House Of Commons
Thursday, 9th November, 1950
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Standing Orders (Private Business)
Standing Order 39 (Deposit of Bills at Treasury and other Public Departments, &c.) relative to Private Business amended, in line 11, by leaving out the word "and," and after the word "Insurance," inserting the words "and the office of the Commissioners of Crown Lands," and in line 61, by leaving out from the beginning to the end of line 63.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Glasgow Corporation Sewage Order Confirmation Bill
Read a Second time; to be considered Tomorrow.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish the names of sponsors of persons applying for naturalisation.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what qualifications are regarded as necessary for those British subjects who sponsor an alien's application for a certificate of naturalisation.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will arrange for the names of persons sponsoring applications made by aliens for British citizenship to be made available for public inspection.
A person who applies for naturalisation in the United Kingdom is required to include in his application declarations of support from four British subjects by birth who are intimately acquainted with him and are householders, but applications are never granted solely on the recommendations of sponsors, however distinguished. I do not think that any public interest would be served by the publication of the names of the sponsors.
In view of the large number of unsavoury citizens we seem to be accumulating, will the right hon. Gentleman tighten up the qualifications of sponsors?
No, Sir. There is no qualification to be a sponsor.
Would not the Home Secretary be safeguarding himself if he adopted this suggestion, because the sponsors would be doubly careful if they knew that their names were liable to be published?
I do not think so. The sponsors are among the people interviewed, but it is not upon their views that the final decision is reached.
In view of the fact that British citizenship is the proudest privilege which can be conferred upon any man, will the right hon. Gentleman consider introducing legislation, reserving the right in each case to publish the names of the sponsors, to act as a deterrent to abuse?
No, Sir, I think it would be very wrong to pick and choose between one applicant and another.
Does my right hon. Friend accept the suggestion that we are collecting a large number of unsavoury citizens? If so, what is he prepared to do about it?
No, Sir, I do not accept that suggestion, which I did not think was worthy of comment.
Surely "householder" is a qualification? Cannot the qualifications for a sponsor be narrowed?
I should be very reluctant to go beyond the qualification of householder and suggest that persons with houses either above or below a certain rateable value should be disqualified from being sponsors.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will ensure that all applications for naturalisation by aliens are dealt with in his Department by British-born subjects.
I do not accept the implication that a person who is not British born is necessarily unsuited to deal with applications for naturalisation, but it so happens that all the members of the Home Office at present employed on this work are British born.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman lay it down as a precaution?
No, Sir. I hold strongly to the view that in the Civil Service the best person for the job should do the work.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what inquiries he makes in the country of origin of an alien who seeks a certificate of British naturalisation.
Inquiries are not made in the country of origin. A substantial period of residence in this country is required before an application for naturalisation can be entertained. Before considering such an application the fullest possible particulars are obtained about the applicant's history, including his family connections and past and present associations.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, as a result of our unfortunate experiences before the war, of the need to know something of the background of people who come here and obtain naturalisation? Is it not very foolish, in view of the innumerable refugees in this country, that no inquiries should be made in their country of origin?
I have no power to make inquiries in the country of origin. My power ends at the three-mile limit. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that every necessary inquiry is made, and that a person normally has to have resided in this country for five out of the last eight years before his application can be entertained. We check up very carefully on his associates.
Do I understand that screening, which we all understood was a reliable method, really means that we know nothing, care nothing and have no responsibility?
No, Sir, it means nothing of the sort. It means that the most careful inquiries are made, and that every possible check that can be made in this country is applied.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman—
Question time is going very slowly.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the total average expense to the State of pursuing inquiries about any alien seeking British naturalisation; and what is the charge to the applicant.
The cost of making inquiries into applications for naturalisation varies greatly from case to case, but the average cost is estimated to be about £8. The standard fee for a certificate is £10.
Do those costs include the cost of making inquiries abroad? Did the right hon. Gentleman really intend to say what I understood him to say before, that he has no power to make such inquiries?
These costs do not include any costs for inquiries overseas, for no such inquiries are made.
On a point of order. As that reply seems to reveal a very unsatisfactory situation, of which the country has heard for the first time, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter at an early opportunity.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons have been granted political asylum in this country since January, 1946.
A number of the aliens admitted to the United Kingdom since the end of the war would be in danger of persecution if they returned to their own country, but there is no distinct class of political refugees. I regret, therefore, that I cannot supply the figures for which the hon. Member asks.
Structures, Removal (Compensation)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements he has made for the compensation of private owners for the removal, where sanctioned, of Civil Defence structures still existing on private land which was formerly requisitioned.
The amount of compensation is settled in accordance with the provisions of the relevant Acts of Parliament, and is paid to the owner by the local authority concerned.
Is it not extremely unfair that this burden should fall on the local authorities, especially those that bore the brunt of the damage during the war and had most of these installations on private land? In cases where the land was taken over by agreement with the owner the Home Secretary managed to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to bear the cost, but where land was requisitioned he did not bear the cost. Is that not unfair?
This is a very long and complicated subject, but if the hon. Member has any particular point in mind I will look into it and direct his attention to the relevant Act.
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the rates of compensation are satisfactory and fair?
They are in accordance with the Acts of Parliament. There is no discretion on the part of the district valuer.
Bomb Disposal (Volunteers)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what scheme is in existence for training volunteers in bomb disposal in addition to the other forms of Civil Defence; and to whom should one apply.
Bomb disposal is at present a responsibility of the Army and not of the Civil Defence organisation. The responsibility for this work in any future war is being considered.
Does the Minister realise that in the last war many men were trained in bomb disposal but are now too old for active service? Could not their experience be used in Civil Defence?
That is one of the factors which is being considered.
Can the hon. Gentleman say when consideration will result in a decision?
No, I cannot, but meanwhile the Army is responsible and they would do it as well as they did it last time.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when instructions may be expected as to Civil Defence arrangements necessary in industrial establishments and also as to the relationship between the Civil Defence personnel of such establishments and the adjacent local government area, namely, whether any personnel who are local residents would be available for local Civil Defence duties.
We are working out plans with representatives of both sides of industry. I cannot yet say when an announcement will be made.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is very necessary, if Civil Defence is to be got on with, that these plans should be announced and put into execution very soon indeed? Would he, if I gave him information about a certain very large industrial establishment where practically all the neighbourhood is occupied by its employees, try to realise how very necessary it is that there should be some demarcation to show whether local defence inside the factory and outside the factory is to be regarded as one—or how it is to be regarded?
There is no need for any delay. Men and women can come forward and join the local authority Civil Defence organisation, because it is there that they will receive their training.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is exactly what is causing the delay? Nearly all the people outside the factory are employed inside the factory, and they will not come forward until they know what the arrangements are to be for the factory.
I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, meanwhile, if they come forward, they can go through their training. When this scheme is set up they will then be trained, ready to join the scheme.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a number of large industrial establishments in Birmingham and in the Midlands, and no doubt in the rest of the country, have the required skill, directing personnel and labour staff, but cannot do anything?
The representatives of the Federation of British Industries and of the Trades Union Congress, who are working out these plans, are well aware of that.
Air Raid Shelters (Policy)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now make a statement on the Government's air-raid shelter policy.
Yes, Sir. I will, with permission, make a statement at the end of Questions.
Motoring Offences (Registration Cards)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what purpose is served by requiring members of the Metropolitan Police to ask drivers who are reported for parking offences to produce their national registration card in addition to their driving licence and certificate of insurance; and if he will take steps to terminate this practice
Reference to national registration cards in these cases serves as a check on the accurancy of police records and, in particular, minimises any risk of a confusion of names leading to previous convictions being attributed to the wrong person. Complaints against the practice have been few and it is not at present proposed to discontinue it.
Could the right hon. Gentleman explain how the police managed to deal satisfactorily with these offences before national registration was introduced?
As a serving magistrate I know that before that time the difficulty to which I have alluded arose occasionally.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as there is widespread forgery of these cards, they are of little value?
I expressed my view, during the Debate on the continuance of the Emergency Laws, about the general question of registration cards. While they remain it is as well that we should use them.
Would my right hon. Friend consider the fact that I had to attend a police station this morning with all these documents; that I had to produce my identification card within 48 hours and a driving licence and insurance certificate within five days; and on these occasions is it not hard that if one has to make two attendances during the day, one is liable to be prosecuted for parking outside while waiting inside?
I am sorry that my hon. Friend, a brilliant expositor of the law, should have got into difficulties with it, but I cannot help thinking that he managed to produce all his documents at one and the same time.
On a point of order. Can we have candles, Mr. Speaker.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the increase in crime in the first six months of this year, he proposes taking any positive steps to increase the Metropolitan Police Force; and whether he will ensure that the requisite number of police are engaged upon the prevention of crime, as a priority over other less vital police duties.
There has, in fact, been no overall increase in crime in the Metropolitan Police district in the first six months of this year. Every effort is being made by all appropriate means to meet the manpower deficiencies of the force. I have no reason to doubt that in the disposition of the available manpower a proper balance is maintained between the various duties the members of the force have to discharge.
Is the right hon. Gentle, man not aware that many law-abiding citizens and policemen have a good deal of their time wasted by police intervention in minor matters of much less importance to the prevention of crime? Would he not consider whether the A.A., and other similar organisations, could not be employed more in dealing with parking and traffic problems, thus releasing the police for other more important duties?
I am quite ready to consider anything that can be done to lessen the duties of that kind falling on the police, but it is their duty to enforce the law, and to suggest that the A.A. should be given very strong powers in this matter would not meet with general approbation.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when we discussed the matter in the last Parliament there was general agreement in all parts of the House that one of the difficulties of getting an increase in the Metropolitan Police was the lack of housing accommodation for married constables? Would he take an early opportunity of laying a paper in the Library, or some other part of the House, informing us of the position today?
Yes, I think it would be a good thing if I took an early opportunity of making a statement about housing facilities for the police. I have received considerable assistance from the police authorities in the way of housing schemes, but I still think that some of the local housing authorities could help both the Metropolitan Police and provincial forces rather more than they do at the moment.
Did my right hon. Friend report that there has been no overall increase in crime in the Metropolitan area? If so, is that true for the rest of the country?
Oh, no, it is not. But, after all, I am the police authority for the Metropolitan area.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say what he means by "overall increase" of crime? Does he mean an increase in the total number of offences of all kinds, or does he mean something different?
I think the expression means the total number of offences of all kinds committed.
Congress, Sheffield (Admission Of Foreigners)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what applications he has received to visit the United Kingdom in respect of Russian citizens wishing to attend the Second World Peace Congress, either as organisers, delegates or otherwise; and what decisions he has made.
Eighty-eight applications have been received for visas to enable citizens of the U.S.S.R. to attend the Congress at Sheffield. Final decisions have not yet been reached.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the statement of the Prime Minister, that we are not willing to throw wide our doors to those who seek to come here to subvert our institutions? Will he also bear in mind that it is hardly conceivable that any Russian delegates would have any other motive but that?
No, Sir. I think a general indictment is always liable to be a gross overstatement.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in considering the request from the Soviet Government for visas for Russians to attend the World Peace Congress at Sheffield, he will have regard to the refusal of the Soviet Government and other governments belonging to the Cominform, to grant visas to British Members of Parliament, and others, desiring to study conditions in countries behind the Iron Curtain.
Applications from Soviet delegates, like those from other foreign delegates, will be dealt with on their individual merits and I do not think that the precedent set by Cominform governments in refusing to allow persons from the United Kingdom to visit their countries to study conditions there is one which we should necessarily imitate.
Will not the right hon. Gentleman consider introducing the principle of reciprocity in these matters? Are we really to stand by and see the Bishop of Gibraltar refused permission to go to Bulgaria and Roumania and Members of this House refused permission to go to these countries and yet, at the same time, admit 88 Russian nationals to the Sheffield conference?
There is no intention of admitting 88 Russian nationals to this country, but I ask the House to remember that we still have some prestige in the world because we have remained a country of freedom and are not afraid of people seeing how we are living.
Is the Home Secretary aware of the statement that Picasso, the painter, has been refused permission to enter this country? Would it not be a good thing if Picasso were to go to Sheffield and paint the place red?
How can the right hon. Gentleman possibly assess the individual merits of various Soviet delegates when he knows nothing about them before they come to this country?
The hon. Gentleman would be surprised to learn how much I know about them and about other people of alien origin.
I am very glad to hear it.
Will my right hon. Friend refute the suggestion which has been made that we should apply the lowest common denominator in international affairs and affirm that we have great traditions which we ought to try to maintain so far as national safety permits?
Are we to gather that the Home Secretary has the fullest possible information about people who come here for a short time, but that he could not care less about people who are coming to live here?
No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman should not draw that conclusion from what I have said. I do care a very great deal about people who want to stay here for a long time.
asked the Prime Minister what decisions he has made with regard to the Communist delegates attending the Peace Congress at Sheffield on 13th November.
The so-called British Peace Committee were informed some weeks ago that applications from foreigners to attend the proposed Peace Congress would be dealt with on their merits and that His Majesty's Government reserved the right to refuse admission to any foreigner whose presence is considered undesirable. This applies whether he is Communist or non-Communist.
When the Conference is over will those who are allowed to come be definitely checked, so that they will depart as soon as their purpose is finished?
Children (Boarding Out)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to persuade the authorities administering the Children and Young Persons Boarding-out Rules, 1946, to accept the advice given in paragraphs 30 and 31 of the Memorandum on Boarding Out of Children and Young Persons, issued jointly by his Department and the Ministry of Health, in which is stressed the importance of the natural parents being allowed to visit and correspond with their children who are boarded out with foster parents.
I am informed that local authorities generally follow the advice given in the Memorandum on Boarding Out. If it were learnt that a more restrictive practice was being followed in any area, the matter would be discussed with the local authority concerned. The general principle that there should be contact between boarded out children and their natural parents is constantly stressed by my Department, but it must rest with the responsible local authority to decide what should be done in individual cases.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in at least one important local authority his excellent and humane advice is being ignored, that parents are being permitted to see their children only after prior application for permission and at a place appointed by the local authority, and to write to them only via the local authority? If details are brought to his notice, will the right hon Gentleman renew his persuasive efforts?
Yes, Sir, I would welcome any information that can be given to me; but I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are, unfortunately, a few cases in which it is undesirable that the natural parents should have access to their children either in person or by letter.
Crimes Of Violence
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he proposes to take to check the continuing rise in the number of crimes of violence.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the marked increase in crimes of violence in the first six months of this year, he will consider the re-imposition of corporal punishment for hardened criminals in this type of case.
I am satisfied that the penalties prescribed by law for crimes of violence are adequate. The Government has no intention of re-introducing corporal punishment which after full discussion was abolished as a judicial penalty by Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948. That Act marked a notable advance in the treatment of offenders, and it would be premature to consider further changes in the law until more experience has been gained by its working.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the number of crimes of violence has increased alarmingly since 1946 and is shooting up this year? How many more victims are to suffer before he will either take steps to strengthen the police forces or to ensure that the punishment is a sufficient deterrent?
I am taking steps every day to endeavour to recruit additional members of the Police Force, and the figures during the past year have been encouraging. I would ask the House to bear in mind that flogging was available only for a limited range of offences. In fact, for the purpose of this answer, I think I should not be over-simplifying it if I said that it was for robbery with violence. Other violent offences were not punishable by flogging. The curious thing is that the offences not previously punishable by flogging have increased by 25.76 per cent., while those punishable by flogging have increased by only 1.93 per cent. since the repeal of the power to flog.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not consider that to the hardened criminal who has been convicted of this sort of offence on many occasions, corporal punishment—I mean the "cat" and birch—would be an effective deterrent where none other might exist, and would he not consider that explicit suggestion as a means of protection for the public?
No, I have carefully gone into that aspect of the problem, and it is not borne out that the hardened criminal is deterred by this punishment. What is borne out is that corrective training and preventive detention have proved to be considerable deterrents to criminals.
Can the Home Secretary say when he thinks the whole matter should be reviewed again, so that we can learn from the experience gained?
I keep this and all other matters relating to crime under constant review, and if I thought it was necessary to make a recommendation to the House for legislation, I should bring it forward.
Taxicab Meters, London (Conversion)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many meters on the London taxicabs have been converted for the new fares; and by what date he expects all the conversions will have been finished.
None, Sir. I understand that it would probably take from 12 to 18 months from the date on which directions to alter the meters were given to complete the work, provided, of course, that no difficulties arose as regards the supply of labour or materials.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why the work has not been started? Does he realise that it is very inconvenient to foreigners, who are confused enough by the English monetary system, to find the table of fares in the dark?
I am not a foreigner and I have not encountered the difficulty myself. I am sure that if I offered less than the legal fare my attention would be drawn to it. There is a working party at the present time studying the whole of the London taxicab problem, and I hope that its report will be available very soon. When I am able to reach a decision, which may possibly involve some alteration, I will consider making the necessary order.
Does that answer imply that there is under consideration another increase in taxicab fares?
No, Sir, but I think it would be as well to be able to reach some stage at which one could make a general overall decision about the London taxicab problem.
State Management Scheme, Carlisle
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has yet confirmed the scheme for the reconstitution of the local advisory committee of the Carlisle and District State Management Scheme.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department by what date he expects to make his three appointments to the local advisory committee of the Carlisle and District State Management Scheme.
I have asked the existing committee to submit names for consideration, and I will make these appointments when I have received their reply.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give me a date by which he expects these appointments to be made? In the meantime, would he be willing to receive representations on the point?
I cannot fix the date on which I shall receive the reply to which I have alluded, but I am perfectly willing to receive representations from any interested party.
Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that the representations will be from persons resident in Cumberland and with a known pleasure in drinking beer, rather than a known connection with a political party?
I shall apply to these appointments the principles to which I have referred in other connections: I shall appoint the persons who seem to me to be the best qualified for the job.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider at once expanding the State Management Districts Council to include representation from the Carlisle local advisory committee.
Yes, Sir. I propose to appoint a representative of the Carlisle local advisory committee on the State Management Districts Council when the new committee has been set up and has had an opportunity to submit a nomination.
I thank my right hon. Friend.
National Health Service
Kingston Victoria Hospital
asked the Minister of Health his decision as to the future of the Kingston Victoria Hospital; and what steps he is taking to ensure that facilities for treatment of their patients in hospital continue to be available to general medical practitioners in this district.
This hospital is to be used as a gynaecological unit. The Surbiton annexe hospital is to be converted to give alternative facilities to general practitioners.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Surbiton annexe is to be converted and what is to happen to the patients concerned during the interval before that conversion is completed?
Arrangements are being made for the other patients, and the Surbiton annexe will be furnished and re-furbished as soon as we are aware that the general practitioners are prepared to make use of it.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are 37 seriously ill patients in this hospital at the moment, that the regional board is making every effort to close it, and that no alternative exists at present?
The hon. Gentleman must take it for granted that whenever a hospital is changed from one speciality to another, arrangements are invariably made for the care of the patients.
On a point of order. In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the immediate situation and fate of the patients in this hospital at this time, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter at the earliest opportunity.
asked the Minister of Health what reciprocal arrangements have been made during 1950 with other countries whereby British citizens may receive Health Service benefits without payment when abroad.
Arrangements providing for varying degrees of reciprocity have been or are being made with the following places outside the United Kingdom—Isle of Man, States of Jersey and Guernsey, Belgium, France, Luxemburg, the Netherlands.
As there are comparatively few countries on that list, can the right hon. Gentleman say what the reason is for the small number? Is it generally the time taken to work out the arrangements, or is it that the other countries are unable to offer facilities? Will he press this as hard as he can, especially in view of the fact that it affects many merchant seamen who are away from this country for nine months each year and who pay their contributions but cannot get the benefits?
We are trying to do this, but other nations have not got our advanced facilities.
Will the right hon. Gentleman use his bargaining power by threatening not to treat foreigners in this country or, alternatively, asking foreign countries to subscribe a lump sum for the services which their people receive here?
If we are to have reasonable arrangements with other countries it is better to start off in an atmosphere of conciliation rather than of threats.
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot control other countries, as obviously he cannot, will he arrange for a refund to British nationals, to be paid to them from National Health Service funds when they return to this country, for the cost of treatment incurred abroad?
That is an absurd suggestion. It is suggested that a patient shall make arrangements with a doctor, a surgeon, a hospital, a dentist or anybody else in another country and present the bill for us to pay although we have no say as to whether the charges are reasonable or not. I am certain that the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not reflect upon his suggestion.
I have done so, fully; it is the Minister who has not.
asked the Minister of Health if he will now make regulations under the National Health Service (Amendment) Act, 1949, whereby foreign residents visiting this country will have to pay a charge for using the Service.
I am keeping this under review, but am not at present satisfied that there is enough evidence of abuses to justify action.
In view of the fact that the Minister said, in answer to an earlier Question, that most other countries do not have the facilities which we have here and that, therefore, reciprocal agreements cannot be made, how long is this one-way traffic in benefits to continue; and why does the right hon. Gentleman not use the powers which he took in the 1949 amending Act?
It was made perfectly clear that the powers were being taken only to deal with abuse if it arose. I can assure the House that if I tried to take or use power to deal with the very small number of cases that might exist, the expense of administration would be far more than the gain to the Health Service.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what was the expense last year so far as foreign nationals were concerned?
No, because if I was able to say what the cost would be I would have the administrative machinery that I suggested. We can only make a guess, and our guess is that it is a very small proportion indeed. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary prevents the entry into this country of people who come only to use the Health Service.
asked the Minister of Health why Mrs. Burchall of Crantock, Cornwall, who was tested for new spectacles in May, 1949, received them only on 17th October, 1950, and then only after the hon. Member for North Cornwall had complained to his Department about the delay.
This lady needed bi-focal glasses, which have frequently taken many months to supply; but the arrears of orders are being overtaken and the waiting time which is already less should diminish substantially in the next few months.
asked the Minister of Health why ophthalmic opticians are debarred from prescribing prism-controlled bifocal lenses.
These and certain other special types of lens are supplied through the hospital service only.
Could the right hon. Gentleman give me the reason?
The reason is because we consider that people with this very high degree of loss of sight ought immediately to be under the influence of hospital authorities, where the specialists are.
asked the Minister of Health how many prism-controlled bifocals have been prescribed by the hospital eye service since the commencement of the Health Service.
I regret that this information is not available.
asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that glasses delayed in delivery for several months are often found to be useless owing to eye deterioration; and if he will renew his efforts to speed the delivery of glasses.
There is now very little delay except for certain complicated lenses such as bifocals and steps have been taken to increase production of these types.
This is very important. Can I give the right hon. Gentleman a typical case? Is he aware that a matron of a home waited eight months for glasses and when they came they were so unsuitable that her eyes became bloodshot? The glasses were no use at all.
If, as a consequence of not being able to get bifocal glasses there is a deterioration, then obviously bifocals ought not to have been recommended, but two pairs of glasses.
asked the Minister of Health what advice he has given to regional hospital boards to preserve the individuality of hospitals and to refrain from obliterating or submerging their identity by over-emphasis on their control by hospital management committees.
I am sending to the hon. Member copies of circulars dealing with this point.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in certain areas, and particularly recently, there is a desire, by over emphasis on notice boards, notepaper and the like, to stress the name of the management committee and so to submerge the local name, which has meant much to the hospital and to the area?
I agree that probably one jealousy is driving out another, but I am anxious, as I said when the Bill was before the House, for the local hospital to preserve its identity and its tradition consistent with integration in the National Health Service.
Is the Minister aware that some hospital management committees are very anxious to get rid of the names by which the hospitals are called, because under Public Assistance the hospitals had a very bad reputation for the treatment of patients?
There is that point, also; I have known people who have been anxious not to be sent into a particular hospital because it was called "the old infirmary."
asked the Minister of Health at what date he is proposing to put into operation the scheme whereby it is proposed to apportion the global sum of £66 million which is to be distributed amongst doctors on their retirement in compensation for the goodwill of their practices.
The apportionment will not be possible until the claims of all the doctors have been received and assessed. The final date for the submission of claims has been extended to 31st December, 1950, or, in special circumstances, 28th February, 1951.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these people have been waiting for over two years, perhaps suffering hardship, for this sum to be distributed, so that they can buy a farm or cottage to which to retire? They want the money as quickly as possible?
Those cases are always met by making a grant of a substantial portion of the sum needed.
Could my right hon. Friend say whether any doctor who leaves the Health Service has any claim on this £66 million?
He has, certainly. There is set aside for him a proper proportion of the £66 million.
asked the Minister of Health, in view of the difficulties of National Health Service doctors in resisting the demands of patients for prescriptions for medicinal preparations advertised direct to the public, what steps he proposes to take to deal with this matter.
Yes, Sir. Responsibility for prescribing should rest solely on the judgment of the doctor. Sir Henry Cohen's Committee on Prescribing therefore recommended that publicly advertised preparations should not be prescribed under the National Health Service. This recommendation has been sent to all doctors, who have been asked to observe it, and any doctor who refuses importunate demands has my full support.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a section of the medical profession that has been organised to collect funds to resist the Health Service; and would he appeal to them to divert these funds towards the education of the medical profession in the direction which he has just outlined?
From the preliminary information at our disposal, I believe that the recommendation of the Sir Henry Cohen's Committee is being carried out generally. I would not like to believe that the doctors require any further education, but if they do require it, we shall, of course, consider what we have to do.
Is it a fact that, so far, less than 1 per cent. of prescriptions have been for nationally advertised medicines?
No, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman has got that information, and if he would give me its source, I shall be delighted, because I have not got such precise information myself.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many doctors are greatly perturbed at the wide latitude allowed to them for over-prescribing, and that many are protesting and asking that the old procedure, whereby prescriptions were properly scrutinised, should be reintroduced?
Yes, I believe that is so, but that is a different question.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what, in his opinion, is the figure, if he questions mine?
If the hon. and learned Gentleman puts a question on the Order Paper, I will try to give him the information.
asked the Minister of Health if he will claim the Kingscliffe Hostel, now released by the Minister of Agriculture, for use as temporary housing to help to meet the housing needs of that area pending the erection of more permanent and satisfactory homes.
This hostel has now been offered to the local authority for housing purposes.
Will the Minister expedite the taking over of the hostel to avoid damage being done to it during the remaining period?
I have expedited this, I think. We heard that the hostel was redundant on 11th October, full particulars were sent by my regional office to the Oundle and Thrapston R.D.C. on 13th October, on 2nd November it was decided to ask the Ministry of Works to allocate the hostel to the Council, on 4th November my regional office made a bid to the Ministry of Works, and on 7th November a letter was received from the Ministry of Works allocating the hostel to the local authority.
Local Authority Licences
asked the Minister of Health whether he is now able to announce the number of housing licences to be issued for municipally-built houses in the year 1951.
The allocations to local authorities, covering both municipal building and private licensing, are designed to secure that 175,000 houses are completed in England and Wales in each of the years 1951 and 1952.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are certain very important industrial towns in the North of England which had to make a slow start in their re-housing programme because of circumstances quite beyond their control and which now desire to increase the tempo because they have very grave housing needs? Will he reconsider allocations in those cases in the light of evidence submitted to him in support of these claims?
Certainly, Sir. If the authorities in these areas show that they are able to build more houses than they have done, having built less than their allocation, I will certainly look into these cases again.
Will my right hon. Friend issue a statement showing how many municipalities have failed to take tip their quota for 1950?
I could do that, but it would not be fair to the authorities concerned because it does not always follow that they have not been able to take up the allocation as a result of circumstances over which they have control. Very often it is because of a lack of labour in the area. That shows the great pressure upon the building industry at the moment. It is sometimes not wise to think that so many more houses can be built unless labour and materials are diverted from elsewhere.
asked the Minister of Health how many three-bedroom, two-bedroom and one-bedroom houses have been built since 1945; and whether he proposes any change in this ratio.
The numbers of dwellings of three, two and one bedrooms completed by local authorities up to 30th September, 1950, are 399,328, 75,141 and 24,518 respectively. Local authorities are, on my advice, now building substantially larger proportions of one and two-bedroom dwellings.
Would my right hon. Friend consider the advisability of greatly extending the number of two-bedroom houses, especially if they can be so designed that a third bedroom can be added at a later date?
As hon. Members in all parts of the House probably know, I called the attention of local authorities to this a very long time ago. My Central Housing Advisory Committee has issued advice on this matter, and last year I sent out a special and urgent circular on the question.
Is not the Minister aware of the difficulties which certain local authorities are experiencing in getting permission from his regional officers? Will he circularise his own regional officers about this?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is completely wrong. I have reported to the House of Commons about this. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not aware of it I will send him a copy of HANSARD, from which he will see that it has been made clear for a very long time indeed that the regional office does not control the design and nature of the dwellings put up by local authorities but only makes an examination to see whether the tenders are unreasonably high.
Does the local authority get a numerical increase in its housing allocation if it builds a high proportion of small houses? If not, would it not be a good idea to encourage them to build larger numbers of smaller houses?
The idea is that the local authorities should build the sort of houses that the various family groups require. That means that quite often four-bedroom houses are required as well as two bedrooms and one bedroom.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) now supports a proposal which he himself voted against the other night?
That is, of course, to assume that we are hearing of one-bedroom and two-bedroom houses for the first time. As I have already shown, we have built 75,000 two-bedroom houses and over 24,000 one-bedroom houses. The Opposition are only wakening up to the facts of what has already been done.
Would the Minister agree that that circular which he sent out last year would have had a greater effect if the allocation to the local authorities were by cash rather than the number of houses?
That is a much wider question. All that this Question asks is how many houses were built.
asked the Minister of Health what preparations he is making to give local authorities alternative powers enabling them to requisition property for housing when the present position comes to an end.
As my hon. Friend is aware, it is proposed to extend the present powers of requisitioning; but local authorities already possess alternative powers, for instance they can themselves acquire properties, if necessary by compulsory purchase.
When the right hon. Gentleman is considering an extension of these powers, will he also consider asking local authorities to give the most sympathetic consideration to the cases of old people who are asking for the derequisitioning and return of their homes, so that they may enjoy the comfort of their houses in their declining years?
Temporary Dwellings, Abergele
asked the Minister of Health how many persons are permanently resident in movable dwellings and shacks in the Abergele district; and what steps are being taken to safeguard public health on these encampments.
I have no precise information but I understand that the number is between 250 and 300. Responsibility for safeguarding public health rests with local sanitary authorities, but if the hon. Member has information of the existence of conditions which are prejudicial to, health and will communicate with me, I will have them investigated.
Rectory, Aveton Gifford
asked the Minister of Health whether he will now grant a licence to rebuild the rectory at Aveton Gifford in the county of Devon which was destroyed by enemy action in the last war.
asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the increased number of applicants for houses, he will increase the allocation of houses fixed at 250 for the Wembley Borough Council for the year 1951.
In accordance with the undertaking already given to the council, the allocation will be reviewed during the year in the light of progress.
Is the Minister prepared to grant a subsidy to the local council for the building of what are termed halfway houses for evicted persons and vagrants who become the temporary responsibility of the local authority?
That is another issue.
Local Authority Staffs (Superannuation)
asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider amending the law to provide that when a local authority dismisses an employee of more than five years' service for reasons not connected with misconduct, the employee will be entitled to the local authority's share of his superannuation fund, irrespective of whether or not his subsequent employment is in local government service.
The existing law provides for the return of the employee's contributions only, if his superannuation rights are not preserved on subsequent employment. It has not been represented to me that this is inequitable.
Does the Minister think it fair that a council should be able to get rid of its responsibilities for providing for an employee's old age by pushing him out when he has served the council for some considerable time?
I am stating what is the law—what this House has determined. The employees' organisations have not made any representations to me on the matter.
Cement Dust, Dartford Area
asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the continued cement dust nuisance in the Dartford and neighbouring areas; and when it can be expected that this irritant will be reasonably brought under control in accordance with the many promises given in recent years.
A series of substantial improvements has been effected over the last four years. Further measures are being taken.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are thousands of people who are asking how much longer they must see, in the garden of England, towns and countryside covered with cement dust? People who should know best are of the opinion that the cement dust menace is worse and certainly not improving.
We are governed by the techniques of the matter. We are not entirely masters of the situation. It may be that the works ought not to have been planted there in the first instance. It may be that dwellings should not have been put where they are. All we can do is to try to mitigate the offence by using what techniques are at our disposal.
asked the Prime Minister if he will set up a Royal Commission, presided over by an eminent King's Counsellor, at which evidence can be taken on oath to inquire into and report on the extent of Communist activities in this country.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the country would be much happier if, instead of talking a lot of anti-Communist talk, he would do something? Is he also aware that, in my opinion, several places want screening—I think some of the Government Front Bench want screening?
Festival Of Britain (Sunday Opening)
asked the Lord President of the Council whether any decision has yet been made about the possible opening of the Festival of Britain on Sundays.
asked the Lord President of the Council whether it is at present intended that the Festival of Britain should be open to the public on Sundays.
asked the Lord President of the Council if the Festival of Britain will be closed to the public on Sundays.
asked the Lord President of the Council if he will give an assurance that the Festival of Britain will not be open on Sundays.
asked the Lord President of the Council if he is aware of the widespread opposition to Sunday opening of the Festival of Britain; and if he will ensure that this does not, in fact, take place.
asked the Lord President of the Council whether all sections of the Festival of Britain are to be open on Sundays.
asked the Lord President of the Council whether it is proposed to open the South Bank Exhibition to the public on Sundays.
asked the Lord President of the Council if he is yet in a position to announce any decision as to the opening of the Festival of Britain exhibition and fun fair on Sundays.
asked the Lord President of the Council whether the Festival of Britain is to be open to the public every Sunday throughout its duration; if so, at what hours; and whether the amusement parks will also be operating during those hours.
I would ask hon. Members to await the statement on this subject which I propose making at the end of Question time.
There is no point in asking a supplementary question now, because a statement is to be made later in answer to these Questions.
Surely it depends on the nature of the supplementary question, Sir. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, may I ask the Lord President if he is aware that his reply on this subject yesterday in which he described the Lord's Day Observance Society as some kind of "pressure group," will cause considerable resentment and that members of this society are just as much entitled to form an instrument for the furtherance of their views as are other people in other fields?
I see no reason whatever to dissent from what Mr. Speaker has said. That question can equally well be put later.
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will pay a subsidy on all materials used for gassing rabbits.
Further measures for the control of rabbits are at present under consideration, but my right hon. Friend cannot yet make any statement.
Land, South-East Essex (Acquisition)
asked the Minister of Agriculture when he expects to announce a decision as to the future of land in South Essex which he is proposing to acquire by compulsory purchase under Section 85 of the Agriculture Act, 1947, and in respect of which objections have been lodged by the owners concerned.
There are several areas in Essex which my right hon. Friend is considering for acquisition under Section 85 of the Agriculture Act, 1947. In some cases representations made by the owners are still under consideration and in others appeals to the Agricultural Land Tribunal are waiting to be heard. I cannot say when decisions will be reached.
In view of the fact that many of the owners concerned were promised the return of their land and that subsequently they discovered, during the summer, that the Minister intended to acquire the area compulsorily, would the Minister speed a decision and give the most sympathetic consideration to these cases in order to avoid the undoubted distress which has already been caused?