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Commons Chamber

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 28 February 1952

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 28th February, 1952

The House met at Half-past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Ealing Corporation Bill (By Order)

Essex County Council Bill (By Order)

West Hartlepool Extension Bill (By Order)

Second Reading deferred till Thursday next.

Oral Answers To Questions

National Service

Agricultural Workers

1.

asked the Minister of Labour how many shepherds have been called up for National Service between 31st October, 1951, and the latest convenient date; how many of these were in Scotland; and how many have been deferred.

The numbers must be very small, but I regret that actual figures are not available and could not be obtained without a disproportionate expenditure of staff time.

While thanking my right hon. and learned Friend for his answer, may I ask him to consider the possibility of total deferment for shepherds for all forms of National Service?

I cannot undertake to agree to total deferment for shepherds, but if my hon. Friend will wait to hear the answers to some later Questions on agricultural matters he may hear some additional information.

Is the Minister aware that there is great indignation all over Scotland about the call-up of agricultural workers and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's wolves are now devouring the shepherds? How can he justify a policy which gives the farmers a subsidy one day to increase production and takes away their labour the next day?

The hon. Gentleman will realise that it is not for me to give a subsidy to the farmers. In regard to the later Questions to which I have referred, I can assure him that I have been in touch with the National Farmers' Union and the workers' unions concerned to obtain their assent in the course which I am taking.

8.

asked the Minister of Labour how many agricultural labourers in Warwickshire are due to be called up to Her Majesty's Forces in the near future; and what action he proposes to take to ensure the labour necessary to avoid a cut in food production in the Midlands.

Fewer than 50, it is estimated, during the next three months. As the numbers are so small, the latter part of the Question does not arise.

Has the attention of the Minister been called to the recent statement of an official of the National Farmers' Union in which it is estimated that nearly 2,000 agricultural labourers were likely to be affected? Is he further aware that in one case a farmer had to reduce his herd of cows from 27 to 17 and will have to reduce it further because another man is to be called up? Is it not a serious matter for the country's food production?

I have not seen that statement and it does not concur with the information I have, but I will look into it now that the hon. Gentleman has drawn my attention to it.

18.

asked the Minister of Labour, with regard to the call-up of the 10,000 agricultural workers, which is the figure to date, whether the possibility of their exemption from service in war-time has been considered; and if he will reconsider the calling-up of such men to the detriment of the agricultural industry in peace time, so long as there is any chance that they will not be available for the services in war.

The figure of 10,000 is the approximate maximum number of agricultural workers expected to be called up from the 1933 age group. The question whether these men might or might not be available for the Services in the event of a war at some future date, is not the only point to be considered. The Services have heavy current commitments for which these men are needed now.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend considered the possibility of calling up agricultural workers on a territorial basis rather than the present call-up, which is causing a great deal of disquiet?

Is the Minister aware that in this respect and in many others the National Farmers' Union are gravely disappointed with the treatment they are receiving from the present administration?

I am sorry and surprised to hear it. They, no doubt, like other people, want more than they get, but they have not indicated any great dissatisfaction up to date.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, and the disappointment that it will cause to Tory farmers in my constituency, I give notice that I will raise the matter again.

Employment

Bristol

2.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons engaged in the textile, furniture, clothing and distributive trades in Bristol; and the number registered as unemployed there at the latest convenient date.

As the reply includes a table of figures I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the Minister aware that this matter is causing great concern in his constituency and mine? How is he proposing to deal with the situation?

I am prepared to place figures before the House so that hon. Members can see the extent of the difficulty, as a preliminary to discussion.

The table below gives the information desired:

Estimated numbers of employees in the undermentioned industries in the area of employment exchanges in Bristol at May, 1951, and the numbers registered as unemployed at those employment exchanges at 13th February, 1952.

IndustryEstimated number of employees at May, 1951Number registered as unemployed at 10th February, 1952
Textiles1,35011
Furniture and Upholstery1,81039
Clothing (including Boots and Shoes)7,150182
Distributive Trades29,210315

Under-Employment

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the anxiety which is now felt amongst workers in a number of industries owing to the extent of under-employment and short-time working; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this situation.

Yes, Sir, I am aware of this problem, which has been under consideration by the National Joint Advisory Council. The employment exchanges are ready to give all possible assistance to any workers affected who wish to find full-time employment.

Would it be true to say that the Ministry embarked upon a policy of creating slump conditions in order to divert workers into the armament industries? If that is so, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the fact that unemployment rose by more than 74,000 people between December and January indicates that this policy has broken down?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no deliberate policy of creating a slump or anything of that sort. On the second part of his supplementary question, I would point out that although there was an increase of 74,000, to which he has referred, the figures in December, 1951, are very much the same as for December in the previous year.

On a point of order. I addressed a Question to the Minister of Labour, and he has transferred it to the President of the Board of Trade. I did not object to that, Mr. Speaker, until I saw the Order Paper and saw that the Minister chose to answer Questions Nos. 3, 5 and 7, which are of a similar kind to my Question, which is now No. 127.

My complaint is that the Minister of Labour has transferred to the Board of Trade Question No. 127, which I think is similar in character to the one which he has just answered.

Does that not show that Ministers are not willing to grapple with the problem, but pass the buck to one another?

I will look into the hon. Lady's complaint later. In general, Questions are transferred if put down to the wrong Minister.

This appears to me to be a rather more serious matter, because the hon. Lady's Question distinctly relates to the subject of short-time and under-employment. Surely, in those circumstances, it ought not to have been transferred to the President of the Board of Trade, because the responsibility lies directly upon the shoulders of the Ministry of Labour.

I have just had a look at Question No. 127, and I invite the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to it. It asks what proposals the President of the Board of Trade has to make whereby the serious situation developing in the textile and clothing industries can be overcome. It may have been thought that this was a Board of Trade question—but it is too complicated a matter to go into at the moment and I will look into it later.

Southampton

5.

asked the Minister of Labour if his attention has been called to the recent increase in unemployment in Southampton particularly in the shipbuilding and ship-repairing trades; and if he will make a statement.

The increase in unemployment at Southampton is mainly a seasonal increase among shipyard workers, following the completion of winter repairs to liners. The numbers involved are lower than in the two preceding years.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there were 2,000 men and women unemployed in Southampton last week-end and that this is causing grave anxiety in the port? Can he use his influence to get more Admiralty work for Southampton and to have a start made on the building of the generating station at Marchwood and the re-building of the cold storage in the docks in order to provide alternative employment?

I will certainly look into the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given me, which are perhaps later than any I have. If there is anything I can do with my right hon. Friends to help, I will endeavour to do it.

In view of the answer of the Minister, would my right hon. and learned Friend consider having unemployment figures published by his local offices from month to month, particularly since, not only in my constituency, but, no doubt, also in other places, the figures are being exaggerated beyond the truth because the Government is now a Conservative one?

I will do what I can to ensure that the latest available information is before the House. It is difficult to get it checked right up to date, but I will certainly consider the suggestion made by my hon. Friend.

West Cumberland

7.

asked the Minister of Labour the total number of unemployed at the latest available date, compared with the corresponding period last year, for Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Millom Employment Exchanges, respectively.

As the reply includes a table of figures, I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Could the Minister say if it is true that the figures have increased during the last two or three months? If so, what has been the cause of the big increase?

I think it is true to say that there has been an increase during the last two or three months, and I will see if there is anything I can do to help in this connection.

In view of the fact that the three towns in question are in the West Cumberland Development Area, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confer with the President of the Board of Trade to ensure that the priorities laid down by a Labour Government will not be reversed?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider reviving the pre-war practice of sending these figures monthly to the local newspapers?

The table below gives the information desired:

Numbers of unemployed persons on the registers of the Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Millom Employment Exchanges at 10th February, 1952, and 12th February, 1951.
Employment Exchange10th February, 195212th February, 1951
Whitehaven410210
Cleator Moor394196
Millom4120

9.

asked the Minister of Labour when a start is to be made on the building of the disabled persons factory at Cleator Moor, Cumberland.

I am informed by Remploy Limited that the building of the new Cleator Moor factory has been temporarily deferred, but that Remploy will reconsider the position later in the year.

Is the Minister aware of the rather disgraceful conditions in which severely disabled men are working and have been working in this factory during the last three years? Why is it that this has happened when we were told in July, 1951, that everything was ready for beginning the job? Why has it been stopped?

I am aware that the factory is not in that condition which one would like it to be, but Remploy, Ltd., assure me that they are in difficulty in undertaking this drastic development within the means available to them.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Burnley

10.

asked the Minister of Labour how many cotton mills in Burnley were closed, wholly or partially, in the week ending 9th February; how many weavers registered at the local exchange as wholly or partially unemployed in the same period; and what steps he is taking to restore full employment to the cotton industry.

Fourteen cotton mills out of a total of 66 in Burnley were wholly or partially closed during the week ended 9th February; and on 1lth February, the nearest date on which a count was made, 1,471 weavers were registered as unemployed including 1,418 temporarily stopped. The last part of the Question primarily concerns my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in consultation with whom I am keeping the position under review.

How does the Minister account for the fact that in September last year, at the Burnley Labour Exchange, there were vacancies in textiles alone for 443 operatives and now there are 1,470 operatives unemployed? What is he doing to stop this decline, which is causing so much anxiety?

As I have indicated, this question affects the textile trade as a whole in which the employment situation began to show a tendency the wrong way in the spring and summer of 1951. The encouragement of that trade, a most desirable object, is a matter primarily within the compass of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the position is much worse than the figures indicate, because so many married women have opted out of the scheme? Further, in his discussions with the President of the Board of Trade, will he remind his right hon. colleague that in many parts of Lancashire there are no alternative industries to which unemployed cotton workers can transfer?

There are at present about 2,400 outstanding vacancies of all types in the area, and there are several thousand additional posts in defence work in prospect. However, I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate that there is understandable anxiety in East Lancashire on this account, and will he represent to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply that as many orders as possible should be placed in that area?

I will certainly bear that in mind when I have discussions, as I shall do, with my right hon. Friend.

Can the Minister say definitely that it is not the policy of the Government to create a pool of unemployment in the textile industry?

Youth Employment Service (Information)

11.

asked the Minister of Labour to what extent teachers in State schools may refuse to supply any information sought by officials of youth employment committees to be embodied in the files which these officials keep of young people seeking their assistance.

Schools are only required to provide information to the Youth Employment Service in accordance with the terms of Section 13 of the Employment and Training Act, 1948: that is, particulars in respect of health, ability, educational attainments and aptitudes.

Scotland

12.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to check the growing unemployment in Scotland.

The growth of unemployment in Scotland in recent months is largely seasonal, and the total is slightly less than a year ago; but I am continuing my efforts, in collaboration with my colleagues, to get more work there.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in Clydebank unemployment has nearly doubled, due entirely not only to the irregularity of steel supplies, but to their hopeless inadequacy, and will he make representations to the Minister of Supply to increase the allocation of steel?

As I said, the total unemployment is less than a year ago. Male unemployment has gone down, but unemployment among women has gone up. I will certainly indicate to my right hon. Friend my anxiety to get work, materials and orders in places where there is a shortage of employment.

Is it not a fact that the upward trend in unemployment, which is mentioned in several of these Questions, is due to the financial mess left by the late Government?

Pottery Industry

14.

asked the Minister of Labour what action he has recently taken to increase the numbers engaged in the pottery industry; what action he intends taking; how many decorators are required; what special steps are being taken to meet the urgent needs of the industry.

Special attention has been given to the requirements of the industry, and at the end of 1951 the total number of workers employed had in nine months increased by over 2,300. There are vacancies for about 350 decorators and employment exchanges will continue their efforts to fill them.

Could not a great increase in output be brought about if more decorators were available? If so, is the Minister aware that the Bank of England, with a large staff, was brought into the area during the war? If that were done during the war, why cannot a big hotel or hostel be taken over now, which would provide an opportunity for women from other parts of the country who are relatively well placed and who are making no contribution to Britain's economic recovery?

I appreciate the importance of this industry in relation to exports. One of the difficulties is that it is close to a re-armament factory, and one has to consider where the employees should be encouraged to go. Other things permitting, I hope to visit that area in a very short time, and I shall then be in a better position to inform the House.

Is the Minister aware that people are hoping that re-armament will not take precedence over this important industry, which is making such a vital contribution to Britain's economy? Can he give an assurance that this industry will still have priority?

I can only give this assurance, and I think that no more could reasonably be expected of me: that in looking at the importance of the rearmament factory there I shall not overlook the importance of the export trade. I shall endeavour to see that we fill both if we can.

When my right hon. and learned Friend visits the Potteries, will he go a little further north and visit Macclesfield, where there is plenty of scope for people from the textile mills to make armaments?

When the Minister visits the Potteries, will he inquire whether facilities are available for training women when they are found; and when he comes back, after finding that there is a shortage of facilities for technical training, will he impress upon his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education how shortsighted is the policy of cutting educational expenditure?

16.

asked the Minister of Labour the number engaged in the pottery industry in 1939, 1945 and 1950, respectively; and the number of women engaged in the same years.

As the reply includes a table of figures I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The estimated numbers of insured persons in employment in the pottery industry in Great Britain at mid-1939 and mid-1945 were as follows:

TotalNumber of females included in Total
Mid-193967,90037,700
Mid-194538,70024,000

These figures relate to persons who were insured under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and they therefore exclude men aged 65 and over and women aged 60 and over, non-manual workers earning more than £420 a year, and part-time women employees. These classes became insured, however, under the National Insurance Acts, which came into operation in 1948, and they are therefore included in the following figures for the end of May, 1950:

Total

Number of females included in Total

82,00044,700

Notification Of Engagements Order (Administrative Workers)

20.

asked the Minister of Labour why employment in managerial, professional, administrative and executive capacities has been excluded from the Notification of Engagement Order.

The general object of redeployment of labour to meet national needs would not be materially assisted by requiring such vacancies to be notified to employment exchanges.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that amongst older people there is considerable unemployment in these categories, and will he consider whether the powers given to him under the Order could be used to persuade employers to get away from the prejudice which some of them have against older people?

I have appointed a committee to look into the question of the employment of older workers. The Order, however, is one which follows Orders which have preceded it, and the whole matter was discussed and agreed to by both sides of industry.

Is the Minister aware of the present danger that manual workers in the industries covered by the Order may feel it is unfair to them that administrative people are not brought within its confines?

I can only say that that point was not taken in the long discussions we had with the representatives of labour.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that recently in the steel industry, where men are being asked, hypothetically, to remain after the age of 65, in a constituency where there are 300 vacant jobs in one firm alone, seven good men, with over 35 years' service each, have recently had their notices to quit?

Road Services Depot, Symington (Strike)

21.

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to a stoppage of work at the British Road Services Depot, Symington, Lanarkshire; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. I understand that 29 men stopped work on 25th February in protest against the decision to close down the operational side of the British Road Services Depot at Symington. This decision, which involves the transfer of 21 drivers and fitters to another depot, was taken after discussion through the normal joint consultative machinery. The strike is unofficial and officers of the trade unions are endeavouring to secure an immediate resumption of work.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the decision to close the depot followed an assurance given to me, the Parliamentary representative of these men, that the depot would not be closed and that this assurance came from the Chairman of the British Transport Commission and was later endorsed by the Chairman of the Road Haulage Executive?

That is a matter which does not come within my responsibility. The fact is that it is an unofficial strike. Although yesterday, I understand, the men decided by a majority vote not to resume work, the national union officials are calling another meeting tomorrow and I hope that will succeed.

Is the Minister of Labour aware that this stoppage has occurred through the intervention of the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Maitland), through his not allowing the trade union to deal with these labour questions but obstructing trade union officials?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that that allegation is wholly unfounded? I, as the men's Parliamentary representative, take the greatest care to keep out of trade union issues, but if I passed on to the House what trade unionists have told me the hon. Member opposite would be greatly embarrassed?

Is the Minister aware that two evenings ago I had a visit in the Central Lobby of the House from two officials of the trade union concerned, who reported to me that the unofficial stoppage had occurred because of the intervention of the hon. Member opposite?

Is this not one more example of the friction which occurs between organised labour and nationalised industries?

Sheffield

23.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of unemployed persons in Sheffield on 1st November last, and on the latest convenient date since 4th February.

The number was 1,230 at 12th November, 1951, and 1,470 at 11th February, 1952.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consult the Minister of Supply to see that a full allocation of raw materials is sent to industries in Sheffield, so that they can keep their people supplied?

Is it not the custom Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Member who put down the original Question to ask the first supplementary question?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consult the Minister of Supply and other Ministers concerned to see if the substantial increase in unemployment can be mitigated, particularly in view of the fact that a number of firms have advised their workers that substantial redundancy must be expected in the near future?

As I have been invited, I will attempt to consult my right hon. Friend, but I ought to draw attention to the fact that whereas the figure I have given for 11th February is 1,470 the figure for February, 1951, was 1,405. That will put the matter into some proportion.

Industrial Relations Handbook

24.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will arrange for the publication of a revised edition of the Industrial Relations Handbook.

A revised edition is being prepared. Meanwhile, the present edition should be read in conjunction with the supplements which have been issued.

Does the Minister appreciate that this decision will be received with gratitude by all those concerned in industrial problems? Will he expedite that new edition and, meantime, issue supplements to cover the changes which have taken place, particularly under the new Notification of Engagement Order, since the supplements were last issued?

The only thing holding up immediate issue is printing trouble and getting rid of some of the stocks of the old issue. I will consider what supplements should be issued in the meantime.

When the handbook is available, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman send a copy to the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Maitland)?

If this handbook has not been completely revised, will the Minister see if it is possible to get a statement from the Federation of British Industries similar to that issued by the Trades Union Congress, because industrial relations are a two-way matter and there is evidence that employers are taking advantage of the situation to get rid of good shop stewards in industry?

I do not know that any amendment of the document would be required, but I ought to say that I have had, and desire to acknowledge, co-operation from both sides of industry in dealing with this matter.

Painters, London Area

25.

asked the Minister of Labour how many painters are registered as unemployed in the London area.

At 14th January there were 3,726 painters and decorators whose last employment was in the building and civil engineering industries, registered as unemployed at employment exchanges in the Greater London area.

Is the Minister of Labour aware that this figure is increasing at a rate far more than the seasonal fluctuation, largely as a result of the interference by the present Administration With housing programmes in the London area?

Would my right hon. and learned Friend consider asking his right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to consider taking painting work away from the licensing system as long as there are plenty of painters out of work and plenty of paint is available?

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend and will pass on what he has suggested to the appropriate Department.

Industrial Electricity Load Spreading

26.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any statement to make on the arrangements for spreading the industrial electricity load.

Yes, Sir. I am glad to be able to inform the House that excellent results have been achieved in industrial load spreading this winter; power cuts have been to a large extent avoided.

The Electricity Sub-Committee has been reviewing the position, and has recommended that regional boards for industry should have discretion to relax load spreading arrangements, in the light of regional circumstances, as from 1st March next. This recommendation has been accepted by the Government and the regional boards have been so informed. The need remains for full use of private generating plant and for economy during peak hours by all classes of consumer.

I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to all concerned for the co-operation that has made this relaxation possible.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that that statement will be heartily welcomed by workers and managements throughout industry?

While endorsing what the Minister has said about the admirable co-operation by everyone this year, may I press on the Minister that load-spreading in the winter months ought to remain a national policy probably for many years to come? Will he bear that in mind when considering this winter's results?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that, in principle, prevention is always better than cure and that this problem will never be overcome until there is a realistic reform of the Electricity Authority's tariffs.

On a point of order. Could I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Minister of Labour could now answer Question No. 6? He referred to it in his reply to Question No. 10. He said he was going to make a statement in reply to Question No. 6. It is a Question which is of considerable importance to hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent agricultural constituencies.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said he would answer this with Question No. 22. I called both hon. Members whose names are attached to those Questions and I cannot go back now.

Retail Prices Index

4.

asked the Minister of Labour what progress is being made on the compilation of a new Retail Prices Index.

19.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can now report further progress on the establishment of a revised cost-of-living index.

The Cost of Living Advisory Committee has submitted to me a report on the working of the present Interim Index of Retail Prices and possible means of effecting temporary modification in the present index until a new index based on the results of a family budget inquiry can be instituted. I hope to be able to make a further statement very shortly.

Will the Minister expedite that report, because he may not be aware that not only the benches behind him but many of his colleagues in the Government of other days have expressed the opinion that this index is a fraud to stop millions of workers from demanding increased wages, and that therefore there may be precipitate resignations of many of them if they feel that they are now parties to the maintenance of such an index.

I have expedited this report, but I thought it undesirable to make a statement until it was printed and available.

Is it not unreason-to complain of the delay since last November in view of the fact that this Committee was appointed in 1947, that previous Governments were asked repeatedly to do something about it and that the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), who was a member of the last Government, stalled on it?

Embassies (Labour Attaches)

13.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will give a list of embassies to which labour attachés have not been appointed.

Labour attachés are not at present attached to 18 embassies or legations. I will, if I may, circulate the list in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The list excludes countries in which the embassies have available the services of labour advisers appointed to the office of the Commissioner General for South-East Asia or the British Middle East Office. A number of the labour attachés cover more than one country.

Is the Minister aware of the importance of having labour attaches particularly in countries which do not operate our system of maintaining peace in industry and our system of democratic trade unionism?

Yes, Sir. I well understand the importance of these attachés. There are now 22 of them in posts, and they cover some 53 countries.

Will the Minister give an assurance that he will withstand any attempt to reduce the number of labour attachés which have already been appointed?

I cannot give that undertaking in that form. The need for economy in overseas expenditure has to be taken into account, and when we do that I cannot say how this review may affect the present appointments.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that it is our considered view on this side of the House that labour attachés are highly important and should be retained?

Can my right hon. and learned Friend make clear exactly what is the prime duty of these labour attachés? Is it to aid our ambassadors, to aid my right hon. and learned Friend's department or to give an example of our methods in the countries to which they are posted, as the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) tried to indicate? These are three very different things.

I do not underestimate the importance of the work that is done by labour attachés. All I was indicating was that, important though that work is, it has to be looked at in the setting of our economy as a whole.

Following is the list:

Afghanistan; China; Czechoslovakia; Nepal; Norway; Portugal; Soviet Union; Turkey; Yugoslavia; Bulgaria; The Holy See; Hungary; Iceland; Korea; Liberia; Philippines; Roumania; Switzerland.

Education

Village Schools

28.

asked the Minister of Education whether, since the shortage of agricultural labour is partly attributable to the centralisation of schooling, she will take steps to discourage this centralisation and foster the village schools.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Sir L. Ropner) on 6th December last.

Will my right hon. Friend consult the Secretary of State for Scotland with regard to applying this policy also to those seats of learning North of the Border?

I shall be very pleased to convey what my hon. Friend has said to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the very great success of the village colleges established in Cambridgeshire and will she convey to other local authorities the desirability of establishing similar colleges?

I will certainly draw the attention of local authorities to the experiments which have been made and have been successful in other areas.

Will the right hon. Lady tell the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Maitland) that there is a Department of Education for Scotland and that since he is now attempting to represent a Scottish constituency it is normal to address these Questions to that Department?

As Minister of Education for England and Wales I am always delighted to convey any information I can to those hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that where village schools are now being transferred to diocesan authorities that will not prejudice their future use as village schools if it is found desirable later?

I have said that I have no desire to encourage the closing of village schools.

Teachers' Exchange Visits

29.

asked the Minister of Education if she will give details of schemes for the exchange of teachers and students between this country and abroad for the year 1952.

Under the schemes described in a memorandum of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy, it is hoped to arrange about 100 exchanges of teachers between the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries; a similar number between the United Kingdom and the United States, and a smaller number with European countries. The memorandum also describes arrangements for the appointment of junior assistants which enable many students to spend a year in another country.

How does this compare with the previous year? Would the Minister give a further assurance that because of the policy of educational retrenchment the schemes will not be retracted this year?

The same numbers are involved. It is difficult to make arrangements with a large number of European countries. The number last year was very small, but I shall certainly encourage the schemes.

Size Of Classes

30.

asked the Minister of Education the number of classes of over 40 pupils, and of over 50 pupils, in January, 1951, and for January, 1952, respectively.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 20th February to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler).

Is the right hon. Lady aware that that answer was not very satisfactory and that her Circular 245 will mean that classes will increase in size and cause considerable overcrowding? Will she withdraw the Circular?

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman says that my answer was not very satisfactory. To whom does he mean it was unsatisfactory? It may not have been satisfactory to know that a year ago there was this enormous number of large classes. I quite understand that, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it was not satisfactory, but I am not to blame for that. Under the scheme, which I think is a better scheme, for the building of schools and the supplying of school places to which I have referred in Circular 245, I think there will be more chance of getting all the places that we require.

But is the right hon. Lady aware that Circular 245 will restrict school building, that it is condemned by such responsible people as Dr. Alexander of the Association of Education Committees, and that it will mean there will be serious overcrowding in 12 months to two years' time?

The Circular restricts construction to where it is needed. I found that there was too much building. There was £120 million worth of work under construction, and if new starts had been made we would have had an enormous amount of building under construction and no buildings finished.

Is not this increase due to the raising of the school-leaving age before there was an adequate number of teachers to cope with the additional children?

May I ask the right hon. Lady if 80 per cent. of the building under construction is for primary schools?

Of the £120 million worth of work under construction there were 400,000 school places in technical colleges, and some other work. It was to get the completion of those primary places that I stopped the start of further work until those places wanted during this year were completed.

No, Sir. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Circular he will see that certain starts were stopped—as he said. A revised programme has now been brought out and the number of places which the right hon. Gentleman had told us he thought would be required at the end of 1953 in primary and technical schools is exactly the same as the number of places included in this programme.

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply I beg to give notice that I will endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

University Students (Grants)

31.

asked the Minister of Education whether her attention has been drawn to the resolution of the Birmingham University Guild Council, a copy of which has been sent her, expressing concern at educational economies and fearing reductions in grants made to students in universities and colleges; and how many local education authorities have expressed their intention of securing economies in 1952–53 by reductions in number or amount of such awards.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes." I cannot answer the second part, but I am sending the hon. Member a copy of a circular in which I asked local education authorities to postpone their decisions on this matter until they have had an opportunity of considering some information which I shall be sending them shortly, and of further consultation with me.

Is the Minister aware of the concern among university students throughout the country that her recent ill-advised circular will be used as an excuse to cut down grants for university training? Will she give an assurance that she will not in any way allow that circular to be used by reactionary authorities to cut the grants to students upon whom this country will depend so much in the future?

I have already stated that the number of State scholarships and supplementary State scholarships and other university awards will be the same. The reason I have asked local authorities to consider the points I have sent them, and to consult me, is that I wish for the fairest distribution of awards throughout the country. I am discussing with the university authorities and representatives of local authorities what should be the maintenance standard. I am anxious to see that the standard shall not be too low, and I am sending local authorities a table showing the number of scholarships given in different areas in ratio to the pupils, so that we may get a fairer distribution.

Children (Swimming Facilities)

32.

asked the Minister of Education what are her plans for increasing facilities for the promotion of education in swimming for schoolchildren.

In general, I am satisfied that local education authorities and other school authorities make good use of the available facilities for giving instruction in swimming. It would not at present be practicable to provide new facilities.

Is the Minister aware that these facilities have been reduced, and that her present policy amounts to an attack on the standard of life of swimming teachers as well as upon the living standards of the children? Will she reverse that policy?

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will send me particulars showing how the standard of life of teachers of swimming has been reduced I shall be delighted to look into them.

Will my right hon. Friend make use of the services of the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes), who is an expert in swimming, and who, I am sure, has a very high standard of living which is not likely to be cut down?

Technical Colleges (Foreign Students)

33.

asked the Minister of Education the number of foreign students who are at present studying at technical colleges in the United Kingdom.

While the right hon. Lady, like myself, will welcome students here, may I ask if she is aware that in many of our big technical colleges, including the London Polytechnic, there are as many as 25 aliens in a class of 30 or 32, which means that there are fewer of our people in those classes? This is a most disquieting feature? What can she do about it?

I am not aware of these facts, but I will look into them if the hon. Gentleman sends me particulars. He will remember that the hon. Gentleman sitting in front of him has been asking me to encourage exchanges with people from other countries.

Secondary Schools (Transfer Age)

34.

asked the Minister of Education what changes she is contemplating in the age of transfer to secondary school.

I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 12 of Circular 245, of which I am sending him a copy. I contemplate no change in the age of transfer before September, 1956. By that date, a large number of spare places will have become available in the primary schools, and some of these we shall have to use for older children.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many teachers do not agree with her figures for 1956, when this change-over comes about? Is she further aware that it will cause enormous difficulties in schools with regard to teaching staff, curricula, furniture, and the like? Is she aware that, since 1945, due to the late Labour Government, the youngsters are bigger than they were before and occupy more space, that they are too big for the furniture, and that girls of 12 and 13 will be much too big for the furniture in junior schools?

I will certainly take into account any further increase in the average size of children and see that where part of a primary school is to be used for a short time for children receiving secondary education the furniture must be of a suitable type and size.

Denominational Schools

35.

asked the Minister of Education when the Government propose to introduce legislation to assist financially the denominational schools.

Is the Minister aware of the very advanced stage that was reached by the last Government in relation to this all important question, about which every section in this House and in the country is concerned? Will she also take steps to expedite the negotiations that are taking place, so that a happy and harmonious settlement can be reached to assist, financially, the difficulties of the non-provided schools?

I am not aware exactly what the hon. Gentleman means by the term "very advanced." As to the stage of the negotiations, I can assure him that I am having discussions with all the interested parties, and hope that, as a result of these discussions, the arrangements made will be, as the hon. Gentleman hoped, regarded as the best obtainable by all concerned.

School Medical Record Card

36.

asked the Minister of Education what information regarding a child's home and its parents is embodied in a school medical card.

The school medical record card makes provision for the following information about home conditions: type of dwelling, number of rooms, number of occupants, sleeping arrangements, cleanliness and parental care. A section deals with important illnesses or defects in other members of the family, and a further section relates to the occupations of the parents.

In view of the fact that much of the information on these medical cards might well be considered to be confidential, will not my right hon. Friend ensure that, in future, these cards are kept in such a manner that they could not be made available to outsiders or snoopers?

I am informed that these cards are kept private. I regard it as most important, but I will look into the matter myself.

Dismissed Teachers, Egypt

37.

asked the Minister of Education to offer, or secure, suitable employment for British teachers summarily dismissed by the Egyptian Government through no fault of their own and, in particular, in the case of which she has been informed.

41.

asked the Minister of Education if she will consider making a resettlement grant to former officials of the Egyptian Ministry of Education, who have recently been forced to return home; and whether she will give them some priority for re-engagement by her Department.

I am anxious to give any help that I can to any of these teachers or officials who wish to secure employment in this country, but the only educational appointments for which I am directly responsible are to H.M. Inspectorate and there are likely to be very few vacancies in that service for some time to come. The appointment of teachers rests with local education authorities and the governing bodies of schools. They are considering most sympathetically any applications they receive from teachers returning from Egypt and they will, I am sure, continue to do so. I have no power to make resettlement grants.

Will my right hon. Friend circulate a list of these people to all local authorities, as some at least are suffering financial deprivation? Will she also say whether anything has been done about it?

The Appointments Board of the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Education Committees are. I think, already in touch. I think it is already known—though, certainly, I will always pass on information that comes to me—that they should apply to us, or, if they want a particular area, they should apply to the local authority of that area.

As far as I know, they have not decided to send me a complete list, but, if they do, I shall be perfectly willing to do it.

Nursery Schools (Closing)

38.

asked the Minister of Education if she is aware that local authorities are reducing or closing nursery schools as part of the policy to cut costs; that mothers of young children cannot take part in the production drive unless care is taken of their children; and if she will refuse her assent to such measures.

90.

asked the Minister of Education in how many cases she has refused approval to the proposals of local education authorities to abolish nursery schools; and whether this action qualifies as part of the economies called for in Circular 242.

Three local education authorities have proposed to close nursery schools as a measure of economy under Circular 242. In one case, I have refused to agree to the authority's proposal. In general, I am not prepared to agree to the closure of the schools solely on financial grounds. Each case should be looked at on its merits in the light of all the local circumstances, including, amongst other things, the extent to which the mothers of children are employed in work of national importance.

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the feeling that exists in the country about the closing of nursery schools? Will she give a categorical assurance that she will discourage all local authorities who are attempting to close these nursery schools?

I made it perfectly clear in Circular 242, and I have also made it clear since, that there should be no closure of the whole of any part of the educational system. If it were found in certain areas that nursery schools were not required the authority could consider it, but I have made it perfectly clear that I could not agree to the closure, simply for the sake of economy, of all nursery schools.

Will the Minister say which authority it is which she has compelled to keep open nursery schools?

Questions To Ministers

May I raise a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the course of Questions? This is, I think, the third occasion in the last fortnight on which the Prime Minister's Questions have not been reached, and on only one occasion have we got as far as Question 50. I do not think that is due to the length of Ministerial replies, but to the number and length of supplementary questions, and in the interest of those Members who have taken pains to put down their Questions some weeks in advance in order to get an oral reply, could not Questions be speeded up?

The remedy for that matter is really in the hands of the House itself. I do my best to expedite the course of Questions, but the number and length of supplementary questions prevents us from making progress. I will admit that occasionally some of the answers are long, too, but as to that, it is only fair to point out that a long supplementary question very frequently requires a long answer. I shall assist all I can in trying to give a fair ration of Questions to everyone, but it really lies with the House, and if I have the cooperation of hon. Members and a certain amount of self-denying ordinance in the matter of the length and number of supplementary questions, I am sure we can do much better than we are doing now.

Further to that point of order. May I also ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you remember that ever since the new Parliament has assembled the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Questions have been reached only twice? May I respectfully ask through you, Sir, that the Leader of the House might consider putting the Chancellor's Questions to No. 30 so that those interested in them could get their Questions answered.

Further to that point of order. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister is a very busy man and that he has come here specially to answer only two Questions, would it be possible for him to give an oral answer to them, as I personally have delayed my Question for that?

Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for Ministers, particularly the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education, to filibuster when making their replies to the House?

I am not quite sure of the meaning of the word "filibuster," but if the hon. Gentleman is implying that the right hon. Lady was intentionally slow, I think he should withdraw that.

May I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker? It will be within your recollection that last Thursday afternoon the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) specifically referred to the fact that hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies find it quite impossible to get answers from the Minister of Agriculture because he does not take his turn in the rotation of Ministers, and therefore his Questions are never reached. May we ask your help in this matter, Sir?

As I said, I will help all I can, but it is really a matter which ought to be arranged through the usual channels.

Is not this another indication that the Leader of the House ought to resign his position as Minister of Health as soon as possible so as to give his attention to the House?

Would it not be helpful and speed up Questions, and would there not be fewer supplementary questions, if the answers received from the Government Front Bench were far more satisfactory?

The question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) was a partial anticipation of my own. My question to you, Mr. Speaker, is whether you do not agree that if Ministerial replies were less evasive and more satisfactory, less time would be wasted, or, rather, more time would be utilised on supplementary questions?

Is it not a custom, Mr. Speaker, when a Minister's Questions are not reached, and if the Minister himself, even after Question time, feels disposed to give an oral answer, that he can do so?

The true position is that if a Minister's Question is not reached, but he feels that in the public interest he ought to make an early statement, he can ask my permission, and if I agree that is done.

Business Of The House

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 3RD MARCH—Supply (2nd allotted Day):

Committee stage of the Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments Vote on Account, 1952–53.

A debate will take place on the appointment of Lord Waverley as Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income.

TUESDAY, 4TH MARCH—Supply (3rd allotted Day):

Report stage of the Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments Vote on Account, 1952–53.

A debate will take place on Central African Federation.

WEDNESDAY, 5TH MARCH—Debate on Defence, which will take place on a Government Motion to approve the White Paper.

Consideration of Motions to approve:

Draft Civil Defence (Police) Regulations;

Similar Regulations for Scotland;

Biscuits (Charges) Order.

THURSDAY, 6TH MARcH—Supply (4th allotted Day):

It is proposed to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on Navy Estimates, 1952–53, and to consider Votes A, 1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 13, and 15; and Navy Supplementary Estimates, 1951–52, in Committee.

FRIDAY, 7TH MARCH—Consideration of Private Members' Motions.

During the week it is hoped to obtain the Report and Third Reading of the Agriculture (Fertilisers) Bill.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in regard to Monday's business, it would not be convenient if the Committee stage of the Civil Estimates were to be taken formally and if a discussion were to take place on a Motion which is on the Order Paper in the name of some of my hon. Friends?

Yes, Sir, we are in the hands of the Opposition; it is one of their days. If they like to carry on in that way, of course the Government can have no objection.

On Wednesday's business, if it is not possible to reconsider having, possibly, two days instead of one day for the Defence debate, would the Leader of the House make arrangements to have one or two hours extra that day so that the very complicated subjects arising from the Defence debate concerning both the discussions at Lisbon and the Defence White Paper itself might have an opportunity of being fully debated?

I have not heard this suggestion from anybody before. We foreshadowed the debate on a great many occasions, but nobody has said before that there ought to be an extension of time. Of course, I will consider anything that is put to me.

Will the Leader of the House ensure next week that a Government Whip and Government supporters attend Standing Committee A, because it strains a loyal Opposition to have to provide Whips, quorum and majority on Standing Committee A in order to get through Government business, as we did this morning?

I have not had any information on the subject raised by the hon. Gentleman, but on the facts as stated by him I am sure I am very grateful to him.

In view of the confusion caused by changes in the Government programme, can the right hon. Gentleman confirm or deny the report that the Budget speech is now to be made in the House of Lords by Lord Cherwell?

May I address a question to you personally, Mr. Speaker? Did I understand you to say last Thursday that when the Leader of the House had given details of business for the ensuing week, it was not in order to ask when another Bill not mentioned was to come up? My reason for asking is that I want to know when the Government are going to find time to bring in the British Museum Bill, because I am very anxious to see that the Caryatid is returned to its rightful place.

In view of the fact that we are now, I understand, to have a statement on the important discussions in Lisbon, and that the Defence Estimates would be a convenient opportunity for a debate, can the Leader of the House say whether there could be a suspension for one hour on the Defence debate?

As I said, until the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) raised the question, nobody had made the point to me, still less through the usual channels. Though I must not be taken as accepting that a debate on Defence necessarily means a debate on the Lisbon conference—they do not seem to be quite the same thing—I said that the debate on Defence would be postponed in order that it might be seen within the framework of what had been decided in Lisbon. But as I said just now, if there is a desire to extend the time, I shall certainly consider it.

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, I must ask whether we could have a day for discussion of the Lisbon report. I understood that, owing to certain difficulties about Government business, it was unlikely that the Government could find time, but if we can have a day on the Lisbon report it would be much better than having another day on Defence.

Of course, we can look into that, because there are certain days available. There might have been Monday, for example.

Can the Leader of the House give us the latest information about the date of the Budget, and can he deny rumours that the date is to be deferred still further because the Cabinet are unable to reach a decision about its contents?

Can the right hon. Gentleman give some indication to the House when the National Health Service Bill is likely to be introduced?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Arising from your last observation, is the House to take it that that is a reply on behalf of the Government?

No. The question was asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could name the date for the introduction of the National Health Service Bill. As no reply was given, I took it that silence meant an answer in the negative.

Can we have some more precise details from the Leader of the House about Monday's business? The Estimates have been mentioned, and also the matter of the appointment of the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Taxation. Previously it had been announced that a Private Bill was to be taken—the British Transport Commission Bill. Are we to take it that that will not come on Monday, and if so, how is time to be arranged?

It will be taken on Monday at Seven o'Clock.