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Commons Chamber

Volume 107: debated on Thursday 20 June 1918

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 20th June, 1918.

The House met at a Quarter before Three of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.

Private Business

London County Council (Money) Bill,

Read the third time, and passed.

Pontypool Gas and Water Bill [ Lords].

Red Cross and Order of St. John Bill [ Lords],

Read the third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Chepstow Gas Bill [ Lords],

As amended, considered; to be read the third time.

Local Government (Ireland) Provisional Orders (No. 1) Bill (by Order),

Third Reading deferred till To-morrow.

Civil List Pensions

Copy presented of List of all Pensions granted during the year ended 31st March, 1918, and payable under the provisions of Section 9 (1) of the Civil List Act, 1910 [by Act]; to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 52.]

Superannuation Act, 1887

Copy presented of Treasury Minute, dated 12th June, 1918, granting a Retired Allowance to Mr. Benjamin Bramble and Mr. Frederick W. Hunt, Staff Clerks in the Accountant and Comptroller-General's Office, Inland Revenue Department [by Act]; to lie upon the Table.

Railway Servants (Hours Of Labour)

Copy presented of Report by the Board of Trade of their proceedings under the Railway Regulation Act, 1893, during the year ended 27th July, 1916 [by Act]; to lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

War

Roumania (Secret Treaty)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs-whether he is aware that an official of the Foreign Office, under his own signature, has recently been writing in a weekly newspaper on the treaty with Roumania, dated 18th August, 1916, which is a secret treaty, and that this official has used inside knowledge in his public writings; whether this official wrote for the newspaper under the authority, or with the approval, of the Foreign Office; and whether the treaty will now be published, so that both sides to a public controversy may be fully informed?

The writer referred to in the question is a member of one of the special organisations forming part of the Foreign Office that have been created during the War with a view to meeting special needs, and he is not a member of the permanent staff of the Foreign Office. It has been ascertained that the information contained in the letter was not derived from official, but from private and other sources, and was in the writer's possession for some considerable time before his services were utilised by the Foreign Office. The official in question is permitted to write for publication in the Press on condition that his writings are submitted to control in the Foregn Office before publication, as was done in the present instance. There can be no question of the publication of the treaty.

Is it not rather remarkable that persons in the Foreign Office are allowed to write in the papers, and then the Foreign Office repudiate responsibility for their opinions, views, or information?

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the promise of the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) that he might consider the publication of this treaty, and will he see that it is published as a White Paper?

I do not think the treaty can be published. It is one of the secret treaties, if I remember rightly. I will see about that.

Military Service

Convention With United States

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is intended in the new Military Convention with the United States to exempt entirely British subjects of Irish and Australian birth and parentage from military service in America; whether Americans above the age of thirty-one will be exempted in this country, or whether the same age limit for compulsory military service will apply to British and American subjects here; and when he expects to present to Parliament the full text of the Convention?

The hon. Member will be able to judge of the effect of the Convention when it is laid before the House. At present it has not been approved by the Senate, and I do not consider it desirable to deal with its terms by way of question and answer before it has been so approved and ratified. The date on which the Convention will be laid before the House depends on the date on which it is ratified.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that public discussion of this subject is going on in America, whereas we, who are equally interested, are debarred from having any information, even by question and answer in this House?

I am not aware that this subject is being discussed by question and answer in America. All I say is that while it is before the American Senate and American Government I do not think we had better discuss it.

Conscientious Objectors

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has received applications from conscientious objectors qualified for exceptional employment to be allowed to undertake educational work; if so, from how many persons; and what number have been, or will be, allowed to undertake such work?

A certain number of the men employed under the Committee on the Employment of Conscientious Objectors who have been qualified for exceptional employment have applied to be authorised to take up educational work. No such application has been or will be granted, and no record has been kept of the number of such applications.

Has the opinion of the Board of Education, or of the President of the Board of Education, been taken on this matter; if so, what is that opinion?

Has the Home Office received any representation on this matter from the Board of Education, even if it-has not been consulted?

Before any concession of this sort is made, will the parents of scholars attending any school where it is proposed that these people shall be engaged be consulted?

The Committee have decided as a policy and a principle that educational work is not suitable work for conscientious objectors to be released to go to.

Mr. KING rose—

22.

asked the Home Secretary if he will have an inquiry made into the condition of J. Sumner, No. 456, Northallerton Prison, who is serving his fourth sentence of two years' hard labour; and whether, in view of the state of his health, the imprisonment he has already endured, and the treatment meted out to him by the military service tribunals, he will order the man's discharge?

I find on inquiry that this prisoner is in good health mentally and physically, and that there is no ground on which the Home Secretary could advise interference with his sentence.

Conscription (Ireland)

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that a weekly levy, the proceeds of which are sent to the clerical and republican fund to resist the extension of the Military Service Act to the South and West of Ireland, is being imposed by certain trade unions in Ireland; whether he is aware that loyal working men are compelled to subscribe under threats to this levy; is it in his power to take any action in this matter; and, if so, will he take such action without delay?

The reports which have reached me indicate that in the case of some unions a levy to resist Conscription has been imposed. There appears to be no evidence of threats to enforce the subscription. The answer to the last part of the question is in the negative.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman should put that question to the Law Officers.

Could I send the right hon. Gentleman correspondence dealing with the matter?

Volunteers (Compulsory Drill)

52.

asked the Prime Minister whether men between the ages of forty-one and fifty-one who are exempted by tribunals for business reasons are, after a long day's work, compelled to drill as Volunteers; whether embusqués in Government Departments, however young they may be, are exempted from such volunteering; and whether he proposes to continue this treatment of the older men?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. In the case of any person to whom a certificate of exemption has been granted by a tribunal since 30th April, 1918, it is competent to the tribunal to direct that the liability to service in-the Volunteer force imposed by Section 4, Sub-section (6) of the Military Service (No. 2) Act, 1918, shall not apply. With regard to the second part of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for Christchurch by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War on Tuesday. I would add, moreover, that any Department whose staff could spare the time for work in the Volunteer force would be making a contribution more helpful to our military effort by releasing a larger proportion of its men for whole-time service.

Qualified Accountants

71.

asked the Minister of National Service what steps are being taken under the new Military Service Act to render available for public service qualified accountants within the new age limits; what results these steps have had; and how many of such cases remain to be considered by tribunals?

74.

asked the Minister of National Service if he is aware that the Ministry of Munitions (Accountants Department) has issued a call upon accountants to make an immediate return of all qualified accountants at the front with a view to their being brought back here for national service; will he explain at the same time why the National Service officials are daily serving notices upon chartered accountants and incorporated accountants calling them up for military service; is he aware that on Friday next thirty qualified accountants come before the Manchester Tribunal upon an adjourned hearing, and unless something is done in the meantime these men will go into the Army and the State will be deprived of their training and experience at a time when their services are needed for civil and Government work; and will he try to secure something like consistency of policy in this matter between the Government Departments?

76.

asked the Minister of National Service whether, in view of the fact that the Controller of Munition Accounts, Ministry of Munitions of War, has issued a circular, dated 1st May, 1918, to practising accountants asking for assistance and for a list of the names of chartered and incorporated accountants now serving; and whether, in view of the number of accountants who have already joined up and of the necessity of maintaining here accountants in practice and their principal clerks, he will arrange that the certified occupations list shall continue to apply to chartered and incorporated accountants to exempt them from military service?

The whole question of the supply of accountants for the public service and other indispensable Civil work has been under consideration, and it is proposed to establish a committee of professional accountants to consider the need and to advise the Ministry of National Service on the best means of meeting it.

Instructions have accordingly been given to arrange for the adjournment of all cases of accountants pending before tribunals, including, of course, those at Manchester referred to by the hon. Member for Blackburn.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in many cases applications for service have been turned down by the hon. Member for Leith Burghs.

Medical Grading

72.

asked the Minister of National Service how many Grade 1 and Grade 2 men are employed at the White City?

There are no Grade 1 men, and there is only one Grade 2 man, employed by the Ministry of National Service at the White City, and he is forty-four years of age.

Analytical Chemist (Claim For Exemption)

73 and 103.

asked the Minister of National Service (l) whether he is aware that Mr. Norman Strafford, of 95, Tonbridge Street, Leeds, an analytical chemist, has been called to the Colours, and is now serving; that this man, after a brilliant academic career, has been employed in work of national importance, i.e., the manufacture of T.N.T. and carbolic, particularly the preparation of meta and para cresols; that he was formerly graded as C1, but has now been placed in Grade 1, notwithstanding the fact that careful medical examination has shown a marked antero posterin curvature of the spine; whether, in view of this man's qualifications, his usefulness to his country as a chemist, and his state of health, certificates as to which have been sent to his Department, he will take steps to employ this man in such a capacity as will enable him to do real service in his country's interests; (2) whether he is aware that Mr. Norman Strafford, of 95, Tonbridge Street, Leeds, aged twenty-one years and ten months, was attested at Manchester on the 8th December, 1915, and placed in category C1; that he was placed in this category owing to curvature of the spine; that on Monday, 14th May, 1918, he was medically examined at Leeds and placed in category Grade 1; that he was subsequently carefully examined by two medical men who agreed that he was not fit for Grade 1; that he received his calling up notice to attend at Harewood Barracks on 28th May; that he was subsequently examined at York by the military doctor there, who admitted that his back was not fit for Grade 1; that, notwithstanding, he was posted to a regiment and sent to a camp at Rugeley, Staffordshire; and whether, in view of this man's physical condition and his unfitness for military service, he will take steps to have him released from military service; and have him returned to his civil employment where he can perform work of national importance?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. As stated, Mr. Norman Strafford is an attested man aged twenty-one years and ten months, and was placed in Grade 1 on 14th May. I understand that Mr. Strafford made an application to the Appeal Tribunal for medical re-examination. This application appears to have been refused by the Appeal Tribunal as having reached them later than the prescribed date. This Ministry has no control over this decision. I am, however, having inquiries made as to the allegation against the National Service Medical Board contained in the question. I have examined the papers sent to me in regard to the technical qualifications of Mr. Strafford, but these do not appear in themselves to afford any grounds for the very exceptional action suggested by my hon. and gallant. Friend.

Russia

Allied Intervention

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Japanese intervention in Siberia has been sought by any persons in Russia who can claim to represent the public sentiment of that country?

Intervention by the Allies (including, of course, Japan) has been sought by many persons in Russia. All of them, I believe, claim that, in varying measures, they represent the public sentiments of that country. It is, I presume, unnecessary to add that those who recommend the opposite course make the same claim.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information as to who are the persons who desire Japanese intervention in Russia, particularly as it is believed that they are those who are called pro-German?

In view of the agitation in a certain part of the Press, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that the British Government will not be a party to any armed intervention?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that this country will stand by the policy of the President of the United States in preventing Japanese intervention?

Shall we have an opportunity of hearing the Prime Minister on this subject on Monday?

Allied War Aims

Belgian Government

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that the public support for this country's declaration of war on Germany was secured on behalf of the Belgian people, he can state whether the Belgian Government has been associated with the territorial aims of the Allies as set out in what are known as the secret treaties?

I see no connection between the two clauses of the hon. Member's question. The Belgian Government are not parties to the treaties to which he refers.

Is it not a fact that the territorial aims of the secret treaties are opposed to the interests of Belgium, as making for the prolongation of the War, and are not the interests of Belgium being disregarded?

I dissent from the view of the hon. Gentleman; but we cannot discuss it by question and answer.

Why is the Belgian Government not consulted in these matters, as we went to war on behalf of Belgium?

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that this country declared war on Germany on behalf of the Belgian people, he will invite the Belgian Government to express its opinion as to whether the interests of Belgium can be best served by a policy of negotiation for peace, or by one that seeks to secure redress by the prolongation of the War until a victorious military decision has been achieved by the Allies?

Our Belgian Allies are always at liberty to express their opinion on matters of common interest.

Have the views of the Belgian Government been sought in this matter of the question of entering into negotiations or the prolongation of the War for military victory?

We are in constant communication with the Belgian Government. Whether we begin a conversation with them or they begin a conversation with us is quite immaterial. They are perfectly at liberty to discuss any question of common interest with us. Perhaps that will satisfy even the hon. Gentleman.

Ireland

Allocation Of Land

9.

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland how much land has been allotted by the Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners since the commencement of the War up to date to men who were serving or have served in the War or had members of their families so serving; and how much has been allotted to men who had not so served respectively?

It is impossible to answer the first two parts of the question with accuracy. Both the Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners make it a rule, when dealing with applications for untenanted land, to consider most favourably applications from eligible persons who have themselves served in the Army or Navy or who have or had sons so serving, but they are confined to the applications of eligible persons. On an estimate about 1,050 acres have been so allotted—200 acres by the Congested Districts Board and 850 acres by the Estates Commissioners. In addition the Congested Districts Board have allotted 90,000 acres and the Estates Commissioners 35,300 acres.

Why is it impossible to give this information? When I asked two or three days ago I was given the information of the amount allotted to soldiers, and was told that the information regarding the amount allotted to non-soldiers would be obtained. Now the hon. Gentleman comes back and says he cannot get it.

An "eligible person" is defined by Statute, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman can read it in the Statute?

Anti-Conscription Disturbance (Tobermore)

10.

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that on Thursday, 9th May, a party of men returning from an anti-Conscription meeting in Magherafelt in brakes and other vehicles carrying disloyal emblems, instead of returning by the road on which they went to the meeting, attempted to pass through the village of Tobermore and made use of provocative language and abuse of soldiers serving with the British Forces; and, seeing that Tobermore has a large proportion of men now serving, and is known as a peacable village, no serious disturbance having ever before occurred in it, will he say how many, if any, of the proecssionists have been made amenable?

11.

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that on Thursday, the 9th May, a procession of anti-Conscriptionists attempted to pass through the village of Tobermore, county Derry, carrying disloyal emblems and anti-Conscription flags and using expressions abusing our troops in the trenches; whether he is aware that a large proportion of the inhabitants of the village are serving at the front, and that a disturbance was caused; whether he is aware that three weeks afterwards, on the morning of the 30th May, at 3 a.m., a party of police arrested six inhabitants of the village, including two wounded soldiers, and brought them before the resident magistrate some miles off at 9 a.m., when, without having an opportunity of producing evidence or procuring legal assistance, they were bound over to keep the peace; and if he will say how many members of the procession were prosecuted, and why, after the lapse of three weeks, the parties were not summoned instead of being arrested in the middle of the night?

I have received a report as to this matter and am making further inquiries.

Interned Persons

19.

asked the Home Secretary whether an Irish widow, Mrs. Clarke, of Dublin, is now interned at Holloway; whether she is in good health; whether she has been allowed to see or communicate with her young children; and whether any application to visit her has been received, refused, or granted?

Mrs. Clarke is interned in Holloway Prison. She refuses to be medically examined, but, though she is not strong, her health does not appear to have deteriorated since her reception. She is allowed to communicate with her children if she wishes, and has written to and received letters from friends. One application for permission to visit her has been received, but the visit has not been allowed.

If someone could represent that he wants to make her more reasonable and amenable, will that person be allowed to visit her?

16.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he has now been able to allow any of the Irish interned persons to see their friends, relatives, or legal advisers; if so, in how many cases; whether there have been any of these persons allowed to come before the Advisory Committee set up in accordance with Regulation 14 B; if so, how many; and whether any artists or literary authors among these prisoners have been or will be allowed artists' materials or other necessities for the practice of their arts?

Three visits have been allowed, two in the case of legal advisers, and one under special conditions. No interned person gave notice of appeal to the Advisory Committee within the time allowed. The answer to the last part of the question is in the affirmative if the persons concerned make the necessary application.

Will these persons, like literary men, who are interned, be apprised of this kind of concession, or are they to be told from outside, or how are they to know that they can have such concessions?

Now, as always, they have immediate notice, but they do not always choose to take advantage of it, hence the rumour that they are not allowed.

17.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he has now secured sufficient evidence to enable a prosecution for treason to be brought against the Irish men and women who have been deported and imprisoned?

There is sufficient evidence, but no prosecutions for treason are considered necessary or advisable.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the reason why he does not proceed against these persons, particularly in view of the belief held in Ireland that this action of the Government is simply taken to suppress a political movement and that the whole charge is faked up—a view expressed, I see, by a Bishop in Ireland last week?

I should have thought that the reasons were obvious. There is certainly no such belief held at all widely.

Is not the reason because the evidence is mostly collected by agents provocateurs?

Attacks On Constabulary

12.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he can give any information as to the recent shooting at and wounding of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary in the Western part of the country; and if the assailants have been identified?

Two sergeants of the Royal Irish Constabulary were fired at on the public street in Tralee on 14th June, and one of them was wounded. He is now in hospital, and is progressing favourably. Two arrests have been made.

Does the Chief Secretary mean that this was the only case of firing at the constabulary in the West?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what instructions are issued to the constabulary about the carrying of arms?

13.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether, as a preliminary to an attack on members of the Royal Irish Constabulary on the 15th instant by a crowd of persons at Ballycar, county Galway, a body of men barricaded the roads by felling trees, erected barbed wire entanglements, and cut the telegraph and telephone wires; and why no military were available to aid the small force of constabulary in dealing with organised resistance on the scale described?

I am aware that conduct similar to that described in the question took place, but a force of police was assembled at Ballycar sufficient to deal with the disturbance, and they did deal with it effectively.

Boycotting And Intimidation

14.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether his attention has been called to the organised boycotting and intimidation used against Protestants who have had the courage to refuse to sign the pledge to prevent the application of the Military Service Act, 1918, to the South and West of Ireland; whether on the 11th ultimo the Callan Town Commissioners at their monthly meeting threatened one of their members, Patrick Joyce, J.P., if he refused to sign and endeavoured to take his seat at the council table; whether six Protestant members of the Wicklow Urban Council were similarly theatened, and persisting in their refusal are now boycotted, with the result that one of them has been obliged to close down and endeavour to sell his business, and another has been forced to leave the town and go to England to obtain employment; the name of the person who wrote to the Irish Food Control Committee to have the sugar cards that had been placed by his customers with another of the victims removed from him and given to another business man; and what action does he propose to take?

My attention has been called to cases of boycotting and intimidation. The Callan Town Council passed a resolution disapproving of Mr. Joyce's action, but I am not aware that he has been threatened or interfered with.

I am aware of the boycotting of the members of the Wicklow Urban District Council, but the boycott is entirely anti-Conscription, and has nothing to do with religion.

With the assistance of the Irish Food Control Committee, I am taking what steps I have power to take, and am considering what, if any, further powers are necessary for the protection of those who are so attacked.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give me the name of the person who wrote to the Irish Food Control Committee?

Venereal Disease

21.

asked the Home Secretary whether at Grimsby recently women have been charged under the new Regulation 40D of the Defence of the Realm Act for soliciting a soldier while having venereal disease, and have been sent to prison without the soldier alleged to have been solicited appearing to give evidence; and what action he proposes to take?

I find on inquiry that the only cases which have been taken at Great Grimsby are cases where the persons solicited belonged to the Navy. As regards the evidence of persons solicited, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply on this subject given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on 9th May.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in this House assurances have been given frequently that women will not be convicted under this Act unless the soldier concerned gives evidence, and that those assurances have been habitually broken in all the cases?

British Empire Order

23.

asked the Home Secretary how many persons who were invited to allow their names to be submitted for the bestowal of the Order of the British Empire declined the invitation?

I regret this question should have been asked, and I doubt if I ought to answer it, but, in order to prevent misunderstanding, I will say that the proportion who asked that their names should not be submitted was very small.

Zinc Concentrates

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any contract has been made between the Government of Australia and the Zinc Corporation in respect of the smelting of zinc concentrates; and, if so, what are the terms of such contract?

I have no information on this subject.

Railway Travelling Facilities

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now able to give his promised definite answer to questions previously put down asking that representations should be made to the Great Western Railway Company and the London and South-Western Railway Company to secure the interavailability of season tickets issued by these companies between the same stations on their lines?

This matter has now been fully considered, but I regret that I do not see my way to recommend the grant of the concession desired. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, season tickets available on the two railway systems can be obtained on payment of an extra charge, and there are, in present circumstances, specially strong objections to the extension of travelling facilities.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why, seeing that now the dividends of these companies are guaranteed by the nation, business men who happen to live in the West of England and who want to come to London should not be allowed to use trains actually going to Paddington or Waterloo with the same season ticket; and what disadvantage can there be to the nation in allowing them to do so?

I tried to indicate in my reply the difficulty of extending travelling facilities of this kind. I can assure the hon. Member that nobody would be more pleased than myself if I were able to take a different point of view on this matter, but in the present circumstances I have no alternative.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that practically this is the only case in England at the present time where season tickets are not inter-available for long-distance travelling?

I would remind the hon. Member that there are many other places similarly affected.

Is the only result of this decision that those unfortunate business men will have to return to their station by a later train?

If that was the only reason obviously my answer would not be adequate, but that is not the only reason.

How can it increase the amount of travel if a man travels on one line instead of another?

With increased facilities for travelling he will ride more frequently.

Would it not enable a certain number of unnecessary trains to be taken off if it were possible to travel by alternative lines?

I do not think it would be true to say it would reduce the number of trains now being run. It might have the effect of adding to the number of trains we are working.

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make Regulations to prevent saloon carriages being reserved by the directors and officials of railway companies on crowded trains, and also to give wounded officers, and officers, Government officials, and Members of Parliament, when travelling on national business, the right to occupy any vacant seat in spite of the carriage being reserved?

I am making inquiry into this matter, and will inform the hon. Baronet of the result.

German Industries

Stores In Neutral Countries

28 and 39.

asked (1) the President of the Board of Trade whether he has official information showing that German industries supported by the German Government have secured large stores of leather, wool, copra, jute, coffee, and other raw materials and commodities which are stored and held on neutral account in the United States of America awaiting shipment on the conclusion of peace; whether the United States has taken steps to requisition these supplies; if so, what steps His Majesty's Government have taken to similarly secure the future of British industry; (2) the Minister of Labour whether he has any official information showing that Germany is having goods manufactured in neutral countries with a view to exporting them to the United Kingdom as neutral goods at the conclusion of the War, and that large quantities of raw materials are actually held in England to-day, occupying store space and ready to be shipped to neutral countries for manufacture directly there is a chance of export; and, if so, whether any of these goods are German owned and were transferred to neutral nominees at the commencement of the War?

I have no official information to the effect stated, but I shall be glad to consider any evidence which the hon. and gallant Gentleman can produce as to the storage of goods on foreign account in this country, with a view to pursuing further inquiries. I may point out that the Imports and Exports (Temporary Control) Bill, when it becomes law, will provide the necessary machinery for carrying out, after the War, any policy regarding the control of imports and exports which maybe decided upon.

Are there any large stores of goods held to neutral account in this country which might be of German origin?

I believe there are some manufacturers with stores in this country on behalf of neutral nations.

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

34.

asked the Pensions Minister when there will be a new Royal Warrant dealing with and increasing the pensions of officers and their families in the same manner as the Royal Warrant dealing with the pensions of soldiers and their families which came into operation on 1st May of this year?

The Royal Warrants for officers and men are still, by reason of the proper reservation of the various rights of the former, on very different lines, and except in one important particular, which I have under my consideration, the changes introduced by the Warrant of the 17th April, 1918, applying to men, do not require a revision of the Warrant of the 1st August, 1917, which applies to officers.

When dealing with soldiers' pensions, should not all soldiers be treated on an equal footing, and when an increase is granted to one rank should it not be granted to another?

The conditions under which pensions are granted to officers has always been quite different from those under which they are granted to men, and some of the changes made recently in the men's Warrant are really not applicable to officers, but we are considering at all events one important change.

35.

asked the Pensions Minister whether there is to be any differentiation between the treatment of officers and men as regards the amount of pension to be awarded being dependent on what the pensioner may be able to earn?

The ordinary rates of pension for disability laid down in the Schedules of the Royal Warrants, both for officers and men, depend not on earnings but on degree of physical disablement. As regards alternative pensions, the average earnings of which the pensioner is judged capable are equally a factor in all eases, whether the pensioner is an officer or soldier.

36.

asked the Pensions Minister whether he received an appeal on 6th March from the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers on behalf of T. R. Mann; whether a reply was sent on 8th June, three months later, stating that application should be made through the local war pensions committee, who would inquire into the case (Reference No. 3,813 P); whether this means that if the appeal is successful the man may lose three months' increase of pension; whether there are now over 1,000 similar appeals pending from the same organisation; and whether he proposes to deal with those in a similar way?

I have not been able to identify the particular case referred to, as the rank and regiment are not stated, and there appears to be no such reference number at Chelsea as that which is quoted. I may, however, explain that if an appeal for increase of pension is successful, the increase is dated back to the time of the first application, whether it be addressed to the local committee or to the Ministry direct. With regard to the latter part of the question, I would remind my hon. Friend that a local committee now has power to increase a pension provisionally, if, in the opinion of the medical referee, the man's condition has become worse, so that the pension he receives no longer accords with the extent of the disablement. I would therefore suggest that, in the interests of the men, my hon. Friend should at once send the 1,000 cases he mentions to the appropriate local committees.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that what he says about local war pension committees being able to do that is altogether destroyed by the circular issued from his Department saying that they only do it in very exceptional cases? Will he also inform the House how many applications for pensions have been paid back to the date of application, and explain how people who have made application through the ordinary channels are to get the money to which they are entitled?

With regard to the first question, if the hon. Member and his supporters continue to send cases direct to the Ministry instead of to the local committees they are merely delaying the advantage which would otherwise accrue to the men. In regard to the second question, in all cases where an increased pension is granted the increase dates from the time of the first application, if it is conceded that the pension should have been higher.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he and his Ministry have had to appoint a system of inspectors in order to enable the local war pensions committees to do the work, and are we who represent our constituents to be deprived of the opportunity of advocating their claims because his committees cannot do their work?

33.

asked the Pensions Minister whether, in view of the privilege extended to soldiers whose claim for a disability pension is refused, on the ground that their disability is not attributable to military service, of appealing to a Special Tribunal, he will consider the advisability of setting up a similar Appeal Tribunal for the purpose of dealing with the case of officers who claim that their disability is owing to or was aggravated by military service but who have been unsuccessful in obtaining pensions?

As I informed the House in reply to a question on the 15th May last, such a tribunal as is now asked for by the hon. and gallant Member is already in existence.

37.

asked the Pensions Minister whether his attention has been called to advertisements recently appearing for divisional officers (men) for local pensions committees in Scotland; whether outsiders with no knowledge of the work were appointed to such posts at salaries averaging £200 a year; whether he is aware that in each of the local pensions committee's employment there were men well qualified for such posts who had been some time in the committees' service and that these men, at half the salaries of the new appointees, are now fully occupied teaching the new men the details of their duties; and, if so, will he say why, having regard to economy, these appointments have been made?

Although the question refers generally to Scotland, I think I may safely assume that it is the Glasgow local committee which the hon. Member has in mind. As I in-formed him in reply to a question put to me on 11th March, the Glasgow Committee have lately been reorganised under the direction of an experienced officer of the Ministry. Part of the scheme of reorganisation consisted in decentralising the work by the setting up of ten district committees, each with its own offices and each under the administrative control of a paid male officer. In view of the existing circumstances it was thought advisable to invite applications for these new posts by public advertisement. With regard to the second part of the question, it is only reasonable to expect that the newly-appointed officers, however competent, can profitably be instructed in the details of the work by experienced members of the staff.

Was not this reorganisation carried out because the local committees did not do their work?

I am not prepared to say that the local committees do not do this work, but we thought that if it was reorganised on these lines they would do the work better, and I think that will be the result.

How long is it estimated it will take before these inexperienced people will know what the job is?

They are not inexperienced people. They are men thoroughly qualified for the work.

38.

asked the Pensions Minister if his Department will see that full-time secretaries are employed by local pension committees; is he aware that much time and loss could be saved to the committees and departments if active full-time secretaries were employed; and will his Department see that the applicants are treated with consideration?

It is my view that a local committee ordinarily requires the whole-time services of at least one chief officer responsible for the administrative business of the committee, and I have impressed this on local committees in official circulars and correspondence. With regard to the last part of the question, my Department always investigate, through the agency of their inspectorate, any charges of inconsiderate treatment on the part of local committees, such treatment being, of course, totally at variance with all the principles on which the Department is administered.

Can the hon. Gentleman say how many complaints of this kind he gets on an average per day?

Can the hon. Gentleman say how many of these appointments have been made where the local committees have fixed up people who are already in possession of a decent salary and really have no time to do this work; whereas for £200 a year many people would be willing to do the work effectively and well?

The majority of the committees already have these whole-time officials, and in other cases we are impressing upon them the necessity of doing so wherever there is a large volume of work.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the large number of complaints we get, and that we are only anxious to see that this work is carried out successfully?

I am quite aware of that, and we are most anxious that the work should be carried on successfully. I am glad to say that the number of complaints we receive is constantly diminishing.

48.

asked whether, in view of the fact that young lads under nineteen are now being used in the firing line and that there are numerous casualties, the Government propose to allow any special compensation to dependants in view of the promise given earlier that they were not to be put in the firing line until they were nineteen?

The Government do not see their way to adopt this suggestion. The basis of compensation paid to dependants is loss of support, and it would not be practicable to modify this basis by taking into account the age at which the soldier is put into the firing line.

As this is a question of policy, does the right hon. Gentleman not see that a new situation arises if boys under nineteen are killed, seeing that in ordinary circumstances the pension or gratuity to parents depends on the separation allowances, and in the circumstances is it not right to make a special arrangement?

Was not the assurance referred to in the last part of the question given, and if so, is it not possible to make a special arrangement?

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh that this is a question of policy. It is a question of administration, and the answer must be given by the Departments concerned. As regards the promise, the House is well aware that what was stated was that they would not be taken unless a national emergency rendered it necessary.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether dependants in these circumstances might not be given: a grant of land?

53.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the numerous resolutions which have been passed by public and other bodies throughout the country demanding an increased allowance for the wives and children of serving soldiers and sailors; and will he say what action he proposes to take thereon?

I can add nothing to what I said on this subject in Debate on the 18th instant, to which I would refer my hon. and learned Friend.

Do I understand my Tight hon. Friend to say that he is considering the subject with a view to a speedy decision?

Food Supplies

Women's Supplementary Ration

30.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether women doing men's work will be placed in the same position as men in regard to food rations?

The claims of women to a supplementary ration are considered on their merits, having regard to the severity of the work to be performed, and any women doing really heavy work receive supplements. The larger general ration now provided is sufficient for the great bulk of women without any supplement.

Distribution Officers

31.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food how many distribution officers and assistants have been appointed in the country, and at what annual cost; whether they are necessary; and whether the work could equally well be done by existing firms?

Seventy-two distribution officers, including assistants, have been appointed in the country. The annual cost of their salaries is £21,204. These officers undertake a wide variety of work in connection with national rationing and superintend the distribution of food under the general supervision of the Food Commissioners in each district. I am satisfied in the circumstances that their special appointment was necessary.

Tea

32.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether a firm was recently fined for selling tea at less than the controlled price; and can he state what is the policy involved in the creation of this offence?

Yes, Sir. The maximum retail price of tea was made a fixed price in order to prevent traders in a large way of business from selling at cost price, or even at a loss, for the purpose of gaining custom at the expense of small retailers, who have at once a right to live and a distinct value for purposes of distribution.

Strawberries

( by Private Notice)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that, in consequence of the Strawberries Order, tons of ripe strawberries are at present rotting on the ground, and the growers refuse to gather them?

It is of vital importance that the utmost possible quantity of fruit should be made into jam. The prices for fruit have been fixed with the concurrence of the Board of Agriculture, with a view to enabling the growers to perform a patriotic duty without loss. They are considerably higher than any recent prices for fruit for jam making. I can hardly believe that the facts are as stated by the hon. Member, but if he will let me have particulars of the cases he has in mind, I will see that steps are taken immediately to deal with the situation.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is entirely the wrong kind of strawberry which is being held up by this Order, and that the largo strawberry is suitable only for eating, and not at all suitable for jam-making?

That is a side of the question as to which we are considering whether anything can be done.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the fruit may be all wasted while this consideration is going on, and would it not be worth while to fix prices which, if left to operate, would be likely to prevent this fruit from being condemned to be destroyed?

Certainly, if it be true that people will not gather the fruit at a price which is higher than that of last week, and let the fruit go to waste.

Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Board of Agriculture, as there are plenty of men who can give information on this subject?

In regard to the fact that there are large quantities of strawberries left ungathered, will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Board of Agriculture on that subject?

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information of his own on the question?

In this, as in the case of many other articles, there are very general charges made and rumours circulated, and we desire to locate the beds of strawberries.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that large strawberries remain good for only three or four days, and that before long there will be no large strawberries left?

Raw Materials (British Industries)

40.

asked the Minister of Reconstruction what steps have been taken by his Department to secure raw materials for trade on the conclusion of the War; and whether facilities are being granted to British industries to secure raw materials in neutral countries?

The steps necessary to secure an adequate supply of raw materials after the War are being dealt with by different groups of experts, who are reporting to me in respect of individual materials or groups of materials. Action has already been taken in different directions, and many of the issues involved will be submitted by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary to the Imperial Conference for consideration. Regard is, of course, had to the available sources of supply in neutral countries.

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to the fact of the enormous supplies of raw material that the Germanic Powers are supposed to have accumulated, and can he say whether any large amount of raw materials have been provisionally provided for?

Royal Air Force

Officers' Uniform

41.

asked the Under-Secretary of State to the Air Ministry whether the officers of the Royal Air Force are about to be ordered to provide themselves forthwith with light blue uniforms instead of continuing to wear the recently introduced khaki Royal Air Force uniform until the end of the War, as had been hitherto understood; and, if so, considering the expense that will be inflicted on all young officers who have provided themselves with the khaki uniform, the Air Board will consider the advisability of postponing the issue of the proposed orders?

This matter is under consideration. If the change be decided upon, officers will not be ordered to provide themselves with the new uniform until their present uniform is worn out.

Is it not the case that this new khaki uniform was only brought out in March last, and officers were then told that it would last for the time of the War; and will it not be unfair to bring in another new uniform before the end of the War?

Whatever new uniform is brought in—if one be brought in—it will not change the fact that their present uniform, whatever it is, will be worn out before they get a new one.

Has the hon. Gentleman considered the point that naval officers in large numbers have already got uniform of military khaki, Royal Air Force uniform, and naval dark blue uniform; and has he considered whether the introduction of another uniform is justified on public grounds?

The whole of this question has been gone into. It is very important from the point of view of the moral and esprit de corps of the force, and if it turns out to be necessary and desirable that a new uniform should be decided upon for the corps as a whole, these officers will not be called upon to incur expense in buying the new uniform until they have worn out the old uniform.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the point of public expenditure before any further change is brought into force?

That point is being considered. Expenditure does not arise. It does not cost more to clothe a man in blue than it does to clothe him in khaki. As regards the officers, they will not be called upon to get new uniform until their old uniform is worn out.

If the suggestion of the new uniform is brought into force, will not the charge fall upon the officers? Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that officers like, naturally, to be smart, and, in order to uphold the reputation of the force, they will have to buy the new uniform—therefore, they will be put to the extra charge?

I am afraid I cannot add anything to the answer I have given. The whole question arises out of the need in creating a new force of establishing an esprit de corps suitable to that force. That cannot be done unless they have suitable uniform.

Will the hon. Gentleman see that this is done at the expense of the State and not at the expense of the officer?

Has the hon. Gentleman considered whether a light blue uniform will fade at once? Why is it necessary to have expensive gold braid instead of cord?

Though gold braid may sound expensive, it does not turn out so in practice.

I do not think that is a fair question to put. It is not a question of luxury, but a question of the fighting efficiency of the force.

Engines (Number Of Types)

The following question stood on the Paper in the name of Sir CHARLES NICHOLSON:

42. To ask the Under-Secretary of State to the Air Ministry if he will say how many types of engines are now on charge in the Royal Air Force; and of that number how many types are in France, the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, and in the anti-submarine campaign, respectively?

Questions relating to the Royal Air Force also appeared in the names of Major BURGOYNE, Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY, Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS, and Mr. PETO.

I have been asked to postpone Question 42, and a question standing in my own name. The Under-Secretary has also asked that other questions standing in the names of the hon. Members for Kensington, Essex, and Wiltshire should be postponed on the ground that they will be dealt with by the Secretary of State (Lord Weir) at a meeting upstairs this afternoon. We are quite willing.

If you force me to do it, I will put the question, and leave my hon. Friend to take objection.

I have asked the hon. Member to postpone this question until he has heard what my right hon. Friend has to say upstairs. I am not in a position to answer.

On a point of Order. In regard to the procedure of this House, I should like to say that my hon. Friend appealed to me yesterday in regard to this matter. I replied that, as a matter of courtesy, and subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I should be prepared to take this course of postponing the question, and I ask for your ruling and guidance. Private meetings held between Ministers and Members are not official, and though on this occasion I have postponed the question I shall reserve the whole of my rights and my colleagues' rights as Members of this House to put the questions again.

The hon. Member is making a mountain out of a molehill. He was asked to postpone a question, and he agreed. He rose and said he was willing to postpone it, but he tried to interpolate a speech. I rose to say that this was not the time for talking, and that he had either to put his question or to postpone it. That is all. The question about the meeting upstairs does not concern me. The only question that concerns me is to get through the questions.

The hon. Member (Major Baird) has replied, and asked the hon. Member to postpone it.

Moslem Mosque, London

45.

asked the First Lord of the Treasury if the Government will consider whether, as a tribute to the loyal support and assistance in every respect of Moslems, irrespective of race, throughout the British Empire during the War, financial assistance will be given for the erection of a mosque to serve the interests of the Indian Moslem community in London?

The Government gratefully recognise the conspicuous services rendered by our Mahomedan fellow-subjects, but I am not aware of any reason why our appreciation should take the form suggested. I shall, however, be glad to receive any information on this proposal that my Noble Friend may care to give me.

Is it not a fact that Moslems have decided, as a memorial to those of their persuasion who have fallen in the War, to erect a mosque in London?

I was not aware of that. I shall be glad to have details from my hon. and gallant Friend.

Luxury Duty

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in imposing a Luxury Tax, it is the intention of the Government to impose an equivalent duty on similar articles imported from foreign countries?

Allied Powers And German Trade (Exclusion)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can now make a statement as to whether any arrangement has been come to between the Allies with a view to excluding German ships and German goods from Allied ports and territories for progressive periods after the War the longer the Germanic Powers refuse to accept the terms of the Allies; and whether similar arrangements have been made between the Allies to place a progressive restriction on the export of raw materials to the German Empire?

Is the Government in communication with the United States on this subject, as to which there is a very strong feeling?

My hon. and gallant Friend knows, I am sure, that this matter has been the source of constant communication between this Government and our Allies, including the United States.

May we take it that some sort of agreement has been arrived at, as the matter has been in progress for a very long time?

If my hon. Friend will consider the question carefully he will see that it is a very delicate one. Even if anything had been decided, it would be impossible to make any statement to the House.

Women (Election To Parliament)

51.

asked the Prime Minister if he has now completed his inquiry into the question of the position of women with regard to election to this House?

The answer is in the negative, as the inquiry must await the return of the Home Secretary.

British Shipping (South American Trade)

54.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that, owing to the requirements of the War, British ships for a long time past have been almost entirely withdrawn by the British Government from the trade between North and South America for the purpose of supplying the requirements of the Allies, and that recently neutral ships, chartered by British shipowners under the control of the British Government to replace the British ships so withdrawn, have also been withdrawn by the British Government from this trade to supply the requirements of the Allies; whether he is aware that now these latter steamers are withdrawn the United States Shipping Control Board have allocated to American firms ten steamers for this trade to sail during the present month of June; that of the eight American firms to whom these steamers have been allotted seven firms have not previously loaded steamers from New York to South American ports; and that the United States Shipping Control Board refused to allocate any steamers under their control to the British lines established in New York which built up this trade, and which, prior to the War, was mainly conducted by them; whether he is aware that the great bulk of the American troops as well as supplies for the Allies in France are being carried in British ships while ships controlled by the American Government are being employed trading in directions such as the North and South American trade; and whether he can state what immediate action he proposes to take to protect British interests in this trade, which otherwise will be lost to British shipowners?

I have been asked to reply to this question. I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer on this subject given to the hon. Member for the West Toxteth Division of Liverpool on the 14th May. The facts are generally as stated so far as regard the withdrawal of ships from British shipowners. The situation of these shipowners is having the continuous and sympathetic attention of the Shipping Controller, with a view to finding, if possible, means to enable them to maintain the goodwill of their trades. As the question indicates, the matter is one in which the American Government are closely concerned, and I can assure my hon. Friend that it is not being overlooked in the discussions which are constantly proceeding between the two Governments.

Are we to understand that our Government has made definite representations to the Government of the United States on the subject?

I am afraid that I cannot add anything to the answer which I have given.

While the Government have been taking British ships, have American ships been free to take this trade which hitherto has been carried on by British ships?

I must deprecate these comparisons between the comparative services which are rendered at any particular moment to the common cause by different Allies.

Has the hon. Gentleman not admitted that to be the fact in his reply to the principal question?

If my hon. Friend will read carefully the answer which I have given he will see that the Shipping Controller recognises that the shipowners engaged in this particular trade deserve sympathetic consideration in this matter, which they are receiving, and that we are in correspondence with the Government of the United States on this matter.

Rubber Control

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is proposed to appoint a Rubber Controller, and, if so, whether the official appointed will control the production of rubber within the Empire or only the import, manufacture, and purchase and sale of rubber; and if he can state the name of the gentleman to be appointed?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to answer this question. No decision has been taken to appoint a Rubber Controller, but the situation in respect of rubber is being carefully watched in case some measure of control should become necessary.