§ 36. Mr. Niall Macpherson
asked the Minister of Pensions the average time taken from the date of order to supply surgical boots and shoes; and what steps he is taking to accelerate manufacture and delivery.
§ The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Wilfred Paling)
It is not possible to give precise information of the time taken to produce surgical footwear as this varies between the several contractors and according to the special requirements of the pensioners. In normal cases orders are generally completed in about four months. My principal contractors removed to a modern and larger factory recently and arrangements have been made for additional trainee labour. Unfortunately all my contractors are finding it almost impossible to obtain skilled labour.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
Can the Minister say whether any priority in this matter is given to disabled men who are able to show that they have an offer of employment which they cannot accept until they get their appliances?
§ Mr. Paling
There are special facilities for obtaining these things and I think that would apply to ex-Servicemen particularly.
§ 37. Mr. N. Macpherson
asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the long delay that elapses in supplying surgical boots and shoes from the date of order, he will consider the issue of three pairs instead of two pairs as at present, so that every disabled man requiring surgical boots or shoes may at all times have two pairs fit for use.
§ Mr. Wilfred Paling
The delay in supplying surgical boots and shoes is caused in the main by a shortage of skilled labour in this comparatively small but specialised industry but it is hoped that to some extent this will be offset by the introduction of disabled ex-Servicemen as trainees. To adopt the hon. Member's suggestion in every case would throw an additional burden upon the industry which it would be unable to bear at present and would lead to increased delay.
§ Mr. Macpherson
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the officials now do not allow boots to be ordered until one of the present pair is condemned and that long before the boots are delivered the other pair is worn out so that a disabled man cannot go to work?
§ Mr. Paling
There may be something to be said for an increase of from two to three pairs, and as a matter of fact we did consider it but had to drop it until we could catch up with the arrears.
§ Captain John Crowder
Is the Minister satisfied with the arrangements made for having these boots and shoes repaired free of charge, and are there sufficient shops in the localities where these boots can be repaired?