HC Deb 15 April 1948 vol 449 cc1160-1
60. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the decay of thatching and other rural crafts; and what steps he is taking both to encourage their revival and in the case of cottages and other thatched buildings needing repairs, to have these effected.

Mr. Bevan

I am aware of the position, and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has arranged under the Government Vocational Training Scheme for training in thatching to be given by selected employers in an effort to maintain the supply of skilled workers.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the meantime the roofs of many charming thatched cottages, in such counties as Bedfordshire and Herefordshire, are being repaired with asbestos sheets, and that this arrangement is spoiling the attractiveness of many of the villages in which the cottages are situated?

Mr. Bevan

I agree that it is desirable to have this supply of skilled men replenished. We have had experience in one or two areas where, after having trained men, there has not been sufficient demand for their labour. However, I am extremely keen about this myself and I will re-examine the position.

Mrs. Manning

Will my right hon. Friend look after these houses which have been repaired in such an ugly way? Since many beautiful cottages in Essex have completely disappeared, one agrees that it is better to repair the rest, but will the Minister see that they have their thatches put back as soon as possible?

Mr. Bevan

I have no prejudice against thatching. I lived for many years in a very agreeable thatched cottage. I will certainly look into the matter.

Mr. Driber·

When my right hon. Friend says that sometimes there is no demand for the services of trained men, would he look at the position in Essex particularly, where very often a thatcher has to go 20 or 30 miles and his services cannot be got for months?

Mr. Bevan

I will have the position examined district by district. We might have a lack of supply in one place and a surplus in another.