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Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 24 May 1949

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Hearing Aids (Batteries)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that Scottish patients already possessing commercial aids to hearing are denied free batteries; and whether he will take steps to make them available.

I regret that the administrative difficulties involved in providing batteries for all the commercial types of hearing-aids would preclude their provision under the National Health Service.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some 10 per cent. of sufferers get no benefit from the Medresco artificial aids and that some of them provided their own commercial sets and used to get funds to help in the upkeep and provision of batteries? Would it not be more economical for the country to provide batteries for a set which gives satisfaction rather than force the sufferer to get a completely new set which does not give satisfaction and costs more?

There is no evidence that the Medresco set is unsatisfactory. As I have indicated, there would be considerable administrative difficulties in setting up machinery by which the hospitals were compelled to supply batteries.

Will my hon. Friend say what the administrative difficulties are? Does he realise that there is a great shortage of these batteries in the North-east of Scotland and will he see that this is rectified?

Would the hon. Gentleman like me to send him official statistical figures of those who have tried the Medresco set without benefit but who receive benefit from other sets?

Dean Of Guild, Aberdeen


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if in view of the fact that the office of Dean of Guild fills ex-officio a seat in Aberdeen Town Council without being elected to it, he will abolish the ex-officio right of the Dean of Guild to sit as a member of the town council there.

As my right hon. Friend indicated in reply to Questions on 17th May, he is looking into the whole question of the Dean of Guild and cannot at present make any statement.

The Secretary of State stated last Tuesday that he was looking into the whole affair with regard to Glasgow. Will his investigations include other towns and cities in Scotland, particularly Aberdeen, which are affected by this?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Dean of Guild of Aberdeen represents very important interests in that city and that he and his predecessors holding this high office have given the utmost satisfaction and have received the greatest admiration from the citizens of Aberdeen? Is it not the case that the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) who is a Welshman, seems to be quite incapable of appreciating the historical past of that city?

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in Order for the hon. Member to make a mis-statement about my nationality?

I cannot say that it is out of Order. I do not like personal taunts myself, but it is not out of Order.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the only Royal Commission which has inquired into this matter recommended in 1834 that this anomalous office "should now be abolished"? Does he not agree that recent happenings in Glasgow have strengthened that recommendation?

Can my hon. Friend give an indication when the Secretary of State is likely to report to the House on this matter?

To come back to the original Question, may we assume that the Aberdeen Dean of Guild is a Conservative?

I am not prepared to make any assumption but, as I have already indicated, my right hon. Friend promised a week ago to look into the whole question, which is one of very considerable complexity and I am sorry that I cannot say when he will be able to make a statement.

Development Rights (Claims)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many claims, to the nearest convenient date, have been received by the Central Land Board from property owners; and what steps are being taken to make them aware of their entitlement to compensation for loss of development rights.

Up to 20th May, 7,728 claims had been received. Since the middle of June last year, a fortnight before the appointed day, the Central Land Board have given continuous publicity to the need for claiming on the £300 million by announcements and advertisements in all sections of the Press, by broadcast, by poster, and by pamphlets available at local authority offices. The Press has been particularly helpful recently on the need to send in claims before 30th June.

Could my hon. Friend say how the numbers of claims made compare with the numbers that were anticipated? Is he further aware that small property owners are in considerable doubt as to their position, and will he see if he can clarify it for them?

I cannot agree that there is widespread doubt as to the necessity of making the claims before 30th June. I may add that as a result of the increased publicity last week 34,000 additional claims for forms came forward.

Can my hon. Friend explain why it is necessary that before form S.I. 1 is returned it must be filled in by a surveyor or a legal man? Is it not putting the property owner to a great deal of expense to insist on this?

I think my hon. Friend is slightly misinformed on that point. The original claims can be submitted by the applicant without the necessity for legal advice.

I have a form in my possession at the moment—[An HON. MEMBER: "Property owner!"]—I cannot fill it in without sending it to a lawyer or surveyor.

Will my hon. Friend give an answer to the second point in my supplementary question, as to the number of claims anticipated? Is he aware that small property owners have been assured that under the Act they have no claim whatsoever? That has been broadcast.

Hospital Employee, Castle Douglas


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that Mr. Robert Hogg who was employed for 27 years as caretaker and gardener at Castle Douglas and District Hospital has been refused a pension by the Department of Health for Scotland who have dismissed him on the ground of ill-health; and if he will give this decision reconsideration in view of the fact that the old hospital board proposed to give Mr. Hogg a pension of £52 per annum which proposal was departed from on the passing of the Health Service (Scotland) Act in 1947, on the ground that as a new governing body would take over the board's responsibilities the question of a pension should properly be left to them.

No, Sir. Mr. Hogg worked on a jobbing basis, and the old board had contemplated replacing him—as the new board have done—by a full-time employee. But the records show that the old board declined to accept a recommendation that he should receive a pension. Moreover, they took no steps to reverse this decision before July, 1948, although they were invited to declare their intentions regarding pensions for their employees; and there is no record of any employee of the hospital ever having received a gratuitous pension.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable local feeling about this man, who has given 20 years' loyal service, and that it is regarded as one of the worst illustrations of the callous operation of State Socialism?

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree, in view of what my hon. Friend has said, that there is a degree of doubt about this? Should it not be looked into again in order to allay public suspicion, even if it is not correct?

I think the information of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) is not complete, especially on the latter point he made, but if he has any evidence in his possession to show that our information in inaccurate, I shall be glad to reconsider it.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that undertaking, and I certainly will bring it to his notice. May I ask if he is aware that the information was supplied to me by members of the board in question?