HC Deb 05 October 1939 vol 351 cc2084-8
63. Mr. Ede

asked the Minister of Health whether he will make arrangements with the Minister of Transport or otherwise, whereby when a doctor certifies that it is advisable for the parent of an evacuated child to visit such child in case of illness, a reduced fare or free rail voucher shall, in necessitous cases, be granted to the parent?

Mr. Elliot

I am anxious, so far as possible, to alleviate the separation of parents from their children, but I think it will be generally recognised that if the children are to settle down in their billets the parents themselves would be well advised not to visit them too frequently. I am prepared, however, to consider whether in special circumstances, such as those mentioned by the hon. Member, special facilities can be arranged to enable the parents to visit their children in cases of illness, and am consulting my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in the matter.

Mr. Ede

When does the right hon. Gentleman think that he will be able to make an announcement on this subject?

Mr. Elliot

I will communicate with the hon. Member.

67. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Minister of Health whether he proposes to increase the billeting allowance for evacuated boys of 15 to 18 years of age, as the present allowance of 8s. 6d. is inadequate?

Mr. Elliot

I have had this question under consideration, and am authorised to say that the payment to be made to householders under the Government evacuation scheme in respect of unaccompanied school children who have attained the age of 16 years will be at the rate of 10s. 6d. per week in all cases. Instructions to this effect are being issued today to local authorities.

Sir A. Knox

Is that from the age of 16 or of 15?

Mr. Elliot

All who have attained the age of 16.

Sir A. Knox

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that between the ages of 15 and 16 they eat the householders out of house and home?

Mr. Buchanan

In view of the answer, will the right hon. Gentleman consult with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to see that the allowances to the unemployed are correspondingly increased?

Mr. Henderson Stewart

Will this apply to the whole country?

Mr. Elliot

No doubt it will, but I think that any question in regard to Scotland should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

68. Sir Waldron Smithers

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the condition of evacuated children suffering from various diseases, including whooping cough, impetigo, scarlet fever, and verminous heads; and what further action does he propose to take?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, Sir, and I have drawn the attention of local authorities to the matter in a circular which I have recently issued on public health services in the reception areas. Arrangements are being made for the medical inspection in the evacuating areas of the smaller numbers of schoolchildren now being moved under the Government scheme.

Sir W. Smithers

Is not the Minister appalled at the inefficiency of some of the medical and welfare services of some of these authorities?

Mr. Elliot

I deplore the conditions under which it has been shown that many of our population live. These conditions have been under active consideration by this House on many occasions, and it is felt that very careful and continuous considerations will need to be given to them in the future.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is it not the fact that in certain reception areas some of these children have been found to be in such a state of poverty that it would shock the public conscience; and will he bear in mind that there is a great deal of poverty among the population?

Mr. Elliot

There is not only the problem of poverty, but also other problems—. the problem, for instance, of inadequate and unsuitable houses, and in that part of the country from which I come, it has been a very serious matter for a long time past.

69. Mrs. Adamson

asked the Minister of Health whether the usual billeting allowances are being paid in respect of children who were on holiday in reception areas when evacuation began and remained there at his request; and whether he is aware that in certain cases allowances were paid for a few weeks and then ceased?

Mr. Elliot

Local authorities have been authorised to pay the usual billeting allowances in respect of children from evacuated areas who were on holiday in reception areas when evacuation began and who remained there. In this connection I am sending the hon. Member a copy of my Department's circular No. 1876. I am not aware of cases in which allowances have been properly paid and then withdrawn, but I shall be happy to look into any particular case which the hon. Member may care to bring to my notice.

Mrs. Adamson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that not only did allowances cease, but that in one case a child was ordered to come back to London and proceed to attend school; and can he say whether in that case the Government are prepared to refund the transport fare?

Mr. Elliot

Any case where the child is ordered to return and attend school would not be in an evacuation area, where the schools, I understand, have not resumed.

71. Mr. Roland Robinson

asked the Minister of Health whether he has now completed his proposals for the payment of a maintenance allowance by parents of evacuated children; and whether, in view of the need of an increase in the children's allowance, the parent's allowance will be in addition to that paid by the Government?

Mr. Elliot

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made after questions yesterday in which I said that circulars giving details of the Government's scheme for the recovery from parents of the cost of billeting unaccompanied schoolchildren under the Government's evacuation arrangements were being sent to local authorities. Copies of the circular may be obtained from the Vote Office. As regards the rate of the allowances, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I have given to-day to the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox).

Mr. Robinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that householders in the reception areas are having to supplement the children's allowance a great deal; and will he consider the case of the children under 16 as well as that of children over 16?

Mr. Elliot

I am afraid that I cannot undertake to go further than I have gone.

74. Mr. Banfield

asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the representations made to him on the question of declaring Wednesbury, Stafford shire, an evacuation area; and has he any statement to make on the matter?

Mr. Elliot

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made on 18th May in answer to a question by the hon. Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby). As indicated in that statement I examined the claims for evacuation of a number of towns in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, of which Wednesbury was one, and after full consideration I came to the conclusion that Wednesbury should not be made an evacuation area. This decision was conveyed to the council on 28th July.

75. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Minister of Health whether, in determining what is a suitable reception area for children in country districts, investigations are made concerning the cleanliness and safety of the ľocal milk supply?

Mr. Elliot

The primary considerations in determining the reception areas had to be those of transport and accommodation, but such consideration as was possible was given to other relevant factors including any abnormal risks of infectious disease from such causes as food and water supplies, as ascertained from public health and other reports.

Dr. Summerskill

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware that 4,000 people died last year from surgical tuberculosis, which was in great part milk-borne, does he not think that it is rather a short sighted policy to send children from a town where there is a safe milk supply to a country district where the milk is unsafe, and which, in fact, makes such a district vulnerable to surgical tuberculosis?

Mr. Elliot

I share the professional feelings of the hon. Lady on these matters, but the danger from possible infection of the food supply as compared with the possible danger of heavy air bombardment must be weighed one against the other.

Dr. Summerskill

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree—I can assure him this is not a frivolous matter—that a daily dose of tuberculosis milk is surely more dangerous to health than the possibility, perhaps, of an air-raid at some future time?

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