HC Deb 30 November 1939 vol 355 cc222-5
13. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the provision of huts for child evacuees and their considerable advantages and attractiveness; and as, in many instances, this type of accommodation is superior to that of billeting, what action he is taking to encourage the provision of suitable hutments for evacuation purposes?

The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)

I take it that the hon. Member is referring to fully equipped hutted camps. As the hon. Member knows a number of such camps is being constructed under the Camps Act, and it is hoped to bring more of these into use in the near future.

15. Mr. Silkin

asked the Minister of Health whether an increase could be given of the grant in respect of billeted children and other evacuated persons in reception areas during Christmas week to cover the higher cost of living in that week?

Mr. Elliot

I know that in both the reception and evacuation areas great efforts are being made to ensure that the children and others who have been evacuated will spend a happy Christmas, but I hope that no individual householder will he appreciably out of pocket on this account. I fear that it would be impracticable to increase the grant in respect of billeted children as suggested.

Mr. Silkin

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Christmas is an expensive time and that if hosts in reception areas are to do what he wants them to do, it must involve more expense and that many cannot do it without an additional allowance?

Mr. Elliot

Efforts are being made to secure such expenses being met through voluntary and other sources.

Sir Percy Harris

Would the right hon. Gentleman act on this occasion as Santa Claus and bring round some presents?

Mr. Herbert Morrison

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is the common practice of public authorities, with the sanction of his Department, to permit special allowances to be made in various institutions, for example; and is not it necessary that the Government should for this week add, say, 2s. or a few shillings to the allowance so that a better time may be given to these families?

Mr. Elliot

I hope that it will not be desirable to put this upon any institutional basis or to compare it with an institutional basis. I should hope very much that it would be possible to do it along the lines in which the right hon. Gentleman himself is co-operating, namely, help freely given by the citizens of the country.

16. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that some school-children have been evacuated, approximately 200 miles away from home, and that the parents wishing to visit them have been informed that special fares are granted only in cases where the children are at a distance of not more than 100 miles; and will he reconsider this decision and make arrangements whereby those special fares shall be applicable to cover at least the first 100 miles of the longer journey?

Mr. Elliot

As explained by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Transport, on 15th November, the general aim of the arrangements made by the Government is to provide special train facilities to receiving areas where services at cheap rates are not already available and to which the return journey can be made in one day. This would not be possible in the case of the relatively few areas at the distance mentioned. It must be borne in mind that in these areas there would often be no accommodation available for parents wishing to stay the night and that it would not be fair to expect householders on whom children were billeted to provide overnight accommodation for their parents. The present arrangements will be reviewed when all concerned have had some experience of how they work out in practice.

Mr. Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it is certainly more costly to travel 200 miles in this country than to travel half the distance?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, but when, as I say, we have had some experience of how ťhe present arrangements work out we shall certainly review these conditions.

Mr. Sorensen

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider a policy of free passes for the parents whose children are more than 100 miles away from home?

Mr. Thorne

Is the Minister aware that the Minister of Transporť has fixed a limit of 160 miles, and that this will inflict great hardship upon a good many folks?

Mr. Elliot

The Minister of Transport has not done so. He has begun the scheme with a limit of 160 miles, and, as I say, when we have had experience of how the arrangements work out, we shall see whether they can be modified in any way.

20. Mr. James Griffiths

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to make any statement on the question of the payment of billeting allowances in respect of children evacuated under privaťe arrangements?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, Sir. Under the Government evacuation scheme billeting allowances are in general only available for persons evacuated under that scheme. I recognise, however, that in certain cases where unaccompanied children were evacuated under private arrangements before the operation of the scheme, hardship has arisen in regard to their continued maintenance in the reception areas over a long period of time. It has been decided, therefore, that where hardship is shown to exist in such cases, local authorities should be authorised to issue billeting certificates. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of a circular which I am issuing to local authorities in the matter.

Mr. Sorensen

Will the right hon. Gentleman make the allowances retrospective in some cases?

Dr. Haden Guest

Will billeting allowances be payable in the cases where the children are actually staying with relatives?

Mr. Elliot

The answer to the last question is Yes, Sir, if the other conditions are satisfied.

Mr. Stephen

Will this apply to Scotland?

Mr. J. Griffiths

Will the local authorities deťermine whether hardship exists and adjustments may be made?

Mr. Elliot

It will be examined under the same procedure as has been adopted for the other evacuees. The local authorities will be the judges as in the case of persons under the ordinary scheme. In reply to the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), I understand thať there is a question down to the Secretary of State for Scotland later on.

Mr. Poole

Will this also apply to children who were away from home and did not return home at the outbreak of war?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, Sir; it applies to any children who were evacuated under private arrangements before the operation of the scale.