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Written Answers

Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1922

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Written Answers

Royal Navy

Clasps

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether, in view of the large numbers of clerical workers out of employment at the present time, he will consider the advisability of employing some on the work of issuing the clasps awarded in accordance with Fleet Order 2051, and thus enable those who are entitled to obtain their clasps without further delay and at the same time provide employment for men who are in enforced idleness and, in some cases, receiving unemployment benefit?

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies to the questions asked by the hon. and gallant Member for the Shettleston Division of Glasgow (Rear-Admiral Adair) on the 21st and 26th June, in which it was stated that it is impossible at present to undertake any work connected with the issue of clasps.

Schoolmasters (Pay And Promotion)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether, inasmuch as the Admiralty is again advertising for duly qualified schoolmasters for the Royal Navy, the long-promised revised scheme of pay and promotion for that branch has now received the sanction of the Treasury or do their Lordships hope to obtain such qualified men under the existing conditions of service?

As the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) was informed on the 26th June, it is hoped that an announcement will be made on this subject within the next few weeks.

Surgeon-Commanders (Retired Pay)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether his attention has been drawn to the position of certain senior surgeon-commanders, Royal Navy, as a result of the awarding in the year 1919 of a 50 per cent. Increase; in pay and pension of officers; whether surgeon-commanders who were over 50 years of age at the time of this increase now find themselves entitled to a pension less than 10 per cent. greater than the old rate, though by age and length of service they have earned up to 50 per cent. increase: whether this small group of officers were considered by the Halsey Committee and their case embodied in the Report of that Committee; and whether steps will be taken to remedy this state of affairs?

The position of these officers has already been brought to the notice of the Admiralty. The Halsey Committee, on whose recommendation the changes made in the rates of retired pay in 1919 were based, did not propose an all-round percentage increase in the rates, but aimed at assimilating, as far as possible, the rates in the various branches, and with this object, laid down a uniform scale of retired pay for all officers of the relative rank of commander, including surgeon commanders. On this scale, the rate of retired pay was subject in each case to a maximum of £600 per annum. As the maximum obtainable by a surgeon commander under the old Regulations was £547 10s. per annum, the rates for certain surgeon commanders under the new Regulations were increased by less than 10 per cent., and the percentage increase generally is smaller than that in other branches, where smaller maxima were previously in force. Such a difference, however, is inherent in any scheme which has for its aim the assimilation of the conditions in various branches, and while, therefore, some officers may have benefitted more than others by the changes made, the Admiralty do not think it desirable to make any modifications in the scheme in order to meet the case of particular classes of officers.

Unemployment Benefit (Miners, North Wigan)

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that about 100 mine-workers have been thrown out of employment by the closing down of the Topyard Arley Mine, Bryn Hall Collieries, North Wigan, notice being posted by the managing director entirely on his own accord and without any consultation with the workmen or their representatives; and that some of the men were paid unemployment benefit for one week, which was then stopped owing to the statement of the colliery officials that the mine was stopped owing to a trade dispute; and whether he will have this case inquired into at once and unemployment benefit paid to these men, who are playing owing to the manager closing the mine?

I understand that claims have been made by 37 of the workers recently employed at this mine, and that these claims have been disallowed by the insurance officer on the ground that the "trade dispute" disqualification contained in Section 8 (1) of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920, applies to them. It is open to the claimants to appeal against this decision to the Court of Referees, and I am informed that three of them have so appealed. Meanwhile, I have no power to authorise the payment of unemployment benefit. In a few cases benefit was paid for a short time before the information on which the disqualification was based reached the Exchange.

Ex-Service Men

Training Centres (Discharges)

asked the Minister of Labour if any of the ex-service men admitted to Government instructional centres for the purpose of training have been discharged before that training has been completed?

During the winter months no man who was entitled to an improvership was discharged unless either an improvership vacancy was awaiting him, or he had received a period of training equal to the total period of training with maintenance allowed. As it was not possible to retain these men indefinitely a scheme has been adopted by which the terminations are being spread over a period of several months. Those men with the shortest extensions of training are being retained until the end of this period. No man fit to continue in training has been discharged from a, training establishment before the end of his prescribed institutional course; on the contrary large extensions of those courses have been given.

Woodwork (Training)

asked the Minister of Labour if he can state the present attitude of the woodworkers and of the cabinetmakers towards disabled ex-service men anxious to enter their respective trades on favourable terms of apprenticeship; and what action, if any, he is taking to effect this natural and desirable absorption of men whose means of livelihood is necessarily very restricted?

My hon. Friend, no doubt, refers to the admission of disabled ex-service men under the Industrial Training Scheme. Both in cabinet-making and in carpentry and joinery the number of admissions to training has been considerably restricted for some months on account of the state of trade and the doubt felt by local Technical Advisory Committees as to the prospects of employment. There is no ground for complaint of the attitude of the National Amalgamated Furnishing Trades' Federation as to the training of disabled men as cabinet-makers. I am glad to say that within the last few weeks the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers have agreed to the admission of additional men to training.

Great Britain And Italy

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with what object Signor Schanzer, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, has been in conference with Members of His Majesty's Government in London; and whether it is proposed to acept the results of such conference to discussion in this House before final decisions are made?

The occasion of Monsieur Schanzer's visit is being taken to discuss in a friendly way the general relations between this country and Italy; until it has become clear what precise course those discussions take it is clearly impossible to state in advance whether or not their results will necessitate a reference to Parliament.

British Mercantile Marine (Census)

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many foreigners and natives of the Far East are employed on British ships; what are the numbers of Scandinavians, Germans, Russians, Chinese, and Lascars; and if he can give the number of British seamen unemployed and the number of British seamen in receipt of the Government grant?

The latest particulars available regarding the nationalities of persons employed on British ships are those of the census of the British mercantile marine for 19th June, 1921, from which the following statement is compiled:Number of seamen of the undermentioned nationalities employed on seagoing vessels registered under Parts I and IV of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 (excluding yachts) on 19th June, 1921:

Nationality.On Trading Vessels.On Trading Vessels.
British (including Irish, dominion and Colonial).95,73414,351
Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.1,703108
German
Russian3303
Chinese (on European agreements).1,608
Other natives of Far East, so far as could be ascertained (on be ascertained (on European agreements).1,338
Lascars (on Asiatic agreements).41,527
Other foreigners9,50233
In view of the generally depressed state of trade at the time to which these figures relate, they cannot be treated as representative of normal conditions. According to statistics respecting the numbers of seamen engaged as the first crews of vessels (except yachts), registered in the British Islands, that were employed at sea during the year 1921, the numbers of different nationalities were as follows:
Nationality.On Trading Vessels.On Fishing Vessels.
British173,76731,467
Lascars (British subjects and foreigners).53,539
Foreigners (other than Lascars).15,790148
In regard to these figures no further details of nationalities are available.

With reference to the last part of the question, I am informed that the number of British seamen registered as unemployed on the latest date for which particulars are available (22nd May, 1922) was 21,042. This number includes about 12,000 in receipt of the Government grant.

Safeguarding Of Industries Act

Fabric Gloves

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he would be prepared to bring up to date the Memorandum, drawn up by the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade, on German currency; and, if so, can he state when copies will be available?

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the table given on page 10 of the Fabric Glove Committee's Report can be amplified by a supplementary table, showing the figures down to a more recent date than December last, seeing that such supplementary figures are already in possession of the Department, showing a different ratio between the internal purchasing power of the mark and the external purchasing power of the mark: and whether he can inform the House why the Fabric Glove Committee's Report, which is the earliest of the Safeguarding of Industries Acts, Part II, Reports, is in the Appendix rather than the latest Report at the date of which more recent figures could have been supplied?

has supplied, the following additional figures pursuance of the answer given on 26th June, 1922 (col. 1631):The following statement, in continuation of the Table on page 10 of the Report of the Committee appointed by the Board of Trade to inquire into the complaint in respect of fabric gloves and glove fabric for the manufacture of fabric gloves under Part. II of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921, includes a revision of the figures, published by the "Frankfurter Zeitung" relating to the later months of 1921:

German Wholesale Prices Index Numbers.Internal Purchasing Power of 100 marks in commodities compared with 1913 = 100.Exchange London—Berlin. Marks to £1. Parity20·M. = £1.Board of Trade Wholesale Prices Index Number 1913=100.External Purchasing Power of 100 marks (in United Kingdom) compared with 1913 = 100.Ratio of Column (3) to Column (8).Ratio of Column (4) to Column (8).
Official."Frankfurter Zeitune."Official."Frankfurter Zeitung."In Sterling.In British commodities.
(1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)
1921.
September20671896·04·845·27388·625191·05·262·751·760:11·916:1
October24602345·64·074·26571·750184·53·571·942·098:12·196:1
November34162963·22·963·371036·365176·41·971·122·616:13·009:1
December34873331·52·873·00805·260171·42·541·481·939:12·027:1
1922.
January36653624·12·732·76813·240167·52·511·501·820:11·840:1
February41034257·92·442·35906·796165·32·251·361·764:11·728:1
March54335292·51·841·891231·167163·21·661·021·804:11·853:1
April63556110·51·571·641283·478163·21·590·971·619:11·690:1
May

*

6446·41·551289·222164·01·580·961·615:1

*The Official Index Number for May is not yet available.

War Services (Expenditure)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the saving in this year's Estimates due to the reduction in expenditure on services arising out of the War?

Special expenditure. which corresponds approximately to expenditure on remanet War services, was estimated last year at £121,500,000, and is estimated for the current year at £61,223,000, a reduction of approximately £60.000,000.

Motor-Car Taxation (Prosecution, Ashbourne)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether his attention has been called to the case of a Ford car, now owned by Mrs. Whittaker, of Brassington, near Ashbourne, and formerly owned by Mr. Spencer, of Brassington, on which the local Excise Office at. Ashbourne first made cash repayment of the import duty paid on its importation and then prosecuted the present owner for using it fraudulently, resulting in a fine of £23; whether it is customary for Excise officers to pursue this course; and, if so, has it the sanction of the Treasury?

The duty on this car was repaid to Mr. Spencer on 3rd December, 1920, on an undertaking that the car would be used only for exempt purposes under Section 13 (4) of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915. In the same month the car was transferred to Mrs. Whittaker, who was warned by the local Officer of Customs and Excise, both orally before the transfer and by notice in writing on 21st February, 1921, of the restrictions on its use. In spite of the warning, the car was used for dutiable purposes, and accordingly, after Mrs. Whittaker bad been given the opportunity of settling the case out of Court by repayment of the duty, proceedings were taken against her which resulted in the recovery of the amount. The course taken by the Customs and Excise authorities is that normally followed in similar circumstances, and is essential for the protection of the Revenue.

Morphine (Exportation)

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the statement at the missionary conference at Swanwiek, in Derbyshire, to the effect that sufficient morphia was being smuggled into China annually to give every man, woman, and child three injections, and that the sources of supply were England, America, and Germany; and, if this be true, what steps are being taken to abate the export?

My attention had not been called to this statement, and I do not know on what information it is based. The export of morphine from this country is prohibited except under licence from the Home Office, and all possible steps are being taken to prevent its export for other than medical or scientific purposes. As, however, I have previously stated, the traffic can only be successfully controlled by international co-operation, and one means to this end would be the adoption and enforcement by all countries of the system of importation certificates which has been recommended by the League of Nations. I understand the Council of the League are urging the members of the League to bring the system into operation at an early date.

Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic)

asked the Home Secretary if he is now able to report to the House the result of his inquiries into the distribution of wines and spirits during the rationed period by the Central Board of Management, Carlisle?

I presume the hon. and gallant Member is referring to his assertion in his question of the 15th May that a certain letter written in 1919 stated that supplies of beers and spirits largely in excess of the quantities that were sanctioned under the Intoxicating Liquor (Output and Delivery) Order were supplied to a club and similar organisations in Carlisle. These and similar allegations cannot be dealt with adequately by question and answer, and I should prefer to meet them in debate, but I am advised that it is not the case that during the period in question the Central Control Board ever supplied beer or spirits in excess of the quantities sanctioned by the Food Controller's Regulations. The allocation made to any club or to any other persons was necessarily made from the limited total supply at the disposal of the Board, since the Board neither brewed beer, nor cleared spirits from bond, in excess of the quantities authorised by the Regulations.

Water Resources (Survey)

asked the Minister of Health whether the allocation of suitable available supplies of water and the provision for the future is or has recently been under the consideration of the Ministry and with what result?

Yes, Sir. A survey of the water resources of the country is now in progress, and the whole subject is being carefully considered.

Sewage Disposal, Enfield

asked the Minister of Health whether he has approved of the scheme submitted by the Enfield Council for the improvement of their sewage disposal works; and, if so, whether there is any possibility of work being started on the scheme by the end of July?

The scheme has been approved, subject to certain modifications. I understand that it is doubtful whether it will be possible to start work by the end of July, but I am taking all steps that the matter will be expedited.

River Lea (Pollution)

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that the proposed improvements in the sewage disposal works at Enfield will prevent the pollution of the River Lea by sewage in the Hackney district; and whether any improvements to the Tottenham sewage system are contemplated?

The Enfield improvements should make a marked difference, but I cannot say whether all pollution of the river will be prevented. No change in the Tottenham sewage arrangements are proposed: this sewage is passed into the London County Council sewers, and should therefore not pollute the river Lea.

Local Option, Scotland

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether he will take steps to obtain the powers necessary to enable him to secure that the decision of the electors under the Temperance (Scot- land) Act shall not be rendered of no effect, as in the case of the polls at Newmilns and Darvel?

I have fully considered the legal position, and am of opinion that the proper course to be adopted in the situation which has arisen is by application to the Civil Courts. I have so advised my right hon. Friend, and in these circumstances he does not propose to take action by way of legislation.

Railway Couplings (Breakages)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport how many railway couplings have broken in service this year on the railways of England, Scotland, and Wales, on passenger trains and in goods trains; and in how many of such cases of breakage has loss of life resulted?

During the first five months of this year there have been reported; 623 broken couplings or drawbars on passenger trains and 2,558 on goods trains. No loss of life occurred in consequence of any of these breakages.

Roads Maintenance And Repair

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport what steps he proposes taking to give effect to the principle embodied in Section 23 of the Highways and Locomotives (Amendment) Act, 1878, so far as it protects the ratepayers generally against being called upon to pay both the costs of ordinary and extraordinary traffic on the highways?

The Section referred to confers powers upon highway authorities enabling them to recover expenses in connection with extraordinary traffic in certain cases, and it is entirely a matter for them to take action in such cases as they may be advised.

Elections (Intimidation)

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the resolution passed by the Oxford Trades and Labour Council in favour of picketing polling booths when there is no Labour candidate, in order to prevent workers using their votes in favour of any non-Labour candidate, and also in favour of expelling from the party any members seen trying so to vote; and whether, in case this new form of intimidation should spread, he will consider the desirability of legislation to suppress it with heavy penalties, so as to safeguard freedom of voting?

I have been asked to reply. My attention has not been called to the resolution in question, but I may point out that under Section 2 of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883, the intimidation of electors for the purpose of causing them to refrain from voting is an offence punishable by imprisonment or fine. So far as I am aware, there is no evidence to show that this provision has proved inadequate or that any amendment of it is needed.

Stamp Section, Post Office (Superannuation)

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that, when the established male manipulative staff of the Post Office Stamp Section were transferred from the Inland Revenue Department to the General Post Office in 1914, the then Postmaster-General agreed, after persuading the Treasury, that he would confirm the right of officers in the Department of the Controller of Stamps and Stores and Inland Revenue Sub-Department to count for purposes of superannuation their unestablisbed service from the age of 16 if as boys they entered the service in the Stamping Department of the Inland Revenue Department, and from the age of 17 if they entered as boy messengers the Inland Revenue Department through the Civil Service Commission; that one of the first officers to come within the scope of this old arrangement is about to retire, but has been notified that the agreement will not apply, and that he will lose the right of counting several years of his unestablished service; and whether, since this is a breach of faith on the part of either the Post Office or the Treasury, or both, and since the Order of 1918 on which this present decision is based ought not to be made retrospective in the case of officers established prior to that date, he will inquire into the whole matter?

The transfer of the staff of the Stamp Section from the Inland Revenue Department to the Post Office has in no way prejudiced the claims to superannuation of the officers concerned. No decision has yet been given in the case referred to by the hon. Member; and full particulars of the officer's service will be reported to the Treasury, whose function it is to make awards under the Superannuation Acts.