House Of Commons
Tuesday, 28th June, 1949
The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Petition (Aircraft Factory, Windermere)
I beg to present a Petition signed by more than 8,000 persons resident in or near Windermere and Ambleside who are distressed at the decision to dismantle the war-time aircraft factory in that district.
"Wherefore your Petitioners pray for the retention of the Calgarth factory to accommodate a suitable, clean, light industry to provide employment with reasonable standards of living, to obviate the migration of young persons from the district, to create no nuisance to amenities, and to contribute to the national export drive, as is the duty of all. Your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray."
Petition to lie upon the Table.
Oral Answers To Questions
Town And Country Planning
Hydro-Electric Schemes, Wales
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning to what extent he has been consulted about proposals for large scale hydroelectric development in North Wales; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what stage has now been reached in considering the proposals for the North Wales hydro-electric schemes; whether full consideration has been given to their effect on the amenities of the proposed national park; and whether local public inquiries will be held before sanction is given to any of these schemes.
The British Electricity Authority have explained to repre- sentatives of my Department the proposals which they have in mind and I am at present examining them. The proposals would require statutory authority and before any decision is taken to proceed with them the local authorities and amenity societies concerned will, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power stated on 9th May, be fully consulted and he and I will carefully consider any representations which may be made. As the proposals will have to be submitted to Parliament in a Private Bill the question of public inquiry in the ordinary sense does not now arise.
While thanking the Minister for that statement, may I ask whether he will draw the attention of the British Electricity Authority and the nation to the fact that the beauty of Snowdon is a more permanent feature of our national life than the fuel shortage; and will he take every possible step to make sure that no unavoidable damage will be done to this very important centre of our community?
That is, of course, one of the obvious matters which will have to be taken into consideration.
In these circumstances, will whatever charge is payable in the way of development be paid to the Central Land Board by the British Electricity Authority?
I should like notice of that.
Surely it is a matter for the right hon. Gentleman's Department?
I said, that I should like notice of that question.
Bearing in mind the assurance given me on 9th May by the Minister of Fuel and Power, that all local authorities and amenity societies will be fully consulted, would it not be desirable to call a conference in North Wales at the earliest possible opportunity of all these authorities and societies and representatives of the British Electricity Authority, so that the matter may be discussed round the conference table?
And the Minister.
That may be one of the methods of consultation. I shall certainly consider it.
Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that alternative proposals, such as that for the utilisation of the Menai Straits for the production of electricity, will be taken into consideration before a decision is reached?
Certainly every alternative proposal will be considered.
Will the Minister see that consideration is given to the possibility of transmitting electrical current by underground cable in these cases, so as to avoid any possible despoliation of the landscape by pylons, and so on?
We will consider that, of course.
Kensington Square, London
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning on what grounds he has decided to uphold the findings of the inquiry set up to consider the dispute between Messrs. John Barkers and the London County Council regarding the destruction of the house of W. M. Thackeray in Kensington Square; and whether this and other architectural features of the area will now be demolished.
The development allowed by my decision following the inquiry into Messrs. Barkers' appeal does not involve the demolition of Thackeray's House or of any other building other than an annexe of no architectural merit at the rear of No. 45, Kensington Square. I am unaware of any proposal to demolish houses either in Kensington Square or Young Street.
Does that mean that the square will in no way be spoiled or affected by the works which are to be undertaken?
Yes, it does mean that.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that something better ought to happen to Thackeray's house than merely not being demolished; ought we not to preserve that house in the same way as Dickens' house in Doughty Street is preserved, in view of the fact that some of the best works in the English language were written in it?
That may be so. All I can do under this appeal is to make certain that it is not destroyed.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept at any rate my thanks for his activity; and may I express the hope that he will carry on along those lines?
In this instance also, in the event of development will the London County Council pay the development charge to the Central Land Board?
There is no question of development by the London County Council. It concerns Barkers.
New Town, Mobberley
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether it is his Department's intention to utilise the proposed new town at Mobberley as a dormitory for Manchester.
No, Sir. I have already made clear in an announcement in Manchester, that a necessary condition of my agreement is that the new community proposed to be established by Manchester Corporation shall be self-contained and independent, with its own industries, and shall not be a mere dormitory for Manchester.
In those circumstances will the Minister say why he has given this area over to Manchester? If it is not to be a dormitory for Manchester, why has he chosen to adopt this method?
Because I thought it was a convenient method to get development in the circumstances, and it is a way of dealing with Manchester's overspill.
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether he will state the type and number of industries to be carried on in the proposed new town at Mobberley.
This is a matter which will have to be settled in consultation between Manchester Corporation, the Cheshire County Council and, of course, the industries and Departments concerned.
That answer surely means that the Minister has no assurance either from other individuals or in his own mind that it will be possible to provide industrial occupations for people who are to be dumped into Mobberley?
I have been asked the type and number of industries to be carried on, and I am saying that as Manchester will have to build the town, they will do so in consultation with the other Departments, but as to the type of the town there is no doubt at all.
Is the Minister able to assure the House that he himself is satisfied that it would be possible to provide in Mobberley all the occupations necessary for the people living there, and that the place will not become in reality a dormitory of Manchester?
I give the House the assurance that that is my intention, to do everything I possibly can to carry out that intention.
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning, how many acres of agricultural land will be lost under the proposed new town scheme at Mobberley.
Discussions are already in progress with a view to minimising the loss of agricultural land in the course of this development. The exact area to be developed has not yet been settled.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the land he has in mind is the best agricultural land in Cheshire, and in this difficult time would it not be more economical to add to the existing towns which already have facilities for roads and surfaces?
Every piece of land one goes to take is stated to be the best agriculture land in the area, but one does not exclude the other. The over-spill problem of Manchester is so large that the mere building of one or more towns will not satisfy it, and it will be necessary in addition to carry out a policy of enlarging the number of existing towns in Cheshire.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the exact area could not be given. Could he give us any idea of the amount of agricultural land likely to be involved?
I cannot, because our endeavour at the moment is to minimise agricultural land, and it is for that purpose that discussions are taking place with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that, apart from this question of agricultural land, this is one of the most beautiful villages in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and that it is absolutely fantastic to go ahead with this project?
I presume the village referred to is Mobberley, and I hope we are going to enhance its beauty.
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether deep borings will be undertaken before the commencement of any building in connection with his Department's new town scheme at Mobberley, in view of the fact that as a result of deep borings which were carried out in the adjacent area, it was considered inadvisable to build on that site.
The new town to be developed at Mobberley is to be built by the Manchester City Corporation and not by a Development Corporation under the New Towns Act. I shall, of course, satisfy myself in conjunction with the Corporation whether the proposed site when it is provisionally settled is suitable for development: and if I am advised that additional deep borings are necessary they will be carried out.
When the right hon. Gentleman refers to additional deep borings being necessary, is it not a fact that the deep borings, which have taken place on the immediately adjacent land, have shown thick layers of rock salt; and is it not quite monstrous to risk public money on a new town in this area without taking deep borings?
I quite agree, and we are endeavouring to avoid the areas where there is likely to be salt.
Would the Minister tell the House why in the case of Mobberley he allows the Manchester Corporation to build it instead of the New Towns Corporation?
Because I thought that Manchester were a responsible authority, who had themselves already built one town at Wythenshawe, and they were anxious to build themselves. I thought they were capable of doing it.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say quite definitely that he will see that deep borings are made, as he himself considers they were necessary in the adjacent area?
I will certainly see that before this town is actually embarked upon that it is certain that there is no salt.
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning for what reasons he has rejected the proposals in the plan for Cheshire of the Cheshire Advisory Planning Committee to build up existing small towns, instead of developing new towns to take the overspill of population from Manchester.
The hon. and learned Member is misinformed. I have never said that I intended to reject the proposals in the Cheshire Advisory Plan; I hope to give the county council in the near future a statement of my views on some of the main features of the plan.
Is it not a fact that the county council's plan did not include a new town at Mobberley, and, therefore, in so far as the right hon. Gentleman is supporting the idea of the development of Mobberley, he is in effect rejecting the proposals of the county council?
Not at all. The county council's plan provides for the enlargement of a number of existing towns, but that by itself will not be sufficient to meet the Manchester problem. I am not rejecting the enlargement of existing towns, but in addition there will have to be one or more new towns.
Does the Minister not consider that, instead of using up agricultural land for new towns, about which he himself is doubtful, it would be better to use the building material and other facilities to develop the agricultural land of the country and so help in the present economic position?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Manchester civic leaders of all parties believe that only by pressing on with a project such as Mobberley and similar projects can the urgent housing needs of a large number of people in Manchester be met?
That has certainly been the view impressed upon me.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Cheshire County Council proposals included the taking of an over-spill from Manchester up to 300,000, and that this project for Mobberley will only give accommodation for a few thousand? Is it, therefore, worth proceeding with the scheme?
I think so, because, in fact, the Cheshire County Council proposals cannot accommodate the whole of the over-spill.
asked the Minister of National Insurance what future arrangements are proposed for maintaining offices of his Department in Whitstable and Herne Bay.
Both these offices are being retained but as from 15th July next the Whitstable office will be open on three days a week only. This change is being made in view of the small public use of this office and of the necessity for staff economy.
Personal Case, Wallsend
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is aware that a married woman with four children applied for national assistance on the 18th June, 1949, as she was left with no money to buy food for her children, but was informed by the official at Wallsend, that she could have no assistance until Monday, 20th June; and if he will have this case thoroughly investigated and inform the Wallsend National Assistance officers that more sympathetic treatment was needed.
I have asked the Board to inquire into this matter and will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.
Is the Minister aware that this applicant had to go to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children where he got a better reception than at the National Assistance office? Is he also aware that there is a general feeling of dissatisfaction with regard to the spirit in which National Assistance is administered in Wallsend? Will he consider changing these officers for the benefit of Wallsend?
I have heard of no complaints. This complaint was put down in the form of a Question, and it is my duty first of all to inquire from the Board whether the facts are right or wrong. I will reply to the hon. Member as soon as I am able.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I had to intervene in a personal case at Wallsend and that after the intervention a different attitude was adopted, which all indicates carelessness on the part of the officials?
This is the first complaint I have had. I was not aware that there had been any dissatisfaction.
Unofficial Strikers (Family Relief)
asked the Minister of National Insurance what total amount of relief has been paid to the families of unofficial strikers since the beginning of the year; and what are the scales of relief in these cases.
I regret that the figures asked for in the first part of the Question are not available. As regards the second part assistance in these cases is assessed in accordance with the National Assistance (Determination of Needs) Regulations, 1948.
Would it be possible for the Minister to have a circular or pamphlet prepared to be issued during the period of unofficial strikes saying what amount of relief is given to strikers' wives and families in Russia and what happens to strikers here, whether the strikes are official or unofficial?
No, Sir. I remember what happened to them under a Tory Government.
asked the Minister of National Insurance if the amendment to the regulations to enable the retirement pension a woman may receive when her husband reaches the age of 70 or on his earlier death will require confirmation by this House.
The regulations to which the hon. Member refers have now been made. They are subject to the normal procedure of negative resolution.
Is this another instance that the Socialist Government can impose charges upon the taxpayer without asking this House?
No, Sir. This makes the benefit of a scheme available to a new class of contributor, and no extra charge is involved.
asked the Minister of National Insurance how many employees of the former approved societies, who are now employed by his Department, have been required, or will during the next twelve months be required, to work at places out of daily reach from their existing homes; and why.
Transfers of station are an inevitable incident of service in a large Department with a local office network, as a result of promotions, retirements and experience of local work loads. A number of such transfers have already been made and others will continue to be necessary. These transfers include certain former employees of approved societies in common with established staff recruited from other sources. I regret that the total numbers affected are not available but out of a group of 52 officers in one region recently given notice of transfer only 17 were from approved societies. All such transfers are carried out under a priority system agreed with the staff associations and every possible consideration is given to individual circumstances.
Is not the real reason for these transfers that the Minister grossly miscalculated the distribution of manpower required for his Department? Will not this cause great hardship among the people affected?
No, Sir. There was no gross miscalculation. If it is a miscalculation of 52 over 1,000 offices, that is not a bad record. The arrangements made have been agreed by the staff. There will have to be transfers. The hon. Gentleman will not suggest that we should keep staff where there is no work for them. These arrangements are made in complete understanding with the staff associations.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect the categorical assurances he gave during the passing of the National Insurance Act that the officials of the approved societies would as far as possible be absorbed and given every consideration? [HON. MEMBERS: "They are!"] Does he consider that this type of consideration is fulfilling his earlier pledge?
I gave an assurance that they would be absorbed in the new Ministry, and they have been. I gave an undertaking, which I have carried out, that as far as possible their new work would be as near their present homes as possible. One of the difficulties is that our scheme of administration is far more decentralised than was the old system, and that inevitably involves some transfers.
Workmen's Compensation (Settlements)
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he has now reached a decision as to the entitlement to sickness benefit under the National Insurance Act of workmen who met with accidents and received compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Acts and subsequently after 5th July, 1948, fall sick or become temporarily incapacitated as a result of their old accidents or in cases where they have received lump sum settlements under the Workmen's Compensation Acts before or after 5th July, 1948, subsequently suffer an incapacity attributable to their earlier accidents.
I would refer my hon. Friend to regulation 9 of the National Insurance (Overlapping Benefits) Regulations, 1948. Its effect at this date is that personal sickness benefit would normally be paid in full to persons who are totally incapacitated through injury by accident prior to 5th July, 1948, but if my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind perhaps he will let me know.
Hospital Patients (Allowances)
asked the Minister of National Insurance why the advice of the National Insurance Advisory Committee is required to prove that 5s. per week is insufficient to meet the needs of tubercular and other long-term hospital patients for tobacco and/or cigarettes, haircuts, razor blades, toothpaste, stamps, writing materials, newspapers, magazines, books, clothes maintenance, and even an occasional drink.
This is a matter on which I am required by Section 77 of the National Insurance Act, 1946, to submit a preliminary draft regulation to the National Insurance Advisory Committee and to consider the Committee's Report before making substantive regulations. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of a circular issued by the Ministry of Health from which he will see that hospitals under the National Health Service are empowered to provide for their patients most of the articles enumerated in the Question.
Will the Minister take my assurance that the patients in the hospital which prompted this Question receive none of these articles? For his information, it is the County Hospital at Wick. Is it not a fact that these invalids receive 13s. a week in the bad old days of Toryism before the 1948 Act whereas they are now receiving 5s. a week? In an obvious case of hardship like this why does not the Minister act rather than wait from 5th July, 1948, to now?
First of all, I deny the statement about the old benefits and the new. Secondly, the whole matter is being investigated very carefully by the Advisory Committee. I am expecting their report within the next week or two. I shall publish it, and then there will be a full opportunity of discussing what we shall make as substantive regulations.
Can the Minister say how long this matter has been under consideration?
This is a very important matter which involves much more than the payment of benefit; it involves the whole treatment of long-term patients in hospital. The Committee has gone into it carefully, has received a large number of representations and discussed it with workers in this field, and I am sure that its Report and recommendations will be after the fullest consultation.
When will the Report be ready?
I have already said that I am expecting the Report within the next week or two.
asked the Minister of Labour by how many points has the cost-of-living index risen since it was decided to grant unemployment benefit to the extent of 26s. per week.
The rate of 26s. applied in respect of the first benefit payable on or after 3rd June, 1948. Between mid-May, 1948, and mid-May, 1949, the interim index of retail prices rose from 108 to 111.
In view of the increased cost of living in this period and likewise in the earlier period, will the right hon. Gentleman consider raising the amount of unemployment benefit at least in proportion to the increased cost of living, for which the unemployed cannot be responsible?
The question of the raising of the value of the benefit is not a matter for my Department.
Does the Minister endorse the statement of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that the cost of living has now been readjusted in a downward direction consequent upon the reduction in the Beer Duty of 1d. a pint?
I do not make any observations on beer.
Is the Minister aware that 40 years ago the Foreign Secretary threw up a job at 28s. a week because he could not live on it? How is it possible for anybody to live on 26s. a week now when we take into account the value of the £ compared with 40 years ago?
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now state when the new factory for disabled men will be started in Newport; how long it will take to complete; and what type of work it is proposed to provide.
I am not yet in a position to give definite information. I have the matter under consideration in consultation with the Remploy Corporation and will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister of Labour why training centres are not permitted to supply to prospective employers any reference as to character and ability of ex-Service trainees.
My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. No such instructions have been issued and every trainee who satisfactorily completes a course of vocational training is given a certificate that he has done so. If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any case where he thinks something more might have been done I will look into it.
Is the Minister aware that in at least one case, of which I will gladly give him details, the training centre refused to give any information about the man's character and ability, although it may well be that it gave the information to which my right hon. Friend has referred? Cannot the reference be extended to give more information to employers who want to give these men jobs?
We have given employers all the information for which they have asked. I have no knowledge of the case to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, but if he will let me have particulars I will look into it.
asked the Minister of Labour from what sources he obtained his information and what inquiries he made as to the docks dispute.
Information was obtained through the usual channels. [Laughter.] All necessary inquiries were made.
I am sorry, Sir, I did not hear the last part of that answer because of the reasonable laughter at the first part of the answer.
The second part of the answer was that all necessary inquiries were being made.
The last is even worse than the first, if I may comment. Will the Minister tell the House what are "the usual channels"? Really far more important, may I ask the Minister if he was not aware at the time of his statement in the broadcast that the Canadian Seamen's Union were fighting against—
The hon. Member is not asking, a question, he is making a statement. He is giving information.
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I really want to find out the source of the information which the Minister of Labour had. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ask for it."] On a point of Order, Sir—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."]—I want to establish my point to know whether I am on good grounds, for the reason that the Minister used on that occasion certain expressions, and it is important for this House to know whether those expressions were based upon bona fide information. Am I in order to pursue the matter?
The hon. Member is not entitled to give information. He is entitled to say that he thinks the Minister is misinformed.
Can I therefore ask the Minister if he can give the source of the information? Can he say whether, among other sources, he inquired of the Canadian Seamen's Union itself as to what the conflict was about?
There were two specific pieces of information which I published relating to the dispute. The only comments made upon the merits were a statement issued by the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress and a statement issued by the International Longshoremen's Association.
In view of the fact that the particular union involved in this struggle was and is the Canadian Seamen's Union, how is it that the Minister of Labour does not find out from the Canadian Seamen's Union in Canada what are the problems, but consults an organisation which is opposed to it, and on that basis how dare he speak in the name of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—to the country?
I do not want to become involved in an argument, but the fact is that the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress issued a statement. Their statement, coming from a responsible trade union organisation in Canada, I accepted, and still accept, as being in good faith—
Under dollar pressure.
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) cannot take it, can he? The International Longshoremen's Association, an organisation concerned with the loading of these ships, also published a statement. In view of the statements published by the Canadian Seamen's Union here, which are completely unreliable and untruthful, I could not accept anything from them.
How does the Minister know?
Further, as I have no right to intervene in the merits of the dispute itself, I did not think it necessary to do so.
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now consider amending the Control of Engagement Order so as to permit of agricultural workers being free to choose their own occupation as a means of earning their livelihood.
I am keeping this question under constant review and will not retain this control any longer than is necessary.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that what might have been perfectly all right as a temporary expedient has now become an abuse, and that the continuance of this control over agricultural workers is a complete negation of democracy? Surely it ought to be done away with now? We want to keep as many people as possible on the land, but not against their will.
If the hon. Gentleman could give me any examples of where this has become an abuse, I will gladly have them examined.
Is the Minister aware that this Order is probably stopping more young men from coming into the industry, because of the fact that they will be under control, than it is in keeping men in the industry?
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has not got the right facts. Young people, indeed any persons coming into this industry, are free from control for a period which gives them an opportunity to see whether they want to settle down or not. I repeat what I have said before, that this matter is under consideration and that we shall not keep the Order a moment longer than we need.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland which county has had the most houses built during 1945–49; which county has had least built; and what is the reason for the disparity.
Lanark built the most with 6,265, and Bute the least with two. The disparity is explained by the entirely different circumstances in the two counties.
Has it escaped the notice of the Secretary of State that Lanark is represented by his hon. Friends while Bute is represented by one of my hon. Friends?
That indicates the intelligence of the people of Lanark.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say if any such factor as past achievement was taken into account when the right hon. Gentleman made the recent allocation of re-building in Scotland?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland on what basis he has authorised the house building programme during the remainder of 1949 and 1950 for the counties and burghs of Scotland; and how far does he consider that his programmes will meet the needs of the homeless.
The allocations to individual local authorities were made after a careful consideration of the needs of each area and of the amount of housing work already in hand so as to secure that the available labour and materials will be used to the best advantage for the completion of the maximum possible number of houses for the homeless.
But how does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile that statement with the letter that I have in my hand from the Saltcoats Town Council which states that the right hon. Gentleman has approved the erection of only 58 houses out of the 1,000 required, and that they go on to say that it is only ministerial control which is hampering the progress that would otherwise be made by the town council?
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman makes a little further inquiry, he will find that the number of houses allocated is in keeping with the number of houses being built in that area.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he proposes to grant power to local authorities to authorise them to issue licences for the building of private houses.
Local authorities may at present, with my approval, issue licences for new houses where national interest or special need can be shown. While the rate of building has recently improved, I am not satisfied that the time has yet come when we could remove the present control without prejudice to the building programmes of local authorities. I am keeping the matter under constant review, however.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that on 1st February the Joint Under-Secretary told us that he hoped to be able to make a more favourable statement after the end of March, and will he therefore, consider this question further?
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman will have noticed, some relaxation has been made in accordance with the principles I have detailed in the first part of my answer; but even in Edinburgh, which the hon. Gentleman represents, where a census was taken of people requiring houses, only an infinitesimal proportion said that they wanted to buy a house.
Is it not a fact that we are at a considerable disadvantage compared with England in this matter of being allowed to build houses, which the English are allowed to do in a much bigger proportion than we are, and why should that be the case?
Is not the reason for that the fact that there was a lack of balance in the Scottish housing programme, and does not the recent allocation suggest that that has been rectified?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress is being made with the experiments in interior wall finishing in Scotland; and what effects he estimates they will have on housing costs.
Four experimental houses in which prefabricated gypsum plaster panels are used for wall and ceiling linings have been completed and four more are under construction. The experts are now considering the results of these experiments and I am not yet in a position to state what effect they will have on housing costs.
Are these new ideas being applied to aluminium prefabricated houses as well as to others?
No aluminium houses, of course, are now being made in Scotland. This matter is being investigated by the firm who formerly made the aluminium houses with a view to the incorporation of these ideas if they prove satisfactory.
In view of the very desirable reduction in cost which it is suggested that this method will bring about, could my right hon. Friend say when he will be able to give us some more specific information?
This development has created a great interest among all the building people in Scotland and, I believe, also in England. They are all investigating this question, especially with a view to saving the delays occasioned by the lack of plasterers.
Has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State taken into consideration the question of the susceptibility of this type of wall-finishing to fire?
My information is that it is quite resistant to fire.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any information as to how many local authorities operate a house allocation system which provides for a reallocation of tenancies amongst families that have grown to a point of overcrowding; and those whose numbers have decreased.
The management of local authorities' houses is placed by statute in the hands of local authorities themselves and I have no precise information about the extent to which tenancies are re-allocated when family circumstances change. Local authorities have undoubtedly been able to make a considerable contribution to housing where they have been able to make suitable transfers. I have asked the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee to survey local authorities' methods of allocating tenancies and I understand that the Committee are considering the need for such re-allocations.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications have been received for spectacles; how many have been supplied; and at what date may all applicants expect to have their needs met.
The number of persons found to be in need of glasses up to the end of May was approximately 775,000, of whom over 410,000 persons had been supplied. The waiting period at present varies from three to six months. The output of glasses is increasing and numbers of new applicants diminishing, so I expect that the waiting period will now quite rapidly decrease.
Can the right hon. Gentleman answer the Question? How many applications have been received; not how many have been approved.
The point is the number of persons who were found, after they had applied, to be in need of glasses. We do not record the number of people who apply.
My Question was how many applications have been received. I was anxious to ascertain consumer demand.
Is it not a fact that there were a large number of shortsighted people in Scotland in 1945?
Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate to the House whether he applies, and if so how, any scheme of priorities to those most urgently needing spectacles?
A certain amount of influence has been used in the case of children in special circumstances, and the people supplying these glasses have been very considerate. The demand has been overwhelming, showing the great need in past years that has never been met.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether foreign eyesight has proved more sensitive or less sensitive to shortness than the British variety?
I have no particulars of any foreigner who has been able to wait long enough in this country to get glasses. However, I have details of the number of mythical and other foreigners who have received dental treatment, and only 12 cases have been treated in Scotland, mostly for emergency toothache.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he intends to introduce legislation this session to facilitate the reciprocal enforcement of orders for aliment and maintenance in Scotland and England.
I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department with a view to introducing legislation on this subject when time permits.
Can the Secretary of State give any indication as to whether it will be soon, in view of the reply given by the Home Secretary in February that legislation would be introduced soon?
We are both anxious to do this but, as the hon. Lady knows, there has been a good deal of complaint about our pressing the House to pass too much legislation and we are reluctant to force the pace any quicker,
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman persuade his colleague to take out some of the nonsense and put in this useful Measure instead?
Loch Goil (Inquiry)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has yet received the report of the inquiry into the proposed closing of Loch Goil; and when its findings will be announced.
The report of the Commission appointed to hold the inquiry has been received and I hope that a decision can be announced soon.
Road Accident, Glasgow
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that another child has recently been killed between Wellshot Road and Chester Street, Shettleston, Glasgow, by a Scottish Motor Traction omnibus; and if he will draw the attention of the police to the excessive speed of these omnibuses and take steps to have these infringements of the law stopped.
I am aware that on 22nd May last a boy aged 10 years was knocked down and fatally injured in Shettleston Road, Glasgow, just West of Chester Street, by an omnibus owned by the Scottish Motor Traction Company, Limited. The boy ran from behind an East-going tramcar into the path of the omnibus and I understand there is no evidence that the omnibus was travelling at an excessive speed. Shettleston Road, like other main traffic thoroughfares in Glasgow through which omnibus services are operated, is given regular attention by the police road patrol and there is no evidence of any regular tendency by drivers of omnibuses to exceed the speed limit in that street.
As a considerable number of children have been killed in and about this area, and as these buses do, in fact, travel at an excessive speed—I have seen them do so repeatedly—would the Secretary of State sympathetically consider approaching the Ministry of Transport with a view to diverting the limited stop buses proceeding to Edinburgh, Airdrie, and other places so as to make use of the Edinburgh road instead of going through a congested area with narrow streets?
I have already approached my right hon. Friend, who will, no doubt, look into this question.
Does not the remedy lie in more stringent action being taken by schools to teach children how to cross roads and to avoid traffic?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many pulmonary tuberculosis cases in Scotland are awaiting hospital treatment.
At 31st December, 1948, the latest date for which complete figures are available, the number was 2,598.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of nurses, trained, and undergoing training in Scotland for the years 1947, 1948 and 1949 respectively.
The numbers on the Register at 31st March in each of the years 1947, 1948 and 1949, were 18,101, 19,216 and 19,761 respectively. The numbers in training at the same dates were 6,084, 6,133 and 6,968.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether it is his practice in claims for disability pensions for diabetes where it cannot be proved conclusively that war service did not cause or aggravate the complaint, to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt and to award a pension.
The Royal Warrant requires me to give a claimant the benefit of any reasonable doubt whether in regard to diabetes or any other disease, and this is invariably done.
In view of the conflict of medical opinion about the cause and development of diabetes, and in view of the fact that it is not always possible for a Service man to produce a correct day-to-day record of his active service, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that he always gives Service men the benefit of the doubt?
Yes, Sir. This disease has been considered very carefully indeed by the tribunals and by the High Court; rules have been laid down and precedents established. We try our best to follow the rulings given by the courts and tribunals and if we fail the applicant always has the right of further appeal.
Field-Marshal Montgomery (Speech)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to the speech made by Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery at Whittington Barracks, near Lichfield, on 12th June in the course of reviewing troops, in which he made a political attack on Communism; whether this speech was made with his authority; and, in view of the series of such speeches which have been made by senior officers, what steps he proposes to take to ensure that these officers do not take advantage of their positions of authority to make political speeches.
I have not seen the text of the speech referred to, but only a brief report in the local Press. The contents of the speech were not submitted to me for prior approval, nor is there any reason why they should have been. Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery is now holding an international appointment and I am not responsible for his actions.
In view of the fact that Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery holds rank in the British Army and that, I believe, he draws a salary from His Majesty's Government, the Secretary of State must take some responsibility; and is my right hon. Friend aware that among other things the Field-Marshal on this occasion said that the Army is fighting Communism—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and that the best way to fight Communism was to train young men to fight it? Therefore, may I ask the Secretary of State for War whether he approves of those statements and whether they are in accord with Government policy?
With Lord Montgomery's present capacity I have no responsibility. Besides, I find it very embarrassing to have to explain away speeches made by other people.
Is it not a fact that the whole Christian world is fighting Communism?
Does my right hon. Friend's first answer mean that the fact that Lord Montgomery holds an international appointment has the result that he is free from the restrictions on political speeches that bind all other officers serving in His Majesty's Forces?
I have already expressed myself in reply to other Questions on speeches made by high-ranking officers, and I hardly think it necessary to say more.
Could the right hon. Gentleman induce the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) to appeal to the Soviet generals to stop their inflammatory speeches?
Officers' Wives, Near East
asked the Secretary of State for War, if he has considered details which have been sent to him concerning the conditions under which officers' wives live in the Near East; what immediate steps he is taking to rectify the position; and if he will make a statement.
I am having inquiries made into the various representations made in the correspondence forwarded to me by the hon. Member. I will write to him as soon as possible.
Is the Minister not ashamed that recruiting is so slack and will he in future cease to blame the wicked Tories?
I am certainly not ashamed of the recruiting position. The present position is not at all unsatisfactory, but in so far as there are difficulties they are due to factors which are unfavourable and over which we have no control.
Field-Marshal Manstein (Defence)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that lawyers defending Field-Marshal Manstein applied to him by letter of 10th June for documents now in the United States of America for use in the defence; and whether he can state the date by which all those documents will be made available and where.
As I have no control over the custodians of the documents if they are in the United States of America, I cannot say when they will be received, but, subject to their availability, no time will be lost in producing them for inspection by German counsel.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the counsel have asked for at least three weeks' margin between the time they receive the documents and the time the trial takes place, and in view of his assurance that full time will be allowed will he assure the House that that period at least will be given?
We place no obstacle in the way of German counsel obtaining these documents. On the whole, we have treated them very reasonably.
That does not answer by question. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that if there is delay in supplying these documents, which are essential and at present are not very conveniently placed, the trial will be put off until a reasonable time has been allowed for their study?
Advantage might be taken of such delays, and we must bring this person to trial.
Then can my hon. Friend—
We cannot go on for ever on this one Question.
In view of the fact that my Question which was a perfectly simple one has not been answered I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment, as soon as possible.
Decorations And Medals
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will arrange that medals for gallantry, especially those awarded to foreign nationals, shall not be sent to the recipients by post but be presented at some suitable function.
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to an announcement which appeared in the Press on 18th December, 1945, on the subject of the presentation of decorations and medal, of which I am sending him a copy. With regard to foreign nationals every effort is made to ensure that the presentation of awards is carried out with appropriate ceremony.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in the Communist dominated countries of Eastern Europe one can do nothing worse than make a public presentation to anyone who backed the British during the war?
asked the Prime Minister why the medals awarded to ex-Service men and women do not bear the name of the recipient and, as this has caused great disappointment, if he will recall them and make good the omission.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Streatham (Sir D. Robertson) on 23rd March, 1948. The reply to the second part of the Question is in the negative.
Why was it not practicable this time to follow the precedent of the 1914 war, when medals bore the name and number of the recipient, and as the medal is a personal matter will not the Prime Minister reconsider his attitude?
If the hon. Gentleman will study the previous reply which I gave he will find a very full answer. I am not aware of any great feeling on this matter; all the evidence is to the contrary. It has been pointed out that it is possible for a very small sum to have the name put on the medal, but if a demand had been made for the names to be put on all the medals it would have meant a long delay, which would have caused a great deal more dissatisfaction than the omission of the names.
After the previous war a large number of ex-Service men had to pawn their medals. Will not this idea facilitate it?
Would the right hon. Gentleman consider making a small financial grant to people who have medals engraved with their names, as that cannot be done by Government Departments?
Is the Prime Minister aware that a comrade of mine had three medals sent to him last week. Would I be in order in telling him to throw them in Montgomery's teeth?
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in Order for the hon. Member to insult a senior officer of the British Army who is representing this country in an international organisation?
It is one of those offensive remarks to which I think we need pay no attention.
Further to that point of Order. If Lord Montgomery tells British lads in the Army that their job is to fight me—
Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that since he gave that answer in March the House has been informed that only 2 million out of 5 million who are eligible have claimed their medals? Will he consider whether or not the reason for that is the fact that the medals are not engraved?
That is not my information. My information is that complaints on this score are very few and that far more people would be glad to have a medal now than wait for the long time which will be necessary if all the medals are to be returned and stamped. I think that the hon. and gallant Member is wrong in this matter.
Surely the figures deny that statement.
Is it not the case that the great majority of those who took part in the last war, some of whom took part in the previous war, do not want their medals simply because they want to forget all about wars?
I think that my hon. Friend is wrong there, too.
Sterling (Devaluation Proposals)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals he has received from the Marshall Aid authorities to the effect that sterling should be devalued.
Is it not a fact that although there may have been no formal proposals, which is, I suppose, the excuse for the answer we have just been given, my right hon. and learned Friend is exposed to relentless pressure to accept this devaluation—
Imputations and innuendoes are not correct in asking supplementary or other questions.
Is it not correct that he is exposed to this relentless pressure which I have just mentioned, and that all sections of our country are bitterly opposed to accepting this surrender to the Americans?
No, Sir. There has been no pressure upon me whatever.
If the Chancellor is to counteract the suggestion that sterling is possibly to be devalued will he not have to say something much stronger than he has hitherto said? Will he say that he will resign rather than devalue?
I shall not change my party at all events.
Is the Chancellor aware that there would be no need for him to do so, as he was expelled from the party?
Would the Chancellor say whether in his opinion these devaluation dangers would have arisen at an earlier date but for the Marshall Aid which we have already received?
No, Sir. I am not prepared to answer any question except that on the Paper.
Dairy Congress, Sweden (Currency)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why some of the delegates to the International Dairy Congress in Sweden who are not members of the staff of either the Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of Food have been refused any special allowance of foreign exchange to attend the annual conference in Sweden; and if he will ensure that representatives of the Milk Marketing Board, the National Farmers' Union and such organisations are given the necessary currency facilities.
I am not responsible for the selection of the United Kingdom delegation to this Congress, the arrangements for which have been co-ordinated by my right hon. Friend, the Lord President of the Council, in consultation with the British National Committee of the Congress and the Government Departments concerned. I am bound to set a limit on the total amount of foreign currency which can be made available for overseas conferences of this kind, and I must confine the grant of special allowances to the members of the delegation selected in this way. I understand, however, that my right hon. Friend, the Lord President of the Council, at present has under consideration the question of including representatives of the National Farmers' Union and the Milk Marketing Board in the delegation.
Will that include the National Farmers' Union of Scotland?
I am afraid I cannot say without notice.
Notes And Gold (Statistics)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many pound notes and ten shilling notes are now in circulation; and what is the amount of gold in the Bank of England.
On 28th February, 1949, the end of the Bank of England year, there were 968,719,000 pound notes and 177,708,000 ten shilling notes in circulation. The Issue Department of the Bank of England holds gold to the value of £247,833.
Is it not a fact that the gold in the Bank of England now bears no relationship to the value of the notes issued; and could my right hon. and learned Friend say what purpose it now serves? Would it not be better to sell that gold and have something more valuable in its place?
There is plenty of value behind the backing of British currency without that gold.