Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 2 August 1951

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Thursday, 2nd August, 1951

The House met at Eleven o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. Speaker in the Chair

Motor Vehicles (Offences)

Address For Return

"showing the number of offences relating to motor vehicles in England and Wales, the number of persons prosecuted for such offences, the results of the proceedings in magistrates' courts, and the number of alleged offences in respect of which written warnings were issued by the police, together with the number of persons concerned, during the year ended the 31st day of December, 1950."—[ Mr. de Freitas.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Multiple Executions

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will abolish the practice of multiple executions.

In England and Wales arrangements for judicial execution are the responsibility of the sheriff, who sometimes arranges for two, though not more, executions to be carried out simultaneously. On the information at present available I see no reason to suggest any change, though the matter will be reviewed in the light of any comments that the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment may see fit to make.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that some delay, however slight, must occur when the first person is brought to the scaffold, and that this is very undesirable? In view of the public disquiet on this matter, will my right hon. Friend have a look at the practice again?

I have very carefully examined it, and I understand that the arrangements are such that there is not the delay that my hon. and gallant Friend has suggested.

Stipendiary Magistrates (Pay)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in how many instances since the war, he has, after consultation with local authorities, authorised an increase in the salary of a stipendiary magistrate; and in how many instances he has confirmed the appointment of a new stipendiary at a salary higher than that of his predecessor.

Ten stipendiary magistrates have received increases in salary since the war, including three whose increases were granted with effect from 1st April, 1945. In one case, a higher salary was paid on a new appointment.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the fact' that the salaries of county court judges and Metropolitan magistrates are to be raised, he will, after consultation with the local authorities concerned, review the salaries of stipendiary magistrates.

While thanking the Home Secretary for the consideration that he is to give to this matter, may I ask if he could say when he is likely to come to a decision?

Negotiations with local authorities on matters like this are apt to be rather protracted, because even when willing to move they are not always prepared to go quite as far as I should like.

When dealing with the local authorities about stipendiary magistrates' salaries, will my right hon. Friend also consider the question of the salaries of magistrates' clerks?

The salaries of magistrates' clerks are matters for recommendations to me by the appropriate authority.

Surely the Minister could consult with the local authorities on this matter.

Trafalgar Square (Political Meetings)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many political meetings have been held in Trafalgar Square during the past year; and the number organised by each political party.

According to police records 29 meetings which might be described as being of a political nature were held in Trafalgar Square between 1st August, 1950, and 31st July, 1951. Eighteen different organisations sponsored meetings and I will, with permission, circulate the detailed list in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether most of the organisations responsible for these meetings were dominated by the Communist Party, and does he not think it quite wrong that political banners, no matter what party they belong to, should be displayed from the face of the Nelson statue?

It is very difficult to determine which of these bodies may have some affiliation with the Communist Party. Some of them certainly had not, I should think. I do not think that the London Housewives' Association is connected with them, nor the Sinn Fein Party. There are other bodies called "The Britons" and "Tottenham Nationalists." They do not seem to be Stalinist organisations, but I have no doubt some of the others are more or less Communist inspired. With regard to the banners, I do not think that it would be possible to disturb what is a well-established practice.

Details are as follow:

The following meetings of a political nature were held in Trafalgar Square between 1st August, 1950, and 31st July, 1951:

Organisers.

No. of Meetings.

United Irishmen3
London District Committee, Communist Party3
London Housewives' Association.3
Peace Pledge Union2
Anti-Partition of Ireland League2
Christian and Gentiles Front2
British Peace Committee2
Coloured Workers' Association2
British Empire Party1
London Peace Council1
Union Movement1
Ex-Service Movement for Peace1
Joint Trade Union Defence Committee1
London Trades Council1
Sinn Fein Party1
Equal Pay Campaign Committee1
National Federation of Old Age Pensioners Associations1
"The Britons" and "Tottenham Nationalists"1

Russian Ship, Plymouth (Shore Leave)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why his officers did not allow Russians on the training ship "Tovarisch," which put into Plymouth recently, to land.

No question arose of allowing any Russians ashore during the short call of the "Tovarisch" at Plymouth. The master informed the immigration authorities that he was not granting any shore leave, and placed an armed guard at the gangway to enforce his order.

That reply will clear up the confusion caused by newspaper reports, but does not the right hon. Gentleman think that we should take advantage of the far too, rare opportunities to extend the hand of friendship to the Russians?

If there had been any desire on the part of the master of the ship that shore leave should be granted we would have done what we could to assist him, and if any sailors had got off the ship in spite of the armed guard I have no doubt the hand of friendship would have been extended to them.

Is it not consistent with the name of this ship that there should be no obstacle to comradeship?

Mrs M Johnson, South Shields (Fine Remission)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements he made in South Shields on 14–15th July for communicating to the Press the decision to remit part of the fine imposed on Mrs. M. Johnson.

That the local representative of the Press Association should be informed on 16th July of the decision.

Can the Home Secretary say through what channel the information was to have been given to the representative of the Press Association?

Yes, Sir. That was made quite clear in the answers which were given last week.

I have the answers which were given last week in front of me. The right hon. Gentleman only said:

" I made arrangements that a proper communication should be made to [the Press]."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1951; Vol. 490, c. 2308.]
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what channel he utilised for the purpose?

The hon. Member himself, in a supplementary question, indicated that he knew the channel.

Why does the right hon. Gentleman not give a plain answer to a plain question?

Will the Home Secretary not agree that it is rather significant that this information came out at the time when he was in his own constituency having discussions with his agent?

No. It came out the day after I had been in the constituency. That was made quite clear to the House last week. I used my local secretary as the appropriate person to make a communication on my behalf to the Press.

Smoke Pollution

12.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, as representing the Lord President of the Council, if he will have two months' observations made and records taken on the smoke poured out, and of the amount and effect of smoke pollution caused by the tileries at Trent Vale, Fenton, Blurton and Longton Stoke-on-Trent and give consideration to the report.

No, Sir. My noble Friend has not the power of entry required to make these particular observations. It would not be possible from observations in the vicinity of the tileries to say how much pollution is caused by them.

If my hon. Friend's noble Friend has not that authority, who has? Is it the local authority? Is it not a fact that the men who are dealing with this matter are very public-spirited men, anxious to bring about great improvements, and that they desire more authority? Will my hon. Friend use his influence to see that this is given?

Under the Public Health Act, 1936, local authorities have power to enter and inspect premises to detect smoke nuisance. As to the last part of the supplementary question, they are all highly public-spirited men in the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the best information about firing tiles, pottery and other industrial products is available to the local authorities, whether they have sufficient staff to do the work and whether industrial organisations are asked to cooperate, because so much more could be done?

That question goes very much further than the Question on the Order Paper, which relates only to observations to be made by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Would it be a difficult question for my hon. Friend if I asked him whether he is aware that it is difficult to obtain a successful prosecution when there is smoke nuisance of this type? Further when success is obtained the fine is usually so low that the prosecution is not worth while.

I cannot go as far as that. It is beyond the matter in the original Question.

13.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department as representing the Lord President of the Council, if he can give the total solids per square mile created by smoke pollution during June, 1950, at Longton Stoke-on-Trent, Phillips Park, Manchester, Drinkwater Park, Salford, Trafford Park and Harrogate.

Stoke-on-Trent, 27 tons: Manchester, 54; Salford, 19; Trafford Park, no record; Harrogate, 3.

Do not these figures disclose a very unsatisfactory state of affairs? Seeing that our people are making such a great contribution to Britain's needs, is it not wrong that they should be living in these conditions, in view of the effect upon their physique? Will my hon. Friend do all that he possibly can to bring about radical improvements?

That question goes considerably further than the Question on the Order Paper. I am answering here for the Lord President of the Council, who is charged with responsibility for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. I am not answering with regard to action to be taken to rid the country of smoke pollution, but I will bring the remarks of my hon. Friend to the attention of those concerned.

Is my hon. Friend aware that over Pittsburgh there used to be a terrible pall of smoke but that they have now cleared the air? If that can be done in Pittsburgh why cannot it be done in Stoke-on-Trent?

I am well aware of the enormous improvements made at Pittsburgh. The figures which I gave are the average rate of deposit of solid matter in towns per square mile.

Is the Minister aware that a lot of this solid matter falls on two factories with which I am connected. and which emit no smoke at all?

National Health Service

Tuberculosis Patients (Diet)

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the increased difficulty experienced by tuberculosis sanatoria in providing an adequate diet for their patients, he will consult with the Minister of Food with a view to obtaining an increased meat ration for the patients in such sanatoria and also for other persons certified by a doctor as suffering from tuberculosis.

I have no evidence of such difficulty as the hon. Member suggests, and I am advised that the present national diet is not inadequate for tuberculosis patients. They will, of course, have the benefit of the increases now taking place in the general meat ration.

Is the Minister aware that palatibility is one of the main things to work for in this form of dietary? Would he put the matter to his special diet committee for further consideration?

Proprietary Medicines

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is aware that some proprietary medicines are not only expensive but useless; and what action he contemplates taking in order to protect the public;

(2) whether he will initiate an examination of the manufacture of proprietary medicines.

There is already a considerable degree of legislative control over proprietary medicines and I have the matter generally under constant consideration. If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any suggestions which he has in mind, I will gladly consider them.

Has my right hon. Friend considered the action that has been taken in France to bring about an improvement in this direction? If he has, can be tell us, briefly, what the French have done and whether he will consider doing something similar here?

I have been aware, since my hon. Friend put his Question down, that there are special provisions in France, but I am sorry that I have not yet had time to study them.

In the consideration that the right hon. Gentleman gives to this matter will he bear in mind that the word "proprietary" covers not only the useless but the immensely valuable products as well, and that it is very desirable that there should be a clarification of terms in this matter?

It is certainly true—I hope that my answer has not erred in this connection—that there are very valuable proprietary medicines.

I am not aware that my right hon. Friend's answer has dealt with the point in Question No. 16, in which I ask whether he will initiate an examination into the manufacture of proprietary medicines. Will he tell us whether an examination is being made into the ethical and the non-ethical, the useless and the useful?

The Central Health Services Council have a special subcommittee, the Joint Committee on Prescribing, under Sir Henry Cohen, which is surveying the whole field of prescribing. They include a survey of the whole field of pharmaceutical preparations available for prescribing.

Is it not a fact that a large proportion of these proprietary medicines are a god-send for the treatment of minor complaints in the home, and that they all, so far as we know, conform to a very high standard of preparation?

While recognising the force of what was said by the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not agree that there are sufficient of these so-called "proprietary medicines" whose efficacy is doubtful and whose prices represent a fantastic racket? In taking this matter into account, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the impatience that exists in all parts of the House at the fact that this question has been discussed time and time again for six years? Hon. Members are becoming very impatient about it.

Quite a number of proprietary medicines and preparations have already been listed by Sir Henry Cohen's Committee and the names of those which are not desirable for prescribing have been notified to general practitioners.

Is it not a fact that a large number of proprietary medicines are prescribed by physicians?

Is it not the case that the French forbid the distribution of unethical and useless proprietary medicines?

I have not had time to inquire into so many questions about the French system.

I well remember that there was an hon. Member on that side of the House, whom the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) will also remember, who spoke up vehemently in favour of a proprietary remedy for tuberculosis by which he said he had been cured. It was quite contrary to all medical experience, but it had done him a great deal of good.

Child's Death, Bradford

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take with respect to the hospitals concerned arising from the verdict of a Bradford coroner's jury in the case of Eileen Cunliffe.

I have asked the Regional Hospital Board to ensure that it is clearly understood at each of the hospitals concerned that in no circumstances may a patient who needs immediate admission to hospital be sent on to another hospital while still an "emergency" and that the casualty departments are always under the effective supervision of experienced medical officers.

I am informed that, after a very full investigation of the case, the Board have drawn the attention of the medical officer concerned at the Children's Hospital to the fact that she was seriously at fault in not seeing the child; and have informed the then senior surgical registrar at the Royal Infirmary that in their opinion he could not escape full responsibility for failure to admit her. The Board have decided that the casualty officer at the latter hospital should be completely exonerated from all blame.

While I thank my right hon. Friend for the personal attention which he has paid to the unfortunate case in Bradford, do I understand that he has now given general instructions to hospitals throughout the country that, where an accident or emergency case is taken to a hospital, the first hospital that receives the patient should give immediate attention even if it is necessary later to transfer the patient to a more appropriate hospital?

I have made special representations to the Regional Board responsible for the hospital where this deplorable event occurred. There is no evidence that similar instructions need be issued to hospitals generally, but the senior administrative medical officers of all regional boards have had the facts of this and similar cases brought to their notice and have been asked to look into the whole question of the admission and treatment of casualties of this kind.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Press were not admitted to the inquiry into the case? Does he not think it undesirable and against the public interest that proceedings of this character affecting public institutions should be held in private? Is he aware that I have here a letter from a juryman at the inquest alleging that perjury was committed by a person or persons when giving evidence on oath at the inquiry? In view of this will he cause the whole of the proceedings to be made public, so that the allegations may be seen to be justified or not?

I feel that I cannot reply to the serious allegations contained in the second part of that supplementary question, of which I have had no notice and for which I doubt if I have responsibility anyway. As for the first part of the supplementary question, the hon. Member should realise that where the professional reputation and integrity of people is concerned it is desirable that they should have the full opportunity of legal representation, which they did in this case, and an opportunity to state their case without the Press being present.

Is it the intention of my right hon. Friend to give instructions to regional boards in the light of the supplementary question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy)?

No, Sir. I have explained that we have drawn this situation to the attention of the senior administrative medical officers of other regional boards where we are not aware of any such errors having been committed.

Is not the essence of the whole trouble that no patient should be turned away from hospital without being medically examined?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very serious concern which is felt not only in Bradford but throughout the country as a result of this very unfortunate case? Is he also aware that he would find general agreement on all sides of the House that everything possible should be done to prevent a recurrence of this type of case in any other part of the country and that the feeling of the House would undoubtedly be that he should give general instructions to make sure that no regional boards, hospital committees, or management committees, or whatever officials may be affected, make an error of this unfortunate character in future?

I believe that I have taken all reasonable steps. As the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) said, the essence of it is that errors of professional practice were committed in this instance. By drawing the attention of administrative medical officers to this possibility and asking them to ensure that it cannot possibly occur in their areas I feel that I have done all that is reasonable and practicable.

When the Minister says that he has no authority to deal with the points raised in my supplementary question, does he mean that he has no authority to cause the proceedings of the inquiry to be made public?

I have no authority over the courts. If I understood the hon. Member's supplementary question correctly, he made an allegation about the proceedings at the coroner's court.

I asked the Minister to cause the proceedings to be made public. I now repeat that request.

On a point of order. I understood the second part of the supplementary question put by the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. W. J. Taylor), to include the allegation that he had received a letter from a juryman at the inquest alleging that there was perjury before the coroner's court. Perjury before any court is a criminal offence. Surely the duty of the hon. Member is to convey that letter very promptly to the police, and not put Questions in the House.

May I have your Ruling, Mr. Speaker? Is it not the duty of an hon. Member to raise an important issue of this kind in the House?

I suppose that that is so, but we had better get on to the next Question.

Now that these serious allegations have been made, will my right hon. Friend see that a reply is made so that public confidence in this matter shall be restored?

I am sure that the attention of the Minister responsible will be drawn to the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. W. J. Taylor).

Medical Practitioners (Pay)

asked the Minister of Health if he is now able to state his decision on the request from the conference of local medical committees that the long-standing dispute on the remuneration of general practitioners in the National Health Service be referred for arbitration.

As there appears to be a dispute between the medical committees and the National Health Service, will my right hon. Friend now refer the matter to the Minister of Labour with a view to the appointment of an arbitrator so that the matter can be discussed in the same manner as ordinary industrial disputes?

There is no dispute. An exchange of views is taking place. My latest letter will be on its way very shortly.

Handicapped Persons

20.

asked the Minister of Health what is the present composition of his Advisory Council for the Welfare of Handicapped Persons; and whether he is satisfied that adequate representation is given to Welsh interests.

70.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will publish the names of those representing Welsh interests on his Advisory Council for the Welfare of Handicapped Persons; when this council last met; how many times it has met since 1st January, 1951; and what recommendations it has made in so far as handicapped persons in Wales are particularly concerned.

I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement showing the present composition of the Advisory Council. I am satisfied that there is adequate representation of Welsh interests. The Council has met once this year on 1st March. The advice which my right hon. Friend received from it relates to the welfare of handicapped persons throughout England and Wales and has not been framed on a geographical basis.

Following are the names:

Edward Evans, Esq., C.B.E., M.P. (Chairman); Fraser Brockington, Esq., M.A., M.D., D.P.H.; Alderman Mrs. Kathleen Chambers, J.P.; J. Rhaiadr Jones, Esq.; K. P. McDougall, Esq.; Councillor R. Malcolm; Councillor Miss May O'Conor; Sir Geoffrey Peto, K.B.E.; Alderman Mrs. L' Estrange Malone, M.A., J.P.; Godfrey Robinson, Esq. M.C.; T. H. Smith, Esq.; J. D. Spillane, Esq., M.D., M.R.C.P.; Alderman Mrs. G. Tebbutt; H. Willard, Esq.

21 and 22.

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he has yet considered the recommendations of his Advisory Council for the Welfare of Handicapped Persons; and whether he proposes to publish these recommendations, in view of the concern of local authorities in regard to their obligations under the National Assistance Act;

(2) whether he proposes to issue directions to local authorities in respect of the welfare clauses of the National Assistance Act. in regard to disabilities other than blindness.

My right hon. Friend will be issuing a circular to local authorities on the provision of welfare services for handicapped persons other than the blind, based on the recommendations he has received from his Advisory Council, in the course of the next few weeks.

Is my hon. Friend aware that his reply will be received with pleasure, because local authorities are very much concerned about how they should act on this questions?

I am aware that they are anxious to put some of these proposals into force.

Confinements, Monmouthshire

28.

asked the Minister of Health how many domiciliary confinements were attended by midwives in the public service in Monmouthshire during the year ended 31st December, 1950 and in how many of these confinements was gas and air administered.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these figures reveal that there were 846 mothers who did not receive gas and air treatment, although every midwife in Monmouthshire has the equipment? Can he say why they received no gas and air treatment?

Before foisting upon the public this useless, out-moded and expensive analgesia, will my right hon. Friend ascertain why the women are not taking advantage of it?

I will make what inquiries I can, but it is rather difficult to find out exactly what happened in cases which I hope, are now happily delivered.

29.

asked the Minister of Health the number of domiciliary confinements in Monmouthshire during the year ended 31st December, 1950, at which a doctor was present; and the number which were carried out by midwives only.

Is it not very important that we should know whether or not a doctor was present at the confinements in Monmouthshire?

I was very anxious to give the hon. Lady the information, but it is difficult to get it because the boundaries of the administrative arrangements of the midwifery service do not coincide with the administrative boundaries of the county.

Is there any constitutional precedent for the exchange of constituencies between the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft)?

In view of the fact that my right hon. Friend has not been able to give the information asked of him in the question, would he consider approaching the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) and asking him for his aid in this matter?

Medical Treatment, Switzerland

32.

asked the Minister of Health what reasons were given by the Swiss Government for being unwilling to reciprocate by making medical attention and hospital treatment available free of charge to British visitors to Switzerland.

The Swiss Government have stated that their domestic legislation does not enable them to grant such reciprocity.

Is the Minister aware that a constituent of mine who was recently on holiday in Switzerland became ill, had to go into hospital and received a bill for£70 for treatment? Does he not think it monstrous that Swiss citizens here who become ill while on holiday should get free treatment, while British citizens in Switzerland should not?

Nothing would please me more than if the Swiss Government would establish a national health service, but until they do so there is nothing to be done about it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Swiss Government and to other Governments to co-operate in this matter?

Will my right hon. Friend make representations through the usual channels to try to persuade Members of the Opposition to advertise the Health Service of this country when they go abroad?

Kingston Victoria Hospital

33.

asked the Minister of Health for what purpose the Kingston Victoria Hospital is at present being used.

The necessary work is in hand for conversion to use as a gynaecological unit.

In view of the allegation of the regional board about the urgent need of this hospital for its new purpose, can he say when it will be available for use?

I cannot say for certain when it will be available, but the work of painting and flooring is proceeding, and the electrical and plumbing work has to be done after that. I cannot give a firm date.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very general feeling in the neighbourhood that this work is taking a very long time, having regard to the alleged urgency, and will he look into the matter to see if it can be expedited in any way?

Dismissed Employees (Appeal)

34.

asked the Minister of Health what arrangements he proposes to make whereby employees in the Health Service who are dismissed from their employment may have a right of appeal to an independent tribunal.

39.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will ask the Hospital Administrative and Clerical Staffs Whitley Council to consider, as a matter of urgency, the drawing up of a code of procedure for dealing with disciplinary cases.

This is a matter for the General Whitley Council, not for any particular council, because it concerns all grades of staff. The General Council has been discussing it for some time and I am very disappointed that an agreement has not been reached. In the meantime. I am issuing a memorandum of guidance on the subject to employing authorities.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has already issued a memorandum on this matter to the hospital boards on the procedure to be followed, and, if so, whether the procedure outlined therein is now being adopted?

I approved the final draft of the circular a week or so ago. I do not think that it could have reached the regional hospital boards yet.

Ineducable Children, Birmingham

35.

asked the Minister of Health how many ineducable children there are in Birmingham certified to be in need of institutional care but unable to obtain admission; how many have been waiting for more than two years; and what steps his department is taking to provide additional accommodation for such cases.

There are 142 mentally defective children under 16 in the City of Birmingham awaiting admission to institutional care and of that number 69 have been waiting for more than two years. Regional boards have been asked to give high priority to the provision of additional accommodation for such children within the limits imposed by the present economic situation.

While appreciating the Minister's answer, may I ask if he does not realise that this need is causing very grave anxiety throughout the whole of the Midlands, as it is hardly possible to-obtain a vacancy throughout the whole of the Midlands? Does he not think that there should be much closer investigation and inquiry into this matter, because it is causing considerable anxiety to parents who are unable to control very difficult children?

I am aware of the seriousness of this problem. I am sorry to say that it can be found in other parts of the country as well as the Midlands. I am doing all that I can administratively, by encouragement of the enrolment of nurses and by pressure on the regional boards, to provide more accommodation.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people in the Midlands, including specialists, teachers, and laymen, feel that there are perhaps children in these institutions who might safely be released and thus afford beds for much worse cases?

Yes, Sir, and the possibilities of release are continuously under review.

Skin Hospital, Birmingham

36.

asked the Minister of Health how long the children's ward of the Skin Hospital, Birmingham, has been closed, when it is likely to be reopened; and what alternative arrangements have been made for children in need of hospital treatment.

The ward was closed on 7th February and it is expected that it will re-open on 15th August. During the closure, beds have been available in side wards in the Skin Hospital and in other local hospitals.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that I have had recently a case of a child who had been under hospital treatment for two and a half years, who was admitted in November and discharged in December and has not been able to be re-admitted since February last? It is a very grave matter if children are unable to get treatment for skin diseases for so many months.

Yes, but I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that the hospital was closed because of an outbreak of chicken-pox. The closing has been followed by some redecoration. The hospital is to be re-opened on 15th August, and if the case which my hon. Friend has in mind is not then admitted I hope he will communicate with me.

Tuberculosis Beds, Bristol

37.

asked the Minister of Health how many tuberculosis beds are now available in the Bristol area; how many persons are waiting for sanatoria treatment; and what action he is taking to meet the increased demand for treatment and to induce nurses to enter this service.

On 30th June, 1951, there were 425 staffed beds and a waiting list of 96. By using spare accommodation in general and isolation hospitals, 59 additional beds had been provided since July, 1950, and 15 more will be opened shortly. More nursing staff has been made available by the introduction of comprehensive training schemes which link the beds with large general hospitals.

Will my right hon. Friend utilise beds that are set aside for other purposes and are not in use, and, at the same time, consult the T.B. specialists in the area on this question?

The waiting list has been halved since June, 1950, and I think that great progress is being made. I am satisfied that the board are devoting their attention in every possible way to this serious problem.

Cortisone

38.

asked the Minister of Health why the import of cortisone on private account is forbidden.

Such imports are not recommended because my Department is already importing the maximum quantity of this drug obtainable from the U.S.A. and distributing it for clinical research and for hospital treatment of cases which, on medical grounds, are most in need. Private imports would make it difficult for me to expand, or even to maintain, these arrangements.

I must emphasise that, like A.C.T.H., cortisone is still experimental and requires careful, continual biochemical investigation of the patient during treatment. For this reason, it is inadvisable to treat patients away from hospital and laboratory facilities. Carelessness in the use of the drug and omission of these precautions can have serious and unpredictable results. A longer period of experimental investigation is, therefore, essential.

What happens in the case of a person genuinely requiring treatment by cortisone who lives in a distant part of the country, remote from a hospital where the drug is obtained? Can such a person's doctor obtain the drug and administer the treatment?

For the reasons I have given, it is necessary that the treatment takes place in hospital. I have no doubt that there are persons who would benefit from this treatment who are not able to get it, but we are importing the maximum available and we are treating suitable cases with it. In the circumstances, I do not see that more can be done.

Is the Minister not aware of the case of one of my constituents—a Mr. Kent, of Sheffield—who is between life and death and who requires this drug very urgently? I have appealed to the Minister, but delay is still taking place. If that man is allowed to die without some of this drug being used a very serious state of affairs will arise.

Is the Minister not aware that the statement he has made represents the general view of those engaged in this work, and that it is undesirable in the public interest to deal with this subject in relation to individual hard cases until there has been a period of examination and experiment?

I am very grateful indeed for that supplementary question. I made a long answer purposely, because it has been so much impressed upon me by my medical advisers that we must proceed very cautiously.

42.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will encourage the establishment of a factory in this country for the production of cortisone, as he did in regard to the manufacture and production of aureomycin.

Yes, Sir. I will certainly consider sympathetically any proposals designed to achieve this object.

As the Minister knows, and as I have said before, despite what has been said by my distinguished Friend the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), cortisone is regarded by very able physicians as affording the only relief for arthritis. As the right hon. Gentleman has been so successful in encouraging the manufacture of aureomycin, will he not do his best to facilitate supplies and experiments as quickly as possible?

I understand that an approach has already been made to my Department, and we are giving it all the help we can.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) is asking for the establishment of another nationalised industry?

Identity Cards

24.

asked the Minister of Health if he will specify in detail the purposes for which identity cards are still required.

Identity cards are an essential part of the national registration system, which continues to render valuable services in connection with National Service, security, food rationing, the National Health Service and the administration of other services such as family allowances and post-war credits. The possession of an identity card enables the holder to obtain a new ration book and to withdraw money from the Post Office Savings Bank with the minimum of formality; it simplifies the process of obtaining a passport; it makes it unnecessary to produce a birth certificate in support of a claim for the payment of post-war credits; and it avoids difficulty in establishing identity when applying for dental or other treatment or to be placed on a doctor's list.

Is not food rationing the only service mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman which we did not have before the war? Can he explain why we managed before the war to draw money out of the Post Office Savings Bank and to enjoy most of the other services he mentioned without having identity cards?

Yes, Sir, but there is no doubt that the existence of a National Register greatly facilitates these matters. It makes them easier than they were before the war.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the only people who are seriously disadvantaged by the regulations concerning identity cards are those who break the law? Will he resist the blandishments of the Opposition, which are designed to enable him to help such antisocial persons?

How does the National Registration card affect the need for a birth certificate in the case of the redemption of post-war credits, since the date of birth is not stated on the card?

I am advised that the quotation of the National Registration number on the application form enables the date of birth to be checked efficiently and economically.

Why are identity cards required by opticians and dentists before spectacles and teeth are provided under National Health Insurance arrangements? What use is made of these registration numbers by the Ministry of Health?

There is, of course, no National Health Insurance in this country. (HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is a very common misunderstanding and I like to take every opportunity to correct it. If there were no National Register I should have to invent a register of my own for the National Health Service for the purpose of identifying the persons who use the Health Service.

31.

asked the Minister of Health whether under his regulations dental and medical practitioners are entitled to demand the production of their patients' national identity cards for the purposes of inserting these particulars on his department's forms.

No, Sir. Patients desiring treatment under the National Health Service are asked to give their National Registration numbers as an additional means of identification and normally do so.

In view of this answer, will the Minister reconsider the answer given to me on 5th July and discontinue the practice of compelling doctors and dentists to put identity numbers on all papers submitted to his office? If they have not the right to demand the production of the card, it is very difficult for them to be certain of the accuracy of the numbers they put on the forms.

I agree that it is difficult if patients do not co-operate, but I cannot see any easy remedy for that. It means that a lot of additional administrative work has to be done.

As the Health Service is available to every inhabitant in this country, will he explain how it is impossible to continue the service without the use of the identity card?

I do not say that it is impossible, but it is enormously more convenient to have numbers.

Names would not do, but if the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) had lived in Wales, as I have, he would know that there are thousands of David John Williams, and it is necessary to have numbers, which do no one any harm.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how they got on in Wales, in the days before the National Health Service, without identity cards?

I am quite certain that they had a great deal of trouble; but they also had numbers then.

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Films (Distribution)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Newsreel Association are refusing to show films taken by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Persia unless the company supply films only to members of the Association; and whether, in those circumstances, he will arrange to have news items of events in Persia, taken by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, distributed on commercial terms through the Central Office of Information during such period as the Newsreel Association refuses to allow the films to be distributed to all British newsreels.

I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir, I know of one such instance, but I do not think it would serve any useful purpose for the Central Office of Information to distribute films of this sort.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there have been many such instances, and that on the opening of Parliament by His Majesty the companies who are members of the Newsreel Association then said that unless they had a monopoly they would see that no films of the Royal opening were shown? Is it not altogether a bad thing, particularly with regard to a vehicle of public opinion, that these restrictive practices should continue? Cannot my right hon. Friend use his own film unit to break these restrictive practices?

My hon. Friend's Question refers to films about Persia, and I said that I knew of one such instance. I do not think that it would be suitable for the Central Office of Information to start newsreel distribution; it certainly is not equipped to do so. Equally, I do not think that it would be wise for the Government to attempt to dictate what should appear in newsreels any more than to dictate what should appear in newspapers.

Are we to assume from my right hon. Friend's reply that he has no very strong views at all about propriety of the action taken by this Association? If he has no views, would he consult with Members of the Opposition in an endeavour to break this most vicious "closed shop"?

My hon. Friend is quite wrong in supposing that I have no views on this matter.

Surely this is not a question of what should go into newsreels. The films in question have been taken by officers of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The Prime Minister said the other day that he wished to encourage the maximum showing of anything which gave the British point of view in the Persian oil dispute, and here we have some film companies saying that they will only show this material of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company provided that no other companies are allowed to have it. Surely, this is a state of affairs which the Government cannot view with equanimity.

I did not say that I viewed it with equanimity. I said that I did not think the Government should dictate what should appear in newsreels.

Are not the Government a chief shareholder in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and are not the Government therefore directly interested in a matter which should be referred to the Monopolies Commission, who would, however, take much too long to deal with it effectively?

The Government is, of course, a shareholder in this company, but we are talking about newsreel companies. There was a Question to my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade about the monopoly aspect of this matter.

Marriage Laws (Royal Commission)

46.

asked the Prime Minister when he anticipates that the Royal Commission on the Marriage Laws will be finally constituted.

I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend hopes that it will be possible to make an announcement very shortly.

As the appointment of this Royal Commission was rather grudgingly conceded in the first instance, may we have an assurance that the authorities concerned are not halfhearted in getting it constituted, because, on its final decision the solution of scores of thousands of human tragedies will depend?

Yes, but delay is not the responsibility of my right hon. Friend. People invited to serve do not always answer by return of post.

Minister's Speech (Personal Incomes)

47.

asked the Prime Minister if the speech of the Secretary of State for War at Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire on 28th July on the redistribution of personal incomes, represents the policy of His Majesty's Government.

I am not sure to which passage the hon. Member is referring, but the speech was primarily a broad description by my right hon. Friend of the ultimate aims of Socialism rather than a statement on immediate issues of Government policy.

Will the Home Secretary ask the Prime Minister to restrain these speeches by irresponsible demagogues of his Government?

In view of the statement of the Home Secretary and that of the Minister of Defence in America, that he is a better judge of beauty contests than rifles, will he arrange for the Minister of Defence to join the staff of Elizabeth Arden over there?

Agriculture

Public House Land (Court Case)

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been drawn to the decision of the Court of Appeal, Dunn v. Fidoe, 1950, whereby a brewery company leasing a public house, with land attached, on a yearly tenancy, is adjudged to have acquired a title to the land in perpetuity subject only to an appeal to him under Section 25 (1, d) of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, and that this title can be assigned to another company; and whether he will take action to remedy this anomaly.

My right hon. Friend is aware of the decision of the Court of Appeal, to which the hon. Member refers, which was that on the facts of that particular case the public house concerned, and the land attached to it, comprised an agricultural holding for the purposes of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948. Since before the proceedings were taken, the Agricultural Land Tribunal had withheld their consent to the operation of a notice to quit given by the landlord to the tenant, such notice is now ineffective.

It is not true, however, to say that the tenant has thereby acquired a title to the land in perpetuity. The nature of the tenant's interest is entirely unchanged by the Court's decision that the holding is an agricultural holding for the purposes of the Act. The tenant is only entitled to such security of tenure as that Act gives to tenants.

Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to cases on similar lines? Will he see that in such cases the public house and the land can be vacated without encountering the difficulties which were encountered in the case to which I have referred?

If the hon. Member is thinking in terms of removing what appears to him an anomaly in this connection, my reply is that that can only be done by amendment of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948. Any alteration on these lines can only be done by amendments to that Act.

I hope that in the near future we may have an amendment to that Act on these lines.

Tyler's Common, Upminster

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what action he proposes to take following upon the application made to him by a number of commoners of Tyler's Common, Upminster, to convene a meeting in accordance with Section 1 of the Commons Act, 1908, to make regulations for the turning out of animals on the common.

My right hon. Friend has invited the applicants, through their solicitors, to supply him with further information. This has now been received and is being examined. No decision to summon a meeting will, however, be taken in any event until the Essex County Council have had a reasonable time in which to carry out their expressed intention of investigating the existence of the alleged rights of common.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Essex County Council have had over a year to carry out this examination, and that they have illegally enclosed this common and let it to one of their members? Will my hon. Friend see that immediate and further support is given to the commoners to show a far greater interest in and observation of the law than Essex County Council?

My right hon. Friend will, of course, consider the representations of my hon. and learned Friend.

Is my hon. Friend aware that more than two months ago full evidence was submitted to the Essex County Council, including photostats of the rolls of the manor, showing that from all the evidence available this was a public common?

As far as my right hon. Friend is concerned a meeting under the 1908 Act would almost certainly prove abortive, or at least premature, while any dispute of the right of common exists and it would not be possible to summon a meeting until they have satisfied themselves about the existence of common rights.

Remote Areas (Transport)

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what protests he has recently received from agricultural executive committees on the withdrawal of transport facilities in remote rural areas; and what steps he is taking to support the agricultural executive committees in this matter.

County agricultural executive committees making representations to my right hon. Friend as they sometimes do—about the withdrawal of transport facilities are usually advised that where public service vehicles are involved, the procedure prescribed in the Road Traffic Acts should be followed. On the whole that procedure is satisfactory, but in any case my right hon. Friend has no power to intervene.

Is the Minister aware that Wiltshire Agricultural Executive Committee and the Wiltshire branch of the National Farmers' Union have put in a request that a bus service to a village in my constituency, namely, Ridge, should be restored in the interests of agriculture? Having regard to the fact that this service operated for 25 years until it was withdrawn after nationalisation, will the hon. Gentleman press his colleague the Minister of Transport to restore this and similar services?

I understand that the Minister of Transport has explained the whole position in recent correspondence with the hon. Member.

Rabbit Traps

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what are the results of his experiments with suitable rabbit traps to replace the gin-trap; and can he give any indication as to when these alternative traps will be on the market.

I cannot, at present, add to the answer my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) on 12th July.

While appreciating the humane quantities of the Minister of Agriculture, may I ask if the hon. Gentleman is not aware that the public—including farmers—are becoming very gravely concerned at the continuous use of this barbarous instrument, the gin-trap?

My right hon. Friend is very anxious that the experiments taking place should be absolutely complete before we encourage the placing of this instrument on the market.

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the results of the voluntary area schemes initiated under his auspices last year for the reduction of the rabbit population.

The work of organising co-operative schemes has made good progress in many counties and is being steadily extended. In some counties good results have already been achieved, but the full effect of the cam- paign will not be felt until after the autumn attack.

What has been reported as the most successful method of reducing the rabbit population?

Would my hon. Friend explain the extraordinary circumstances in which rabbits are regarded as vermin? If that is the case, and voluntary area schemes are being encouraged, why is it that the housewife is ruthlessly fleeced when buying dead rabbits, which are regarded by his Department as vermin?

That is a question for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food, not for my Department.

Opencast Sites (Restoration)

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has now completed his examination in consultation with the National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners Association of the further steps to be taken to improve the technique of restoration of agricultural land on which opencast coalworking has taken place so as to minimise the loss to food production; and, if so, with what result.

Yes, Sir. Those consultations have taken place, and in addition to improvements in the machinery for effective supervision of the restoration work itself, including the arrangement for site meetings between all the interested parties, improved standards of restoration will be brought into force as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made.

The main improvements are, first, that the area on which the topsoil will be separately stripped and preserved for re-spreading will be extended so as to include not only the actual excavated area but also any of the requisitioned land expected to be substantially damaged by the movement of vehicles and plant; second, in deciding to what extent subsoil should be stripped and replaced the distinctions hitherto made between arable and grassland sites will be abandoned; and, finally, after the completion of the soiling operations the sites will be maintained under the supervision of the agricultural Departments for a longer period of special agricultural treatment with a view to ensuring that the land is handed back in a condition in which it can be satisfactorily farmed under the ordinary rules of good husbandry.

In Scotland, the responsibility for restoring opencast sites rests of course with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and he joins with my right hon. Friend in commending these arrangements to the House, as we have to the agricultural industry, as a real advance in restoration policy which, we consider, goes as far as is reasonably practicable in harmonising the vital and continuing need to win opencast coal with the no less vital need to safeguard the agricultural productivity of the land.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the correct method is adopted when the workmen begin to remove the overburden of the soil in the initial stages of working an opencast site?

I gather that a promise to consider that point has been given both by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power.

Sea Fishing, Sussex (Poaching)

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many persons have been summoned, and what fines have been imposed on persons contravening the provisions of the Sea Fishing Industries (Immature Sea Fish) Order, 1948, on the Sussex coast during the year ended 31st March, 1951.

Four persons were convicted during this period for offences against the Immature Sea Fish Order, 1948. The offenders were discharged on payment of costs amounting in three cases to three guineas and in the fourth case to one guinea.

In view of the fact that the maximum penalty under this Order is£50, plus confiscation of catch, and I believe, confiscation of gear, and as many of the offenders are foreign, does the hon. Gentleman consider that these penalties are adequate and will stop this form of poaching?

That is another question, which I think ought to be put on the Order Paper.

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what cases of poaching in territorial waters by foreign fishing craft on the Sussex coast have been brought to his notice during the year ended 31st March, 1951.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary now answer the supplementary question I put on my previous Question, about foreigners poaching in our waters?

The answer has been given that over this period there has been no case. The efficiency of the patrol vessels has, I think, been established.

Industrial Disputes (New Order)

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

82.

, —To ask the Minister of Labour whether he has yet reached agreement with both sides of industry as to the future of Statutory Order No. 1305; and if he is in a position to make a statement.

Yes, Sir. I am glad to say that as a result of my discussions I am in a position to present to the House a new Order carrying the broad agreement of both sides of industry to replace the Conditions of Employment and National Arbitration Order, commonly known as Order 1305. I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the public-spirited and statesmanlike approach to this problem that has been shown by the British Employers' Confederation, the General Council of the Trades Union Congress and the representatives of the Nationalised Industries in the course of these discussions.

The House will recall that the existing Order was a war-time measure, continued in force after 1945 with the agreement of both sides of industry on the understanding that it could be revoked at any time at the request of either side. In my opinion, the time has arrived when, for a number of reasons, the Order must be reviewed. To take one instance, experience has shown that the enforcement of penal sanctions against persons taking part in strikes and lockouts gives rise to extreme difficulties.

I have now made a new Order, to come into effect on 14th August, which will revoke Order 1305 and will provide a ready means for dealing with disputes that cannot otherwise be settled. The provisions of the Order are framed to develop and strengthen the voluntary systems of negotiation and to uphold the sanctity of agreements and awards.

With this in view, access to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal which is set up will be limited to employers, organisations of employers and trade unions that habitually take part in the settlement of terms and conditions of employment through voluntary machinery established in the industry where such machinery exists. If there is no such machinery, access will be limited to the employer concerned and the trade union that represents a substantial proportion of the workers.

The Order contains no provision prohibiting lockouts or strikes but I will have discretion to refuse access to the Tribunal where action is being taken resulting in a stoppage of work or in a substantial breach of agreement between the parties. Such matters as the employment or non-employment of a worker and claims for reinstatement are excluded from the Order. Experience has shown that such matters are not susceptible to settlement by compulsory arbitration.

There will be no possibility of using the machinery as an appeal against an award under the Industrial Courts Act or settlements reached through the voluntary machinery. While there will no longer be a general obligation on all employers to observe recognised terms and conditions of employment or terms and conditions not less favourable than the recognised terms and conditions, the Order provides machinery for settling issues of this kind in respect of particular employers. Copies of the Order are immediately available in the Vote Office.

This new Order is experimental. That is our way of doing things in this country. I have informed the representatives of the organisations with whom I have had discussions that if at any time either side wish the Order to be discontinued it will be reviewed immediately. But I venture to hope that this may not be necessary and that the Order may provide a piece of machinery suitable for our peacetime requirements and capable of rendering the maximum assistance to industry in the settlement of disputes peaceably without recourse to lockout or strike.

Our industrial relations system rests on the voluntary principle and it is my hope that that principle and that system will be strengthened by this new Order. No piece of machinery can, however, be successful without good will and I have endeavoured to devise an Order which will command the good will of both sides and operate to the advantage of the community as a whole.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in general, it will be our desire to give this Order a fair wind? I am sure that he will realise, however, that we must first obtain a copy and then study the Order before we make any detailed comments upon it. We certainly accept the Minister's view that the voluntary bargaining system should be maintained in this country and supported on all occasions. In so far as the Minister has said that this Order supports that principle, we shall certainly be with him. Further, we are gratified that, to use the Minister's expression, both sides of industry have supported this Order. We should wish, as His Majesty's Opposition, to give our general support to the principle of it.

I should also like to welcome the fact that the Minister has stated that the Order contains no provision prohibiting lock-outs or strikes. That is in accordance with what we have already expressed and in accordance with the policy which we had already adopted as ours, so we welcome that development which we think is an improvement upon a situation which, as the Minister said in the earlier part of his statement, was rapidly proving unworkable.

I take it that the Minister is endeavouring, as far as possible, to get back to pre-war conditions, and to trust more and more to the confidence of both sides in avoiding, averting and settling disputes when they arise, and that this machinery is devised wholly to that end.

Yes, Sir. Broadly, that is true. My own views about this matter are, I think, well known. I believe in voluntary settlements. I hope that, as a result of this Order, wherever there is machinery for voluntary agreements, both sides of industry will put into that machinery provision for arbitration, so that there will be no need for reference to the new Tribunal at all. I believe that both sides of industry are quite capable of settling the bulk of the problems that arise within their own machinery. I hope that, as a result of this Order, we shall strengthen that view.

The right hon. Gentleman described the Order as experimental. In view of the immense importance of this subject, will he consider whether it is one that ought, in the long run, to be dealt with by Statutory Instrument or whether it should not be dealt with by a Bill which can be debated and, possibly, amended in this House? I ask him to consider that from the point of view of a permanent solution. Would he tell the House exactly what provision the new Order inserts in place of the old paragraph 5 in Order No. 1305—the paragraph which imposed the obligation to observe recognised conditions? What provision is in the new Order to secure the enforcement on both sides of generally recognised conditions?

The answer to the latter part of that question is that if there is an employer who is not observing the recognised terms and conditions, then that is a matter to be called in issue. Accordingly, it will be referred to me and, if there is voluntary machinery for settling a matter of that kind, I can refer it to that machinery. If it is a case of a non-federated employer, or one where there is no machinery, then I can refer it to the Tribunal, which I must do within 14 days. The Tribunal then has two tasks which it may perform. If it decides that the agreement should cover this employer and that this employer should observe the recognised terms and conditions, it may decide and award accordingly; or, secondly it may decide that he should operate terms and conditions no less favourable than those set out in the general agreement. With this Order, each case would have to be taken separately and proved on its merits, and not automatically, as it was under the old Order.

With regard to whether this ought to be incorporated in permanent legislation, that is a point of view which is worth considering. I should think that, where we are dealing with a matter affecting the lives of many people, it would be as well to allow an experimental period, and that, when we have found out what happens, we might change it slightly. I do not know. The Order provides flexibility and, in a few years' time, it may well be that we might cover this in permanent legislation.

Could we be informed of the date of this agreement? Am I correct in understanding that it is to be put into force on 14th August? If so, does that mean that it is not subject to the affirmative Resolution when the Order is laid on the Table?

No, Sir. It does come into operation on 14th August, but it does allow the 40 Sitting days in which a Prayer can be moved and a debate can take place.

Many strikes have been called unofficial strikes. Apparently, the people who appear before the Tribunal must appear through their trade unions, but these are the people who are in dispute with their unions. What is to be done where people strike against the advice of their own unions?

Mr. Robens