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Commons Chamber

Volume 480: debated on Tuesday 14 November 1950

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 14th November, 1950

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

New Writ

For Abertillery, in the room of George Daggar, esquire, deceased.—[ Mr. Whiteley.]

Oral Answers To Questions

British Army

Shadow Promotion Roll

1.

asked the Secretary of State for War when the strength envisaged by his Department for the post-war Army in drawing up the present shadow promotion roll for regular non-commissioned officers was decided on; how far in the changed circumstances today this figure is still considered accurate; and whether he will revise the shadow promotion roll accordingly.

The shadow promotion roll is based on a post-war order of battle compiled in 1948. A revised order of battle will be compiled as soon as possible and the shadow promotion roll will be revised in consequence.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of uneasiness among warrant officers, particularly in R.E.M.E. units in the Middle East, who feel that they may have to revert to sergeant, or even corporal, if the war promotion code is abandoned? Would he look into it very carefully to see that this does not happen?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me the opportunity of saying that I do not think there is any case at all for such uneasiness.

Wrac (Messing Facilities)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will arrange for officers of the Women's Royal Army Corps, who hold appointments in London, to be provided with central messing facilities.

I regret that shortage of accommodation prevents the establishment of a women officers' mess in Central London. There is a women officers' mess at Richmond and women officers can make use of the War Office Luncheon Club.

Would the right hon. Gentleman look into this again, because these officers have a justifiable sense of grievance? With the rising cost of living and the very heavy calls on their pocket they find it difficult to maintain themselves in London.

—but we are always being pressed very hard to get out of accommodation, and it is very difficult to combine the two requests.

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered taking over one of the London County Council restaurants for this purpose?

Fire, Aldershot

4.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement as to his investigations into the cause of the recent fire at Aldershot.

Was sabotage proved and, if so, were the offenders arrested? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware——

Tanks (Production)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the gravity of the international situation, he now intends substantially to increase the production of Centurion or any other tanks.

Does this increase allow for the sale of Centurion tanks to European and other countries?

The Question referred to the production of Centurion tanks, and I have answered it.

I was asked if the production of Centurion tanks was being increased, and I answered that it was being more than doubled.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that production will be more than doubled has he any time factor in mind? If so, can he say what it is?

I must not go into precise details on this matter, but production is now rising fairly rapidly.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say if the new rate of production will be adequate to our needs?

Naafi Facilities, Korea

6.

asked the Secretary of State for War what canteen facilities are available for British troops now in Korea.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Gillingham (Squadron Leader Burden) on 7th November.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the N.A.A.F.I. units now on the way to Korea will be sufficient to serve all British troops in Korea?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in view of the almost abnormally high standard of welfare and facilities for American troops particular attention should be paid to facilities for British troops, so that they will not feel that they are getting less than their allies?

Will the statements which are to be made as a result of the favourable reply to a supplementary question by me last week about the general position of British troops in Korea include fuller information about canteen facilities and other things such as winter clothing?

Will opportunities to serve be given to voluntary organisations, such as the Salvation Army and the Y.M.C.A., which did such good work of this kind in the past?

That we can consider. Some facilities are already in being there and others are on their way; they are N.A.A.F.I. facilities.

Personal Cases

7.

asked the Secretary of State for War in view of the fact that he informed the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon on 9th October that Fusilier Brown, of the 1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, was fit for service everywhere including overseas, when in fact on 10th Ocober he was discharged from the Army as medically unfit for further military service, whether he will take steps to improve the machinery for dealing with such matters in his Department.

I have now investigated this case. As the hon. and gallant Member was notified, Fusilier Brown was found fit for service everywhere except in forward areas. His discharge was effected, not because, as the hon. and gallant Member was wrongly informed, he was unfit for further military service, but because it is the policy of the Department to retain in Section B of the Reserve only men of the highest medical standards. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member was given the wrong reason for Fusilier Brown's discharge.

Is it not extraordinary that I should be given two wrong reasons—first, the reason that he was fit enough to serve overseas and then the reason that he was unfit to serve anywhere at all—and that now I should be told that he was not fit to serve in all categories? Cannot these mistakes be avoided, because it makes the War Office look so stupid and the Minister so inefficient?

There is no mistake in the man's classification, except that the hon. and gallant Member was given one incorrect reason—that he was unfit to serve. The real position was that men in this medical category, while fit to serve anywhere except in actual operational theatres, are not retained in Section B of the Reserve, which is a paid reserve.

Is this category of people which is fit to serve anywhere except in forward areas a new category? What is the qualification which makes the difference?

16.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement regarding the death during military exercises of Brian Douglas Frank Osborne of 41, Bedford Road, Birmingham, with particular reference to his medical examination and the attention paid to his previous medical history.

I would like to express my sympathy with the relatives of Mr. Osborne. I have examined this very sad case with care. With permission I will circulate a full statement of the medical facts in the OFFICIAL REPORT, where they can be studied. But I should like to say now that my information is that careful attention was paid to the views of Mr. Osborne's civilian medical practitioner.

Following is the statement:

Mr. Osborne reported to a Ministry of Labour Medical Board on 27th March, 1950. He stated that he was under the medical care of a civilian doctor and the doctor was accordingly asked by the Medical Board for a report on his health. In reply, he stated that Mr. Osborne had been under treatment for 3½ months for anaemia, which he considered to be due to his unhealthy occupation. He recommended a change to a healthier occupation, but the Medical Board nevertheless deferred Mr. Osborne's call-up for three months.

On 4th July, 1950, he again reported to the Board, bringing a letter from his doctor which stated that, although his anaemia had not greatly improved, his general condition was good. The doctor further stated that his occupation was the major factor acting against full recovery. He was medically examined by the Board and found to be fit for front-line service in any part of the world.

He joined the Army on 24th August, 1950, and the finding of the Ministry of Labour Medical Board on 4th July, 1950, was confirmed. From his enlistment until his death, he did not report sick or complain, although he took part in a number of cross-country runs.

At 12 noon on 24th October, 1950, Mr. Osborne took part in a physical efficiency test, consisting of a timed mile run, in physical training kit, the maximum time for a pass being 7 minutes 10 seconds. The test consisted of six laps and, in the sixth lap, Mr. Osborne collapsed. The medical officer was immediately sent for. He arrived at 12.30 hours and administered coramine and artificial respiration, but without result.

A post-mortem examination was carried out at 4.30 p.m. on 24th October by a civilian pathologist, who reported that death was due to acute heart failure and that there was some evidence of acute rheumatic carditis. I understand that, at the inquest the civilian pathologist said that there would be no evidence of valvular lesion when Mr. Osborne was medically examined, and that the coroner held that no blame could be attached to anyone concerned with his military training or to the Army medical authorities.

Recruiting

8.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many recruits have volunteered for service in the Army since the increase in the rates of pay; and how do these figures correspond to the similar period in 1949.

Seven thousand one hundred and seventy-one recruits were provisionally accepted for the Army between 1st September and 4th November, 1950. We have not yet received the October figures of men who have enlisted on normal regular engagements while serving. In September this figure was 343. If the October figure is similar, the total recruitment in the two months' period this year will be approximately double the figure for the corresponding two months of last year.

In view of this very small improvement, is not it a pity that the Government were not inclined to listen to the appeal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) three years ago?

Manœuvres, Germany (Equipment)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, at the manœuvres recently held in Western Germany, the equipment of the British troops engaged was found to be in all respects serviceable and up to date.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my hon. Friend's reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) on 24th October.

Is it not a fact that the equipment in question was not in all cases serviceable and up-to-date? Is it not of great importance that this equipment should be made up-to-date in every way?

I thought the hon. and gallant Member's Question was on refresher training to Class Z reservists. [HON. MEMBERS: "This is Question nine."] This is a supplementary to Question nine?

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said, new types of equipment are arriving in the Army. I have just given an instance of production of tanks being doubled. But it would be wrong to say that all the equipment of the last-war type used in the exercise in Germany was obsolete or unserviceable.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman can answer a simple question. Was the equipment found in all respects serviceable? Up to now he has evaded the answer to that question. Was it, or was it not?

The Question says, "serviceable and up-to-date." Some of the equipment used by the Army needs replacement. That is the purpose of the rearmament programme which has just been undertaken.

Was not a large proportion of that equipment found not to be serviceable and up to date.

Class Z Reservists

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any arrangements are being made to give refresher training to Class Z reservists.

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence to the hon. and gallant Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low), on 26th July.

Is it not most necessary that many of these reservists, who are, to put it mildly, rusty in their training, should receive further training now, especially if it is proposed to use them to make up deficiencies in the Territorial Army?

There are some facilities for these reservists to receive training. We are very glad when they make use of them, but I cannot go further than my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence went.

Was not it part of the answer of the Minister of Defence to me that the matter was under consideration, and have not four months elapsed since that date? Is not it about time that an answer was given?

Peace Promotion Code

11.

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the policy of his Department as regards the continued granting, or otherwise, of temporary higher rank to officers holding certain commands and appointments.

It is intended to introduce a peace promotion code under which the grant of temporary rank will be much less frequently necessary. This code cannot, however, be introduced until the size of the post-war Army has been finally determined. Meanwhile, the establishments of substantive ranks are reviewed from time to time.

Is not it desirable that some form of permanent rank should be given instead of temporary rank, and would not it be advisable to consider the re-introduction of brevet rank which is permanent, costs little and can be given as a reward for good service?

It is considered important to introduce a permanent peace promotion code, and that will be dealt with.

Defence Services, Singapore (Medals)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for War when the 14,000 Singapore volunteers and members of the passive defence services may expect to receive their medals.

Is not it rather disgraceful that these people should be kept waiting for these medals for nearly 10 years?

There are large numbers involved and I do not think that the delay is unreasonable.

Motor Mileage Allowance

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War when he anticipates the review of the rates of motor mileage allowance to Service personnel will be announced.

The rates of motor mileage allowance for Service personnel are similar to those paid to civil servants. A review of these rates is proceeding in the Treasury.

Does the Minister realise that I first asked this Question in May and got much the same answer, and that, ever since, Service personnel have been running their cars at a loss?

The category does not apply to Service personnel alone. It applies to a much wider field.

As this Question was addressed to the Secretary of State for War, as it refers entirely to Service personnel, and as this is the third time of asking, does the right hon. Gentleman know any just cause or reason why these people should continue to help out the Minister and be out of pocket as well?

This review will be completed. It does not apply only to the personnel for whom I am responsible.

Married Quarters

14.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many married quarters have been completed since 1st April, 1950; how many more it is hoped will be completed by 31st March, 1951; how many have been started since 1st April, 1950; and how many more will have been started by 31st March, 1951.

During the current financial year 1,068 permanent married quarters have been so far completed and a further 1,269 are expected to be completed; 933 have been started and a further 1,657 are expected to be started.

Do not those figures show that, more than half way through the year which started in March, the right hon. Gentleman is behind both in his programme of completed quarters and his programme for the start of building?

When estimates were presented in March I said that I hoped that 1,700 married quarters would be built. We think that, in fact, the figure will be 2,337.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether those figures refer to this country only?

Can my right hon. Friend give an estimate of the extra cost represented by all these questions asked today by the economy efficiency experts opposite?

Military Law Manual

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the new edition of the "Manual of Military Law," when published, will be printed in larger type and will include a number of blank pages at the end for notes.

Much of the Manual is already in type of the size used in the current edition. I will look into the hon. Member's other suggestion, but the Government is being strongly urged to economise in the use of paper.

Can the right hon. Gentleman also arrange for as much of the Manual as possible to be printed in rather better type, because the type of the current issue is small and extremely difficult to follow, unless one has had a legal training.

Before this new edition is brought out, would my right hon. Friend satisfy himself that modern thought and recent events are taken into consideration, so that the interpretations in the Manual of such subjects as the use of coloured troops, warfare against uncivilised people, war crimes and hostages are taken into account?

If my hon. Friend will let me know the basis of that point, I will try to give him an answer.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the current edition is so plastered with amendments as to be quite unintelligible, and will he restrain the zeal of those who are making amendments to the coming new edition?

Town And Country Planning

Schuster Committee (Report)

17.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether the Report of the Schuster Committee has yet been presented; and when it will be published.

This Report was published on 13th October.

War Damaged Towns (Assistance)

19.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what recognition he gives to the claims of war-damaged towns for special help and assistance in the extra burdens they carry because of war damage.

Capital allocations for the rebuilding of the business centres of war-damaged cities in 1951 have already been announced. In addition, grants of 90 per cent. of the net cost of acquiring and clearing land are made during the first five years of the programme, and grants of 50 per cent. thereafter.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that, while the blitzed towns appreciate what little help has been given by various Ministries, the country has a duty to make a greater contribution to the burdens which the blitzed towns bear because of their war damage?

As the figures which I have given indicate, the contributions are on a very generous scale. The difficulty regarding the blitzed town centres, about which this Question is asked, is the competition for a relatively small labour force between the rebuilding of offices and shops in the blitzed town centres, which are very desirable, and the building of houses and factories in other parts.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman's answer show that, as long as this Government continue in office, there is very little hope for the blitzed towns?

On the contrary, it shows that if there were any other Government in power there would be no hope at all.

In view of the great losses in rateable value suffered by the blitzed towns under enemy attacks, and in view of the fact that these have not by any means yet been met, will my right hon. Friend try to get additional financial assistance from the Treasury for the blitzed towns during the forthcoming financial year?

The allocation is for 1951, and I have already announced that, if any blitzed town is doing well in dealing with its allocation, and another is doing badly, I will switch the allocation from the slowcoach to the other.

Will the Minister also appreciate that it is more profitable to the blitzed towns to build houses rather than the big emporiums which he is now building?

That is the point I made in reply to the supplementary of my hon. Friend, but there are other things to build besides offices.

New Towns (Property Insurance)

20.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning why only six insurance companies are permitted to insure houses in Welwyn Garden City by the Welwyn and Hatfield Corporation.

21.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he is aware of the principle adopted by the Hemel Hempstead Development Corporation of non-discrimination in the matter of insurance of leasehold properties within its jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the Government's policy in this matter in so far as it affects development corporations and other public bodies where similar problems arise.

Insurance of property in the new towns is a matter of day-to-day administration, which I leave to the Development Corporations.

Is the Minister aware of the disquiet which exists locally, in view of the fact that two of the lucky insurance companies are connected with members of the Government's Development Corporation?

This is a matter of day-to-day administration, in which, normally, I should not interfere, but I am told that, in Welwyn Garden City before the Development Corporation was set up, they were all limited to the Royal Exchange. Now there has been a certain extension of the field, which I should have thought was a good thing.

Is the Minister aware that my Question, which he has answered at the same time as Question No. 20, asked for this information in regard to Development Corporations and other public bodies, where similar problems arise? May I have an answer to the last part of my Question?

On a point of order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that originally I put the Question down to the Prime Minister, being aware that other Government Departments were involved. The Prime Minister advised me that the Question would be answered by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. My Question has not been so answered. May I have your protection against the evasions of the right hon. Gentleman?

That is not a point of order. I cannot help it if the hon. Member is not satisfied with the answer. That is not my business.

In view of the fact that public money is involved here, would the right hon. Gentleman consider whether the sort of restriction now imposed is quite appropriate; and that, while it may well be appropriate in cases of private property, in cases involving public money the same considerations do not apply?

I am not quite clear to which restriction the right hon. Gentleman is referring.

I am referring to the restriction to a certain number of insurance companies, which might be appropriate in cases of private property, but which I should have thought was not appropriate where public money is concerned.

I will have a look at it again, but I do not want to interfere—and I think it would be wrong—in the detailed administration of these bodies.

National Insurance

Weekly Payments, Essex

22 and 23.

asked the Minister of National Insurance (1) how many persons in the Rochford Rural District Council area are in receipt of regular weekly payments from the National Assistance Board;

(2) how many persons in the county borough of Southend-on-Sea are in receipt of regular weekly payments from the National Assistance Board.

Separate statistics for the areas mentioned are not available, but at the Board's Office at Southend-on-Sea, which covers them and some adjoining territory, 9,024 persons were receiving regular weekly payments of assistance or non-contributory pensions at 31st October.

Industrial Pneumoconiosis

24.

asked the Minister of National Insurance what further processes have been prescribed under the regulations relating to industrial pneumoconiosis since the hon. Member for Norwich, North asked a question on the subject on 25th July last.

Since my hon. Friend asked his Question on 25th July, I have extended insurance under the Industrial Injuries Act against Pneumoconiosis to persons using power-driven tools to free metal castings from adherent siliceous substance.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this extension will be much appreciated? May I ask her for information on two points: first, is provision made for cases which have been incurred before the regulations became operative, and, second, in view of the very wide importance of industrial dust diseases, is she continuing her inquiries with a view to a still further extension of the protection?

I have made the extension retrospective to cover those men who suffered from the disease since the appointed day. I am fully aware that pneumoconiosis requires very careful investigation, and, therefore, I am referring the whole question to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole House will appreciate the sympathetic spirit in which she has approached this matter?

Small Savings

25.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, in respect of applicants for national assistance, she will consider applying the same principle of disregarding small savings of a fixed amount invested in co-operative societies and other banks as is applied to savings invested in National Savings, Post Office and trustee savings banks for the purpose of computing the income of the applicant.

I assume my hon. and learned Friend has in mind the special provisions about war savings. I do not think it would be appropriate to extend these to investments in cooperative societies and other banks as he suggests. In any event, legislation would be needed.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that, particularly in respect of old age pensioners, the present arrange- ment is a great cause of dissatisfaction? One person may have £375 invested and another may only have £50; the £375 is disregarded, while anything over the £50 in, say, co-operative society or other banks, must be brought into account in assessing income.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will recall the special circumstances in which this decision was made—old people were asked to invest in war savings—and realise that it would have been very inconsistent to have penalised them when the time came for them to apply for assistance.

In view of the savings and investments of these people and their need of assistance, will the Minister discontinue the practice of assuming that their savings have attracted interest at 5 per cent., whereas, in many cases, it is restricted to 3 per cent.?

Pensions Schemes

26.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will consider revising the regulations regarding late entrants into insurance and reducing the qualifying period for pensions from 10 to five years.

No, Sir. This proposal would require legislation to reverse a carefully considered provision of the National Insurance Act, 1946.

Is the Minister aware that a man who was 63 in 1948 cannot reach pension age until he is 73, and that during those 10 years he has to make a contribution out of any superannuation funds he may be receiving? Is not that a hardship?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will realise that in devising any scheme we must take into consideration certain actuarial calculations. It is unfortunate that certain people at that period will not benefit perhaps as much as their children or grandchildren may; but that has always happened, whatever the scheme may have been.

Is it not a fact that those coming into the scheme in 1946 were allowed to pay for five years in order to receive benefit? Cannot we make the period five years for people who came into the scheme in 1948?

Pre-1924 Compensation Cases

27.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if her Department is now ready to bring in legislation to deal with the pre-1924 compensation cases; and when will legislation be brought before the House.

My consideration of this difficult question has reached an advanced stage and I hope to be able to make a statement before long.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, which will at least bring a ray of hope to those unfortunate citizens who have waited so long, may I ask if she will give a further assurance to the House that there will be no delay in bringing forward this legislation when it is ready?

Communicable Diseases (Health Workers)

28.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she is aware of the anxiety felt by many nurses owing to the long delay in reaching a decision to include tuberculosis and other communicable diseases generally in relation to nurses and other health workers within the prescribed industrial diseases under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act; and if she will make a statement on the subject.

I have just received from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council their report on this question and I am giving it urgent attention. The matter is one of considerable detail, but I hope to make a statement shortly.

Is the Minister aware that the House was informed in February of last year that her predecessor was consulting this council? Is it not time that we had a decision?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I take the greatest personal interest in this matter. I have only just received the report, and I will try to expedite the statement.

Will the report include certain other diseases in addition to tuberculosis, such as smallpox?

Sickness Certificates

29.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she has received the letter from the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew, Eastern, enclosing statements from doctors about dishonest attempts to obtain sickness certificates from them, for which she asked on 24th October; and what action she intends to take to put an end to these practices.

I have received the hon. and gallant Member's letter of 9th November enclosing four letters written to him after I had answered his Question on 24th October. I am giving these letters my attention, and am consulting my right hon. Friends.

Does the right hon. Lady admit, in view of the fact that there are more than 900,000 people absent from work through sickness every day in this country, that when I asked her a Question she challenged me to produce even three letters from doctors to justify my suggestion, and that I not only gave her more than three but gave her quotations from others as well? Would it not be as well——

I will certainly not withdraw it, for this reason: The Question asked me was on 24th October, in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman implied that I had information which I was not disclosing.

I therefore challenged the hon. and gallant Gentleman to produce the information he had. That was on the 24th October, and on the 25th the Press gave wide publicity to this matter. Since then—and not before the 24th—four doctors out of many thousands have come to the help of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and he has sent me their letters.

On a point of order. The right hon. Lady has entirely misinterpreted the original Question. My original Question asked her if she was aware——

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will now resume his seat. He will obey the Speaker.

Is it not in order, Mr. Speaker, for a questioner to give notice at the end of his Question, when he is dissatisfied with an answer, that he wishes to raise the matter on the Adjournment? That, I think, was what my hon. and gallant Friend was trying to do.

I should like to have been entitled to do more. In view of the grossly inaccurate statement and misrepresentation of the right hon. Lady—doubtless by accident, as I respectfully say—I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Sickness And Pensions Benefits

30.

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether men and women registered at Ministry of Labour appointment offices and employment exchanges have their cards franked to enable them to remain in credit for sickness and pensions benefits; and, if not, what procedure should such men take to ensure that full credit is given to them.

Yes, Sir. If a person is in receipt of unemployment benefit his card will be franked automatically. Others registered for employment, whether at an appointment office or an employment exchange, should apply to an exchange if they desire credits.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will forgive me for not hearing all that she had to say. I am not suggesting that it was her fault. I would like to ask whether she is aware that there are cases in which people have applied for benefit and have been told that they have not been able to obtain it, although they have been attending at the employment exchanges?

If my hon. Friend will give me particulars of the cases, I shall be only too happy to look into every one of them.

Employment

Industrial Disputes

31.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of recent and widespread industrial disputes in the nationalised industries and services, he will set up some form of inquiry to ascertain the cause or causes and suggest suitable remedies.

No, Sir. There have not been widespread disputes in the nationalised, or in the other, industries.

May I suggest an inquiry as to whether these disputes, of which there are many, are really due to Communist inspiration or whether they are just due to lack of leadership in the unions or lack of courage in the Government?

I would point out that 1950 had nearly the lowest number of strikes on record.

Would not such an inquiry show that the percentage of total time lost in the nationalised industries has actually decreased since they have been nationalised?

Is it not a fact that of the disputes which have occurred, more than two out of every, three have been in the nationalised industries, and is not that a clear indication that, far from public ownership improving the relationship between employers and employees, it has had the opposite effect?

The hon. Gentleman has made a statement as well as asked a question. He is quite wrong. The disputes in the nationalised industries are fewer now than they were before they were nationalised. Further, as the reflection is generally against the coal miners, the House may be interested to know that so far as the mines are concerned, less than one day per man per year is lost in strikes.

Is it not a fact that industrial disputes in the mining industry since nationalisation account for only 5 per cent. of the number of days lost, which is less than when the mines were under private enterprise?

Distributive Trade Workers (Pay)

33.

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the resultant loss of pay, he will reconsider his recent ruling that people working in the distribution trade, who are paid under Wages Councils orders, should be entitled to an average minimum weekly rate of pay, and reinstate the minimum weekly rate of pay.

No, Sir. I am advised that the Wages Councils Act does not enable wages regulation orders to require wages to be paid at particular times and that, so long as the contract between the worker and the employer provides for the payment of not less than the statutory minimum remuneration, the provisions of the Act are satisfied. Any interpretation of the Act is of course subject to the authoritative ruling of the courts.

Will my right hon. Friend modify the terms of the Act so as to make rulings and interpretations of the Act by the courts unnecessary, and so that each employer and employee shall know, before the practice actually commences, what is expected of him in this direction?

It would be much more helpful if my hon. Friend made clear to me the points upon which he wants an answer.

Dockers, London (Welfare)

34.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement concerning the inquiry conducted by his Department into the welfare conditions of the docks in the London area.

Many improvements in the welfare conditions have been made, particularly as regards sanitation and washing arrangements, and many more improvements are in hand. Steps have been taken to provide drinking fountains and improve the feeding facilities, and additional canteens are being provided. On the social and recreational side a recent improvement has been the provision of a recreation room near West India Dock Gate, with reading room and snack bar. Many improvements at wharves are also reported.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, if we are to avoid trouble in this industry in future now is the time to remove some of the disabilities, particularly with regard to welfare? Is he also aware that the dock workers of London, at any rate, are demanding now that these industries shall be nationalised so that they can get what they could not get from private enterprise?

It is quite true that many of the conditions in the docks were very bad.

I agree that they still are, but it is only fair to say that the Port of London Authority, the Dock Labour Board and various employers are very cordially co-operating in trying to bring about an improvement.

Vacancies, Birmingham

37.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the present number of unfilled vacancies in all trades, and in the building trade, respectively, at employment exchanges in Birmingham.

The number of unfilled vacancies in Birmingham at 25th October was 15,733, including 1,234 in the building industry.

In view of the very large number of vacancies outside the building trade, will my right hon. Friend see that all possible influence is used to get as many building trade workers into the building trade, and to see that the attractions of these other industries will not be allowed to cause a further dwindling of the building labour force?

I shall be glad to look at my hon. Friend's question. We are doing the best we can to encourage building workers to go into the area.

In view of the statement made by the Minister about exemptions, and the need for housing in the country, will he consider exempting from call-up young men, of whom there are 15,000 in one city alone, to enable them to carry out house building for the next three or four years instead of going into the Army?

38.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons unemployed in Birmingham in October, 1938, and October, 1950, respectively; and the number of building trade workers unemployed during the same period.

The numbers at 17th October, 1938, and 16th October, 1950, were 34,758 and 2,227 respectively, including 2,870 and 211 in the building industry.

In view of the virtual non-existence of unemployment in the building trade, would not the Minister agree that these figures show that it is practically impossible to step up the building of houses in Birmingham? Will he consult with the Minister of Works to see what can be done?

The labour situation in the country is very difficult at the moment. Most of these vacancies in Birmingham are for skilled workers and, as a consequence, they bring about a great deal of unemployment among unskilled workers. The problem we have is to get more people in skilled trades. I am meeting representatives of the industry this afternoon to discuss the problem.

Civil Defence (Class Z Reservists)

32.

asked the Minister of Labour when he will be able to give direction as to Class Z reservists being allowed to volunteer for Civil Defence duties.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) on 18th September, in which I pointed out that, as already announced, Z and equivalent reservists aged 40 and over may enrol for Civil Defence duties and that those between 30 and 40 may, with some exceptions, enrol for the more active branches of Civil Defence.

Is the Minister aware that a large number of these men would also like to serve in the special constabulary? Can he arrange with his colleague the Home Secretary that they should have that privilege?

I cannot arrange that. But if the hon. Gentleman will look at the very full Question put by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), which was fully answered and set out the whole facts, and also get a copy of the Civil Defence leaflet which is available, he will get all the particulars.

National Service Men (Call-Up)

35.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is now ready to make a statement regarding the position of National Service men who were due to enter universities and training colleges in October, 1951, but who will now be unable to do so owing to the recent extension of the period of service.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply of 7th November to the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood). The arrangements cover training colleges as well as universities.

36.

asked the Minister of Labour how many National Service men have had their call-up deferred since 1st January, 1950; what is the length of their period of deferment; and what proportion of these deferments were for educational reasons.

The number of deferments granted between 1st January, 1950, and 31st October, 1950, is approximately as follows: Apprentices, articled pupils, etc., 61,000; university students, 8,500; other students, 5,500; all other deferments (coalmining, agricultural workers. etc.), 26,000.

In the case of apprentices and university students, the period of deferment, subject to annual review, is until completion of training or studies, normally about three years. In the case of other students, deferment is for a short period only, usually to enable boys to stay on at school until the end of the school year in order to complete their studies or sit for an examination. In the case of industrial deferments, call-up is in general suspended so long as the man continues in that employment.

Scotland

Dental Services, Islay

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the serious position in regard to dental services on the Island of Islay; and if he will give powers to executive councils, similar to those already given in regard to medical officers, to enable them to provide residential accommodation for dental officers practising under the National Health Service Act.

I am aware that dental treatment in Islay is provided by one dentist who visits the island for about one week every three months. As regards the latter part of the Question, the powers of executive councils could not be extended in this way without legislation which my right hon. Friend could not promise to promote, but the Department are continuing to explore all possible ways of improving the dental treatment for the people of Islay.

Does not the hon. Lady agree that this is a very serious situation in an island of some 4,000 inhabitants? A dental officer visits that island for only one week in three months. Could she not persuade her right hon. Friend to give powers to the medical authority or the county council to obtain accommodation for a dentist? That is all that is necessary. If accommodation were provided, the dentist would be there.

We are aware of the seriousness of this position and next week, or the week following, one of the officers from the Department is going to Islay to discuss the question of accommodation there that has been promised. When he is there, he will have full consultations with the council and those responsible. I thank the hon. and gallant Member for his efforts in this matter. We appreciate them very much indeed.

Will the hon. Lady bear in mind that the problem of insufficient dental services affects other islands besides Islay—some of which have been drawn to her attention—and, if she is able to assist in this matter, will she extend her assistance to these islands?

I should like to draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the special powers which the councils in the Highlands and Islands have to make special payments.

Public Libraries (Report)

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the Report on the Public Libraries in Scotland will be published.

I understand that this Report will be submitted to my right hon. Friend next month, when he will arrange for its publication as a Command Paper.

Is the hon. Lady aware that she told me in June that it would be published probably in the autumn?

The hon. and gallant Member is possibly aware that the remit was a very long remit. It has involved many meetings and the taking of much evidence, and also many visits to cities. Added to that was the difficulty that the chairman who was in charge of the committee has not been at all well. If his health had been better, we should have had it long ago.

Local Authorities (Housing Grants)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how much money has been granted, to some recent convenient date, to local authorities under Section 2 (1) of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1949; how much by local authorities under Section 9 (1) of the Act; whether he has given any directions under Section 9 (7); and what contribution he has made to local authorities under Section 14.

At 30th September my right hon. Friend had undertaken to make contributions under Section 2 (1) amounting to £383 a year for 20 years for the improvement or provision of 31 dwellings by local authorities, and local authorities had undertaken to pay grants under Section 9 (1) amounting to £37,298 for the improvement or provision of 157 dwellings. No directions have been given under Section 9 (7) and no contributions have yet been claimed under Section 14.

Housing, Glasgow

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that in Glasgow there are almost 400 families living in properties condemned by the city engineer as dangerous to public safety; that the local authority is unable to re-house the people; and what steps he proposes to take to alleviate the dangers and hardships to these families.

It is for Glasgow Corporation, with their knowledge of all the facts, to decide which families in the city should be rehoused, and my right hon. Friend does not propose to interfere with their discretion.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this local authority has already rehoused over 2,000 families from similar properties, that there are in the city 35,000 families living in property unfit for human habitation, that there is a waiting list of 94,000 applications and that these figures call for some drastic action?

The figures do not entitle my right hon. Friend to interfere with the right and prerogative of local authorities to select tenants for new houses.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware of the terrible indictment by the people of Scotland in the wording of the Questions put to him by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes)?

Is the Under-Secretary not aware that the local authorities are frustrated at every turn by his regulations?

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of private contractors who have failed to implement their contracts with the Glasgow Corporation for the building of houses in that city since September, 1946.

I am informed that 42 contracts, involving 24 contractors, were terminated for one reason or another during the period referred to.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in order to encourage private contractors to build houses in the City of Glasgow, this local authority did not, during the difficult post-war years, impose any kind of penalty clauses in their contracts, and that this lamentable failure on the part of private contractors makes a mockery of the parrot cry "Set the builders free?"

Can we be told what was the complexion of the local authority concerned at that time?

Certificated Teachers

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many unemployed emergency-trained teachers there were in Scotland on the latest date for which statistics are available.

As there is a shortage of teachers in Scotland, no statistics of unemployment are kept. If certificated teachers are prepared to serve where they are needed they should have no difficulty in finding posts.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are cases in Scotland of teachers who were trained in English colleges being refused permission to teach in Scotland? Will my hon. Friend consult the appropriate department and get this ridiculous situation remedied?

Men or women in that category are refused permanent posts in Scotland because the training they have received in England does not give them Scottish certificated standards, and I think that that is proper.

Will my hon. Friend agree that the standard of the English colleges is not inferior to that of the Scottish colleges?

It might be rather imprudent of me to give a fair answer, but we in Scotland have insisted on a longer period of training, and I think that for Scotland we have been right in doing so.

Festival Of Britain

Opening Ceremony (Musical Programme)

46.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether it is intended that there should be a concert in the new Concert Hall in connection with the Festival of Britain on the evening of the opening day, 3rd May, 1951.

I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir. A programme of British music will be performed under the direction of leading British conductors by a full chorus and orchestra specially formed to be as representative as possible of the leading London choral and orchestral organisations. Their Majesties have graciously intimated their intention to be present.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not consider it appropriate that at this concert there should be a revived performance of the "Ode in honour of Great Britain" from the masque "King Alfred," composed by Dr. Arne for another great celebration in the 18th century?

Amusements Equipment

47.

asked the Lord President of the Council what steps have been taken to enable the manufacturers of amusement equipment in this country to supply the necessary equipment for the amusement park of the Festival of Britain; why German and United States equipment is being sought; and whether he is satisfied that such equipment could not have been produced in this country.

I am informed that Festival Gardens, Ltd. are only seeking certain special additional features in the United States and Germany after extensive inquiries had satisfied them that their needs cannot be met here. The Board includes men of the highest standing in this field and, having full confidence in their judgment, it is proposed to let them get on with their job before it is too late to get anything from anywhere.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a considerable number of manufacturers in this country of this kind of equipment have never been approached and, finally, had to go to the Festival Gardens Board? Because of the publicity given to this matter in the Press it has been stated, in the last two or three days that many of the things which were to be bought from America are now to be obtained here.

I am not aware of that, but what I am aware of is that the Board have made careful inquiries about this matter, and it was felt that as they wanted the Festival to be a real success they had better seek elsewhere for those things which would make it a success.

Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Lord President of the Council the concern that has been expressed from the other side of the House about the maintenance of the control regulations which are envisaged in these Questions?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that our own fair equipment contains excellent examples of English traditional art, and will he remind this company that they are to serve the Festival of Britain and not the Festival of Coney Island?

Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that the Government are prepared to find dollars for amusement while refusing to find dollars for timber required for houses?

No, Sir, it does not, but the Government have confidence in the Board's ability to look after the interests of this country, and, from the information that we have, we are satisfied that those interests are being very well served.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of our manufacturers are doing a very good export trade? It will not help them to have German and American goods beside theirs, creating the impression that the Festival of Britain Board cannot find what they want in England?

I would be obliged if the hon. Gentleman would give me the names of the firms which can supply the things which have been obtained elsewhere.

Sir