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Written Answers

Volume 155: debated on Thursday 15 June 1922

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Written Answers

Coal Mining Industry

Mines, Durham

asked the Secretary for Mines whether any inquiry has been made into the causes why certain of the coal mines in the County of Durham have been stopped; and, if not, will such an inquiry be made and the findings reported to the House, as the effect of these stoppages is creating widespread poverty and alarm to the local authorities?

I am asking the Durham Coalowners' Association whether they can indicate the principal causes for the recent decline in activity, but I fear that a remedy can only be looked for in a revival of trade.

asked the Secretary for Mines the number of mines working in the County of Durham during the period of control and the number to-day, and the number of miners engaged in and about the mines in Durham up to the end of March, 1921, and the number to-day?

The number of coal mines working in the County of Durham during the period of control was about 250, and the number producing coal clueing the week ended 3rd June was 216. The number of wage earners on colliery books in the County of Durham in March, 1921, was 167,592, and the corresponding number at the beginning of this month was 153,656.

asked the Secretary for Mines the number of coal miners out of work in the County of Durham, and the number who have been given notice to finish work in the same county?

I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that the number of unemployment books lodged by coal miners in the County of Durham at the end of May, 1922, was 15,460. I do not know the number of men under notice.

Safety Appliances

asked the Secretary for Mines whether, in view of the large number of accidents and the great loss of life caused by shots that have missed fire and others that have blown out, he will take steps to make compulsory the use of safety appliances which will help to prevent accidents of this kind?

As stated in my reply of 18th May, to a question asked by the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. G. Barker), it is very doubtful whether the use of safety appliances could have prevented the vast majority of these accidents. The few which might have been prevented were due to breaches of the existing law and regulations and would not have happened if these had been complied with. I am, however, giving careful consideration to the ques- tion whether any further steps can be taken to lessen the risk of accidents from this cause.


asked the Secretary for Mines if his attention has been called to the dissatisfaction prevailing in many coalfields within the settlement of last July; and if he proposes to take any measures to avert the possibility of strikes and to bring about happier relations between employers and employés?

I am aware that there is very natural dissatisfaction with the progressive reductions in wages that have recently taken place in many coalfields. But these would have been inevitable under any system of regulating wages in accordance with the prosperity of the industry. They are not the result of any defect in the Agreement of last July. As regards the last part of the question, I am always most ready to render any assistance in my power towards the maintenance of good relations in the industry, but I think that this can generally be best achieved by the parties themselves without intervention by my Department except at the request of those concerned.


Motor Vehicles (Taxation)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport if he will give figures showing the percentage proportions of moneys received from pleasure vehicles and commercial vehicles, respectively, under the present motor taxation, for the last yearly accounting period, allocated to actual upkeep maintenance charges of Class I roads, grants-in-aid of Class II roads, proportion expended on administration charges, and proportion expended in plant of permanent value?

A statement, of which I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy, was furnished to the Press in January last, showing the amount of duty collected on account of each taxation category of vehicle during the calendar year 1921. From this statement he will see that the amount derived from the taxation of what may roughly be described as pleasure vehicles was very nearly 53 per cent. of the total gross receipts. During the financial year 1921–22, which does not exactly correspond with the taxation year, grants amounting to about £l2,000,000 were made from the Road Fund. Of this sum, the grants made towards the purposes indicated in the question were approximately as follow:

Maintenance and improvement ment of Class I roads7,000,000
Maintenance and improvement of Class II roads1,120,000
Purchase of plant115,000
The expenses of administration, including the cost of the Roads Department and the total costs of collection of motor taxation, were in the neighbourhood of £42,470,000.

Railway Cloak-Room Charges (Commercial Travellers)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport whether any negotiations have taken place with a view to restoring the pre-War cloak-room charges made to commercial travellers; what has been the result of such negotiations; and whether, in the interests of trade, he can make representations to the railway companies in the sense suggested?

The hon. and gallant Member will be aware that the Government's control of railways ceased in August last, and since then the Minister has had no jurisdiction over their charges. The companies are at liberty to make such reductions as they think fit, and I am sending the hon. and gallant Member's question to them for their consideration.

Railways (North-Western And Midland Group) Bill

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport if, in the event of permission being granted to the Midland and North-Western Railway Group to carry goods other than rail-borne over the roads, ho will, in the interest of the ratepayers, fix a definite sum beyond which the ratepayers' liability for road maintenance shall not extend, such sum to be based on the average annual contribution of the respective counties during the years 1911, 1912, 1913, converted into present-day values?

As the Railways (North-Western and Midland Group) Bill was withdrawn on Monday last, the question put by my hon. and gallant Friend does not now arise.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport when the Ministry of Transport conceived the objections expressed by its representatives to the main financial proposals contained in the Railways (North Western and Midland Group) Bill; whether these objections had ever been specifically pointed out to the promoters of this Private Bill; and what has caused him to depart from the views he expressed previously?

In my speech on the Second Reading I drew the attention of the House to the importance of inserting adequate safeguards in the Bill, and in particular expressed doubts whether the proposal to make the standard charges for conveyance by rail the basis of rates for conveyance by road was appropriate. On the 5th of May the promoters sent to me a proposal that

"The standard charges for the conveyance of merchandise by road and for service terminals in connection therewith shall be the standard charges for the conveyance of the same class of merchandise by railway and for service terminals in connection therewith."
They also asked for an interview, which was held between representatives of my Department and the company on the 10th May. At this meeting various points were discussed and the promoters were informed, with reference to the question of rates, that their proposals to apply Part III of the Railways Act, 1921, were too vague. The filed Bill in the form in which it was to be laid before the Committee was received in my Department on Friday, the 12th of May, and the Report is dated Monday, the 15th of May. In this Report attention was again drawn to the vague and indefinite nature of the proposals of the Bill, and it was suggested that the promoters should explain to the Committee how they proposed to give effect to the powers which they sought, when the question of suitable safeguards could be considered. The general manager of the company stated in evidence that the Clause dealing with rates might contain "blemishes," that the wording was "experimental" and probably required to be amended, and that he

would have to give consideration to the comment of the Minister of Transport that Clause 6 seemed too indefinite and might lead to difficulty in deciding to what extent the provisions of the Railways Act did in fact apply. He also stated that there would have to come an appropriate time in the proceedings when the two sides would get together and adjust any defect in the Clauses to cover points on which there was difference of opinion. On the 22nd of May, when the Committee had sat five days and the case had been developed by the witnesses for the promoters, the Chairman requested me to nominate a witness, and wrote:

"We wish to be advised how far the duties which would be committed to the Minister of Transport and Rates Tribunal under the Bill and proposed new Clauses are reasonable, and, if reasonable, whether they would be effective in preventing uneconomic and destructive competition. We should also he glad if he would develop certain points in the Report of the Minister of Transport on the Bill."

It thus became incumbent upon the Ministry's witness to point out the possible effects of the promoter's proposals, as explained and developed before the Committee, which were to adopt as the ruling rates by road the railway rates stripped of all charges for collection and delivery and most, if not all, of the ordinary terminal charges, regardless of the fact that the facility afforded, from the point of view of the trader, would be identical by road and by rail. After full consideration of the evidence, I felt it my duty to advise that these proposals would be likely to affect seriously the rates by rail and to jeopardise the "Standard Revenue." The objections to these proposals would, no doubt, have been strongly urged upon the Committee by the remaining opponents of the Bill if the inquiry had been allowed to run its normal course. I regret the somewhat hasty action of the promoters in withdrawing their Bill without any attempt to meet my criticisms, hut, according to the statement made to the Committee on their behalf, they were under certain bargains or pledges, of the nature of which I am unaware, which precluded them from altering the method of charge proposed.

Scottish Railways (Return Tickets)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport whether, seeing that the outward half of a return railway ticket is in Scotland available for the completion of the journey on the day of issue only and that traders and others were permitted prior to the War six days to complete their journeys, he will, in the interests of trade, make representations to the railway companies to restore the previous privileges?

I will communicate with the Scottish railway companies in regard to the matter, and advise the hon. and gallant Member of the result.

Railway Fares

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport under what powers the increases of fares were made by the railway companies during the War?

The increases of railway fares authorised by the Government were made under Defence of the Realm Regulation No. 7 (b) and later under Section 3 of the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919.


Griffith-De Valera Pact

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to a Clause in the agreement made between the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland and the extreme Republicans to the effect that in the third Dail or the Southern Irish Parliament members shall sit for areas in which the Provisional Government is not able to hold an election; whether, seeing that this involves the admission into the third Dail or Southern Irish Parliament of members nominated by the Provisional Government claiming to represent the area under the control of the Government of Northern Ireland, His Majesty's Government propose to allow the Parliament for Southern Ireland to admit members from Northern Ireland and to claim a suzerainty over Northern Ireland; and, if not, what steps does he intend to take in the matter?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. In reply to the second part, I have no reason for supposing that the agree- ment referred to involves the admission into the House of Parliament now being elected of any members other than those elected in accordance with the provisions of the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act. The third part of the question does not therefore arise.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the cost of the reconstruction of the telegraphic and telephonic system in Palestine; and what, if anything, has the Palestine Government paid for it?

I am unable to give figures as to the cost of reconstruction. The whole system with a few minor exceptions was handed over by the military authorities to the Palestine Government on the 1st of October, 1920. The value of the works so transferred has been provisionally agreed between the two parties at £30,000; and this amount or the revised amount finally determined will be treated as part of the capital debt of Palestine to His Majesty's Government.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the cost of the water supply to Jerusalem laid on by the British Army; who now runs it; and whether Palestine has paid anything towards its cost?

I am unable to state the exact cost of the Jerusalem water supply. It has, however, been valued for disposal purposes at £48,545 by the expert valuer to whom I referred in my reply to the hon. Baronet's question regarding the Palestine railways. These works are now maintained by the Palestine Government, who propose to transfer them at an early date to the municipality of Jerusalem. The amount referred to above will be treated as part of the capital debt payable by Palestine to His Majesty's Government.

Government Departments

Civil Service Arbitration Board

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that in the Report of the National Provisional Joint Committee on the applica- tion of the Whitley Report to the administrative Departments of the Civil Service, as approved both by the Treasury and the War Cabinet, it was specifically stated in Clause 6 that for the purposes of that Report it was assumed that the Civil Service Arbitration Board would continue in being; whether this was part of a definite undertaking by the Treasury and the Government; and, if so, whether he will reconsider the abolition of the Board with a view to considering any breach of faith towards the staff?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. With regard, however, to the latter part of the question, I do not agree that the effect of the paragraph referred to was to guarantee the permanent continuance of the Civil Service Arbitration Board or to estop the Government from taking such action in respect of it as appeared to them to be necessary or desirable in the national interest. On the question raised in the last part of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) on the 24th May.

Women Establishment Officers

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether any women establishment officers have yet been appointed; and, if not, when it is intended to make such appointments; in which Department they will be made; and what will be the rank of the officers appointed?

One or two permanent appointments have been made, but the majority (including such posts as are filled temporarily) have been held up pending the results of the competition for the appointment of women to the junior grade of the administrative class and to other grades superior to the clerical class. It is contemplated that there will be women establishment officers in the Treasury and in all Departments employing a considerable number of women, namely the Ministry of Pensions, General Post Office, Inland Revenue, Board of Education, Ministry of Labour, Admiralty, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Scottish Board of Health and Public Trustee. The rank will vary according to the extent and responsibility of the duties to be discharged.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what grades hitherto closed to women in the Civil Service have been thrown open as a result of Clause 2 of the Resolution of the House of 5th August, 1921?

All grades of the general administrative, executive and clerical classes, set up by the Report of the Re-organisation Committee of the Civil Service National Whitley Council of the 17th February, 1920, which was adopted by the Government, are now open to women. The superseded general classes (First Division, Intermediate, Second Division and Assistant Clerks) had been closed to women.

Bristol (Pensions Office)

asked the Minister of Pensions what is the cost of the upkeep of the Clifton Down Hotel, Bristol, occupied by the Ministry, and the amount of wages paid to the staff: and if he will consider whether, in the interests of economy, some more suitable building might be taken for their use?

I am informed by my Noble Friend the First Commissioner of Works that the annual expenditure against the Public Buildings Vote in respect of the Clifton Down Hotel is approximately £3,200; the salaries and wages of the Pensions staff employed in that building amount to £93,000 approximately per annum. If the hon. and gallant Member can suggest a more economical arrangement for housing the Pensions staffs in Bristol, I shall be glad to consider any scheme in conjunction with the First Commissioner of Works.

Trade Unions

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what amount of money of the funds of the various trade unions was used for political purposes; and what amount of money has been paid out by the various trade unions for the financial year ending December, 1921, for unemployment, strike, and lock-out pay?

No information is available, except in respect of those trade unions which have registered with the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies under the Trade Union Acts. The last calendar year for which complete figures are available is 1920, when the expenditure by registered unions for the purposes mentioned was:

Unemployment and dispute benefit£4,884,354
Political fund payments£185,980

Gretna Factory

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether his attention has been drawn to certain allegations of corrupt administration in the Gretna factory; and whether he will consider the advisability of instituting a searching inquiry into the matter?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. If the hon. Member will supply me with any particulars which he may have, I will have the matter inquired into.

Germany (British Claims)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether British subjects whose claims against Germany have been admitted and who are entirely without means will be allowed to prosecute their claims before the mixed arbitral tribunal in formâ pauperis; if not, the reason; whether it is held that the German law of 1915, which forbids the export of values of all kinds to enemy countries, has any bearing on these claims; and, if so, the reason?

I have been asked to reply. Claims which have been formally admitted by the German Clearing Office do not require to be prosecuted before the Mixed Arbitral Tribunal. The British Clearing Office is prepared in suitable cases to consider giving assistance to claimants without means in bringing contested claims before the tribunal for adjudication. The point raised in the last part of the question is for determination by the tribunal.


Whitefield Scheme

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that a scheme of housing for the urban district council of Whitefield was approved by his Department on the 29th of June, 1920, and that the Housing Commissioner urged the authority to have everything in readiness to proceed; that land was bought, roads made, and sewers laid; that there are nearly 400 applicants for houses who cannot be supplied; that the additional houses could now be built at about one-third the cost of the 86 just completed; that the medical officer of health stated in his annual report for 1921 that the number of new houses still required to be erected in the district in the next two years is estimated at 360, and that action under the Housing Acts with regard to clearance and reconstruction of unhealthy area cannot proceed until provision has been made for the accommodation of displaced tenants; and will he now reconsider their application to proceed with the additional houses?

I regret that I cannot see my way to allocate further houses under the assisted scheme to this small place. I am, however, prepared to give sympathetic consideration to a proposal to make any land already acquired available on favourable terms for the erection of houses outside the assisted scheme, and if the council desire I will be glad to arrange for officers of the Ministry to discuss the matter with representatives of the council.

Kirkconnel, Dumfriesshire

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether he is aware that the housing conditions in Kirk-cannel, Dumfriesshire, are most inadequate; that though 50 additional houses were allocated to Kirkconnel last autumn by the Scottish Board of Health no buildings are yet in course of erection; and whether he will state the reasons for this long delay and, if possible, cause the houses to be proceeded with?

I am aware that additional houses are required in the village named. Of 24 houses previously approved by the Scottish Board of Health, 16 are ready for occupancy and eight are nearing completion. As regards the 50 additional houses referred to, which were allocated to the local authority in December last, the Scottish Board of Health were not prepared to agree to the houses being placed on the site desired by the county council owing to the additional cost involved. Negotiations have been proceeding between the Board and the county council regarding the matter, and it is hoped that it may be disposed of at an early date.

Water Supply, South Yorkshire

asked the Minister of Health whether his inquiries into the water supply of the country show any danger of a shortage of water in the South Yorkshire coalfield; and whether he is inviting the local authorities of this and other areas to consider united schemes for the provision of drinking water?

I am not aware that there is at present any danger of a serious general shortage in this area. An engineering inspector has recently visited a part of the area in response to a request for assistance, and I shall be glad if any other authority in difficulties will let me know, in order that similar assistance may be given to them. There is not time, of course, to carry out large schemes to remedy present shortage, but every measure which is practicable will be taken by my Department.

Ex-Service Men

Poor Law Relief, Plymouth

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to a recent case where the Plymouth Board of Guardians offered an ex-service man out-relief for a fortnight on the understanding that the money was to be paid back to the guardians out of the prize money which the man was expecting to receive; and will he take steps to see that this practice is not repeated either at Plymouth or in any other district?

My attention has not previously been called to this case. The question whether relief should in any particular case be given by way of loan is not one on which I have any authority to give instructions, and I am, therefore, not in a position to take the action suggested.

Office Of Works

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether, in connection with the reduction in industrial staffs in the various Government Departments, in considering the merits of a particular case in which the man held a protection certificate during the War, any priority is given to a man who obtained the certificate through the instrumentality of the Department now employing him over a man who obtained his certificate through other sources; and, if so, the reason for this discrimination?

I have been asked to reply, as it is understood that the question has special reference to the policy of the Office of Works. It is the broad policy of my Department to give employment to ex-service men wherever possible. Exempted men are retained on their merits, service with the Department during the War claiming special preference, and the only alternative would appear to he to consider the claims of ex-service men only.


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the urgent need for a pure supply of milk to the community, the Government proposes to take steps at the earliest possible date to bring into operation the Milk and Dairies (Consolidation) Act, 1915?

I hope that a Bill will be introduced at an early date, and pending its introduction I cannot make any statement as to the Government's intentions as regards the 1915 Act.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what quantities of machine-skimmed condensed milk were imported into this country in April and May, 1922, and how these quantities compare with the corresponding months of April and May, 1921 and 1920; whether he is aware that during the months of April and May there was practical cessation of the manufacture of condensed milk in this country; and whether during these months in previous years very considerable quantities of milk surplus to the requirement of the community had been preserved as condensed milk of high grade quality?

The quantities of sweetened condensed milk, machine-skimmed or separated, imported in April and May of 1921 and 1922 were as follows:

I am informed that there has in recent months been a very large reduction in the home manufacture of condensed milk. The answer to the last part of the question is in the affirmative.

asked the Minister of Health whether, seeing that in the evidence laid before the Committee appointed by his predecessor to consider the question of fixing standards for condensed milk, there was practical agreement between the whole of the manufacturers of this country and the principal pre-War importers of condensed milk and other interests concerned as to the exact standards to be fixed, and that opposition was immediately forthcoming to the proposed standards suggested by the Committee by reason of their being considerably lower than the pre-War voluntary standard as recommended in such evidence, he is now prepared to publish the Report of the Departmental Committee on Condensed Milk Standards; and whether he is aware that there is now general agreement that it is in the interests of the community that such standards should be fixed for full cream sweetened and unsweetened condensed milks and skimmed condensed milk, and that special labelling should be required for the clear distinction?

I understand that there was agreement amongst a number of the witnesses who appeared before the Departmental Committee on Condensed Milk Standards as to the standards which they wished to have fixed and that the Committee, in recommending somewhat lower standards, had in mind particularly the consideration that it would be undesirable to cut off a substantial proportion of the national supply of the commodity. I may also remind the hon. Member that my powers in the matter are limited to what is necessary for the prevention of danger arising to public health and I should, therefore, not feel justified in fixing any standards which could not be attained generally. My predecessor undercook to publish the report of the Departmental Committee if there were any general desire for it, but no such desire being expressed, the report was not published. For reasons already indicated, I am not prepared to make Regulations fixing such standards as those which were suggested by the trade interests to which the hon. Member refers, but I am prepared to consider the question of making Regulations requiring appropriate labelling.

Poor Law Relief

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that one out of every 28 of the population of England and Wales (1,366,569 in all) on the last day of 1921 received Poor Law relief; that that was 141 per cent. more than in 1920; and that on 5th November, 1921, the figures were 1,519,328, the highest ever recorded; if he is aware of the deplorable financial conditions in which West Ham and many other Poor Law guardians find themselves at the present time; and if the Government intend taking any action in the matter?

I am well aware of the large numbers of persons at present in receipt of relief in certain unions and of the financial difficulties arising in those unions. Large contributions have been made by the Government for the relief of unemployment, and I hope that the arrangements made to assist the guardians by enabling them to spread their abnormal expenditure over a number of years will prove sufficient.

Royal Navy

Reduction Scheme

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Admiralty will consider the advisability of increasing by 50 per cent. all bonuses given on reduction to officers and men, seeing they are now called upon to retire at an earlier age with little prospect of finding employment, and with a much smaller pension than they would receive if allowed to complete the full time which they expected to put in for pension?

The Admiralty regret that it is not possible to increase the terms given under the reduction scheme in the manner suggested. The proposal would result in considerable additional expenditure, amounting to approximately £450,000 for gratuities to officers and £650,000 for gratuities and bonuses to men, or £1,100,000 in all.

Capital Ships

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether arrangements have now been made for expediting the work in the two new capital ships and on their equipment; and when he will be able to place the contracts for this work?

This matter is still under consideration, but I hope that a decision will be reached shortly.

British Army

Training Establishments

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, having regard to the reduction in the establishment of officers in the Army already announced, the number of entries into the Royal Military College and the Royal Military Academy is being restricted; and, if so, to what extent?

The number of officers entering the Army from all sources will be less than before the War, but it is not proposed, at any rate for the present, to restrict the output from the Royal Military College and the Royal Military Academy. These establishments only supplied a part of the total pre-War numbers, and the supply from other sources, such as the Militia and Universities, has been stopped or much reduced.

Civilians (Discharges)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that approximately 900 men belonging to the general building trades have been discharged from the Royal Engineers' yards, Aldershot, and that this number includes carpenters, plumbers, painters, bricklayers, and labourers; that the work previously done by these men is now being done by serving sappers; and that a large number of the discharged workers are ex-service men; and whether he can assure the House that this policy will be reversed and the work continued as formerly?

The expenditure on Army building services has, in the interests of essential economy, been much reduced everywhere, and about 600 civilians have on this account recently been discharged in the Aldershot Command. No soldiers have been enlisted to replace the civilians discharged, but soldiers already serving in the Army are being employed as may be found necessary. The arrangements which have been made are necessary for due economy, and I regret that they cannot, therefore, be varied.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that civilian drivers of motor lorries and steam Foden wagons have been discharged from the Royal Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport) and their places taken by Royal Army Service Corps drivers; that storemen, clerks and labourers have been discharged from the field stores and their places filled by the Royal Army Ordnance Corps; that owing to these dismissals there are 2,000 unemployed in this district out of an approximate population of 30,000; and whether he is prepared to reconsider this policy and give employment to those men who have been dismissed?

It has recently in many cases been found possible to assign the duties in question to soldiers who were already serving in the Army, and accordingly to discharge the civilians previously employed on such duties. It would obviously be uneconomical to reengage men for whom there is now no work, and I regret that the answer to the last part of the question must therefore be in the negative.


Burnham Committees (Expenses)

asked the President of the Board of Education upon what Vote the expenses of the Burnham Committee fell, and by whom the members of that Committee were appointed?

The expenses of the three Burnham Committees, except as regards a certain amount of clerical assistance and a shorthand note of their proceedings, were not borne by the Board of Education. The members of the Committees were appointed by the Associations of County Councils, Municipal Corporations and Education Committees, on the one hand, and, on the other, by the various Associations of Teachers.

Teachers' Pensions

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will consider the calling of a conference between representatives of the teachers and of the education authorities to search for an agreed settlement of the controversy over teachers' pensions?

The local education authorities do not contribute to the pensions of teachers, and I do not think that a conference between them and the teachers would assist the Government in dealing with the matter.

Unemployment Benefit

China Clay Industry, Cornwall

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now issue instructions to the appropriate local committee that men in the china clay-industry in Cornwall, who are working half-time and earning only £1 per week, upon which they have to support their families, should no longer be disqualified for unemployment benefit?

I have made inquiries as promised in my answer to my hon. Friend's question on the. 29th May. I am informed that the Local Employment Committee examine each case individually, and that ordinarily benefit is allowed to married men with children and disallowed to single men, while the decision in the case of married men without children varies according to the amount of time being worked. The action of the Committee appears to be quite in order.

Short-Time Workers

asked the Minister of Labour whether instructions have been issued to the effect that claims for unemployment benefit by all married men short-time workers with no children dependent upon them are to be disallowed, irrespective of the amount of their earnings; and, if so, if the policy of allowing the local Employment Committees to exercise their discretion in individual cases has now been abandoned?

No such instruction has been issued. The position in regard to uncovenanted benefit of married men with no children who are working short-time is the same as that of all other short-time workers; that is to say, uncovenanted benefit is not ordinarily payable to such workers if they are earning half or more than half their normal weekly earnings. Local Employment Committees may use their discretion in considering individual eases where the operation of the above rule is likely to involve serious hardship.

Labour Statistics

asked the Minister of Labour if he will consider the possibility of publishing the index number of wages, similar to that which was regularly published before the War; and whether any step is being taken to resume the publications of the Department which were suspended owing to the War?

The official index number of wages published before the War was not sufficiently representative to indicate with accuracy the average movement of rates of wages in periods of such marked and varied changes as have occurred in recent years. The material required for the preparation of a more suitable index number is now being accumulated with a view to the preparation and publication of a new series of figures. As regards the volumes of labour statistics also, the issue of which was suspended owing to the War, the collection of the nececssary material has been continued, but in view of the need for economy, it has not yet been decided to resume publication.

Trade Boards

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the recommendations of Lord Cave's Committee as to Trade Boards; and whether, in view of the importance of removing the present conditions of uncertainty, he will at an early date introduce legislation on the subject?

My right hon. Friend has already said in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Bromley (Lieut.-Colonel James) that he hopes it may be possible to proceed during the present Session with the Bill now in course of preparation dealing with the important recommendations of the Cave Committee. As that course will necessarily involve some delay, and having regard to the fact that a number of important matters have been held in abeyance pending the Report of the Committee, my right hon. Friend is carefully considering at the moment whether he should not forthwith put into operation under the powers already bestowed upon him by the existing Acts, such administrative changes as the unanimous Report of the Cave Committee commended to him as desirable.

Anatolian Situation

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if he has any information of events in Asia Minor which he can give to the House of Commons?

In present circumstances it does not seem opportune to make any general statement about the Anatolian situation.

Fishing Industry

Icelandic Waters

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in view of the new Icelandic fishing law which becomes operative on 1st July, what steps the Government proposes to take to safeguard the interests of the British trawlers and crews fishing in Icelandic waters?

I will consult with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries as to the action which might become necessary if the law should prove harmful to our legitimate fishing interests.

North Russian Waters

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether it is the intention of the Admiralty to withdraw His Majesty's Ship "Harebell" from the Murmansk coast; and, if so, whether another warship can be sent, as a repetition of the recent outrages is feared by the fishermen should protection be withdrawn?

His Majesty's Ship "Harebell" has been ordered to sail for England on the 15th June, by which date it has been arranged with the trawler owners that their vessels shall have been withdrawn from North Russian waters.

British Markets (Danish Fish)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state, in view of the fact that 25,677 tons of Danish and Icelandic fish was landed in British markets in 1921 as against 9,573 in 1913, what steps the Government proposes to take to prevent this increased foreign landing by national's who are restricting the liberty of the British fishing vessels and their crews?

I have been asked to reply. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the quantity of fish landed, directly or indirectly, in British ports by Danish nationals was, in round figures, 16,500 tons in 1913 and 32,000 tons in 1921. I have reason to think that, these figures are substantially correct. I am in communication with my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with reference to the difficulties placed in the way of British vessels fishing in the neighbourhood of Iceland.

Government Assistance, European Countries

asked the Minister of Agriculture what assistance is given to the fishing industry in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Holland by their respective Governments, and what form such assistance takes?

As regards Norway, I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a Note, a copy of which I have sent to the hon. Member. As regards the other countries named in the question, I have nothing to add to the information I circulated in reply to a question from the hon. Member for the Holland Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Royce) on the 13th inst.

The following is the statement:

The Norwegian Government gave special assistance to the fishing industry in the following directions during the year 1921:

1. A State guarantee of November, 1920, to approved exporting associations of payment of 30 per cent. of credits granted by such associations to foreign buyers in connection with the sale of old stocks of salted large herring and spring herring, the liability of the State being limited to Kr. 7,200,000.

NoTE.—This guarantee did not apply to herring caught during 1921, but had as its object the clearing of old stocks. It has had no effect upon the prices paid to the fishermen during 1921, but, on the other hand, it has stimulated the export trade. The guarantee had not in December, 1921, involved the State in any expenditure.

2. A vote of Kr. 10,300,000 in December, 1920, to be applied as follows:

Kr. 5,000,000 to reducing the cost of petroleum used by motor fishing vessels.

Kr. 2,300,000 to assisting poor fishermen to purchase gear.

Kr. 3,000,000 to the Deep Sea Fisheries Fund.

3. A State guarantee of 23rd July, 1921, to dealers in klipfish, produced from cod, ling and torsk of the 1921 catch, against loss upon final sale of the fish, up to a sum of Kr. 10 per 20 kilos in the case of fish of good mixed first and second quality, and Kr. 6 per 20 kilos in the case of third quality fish and small fish.

As a condition for benefiting under this guarantee it is stipulated that the dealer must have paid to the original curer:

Per 20 kilos good mixed 1st and 2nd quality.Per 20 kilos 3rd quality.
For klipfish produced from cod, at least158
For klipfish produced from ling, at least147
For klipfish produced from torsk, at least105

The liability of the State does not include sums paid in excess of the following pirces:

Per 20 kilos good mixed 1st and 2nd quality.Per 20 kilos 3rd quality.
For klipfish produced from cod2012
For klipfish produced from ling1911
For klipfish produced from torsk159

It is further stipulated that final sale and delivery shall have taken place before 1st June, 1922.

NOTE.—This guarantee was not approved until the end of June, 1921, whereas the cod fisheries ceased in April. It has had no effect upon the prices paid to the fishermen during 1921, but, on the other hand, it has stimulated the export trade. The guarantee had not in December, 1921, involved the State in any expenditure.

4. A vote of 23rd July, 1921, of Kr. 1,700,000 in aid of the fishing population of Finmarken. Of this sum, Kr. 1,000,000 was to he devoted to emergency works and Kr. 700,000 to the grant to curers of loans for fish purchases.

5. The establishment of the long-projected Fisheries Bank, which commenced its operations on 1st November with a capital of 15 million kroner, borrowed under State guarantee. The Deep Sea Fishery Fund of Kr. 7,750,000 has also been transferred to the bank.

The bank will advice loans—

  • (a) in aid of the purchase, reconstruction and repair of the hulls and engines of fishing craft;
  • (b) to associations which grant advances against security in fishing craft;
  • (c) in aid of the erection or reconstruction of icehouses, freezeries, drying-houses or similar establishments for preserving or working up fish products;
  • (d) to corporations of fishermen for the purchase of gear, equipment, etc.
  • 6. The scope of the accident insurance for fishermen has been widened so as to provide pensions for fishermen and their dependants in the event of incapacity for work or of death.

    As regards 1922, a State guarantee to exporters has been given in respect of sales of herrings and fish to the Russian Trade Delegation. By agreement between the Norwegian Government and the Russian Soviet Government, a portion of the purchase price of Norwegian herring and fish is payable by means of bills of exchange falling due for payment in 1923 and 1924. The State guarantee is in respect of the bills which mature in 1923 and 1924 to the extent of Kr. 8,200,000, the exporters bearing the direct risk in respect of the remaining Kr. 2,694,000. The Norwegian Government has also undertaken the necessary sales organisations.

    The Norwegian Government have expressed themselves as opposed to a continuance of subsidies, as tending to hamper the return to normal conditions, which they maintain to be now desirable and possible.

    Argentine Beef (Prices)

    asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Government intends to continue the meat station which it established in South America during the War; whether he can explain the great increase in the price of Argentine beef during the recent months; whether there is reason to suppose that this increase is due to the activities of the meat trust; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?

    No decision has yet been made as to the continuance of the meat station referred to. Normally, all meat prices rise in the spring and early summer owing to the relative shortage of home supplies, and the prices of Argentine beef have varied during the last few months according to the state of the market; to-day they are lower than in the beginning of April. There is no reason to suspect that these price movements have been due to calculated operations on the part of importers.

    Merchant Ships (Wireless Service)

    asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that some 800 certificated wireless operators, mostly ex-service men, have been discharged by wireless companies since the institution of watchers on cargo ships; and whether, seeing that, as a result of the lack of expert knowledge in the Mercantile Marine telegraph service, the danger of failing to notice distress calls has been enhanced, and such failure was one of the causes of the loss both of the ss. "Rowan" and of the Peninsular and Oriental liner "Egypt," he will consider the desirability of abolishing wireless watchers in the Mercantile Marine and of re-employing certificated operators in their stead?

    I am aware that there is unemployment among wireless operators, but the main cause is the general depression in shipping which affects all classes of officers and men of the Mercantile. Marine. As regards the question of the efficiency of watchers, I would refer to the answers given to the hon. Member for the Govan Division (Mr. Maclean) on the 10th April and 15th May. Pending the results of the Court of Inquiry which is being held into the loss of the s.s. "Egypt," I am not in a position to say whether there was any failure in the wireless service on the occasion of her loss. I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy of the Report of the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee on Watchers.

    Temporary Buildings, St James's Park

    asked the hon. Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow, as representing the First Commissioner of Works, whether he will take steps to expedite the clearance work in St. James's Park so that the amenities of the resort may be restored to the public with much less delay than at present?

    The demolition of the temporary buildings in St. James's Park is in the hands of the Disposal and Liquidation Commission, who have put the work out to contract. I am informed that it is being carried out as expeditiously as is possible consistent with economy. The contract date for completion of the work of demolition and clearance is the 24th July.


    Babu Tarapada Mukerji

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the dismissal and deportation to Burma of the postmaster of Pegu for a speech delivered, as president of the conference of postal employés, at Lahore on 9th October, 1921; whether he is aware that such dismissal was given effect to without application of the rule which directs that all charges against a, public servant should be reduced to writing; and whether, having regard to the officer's excellent record of 26 years' service, and that he was commended for services rendered at a, time of difficulty when in charge of the Calcutta Barabazar Post Office, the case can be further inquired into with a view to reinstatement?

    The case to which the hon. Member refers, that of Babu Tarapada Mukerji, was fully inquired into some time ago. Mr. Mukerji was not, deported to Burma. It was proposed to transfer him in ordinary course to a post in that province, but before the transfer was carried out he was dismissed from the service for making a speech which contained serious mis-statements and was calculated to cause disloyalty and disaffection among the Indian postal staff. Before his dismissal he was twice given the opportunity of apologising, but refused. The Secretary of State sees no reason for re-opening the case.

    Insulators (Tenders)

    asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether any contract for insulators has recently been given out; if so, has the order been given to firms in this country; and, if not, when it is expected that this order will be placed?

    I am informed by the High Commissioner for India, who, as the hon. Member knows, controls such purchases for, and under the orders of, the Government of India, that no contract has recently been made by him for the supply of insulators. He has, how- ever, tenders now in hand for a supply of these articles, and finds that, the lowest acceptable offer (having regard to price, delivery and other relevant considerations) is that of a firm in this country for insulators of German manufacture. The contract is about to be placed accordingly.

    Drugs And Poisons

    asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the manner in which drugs and poisons are being packed by manufacturers, to the allegations that poisons are not properly described, and that insufficient time is allowed to the packers to do this important work properly; and whether he will cause inquiry to be made into the subject?

    I am informed by the Lord President of the Council, whose Department is responsible for the administration of the Poisons and Pharmacy Acts, that his Department have no knowledge of any allegations of the kind suggested. Perhaps the hon. Member will communicate to the Department any information on the subject which he may have in his possession, but it will be understood that the Department has no power to intervene unless the provisions of the Acts or of the Regulations made under them are being infringed.

    asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the remarks made by the stipendiary magistrate at Marlborough Street Police Court when he sentenced a prisoner for selling cocaine to the maximum penalty the law at present allows, and to the rider of the jury who held an inquest on a young girl who had purchased cocaine from a man now in the custody of the police; and if he will consider an amendment of the law for the purpose of increasing the penalty in such cases?

    I have seen newspaper reports of the cases mentioned. The question of an amendment of the law is receiving my consideration.

    Women Police Patrols

    asked the Home Secretary whether any women who have served as patrols have applied for posts with the Metropolitan police; and whether they, or any of them, have been informed since the end of April that the Commissioner of Police has no knowledge of such appointments?

    The Commissioner of Police tells me that one application has been received, and that the writer was informed that it would be considered if there should be a suitable opportunity of utilising her services.

    Workmen's Compensation (Medical Referees' Fees)

    asked the Home Secretary if he is now in a position to say when the result of the consideration which has been in progress for some months as to the recognition of the services of medical referees appointed by him under the Workmen's Compensation Act will be made known, seeing that they have acted during and since the war at the small pre-War fees?

    This question has not been under consideration recently. About 18 months ago I reviewed the position very carefully and came to the conclusion that there were not sufficient grounds for asking the Treasury to approve a revision of the fees. I appreciate the valuable and important services rendered by the medical referees, but after full consideration of all the circumstances—including the general financial situation—I am not satisfied that an increased scale of remuneration (with its consequent addition to public expenditure) could be justified.

    Voters' Lists (Widows)

    asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the fact that on the death of a voter his wife is disqualified as a householder and is left off the register until she has requalified as occupier, he will consider the desirability of providing in the Representation of the People Act a new Clause removing such disqualification?

    The question whether or not the widow in the circumstances described by the hon. Member is disqualified from remaining on the register has not been authoritatively decided. I believe there is some difference of opinion as to the interpretation of the Statute, but the question is one to be determined by the Courts in the first instance, and, as at present advised, I do not propose to introduce legislation on the subject.

    Post Office

    Facilities, Clitheroe

    asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that letters posted in pillar boxes in Clitheroe for Accrington and the towns and villages adjoining Blackburn, places only 9 to 12 miles from Clitheroe, are not delivered until the morning of the next day, practically 24 hours to deliver letters a distance, at the most of 12 miles; that a very great inconvenience is experienced by business men by such an inadequate service; and whether he will take the necessary steps to establish a greatly improved service?

    Telegraph Night Service, Leicester

    asked the Postmaster-General if he has received a communication from the Leicester City Council and the board of guardians, protesting against the proposal of closing the telegraph department during certain hours of the night, thus depriving the city and the surrounding area, including a number of small townships, of telegraph facilities; if so, has he reconsidered his proposal; and is he prepared to continue to grant the services this large community has hitherto enjoyed?

    The question of closing the Leicester Head Telegraph Office during the night is being again examined in connection with the protests referred to, and I will write to the hon. Member in due course on the subject. I should perhaps, however, mention that the cost of keeping the Telegraph Instrument Room open all night has been out of all proportion to the use made of the facilities.

    Aberdeen Office

    asked the Postmaster-General if the units of work at the Aber- deen Post Office have now reached the total required to warrant it being made a Class 1 office; if so, will he instruct that the regrading of this office takes place at once; and, if he has not at present the latest unit-of-work figures of the Aberdeen Post Office, when does he expect to have them?

    I regret that, in present circumstances, I am unable to consider the regrading of any head post office. The question whether Aberdeen should be regraded at a later date is under discussion with the Union of Post Office Workers.

    Promotion, Cardiff

    asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to a largely-signed petition submitted by the Post Office staff at Cardiff with a view to informing him of the dissatisfaction which exists with regard to the question of local promotion; whether he is aware that the petitioners have received no reply to their memorial; and whether, having regard to the importance of securing a state of contentment amongst the members of his staff, he will see that the communication is given early attention?

    I have received the petition to which the hon. Member refers. The matter is receiving careful attention, and a reply to the petitioners will be given as soon as possible.

    Telegraphic Delays

    asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that a telegram was handed in at Llanhilleth Post Office by G. Lewis at 9.2 a.m. on 8th June, addressed to Barker, Grimsby; that up to 10th June this telegram had not reached Grimsby; that in consequence Lewis had no fish for his customers; that on 1st June a telegram sent early in the morning to Grimsby did not reach there until late in the evening, and that no fish was sent in consequence; and will he snake inquiries into this complaint and indemnify this man for the business loss he has sustained?

    Russian Famine (Norwegian Proposals)

    asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Council of the League of Nations, at its last meeting, declined to deal with the proposal of the Norwegian Government that a Commission should be appointed to inquire into the Russian famine situation on the ground that it would he snore properly dealt with by the Genoa Conference; whether it was in part considered at Genoa; and, if not, what course the Government propose to instruct their representatives to take on this matter at the next meeting of the Council?

    The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The proposals of the Norwegian Government reached Genoa too late to be considered by the Conference. In these circumstances, I am not in a position to say what further action will he taken in the matter.