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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 24 April 1951

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Ministry Of Pensions

Hospital Admission

1.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he is aware that Mr. Pedley, 7, Westlands, Congleton, who was a prisoner of war in Siam and who is, in consequence suffering from amoebic dysentery, and is in receipt of a pension, has been waiting to go into hospital for seven weeks; and what arrangements are being made for the admittance of Mr. Pedley to hospital.

There has been a temporary strain on the accommodation available in the tropical disease units. When I received the hon. and gallant Member's recent letter indicating a worsening of Mr. Pedley's condition since he was examined in February, I made immediate arrangements to admit him to Roehampton Hospital today. I regret the delay and I am sending the hon. and gallant Member a full explanation of the reasons for it.

While I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the urgent action he has taken, may I ask him whether he will impress upon his medical advisers that more considerate treatment should be shown in cases of ex-prisoners of war like Mr. Pedley, who now weighs only eight stone and whose health is in very bad condition?

I regret the delay, but there were special circumstances. In the early part of the year we had an extra rush in this department. The man was not considered to be so seriously ill when first seen, and he was put back for further examination. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman wrote to me, we took the man into hospital at once.

Appeal

2.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will now expedite a decision in the case of Mr. J. L. Tuke, Gables Filling Station, Rayleigh, Essex, who appealed against a reduction of his disability pension in November, 1949.

I must regret that, owing to a number of factors, delay occurred in sending the appeal to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. The special reasons which since October have prevented it going forward have been explained in correspondence with the hon. Member. The appeal has now been sent to the Tribunal for hearing.

Is not the Minister aware that, but for this man's appeal to me, his Member of Parliament, the delay would have continued? Why should this unfortunate man, who is living in very difficult circumstances, who is in poor health and at the moment unemployed, have to wait so long for what is, after all, his statutory right?

I make no excuse for the mistake in this case. There was delay in the beginning, due to a fault on our side. Later, the man's doctor did not give us information for which we asked. I am sorry that there has been delay, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman wrote to us so that we could put the matter in hand. This has given me an opportunity to check up on the routine work. I hope to prevent similar cases in future.

Imperial War Graves Commission

4.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that although British gardeners employed in Belgium by the Imperial War Graves Commission were compelled, on the German occupation of Belgium 11 years ago, to leave their clothing and some of their furniture in that country, they have received no compensation; what is approximately the total amount involved: and whether he will make a statement.

In 1948 His Majesty's Government concluded a reciprocal war damage agreement with the Belgian Government, securing for British nationals who have suffered losses of this nature treatment as regards compensation equal to that accorded by the Belgian Government to their own nationals for similar loss or damage. Employees and former employees of the Commission who might have suffered such losses have been kept fully informed by the Commission of the steps to be taken to present their claims to the Belgian authorities and the Commission have been assured by these authorities that such claims will be dealt with in strict equality with similar claims by Belgian nationals. Since the employees concerned have themselves drawn up and lodged their claims, the Commission are not in a position to state the total of the amounts claimed.

As nothing whatever has happened in the last 11 years, does not the Secretary of State think it is grossly unfair that these men should be so much less generously treated than, for example, Army officers who had claims for such losses paid by their own Government, or traders in places like Malaya and Hong Kong, who had a much less strong claim?

I sympathise with the position of these men, but we ought not to suppose that the Belgian Government will not do what they have definitely said they will do and honour the claims in the same way as they are honouring the claims of their own citizens.

In the hope that something can be done before all these men are dead, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

British Army

Class Z Reservists

6.

asked the Secretary of State for War why Mr. H. S. Chafen, of 33, Braybon Avenue, cannot have the dates of his Class Z recall for training in June altered, in view of his marriage arrangements at that time; and whether expenses incurred with a view to that event before he received his calling-up notice and covering his period of training will be refunded by his Department.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any alteration in the dates of the period of training for Z reservists is now possible.

35.

asked the Secretary of State for War why he has refused to change the training period of the Class Z reservist, resident in Mitcham, whose previously arranged wedding day falls within the proposed 15 days' service and concerning which the hon. Member for Mitcham has already sent him details.

37.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will review the case of Mr. P. D. Goddard, Wembley, who, in view of wedding arrangements already made, seeks alternative dates for his Class Z recall training.

The essential point in this matter is that the majority of Z reservists are being called up for a particular unit which goes to camp on a particular date. As I explained to my hon. Friend the Member of the Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), this means that we cannot change the date of call-up of these reservists. We must call them up for the period for which their unit goes to camp or exempt them altogether if the degree of hardship is sufficient. I regret that the War Department is unable to refund expenses of the kind referred to by the hon. Member for the Brighton Pavilion (Mr. Teeling).

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that people in the position of this man and his fiancee are in work, and therefore it requires quite a long time for them to be able to arrange their holidays at the same time; and that, a long time before the man gets any notice of being called up, they arrange their holidays in order to get married? Does not the Minister realise that it is a very serious matter for them, and that there is also the question of deposits for their hotel accommodation and so on? Will he not try to do something in these cases in which there is real hardship?

I appreciate that there may be cases of hardship, and that some are cases of very real hardship, but we must deal with each individual case. We have, of course, exempted a large number of men, for various reasons. I was explaining why it is a question either of the call-up on that date or of cancelling the call-up.

Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that very great hardship will be suffered locally by farmers and farm workers who will be called up during the harvest, and will he look very sympathetically at some cases which I have sent to his hon. Friend and see whether these people could not be deferred or exempted?

There is another question on the Order Paper on that subject, which I shall be answering later. I quite agree that it is a question of great importance, and we should not interfere unduly with agricultural work.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many applications have been received for deferment from those who have marriage arrangements, and if the number concerned is small, could not they be exempted on the grounds of the expense and inconvenience already involved?

I could not say what the number is from that cause alone, but I think we must take each individual case on its merits.

Can my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that, in cases of hardship such as that quoted in the Question, the most sympathetic consideration will be given to each case?

Why does the Minister say that there is no alternative to cancelling the call-up? Would it not be possible for the man to be called up to another unit in another arm of the Service in the same part of the country, which goes to camp at a different time?

The usual difficulty there is that the men are not interchangeable. If I may give an example from the case which has been quoted, one of these men who is being called up for the Engineers is a quantity surveyor, and we cannot change that man over to an infantry private in some other unit. A great number of these cases are not interchangeable, but we are making some changes of that kind.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the experience of nearly every Member of this House is that the War Office is completely inflexible in this matter, and will he say whether, in fact, there is any known case where, on grounds of hardship, a man has been deferred?

Yes, Sir. A very considerable number of cases have been exempted. Of course they have, and my hon. Friend should know it.

Can the Minister explain why, if it is impossible for the dates of the call-up to be varied, it is the fact that, at the time when a man is sent his call-up notice, he receives an explanatory leaflet inviting him to make representations? If it is not the intention to take any notice of such representations, why does the Minister invite them?

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. We give the man the instruction on how to go about getting exemption. That is an entirely different matter.

Am I to understand from the Minister's answers that the case which I have referred to him is completely closed, or can it be looked into again?

This case was before my hon. Friend, who gave it very careful consideration, but I will look at it again myself.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many days elapse between the receipt of a letter requesting exemption from training and the sending out of a pro forma notice from the Record Office telling the claimer of the steps he should take.

In order that warning for training this year should be given as early as possible, warning notices for all reservists were sent out over a very short period. In consequence appeals were received in an equally short period and there was some delay in dealing with them. As they could not all be dealt with at once, they were dealt with in order of training dates. The number of appeals has now fallen and there should be little delay in correspondence.

Will the Minister answer my Question and tell me how long is the average time of delay, because I have known some cases where it has taken nearly as long as one and a half months before the people concerned have been sent the little form telling them how to claim exemption? I should like to know what is the average time.

I am not quite clear what the hon. Member has in mind, because, as an hon. Member has just pointed out, the original warning letter told the reservist how to make an appeal for exemption if he wished to do so. It is only if he does not give sufficient particulars to the Record Office that a further letter needs to be sent to him. I could not give the average time which elapses before this second letter is sent out in cases where it is necessary to get further information.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War when Reservists now being asked to complete Army Form D406 may be recalled for training under the Z scheme; what is the priority or other significance of the classification Z/2, Z/3, etc., written on these forms before dispatch to Reservists; and whether, to remove uncertainty, he will say when further batches will be required for training.

Reservists who are now being asked to complete Army Form D406 will not be called up for training in 1951. The marking Z/2, Z/3, etc., on some Army Forms D406 does not indicate any order of priority for training. They have been made by some Record Offices as a convenience for internal administrative purposes only.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say on what principle this classification Z/1, Z/2 or Z/3 is made, because it is causing a good deal of concern to people who have already been in the Services and who know the tricks of the trade?

This is a process which has been described to the House and which we have been urged very strongly to carry out, the process of checking through the list of Z reservists to see their age, occupation and availability. It is a process that has been going on since last autumn.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what is the age limit for the Class Z reservists referred to in this Question to whom this Army form has been sent? Is it 40 or 45?

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War the age at which a Class Z reservist will cease to have liability for recall; and in what circumstances men over the age of 45 years will be retained as Class Z reservists.

There is at present no statutory limitation on the age at which a member of the Class Z Reserve ceases to have a liability for recall in the event of general mobilisation. In that event some men such as specialists or senior non-commissioned officers of 45 years and over would clearly be of great value.

May I have an answer to the Question on the Order Paper, at which I have been pegging away with the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends for the last three weeks? I did not ask what was the age limit for a general mobilisation recall; I asked what was the age limit for Class Z reservists being recalled under the present arrangement. Is it 45 years, or what is the age limit?

If the hon. Member will look again at his Question, he will see that he just says "liability for recall." The Class Z reservist is liable to be recalled in the event of general mobilisation, and I have answered his Question precisely. He now asks whether we are calling up this year any Class Z reservists over 45 years of age, to which the answer is "No."

In the event of no general demobilisation taking place and the year-by-year recall of Z reservists continuing, what is then the age limit of a Class Z reservist if he is called back to the colours?

That is quite hypothetical. What has been announced is what is being done this year. I stated quite clearly that on the general question of liability to recall, there is no statutory limitation of the age.

Does not the Minister think that if he could fix some high ceiling of liability to recall it would be advantageous to certain men who would then know for certain if they were clear of this liability?

There might be a case for that, but I was asked if there was a limitation and I answered that there was no statutory limitation at present.

Installations, Kenya (Disposal)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are being made for the disposal of the installations at Mackinnon Road; and what he estimates the total net cost of the scheme will have been when it has been wound up.

Installations which are capable of being used elsewhere are being removed; the remainder are being disposed of locally. The total capital cost of the project by 31st December, 1951, when it is planned to be finally closed, is estimated at £1,777,000.

Can the Secretary of State say what is the value of the stores and installations which are being disposed of, and whether he is absolutely satisfied that better use cannot be made of them in the present re-armament programme?

It is not a question of stores, but of part of the installations—parts of R.E.M.E. workshops, steel ribs, store sheds, and things of that sort. We are advised that it is much better to dispose of them locally.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the figure which he has given includes the cost of moving the stores from the Canal Zone down to Mackinnon Road and, further, the cost of moving them from Mackinnon Road to another place; whose idea it was originally, and why it has now been overridden?

I think that very few stores were moved down from the Canal Zone. The original project was for dealing with stores which became available from the evacuation of India, and that was where the stores were coming from. That is why the project was started.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the policy of his Department, in addition to the installations, to dispose of Lease-Lend goods which are perfectly serviceable, including cameras and such equipment, by depositing them in the sea?

No, Sir. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a question if he has some instance in mind. I am certainly advised that all disposable goods are being offered for sale.

Troops, Korea

10 and 11.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) if he is aware of the concern felt by troops in Korea and their relatives at home at the present unsatisfactory methods of keeping these forces correctly informed on current affairs; and what action he proposes to take to improve the present position;

(2) to state the present arrangements whereby forces on active service in Korea are kept informed of day-to-day military activities, especially with regard to factual information concerning their release.

Information on current affairs and military activities, including factual information concerning their release, is supplied to troops in Korea by Formation Broadsheets, which are produced daily, with special week-end supplements, by Royal Army Educational Corps teams in the field. The "Circle News" is produced by 29th Brigade and the "Korean Base Gazette" is also circulated. In addition, the "Japan News," an English paper produced in Tokyo, and copies of various United Kingdom Sunday newspapers, are sent to Korea by air on the basis of one copy to five men. Both the Broadsheets and the "Japan News" are supplied with world and home news by the War Office News Service, including full statements of all Government and War Office handouts on release questions, and in addition, information about release is conveyed to the troops through formation and unit orders. I do not regard these arrangements as unsatisfactory.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the fact that newspapers printed in Tokyo, which I believe are referred to as the garrison newspapers by the troops in Korea, have contained many wild rumours, and, if I send him particulars of detailed complaints, will he look into the matter?

Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that the morale of the troops will be encouraged if they receive a report of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the former Minister of Labour and National Service?

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it would be possible to place samples of these Formation Broadsheets, to which reference has been made, in the Library of the House, so that hon. Members may get an idea of the type of news which the troops are getting?

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War what consideration was given to the high cost of living in Japan for troops going on leave when it was decided there would be no overseas allowance for troops in Korea.

The Commander of the British Commonwealth forces was specifically asked whether he considered leave costs would swing the balance of overall expense of officers or other ranks so as to create a need for local overseas allowance. He considered that it did not.

Does not the Minister appreciate that the troops fighting in Korea take a very poor view of the fact that the men in Hong Kong get better pay than themselves? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman took notice of that fact, an did something about it?

We have gone to the length of soliciting the Commander of the British Commonwealth Forces to say that there is a case for an overseas allowance. I do not think we can go further than that.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is proposed to create a British Commonwealth Division in Korea out of the brigade and troops already allocated there.

The formation of a British Commonwealth Division in Korea is under consideration.

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will ensure that there is adequate accommodation for our troops in Korea when not actually engaged in the fighting, bearing in mind that accommodation in tents is not suitable in that climate.

Wherever possible static units in rear areas have been accommodated either in buildings or in Nissen huts. Units in forward areas who are likely to move at short notice are forced to use such accommodation as may be available locally. I understand that forward units have been using factories and farms.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the conditions in Korea in the summer entail a hardship equal to, if not greater than, those in winter where tentage is being used, and will he take every opportunity to avoid the use of tentage wherever possible?

I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman is quite right in what he says about the climatic conditions, but, of course, we must leave it to the commanders in the field to see how they accommodate their men.

Reserve Of Officers (Badges)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the purpose of the badges issued to members of the Regular Army Reserve of Officers; and how much money is being spent on them.

These badges were introduced in 1939 as a measure of recognition of the important part which members of the Regular Army Reserve of Officers, as well as members of the Royal Army Reserve, played in national defence. Issue of the badges was suspended during the war, and has recently been resumed in the case of volunteer members of the Regular Army Reserve of Officers. Officers are required to return the badge when they cease to be serving members of the Reserve, and the stocks provided before the war are likely to meet all requirements for some time.

As officers on the active list do not now wear uniform when not on duty, is it likely that members of this Reserve of Officers will wear these badges; has the Secretary of State ever seen in recent times an officer wear such a badge, and, if not, might not this issue be discontinued as a futile frill?

This issue is a legacy from the Conservative Government before the war, and we thought it might be used up.

What happens when an officer, who is called upon to return the badge on retiring, has lost it? What is the value of the badge?

Soldier's Death, Germany

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War under what circumstances Trooper Lloyd was killed at Rintel, Germany; and whether he will make a statement.

Trooper Lloyd was killed in a traffic accident on 9th April, 1951, the lorry in which he was travelling as a passenger skidding and plunging down an embankment when returning in convoy from an exercise in Rhine Zealand. I am awaiting the proceedings of the court of inquiry which has been held.

16 and 17.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) why his Department refused to bring home the body of Trooper Lloyd for burial in Cardiff despite the appeal of his widowed mother; and whether he is aware that Mrs. Lloyd was informed that the body could be returned if she bore the cost;

(2) whether his Department will reduce the proportion of cost to be found by parents who desire the return of the body of their soldier sons killed on foreign service in peace time.

The policy followed by my Department is that interment of soldiers killed on foreign service in peace as in war should take place in the country where death occurs and I regret that the Department is unable to bear the cost of bringing bodies to this country for burial. Efforts have, however, been made to reduce the cost of transport in cases where relatives make these arrangements at their own expense and as announced by my predecessor on 26th July, 1949, the Railway Executive has agreed to reduce by half the sea freight charge for the conveyance of soldiers' bodies from the Hook of Holland to Harwich.

Is the Minister aware that the present policy means that parents who are unable to provide the best part of £100 are unable to bring home their son's body, whereas the wealthier person has no difficulty whatsoever, and will he look again at this matter with a view to the War Office bearing the cost?

I appreciate the point raised by my hon. Friend, but I think the only remedy would be that all these costs should be made a public charge. I think that would really be impossible.

As the numbers are extremely small at the present time, could not the right hon. Gentleman come to some arrangement with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air to convey these bodies back to this country by Transport Command? It would be quite a simple matter.

Will the Minister look again at the matter in the light of the fact that the cost to the State would be very small, and that he is dealing with conscripts who certainly did not ask to be sent abroad? Surely, the least he can do is to see that their bodies are brought home?

On a point of order. In view of the lack of humanity on the part of the Government, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

Technical Information, Far East (Co-Ordination)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements exist to ensure that the experience of the French forces in Indo-China and our own in Malaya are co-ordinated so as to ensure that the technical information received is used to the best advantage.

There are adequate local arrangements, including the exchange of officers and information, to achieve this object.

In view of the very considerable success which has accompanied somewhat new forms of warfare against Communist Forces in Indo-China in recent months, will the Minister make quite certain that they are carefully studied, and made available in Korea?

Of course, the conditions of the conflicts in Indo-China and Malaya are very different.

Militiamen

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of their conscript service of at least six and a half years, it is intended to recall for Z training militiamen originally called up for six months under the Military Training Act, 1939.

No, Sir. As these are militiamen they are specifically excluded from call-up by the terms of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Training) Act, 1951. Some of them may have received warning notices issued before the Act became law but these should by now have been cancelled.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that they have been cancelled, does it mean that a specific notification has been sent to the people concerned?

Rifle Range, Cornwall

29.

asked the Secretary of State for War when the additional firing rights required as a safety precaution of the full-bore rifle range at Idless, Cornwall, will be acquired so that practice can be resumed by the Truro Battalion Home Guard Rifle Club.

My Department is negotiating with local farmers for firing rights over the additional danger area and is at present awaiting a reply from the Cornwall branch of the National Farmers' Union which is dealing with the question on their behalf.

Did not the Minister, on a former occasion, agree that this rifle club might form a useful basis for the Home Guard if re-formed? Can he do anything to expedite the reopening of this range, which is very essential for the rifle club's continuance?

Certainly, we are endeavouring to obtain these rights for them through the N.F.U. locally.

Sentries (Orders)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that the evidence at his trial showed that Driver Fargie had been relieved as sentry and was not on his post or with his guard, but on the public road when the fatal shot was fired, he has taken appropriate steps regarding the irregularities in the posting orders and duties of guards and sentries as disclosed by the proceedings of the court-martial on Driver Fargie.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) on 3rd April.

Is it not a fact that the proceedings disclosed that the guard had received no proper orders, that neither the posting nor the relief of sentries was properly carried out and that Driver Fargie was away from his guard when the fatal shot was fired? Does not the Secretary of State think that strong steps ought to be taken in view of the lack of discipline and system that was displayed?

All those points were hotly contested between prosecution and defence in the proceedings and for the reasons that I gave to the House the other day, I really would not like to express an opinion.

Is it not a fact that the proceedings reveal very clearly that something was far wrong in that nobody posted a sentry to relieve the other one and the other said that he had not been relieved; and that, whatever the rights or wrongs of the prosecution or defence, the thing was thoroughly unsatisfactory?

If the guard was unsatisfactorily posted that is a question for the commanding officer of the unit, but I do not think it reveals anything unsatisfactory in the character of the instructions and directions to sentries which we have twice sent out in the last 12 months.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, whatever the rights or wrongs of the orders given or the procedure applied, a perfectly innocent civilian lost his life as a result of this? Have any steps been taken to offer any compensation to the relatives?

Is it not a fact that there was no unit, as referred to by the Secretary of State in this case, that it was a reinforcement camp and a mixture of men of many units far behind the line, that there were no written orders as there should be for a guard of this importance, and that there was no system and no discipline about the posting of this guard at all?

Courts-Martial

31.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in future cases of courts-martial held abroad and which are of public interest, he will, when the finding is announced, cause to be published a brief statement of the charges and of the evidence given in each case.

The proceedings of all courts-martial take place normally in open court. The Press are represented at important hearings and have every opportunity of giving an accurate report of the proceedings, including the charges and the evidence given in each case.

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to say that there was, in fact, any Press representative present at this particular trial of Driver Fargie? Would it not be very much better that the evidence given in open court should be published and the charge published than that all kinds of false reports and rumours should get about which did much harm to discipline and which are altogether to be deprecated?

Yes, Sir. I am informed that the Press was fully represented at the time, and, for reasons that I have already given to the House, I think it would be quite wrong for the War Office or for authorities of any kind to try to feed the Press with a particular version of a trial. What we can do is to give the Press the fullest access to the reporting of a trial. I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member and sympathise very strongly with his contention that it is most important that these trials should be carefully and soberly reported.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that potted official versions of court-martial and other court proceedings are quite likely to be misleading and dangerous?

Dentures And Spectacles

33.

asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent soldiers have been supplied with dentures and spectacles during recent years; and if they are affected by the new proposals for payment for these services.

Since the introduction of the National Health Service, soldiers have been entitled to free dentures and spectacles like other members of the population. They are also provided as necessary with Service pattern spectacles for use under a gas mask. Previously they received free dentures and Service pattern spectacles only. The subject raised in the second part of the Question is at present under consideration.

Would my right hon. Friend assure us that a Brigadier with defective vision will not have to pay more for spectacles under the new provisions?

Bofors Ammunition (Allocation)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for War why the allocation of 40 mm. Bofors ammunition for use by light anti-aircraft regiments in practice camp this year is smaller than in 1950, in spite of the fact that such units are now responsible for training an increased number of Z reservists.

The hon. Member has been misinformed. The allotment of ammunition to Territorial Army light anti-aircraft regiments for 1951 is considerably higher than the scale for 1950. Regular light anti-aircraft regiments will not take Z reservists to practice camps in 1951 and will receive the same allotment of ammunition as for 1950.

Youth Organisations (Camping Equipment)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will reconsider the decision to discontinue the loan of camping equipment to youth organisations, in view of the importance of this equipment to the life and health of the youth of the nation.

This decision was taken only after very careful consideration and with great regret. The difficulty has of course been occasioned by the call-up of Z reservists.

Does not the Minister agree that many of these youth organisations cannot afford the hire charges for this equipment, that the amount of camping equipment concerned is relatively very small indeed, and that the training these people receive at a very early age is a very good foundation for the training they subsequently receive in their National Service?

I appreciate all those considerations, but we simply have not the camping equipment to lend or to hire to them this year. I am sorry about it.

Prisoners, Maryhill Barracks (Escape)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now make a statement on the recent escape of soldiers from Maryhill Barracks, Glasgow.

On 11th March, 1951, a number of prisoners who were being conducted back to their cells rushed the door, which was unlocked, and entered the compound yard. Eight succeeded in making their escape. Steps are being taken to ensure the completeness of guard orders and to improve the general supervision of the detention rooms.

Will the Minister say whether any of these prisoners have been recaptured and how many were National Service men?

Six have been recaptured. I cannot give the other information without notice.

Absentees, Rasc Barracks

39.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement in respect to the incident at the Royal Army Service Corps Buller Barracks on 19th April, when 46 boy soldiers absented themselves without leave.

Housing

Improvement Grants

40.

asked the Minister of Local Government and Planning how many rural authorities in Great Britain have refused to consider applications for improvement grants made under the provisions of the Housing Act. 1949.

I regret that this information is not available.

41.

asked the Minister of Local Government and Planning whether he has yet had an opportunity of considering the question of the facilities available for the improvement of existing houses in rural districts; and whether he is satisfied that the fullest use is being made of the facilities at present available under Part II of the Housing Act, 1949.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes"; to the second part "No."

Will the Minister again draw the attention of the local authorities to these conditions?

No, Sir. The local authorities know the law very well. This is purely optional and I want to be economical in circulating local authorities. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will sympathise with that.

Are not certain circulars which the Minister's predecessor sent to local authorities a deterrent to the issue of improvement grants? Will he look through those circulars and see whether he can make it easier for the improvement grants to be obtained?

44.

asked the Minister of Local Government and Planning what is the number of applications which have been made for improvement grants under the Housing Act, 1949; and the number of acceptances and refusals at the latest convenient date.

A total of 1,626 applications have been received. Grant has been approved for 482 and refused for 617. The remaining 527 cases are either under consideration or have been withdrawn.

Allocations, Dorset

42.

asked the Minister of Local Government and Planning whether he has yet received a report from his regional officer on the housing position in Dorset; and what action he is taking arising out of this report.

Yes, Sir. Additional allocations have been made to five local authorities in Dorset—and I hope they will build the additional houses as soon as possible.

Existing Premises (Use)

43.

asked the Minister of Local Government and Planning if he will give details of the requirements necessary to include premises under the headings under the title, "Use of Existing Premises," on page two of Command Paper 8199, Housing Summary, 28th February 1951.

This heading covers all dwellings except houses built since 31st March, 1945.

If a house has had one pane of glass replaced, is it included among the number of houses provided by the Socialist Government since the war?

I do not understand the supplementary question, but I do not see why the hon. Gentleman should not understand the document, which is perfectly simple.

Is not this a very unfavourable comparison of intellectual achievements on the part of the two Members?

Marriage And Divorce (Royal Commission)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether a decision has yet been taken as to the composition and terms of reference of the Royal Commission to consider the divorce laws.

I have been asked to reply.

The composition and terms of reference of the Royal Commission on marriage and divorce are under active consideration but I cannot yet make any further statement.

Statutory Instrument 413 (Laying)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to make a statement as to whether he intends to introduce legislation indemnifying the President of the Board of Trade and his officers, and any other persons concerned, from any con sequences arising from the irregularity in the laying of Statutory Instrument, 1951, No. 413, before this House.

I have been asked to reply.

It is very far from clear that the practice which has been followed since 1943 of laying with any Order, referring to separate Schedules, only those Schedules which it brings into force and not those which it continues in force and which have been previously laid, involves any irregularity on the part of anyone which would require indemnifying legislation. The Law Officers are, however, considering whether any legislation is necessary.

While I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's diminishing concern for the then President of the Board of Trade, may I ask him whether he is telling the House that a Department of State can exercise powers of delegated legislation with impunity while violating the conditions subject to which those powers were conferred upon them by this House?

I have much more respect for Parliamentary democracy than to say any such thing.

National Finance

Civil Servants' Pensions

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many retired civil servants are now in receipt of pension which was fixed in relation to the cost of living as at December, 1945, or before; and what would be the cost of granting them a supplementary pension commensurate with the increased cost of living since that date.

The pensions of civil servants are based on salary at retirement and are not related to the cost of living. The number of current pensioners who retired before the end of 1945 and the cost of their pensions could not be ascertained without a disproportionate amount of labour.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that since these pensions were fixed his Government have failed to control the cost of living and, owing to the rapid increase in the cost of living, these unfortunate people are suffering severely from having had their pensions fixed upon contributions made many years ago? Does he realise that they are suffering great hardship and that their case merits attention?

I could not agree that grave hardship is being suffered. It is true, of course, that the cost of living has gone up. Sometimes it goes up and sometimes it goes down. [HON. MEMBERS: "When does it go down?"] During the slump, when the Tory Party were in power. But the pensions are not fixed in accordance with the cost of living.

Money Prizes (Tax)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, under his regulations, peace prizes paid by foreign governments to individuals in this country are liable to United Kingdom Income Tax.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), on 17th April.

Could we not give the Dean of Canterbury as a peace prize to the Soviet Union?

The hon. Member will not expect me to say anything about the tax affairs of individual taxpayers.

Officials (Inspection Powers)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total number of officials authorised to carry out inspections and investigations without search warrant in private business and residential premises at 1st April.

In March the figure was 19,448, of whom 5,959 were authorised to enter private houses used exclusively as such.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, according to the figures given to the House by his predecessor last July, this represents an increase of 15,000 officials in that period? How does he account for that?

Because the Inland Revenue have taken over valuation duties from the local authorities.

Can my right hon. Friend say what proportion of these people exercise these powers under authority which came into existence prior to 1945?

By far the greater part of them, although I cannot give the exact figure.

Are these people allowed to enter private houses without making an appointment and without the permission of the owner?

No, Sir. There is a Question on the Order Paper a little later which deals with that point.

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements he has made for rating valuation officers to work outside their ordinary hours of duty if they wish to inspect a house which either is unoccupied during those hours or is owned by a person who wishes to be present during the visit and is himself working elsewhere during such hours.

No fresh arrangements are necessary as there is a standing instruction to valuation officers to meet all reasonable requests as to dates and times of inspection. The hon. Member can rest assured that if a property is unoccupied during office hours the inspection will be carried out at some other convenient time.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the innuendo in the valuation officer's letter to a householder which I sent him was that householders were made for the valuation officers and not the other way round?

I do not think that is really fair. The hon. Member and I have exchanged correspondence in this case, and I hope he will let the matter lie where it is now. The officer concerned has offered to meet the hon. Member's constituent and visit his house at a mutually convenient time.

Would the right hon. Gentleman make it perfectly clear to these officers that they must take every step to make arrangements and give notification of their arrival? If I give him an example of somebody who arrived at and entered into a house when it was unoccupied, and asked neighbours questions about that house, will he take action against that officer?

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us exactly the number of valuation officers now operating?

Cost Of Living

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes in policy he proposes to make to assist the old age pensioners out of work below the age of 70, married couples who pay no Income Tax, bachelors and spinsters with dependants, war disabled pensioners and persons living on superannuation or small savings to meet the increased cost of living.

Am I to understand from that reply that the right hon. Gentleman intends to do absolutely nothing for this class of people who are on static incomes? How does he expect them to be able to deal with the ever-increasing cost of living without any relief whatsoever?

There is no difficulty in finding candidates for increased payments from the State. It is more difficult to find opportunities for cutting down expenditure, in which I hope I shall have the benefit of the assistance of the House.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give his reasons for his differentiation between some sections of the community and others?

Hotel And Tourist Industry

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what sums were allocated to the hotel and tourist industry in this country out of Marshall Aid during each of the years in which we were receiving such assistance.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during that period some millions of money was spent on Marshall Aid in Austria, France, Greece and Italy? In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has given only about £200,000 to the tourist industry, will he bear in mind that this industry has been very much deprived of money in these years, whereas in enemy countries the industry was receiving this money?

I think the hon. Member must be referring to the use of the counterpart funds which, in our case were used for the retirement of debts. None was available, therefore, for payments to industries.

Typewriters (Customs Charge)

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Customs charge of £7 made on a typewriter sent by an American friend to Mr. A. Bishop, 19, Freeston, Street, Cleethorpes, who is totally blind and whose income is limited to a non-contributory pension and to a National Assistance allowance; and if he will have this charge reconsidered.

Customs duty of £3 10s. on this typewriter was correctly charged and has been paid, but following representation by the Lindsey Blind Society further inquiries are being made to ascertain whether special hardship arises in this particular case which would justify waiving the charge.

While I am obliged to the Chancellor for having given way in this case, may I ask him whether in all cases brought forward by a responsible society for the blind similar generous treatment will be given?

I want to make it plain that there is no question of my giving way. I have undertaken to look into the matter again at the request of this society and in similar circumstances I will always do the same.

Anglo-Argentine Agreement

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the reason for the inability of the Government to reach agreement with the Argentine Government.

65.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the progress of trade negotiations with the Argentine.

Agreement has now been reached and I would ask the hon. Members to await the statement which I hope to make after Questions.

Income Tax (Schedule A Assessments)

56.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in view of the hardship caused to a purchaser of a house which he had formerly rented in the area of the Bucklow, East Division on discovering that the Commissioners will not permit the Schedule A assessment to revert to the lower rate applicable to owner occupancy, he will give appropriate publicity to the divergent treatment accorded to these assessments solely by these particular Commissioners.

I feel sure the hon. Member's Questions, and my answers, have already given this matter appropriate publicity.

I would not say not enough publicity. I am sure we can rely on the hon. Member to take further steps in the matter if he thinks it really necessary.

57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much additional revenue has accrued annually for the last five years to the Treasury through the refusal of the Commissioners of Income Tax for the Division of Bucklow, East, to permit the reversion of the Schedule A assessments in their district to the lower rate applicable to owner-occupancy where appropriate, contrary to the general practice in the rest of the country.

Here is a little more publicity now. Will the right hon. Gentleman take the necessary steps to make the money available, as he has no right to the money he has extorted from my constituents?

I cannot take steps to make it available because I do not know what the assessment would otherwise have been.

Bank Notes (Increased Circulation)

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the amount of bank notes in circulation in 1928 was 137,000,000, in 1938 it had increased to 504,000,000 and in 1950 was 1,357,000,000; and if he will make an inquiry into the reasons for these in creases with a view to effecting a stricter control over the circulation of bank notes.

Yes, Sir, but I do not think any inquiry is called for. The increase in the note circulation almost certainly reflects changes in the economic situation and, in particular, the rise in money incomes.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that one of the main reasons for this enormous increase in the bank note circulation is the fact that certain traders have adopted the pernicious practice of making payments in cash instead of by cheque, and that the black marketeers trade in this way with the object of defrauding the Inland Revenue? Will he consider, if he agrees, the advisability of calling in the present bank notes in circulation in exchange for notes of another issue?

I am naturally concerned to prevent any form of tax evasion, but I doubt whether this particular form—this alleged form—really requires such a big step as calling in the whole of the note circulation.

Customs And Excise Officers (Salaries)

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he anticipates that negotiations will be commenced in connection with the request made by the Customs and Excise Federation on the 19th December, 1950, for revision of the salaries of officers of Customs and Excise.

An offer for salary revision has been communicated to the Customs and Excise Federation within the last few days, and discussions on the terms of the offer can proceed as soon as the Federation wishes.

Is it not a fact that this matter has been a grievance for some time past, and is it not also a fact that it will be a matter of great delight to these people that the matter is now being looked into?

I do not know that there has been any unusual delay in this, but a large number of similar claims have had to be dealt with at the same time.

Would the right hon. Gentleman look at the case of the Water-guard and give it special attention, in view of the fact that these men have to perform extra duty, as aircraft are taking off and arriving at all times of the night?

I am not sure whether that is covered by this particular claim. I will investigate.

Income Tax (Agricultural Machinery)

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the withdrawal of the initial allowance for Income Tax purposes will apply to agricultural machinery and equipment.

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the suspension of the initial allowance for industrial equipment applies to agriculture.

The Chancellor will remember saying, in regard to the withdrawal of the allowance from the shipbuilding industry, that there was a case for looking at the matter again. Is there not a strong case for looking at the matter from the point of view of agriculture, in view of the present importance of our food supplies?

No, Sir, I could not agree that there is any close analogy between those two cases.

I am not quite sure. Perhaps the hon. Member will let me have notice of that question.

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply mean that the initial allowances for Income Tax purposes are also withdrawn from commercial vehicles used for agricultural purposes?

Yes, they are withdrawn from the beginning of the fiscal year 1952–53 from all industry and agriculture.

If the Chancellor does not feel able to look at the matter now, will he look at it again at the time of next year's price review?

Building Societies (Income Tax And Surtax)

63.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there will be any change in the method of assessing Surtax on interest received from deposits and shares in building societies in the fiscal year 1951–52.

64.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what will be the composite rate of Income Tax chargeable to building societies in the fiscal year 1951–52.

The composite rate for 1951–52 has not yet been determined. The appropriate rate will be discussed with the Building Societies Association in due course.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the importance of getting the rate settled as early as possible in the year, because on some previous occasions the rate has only been agreed as late as December and it makes it very difficult for undertakings if they do not know the tax liability until such a late stage?

Ministerial Cars (Mileage Cost)

66.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in view of the additional cost of petrol and tyres, he now proposes to increase the cost per mile for the use of Ministerial cars for private purposes.

Does the Chancellor appreciate that through this very low charge he is now making for Ministerial cars, he is reducing his own cost of living and that of other Members on the Government Front Bench, while for everybody else the cost of living is going up?

Old Age Pensioners

67.

asked the Chancellor if he can now make any further statement concerning the relief of many of the old age pensioners from the burdens which even under the recent Budget will still be borne by them.