HC Deb 12 October 1939 vol 352 cc496-501
24. Mr. James Griffiths

asked the Minister of Health whether he can make a statement on the position of unofficial evacuees in the reception areas; and what arrangements are being made to deal with cases of hardship among them consequent on the refusal to pay billeting allowance in respect of them?

Mr. Elliot

I am afraid that the Government's evacuation scheme cannot appropriately deal with persons even of the priority classes who may have moved on their own account from one part of the country to another. Where, therefore, children have been evacuated under private arrangements the responsibility for their maintenance must remain with the parents and other liable relatives. If the circumstances of the parents or relatives should unfortunately worsen and they should in consequence become unable to continue to maintain their children, it would, of course, be open to them to apply to the public assistance authority.

Mr. Griffiths

Is the Minister aware that there are thousands of such cases in South Wales and elsewhere, and that in the early stages the local authorities paid them billeting allowances, and that they have since withdrawn them; and, further, whether, since these people are left stranded, he will seriously consider some arrangement by which they either remain where they are or are transferred to their own districts?

Mr. Elliot

As I say, I do not think it will be possible to make payments where people have evacuated by private arrangement.

Mr. A. Jenkins

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to consider cases where these people are not living with relatives, but with friends in many instances who cannot get payment from anyone?

Mr. Elliot

I will consider any case that the hon. Member may bring before me. It is a primary matter for the billeting officer, but I shall be glad to consider any such cases the hon. Member may care to bring forward.

Mr. Sorensen

Does this also apply to those evacuees who remain in country areas in response to the appeal of the Government that they should do so?

Mr. Elliot

No, Sir. In general the scheme would not apply to people living with their own relatives. I do not think it could generally be expected that the Government scheme of billeting and the Government's appeal were meant specifically to apply to billeting claims in such cases.

32. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the difficulty in arranging for the transference and redistribution of evacuees from one reception area to another; and whether he will advise that county councils should exercise supervisory and co-ordinating powers in that respect?

Mr. Elliot

The transference and redistribution of evacuees from one reception area to another is in the main due to the need for grouping the children as conveniently as possible in school units. The county councils are themselves, in the great majority of cases, the local education authority in the receiving areas and are thereby in a position to supervise, in consultation with the receiving districts, the transference of children from one district to another, where the Ministry's senior regional officer has agreed to this course. My information is that a number of county councils have been active in promoting transferences required in the interests of education.

Mr. Sorensen

Do the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman also apply to evacuated mothers? If not, what can be done about them?

Mr. Elliot

I was referring more particularly to the evacuated children, where the need for a reshuffle is greater owing to the necessity of operating the school unit. The transference of mothers is a more local problem and does not involve such great difficulties. I think that in general a certain amount of rearrangement there has been carried out by the Department.

Mr. Ede

Where a local authority is not acting in co-operation with the county council, will the right hon. Gentleman use his good offices to see that co-operation is established?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, Sir. If the hon. Member has any case in mind, I shall be glad to look into it.

33. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the in creasing proportion of evacuated mothers and young children in Essex and else where who have returned to their homes; if, in view of continued friction and discomfort among many of these mothers and their hosts, he will make inquiries with a view to ascertaining the degree of failure or success of the scheme affecting mothers and young children; and whether he proposes to recognise the partial failure of the scheme for evacuating mothers, and make other arrangements for their protection and assistance?

Mr. Elliot

I am aware that although many mothers and young children have settled down happily with their hosts, a considerable number of them have returned home for one reason or another. The danger of returning to their homes has been repeatedly emphasised, and I have suggested to the local authorities that in order to meet the difficulty in cases where a continuance of billeting arrangements is unreasonable, they should endeavour to provide for the mothers and young children in empty houses. As regards the last part of the question, I should be glad to consider any suggestions the hon. Member may wish to make.

Mr. Sorensen

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many villages in Essex 75 per cent. of the evacuees have returned and others are going back every week? In these circumstances should not the whole question of evacuated mothers and young children receive serious consideration?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, Sir. It is receiving serious consideration. I was only saying to the hon. Member that I should be glad to consider any suggestion he may make to help us in dealing with this difficult problem.

34. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of difficulties arising over the matters of fuel and warmth in houses accommodating evacuated mothers and young children; whether the Government grant to hosts is assumed to cover firing as well as lodging; and whether, in view of the basis of accommodation, he will consider making a special fuel allowance for or to evacuees during the coming months?

Mr. Elliot

The Government allowances payable to the householder who provides lodging only do not include a payment for fuel. Evacuated mothers and other adults in respect of whom these lodging allowances are payable make their own arrangements for board, and any payment which they may arrange with the householder should include fuel and light.

Mr. Sorensen

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the cold weather is coming on and that there is distress among the evacuees, and will he give consideration to this question with a view to increasing the allowance to the hostesses or making' some allowance to the evacuees?

Viscountess Astor

Is it not true that some of the evacuated women are asking for things that they never could get at home and—[Interruption.] Cannot I finish my supplementary question? [[nterruption.] On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, can I not finish my supplementary question, because it will give a very bad impression if I do not. Many of these mothers—[Interruption.].

Mr. Montague


Mr. Speaker

We have a large number of questions on the Order Paper, and cannot have so many supplementary questions.

Mr. Montaģue

There has been only one supplementary, except that of the Noble Lady.

35. Mr. Lawson

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that large numbers of parents of evacuee children are withdrawing them as a result of the announcement that they will have to pay for such children; and what steps he is taking to correct the impression responsible for this situation?

Mr. Elliot

I should very much regret that any withdrawal of children should take place as a result of a mistaken impression among the parents of what will be expected of them. It was made clear in the public announcements that no parents will be asked to contribute more than they can afford, and full regard will be had to other calls on their income. I trust that the hon. Member's question and my answer will assist in correcting any wrong impression.

Mr. Lawson

Will the right hon. Gentleman makes inquiries from officers in different parts of the country?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, Sir. We shall continue to receive reports from our officers on this and other aspects of the evacuation question.

Mr. Gallacher

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who is going to decide what they can afford?

38. Mr. G. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Health whether, in order to promote and develop communal feeling, especially among evacuated children, consideration will be given to the desirability of seeking the assistance of an expert on nutrition, such as Sir John Orr?

Mr. Elliot

Both my Noble Friend the President of the Board of Education, who is also closely concerned with the provision of communal meals, and I myself have the benefit of the advice in our Departments of nutritional experts, though we shall, of course, seek from time to time to avail ourselves of information from other authoritative quarters.

43. Mr. Tomlinson

asked the Minister of Health whether a local education authority which provides footwear and clothing for children under their care in an evacuation area is subject to surcharge by the Government auditor?

Mr. Elliot

Local education authorities have no power to incur expenditure of the kind mentioned by the hon. Member. Any expenditure by local authorities subject to district audit for which there is no authority in law is subject to disallowance and surcharge by the auditor.

Mr. Tomlinson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these powers are enjoyed in Scotland and that many local education authorities in this country are strongly of opinion that this is the only way in which the children can be properly clothed and shod during the coming winter months?

Mr. Elliot

I am not unaware of the position in Scotland. The question whether further steps are necessary in England and Wales is under active consideration.

Mr. Thurtle

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what grounds he justifies this differentiation between Scotland and this country?