a health centre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

No plans have yet been submitted to me, but the council intend to submit plans in the near future, and when they do so I will consider whether sanction can be given.

Ophthalmic Opticians


asked the Minister of Health whether he is now able to announce the persons he has appointed to the inter-departmental committee to inquire into the future status of ophthalmic opticians; and when they will commence their deliberations.

Ophthalmic Services


asked the Minister of Health if he will consider the advisability of taking advertisement space in the national Press in order to advise the public of the up-to-date facts of the supply situation in regard to the supplementary ophthalmic services of the National Health Service.

I think it preferable to rely on the publicity given by the newspapers and the B.B.C. to the statements made from time to time in answer to Questions in this House, coupled with the assistance given by hon. Members in explaining the position to their constituents.

Mentally Deficient Children


asked the Minister of Health, in view of the number of cases of mentally deficient children who are still without institutional care, what progress has been made during the last year to meet this urgent need.

Six hundred and forty-one additional beds for mental defectives were provided in the year 1948; of this number 72 were for children.

Mental Hospitals


asked the Minister of Health to what extent mental hospitals in London and the Home Counties are overcrowded; approximately what proportion of beds and wards is not being used through lack of staff; and whether recruitment for mental hospital service is progressing or retrogressing.

The accommodation in use is overcrowded by 4,048 beds (approximately 11 per cent. of the total). The proportion of bed space available but not being used through lack of staff is 4.1 per cent. Separate figures for wards not in use for this reason are not available. The recruitment of nurses is progressing; in 1948 there were 15 per cent. more nurses employed in these hospitals than in 1945.

Nurses' Salaries


asked the Minister of Health when proposals for the improvement of nurses' salaries are likely to be made public; and to what extent and when these increases will operate.

This depends on the result of the negotiations now in progress on the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council.

Hospital, Salford (Wards)


asked the Minister of Health which committee rescinded the recommendation of the hospital medical staff committee and the Hope, Ladywell and Drinkwater Park hospital committee to close six wards to accommodate six extra members of the medical staff; and when this decision was reached.

I am informed that a proposal to use two side wards for this purpose was rejected by the Salford Hospital Management Committee on 4th May.



asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the fact that, under the National Health Service Act, two identical pairs of spectacles may now be secured without payment, one through a hospital and one through an ophthalmic optician; and what action he is taking to prevent such abuse.

I am considering whether any steps ought to be taken to prevent the possibility of abuse.


asked the Minister of Health what is the reason for the delay in replying to the letter sent to him on 28th February by the hon. Member for Finsbury regarding the case of Mrs. Elizabeth Carr, 6, Ashby Street, E.C.1, who complained about the refusal of her optician to supply her with spectacles; and in view of the fact that the eyesight of this lady is rapidly deteriorating and that she has been waiting over seven months for these spectacles, what hastening action it is proposed to take.

I very much regret the delay. Mrs. Carr's complaint has been brought to the notice of the London Ophthalmic Services Committee, who have been in touch with the optician concerned. The cancellation of the order for Mrs. Carr's glasses resulted from a misunderstanding. The order was reinstated and I understand that Mrs. Carr's glasses are now ready.


asked the Minister of Health when Mr. R. W. Mann, of 100, Highbury Hill, for whom fresh glasses were prescribed by his doctor in November last, may expect to receive them.

These delays, which I naturally regret, are due to the very high demand for spectacles. Opticians are able to give priority to the most urgent cases such as a badly affected child at school, or a person totally incapacitated without glasses, etc. But such arrangements can naturally only apply to a very small percentage of the total. All possible steps are being taken to increase production. The best course for those whose spectacles are long delayed is to keep in close touch with their opticians.

General Practitioners (Remuneration)

63 and 64.

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is aware that the East Sussex Local Medical Committee, representing about 360 general practitioners in the National Health Service in East Sussex as well as others not in the Service, is in agreement with the General Medical Services Committee regarding their views following his recent meeting with them to discuss the case for increased remuneration of general practitioners; what views he has received from other local medical committees; and what action he now proposes to resolve the deadlock that has arisen;

(2) if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the resolutions of the General Medical Services Committee following their meeting with him as recorded in Circular Letter M.27/1948–49; and state his policy with regard to these resolutions.

There is no question of deadlock. I am in the midst of negotiations with the General Medical Services Committee on the remuneration of general practitioners, and I would prefer to make a statement on their conclusion.

Dentists' Fees (Reductions)


asked the Minister of Health if he now has any statement to make on the subject of dental remuneration.

Yes. I have come to the conclusion that certain reductions to the present scale of fees are called for as a matter of urgency and Regulations giving effect to these reductions have been laid before Parliament. A summary of the considerations which, in my view, make the reductions necessary, including correspondence between my Department and the dental organisations, will be sent to Executive Councils and copies will be available to Members in the Library.

Medical Auxiliaries (Committees)

asked the Minister of Health whether he will review the recruitment qualifications and training of medical auxiliaries engaged in the National Health Service.

Yes. The Secretary of State for Scotland and I are setting up a series of committees to consider these questions and advise us in relation to almoners, chiropodists, dietitians, laboratory technicians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, radiographers and speech therapists. I am glad to say that Mr. V. Zachary Cope, M.D., M.S., F.R.C.S., has consented to act as chairman of all these committees. The other members so far appointed are as follows:(

a) Members common to all the committees

  • Dr. G. A. Clark, V.D., M.D. (Ministry of Health),
  • Mr. A. B. Taylor (Department of Health for Scotland).

( b) Members of individual committees Almoners:

  • Dr. F. Grundy, M.D., D.P.H.,
  • Miss M. M. McInnes,
  • Miss M. J. Roxburgh, and one other.


  • Mr. St. J. D. Buxton, F.R.C.S.,
  • Miss D. Grant Nisbet,
  • Miss C. F. Norrie,
  • Dr. J. A. Scott, O.B.E., M.D., D.P.H.


  • Miss M. C. Broatch,
  • Prof. S. J. Cowell, F.R.C.P.,
  • Dr. D. P. Cuthbertson, M.D., F.R.S.E.,
  • Dr. G. Graham, M.D., F.R.C.P.,
  • Miss R. Pybus, O.B.E.

Laboratory Technicians:

  • Mr. T. C. Dodds,
  • Mr. A. Norman,
  • Dr. G. S. Wilson, M.D., F.R.C.P., D.P.H., and two others.

Occupational Therapists:

  • Miss M. D. Barr,
  • Miss E. M. Macdonald,
  • Mr. L. W. Plewes, M.D., F.R.C.S.,
  • Dr. T. P. Rees, M.D., D.P.M.


  • Mr. J. T. Buchan,
  • Mr. J. M. C. Colson,
  • Dr. J. L. Livingstone, M.D., F.R.C.P.,
  • Miss M. I. V. Mann,
  • Miss M. V. Sharpe,
  • Mr. T. T. Stamm, F.R.C.S.,
  • Dr. W. Tegner, M.R.C.P.


  • Dr. S. C. Shanks, M.D., F.R.C.P., F.F.R.,
  • Prof. G. Stead, D.Sc.,
  • Mr. C. Lovell Stiles, Mr. R. White,
  • Prof. B. W. Windeyer, F.R.C.S., F.F.R., D.M.R.E.

Speech Therapists:

  • Dr. E. J. Boome, M.R.C.P., D.P.H.,
  • Dr. J. B. Gaylor, F.R.F.P.S.,
  • Mr. V. E. Negus, M.S., F.R.C.S.,
  • Dr. C. C. Worster-Drought, M.D., F.R.C.P., and one other.

The secretary of all the committees is Mr. J. G. Paterson of the Ministry of Health, to whom all inquiries and correspondence should be sent.


Building Plots, Lewes


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the annoyance caused to many people in Lewes, and in particular to those who wish to build their own houses, at his refusal to allow the Lewes Borough Council to sell as building plots land acquired by them for housing since the end of the war; and whether he is aware that as a result of this refusal, the council has only been able to issue licences for 12 houses to be built by private enterprise, thus forcing those who wish to build their own houses, and can afford to do so, to continue to live in council houses or to retain their names on the council's list with about 500 other applicants for council houses; and if he will reconsider his decision.

On the contrary. I informed the council that where they are satisfied that an applicant to whom they would wish to grant a licence is unable to obtain a suitable plot on which to build a house I should be prepared to consider a proposal of the council to lease land to him on being satisfied that the land is not required for housing by the council and that the lease would not interfere with or adversely affect the layout of the remainder of the estate.

Requsitioned Premises, Chiswick

asked the Minister of Health when he will be in a position to reply to a letter addressed to him on 25th February last by Messrs. Pengelly & Company, 8 New Court, Lincoln's Inn, regarding property at 206 High Road, Chiswick; and whether he will now take a decision in this matter.

Messrs. Pengelly and Company were informed in April that the matter had been taken up by my Department with the Brentford and Chiswick Council. Owing to the continued shortage of housing accommodation in their area I understand that the council have been unable as yet to de-requisition the premises but that the application will be further considered next month.


Committee Labour (Hiring Terms)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will revise the hiring contracts for agricultural executive committee labour so that time spent in travelling to and from work is charged out on a fairer basis than at present; and whether he has considered the advantages of charging out this time as an overhead expense so that it may be spread evenly among those employing committee labour.

The principle that agricultural executive committee labour shall not be hired for less than a day is not, in my view, an unfair one, and I do not feel able to modify the standard terms of hiring beyond providing that where circumstances prevent the workers from being on the farm for the full working day, the farmer shall not be charged for short time in excess of one hour. I do not feel that it is justifiable to deal with this matter through the general charge for committee labour.

Bees (Disease)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the prevalence of brood diseases among bees in Norfolk, he will consider the appointment of a seasonal foul brood officer for the county.

The administration of the Foul Brood Disease of Bees Order, 1942, in Norfolk as in other counties, is in the hands of the county agricultural executive committee, whom I will consult on the need for such an appointment.

Fishing Industry


asked the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries the percentage of fresh fish landed in Great Britain by vessels of foreign registration.

In 1948, foreign registered fishing vessels caught 13 per cent. of the total quantity of fresh white fish landed in Great Britain direct from the fishing grounds.


asked the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries what steps he proposes to take to protect the interest of the British fishing industry when new trawler tonnage results in an excess of landing in Great Britain.

Any action taken would depend upon the circumstances ruling at the time.


Catering Wages


asked the Minister of Labour what regulations he proposes to make dealing with wages for employees in non-licensed hotels and boarding houses; and whether he will make a statement.

No proposals have yet been submitted by the Unlicensed Residential Establishment Wages Board.


asked the Minister of Labour if he is now in a position to make a statement on the effect on the hotel industry in Scotland of orders issued under the Catering Wages Act, 1943, particularly in the light of the Knox Report.

No. It is for the wages board concerned to propose any changes in the order. The board for licensed residential establishments has done so and my right hon. Friend has made a new order to give effect to their proposals as from 1st June.

Closed Factory, Portsmouth

asked the Minister of Labour on what date Messrs. R. K. Dundas, Limited, of Portsmouth, who closed down their works on 6th May last, first notified his Department's local offices of their intention so to do; and what steps he proposes to take to secure the absorption in suitable employment of those discharged.

On 29th April, Messrs. R. K. Dundas Limited notified their intention to close on Friday, 6th May. The normal machinery of the employment exchange service is available to assist those men and women who register to find other suitable employment. As my hon. Friend knows, there is close consultation between the Departments concerned about employment prospects in Portsmouth.

Ordnance Factory, Radway Green

asked the Minister of Labour (1) what steps he is taking to employ more partially disabled men at present unemployed in North Staffordshire at the Radway Green Royal Ordnance Factory;(2) to what extent labour is being transferred from other areas to work at the Radway Green Royal Ordnance Factory.

The answer to these two two Questions is that my Disablement Resettlement Officers are in close co-operation with the management of the factory. At present 219 persons i.e. 9 per cent. of the total labour employed, are disabled persons and every opportunity will be taken to increase this proportion. Recruitment of workers from other areas is limited to women and this year 93 women have been transferred from areas beyond daily travelling distance of the factory.

Industrial Disputes

asked the Minister of Labour the number of days lost by strikes in each of the following years; 1936, 1937, 1938, 1946, 1947 and 1948.

Working days lost in stoppages arising from industrial disputes in the years 1936, 1937 and 1938 totalled 1,829,000, 3,413,000 and 1,334,000 respectively. The corresponding totals in the years 1946, 1947 and 1948 were 2,158,000, 2,433,000 and 1,944,000.

Road Haulage Wages (Overtime)

asked the Minister of Labour what representations he has received from road haulage firms regarding the provision in the Road Haulage Wages Order which excludes overtime from being counted towards the guaranteed week of 44 hours; whether he is aware that considerable hardship is caused to employers in Dorsetshire, since their employees frequently do not work a total of 44 hours and are often idle on Saturday mornings, and yet have to be paid overtime because they have worked for more than eight hours on one or two days in the week; and if he will consider revising this provision.

I have no record of having received any such representations. Since December, 1940, successive road haulage wages orders have excluded overtime from the calculation of guaranteed weekly remuneration. Under the Wages Councils Acts, 1945 to 1948, I have no power to amend a wages regulation order except on receipt of proposals duly submitted by the wages council concerned after it has published its proposals and has considered any representations made to it with respect thereto.


Sports (Disused Bomb Sites)


asked the Minister of Education whether he will take action to make available disused bomb sites in London and other large towns for temporary use as tennis courts, sports grounds, etc., by schools in urgent want of such facilities.

Local education authorities have a duty under the Education Acts to provide facilities for recreation and social and physical training for school children, and they are well aware of the possibility of using disused bomb sites for this purpose. A number of such sites have been laid with a hard core and are being used for games. Limited building resources make an extensive programme of this kind impossible at present.

New Schools (Expenditure)


asked the Minister of Education what was the cost of the schools, elementary, secondary and other education authority schools, respectively, completed in the years 1937 and 1938.

The information asked for is not available. I give below, however, a statement showing the capital expenditure on new schools (excluding special schools) approved in the financial years 1935–36 and 1936–37.

Financial YearEstimated capital cost

Feedingstuffs (Retailers)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is now in a position to allow licences to trade in animal feedingstuffs to those who had no records of their sale in the pre-war datum period 1938–39.

New retailers of animal feedingstuffs are licensed where they are needed. Otherwise we do not license new traders while supplies remain short.

Gas Consultative Councils (Chairmen)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will make an announcement about the Consultative Councils to be appointed under Section 9 of the Gas Act.

I am now able to announce the names of those I have appointed to serve as chairmen of the Consultative Councils to be set up under the Gas Act. These chairmen will of course be ex officio part-time members of the Area Board concerned.

  • Scotland—Mr. A. T. Morrison, C.B.E.
  • Northern—Alderman J. Hoy, B.E.M., J.P.
  • North Western—Councillor C. E. P. Stott.
  • North Eastern—Alderman W. Regan, J.P.
  • East Midlands—Alderman C. R. Bates, O.B.E., J.P.
  • West Midlands—Councillor W. H. Malcolm, J.P.
  • Wales—Alderman G. F. Hamer, C.B.E., J.P.
  • Eastern—Councillor R. Turner.
  • North Thames—Councillor E. Bayliss.
  • South Eastern—Councillor A. C. Warwick, J.P.
  • Southern—Alderman J. W. Moore.
  • South Western—Councillor A. W. Loveys.

Tanganyika (Rainfall Records)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies at which stations near Kongwa in the Central Province of Tanganyika rainfall records have been kept regularly over the past 10 years.

In the Dodoma District of Tanganyika, in which Kongwa is situated, rainfall records have been kept regularly over the past 10 years at the following 13 stations; Bahi, Buigiri Mission, Dodoma (three separate stations). Itigi, Kibakwe Mission, Kongwa Mission. Manyoni, Mpwapwa (three separate stations), Mvumi Mission.

Pottery Industry (Development Council)

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress is being made in the setting up of a development council for the pottery industry.

Revised proposals, which I hope may lead to an agreed solution of this matter, have been sent this week to both sides of the pottery industry.