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Commons Chamber

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 2 June 1949

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 2nd June, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Transport Commission Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Urmston Urban District Council Bill

As amended, to be considered upon Wednesday, 22nd June.

Oral Answers To Questions

National Health Service

Doctors' Lists

4.

asked the Minister of Health what is now the average number of patients for each doctor under the Health Scheme; and what is the largest and smallest number on any one doctor's panel.

The average number of patients on a doctor's list in England and Wales is about 2,200. I regret that the information requested in the second part of the Question is not available.

Hospital Medical Staffs, Manchester

5 and 6.

asked the Minister of Health (1) how many members of hospital medical staff in the Manchester region have been down-graded by means of a circular from the Regional Hospital Board informing them that they can no longer be considered as specialists; and what is the consequent saving to the Exchequer;

(2) whether he will state the methods adopted by the Manchester Regional Hospital Board and by their reviewing committee in assessing skill and competence and in judging the training sacrifice and intellectual capacity required for its attainment when recently determining the status of specialists; and why the specialists affected were not given any interview.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones), on 13th May, and will send him a copy of the memorandum issued to Boards on this subject.

Would not the Minister like to take this opportunity of stating to the House that he thoroughly disagrees with the discourteous methods used to medical officers of very long standing, which, if continued, will undoubtedly lead to a considerable upset in the working of his plans; and, furthermore, will he say how one can judge a man's intellectual capacity if one does not even give him an interview—not confusing intellectual capacity with debating skill?

With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, I am quite sure that no discourtesy is intended. With regard to the second part, these reviews are made by purely professional committees, over which I myself have no direct control nor do I desire to have control, and they themselves determine whether in their judgment an interview is necessary. However, arrangements are being made for reviews of cases where objection is taken.

Will not the Minister disagree with this method of not hearing a man who, after 15 to 20 years' service, suddenly finds himself demoted and receives a circular not even properly signed?

There can be no question of being demoted, for this is the first review and demotion cannot indeed occur. As to whether an interview is necessary, this is a matter for the professional committee itself to decide. If the person concerned disagrees with the decision, he can make an appeal for a review to the same committee, which, however, will have added to it a doctor from the neighbouring area.

Is the Minister aware that part of the grievance of these men is the fact that, when they make an appeal, they make it to the very men who came to the first decision? Clearly, ought there not to be an appeal to another impartial body?

As the body in itself, in the first place, is professional and impartial and contains all the professional knowledge required, it obviously would be redundant to have an appeal to another body having the same range of professional experience.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this question on the Motion for the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

Hospitals (Admissions)

11.

asked the Minister of Health why Mrs. Gorman, of Streatham, is still sixth on Brompton Hospital list for admission, which was her position two and a half months ago; and how many tuberculosis patients have been discharged from that hospital and how many have been admitted since Mrs. Gorman's application was made.

Mrs. Gorman is sixth on the waiting list for treatment by a particular physician at Brompton Hospital—not on a general waiting list of that hospital. Admission depends not only on the position on a waiting list, but also on the relative urgency of other cases. Some 250 patients have been discharged, and the same number admitted to the hospital since Mrs. Gorman's name was put on the waiting list.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why this woman is still sixth on the list after waiting two months, when she was sixth before?

The reason is because in the estimation of the doctor who is to attend her, other cases are more urgent.

As it seems a most extraordinary situation, will the Minister look at the case again, bearing in mind that this lady was for 18 years a State registered nurse and contracted this disease while following her noble profession?

I made certain inquiries before I gave the answer, but I will certainly make more inquiries.

27.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that persons, who have been told that they would have to wait many months for admission to hospital as ordinary patients, are being admitted at once to the same hospital if willing and able to pay for accommodation and treatment; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent this.

This should not occur if there is any question of urgency. If, nevertheless, it has happened in such a case it is contrary to my instructions to regional hospital boards and hospital management committees and I will investigate examples.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will take precautions to see that his desires, with which we are acquainted, and his instructions are really carried out by these hospital authorities, because they are not being carried out at the present time?

I can only make sure that they are being carried out if hon. Members will let me have instances where they are not.

Medical And Dental Training

12.

asked the Minister of Health what steps are being taken to overcome the shortage of practising general medical practitioners and dental surgeons; and what is being done to encourage prospective students, whose financial resources are inadequate, to take the necessary courses of training.

All training facilities are at present fully occupied. Very substantial assistance is given both by the Ministry of Education and the local education authorities to assist students to take the necessary courses of training.

Does my right hon. Friend believe that the rate of inflow into these professions at the present time is sufficient to indicate that this problem is likely to be overcome in the near future?

I can form no estimate at the moment because we do not yet know what are the needs of the community. After the Health Scheme has been running for probably another year we can form a more realistic estimate of the needs.

Food Poisoning

14.

asked the Minister of Health what instructions he has issued to medical officers of health designed to combat outbreaks of food poisoning; and how many cases have been reported upon during the last convenient period.

I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of a revised memorandum on this subject, together with the accompanying circular, recently sent to local authorities. During the first quarter of this year notifications of food poisoning have been returned affecting 467 persons.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the standard of food hygiene in many restaurants, hotels, and catering establishments is extremely low; and is there not something which he can do, in collaboration with the Ministry of Food, to improve that situation?

It may be that my hon. Friend will first read the circular or memorandum before he comes to any further conclusion.

District Nurses (Cars)

15.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will seek to extend the special arrangements with the motor industry by which priority in the delivery of cars is given to doctors and midwives, to district nurses.

The motor industry has been asked to give priority only to persons whose possession of a reliable car might be the means of saving life. Until the needs of these classes have been substantially met, I do not consider it desirable to press for the arrangements to be extended to home nurses not doing midwifery.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the rapid arrival of one of these nurses may make the difference between life and death, and will he not try to get priority for these people in rural districts?

As we are still not able to provide motorcars for those classes of cases where the urgency is obvious, we ought not to make it more difficult by adding more priority classes.

Will the Minister not only reconsider this matter, but also the fact that in rural areas dentists have to cover a very large territory, and that, in a number of cases at the present moment, their needs are quite desperate?

That matter, of course, is entirely outside this Question. Dentists do not seem to have any difficulty in reaching their patients at the moment.

Opticians

16.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the announcement of one of his officials at the Conference of the Association of Hospital Welfare Administrators at Scarborough, on 26th May, to the effect that his Department hoped that the introduction of the Hospital Eye Service would result in the disappearance of the small town optician; whether this announcement represents the policy of his Department; and if he will ensure that the co-operation of ophthalmic opticians both in small and large towns is not endangered thereby.

25.

asked the Minister of Health if his attention has been drawn to the announcement made by his Department's official, Mr. Cruickshank, at Scarborough, to the effect that the small town optician is to disappear and spectacles to be obtained under proper conditions at hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Government's policy is that set out in paragraph 65 of the White Paper summarising the National Health Service Bill, and embodied in Section 41 of the Act. This is that sight testing and the supply of spectacles should, as resources allow, be carried out in hospitals and clinics provided as part of the hospital and specialist service in charge of ophthalmologists, with opticians playing in them their proper professional part. I have already made it clear to the optical profession that the statement in question was unauthorised, and that Government policy is unchanged.

In view of the considerable disturbance this has caused to the ophthalmic opticians who are playing a very important part in the scheme at present, would my right hon. Friend publicise this policy and also see that no aspersions of this kind are cast upon people who are actually doing very good work?

Aged Sick (Accommodation)

18.

asked the Minister of Health what evidence he has received that chronic aged sick have been certified insane in order to ensure admission into hospital.

Are we to infer from my right hon. Friend's reply, that hon. Members who made serious allegations against the integrity of doctors and magistrates have not yet provided the Minister with concrete evidence in support of their very grave charges?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the evidence is on its way to him.

South-Western Hospital (Transfer)

19.

asked the Minister of Health what decision has been taken about the proposed transfer of the South-Western Hospital, Landor Road, S.W.9, to St. Thomas's Hospital.

I am expecting to receive the recommendation of the Regional Hospital Board this week, and a decision will be taken as soon as this report has been considered.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that as a result of the delay that has taken place in this case—for which I do not blame him—the use of something like 100 hospital beds has been denied to the chronic sick in this particular area?

Rubery Mental Hospital (Inquiry)

20.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has yet completed his inquiry into conditions at the Rubery Mental Hospital; and what steps have been taken in the meantime to ensure adequate staffing of the hospital.

No, Sir. The position is being fully examined in order to determine what further steps may be practicable to meet the staffing difficulties at this hospital.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it has already become abundantly clear that the allegations made by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) are absolutely without foundation, and that there is no doubt whatsoever that all the people admitted to this hospital have either been certified on proper grounds or have been admitted without certification because of the great overburdening of the local hospitals in the area?

It is obvious that there is a very great shortage of accommodation for the chronic sick, especially for the aged chronic sick. There has always been this shortage of accommodation. In the past, they had to live in workhouses for which there was no central responsibility in this House. We expected to have these questions, and we are very glad they are being asked because they throw a light on the needs of the problem.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether this was the hospital in which a patient was unfortunately murdered by one of the other patients owing to the fact that there was inadequate supervision?

I am having inquiries made into the circumstances of the case, and I should imagine that hon. Members should exercise the same restraint as I am before forming an opinion.

I made no allegation; I merely asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the same hospital. Does not he think this a most serious state of affairs?

As to the seriousness of the state of affairs, we must first of all await the examination of the report, and not make tendentious statements in between.

Is it not possible for patients to be admitted to mental hospitals as voluntary patients without being certified; and may I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that no charges have been made from this side of the House that people have been wrongly certified, but only unnecessarily certified?

I do not know how the hon. and gallant Gentleman draws a distinction between wrongly and unnecessarily certified. It is perfectly true that between 50 and 60 per cent. of the people who go into mental hospitals in this country do so voluntarily and without certification, which is itself a tribute to our mental hospital system.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in relation to the matter raised by the noble Lord, the coroner's inquest decided that death was accidental? Does not my right hon. Friend think that the noble Lord ought, in decency, at least to withdraw this allegation of murder, which was made in respect of an occurrence in my constituency?

Perhaps I may be allowed to give a personal explanation. The coroner's jury said that this person was killed by another patient, which must have been murder. The fact remains that the patient was killed owing to inadequate supervision, which is a most serious charge against the hospital.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. An allegation has been made by the noble Lord that murder was committed. I respectfully submit that he should withdraw that allegation.

No allegation was made. I understood that the noble Lord asked a question whether it was the same hospital.

Hearing Aids

24.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will arrange, before the present output of Medresco hearing aids is doubled, to effect certain improvements in the existing type of this apparatus, especially with regard to lightness and ease of portability.

Yes, Sir. Certain improvements have already been incorporated, but for the time being the size and weight will remain unchanged. Consideration is already being given to the reduction of size and weight of the aid and batteries.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the best type of this hearing apparatus is equipped with miniature batteries? Could he make apparatus of this type available as an alternative under the National Health Scheme?

Would my right hon. Friend please see that not too many changes are made for the time being so as to ensure that speed is not taken off the production of existing models?

Changes are not being allowed to interfere with production. Research is going on so that in the next phase of production we shall be able to fit in the improvements.

As there are many better types of apparatus on the market than this one, would the Minister agree to allow people to purchase their own, and make a grant in aid?

All the information I receive at the moment is that those who are using these aids are highly contented with them. I do not propose to give any more grants in aid in any direction.

Aged People (Registration)

28.

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to facilitate the registering with a doctor of aged helpless people, who at present have to take the initiative.

These old people or anyone looking after them, acting on their behalf, should ask the local Executive Council to allocate them to a doctor.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the welfare authorities, whose responsibility it is to look after these helpless, aged persons, are being seriously handicapped in the Liverpool area by the fact that the Manchester Region of the Assistance Board refuses emphatically to give any information at all to the welfare committee regarding people who are in receipt of supplementary allowances under the National Assistance scheme?

The reason why this is so is because the National Assistance Board consider that the information upon which they give supplementary pensions is confidential and should not be given to anyone else. I am, however, trying to arrange that the Minister of National Insurance shall give a comprehensive list of all persons in receipt of old age pensions, which would assimilate those in receipt of supplementary pensions and not identify them in any particular.

Arundel Hospital

30.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered a copy of the resolution sent to him, which was passed at a mass meeting held in May at Arundel, protesting against the proposal to close the Arundel and District Hospital; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

It is the Worthing Group Hospital Management Committee which has suggested that this hospital should be closed. The planning of hospital services is a responsibility of the Regional Hospital Board and I should not consider any proposal which has not been the subject of a recommendation by the Board.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I hold in my hand a petition signed by 3,620 people in this rural area protesting against the closing of this hospital, which is essential for the locality? Will he take that into consideration when the suggestion comes before him from the Hospital Board?

Certainly, I will take it into account at the time. It must, however, be understood that very many of these proposals to close hospitals are not the result of any attempt to keep expenditure within the estimate, but that it was always intended, as part of the re-organisation of the hospital service itself. Very often the views of the local inhabitants do not square with the views of the experts on the committee. I shall, however, take into account what the hon. Member has said.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is very strong feeling over this matter, which is not in any way directed against him or the National Health Act? Will he give sympathetic consideration to the matter, which has caused intense feeling, and see whether some compromise cannot be reached?

It must be understood that it was always intended that very small hospitals, where the service is not always competent—and the emotions of the local inhabitants are not the best test of the competency of the hospital service—should be closed down in the reorganised hospital service. I cannot be asked to sacrifice the welfare of the patients to local sentiment about a hospital.

May I ask the Minister to use his influence in this respect? Some time ago we realised that there was a shortage of beds in the country, and particularly in this district, and although the Worthing Hospital authorities say they will be able to accommodate all the sick people from that district, we ourselves know that they cannot. Will he look at it from that angle—that of the closing of beds?

I certainly would not permit any reorganisation to take place which would result in an absolute loss of accommodation in the area.

Spectacles

33.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will secure without further delay the supply of a spectacle lens to Mrs. Olive Owen, of 24 Jeddo Road, W.12, seeing that she has been waiting for the lens since the 28th December, 1948, and has been in a state of semi-blindness for want of the lens during most of that time, with crave injury to her general health.

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

May I ask the Minister to bear in mind that to stick slavishly to the idea of having no priorities will mean that he will drive people blind and he will drive them mad?

The inference is entirely unjust, is not based upon the facts and is merely splenetic. There is, in fact, a system of voluntary priorities which is being worked by the opticians at the moment. What I have said is this: if I am to unload on them too many priority classes the whole scheme would be encumbered.

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell me how this lady can get within a scheme of priorities with an optician when the hospital refuses to give her the address of the optician?

I understood that the lady has seen an optician, but cannot get the spectacles.

The lady has been admirably treated under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme and has had the sight of one eye restored by the admirable service of the hospital. The hospital have done the best possible job and say she ought to have priority, but they say they cannot and must not give the address of the optician.

If the hon. Gentleman will send me the information, I will do my utmost to help.

Fumes And Smoke, Birmingham

7.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the poisonous fumes and smoke now emitted by numerous chimneys in great industrial centres like Birmingham, what steps he proposes to take towards an abatement of this nuisance.

The Annual Reports of my Chief Inspector of Alkali Works are a record of the steps constantly being taken to that end.

May we take it that the Minister is satisfied that the Act of 1936 provides adequate powers to deal with this nuisance? Is my right hon. Friend aware, for example, that some 349 tons of solid matter per square mile, per year, which is something like 19.1 cwt. per day, fall on Birmingham?

I am well aware that Birmingham is a centre of great industrial activity, and I expect that my hon. Friend's estimates are correct. However, at the moment, it is not intended to review the law on this matter.

Home Help Service

9.

asked the Minister of Health what financial economies he has asked for in the Home Help Service.

I have not found it necessary to ask local health authorities to make economies in this service.

Is it true to say that there has been no reduction in the quality of the Home Help Service offered?

There is no evidence of any reduction. On the other hand, I understand that in some parts of the country the Home Help Service is very good indeed.

Housing (Requisitioning Powers)

13.

asked the Minister of Health if he will take the necessary steps to strengthen the power of local authorities to requisition unoccupied dwelling accommodation by reducing the waiting period before which a notice to requisition is served.

My hon Friend is under some misapprehension. Unoccupied dwellings can be requisitioned immediately my authority is given.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in some cases this power has been exercised in such a way as to be of no value to local authorities in rehousing families on their housing lists? Would my right hon. Friend mind looking at the working of this arrangement?

If my hon. Friend will give me specific instances, I will, of course, have them inquired into.

Employment

Youth Hostel Wardens (Pay)

34.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the discontent on income now being shown by the organised wardens of youth hostels; and why they have been excluded from the Catering Wages Board.

There seems to be some misunderstanding. Hostels are not excluded from the scope of the Unlicensed Residential Establishment Wages Board if they come within the definition contained in the Order. Perhaps my hon. Friend will give me particulars of the hostels he has in mind. I would however point out that the Wages Board are still considering what proposals to submit to me for wage regulation.

Ex-German Prisoner-Of-War

35.

asked the Minister of Labour why Mr. H. Teske, 21, Friday Road, Erith, an ex-German prisoner-of-war, having satisfied his Department's medical advisers of his inability to undertake agricultural work as the result of war wounds, was informed by the manager of the Erith Employment Exchange on instructions from the London office that he is eligible for any other form of employment than that of a compositor, the only trade known to him, with several employers seeking his services in a district where advertisements for compositors bring no results and where neither the local employment exchanges nor the appropriate unions can provide the necessary labour.

In view of the fact that this ex-prisoner-of-war is married to a woman of British stock and has been found unfit for further work in agriculture, arrangements have now been made to enable him to take up work as a compositor.

Would the right hon. Gentleman explain to me why it was necessary for a Member of Parliament to go to great lengths to disclose what are believed to be bureaucratic methods, and why this was not dealt with in the proper light in the first place, without my having to go to this trouble?

I think the best answer I can give is that it was not until the matter came to my notice by means of a Question on the Order Paper that I was able to take any action.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if his answer in any way affects the general ruling that only ex-German prisoners suitable for agricultural work can settle in this country?

Night Baking

36.

asked the Minister of Labour if he has any statement to make on the present state of the negotiations between the two sides of the baking industry about the abolition of night baking.

Following joint meetings held under the auspices of my Department on 17th March and 7th April last, when, unfortunately, it was not possible to reach an agreement, the trade unions decided to report back to their constituent organisations. I am awaiting the result.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on the men's side there is a feeling that the interminable delays in settling the matter are the direct results of deliberate procrastination on the employers' side? Will he do all he can to bring the two sides to an agreed solution?

From my knowledge of the matter I cannot accept the suggestion that there is deliberate procrastination on the employers' side. There is a number of conflicting points to be considered, and we shall most certainly do what we can to hasten the direction of attention to them.

Motor Industry, Bristol

37.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that the impending reduction in production of the Bristol 2-litre type cars will increase unemployment in Bristol; and what action he proposes to take in this matter.

I am informed that, as a result of the re-organisation of production, some workers will be transferred to work on aircraft, and a few may become redundant. The normal machinery of the employment exchange service will be available for all those who register for employment.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reduction in the demand for this car is brought about by the Government's Purchase Tax? Will the Minister take it up with the Treasury with a view to the removal of this tax to obviate an increase in the number of unemployed in the City of Bristol?

No, Sir, my duty is to reduce the number of unemployed, and as there are 866 vacancies outstanding in Bristol, and nearly 200 in this particular group, there will be no problem in providing work for these people.

Industrial Management (Students)

38.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that business training students who have completed the one year post-graduate course in industrial management, for which they were granted State aid, are not being offered suitable posts on completion of the course; and what steps he is taking to inform industry that the services of such trained personnel are available.

There are no one year post-graduate courses in industrial management, but if the hon. Member will let me know what he has in mind I will make inquiries and send him the information he desires.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are such courses that are at present being conducted in Leicester, and that people who have passed through those courses are offered jobs as junior clerks and as assistants to managers? Will my right hon. Friend inquire into this matter to see whether the services of men who have been so trained will be utilised to their best advantage?

I can only repeat there are no post-graduate courses. I am afraid my hon. Friend must unwittingly have become confused with, at least, two other things—first, general business training, and secondly, some other courses run by some private arrangement in Leicester relating to management, but which are not our business.

Docks (Disputes)

39.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to protect foodstuffs held up as a result of the disputes at the docks.

40.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement as to the position of the disputes at the docks.

The hon. Member will have seen the Government statement which I issued on 26th May last, and to which I cannot usefully add at the present moment. The Ports of Bristol, Portishead and Avonmouth are stopped, and there is a partial stoppage at Liverpool. The Government have made it clear that in their view the dispute in Canada is not a matter that should concern workers in this country. This is also the view of both sides of the industry. A close watch is being kept on developments with a view to any necessary action at the appropriate time.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the grave anxiety about this matter, and will he give an assurance that while the House is in Recess statements will be published indicating the course of these disputes?

Yes, Sir, most definitely. I think it is only proper to say that efforts are being made to spread the disputes. I am sure everybody will be happy to know that the London dockers this morning did not fall for these efforts this time, and have decided not to participate. I have every hope that common sense will come to the top, and that we shall get a settlement soon.

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been drawn to the statement made by the area officer of the Transport and General Workers' Union in Liverpool last night? Will he see that whatever influence he has is brought to bear upon the Docks Corporation to withdraw the suspension notices on the 45 men, which notices are actually responsible for the stoppage on Merseyside?

I think it is most unfortunate that that particular matter has been mentioned, because there are many factors, and if attention is drawn especially to one there may be a little difficulty. I can only say that the factors are known to us and that we are dealing with them.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any official information as to the report that the American and Canadian unions are threatening retaliation against our ships if this action against the members of their unions still continues in this country?

I have such information—I could not assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is official information—but we have information that such action has been contemplated.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if there had been a legitimate grievance in the Avonmouth and Liverpool docks, the London dockers would have supported the men on strike, but that the London dockers have declared most emphatically that they will not support a strike that they regard as unofficial and unnecessary?

Is it not the case that it is the American Federation that has proposed to stop work in British ships, and that the American Federation is trying to destroy the Canadian union? Should there be condemnation of workers here for loyalty to the Canadian brotherhood?

The further we go into this the more difficulties arise. It may be that if everyone knew the connection and association of the Canadian union with a certain political organisation, we should want to condemn them.

Education

Pensions (Teachers' Widows)

41.

asked the Minister of Education what consideration he has given to extending the regulations under the Teachers' Superannuation Act, to provide for a pension to the widow of a school teacher who dies shortly before he has qualified for his pension.

Legislation would be needed to give effect to this suggestion. I am at present considering whether it would be possible to work out satisfactory proposals as a basis for discussion with the parties concerned.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the great hardship caused to the widow of a school teacher who dies a matter of a few days before he would be entitled to his pension?

Uncertificated Teachers

42.

asked the Minister of Education if he will give the number of uncertificated teachers who have been accepted for entry into training colleges during the Autumn of this year; and the total number of uncertificated teachers employed by local education authorities.

Between now and next Autumn about 1,100 uncertificated teachers will be offered admission to special one-year courses of training under Circular 114. In March, 1948, there were about 5,300 such teachers employed by local education authorities in maintained and assisted schools.

Schools (Milk Supply)

43.

asked the Minister of Education if he will give the number of schools in England and Wales, respectively, where fresh milk is not given to the children; and what proportion of these schools are primary schools.

One hundred and seventy-nine grant-aided schools in England and 26 in Wales and Monmouthshire are not receiving liquid milk. With the exception of three in England, they are all primary schools. One hundred and twenty-five of the schools in England and all those in Wales receive national full-cream dried milk.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that by some anomaly a number of these schools are in the rural areas whence the milk is sent to the towns, and would he make special efforts to see that rural schoolchildren get their fair share of the milk?

Yes, there are difficulties in this. I know that anomalies arise. It is our intention always to provide liquid milk if we can. The fact remains that in some of these rural areas they are supplying so much liquid milk to the urban areas that there is none left for themselves.

Is my right hon. Friend also aware how difficult it is to obtain drinkable milk—that is to say, pasteurised milk—in the rural areas?

Maintenance Allowance

44.

asked the Minister of Education what is the minimum maintenance allowance for a child of 16 at school he is prepared to approve in the case of a family with one child and a gross income of £4 10s. per week; and how many of the scales submitted to him by local education authorities in response to Circular 189 are unsatisfactory in this or other respects.

In the case mentioned I would not normally regard as adequate any allowance which fell below £26 a year. Of the 112 replies so far received to Circular 189, 76 have been examined. I have criticised 24 of these on the grounds that the amounts payable are inadequate, and I have commented on 27 others for other reasons.

Hearing Aids (Research)

45.

asked the Lord President of the Council when the Medical Research Council will report upon the provision of bone-conduction hearing aids.

Tests are being made to see whether one of the existing types of bone-conduction receiver can usefully be combined with the Medresco hearing aid, but I cannot yet say when they will be completed. Any improvement on existing forms of bone-conduction hearing aids is not likely to be possible without more fundamental knowledge, which will take longer to acquire.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is, and has been for many years, a considerable amount of knowledge of bone-conduction? Surely, it must be a simple matter for the Medical Research Council to make bone-conduction apparatus available with the Medresco aid? Nearly all the commercial standards types have bone-conduction available.

May be, but they are not as good as our types. I am told that whilst there is every wish to meet the point and to solve the problem, in fact we have not got as far as to produce instruments sufficiently satisfactory as compared with the ordinary ones.

Agriculture

Animals (Transport)

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has yet devised a method by which horned and hornless cattle can be separated during transit from farm to slaughterhouse.

No, Sir. As I indicated in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member's earlier Question, the mere separation of horned and hornless cattle would not prevent the horned animals injuring each other; and there are a number of objections to it. I have been considering whether it would be possible to require the horned animals to be tied during transit, but so far my enquiries seem to show that such a provision would not, on balance, be desirable.

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has yet decided what changes should be made in the Transit of Animals Orders of 1927 and 1931, so as to limit the distance young calves may travel from collecting centres to slaughterhouses.

I am informed by my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Food, that it would not be desirable to place a limitation on the distances that calves are transported to slaughterhouses. Special arrangements are in operation to ensure that calves are handled and loaded humanely at the collecting centres by experienced men and that only vehicles in which the journey can be made comfortably and without delay are used for the purpose.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that within the knowledge of myself and, I am sure, that of other hon. Members, there are many cases of extreme cruelty in the handling of these calves, some of them very young animals, and that they are often subject to long periods of exposure without any form of food and drink?

If that is so, then such cases ought to be brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the police evidence given at Garstang, Lancashire, on 26th May, of cruelty inflicted on 10 horses crammed into a motor cattle truck, in which they were transported for slaughter, he will take steps to have such unnecessary suffering obviated.

It is an offence under the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, to carry or cause to be carried any animal in such manner or position as to cause that animal any unnecessary suffering. In the case referred to by my hon. Friend, the persons responsible for the cruelty were, in fact, prosecuted under the Act, convicted and fined. No doubt the facts of this case will be brought to the notice of the Rosebery Committee and taken into account when they are preparing their recommendations.

Does not the Minister think, as nearly everyone else who takes notice of this matter thinks, that it would be much better to send these offenders to gaol rather than to fine them?

Farrowing Sow Allowance

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will now bring forward the operating date for the increase in the farrowing sow allowance to 1st June, 1949.

No, Sir. From the breeding standpoint there was no justification for an earlier date than 1st July next. All sows farrowing before 1st July will have been mated in the expectation of the present allowance of 8 cwt. per farrowing; the additional allowance could not affect breeding of sows before the date of the announcement, namely, 19th May, 1949.

Has not the Minister had complaints for some considerable time of the smaller ration for farrowing sows, and as it is admitted by him that feedingstuffs are available in store in this country, will he now reconsider this matter?

As the hon. Gentleman must know, adequate time must be allowed for county agricultural executive committees to rearrange their rationing distribution scheme.

Egg Production (Battery System)

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what action he proposes to take to reduce or abolish the use of the battery system to induce a higher production of eggs by hens, in view of the cruelty caused by this unnatural method.

I have no evidence that the battery system of keeping hens is cruel and do not, therefore, propose to take any action on the lines suggested.

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware, if he has studied this matter at all, that it is this very uncivilised system of getting our eggs which involves this artificial and inhuman method.

Can my right hon. Friend answer the question: Why does a hen lay an egg?

Can the Minister say whether the Committee investigating alleged cruelty to animals will look into this matter as well?

That is a question which must be submitted to the chairman of the Committee.

Woodland Census

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the authority under which the Forestry Commissioners or their staff have powers to enter on to private land to carry out the woodland census contains any obligation to give prior notice to the owners or occupiers of the land or woodland.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be an improvement if notices were regularly given, and that would help to ensure the co-operation which he has not always had?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that notice is given wherever possible, but sometimes these officers have to visit so many different areas that it is not possible to give notice in every case.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that his information is incorrect? It is definitely the exception and not the rule for any notice to be given.

Why is it that the right hon. Gentlemen is not aware of what is apparently happening everywhere, namely, that these people drift up without any warning?

Training Centre, Plas Denim

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is now in a position to make a further report on the Plas Denim training centre in regard to the complaints put forward by the Students' Committee.

Yes, Sir. A meeting took place at Plas Denim on 16th May between officers of my Department, including the Principal of the Centre, and representatives of the Students' Committee, when there was a full and frank discussion of the position. Some of the complaints that had been made were found to be due to misunderstandings, and others are being met by adjustments in the programme for the summer term. The future arrangements for instruction at the Centre are being reviewed in the light of the report of the meeting.

Glasshouses (Fuel)

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will now make an announcement about future arrangements for allocation of fuel for glasshouses.

After consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power it has been decided that the following modified arrangements shall be made for the allocation of fuel for commercial glasshouses for the 1949–50 season.

1. Growers who need large coal (including anthracite) will be required as before to use at least a proportion of their heated glasshouse space for food crops. The proportion, however, will be reduced to one-half for those who grew flowers before the war and to two-thirds for other growers.

2. No such requirement will apply to growers who use coke or other fuels.

While thanking the Minister for his reply, which will bring a degree of contentment to the people in this industry, may I ask him if he and his Department will keep a watchful eye on this matter, and when an opportune time comes lift the ban completely?

Women's Land Army

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the proportion of headquarters and county committee staffs to the total field force of the Women's Land Army.

The administrative and office staff of the Women's Land Army at headquarters and in the counties last month totalled 579, while the enrolled membership was 16,298, a proportion of 1 to 28.

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what proportion of the entrants into the Women's Land Army stay in it less than one year.

Over the last year the proportion of entrants leaving the Women's Land Army in less than a year has been about one-third.

White Fish Industry (Marketing)

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it is his intention to set up a marketing board for the white fishing industry.

Does that mean that the Government intend to ignore all the recommendations of the Duncan Report?

I should have thought that if any action on the lines indicated in the Question were necessary, the initiative would have come from the industry.

National Finance

European Economic Co-Operation (Payments)

61.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amounts of gold and dollars have been paid to the Organisation of European Economic Co-operation countries each month from the inception of the Intra-European Payments Agreement.

I will, with permission, circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can my hon. Friend give me something more intelligible? I want to know the answer particularly. Can he say if the gold was sent in bullion and not in coin, what amount was involved, and what was the rate per fine ounce?

The figures which I propose to circulate are perfectly intelligible, and they show, as I think the House knows, considerable payments to Switzerland and Belgium in particular. The other points which my hon. Friend raised are not in his Question, and perhaps he will give notice of them.

Surely I am entitled to know what amount is involved, and surely my hon. Friend can tell me that, as I wish to do a bit of propaganda on this subject.

Following are the figures:

GOLD AND DOLLAR SETTLEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH PAYMENTS AGREEMENTS WITH O.E.E.C. COUNTRIES
Paid in£'000
BelgiumSwitzerlandBizone
1948
October2,5005003,161
November500
December
1949
January2,700801,502
February1,700288
March1,2311,496
April2,2601,696
May1,7921,015

Level Of Profits (White Paper)

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will publish a White Paper giving particulars of the level of profits made during the years 1946, 1947 and 1948, respectively, by all such undertakings as have a capital value of £100,000 or more.

In view of the fact that since the Prime Minister made his appeal to both sides of industry headlines have appeared in the Press indicating that every kind of trade union is making a request for higher wages, would it not be in the nature of redressing the balance to make this information also available.

General information about the level of profits year by year is given in the National Income White Paper. That is the best form of making it available and the most illuminating from the point of view of the public.

Is it not a fact that wages have risen three times as much as profits during the period under review?

I do not think so. There has also been a rise in the productivity of labour.

Is not that one of the reasons why we should know what are the profits, so that we can compare them with the rising wages?

Is it not the case that whereas dividends are declared only once a year, wages have risen as often as once a month.

Defence Contribution (Assessments)

66 and 67.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether his attention has been called to the decision by Mr. Justice Atkinson in the King's Bench Division on 24th March, that compensation rent under Section 2 of the Compensation Defence Act, 1939, is not assessable for Defence Contribution insofar as those taxpayers who were wrongly assessed by revenue officials are penalised whilst others who challenged the decision of these officials have been able to avoid payment on an incorrect assessment; and whether he will make an ex gratia repayment to those who have suffered in this connection;

(2) whether he is aware that by the decision in G.I.R. v. Buxton Palace Hotel Limited on 24th March, 1948, by Mr. Justice Atkinson in the King's Bench Division that compensation rent under Section 2 of the Compensation Defence Act, 1939, is not assessable for National Defence Contribution, but that despite this judgment, the Board of Inland Revenue have stated that they are unable to agree to this decision being applied retrospectively to any cases which in their view are for technical reasons not regarded as under appeal; and, in view of the obscurity of the legislation involved, what steps he will take to ensure that the present attitude of the Board of Inland Revenue is reconsidered.

In general, an assessment to tax which has become final and conclusive can be re-opened only under the provisions of Section 24 of the Finance Act, 1923, which deals with certain cases of error and mistake and is applied to Profits Tax—formerly called National Defence Contribution—by Section 35 and the Fifth Schedule to the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1945. Under these provisions a judicial decision has no retrospective effect in relation to assessments which have become final and conclusive under the law, and the cases to which the hon. Member refers have accordingly been correctly dealt with. My right hon. and learned Friend cannot accept the suggestion that an exgratia payment should be made to those taxpayers who did not avail themselves of their statutory right of appeal on the point.

Gold (Price)

68.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why gold is being sold to the United States of America for approximately £8 15s. the fine ounce when the world market price is £24.

The United Kingdom sells monetary gold at the official United States Treasury price of 35 dollars per fine ounce, and this is in accordance with our adherence to the International Monetary Fund. To sell monetary gold at a higher price would be contrary to our obligations, as members of the Fund, directed to maintaining orderly currency arrangements.

Will my hon. Friend explain what he means by "monetary gold"; will he also say why gold is sold in India at about £24 per fine ounce, whereas yesterday it was 118 rupees 15 annas per tola, which is about £23 5s. per fine ounce; and will he explain the difference between monetary gold and gold? Or is there something phoney about it?

Well, gold which is sold to monetary authorities, including the U.S. monetary authorities, is naturally classed as monetary gold. The price which the United States monetary authorities pay for gold is generally regarded as the ruling world price for gold.

Will the hon. Gentleman, in pursuance of this policy, not reconsider reopening the free gold market in Hong Kong?

Is not my hon. Friend aware that, leaving out India as a restricted market, in many markets gold is sold at at least £17 per fine ounce? Why do we put up with this restriction? Why is it allowed to go on? Will he explain it to the House?

Of course, the price of gold in those markets to which my hon. Friend refers has no relevance to our obligations to the International Monetary Fund.

Well, who made this phoney arrangement? Can I not have an answer? Why is it that the price is kept down?

Our adherence to the International Monetary Fund and the obligations involved was approved by this House.

Is it quite clear then that there is no question here of a "bankers' ramp"?

Gold (Dominion Exports)

69.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will state the amount and value of gold exported from each of the British Dominions within the sterling area for the year ended 31st December, 1948.

The Government are not responsible for exports of gold by other Commonwealth countries.

I am aware of that, but has not my hon. Friend and his Department any knowledge of this matter? They seem to be vitally interested in any materials other than gold. Apparently we are not to know anything about gold. What is all this secrecy about? Can we be told?

There is no secrecy, but it is not the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government to answer questions about exports of gold by other countries. I can tell my hon. Friend that there was a considerable export of gold, of over £100 million, from South Africa to the United States during this period.

I have no doubt that it is not their responsibility. I asked whether my hon. Friend knew and whether he would tell the House. I was not interested in learning that it was not his responsibility. Why cannot he tell us the amount. If he does not know the figure let him say so.

Could the hon. Gentleman say whether this is one of those cases where the gentleman in Whitehall does not know the right answers?

On a point of Order. Can we have questions on Ministers' knowledge as distinct from their responsibility? We might learn something useful about the Derby winner that way.

Is not the Economic Secretary impressed by this demand in the Questions of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) for greater profits for sellers of gold?

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Are you not calling Question No. 70?

Defence Services (Cost)

73.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he arrives at the calculation contained in the booklet "The Budget and Your Pocket," that the cost of defence is equal to an outlay of 22s. 6d. a week for every household in the country.

The figure of 22s. 6d. a week is reached by dividing the Defence Estimate for 1949–50, of £760 million, by 13 million, the estimated number of households in Britain.

Was the same method of calculation used in this case as the Minister of Defence used when he estimated that the cost was £15 per head?

I do not know. This is the simple average of the total expenditure over the number of households in the country. It does not, of course, mean that every household is paying that amount.

Will the Economic Secretary inform the Chancellor that if he keeps on his Budget line, a lot of people will have no need for pockets.

Messrs Vickers Limited (Bonus Shares)

74.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why Treasury permission has been given to Messrs. Vickers Limited to capitalise reserves to the extent of over £6 million and to distribute that sum in the form of fully-paid bonus shares to the company's stockholders.

The Capital Issues Committee recommended consent and the Treasury acted on that recommendation.

Even though this sort of thing is technically permissible is it not morally unjustifiable, fully inflationary, and contrary to all that the Chancellor has been saying over the last 18 months?

Post-War Credits

75 and 76.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will give an estimate of the sum of money involved in any one year in paying to widows such post-war credits as pass to them on account of their husband's estates;

(2) if he will give an estimate of the sum of money involved in any one year in the payment of post-war credits attaching to the estates of deceased persons at the time such estates are wound up.