HC Deb 17 February 1944 vol 397 cc317-8
9. Mr. Walter Edwards

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that numbers of discharged Service-men in this war are wandering from workhouse to workhouse in search of food and shelter; that 192 of such admissions have been notified to the Ministry of Health since October last; and will he take steps, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, to check up on these cases to see whether they are suitable for work and, if not, assist them by supplying them with information as to making application for war pension.

Mr. Bevin

I am informed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Health that the number of casuals admitted to public assistance institutions in the north of England who claimed to have been discharged from His Majesty's Forces or the Merchant Navy during the present war is, approximately, as stated by my hon. Friend. In very few cases, however, were they in possession of discharge papers. There is already an arrangement under which masters of institutions refer men who appear to be suitable for employment to my local offices on the day during which they are detained, and every facility to obtain employment or training is then given to them. It is not normally practicable for my officers to visit the institutions, but I am arranging with my right hon. and learned Friend that my officers shall carry out a special investigation, with a view to finding out to what extent, and for what reasons, these men are on the roads. I am suggesting to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions that his officers might take part in this investigation.

Mr. Edwards

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, might I ask whether he realises that many of these men who are walking from workhouse to workhouse are doing it solely because of dispiritedness resulting from their war experience; and that it is absolutely essential that the Departments concerned should take men in hand as quickly as possible after their discharge from the Forces?

Mr. Bevin

Yes, I will go into the matter with my two right hon. Friends and try to stop it. But no Minister of Labour can really curb the nomadic instincts of some of these people.

Mr. Sorensen

Will the question of accommodation for these casuals be included in the inquiry? In some workhouses the masters have no accommodation for them and no one to look after them.

Mr. Bevin

I think the inquiry will cover everything.