HC Deb 02 November 1939 vol 352 cc2088-91
62. Mr. Ede

asked the Minister of Health whether advice has been tendered to billeting authorities by his Department on the undesirability of billeting evacuated persons, especially children, in houses in which a patient recently discharged from a tuberculosis sanatorium lives?

Mr. Elliot

I recently made it clear to a conference of representatives of the voluntary organisations for the prevention and cure of tuberculosis and of medical officers of health that patients in the infective stages of tuberculosis who had been inadvertently discharged from sanatoria at the outbreak of war should be sought out and brought back for treatment. I have no reason to believe that billeting officers are not alive to the point made by the hon. Member.

Mr. Ede

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that in many cases billeting officers have no authority in this matter, and that it is the tuberculosis authority; and is it not desirable that some supervision should be given?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, Sir. The only sound way is to seek out the tuberculosis patient and have him given institutional treatment. The information in the possession of local authorities as to tuberculosis cases is, of course, confidential.

66. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health whether he will reconsider his policy of allowing free medical service to parents able to pay 9s. towards billeting, in view of the apprehension that this will be to the disadvantage of children of those unable to pay this sum who will be denied this service?

Mr. Elliot

I think the hon. Member may be under some misapprehension. Medical attendance and treatment are provided for all unaccompanied school children evacuated under the Government scheme.

Mr. Sorensen

Am I to understand that there is no preferential treatment for those who pay a higher billeting allowance?

Mr. Elliot

None, Sir.

68. Sir W. Brass

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that consider able dissatisfaction obtains in certain reception areas situated not many miles from vulnerable areas where children are close enough to return for week-ends, sometimes not returning to the reception areas at all; and whether he would consider evacuating children in the future to reception areas further distant from the vulnerable areas so as to overcome this difficulty?

Mr. Elliot

I am aware of the difficulty to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers. Looking to the numbers for whom plans were made it would not have been practicable to confine the reception of evacuated persons to areas remote from the evacuating areas. The danger of bringing children back to the evacuating areas has been constantly emphasised both in this House and in the Press, and I hope it will be sufficient to appeal to the good sense of parents and to ask them to keep foremost in their minds the interests of their children's safety.

69. Mr. Touche

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that cases have arisen in which householders in reception areas have continued to receive billeting allowances after the evacuated persons have left the house; and whether it is proposed to issue any instructions to local authorities as to how these payments should be checked?

Mr. Elliot

A few cases have been brought to my notice in which billeting allowances have been received by the householder after the evacuated persons have left his house. Steps are being taken to prevent the possibility of the payment of the allowances in such cases.

73. Mr. David Adams

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered a letter from the Lord Mayor of Newcastle-on-Tyne setting forth in detail the urgent requirements of children evacuated from Newcastle in the matter of footwear, overcoats, clothing for day and night wear, etc., and for which a public appeal has brought in but a small response; and whether he proposes to make a grant of the sum of £5,000 required to meet this emergency?

Mr. Elliot

I have considered the letter to which the hon. Member refers. Soon after evacuation was carried out I broadcast an appeal to people who have clothing and boots to spare to send them forward for the use of the children. I shall shortly be sending a circular to local authorities in both the evacuating and receiving areas on this subject. I think we must make the utmost possible efforts to obtain supplies from the natural sources, namely, the parents themselves and the various official and voluntary agencies.

Mr. Adams

In view of the failure of the appeal of the Lord Mayor of Newcastle and the fact that funds are not available locally for these purposes, can the Minister not relieve the situation by making a grant?

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many of the areas where such clothing is given it is in fact being sold to the evacuees?

Mr. Elliot

I am not aware of that, but I think it not improbable that in certain cases a charge may have been made.

Mr. Adams

Can I not have an answer to my supplementary question, Mr. Speaker? It is a very important point.

74. Mr. Parker

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that local authorities in reception areas are refusing to pay public assistance towards the payment of rents of evacuees in evacuation areas; and whether he will take steps to deal with the resulting difficulties?

Mr. Elliot

I am aware that some local authorities are adopting the practice referred to in the first part of the question. In reply to the second part, I am debarred by Statute from interfering in any individual case for the purpose of ordering relief, but I shall be happy to bring to the notice of the public assistance authority any case of special hardship that the hon. Member has in mind. The hon. Member will appreciate the difficulties that would be involved in the continued pay- merit from public funds of allowances towards the rent of premises that are not required for the applicant's occupation.

76. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Minister of Health whether he has any further statement to make concerning the provision of periodical free travelling passes to parents who desire to visit their evacuated children?

Mr. Elliot

I am in consultation with other Departments concerned on the question what special travelling facilities could periodically be provided for parents wishing to visit children who have been evacuated, but it must be understood that no question of issuing free travelling passes is under consideration.

Mr. Strauss

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that large numbers of children from my constituency have been evacuated to Devon and Somerset, and that the parents cannot possibly afford travelling facilities in order to visit their children, and that this is causing very considerable distress to the parents?

Mrs. Tate

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that mothers go to Somerset every week-end to see their evacuated children, and will he be more accurate in his facts?

Mr. Strauss

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this difficulty in visiting the children is one of the causes of children coming back to London?