asked the Secretary of State for War which units in London District make arrangements for junior non-commissioned officers to feed apart from private soldiers.
All regular units in London District do so.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this is a recent arrangement or whether it has always been so?
This order was issued on 9th January, 1952.
Will the Minister tell us the reason for this change of policy?
There is no major change of policy in this matter. In the Brigade of Guards a corporal is the same as a sergeant, and this merely includes the lance-corporals.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why in that case he has not amended Queen's Regulations to provide for the establishment of corporals' messes in the Brigade of Guards?
This is not a matter for Queen's Regulations, but a domestic matter in the Brigade of Guards. I see nothing either in the performance of their duties or in the recruiting figures to suggest that there is anything wrong in it.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that in nearly every good regiment that habit pertains and that the corporals mess by themselves?
That habit even pertains with the Opposition in the House of Commons Dining Room.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is not the appropriate occasion for discussing the segregation of classes in the Members' Dining Room, and that it ought to be discussed on some other occasion? May I ask the Minister to advance a reason for this change? Was this a request on the part of the junior non-commissioned officers or the private soldiers, or has this been imposed at the dictation of the commanding officer, and who at the War Office is responsible for this decision?
As I said before, this is a domestic matter and the reason behind it is that every unit has got to do everything it can to increase the authority of N.C.O.s. Nowadays N.C.O.s are very young, and it makes it a great deal easier for them to maintain authority if they are given a certain status.
In view of the importance of this matter and of the fact that there is the clearest evidence of an attempt on the part of the Secretary of State for War to introduce class distinction into the Army, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.
Wd Land (Cultivation)
asked the Secretary of State for War the reasons for the recent changes in policy in respect of land held by, and farmed on behalf of, his Department.
My hon. Friend is no doubt referring to the decision to wind up the Army Agricultural Scheme. This scheme was introduced during the last war when large areas of cultivable land were occupied by the Army. This is no longer the case and it is, therefore, thought best that such land as remains should be leased to farmers.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that this will not lead to any diminution in agricultural production in these areas?
Yes, Sir, I think the reverse will be the effect.
2Nd Battalion, Dli
asked the Secretary of State for War for an assurance that the 2nd Battalion the Durham Light Infantry, which is to be raised this year, will be formed at a station within the County of Durham.
Will the right hon. Gentleman see if possible that the corporals at this station are able to mess separately?
asked the Secretary of State for War why 22480142 Signalman N. Willis was, after qualifying as tradesman, operator keyboard, transferred to an infantry unit.
This man was doing his initial training as a keyboard operator and was transferred to the infantry because he was found unsuitable to remain in a technical corps.
In view of the facts I have now received, will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to meet him privately to discuss this matter?
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is now in a position to reply to the representations made to him about the death at Oswestry of Gunner Douglas Owen, Holyhead, by the hon. Member for Anglesey on 3rd and 28th January; and, in particular, if he has considered the findings of the coroner's inquest and question of compensation to the late Gunner Owen's widowed mother.
I have written to the hon. Member about this case.
I have not yet received the Minister's reply. Although it was conveyed to me by telephone this morning, I am not satisfied with what I have heard.
The hon. Gentleman must ask a question.
Is the Minister aware that the gunner I referred to in my Question collapsed at five minutes past 12 and there was no medical attention available to him until 12.45? Will the Minister inform the House how many medical orderlies are in this camp and why none of them were available to attend this man?
This man collapsed while doing physical training and was immediately taken off to the hospital, which was some distance away; but a medical orderly is not an expert in medical attention. However, we have taken note of certain recommendations regarding supervision of physical training exercises, and these will be borne in mind.
Will the Minister remember that it has taken him two months to reply to my hon. Friend, who apparently has still not received the letter? Can the Minister tell the House why this man was left lying dead in the gymnasium whilst the class went on with the training and why medical attention was not made available for so long?
The time involved was three-quarters of an hour. By and large, one is fortunate in a unit if it takes only 10 minutes in sending a man to find the doctor and getting him to the necessary place; it may take longer. In this case, I do not think there was any actual fault, in view of the location of the hospital and the gymnasium. It took three-quarters of an hour: a quarter of an hour would have been better, but, short of having a medical superintendent at every P.T. class, one cannot obviate that possibility.
Is it not desirable that there should be someone in charge of P.T. who understands first aid and can take appropriate steps, and is it not the case that in this instance medical attention was not sent for, but the commanding officer happened to be going on his rounds and saw this man lying at the side of the gymnasium?
I have no information which corroborates the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's statement. As to the former part, the recommendation as to first aid, the supervising of P.T. classes will be borne in mind.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he has now completed his investigations into the death of Trooper Burgess; to what extent he accepts liability for this accident; and what action he contemplates.
I have seen the proceedings of the court of inquiry into this case but have decided that, before I give the hon. Lady a definite answer, I must refer certain points back to Malaya. A further letter will be sent to her as soon as these points have been clarified.
If it is the case that Trooper Burgess died on 1st September, and that this matter has been under active consideration since 1st September, would the right hon. Gentleman kindly tell me when he will attend to it?
I can assure the hon. Lady that I am attending to it. She will appreciate that this man was killed by an explosion, and I do not want to write to the hon. Lady apportioning blame where it is not due. I am not absolutely satisfied by the court of inquiry as to the reasons of the accident.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the cause is said to be a faulty grenade; and if the grenades are faulty, does that not indicate immediate action on behalf of all the other lads in Malaya who might be handling faulty grenades?
I can assure the hon. Lady that safety precautions have been taken, but there is an additional question about the procedure on grenade practice which I should prefer to clear up before I write to the hon. Lady.
Marriage Regulations (Postings)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the unsatisfactory working of the regulations under which British troops marrying without permission are posted to different theatres, he will consider establishing some sort of tribunals, so that soldiers infringing these regulations may have an opportunity of making statements before any action is taken.
No further postings under this rule will take place. A new regulation, which will not involve posting, will shortly be introduced.
Does the right hon. Gentleman's statement today represent a satisfactory solution of the problem which we debated just before Christmas in relation to the case of Guardsman Smith?
I think the new regulation, which is now in draft and will very shortly be approved, will solve the problem without involving posting a man away.
Does not the Minister realise that this interference by the Army authorities in the right of any man to marry the girl he chooses is causing great affront to decent people in this country, and does he not really believe that one of the fundamental freedoms of any man is the right to marry the girl he chooses without any reference to anybody in authority?
I think the Army has a responsibility in this respect—with the very large number of young men in Germany—to see that they do not rashly get married to undesirable girls. On the other hand, I think the new regulation will fulfil that function without the necessity for posting.
On a point of order. I did ask the Question but I have not had an opportunity of putting a supplementary question.
I will give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it very widely known that these new regulations are coming into effect? Nothing could be worse if men posted to other theatres are given the impression that the reason for their posting is that they married German girls.
No man has been posted for this reason during the last two months. Directly the orders are approved they will be circulated to the whole of the Rhine Army.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is yet in a position to make any report about the effectiveness of the light-weight bulletproof nylon waistcoats worn by allied infantrymen in Korea.
No, Sir. We are, however, keeping in close touch with the United States Army authorities on the development and trial of this clothing.
Has the Minister any idea when he is likely to be able to give some definite information?
No, Sir. I could not give an exact reply.
Can the right hon. Gentleman arrange that hon. Members of the Government Front Bench have one of these, particularly after the Budget?
Reservists (Release Arrangements)
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that on 21st December last reservists from Korea disembarked at Southampton from the "Empire Fowey" and were instructed to proceed to Newton Abbot for release, and after an all-day journey found on arrival they were not expected and most of the staff had gone on Christmas leave; and what steps he is taking to prevent a recurrence of such unfortunate proceedings.
I very much regret that the arrangements for the reception of these men went astray. Three days after this ship reached Southampton a further troopship was due there, from which it was decided to send all the men who disembarked immediately on leave in order that they might spend Christmas at home. Unfortunately, owing to an error in a teleprinter message, the unit at Newton Abbot was led to believe that the men from the "Empire Fowey" would similarly be sent straight to their homes. Arrangements were improvised to meet the unexpected arrival of these men and they were paid and sent off to their homes without delay.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these soldiers were told at Newton Abbot that they should have been discharged at Southampton and that they spent the night arguing, and the following morning they were given £2 10s. and a railway pass? That was for Christmas leave, and many of these men were family men. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] This is still a question. After Christmas these soldiers had to return—many of them from Yorkshire—to Newton Abbot for their discharge, wasting the time of the men getting a job and wasting public money. May I ask the Minister—
On a point of order, is an hon. Gentleman entitled to ask a very long supplementary of this sort, which is inappropriate as a supplementary question?
I did feel that the hon. Member's question was rather lengthy and was giving information rather than asking for it. It would help if hon. Members kept their supplementary questions short.
Will the right hon. Gentleman have an inquiry into this matter, as broad-based as the Prime Minister's political affiliations, and may I ask—[Interruption.]
The hon. Member cannot monopolise Question time like this.
Brigade Of Guards
asked the Secretary of State for War what authority governs the publication of the Regulations for the Brigade of Guards.
These Regulations, which relate to the dress, ceremonial duties, etc. of the Brigade of Guards, are issued on behalf of the Sovereign by the Senior Colonel of the Brigade of Guards. They were first published in 1853 by command of Queen Victoria and are brought up to date from time to time.
Can we take it that there will be a new publication of these Regulations?
There will not be a new publication of these Regulations until major amendments are made justifying a new issue.
asked the Secretary of State for War in what respects the methods of obtaining a regular commission in the Brigade of Guards differ from those prevailing in other regiments and corps.
There are no major differences between the Brigade of Guards and other regiments and corps in this matter.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is necessary for an officer, in order to get a regular commission in the Brigade of Guards, to have the approval of the commanding officer of one of the regiments in that Brigade?
In all regiments of the British Army, before a commission is granted to a regiment the approval of the colonel has to be obtained.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying then that there is no distinction whatever in that respect between the Brigade of Guards and other regiments?
The distinction is only that in the Brigade of Guards the regimental lieutenant-colonel who is in fact a colonel, is a serving officer, whereas in most other regiments he is a past officer who has retired. The only other difference in the whole matter is that officers for commissioning in the Brigade of Guards go to Caterham and other officers do not. Otherwise the procedure is absolutely identical.
Troops, Jamaica (Christmas Parcels)
asked the Secretary of State for War why the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers, now at Kingston, Jamaica, have not received Christmas parcels which were forwarded to Grenada when they were serving there, but not subsequently sent back to Jamaica.
I have called for an immediate report and will write to the hon. Member when I receive it.
asked the Secretary of State for War for an estimate of the annual expenditure on uniform, messing and social life which is a consequence of the grant of commissioned rank; and what steps he is taking to keep such expenditure within reasonable limits.
The estimated annual expenditure on uniform maintenance is £50 and this amount ranks for Income Tax rebate. The maximum daily messing charge permitted is 2s. 6d., or some £45 a year. The rate within this limit is determined within each mess and the average is probably about £30 a year.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say, in particular, whether National Service officers are required to wear No. 1 Dress; and, if so, whether he thinks this is necessary?
I should not like to give an answer to that question without notice.
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us what messing allowance applies to junior N.C.O.s in the Brigade of Guards?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are certain regiments in which it is impossible for a man to accept a commission unless he has a private income, and that he is told so by the commanding officers of those regiments?
I should like to take this opportunity of categorically denying that statement. The Brigade of Guards have stated emphatically that there is absolutely nothing to prevent an officer joining the Brigade of Guards who has no private income whatever.
Recruiting (Annual Report)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will publish an annual report on Army recruiting similar to that issued annually before the war.
The annual report referred to was very long and detailed. The effort and expense of its publication are not justified at the present time: but, if the hon. Member has any particular information in mind, I will consider making it available to the House.
But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in these reports one can obtain very interesting information about the numbers of men applying to get into the Army in the years before the war, which some of the right hon. Gentlemen's hon. Friends were saying they could not find in a debate recently; and that a comparison of those figures with figures for unemployment in the same years is of very great interest?
I willingly acknowledge that, and I should like to take this opportunity of saying to the hon. Gentleman that in the debate on that subject I was wrong.
Overseas Stations (Army Council Visits)
asked the Secretary of State for War what visits have been paid to overseas stations by members of the Army Council in recent months.
In the past year the Chief of the Imperial General Staff visited Berlin and Austria and attended the manoeuvres of the British Army of the Rhine. The Quartermaster-General paid two visits to the Middle East Land Forces and one to Germany. The Adjutant-General visited Germany.
In view of the absence of any visit by a member of the Army Council to the Far East Land Forces, could the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is his intention that he personally or some senior member of the Army Council should visit that area, particularly as it now seems from the Prime Minister's edict yesterday that no hon. Members of this House are allowed to visit that area?
I have many intentions, all of which are subject to approval from other authorities. I should not like to go further than that.
Then may we take it from that answer that the right hon. Gentleman is free himself to visit troops in the Far East if he wants to go, in spite of what the Prime Minister said?
Yes, Sir, but the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in all these matters there are questions such as Parliamentary Sessions, and I have to obtain the approval of my superiors. I can assure him that I have the point very much in mind.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not saying that he is free to go to the Far East, or anywhere else overseas, without consulting the Prime Minister?
No, Sir, and that is exactly what I intended to say. I think it is what I did say.
May we also take it that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to ask permission for a delegation of hon. Members of both sides of the House to go to Korea?
That is not a matter within my sphere of responsibility.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in the event of an officer continuing his service after becoming eligible for a terminal grant and dying before this service ends, the grant for which he has become eligible is paid to his estate.
No, Sir. A terminal grant is part of the award to an officer on his retirement, and is not an award for which he qualifies after a certain period of service.
Is not the fact that if a man has died it automatically means the termination of his service; and in those circumstances surely his estate should receive the award he has earned as a result of his service in the Army?
No, Sir. The object of this payment is to enable an officer who has finished his service to have some capital sum with which to start up a new job, to buy a house, or start a business. The question of his death is another matter, covered by a different form of award.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if an officer is killed in these circumstances this terminal grant is needed to help his next of kin?
The question of dependants and wives of officers killed is a different subject.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that it is in the highest degree inequitable that the Government should make a profit out of a man's premature death; and that the question being put to him is that, where a man who might have retired and taken his grant has stayed on, and therefore not taken it, it is quite unfair that he should be deprived of the benefits of what by contract he has in all substance already earned?
There are two questions here. The first is to ensure that when an officer leaves the Army he will be able to find a job and start up a career in civilian life, and that is what this grant is aimed at. The second question is that his dependants should be looked after, and that is a different matter, which comes under a different system.
Courts Of Inquiry (Reports)
asked the Secretary of State for War the reasons for the general policy of not publishing the reports of courts of inquiry, such as that which investigated the death of Sister Anthony, in view of the widespread demand that the full facts should be published.
The reason for this policy is that witnesses should have every protection in giving the fullest possible statement of the facts, and the court itself should have the assurance that its opinions will not be made public and will only reach those whose duty it is to consider the findings.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware, despite the answer he has given, that there is a good deal of public disquiet about this matter, and that it is in the public interest not only that justice should be done but that justice should be seen to be done?
This procedure has gone on for a long time, and I am confident that it is wise that proceedings of this nature should not be published. There is, however, nothing to stop a statement giving the general terms of the findings of the court, and that is done in many cases.
Gypsy Survey, Kent
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what progress has been made in respect to the gypsy survey in Kent; what form it is taking; and when it is expected to be completed.
The answer to the hon. Member's Question is contained in the statement made by the Kent County Council on 27th January, a copy of which was sent to him on 15th February.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that people outside Parliamentary circles who are greatly interested in this problem deeply appreciate the sympathetic and helpful way in which his civil servants and the Kent County Planning Officer are approaching this matter, and will he give them every assistance to work out a blue print in Kent which will serve as a pattern for the rest of the country?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said.
Will my right hon. Friend say why Kent is singled out for this distinction? Is Kent more gypsy-minded than other counties?
Presumably because it is a very progressive county.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the number of houses representing the total, to the most recent convenient date, of the applications received by him from local authorities for approval in respect of their housing schemes for the year 1952; how many applications have been approved; and how many houses these approved applications involve.
The published housing returns give full information of the progress of housing which is a continuous operation.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is very grave disquiet about the amount of progress, and will he tell the House quite frankly whether there is any truth in the suggestion now being widely made that plans are being evolved for a new form of building which is about half-way between a moderate-size house and a commodious dog kennel, which is called a cottagette, and will that form the basis of his future housing programme?
The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is not relevant to the Question asked, and if it were relevant, it is completely untrue.
37 and 38.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) if the number of dwellings in local authority housing schemes approved since October, 1951, and comparative figure for the same period in 1950–51;(2) the number of dwellings completed by local authorities since October, 1951, and the comparative figure for the same period in 1950–51.
If the hon. Member has housing allocations in mind, I would refer him to the answer I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) and others on 7th December last.
I have not housing allocations in mind. What I have in mind is what is stated in the Question. Can I ask the Minister for a reply to my Question, which asks for the number of dwellings in housing schemes approved since October, 1951, and the number of completions which are not up to date?
All these matters are dealt with in detail in the housing returns. I do not propose to abandon the practice of my predecessors in connection with this matter.
Is the Minister aware that that is not correct; that the monthly housing returns do not contain details of approved schemes but only completions; that the last return was issued in January; that the housing appendix, which does contain details of approvals, was issued for 31st December and, therefore, no up to date information is available?
I propose to adhere to the practice of my predecessors, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman to have the patience to await the returns when they are published month by month.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government to what extent he anticipates the housing programme will be affected by the recent diminution in the number of building workers.
I am not aware of any recent decrease in the number of building workers, other than the normal seasonal trend.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the appropriate information about the diminution of building workers is available to me in the published reports?
The figure in December, 1950, was 216,000, and in December, 1951, 224,000, and that does not seem to me to be a diminution.
Crown Property (Evictions)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how often, during the last six months, local government authorities have applied for requisitioning powers under Defence Regulation 51 in cases where tenants are threatened with eviction from Crown property.
Would the Minister reaffirm that it is his intention to use his powers of requisition, provided the local borough councils make the necessary application for this action to be taken?
There was only one occasion when it was necessary, and the application for requisition was not issued because the landlord withdrew the notice to quit.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will again draw the attention of local councils by circular to his powers of requisitioning under Defence Regulation 51 in order that tenants on Crown property may have a measure of protection against eviction.
In view of the comparatively small number of local authorities affected by this problem I do not think that a general circular is appropriate, but I hope to make a statement shortly.
Is the Minister aware that there have been instances in my constituency of dissatisfaction with the action taken by the local borough council?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that there will very soon be an opportunity for a general statement in the ordinary course of the business of the House.
Is it not a fact that by Circular 23/52, published on 19th February, the right hon. Gentleman instructed local authorities not to requisition any further properties?
That is a different question. This is a matter of Crown lands.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will give an early indication of the Government's intentions in regard to the control of house selling price, provided for in Section 43 of the Housing Act, 1949, which expires in 1953; and if he will take action as soon as possible in this matter.
I am watching the situation carefully and will take action as soon as it seems expedient to do so.
While the Minister is watching the situation, will he bear in mind the very genuine hardship which is caused to people who have put up a house at their own expense and have then had to move to another district, by reason of their having to sell their house and use the proceeds to buy a secondhand house at a very much higher price?
Yes, Sir, that is true; but so long as there is a high demand and a comparatively short supply I think that we must keep some protection, and as this does not expire for another 18 months I do not think that I need act immediately.
Aircraft Industry Workers
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many houses have been constructed, and how many licences have been given, for houses to be built adjacent to factories connected with the aircraft industry since 1st January, 1951.
I regret that the information is not available and could not readily be obtained.
Will my right hon. Friend go further into this matter and bear in mind that if progress is to be made in constructing aircraft in this country, houses have to be provided for the workers?
Yes, Sir. We are, of course, in touch with the Ministry of Supply all the time, but I am afraid I cannot give the precise information required.
Cannot the Minister of Supply give the information, because surely it is important when we have a large re-armament programme on hand?
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why his 1952 provisional housing allocation to Lambeth was only 50.
At the end of 1951, the Lambeth Borough Council had been given approval to tender for 586 dwellings the construction of which had not begun. I see no object in giving a larger instalment until some progress can be made with these. If there are any special difficulties my regional officer and I will be glad to help in any way we can.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of last year's housing allocations are held up through his inability to help the council to get the steel required, and will he also agree that it is quite ridiculous to give a provisional allocation of 50 when in his own Department there has been lying an application for long-sanction in respect of 103 dwellings, included in the 586 to which he referred, which has not yet been granted?
As there are 586 which are to be put up for tender, there is not much object in making an addition.
The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:
To ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he has yet come to any conclusion as to the principles on which Parts VI and VII of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, should be amended;
To ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that in many cases local housing authorities are very slow in paying builders for work completed under housing contracts; and whether he will issue a circular with a view to accelerating these payments.
Mr. Walker-Smith—Question No. 27.
I am about to seek the views of the Association of local authorities on proposals for overcoming this and similar difficulties arising out of present contract procedure.
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that in this matter time is not on his side by reason of the fact that owing to the ill-conceived legislation of the previous administration—
On a point of order. Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the right hon. Gentleman has answered Question No. 28?
I am afraid that I answered Question No. 28 in mistake for Question No. 27. No doubt the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question to Question No. 27 will be just as apposite.The answer is as follows: No, Sir. As hon. Members are aware, a review of the financial provisions of the Act is in progress. Until that is complete I regret that I cannot make any statement.
On a point of order. May I at this point seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for me to take as read the supplementary question to No. 27 which I inadvertently put to No. 28, and for me now to put my supplementary question to No. 28.
So far as I know, the hon. Member has not yet asked No. 28 but the answer has been given.
Owing to the noise, Mr. Speaker, I was not able to hear your Ruling as to which Question we are now on.
The hon. Member can take it that he has asked Question No. 28, and if he has a supplementary question to put to the answer which he received to Question No. 27 he can ask it.
In regard to Question No. 27, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the impediment to housing and other desirable development by reason of the uncertainty in regard to the amendment of the financial provisions of this Act. In regard to Question No. 28, does my right hon. Friend appreciate that these are matters of contract between the local authorities and the builders and, therefore, there can be no reason for delay in this way.
I will do my best to see to it.
On a point of order. Would it be in order to ask a supplementary question on Question No. 27?
It would be quite in order to do so if we had not passed on. This is such a tangled affair that we had better pass on.
Fuel Economy Appliances
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will introduce legislation to enable him to require the installation of only approved domestic fuel economising appliances in all new housing construction and what steps he is taking to substitute, where practicable, in such new housing construction, approved gas space-heating appliances instead of electric space-heating appliances.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 19th February to the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton).
Can my right hon. Friend say unequivocally that all new houses being built—100 per cent. of new housing construction, whether for private sale or for local authority letting—now have installed in them only modern appliances in the way of solid fuel-burning grates?
We do everything we can by advice and persuasion, but we still believe in the freedom of the local authority to accept that advice, and I should prefer to work under that system.
While we ought not to impinge on the rights of local authorities in this and other matters, is there not something to be said for Government action as regards the provision of modern fuel appliances in order to economise in fuel?
Yes, Sir. It is being done and it is working very successfully, but I would rather get 97 per cent. without compulsion than 100 per cent. with compulsion.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the answer that he gave on 19th February—I have a copy of it here —makes no reference whatever to the second part of my Question which specifically inquires in regard to the installation of gas space-heating appliances in preference to electric space-heating appliances?
If the object of the Question is to suggest that I should advise people to have a gas space-heating appliance instead of an electric space-heating appliance, I do not propose to do that.
Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the increased supplies of iron and steel for improved domestic stoves and grates are maintained at the level which was agreed last autumn?
We are doing everything we can in this matter. I am naturally as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman is, but I am not anxious to apply compulsion if I can obtain the results by persuasion. I feel certain that the supplies can be maintained, and I think we may even add to them.
Wage Increases (Costs)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is the anticipated average increase in the cost of a three-bedroomed local authority house arising from the recent wage increases to building trades operatives.
Any effect of wage increases on costs cannot be estimated in isolation, since costs are affected by other factors such for example as reductions in man-hours due to increased productivity and improvements in building technique.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether any definite steps are in contemplation to offset the necessary increase in costs which will arise from the wage increase?
I believe that all the measures which have been taken to increase interest in, and the tempo of housing and building will have that effect, and there are special measures to introduce various economies in construction and design.
Is not one of the greatest causes of the increased cost of building the cost of building materials? What is the Minister doing to bring down the price which "The Times" the other day referred to as the greatest rise in building material costs since the end of the war?
The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are always complaining about rises in costs and they are always attacking every Measure, monetary and otherwise, which is intended to reduce them.
No 115, Ebury Street, Sw1
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the total amount of building work now proceeding at No. 115, Ebury Street, S.W.1; what building licences have been granted; and to whom.
Two licences have been issued within the past twelve months in respect of this property: one for £810 on 3rd July to form a self-contained flat on the second floor, the other for £3,099 on 24th October for the repair and general reconditioning of the property. Both were issued by Westminster City Council to Mr. Godfrey Winn.
Is the Minister aware that each of these licences was issued for work to be done which diminished the number of tenants who could live in that house; that prior to the licences being issued there were a number of flats occupied there; that Mr. Godfrey Winn obtained that licence in order to turn the house into a one-man occupied house rather than a house occupied by several tenants; and would not the right hon. Gentleman exercise greater supervision over the issue of licences in order to prevent the diminishing numbers occupying a house?
My information does not quite tally with that of the hon. Member's. I understand that part of the licence was for the making of an office. In any case, I do not interfere generally with a local authority in these licensing matters. Even if I wished to do so, one of these licences was issued six months before I took office and the other two days before I took office, so I do not see what I could do.
Irrespective of the date upon which these licences were issued, would the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the purpose of the licences, which were fairly extensive, was actually to increase or to decrease the living accommodation of these premises, because even with the Westminster City Council—and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to agree with this—it would be extraordinary if these building licences were granted with the object of actually reducing living accommodation?
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will, in order to maintain good standards of house building, make compulsory as a minimum standard the general specification laid down by the National Householders' Registration Council referred to in the appendix to circular 73/51 issued by him on 27th November last.
No, Sir. I have no evidence that the present arrangements are inadequate.
Is the Minister aware that unless he lays down a minimum specification for the 50 per cent. of the houses which are to be built under private enterprise he stands a very good risk of getting those jerry built houses such as we had before the war?
I thought there was a general agreement that the system of the National Housebuilders Registration Council worked extremely well.
Is it not a fact that the Council's recommendations are purely voluntary and in no way binding on anybody?
In spite of this passion for compulsion which hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to have, if everything is voluntary and operates over the whole field I think it is a very good plan.
Estate Agents (Registration Fees)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the practice of some estate agents who take considerable sums in registration fees without at the time having accommodation of the type required on their books; and if he will introduce legislation to prohibit estate agents charging registration fees in respect of types of accommodation not at the time on their books.
I have no information about the practice to which the hon. Members refers. The Government cannot undertake to introduce legislation with regard to it.
Does that mean that the Minister did not read the evidence I submitted to him before his secretary returned it to me?
No, Sir, it means we have quite a heavy legislative programme and we cannot introduce a Bill about it.
Is it not a fact that I sent evidence to the right hon. Gentleman of a practice which amounts to absolute racketeering, the knowledge of which is known to many people on both sides of the House, and even if the right hon. Gentleman cannot provide housing accommodation, at least he can stop the exploitation of home-seeking people until such times as he provides houses for them?
It is difficult to try and answer courteously in view of the way in which the hon. Gentleman asked his supplementary question, but this matter is very difficult and cannot be dealt with without legislation. There is a very heavy legislative programme, and it will not be possible to obtain an opportunity of dealing with it at any rate in this Session.
Is the Minister aware that the practice complained of is entirely contrary to the code of conduct and practice of all the senior professional associations, and that any hon. Member who wishes to avoid being caught like the hon. Member has only to refrain from giving his business to a bucket shop?
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is the amount of loan sanctioned for housing development by local authorities since 7th November, 1951; what is the estimated increase in the total amount of interest repayments to be made as a result of the rise in the interest rate from 3 per cent.; and what is the increased cost per average dwelling disregarding all subsidies.
The amount is £79,198,200. All these loans have, however, not yet been taken up from the Public Works Loan Board, and I am not able, therefore, to give the information asked for in the second and third parts of the Question.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance to the House that the increases in interest rates to be borne by local authorities will, in fact, be refunded by him in the shape of increased subsidies; and secondly, would it not be a better administrative economy, instead of one Government Department increasing the rate of interest to local authorities and another one refunding that rate of interest to the local authorities, if the Public Works Loan Board was requested to advance housing loans at the original rate of interest? Would it not save a lot of time and effort?
We shall have an opportunity of debating this whole matter in the near future, and perhaps it would be better to wait until the Bill is introduced.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the number of vacant houses there are throughout the country; and whether he will take action to prevent houses from standing empty for long periods by drawing the attention of local authorities, by circular, to the powers of requisitioning in order to allocate them to people in need of accommodation.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will empower local authorities to take over under-occupied private dwellings in order to rehouse families in urgent need and prevent sale with vacant possession at excessive prices.
I regret that I am unable to give the information asked for. Local authorities already have powers to acquire houses for the discharge of their duties under the Housing Act, and I think that where necessary those powers, and not those of requisitioning, should be used.
Can the Minister say how he expects local authorities to respond to his appeal to rehouse in bungalows families living in houses which are too large for them, unless the private landlord is willing to take people from the local authority lists instead of waiting to sell the house with vacant possession at extortionate prices?
I am asked in this Question to state the powers of local authorities in this matter, and I have stated in reply that the local authorities have power to acquire these houses.
In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that the additional cost of site works, due to difficult site, is £151 11 s. 4d. per house for 64 houses on the Banksfields Estate, Mytholmroyd, and £293 12s. 10d. per house for 20 houses at Dodd Naze Estate, Hebden Bridge, both in the Sowerby Division of Yorkshire; and whether he will consider this unavoidable and additional burden on local housing costs when he comes to review the housing subsidies.
I have been informed by the local authority that costs above the normal to the amount stated have been incurred on site works in connection with these houses. As regards the second party of the Question, the point has been considered in connection with the review of housing subsidies.
Water Schemes (Steel Allocations)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many licences for the supply of steel, and for how much steel, have been granted to water authorities for the first quarter of 1952; what he estimates will be the respective figures for the second and third quarters of the year; and how these figures compare with those for 1951.
It is not the practice to disclose allocations for particular purposes.
Is the Minister aware of the very grave concern of water undertakings because in many cases they have received only sufficient steel for the development of new housing estates and nothing at all for repairs and maintenance? Will he reconsider the question because many water undertakings are faced with a very serious position in regard to the repair of their undertakings?
Can the right hon. Gentleman state the principle on which the applications are being met? Is priority being given to those areas which at present have no piped water supply?
I was asked to give allocations in certain instances. That has never been done by this or any other Government when there has been an allocation system. The purpose of an allocation system is to operate without the rigid priorities which led to so much trouble in the early stages of the war and to make the allocations for definite separate purposes and then to divide them up as best possible in the circumstances.
Is the right hon. Gentleman now abandoning his party's pledges to the rural areas about water supplies?
No, Sir; not at all.
Is it not a fact that no licences have been issued for this purpose in the first quarter? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very serious situation which is now arising in a constituency which he once represented because no licences have been granted to the Tees Valley Water Board?
No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman's information is incorrect.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that many large schemes for the supply of water to power stations, coalmines and other vital industrial undertakings, are held up for relatively small quantities of steel; and if he will take steps to increase the supply of steel to water undertakers.
Yes, Sir. All possible steps will be taken.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the demand of the water undertakers for steel for the whole of the year is only 50,000 tons, one-third of 1 per cent. of our total supplies? Is it not well known in all parts of the House that these great undertakings are now seriously endangered and delayed?
Of course they are most vitally important and I will do everything possible within the allocation system to obtain what is necessary; but one of the reasons for the allocation system was that, although everyone's application was fairly small, the total required amounted to rather more than the total amount of steel available.
Will the right hon. Gentleman mobilise his courage and demand his rightful amount from the Cabinet?
We do not do too badly.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that it has never been the practice to disclose how much steel is allocated for a certain purpose? Although it has not been the practice to disclose the amount of an individual licence, have there not been a number of White Papers giving the global allocations?
The hon. Member is incorrect and, anyway, that relates to the Question which we have just passed.
On a point of order. I was about to ask a supplementary question about steel and rural water supplies when the question was interrupted, Mr. Speaker, by your calling the next Question. In those circumstances, is it in order to put the supplementary question after the next Question, as has just been done?
It is frequently my duty to interrupt the asking of a supplementary question by calling the next Question. Mr. Nabarro.
Gravel Pits (Land Restoration)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he is taking to require full and proper restoration of agricultural land used for sand and gravel pit working.
Planning authorities can insist on restoration when giving permission for pits to be worked, but this is as a rule considered reasonable only if suitable filling material is available. General guidance on restoration was included in the Memorandum on the Control of Mineral Working published a year ago, but the special problems of gravel pits are being examined by the Advisory Committee on Sand and Gravel.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the extent of urban depredation of good agricultural land which is at present taking place, aggravated by this problem? Will my right hon. Friend take special powers or at least examine the problem further?
Yes, Sir. It is being examined by the special committee.
In view of the great success of the restoration of land worked for opencast coal—
and the very much greater area devastated by working for gravel and sand, will the right hon. Gentleman really give the subject his attention and get something done?
New Government Offices
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if, in view of the housing shortage, he will take steps to stop large-scale building for Government offices and nationalised industries, particulars of which have been sent to him.
A general ban on new office building, including offices for Government Departments and the nationalised industries, has been in force since June, 1951.
Will my right hon. Friend convey the idea of this Question to the Minister of Works and realise that homes are more important for people than for bureaucrats?
Yes, Sir, that is the object of the ban.