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Commons Chamber

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 1 April 1952

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 1st April, 1952

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Ministry Of Pensions

Road Tax And Petrol (Cost)


asked the Minister of Pensions the cost to his Department of the payment of road tax and petrol allowances for cars and tricycles, etc., supplied to war-disabled pensioners at the latest convenient date; and the estimated increase resulting from the Budget proposals.

The cost of the road tax on the motor cars is £18,830 a year, which will increase by about £4,700, and on the motor tricycles £3,800 a year, which will not be affected by the Budget proposals.

There is no petrol allowance for either the cars or the tricycles. A contribution is, however, made towards the running and repair costs of the cars, and the motor tricycles are maintained at State expense.

As the Minister will be aware, many of these disabled ex-Service men find it difficult now to meet the cost of petrol and, in view of the increased petrol tax, will he consider making them some allowance or approaching the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to giving them special remission from this increased petrol tax?

I think that is rather a different question to the one on the Order Paper.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the question contained in the supplementary question and, perhaps, deal with it at a later date?

Will the Minister give the approximate mileage per gallon of these vehicles?

I think that the mileage of the cars varies between 30 and 40. The mileage of the motor tricycles varies according to whether they are all-weather tricycles or ordinary ones. I understand that the mileage of the all-weather tricycles is rather higher than that of the ordinary tricycles. The mileage of the latter is, I think, something like 70 to the gallon.

War Pensions


asked the Minister of Pensions if he is aware of the dissatisfaction existing among the recipients of war pensions owing to the inadequacy of the proposed increases; and if he is prepared to reconsider the increases in the light of the present cost of living.

No, Sir. I think the recipients of war pensions generally will regard the recently announced improvements costing £10 million a year as a substantial contribution in the light of the present economic situation of the country.

Do I understand that the Minister has received no representations from the ex-Service men's organisations in regard to the inadequacy of this increase?

I understand that the headquarters of the British Legion has sent out a communication to all its branches urging them to protest against the inadequacy of the improvements, and that many branches have done so; but I think we must remember that the Legion's request was for a very large sum which, in my opinion, is out of the question in the present financial situation of the country.

Is the Minister aware that by far the greater majority of these disabled pensioners will, by virtue of their percentage rate of disability, get only 2s. or 3s. a week increase?

Yes, but I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that even so they will be getting their proportional increase, which is all that we can give on the basis of the assessment. They will still be getting an increase of over 20 per cent. on their proportional basic pensions.

Does my hon. Friend mean that he is having no conversations with the Treasury to see whether or not something can be done in this matter; or is the matter completely closed?

I can hold out very little hope of further improvement in the present situation.

Personal Case


asked the Minister of Pensions what steps he is taking to examine the claim of Ronald Albert Powell to a disablement pension.

No trace can be found in the records of my Department of any claim for a disablement pension by a Mr. Ronald Albert Powell. It has now been established that Mr. Powell did not serve in Her Majesty's Forces.

I had a suspicion that that was the case. Will the Minister do his best to insure that the Press give equal publicity to his vindication of the Ministry as they gave to the ill-informed and malignant remarks of the magistrate?

I hope that the Press—and I am sure that they will—will give publicity to the answer I have given to the Question.

Disablement Assessments

5 and 6.

asked the Minister of Pensions (1) if he will define all the factors taken into consideration in assessing war disability pensions for amputations in accordance with the tables of assessments for specific injuries under the Royal Warrants;

(2) if he will grant to limbless pensioners the same facilities for higher assessments for increased disablement with advancing years as are granted to other pensioners; and if he will award compensation for the discomfort and burden of wearing artificial limbs in addition to the pension for amputation as the men get older.

I refer the hon. Member to the Report of the Inter-departmental Committee on the Assessment of Disablement due to Specified Injuries appointed jointly by the Minister of National Insurance and the Minister of Pensions in 1946. As the hon. Member is aware the recommendations of this Committee were published in March, 1947 (Cmd. 7076), and were accepted by both Ministers. I do not feel able to question the findings of this expert Committee, but I will gladly look into any individual case in which it is felt that the pension assessment should be increased because of worsening of the war disablement.

Is the Minister aware that that Committee took no regard of the fact of the increasing age of the pensioners? Is he further aware that according to his own reply to me on 11th March it would cost only £1,115,000 to give a 50 per cent. increase in the pensions of limbless persons above the age of 50? Will he consider that aspect of the case?

As I have told the hon. Member, one has the greatest sympathy for the ageing pensioner, whatever the type of disablement, but I do not think I can make any change of the kind suggested by him unless that change is supported by medical evidence. That is the difficulty.

Is the Minister aware that the limbless man is in rather a different category to other pensioners? He is a battle casualty and should receive special consideration.

Yes, but I think the hon. Member will agree that we have to do equal justice to all pensioners for whom we are responsible, whatever their type of disability. There is much to be said about the elder pensioner suffering extra hardship in certain cases, but it is extremely difficult to discriminate in any way between one type of pensioner and another.

Will the Minister consider granting a larger pension increase to limbless ex-Service men who served as privates?

Is it not a fact that the proposed increases show a distinction between limbless officers and privates? Is it not a fact that the disabled ex-Service man whether his rank be private or officer, is entitled to equal treatment?

As I think the hon. Member knows, there has always been increments for rank in the Royal Warrant, and I would not be inclined to interfere with that. But the increase that has now been given to the basic pension is the same for all ranks. Increments have not themselves been increased.

British Army

Personal Cases


asked the Secretary of State for War why the date of discharge from full-time service of 22330907 Lance-Corporal Parker was altered in his discharge book from 31st January, 1952, to 25th February, 1952.

This alteration was made to correct a mistake by which the date on which this soldier reported for part-time service, instead of the date on which he completed his terminal leave, was entered in his discharge documents.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that this alteration had nothing to do with the charge that was subsequently laid against Lance-Corporal Parker?

I am completely satisfied on that point. I understand the reason for my hon. Friend's anxiety, but I can assure him that it is not so.


asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 22330907 Lance-Corporal Parker was kept under close arrest for nine days, and was subsequently sentenced to 28 days' detention for the unauthorised borrowing of a motor-cycle; and whether he will cause a review of this sentence, in view of its severity.

This soldier's sentence of 28 days' detention was confirmed and promulgated, but on 14th March the reviewing authority remitted 21 days' detention and he was, therefore, released from detention on 18th March.

Can my right hon. Friend say why it is necessary in a case of this kind to keep the soldier concerned, who is on discharge leave, under close arrest? In a similar case tried by the civil authority he would not have been so detained.

This is habitual in the procedure, and I do not think that under the circumstances nine days was an unduly long time.

12 and 16.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) why 22774347 Signalman G. W. Parsons, 7 Training Regiment, Royal Signals, Catterick Camp, was not granted legal aid in the preparation of his defence before a district court-martial;

(2) on what date 22774347 Signalman G. W. Parsons, Royal Signals, was tried by court-martial at Catterick Camp; and on what date his sentence was confirmed and by whom.

The trial took place on 20th March, 1952; the sentence was confirmed by the Commander, Signals Training Centre, Catterick, on the following day.

All applications for legal aid in this country are considered by the Director of Army Legal Services. For trials by court-martial for purely military offences, it is granted whenever the case presents particular legal difficulty or in cases of mutiny, serious cases of insubordination and certain other specific offences. The charge in this case, under Section 33 of the Army Act, was a straightforward one and did not come within the scope of the scheme.

Is the Minister satisfied that this trial was properly conducted? Is it or is it not a fact that just before this trial this soldier was charged and summarily convicted on a charge of making a false statement to obtain pay, and that on investigation a senior officer quashed the proceedings on the ground of irregularity? Is it not a fact that the soldier was told at the trial that he should have had expert legal advice on a certain point, and that certain important evidence was never produced?

I am not aware of these facts, but if the hon. Gentleman would care to inform me of the details of them I will certainly look into the matter.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement on the case of Gunner J. E. O'Leary, missing in Malaya since 2nd March, 1951.

A death certificate could not be provided by my Department until an investigation in connection with a murder charge had been completed by the civil authorities and an inquest into this death had been held. The civil authorities have now decided to dispense with an inquest, and I hope that the death certificate will very soon be issued.

Is the Minister aware that in this very deplorable case the parents have been treated with a lack of consideration which is really heartless, especially in view of the right hon. Gentleman's promise in the House on 13th November that the fate of this lad was going to be cleared up within a week or two? I am really ashamed of the way in which this has been handled.

I very much regret this delay but, as I say, we could not issue the death certificate until the civil authorities had completed their examination.

Ex-Miners (Releases)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many miners now in the Army have applied for release to return to the mines in the past six months.

The scheme for the release of miners serving in the Army ended on 30th September, 1951. No records are, therefore, available of any applications submitted after that date.

That is not an answer to the Question. Is the Minister aware that I, as one Member on this side of the House, have sent him quite a number of cases where men have applied for release in the last few months? I should like to know what are the ranks of these men and what is the job they are doing in the Army. Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it would be infinitely better from the national point of view that a man who is doing duties of a routine character in the Army and is an unwilling soldier should be released to work in the mines?

As I said, this scheme was stopped on the 30th September, 1951. My answer is correct. As a man applying for discharge under this rule would have been informed by his commanding officer that no such rule existed, no records could be kept and no such returns were made to the War Office.

Is it not about time that we had a new policy, and that it should be a question of unconditional release for miners?

Accession Proclamation, Lincoln


asked the Secretary of State for War why the band of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment was ordered to travel from Lincoln to Nottingham to take part in the ceremony in the city of Nottingham proclaiming the accesssion of Her Majesty and was thus prevented from taking part in the proclamation ceremony in the City of Lincoln.

I do not think that I can usefully add to my reply to the hon. Member's Question on this subject on Tuesday, 18th March.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the citizens of Lincoln resent the poaching of this band in this case, and will he do everything he can to foster the association between this famous regiment and the city and capital of the county?

I think that on this occasion the Lincolnshire band, through no fault of their own, found themselves with two dates and, as often happens, they were unable to keep both. One party was thus unsatisfied.

Boys' Battalion (Service Engagements)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether recruits to the boys' battalion of the Army will have the option of taking their discharge at 18 years of age.

No, Sir. The engagement is freely entered upon and must have the consent of the parents or legal guardian. Since the period spent before attaining the age of 18 is devoted to giving the boy a specialised training for his future Army career, I cannot agree to give these boys the option of taking their discharge at the very moment when their training is completed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that it is right to allow a boy of 15 years to sign on for up to 11 years with the Colours and Reserves, or 15 years with the Colours? Does the right hon. Gentleman not remember that an alteration was made in the Royal Navy a few years ago when boys were given the option at the age of 18, I think, to enter into a short-term engagement?

None of these boys can sign on for 15 years. This system has been continuing for some considerable time, including the last six years under the late Government, and I do not think that when we spend a lot of money on their training we can afford to let them go so early.

Is the Minister aware that in an official document it states that a boy of school-leaving age may join a battalion by enlisting in the Regular Army, and the conditions are that he signs on for eight years with the Colours and four with the Reserves, which means 12 years with the Colours from the age of 18? That, in effect, means up to 15 years' service.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not apply the new proposal of giving everyone the right to a discharge after three-yearly intervals to these boys? Would not that meet the difficulty?

We have considered that, but the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that if one of these boys has had a technical education and is well qualified, many civilian firms may come along and make alternative offers to him so that all that time would be wasted. I think when we have these special concessions we have a right to claim longer service.

Armoured Vehicles, Malaya


asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that British troops in Malaya are inadequately supplied with armoured fighting vehicles; and what steps he is taking to maintain and improve the supply.

British units in Malaya have their full establishments of armoured fighting vehicles. Additional vehicles could only be provided at the present time at the expense of the essential needs of other theatres.

Naafi Parcels Scheme


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will extend the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes' parcels scheme to the forces to include 5s. parcels.

Yes, Sir. Five shilling parcels will be included in the scheme both for Korea and Malaya.

I hope the Minister realises how much this concession will be appreciated by the wives and friends of the soldiers serving. It makes it far easier to send parcels to them.

Court-Martial Findings (Confirmation)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will arrange for the publication of a statement of reasons on each occasion when a confirming authority fails to confirm the findings of a court-martial.

I do not think that it is desirable that this should automatically be done since in many instances the reasons derive from legal advice which is privileged, and there would also be objection if a re-trial were contemplated.

Would the Minister not agree that when a court-martial is held in a blaze of publicity and the officer or soldier is found guilty and sentenced, it is very undesirable that some time afterwards there should appear in the Press a short notice to the effect that the confirming officer has refused to confirm the finding without any explanation as to whether it was due to some technical defect in the trial or because some new evidence had been forthcoming? Is it not highly desirable that the reasons should be given when a trial has been given much publicity?

As a principle to cover all cases it is most undesirable, but so far as individual cases are concerned I am prepared to consider the matter.

National Service Men, Germany (Marriages)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many National Service men have married German girls in Germany.

Statistics available cover all men whose marriages with German women have been approved. These total 7,584 since 1947. To find out how many were National Service men would need a good deal of time and effort.

Will the Minister say if these men are provided with married quarters and treated in every respect in the same way as other married men?

They join the queue for married quarters in the same way as any other soldier, but we take special steps to see that the fact that they have married a German wife does not give them special privileges in being given married quarters.

South African Veterans (Thanksgiving Service)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will grant soldiers vouchers to enable the veterans of the South African War to travel from Leeds to attend the Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul's Cathedral which is being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty at Vereeniging.

Yes, Sir—No, Sir. In spite of the special interest of this occasion, I regret that I cannot arrange a concession.

Are we to understand that the negative came from the right hon. Gentleman's head while the other reply came from his heart? Will he reconsider this matter, in so far as there can be very few men concerned after 50 years; or, if he cannot meet it in this way, could he intercede on their behalf with the Railway Executive?

With regard to the latter part of the supplementary question, I will certainly discuss the matter with the hon. Gentleman. With regard to the first part, the hon. Gentleman will realise that if I once made a concession in this case, there are innumerable other organisations which might wish to follow suit.

Further to that answer, how can the right hon. Gentleman say there are many other cases which would have to be considered? After all, this kind of case is only likely to arise twice in a hundred years.

I could suggest a great many, but I do not wish to waste the time of the House.

Does the Minister not appreciate that there are considerable charitable funds left over from the South African war, and that the money might be used to give this last remnant a little bit of fun in meeting together, and could he not try to see if he could get these men up to London?

Northumberland Fusiliers (Court-Martial Sentences)


asked the Secretary of State for War what decision has been reached on the review of the court-martial sentences on 22331472 Fusilier Taylor and other soldiers of the Northumberland Fusiliers in Korea.

I will let the hon. Member know the outcome of this review, which was due yesterday, as soon as the report reaches me.

School Teachers (Call-Up)


asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been called to the clash between the date for the calling-up of school teachers for their fortnight's refresher course and school vacation; and if he will instruct commanding officers to make provision for such men to perform this military duty during holiday periods in face of the necessity for full-time teaching in great centres like Birmingham.

It is our policy not to call up schoolmasters during term time. Any schoolmaster who has been recalled for training during term time should inform the authorities who issued him with his recall notice: it will then be arranged for him to be recalled at another time during the vacation or, where this is not possible, his recall will be cancelled.

Officers' Pensions


asked the Secretary of State for War for an estimate of what would be the annual cost of restoring the pensions of officers, stabilised in 1935, to the original rates laid down in the Royal Warrant of 1919.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be a good thing to try to remove the sense of injustice which has been left with many officers since the 1935 settlement, and which was made even deeper by the 1947 increase not covering all cases?

I have sympathy with this case, but the hon. Gentleman will realise that it concerns all three Services and the Civil Service and cannot be settled in isolation.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that retired officers are not a numerous class, that they have served their country well, that they are suffering considerable hardship in many cases, that they are not politically organised, and would he make a renewed attempt to settle this question?

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the fact that it is tied up with the other two Services and with the Civil Service makes it all the more urgent that a solution should be found?


asked the Secretary of State for War by what percentage the cost of living has increased since 1919, when the rates of officers' pensions were fixed by Royal Warrant; and if he will give an estimate of what would be the approximate annual cost of granting such increases as would make good this fall in the value of money.

I can only give an approximate figure showing the change in the level of retail prices since 1919, as different bases must be used for different periods, and an index covering all consumer goods and services has only been available since 1938. Subject to this qualification the present level is about 60 per cent. above the level in 1919.

To increase to 60 per cent. above the 1919 rates Army officers' retired pay awards at present based on the consolidation of 1935 would cost upwards of £2½ million a year.

Connaught Military Hospital (Dietician)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has come to a decision regarding the appointment of a dietician to the Connaught Military Hospital.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he will look into this as a matter of urgency? Quite a considerable time has already elapsed, and surely it is a matter on which a quick decision should be taken?

This matter was first mooted on 20th March, and I do not think the delay is very long. It is being looked into, and I can assure my hon. Friend that it will be completed as soon as possible.

Officers' Emergency Reserve


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will accept applications for enrolment in the Army Officers' Emergency Reserve from men who have not previously held commissioned rank.

Enrolment in the Army Officers' Emergency Reserve is now open to suitable civilians in commands overseas, and I am hoping shortly to open this Reserve to specially qualified civilians at home.

Is the Minister aware that since 1945 quite a number of men who served in the ranks during the war have now acquired qualifications which might make them suitable for enrolment in this Reserve? Will he consider their applications?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, if this is done, the object will be to get those with technical qualifications into the Army as officers without regard to their previous status.

War Graves, Malaya


asked the Secretary of State for War who is responsible for the care of war graves in Malaya; and what steps he is taking to secure the provision of adequate headstones.

The graves of Service men in Malaya are the responsibility of the Service authorities. They are mostly in civil cemeteries and are at present marked by wooden crosses. Permanent headstones will be provided and they will be looked after by the War Department.

Is the Minister aware that this reply will give the greater satisfaction to many of those who were prisoners in Malaya and who know of the extremely good order in which the graves were kept during the difficult times from 1942 to 1945?


Private Building


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is yet able to say how many local authorities have intimated their intention to apply 50 per cent. of their housing allocation to private licences; and if he will circulate a list of such authorities in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
(Mr. Ernest Marples)

This is a matter within the discretion of individual authorities. Information about houses licensed or approved for building by private builders by each authority is given each quarter in Appendix B to the Housing Return.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the policy which he and his friends are pursuing in this matter is driving thousands of people, particularly young married couples, to cynical despair? Is he aware that they are now beginning to realise that the first test is not the human need of their problem but the possession of capital resources?

I would draw the attention of the hon. Member to the circular which accompanied the authority to local authorities to increase their private enterprise licences, because in that circular my right hon. Friend drew attention to the fact that those licences should be given to those people with housing needs comparable to those on council house waiting lists.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he can repeat that assurance, that his Ministry is bringing no pressure whatever to bear on local authorities to utilise this power, that the matter is entirely one for their discretion, and that nothing will happen if they do not choose to use it?

I said in my original answer that it is entirely at the discretion of the local authority.


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether, in order to speed the building of houses, he will permit those who wish to build their own and who possess all necessary building materials to do so without a licence.

With the increase which my right hon. Friend has made in the permitted ratio of licences to council houses, local authorities should be able to deal with any such cases on their merits.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the local authorities are not doing so? Is there any justification whatsoever for stopping a man who has building materials, acquired legitimately, on his site and is prepared to build his house with his own hands from doing so?

If my hon. Friend will send in the details to show that there are unemployed resources of materials and labour, the matter will be gone into.

Derequisitioned Properties (Tenants)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he is taking, in view of his instructions to local authorities regarding derequisitioning, to ensure the protection of those living in properties so to be derequisitioned.

The hon. Member can be assured that before properties are derequisitioned local authorities will make any provision that is necessary for tenants who occupy the premises as licensees.

But is not the Minister aware that men and women are being turned out of houses, that in fact they are served with derequisitioning notices and told to find whatever accommodation they can? Is not the Minister also aware that this kind of thing is causing great hardship and real suffering to large sections of the community, and will he, in the light of this, send a similar circular to the local authorities either urging them to do something about it or to slow down the rate of derequisitioning?

In almost every case the local authorities offer the person affected alternative accommodation—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—but if the hon. Gentleman has any individual case in mind, and will be good enough to let my right hon. Friend have it, he will look into it.

In view of that answer to the supplementary question of my hon. Friend, is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Birmingham there are over 12,000 houses which are derequisitioned? Therefore, how can he say that the local authority finds alternative accommodation when there are already 60,000 on the register of the Estates Department waiting for houses?

The hon. Gentleman said that there are over 12,000 houses de-requisitioned—

They are to be de-requisitioned, but the local authorities will not derequisition them until they find alternative accommodation for the tenants.

West Riding


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many houses were completed in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1951; and how this figure compares with the figures for 1949 and 1950.

Ten thousand, six hundred and seventy-six houses were completed in 1951. The figures for 1949 and 1950 were 11,733 and 11,056, respectively.

It is always dangerous to forecast, but we are not without hope of a substantial increase.



asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government to what extent the rate of completion of housing schemes has been expedited as a result of the standstill in sanctioning new starting dates for other building work.

But would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the effect on the rate of completions has been almost nil?

It is difficult to isolate the effects of the ban from other effects on the rate of completion. I mean that good weather, the flow of materials, the issue of private enterprise licences, and so on, which may speed up building are all factors that must be taken into account.



asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what arrangement he has made to inform himself of the number of local housing authorities which require builders of houses under licence to observe the standards laid down by the National Housebuilders Registration Council, as recommended in the appendix to the circular issued by his Department on 27th November, 1951.

My right hon. Friend considers that this is a matter which should be left in the hands of the local authorities.

If that is so, what possible assurance can the Minister give to the House or to the public that they will be protected from low standards of building, and from the kind of jerry-building which was suffered before the war?

The local authorities are the agents in this matter, and my right hon. Friend is a firm believer in the fact that the "gentleman in Whitehall" does not always know best.

Surely, if the Minister issues a circular giving specific information and advice to local authorities, he should at least find out whether that advice has been accepted or not?

In many cases my right hon. Friend gives guidance to local authorities, but only in rare cases does he make it mandatory; normally it is permissive.

West Ham (Loans)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government for particulars of all types of loans, sanctioned by his Department, so far as the county borough of West Ham is concerned, and the interest rates charged; and if he will state how these will be affected by the recent increases in the Bank rate.

My right hon. Friend's Department sanctions necessary loans to West Ham Council for all their services. The sanction is not concerned with the rate of interest, which may vary with the date, period and source of the borrowing, and he has no information on this. So far as the effect of the recent rise in the Bank rate on loans from the Public Works Loan Board is concerned, he would refer the hon. Member to the statement made by the Chancellor on 17th March in winding up the debate on the Budget.

Yes, but is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the fact that West Ham is the worst bombed borough in the country and that it has immense financial difficulties because of the loss of rateable property? Whilst we appreciate his generosity in making the £50,000 grant, is he not aware that the increased Bank rate will mean that this council will be in further financial difficulties? Will he, therefore, do something to assist this council, and councils in like position, to offset the increase resulting from the statement of the Chancellor?

The special difficulties of West Ham are met by the grant of £50,000 referred to by the hon. Member, but the Bank rate itself does not affect the rate of interest to West Ham. It is the interest rate of the Public Work Loans Board which matters.

Building Restrictions


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will remove all restrictions on the building of houses, except that, while the housing shortage prevails, no house shall exceed £1,500 or contain more than three bedrooms, subject always to the submission to local authorities of plans and amenities.

My right hon. Friend hopes progressively to achieve greater flexibility and freedom in the building of houses. We have already made considerable progress in this direction.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that if all restrictions of his Ministry and of the local authorities were removed, except those indicated in the Question, we should get thousands more houses, and that there are enough men and materials in the country to build the houses if all restrictions were removed?

I would remind my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend has indicated that if any local authority has unemployed resources of material and labour, he will consider granting them further instalments of houses.

Has the Minister noticed that in asking for controls on the price and so on of houses built by private enterprise, the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) is becoming infected with Socialist doctrine?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I wish to protest against that Jay question.

Rent Tribunal Offices


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many rent tribunal offices in the country have been and are being dispensed with and if he is aware that such action will result in hardship to proposed applicants for relief under the Rent Acts.

One office has been closed. Eight will be closed shortly and their work transferred to other offices. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that no hardship will be caused to applicants.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that the purpose of this provision in the Rent Acts was to give to tenants easy access to those offices, and is he prepared to accept the representations in that respect which have been made to him in regard to the cutting down of these important offices?

My right hon. Friend is satisfied that there will be no hardship because, first, the information and forms are available at the offices of the local authority, and secondly, the tribunals will inspect premises and hear the cases locally. Therefore no hardship ought to follow for the tenants.


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what proposals he has under consideration in regard to the rent tribunals in the North-West region; and what will be the effect in regard to Cheshire and elsewhere.

Eight offices, including that at Chester, are being closed and their work transferred elsewhere in the region, with, my right hon. Friend hopes, fully satisfactory results.

Is the Minister seriously telling the House that he is proposing to eliminate no fewer than eight of these rent tribunals in Lancashire and Cheshire? Is that not another way of effectively killing the work of the rent tribunals? If that is the object of the Government, would it not be a more honourable course to repeal the legislation?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not the intention of the Government to do that. The number of applicants seeking help from the tribunals has dropped by more than 20 per cent., and it is not unreasonable, as the volume of work drops, that the tribunals should be transferred elsewhere.

Does the Minister appreciate that the proposal will mean that the whole county of Cheshire will not have one rent tribunal?

In the case of places like Birkhenhead, it is much easier for applicants to go to Liverpool than Chester.

Birkenhead Tribunal cases are not heard in Chester but in Birkenhead. The hon. Gentleman's announcement means that in all the large towns in Lancashire and Cheshire applicants will have to traipse up to Manchester and such places.

In my answer to an earlier supplementary, I said that applicants to rent tribunals can make their applications at their local council offices and get their forms there. The tribunal will go to the applicants and not the applicants to the tribunal.

Development Charges


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will investigate the fact that a substantial number of private house building licences are being returned to local authorities because the applicants cannot afford the development charge; and if he will take steps to rectify this position.

My right hon. Friend is already investigating the general question of development charge in all its aspects as part of the review of the financial provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.

It is too early to say yet, but I can assure my hon. Friend that a great deal of time, thought and research are going into a solution of the problem.


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he now has any further statement to make on his review of those sections of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which deal with development charges on building plots for private occupation; and whether he will consider making any relief retrospective.

This matter is extremely difficult and complicated, and my right hon. Friend is not yet able to make any statement.

Hutted Camps


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what special arrangements he has made to assist local authorities to rehouse people at present accommodated in hutted ex-Service camps.

In general, the instalments of houses issued to local authorities take into account any necessary provision for rehousing families occupying such camps. In exceptional cases additional instalments are given specially for this purpose.

In view of the deplorable state of the majority of these huts, many of which have been condemned and many more of which should be condemned, will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend to give some time limit within which occupants of these hutted camps should be re-accommodated in reasonable conditions?

Surveys of the hutted camps are made from time to time by my right hon. Friend's principal regional officers, who take account of the life and the condition of the huts. If my hon. Friend has any very bad case in mind, we might get the principal regional officer to make an inspection.

Building Contracts, Lambeth (Stoppages)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why, in a letter dated 19th February last, he refused an application by the Lambeth Borough Council to pay out-of-pocket expenses to building contractors in the event of steel shortages causing stoppage of work on housing schemes.

The form of contract used by Lambeth Borough Council does not provide for payments of this kind and my right hon. Friend is not prepared to agree to recommend loan sanction to cover them.

How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile that answer with the statement made by his Minister in the House on 4th March last, that housing contracts are not subject to his approval and that the local authorities can come to amicable arrangements with housing contractors on the matter?

If housing authorities come to arrangements with housing contractors to pay out money over and above the conditions of the contract, it is not for my right hon. Friend to provide loan sanctions in advance for them. It is a matter for the local authority. In this case, the application referred to specific work carried out at Solon New Road in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's constituency. The contractor has waived his claim and the work is now proceeding. There is no necessity for any loan at all.

Local Government

Rating Of Site Values (Report)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when the report of the Committee on the Rating of Site Values will be available to Members of this House.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain this long delay?—because some months ago now he told me that the report was to be printed immediately and presented to this House. What is the reason for this long delay in a matter which is of great interest to a large number of people in local government?

The delay is not the fault of my right hon. Friend only, but partially the fault of his predecessor also. The reason for the delay has been the difficulty of getting the Stationery Office to print the report, but it is settled, and it is hoped that the report will be published after Easter.

Bathing Beaches (Oil Pollution)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will introduce legislation to enable him to provide assistance, financial and otherwise, to local authorities to help them in the difficult and expensive task of clearing bathing beaches polluted with oil washed in from the sea.

My right hon. Friend has been sorry to hear of this difficulty, but he is afraid there are no resources available to help local authorities to meet the cost of clearance. He understands, however, that his hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is investigating the problem of pollution.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Minister of Transport says that he has no funds either? Is it not time that somebody did assist the local authorities in this matter?

I agree that this is a large and difficult problem for the local authority, but it may be better to approach it at the source of pollution and to remedy it there. That is what the Minister of Transport are trying to do.

Glendale Road, Burnham-On-Crouch


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the inconvenience caused to residents in Glendale Road, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, by the poor condition of the road, and of the hardship that will fall on some of them when they are required to pay their share of the proposed improvements; and if he will expedite approval of such works as are most urgently necessary on conditions which will, so far as possible, alleviate this hardship.

My right hon. Friend is looking into this case to see whether the condition of the road warrants the work being done in spite of the present financial restrictions. Objections to the apportioned costs have been determined by the magistrates, and there has been no appeal.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the condition of the road is now extremely bad, and that of the inhabitants of the road about half seem to approve of the proposed improvement and the other half oppose it because among them are old age pensioners and others who simply cannot afford the sum required from them in contributions? Can he put forward a constructive solution of this difficulty?

My right hon. Friend has called for a report on whether the work can be carried out. Whether it is carried out or not must depend upon the report that is received. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that there has been no appeal from the apportionment of costs that was made by the magistrates.

There is a further appeal to the Minister on limited grounds after the magistrates have made their order, but in point of fact that right has not been exercised.

Nato Supreme Commander


asked the Prime Minister whether any representations have been made by the United States Government to Her Majesty's Government on the likely resignation of General Eisenhower and his replacement by General Gruenther.

No, Sir. I do not think I could guarantee to make an announcement if representations were made to me, as the mere fact of having given a guarantee might preclude the making of such representations.

That is a most interesting reply, but has the right hon. Gentleman noted in the American Press that several senators have, because of the impending resignation of General Eisenhower, declared that the Supreme Commander in the West must be an American? Will the right hon. Gentleman have regard to the fact that there is no hereditary principle involved and that there are high-ranking military officers in the United Kingdom who are competent to undertake this task?

I really do not think it would be advisable from any point of view for us to express very strong opinions upon this matter.

While appreciating that there is no need to express strong or violent opinions about it, I would point out with great respect that in the United States Government the competency of high-ranking military officers of the United Kingdom should not be in question. Although General Eisenhower was appointed because it was thought that he was the right man for the job, there is no reason to suppose that his subordinate officer, General Gruenther, might be able to fulfil the tasks allotted to the Supreme Commander as competently as some British officer.

We have had controversies on this point on another subject. It seemed to me quite natural that the British should have the command of the Atlantic, and I am bound to say that when we think of the great American Army and all that they are doing to support the front in Europe, if they have the slightest wish to have the command we should certainly support them.

Perhaps I may be forgiven for putting a further supplementary question, as this is a matter of vital importance. While I have no wish to speak in derogatory terms of any American military officer, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the desirability—I put it no higher than that at this stage—that before he comes to any decision about this, if representations in the ordinary course are made to him, the House might be entitled to express its opinion?

If I remember rightly, the decision about the Admiral of the Atlantic was announced without the House being told about it beforehand. The right hon. Gentleman must be very careful not, by a refinement of unreason to manage to be wrong both times.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is quite improper to take advantage of history in order to justify his present position?

Official Car Service (Transfer Of Responsibility)


asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a further statement on the official car service.

The heavy responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply have been increased by the re-armament programme and I have decided to relieve him of a complicated duty and to transfer responsibility for the car service to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works. This will place it among the group of general services such as building, accommodation and supplies which the Ministry of Works already administer. The Ministry of Works have facilities for operating the car service, including a commodious garage in Church House, Westminster, which is more central than the garages which have hitherto been used.

With effect from today, therefore, the Minister of Works will be responsible for operating the official car service as part of the general services which he provides for Government Departments. He is forming a central pool of the cars used in London by all Departments, with the exception of the Post Office.

The Post Office is not included in these arrangements since it has an extensive transport organisation of its own, of which a few passenger cars form a minor part. Also, the remoteness of its Headquarters from the Whitehall area makes it impracticable to absorb these cars in the central pool.

Will my right hon. Friend draw the attention of the Minister of Works to certain reports which have recently appeared in the Press making it clear that the extent to which the cutting down in the car service was promised has not been fully carried out? Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is considerable disquiet about this? If the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works helps to solve this problem quickly, we on this side will strongly support it.

Following the the hon. Member's question, can the Prime Minister state the relative cost of the car service now as compared with what it was? Naturally, it will be less, but the House might be interested to know how much less it is costing.

I am much complimented that the right hon. Gentleman should imagine that I carry all these figures in my head.

Is the Prime Minister aware that as I passed Downing Street today, on foot, I saw there, as a result of a Cabinet meeting, a great collection of cars cluttered about the place? Does that indicate that there is any shortage of cars available for Cabinet Ministers?

We are trying to live up to the new standards as quickly as possible.

Atlantic Charter (Point 4)


asked the Prime Minister if he will take immediate steps to implement Clause 4 of the Atlantic Charter of 14th August, 1941.

Considerable international efforts, in which the United Kingdom has played a leading part, have been made to further the objectives of Point 4 of the Atlantic Charter.

Statutory Rules And Regulations


asked the Prime Minister if Her Majesty's Government will take steps progressivly to reduce the number of Statutory Rules and Regulations.

It is our constant endeavour to limit as far as possible the number of Statutory Rules and Regulations.

As a supplementary to both this Question and to Question No. 47, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the only way to avoid economic collapse and another war is to remove all impediments and controls to trade as soon as practicable at home and abroad? If goods cannot cross frontiers, armies will do so, and if we restrict consumption we restrict production.

My hon. Friend is often represented as the representative of extreme Toryism. He is now putting forward the most extreme proposals of free trade and Liberalism.

May I remind the Prime Minister of his slogan: "Set the people free"?

Has the Prime Minister this time been sufficiently well serviced to have a note in anticipation of supplementaries as to how many Regulations and Orders have been added, since the present Government came into office, in the process of setting the people free?

I have stated our policy, which is to set the people free, but the rate at which this process can be accomplished depends upon the weight and strength of the shackles which have been laid upon them.

Car Tax (Flat Rate)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the estimated loss of revenue arising from a modification of his present proposals to levy a £12 10s. flat rate on all cars licensed in the United Kingdom, to permit pre-1947 cars of nine h.p., and less, to continue to pay tax at the old rate, that is, £1 5s. per h.p.

In view of the comparatively small figure that my right hon. Friend has just given, and in view of the fact that the flat rate was originally introduced, not for revenue purposes but to help the export trade, which is in no way concerned with pre-war cars, will the Chancellor consider the particular case I have mentioned, which reacts certainly on the least well off section of the motoring community?

I referred in my Budget speech to the difficulties of some of these people, but I cannot go further today.

Production Advisory Council


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he still presides over the National Production Advisory Council on Industry.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he will make much greater use of this Council than did the previous Government and try to make it a more flexible and efficient instrument for increasing production?

We are certainly intending to use this Council. Another meeting has been arranged at the earliest time convenient to all the members concerned, and I hope to preside on that occasion.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his attention has been drawn to the half-yearly report of the Trades Union Congress, in which they complained of the changes he has made regarding the secretariat of this Council and of the fact that neither they nor the employers were consulted before these changes? Has the right hon. Gentleman any statement to make on that?

Yes, Sir. These changes were made in the interests of economy and have been fully explained to the Trades Union Congress and the employers' side. I do not think they will make the slightest difference to the efficiency or spirit in which we work, and I believe that all concerned now understand that we intend to carry on as well as we can.

Hostel, Hornchurch (Evictions)

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that this afternoon and to-morrow morning a number of homeless people are to be evicted by the Essex County Council from St. George's Hostel, Hornchurch; that no alternative accommodation is to be found for the men; that the women and children are only to be accommodated if they leave the district and agree that their husbands shall not visit them in their new accommodation: and since this action is not in accordance with the statutory and other duties which fall on the County Council, what immediate action he proposes to take in the matter.

As I informed the hon. and learned Member yesterday, I understand that the county council have notified certain families that temporary accommodation will no longer be available for them at St. George's Hostel, Horn-church, and that, except for two men, they have been offered alternative accommodation at Abridge. I am asking the county council to reconsider the rule I understand they have made about visiting at Abridge.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in this hostel at the time of the last General Election no fewer than 30 people were left off the electoral list and now, within a few days of the county council elections, in the division, where there was only a majority of five, some 30 or 40 voters are to be evicted? Will he represent to the council that, quite apart from the hardship involved by people going to live at a hostel at Abridge, where there are not even doors to the cubicles, this is a most improper political act at this time?

The hon. and learned Member did write and give me that information but, of course, it has to be remembered that the decision to make this move has not just been taken; it was taken by the county council after consultation with my predecessor nearly a year ago. In point of fact, I have no responsibility in this matter at all beyond making certain that the county council do not fail to carry out or exceed, as the case may be, their statutory powers. On my present information I have no grounds of complaint about that at all, but I can give them advice if they agree to take it and I have asked that they should look into the question about visiting.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree, first, that it is a violation of their statutory power not to provide accommodation for these two men, one of whom is, I understand, suffering from tuberculosis and the other is a wounded ex-Service man? Secondly, does he not think it a little odd if, as he said, it was decided a year ago, that this action should be carried out on the eve of a county council election?

Documents, Highgate (Hoax)

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he can make any statement about the papers found in London and indicating that they emanated from the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment.

This incident has been reported on the appropriate day; but in vain is the net spread in the sight of the bird. Inquiries soon showed that the papers found in the street, although they were marked "Top Secret" and purported to come from Harwell, bore no relation to atomic secrets at Harwell or any other atomic establishment. The whole thing is a stupid hoax by a schoolboy who no doubt regarded it as an appropriate contribution to the celebration of April Fool's Day.

Business Of The House

May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on a matter concerning Private Business tonight? You will note that there are three notices of Motion down, all of them starting with the words "After Second Reading" and then giving instructions to the Committee on the Bill. Could you tell us whether, if the Second Reading commences at seven and continues, for argument's sake, until 10, it would mean that these instructions could not be debated? If that be the case—and I see you nod—would it be right to say that as the majority have no intention to deny the B.E.A. the Bill's Second Reading but are anxious to debate the instructions, the Second Reading could be given on the nod quite early—almost at once at seven o'clock and then—we could move on to debate these instructions.

I do not know whether this is a proper time to give a Ruling on the matter, but I have considered it. What I would suggest, if it fell in with those proposing these instructions, would be that we should have a debate on the Second Reading of the Bill, bringing in the points which are to be argued on the instructions, on the distinct understanding that when the Bill is read the Second time there will be no second argument on the instructions but merely a Division if it is wanted. But that will require the co-operation of those responsible for these Motions, and perhaps between now and seven they can consult and come to some agreement on it.

Prayers (Mr Speaker's Ruling)

I raised with you last week, Mr. Speaker, the question whether the Prayer moved by the Opposition was, in fact, an orderly proceeding. Prayers within the prescribed period are, of course, exempted business because they are in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, but the debate the other night could not have taken place but for the Motion suspending the Ten o'Clock Rule, because that Motion was not in pursuance of an Act of Parliament and accordingly a Prayer would have dealt with something which in my judgment was improper because Her Majesty is enabled by Section 5 of the Statutory Instruments Act to do a legislative act, namely, to annul a piece of legislation which in itself is an act of legislation; by the terms of the Statutory Instruments Act Her Majesty has no power to do it. But if we could pray at any time it implies that Her Majesty can take a legislative act on the advice of one House of Parliament only, either this or another place. That seems to me completely contrary to customary practice, and I wish to raise with you what would be the position which would arise if what I call a disorderly Prayer were to reach Her Majesty?

This matter has been raised, as the hon. Member knows, on a previous occasion and I have already ruled on it. The position is that it is the undoubted right of this House to present a humble Address to Her Majesty on any matter concerning the public welfare. That is an old established right. This right was not restricted by the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946, and undoubtedly it is also within Her Majesty's power to take such action as she may be advised to grant the relief prayed for. Therefore, it is in order for hon. Members to move an Address praying for the annulment or revocation of a Statutory Instrument, even although the 40 days have elapsed. Equally, Her Majesty may, on receipt of the Address, take such action as she is advised with regard to it.

A Prayer out of time—if I may use that expression—differs from one moved within the 40 days in two particulars. In the first place such a Prayer is not a proceeding in pursuance of an Act of Parliament for the purposes of Standing Order No. 1, and thus could not be entered upon after 10 o'clock if it is opposed. In the second place, a Prayer which is moved in time within the 40 days has the further effect conferred upon it by Section 5 of the Act of 1946 which is that if the Address praying that the instrument be annulled is agreed to by either House no further proceedings shall be taken under the Statutory Instrument. That effect would not flow from a Prayer out of time. But the right to pray and the right of Her Majesty to act as advised in the Prayer is undoubted and unaffected by the Act of 1946.

Further to that Ruling, Mr. Speaker, you said Her Majesty would take advice, but when the House passes a Prayer there is no advice Her Majesty can take. The Minister cannot advise Her Majesty not to annul because the advice of the House overrules the normal advice of those who do advise as members of the Government.

There are two sections of advice, the advice given by Ministers and the advice given by Parliament; and the advice given by Parliament in certain circumstances clearly over-rules any advice tendered by a Minister.

Mr. Speaker