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Written Answers

Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1922

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Written Answers

Europe And Asia (Oil Concessions)

asked the Prime Minister whether Great Britain is in any way pledged to take action in regard to oil concessions in Europe and Asia only after consultation with France and Italy; whether the United States of America have refused to be bound by any similar tics and conditions; and whether, seeing that if Great Britain, anxious to make loans to various countries, is prevented from obtaining adequate and proved securities, British interests, especially the sale of manufactured articles, will be taken by the United States, he proposes to take any steps to deal with this situation.

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative; the rest of the question does not therefore arise.

Peace Treaties

German Reparation

asked the Prime Minister the exact effect which has been now given by the German Government to the latest demands of the Reparation Commission?

The arrangements arrived at between the German Government and the Reparation Commission are embodied in the Reparation Commission's decision of 21st March (presented to Parliament in Cd. Paper 1634) and subsequent correspondence which has been published in the Press, and in particular in the Commission's note of 31st May. It is not possible within the limits of an answer to a Parliamentary question to give the exact information asked for by the hon. and gallant Member.

Mandated Territories

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in the negotiations between His Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States in connection with the territories to be held under A and B mandates?

Good progress has been made, and it is hoped that complete agreement will be reached before long.

Commissions

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can state, for the latest convenient period, in respect of all missions, delegations, and the like appointed under the Peace Treaty the cost which has fallen upon British funds; and whether, or not, the same is ultimately recoverable from other sources?

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to his question of the 3rd May in which a complete list of all the commissions appointed under the four Peace Treaties was given, and in which the ultimate liability for the cost of these commissions was indicated. With regard to the advances made from British funds, a considerable proportion has already been recovered and the accounts of a number of the missions have been finally closed. There remains outstanding, however, a sum of approximately £49,500 of which the non-recoverable expenditure amounts to about £4,000.

Russia (German Arms)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether information has been received that Germany has been supplying arms and equipment to the Soviet armies in Russia; and, if so, what is the nature of that information?

Many reports have been received regarding the supply of arms and equipment by Germany to Russia, but no definite proofs of this traffic have been furnished. The export of arms from Germany is, of course, contrary to Article 170 of the Treaty of Versailles.

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

Widows' Pensions

asked the Minister of Pensions how many cases have been brought to his notice in which widows of ex-soldiers have been debarred from a pension under Article 11 of the Royal Warrant by reason of their husbands having died more than seven years after the date of the infliction of the wounds or injuries or of the contraction of the disease to which death is attributable; and whether, seeing that such article excludes the widows of these soldiers who have died as the result of wounds or injuries inflicted or disease contracted during the first nine months of the War, he will consider the matter with a view to an amelioration of the conditions laid down in the Article?

I am giving personal consideration to this matter and I am having full inquiry made into the general question involved; but, as at present advised, I do not see my way to recommend the removal from Article 11 of the Royal Warrant of the time limit, which was a long standing provision of the Pension Warrants before the late War. So far ten cases have been brought to my notice in which the widow's claim to pension under Article 11 is barred by the operation of the time limit, and these are being considered individually on their merits.

Northern Ireland (British Troops)

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the exact number of British troops now in Ulster; and whether all the demands of the Northern Irish Government for reinforcements have been fully met?

In reply to the first part of the question, the British troops now in Northern Ireland consist of 23 infantry battalions, with appropriate numbers of other arms. The reply to the second part of the question is in the affirmative.

Motor Vehicles (Taxation)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the unfair incidence of the present tax on horsepower in motor cars; and whether, in view of the general demand of motorists, he will replace a duty which penalises one section of the public who own and run motor cars by a tax on the petrol consumed or some other revenue-raising device?

I have been asked to answer this question. As I stated on 29th May, in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for the Kincardine Division (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray), the Departmental Committee on the Taxation and Regulation of Road Vehicles is, at my request, now examining afresh the system of taxation of motor vehicles introduced by the Finance Act, 1920, in the light of the experience gained of its working during the past 18 months. I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to await the publication of the Committee's Report.

Co-Operative Societies (Income Tax)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society applies a proportion of its funds for political purposes and to the finance of Parliamentary candidates; and whether he is now prepared favourably to consider an amendment of the law to provide that co-operative societies shall be placed on an equitable basis with other trading concerns as regards liability for Income Tax?

I have no information on the statement contained in the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question. As regards the second part, I would refer him to the reply given on the 22nd May to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bromley (Lieut.-Colonel James). I am sending him a copy of that reply.

Poor Law Officers (Information)

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to an inquest at Shoreditch where it was stated that a man was unable to obtain the address of the Poor Law doctor, or the services of any doctor, for a relative until the latter was dead; whether he observed that the Local Government Board and Ministry of Health have stated that, in a large number of cases in the lists of those who were found by coroner's inquest to have died of starvation or privation, no application for medical or other relief had been made to the Poor Law officers; and whether he will give instructions that the police should be made acquainted with the names and addresses of the relieving officers and Poor Law medical officers of their district, and should be instructed to give information to inquirers as to the relieving officers and, in cases of extreme urgency, as to the medical officers?

All Metropolitan police officers on duty are provided with pocket directories which contain the names and addresses of the relieving officers, the Poor Law medical officers, and the doctors of their district; and if appealed to, they invariably give the required information. In the case in question no application appears to have been made to the police for medical aid. If this had been done, the necessary information and assistance would have readily been given.

Motor Drivers' Licences

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the great increase in the number of motor-cars of all descriptions, it is intended to grant licences to drive only on proof of reasonable skill and ability; and is he aware of the number of accidents that take place daily owing to incompetent driving by persons who have not taken the trouble or not had the opportunity to learn how to drive with safety to themselves or to the general public?

I have been asked to answer this question. I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the Second Interim Report of the Departmental Committee on the Taxation and Regulation of Road Vehicles, and for the reasons therein stated I am unable to propose the legislation which would be necessary to effect the object aimed at by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Coal Industry Dispute (Poor Law Relief, Barnsley)

asked the Minister of Health what sum was paid out in the Barnsley Union by the guardians in relief during the stoppage in the coal industry last year; what sum has been repaid; what has been the cost to the guardians by way of cost of collection, interest, and bad debts; and whether any means exists or will be sought by his Department to protect the general body of ratepayers against being saddled with such burdens?

I am informed that during the period referred to a sum of £46,892 was paid as relief on loans by the guardians of the Barnsley Union, and that £15,154 has been repaid to the guardians up to the present time. The cost of collection amounted to £800, and the amount of interest paid by the guardians up to the 31st March last, on overdrafts or other loans, was £752. No part of the money paid has yet been written off as irrecoverable. If a ratepayer considers that any expenditure has been unlawfully incurred, it is open to him to raise objection to such expenditure at the audit of the guardians' accounts.