House Of Commons
Tuesday, 8th April, 1952
The House met a Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Nigerian House Of Representatives (Resolution)
I have received a copy of a Resolution adopted by the House of Representatives of Nigeria on 11th March, 1952. I desire to read it to the House—
"That this House of Representatives of the people of Nigeria, deeply appreciating the friendship and good wishes of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, expresses its thanks for the message sent to them by the Lord Chancellor and Speaker: in thanking the three Members of that Parliament who have travelled so far to carry the message, the House of Representatives asks them, on their return to the United Kingdom, to convey to their respective Houses, which together constitute the oldest Assembly in the Commonwealth, a message of affection and esteem from the new Parliament of Nigeria, founded on the principles which have made the Parliament at Westminster an inspiration to the free peoples of the world."
London County Council (General Powers) Bill
As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.
Tyne Improvement Bill Lords (By Order)
Second Reading deferred till Tomorrow.
City Of London (Guild Churches) Bill
Order for committal [25th February] read and discharged;
Bill committed to a Select Committee of Nine Members, Five to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection: The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, Sir Richard Acland, Sir Edward Boyle, Mr. Eric Fletcher and Mr. Patrick Maitland: Promoters of the Bill to be at liberty to be heard in favour of the Bill by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents: Power to send for persons, papers, and records: Five to be the Quorum.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Oral Answers To Questions
Service Dress Regulations (Review)
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will describe the present regulations regarding the wearing of Service dress in the Army; and what changes in these regulations he proposes to make.
Under present regulations Service dress may be worn by those who have got it at any time, except when parading with troops in battle dress. This question is under review.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in spite of the fact that Service dress is very expensive indeed, nearly all officers in the Army are, in fact, buying it and that, as a result of the great delays in issuing No. 1 dress many newly-joined officers are uncertain whether they should spend the money on Service dress which may soon be replaced by No. 1 dress? Will my right hon. Friend look at this matter in order to clear up that uncertainty?
As I have said, the whole question is under review, and when I say that it is under review I mean under urgent review.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now been able to arrange for the posting to Malta from Tripolitania of 7591061 Corporal L. Bartolo, R.E.M.E., L.A.D. Attached 4/7 R.D.9, M.E.L.F. 1; and if he will state the reasons for the delay in dealing with this case and for the nonpayment of family allowances for Mrs. Bartolo's children and of an appropriate portion of the local overseas allowance for her maintenance.
As regards the first part, "Yes, Sir." The answer to the second part is that special family allowances and married rates of local overseas allowance are issuable only where the husband and family have set up residence together at the husband's duty station; as this condition was not fulfilled, this n.c.o. was not then entitled to these allowances, but he will be when he joins his family in Malta.
When the right hon. Gentleman says—and I welcome the information—"Yes, Sir" in reply to the first part of the Question, does that mean, as I gather from his last words, that the man in question has not yet gone to Malta?
The first part of the answer means that this man will be posted to Malta very shortly.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he has considered the case of Private Robert Harper of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps who died from tuberculosis while on the way to Warwick Hospital, on Wednesday, 12th March, having been treated by his medical officer for spasmodic asthma; and what steps he is taking to ensure the correct diagnosis of disease from which serving soldiers may be suffering.
Yes, Sir. The concurrence of tuberculosis of the lung and bronchial asthma inevitably makes diagnosis of the former chronic condition difficult. In this case, I regret to say, it escaped detection.
In view of the fact that it was stated at the inquest that this man had been suffering from tuberculosis of the lung for several months, will the Minister say why it was that he not sent to hospital until the day on which he died? Secondly, what steps are taken to see that there is a proper X-ray examination of soldiers to detect the disease from which they may be suffering?
I am in agreement with the hon. Gentleman that we should do everything possible to detect tuberculosis at an early stage. I am informed by expert opinion that bronchial asthma can make it extremely difficult to detect tuberculosis at an early stage. I have been into the case in some detail, and, although I much regret the mistake, I think it is one which might have been made by any medical officer concerned. I am further informed—although I am afraid it is poor consolation—that even had the initial diagnosis been made it would probably not in this particular case have saved the man's life.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of mass X-ray for all entrants? Mass radiography is the answer to this question.
I think the hon. Member will agree that that is a different Question, but I undertake to look into it.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will consider the case of 1474384 ex-Bombardier Tomkins, about whom the hon. Member for Uxbridge wrote on 10th March, and an answer to which he has not yet received; and if he will ensure that ex-Bombardier Tomkins is not recalled for reserve training.
The hon. Member will now have received a letter from my hon. Friend.
Yes I have, but it is not very satisfactory. Will the Minister look into this again? There is no question of personal hardship. It has never been claimed there was. The man was in the Territorials before the war and served throughout the war, and it would not hurt him to do another 15 days. But he is now over 40 years of age and is the managing director of a substantial firm which is going on to armament subcontracts in the national emergency. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he should be kept on his present job and not called up?
These questions of men on the industrial side being called up are referred to the Ministry of Labour. This case has been referred to them, and they do not consider that on those grounds this man should be exempted.
In view of the fact that there are 114 Questions on the Order Paper today, would not this have been a suitable Question to put down for a written answer?
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that I am asking him to look into this personally? Is he not aware that the Ministry of Labour turned this case down on the grounds of personal hardship and that I am emphasising that there are other aspects of this matter and asking him to look at it again?
Perhaps I can have a word with the hon. Member.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will arrange for the Z Reserve training period to be suspended in the case of Mr. W. A. Beasley, who is under contract to the North Warwick Colliery Lodge for the delivery of allowance coal.
If the hon. Member will let me know this man's Army number and unit, and if possible the date of call-up, it will expedite our inquiry into the case.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, may I ask if he is aware that this man is under contract to the colliery that it has been impossible to find anybody capable of carrying out this detailed delivery work, and that the miners of the North Warwick Colliery feel very strongly on this point?
I will undertake to look carefully into the case. I think that, on the whole, the War Office is not unsympathetic when cases of this kind arise.
Royal Welch Fusiliers (Christmas Parcels)
asked the Secretary of State for War what report he has received on the reasons for the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers not receiving their Christmas parcels.
The hon. Member will now have received my letter dealing with the inquiry into this delay.
As the reply which I have just received says that the last troops did not receive their Christmas parcels till 6th March, can the Minister tell us what steps he takes to ensure that, when troops are posted to outlying islands, mail communications are kept up?
The hon. Member will see that the somewhat unfortunate set of circumstances outlined in my letter were the cause of some delay. This was accentuated by the fact that there is no very frequent shipping between these islands.
asked the Secretary of State for War when he proposes to start enrolling members of the Home Guard.
On Monday, 28th April.
Would my right hon. Friend say whether from this date onwards any badge will be issued to members of the Home Guard so that they can show they have joined?
We are proposing to issue to those who are enrolled as members of the Home Guard a badge, somewhat similar to other badges, which will indicate their membership of this body.
Since the right hon. Gentleman said he must have a minimum of 125,000, and will require more, and the rate of recruiting has now dropped to less than 4,000 a month, and it is quite clear he will not obtain the number for which he has asked by any stretch of the imagination, would it not be better to abandon this foolish scheme before further time and money is wasted on it?
I am disappointed that hon. Members opposite, who, although questioning the advisability of the Home Guard, gave an undertaking that they would support it, are now doing the very reverse. Nobody could be so bold as to say there might not be a sudden war, and the existence of the Home Guard will be invaluable to the country.
As the right hon. Gentleman has only 33,000 now and has said on the Army Estimates that he will want 170,000, all he is doing therefore is wasting the enthusiasm of a few people. Does he not agree that he ought to scrap the scheme and wait until an emergency arises?
If I waited until the emergency, it would put the Territorial Army and the Regular Army in a considerable jam. The Home Guard is not being helped by people like the hon. Member, who are doing their very best to discourage it.
asked the Secretary of State for War what instructions have been issued to Home Guard units on the subject of their co-operation with the Civil Defence organisation.
Instructions to units will be issued as soon as they are formed.
East African Forces (Commissions)
asked the Secretary of State for War what steps are being taken to train suitable Africans for commissioned rank in Her Majesty's East African Forces.
Much is being done by the Army to educate the East African soldier to qualify for commissioned rank and 10 hours a week are devoted to education. But, until the educational standard of the recruit on entry is raised, there will be great difficulty in finding candidates suitable for training for the grant of a Queen's commission.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether the commissioning of Africans has been agreed in principle for the future and, if so, whether there is any intention to open Makerere College with special courses for that purpose?
Yes, Sir, I am most anxious that we should make progress in commissioning officers in all our colonial forces. At the moment the difficulty is educational, and we are taking considerable steps to overcome it. The major difficulty is the basic education before the man arrives.
Colchester Garrison (Strength)
asked the Secretary of State for War what additions to the strength of the Colchester garrison he anticipates will be made in the immediate future.
The second battalions of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Black Watch and the Sherwood Foresters, which are now forming, will be stationed at Colchester.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether there will be any other ancillary units in addition to the three units he has mentioned?
Not as far as I know. I think my hon. Friend's constituency has a good share.
As the Black Watch is going to Colchester, is it not reasonable to expect that that is ample for any town?
I am obliged for the forbearance of my hon. and gallant Friend who, I thought, would be urging me to send them to Scotland. They are being sent to this garrison for operational reasons.
Might not the right hon. Gentleman send the Essex Regiment in exchange.
Well, exchange is no robbery.
Boys' Battalion (Terms Of Service)
asked the Secretary of State for War the terms of enlistment for a boy joining the Boys' Battalion at the age of 15 years.
Up to the age of 18 with the Colours, and thereafter for eight years with the Colours and four years with the Royal Army Reserve or, at his own request, for 12 years with the Colours.
Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that last week, as reported in col. 1395 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, of 1st April, he assured us that it was not possible for a boy to sign on for 15 years, and does his answer not show that it is possible for a 15-year old boy to sign on for 15 years?
I think my answer referred to Colour service. As the hon. Member knows, boy's service does not count. It is, of course, possible if one includes boy's service. As for the Boys' Battalion which is now forming, we are considering whether a shorter period of Colour service should not now be introduced.
Is it possible for them to purchase their release at 18 years of age, as used to be the case?
In September, 1953, when the present scheme of holding men in the Regular Army is finished, it will be possible once again for men to purchase their discharge.
Department (Overseas Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for War the number of home-based civil servants of his Department serving abroad in the clerical, executive, works group, including mechanical and electrical engineers, scientific, technical draughtsmen and other categories, respectively.
The latest breakdown of home-based staff serving with the War Department overseas is as follows. Executive, clerical and typing staffs 181; professional, scientific and technical staffs 612; ancillary technical staff and supervisory staff in industrial establishments 260; industrial staff 58; total 1,111. These figures exclude stalls in Germany recently taken over or in process of being taken over from the Control Commission.
Wrexham Depot (Postings)
asked the Secretary of State for War how many National Service men who have been stationed at Wrexham during the last six months have signed on for further service; how many have refused; and if it is with his authority that young soldiers have been told that unless they sign on for further service they are liable to be drafted to Korea.
I take it that the hon. Member is referring to the Depot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, since the other unit in Wrexham does not provide drafts for Korea. Out of 120 National Service men who joined this depot since January. 30 have undertaken Regular engagements. National Service men may be posted from this depot to any unit within the Welsh Brigade Group, while a man undertaking a Regular engagement can generally serve with the regiment of his choice. I think it right that the men should be told where the battalions of the brigade are serving. I do not accept the implication in the last part of the Question: the facts were put to the men without coercion.
May I have an assurance that the persons who are interviewing these young soldiers do not threaten them with service in Korea if they do not sign on for further service?
I have a copy of the letter written by the commanding officer. I think it is a very fair letter. The information he gave to the men was that if they joined the Regular Army they could apply to join the regiment of their choice; otherwise they could be posted to any one of three regiments, and he merely stated factually where those regiments were.
asked the Secretary of State for War what economies, for the purpose of reducing expenditure, he is making in the provision of live, film and radio entertainment for British troops in Germany and elsewhere.
Except in Korea, live and cinema entertainment is provided without expense to public funds. The scale is related to the needs of the various theatres. No economies are contemplated, and the scale in Korea and Malaya has been recently increased. The Forces Broadcasting Service is designed to provide radio programmes where existing programmes cannot be received satisfactorily.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the War Office is closing down the British Forces Network in Hamburg in a few weeks' time, although this service is very greatly appreciated by the men in B.A.O.R. and their relatives at home? What does he hope to save by the closing down of the British Forces Network?
There is no intention of closing down the British Forces Network.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind particularly the great need in the Canal Zone, which he did not mention in his original answer?
I am well aware of that.
Class Z Reservists
asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent it is estimated that men called up for Z training will be available for the same duties in the event of an outbreak of hostilities.
It is our policy, whenever possible, to use men in the same duties in war.
Is my right hon. Friend not aware that I have brought several cases to his attention—there has been another case this afternoon which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick)—of men who have been called up for Class Z training who in no circumstances will be available in an emergency? This is a waste of their time and quite defeats the object of the scheme.
These cases are referred to the Ministry of Labour for clearance. It is our job not to call up for training men who are not available in time of war.
Will my right hon. Friend bring that fact to the attention of the Minister of Labour, because there seems to be some misunderstanding about the position?
asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are made to ensure the feeding of British troops in Korea between 5 p.m. and breakfast the next day.
The British ration provides for a meal between 5 p.m. and breakfast. Under operational conditions, it is not always possible to provide a hot meal after 5 p.m., in which case compo rations are made available.
Whilst appreciating that for operational reasons it is not always possible to provide hot meals in forward areas, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen a statement by a War Office doctor that some of the troops are having to spend as much as £1 a week out of their pay for chocolates to stave off hunger during this 14-hour gap?
I do not think anybody in a forward area would have the opportunity of spending £1 a week on chocolate, but I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that, from everything I have heard, there is a general opinion that the rations for the British Army in Korea are extremely good.
Northumberland Fusiliers (Sentences)
asked the Secretary of State for War what decision has been reached on the review of the court-martial sentences on Fusilier Taylor and other soldiers of the Northumberland Fusiliers in Korea.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is now in a position to state the result of the review of the court-martial sentences on the 11 soldiers of the Northumberland Fusiliers in Korea.
This review was carried out on 28th March, when the superior military authority directed that the sentences should remain in execution and be reviewed again on 30th June.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State three questions. First of all, does he realise the acute disappointment which this decision will be to the parents of these boys? Secondly, how long are these periodical reviews to continue? Thirdly, what are the criteria upon which the summary military authority reached its decision?
I am aware that this decision will be a disappointment to the parents of the men concerned. These reviews are undertaken by the G.O.C., and I think it is right that he should be the authority to undertake them. The particular situation, and certain matters about which I have talked to the hon. Member concerning these men, have been communicated to the G.O.C., and he is aware of them.These reviews will continue to take place at six-monthly intervals during the sentences. These men have served nine months out of their two-year sentences, and I do not think the hon. Member should despair of the hope that at some future date the decision will be favourable, though I cannot give an undertaking to that effect.
Is the Secretary of State aware that these lads had a first-class record up to this regrettable incident and that nothing at all has been done for them as a result of this review? Is he further aware that if these reviews are to be continued much longer, the men will have served their full sentences without any remission? Could the Secretary of State not convey to the authorities the civilian idea in some way and make it their duty to consider it?
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this offence was mutiny in the face of the enemy, which is a very serious offence. I would also point out to him that the particular fact that some of these men were extremely young National Service men who might have been influenced by older men into doing this has been represented to the G.O.C., and I think it is best to leave it to his judgment.
Were these men tried on a charge of mutiny?
I have not got the facts before me, and I should not like to give a categorical undertaking; but I am almost certain that the particular charge was mutiny. I will communicate with the right hon. Gentleman further in the matter, but I am almost certain of that fact.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what progress has been made in taking the gypsy survey and in arranging alternative camping sites in Kent.
The survey is nearly completed, and the Kent County Council has now taken up the question of alternative sites with the local authorities.
That is very good news. In view of the inhuman attitude of many local authorities on this minority problem, will the Minister give every encouragement to find a satisfactory solution which can serve as a Christian example to the rest of the country?
We will do what we can.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the eviction of the 100 settlers from the gypsy encampment at Dudley, Worcestershire, on 27th March, who were escorted by the police over the borough boundary; and what provision is being made for them to find a sanctuary to avoid their coming in permanent conflict with the law.
My attention had not previously been called to this matter, but I have made inquiries. I understand that as a result of complaints from local inhabitants a number of caravans moved out of the borough. According to the information supplied to me by the borough council, they have had little difficulty in finding other sites.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of them have communicated with me that they are now being chased from borough to borough and that the Brierley Hill local authority say they will not be allowed to remain within their boundaries? As there are children amongst this group of gypsies who are denied the right of going to school, is it not time that something was done so that they may have a sanctuary, as other people have?
That is really another question, but I should hardly have thought that a borough was the best place for gypsy caravans.
Can we have an assurance that none of those gypsies is a Tory displaced from a county council?
Housing Committees (Chairmen)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether his attention has been called to cases where the chairman of the housing committee of a local authority is also a contractor to the same council for the building of council dwellings: and whether he will issue instructions as to the undesirability of such an arrangement.
No, Sir. No such cases have been brought to my attention, and I see no reason for issuing any instructions on this subject.
Is the Minister aware that in parts of Ealing this position prevails? Having regard to the fact that the old method of tendering is to some extent being dispensed with and existing tenders are being continued, in accordance with the Minister's instructions for construction on the same site, will the Minister say whether he still considers it desirable that this position should continue?
The hon. Gentleman has now mentioned a particular case which has not been brought to my attention. I think it has always been a rule in our public life that it is not wrong to have an interest but that it is wrong not to disclose an interest.
In view of the fact that the chairman will have very special facilities in connection with the observance of tenders submitted for houses, does not the Minister think that it is very undesirable that he should be in that advantageous position? Is it not a breach of the usual rules of public life?
If the hon. Gentleman had called my attention to this matter in a specific case, of course I should have looked into it, but he put the Question down in general terms and mentioned his specific accusation only at a later stage.
Rural Water And Sewerage Schemes
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will state, with regard to rural water schemes and with regard to sewerage schemes in England and Wales, the respective value of schemes submitted to him for approval; of schemes approved in principle but not yet authorised to go for tender; of schemes authorised for commencement but not yet completed; of schemes completed; of grants promised but not yet paid; and of grants paid, up to 31st October, 1951.
As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL. REPORT.
Following is the statement:
The following details relate to the period from the end of the war to 31st October, 1951. Information on the value of schemes actually completed during that period are not available.
|—||Water Supply||Sewerage and Sewage disposal|
|1. Value of rural schemes submitted for approval||63,803,991||47,692,279|
|2. Value of schemes approved in principle but not yet authorized to go to tender||14,465,206||6,883,060|
|3. Value of schemes authorized for commencement (completed and incompleted)||27,889,571||17,330,883|
|4. Grants promised finally or conditionally under the rural Water Supply and Sewerage Acts, 1944 and 1951||10,801,423||7,525,895|
|5. Portion of (4) paid to 31st October, 1951||2,291,689||1,720,922|
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will now set up a Select Committee to consider the reform of local government.
I am not yet in a position to make any further statement.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this is a matter of some urgency upon which Members of both sides of the House are agreed and, in view of the length of time it will require, would it not be a good thing to get the matter under way at any early date?
Yes, Sir. While the idea of a Select Committee of the House of Commons is in many ways a very attractive one, I think it would be very important that it should have very clear terms of reference and that perhaps there should be some prior agreement by the House upon the general principles.
Will the Minister consult with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in view of the results of the county council elections, and suggest that further contentious legislation should not be introduced into the House? In those circumstances, would not the Minister agree that local government reform would be a suitable subject for debate.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many local authorities are having to pay the new rates of interest on houses which were actually under construction at the time the interest rate was raised to 3¾ per cent., but in respect of which loans had not actually been taken up.
I regret that this information is not available.
Is the Minister not aware of the confusion and disappointment caused to local authorities by the operation of this higher rate of interest, and will he not now withdraw the whole thing in view of the county council elections?
I think the hon. Gentleman is rather extending the scope of his Question.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many houses were commenced during the five months to 31st March, as compared with the number during the previous five months.
I regret that I am unable to add to the information already included in the published housing returns.
I do not think the published housing returns give the information asked for in the Question. As there is now a new policy, under which all the resources are being concentrated on finishing houses which have already been under construction rather than starting new ones, is it not rather important that we should get this information?
I think the housing returns give very complete information and, like my predecessors, I propose to rest upon them.
Does this mean that the Minister is maintaining the policy of starting as many houses under this Government as was started under the last Government?
If the hon. Gentleman puts down a Question I will give him an answer.
As my hon. Friend's Question asks the Minister whether the number started during these five months is the same as for the previous period, is he not in a position to tell us now?
There is nothing I can add, except that anybody who knew anything about this sort of matter would know that it was possible to compare only like periods in each year.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he is taking to improve the rate of local authority building in the borough of Wandsworth.
The borough council's programme for 1952 and 1953 shows that they are alive to the needs of the borough. I shall do all I can to encourage and help the council to achieve this programme.
Does the Minister think that these vague efforts of encouragement will do anything to bring about the 50 per cent. increase of building which was promised in the General Election last October?
If the hon. Member would like me to be more precise, whereas they had an instalment of 300, it has now been increased to 565.
On a point of order. May we have some light in the House?
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what increase in housing accommodation he expects to be made in the borough of Wandsworth in the current year; and how this compares with the rest of the country.
The number of dwellings under construction in the borough at the beginning of the year by the London County Council and the borough council was 4,004. I am not prepared to prophesy how many will be completed during the year. Information as to the number of houses under construction in the whole country is contained in the published housing returns.
Could the Minister explain, since he is not prepared to say how many will be completed during the current year, why he was so enthusiastic in his answer to Question 24?
I think it would be very foolish of me to tie myself to a number that will be completed.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many dwellings have been requisitioned during the last 12 months for housing purposes.
During the year ended 29th February, 1952, 37 dwellings were requisitioned for housing purposes in England and Wales.
Is the Minister satisfied with that very small figure of houses requisitioned in the last 12 months? Is he not aware of the many houses—many, for example, within easy walking distance of this House—which have been standing empty for months and could provide homes for families?
There are nearly 85,000 premises held by this system of requisitioning and I am not anxious that that number should be increased as a normal system. I do not think it is a right system for normal purposes, although it may occasionally have to be used to meet this particular difficulty.
Is the Minister satisfied to see houses standing empty, literally for months, when they could be divided into many flats?
Requisitioning in the technical sense of the word, and I assume that the hon. Gentleman means that, is not the only method of dealing with the situation.
Has not the Minister asked local authorities to decrease the number of requisitioned properties and thus add to the difficulties of the problem?
I have asked them to decrease the number of requisitioned properties for which the Exchequer carries the whole burden and to exercise some of their rights by which they will carry some of them.
Landlord And Tenant (Rent Control) Act
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that the judgment of the Divisional Court in the case of Rex v. St. Helens Rent Tribunal ex parte Pickavance results in making the provisions of Section eleven of the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act, 1949, practically useless as a protection for tenants; and if he will introduce legislation to remedy this position.
I am aware of this case, and understand that notice of appeal against the judgment has been given by the rent tribunal.
While I appreciate that point, does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Section referred to in the Question is one which was passed specifically in consequence of the tremendous difficulty which people experience—
On a point of order. Is it in order to raise a matter which is sub judice by a Question in the House?
I was listening to the hon. Gentleman. It is improper to canvass the merits of the case in detail, but this is another question.
I was asking, in view of the fact that this Section was passed specially as a consequence of the terrible difficulties which people were experiencing in finding houses, whether the Minister would be careful to watch the result of this case and, if it happens to be adverse, whether he will see that some legislation is passed to deal with it?
That is hypothetical.
Further to the point of order raised earlier by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway), may we have candles on the extreme back benches as well as in the rest of the Chamber?
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what increase in housing accommodation is to be expected in 1952 as compared with the past three years in the city of Stoke-on-Trent; and how the figures compare with other local authorities in the West Midlands Region.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what number of houses of all types were built in the city of Stoke-on-Trent during 1951; and how this number per head of the population compares with the achievement of other local authorities in the West Midlands Region for the same period.
Detailed information for the past three years is contained in the published returns. I would rather not hazard a guess at the numbers to be completed in 1952.
Would the Minister, however, be prepared to go as far as to say that he thinks this local authority are doing as well as or better than most local authorities in the West Midlands region? In view of the difficulties which he knows they must face because of subsidence and for other reasons, will he give them all further help he can?
I will give them all possible help, of course, but I do not like to be asked to make these comparisons between one part of the country and another. I am reminded of the schoolboy who was asked to say the difference between major and minor prophets and replied, Far be it from me to make any distinction between those holy men."
While the Minister is reluctant to give detailed figures, will he not promise that he will do everything he can to help the local authority to improve the good record they had last year and this year, and resist any proposal to divide the authority for building purposes in Stoke-on-Trent, as is suggested in certain proposals which are at present under consideration?
I am anxious to raise the production of houses in this area to the maximum possible, and I am very glad to see that it now appears that the hon. Member supports me in that desire.
Does this comparison between authorities apply also to gasometers?
I should not like to be drawn into that rather tender subject.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government which local authorities in North Staffordshire are building houses to specifications below the former standards.
None, Sir. I understand that the authorities are building or propose to build to designs similar to those illustrated in "Houses, 1952."
Is the Minister aware that the local authority in Stoke-on-Trent, and many others, have no desire to see the standards to which they have been building degraded by comparison with the standards of last year and the year before? Where such authorities are showing such vigour and enterprise, as they are in this case, will he promise the House that he will not press unduly that there should be any lowering of standards?
There is no question of lowering standards. These are the standards in the Dudley Committee and these are the designs which I had the pleasure of admitting that I inherited from my predecessor.
Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts (Loans)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what action he is taking to raise the money advanced to prospective house owners under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts from 90 per cent. to 95 per cent. of the capital sum involved.
The limitation of an advance under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts to 90 per cent. of the value of the property is statutory. Owing to the uncertainty of values at the moment, I am not persuaded that to remove the limit would be effective, since under this Act local authorities are empowered, not required, to make these advances.
Repairs And Maintenance (Rents)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the hardship caused under the Rent Restriction Acts and that tenants are forced to live in uncongenial homes owing to the impossibility in many cases of the landlords doing the necessary repairs; and if he will therefore take steps to implement the recommendations of the Ridley Report.
I cannot add to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) on 1st April.
I did not hear the reply, but I do ask my right hon. Friend to treat this as very urgent, because in many cases the rents do not even cover the cost of repairs, and it is the tenants who are suffering. The sanitary inspector comes along, but nothing can be done because there is no money there to do the repairs.
Yes, it is a difficult and complicated question, but I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that it is not suitably dealt with by Question and answer.
Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to see to it that those landlords who have been drawing the excess amount which was allowed under the Rent Restriction Acts for repairs will do the repairs which they have not done for so many years?
That is for the local authorities.
Rent Tribunal, Paddington (Chairman)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why he has not reappointed the previous chairman of the Paddington rent tribunal in view of his high qualifications, his record of service, and the experience he has gained in hearing a large number of rent cases over the last six years.
I have acted in the exercise of my discretion, in the light of all the circumstances.
Yes, but is the Minister aware of the fact that this gentleman, an ex-Army officer, has been doing excellent work in this borough, and that he happens to be an ex-Labour Member of Parliament? Can we be assured that in this case there is no political prejudice on the part of the Minister?
I can give that assurance with absolute certainty.
Stoke Bliss, Worcestershire
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that the Ten-bury Rural District Council in Worcestershire is frustrated from building agricultural workers houses in the Parish of Stoke Bliss by the refusal of the Midlands Electricity Board to provide electricity to enable water to be pumped from a deep-bore to supply the proposed houses; and, in view of the importance of food production, if he will make representations to the Midlands Electricity Board with a view to the provision of electricity thus facilitating the necessary water supply for the housing plans.
I am instructing my regional officers to discuss the problem with representatives of the Board and of the council.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the history of this case, and does he know that the parishioners, the local authority, and the local Member of Parliament—that is myself—have been trying for months to get the Chairman of the Midlands Electricity Board to show a helpful attitude towards this remote rural community? Will my right hon. Friend, therefore, treat the matter with due urgency?
Perhaps, as the matter has now been sufficiently ventilated, it will be resolved.
41 and 42.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) the figure for building in new towns under the capital investment programme during 1952;(2) what reductions were made in the allocations under the capital investment programme for building in new towns following the restrictions on capital investment in January.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 26th March by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that he will not give to the House detailed figures of what have been the cuts in the capital investment programme in these cases? Why should there be all this secrecy about it?
Because it is not thought to be of much use to give these figures. The point, which I can state quite simply, is that, so far as the housing in these new towns is concerned, we shall go forward as fast as we can.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it is proper and right that Members of this House should be able to compare the allocations made under the capital investment programme to see how they affect the new towns as against the blitzed cities and other claimants? Does he not think it right that they should consider that, instead of his concealing the figures from the House in order to conceal from the people of the blitzed towns the cut in the capital investment programme for them?
The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. What I am objecting to is this rigid method of the capital investment programme's operating in a negative fashion. It is a general guide. Wherever possible we shall do better than the plan.
In that case, if there is no such procedure laid down, can the right hon. Gentleman explain why some of his colleagues have been constantly sending letters to hon. Members of this House saying all projects have been stopped on account of the capital investment programme? Can he further explain how the Chancellor of the Exchequer can say that he is going to save £100 million on the capital investment programme if there is no method of adding up each individual item?
I have tried to explain—but the hon. Gentleman does not seem to be able to understand—that this is a general guide, and that, so far as housing is concerned, it will be used as a general guide and not as a limiting factor.
War-Damaged Property, Ealing (Repairs)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in view of the adverse report by the regional architect of his Department on the restoration of the war-damaged Grange in St. Stephen's Road, Ealing, for which building licences amounting to £16,210 were issued between June. 1950, and August, 1951, why these licences were proceeded with.
This was a case of extensive war damage. There has, fear, been some lack of regard for economy in the repairs and improvements authorised in this case. By the time my attention was drawn to the matter it would have been false economy to stop the work.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance that he has given me about the watchfulness of his Department in this matter, may I ask him whether it is not true that, in the early stages of this enormous expenditure on one house, there was a report given by his officer against proceeding with the heavy expenditure? How has it come about that that report has not been of greater efficacy?
It may have been, but I am afraid I was not here then.
Cornish Coast-Line (National Park Survey)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will take steps to have the coast-line of the county of Cornwall designated as a national park.
No, Sir. It is for the National Parks Commission to make a submission to me.
Has my right hon. Friend not had any representations from the National Parks Commission in view of the recent statement in a certain newspaper of 20th March?
I understand that they are making a survey of the whole area.
If the Minister does receive representations, will he give them a sympathetic hearing, in view of the warm support that there would be for them from many people besides the inhabitants of Cornwall?
Yes, I am always sympathetic.
Purchase Tax (Textiles)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount collected as Purchase Tax on textiles in the years 1949–50 and 1951–52; and the amount collected in the last six months of 1951–52.
Purchase Tax collected in 1949 to 1950 from clothing (except footwear), haberdashery, textile piece goods, household textile goods and floor coverings was about £112 million. I am afraid I cannot give a comparable figure for 1951 to 1952, as the necessary details are not yet available for the March quarter just ended: but I estimate it will probably be something like £95 million. The tax collected from these classes of goods during the last six months, up to December, 1951, for which firm figures are available, was about £46 million.
If the Chancellor will make inquiries as to what is being collected towards the end of that time. I think he will find that as regards textiles—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] I am asking a question on the figures. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he will find that the amount now runs at something like the rate of a sixth of what it was in 1949 to 1950? In view of that, does the right hon. Gentleman not think it would be possible to abolish this tax and still not lose any great amount to the Exchequer?
As far as figures are available, I would not say that the hon. Gentleman is correct; but, of course, we would watch any tendency such as that. I think it is impossible in the March quarter yet to use the expression "breakdown"—that is, to put into detail the different types of categories within this whole heading of textiles. If I am able to, I will certainly do so.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, unless the Government do more than they have so far to expand the sale of textiles, the yield of Purchase Tax over the next quarter will be negligible?
Of course I regret the very serious recession in the textile industry as much as anybody. I also regret its results on the Revenue. Anything the Government can do to keep up the Revenue we shall do.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much of the extra £1 per week is retained by a single man earning £7 per week who increases his earnings to £8 per week; and how much of the extra £1 will be retained by him when the new tax tables come into force.
In this particular case the hon. Member will be aware that the reduction in tax on overtime work is limited to the reduction produced by the increase in earned income relief, and the gain is 2d. The same man will have the tax on his pay reduced by 4s. 4d. a week.
Does not this make absolute nonsense of the suggestion that the effect of the Chancellor's changed tax structure will be to give the workers the incentive to work overtime?
Well, the hon. Member probably knows as much about Income Tax tables as I do, yet he has deliberately given in this Question and the next two instances of where the reduction in the Tax on overtime work is limited to the reduction produced by the increase in the earned income relief. It was impossible to give a steeper improvement in the amount of the earned income relief. Clearly, there are one or two places in the tables where this occurs, but very few. In the majority of cases there is a distinct advantage on overtime. As the hon. Gentleman will observe, there is a distinct gain here which will be a relief to the man concerned.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much of the extra £2 per week is retained by a married man with two children earning £12 per week who increases his earnings to £14 per week; and how much of the extra £2 will be retained by him when the new tax tables come into force.
The difference between the two figures is 5d. This man will have the tax on his pay reduced by 9s. 1d. a week.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this sort of thing operates in a large number of cases throughout the tax tables, and is it not now clear that the major purpose of the change was not to give advantage to the middle range of wage earners but to high income earners, and particularly those with high unearned incomes?
I have two answers to that. If the hon. Member would interest himself in the man with a wage of £8 a week, a married man with two children who earns an extra £2 would have the tax on that £2 reduced from 5s. 1d. to 1s. I should have thought that that was a certain incentive. Further, in the scheme for which I was responsible, the advantages to those earning over £2,000 a year and higher were very much less than in the tables produced and passed by the House when two of my Socialist predecessors were in office.
How many workers earning £8 a week does the right hon. Gentleman think will have the least possibility of getting another £2 a week in overtime?
It depends entirely on their circumstances. As this scheme was intended to be fair and to give an opportunity, I say without hesitation that some of the most difficult cases are precisely those of railway workers, whom the hon. Member represents in Parliament.
Would my right hon. Friend quote the case of a miner working on a Saturday morning and thereby earning overtime rates of pay which would yield precisely the incentive results that his Budget was intended to provide?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated total amount paid in Income Tax for the current year by the 2 million persons who are about to be exempted from liability.
I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) on 18th March.
Is it not clear from that answer that, on average, each of these two million persons will gain by the tax changes a good deal less than they will incur in additional costs as a result of the higher prices resulting from the Chancellor's programme?
In the debate last night and on every occasion, hon. Members opposite refuse, for good political reasons of their own, not to calculate the total reliefs and benefits in the Budget but to take those which suit them best. If the hon. Member refers to the answer to which I referred, he will see that between £5 and £6 million in a full year will be saved precisely to these two million people who are relieved from Income Tax.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, taking his higher figure of £6 million, it means £3 per annum each, which is only just over 1s. a week? How are these taxpayers to pay for the additional cost of the food for their families out of a shilling a week?
That is precisely covered by the terms of the answer I have just given. If the hon. Member takes account of the various other reliefs in the Budget, including family allowances, there is a very considerable help towards those who have to suffer from the extra costs. I have never maintained, and nor have my hon. Friends, that every case can possibly be covered.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in view of the impossibility of obtaining outsize garments for those of especial dimensions free of Purchase Tax in many of the articles in the proposed D scheme prices, he will consider raising the D level to make this possible.
I am afraid I cannot accept the implication in this Question. Whatever the dimensions of the garments, the tax depends only on the price chosen to be paid for them.
How can the right hon. Gentleman justify the scandalous treatment of outsize men and women, who in many categories are denied the purchasing of even the lower standard articles—for example, nightgowns and men's pants?
We have a certain interval before the Committee stage of the Finance Bill and, no doubt, I can have a little trying on of these matters with the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) and the hon. Member.
Is the Chancellor aware that under the Utility scheme, special provision was made for outsize garments, but that no mention of it was made in the Douglas Committee Report? In view of the fact that this seems to have been an oversight, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter with the trade in order to get attention drawn to the very difficult position of outsize people?
This is a serious point, and I am ready to discuss it with the hon. Member if she so desires. The hon. Lady will, however, remember that before the D scheme was introduced, if an outsize person was unable to choose a garment within the Utility scheme because of size, there was a great jump in price before a suitable garment could be provided, whereas under the D scheme there is a suitable and sensible gradation between the two types of garment.
While I appreciate his statement, is the Minister aware that in respect of ladies' dresses and blouses, an additional percentage was allowed in relation to outsize of 7½, 15 and 22½ per cent.? If the matter could be considered on this basis, I am certain that some amicable arrangement could be arrived at.
We will certainly look into this.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware of the effect of his proposals under the D scheme on the glove manufacturing industry with particular reference to the production of fur backed gloves, non-industrial leather gloves and knitted gloves; and if he will take action to remove the present threat to production and employment in the industry.
I am studying the effects of the D scheme on the glove industry and will bear in mind the considerations which my hon. Friend has mentioned.
Can my right hon. Friend say how the D scheme level was arrived at and why no distinction was made between lined and unlined leather gloves, as was made, for instance, in the case of coats and jackets, and why there was no distinction whatever between leather gloves and fur-backed gloves?
I realise that there is some difficulty about gloves, particularly those backed with rabbit skin. The D scheme was arrived at as the general median price of the article concerned.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that manufacturers in the glove industry complain that they were not consulted about the extension of the tax in respect of gloves, and that whereas before the Budget most gloves were free from tax, most gloves are now subject to tax? Is the Chancellor aware that there is widespread anxiety in the glove-making districts of Cheshire?
It would be a good thing if the anxiety were not too widespread, because not only shall we have to consider these matters, but I am also in some doubt whether the outlook need be quite so gloomy as the hon. Member says.
In the event of an Amendment being put down to cover this point, would the right hon. Gentleman give it further consideration?
That question is hypothetical.
Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to a Motion on the Order Paper, signed by certain Parliamentary private secretaries and other hon. Members opposite, about the D scheme? If so, what is he going to do about that?[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government immediately to reconsider their proposals with regard to Purchase Tax in order to alleviate the rising unemployment in the textile industry.]
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the cost which would be incurred during the present financial year if subsidised foods had been stabilised at March, 1952, prices.
In my Budget statement, I estimated at £50 million the addition to the food subsidies which would be required to hold the prices of subsidised foods at the March, 1952, level. This would have raised the total cost of the subsidies to £460 million.
I asked for a figure for stabilising the figure throughout the year at the March, 1952, prices. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is unable to give that figure, can he say why Sir Stafford Cripps was able to give such a figure in 1949? Does he not now admit that it would have been much fairer to have compared such a figure with the figure which he mentioned in regard to Sir Stafford Cripps' calculations?
If the hon. Member is going back to those particular discussions, I certainly had no desire to be unfair to Sir Stafford Cripps, as I have taken the opportunity of informing him personally. As regards the answer to the Question, I have as far as I could given the most correct answer to the hon. Member's Question. If there is any discrepancy or mistake, perhaps he will discuss it with me.
British Firms (Emigration)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now permit United Kingdom companies to emigrate to British territories within the sterling area without let or hindrance.
No, Sir. In any case, this is too large an issue to be dealt with satisfactorily in a Parliamentary answer.
Does my right hon. Friend recollect that on 21st February the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that this matter would be under review in connection with the Finance Bill, and will he bear in mind that a ring fence keeps capital out as well as in?
There is not a ring fence, according to the instructions which are at present being operated, but I agree that this and many other matters will come up for discussion on the later stages of the Finance Bill.
Does not the absence of any such provision in this year's Finance Bill show that, in the Chancellor's opinion, a great deal of nonsense was talked last year by hon. Members opposite, and particularly by the present Secretary of State for the Colonies?
I should not like to confine the nonsense which was talked to one side of the House or the other.