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Commons Chamber

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 31 May 1949

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 31st May, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chain]

Private Business

Urmston Urban District Council Bill

As amended, to be considered tomorrow.

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Pensions

Attributability Certificates

2.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he intends to issue a certificate of attributability to service under the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, in the case of the death of Private K. J. Mather, details of which were communicated to him by the hon. Member for Stafford on 3rd May.

As my right hon. Friend informed the hon. Member on 18th May, in the event of proceedings against the Crown in respect of the death of Private K. J. Mather being instituted, my right hon. Friend is prepared to issue, in accordance with Section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, a certificate that death will be treated as attributable to service for the purposes of eligibility to make a claim for an award under Article 37 of the Royal Warrant of 24th May, 1949.

Has my hon. Friend carefully considered what was stated at the inquest in connection with this fatal accident? Is he aware that the coroner found that there was some negligence on the part of an individual and on the part of the authorities which resulted in the tragic death of Private Mather? Is it right that this certificate should be issued exempting the Crown from any action?

3.

asked the Minister of Pensions to what extent when he decides whether to issue a certificate of attributability to service under the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, in the case of the death of soldier, sailor or airman, he takes into account the question of negligence on the part of an individual or on the part of the authorities.

When deciding whether to issue a certificate of attributability to service under the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, in the case of the death of a soldier, sailor or airman, my right hon. Friend does not take into account the question of negligence on the part of an individual or on the part of the authorities. Such a question is not relevant.

Is not my hon. Friend aware that it was part of the intention of the Crown Proceedings Act to put the Crown in the same position as any other employer, and to restore to citizens their common law rights? Where negligence is involved resulting in a fatal accident which cannot be considered as a normal risk of military life, surely it is right that the citizen should have these common law rights?

We are governed by the provisions of the Section of the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, which I have quoted, and if we are asked to decide on attributability that is all that we have to decide; negligence or otherwise does not enter into the matter.

Can my hon. Friend say that the fatal accident in which Private Mather was involved, for example, was a normal risk of military life, or does he automatically issue certificates of attributability to service in the case of a fatal accident in the Forces?

The question which we have to decide is whether the man was engaged in the pursuit of his ordinary duties. That is the obligation placed upon us by the Crown Proceedings Act.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Artificial Limbs

4.

asked the Minister of Pensions what proportion of the applications outstanding for artificial limbs is from war pensioners resident in this country, civilians resident in this country and visitors to this country, respectively.

Fifteen per cent. of the outstanding orders for artificial limbs are in respect of war pensioners resident in this country: about 85 per cent. relate to National Health Service patients. The proportion relating to visitors to this country is negligible; my Department has details of only six such cases.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary give an assurance that foreigners are at the bottom of the list of outstanding applications?

All these cases are dealt with in accordance with the advice of our medical advisers. As I have said, we have knowledge of only six cases of foreigners who have applied for artificial limbs. One was the case of a French trawler hand who had an accident at sea off the English coast and was taken ashore at Plymouth. He received hospital treatment and was ordered a limb under the National Health scheme. The Ministry of Health were approached on the question and confirmed that a limb could be supplied. I should point out that we only act as agents for the Ministry of Health so far as these limbs are concerned.

5.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether all applications for a first artificial limb enjoy priority over applications for a spare one.

Disabled Persons (Motor Cars)

6.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he intends to implement his promise made by letter, dated 16th August, 1948, to supply a low-powered motor car to a disabled ex-Service man, whose name and particulars have been supplied to him.

As the number of cars available is restricted and the number of applications from more seriously disabled pensioners has been higher than anticipated, I regret that it is impossible to say whether a car will be available for this pensioner. In the meantime, however, he can be supplied with a motor-propelled tricycle if he so desires.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that on 16th August last his chief regional officer gave a definite promise to this man that a low-powered car would be provided? Relying on that promise this man made his arrangements accordingly, including taking a course in driving. Does the Parliamentary Secretary's answer mean that his Department does not intend to honour its undertaking?

The man certainly received a circular from the Ministry saying that he would be supplied with a car in lieu of his motor-propelled tricycle. Actually he has not a motor-propelled tricycle; he has refused one. In announceing to the House the provision of motor cars, the Minister pointed out that a number of cars not exceeding 1,500 would be made available, and that certain classes were established based on the need and the degree of disability. The man in question comes in the fourth class, and to give him preference over those more seriously disabled is something we could not consider at the moment.

How many applications from ex-Service men are outstanding in these categories?

The answer of the Parliamentary Secretary did not deal with the gravamen of the complaint—that a definite promise was made. Will the Parliamentary Secretary state whether it is right that a Government Department should repudiate a promise made to a seriously disabled man?

We deny that a definite promise was made. A circular was sent out saying that he would be supplied with a car; that there were certain categories and that the more seriously disabled people would have priority. We are not saying now that he will not receive a car. All we are saying is that he cannot receive a car at the moment until we see how many applications we get from the people in the higher categories.

On a point of Order. In view of the attempt of the Department to evade a promise definitely made, a copy of which I hold in my hand, I propose to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

British Army

Bakeries (Costs)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for War why a detailed analysis of costs of producing bread in Army bakeries is no longer available as it was before the war.

The limited staff available for costings work is fully employed on works services.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the study of such costs is an essential part of the check upon efficiency, and is he further aware that when these figures were published before the war they reflected considerable credit on his Department?

I agree with my hon. Friend about the need for undertaking this task, but the staff is over-strained with other activities and cannot undertake additional work at the present moment.

Officers (Transfer Allowance)

8, 9 and 10.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) on what grounds payment out of public funds for storage of furniture belonging to officers and their families who are moved from one station to another is not considered justified for Army personnel who are unable to get unfurnished accommodation on being moved from one station to another;

(2) if, in view of the considerable expense incurred by officers in moving themselves and families to new stations where there are no married quarters, he will allow appropriate travelling allowance for a preliminary visit to the new station or £2 in lieu if no visit is made, as is customary in the Civil Service;

(3) if he will conform with the practice in the Civil Service of granting a subsistence allowance to an officer and his family during a move to a new station pending occupation of permanent headquarters.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on 13th April to a Question by the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low).

Does not the Secretary of State for War agree that, if these various allowances and helps are given to civil servants, as a matter of principle it is equally right that they should be given to Army personnel, because Army personnel, with the moving they have to do and the obtaining of furnished or unfurnished accommodation, which is not supplied to them, are put to very great hardship?

No, Sir, I do not agree, because conditions are dissimilar, and a very full reply was given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the main point of the reply to me by the Minister of Defence on that occasion was that the allowances had recently been looked into, and that he was not prepared to look into them again? Now that he has had these Questions asked by my hon. Friend, will not the right hon. Gentleman go to the Minister of Defence and say that it would be in the interests of recruiting for the Army if the allowances were now changed?

The fact that Questions are asked by hon. Members is no substantial reason why there should be any revision.

Is not the Secretary of State aware that it is in these grievances and in hardships such as these that one of the main deterrents to voluntary recruiting lies? He has ignored that constantly, despite our representations upon the matter.

I do not agree at all. Voluntary recruiting is at a higher level than before.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise the matter on the Adjournment as early as possible.

Bands

11.

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the percentage of their earnings from civilian engagements which Army bands are required to hand over to the War Office or the Treasury.

Officially authorised Army bands pay to public funds a percentage of their net annual profits on military band engagements. The amount is 10 per cent. of the first £1,000 in the case of regimental bands and of the first £2,000 in the case of Staff bands, and 15 per cent. of the remainder in both cases.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why the War Office makes this deduction when the Air Ministry does not make any similar deduction in respect of Air Force bands, and the Admiralty makes no such deduction in respect of naval or Marine bands?

I should imagine that that Question should be addressed to the Secretary of State for Air.

Would the right hon. Gentleman take up the question with the Minister of Defence and try to get some co-ordination?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two Questions very quickly; first, why this percentage is deducted, as it never used to be, and secondly, whether there is any direction to commanding officers as to how the part which they receive shall be spent?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this 10 per cent. represents an agent's commission for the War Office?

22.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet decided which Territorial Army units of Royal Artillery will be allowed to have bands.

Is it not about time that this matter was settled, in view of the fact that the problem has been in existence for two years? Surely it should be within the power of the War Office to make up their minds in that period, since nothing has changed?

I agree that these negotiations have gone on long enough, but there were certain conflicting claims in regard to the allocation of bands, and we are not responsible for the conflict.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for War why he has refused to make a special grant or to recognise the old established pipers' bands of the London Scottish and London Irish Regiments.

All infantry battalions of the Territorial Army are authorised to form military bands on separate establishments. An initial grant is made for the purpose and a subsequent annual grant is made for the maintenance of instruments. In addition, all infantry battalions are authorised to form drum, pipe or bugle bands within the unit establishments. These bands are not regarded as substitutes for military bands and no grant-in-aid is given, but they are provided with instruments free on an authorised scale, and Scottish and Irish battalions are also allowed one pipe major and five pipers extra to normal establishment.

is it not a fact that the special grant previously authorised before the war has been discontinued, and is it not as a result of the discontinuance of that grant that both these regiments are incurring private costs which they should not incur?

I am advised that it was never the practice to provide pipe bands, but just ordinary military bands, and presumably there is a distinction between them. After all, in view of the fact that the War Office provide instruments, one pipe-major and five pipers, we are very generous.

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will look into the question of putting military bands above pipe bands in connection with Highland and Lowland regiments, because military bands are secondary to the pipe bands in Scottish regiments?

If the hon. and gallant Member is trying to convince me of his preference for pipe bands as against ordinary military bands, I would not seek to quarrel with him.

Would the Secretary of State say whether there is any instrument grant to enable the right hon. Gentleman to blow his own trumpet?

Married Officers (Batmen)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for War for how many hours per day married officers of the rank of lieut.-colonel, major, captain and lieutenant, respectively, have the use of a batman; and how much he estimates that such assistance is worth to officers who would otherwise have to employ civilian help.

Batmen are not provided on an hourly basis. They are provided for duties of a personal nature such as the cleaning of the officer's uniform and equipment when the officer is accommodated in single or married quarters. They are not wholly employed in these duties: they have to perform other military duties. A lieut.-colonel in a field force unit is allowed a batman, but other lieut.-colonels and more junior officers have to share batmen. The monetary value of a batman's assistance would therefore vary, but it would be small.

Why is the right hon. Gentleman so continuously reluctant to give me a straight answer to a straight Question? How can he possibly justify a situation in which married officers who are lucky enough to live in married quarters can have the services of a batman, while married officers unfortunate enough not to live in married quarters, because there are none available, cannot have the services of a batman?

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now issue a servant allowance to married officers who, owing to the fact that married quarters are not available, cannot have the assistance of a batman.

On the introduction of the post-war code of pay and allowances on 1st July, 1946, servant allowance ceased to be paid as it was absorbed into the marriage allowance of married officers and the lodging allowance of single officers, and it is not intended to alter this. On the other hand, I do not propose to alter the practice whereby married officers in quarters may have the services of available batmen.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he finds so very funny about the fact that a lot of officers are living in great hardship as a result of this regulation, and can I not appeal to him to show a little more human sympathy and to look into the matter a little more carefully?

I did not detect any humour in the Question, and there is certainly none in the answer.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain the anomaly by which the married officer for whom no married quarters are available has the worst of both worlds, because he has neither a batman nor a servant allowance?

The reason is that we have not sufficient batmen to go round, so we use them in the most appropriate fashion.

That is no reason for denying to the married officer for whom no married quarters are available a servant allowance.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the best way to overcome this difficulty would be to remove batmen altogether?

No, Sir. I could not agree with my hon. Friend. If batmen can be made available without difficulty to married officers in quarters we shall certainly do so.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that he has not sufficient batmen available, is he supposing that when more married quarters are available the Army will increase by so many more batmen so as to make sufficient men available?

In order to satisfy the Opposition completely, will my right hon. Friend give a guarantee to the House that the needs of the Service will never be allowed to interfere with the convenience of officers?

In view of the frivolous way in which the right hon. Gentleman has answered these questions and the utterly unsatisfactory nature of the replies, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Land Acquisition, Lanark

14.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many military officers attended officially the recent public inquiry into the proposed acquirement of 4,823 acres of land near Lanark.

Were they accompanied by their batmen, and could the Minister explain why none of these eight officers gave evidence or were questioned by counsel for the local authority, and will he say whether there was an instruction to that effect?

Various interests in the Scottish Command had to be represented and it was thought desirable that these officers should be present.

Married Quarters, Glen Parva

16.

asked the Secretary of State for War for what reason the wives and families of men of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Leicestershire Regiment, who have been sent to Hong Kong, have received notice to vacate their married quarters at Glen Parva Barracks; why the notice was not issued until after the men had left; and if he is aware of the effect of such treatment on recruitment for the Regular Army.

Before a soldier is allotted a married quarter he has to sign a certificate included in which is a statement that he understands that he will be required to move his family when he is posted from the station and alternative accommodation is offered. The married quarters occupied by the wives and families of men of the 1st Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment at Glen Parva Barracks are required for occupation by soldiers serving at the station who are awaiting married quarters so that they can be united with their families. I am looking into the matter to see whether there are any exceptional features in this case.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that alternative accommodation will be provided for these people, and will he explain how the Government reconcile their attitude towards the men and families in Government quarters with what is supposed to be their policy towards tied cottages?

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the assurance was given to the wives of these men that they would not be disturbed until their husbands came back, because that has been stated, and will he see that the wives have an opportunity of making contact with their husbands before they make any further move?

So far as I am aware, no such assurance was given, certainly not by myself or anybody at the War Office. I can say that we are viewing this matter very sympathetically.

Is my right hon. Friend able to confirm the opinion held by some of the wives at Glen Parva Barracks that they had been promised that they would be allowed to stay in the barracks until they travelled to their husbands in Hong Kong, and is it the policy of his Department to send wives to Hong Kong in the present situation?

No promise could have been given in view of the condition attached to the occupancy of married quarters, to which I have referred in my original answer. On the question of sending wives and families to Hong Kong, that is a matter which requires to be very carefully considered.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether this conditional regulation dates from a time when the housing shortage did not exist and whether, under present circumstances, it ought not to be reconsidered; also, is the alternative accommodation offered to these women in a transit camp?

The practice to which I have referred is the normal practice which has been in operation for many years. As regards the alternative accommodation, we have offered hostel accommodation, most of which is satisfactory, but I am looking into the matter to assure myself that the accommodation is such as can be reasonably offered to these wives and families.

In view of the fact that Scottish soldiers are being sent to Hong Kong and in view of the housing difficulties in Scotland, will the Minister give special consideration to the matter before agreeing to any evictions in Scotland?

Aqaba (Accommodation)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the estimated expenditure on barracks at Aqaba; and how long British forces are to remain in occupation there.

No expenditure has been incurred on barracks in Aqaba. Some £20,000, however, has been spent in providing temporary accommodation to minimum essential standards. A further sum may have to be spent on additional works services for the hot weather. It is not possible to say how long it will be necessary to retain our Forces there.

Is not £20,000 a large sum to be spent on temporary quarters, and cannot the Minister give an assurance that we are not to be permanently in occupation?

Within reasonable limits, no sum is too large to be spent in providing decent accommodation for our troops. In regard to the latter part of the Question, I cannot say at present how long it will be necessary to retain our Forces there.

Will the right hon. Gentleman deny the implication in the last supplementary question that we are occupying Aqaba and will he make it clear that we are there in honour of our obligations to Transjordan?

Burlish Camp

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give up possession of that part of Burlish Camp, Stourport-on-Severn, which is at present occupied by squatters, in order that the urban district council may put the water supply and sanitary arrangements in order, and use some of the huts for temporary housing accommodation.

Negotiations are in progress with the Ministry of Health with a view to their accepting transfer of that part of Burlish Camp which is at present occupied by squatters.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long these negotiations are to continue, in view of the fact that they have been going on for months?

No 1 Dress

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any decision has yet been reached in regard to the pattern and issue of the new serge walking-out dress; and whether it is intended to confine this uniform to Regular troops.

As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major T. Beamish) on 22nd March last. It is hoped eventually to extend the supply of No. 1 dress to the Territorial Army.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the War Office have received any representations regarding the men's preference for rolled collars rather than stick-up collars?

I have not heard of any, but the matter of the appropriate design of future dress is constantly under consideration.

Casualties, Malaya

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many officers and men have been killed or wounded in action in Malaya since operations were commenced against the Communists; and what is the minimum period of training at home, excluding training on board ship, and training in jungle conditions, respectively, that any such officers and men had received before being killed or wounded.

Between 1st May, 1948, and 31st March, 1949, nine British Army officers and 27 other ranks have been killed, or died of wounds, and 10 British Army officers and 44 other ranks have been wounded in Malaya. The information asked for in the second part of the Question is not available and to obtain it would entail a disproportionate amount of work.

That reply is really not good enough, in view of the very great public interest in this matter. How can it entail a disproportionate amount of work when the details must be actually available in the War Office?

I am afraid the information is not readily available, but we are taking appropriate steps to ensure that men are not sent out without being adequately trained, and that, when they arrive at their destinations, they undergo an additional form of training.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say how many months' training had been given to one man whose name he notified to me in a letter the other day, and who was killed in Malaya after only five months' service?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why 150 men were taken off a draft for the Far East the other day by him, and whether it had anything to do with their training?

Is it not clear from that reply, when the right hon. Gentleman says that steps are now being taken to ensure adequate training before sending men away, that in the past, since action started in Malaya, officers and men have been in action with inadequate training?

I do not agree, and in any event it is a matter that rests very largely in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief on the spot, upon whom we rely.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an officer who left his O.C.T.U. unit at the end of March is now on embarkation leave?

I beg to give notice that, as this is a matter of very wide public interest, and as the Secretary of State refuses to answer my questions, I shall raise the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Compassionate Releases

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many applications for release from the Army on compassionate grounds were dealt with in his Department in 1947, 1948, and up to the most recent convenient date in 1949; and how many such releases were granted.

The approximate numbers of applications received in 1947, 1948 and up to 26th May this year were 12,800, 5,500 and 1,550 respectively. Of these, approximately 4,000, 1,300 and 400 were granted.

Can my right hon. Friend give me an assurance that each of these applications is dealt with strictly on its merits, that there is no question of granting only a certain limited proportion or percentage of the applications, and that, in fact there is no ceiling to the number that can be granted?

So far as I am concerned—and I have to decide what should be done in these matters—every case is dealt with on its merits.

Field-Marshal Von Manstein (Trial)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps have been taken to provide Field-Marshal von Manstein with competent British counsel for his forthcoming trial; and when does he expect the trial will commence.

The answer to the first part of the Question is none so far as I am concerned. This officer has engaged very competent German counsel with previous experience of war crimes trials, and as regards assistance of British counsel or currency to pay them, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 1st February last to a similar Question by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and to the further reply given to the same hon. and learned Member on 7th February by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

As regards the last part of the Question, the full charges with supporting evidence were served on Field-Marshal von Manstein on 24th May, and his counsel must be allowed a reasonable time to prepare their defence. Until I know how long they will require, I cannot say exactly when the trial is likely to begin.

Does my right hon. Friend's answer to the first part of the Question mean that currency will become available, if it is required, for British counsel; secondly, can he assure the House that whatever time, within reason, is asked for by the defending counsel will be allowed before the trial takes place?

On the subject of currency, I am afraid that I cannot change the form of my reply, but on the second part of the supplementary question I think I can meet my hon. Friend.

Will the court be reminded that this officer has already suffered four years imprisonment in regard to this crime?

Yes, but we must bear in mind that if the allegations can be sustained—I repeat, if they can be sustained—many other people suffered.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the witnesses upon whose depositions these charges are framed have already been hanged?

Territorial Army (Pay And Rations)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether marriage allowance is included in the pay and allowances of Territorial Army personnel who attend weekend camps, where periods of continuous training exceed eight hours; and whether he is aware that this allowance has not been paid in respect of the Easter camp from 14th to 18th April to non-commissioned officers and men of the Westminster Dragoons.

Before September, 1948, pay and marriage allowance were issuable for training periods exceeding 48 hours' duration, and for periods of 48 hours or less no pay or marriage allowance was issued but an allowance to cover incidental expenses was payable with a maximum of 4s. 6d. a day in the case of a private. Out of this he had to pay for his food.

Under the new arrangements which I explained in answer to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) on 3rd May, men are eligible for pay and free rations for training periods in excess of eight hours. Marriage allowance is not issuable, the reason being that the man's civil pay covers family expenses.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the training pamphlet, "Spare Time for Britain in the Territorial Army," which presumably was issued by his Department, there is under the heading of "Pay and Allowances" the sentence, "These will be at Regular Army rates while attending annual camp and for periods of continuous training which exceed eight hours"; that it has been on that assumption, to a large extent, that men have joined, and that he is now ruling that that is not the case?

Town And Country Planning

New Town, Cwmbran

26.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what plans he has for a new town near Cwmbran, Monmouthshire.

Following my consultation with the local authorities concerned, I am proceeding with the pre- paration of the draft designation order for a site for a new town in the neighbourhood of Cwmbran, and I hope shortly to publish the draft Order.

While gratified at the attention paid to my birthplace, may I ask can the right hon. Gentleman assure me that there will be a sufficient green belt between this new town and the existing towns of Newport and Pontypool?

I can give an assurance that we have given the fullest consideration to that particular point, and that we will do our very best.

Development Value (Claims)

27.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether he will further extend the time in which to submit claims for loss of development value and issue simple claim forms for the purpose.

The time limit for submitting claims has already been extended by three months. I regret that any further extension is impracticable. The form of claim is as simple as is possible, having regard to its subject matter.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this form, with its 60 or 70 entries that have to be completed, is by no means an easy one for ordinary people to fill up, even with professional assistance, which is not always available; and in those circumstances can he give an assurance that all forms submitted by 30th June will be accepted as valid claims, even though there may be some omissions in regard to particular figures?

Provision has been made, and I believe it has been announced by the Chairman of the Central Land Board, that it is not necessary to insert figures. I am quite satisfied that the Central Land Board will act reasonably concerning the way in which the claim forms are submitted.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that firms specialising in completing these claims are so inundated with work that they cannot take on any new applications, and will he therefore consider once again extending the time by which these claims can be made?

They really have had ample time. The difficulty is that there is a statutory obligation to make payment within five years, and unless the claims are submitted by 30th June it will be quite impossible to discharge that obligation.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that all resources of the local authorities and such organisations as the Law Society are being mobilised in order to see that these claims are made in time?

It is open to any claimant to use any sources available, including the Law Society, and I am sure that local authorities are always ready to help.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether he is considering a proposal which has been put to him that a simple notification of claim by 30th June would be sufficient, and that the full claim itself could be sent in later?

There must be a minimum of information to enable the valuers to get to work and assess the claim. Provided that minimum of information is supplied, there would be no difficulty placed in the way, but a simple notification would be really quite inadequate.

Is it not most important that no sense of injustice should be left in the mind of any property owner, small or large; and is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the very narrow interpretation will meet that requirement?

I am satisfied that there need be no sense of injustice and that no unnecessary difficulties will be put in the way. [An HON. MEMBER: "Time?"] They have had a long time.

Can my right hon. Friend say, arising out of the question of the very small number of claims that has yet been put in, what he proposes to do with the millions of claims that will not be put in because the individuals concerned do not realise that they should be put in? Whose responsibility is it? Is it the responsibility of his Department?

Claims are coming in much more rapidly now than previously, and ample publicity has been given to the matter. I cannot see what more it is possible to do by way of publicity.

If at last claims are now coming in more rapidly, is that not an argument for some small extension of the time?

Gun Sites, Friern Barnet

28.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether the Service Land Requirements Committee have yet considered the general question of gun sites; and whether he is prepared to receive representations from the Friern Barnet Urban District Council regarding the proposed site known as Sweets' Nurseries, Friern Barnet, which is very badly needed by the local authority for housing purposes.

May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that I put down this Question to the Secretary of State for War, as I was unaware that the Minister of Town and Country Planning was responsible for selecting gun sites? All the previous correspondence has been with the War Office, but I hope that the Minister of Town and Country Planning will be able to answer the Question.

A general procedure has been agreed by which Departments and authorities concerned are consulted on the specific location of anti-aircraft gun sites. As regards the second part of the Question, the District Council agreed in January, 1948, to the use for the purpose of the site referred to; I have had no subsequent communication from them, and I am not clear on what ground I could now be asked to receive representations.

Is the Minister aware that the chairman of the Friern Barnet Urban District Council has written to me saying that he is very short of land on which to build houses and is very anxious to have this site for housing, and asking me if I can arrange with the Minister to receive a deputation? That is why the Question was put down.

I quite understand, but it is a little difficult to do business with a local authority which in January, 1948, agrees to a proposal, and then writes to its Member of Parliament some time later asking him to reopen the matter.

National Insurance

Workmen's Compensation Payments

29.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is yet in a position to make a statement about bringing persons who are entitled to payments under the original Workmen's Compensation Acts within the scope of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946.

I regret that I am not yet in a position to make any further statement on this matter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that he wrote to me in January saying that he hoped to make a statement in the middle of 1949, and can he now indicate when he is likely to make that statement?

I indicated to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and indeed to the House, some time ago that it was very desirable to have some experience of the working of the new scheme before we made up our minds about this problem. We have now had about 10 months' experience and the whole position is being re-examined. I would not like to say when we can come to a decision.

Is the Minister aware that the liability for paying compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act rests upon the employers or the insurance companies, and if he is going to make any arrangement for transferring this liability will he make it on a commercial and financial basis rather than as a gift to the insurance companies?

Of course, it will have to be on what my hon. Friend calls a "commercial basis." We shall take over the liability for which the employers are responsible, and shall expect them to meet that liability if it is practicable for them to do so.

In considering this matter, will my right hon. Friend have regard, in particular, to the case of industrial diseases, and is he aware that there is now very real doubt whether a man who suffers a recurrence of a certifiable industrial disease after 5th July, 1948, can successfully claim under either scheme?

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that if and when the time comes for these liabilities to be taken over, no recipient of workmen's compensation will be put in a worse position under the new scheme than he was under the old Act?

That is one of the problems to which we have to give attention. It will be within my hon. Friend's knowledge that men injured or disabled prior to 5th July are now entitled—and, indeed, many hundreds are receiving it—to supplementary benefit under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act.

Industrial Injuries (Benefit)

30.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether his attention has been drawn to the effect of the supplementary scheme applicable to miners under the Industrial Injuries Act whereby disparity in benefit arises between injured workmen who draw injury benefit for the full 156 days from the date of accident, and those whose period of incapacity is much shorter in the first place but have a further period of incapacity after the expiration of 156 days from date of accident; and whether he proposes to adjust this anomaly.

The conditions governing the payment of benefit under the Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme are a matter in the first place for both sides of the industry. I have received no representations from them on the point raised by my hon. Friend.

Does my right hon. Friend mean by that reply that there are no means whereby this anomaly can be remedied other than by negotiation between the two parties?

The supplementary scheme is settled in the first instance by the two parties. It is then submitted to me, and I bring it to Parliament. I have no power to initiate changes in the scheme unless I receive recommendations from them.

31.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he will make a statement as to the benefit position prescribed by his regulations for injured workmen under the Industrial Injuries Act whose second period of resulting incapacity occurs after a period of 156 days from the date of the accident and who have not drawn the full period of 156 days injury benefit.

The Industrial Injuries Act provides that injury benefit is only payable for a maximum period of 156 days from the date of the accident. After the 156 days, the claimant's position is governed by the provisions of the Act relating to disablement benefit. I have no power to modify this position by regulations.

Am I to understand that if an injured workman does not draw his 156th days pay within the period of 156 days from the date of the accident, he is not entitled to injury benefit, and must take some other benefit if subsequent incapacity occurs?

Yes, the period of 156 days dates from the actual date of the accident itself. That is provided for in the Act.

Supplementary Assistance

32.

asked the Minister of National Insurance to state the considerations taken into account by the National Assistance Board in fixing the present rates of supplementary assistance.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on 16th June last when submitting these regulations for the approval of the House. As my hon. Friend will remember, the rates were welcomed as a considerable improvement on the rates previously in force.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a considerable amount of dissatisfaction with the index, which many people feel is not a true measure of the actual cost of living?

Of course, the Board are not strictly tied down to the index, though the index is one of the important factors they have to take into account.

Is the Minister aware that while the allowances may be better than they used to be, they are still far from what they ought to be in view of the value of the pound and prices at the present time?

Personal Cases

34.

asked the Minister of National Insurance the reasons why three disabled ex-Service men, who had been employed by the British Legion Car Attendants Company, Limited, at Lancaster, on 10th May, were refused unemployed benefit by his local offices; and whether any further action has been taken.

Unemployment benefit could not be paid to these men because, on the facts before him, the insurance officer decided that they had left their employment voluntarily without just cause. This decision was reversed on appeal to the local tribunal and payment of arrears of benefit due has now been made.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether these three disabled ex-Service men were refused a break for a meal during an eight-hour shift, refused consultation with the Preston manager 20 miles away and discharged with less than the week's notice stipulated under the terms of their agreement?

When persons make claims for unemployment benefit they have to state why they have left their previous employment. This form is sent to the employers and the employers then make a statement. These facts are before the insurance officer; he decides. In this case all the relevant facts were put before the tribunal, and the tribunal made a decision in favour of the men.

Employment

Unemployment Benefit (Personal Case)

35.

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the dismissal from work of Mr. Cooper on the grounds that his workmates objected to the speed and efficiency of his work; and what provisions exist to provide unemployment benefit or other means of compensation to men who are deprived of their employment on these grounds.

Mr. Cooper was not dismissed from the employment which I understand the hon. Member has in mind, but left it of his own accord. I understand that he has made a claim for unemployment benefit, but no decision on this has yet been reached by the statutory authorities.

Whether he was dismissed or left on his own accord, was the reason why he left that his workmates complained that he worked too hard and too fast?

That is the story, but there is not the slightest bit of evidence to support it.

Disabled Persons, Cardiff

36.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the number of registered disabled unemployed persons in Cardiff at the latest convenient date; and what steps he has taken to reduce this number.

The number of unemployed disabled persons in the Cardiff area at 18th April, 1949, was 534. This represents a decrease of 65 over the last three months. An industrial rehabilitation unit has been established at Cardiff, and a Remploy factory for severely disabled persons is in operation at Treforest. Further and continuous efforts are being made by my local officers to secure employment for those in need of suitable work.

While I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to tell me the number which the industrial rehabilitation centre caters for?

The industrial rehabilitation centre caters for 100. There are 83 persons at the centre now, so we could accept another 17. Perhaps my hon. Friend would be interested to hear that the number now travelling from Cardiff to Treforest has increased from 20 to 40.

Bury

38.

asked the Minister of Labour how many persons were registered as unemployed in the County Borough of Bury on 1st May, 1949.

National Service (Veterinary Students)

37.

asked the Minister of Labour for what purpose a board of his Department is to examine on 15th June students of the Royal Veterinary College who have been five years at this college and are due to sit for their finals a week later.

No question of examination arises. These students are being interviewed in order to explain to those who have not yet fulfilled their National Service obligations, the openings that are available for them in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and the types of veterinary work in civil life for which they might be granted deferment.

In view of the extreme, shortage of veterinary surgeons, will the Minister take steps to see that these men are directed into the profession for which they have been trained rather than into something for which they have not been trained?

Scotland

Teachers (Responsibility Payments)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he can make a statement on the findings of the National Joint Council in regard to the application for an increase in responsibility payments made by the supervisors and organisers of technical subjects.

The National Joint Council have informed me that they were unable to reach agreement on the subject of this application.

Is the right hon. Gentleman then able to take no action under the Education Act, 1946, which gives him power to vary these scales and to introduce new salary scales?

Of course, the teachers will be able to raise this matter again in due course and an opportunity for revision of the regulations will, perhaps, be given later in the year.

School Children (Spectacles)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that school children are being retarded educationally by reason of long delay in provision of and replacement of spectacles; and whether he will take action to ensure priority of supply in such cases.

I very much regret these delays. Arrangements have now been made by the opticians and their manufacturers to give priority in very urgent cases, and especially to school children whose vision would suffer seriously without glasses.

While I realise the difficulty of fixing priorities in this matter, could my right hon. Friend say what is the principle on which priority is decided—youth, or age, or order of application, or what?

The variety of cases which require priority is so great that, of course, it would be impossible to have any uniform scheme.

Will our foreign visitors be incommoded by these priorities being granted to those who pay for this scheme?

I am afraid I have never encountered these mythical visitors who are able to wait long enough to get glasses in this country.

Peat Deposits, Altnabreac

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if it is his intention to conduct the large-scale experimental work for the production of electric power from peat at Altnabreac where the finest quality peat is in abundance.

I am aware of the extensive peat deposits at Altnabreac. Further surveys of Scottish peat bogs, including the collection of meteorological data and the analysis of samples with a view to their suitability for burning in gas turbines, will be necessary, however, before a decision can be reached on the siting of large-scale experiments.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say where it is in Scotland that he intends to spend the £50,000 to which he referred in Edinburgh last week, if it is not in Altnabreac?

Locating the peat, of course, is only the first step in the scientific investigation as to where experimental work is to be started. We have to consider not only the peat but the gas turbine engines which are to be used in this conection.

My question has nothing whatever to do with the engines. It has to do with an area which is greatly distressed by unemployment and where the right hon. Gentleman has refused to create a Development Area. May I request him seriously to consider the claims of Altnabreac?

Hospitals (Administrative Economies)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make it clear to the regional boards and the management committees that in making economies in administration they are not to close down beds or prevent, where possible, the opening of new beds, or otherwise reduce the facilities for patients.

National Finance

Tobacco (Mobile Shops)

46.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give special consideration, in the granting of excise licences for the sale of tobacco, to those mobile shops used only on prepared sites on which but for building restrictions there would now be a permanent shop.

No, Sir. I am advised that licences can be granted only in respect of "premises," and that mobile shops are not premises.

While I appreciate some of the difficulties in this matter, does not my right hon. and learned Friend also agree that there are cases in new estates or in blitzed areas where the absence of permanent premises creates considerable inconvenience? Could he not have a special look at this aspect of the matter?

It has been looked at. The matter is very complicated. It would need a lot of legislation, and I do not think it would give a very satisfactory result.

Balance Of Payments

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if in view of the changed world price levels, both of raw materials and manufactured goods, he is still satisfied that the estimate given by His Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom balance of payments at the end of this year is correct.

In view of the fall in world prices, particularly of basic metals, which is not reflected by any similar fall in this country does not the Chancellor of the Exchequer think it will be very difficult for many exporters to reach their targets?

That is a completely different question from that as to whether an estimate is to be realised.

Coal Exports

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount of foreign currency accruing to this country in the last financial year through the sale of coal overseas.

Sales of coal to countries outside the scheduled territories in the last financial year amounted to about £37 million.

As this most welcome addition to our resources has been achieved by selling coal at the maximum price possible, is it to be assumed from the Chancellor's answer that he agrees with that, or does he want the National Coal Board to do the same as private enterprise—cut down profits?

There is nothing to be assumed from my answer except that the figure was £37 million.

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how much of that £37 million was hard currency?

Does the right hon. Gentleman think the amount received for that tonnage sold was frightfully high or not?

As the price received was the highest possible, does not that mean that the Chancellor thinks it is the duty of exporters to get whatever they can for their exports?

I have always stated that it was advantageous to earn as much foreign currency as we could.

Tourists (Currency)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reason it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to allow a drain on the gold reserves of this country, through the provision of currency for tourists.

In order to arrive at a satisfactory general agreement with certain countries.

Exporting Industries (Profits)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to state the average profit margins of the 10 largest exporting industries.

If the Chancellor cannot give figures will he consider issuing an explanation of his allegation of "frightfully high and enormous profits"—an allegation which the best-known weekly economic paper described as "Not the words of an economist but those of a rabble-rouser"?