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Commons Chamber

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 26 May 1949

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 26th May, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Grimsby Corporation Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Glasgow Corporation Order Confirmation Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936, relating to Glasgow Corporation," presented by Mr. Secretary Woodburn; read the First time and ordered (under Section 9 of the Act) to be read a Second time upon Friday, 3rd June, and to be printed. [Bill 145.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Detained Persons (Police Questioning)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered a letter dated 21st July, 1948, and several reminders, from the Worshipful Company of Solicitors with regard to the procedure applied to persons being held for questioning by the police; and when he is proposing to reply.

I have sent to my hon. Friend a copy of the reply sent to the Worshipful Company of Solicitors on the 20th instant.

In view of the extraordinary delay of nearly a year in answering a relatively simple question on a matter of considerable importance, could the Home Secretary assure the House that there has been no change in the procedure of the police regarding persons held for questioning and that they are still told that they can decline to answer questions and can have the assistance of a friend or legal representative if they so desire?

I regret the delay that occurred, and I apologise for it to the hon. Member and to the Worshipful Company of Solicitors. The answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is that no alteration in the procedure has been made.

Will my right hon. Friend make it perfectly clear that nobody in this country, police or anybody else, has any right to hold or detain anybody unless he is prepared to make a charge?

I would rather not express, in reply to my hon. Friend, an opinion on a legal matter.

Aliens

Extradition

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons claiming to be political refugees have been extradited from this country in each year since 1918; and to what countries.

The information for which my hon. Friend asks could not be obtained without prolonged and detailed scrutiny of the cases of all persons who have been extradited since 1918.

Is it not a fact that the position, in so far as it is known to the Home Secretary, reveals a fine tradition of political asylum in this country, and will my right hon. Friend do everything in his power to maintain it?

Yes. I think that that record is maintained so far as I have been able to investigate the matter and I am personally determined that nothing shall be done to break it.

Gerhardt Eisler (Arrest)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now received from the United States authorities the requisition necessary to enable him to consider the merits of the case of Herr Eisler; if he has now satisfied himself that this case has a political content and political implications; and what action he proposes to take.

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has yet received a requisition from the United States Government for the extradition of Herr Gerhardt Eisler.

I received the request for the extradition of Mr. Eisler on 23rd May, and, in accordance with the usual practice, I have forwarded it to Bow Street. The application for extradition is now sub judice and it would be improper for me to make any comments.

Before forwarding the requisition, could my right hon. Friend at any point have considered its contents and the merits of the case; could he have taken any action?

When my right hon. Friend does have to adjudicate between this individual and the Government of a big Power will he satisfy himself not only that the technical charge can be substantiated, but also that it is not a pretext for political action?

This matter is before the court tomorrow. It will not come in front of me again until a decision has been reached by the court. It would be very wrong of me to say anything today that might prejudice the issue one way or the other.

Is there not a possibility that the delay has been deliberate on the part of America in the hope of getting this man smuggled out of the country during the Parliamentary Recess, and will the Home Secretary assure us that nothing of that kind will happen?

I am bound to say that I do not think any undue delay has occurred. I can give the House the assurance that I shall not depart from the answers I have given earlier today in the event of the case taking a certain course, but I am very anxious today not to say anything that would make it difficult for the case to be considered in an unprejudiced way by the court.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what request was received from the Southampton police authorities for Scotland Yard officers to accompany the local officers in their execution of the warrant for the arrest of Gerhardt Eisler; and on whose instructions were these Scotland Yard officers so detailed to act.

No request was made by the Southampton Police for the services of Metropolitan Police officers. In accordance with the normal practice in extradition cases, approach was made by the United States authorities to the Metropolitan Police. As an act of courtesy, two officers of the Metropolitan Police specially experienced in extradition matters accompanied the United States representatives to Southampton, where those representatives went to apply for a warrant.

Is it not the case, contrary to what my right hon. Friend suggests, that this answer reveals that the attempt to represent this as a normal extradition procedure really is not justified and what we see now, with M.I.5 obviously coming into it, is a plot between that organisation and the American Secret Service, in which the Home Office have most unhappily become embroiled?

Because I have inquired. I have previously told the House that this case has given me the greatest personal anxiety and continues to give me the greatest personal anxiety and I have taken every step I can to ensure that the procedure shall be absolutely correct. It is normally the Metropolitan Police who are approached because it is normally at Bow Street that extradition proceedings are taken. Furthermore, the foreign embassies are situated in London. In this case it was finally decided that the Suothampton Bench was the appropriate bench to which the United States officials should apply for an extradition warrant.

Can my right hon. Friend say who decided that? Were the Americans given this technical advice by some Department of the British Government to enable them to put the thing across in a way most convenient to them; and if Bow Street is normally the court used for applications, why was this done in a sort of under cover way at Southampton?

As my right hon. Friend showed some impatience, may I venture to explain that in this House we have never been able to get the slightest elucidation of what happens in M.I.5, and that is the only reason for asking how my right hon. Friend knew?

I do not intend to answer the last part of that supplementary question. The American Embassy approached the Metropolitan Police with a statement that they intended to apply for an extradition warrant. The man would be within the jurisdiction of the English courts in Southampton Water and it was, therefore, thought that the Southampton magistrates, within whose jurisdiction he would be, were the appropriate people to issue a warrant.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that many of us who do not agree with him politically realise the extreme delicacy of the matter he has had to handle and have confidence in his scrupulous integrity?

Police (Pay And Pensions)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what decision has been reached regarding the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee on pay and conditions of the police.

Yes, Sir. Part I of the Committee's Report, dealing with pay, pensions and emoluments, was published on 25th April and was fully discussed with the representatives of the police authorities and of all ranks of the police service at meetings of the Police Councils for England and Wales and for Scotland held, respectively, on 18th and 19th May. After consideration of the views expressed at these meetings His Majesty's Government have decided to accept the recommendations of the Committee affecting pay, pensions and emoluments. This involves the making of regulations under the Police Act, 1919, to effect the necessary changes in pay and allowances and of regulations under the Police Pensions Act, 1948, to make the corresponding changes in the pension system.

Regulations dealing with pensions are subject to affirmative resolutions of both Houses of Parliament and drafts will be available next week; the regulations under the Police Act, 1919, do not require to be laid before Parliament, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I do not propose to make them until the regulations dealing with pensions have been approved. Since the two sets of regulations are necessarily complementary and the technical measures for giving effect to the Committee's recommendations are not without their complications, my right hon. Friend and I propose to issue a White Paper explaining the measures proposed. We appreciate that it would be unreasonable to ask Parliament to consider this matter before the Recess, but we hope that the regulations will receive approval before the end of June, so that the improved scales of pay and the new pension conditions may be brought into force on 1st July.

Lord Oaksey's Committee are now considering the remaining questions affecting police conditions covered by their terms of reference and will submit a further Report in due course; I would, however, like to take this opportunity to express my thanks and those of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to the members of the Committee for the care they have given to the resolution of the important questions covered so fully in their first Report.

Whilst the right hon. Gentleman's reply will, I am sure, give great satisfaction throughout the police forces, may I ask if he can assure us that 1st July is the earliest date at which it is possible for these improvements to be effected?

Yes, Sir. It is necessary for the regulations I have mentioned to be made. This House and another place must consider those relating to pensions on an affirmative resolution. I have striven to make it the earliest possible date and I cannot do it before 1st July.

Can my right hon. Friend say what will be the annual increase in cost of the implementation of these recommendations?

Will the White Paper to which my right hon. Friend referred, indicate to what extent the Government have taken into account representations made by the police authorities on the proposals contained in the Report of the Oaksey Committee?

I am glad to say that the local authorities represented on the Police Council accepted the proposals without demur.

While the Oaksey proposals in general are warmly welcomed by the police forces, is my right hon. Friend aware that they leave uncorrected one or two quite serious anomalies affecting only small numbers of officers, particularly officers recruited immediately after the first world war? Will he have another look at that matter?

The matter has been referred to this Committee which examined all those matters, including the details to which my hon. Friend has just alluded. We have decided we will accept the Report as a whole. It is a very balanced document and every detail is carefully argued in the Report. If we started to pick and choose, or vary the Report, we might land ourselves into grave difficulties, not merely with the police forces, but with the authorities, and with this House.

Crimes Of Violence (Arrests)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons, arrested for housebreaking and other crimes of violence during 1947 and 1948, did not possess identity cards; and how many were found to be deserters from His Majesty's Forces.

I regret that the information is not available. As regards the first part of the Question, however, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Deritend (Mr. Longden) on 3rd February last, in which I indicated that there appeared to be no close connection between crimes of violence on the one hand and identity card offences on the other. As regards the second part of the Question, I have no reason to think that any substantial proportion of the total number of crimes of violence in this country is attributable to deserters.

National Health Service

Parkinson's Disease

10.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will now report on the methods of Dr. Voeller, of Kassel, for the treatment of Parkinson's disease; and on the advisability of his methods being adopted in this country.

This investigation is not yet complete, but I will make the results known as soon as they can be assessed, which will not be for some months yet.

While recognising the possibility of some reports of these cures being exaggerated, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that when these cases of cures are reported they are followed up by his Department in great detail?

We arranged for eight patients to go to Germany. Only four have yet returned. I am informed that it is necessary for six months to elapse before a judgment can be made.

Apart from any action which my right hon. Friend has taken in this case, can he say whether there is any department of his Ministry the duty of which is to check up on the claims that are made in America and Switzerland of successful treatment in cases of Parkinson's disease and disseminated sclerosis; and will such a department investigate them, and find out if they are really working?

This is one of the investigations which has been put in hand. Investigations are taking place all the time when there are definite lines of research to be followed.

Can the Minister say whether there are any obstacles against these methods of treatment being carried out on an experimental scale in this country?

No. It was first suggested that there was a person in Germany about whom it was alleged that he had a cure for this disease. We are now testing that claim. I hope that no unnecessary publicity will be given to the claims until we have assessed their worth.

Dentists

13.

asked the Minister of Health how many dentists are now operating the general dental service of the National Health Service; and what is the latest estimate of the annual cost of the general dental service.

There were 9,347 dentists on the dental lists in England and Wales on 1st May. The Ministry of Health Estimates, Class V (2), provide £28,204,000 for the cost of the general dental service in England and Wales.

Then how is it that this estimate is so much higher than the original estimate? Why was the original estimate so far out?

I do not quite know to what the hon. Member is referring. If he is referring to the Supplementary Estimate which was debated, I thought that a full answer was given to the satisfaction of the Opposition at that time.

Dental Estimates Board

14.

asked the Minister of Health how many people are employed by the Dental Estimates Board.

Spectacles

20.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that in the case of an eleven year old boy at Kettering an oculist's prescription under the National Health Service was handed to an optician six months ago and no spectacles have yet been delivered; and what steps he proposes to take to expedite the delivery of spectacles to schoolchildren in the area, whose eyes may be damaged by work at school without proper spectacles.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) on 19th May.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that that referred to a scheme by which opticians might give priority; and will he consider the advisability of arranging for doctors and ophthalmic surgeons to give priority in the case of these children, particularly where delay may obviously be very bad for their eyes?

It is extremely difficult to work a priority service. If too many people are put into the priority classes, that merely disturbs the distribution of spectacles all round. I am doing my very utmost in this matter. We have increased production by 50 per cent. above what it was before this scheme started, but the demand for spectacles still exceeds production.

Would not one useful step towards avoiding these delays to schoolchildren's spectacles be to put visitors from abroad at the bottom of the waiting list?

I had not time on Tuesday to give the explanation about visitors from abroad. The fact is that hon. Members opposite are riding that horse to death. If we eliminated all the medical attention given to visitors from abroad, it would equal less than 01 per cent. of the total health expenditure.

When this scheme is prepared and in operation, will my right hon. Friend take steps to see that it is sufficiently publicised, particularly in the schools?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very serious effect which this delay is having upon many schoolchildren who are having to sit in the front row in class because they cannot see, and who are also suffering grievously from headaches?

I believe it is desirable that we should try to provide spectacles for these young children as early as possible; but they went without them for many years previously.

35.

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to relieve the shortage of spectacles in Swindon.

While delay is unfortunately general I am not aware of any peculiar difficulties in Swindon. All possible steps are being taken to increase the supply of spectacles generally, both by expanding production in this country and by imports from abroad.

If I send my right hon. Friend a report showing that Swindon people have been kept waiting for eight months, and sometimes for a year, will he look into it?

Hearing Aids (Export)

24.

asked the Minister of Health why supplies of the Medresco hearing aid are being exported when there is still so much delay in meeting demands in this country.

I would refer to the reply I gave on 5th May to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) and the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson).

Is the Minister aware that another make of hearing aid is being exported by the Medresco people, and would not it be better if the Minister contracted to take over the whole of the output of this company, so that there would be more hearing aids available for the people in this country?

The output of the Medresco hearing aid will shortly be doubled. In the meantime the aid that is being exported is not the Government hearing aid. Of course, it is essential in all these matters to have a proper balance between home demand and the export market.

Can the Minister say whether any part of that doubled production will be for export, or will the whole be available for home consumption?

I am speaking of the Medresco aid, and the whole production will be for the home market.

Does the Minister think that the 30,000 people waiting for this hearing aid will be satisfied?

I am satisfied that all those people who have had the Medresco aid—almost all of them—are highly satisfied, and before very long the waiting list, I hope, will be met. There are 25 centres open in the country at the present time, and as soon as we get the hearing aids they will be made available.

General Hospital, Epping (Mental Cases)

27.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that there are three low grade defective children in St. Margaret's General Hospital, Epping; that they are confined to bed in the wards of the aged and chronic sick patients; that they have been there for many years; and what steps he proposes taking to remove these children to more appropriate surroundings in accordance with the spirit of the Children Act.

I am aware that there are three low grade mentally defective children in this hospital, and the hon. Member may be assured they will be removed as soon as alternative accommodation is available.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether any steps are being taken to extend and expand the accommodation for children of this type? There are many thousands of them in the country in their own homes, but where they are in hospital they are actually taking up the care of nurses which ought to be devoted in another direction?

I quite agree that this is a serious problem which, of course, accumulated during the war as a consequence of the fact that there was no new building, and I am taking urgent measures to try to deal with it.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report which the relevant authority has just sent up saying that it may be eight or ten years at the present rate before all these defectives are accommodated, and will he take note of the proposal in that report that temporary accommodation should be built at once?

I do not know what report my hon. Friend is referring to, but it sounds very pessimistic.

May I ask the Minister how many low grade mental defectives there are on the Front Bench?

In view of the fact that these three children have been, respectively, seven, seven and four years in this hospital, could my right hon. Friend make them a very early charge on his attention?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that owing to a shortage of accommodation for mentally defective children and mentally defective people, frequently these mentally defectives have to be certified by doctors when they are not really deserving of certification, because they can get into a home or shelter only if they are certified.

I would be loath to believe that children are certified who ought not to be merely in order to get accommodation. That is a very serious statement to make.

Aged Sick (Hospital Accommodation)

28.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the inadequacy of existing facilities for the care of the chronic and aged sick in the city of Birmingham; and what steps he proposes to take to improve such facilities.

The regional board has two groups of experts investigating the problem, and will take further action in the light of their reports. Meanwhile unused beds are being brought into use wherever possible, and arrangements made with the local health authority for home nursing.

Whilst I appreciate that answer, is the Minister aware that within the past year more than 90 aged persons, chronically sick, have been admitted to mental hospitals; would he consider this aspect of the problem, especially in view of the fact that I understand that about 17 died within one month of admission, which really is a very grave matter?

With all respect, it is not enough to give the proportion of old people who died within a month of being admitted to hospital. People do die, and the assumption that they died because they went to hospital is one we ought not to make. When it is said that people are in mental hospitals, I would remind the House that during the war a great deal of the E.M.S. was in fact housed in separate parts of mental hospitals. They are not in the mental hospital as such but occupy the same physical accommodation as other people.

The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. Is he aware—he should be aware—that of the first 31 of these aged people of over 65, to whom the hon. Member has referred as being admitted to hospital, 25 died of heart diseases, which was nothing to do with mental affliction. Is it not absolutely wrong that these old people should be certified as mental cases for the first time in their lives?

I cannot accept the statement that old people are being certified as mental cases in order to be taken into hospital. That is a gross and offensive charge against the doctors concerned. When the statement is made that a certain percentage of old people died from heart failure, well, old people have been dying from heart failure for millions of years.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have been the chairman of a big mental hospital in Birmingham and that the statement made by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) is quite untrue?

Before 5th July last the care of old people was the obligation of the local authorities and since 5th July it is the regional hospital Board who are not prepared——

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. As regards the certification of people, it is the responsibility not only of a doctor, but of a magistrate. Is it in order to suggest in this House that magistrates have not properly discharged their duty and that a wrong certification has resulted?

As the right hon. Gentleman must be aware, in the terminal stage of life there is very often muddleness and it is quite easy to certify people in order to find accommodation for them when previously they would never have been certified because there was accommodation available provided by the local authority.

The assumption which is being made, and the charge which is being made, is that the doctors concerned and the magistrates concerned are certifying old people as mental who might not be mental. The politics of the Opposition are now leading them into making the most grave charges.

In view of the serious statements made which suggest wrongful certification, will not my right hon. Friend cause an inquiry to be made?

Certainly I will cause an inquiry to be made, but I do think that before allegations are made in this House which might cause grave pain and anxiety the facts should first be ascertained. The hon. Members should be ashamed of themselves for saying such things.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. It is one of the rules of this House that an insinuation should not be made. I, for one, ask whether you think it is right that the right hon. Gentleman should accuse Members of the Opposition of exploiting cases of great tragedy purely for political ends?

One can always accuse a party of doing all sorts of things. To accuse individual Members is another matter, but parties can always be charged. We always charge each other's parties with all sorts of offences.

Might I say that there was no such implication in my Question? I was only concerned at the large number of sick people who had been admitted to mental hospitals.

Mental Hospitals (Nurses)

29.

asked the Minister of Health to what extent the Birmingham mental hospitals are understaffed; and what steps are being taken to step up the recruitment of nurses in such hospitals.

I assume that my hon. Friend has in mind nursing staff. At Winson Green Hospital the deficiency of female nursing staff is 28 per cent. and of male 27 per cent. At Rubery Hill the deficiency is female staff 50 per cent., male staff nil. Persistent efforts are being made to recruit staff through the Ministry of Labour and by local recruiting campaigns and advertisement. Nurses' salaries have recently been increased.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of those who are caring for the mentally sick are very much concerned that one of the things retarding recruitment of nurses to mental hospitals is likely to be the American film, "The Snake Pit," and could he make any statement or take any action?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the reason why these mental hospitals are comparatively understaffed is because of the transfer of the aged people referred to in the previous Question who are now being treated as mental cases for the first time?

I should like to give notice that in view of the fact that my information has come from a Socialist who is chairman of the mental hospital concerned, and as the right hon. Gentleman classes it as quite untrue, I will endeavour to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Hospital Legacies

33.

asked the Minister of Health if his attention has been called to the remarks of Mr. Justice Harman, in the Chancery Division, on 11th May, as to the destination of legacies to hospitals; and if he will introduce amending legislation to clear this matter up.

31.

asked the Minister of Health if his attention has been called to Mr. Justice Harman's judgment in re Kellner's Will Trusts, in which reference is made to the faulty drafting of Part 2 of the National Health Service Act, 1946; and whether he proposes to introduce legislation to amend that Part of the Act.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) on 19th May.

Why did the right hon. Gentleman try to kill all the finer instincts of charitable people by his materialistic policy? Why does not the Minister answer?

Doctors And Pharmacists (Registration)

34.

asked the Minister of Health how many applications for confirmation of provisional registration under Sections 1 and 4 of the Medical Practitioners and Pharmacists Act, 1947, have been made; how many of these applications have been granted; and what is the reason for the delay or delaying with the remaining applications.

Twenty-nine, of which nine have been granted. As regards the others, the General Medical Council have not yet been able to complete the inquiries necessary to satisfy them that the statutory conditions are fulfilled.

Hospitals (Accountancy)

41.

asked the Minister of Health if he will take immediate steps to settle outstanding accounts rendered by chartered accountants for service to hospitals.

Yes, Sir. I regret that there has been some delay in dealing with these claims.

The Minister may regret it, but I ask him what he proposes to do about it, because apparently the forms on which application should be made have been out of print since 10th February, and it is impossible to get hold of them. Will he see that at least forms are printed so that payment can be made forthwith?

Infectious Diseases (Control)

43.

asked the Minister of Health if he is satisfied that, in view of the increased and increasing speed of modern transport, he has adequate powers to control the introduction into this country of infectious diseases from overseas.

I am considering whether any further powers are needed. The general question of quarantine control will next month come before the Second World Health Assembly. The problem is not simply to control infectious disease, but to control it with the minimum hindrance to traffic.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether his existing powers include the absolute right to refuse to allow people to land from ships that are in quarantine?

I believe that there are powers which can be exercised in certain cases to that effect, but I am not quite satisfied that they are adequate and I am making inquiries.

44.

asked the Minister of Health to what extent his regulations authorise port medical officers at ports in the United Kingdom to prevent persons who have been in contact with infectious diseases from landing; and what conditions they are permitted to impose before allowing such persons to land.

As the answer to the hon. Member's Question is long, I will, with permission, circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

I have no power to prevent persons from landing on account of infectious disease.

The Port Health Regulations, 1933 and 1945, prescribe separately the conditions that, in general conformity with the relevant International Sanitary Convention, may be imposed against plague, cholera, yellow fever, typhus fever and smallpox. A full answer to the hon. Member's Question would therefore be very long.

Normally the greatest risk to this country is presented by smallpox. If a ship arrives that has, or has recently had, a case of smallpox on board, any person suffering from the disease is disembarked and isolated.

Any person exposed to infection on board, unless in the opinion of the port medical officer that person is sufficiently protected by recent vaccination or by a previous attack of smallpox may be—

  • (a) offered vaccination and placed under surveillance for 14 days, or
  • (b) placed under surveillance for 14 days without vaccination, or
  • (c) offered vaccination and isolated until the result of the vaccination is known, and thereafter kept under surveillance for 14 days from the arrival of the ship, or
  • (d) isolated for 14 days after the arrival of the ship.
  • The requirements ( c) and ( d) may not be imposed unless the port medical officer considers that there is an exceptionally serious risk of the introduction of smallpox into the country.

    "Surveillance" is defined in the relevant International Sanitary Convention to mean that the persons are not isolated, but that the health authorities of the places to which they are going are notified of their coming. The port health regulations impose on such persons obligations designed to secure that they can be effectively supervised.

    Water Supplies

    Rural Schemes

    11.

    asked the Minister of Health how many rural water schemes are at present in course of being carried out; and how many have been approved but are awaiting permission to proceed.

    Since the end of the war, 1,730 rural water supply schemes have been authorised to proceed. I cannot state without individual inquiry how many of these schemes have been completed. In addition, to date, 199 schemes have been approved in outline. Thirty-three of these schemes have reached the stage at which the promoters have been authorised to call for tenders.

    Is it not a fact that many of these schemes which have been approved by the right hon. Gentleman's Department have been waiting for months for leave to proceed with the work? Would he not give an assurance that in the cases where labour and materials are available leave to proceed with these schemes shall be given forthwith?

    That is always done. I think that the evidence that we are proceeding with the utmost expedition in this matter is to be found in the fact that since 1945 schemes have been put in hand and approved equal to the numbers in 20 years before the war.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman do his utmost to make available greater supplies of piping which are the big drawback to the active prosecution of these schemes? Will he see that a high priority is given for supplies of piping for this purpose?

    Certainly. We are giving all the priority we can. We would not have needed to give so much priority today if it had been given previously.

    Installation, Market Stainton

    23.

    asked the Minister of Health why he refused to allow the Horncastle Rural District Council to purchase the Air Ministry Water Installation at Market Stainton; and whether he is aware that it was proposed to use this installation to provide a temporary water supply for the villages of Market Stainton, Sotby and Baumber.

    This matter has been reopened and I am at present negotiating with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air and the Horncastle Rural District Council to agree a basis upon which the installation can be purchased by the rural district council in order to provide a temporary supply of water to Market Stainton and certain other villages until a comprehensive scheme can be put into operation.

    Will the Minister realise during these consultations that the alternative supply of water which these people have must inevitably be far worse than the temporary system which is proposed?

    Ripon And Pateley Bridge

    32.

    asked the Minister of Health if he has yet received the report from his Engineering Inspector who has been surveying the Ripon and Pateley Bridge rural district area with a view to providing a water supply scheme; what decision has he arrived at; and what amendments has he suggested to the former plans of the rural district council.

    The report on this survey which relates to the whole of the West Riding of Yorkshire, is not yet completed.

    The Minister gave that same reply three months ago. Can he now give any idea when the report will be completed?

    Housing

    Flats (Sound Insulation)

    12.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he is now satisfied that the use of eel grass has proved successful for sound insulation in respect of flat buildings.

    Eel grass is a recognised material for sound insulation but not better or cheaper than certain home-produced materials.

    In view of the other insulating qualities of this material, particularly in regard to heat, is my right hon. Friend prepared to recommend its use in order to save fuel as well as for the purpose of sound insulation?

    No, I am not prepared to recommend the import of a material for this purpose if we have suitable home-produced material.

    Evicted Families (Emergency Accommodation)

    16.

    asked the Minister of Health what assistance is given by his Department to local authorities which are prepared to provide temporary accommodation for evicted families; and what conditions must be observed in order that premises may be approved by him for this purpose.

    I am prepared to delegate to housing authorities power to requisition large unoccupied houses suitable for adaptation at reasonable cost to provide emergency accommodation. Expenditure incurred in providing this accommodation is reimbursed.

    Would the Minister be willing to add to that provision a grant to help local authorities who wish to put up accommodation of the hutment type?

    I would like to have the precise scheme before me before making a judgment.

    17.

    asked the Minister of Health what proposals for the provision of temporary accommodation for evicted families have been submitted to his Department by the Harrow Urban District Council; and with what result.

    Proposals have been submitted and tenders invited for the adaptation of a requisitioned property to provide emergency accommodation for six families.

    Flats, Horsforth (Building Licences)

    19.

    asked the Minister of Health, in view of the fact that Mr. Thackrah, 66, Karnac Road, Leeds, wishes to build 50 modern flats to let in Horsforth and is prepared to offer them to the council in order to diminish their housing waiting list, and that the housing in this, the largest village in England, is being held up owing to the restrictions relating to the issue of building licences for houses which can be built by private builders, if he will increase the quota of building licences allocated to that councl.

    No, Sir. The discretion given to local authorities to issue up to one-fifth of their allocation by way of licences is the utmost concession that can be made at this time consistently with the housing policy of the Government that houses should be available at reasonable rents to those in greatest need.

    Is the Minister aware that by rejecting this offer to build houses to let at a reasonable rent, he is inflicting unnecessary hardship upon the homeless people in this urban district?

    What would happen is that if we inflated the housing programme in this area, it could only be done at the expense of other areas.

    If there are any builders and building materials to spare in that part of the country, would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the great housing problem which faces a neighbour of Horsforth—the Leeds City Council?

    As I said, once one makes a concession in one part of the country, it must always be done at the expense of somebody else unless we are able to inflate the housing programme as a whole.

    Rest Centres

    25.

    asked the Minister of Health how many families have been evicted from rest centres in London during the last two months; which were the centres concerned; and why were these evictions ordered.

    Three families have been evicted, one each from Argyll Road, Cadogan Gardens, and St. George's Square, for failure to pay the weekly charges. Notice of eviction has been served on 17 other families for the same reason; in 13 cases satisfactory proposals for payment have since been made, in the others the notices are still outstanding. In addition, notice of eviction has been issued in six cases because of a refusal to accept offers of permanent accommodation; in two of these, the notice was withdrawn on appeal, and in the other four the offers were accepted after the issue of the notice.

    Does the Minister appreciate that the three who have actually been evicted were elected by the residents of these rest centres as chairmen, or other appropriate officers, of their residents' associations? Does he appreciate that in the working-class movement there is a word for this kind of treatment?

    I also have a word for those people who are misleading these people into the hardships they are now suffering, but it is a word which one cannot use in the House of Commons. These people have not been evicted from this halfway house or rest house because they were the leaders. They were evicted because they seemed to consider that public funds should bear whatever charges they themselves want to impose upon them.

    38.

    asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the hardship involved in the case of the lowest income groups, he will reduce the present minimum charges for rest centre accommodation.

    Although the charge for board and accommodation of three guineas a week for husband, wife and child may not be oppressive in the case of a man earning £6, £7 or £8 a week, does not my right hon. Friend think that it is definitely oppressive in the case of a man earning £4 a week, especially when he has also to pay for all the other necessaries of life?

    This matter is administered by the local councils, and individual hardships are taken into account.

    In view of the very unhelpful reply, I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

    House Tenancies, Rural Areas

    40.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the hardship which is being caused to working class families by the practice on the part of industrial and agricultural interests of buying occupied houses and then appealing for possession on grounds of business necessity; and if he will introduce legislation to prohibit this practice.

    Representations have been made on this matter so far as premises required for agricultural purposes are concerned. The position is governed by Section 3 and paragraph (g) of the First Schedule to the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1933, and can be considered only as a part of the general review of that legislation.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that in agricultural areas it is becoming increasingly common for workers in other industries necessary to the countryside to be displaced for the purpose of housing agricultural workers; and is he also aware that this will cause disproportionate development in the economy of the countryside if it is persisted in?

    I am aware that this practice is developing more in the rural areas than elsewhere for reasons that are obvious to hon. Members in all parts of the House, but we cannot deal with this problem in isolation from an Amendment to the Rent Restrictions Acts as a whole.

    Government Information Services (Inquiry)

    45.

    asked the Lord President of the Council whether having regard to the financial crisis with which this country is at present faced, and with a view to curtailing expenses, he will consider reducing the size of and decreasing the expenditure on, the Central Office of Information forthwith, by retaining only such part of the organisation as relates to reference libraries and other records of public value.

    No, Sir, but the expenditure on Government Information Services is under constant review and, as the hon. Member is aware, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer appointed a Committee in November last to examine the cost of the Home Information Services and to make recommendations as to any direction in which economies may be desirable or the organisation may be improved.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the widespread and ever-increasing apprehension of the public at public money being spent on public relations officers at enormous cost to the taxpayer? Surely, this is a tied house for Government propaganda, and really the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be so very dictatorial. He always says that he is a good democrat: let him show it.

    I did not notice anything dictatorial, but since the hon. Gentleman wishes to get some rather ill-informed emotion expressed, I suggest that he writes to the Beaverbrook Press about it. They are sure to publish it.

    Can the Lord President of the Council indicate when this Committee is likely to report?

    Agriculture

    Forestry (Planting)

    46.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can give an assurance that the Forestry Commission are giving priority to planting the 40,000 acres they hold of land which is plantable, but not yet planted, though previously having carried a woodland crop, before planting land that has never been afforested.

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

    The hon. and gallant Member can be assured that felled woodland areas held by the Forestry Commission are being replanted as rapidly as possible. It is not, however, possible to carry out the necessary planting programmes unless afforestation proceeds simultaneously with the replanting of felted areas.

    Does it not seem that the Forestry Commission are today planting fresh land which is of potential grazing value and leaving derelict land which is suitable for planting untouched? Are they not, in fact, to those who are asking for beef, giving wood instead?

    The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not really listened to the answer which I have given him, and if he looks at the reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow and at the reply which I gave on 24th September, he will see that the point is covered.

    Feedingstuffs Ration

    47.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider attaching a feedingstuffs ration, granted to an ex-Service man, to the ex-Service man himself rather than to his holding.

    No, Sir. On return to pig or poultry keeping, the ex-Service man is placed in the same position as if he had been in this country when holdings were registered in 1941 and had since retained possession of his holding. If, after his return, he transfers elsewhere, the ordinary rules apply, and he cannot normally take his ration with him. If however the hon. Member cares to draw my attention to any particular case, I will gladly look into it.

    May I ask the hon. Gentleman if, in view of the fact that the ration was granted to the ex-Service man because he himself had been away on service during the war, it would not be more helpful if the ration was given to the man himself rather than to the holding, which he may have to leave for one reason or another?

    The point I am making is that because there were such cases we tried to place them in the same position as anybody else. Therefore, the same restrictions apply to the ex-Service man as to others.

    Marginal Land

    48.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture why bush clearing and the reclamation of derelict land have been excluded from the provisions of the Marginal Protection Scheme, S.I. No. 536 of 1949; and what is the estimated annual expenditure under the Marginal Protection Scheme.

    If the hon. Member will refer to paragraph 7 of Statutory Instruments 1949, No. 536, he will see that bush clearing has not been excluded. Grants may be given for bush clearing and the reclamation of derelict land in special circumstances according to my right hon. Friend's discretion. The estimated annual expenditure on the Marginal Production Scheme in England and Wales is £300,000.

    Would the Minister explain what is meant by the statement that the work can only be done at not less than the normal charges? Does this mean that they are unable to get preferential treatment?

    We ought to be very careful about this, because we do not want to use the limited amount of money which is available for the purpose for one or two very costly schemes, and we would rather spread the money over a larger number of small schemes.

    49.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in respect of marginal land for the improvement of which he is offering a grant, it is his normal practice not to approve schemes unless they provide for the feeding of an increased number of beef type cattle.

    No, Sir. There is no necessary connection between the Marginal Production Scheme and the keeping of more beef cattle. My right hon. Friend leaves it to the discretion of his county agricultural executive committees whether the desired increase in output on assisted farms should be in the form of meat, milk or crops.

    Executive Officer, Caernarvonshire

    50.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture why he intends to appoint to the position of Assistant County Agricultural Officer (Executive) to the Caernarvonshire Agricultural Executive Committee a person with no knowledge of the Welsh language.

    My right hon. Friend is advised, in making these appointments, by selection panels. The Selection Panel in this case included representatives of the Caernarvon Agricultural Executive Committee. They interviewed both English and Welsh speaking applicants and unanimously recommended for appointment the person deemed to be the best qualified for the post.

    While in no way impugning the technical qualifications of the gentlemen appointed, may I ask my hon. Friend to explain how this officer is expected to conduct conferences and interviews in a county where 95 per cent. of the farming community is Welsh speaking?

    There are two points to bear in mind about that. This officer has been with the Committee for three years, and in a very senior post in which he got along quite well; secondly, the appointment is really that of an internal administrative officer much more than a field man outside.

    Civil Service (Holidays With Pay)

    60.

    asked the Secretary to the Treasury if he will state at the latest date, in convenient categories, the number of civil servants and the number of days of holidays with pay which they get.

    I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate this in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman say why taxpayers who cannot afford a holiday because of the policy of the Socialist Government should be compelled to pay for holidays for "Jobs for the boys"?

    Following is the information:

    NUMBERS AND LEAVE ALLOWANCES OF NON-INDUSTRIAL CIVIL SERVANTS
    Staff GroupEstablished StaffUnestablished Staff
    Number on 1.1.49Days of holiday with payNumber on 1.1.49Days of holiday with pay
    Administrative Staff3,322361,00530, 36 after 3 years' continuous service.
    Executive Staff43,7723617,86824, 30 after 3 years' continuous service.
    Higher grades 30, 36 after 3 years' continuous service.
    Higher Clerical and Clerical Staff.100,6202469,78918
    Higher Clerical 36Higher grades 24, 30 after 3 years' continuous service.
    Clerical Assistants18,95718, 21 after 5 years' service75,29918
    Typing Staff17,02018, 21 after 5 years' service Shorthand typists 21, 24 after 5 years in the grade.13,74718
    Higher grades, 24 and 36
    Messengers, Porters, etc.17,8521431,32012, 14 after 2 years' service.
    Higher grades 18, 21 and 24.
    Post Office, Postal, Telegraph and Telephone Staff and Supervisors.147,73814–36 according to rank53,07112
    Professional, Scientific and Technical Staff.24,6093627,18230, 36 after 3 years' continuous service.
    Ancillary Technical Staff.17,23914–36 according to rank and service.35,44112–24 according to rank and service.

    Notes:

    (a) At the present time not more than 36 days' annual leave may be granted in a leave year but some grades were eligible for higher allowances, after long service, before the war.
    (b) The usual Public Holidays and certain privilege holidays (not exceeding nine in all) are normally allowed in addition to annual leave.
    (c) Industrial employees generally receive a week's holiday with pay. There were 59,424 established and 347,458 unestablished industrials employed in Government Departments on 1st January, 1949.

    National Finance

    Commodity Prices

    51.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent Marshall Aid dollars may be used by Government buying agencies to make forward purchases of commodities in the United States of America when these would show a discount compared with current prices.

    No restrictions are placed by E.C.A. on the forward purchase of commodities in the U.S.A. provided E.C.A. is satisfied with the terms of the contract. No U.K. contracts have been rejected for E.C.A. financing on the grounds mentioned.

    Do the British Government take advantage of the opportunities outlined in this Question when they exist?

    Burma (Nationalised British Interests)

    52.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the present position regarding the nationalisation of British interests in Burma; what companies have been taken over and scheduled for nationalisation; in how many cases has compensation been paid in full; and how many British interests have objected to the amount of compensation offered.

    The concerns so far taken over or scheduled for nationalisation by the present Burmese Government are the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company and the Rangoon Electric Company. One-third of the concessions granted to the timber companies has also been taken over. All these companies are at present discussing terms of compensation with the Burmese Government.

    Has the hon. Gentleman any reason to believe that the companies are in the least satisfied either with the amount offered or with the prospect that they will ever get their money; and will he also bear in mind what has been done in regard to British interests in Burma before his Ministry is prepared to sanction any further loans or gifts to Burma?

    The allotments to the companies are mainly matters for discussion between the companies and the Burmese Government, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we have already made representations to the Burmese Government on the subject.

    Is the hon. Gentleman right in saying that this is a matter betwen the Burmese Government and the companies, in view of the fact that, in the Burmese concessions, a scorched earth policy and other policies inimical to the interests of these people were placed in front in the general interest, and is there not a great moral responsibility on the Government?

    As I have said, the Government have already made the type of representations which we think are most likely to be effective.

    As the hon. Gentleman said some three months ago that he had made these representations, can he now say what further progress has been made and give any support to the hope which he then held out that fair compensation will be paid?

    The Burmese Government have pledged themselves to fair compensation, and discussions with the companies are now going on and they have not broken down.

    Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the representations have produced any reply or have had any effect?

    Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that it will not be a condition of any loan to Burma that it should be spent on compensation, rather than on the rehabilitation of the country?

    There is nothing about any loan in this Question, and that is quite another matter.

    London Stock Exchange (Contango Facilities)

    54.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether Treasury approval was sought before con-tango facilities were revived on the London Stock Exchange.

    No, Sir. The question of Treasury approval did not arise, as this is a matter in which the Stock Exchange is responsible for its own procedure.

    Can the Minister say what public interest is served by widening the scope of this unnecessary and unproductive speculation?

    I think this is a case mainly for the Stock Exchange, rather than for the Government. It is a fact that the market for these securities is improved by this practice.

    May I ask the hon. Gentleman if there was any consultation both with the Treasury and the Bank of England before reverting to this pre-war practice?

    We were informed that it was likely to happen, but did not think it necessary to express any opinion.

    Dividend Limitation

    55.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he will take in cases where insurance and cement companies have raised their dividends and thus contravened his request for limitation of dividends.

    The policy of dividend limitation is based on the voluntary co-operation of industry generally and this precludes action by the Government in individual cases. I am still satisfied with the general results, and I do not consider that the failure of individual insurance or cement companies to co-operate would justify departing from present policy.

    Can the Minister say whether such dividend increases are designed to influence the share values of industries that may be suitable for nationalisation, and whether they do not represent an attempt to hold up the community to ransom?

    I deplore the action of the cement companies in raising their dividends, which is contrary to the public interest and is setting a bad example to other companies; on the other hand, it does prove the case for the nationalisation of cement.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, since the Prime Minister made his appeal in February, 1948, wages have risen on an annual basis by £108 million?

    The Prime Minister's appeal never said that there should be no wage increases whatever.

    British Council (Questionnaire)

    57.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been drawn to the questionnaire addressed by the Treasury team of business efficiency experts to 966 members of the headquarters staff of the British Council; and if he will have a similar questionnaire sent to all Government Departments.

    No such questionnaire has been addressed to the staff of the British Council by, or on behalf of Treasury organisation and methods officers. The second part of the Question does not therefore arise.

    May I ask the Financial Secretary if he is not misinformed? If such a question as "Is your job really necessary?" was addressed to all civil servants, would he not be able to reduce the Civil Service by many thousands?

    Railway Strike, North-East Area

    The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. KENDALL:

    69. To ask the Minister of Labour, in view of the strike on Sunday, 22nd May, on the North-East railway system, caused by the insistence of the Railway Executive on a train service which necessitated train crews lodging away from their homes and families, what steps he proposes to take to bring the parties together, with a view to arriving at agreement and minimising the dislocation of transport.

    On a point of Order. Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, to call Question No. 69, because it is a matter of great public importance and the strikes are presumably going to continue unless this lodging-out business is stopped right away?

    I am afraid not. I have no responsibility for calling Questions if they are outside the time. If the Minister chooses to answer the Question, w