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Commons Chamber

Volume 148: debated on Wednesday 9 November 1921

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 9th November, 1921.

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

Internal Debt

Return ordered, showing, approximately, the composition of the Internal Debt, other than Treasury Bills and Ways and Means advances, as at the 30th day of September, 1921.—[ Mr. Hannon.]

Government Investments In Registered Companies

Return ordered, showing the amount of public money invested in registered companies by His Majesty's Government; the names of the companies and the amounts invested in each company; and the dates when the different investments were made.—[ Mr. Allen Parkinson.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Greece And Turkey

2.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has regarding the military situation in Asia Minor of the Turkish Nationalist forces and the Greek armies; whether His Majesty's Government has offered mediation between the Greek and Turkish Governments; and, if so, with what result?

The two armies are facing one another on a line somewhat to the east of Eskishehir and Afium Kara Hissar. There have been no reports of operations since the middle of October. As the House has on several occasions been informed, His Majesty's Government are anxiously awaiting an opportunity of successful mediation in conjunction with their Allies, and I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that no favourable opportunity will be overlooked or neglected.

Would the hon. Gentleman say whether this point where the armies face one another is outside the territories mentioned in the Treaty of Sevres?

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the statement made by the Premier of Greece in which he expressed the intention of remaining outside that area in order to make terms with the Turks? If that be so, is it in accordance with the Treaty?

Ex-Service Men

Admiralty

8.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what steps are being taken to replace the temporary writing assistants by ex-service men; and if it is the intention of the Lords of the Admiralty to retain women who qualified as writing assistants, to the detriment of ex-service men?

The number of posts which will be filled by writing assistants in the future complements of the Admiralty will be greater than the number of women who have passed or qualified as writing assistants, and who are at present serving. They are not, therefore, being retained to the detriment of ex-service men, and it is not proposed to replace any of them.

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider first offering these posts to the ex-service men who are under notice of dismissal before giving them to women?

The question of men under notice of dismissal is being considered, and we are dealing with it in the most sympathetic spirit; but these posts are not really work for men at all.

May I press my hon. and gallant Friend at least to give these ex-service men an opportunity of taking these posts?

The record of the Admiralty with regard to service men is a very good one indeed. These posts provide very lowly-paid work and do not provide work for men.

Are the Admiralty carrying out in the spirit as well as in the letter the Lytton Report?

I can give the House some figures. The temporary staff at the Admiralty has been reduced from 5,696 to 1,828. The ex-service men during that period have been increased from 732 on 1st July, 1919, to 1,156 on 1st November, 1021. There are only 300 temporary non-service men now employed at the Admiralty, and this number is now in process of considerable reduction. The remainder consists of women employed in non-substitutable posts, such as shorthand typists, and that sort of thing. In the Accountant-General's Department, the largest Department at the Admiralty, about 90 per cent. are ex-service men.

Training

17.

asked the Minister of Labour whether men of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Royal Irish Constabulary, and auxiliaries disabled in action or on active service in Ireland are entitled to enter Government training establishments?

I regret that only ex-service men disabled during the late European War are eligible for industrial training under the Ministry of Labour.

If I understand the right hon. Gentleman aright, does his answer, in effect, debar a man injured on active service during operations in Ireland against the rebel forces? I know a case where a man has been refused training. Cannot such men get anything?

I have said that under the regulations, which I have to carry out, industrial training under the Ministry of Labour is only for men disabled during the late European War.

18.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the average number of applications from ex-service men received by the Appointments Department for training and for appointments; how many men altogether have completed training and how many are still being trained; and can he say what percentage of those who have completed their training has been placed?

The average number of applications for appointments from ex-officers and men of similar educational attainments received by the Appointments Department during 1921 was 680 per week—the total for the year being 29,235. For training the average weekly number was 49—the total of the year being 2,093. 11,585 men have completed their training and 6,229 are still being trained. 83 per cent. of those who have completed training have been placed in employment. All these figures are quite apart from training under the Industrial Training Scheme for Disabled Men.

Appointments And Civil Liabilties Departments

19.

asked the Minister of Labour if the Appointments Department and the Military Service Civil Liabilities Department are to continue to look after ex-service men; and what is his policy as regards these Departments in the future?

Of course, so long as our obligation to the ex-service men remains unrequited, we shall require machinery in order that it may be accomplished. But, again, of course, the expenditure upon official machinery must depend upon the volume of work to be accomplished; and it is certainly not prejudicial to the interests of the ex-service man to economise as closely as possible, on purely official administrative expenditure. I cannot say at the present time when it may be possible, in view of the interests involved, to dispense altogether with the machinery of the Appointments Branch or of the Civil Liabilities Department.

May we take it that these two Departments will continue, as long as there is any need for them, on behalf of ex-service men?

Will the machinery of these Departments be extended to men disabled in Ireland?

Re-Settlement

20.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the number of applications received by the Military Service Civil Liabilities Department from ex-service men under the re-settlement scheme up to date; in how many cases have grants been made; and how many cases are at present under consideration?

The number of applications received by the Civil Liabilities Department from ex-service men under the re-settlement scheme up to the 31st October, 1921, is 282,239. Grants have been made since the Armistice in 110,024 cases, amounting to 3,250,000 of money; there are at present 5,115 cases under consideration.

Diamond Cutting

21.

asked the Minister of Labour if he can now make a statement of what he has done and intends to do in giving men unavoidably displaced from the diamond-cutting factories at Brighton and elsewhere some alternative training?

As I have already informed my right hon. Friend, the men may be given alternative training in another trade provided they remain eligible. Each man who requires such training has already been invited to apply to the Divisional Director of his home area. Every endeavour will be made to place the men in fresh training with the least possible delay.

I cannot say without inquiry. I shall inquire and let the right hon. Gentleman know.

Ministry Of Labour

24.

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the great number of ex-service men now unemployed, he will give all those under notice and/or on the pool at the joint substitution board an opportunity of being employed on work of a casual nature in Employment Exchanges or in place of the writing assistants in his Ministry who have no responsibilities in life, until such time as this House has had an opportunity of deciding as to the best means of dealing with the problem of ex-service men in the Civil Service?

As regards the additional work which is now falling to Employment Exchanges, ex-service men only are being appointed for the work on the men's side of the Exchanges. The women staff, graded as writing assistants, who are employed in the Ministry of Labour are permanent civil servants, and, as such, are not substitutable by temporary ex-service men. My hon. and gallant Friend may be assured that the staff of the Ministry of Labour has been again and again reviewed, in order that ex-service men may be substituted for women, married or single, liable to substitution under the terms of the Lytton Reports and not dependent on their earnings for a livelihood.

Is it not a fact that in spite of the unsatisfactory conditions associated with the work of writing assistants, numbers of ex-service men would prefer to take these positions rather than remain out of employment, and will the right hon. Gentleman consult the ex-service men's associations on this matter?

Already a review has been made of the work which is being done by women at Kew, and a great many of the posts are paid at a rate which is considerably less than the lowest amount paid to men clerks—

Owing to the different character of the work. I do not know whether I could offer ex-service men wages at such a low rate, but I should like to discuss the matter with my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. Raper). I gave an undertaking, which I carried out, that I would review this matter from top to bottom once more, as I had done many times previously. There are posts which men might possibly take; these posts, however, are paid at such a low rate that I doubt very much whether men would take them.

Outdoor Relief

34.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the guardians of the Brentford Union have fixed a maximum scale of outdoor relief of 9s. per week for a man, a similar amount for his wife, and 5s. per week for each child under 16 years of age, with a maximum gross grant of 50s. a week; whether, in many cases, the recipients of outdoor relief are unemployed ex-service men residing in the Ealing and Hanwell districts; if the local branch of the British Legion Unity Relief Fund recently received a small grant from Lord Haig's Fund in order to help acute cases of distress among families of ex-service men; if the head office of the British Legion Unity Relief Fund strongly advise local committees that the fund should apply only to exceptional cases of distress of ex-service men and their families; if a grant of 3s. each was made for two weeks to a number of unemployed ex-service men and their wives, each case being carefully investigated by the local committee; whether, in the following week, the guardians of the Brentford Union reduced the amount of outdoor relief to a number of unemployed ex-service men on account of the small grant received from Lord Haig's Fund; if on 2nd November, after receiving a deputation from the Ealing and Hanwell unemployed ex-service men, the guardians of the Brent-ford Union, by the chairman's casting vote, decided that in future cases the full amount of grants received from the British Legion Unity Relief Fund and the United Services Fund should be deducted from any outdoor relief paid to unemployed ex-service men; and, since Lord Haig's Fund was voluntarily raised to deal specially with urgent cases of distress amongst ex-service men, will he call the attention of the Brentford Union to the matter and ask that the small grant received from Lord Haig's Fund to ex-service men shall not be taken as a cause for the reduction in the scale of outdoor relief and that the same principle be applied to any grant made to cases of acute distress among unemployed ex-service men from the United Services Fund, which is used solely for exceptional cases of hardship amongst ex-service men and their families and cannot in any way be taken as applying to ordinary outdoor relief cases as dealt with by the guardians?

In view of the law on the subject, I have no authority to give any such directions as are suggested, but I will see whether it is possible for any arrangement to be made for meeting the difficulty referred to.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the case of private contributions which are raised in the locality for the relief of the unemployed, and request the guardians not to take such subscriptions into account in granting relief?

I have no power to instruct the guardians, but I dill consider the question.

In view of the widespread complaints that have been made about these grants being taken into consideration, and having in mind that they are only given in selected cases of destitute ex-service men with large families, will the right hon. Gentleman specifically issue instructions that in these exceptional cases the grants be not taken into account?

I have already pointed out that I have no power to give instructions. The boards of guardians are by law compelled to take into consideration all sources of income and to exercise their discretion. I have no power to give instructions to the boards of guardians in the direction indicated. I will see, however, whether some arrangement can be made.

Huts, Hanwell

37.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will state the purpose to which the Central London District Schools intend to devote the huts in Framfield Road, Hanwell; whether he will make further representations to secure this accommodation for the housing of ex-service men, some of whom are now living in single rooms with families of six and seven; and can he say when these huts were last utilised?

The Central London District Schools propose to use these huts for hospital and other purposes in connection with their adjoining schools. In these circumstances the huts are not available for housing purposes, but I may add that I have recently authorised the Hanwell Urban District Council to obtain tenders for an additional 36 permanent houses. In reply to the third part of the question, the War Office evacuated the huts in November, 1920, but owing to negotiations over the termination of a lease the Central London District Schools only resumed possession at Michaelmas last.

Government Departments (Dismissal Notices)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the large number of non-service temporary staff, he will cancel the notices of dismissals to ex-service men in accordance with pledges given and in accordance with the recommendations of the Lytton Committee until such time as the spirit of the Report is carried out by His Majesty's Government?

The recommendations of Lord Lytton's Committee in regard to the employment of ex-service men in Government Departments are being carried out in letter and spirit. For the reasons for the retention of the non-service temporary staff which continues to be employed, I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply on the 20th October to questions on this subject.

If I can prove to the hon. Gentleman a number of cases where neither the letter nor the spirit of the Lytton Committee's recommendations are being carried out, will he look into them?

Mental Treatment Institutions

45 & 49.

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he is aware that treatment allowances upon which some 6,000 ex-service men depend are paid strictly upon the condition that these men consent to being confined in lunatic asylums, whereas the allowance is refused in respect of patients being treated, and anxious to be treated, in certain private institutions approved by the Board of Control, but to which the stigma associated with lunatic asylums is not attached; and why the allowance is not paid in the latter class of cases;

(2) if he is aware that, according to official figures, on the let January, 1919, 2,507 ex-soldiers were confined in lunatic asylums; that the figure had risen to 4,673 on the 1st January, 1921, and to 6,435 on the 27th October, 1921; if he is aware that bitter laments are continually emerging from the men so confined; and if, in view of the increase in the number of men so confined, he will consider the advisability of setting up a Commission comprised of Members of the Houses of Parliament to hear complaints and investigate any possible amelioration of the conditions governing the detention of these men?

I have been asked to reply. The Lunacy Law requires that every person who is certified as insane shall be sent to an institution approved by the Board of Control; save that under certain conditions a single patient may be placed in a private house not specifically licensed for the reception of lunatics. Treatment allowances are granted, and the necessary cost of treatment defrayed by my Department in respect of all certified patients whose insanity is due to war service, and who are receiving treatment in institutions, whether public or private, which have been approved by the Board of Control and by the Ministry.

I cannot, of course, speak for the ex-service men in asylums, the origin of whose unfortunate condition does not entitle them to the benefits of the Royal Warrant, but as regards certified "service" patients, it is certainly not accurate to suggest that any large number of complaints are received as to the conditions of their treatment. On the contrary, the number of complaints received is few, and, on investigation, they have invariably proved to have been made on unsubstantial grounds, or to have been of minor importance. When a complaint is made it is the practice for the institution to be inspected and the whole circumstances investigated by officers of my Department either alone or jointly with Commissioners of the Board of Control.

Perhaps I may inform my hon. and gallant Friend, and the House generally, that under an arrangement with the Board of Control, asylums are now visited by medical inspectors of my Department and the service patients personally interviewed. By these means I am kept in close touch with the conditions of asylums, and I do not consider that there is any ground for adopting my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion to set up a Commission of the House. I may add that I do not accept my hon. and gallant Friend's statement of the numbers of ex-soldiers in asylums in January, 1919, and January, 1920, as accurate. At the latter date the number of certified service patients was approximately 6,000.

Is there any single institution approved by the Board of Control other than lunatic asylums to which his Department can send ex-service men; and if I can produce tangible evidence to show that lunatic asylums, or some, at any rate, are highly unsuitable for ex-service men, and I succeed in making out a strong primâ facie case, will he then consent to advise the setting up of a Commission?

No, I think not. I should be glad if any individual Member of this House would visit any institutions under my control. I have taken the greatest interest myself in this particular branch, and, so far, I must honestly confess to the House that the complaints I have received are always on unsubstantial grounds, and I would beg the House to remember the unfortunate condition of the mind of the man who makes the complaint. Very often he thinks he has a grievance when, in reality, he has none.

Is it not a fact that to place large numbers of patients in these private institutions would cause a large drain on the financial resources of the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

Yes, that is true. The State, in my judgment, is behaving very generously, and quite rightly, but I have consistently refused to mix a patient who has been certified with one who has not.

Why is the allowance not paid to ex-service men other than those in lunatic asylums? Why is any distinction made?

That is not so. If a service patient—by that I mean a patient whose mental illness is due to service—has been sent, with the consent of the Board of Control, to a private institution, then the Ministry of Pensions pays an allowance.

May I ask whether the private institutions approved by the Board of Control are not also periodically inspected by the Department?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that his own Department has definitely refused to recognise certain private institutions approved by the Board of Control?

I shall always be glad to hear of any particular case. I know the case that my hon. and gallant Friend has got in mind. If I may say so, he is frankly obsessed by this particular case. The house in question is a small building containing about 16 people, with very little garden and no workshops of any sort or kind. Here I am asked to send patients of mine to mix with certified lunatics. I refuse to do so.

Does my right hon. Friend know that he has never been asked to do anything of the kind?

Payments (Armistice Day)

(by Private Notice)asked the Minister of Labour if he can state the arrangements which have been made to advance or defer the usual payments of unemployed pay to ex-service men on the occasion of the Armistice celebrations on Friday next, the 11th instant, in view of the fact that a large number of the men desire to be present at gatherings throughout the country?

My hon. Friend will, I am sure, appreciate that in order to be able to pay benefit to many thousands of men and women I have had to make arrangements at each Exchange whereby the claimants are asked to attend in an order notified to them beforehand. It is only in this way that I can avoid the presence of long queues. I am, however, going into the point raised by my hon. Friend, and am in communication with the Exchanges locally. Of course I view his proposal with every sympathy.

Royal Navy

Medal Clasps

9.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the issue of clasps to war medals for the Fleet has yet commenced; if not, when a start will be made; whether applications will have to be made for the issue of clasps; and how are officers and men to know to what clasps they are entitled?

The issue of clasps has not yet commenced, and no date can yet be given when the issue will take place. As soon as a decision is reached, due notice will be given of the procedure to be adopted.

New Capital Ships

11.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether his attention was called to the statement made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand and appearing in the Press of this country on 14th October, to the effect that the four new capital ships, the cost of which all parts of the Empire were contributing, would be British Empire ships; and can he say what proportions of the cost of these four new capital ships is being paid by the different parts of the Empire?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. In his statement made on 18th August, 1921, on the subject of the Imperial Conference, the Prime Minister explained that the Dominions were consulting their respective Parliaments as regards the various proposals which they had under consideration for naval cooperation. I am unable at present to add anything to that statement in connection with the four new capital ships.

Pre-War Disability Pensions

12.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is now in a position to make any statement concerning the scales of the pre-War disability pensioners?

The details of these new scales have now been settled and they will be promulgated almost immediately.

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman give me the exact date when the statement will be issued, because he will remember that I have asked this question over and over again for the last 12 months?

I said "almost immediately." I will let my hon. Friend have a copy as soon as I can.

Portsmouth Dockyard (W J Whitaker)

13.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that W. J. Whitaker joined the Royal Dockyard, Portsmouth, as skilled labourer in 1905, and remained on till early in 1917; that he joined the Royal Marines and fought in France, was invalided and discharged the service, rejoining the dockyard at once; that this man has now been discharged from the dockyard and his bonus refused him; and, if this refusal is due to his having joined the forces, will he investigate the case and remedy the apparent unfairness of the rule?

Inquiries have been made and the following are the facts of the case: Whitaker entered the dockyard in March, 1907, and was discharged in February, 1917, for being absent without leave. In April, 1917, Whitaker joined the Royal Marine Labour Corps and served until the following September; he was re-entered in the dockyard in December, 1917, and was recently discharged owing to reduction of hands. Under the Regulations Whitaker's service, prior to February, 1917, which was terminated by discharge on account of absence without leave, cannot be reckoned for gratuity, and his subsequent service is not sufficient to render him eligible for any such award.

Would not this man be in a worse position than if he had been a conscientious objector?

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that in other Government establishments representations were made in similar cases, and the prior service was granted in those cases?

I am dealing in the most sympathetic way possible with these cases, but it does not appear to me that this is a case of the kind indicated. Whitaker did not join up until two months after he left the dockyard. He then joined the Labour Corps and served in that only until September.

Unemployment

Employment Exchanges

15.

asked the Minister of Labour to state the number of Employment Exchanges which now exist in the county of London and in the Greater

Area.Number of Employment Exchanges (including Branch Offices).Number of Persons employed on 28th October, 1921.
County of London231,137
Greater London (including County of London).571,668

The actual cost of these offices for the first six months of the current financial year (April to September, 1921, inclusive) in respect of salaries, travelling and incidental expenses, is as follows:—

£
Exchanges in the County of London228,476
Exchanges in the Greater London area (including the County of London)329,489

These figures do not include any proportion of headquarter charges or of charges borne on the Votes of other Government Departments in respect of rent and maintenance of premises, printing and stationery, postal services, etc., nor has any deduction been made in respect of appropriations from the unemployment fund under the Unemployment Insurance Act in aid of expenditure.

The cost of the same Exchanges for the remaining six months of the present financial year depends upon the course of unemployment during the period; but so far as can be foreseen the expenditure during the second half of the year is likely to be about the same as in the first half.

The total number of unemployed persons registered during the year 1920 at Ex-changes in what is known as the London London area; what is the approximate cost of the same for this year; what is the total number of persons employed at these Exchanges; and can he state the number of unemployed persons dealt with at the same during last year?

As the answer is a long one, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The following is the answer:

The present number of Exchanges and the staff employed therein within (a) the County of London and (b) the Greater London area (including the County of London) is as follows:—

Division of the Employment and Insurance Department (a division which closely approximates in area to the combined area of the County of London and Greater London) was 1,075,264. This number included 17,260 casual workers and ignores second or subsequent applications by the same individual during the year. It will be realised that the first figure in no way indicates the volume of work represented, since a very substantial number of the 1,075,264 unemployed persons received unemployment benefit for lengthy periods during 1920 and regularly at Exchanges, in consequence, at least twice a week and in many cases daily.

16.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the great inconvenience caused to the unemployed by the closing of the sub-office at Tideswell; that Tideswell is the centre of a district in which there are many large factories and quarries; and that the nearest Exchange is at Bradwell, which is four miles away over very hilly country; and whether, under the exceptional circumstances, he can re-open the office at Tideswell, as unemployment is increasing, and in the, severe weather the roads are often impassable between Tideswell and Bradwell?

The arrangement previously in operation was that the branch manager at Bakewell attended twice or three times a week at a sub-office at Tideswell. This arrangement was discontinued on 17th September owing to the small number then claiming benefit at Tideswell; but on account of the increase in this number since that date it has been decided to restore the arrangement for the time being.

23.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the fact that there are 23 counties in Great Britain in which there are no Employment Exchanges at all, and considering that these 23 counties are getting on quite well without Employment Exchanges, and that there is no reason why all other counties should not get on equally well without such Exchanges, he will take steps to have all Employment Exchanges done away with with the least possible delay; and what will he the saving, in establishments, salaries, and cost of buildings that would be effected by this reduction?

I cannot follow my hon. and gallant Friend in the deduction which he draws from the fact that in 23 counties there are no separate Employment Exchanges, though there are, I may inform him, Branch Offices. I have for a long time past now been reviewing with the greatest possible care the whole question of these establishments; and, indeed, shall have closed by the end of the present calendar year 185 Branch Offices. But how in the industrial areas the needs of the working population are to be met, and particularly the administration of the Unemployment Insurance benefit, without the Exchange system, I confess I do not understand.

Are we to understand that this great work of the present Secretary of State for the Colonies is being cut down by the right hon. Gentleman, his colleague?

If there is any difference as between the administration of unemployment benefit and the finding of employment for the unemployed, is it not a question as to whether those Exchanges can find employment and should they not be done away with?

I am afraid I cannot argue this at any length, although I should be very glad to do so. I am bound to make provision in the great industrial areas for the needs of these poor people, and, as I have already said at the end of my answer, how this is to be done without the Exchange system and the Insurance Act I do not understand.

State Grants

32.

asked the Minister of Health if he proposes to publish at intervals, for the information of the taxpayers who will find the money, the exact use made, under legislation passed this Session, of the large sums voted for the relief of unemployment or the stimulation of trade?

I will consider how the suggestion of my hon. Friend can best be carried out.

Relief Works

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether any, and, if so, what safeguards are insisted on to prevent private landlords from reaping the benefit of relief works such as roads, reclamation and drainage, parks and playgrounds, tramways, and railroads?

I have been asked to answer this question. Relief works are carried out by local authorities under their ordinary powers, and in the absence of express statutory authority, no provisions in regard to betterment can be enforced, but as the hon. and gallant Member is no doubt aware, there are special powers under which, in the case of roads, land may be acquired, where advantageous to the community, in excess of that needed for the actual site of the road. In some cases owners have not only given the land required for a road, but have also contributed to its cost. Land reclamation and drainage are matters within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Agriculture. As already stated, it is proposed to recover the greater part of the cost from the owners of the land affected.

Can the Lord St. Davids' Committee not give preference to these schemes that the right hon. Gentleman has outlined, and where the improvement in value will go to the local authority which has executed the work, rather to those where land has not been given by the landlord?

I think most of the cases that my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind will not come under the purview of the Lord St. Davids' Committee; so far as they do I have very little doubt that the case indicated will be borne in mind, and that public money will preferably be spent on schemes that mature for the benefit of the community rather than the ordinary individual.

Seeing the present plight of landlords, are not questions of this sort adding insult to injury?

Forth And Clyde Ship Canal

52.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the proposal for a Forth and Clyde ship canal; whether he is aware that if the Government will sanction the scheme it will not involve the Treasury in any financial outlay at present, as there are firms who are prepared to finance the scheme until the completion of the work; and whether, in view of the necessity for opening up every possible avenue of employment and of the fact that the canal would be a profitable asset to the nation, he will consider the possibility of sanctioning the commencement of the scheme without delay?

I have been asked to reply to this question. As stated in my reply to the hon. Member for the Dunfermline Burghs on the 27th October, the proposal mentioned has been considered with reference to the question of unmployment, but the scheme is not one which can be undertaken by the Government at the present time. I am not aware that any firms are prepared to finance the scheme during construction, but even if such were the case, these firms would require to be fully recouped and the financial position of the Government would be practically the same as if it had borrowed the necessary money in ordinary course. With regard to the suggestion that such a canal would be profitable, I would refer my hon. Friend to my previous reply.

Forest Of Dean

68.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if his attention has been called to the request of the Gloucestershire County Council and to a similar request from the East Dean Rural District Council that his Department should receive a deputation from these bodies to explain the local circumstances affecting the proposals to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for unemployment relief work; and whether, having regard to the unusual conditions connected with the Forest of Dean, he will arrange to receive such a deputation?

The answer to both parts of the question is in the affirmative, and I will communicate with the hon. Member as to the date on which I can receive the deputation.

Milk Distributive Trade Board (Scotland)

26.

asked the Minister of Labour whether at a meeting in July last the Milk Distributive Trade Board (Scotland), representative of employers, workers, and appointed members, unanimously agreed to certain wage rates; whether on 5th October the Ministry of Labour refused to confirm the raters on the ground that, if passed, they would reduce the number of persons employed and increase the cost of milk to the consumer; and whether, having regard to the fact that these rates were fixed by people having intimate knowledge of the trade and anxious to promote its prosperity, he can state the reason for this decision?

The facts are as stated in the first two parts of the question; with regard to the third part, I received representations that the rates, if confirmed, would cause unemployment and increase the price of milk, and I felt that in the faoe of these representations I should not be justified in confirming the rates until I had had the considered views of the Board on these two points.

Is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman has had a considered reply from the Board, which fully investigated this matter and which was thoroughly representative of both sides of the trade? What is to become of the system if such a decision is not given effect to?

As my hon. Friend knows, the whole system is considered by a Committee, and I shall be glad to get the services of Lord Cave as its Chairman, but while the serious matter of unemployment is before us it is necessary to put that back.

Housing

Type A Houses (Tenders)

29.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the figures showing that the tender prices for building houses of type A submitted to his predecessor for the month of March were on the average £128 less than the figures for the previous month, he has now considered the statement of the Director-General of Housing, as reported in the Press of 19th July, to the effect that until his predecessor, as Minister, left office, prices were soaring higher and higher almost weekly; and what action he proposes to take in connection with the issue of this statement by an officer of his Department?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The particular statement of the Director-General of Housing to which my right hon. Friend alludes proved to be incorrect in the light of fuller information afterwards at his disposal. I would, however, observe that the average price for class A houses in approved lump sum tenders submitted in December, 1920, was £823; in March, 1921, £693; in June, 1921, £687; and in September, 1921, £596. The total number of these houses in approved tenders up to March, 1921, was 36,166, and up to September, 1921, 37,942. The policy of limiting construction, accepted by my right hon. Friend before leaving office but subsequently so strongly criticised by him, certainly contributed to bring down prices, but it remains true that one main cause of inflation of prices was his action in approving contracts for a large number of this and other types of houses at very high prices far in advance of the facilities available at the time for construction. I think the statements of the Director-General have been broadly correct, though this particular statement was not so, and I do not pro- pose to take any further action in regard to a gentleman who is in an honorary capacity rendering service of great value to the State.

In view of the fact that this gentleman has been in the Department for a considerable time, and has had access to the figures, which show that the reduction in the time of his predecessor was much greater than at any time since, do I understand from that answer that the right hon. Gentleman seeks either to excuse or justify the issue by an officer of his Department of a grossly false statement?

If my right hon. Friend reads my answer he will see that I admit, that this statement was made by the Director-General—who has not been in the Department for a considerable time—and that the statement was incorrect. I have admitted that, and I do not see what further action my right hon. Friend asks me to take. I certainly do not propose to take any.

Why was this gentleman, who is, I presume, a civil servant, able to make this public statement? Is he not bound by the same rules as other civil servants?

I have pointed out that the Director-General is acting in an honorary capacity, and is not a civil servant. He is giving his very valuable services for nothing at all in order to assist me to secure economies in housing, and he has been extremely successful in doing so.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this gentleman could have ascertained the facts inside of five minutes by going to the Finance Branch; and am I to understand from the further remarks of the right hon. Gentleman that he, in any way, seeks to excuse this false statement?

I have already given an answer to that. I do not excuse the statement. I said the statement was incorrect. It is admittedly incorrect, and I do not see what more I can say in the matter. I am entirely justified in refusing to take any further action or to give up the great services which this gentleman is rendering to the State, even if he has made some incorrect statement about the right hon. Gentleman.

Ilford Scheme

30.

asked the Minister of Health when it is proposed to build on the foundations of the 410 houses already laid on the site of the City of London housing scheme at Ilford on amended plans?

No suggestions for the use of the site in question have yet been submitted to me, and I do not propose to take any action at present.

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the waste involved in this, that houses are needed and that men require work?

I do not consider there is any waste. The foundations of the houses are not taking any harm, and it will be possible to put up the houses at a cheaper rate in a short time.

Rural Areas

33.

asked the Minister of Health whether in rural areas where there are any number of unemployed in the building trades he will consider applications for housing schemes where houses are still needed?

So far as I can do so, having regard to the limitations of the Government programme and the needs of urban areas, I shall be prepared to consider applications for the erection of houses in rural areas where the need for them is established and the existence of serious unemployment in the skilled building trades is proved.

Voluntary Hospitals (Grants)

31.

asked the Minister of Health whether, under the terms of his Departmental Paper 1,402, giving the terms of appointment of the Voluntary Hospitals Commission, the announcement that after the first emergency grant further grants will be only made against fresh money raised by the hospitals, means that they cannot reckon, for the purposes of obtaining assistance, any ordinary revenue which they may receive in the current years; and whether, since this condition would prejudicially affect the poorer hospitals, which have practically tapped all sources of income and which now see, at all events for the present, no further new sources of revenue in sight, he will, in the interests of these poorer hospitals, investigate the operation of this condition?

The amount by which the income of a hospital for 1921 exceeds the income for 1920 will be reckoned as new money for the purpose of calculating the grant. In cases where the hospitals of a given area agree to combine for this purpose, their aggregate income can be made the basis for calculating new money. As regards the second part of the question, I understand that King Edward's Fund are proposing to confer with the London hospitals as to the best method of raising their share of the anticipated deficit on the year's working.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how much of this money will be distributed this year; is he aware that this grant was made to meet an immediate necessity; and can he say that the money will not be spread over, at any rate, two years?

I should want notice of the first part of the hon. Member's question. The money will be allocated as soon as practicable, and, I hope, very shortly.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is a fact that the Charing Cross Hospital is entirely self-supporting by good administration?

Scarlet Fever And Diphtheria (London)

30.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the increase of scarlet fever and diphtheria cases in London; whether his Department has taken any action in order to control the spread of these diseases; if so, will he state in what way; can he state the number of cases now under treatment in hospitals; and if there is a sufficient number of hospital places for all sufferers if the epidemics spread further?

The answer to tae first part of the question is in the affirmative. The answer to the second part is that I have appointed a special Office Committee with medical representation of the London County Council and the Metropolitan Asylums Board. There are at present 6,192 cases of scarlet fever and 2,996 cases of diphtheria under treatment in the hospitals of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. The Board's accommodation is limited to approximately 9,500 beds, but it is hoped that the arrangements which have now been made will meet the needs of the situation.

Ireland

Truce (Breaches)

38.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland how many breaches of the truce have occurred since the unsigned terms were agreed upon; how many persons have been kidnapped; and how many persons have been punished for breaches of the truce?

The truce breaches reported by Royal Irish Constabulary total 528, and by Dublin Metropolitan Police 67. This includes 206 kidnappings, in 144 of which the persons kidnapped are known to have been released, and release is believed although not definitely known in a number of other cases; 150 of the other breaches relate to drilling, etc., not involving interference with individuals. Breaches of the truce are dealt with when ascertained, and a number of men are at present in custody for trial for various offences in this connection.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question whether in these very serious offences of kidnapping anyone has been punished?

Sinn Fein Courts

39.

asked the Chief Secretary how many Sinn Fein so-called courts have been constituted and are now sitting in Southern Ireland; and what steps have been taken, or are proposed to be taken, to suppress these courts?

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies given by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to similar questions on this subject on the 27th ultimo. I have nothing to add to the statements then made.

Do members of the Irish Bar, King's Counsel, Serjeants-at-Law, and the junior Bar practise in these illegal courts?

No such cases have come to my knowledge. I should think it very improbable.

40.

asked the Chief Secretary whether ratepayers in Ireland are being summoned by solicitors before republican courts for non-payment of rates; and what steps the Government are taking in the matter?

The Irish Government have received a number of such complaints since the truce, and instructions have been issued to the police directing them to disperse, if necessary by force, any pretended courts which attempt to interfere in any way with the legal rights or personal liberty of any individual or to inflict or enforce penalties of any kind.

Has any action been taken against these people who call people to these illegal courts?

Definite instructions have been given to the police to disperse any such courts they know of.

That was not my question. The question was whether any action has been or will be taken against these people who illegally summon citizens to these courts?

How many courts have been dispersed in consequence of the orders given to the police?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Dublin Corporation regularly summon people to these courts?

42.

asked the Chief Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to a report in the Irish Press of 29th October of a description of a public sitting of the Waterford district republican court, in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Waterford, in which the so-called adjudicating magistrates were stated to be the Reverend Father Kelleher, presiding, the mayor, Alderman J. White, T.D., Councillor Kenny, and Mr. Luke Larkin; and whether he can state if any steps have been taken against those persons for their illegal action?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, and to the second part in the negative. Instructions have since been issued, however, directing the police to take such steps as may be necessary to prevent the holding of any similar court.

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said in reply to another question, that the law was being vindicated, can he say what steps are being taken against these men for illegal action in forming themselves into an illegal court? Are they not going to be summoned, at any rate, for their illegal action?

Patrick Kennelly (Release)

41.

asked the Chief Secretary if he is aware that Patrick Kennelly, of Snierla Bridge, Duagh, County Kerry, awaiting trial on the charge of being one of the ringleaders in two raids on Kilmorna, in the second of which, on the 14th April, 1921, Sir Arthur Vicars was murdered, was released from Tralee Hospital on the ground of ill-health on the 7th October last; and if he can state why this man has been so released in view of the grave charges against him?

This man was arrested on the 27th May, 1921, on suspicion of being implicated in the murder of Sir Arthur Vicars, but no evidence was obtainable against him, and the police, after careful investigation, finally reported that they were satisfied that he was not concerned in the murder. He was therefore released on the ground that there was no justification for his further detention.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that not only is evidence obtainable against this man, but people have sent in to the police that they are willing to give evidence and that this man was known to have been present in the first raid? Is he aware that I hold in my hand a letter from the late Sir Arthur Vicars saying that he recognised this particular man, and this man, who is a very dangerous man indeed, has been allowed to go out again, although the last time he escaped, within a fortnight Sir Arthur Vicars was murdered, and this man boasted of it all round the place. Why has the Government allowed this man once more to be at large?

My information is quite to the contrary. The police have made every effort to get evidence and can find no evidence to implicate this man in the murder of Sir Arthur Vicars.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have this morning seen the brother of the late Sir Arthur Vicars who was prepared to come forward with the evidence in question?

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is tendering information. He had better give it to the proper source.

Kidnapping

55.

asked the Prime Minister whether Mr. John M'Hugh, chairman of the Fermanagh county council, who was kidnapped by Sinn Feiners, has been released; and whether any representations have been made to the Sinn Fein delegates with reference to this breach of the truce?

Mr. M'Hugh was, captured by some persons at 9 p.m. on 31st October, and was released at 10 p.m. on 1st November. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative. Mr. M'Hugh has been interviewed by a police officer to whom he stated that he did not know any of the persons by whom he was kidnapped, or whether they were Sinn Feiners or not.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this man was kidnapped by Ulster volunteers? Will the hon. Gentleman send a copy of this question and answer to the "Morning Post"?

Russia

Famine Relief (French Credits)

46.

asked the Prime Minister what information he has with regard to the credits recently voted in the French Chamber for the relief of the starving population in the famine-stricken areas of Russia; and whether he proposes to invite Parliament to vote credits for this purpose?

We are informed that the French Chamber at the request of the Minister of Finance has voted a credit of 6,000,000 francs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the relief of Russia, to enable the French Government to carry out the proposals made by the International Commission at Brussels. As regards the last part of the question, I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that His Majesty's Government have already contributed stores of the present day value of £250,000 to the British Red Cross for the same purpose.

Does the hon. Gentleman not think, in view of the relative financial position of this country and France, we show up very badly in comparison?

Anti-Bolshevik Insurrection

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have any information as to Petlura's attack upon the Soviet Government; how far has the attack gone; and has His Majesty's Government any information from Bucharest as to the origination of this latest attack from Rumanian territory?

Information has reached His Majesty's Government that an anti-Bolshevik insurrection has broken out in Podolia, but I am not in a position to say how far Petlura may or may not be concerned, nor to what extent it has spread. No report has been received from Rumania, nor have I any information which would point to the movement having originated in that country.

Has the hon. Gentleman made any inquiries or will he do so from our Minister at Bucharest as to the origin of this movement from Rumanian territory? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Petlura is nothing but a bandit? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]

Really, it is an abuse of question time for hon. Members to put forward their own opinions in this way. It is also a waste of the time that should be devoted to the other questions on the Paper.

Enemy Debts (Payment)

48.

asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been drawn to the discrepancy between the Official Report of Mr. Egerton S. Grey, Controller and Administrator of the Clearing House, stating that the amount paid to British creditors on account of enemy debts is approximately £20,000,000, and the figure appearing in the "Board of Trade Journal" of the 2nd November, that the payments to British creditors on the same account amount to £11,000,000; to what class of claimant has the sum actually paid been disbursed; whether the major part of this sum has been distributed to various considerable trading companies; whether the small claimant, who after internment in enemy civilian camps was repatriated, and who is in many cases suffering seriously in health as a result of enemy action and is now perfectly destitute is being accorded any measure of priority in the settlement of material claims; and, if not, can assistance be granted from Government funds pending the settlement of the claims of these claimants?

The figures do not, as the hon. Member supposes, refer to the same account. The figure of £20,500,000 in the Controller's Report is the amount of debts and interest thereupon paid to British creditors up to the 31st March last, and these payments, as stated in the article in the "Board of Trade Journal" to which the hon. Member refers, have now reached £29,000,000. The sum of £11,000,000 represents payments made to British claimants in respect of the proceeds of liquidation of their property in German territory under exceptional war measures. Debt payments have been made to 39,253 creditors and proceeds of liquidation paid to 630 claimants. As regards claims of the nature referred to in the last part of the question, which fall within the purview of the Royal Commission on Compensation for Suffering and Damage by Enemy Action, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Bowerman) on the 25th October.

Public Works Contracts (Crown Colonies)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will arrange in future, in connection with all public works to be undertaken in the Crown Colonies and Protectorates with money raised by loan or voted for those purposes, whether guaranteed or not by the Imperial Government, that competitive tenders will be asked for; that contracts will be let on the conditions laid down in the tender, and that in the event of a contractor failing to quote on the conditions laid down negotiations will only be entered into with him on the understanding that retendering will be permitted by all those who originally competed, so that they may have an opportunity of revising their prices, possibly in a downward direction, and have an equal chance of securing the work on like terms; and that, in connection with the plant and material used in such undertaking, wherever it is possible it will be specified that the plant and materials used shall be of British design and manufacture with the view, as far as possible, of employing British labour and enterprise, thus assisting British trade and unemployment in this country?

It would not be possible to lay down any such general rule as is suggested in the first part of the question, since the decision whether any particular work shall be executed departmentally or by a con- tractor must depend on the circumstances of each case. When contracts for such works are let by the Crown Agents for the Colonies, their existing practice is in accord with the second part of the question and I have no doubt it will continue to be so. It is always stipulated that plant and materials shall be in accordance with the British standard specification, and for the reasons referred to in the last part of my hon. Friend's question, save in exceptional circumstances, tenders are not invited from firms outside the British Empire.

Does that apply to mandated territories also, and is it applicable to mandated territories of other countries as well as England?

I think not, but I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to give me notice of that, because, as he knows, it is a technical point.

Palestine

Jerusalem (Arab-Jewish Riots)

54.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the recent Arab-Jewish riots in Jerusalem; whether he is aware that full Reports of the previous riots have been kept from the House of Commons, and of the very serious situation in Palestine owing to the interpretation of the Balfour declaration by the Colonial Office; and whether he will give a day for discussion, both of the Mandate and the military position, in the House?

My attention has been called to the recent riots in Jerusalem. I am glad to say that owing to the prompt and effective action of the local authorities, the riot obtained only trifling dimensions. I regret that I am unable to understand the second part of my hon. Friend's question. It is true that for reasons which have been explained to the House on previous occasions, the Report of the Commission which was appointed to inquire into the riots at Jerusalem during Easter, 1920, has never been published, but full documents dealing with the disturbances in the early days of May, 1921, have been laid before the House within the last, few days. I regret that I cannot see my way to give a day for this discussion.

In view of the very wide interpretation given to the letter of the Lord President of the Council, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it desirable that it should be edited like a classic with notes and explanations?

Administration

58.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the present unsatisfactory position of affairs in Palestine, the Government will consider the question of modifying the present system of administration with the object of bringing it more into sympathy with the views of the majority of the inhabitants and, consequently, reducing the heavy cost of the present system of administration, which is now borne by the British taxpayer?

I am desired by my right hon. Friend to say that he has nothing to add to the very full statements which he made to the House in the course of the present year.

Passenger Aircraft (Wireless Telephony)

61.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the danger to aircraft involved by the frequently sudden arrival of fog over various sections of the London-Paris air route, the Air Ministry will take steps to issue a Regulation making it compulsory for all passenger aircraft to be equipped with wireless telephony?

I agree as to the importance of wireless telephony or telegraphy in the circumstances stated. The International Convention on Aerial Navigation of 1919 provides (in Article 14) for W/T. apparatus being carried by aircraft used in public transport and capable of carrying 10 or more persons "when the methods of employing such apparatus shall have been determined by the International Commission for Air Navigation," a body which will be set up as soon as the Convention itself has been ratified by a majority of the signatory States. When the Convention has been so ratified, it is proposed to issue Regulations making the carrying of W/T. by British aircraft compulsory. I may add that it has been meanwhile arranged that all large machines at present employed on the subsidised British Cross-Channel service shall be equipped with W/T. apparatus.

British Army

Southall Depot

63.

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the annual cost of the I.D.R.E.S. depot at Southall and the number of employés; and, seeing that it was erected as a temporary depot during the War, why is its existence continued?

The provision made in the Estimates of the current year for working this depot was £22,000, and the number of employés provided for was one officer and 66 civilian subordinates. The staff is, however, being reduced and it is not expected that the whole amount provided in the Estimate will in fact be spent. The depot will be disposed of after the end of this financial year.

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether I.D.R.E.S. is a food or a drink?

I do not know. I will make inquiries if my hon. Friend would like me to!

Woolwich Arsenal (Printing Department)

65.

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he is aware that the linotype operators employed in the Ordnance Committee's printing department at Woolwich Arsenal have been informed that they must sweep out the room in which they work or be discharged if they refuse; that the labourer who formerly did this work has been discharged on the ground of economy; and whether he will take steps to prevent skilled artisans being dismissed through refusing to do labourers' work?

The instructions that linotype operators must clean out their room have been cancelled. No skilled artisans have been discharged for refusing to do labourers' work.

Is there any reason why military officers should be placed in charge of a printing office and introduce Army methods?

66.

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he is aware that the printing staff employed at Woolwich Arsenal have been refused the week's holiday which is granted in every other printing office throughout Great Britain; if he is aware that considerable correspondence has passed upon the subject between the men's representatives and the Department during the past 18 months without satisfactory result; and will he see that the printers in the employ of the Government are placed in the same position in respect to holidays as those employed by contractors?

There are two staffs of printers at Woolwich Arsenal, belonging to the Ordnance Factories and the Ordnance Committee respectively. These two staffs are tinder different conditions as regards pay, etc., and the questions connected with their terms of service are somewhat complicated. I am looking into the point raised by the right hon. Member and will communicate with him as soon as possible.

War Graves

(by Private Notice)asked the Secretary of State for War whether the military organisation which has been at work in France and Flanders since the Armistice, searching for bodies and concentrating scattered graves, has been withdrawn; and, if so, in view of the urgent necessity of allaying public anxiety, he will state whether he is satisfied that their work is completed?

Since the Armistice the whole battlefield area in France and Flanders has been systematically searched at least six times. Some areas in which the fighting had been particularly heavy were searched as many as 20 times. In the spring of 1920 the work was easy and rapid owing to the number of surface indications, but since then in approximately 90 per cent. of the bodies found there was no surface indication. These invisible graves were found by various local indications recognised by the experience of the exhumation parties. It is probable that a number of these invisible graves have not yet been found, and are likely to be brought to light during the work of reconstruction and in the opening up of areas at present inaccessible owing to the thickness of undergrowth, the marshiness of the land, etc., etc. The searching, however, was most thorough, as the whole of the battlefield area was divided up into map squares, to which a platoon under a subaltern was allotted. The actual search party usually consisted of about 12 men under a senior non-commissioned officer. These parties systematically searched the whole of the surface of the areas.

In view of the thoroughness of the search the Army Council has come to the conclusion that the time has now arrived when this work should cease, and consequently they have issued instructions for the withdrawal of the military exhumation parties which were employed by them. It is practically certain that in the course of reconstruction and drainage operations and of the clearing of débris, bodies hitherto unsuspected will be found, and that this will continue for years to come. The owners and inhabitants are now resuming possession of their houses, fields, and gardens, and reports of the discovery of bodies by such owners and occupiers, must be awaited before exhumation and re-interment in an approved cemetery-can be undertaken. Any bodies so discovered will, in accordance with agreements already arrived at with the French and Belgian civil authorities, be reported to local representatives of the Imperial War Graves Commission, by whom arrangements will be made for the re-interment of the bodies in the existing military cemeteries. In cases where relatives or friends can produce from their own knowledge evidence that the body of an officer or soldier may be found in a particular locality, special search will be made under the instructions of the Imperial War Graves Commission if the Commission is satisfied that a good primâ facie case has been made out. I hope this statement of the work done and the arrangements made for the future will allay any public anxiety in the matter.

India (Law And Order)

56.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has now considered the Motion standing on the Paper in the names of the hon. Member for Twickenham and others; and if he can give a day for its discussion—

"That this House views with grave concern the present state of India, and urges upon His Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to re-establish law and order in that country."

Yes, Sir. As I said on Monday last, we have carefully considered the Motion, but it- is not possible for me to find a day for the Motion within the limits of the present sittings of the House, and I am bound to say that in the opinion of His Majesty's Government the present moment is not opportune for such a discussion. I understand there is general agreement to bring the business of the House to a close not later than seven o'clock to-morrow evening. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have been led to understand that there is general agreement as to the proposal of the Government to bring our business to an end by then. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!" and "There is to be another Session of this House!"] I should perhaps add that, even if there were time, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, the moment is not opportune for such a discussion.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he is aware—I am sure he is—of the very grave anxiety felt by many Members of this House in regard to this matter, as there has been no Debate on Indian affairs this year, and will he give us an undertaking that the Indian Vote, the salary of the Secretary for India shall be set down as early as possible next Session so that we may have an early Debate?

Yes, Sir. Of course I am reluctant to give such an undertaking in regard to the programme of a Session of Parliament which has not begun. I recognise, however, the full force of what my right hon. Friend has said. Since the salary of the Secretary for India was placed upon the Votes of the House in order that the House might discuss the matter, the House has had no opportunity so to do. I think, however, my hon. Friend has made out a good case for putting the Vote down at an early date, so that the earliest possible opportunity may be given next Session.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why this House is never allowed to discuss a question of vast importance like this, whereas in past years the House of Commons has always been given the opportunity of discussing Indian affairs, and especially when there has been a grave state of unrest?

Phosphates (Nauru Island)

59.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the financial result of the trading under the Nauru Island Agreement of the 2nd July, 1919; what quantity of phosphate has been supplied to the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, respectively; whether any and, if so, what profit has resulted from the supply of phosphates to those countries which are not within the agreement; and whether the agreement has been ratified by the League of Nations?

With regard to the first three parts of the question, I have no information, but inquiry will be made of the British Phosphate Commissioners. The answer to the last part of the question is in the negative.

Government Temporary Buildings

69.

asked the hon. Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow, as representing the First Commissioner of Works, whether he can now give any definite dates as to when the temporary buildings will be removed from St. James's Park, the Embankment Gardens, and the Victoria Tower Gardens, adjacent to Lambeth Bridge?

It is hoped that the bulk of the buildings in question will be vacated early in the new year and that demolition will follow immediately.

Why cannot this work, which will give very much needed employment to the unemployed, be commenced at once?

For this obvious reason, that the staffs will have to be transferred to other offices.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that there is no less than 1,000,000 cubic feet of space still occupied by these temporary buildings, and surely that is enough for the War Staff?

National Physical Laboratory (Aerodynamics Department)

70.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether there is any question of closing down the aerodynamic Department of the National Physical Laboratory; and, if so, whether he will reconsider this matter, in view of the services rendered by this Department to the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and to the aviation industry?

No specific proposals for the provision of funds for the maintenance of the aerodynamics Department at the National Physical Laboratory after the close of the current financial year have at present reached the Treasury. Any such proposals in regard to public Estimates for 1922–3 must obviously be considered in view of the general financial position and the need for drastic reductions of public expenditure even in the case of prima facie very desirable public services. But. I am aware of the importance attached in certain quarters to the work of the Department in question, and the matter will be fully considered before the detailed Estimates of the Departments concerned for the coming financial year are finally determined.

Is it not a fact that this Department is the only provision made by the State for the scientific investigation of aerodynamic problems, and is not the cost a minor matter in comparison with the importance of the work which is performed?

I believe that the suggestion contained in the first part of my hon. Friend's question is quite accurate.

Safeguarding Of Industries Act

Musical Toys

72.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that in some ports toy tin trumpets and toy pianos costing 1s. 6d. each are being detained as liable for duty as musical instruments, whilst in other ports they are reckoned as toys and allowed to pass through; and can he give instructions to the examining officers that all toys, whether they omit sounds or not, shall be treated as toys and not as instruments of music?

The fact of an article being a toy does not necessarily prevent it from being also a musical instrument. As a matter of fact, however, there is a special exemption in the case of musical instruments when the value does not exceed 1s. I am not aware of any divergence in the practice of Customs officials at different ports in regard to this matter, but if the hon. Member will give me particulars of any specific instance, I will cause inquiry to be made.

Scientific Glassware

73.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why measure (glass) forms are being held to be liable to key industries duty when they are imported previous to being graduated and engraved, seeing that glass jugs of all sizes, from quarter-pint to four pint imported for graduation, are admitted free of duty; and if he can say why large tumblers are allowed in free of duty whereas the smaller size of tumbler is marked down for duty?

I have been asked to answer this question. Certain types of measuring and test glasses, whether graduated or ungraduated, are included in the list of dutiable articles falling under the heading of Scientific Glassware. Glass jugs are not scientific glassware, and consequently are not dutiable. As regards the last part of the question, I am not aware that any duty has been levied on small tumblers.

Chlorate Of Potash

74.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that in the lists of commodities defining the key industries schedule which were published by the Board of Trade, ordinary chlorate of potash was included and that, in consequence, a key industries duty of 33⅓ per cent. was levied by His Majesty's Customs on consignments of this commodity which arrived in this country early in October, and that the Department have since removed this item from the official lists; whether, seeing that this constitutes an admission that the commodity was wrongly included at first, the duties already paid by the importers on the consignments referred to will be refunded to them; and what action is he taking to publish the fact that although this commodity is supposed to be liable to duty, yet henceforth no duty will be levied?

I am aware of the fact that the item "potassium chlorate" was shown on the Board of Trade lit without the qualifying letter "R" which should have been prefixed. The error has been corrected by notice in the Board of Trade Journal of the 20th October, and, in any case where duty has been levied on importations of this article which can be shown not to have been of "R" quality, the duty will be refunded. The Commissioners of Customs have issued instructions accordingly.

Old Sinking Fund

75.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether the Treasury can still use the old Sinking Fund to repay deficiency advances; and, if so, whether he will consider the prohibition of such repayments without a special application to Parliament?

I do not think it neces-necessary to make any alteration in the Acts governing this matter. There have in fact been no deficiency advances since 1914.

Albania

(by Private Notice)asked the Prime Minister whether he can say whether it is true that the Jugo-Slav forces have already reached the Albanian sea coast; and when the emergency meeting of the Council of the League for dealing with the Albanian question is to take place?

I have no official confirmation of the report that the Jugo-Slav forces have reached Alessio. I understand that the emergency meeting of the Council of the League of Nations is to take place in Paris in a few days' time.

Prorogation Of Parliament

(by Private Notice)asked the Prime Minister if he can say whether it is the intention of the Government to prorogue or adjourn Parliament when the Government business now before the House has been disposed of?

May I ask a question which I think is relevant to the subject before the House? I wish to know if the Government will give any opportunity for discussing a question which has excited widespread interest both in the country and in the House of Commons in reference to the articles of the so-called Angora Treaty? I have a Motion down calling attention to this subject from the point of view of the interests of the Christian and other non-Turkish subjects in the Turkish Empire, and I hope the Government will see their way to give an opportunity for the expression of our point of view on that question, subject to the understanding that we say nothing that might in any way impair friendly relations.

The request which the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) has just made is the third request for an extra day which I have been asked to give in the course of these Sittings. With regard to the remainder of the business for which Parliament was summoned, very little remains to be done, namely, the Consolidated Fund Bill and the consideration of Amendments from another place, and our hope is that this business may be concluded to-day and to-morrow by seven o'clock. From inquiries made in different quarters, I gather that that will be possible, and, being possible, that is desired by the Government—I had better not say by everybody, but by a great majority of the House. In that case Parliament will be prorogued as soon as our business is completed.

May I add with reference to the special case raised by my hon. Friend, that as I promised after the Question was raised by him the other day and by my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), I did consult the Foreign Secretary as to whether matters had reached a point at which we might have a discussion in this House. I have been informed that communications are still proceeding, and are not completed between the French Government and our Government. In these circumstances, I do not think we can usefully say anything in a Debate of this kind at the present moment.

May I ask in what respect present circumstances differ from those contemplated when the House adjourned on the 19th August, when the Conference was proceeding, and a crisis might probably arise before the ordinary period when Parliament would be summoned—a crisis which would require the attention of Parliament?

I should have thought that the difference between August and November was an obvious one, if I may say so. Parliament, if it had been prorogued in August, would not, in the normal course, have met again until January next. We thought that it was a critical moment and therefore it was desirable to make arrangements for Parliament to meet earlier. We have done that, and we now think the time has come to close this long Session, and, if it be necessary to summon Parliament again, it should be for a new session.

I want to put a question to the Leader of the House. In so doing, I am sure he is fully aware of the fact that all Members of the House and people all over the whole country, are not only deeply concerned in the negotiations proceeding in respect of the Irish question, but are anxious for them to have a happy issue. In view of the fact, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether steps cannot be taken, either to postpone the Prorogation or make some arrange- ment whereby the Prime Minister may be able to make some statement to the House before the House rises?

May I remind my right hon. Friend that the Prime Minister, on the Adjournment of the House in August, said that, if the negotiations broke down, Parliament would be summoned. Nobody knows whether they are going to break down or not, and, therefore, would it not be better to have an Adjournment and not a Prorogation?

Are not the reasons and conditions which actuated the Prime Minister's statement on 19th August still more operative at the present time?

That is a question which I have already answered. My hon. Friend may think that our reasons are unsatisfactory, but they have satisfied us As regards the question put by the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) I do not think that the Prime Minister would have any special statement to make to the House. I will get into touch with him. There is a function to-night which, by ancient tradition, the Prime Minister always attends, and his utterances on that occasion are always ones to which special attention is directed. I very much doubt whether either to-night or to-morrow in this House the Prime Minister would make any statement of the character suggested.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that no arrangement will be come to in regard to the Irish situation without calling together this House?