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Commons Chamber

Volume 466: debated on Thursday 23 June 1949

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 23rd June, 1949

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Private Business

London County Council Money Bill

Barnsley Corporation Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Urmston Urban District Council Bill

As amended, considered.

Standing Order 205 (Notice of Third Reading) suspended; Bill to be read the Third time forthwith.—( Chairman of Ways and Means.)

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Alexander Scott's Hospital Order Confirmation Bill

Royal Bank Of Scotland Officers' Widows' Fund Order Confirmation Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions


Agricultural Workers


asked the Minister of Labour how many agricultural workers have sought to leave the industry in the last 12 months; and how many applications have been refused under the Control of Engagement Order.

I regret that this information is not available.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that more men are being kept out of this industry through fear of this Order than, in point of fact, are being kept in the industry by the Control of Engagement Order?

No, Sir. I do not think there is any real evidence which proves that. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this matter is still under consideration.

Is it not a fact that there was a general exodus of men from this industry for many years before the present regulations were made?

Does not the hon. Gentleman think the time is now approaching when this Order should be rescinded altogether?

If the Minister has not the information at present could he get it and give it to the House later on?

I am afraid not. If men go to an employment exchange and ask for permission to leave and permission is not given, no record is kept of that. Record is kept only where the men do leave.

Industrial Hostels (Charges)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make a statement regarding the charges to residents in Government industrial hostels.

Yes, Sir. In the light of the prevailing charges for comparable private lodgings and the increasing costs of providing hostel accommodation, it has been decided to increase the charges in the Government industrial hostels run by the National Service Hostels Corporation as from 11th July next, by 5s. per week at the standard industrial hostels, and by 4s. per week at certain hostels where the accommodation provided is below the normal standard of industrial hostels. The new charges will be 35s. per week for men and 30s. per week for women at the standard hostels, and 30s. per week for men and 25s. per week for women at the other hostels.

They will apply to all the Corporation's industrial hostels. They do not apply, under this Order, to the Agricultural Executive Committees' Hostels, as they come under the direction of the committees. This Order applies to the Hostels Corporation.

The differentiation is because in what we call sub-standard hostels accommodation is very poor by comparison with standard hostels. In many standard hostels there are one or two people in a cubicle, but in the others there are 15, 16, or 18 in a dormitory.


Schools (Electrical Installations)


asked the Minister of Education whether, in view of the danger to children, he will discourage the installation of metal tumbler switches with easily removable unearthed metal covers in concrete-floored wash-rooms and corridors of new school buildings.

Those responsible for providing new school buildings are expected to pay due regard to the British Standards Code of Practice on Electrical Installations, which deals with the matter referred to in my hon. Friend's Question. I have no reason to believe that children are exposed to avoidable risks in their schools. Children may cause injury to themselves by tampering with electrical installations of any kind, but this is a matter which must be left to the care and discipline exercised by teachers.

If I can show my right hon. Friend cases where I think the regulations have not been adhered to, and where there is danger, particularly to children of infant school age and primary school age, owing to unearthed metal switches, would he ask His Majesty's inspectors to look into the matter?

School-Building Programme


asked the Minister of Education what was his target, in value, for school-building for 1948 and 1949, respectively; how much of the 1948 target was completed and in process of construction by 31st December, 1948; and how much he anticipates will be completed and in process of construction by 31st December, 1949, of the 1949 target.

The target adopted by my Department in the planning of educational building is the programme of work to be started in each year. In 1948 a programme of £26 million was carried out in full. For 1949 the target is £50–£55 million, and there is a good prospect that a programme of this size will be carried out. These figures relate to all educational building work sponsored by my Department. Projects for primary and secondary schools account for about 70 per cent. of the 1949 programme and for about 60 per cent. of the 1948 programme.

Can the Minister say, first, concerning 1948 and the £26 million worth of work carried out, what was the target for 1948 and what percentage was the achievement of the target? Can he say, in the second place, on what grounds he hopes confidently that the target for this year for £52 million worth of work will be carried out in the year?

The target refers to the amount of building work started, not to that which is completed. That is the only basis upon which we can work. When I say the target was completed I mean that £26 million worth was actually started.

But was it not the case that before 1948 the Minister announced that the target for 1948 to be begun was £52 million worth? If he gives us a figure of £26 million worth of work having been begun, obviously only half of the target of beginnings was achieved. Does he, therefore, express the same confidence in the results this year?

I should like to look at that. I do not know where I said a target of £52 million would be started.


asked the Minister of Education what is the target he has set for replacing the 644 schools which are on the 1925 blacklist; and what is planned for 1949.

The development plans submitted by local education authorities provide for the replacement, or improvement, of all primary and secondary school buildings which fall short of the prescribed standards. This work will be carried out as rapidly as the resources available for school-building permit. For the time being, I am bound to ask local education authorities to devote the major part of their resources to the provision of the large amount of additional school accommodation required to meet the needs of new housing, or to cater for the additional children coming into the schools as a result of the rise in the birth rate. These new schools will incidentally relieve the situation in many older schools. In addition, minor improvements are being made to many existing schools.

Is the Minister satisfied that in those particular areas where these black listed schools exist sufficiently vigorous steps are being taken to provide new schools, and thus to do away with the old ones?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the difficulty of local authorities in providing schools is the shortage of school architects? Has he any plan for remedying this shortage?

That shortage has been known for some time by the local authorities, and I personally have been impressing upon them the necessity of organising and reorganising their appropriate departments to meet the requirements.

What pressure does the right hon. Gentleman's Department bring to bear upon the local authorities, and what is the nature of it? We all realise that a number of these schools has been on the black list now for something over 25 years, and nothing has been done.

The only form of pressure that can be put upon the local authorities is to point out the necessity of overcoming the problem. I have given them authority to get on with it, to the extent that materials and labour are available, and now that the limitation of having to get approval for work costing less than £5,000 has been taken off, the local authorities are at liberty to go ahead with the job.

Size Of Classes, Shropshire


asked the Minister of Education what is the average size of classes in elementary schools in Shropshire today as compared to 1939.

The term "elementary school" became obsolete with the coming into operation of the Education Act, 1944. The average size of class in maintained and assisted primary and secondary schools in Shropshire was 28.8 in January, 1949. The comparable figure for 1939 was 31.0.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, and can he tell me, of the steps actually being taken now to reduce the size of classes? That is one of the factors adversely affecting the operation of the Education Act.

Steps are being taken by training more teachers than ever before, and that is the only way to reduce the numbers in classes.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he can attain that figure in all the country he will receive the heart-felt congratulations of this House.

War-Damaged Schools, Cardiff


asked the Minister of Education whether he is aware of the serious interference caused to secondary education in Cardiff by the present inadequate accommodation, especially in the Howard Gardens and the Canton High Schools, respectively; and what action he is taking with regard to the Cardiff Education Committee's estimates for these schools and for their 1949–50 building programme as a whole.

I am aware of the difficulties under which the Howard Gardens and Canton High Schools have been working, owing to war damage. The girls at Howard Gardens have now been moved into new premises. No progress has so far been made with the provision of new premises for the boys of Howard Gardens, or for the Canton Schools, owing partly to the more urgent need of new primary schools for housing estates, and partly to the slow rate at which plans have been forthcoming. The 1949 and 1950 building programmes have recently been discussed with representatives of the authority, with a view to securing more rapid progress, but I am not yet in a position to announce any definite decisions on the 1950 programme.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Howard Gardens School is a disgrace to the conditions in which, under a Socialist Government, education should be carried on, and that almost equal difficulties exist in the county area? Will he give an assurance that he has not told the Cardiff authority that they must not spend extra money for the provision of proper secondary education?

The problem so far as Cardiff and every other authority is concerned at the moment, in consideration of the 1950 programme, is the amount of work that has to be done to make provision for the children who will be going into the schools. That work has priority.

But is my right hon. Friend aware that the children who are already in the schools must not be allowed to remain in conditions that are a detriment to education? Will he take the necessary action to have the conditions improved?

I thought that the fact that I stated in my answer that the authority had been to see me in order that I could impress upon them this necessity was a sufficient answer to my hon. Friend.

Can my right hon. Friend say what the cost of building these schools or similar schools was in 1944, and what is the increase in the cost of schools at the present time?

India (Disabled Ex-Service Men)


asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations when he first raised the question of the issue of free motor cars to disabled British ex-Service men with the Government of India; and when he expects to get their decision thereon.

I first called the attention of the Government of India to the question of free motor cars for disabled British ex-Service men on 8th December, 1948. I have continued since then to impress on them our view of the urgency and importance of a favourable reply.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication at all when that reply is likely to be forthcoming?

I am hoping for it very soon, and I am going to press for it; and I hope a special opportunity of getting the answer will arise in the near future.

In the meantime will the right hon. Gentleman represent to the Government that funds should be made available so that cars can be issued to these men while he is awaiting a decision?

I should have to consult my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that.


asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations the number of disabled British ex-Service men whose pensions and other benefits are the responsibility of the Government of India.

The administration of pensions for British members of the Indian Forces is, by agreement, divided between the Government of India and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Government of India deals with pensioners who reside in India or Pakistan: we deal with the rest. I am afraid we do not know the number of disabled British ex-Service men in India and Pakistan who have been granted pensions. I am advised, however, that it must be small.

The numbers dealt with by my office are as follow: Officers and men, 2,437; widows and other dependants, 970. These figures include all those who have been disabled since the beginning of the first world war.

Does that mean that those in relation to whom the right hon. Gentleman has given figures have to wait for any increased benefits, such as the issue of free motor cars, until the Government of India consent?

Yes, certainly it is only on the original terms that we administer the pensions.

Trade And Commerce

Eastern Europe


asked the President of the Board of Trade what special measures, comparable with those taken to develop exports to America, are proposed in respect of trade with the countries of Eastern Europe.

No comparable measures are proposed because the same considerations do not apply.

As it is now generally recognised that in our country we are facing an economic disaster unparalled in our history—[Laughter.] Let us remember that laughter from the Opposition—and as it is obvious that nothing can save us but a vast expansion of Eastern European—

This supplementary question is not asking for information but is merely arguing, and that is not in Order at Question Time.

May I complete my question, Sir? Will the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that nothing can save us but some departure from the normal routine he follows in Eastern Europe, and some real attempt to get some trade going?

We have no difficulty in providing sufficient exports to pay for all the goods we are able to import from Eastern Europe. That is not the position in the dollar area, and we therefore need special efforts to increase dollar exports.

British Industries Fair (Home Buyers)


asked the President of the Board of Trade why the number of home buyers attending the British Industries Fair in 1948 is given in the Board of Trade Journal of 21st May, 1949, as 107,000 whereas in the Board of Trade Journal of 22nd May, 1948, the numbers attending in 1948 were given as 220,000.

Turnstile readings of home trade and public attendance were issued in 1948 to satisfy demands for immediate information. As experience has shown that these figures involve duplication, later statements, including those issued in connection with the 1949 Fair, have as far as possible been based on the number of badges sold.

Are these figures to be taken as typical of the accuracy of the Government's figures?

No, Sir. The figures that were given were in answer to a particular Question and were accurate, based on turnstile readings. If, however, figures on comparable bases over the two years are taken they show a considerable increase in home buyers this year.

Footwear (Profit Margins)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what further reductions in the profit margins allowed to footwear manufacturers he proposes to make, in view of the excessive profits earned by footwear manufacturers.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) on this subject on 24th May.

Can the President of the Board of Trade give an assurance that the present margins will not continue to yield excessive profits and impose unnecessary burdens upon parents with families of young children?

I can certainly give an assurance that we are watching these margins all the time. As my hon. Friend knows, not very long ago we reduced the margins on the distribution of footwear.

Are any steps being taken to recover from these firms some of the public subsidies which were used to inflate their own private profits?

Those subsidies refer, of course, to utility leather, and are a different consideration.

To what extent are these large profits due to the continued rise in the price of raw materials; and if they are due to that, is there not likely to be a general rise in world prices?

Will my right hon. Friend make it quite clear that the profits of boot manufacturers are due entirely to profits on the distributive side, which are in a different category?

Newsprint (Price)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will substantially reduce the price of newsprint to enable an increase in the size of newspapers to be financially possible in the near future.

The maximum price at which newsprint may be sold is at present under review and I hope to be able to issue a new Control Order in the near future.

While welcoming that reply, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that, unless there is a substantial reduction in the price it will not be possible for newspapers to take advantage of the increased supply; and will he bear that in mind in fixing the revised allocation?

I hope the hon. Gentleman will await the new order which I hope to issue as soon as possible.

Paper Supplies (Football Pools)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now take steps to annul Section 2 of the Paper (Use in Betting Schemes) Order, 1947.

As the order referred to in the previous Question, which helps magazines and papers, does not affect this position, will he look into the matter again?

No, Sir. The new order relates to newsprint and will not affect the supply of paper for football pools. If we were to annul this section I am quite satisfied that there would be an increase in the amount of canvassing by football pools, which I am sure none of us wants to encourage.


asked the President of the Board of Trade what paper allocation is made to each of the chief pool promoters; for what purposes this allocation is made; and whether, in view of a substantial part of it having recently been used for political propaganda, he will revise the quota in the case of each firm which has used its allowed tonnage for this purpose.

The football pool promoters are at present allowed to use paper for the purpose of operating their businesses to the extent of 1.25 per cent. of their pre-war consumption. There is no restriction on the amount of paper which they may acquire and use for the purposes referred to by my hon. Friend and I could not therefore reduce, on this account, the quantity licensed to each firm.

Speaking generally, can my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that these football pool promoting firms have been keeping within their proper quota of paper; and if he is not satisfied that they have been doing that, will he call for a report from them?

So far as the quota of paper for their business purposes is concerned, we are watching that very carefully, and if I receive any evidence that they are not keeping within their quota I shall, of course, take immediate action. The paper referred to by my hon. Friend was for another purpose, over which we have no control.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say, for the information of the House and his hon. Friend, when political propaganda first became unpopular with the Socialist Party?

Has my right hon. Friend yet got any information from local authorities as to the degree to which the paper salvage drive has profited by this campaign?

Hosiery Controller


asked the President of the Board of Trade the present functions of the Controller of Hosiery; what is his present salary; and what personal expenses did he incur during 1948.

The functions of the Hosiery Controller are, in general, to advise the Board of Trade and assist manufacturers in all matters relating to the hosiery industry, and in particular to allocate yarns, ensure the maximum production of hosiery practicable for export, and secure a proper balance among the various types of hosiery goods produced for the home market. The Controller is unpaid and received no personal expenses during 1948.

Can the President of the Board of Trade say for how long we are to have this volunteer controller?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many staff this official employs on a pay basis; or are they all voluntary?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, and will he state publicly, that this controller is one of the shrewdest businessmen who serve the country, that he has done a magnificent job, that the people in the industry welcome his work, and that his Department is one of the most efficiently run?

Yes, Sir. I am fully aware of that, and so are the trade. I hope the hon. Gentleman will have a little tête-à-tête with his hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) on this matter.

Does the Minister realise that perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) is a candidate for this particular office?

Mission, Argentina (Cost)


asked the President of the Board of Trade the cost so far in Argentina of the present trade mission to the Argentine Government; and whether their local expenses have been paid in non-convertible or convertible sterling.

The cost so far in Argentina of the present trade mission is about £8,600, all paid in pesos purchased from non-convertible sterling.

Cotton Purchase, Usa


asked the President of the Board of Trade the total expenditure made, and to be made, in dollars for cotton purchased from the United States of America during the six months ended 31st May, 1949.

As I informed the hon. Member on 17th June, 1948, I cannot give information about purchases made of particular growths by the Raw Cotton Commission.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great anxiety as to the amount in dollars that is going out for this, against the amount of dollars that may be coming in; and will he not realise that it is in the public interest occasionally to give these figures, as has been done in the case of other commodities?

No, Sir. I think that to publish figures for the currency available for the purchase of any particular type of cotton would greatly hamper our buying policy. That would apply equally whether we were buying on public or private account.

Standardisation (Committee)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered what contribution standardisation can make to economy of production and to the well-being of the country; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

Yes, Sir. We are fully alive to the economic contribution which standardisation can make, both by savings in production costs and by guarantees to the consumer. We have given much consideration to the question and are convinced that our policy should be to encourage the progress of standardisation by every means in our power and to look to industry, working with and through the British Standards Institution, to do the work. We are fully conscious of the great progress industry and the B.S.I. are making, but we have felt that we should do everything within our power to help and stimulate it. It was for this reason that, for example, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, as announced by him in the House on 22nd November last, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend, set up a committee of representatives of industry under Sir Ernest Lemon to investigate how reduction in the variety of engineering products and components could be carried further and faster.

It is clear, however, that further advances in standardisation, whether in the engineering field or elsewhere, will not be obtained without a good deal of hard work and careful technical examination, and without the fullest co-operation of industry in the drafting and adoption of Standards. This will mean that the B.S.I. will have more work to do and will assume an even more important place in the economy of the country than it does at present, and it will create problems of organisation and finance. The question of an increased grant from the Government will have to be considered, but it seems necessary first that the constitution and functions of the Institution should be reviewed in the light of the policy I have announced, and I have, therefore, appointed a Committee, the terms of reference and the membership of which I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a campaign was run on these lines at least 40 years ago, and can he say why no further progress has been made since then?

I am not responsible for 36 of those years, but I think more progress has been made with standardisation, particularly in the field of those goods and building materials controlled by my right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Minister of Works, in the last four years than during the whole of the previous 36 years.

Will the President of the Board of Trade bear in mind that standardisation has some disadvantages, that we should be cautious before becoming too enthusiastic about it, and that one of the disadvantages is that when a standard becomes firmly set, it sometimes becomes an obstacle to changes?

I am fully aware of that and for the need of having some degree of consumer choice, but far too many of the existing types are very much set in their ways, allowing an unreasonable degree of consumer choice in matters of size and specification which no one now considers necessary.

Following are the terms of reference:

"To consider the organisation and constitution of the British Standards Institution, including its finance, in the light of the increasing importance of standardisation and the extended size and volume of work likely to fall on the B.S.I. in future and to make recommendations."

Mr. Geoffrey Cunliffe has agreed to act as Chairman of this Committee, and the B.S.I. have promised their warm co-operation in its work. The other members of the Committee are:

Sir William Palmer, K. B.E., C.B., British Rayon Federation.

A. V. Nicolle, Esq., The Automotive Engineering Co., Ltd.

Roger Duncalfe, Esq., British Glues & Chemicals, Ltd.

E. P. Harries, Esq., Trades Union Congress.

O. W. Humphreys, Esq., General Electric Co., Ltd.

Sir Ernest Lemon, Chairman of the Ministry of Supply Committee on Engineering Standardisation.

Police Force

Oaksey Report (Findings)

30 and 31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what representations he has received from the Superintendent's Central Committee and the Police Federation on the findings of the Oaksey Report; and what action he proposes to take on them;

(2) if he is aware that dissatisfaction exists among police officers with certain aspects of the Oaksey Report; and if he will give further consideration to the matter so as to meet the objections that have been raised.

At the recent meeting of the Police Council the representatives of the superintendents and Police Federation raised a number of matters on the Report; but they accepted the position that it would not be practicable to pick and choose among the recommendations made by the Committee and that effect should be given to the Report as a whole. Provision has however been made in the draft Police Pensions Regulations now before the House to meet the special position of members of the forces who were serving on 28th August, 1921, and who are compelled to retire by the operation of the age limit. My right hon. Friend is also taking steps after consultation with the Superintendents' Central Committee and the local authority Associations to overcome hardships which may arise in individual cases consequent on the introduction of the new grading system for superintendents.

Can we have an assurance that no police officer of any grade will be worse off in any way under the terms of this award, and is the Under-Secretary satisfied that the decisions arrived at will have the desired effect of encouraging recruitment and will satisfy existing members of the forces, because there is a good deal of evidence that there is still dissatisfaction at present?

Dealing with the last part of the supplementary question first, I think it is clear that a number of people in the Police Force would have liked higher awards than are suggested under the Oaksey Report, but that was to be expected. Their representative bodies have, however, accepted the position as indicated in my answer.

Can the Under-Secretary tell us the effect of the report upon resignations from the Police Force and recruitment to the force since the new Oaksey concessions were announced?

I certainly could not do that without notice, but I think it is a little early to be giving figures.

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the anomalies arising was the question of pensions of those about to retire, and that what he has said on behalf of his right hon. Friend will cause a great deal of satisfaction among those concerned?

I apologise to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) for not having answered the first part of his supplementary question. I think it is substantially the case that under this report no police officer will be worse off, but we have to take one recommendation with another and look at the matter as a whole.

Can my hon. Friend say if the terms of his answer cover the objections which have come from various grades in the Scottish Police Service?

I cannot undertake to deal with every objection that has been raised from every quarter.

Will my hon. Friend pass on to his right hon. Friend the fact that in Birmingham there is great dissatisfaction, and that among the many complaints is the fact that there is no question of back-dating the award as has been done with the awards in other walks of life?

Assault Case, Dalston (Inquiries)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any report to make of progress by the police in tracing the assailants of the two Dalston boys on 30th April; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend is informed that every possible inquiry is being made by the police, but so far it has not been possible to identify the assailants.

In view of the anxiety in the neighbourhood about this matter, is the Under-Secretary in a position to give some details to the House about the steps the police have taken, without of course divulging anything which may be of value to the suspects, and can he say whether a certain public house, of which I think he has been informed, is under scrutiny by the police?

I think it would be very undesirable for me to go into details of what the police are or are not doing in a matter of this kind. I can only repeat that my right hon. Friend is satisfied that every possible step is being taken by the police.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the car used by the assailants, the number of which was supplied to the police, has been traced, and if not why not?

I do not think it is advisable I should go into details of what the police have or have not so far managed to elucidate.

Pensions Regulations


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the fact that serving policemen are to be required to express an option as to whether they accept or refuse averaging of pay for the purposes of pension, he will give an assurance that those members of the service who joined before 5th July, 1948, who opt to accept averaging will retain their safeguard under Section 2 of the Police Pensions Act, 1948.

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend is advised that officers who are members of police forces on 1st July, 1949, and who elect, under Regulation 87 of the draft Police Pensions Regulations now before Parliament, to have their pensions based on the average of their pay for the three years preceding retirement retain the safeguard contained in Section 2 of the Police Pensions Act, 1948, in relation to any future amendments of the Police Pensions Regulations.

Does that mean that the officers opting for averaging, who were in the force prior to 5th July, 1948, and have been promoted late in their careers, will receive pensions appropriate to their rank?

This provision for opting has been introduced to ensure that on this occasion when the pensions regulations are altered, there should be no possible question of infringement of the safeguard introduced last year.

In view of the great interest taken in this question, quite apart from any political point of view, will the Under-Secretary look into the terms of the order which his right hon. Friend is moving on Tuesday next, to see whether words cannot be added, to bring into Order discussion of the sort of points which have been raised on this question, and which show that the House has considerable doubt as to what is to be effected?

I appreciate the point, but what would or would not be in Order in that Debate is a mater on which I cannot answer.


Empty Houses, London


asked the Minister of Health if he will now publish a list showing the number of empty houses in each Metropolitan borough, disclosed by the recent survey undertaken at his recent request.

I will, with permission arrange for the figures to be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following are the figures:

Numbers of empty houses in each Metropolitan Borough, as listed by the local authorities.

Bethnal Green (also an unstated number of semi-obsolete properties)4
St. Marylebone364
St. Pancras334
Stoke Newington40

(1) The majority of the houses included in the lists are fit only for demolition.

(2) The Borough Councils are continuing to requisition and adapt those empty houses which are suitable and can be dealt with at reasonable cost.

(3) A number of houses, mainly in Westminster, Kensington and Paddington, are being prepared as half-way houses for over 400 families. This accommodation will be used for families from all parts of London.

(4) I am considering what further use can be made of these empty houses, but it is unlikely that much additional housing accommodation can be obtained.

Private Building Licences


asked the Minister of Health if he will instruct local authorities not to include private building licences granted for agricultural purposes in the normal ratio of licences for private building.

The discretion given to local authorities to issue licences up to one-fifth of their allocation is the utmost concession that can be made at this time consistently with the housing policy of the Government that houses should be available at reasonable rents to those in the greatest need.

Is my right hon. Friend aware than in certain rural areas agricultural priorities absorb all the available licences, to the great vexation of nonagricultural people? Could there not be a fairer apportionment?

Priority has been given to agriculture and to mining. To give further houses would be at the expense of other people's needs in other parts of the country.

Is the Minister aware that it is not only private houses, but houses for agricultural workers that are held up, in the submission of schemes by councils, before they can get past the various authorities?

The fact that the housing schemes now in operation are the utmost that our physical resources admit is the complete answer to the hon. Gentleman's statement.

Sunday Observance Acts


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it is his intention to introduce legislation to deal with the anomalies arising out of the Sunday Observance Acts.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend on 17th February last to my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker).

Does that mean the Government intend to continue condoning the practices under these Acts which are regarded by many people as being highly undesirable?

I do not think that is the way to put it. I was asked whether legislation was contemplated, and the reply to which I referred the hon. Member was to the effect that my right hon. Friend can hold out no prospect of early legislation.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it is highly desirable to prevent ill-disposed busybodies utilising ancient laws for the purpose of interfering with individual liberties in the manner of the Lord's Day Observance Society.

National Health Service

Treatment (Information)


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the uncertainty among a considerable section of the community about their rights to hospital and specialist treatment under the Health Service, he will issue, on a national scale, a leaflet indicating the main types of treatment available and the methods to be followed in securing them.

A leaflet on these lines was distributed to every household in the Spring of 1948, and information is also available at local information bureaux.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that patients, having been informed by the doctor that they are urgently in need of specialist treatment, are often told that they can obtain it only if they pay privately?

I should like to have information of any case of that sort, because f that is done, it is, of course, extremely improper.

Dentures (Quality)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that some dentists, by alleging that dentures of a satisfactory standard of quality and workmanship cannot be supplied under the Health Service, are inducing patients to pay high prices for private treatment; and what steps he proposes to take to end this practice and to inform the public of the true position.

A dentist who disparages the quality of treatment or appliances available under the National Health Service in order to induce a patient to pay privately, may well be committing a breach of his terms of service and any such case should be referred to the Executive Council for investigation under the regulations.

Hospital Patients


asked the Minister of Health if he will draw the attention of regional hospital boards to the importance of ensuring that priority in the allocation of private wards is given to non-paying patients who are in need of privacy on medical grounds.

My information is that boards already follow this practice, but I shall be glad to look into any case if my hon. Friend will give me particulars.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the difficulty usually arises when the private beds are filled with paying patients and a non-paying patient needs a bed on medical grounds and none is available? Will he draw the attention of the regional hospitals boards to this point?

I have made an audit as to what extent this is happening, and I have taken the return in 69 hospitals having 847 private pay-beds. Of those, 342 were at the time of the inquiry occupied by non-paying patients on medical grounds.


asked the Minister of Health if the review has been completed of the waiting lists of hospitals in respect of each of the London regional

MedicalSurgicalEar Nose and ThroatTuberculosisOthersTotal
N.W. Metropolitan1,15014,3867,0001,43848324,457
N.E. Metropolitan4539,3446,2591,0584,17221,286
S.E. Metropolitan6175,71910,1291,1285,70023,293
S.W. Metropolitan8537,9348,0821,0983,06621,033

It will be noted that a very large proportion of the waiting lists consist of Ear, Nose and Throat cases, the majority of them are awaiting tonsillectomy.



asked the Minister of Health why William Barnes, of 10, Faraday Avenue, Sidcup, who had his eyes tested on 26th November, 1948, is still without glasses after six months and five days.


asked the Minister of Health why Mr. W. R. Hands, 164, Fenton Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, who is 83 years old, has not yet received glasses under the National Health Scheme which he urgently needs, and for which he has been waiting since November, 1948.

hospital boards; and if he will now publish a list showing the numbers of patients on each list as at the last convenient date.

Yes, Sir, but as the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the Minister aware of the deep anxiety amongst the public and amongst doctors at the length of waiting lists, and will he take some steps to grapple with that situation?

I have already asked the Central Health Services Council to inquire into what urgently can be done in this matter, but it would be quite a mistake to say that the lists are unusually or abnormally long.

Can my right hon. Friend say how these lists compare with the lists before the National Health Service came into operation?

The answer to that is that the information was never accurate and we could not make a comparison, but we know they were very long lists.

Following is the answer:

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

Is not that answer evidence of the inability of this Government to fulfil their promises?

All arrangements are being made for the production of spectacle lenses at the present time, and more than 50 per cent. more are being produced than was the case before 5th July. Most of the lenses are provided by private enterprise.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these typical delays are due to shortages of spectacle lenses, and is he doing anything to bring in supplies from abroad and particularly from the soft currency areas, to meet this demand?

Yes, we have purchased lenses from abroad in order to meet the unusual demand, and we are using all the resources at our disposal.

Is the Minister aware that there are some people, who, realising the shortage of lenses, attend their opticians as private patients and so get their glasses in five or six weeks by paying for them, while others have to wait six or seven months?

Is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend has been in correspondence with my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. G. Wallace) on the subject of Mr. Barnes' case in view of the fact that Mr. Barnes is a constituent of my hon. Friend?

Dental Treatment


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that dentists in Winchester are refusing to accept patients under the National Health Service; and whether he will take immediate action to deal with this unofficial strike.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered correspondence from the Cardiff dentists indicating a refusal to undertake any more dental work under the Health Act; and what action he proposes to take.

I am aware that in several parts of the country some dentists have announced that they propose to accept no more patients under the National Health Service for the present, but I hope that on further reflection wiser counsels will prevail.

Would my right hon. Friend consider using the armed Forces of the Crown to break this strike, as they have been used in other cases? Would he consider asking his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to get the Army Dental Corps to open up surgeries?

Probably the Services dental organisation is already fully occupied. If I can find out that there are idle dentists in the Services, I will have a talk to my right hon. Friend about it.

Can my right hon. Friend tell us when he expects to be able to say that this difficulty has been cleared up? Dentists in Cardiff are rushing to fill their lists to be paid under the old system, and they can afford to go on for a time.

That is why I would not take too much notice of these threats at the present time. We have had the threats before and they have not always been fulfilled.

Would it not be fair to add that a large number of dentists have been overworking ever since the Health Service began, that many of them have worked themselves to a standstill, and that this is one of the few things that are left to them to do?

It is true that many dentists have been working very hard since the scheme began. The whole country is grateful to them. It is also clear that they have been excellently rewarded.

Surgery Accommodation, Grangetown


asked the Minister of Health what further steps he has taken to ensure that the four Grangetown doctors who share one surgery, having closed their other surgery when the new Health Act came into force, are fulfilling their obligation to provide adequate surgery accommodation for their patients, in view of the daily queues caused by the present inadequate facilities.

This is primarily a matter for the Cardiff Executive Council but I understand that one of the doctors is proposing to apply for a licence to build a residence near Cardiff and would then be able to vacate the accommodation which he and his partner occupy at the premises at 150, Clare Road, Grangetown.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to convey to the local executive council a deep sense of urgency in this matter, as there is considerable public inconvenience?

I am sure that the executive council will be aware both of the Question and of the answer.

Water Supplies (Horncastle And Spilsby)


asked the Minister of Health on how many occasions the Horncastle and Spilsby Rural District Councils have been informed of the amount of grant which the water schemes which they have proposed will attract.

The Horncastle Rural District Council have been informed that a grant of £1,100 will be made towards one small water supply scheme. No grant has yet been promised to the Spilsby Rural District Council.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be of great assistance to local authorities in getting on with the work of supplying water in these outlying rural areas if the local authorities were informed what the grant will be, and will he not see that this is done?

I cannot inform local authorities what the grants will be until we know what the cost will be.

Official Histories Of The War


asked the Prime Minister when the publication of the Official Histories of the War is likely to begin.

As the House is aware, the Official Histories of the War are being prepared in two series, a military series and a series dealing with the civilian war effort. The first volume in the civil series is being published today. It is "British War Economy" by Professor W. K. Hancock, Chichele Professor of Economic History at the University of Oxford, who is the editor of the series, and Mrs. M. M. Gowing. This is in the nature of an introductory volume to the series, and gives a general survey of the central direction and development of economic policy during the war.

Could the Prime Minister say how soon we may expect further volumes on the war effort apart from the civil front, and how soon we may expect further volumes on the civil front?

I am afraid I could not give the information with regard to the volumes on the civil war effort without notice, but the military history will take some time.

Could the Prime Minister tell us what the price of the volumes will be?

Royal Commission On Population (Report)


asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the report of the Royal Commission on Population.

The report is receiving the consideration of the Government. In view of the range of the recommendations it will not be possible to make a statement in the immediate future.

Will the Prime Minister express to the members of this Commission what is, I am sure, the feeling of all intelligent citizens, our indebtedness for the valuable work done; and is he further aware that apparently less intelligent parents like myself, who enjoy having bigger-than-average families, eagerly await the Government's decision?

Is the Prime Minister aware that a message in an evening paper today, emanating from Wimbledon or some such place, bears the heading "Britain's Only Survivor"? Will he undertake to grasp the situation firmly before it comes to that?


Land (Nationalisation)


asked the Minister of Agriculture what demands he has received from bodies representative of agricultural interests that the land should be nationalised in accordance with long-standing promises; and what detailed consideration he has given to this question.

Is the Minister aware that his recent statement that in the unlikely event of the Socialist Party winning the next Election they will not proceed with the nationalisation of land, has given great satisfaction to all sections of the rural community?

Eggs (Winter Prices)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider introducing at an earlier date than usual the winter price for eggs so as to off-set, in some measure, the burden falling upon egg-producers through the recent sharp rise in the cost of poultry feed.

I would refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave on 11th April last to the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) in which I pointed out that when the price for eggs for the year 1949–50 was fixed full account was taken of all relevant factors, including recent increases in the prices of feedingstuffs.

Could the right hon. Gentleman give any indication when the winter price will, in fact, come into force?

I am afraid it will be doubtful wisdom to do so, because people would only hold back the eggs until the higher prices come along.



asked the Minister of Agriculture how many working farm-horses are employed in agricultural work today; and what was the corresponding figure in 1939.

The number of horses used for agricultural purposes, including mares kept for breeding, as returned by occupiers of more than one acre of agricultural land in England and Wales was: 384,000 in June, 1948, compared with 549,000 in June, 1939.

National Finance

Sterling Area (Dollar Losses)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many United States dollars have been lost to the sterling bloc in the six months ended 31st May through sales of wool, hides and skins, rubber and diamonds, respectively, made by countries outside the sterling bloc who purchased these commodities in sterling and resold them in dollars.

I am not able to give any reliable figure for these losses but I take a serious view of them.

In view of the fact that it is probable that this loss will run into some tens of millions of dollars and owing to the very serious position in regard to the dollar, would the hon. Gentleman take some more drastic and effective action than he has done up to date in view of the fact that the leakage has been known and put before him for well over a year?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been taking very drastic steps for a long time past, as my right hon. and learned Friend said only the day before yesterday in this House, and we are taking further steps now, including consultation with the Governments concerned.

Is the Minister aware that I received 30 United States dollars yesterday for royalties on a book entitled "The Case for Communism," and will the hon. Gentleman encourage the sale of this book so that it will be a real dollar earner?

Will the Economic Secretary realise that consultations have gone on for over a year without having the slightest effect, and that they must now be replaced by action?

Income Tax


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that in making Income Tax returns, it is legitimate to deduct, by way of expenses, a reasonable expenditure upon necessary entertainments, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue will accept claims for such expenses incurred prior to 5th April, 1948.

I am not clear as to the type of case which the hon. Member has in mind. If he would send me particulars I will look into the matter.


asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he will reconsider the decision to insist upon the payment of Income Tax in a case, particulars of which have been sent to him, in which the liability arose while the taxpayer was a prisoner of war in respect of earnings by the taxpayer's wife, despite express requests by the latter to the Inland Revenue at the time that appropriate deductions by way of Pay as You Earn should be made from her earnings.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while his letter is couched in the usual courteous terms, it does not carry the matter any further; and is it not a fact that this liability arose while the taxpayer was a prisoner of war in Germany and arose solely by reason of an error in the tax office? In the circumstances, is it fair to pursue this man into civil life with this liability?

Unfortunately, I have not the authority to allow arrears of Income Tax to go unpaid. Secondly, there is some dispute whether the facts alleged by the hon. Gentleman are correct.

Arising out of the first answer, is the right hon. Gentleman taking any steps on the Finance Bill to arm himself with the powers which he says he unfortunately lacks?

Will not the right hon. Gentleman give some answer to this question, because it was admitted generally by the House over 12 months ago that the House would be only too willing to see this moderate reform carried out?

It can hardly be described as a moderate reform, but the point is, if people who owe arrears of tax do not pay, then those who have paid might feel it would be very unfair to them.

Is not this a most unfortunate attitude on the part of the Financial Secretary. [Interruption.] I am asking whether the right hon. Gentleman does not feel that it is a most unfortunate attitude that we must avoid all reforms of small injustices because great injustices go unredressed?

Riccall Hall, York


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that Riccall Hall, York, has stood empty for several months in the care of three watchmen working on shifts to prevent squatters, he will take steps to derequisition this building, if it is no longer required by Government Departments, in order that it may be used to alleviate the housing problem in Riccall.

This property is now no longer required by the War Department and in accordance with normal procedure is being notified as redundant to the Ministry of Works. Any application by the local authorities for the use of this property for housing would be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health in consultation with the Minister of Works.

Would the Minister bear in mind the intense irritation that is caused when premises of this kind are left unoccupied for some months, at a time of acute housing shortage?

I should point out that this property was offered to the local authorities for housing purposes and was refused by them before it was requisitioned by the War Department.

Business Of The House

Yes, Sir. The Business for next week will be as follows:

Monday, 27th June and Tuesday, 28th June—Conclusion of the Committee stage of the Finance Bill.

Wednesday, 29th June—Second Reading of the Airways Corporation Bill; and of the Patents and Designs Bill [Lords], and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolutions.

Thursday, 30th June—Supply (18th Allotted Day); Committee. Debate on Industry and Employment in Scotland, with particular reference to Agriculture, Food and Transport.

Friday, 1st July—Report and Third Readings of Private Members' Bills.

During the week the House will be asked to consider the Motions to approve the Draft Police Pensions Regulations and similar Regulations for Scotland.

I would ask the Leader of the House whether he does not think that Wednesday's business is rather heavy. I understand that both Bills are likely to involve some considerable discussion. I presume that this is the only day on which the right hon. Gentleman can put down the Draft Police Pensions Regulations. We have been told at Question Time that there is a great deal of interest in that matter in all parts of the House. Could some re-arrangement be considered so as not to take the Draft Police Pensions Regulations at a very late hour?

My difficulty is that the regulations are timed to operate from 1st July. We must get them by that date. I thought, contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that Wednesday's programme was pretty light. The Airways Corporation Bill is limited to merging two of the Airways Corporations. The Patents and Designs Bill is a technical Measure which everybody will understand. I did not think there was much controversy about it. I was therefore hoping that those two Measures would be dealt with fairly expeditiously, so that the House could get to the Draft Police Pensions Regulations at a reasonably early hour. We are as I say, in the difficulty that they operate from 1st July.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's optimism on the Patents Bill is justified. I understand that there were about 100 Amendments in the other place.

Mr. Eden