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Commons Chamber

Volume 116: debated on Wednesday 28 May 1919

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 28th May, 1919.

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

Private Business

Edinburgh and Leith Corporations Gas Order Confirmation Bill.

Read the third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

India

Bombing By Aeroplanes

2.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether aeroplanes were employed to drop bombs on Indian rioters; if so, where, and by whose orders; and whether, in view of the difficulty of hitting any target with such bombs, he will issue directions that such, weapons are not to be used in future against civilian populations?

Aeroplanes were used at Gujranwala in the Punjab as a measure of military necessity. They were dispatched from Lahore by the military authorities, and one plane dropped a few bombs on a mob which had since early morning been occupied in destroying houses in the civil station, the railway station and church, while women and children had taken refuge in the Treasury, protected only by a small force of police.

Have instructions been given that aeroplanes are not to be used in future against the civilian population

No, Sir; the responsibility for carrying out martial law must rest with those who have to administer it. And if this is a question of dispersing a mob which is threatening the lives of women and children who are insufficiently guarded I refuse to interfere with the discretion of the military authorities.

In view of the fact that these aeroplanes cannot drop bombs accurately, and that therefore in large towns bombs are about certain to hit the wrong people, would it not be more humane to employ the other efficient means of defence in our power?

Certainly in this case the aeroplane was successful in dispersing the mob. I am not sufficient of an expert to endorse the hon. and gallant Gentleman's remarks about aeroplanes, but I would observe that there is all the difference in the world between aeroplanes flying at a low altitude and those flying at a high altitude in order to avoid guns.

I am always in order. How many people were killed, and how many of these were non-rioters?

I hope eventually to have the information necessary to inform, the House about all these occurrences.

Recent Riots (Total Civilian Casualties)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can yet give the total civilian casualties in the recent Indian riots in Delhi, in the Punjab, and elsewhere, specifying whether men, women, or children?

I have not received final figures, but I understand that the total number of deaths in the Punjab, Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Calcutta, is estimated at about 400, and the number of injured at about the same number. Eight or nine Europeans were murdered. The damage done by rioters in the Punjab may amount to something not far short of £1,000,000.

Are we to understand that most of these casualties and most of the damage took place in the Punjab under the Governorship of Sir Michael O'Dwyer?

Civil Service (Selection Board)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether the Selection Board for candidates for the Indian Civil Service has yet been constituted; and whether all the vacancies, amounting to 200, will be filled?

It has been arranged with the Civil Service Commission that the Selection Board constituted by them for selecting Class 1. clerks for the home Civil Service shall also interview candidates for the I. C.S. and make recommendations regarding them to the Secretary of State in Council. The Board has been constituted and is at work. The process of filling vacancies by selection will be spread over a period of two years.

Promoting Rebellion

5.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether the Turkish Committee of Union and Progress has been concerned in promoting rebellion in India?

Such evidence as has come before me does not authorise a reply in the affirmative to the hon. Baronet's question.

Currency Commission

6.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he will appoint two Members of this House interested in the export of British manufactures to the Commission on Indian Currency?

10.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether the proposed Commission on Indian Currency is to sit in London; and, if so, whether he will add to that Commission two Members of the House of Commons to be nominated by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of British Industries?

In constituting the Committee I have endeavoured to make it representative of the various interests affected. The Committee will sit in London and hear evidence. I hope to make an immediate announcement on the subject.

My right hon. Friend has not answered the point of my question: Is he appointing representatives to this Commission who will represent the manufacturers?

Yes, I hope so. Of course, my hon. Friend will understand that the Commission is primarily constistituted for India.

Press Criticism

7.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the character of the criticisms in portions of the Indian Press and the misrepresentation indulged in in regard to the servants of the Government of India entrusted with the carrying out the measures rendered necessary to repress disorder; and what action it is proposed to take to put a stop to the propaganda, both in the Press and otherwise, which is accentuating the difficulties with which the authorities in India are confronted?

The local Governments in India have adequate powers to deal with wilful and malicious misrepresentations of the actions and intentions of the Government and its servants and with attacks upon them, and I am content to leave the matter in their hands.

Karachi (Troop Train Incident)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether the statements read to the House of Commons on the 1st August, 1916, by the late Secretary of State for India with reference to Major- General Shaw, General Officer Commanding, Karachi, were founded upon the Report of a Committee appointed to inquire into the Karachi troop-train incident; whether the procedure of that Committee is admitted to have been irregular and that it did not inquire into Major-General Shaw's share of responsibility in the matter; and, in view of the facts that the responsibility rested mainly upon Indian Army Headquarters and that Major- General Shaw obeyed all orders issued to him, whether he will withdraw the censure passed upon this gallant officer?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer I made on the 22nd May to the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that General Shaw in his memorial completely refutes the allegations made against him on 1st August, 1916, and that he has received no reply to his memorial? Under these circumstances, will the hon. Gentleman lay the memorial and papers relating to the Karachi troop-train incident on the Table of the House?

I shall be obliged if my hon. and gallant Friend will put that question down. The question on the Paper asks me to withdraw the censure passed upon this officer. I replied to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds that I think the censure was in substance justified. I am not prepared to withdraw it.

Seeing that the original charges made in this House have since been admitted in certain particulars to have been unfounded, would it not be more consistent with fair play in the matter for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the censure altogether, instead of shifting his ground?

No, Sir; I do not think it would. There are certain facts in the censure which might be modified as a result of subsequent information, but the censure itself would still remain; and, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, the officer was offered another inquiry, which he did not accept.

Is it not the fact that in offering that inquiry the right hon. Gentleman said he was satisfied the officer was to blame? What would be the use of accepting an inquiry when the Government is apparently not prepared to stand by the result of it?

Is it not the fact that there has been no Court of Inquiry? What is an officer to do if he is censured in the course of discussion in this House?

There were certain irregularities in the Court of Inquiry. I offered the gallant officer another inquiry. He has not accepted that. I know of no other course.

Is not obviously the proper course to withdraw the censure before the right hon. Gentleman gives a further Court of Inquiry.

The offer of another Court of Inquiry was made eighteen months ago. The officer has not accepted it during that time. If I am asked to withdraw the censure before the Inquiry I am satisfied there is no ground for that request.

Will the right hon. Gentleman withdraw the censure on condition that this gallant officer accepts the further inquiry?

If my hon. and gallant Friend suggests that I have to say here that I do not think the censure was justified I am afraid I cannot do that.

Afghanistan

9.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether the Government of India has received from Afghanistan, and, if so, when, a request for a cessation of hostilities; and when such information was communicated to London by the Indian Government?

I would refer the hon. Member to the official statement on the subject which was published in yesterday's papers I can add nothing to it.

May I ask for an answer to the latter part of the question: When the news got through from India, and whether it was delayed?

The hon. Gentleman is aware that there are great difficulties attending the dispatch of telegrams to and from India. There are all sorts of interruptions and difficulties on the lines, and congestion. As I stated in the official communiqué published yesterday, I re-received the report of the cessation of hostilities on 18th May.

It was held up until the full text was received; it is obvious that that was a question of no importance. It contained no genuine demand. It was based on an allegation of transparent untruth. It could not in any case be taken seriously.

Was the right hon. Gentleman consulted as to the refusal of this report before it was refused to India?. … No answer from the right hon. Gentleman?

Royal Navy

Transatlantic Flight

11.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state what would have been the cost per month of keeping a line of ships stretched at intervals of fifty miles across the Atlantic while awaiting favourable weather for the transatlantic flight?

I really do not think that any good purpose would be served by endeavouring to work out this cost, though, of course, it would be considerable. Neither do I think it is primarily a question of cost at all. The real question is what is the proper function of the Navy, and how far it is desirable and possible to add to its duties by obligations such as those indicated in my hon. and gallant Friend's question. On that, as has been said more than once, the present commitments of the Navy are heavy and responsible. They cannot under any circumstances be set aside; and its resources leave no margin whatever for undertaking duties such as those referred to in the question.

As a matter of expert opinion, would it be possible to keep the Navy strung out in this way for an indefinite period, such as would have been necessary if public clamour had been satisfied?

I have already said it would be very expensive, but as it cannot be done the question of cost does not arise.

Would it be possible, in the event of such flights taking place, if Admiralty ships were in the vicinity of the flight, that they should be notified that the flight is taking place so that they may keep a look out?

If they are there, yes—but they are always on the look out! I will put the point of notification to naval authorities.

Would it not be quite possible to have fully-manned ships stationed on the West Coast of Ireland instead of two half-manned destroyers -stationed at Queenstown?

It is a question of personnel, and the numbers in the Fleet. Many demands have been made for demobilisation as my hon. and gallant Friend knows.

Trawlers And Drifters

12.

asked how many trawlers and drifters were built for the Admiralty during the War; how many have been disposed of, to whom, and on what terms; and what it is proposed to do with the remainder?

Four hundred and fifty-eight trawlers and 227 drifters were built for the Admiralty during the War. Up to date fifty-seven trawlers and thirteen drifters have been disposed of by sale to the highest bidders in the open market. Proposals for dealing with the remainder are under consideration.

Dreadnoughts

13.

asked how many vessels of the following classes are now in full commission, and how many in commission with nucleus crews, in the British, American, French, Japanese, and Italian navies: Dreadnoughts armed with 12-inch guns; dreadnoughts armed with guns heavier than 12-inch; battle cruisers armed with 12-inch guns; and battle cruisers armed with guns heavier than 12-inch?

Information on this subject is given confidentially by our Allies, and cannot, therefore, be made public; neither is it in the public interest at present to publish information as to our own Fleet.

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will put that question, down, and then I may be able to answer it.

Battle Of Jutland

15.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, in view of the fact that the exact times at which ships passed the wreck. of the "Invincible" at the battle of Jutland Bank being known, whether he will state the latitude and longitude of this wreck, in order that officers and students who study the battle may be able to check the positions of ships during the battle?

Measures are being taken to locate this wreck when the necessary vessels are available.

Dockyard Volunteers Salvage Party

16.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will arrange for the grant of a general service certificate or torpedo badge to the men of the dockyard volunteers salvage party who worked in the danger zone or were torpedoed during hostilities, seeing that some parties were torpedoed and shot at, had no lines of defence, and were left without lifeboats, which had been previously taken by the crews of the vessels torpedoed?

It is not contemplated to adopt my hon. Friend's suggestion, but the matter shall be considered again in conjunction with the Board of Trade, and though I can give no undertaking, I will communicate with my hon. Friend as to when he may, if he wishes, put down another question.

20.

asked whether any reward has been granted in respect of the salvage of any of the privately- owned ss. "Woodfield," "Sanuki Maru," "Devonia," and "O. B. Jennings"; and, if so, why the dockyard salvage party has received no award?

In regard to the "Woodfield," the services, I am advised, did not amount to salvage, and therefore no salvage award was received. In regard to the "Sanuki Maru" and "Devonia," claims are being made, but the cases are not yet settled. In regard to the "O.B. Jennings," this vessel was damaged in collision with a ship on which His Majesty's Government bore the risk. The question of a salvage claim is dependent on the decision as to liability for the collision, a matter now before the Courts. Until this is determined, no further steps can be taken.

21.

asked whether the Admiralty has received the salvage award for the privately-owned Royal Mail steamship "Mahopac"; and, if so, what steps are being taken to have the money distributed amongst the parties entitled thereto, including the dockyard salvage party?

An award has been received for this service, and steps are being taken to apportion the amount between the parties concerned.

Rosyth Naval Base

17.

asked whether, having regard to the cost of railway travelling between Scotland and England, he will arrange with the Railway Executive Committee for English workmen employed at Rosyth Dockyard to travel South at pre-war rates should they be called to their native district by some sudden emergency?

The workmen permanently employed at Rosyth Dockyard, who were formerly residing in the South of England, are in the same position as other workmen who are now employed away from their native localities.

We have no general authority to offer special facilities such as my hon. Friend has in mind. I do not think the matter is so much one for the Railway Executive Committee as for the Department under which the men are working. I will arrange for the particular Department to consider whether authority should be sought to meet genuine cases of sudden emergency, and will communicate further with my hon. Friend, who must, however, please understand that I am giving no undertaking in the matter.

Has not this matter been before the Admiralty for a considerable period?

24.

asked whether the claims of the Rosyth workers to have the 2s. per week inducement money made pensionable has been considered; and, if so, with what result?

It has been decided that the 2s. a week referred to is to be reckoned as part of the pensionable emoluments of the employés who are in receipt of it.

25.

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware of the unrest among the workers at Rosyth on account of the prevailing high rent for house accommodation there; and if he will say what steps he proposes to take in the matter?

We have received a number of representations regarding rents charged at Rosyth for the houses built by the Scottish National Housing Company, and have given much consideration to the matter. I understand that my Noble Friend, the Civil Lord, proposes to go into the matter on the spot shortly. Either he or I will thereafter communicate with my hon. Friend.

Wages Awards (Payment)

19.

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware how many firms are waiting payment of money due to them for work done for his Department or as a result of payment made by them in accordance with decisions governing wages awards; is he aware that many of these firms have made repeated applications for payment by sending in their claims and amended claims, but no payment has been made; that this is creating financial embarrassment to some firms, which are having great difficulty in carrying on, and that as a result fewer men instead of more men are likely to be employed by them; and whether steps will be taken by those responsible to see that all legitimate claims are met without further delay?

Every effort is being made to accelerate the payment of outstanding claims. The position of contractors is fully appreciated, and it is the practice of the Admiralty to make advances to the fullest extent justified in cases where a final settlement of claims is unavoidably delayed. If my hon. Friend will inform me of any specific cases of delay which he has in mind, I shall be happy to have them investigated.

Temporary Officers On Demobilisation

22.

asked whether temporary officers on demobilisation are to be allowed to retain the title of their rank held in the Navy?

Yes, Sir; and a notice stating the conditions will be issued shortly.

Mercantile Marine

23.

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Board of Admiralty will consider the advisability of promoting a closer relationship between the personnel of the Royal Navy and the Mercantile Marine in the interests of both Services?

It is not necessary to say that the Board of Admiralty cordially endorses the spirit underlying this question. As a matter of fact, various questions affecting the future of the personnel of the Mercantile Marine have already engaged the attention of the Admiralty, who sometime ago appointed a Committee to consider the whole subject. Before proceeding to a determination of the suggestions of that Committee, the Board has sent its Report to the National Maritime Board for their views.

Perhaps I may be allowed to say that, as a small evidence of the estimation in which the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine are held by the Royal Navy, it has been decided that an endeavour will be made to get together representative crews of the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine who have been torpedoed, and invite them to take part in the public reception in London which will be given to Admiral Beatty and representatives of the officers and men of the Royal Navy.

Further, the Mercantile Marine are included in the Naval Memorial Service to be held at St. Paul's Cathedral on Friday, 13th June, when a contingent of 200 officers and men will attend.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Report of which he speaks has never been made public, and although it came out months ago it has only just reached the National Maritime Board?

I think that is quite likely. The Board has had it under discussion, but it has not gone into the recommendations, and it has been sent to that Board for their views upon it.

50.

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the opinion that has been publicly expressed by the First Sea Lord and other officers of the British Navy as well as by the leading seamen's associations of the country that there should be for the benefit of the Services, and therefore of the Empire, a closer association between the personnel of the British Navy and the British Mercantile Marine, the powers now held by the Board of Trade, under the Merchant Shipping Act or other Acts, in regard to examination for certifi- cates of competency, navigation, rule of the road, life-saving appliances, accommodation, and the general supervision of the welfare, discipline, and seamanship of the Mercantile Marine would be more appropriately held by the Admiralty instead of by the Board of Trade; whether, as the affairs of the soldier are in the hands of the War Office, the affairs of the seamen should be in the hands of a seamen's Department; and if he will set up a representative Committee forthwith to examine and report?

The Government fully realises the desirability of as close an association as possible being maintained between the personnel of the Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine. I do not think that the proposal contained in the last part of the question is a practicable one.

Pensioners

26.

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he will push forward the plan by which all old pensioners, Royal Navy, shall be pensioned on new basic rate?

The decision of the Government is shown on page 8, Decision 51, of Command Paper 149. Under that decision, as from 1st April, 1919, all future pensioners will receive pensions on the new basic rate. Further, all pensioners now serving, and all who have served during the War, including those serving in a civilian capacity under the Government, who, although under fifty-five years of age, and therefore liable to serve during hostilities, were retained in their civilian employment, will have their pensions improved to the new basic rate as from 1st April, 1919. The pensions of all other pensioners remain as they are, except this, that whereas in the past we have not been able to award to some of these pensioners the Greenwich Ago Pension of 5d. a day at the age of fifty-five, and the Advanced Age Pension of 9d. a day at the age of sixty-five, all will, under Decision 49, page 8, of the same document, get these amounts at the ages mentioned, subject, as at present, to good character. It is not within the competence of the Board to extend the decision in the direction indicated by my hon. Friend. The general principle involved is, of course, of wider application than the Board's jurisdiction.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a very important matter, causing widespread feeling, and can he tell me what Department I can. apply to for a definite answer?

I am very well aware of the fact that there is a good deal of feeling about it. I fully appreciate the feeling and loyalty of the sailors to their old shipmates, but the principle involved is of wider application, and we cannot legislate in a matter which would cover other Departments.

Is the matter finally closed with regard to these old seamen and is the Admiralty endeavouring to make it retrospective?

The decision is given on the Command Paper 149 to which I have referred, but beyond that I cannot say anything.

St Kilda (Damage By Submarine)

14.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he-is aware that a considerable number of the buildings in the island of St. Kilda, including the church and the nurse's house, were destroyed by shell-fire from a German submarine last summer; and whether the Government propose to pay compensation with a view to restoring these buildings?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to answer this question. I am aware of the facts stated in the first part of the question. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the Air-raid Compensation Scheme, and if the circumstances of the damaged property comply with the conditions of the scheme the owners will be entitled to compensation. I may mention that compensation has already been granted by the Air-raid Compensation Committee in three cases at St. Kilda and four other cases are under investigation.

Domestic Service

Free Traning Scheme

27.

asked the Minister of Labour if under the proposed scheme for the free training of unemployed women applicants have been informed that wives and fiancées can only be trained in domestic work, and that training for factories and workshops is confined to young registered unemployed women; and it he will state why fiancées, whose position may be precarious, should be penalised?

The hon. and gallant Member is misinformed. There is no intention of confining the training of wives and fiancées to domestic work. The special scheme for wives and fiancées is intended to apply to those women who do not wish to enter industrial life, but who wish shortly to set up a home of their own.

I am considering whether this special scheme should be continued, and whether the time has not now come to merge these two schemes into one general scheme which would apply to all young women who were employed on war work and are now unemployed.

At what period of the walking out proceedings does one become a fiancée? And what happens if, in the middle of the training, the contract is terminated?

What will be construed as a precarious position by the Government? Mr. WARDLE: That is a hypothetical question.

Unemployment Donations

Motor-Cycle Sidecar Owners

28.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state if a man is held to be eligible for out-of-work benefit who attends to receive his out-of-work benefit on the motor cycle sidecar which he makes frequent use of, his wife being at the same time in receipt of a good income and enjoying the benefit of motor trips with this out-of-work husband?

In any case in which the facts are as described in the question there would be ground for investigation through the Local Employment Committee as to whether the applicant satisfied the requisite conditions, namely, that he is normally in employment, genuinely seek- ing work, and unable to obtain it. If the hon. Member will supply me with the name of the person to whom his question refers, inquiries shall be made immediately.

French Polishers

29.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state how many cabinet makers' French polishers are reporting themselves as unemployed and receiving out-of-work pay; if he will have inquiries made through the cabinet-making trade of East London whether there is any evidence to support the statements that men, both small master cabinet makers and journeymen, register as unemployed, attend the bureau and report themselves in the morning, and then follow their calling as cabinet makers and French polishers during the latter part of the day; and whether applications from employers in the above trade are still unsatisfied?

On the 16th May the number of men classed as French polishers and receiving donation was 359, of whom 296 were discharged members of His Majesty's Forces. The corresponding figures for Exchanges in East London were 138 and 119 respectively. These figures include all types of French polishers. I cannot give separate figures for cabinet makers' French polishers.

I am having inquiries made into the allegation contained in the second part of the question, and will communicate the result to the hon. Member in due course. Meanwhile I shall be grateful if the hon. Member will give me any facts which appear to support the allegation.

The answer to the last part of the question is in the negative, though in East London there are only seven unsatisfied applications from employers for French polishers, and throughout the country the supply exceeds the demand, so far as the demand is notified to the Exchanges.

Belfast Temporary Postal Workers

33.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is now in a position to state the result of his inquiry into the claim for out-of-work donation of the temporary postmen in Belfast who have been dismissed from their employment since the cessation of hostilities?

On the facts at present before me, I have come to the conclusion that the temporary postmen to whom the hon. Member refers cannot be brought within the scope of the modified out-of-work donation scheme for Ireland.

What are the facts on which the right hon. Gentleman bases his decision?

I will make inquiry into the whole matter, if that will satisfy the hon. Member.

34.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a number of female employés who were temporarily engaged in the Post Office service at Belfast are liable to be dismissed at any moment without any tangible re cognition of the help they rendered during the War and without being eligible for out-of-work donation; and whether, in view of the hardship that will thus be inflicted on these workers, he will consider the advisability of paying them out-of-work grants as some compensation for their services?

Temporary employés in the Government service are not included in the modified out-of-work donation scheme as it applies to Ireland, and I am not aware of any special circumstances in the cases referred to by the hon. Member which would justify exceptional treatment in this respect.

Unemployed Women (Work At Low Wages

35.

asked the Minister of Labour if unemployed women arc in many instances offered by Labour Exchanges work at low wages at a considerable distance from their homes involving high train fares; and if, on refusing it, they are disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits?

Refusal of work offered at an Exchange entails suspension of out-of-work donation if the work is adjudged by a court of referees to be suitable work; but the wages offered and the distance from the applicant's home are among the factors which the court would take into account before coming to a decision.

Trade Licences (Alien Competition)

31.

asked the Minister of Labour if he can state why a trade licence should be granted to a Mr. Sharman, Leyton, a Russian, in opposition to men in the same line of business, in the same block of buildings, who had to leave their businesses to serve in the War, and who, being now discharged or demobilised, find an alien legally authorised to compete with them; and if he is aware that the granting of such licences to these men is the cause of great indignation?

I am having inquiries made into this matter, and will communicate the result to my hon. Friend.

Brickmaking Industry (Wage Claims)

32.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a number of the employers in the brick- making industry in the northern outskirts of London are refusing to meet their employés for the purpose of discussing the request of the men for an increase in wages; and whether, in view of the urgency of the supply of bricks in connection with the housing problem, he will undertake to make an effort to bring the parties together?

This matter has been the subject of correspondence between my Department and the union which the hon. Member represents. The Department have also been in communication with the employers. I understand that difficulty exists in connection with the reopening of the works. My information is not to the effect that the employers are refusing to meet the workpeople. The Department will take the matter up again with the parties concerned.

Peace Conference

Lithuania And Poland

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Supreme Council in Paris have informed the Lithuanian Government that they have once more informed the Polish Government of their determination to take no account of military advantages gained by the Poles against the Lithuanians, and yet, in spite of this, the Polish troops have seized Vilna and large parts of Lithuania so as to stake out claims in the settlement?

My attention has been drawn to the communication addressed by the Secretariat-General of the Peace Conference to the President of the Lithuanian Delegation in Paris on the 2nd inst. This communication was to the effect that the Supreme Council of the Allies had decided on 26th April to appeal to the Polish and Lithuanian Governments to take steps to prevent the grave complications which could not fail to arise from hostilities between the two States, and their determination to disregard any military advantages which might be achieved by one side or the other in fixing the future frontiers between the two States.

As regards the last part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question, the information in the possession of His Majesty's Government is to the effect that Polish troops are at present In occupation of the town of Vilna as well as other portions of Lithuanian territory.

Turkey

63.

asked the Lord Privy-Seal whether anything can be communicated to the House regarding the Peace terms with Turkey, in which the Mahomedans of India are so greatly interested?

I regret that I am not in a position to make any statement as the Treaty with Turkey is still under the consideration of the Peace Conference.

Count Brockdorff-Rantzau

58.

asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been called to the support given in a section of the British Press to the Notes submitted by Count Brockdorff-Rantzau in opposition to the Allied Peace terms; and if to assist the public in appreciating the value and origin of the present pacifist campaign in this country, by which it is sought to enable the German people to escape the consequences of their crimes, he will state what is known of the past record of this German envoy and the extent to which he has been associated throughout the War period with the governing party in Germany who were responsible for the starting of the War and the atrocities with which it has been waged by the Central Powers and their allies?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. As regards the last part, I am informed that Count Brockdorff-Rantzau entered the German diplomatic service in 1894, having previously been a Prussian Guards officer.

Is not Count Brockdorff-Rantzau what one. might term a member of the old régime and is the Government satisfied that if the German Government signs the Peace terms it will be prepared to see them carried out?

Undoubtedly he is a member of the old regime, but I do not think we ever thought of dictating as to who were to be the delegates of the existing German Government.

Did not the British Government state originally, quite rightly, that they were not prepared to enter into arrangements with the old régime until they had sufficient guarantees that they knew that any undertakings they entered into would be carried out?

I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that what the Government did was rightly done, but surely it does not follow that there is no room for repentance in the case of the Germans.

Has the German Government raised any objection to meeting members of the old régime in the British Government?

Commercial Treaties (Japan, Italy, And France)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can at once lay upon the Table of the House copies of any commercial treaties which have been entered into with Japan, Italy, and France; and, if he is unable to publish the treaties in full, whether he can give full information of the arrangements which have been made in regard to imports and exports?

The treaties to which the hon. Member refers were published in full at the time when they were concluded. They are included in Mr. de Bernhardt's "Handbook of Commercial Treaties," a copy of which will be found in the House of Commons Library.

Has any commercial treaty been entered into with either Japan, France, or Italy since the War or since the Armistice?

Have any special arrangements been lately entered into between the Foreign Office and Japan with regard to allowing imports and exports to pass between the two countries?

Egypt

39.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give any further information regarding the political situation in Egypt, particularly with regard to the recent formation of a new Ministry?

General Allen by has reported that a new Ministry was formed on 21st May, with Mohammed Said Pasha as Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. I will circulate in the Official Report a list of the other members of the Ministry.

The following is the list referred to:

The new Egyptian Ministry is composed as follows:

  • Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior—Mohammed Said Pasha.
  • Public Works—Ismail Sirry Pasha.
  • Finance—Yusef Wahba Pasha.
  • Education—Ahmed Ziwar Pasha.
  • Agriculture—Abdel Rahim Sabry Pasha.
  • Justice—Ahmed Zulficar Pasha.
  • Wakfs (Pious Foundations)—Mohammed Tewfik Nessim Bey.

Mohammed Said Pasha preceded Rushdy Pasha as Prime Minister. Sirry Pasha, Wahba Pasha, and Ziwar Pasha were Ministers in the last Cabinet.

Australian Import Regulations (Sheep-Dips)

40.

asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies if the Australian Commonwealth has, since the Armistice, prohibited the importation into that country of sheep-dips from Great Britain; and if he can give an assurance that a similar prohibition will not be imposed on other British-manufactured goods?

Representations were made by manufacturers of sheep-dips in this country which were brought to the notice of the Commonwealth Government by telegram on the 25th April. A reply was received on the 10th May, stating that, in view of extreme necessity, representatives of British manufacturers were urged to manufacture dip in Australia; that they refused, and that Australian manufacturers were then pressed by the Government and consented to manufacture under a promise of protection. The telegram added that the embargo was of a temporary character pending the introduction of a tariff, and that, meanwhile, it was regretted that importations could not be permitted. I am not in a position to give any assurance that a similar prohibition will not be imposed on other manufactured goods by the Commonwealth Government.

As the right hon. Gentleman has stated that the information was. only received from the Colonies on the 10th May, at which date sheep-dips were already afloat on their way to Australia, will he communicate with the Government of Australia and ask them not to prohibit the import of these cargoes?

The attention of the Commonwealth Government has been called to the matter already.

Oversea Trade (British Tonnage)

41.

asked the Under secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has given consideration to the possibilities for the development of inter- Imperial trade which now present them selves in the Oversea Dominions of the Empire; and whether, seeing the extent to which the expansion of inter-Imperial trade is dependent upon increase in the volume of shipping available as between Great Britain and the Oversea Dominions, the Government will take steps by means of subsidies or other form of preferential treatment to inter-Imperial shipping to place a large volume of British tonnage at the service of inter- Imperial trade?

The twenty-fourth resolution of the Imperial War Conference, 1918, recommended that, in order to maintain satisfactorily the connections and at the same time encourage commercial and industrial relations between the different countries of the British Empire, an Imperial Investigation Board representing the various parts of the Empire should be appointed with power to inquire into and report on all matters connected with the development and improvement of the sea communications between the different parts of the Empire. Steps are being taken with a view to giving effect to the resolution.

Cyprus

42.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Government has received a telegram from the representatives of the Moslems in Cyprus, numbering about 60,000, praying that they may be permitted to continue to live under British rule; and, if so, whether, having regard to the extent and loyalty of the Mahomedan population of His Majesty's Dominions, the petition of the Moslem inhabitants of Cyprus will receive favour able consideration?

The Secretary of State has received a communication in the sense indicated by the hon. Member, and has replied that the interests of His Majesty's Moslem subjects in Cyprus will receive full consideration at the hands of His Majesty's Government.

Will the inhabitants of Cyprus have an opportunity of determining for themselves whether they desire the island to be annexed to Greece or whether they prefer to remain under British rule?

I must have notice of that question. I think the Government must be the judge of the situation. as it arises.

Is it not the fact that the people by a large majority are in favour of union with Greece, and, that is one of the difficulties?

Yes; but it is undesirable to argue the question at this moment.

German East Africa

43.

asked the Under-Secretary of. State for the Colonies what is the estimated total population of German East Africa and what proportion of the total population is comprised in the territory to which Belgium is now claiming a mandate; what is the estimated total head of cattle in German East Africa; and what proportion of the total is covered by the said Belgian claim?

A. rough estimate of the total population of German-East Africa is about 7,500,000, and that of the provinces of Ruanda and Urundi somewhat less than 3,000,000. I have no accurate information as to the number of cattle The hon. and gallant Member will, however, understand that it would be obviously undesirable for me at this stage either to indicate or to discuss the Belgian claims to which he refers.

Can the hon. Gentlemen inform the House on what grounds the Belgians are basing their claims; is it for services rendered during the East African Campaign, and, if so, are we making a territorial claim to any land in Belgium for the great services we rendered, to Belgium?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will understand that these points have been very fully considered at the Peace Conferenc.

67.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Colonial Office has any detailed information respecting native trouble during the Belgian military occupation of Ruanda and Urundi; whether the Administrator of German East Africa is now in London; if he expressed any opinion, as to the financial and administrative effects of the suggested excision of Ruanda and Urundi from the administration; and, if so, whether his views can be given to the House?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. The Administrator is now in Paris, and I have no doubt that the Secretary of State, who is also there, will ascertain his views on any question which it may be desirable to refer to him.

Congo

44.

asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the Belgian Administration of the Congo recently organised a settlement of Belgian farmers in the Colony; that the settlement was a failure owing to the inadaptability of Belgians to Colonial life; that the survivors were all repatriated by the State; that the area of the Congo as at present defined is 1,000,000 square miles, with a total white population of 5,000; that the Belgian policy is still one of declared exclusion of other peoples; and that the Belgian claim to a mandate in respect of Ruanda and Urundi can, therefore, only be actuated by a desire to exploit the native population?

I have no information with regard to the incident to which the hon. and gallant Member refers in the first part of his question, and as to the remainder I am not in a position to express any opinion.

Ministries Of Reconstruction And National Service

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Ministry of National Service and Reconstruction is still in existence; and, if so, what Minister is at its head, and what is the present number of the staff it employs both in its capacity as Ministry of National Service at the Hotel Windsor and Ministry of Reconstruction at Queen Anne's Gate?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. The Ministries of National Service and Reconstruction are still in existence, but are in course of being wound up. They are both accommodated at the Hotel Windsor. The staff of the Ministry of National Service, which at the date of the Armistice was 15,124, is now 274, the bulk of whom are engaged in closing the accounts of the Ministry. The staff of the Ministry of Reconstruction, which was 129 at the date of the Armistice, is now 35, and is engaged entirely in completing the outstanding work of the Ministry. Since the present Government was formed, I have held the two offices of Minister of Reconstruction and Minister of National Service. These I am now resigning on appointment as President of the Board of of Trade. I understand that it is not intended at present to appoint a successor to me, for I have been asked by he Prime Minister to maintain a general supervision over the work of the two Departments.

Is not the Hotel Windsor a large hotel, and are these two Ministries, with their reduced staffs, able to fill that big hotel?

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the Ministry of Reconstruction has been definitely abandoned or whether it is only held in suspense; and, if it is held in suspense, why should he deprive the Board of Trade of any of the services of my right hon. Friend?

The Ministry is being wound up and my right hon. Friend is willing to do the additional work of general supervision. I am sure that is the best arrangement.

As soon as possible. With regard to the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend in his previous supplementary question, of course other Departments are represented in the Hotel Windsor. There is work being done there for the Ministry of Pensions and for the Ministry of Labour.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that only this week—I think yesterday—the Ministry of Reconstruction issued another one of their series of pamphlets; has the Ministry done anything since it has been in existence except to issue twenty or thirty pamphlets. none of which is of the slightest value; and are the Ministry still drawing their salaries?

American Mails (Censorship)

46.

asked the Prime Minister if the American mails are still being censored by the British authorities; if he is aware that this censorship has been causing irritation in the United States; and, if it is still in force, when it will be abandoned?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. The American mails are still being censored with the agreement of the United States Government. As I have stated in answer to previous questions on this subject, His Majesty's Government are desirous of abolishing this censorship as soon as possible, but I am afraid it is impossible to fix a date at present, as it must depend on the issue of the peace negotiations.

Will the hon. Gentleman state the object of the censorship now?

Beer Supplies

45.

asked the Prime Minister why the War Cabinet still forbids the brewers to brew beer and supply it to the public under the same conditions as prevailed before the outbreak of war?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answers which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food gave to the hon. Member for Hanley on the 20th and 22nd of May last.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people most strongly object to the uncontrolled action of Lord D'Abernon and his nominated Board and desire that the supremacy of Parliament should be restored in regard to drink?

I dare say there is such a feeling. As I have already mentioned in the House, a Cabinet Committee is now considering the whole question of restriction.

British Debts To Germany

47.

asked the Prime-Minister whether he can state, approximately, the amount owing by British, citizens to Germany at the outbreak of war; how much of this has been collected by the Public Trustee; what it is proposed to do with such sum; and what course it is proposed to adopt; in regard to the balance?

The approximate amount owing by British citizens to Germany in respect of trade debts and bank balances at the outbreak of war as recorded with the Custodian for England and Wales was £14,000,000 exclusive of debts under £50 which have not been recorded with the Custodian. Of this sum, approximately £2,000,000, has become the subject of Vesting Orders made by the High Court and the Board of Trade, and has been collected by the Custodian. The reply to the last two parts of the question will depend on the final terms of the Treaty of Peace, and I would refer the hon. Member to Section X. of the Official Summary, which was recently published in the Press.

German Ships (Distribution)

49.

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the fact that the British Mercantile Marine have lost thousands of lives during the War, and further that the loss in ships sustained by Great Britain amounts to over 7,000,000 tons more than that suffered by America, he will take immediate steps to convey to the Allied Conference now sitting in Paris the concern of shipping interests in Britain that a more equitable distribution of interned German ships has not been decided upon?

I regret that I can add nothing to what I have already said in reply to questions on this subject.

Ministry Of Food

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the controversy on the subject of food control and the question of the advisability or other wise of retaining the Ministry in a complete or modified form, he will appoint a Committee to report before 1st August on the results of food control and what, in view of the Report on Trusts, are the best steps to be taken to combat monopolistic tendencies in the matter of food supplies; and, in the event of such Committee being appointed, if he will see that there shall be represented upon it opponents as well as supporters of the Ministry?

The advisability of retaining the Ministry of Food in a complete, modified or substituted form is now being carefully explored. The Interdepartmental Committee on Meat Supplies, of which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade is chairman, is considering the best steps to be taken to combat monopolistic tendencies and I do not think that any useful end would be served by the appointment of an additional Committee.

Peace Celebrations (School Children)

52.

asked the Prime Minister if, in fixing a date for the Peace celebrations, he will have in mind the importance of the school children taking part in, and understanding the national rejoicing; and if he therefore will try to fix a day when the school organisations and the services of the school managers and teachers would be available?

57.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the interest by the public in the Peace holidays and the need of proper notice for local authorities, schools: and other institutions to make full and adequate arrangements, he can now make any statement as to the approximate date and extent of the holidays the Government will order?

I can add nothing to what I have said in reply to similar questions on this subject.

Liquor Traffic (Government Advisory Committee)

56.

asked the Prime Minister if the President of the Board of Education is chairman of the Committee of the Government advising the War Cabinet on the control of the liquor trade; and if two members of the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) and one ex-member are members of the same Committee of the Government?

I have nothing to add to the answer which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend on Monday last.

Will the right hon. Gentleman state the reason for secrecy in this matter? Would it not give confidence to the public if they felt that the Government were being competently advised?

I am sure it would be a very bad precedent to publish the names of the Government Committees who are advising the Cabinet. It is bad enough to have our proceedings criticised, but it would be worse to have them criticised in advance because a particular man is not particularly liked.

Does my right hon. Friend remember that he said on Monday that this was a Government Committee and not a Committee of the Cabinet?

I did not mean that it was composed only of members of the Government, at least, I did not intend that.

Is it a fact, as stated in the question, that two members of the Central Control Board are members of the Committee?

The Central Control Board were invited to send members to the Committee and they served on it.

Is it true that the ex-member of the Control Board on the Committee is Mr. Snowden?

Demobilisation

Key Industries

53.

asked the Prime Minister whether any steps are being taken to protect the key industries of the country, as was promised at the time of the last election?

I have been asked to answer this question. Yes, Sir, under the transitional trade policy of the country most definite steps have been taken to protect the key industries of the country by retaining control over the importation of products similar to theirs.

It would be impossible for me to give a list without notice, but generally they are small industries upon which some vast industry depends.

Will the eight hon. Gentleman publish such a list at a very early date?

We have already undertaken to publish a list of all the articles whose import is restricted by licence at the present time. That will cover the key industries and something more.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to call a conference of the Labour party to explain to them what he really means by this?

Will the right hon. Gentleman define key industries, as I do not think the industries referred to are key industries?

Royal Engineers (Sapper Billen)

73.

asked the Secretary of State for War on what grounds the military authorities are refusing to release from the Army Sapper J. Billen, No. 133221, 350th E. and M. C, Royal Engineers, British Expeditionary Force, France, seeing that he is forty-eight years of age and joined the Army in 1915?

Sapper Billen is not registered either as pivotal or for special release, nor is there trace of any application having been received on his behalf by the War Office. If his age is as stated by my hon. Friend he is eligible for demo- bilisation unless he is serving under prewar conditions of service and his term of Colour service is not completed. If he is eligible he will be released as soon as the exigencies of the Service permit. I would remind my hon. Friend that personnel of the Royal Engineers, though eligible for demobilisation, are liable to be temporarily retained as part of the military machinery for demobilisation until their services can be spared or they can be replaced. Men so retained are being replaced as rapidly as possible by men who are not eligible for demobilisation. I would also remind my hon. Friend that senior officers have been appointed to inspect registers of units with a view to ensuring that no officer or man who is eligible for demobilisation is being retained without good and sufficient cause.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the first part of his answer is the common form of answer which hon. Members receive, and will he take steps to see that questions addressed to the Demobilisation Department are answered according to the facts stated in the inquiry and not according to the form?

The volume of questions which come to the Department is almost overwhelming, and unless a certain amount of duplication was resorted to it would be impossible to get the correspondence through in time.

Territorial Officers, Royal Army Medical Corps

78.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, though the Territorial Force has not been disembodied, a number of Territorial officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps are being demobilised against their wishes and before they have had an opportunity of obtaining appointments or practices; whether their places are being filled by retired officers, who are receiving both pay and pension; and whether he will give any assurance that in future these Territorial officers will be given an opportunity to procure appointments or practices before they are finally compelled to relinquish their commissions?

Territorial Force medical officers, in common with medical officers of the Special Reserve and officers holding temporary commissions in the Regular Army Medical Corps are being placed on the retired and unemployed list as quickly as possible, and as far as is known at the War Office, no retired medical officer has replaced a Territorial Force medical officer. As regards the last part of the question, I regret that I cannot give any such assurance. My hon. and gallant Friend is no doubt aware that great pressure has been brought to bear on the War Office to release every medical officer whose services can be spared to meet urgnt civil requirements. This policy has been, and will continue to be, carried out as far as possible.

Applications For Release

79.

asked the Secretary for War whether he is aware that Staff-sergeant F. A. Greenham, No. 022529, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, who is at present on leave in this country, has been refused demobilisation and ordered to return to Russia on the expiration of his leave; whether he is aware that Sergeant-Greenham is forty-three (years of age, married, and the proprietor of a one-man business; whether these facts are compatible with his statement on 20th May to the effect that men in Russia are governed by the same conditions as regards eligibility for demobilisation as those serving elsewhere, but their relief has hitherto been delayed through climatic and other difficulties in connection with transportation; and, if so, whether he will state what difficulties affect the release of this man who is at present domiciled in his own home in England?

Sergeant Greenham is not registered by the War Office either as pivotal or for special release. If his age is as stated by my hon. Friend he is eligible for demobilisation, unless he is serving under pre-war conditions of service, and his term of Colour service is not completed. I would refer to the answers given to my hon. Friend on the 5th instant regarding the return to Russia of all men on leave from that theatre of War, and to the statement on the 20th instant that men of all categories of service are being retained in Russia pending the relief of that force.

Is not this man a man who enlisted in 1915, who has been to Murmansk, and who is now home on leave, and is it necessary that he should return to Murmansk to be demobilised?

I think my hon. Friend will see that; if the policy he suggests were adopted it would be impossible to keep up the force at Murmansk.

Will the hon. Gentleman see that instructions are given that men over thirty-seven years old are not sent to Russia; and is he aware that it is the practice, in Salonika especially, for men to be drafted to Russia, although they are forty-two or forty-three years of age?

This is a case of a man who has come from Russia on leave, and is merely returning according to the the contract on which he got his leave. The matter raised by the hon. Gentleman (Colonel P. Williams) is another point.

81.

asked the Secretary for War with regard to the case of Private F. D. Buxton, 15th Lancashire Fusiliers (1st Salfords), attached to 2nd Infantry Battalion Headquarters, Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army on the Rhine, and of 18, Davis Street, Longsight, Manchester; whether he is aware that the man joined up in 1914 and is, therefore, entitled according to 1919 Regulations to early demobilisation; and whether applications have been made on his behalf with out result and without the letters being answered?

Inquiries are already being made in this case, and I will inform my hon. Friend of the result as early as possible.

82.

asked the Secretary for War, with regard to Sapper J. B. Dobson, No. 54658, Royal Engineers, now at c/o A. P. M., the Castle, Cape- Town, South Africa, and of 4, Wilton Place, St. Phillips, Salford, whether he is aware that this man joined up on 4th September, 1914, and therefore, according to the regulations, is entitled to an early discharge; whether he is being detained at Cape Town on police duty; and whether instructions can be sent for his release?

Sapper Dobson is not registered by the War Office either as pivotal or for special release. If his length of service is as stated by my hon. Friend, he is eligible for demobilisation unless he is serving under pre-war conditions of service and his term of Colour service is not completed. If he is eligible, he will be released as soon as the exigencies of the Service permit. I would remind my hon. Friend that personnel serving with the Corps of Military Police, though eligible for demobilisation, are liable to be temporarily retained as part of the military machinery for demobilisation until their services can be spared or they can be replaced. Men retained are being replaced as rapidly as possible by men who are not eligible for demobilisation. Under these circumstances I regret I can take no special action in this case.

In view of the fact that this man is not attached primarily to the police, but has been, apparently, attached for that special duty, cannot his case be specially considered and he be sent home in the ordinary course?

I will have further inquiries made, but the police are very essential for demobilisation.

83.

asked the Secretary for War whether he is aware that Private W. Barnard, No. 30, 11th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, who is now home on leave from North Russia, at 70, Sydney Road, Eastbourne, owing to the recent death of his father, has been refused demobilisation in spite of the fact that he enlisted in 1914 and he is now the only support of his widowed mother: and whether, in view of these facts, he will have his case reconsidered?

The application made on behalf of Private Barnard received careful consideration, but as it does not come within the scope of the instructions recently issued governing demobilisation on compassionate grounds, it was refused, and I regret that I am not prepared to reconsider the decision. If his length of service is as stated by my hon. Friend, ho is eligible for demobilisation unless he is serving under pre-war conditions of service and his term of Colour service is not completed. If he is eligible, he will be released as soon as the exigencies of the Service permit.

89.

asked the Secretary for War whether he is aware that Sergeant M. M'AIvon, No. 76284, F Corps, Signal Company, Royal Engineers, Cologne, re-enlisted in the Glasgow Territorials on 14th September, 1914, and has nerved overseas in France and Belgium since 27th May, 1915; whether he has been appealed for by the Glasgow postmaster through the War Office in G.H. 2, priority list No. 5, as a skilled telegraphist; and whether he will arrange that this man, who is urgently required by the post office in Glasgow, will be demobilised?

Sergeant M'Alvon is not registered by the War Office either as pivotal or for special release. I am also informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that he is not so registered by his Department. If his length of service is as stated by my hon. Friend he is eligible for demobilisation and he will be released as soon as the exigencies of the Service permit. I would remind my hon. Friend that personnel of the Royal Engineers, though eligible for demobilisation, are liable to be temporarily retained until their services can be spared or they can be replaced. Men so retained are being replaced as rapidly as possible by men who are not eligible for demobilisation. Under these circumstances, I regret I can take no special action in this case.

Will the hon. Gentleman explain what is meant by this repetition of phrases?