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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 8 July 1954

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Civil Defence

Biological Warfare (Protection)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken, and is taking, to instruct civil defence units in defence against bacteriological warfare.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs
(Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

A pamphlet on "Biological Warfare" has already been issued for the use of heads of sections of the Civil Defence Corps and qualified civil defence instructors which describes in general terms the essentials of biological warfare and sets out the basic principles of personal and collective protection against it. The subject is also included in the curriculum of the Civil Defence Technical Training Schools for the information of instructors who in turn pass the information on to civil defence volunteers.

Are the results of the recent experiments in the Bahamas with H.M.S. "Lomond" to be circulated, or are they to furnish a Whitehall pigeon-hole?

That is another question. I wish the hon. Member would put it down on the Order Paper.

Anglo-Scottish Co-Operation

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements for co-operation exist between Civil Defence Services in Scotland and in England.

There is the closest co-operation between myself and the Secretary of State for Scotland and between the Scottish Departments and the English Departments at all levels. In particular, the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff act for both countries and the Ministerial Committee over which I preside is responsible for co-ordinating action on all matters of policy.

As I gather from the Home Secretary that this unification exists only administratively, may I ask whether there is also a corresponding unity and inter-change at the working level? Does it not seem absurd to him that while there should be unity of command in the case of offensive weapons we should have this separation of command where civil defence of the population is concerned?

As regards the second part of the hon. Member's question, I would be very slow to accept from one of my countrymen that all of my countrymen would agree to lose their independence on any subject. I assure the hon. Member that, in addition to administrative matters, we are considering the arrangements which he has in mind for mutual reinforcement and the like.

Fire Stations (Location And Siting)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of its general importance to civil defence, he will appoint a committee to examine and report upon the location and siting of fire stations.

No, Sir. The peace and war-time considerations are quite different. For peace-time purposes it is necessary for fire stations to be situated close to the risks they protect. As I stated in the civil defence debate on 5th July, the war-time fire service will be nationalised and essentially mobile, with the bulk of the personnel and equipment organised in mobile columns available for operation anywhere.

Will the Home Secretary agree that the possibility of atomic warfare has entirely changed the nature of the demand likely to be made on civil defence, and that an essential part of the structure of civil defence lies in the fire stations? In view of this, will the Home Secretary look at this problem again, whether or not he accepts this as a solution?

Certainly. As I have told the House, I am going into the whole matter and I shall be very glad to pay special attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I should be grateful if he would perhaps elaborate his idea a little more.

When looking into this problem will my right hon. and learned Friend take into account the facilities in the control of local industries because the great cost of maintaining fire brigades throughout the country could be minimised to a great extent if full account was taken of the fire-fighting equipment stationed throughout the various industrial establishments?

Home Department

Committee On Homosexuality (Terms Of Reference)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now in a position to announce the membership and terms of reference of the committee which is to inquire into the existing laws relating to homosexual offences and prostitution.

The terms of reference of the committee are to be:

"To consider—
  • (a) the law and practice relating to homosexual offences and the treatment of persons convicted of such offences by the courts; and
  • (b) the law and practice relating to offences against the criminal law in connection with prostitution and solicitation for immoral purposes;
  • and to report what changes, if any, are in their opinion desirable."
    I am glad to be able to inform the House that Mr. J. F. Wolfenden, C.B.E., Vice-Chancellor of Reading University, has agreed to serve as chairman. I hope shortly to be in a position to announce the names of the other members of the committee.

    While thanking my right hon. and learned Friend far that answer, may I ask whether he will be able to announce the other names before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

    Obscene Publications

    5.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will refuse the request of certain organisations of book sellers that he supply them with a list of books and periodicals which have been held by the courts to be obscene, since the circulation of such a list would greatly assist persons seeking obscene literature.

    1.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, Booksellers and Stationers is anxious to prevent the sale of obscene books and if he will consider giving this organisation the list of such books which is in the possession of his Department, so that local agents could be informed by the national organisation, and the flow of such books be curtailed.

    I have no power to declare a publication obscene. There exists a list of books condemned by the courts in recent years, but the publication of it would be misleading apart from the mischief to which the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) calls attention and I am satisfied that it would not be in the public interest to make it public.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I certainly did not ask whether he had any power to declare a book obscene, which was the suggestion made in the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay)? I referred to decisions in the courts.

    Is the Minister aware that magistrates are coming to different decisions on the same book, and would it not be better to decide whether a book is obscene before it leaves the publisher rather than leave the question in the hands of the magistrates?

    I know how much the hon. Gentleman feels about this, but, with respect, I disagree. His first suggestion would lead to the establishment of a centralised censorship and his second would take away from the regional magistrates the right of expression of their views. Both of these I consider to be important points.

    Is it not a fact that many books which, if brought before the courts a few years ago, would have resulted in a conviction, are now published and read by the public at large?

    Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman indicate what general standards, if any, prevail among people responsible for dealing with these books? What standards are current in the determination of obscenity or non-obscenity?

    That is a question which would require a careful statement, and I should like the hon. Member to put it on the Order Paper.

    Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider circulating to clerks to magistrates the recent remarks of Mr. Justice Stable?

    6.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will appoint a committee to inquire into the working of the law relating to obscene publications.

    No, Sir. I am not satisfied that the appointment of a committee would serve any useful purpose.

    Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the present state of the law, under which respectable publishers go in grave peril, is almost universally condemned by those who are interested in the development of English literature, and that the time has arrived for an inquiry into this matter?

    As I have indicated, I do not agree, but I should be very grateful if the hon. Member would submit some of his considerations. I should willingly consider them.

    Dr Joseph Cort (United Kingdom Residence)

    8.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what considerations led him to delay by one month Dr. Joseph Cort's departure from Britain; and on what date and at what hour this extended permit will expire.

    Dr. Cort asked on 24th June far an extension of one month in order to enable him to complete his personal arrangements before leaving the country. He had been told as long ago as 24th March last that I was not prepared to grant a further extension of his stay in the United Kingdom, but it was suggested to me that his arrangements for leaving had not been completed, pending the consideration which I had been asked to give to representations made more recently on his behalf, and, in the circumstances, I agreed that his stay should be extended for a further month for the purpose stated, on the understanding that no further extension could be expected.

    Dr. Cort's permitted stay will expire at midnight on 30th July.

    While thanking my right hon. and learned Friend for making it public, may I ask whether he will now ensure that this alien leaves the United Kingdom on that date?

    Has the Home Secretary noticed that the university at which Dr. Cort has worked with such distinction has given him three months' salary? Does he not regard that as a very fine proof of confidence in the work and character of this man?

    12.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, before the expiration of Dr. Cort's permit to stay in this country, he will, in conjunction with the authorities of the United States of America, take steps to ascertain whether, on medical grounds, Dr. Cort would be liable for service with United States forces.

    Is not this really the acid test of the bona fides of Dr. Cort? Does not the Home Secretary really want to find a method of extricating himself from an unworthy position?

    On the general point, I really do not think that I can add to what I have said.

    13.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in reaching his decision not to grant political asylum to Dr. Cort, he took into account the victimisation of Dr. Cort's student friends, following upon their interrogation by the congressional investigating committee.

    I took fully into account the statements which Dr. Cort had made about his friends who had appeared before a Congressional Committee, but I could find nothing in these statements which would justify the conclusion that Dr. Cort's circumstances qualified him for political asylum.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that three of Dr. Cort's friends who were with him at Yale University in the Communist Party were dismissed from their posts following Congressional hearings, and that Dr. Cort had withdrawn four offers of assistant professorships in famous universities after his name was mentioned and two other of his colleagues were inducted into the Army and instantly court-martialled for semi-political offences?

    As to the first two points, I was aware of them and I have had put to me a description of the third point. I have only qualified it because I am not sure that it was in exactly the same form as the hon. Member put it. I took those points into account.

    Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say why he has refused to see a deputation on this subject from the members of the trade union to which Dr. Cort belongs, led by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), who is a member of that union?

    I saw three deputations. I do not think a further one could have added anything more.

    14.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many other cases there are on record, other than the case of Dr. Cort, of the United States Embassy having advised his Department of the risk of an American citizen losing his citizenship while a resident in Britain; and if he will give details.

    There is no record of any such case. The United States authorities do not advise my Department of cases in which a United States citizen here may lose his citizenship, and did not do so in the case of Dr. Cort until a specific inquiry on the point had been addressed to them.

    Has not the right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted that this is a complete precedent and that it would be a very dangerous thing if the action of a foreign Government, by the operation of their own laws, were able to get the administrative extradition of one of their own nationals living in this country whom they could not get under the normal extradition convention?

    It was not a precedent. It would have been a precedent to have acted the other way. This does not amount to administrative extradition. As I have pointed out more than once, Dr. Cort can go to any country he wishes and need not return to the United States.

    Does the precedent the right hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted refer to such persons as Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, whose passports are invalid since their States have ceased to exist?

    17.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what reply his Department made to the request of Mrs. Cort to be allowed to stay in this country.

    Mrs. Cort has been informed that no objection will be raised to her staying in the United Kingdom until the end of this month, and that if she wishes to remain here longer she should apply setting out fully the reasons for which an extension is desired.

    Is not the distressing position of Mrs. Cort just an example of the human issues involved in granting political asylum? As this is not a political but a human question, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider the whole issue?

    I cannot reconsider the whole issue, but I shall be willing to look into this part of it, as I have said.

    19.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what date it first became known to the Home Office that Dr. Joseph Cort had been interviewed by the British police, at the request of the American authorities, and had refused to make a statement; when, and where, this interview took place; when it became known to the Home Office that a second interview had taken place and that a full statement had been made by Dr. Cort; when, and where, this interview took place; and when a full copy of that statement was first received at the Home Office.

    A report from the Chief Constable of Birmingham dated 16th December, 1953, was received by the Home Office on 18th December. This covered two interviews with Dr. Cart at the Birmingham Police Headquarters, the first on 10th December and the second on 15th December, and enclosed a copy of a statement made by Dr. Cort on the second occasion.

    In those circumstances, is it not very deplorable that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have stated, in answer to a Written Question on 24th June:

    "In December, 1953, it became known to the Home Office that Dr. Cort…had refused to make a statement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th June, 1954; Vol. 529, c. 49.]
    Is not that statement so near to a complete falsehood as to be utterly indistinguishable from it?

    I do not agree with the hon. Member, and I am sorry that he should take that view. When Dr. Cort saw the Birmingham police for the second time he said he denied as nonsense the allegation, which he said was implicit in the communication made to him by the Birmingham police, that he did not wish to make a more detailed statement to the American authorities through the British police and that he was ready at any time to give the Home Office any information it might desire for its own use.

    It is clear that this was a refusal to answer the questions addressed to him by the American authorities, and in that way he was putting himself in the position of refusing to comply with the requirements of the United States Selective Service Act. It has, therefore, been his conduct which has created this position.

    Would it not have been fairer and have given the House full information if, after the line in the Written Answer which said that Dr. Cort

    "had refused to make a statement"
    the right hon. and learned Gentleman had subsequently added, "he did make a statement which is in my possession"?

    If the right hon. Member takes that view, it is, of course, worthy of consideration, but I thought that my answer to the Question dealt with the whole situation. After that, I had several opportunities, of which I availed myself, of hearing the fullest accounts of what had happened, and I did so.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the education authorities of this country have allowed Mrs. Cort to obtain a British medical qualification here, and has not that served to allay some of the suspicions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this matter?

    I have said this afternoon that the position of Mrs. Cort is quite different because, so far as I know, there is no question of there being any danger of her losing her nationality or returnability and I am quite prepared to consider her position.

    27.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he never communicated with Dr. Joseph Cort to obtain a statement from him about his relations with the United States authorities before deciding not to renew his permit to remain in Britain; and why no action was taken on this after Dr. Cort, in a signed statement to the Birmingham criminal investigation department, had expressed his readiness to do so.

    The answer to the first part of the Question is that there was no reason to suppose that any statement by Dr. Cort on the subject could affect the decision.

    In his statement to the Birmingham police Dr. Cort offered to supply information to the Home Office for its own use, but since the Home Office was not involved in the procedure by which inquiries were made of Dr. Cort on behalf of the American authorities it did not require any statement from him.

    In view of the fact that Dr. Cort, although being, in effect, extradited, is denied any sort of hearing in this country, would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman have thought it a little fairer, before exercising his undoubted discretion, to have consulted Dr. Cort, either personally or by correspondence, about his side of the case?

    I must protest against the use of the word "extradited." After all, Dr. Cort issued a long statement of his own and representatives of Dr. Cort put all the points that could be made for him, and I considered them very carefully.

    While congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend on his handling of this matter, may I ask him whether he would not confirm that the opinions expressed in the House on the case of Dr. Cort, taken in conjunction with the close association of this country and the United States, and the wide reporting in that country of our Parliamentary proceedings, constitute the best and fairest assurance we can give that if Dr. Cort does return to the United States he will be justly and fairly treated?

    Does not the Home Secretary now appreciate that by his unfortunate decision he has delivered a shattering blow at this country's tradition of political asylum and his own reputation for fair dealing? Will he not now take this last opportunity of reconsidering his decision?

    Political Asylum

    11.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many citizens of the United States of America have asked for political asylum in this country in recent years.

    16.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of persons to whom this country has granted political asylum since November, 1951.

    The circumstances of individual cases in which political considerations are brought forward in support of applications to enter or remain in the United Kingdom vary so widely that no separate record of the disposal of such cases is kept. I am accordingly unable to supply the figures for which the hon. Members ask.

    Although he cannot give the figures, would not the Home Secretary agree that political asylum has been granted consistently since the war and under his own Ministry, and that that shows he believes in political asylum? Why does he continue to refuse it to a man whose only troubles lie in the fact that he was once a Communist?

    I explained at considerable length to the House last week, first, that political asylum Still exists and is operated in exactly the same way as it has always been, and, secondly, that in my opinion the gentleman in question does not come within the rules of political asylum.

    Has the Home Secretary not seen the letter that has arrived in this country from Dr. Brown, of the Harvard Medical School, which proves conclusively that Dr. Cort is being sent back to be persecuted and that his life will not be worth living if he goes back? Does the Home Secretary not agree that all the facts prove that this man has every justification for claiming political asylum in this country? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman not consider the case again?

    That is the letter that is in the "Daily Worker." [HON. MEMBERS "No."] I think it is the same one. I am just identifying the letter. If the letter is relevant I shall consider it.

    For our information, can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether political asylum has ever been sought by or granted to a person who came from a country with a free and democratically elected Parliament?

    I think that that would mean two things: first, going through the files of the Home Office for roughly 100 years and, second, deciding what constituted a freely elected Parliament.

    Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that the writer of that letter, Dr. Brown, is a very eminent scientist? Would he not look into the letter and then make inquiries to ascertain whether the facts stated by Dr. Brown are accurate or not? If they are, would he then consider whether he should change his mind?

    I indicated time and again last week the problem which I consider to be the nub of this matter. I have considered all the points that have been raised and it would not be honest if I said that there was any hope of my altering my decision.

    For the purpose of information, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the United States authorities have made a request to Her Majesty's Government for the return of Dr. Cort to the United States?

    Oh, no. I dealt with that last week and I made it clear that there has been no request.

    If that is so, and there seems to be some doubt about this matter, would not the Home Secretary give Dr. Cort the benefit of the doubt?

    The right hon. Gentleman has not got the point, which we discussed rather a lot.

    The position is that the reason that I did not allow Dr. Cort to stay was that his refusal to answer the demands to appear before the United States' Selective Service authorities made him liable to lose his citizenship. If someone is liable to lose his citizenship and, therefore, to become unreturnable he is not kept here.

    18.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what precedents there are for not extending an alien's permit because his home Government has threatened to make him Stateless.

    As I explained in reply to the Question asked by the hon. Member for Erdington (Mr. J. Silverman) on 1st July last, it is the normal practice to require aliens who apply for an extension of their permission to remain in the United Kingdom to produce evidence that they have return facilities to another country. Whenever it appears that there is a risk of such applicants losing their citizenship or re-entry facilities permission to remain is refused.

    Would not the Home Secretary agree that the real precedent of the case of Dr. Cort—and one which has been set by him—is that, for the first time in the history of this country, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has allowed his decision as to whether or not a permit shall be extended to be determined by what a body outside this country may do in a future unspecified circumstance? Has he not now surrendered his own authority over whether or not to extend permits to aliens here to an outside body?

    I have not made that precedent. I have acted on the basis, which I believe is accurate and right, that if the person in question takes action which may result in jeopardising his returnability, he cannot stay here.

    Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether that criticism applies equally to the case of a visitor from behind the Iron Curtain, who is then threatened with losing his status in his home country and ceasing to be returnable there if he claimed political asylum?

    There are two questions and I hope that the House will keep them clear. There is returnability, which I have explained; I have also explained that returnability is subject to the qualification of the person being able to make out a case for political asylum. In my opinion, Dr. Cort did not make out such a case.

    Mentally Defective Prisoner, North London (Treatment)

    15.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that a 19-yearold man was sent to prison for three months by the North London magistrate on 5th June last, because no place was available in a hospital for mental defectives: and whether he will take steps to suspend the sentence and arrange for suitable hospital treatment.

    This man has been certified as a mental defective since his conviction and I shall be ready to make an Order under Section 9 of the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913, for his transfer to an appropriate institution if a vacancy can be found before his sentence expires. I understand, however, that all the mental deficiency hospitals in the region have long waiting lists and it may prove impossible to find a vacancy.

    In that event, I should not feel justified in recommending any interference with the sentence imposed by the magistrate in full knowledge of all the circumstances of the case.

    Is it not quite monstrous that a mental defective should have to be sent to prison solely because the magistrate said that the hospital services seem to have broken down completely? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that we are civilised while such a case exists?

    The hon. and gallant Member must ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health about the shortage of accommodation for mental defectives, but I must point out in fairness that the magistrate said:

    "There seems to be but one thing I can do to protect the public, and that is to send you to prison for three months."
    In view of that, it would be very difficult for me to let the man out.

    Foreign Nationals (Temporary Labour Permits)

    20.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications have been received by the Home Office in the last 12 months, to the most recent convenient date, for the cancellation or non-renewal of temporary labour permits of foreign nationals on the ground that they have not complied with the military service laws of the countries concerned; from what countries these applications have been received; and in what cases, and in respect of what countries, action has been taken by the Home Office in accordance with such requests.

    Football Pools (Prosecutions)

    22.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prosecutions have been undertaken against promoters of football pools run for the benefit of local charities and sports clubs since 1951.

    I am advised that the conduct of a football pool by a club or charitable organisation is not in itself unlawful, but, if the competition is so conducted that it is a lottery, offences against the law relating to lotteries may occur. Information as to the number of prosecutions for such offences since 1951 is not available.

    Betting And Lotteries Legislation

    23.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take an early opportunity of codifying the existing betting and lotteries legislation.

    The Government have been considering the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, some of which have been implemented in the Pool Betting Act. I cannot, in anticipation of the Queen's Speech, make any statement about the possibility of further legislation on this subject.

    Dr Strasser (Entry Permit)

    24.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why Dr. Otto Strasser was refused permission to visit Britain in the spring of 1954.

    I considered that it would not be in the public interest to allow Dr. Strasser to come to the United Kingdom.

    Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman in no circumstances yield to any pressure coming from Fascist or Fascist fellow-travelling sources to admit this sinister character into this country?

    Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman observe that his hon. and gallant Friend who asked this Question, and who has apparently some solicitude for Dr. Strasser, referred just now to Dr. Cort as an alien who ought not to be allowed to remain here?

    Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that Hitler put a sum of 1 million marks on Dr. Strasser's head, dead or alive?

    I was not aware of the actual number of marks, but I knew that he was on the black list.

    Palace Of Westminster (Queen's Coroner)

    26.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the name of the present holder of the office of Queen's Coroner for the Palace of Westminster.

    I understand that an inquest on a body lying within the Palace of Westminster would be held by the Coroner of the Queen's Household, Lieut.-Colonel W, H. L. McCarthy, D.S.O., M.C.

    Wales

    Annual Report (Government Proposals)

    7.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will give, in the annual report of Government action in Wales and Monmouthshire for the year ended 30th June, 1954, information on the action taken on the proposals of the Government, as outlined in Command Paper No. 9014 on Rural Wales.

    Spas, Breconshire And Radnorshire (Use)

    21.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider asking the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire to inquire into the possibilities of utilising the special facilities of the spas in Breconshire and Radnorshire for the treatment of certain diseases and for rehabilitation of persons who could benefit by modern medical science in good surroundings.

    It is for the council to decide on the subjects which it wishes to investigate, but I will draw its attention to the hon. Member's suggestion.

    Employment

    Agricultural, Engineering And Building Workers (Pay)

    28.

    asked the Minister of Labour the basic wage rates and the approximate average weekly earnings in 1939 of agricultural workers, skilled engineers and building operatives, respectively; and the corresponding figures today.

    As the answer is long and includes detailed information, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    Without having seen the figures, could I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether the increases in wages in these three industries have been greater than the increases in productivity? Is there no relation between the productivity of the labour and the increase in wages?

    I think it would be more convenient to my hon. Friend if he postponed that question until he has seen these figures.

    Does the Minister agree that productivity and wages are not always synonymous terms in regard to responsibility for the final product?

    Wages and productivity cannot be compared at all as a matter of arithmetic.

    Following is the answer:

    In agriculture the average minimum rate of wages for ordinary adult male workers at 1st September, '1939, was 34s. 9d. a week in England and Wales and 33s. 4d. a week in Scotland. The corresponding rates today are 120s. throughout England and Wales and 116s. throughout Scotland. For engineering fitters the average of the time rates in the principal districts of the United Kingdom was 69s. 2½d. at 1st September, 1939, and is now 146s. For bricklayers the corresponding figures are 73s. 4d. in 1939, and 168s. today; for building trade labourers they are 55s. 1d. and 147s. 4d., respectively.

    Figures of actual earnings are only available for broader industry groups, the latest pre-war figures relating to October, 1938, and the latest post-war figures to October, 1953. For all categories of adult male wage-earners in the metals, engineering and shipbuilding industries the average weekly earnings at these two dates were 75s. and 202s. 10d. For all adult male wage-earners in building and contracting they were 66s. and 183s. 8d.

    Average earnings in agriculture are not avail- able for 1938 or 1939. During the year, April, 1952, to March, 1953, the average weekly earnings of hired regular adult male workers in agriculture in Great Britain amounted to 133s. 2d.

    NOTES

    1. Agriculture. For agriculture the figures of both rates and earnings include the value of certain allowances in kind.

    2. Engineering. The rates given for engineering fitters are the averages of the recognised district time rates of fitters in 16 principal centres in the United Kingdom.

    3. Building. In the building industry the agreements specify only hourly rates. The weekly rates have been computed by multiplying the hourly rates (the average of recognised rates in 39 large towns in the United Kingdom) by the average number of hours in a full ordinary week, summer and winter hours being taken into account for this purpose.

    Glamorgan

    31.

    asked the Minister of Labour how many people in Glamorgan were registered as unemployed at the latest convenient date; how many notified vacancies there were on that date; and how these figures compare with those of a year ago.

    The number of un- employed persons on the registers of employment exchanges in Glamorganshire at 14th June, 1954, was 10,636, and the number of vacancies notified to those employment exchanges and remaining unfilled at 30th June was 4,647. The figures for corresponding dates in 1953 were 13,800 and 4,530 respectively.

    Barry

    32.

    asked the Minister of Labour how many people in the borough of Barry were registered as unemployed at the latest convenient date; how many notified vacancies there were at that date; and how these figures compare with those of a year ago.

    The number of unemployed persons on the registers of the Barry employment exchange and youth employment office at 14th June, 1954, was 460 and the number of vacancies notified to these offices and remaining unfilled at 30th June was 185. The figures for corresponding dates in 1953 were 414 and 193, respectively.

    Buckinghamshire

    34.

    asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons registered as unemployed in Wycombe and the county of Buckinghamshire, respectively, as at the last recorded date, as against the same period in 1952 and 1953.

    For the High Wycombe Employment Exchange and Youth Employment Office the figure for 14th June, 1954, was 220 compared with 815 at 16th June, 1952, and 329 at 15th June, 1953. The corresponding figures for all employment exchanges and youth employment offices in Buckinghamshire were 641, 1,399 and 848, respectively.

    35.

    asked the Minister of Labour the number of employment vacancies registered in Wycombe and the county of Buckinghamshire, respectively, as at the last recorded date, which could not be filled at that date.

    At 30th June, the number of vacancies remaining unfilled was 1,050 for the High Wycombe Employment Exchange and Youth Employment Office, and 4,481 for all employment exchanges and youth employment offices in Buckinghamshire.

    National Service

    29.

    asked the Minister of Labour the total number of those medically rejected for National Service after being called up, and those called up after deferment, for 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953, figures for each category being shown separately.

    As the answer contains a table of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his effort to satisfy me in this matter. Do the figures indicate what I have been seeking to ascertain, namely, the numbers of those who are medically rejected after deferment? Will the Minister consider the point that medical examination might always be carried out when a person is eligible for call-up, and so avoid difficulties that emerge later?

    If I may first deal with the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, it would be difficult to arrange that conveniently because deferment might cover a number of years and it would certainly be necessary to examine persons again if that was so done. In reply to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I would point out that it is difficult to explain, by the table of figures which I have given in answer to his Question, the fundamental point, which is that if one takes the class of a particular year, one has to go through the whole period during which that class would be liable for call-up in order to satisfy oneself whether people are really escaping, which is what the hon. Gentleman wants to know. I have written to the hon. Member explaining how that can be shown.

    Following is the table:

    YearNumber of men rejected on medical groundsEstimated number of men who had been deferred and were called up in year
    (1)(2)(3)
    194827,75022,000
    194936,37044,000
    195047,31462,000
    195143,85657,000
    195242,82954,000
    195342,11262,000

    Cost Of Living

    30.

    asked the Minister of Labour to publish a comparison of the trends in the wages index and the cost-of-living index from June, 1947, up to the latest available date.

    As the answer is in tabular form I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

    While I appreciate that the figures may be somewhat lengthy, may I ask the Minister what is the increase in the respective figures since this Government came to power?

    I am not sure that I could give that figure exactly, but I would say that the comparison between the Rates of Wages Index and the Retail Prices Index is that they started with the wages index below and they are now approximately the same

    Following is the table:

    PeriodRates of Wages IndexRetail Prices Index
    June, 1947100100
    Average of:
    July-December, 1947102102
    1948106108
    1949109111
    1950111114
    1951120125
    1952130136
    1953136140
    January-May, 1954140141
    May, 1954142141

    33.

    asked the Minister of Labour to what extent the Retail Prices Index has been influenced by the high prices for fresh vegetables in May and June.

    The index figures for June are not yet available. In mid-May, apart from a small rise in the prices of potatoes, vegetable prices were generally no higher than in mid-April and they did not therefore induce any upward movement of the index figure for May. Between mid-March and mid-April, however, seasonable increases in the prices of fresh vegetables had raised the all items figure of the retail prices index by nearly one-half of a point.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied that the index correctly measures the changes in the cost of living? Surely the present abnormally high prices for fresh vegetables should make a greater difference to the index than he had indicated.

    I do not think that there is any inaccuracy. In the Ministry of Labour Gazette we point out from time to time any changes of this sort which occur, and they can be differentiated from the whole index figures. I can show the hon. Gentleman relevant extracts from the Gazette, if it will assist him.

    Ministry Of Health

    Mental Patients

    36.

    asked the Minister of Health in what circumstances patients in mental hospitals are allowed to take up paid outside work; and, when they do so, what contribution they pay towards the cost of keeping them in hospital.

    The patients concerned are those who have reached a stage at which employment in paid occupations outside the hospital is possible and likely to aid progress towards recovery. The amounts paid by such patients as a contribution towards the cost of maintenance in hospital vary according to earnings, but the maximum amount recoverable is £2 15s. a week.

    What precautions are taken to see that mental defectives employed outside the institutions get the proper rate for the job?

    It is the responsibility of the medical superintendent of the hospital to make individual arrangements.

    38.

    asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that many local authorities are reluctant to allow homes for the after-care of mental patients to be set up in their areas; and what is the policy of his Department in this matter.

    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health
    (Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

    No case of this kind has been brought to my right hon. Friend's attention. He would hope and expect that local authorities would deal with such proposals in the same way as they treat other kinds of convalescent accommodation.

    Will the hon. Lady take it from me that many of the people who have the misfortune to be afflicted suffer the terrible penalty of being treated as "untouchables" in regard to employment and social contact? Will he try to rescue them from that terrible fate?

    I think that the hon. and learned Member is referring to a different matter when he mentions employability.

    May I ask the hon. Lady what is represented by the flowers she is wearing?

    Order. That is a matter which does not fall within the administrative responsibility of the hon. Lady.

    39.

    asked the Minister of Health how many homes for the after-care of mental patients exist in England and Wales; where they are situated; what their accommodation is; how many patients they contain; and of what categories.

    Precise information on all these points is not available. The Mental After-Care Association provides directly or indirectly 23 homes in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Suffolk and Northamptonshire, with accommodation for 524 patients and 463 at present in residence. Two homes are reserved for short-term cases; the remainder provide for long-term cases and for patients on holiday from mental hospitals. The Ex-Servicemen's Welfare Association provides two homes for 50 patients in all.

    While thanking the hon. Lady for that reply, may I ask whether she would put me under a further obligation by telling me how those figures compare with the corresponding figures for Scotland?

    Mental Defectives, Durham (Accommodation)

    37.

    asked the Minister of Health the number of mentally defective persons for whom application has been made for admission to suitable institutions in the county of Durham and for whom no accommodation is at present available.

    Is not this a somewhat alarming figure and does not it disquiet the right hon. Gentleman? Is he aware that among these cases are several of young persons? Will he hurry up the provision of accommodation for them?

    All waiting list figures disquiet me, and it is true that these are perhaps the worst of all. We are doing what we can. Since the appointed day there have been 550 new beds provided in the region and there is a scheme in hand for a further 200 beds, so that about 750 extra beds have been provided since the appointed day. The problem still remains, but, as I say, we are doing what we can.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that mental defectives are having to be sent to prison because there is no room available for them in mental hospitals? Will he look at an answer given by his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary today on this subject which "passes the buck" to the Minister of Health?

    Yes, Sir, I have seen that, and I am in communication with my right hon. and learned Friend on the matter.

    Children In Hospital (Parents' Visits)

    40.

    asked the Minister of Health with whom authority rests to determine the frequency of visiting by parents to children in hospitals under the National Health Service; and what difference is made in the rules in such hospitals if the children are in pay beds.

    Visiting arrangements, for both National Health Service and private patients, are the responsibility of hospital management committees and boards of governors.

    Has the Minister followed the correspondence which appeared recently in the "Manchester Guardian" on this subject, and which indicates that while there has been a wide welcome to the lead given by his Department there are still many hospitals which adopt a very unhelpful attitude towards parents in this situation? Can he tell the House whether or not he is quite powerless to help?

    I have issued a circular which has been welcomed, and I am following it up. But there are many cases of special circumstances in the hospitals—for example, infectious diseases hospitals—which make it difficult for those responsible for the running of the hospitals to do as much as I, and I have no doubt, as they would like to do to allow parents to see their children.

    Smoking (Lung Cancer)

    41.

    asked the Minister of Health what information has been gained by officers of his Department about investigations in other countries into the relationship between smoking and cancer of the lung; and what steps he is taking to make this information available in the United Kingdom.

    Officers of my Department and of the Medical Research Council have been in close touch with investigations into this question in other countries, all of which have been or will be published in the medical and scientific Press and are freely available to persons concerned.

    Will my right hon. Friend do all that is possible in this matter? Will he bear in mind that there are thousands of smokers who are anxious to know that cancer of the lung is not caused by smoking, and that there are few topics about which so many people are seriously worried?

    I recognise the great public interest in this matter, but I have no intention of speculating in advance of proof.

    Is not it a fact that cancer of the lung is the most serious of all the cancerous growths, and does not an increase in the disease coincide with heavy smoking by women, particularly since 1925?

    Maternity Home Fire, Reading (Report)

    42.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he is yet in a position to publish the result of his inquiry into the recent Dellwood Maternity Home fire, in Reading.

    I have given most careful consideration to the report of the Regional Hospital Board Committee of Inquiry into the fire and I am satisfied that it has covered very thoroughly all aspects of this most tragic and unfortunate disaster. The report is now available to hon. Members in the Library and copies will be supplied to parties directly interested on request to my Department.

    Looking back on tragic events of this nature it is always possible to have second thoughts, but I consider that the action taken by the hospital authorities both in the provision of the accommodation and in the matter of medical and nursing supervision was reasonable, and that there was no negligence or breach of duty on their part. The steps taken for the rescue and subsequent treatment of the babies were, in my view, in accord with the highest traditions of the hospital service.

    My Department is preparing advice to hospital authorities on fire precautions generally and I will see that this takes account of the lessons to be learned. I also understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is considering possible strengthening of the relevant building byelaws.

    While agreeing that no monetary grant can possibly compensate parents in their tragic loss, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend can say that irrespective of the question of strict legal liability he is prepared sympathetically to consider ex gratia grants to those concerned?

    On the question of compensation, as I have said, in my view death was not caused by neglect or breach of duty, but was due to misadventure, and that was the verdict of the coroner. Nevertheless, I am sure that if there are cases where particular circumstances are involved the hospital management committee will be very glad to look at them as sympathetically as they can.

    May I thank my right hon. Friend for that generally sympathetic answer and ask him whether he can say that, in effect, his words mean that each case will be judged individually and sympathetically?

    Can the right hon. Gentleman say how often this hospital has been inspected?

    It is inspected regularly. In fact, it has one of the very finest records in the whole of the country in regard to the number of deaths, both maternal and infant, that have taken place.

    Elderly Married People (Homes)

    44 and 60.

    asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is satisfied that adequate powers are possessed and adequate provision made by local authorities for homes for aged and infirm married couples;

    (2) whether he will send a circular to local authorities calling attention to the desirability of publicising the existence of homes for elderly married people where they are allowed to live together.

    County and county borough councils have all the necessary powers under Part III of the National Assistance Act and my right hon. Friend is satisfied that the proportion of accommodation for old people provided for elderly and infirm married couples is normally reasonable. Before approving proposals for the construction of residential accommodation for elderly people in need of care and attention, care is taken to ensure that a number of double bedrooms for married couples are included. Local authorities are well aware of that policy and have undertaken in their schemes for development of the service to make this type of provision.

    Has my hon. Friend's attention been called to the tragedy of Mrs. Lily Dudgeon, who died on the beach at Brighton after sleeping out because she feared that if she went into a local authority residential home she would be separated from her husband, who was an old-age pensioner? Can my hon. Friend confirm that, in fact, the woman was offered accommodation by Brighton Corporation and that any separation would have been only temporary? Does she not think that it would be good to have additional national publicity to dispel this ignorance and to avert any further tragedy of this nature?

    My right hon. Friend is aware of the tragedy of this case but, in view of the publicity that has been given to it, it is fair to point out that, when this couple were evicted from their accommodation, on the day they made application to the local authority they were offered Part III accommodation, which they declined. It is not always possible immediately on application to find double married accommodation, because that would mean leaving some idle and empty which might be used for priority cases. The couple were told that it was hoped within a reasonable time to give them joint accommodation. They refused the offer of Part III accommodation, and we all regret the tragedy which ensued.

    I hope that the publicity given to the Question and answer will assure those who have criticised the service that the local authorities offered accommodation and proper shelter to this couple.

    Ministry Of Food (Future)

    45.

    asked the Prime Minister whether arrangements have now been made to disband the Ministry of Food and transfer the few remaining functions to other Departments.

    I have nothing to add to what I told my hon. Friend on 6th April.

    In view of the uncertainty on meat prices and the uncertainty in the farming community on the policy of the Government towards marketing, will the Prime Minister be very cautious in this matter and not heed the doctrinaire people behind him?

    War Pensions (Free Vote)

    46.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will make a further statement on war pensions and war widows' pensions; and if the Government will allow a free vote of the House following a debate on this subject.

    I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend. I cannot add to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement on this important subject of 12th April.

    The answer to the latter part of the Question must be in the negative. It is the duty of the Government to accept responsibility for any action of this character proposed.

    Will my right hon. Friend ask the Ministers concerned to read the report of the proceedings of the British Legion conference at Whit-sun? Further, is he aware that all the facts in this matter are known and can he say whether the Government will deal with this much-overdue question as soon and as generously as possible?

    I am sure that due attention will be paid to the report of the proceedings in question and that any hopeful suggestions which arise will be given effect to in due course.

    Is the unwillingness of the right hon. Gentleman to allow a free vote in this matter due to the fact that he does not again want to be bullied by some of his hon. Friends into ignoring the findings of the House?

    European Defence Community (France)

    47.

    asked the Prime Minister whether, following his discussion with President Eisenhower on South-East Asia and the European Defence Community, he will invite the French Prime Minister to London in order to coordinate British, United States and French policy.

    48.

    asked the Prime Minister whether he will now invite the French Prime Minister to London to discuss British policy towards the European Defence Community Treaty.

    Both before and since the visit of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to Paris for talks with the French Prime Minister on 20th June, we have maintained the closest contact with the French Government. This contact will, of course, continue. Much though I should welcome a meeting myself with Monsieur Mendès-France, I would not feel justified in pressing him, at the present time, while he has so many urgent problems to occupy him.

    While thanking the Prime Minister for that reply, may I ask him whether it might not be for the general convenience if a personal meeting of that kind could be held before 20th July?

    The Foreign Secretary will be meeting M. Mendès-France after Monday at Geneva.

    Does not the Prime Minister think that, now at last there is a French Government with a Prime Minister who looks like achieving stability—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—it would be better to talk to him about possible variants of the European Defence Community Treaty rather than to issue a communiqué together with President Eisenhower telling him to do something which he says he cannot do and which the French Parliament will not let him do?

    That is a matter of opinion which is not included in the Question on the Order Paper.

    Will the Prime Minister tell the French Prime Minister that in view of his very gallant part in the R.A.F. during the war he will be a very welcome visitor to London when he can afford the time to come?

    No doubt his attention will be drawn to the right hon. Gentleman's very apposite question.

    Minister Of Defence (Visit To Washington)

    49.

    asked the Prime Minister the purpose of the projected visit of the Minister of Defence to Washington.

    My noble Friend is visiting the United States on the invitation of Mr. Charles Wilson, the United States Secretary of Defence. He will have general discussions with Mr. Wilson and his advisers and will visit a number of establishments at which the latest types of American arms and equipment are being developed. There are also military and strategic questions on which there will be an interchange of opinion with the highest professional authorities in the United States.

    Does the Prime Minister think that his noble Friend will be more successful than he was in bridging differences with the United States?

    United States Aid

    50.

    asked the Prime Minister whether he will express the thanks of the British people to the Government of the United States of America for all the financial aid that has been received, and, at the same time, inform the United States Government that, in view of present circumstances, Her Majesty's Government does not propose to accept any more.

    I am ready at all times to express the thanks of the British people for the massive aid we and other free countries have received from the United States of America. For the future, most of the aid we expect to receive will be in the form of military equipment. Her Majesty's Government will accept and put to good use this contribution to the common defence of the free world.

    Does that answer mean that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that, in view of the amounts involved, it would lead to a much better Anglo-American relationship if we did not accept the financial aid which is given in financial form for military equipment usually manufactured here? Can he say why it is essential for us to have what is not a vast amount which is involved at present?

    It is well known that this country bore an altogether unique and exceptional strain on its economy by the exertion which it made in the late war during a large portion of which its people were the sole defenders of the cause of freedom. I have not, therefore, at any time felt ashamed to receive aid from loyal allies and friends devoted to purposes in which their interests are as keen as ours.

    Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember that during the period of office of the Labour Government he sneeringly referred to American aid as charity?

    It has that aspect, but I think that that does not necessarily detract from its usefulness or welcome character.

    Are we then to take it that if a Labour Government receives American aid—which we and, I think, the country appreciated—that is charity, but if a Tory Government receives American aid it is an expression of good will between the two countries?

    The right hon. Gentleman is evidently endeavouring to pick a quarrel.

    Prime Minister (Appointment Of Successor)

    51.

    asked the Prime Minister if he will introduce legislation to amend the constitution by authorising the Prime Minister to appoint his successor.

    No, Sir. This is a prerogative of the Crown. It is for the Sovereign to decide whether to ask the opinion of the first Minister of the Crown about the choice of his successor and whether to act in accordance with that opinion. No legislation is needed.

    In that case, will the Prime Minister tell us by what authority he announced in the United States that the Foreign Secretary would be his successor? Did not that announcement infringe not only the Prerogative of the Crown, but also the prerogative of the 1922 Committee?

    The hon. and learned Gentleman is endeavouring to be offensive all round. I certainly do not recall ever having said anything of the kind. I have always held the opposite view very strongly. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will send me that quotation, I will look into it; I may well have been misreported. I certainly should not presume to commit such a constitutional error as that.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Labour Party would prefer their own leader should be the Prime Minister after the next General Election?