HC Deb 08 October 1941 vol 374 cc983-5
49. Major Lyons

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply what progress has been made in the obtaining of scrap-metal since the order for such acquisition was issued; and how many times it has been applied?

Mr. Harold Macmillan

As regards the progress made in obtaining scrap metal, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answers given on nth September to the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) and on 1st October to the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan). No Order has been made specifically dealing with the acquisition of scrap metal, but the Minister of Supply has exercised his powers of requisition under Regulation 53 of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, in connection with iron and steel scrap in fifteen cases.

Major Lyons

Is there not too much delicacy and delay about this question? May I inquire why all types of railings are lying idle when they are urgently needed for war material? Why does not the Minister take them wherever they are whenever he wants them?

Mr. George Griffiths

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that local authorities do not quite understand why you are asking for all these railings while there are thousands of tons of scrap iron lying about?

Mr. Macmillan

The system with regard to railings is first to make the survey. This is to be done in six weeks, and secondly to acquire the railings, stage by stage, as they are needed. In regard to the removal of bombed scrap, that is a separate problem. Very great steps forward have been taken in the removal of bombed scrap but it involves very difficult labour and transport questions. The advance in the last few weeks and months has been very substantial.

50. Major Lyons

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply what returns have been sought, and for what purpose and within what time, from local authorities with regard to railings of metal in their respective areas; and why compulsory acquisition is being withheld in respect of this metal wanted for war purposes?

Mr. Macmillan

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan) on 1st October.

Major Lyons

Has my hon. Friend's attention been called to the recently erected railings round the Milk Marketing. Board offices at Thames Ditton and the waste of money and metal involved thereby, and will he take steps to end this gross public scandal?

Mr. Macmillan

I will look into that.

53. Mr. Rostron Duckworth

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply whether, when local authorities requisition railings for scrap purposes, they consult, or must first consult, the owners as to their suitability for removal; and whether in all cases such owners are entitled, when compulsory powers are exercised, to appropriate compensation should it be necessary after the war to replace such railings?

Mr. Macmillan

My Noble Friend has directed local authorities in England and Wales to survey the iron and steel railings in their areas and to schedule for removal all railings except those of artistic merit or historic interest or such as are required for safety purposes or to prevent livestock straying, or may otherwise serve a useful function and would require to be replaced by other materials. The local authority decides whether particular railings are necessary, but appeal against the scheduling of particular railings may be made where they are claimed to be of special artistic merit or historic interest. Any such appeals will be dealt with through machinery which my Noble Friend the Minister of Works and Buildings is setting up. The actual requisition and removal of unnecessary railings will be undertaken by the Ministry of Works and Buildings as agents for the Ministry of Supply.

My Noble Friend the Minister of Supply feels confident that owners in general will wish to make a free gift of any requisitioned railings as a contribution to the war effort. Where claims are made under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, local authorities are being authorised to settle them on behalf of the Ministry of Supply, where possible, at the flat rate of 25s. per ton. In general, it is the owner and not the occupier who is entitled to the compensation. The occupier is relieved by paragraph 3A of Regulation 50 of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, from any obligation under any lease or other instrument to replace any railings that have been requisitioned. The scheme will shortly be extended to Scotland.