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Written Answers

Volume 148: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1921

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Written Answers


Karachi Aerodrome (Detention Allowance)

asked the Secretary of State for India. whether his attention has been called to the claims of Flying-officer W. H. B. Handsford, and the late Flying-officer Robert Pughe, for detention allowance while they were on special duty at Karachi superintending the construction of the aerodrome; whether it has been decided that the claims are not admissible under India Army Rules, notwithstanding the fact that Major-General F. J. Fowler, Commanding Karachi Brigade, in a letter dated 20th April, 1920, stated that the action taken was, in his opinion, the one most suitable; and whether he will give further consideration to the claims with a view of recommending them for exceptional treatment?

The claims of Flying-officers Hansford and Pughe to detention allowance were recommended by the Brigade Commander at Karachi, but the Air Officer Commanding in India held that the circumstances of the detention of these officers were not in any way so exceptional as to warrant the admission of their claims, and the Government of India, who have been consulted, support his view. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to intervene.


asked the Secretary of State for India whether any authoritative statement exists showing the incidence of taxation, amount of public debt, and possession of productive assets by the Government of India; and, if so, whether such can be made available for Members of Parliament?

Such information as is available relating to the points mentioned by my hon. Friend will be found on page 16 of the Explanatory Memorandum for 1921–22, of which I am sending him a copy.


Amalgamated Railway Companies (New Capital)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport what powers, by Regulation or otherwise, are possessed by the new groups of companies amalgamated under the Railways Act, 1921, to raise new capital?

For the financial and other powers which will be possessed by the amalgamated companies after their formation, I must refer my hon. and learned Friend to the Railways Act, 1921, and particularly to Section 3 of that Act.

Electricity Scheme, North East Midland District

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport the present position of the scheme for a unified electrical supply service in South Yorkshire which was prepared with the approval of his Department; and whether any State assistance or legislation is contemplated?

The scheme referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend is presumably the one for the North East Midland District, prepared by the Corporation of Sheffield and submitted to the Electricity Commissioners in June last. The local inquiry into the scheme has already been fixed for 29th November. The scheme, if approved by the Commissioners, will be the subject of an Order requiring confirmation by the Minister of Transport and approval by Parliament. No financial assistance by the State is contemplated.

Development And Road Improvement Fund

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the allocation of a sum of £2,000,000 which, according to the Supplementary Estimate, will be available from the Road Fund for expenditure by the Ministry of Transport on roads to relieve unemployment in necessitous areas will affect the resources at the disposal of the Ministry of Transport for the purposes of maintenance grants under the classification scheme and the normal road work of the country apart from special plans for the relief of unemployment; whether the Treasury will contribute to the Road Fund from the proceeds of general taxation a sum equal to that part of the expenditure from the fund which represents unemployment relief as distinguished from road work and estimated to be 50 per cent. of the total; and whether he will give an undertaking that the whole of the proceeds of the special motor taxation shall be devoted to road works and that the Road Fund shall not be raided for extraneous purposes connected with unemployment relief?

I have been asked to reply to this question. In answer to the first part I would call the hon. Baronet's attention to the provisions of Section 8 of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, as amended by the First Schedule of the Roads Act, 1920. The limitations there imposed as to the expenditure which may be undertaken for the construction of new roads and the maintenance or improvement of existing roads will be observed in allocating the estimated sum of £2,000,000, and it is not anticipated that the classification scheme will be prejudicially affected. I would remind the hon. Baronet of the provisions of Section 18 of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, under which regard must be had as far as is reasonably practicable to the general state and prospects of employment. Care is being taken, however, to secure that the fund is protected from uneconomical use, and the funds obtained from the Treasury and local authorities enable work on a more extensive scale to be undertaken.

Income Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that through the incidence of the Income Tax Acts a person at the conclusion of his first two years' trading to 30th October, 1919, made assessable profits of £1,241, and in his second year's trading sustained an actual loss adjusted for Income Tax purposes of £1,616, with the result that he has been asked at the close of the second year for an Income Tax payment of £380 2s.; and whether he is prepared to submit to the House legislation to remedy such a case, and also to make the same retrospective and applicable to the present slump period?

If my hon. Friend will give my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the name and address of the person to whom he refers, he will have the case looked into. On the general question I would refer him to paragraph 1 of Rule 8 of the Rules applicable to Cases I and II of the Income Tax Act, 1918, which embodies provisions for any necessary adjustment of assessments at the end of each of the first three years in the case of new concerns.

Ex-Service Men

Government Departments

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether considerably over 5,000 ex-service men temporarily employed in Government offices have been removed from the pay roll since 1st June, many of them being disabled; whether further discharge notices to ex-service men in Government offices are in contemplation; whether many conscientious objectors have been reinstated; if so, what number; whether about 12,000 women are employed by the Pensions Ministry alone; what was the aggregate charge for overtime in Government offices for the three months ending 30th September last; and whether approximately 500,000 ex-service men are now registered as unemployed?

I have been asked to reply. With regard to the first, second and third parts of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to my answer of October 20th; with regard to the fourth part, I would refer him to the answer given on 24th October by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions to the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter). The aggregate expenditure on overtime in Government offices, excluding the Post Office, for which details are not available, amounted in the three months ending 30th September to £198,120, about 2 per cent. of the corresponding salary bill. Of this sum£162,631 was in respect of the Ministry of Labour and the Departments of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise, the balance of £35,489 being distributed amongst approximately 80 Departments.In the Ministry of Labour the expenditure on overtime was due in part to a lack of accommodation, in part to the fact that certain duties, particularly those connected with financial operations, had to be performed by experienced officers; and in part to the necessity for concentrating on certain days of the week the work connected with the computation and payment of unemployment benefit. In the Department of Inland Revenue a lack of accommodation and the impossibility of delegating many of the more responsible duties connected with the work of the tax inspectorate to untrained staff were the main causes of this expenditure, whilst in the Department of Customs and Excise a large proportion of the sum in question was in the nature of special duty pay (i.e. on Sundays, etc.) to members of the permanent outdoor staff. The remainder was due to the Department having been entrusted during this period with certain temporary duties in regard to which it was not possible in all cases to decide at once whether it would prove practicable to engage additional staff.In the case of no other Department, so far as can be ascertained, could the expenditure on overtime have been reduced by the employment of additional temporary staff. The number of ex-service men on the live registers of the Employment Exchanges in Great Britain and Ireland on the 30th September last was 397,000, of whom but a very small proportion were clerks.

Land Settlement, Scotland

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether the Government have decided that applications for smallholdings in Scotland from ex-service men after 1st March, 1921, are not to be considered; whether he can give the reasons which led to the decision; whether many ex-service men could not apply earlier because they had not sufficient capital, and many others who were suffering from wounds could not safely make application before the date named, because of the uncertainty as to whether they would ever sufficiently recover so as to be able to work smallholdings; and whether, because of the great hardship to ex-service men So placed, the Government will reconsider their decision?

The decision to which my hon. Friend refers was to the effect that the statutory preference to ex-service men could only be given to persons who applied on or before the date mentioned. In view of the facts that the available funds were limited and that the demand for holdings was large it was necessary that the number of persons entitled to the preference should be definitely ascertained as at a given date. It is, of course, still open to persons with ex-service qualifications to apply for holdings, but the preference will not operate in such cases. I am afraid that I cannot undertake that the question shall be reopened.

Royal Navy

Loss Of Hms "Bittern"

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether, in the action by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty against the owners of the s.s. "Kenilworth," claiming for the loss of H.M.S. "Bittern," the owners of the "Kenilworth" were found liable; that the primary cause of the collision was the disobedience of the master of the "Kenilworth" to the orders of the Admiralty; and that such disobedience was a breach of the Defence of the Realm Regulations; whether, in view of those findings, the Admiralty considered the propriety of prosecuting the master of the "Kenilworth" under the Defence of the Realm Regulations; and, if so, what con siderations influenced the decision not to prosecute?

In the action quoted, judgment was given for the Admiralty against the owners of the s.s. "Kenilworth" in the Admiralty Division and upheld in the Court of Appeal. The judgments of the Courts animadvert upon the conduct of the master in disobeying his route orders, as directly contributory to the accident. The Admiralty at an early stage considered the propriety of taking action against the master of the "Kenilworth" either by direct proceedings or by statutory inquiry, but finally decided to await the result of the civil action and to reconsider this question in the event of its failure. The result was as stated above and no action was accordingly instituted against the master.

Boots And Clogs (Contractors)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the names and addresses of the firms contracting for the supply of boots and clogs for his Department at the present time?

No orders have been placed for boots or clogs since March last. The names and addresses of the contractors accepted were published as usual in the Board of Trade Labour Gazette of April last, to which I would refer the hon. Member.

British Army (Protecting Certificates)

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will authorise the issue of protecting certificates to British subjects of alien parentage in the same manner as since November, 1920, has been followed in the case of aliens?

I am not prepared to differentiate between British subjects of alien parentage and other British subjects. Any British subject is, in the matter of service in the British Army, on quite a different footing from an alien. As my right hon. Friend, the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, indicated in reply to a question on 15th December last, the military authorities are empowered to issue protecting certificates in all cases in which their merits deserve that concession, and I am not prepared to go further.

Surplus Army Boots (Disposal)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his Department has disposed of any soiled or unsoiled Army boots during the last 12 months; if so, the amount, and how they were disposed of, whether by private treaty or public sale; and whether any Government Department has disposed of any stocks of hoots purchased primarily for the Army?

I have been asked to answer this question. The Disposal Board has sold during the past 12 months by public auction, public tender, or private treaty, approximately 1,750,000 pairs of footwear. Nearly 1,500,000 pairs were Army boots of varying descriptions and varying degrees of serviceability, and the rest consisted of clogs, shoes, waders, wood-soled trench boots, slippers, and other miscellaneous items

Iron And Steel Industry (Unemployment)

asked the Minister of Labour what percentage of the iron and steel workers of the Rotherham and Sheffield district were unemployed in September and October; whether the pro- portion is still rising; and what special measures are proposed for their relief and for the revival of the industry?

The proportion of iron and steel workers registered as unemployed in this district, which was 30·6 per cent. on 9th September, fell to 22·9 per cent. on 7th October and then rose to 27·7 per cent. on 28th October. All unemployed workers in these trades are eligible, subject to the usual conditions, for a new period of unemployment benefit which began last week, and under the Unemployed Workers' Dependants Bill grants will be added for the assistance of those who have a wife or children dependent upon them. Substantial grants towards the provision of work have been made out of public funds, both to Sheffield and to Rotherham, and any application for further grants, subject to the published conditions, would be immediately and sympathetically considered. As regards measures for the revival of industry, I cannot add anything to the announcement already made and fully discussed in this House.

Post Office

Sub-Post Offices

asked the Postmaster-General if postmasters in rural areas are often required to receive mails at 5.30 a.m. and to attend for regular hours at the post office until 7.30 p.m. and occasionally later; and will he take steps to have these long hours reduced?

It is not practicable to avoid such attendances at many rural sub-post offices unless public facilities are to be seriously curtailed. But the hours during which such offices are open to the public do not, as a rule, exceed 10, and are in many cases substantially less; and sub-postmasters are at liberty to provide for the duty by deputy if they so desire.

Afternoon Mail, Liverpool

asked the Postmaster-General whether there is a new order of the Post Office whereby the mail for certain delivery to the West of England from Liverpool must be at the head post office; Liverpool, by 4 o'clock in the afternoon or, with a late fee, by 4.30; whether the supplementary night mail, in respect whereof the first delivery next day is not reliable, must beat the Liverpool head post office by 5.45 or, with a late fee, at 6.15; whether the effect of this Regulation is that it is impossible for Liverpool merchants and brokers to transmit their market intelligence to their cerrespondents in the West of England so as to include the closing market quotations and the cabled foreign intelligence; and whether he is prepared to make some alteration in order to meet these complaints, and more especially those from the Liverpool Corn Trade Association?

There has been some misunderstanding. Before the 3rd of October the time of posting at Liverpool for letters sent via Bristol for certain places beyond, to secure the first morning delivery, was 4 p.m. On the 3rd of October the railway company instituted a train between Crewe and Bristol, which appeared to justify a later despatch from Liverpool. The time of posting was therefore extended from 4 p.m. (or 4.30 with late fee) to 5.45 p.m. (or 6.15 with late fee). It was subsequently found that the new train frequently did not keep time, and that the connection with the first morning delivery could not be relied upon. The postmaster of Liverpool thereupon issued a notice to this effect in order that merchants and others might, be aware of the risk involved in the use of the supplementary despatch. The attention of the railway company has been directed to the inconvenience caused by the late running of the train.

Safeguarding Of Industries Act

asked the President of the Board of Trade what was the exchange value of the mark when the Safeguarding of industries Act became operative; what is its exchange value to-day; and whether a flat rate of 33⅓ per cent. has been found effective in checking the import of cheap goods from Germany?

Part 1 of the Safeguarding of Industries Act became operative on the 1st October, when the rate of exchange in London on Berlin was about 450 marks to the £. Part II came into operation on the 19th August, when the rate was about 307 marks to the £. The rate quoted on the 4th November was about 900 marks to the£ As there were considerable variations in the rates quoted on the dates mentioned, more precise figures cannot be given. As Part I of the Act became operative only on the 1st October, and no Order has yet been made under Part II, it is too early to express any opinion on the last part of the question.

Poor Law Relief

asked the Minister of Health within what limits the grants of outdoor relief granted by guardians may be classified in municipalities, and in urban and rural districts, respectively; and to what extent his Department exercises any control by advice or otherwise, with a view to avoiding excessive variations in adjoining districts?

I am afraid that it would not be practicable to classify scales of relief by reference to the urban or rural character of the unions, especially as many boards of guardians do not work upon scales of relief at all. In the absence of quite exceptional circumstances excessive variations between adjoining districts are obviously undesirable, and it is the policy of my Department to take such action as is open to it with a view to avoiding such variations.

Allotments, South Wigston (Rents)

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps, if any, have been taken by his Department in reference to large increases of rents of allotments at Springfield, South Wigston, Leicestershire; and whether land has been provided by the council to meet the demand for allotments?

I have been asked to reply. I understand that at a meeting of the Wigston Allotment Committee, held on 10th February, one of the Ministry's Commissioners was informed of the proposed increase in rents, and undertook to see the owner's agent with a view to obtaining a reduction of the proposed rents. It appears, however, that before these steps had time to be effective, the members of the Springfield Allotment Society resolved to accept the owner's terms. Further efforts were made by the Commissioner, but the owner declined to reduce the rent. In regard to the provision of additional land for allotments, I am informed that the council has decided to make a compulsory hiring order in respect of a field of about eight acres in Oadby Road, Wigston Magna.

School Teachers' Salaries

asked the President of the Board of Education whether it has been the general practice of local education authorities, who adopted the provisional minimum scale of salaries for elementary school teachers recommended by the Burnham Standing Joint Committee, to pay normal annual increments in addition to instalments of carry-over to teachers whose correct position is at the maximum of that scale; and whether the Board are prepared to recognise for grant expenditure incurred for that purpose?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, and the Board are prepared to recognise the expenditure of the authorities on such payments for the purpose of grant, provided that no teacher thereby receives a greater salary than he would receive if the standard scale allocated to the area were brought into operations, as from 1st April, 1921, by three equal annual instalments.