HC Deb 09 October 1946 vol 427 cc188-91
47. Mr. W. J. Brown

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will report on the question of how arrangements for the accommodation of wives and families of British personnel in Germany are working.

Mr. J. Hynd

A good start has been made with the scheme. As a result of the acute shortages existing in Germany, the accommodation and household equipment which can be made available falls short of prewar standards. In many cases families are housed in two to four rooms with two families sharing one kitchen and bathroom. Extra accommodation is, however, always arranged for families with several children, and every effort is made to provide suitable accommodation for all ranks. An adequate standard of comfort has, I think, been achieved, but this will be improved as more accommodation and household supplies become available. No family is given sailing orders until accommodation has actually been arranged for them.

Mr. W. J. Brown

Is the Minister satisfied with the present policy of taking wives and families over there, and does he not consider that it would be better to concentrate on giving the men the opportunity to come over here?

Mr. Hynd

The latter part of the question has been given very full consideration, but I think it will be generally agreed by the House that it was inevitable that there should be provision for as many as possible of the personnel in Germany to have the amenities of home life at the earliest possible stage. I might say that I discussed this very question with representative Germans in the various parts directly affected, and they share that opinion.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask whether the Minister will consider changing the policy and that, instead of turning the German families out of their homes, a system whereby they lose all their possessions, he will make arrangements for such homes to be shared between the British and Germans as was done after the last war?

Mr. Hynd

It is not true to say that the Germans who are removed from their homes lose all their possessions. It has been very definitely laid down that they cannot be removed until there is suitable alternative accommodation for them, and that is one of the reasons why we have to proceed with the reception of the families according to the alternative accommodation that can be made available.

Mr. Stokes

Is the Minister aware that the evidence of everybody who has visited Germany is to the effect that there is no suitable alternative accommodation, and will he give instructions that people are not to be removed, but that the sharing of homes is to take place as far as possible?

Mr. Hynd

I would certainly not like to give any such assurance on the last point without very careful consideration. On the first point, I must repeat that suitable alternative accommodation is a condition of any requisitioning and that, so far as people have been removed from their homes for this purpose, they have been suitably provided for.

Mr. Eden

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the opinion of private persons who have been to Germany is that there is no suitable alternative accommodation, and can he not tell us what the size of this problem is? How many families have been removed and how many families have gone from this country?

Mr. Hynd

I can give the figures of the families gone to date. The number of families who have so far been granted travel allocations is: Military, 468 wives and 514 children; civilian, 771 wives and 848 children. Of these, 728 wives and 790 children in all have now gone. That is the position so far. As to suitable alternative accommodation, I think that quite a lot of the impressions gathered by casual visitors to Germany have been due to a confusion of certain other housing problems, which are very severe, with the situation of those people who are moved from their houses for the purpose of providing this accommodation.

Mr. Lipson

Will the Minister say whether the Germans who are turned out of their homes have any right of appeal and, if so, to whom?

Mr. Hynd

They can appeal to the German authorities. The organisation of the removals and the provision of alternative accommodation are in the hands of housing committees set up by the local German authorities on which representatives of such organisations as trade unions are represented.

Mr. McGovern

In view of the fact that serious allegations on this point are made from all quarters, will the Minister sponsor an official delegation of this House to investigate the problem?

Mr. Hynd

I do not know what serious allegations are referred to. The only allegation made so far is that suitable alternative accommodation is not provided for those who are removed from their homes, which allegation I am prepared to refute because I have made a personal investigation into it on a wide scale. I do not think that a delegation composed of Members of this House for the purpose of inquiring into that question would be more beneficial than the many delegations who have gone over to Germany to investigate this and other questions.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Is the Minister aware that the luxury living and self-indulgence of many of these wives is having a most depressing effect on the German civilians among whom they have been planted?

Mr. Hynd

On the contrary, there is no evidence in my possession of any luxury living on the part of these people. The fact is that owing to the conditions in Germany, and because of the shortages not only of accommodation but of commodity goods and household equipment, they are living in conditions which are not comparable with those to which they would be entitled at home or in any other place, but they are cheerfully putting up with it in most cases. In all cases that I have examined they are on excellent terms with their German neighbours.