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Commons Chamber

Volume 236: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1930

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 4th March, 1930.

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

Private Business

South Staffordshire Mond Gas Bill,

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Dundee Corporation (General Powers) Order Confirmation Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, relating to Dundee Corporation (General Powers)," presented by Mr. Secretary Adamson; read the First time, and ordered (under Section 9 of the Act) to be read a Second time upon Wednesday, 12th March, and to be printed. [Bill 132.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Scotland

Fishing Industry

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the regulations with regard to marking and lighting of anchored fishing lines and nets in the extra-territorial waters off the Scottish coast?

There are at present no regulations for the marking and lighting of lines and anchored nets other than those issued by the Fishery Board for Scotland in respect of anchored cod nets, of which I am forwarding a copy for the hon. Member's information. Negotiations are proceeding between the Departments concerned and the industry with a view to the issue of regulations for the marking and lighting of lines.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the modified regulations to which he has referred have been observed by Scottish fishermen?

As I have intimated in the last part of my answer, negotiations are proceeding between the Departments concerned and the industry, with a view to the issue of further regulations with regard to the marking of lines.

Am I to take it from the right hon. Gentleman's answer that he is not satisfied with the way in which the regulations have been carried out in the past?

The fact that we are negotiating for further regulations, I think, indicates that.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is the opinion of many fishermen that the marking of these nets actually attracts trawlers and causes damage to the lines?

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of foreign trawlers reported to the Scottish Fishery Board as trawling within the Moray Firth area each day during December, 1929 and January, 1930?

I propose, with the hon. Member's permission, to circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

Numbers of Foreign Trawlers reported to the Fishery Board for Scotland as having been observed trawling in the Moray Firth during December, 1929, and January, 1930.
Date observed. 1929.Number of trawlers observed on each day.
3rd December1
9th December2
12th December2
13th December1
14th December1
16th December2
17th December1
19th December2
27th December3

Date observed. 1929.Number of trawlers observed on each day.
6th January4
10th January3
14th January3
15th January3
16th January1
22nd January6
26th January6

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the particulars of the applications for grants and loans in connection with the fishermen's relief scheme; and when and how the applications will be dealt with?

The numbers of applications for grants from the relief fund and for loans from the loan fund at yesterday's date were 1,806 and 278, respectively, the amounts involved being £67,753 and £21,520. Applications for grants will be considered in the first instance by local committees, and the allocation of the fund will be made by the Central Committee after all the local committees have reported. The loan scheme will be administered by the Fishery Board, who will deal with applications as soon as possible after the distribution of the relief fund which I am doing my best to expedite.

Are we to understand that, in fact, there has been no distribution at all to these distressed fishermen of the funds collected for them?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there has been ample time in which to allow these men to lodge their applications?

With regard to the first supplementary question, if the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) keeps in mind the fact that the local committees have to make inquiries locally, and then report to the Central Committee, he will understand that a certain amount of time must necessarily elapse before any distribution can be made.

With regard to the appointment of local committees that is a matter which has been arranged for by the Central Committee in each particular district. They are the people who arrange for the distribution.

Has the time for lodging applications passed, keeping in mind the number of fishermen who have not yet returned from the West Coast fishing?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these fishermen have only just come back and are scattered over the Western Isles; and has he taken that fact into consideration in determining the time within which applications can be lodged?

Evidently, it is very difficult to satisfy all hon. Members on this matter. The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) has been asking me why no money has yet been distributed, and the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Sir F. Thomson) and the hon. and gallant Member for Banff (Major Wood) appear to want some more time to elapse before any money can be distributed.

Housing

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the new Housing Bill is to apply to Scotland, and, if not, whether a separate Housing Bill for Scotland is in contemplation; whether he is aware that house building in Scotland is being retarded owing to the fact that many landowners, especially in and around the small towns and villages, refuse to give off land for feus for the erection of houses and shops, notwithstanding the considerable demand for them; and whether, in these circumstances, the Government intends to introduce legislation to compel landowners in Scotland to make land available for this purpose when and where required?

As regards the first part of the question I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on the 11th February to the hon. Member for North Lanark (Miss Lee), to which I have nothing to add. As regards the second and third parts I am not aware that the position is as stated, and I would refer the hon. Member to the powers which local authorities already have to acquire land for housing purposes—compulsorily if need be—under Sections 44, 51 and 90 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the cost per house of type C.1, C.2, F1, F2 and F6 houses of the Glasgow Corporation, Drumoyne and Craigton schemes, respectively?

As the answer involves a table of figures I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us approximately what is the difference between the two schemes, without going into the figures?

The difference between the Drumoyne scheme—the direct labour scheme—and the Craigton scheme—the private enterprise scheme—varies from about £190 a house to £279 a house in favour of the direct labour scheme.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in connection with the Craigton scheme, there is still an outstanding claim of £33,000 by the contractor against the Glasgow Corporation, and, in view of the fact that the houses have been occupied for a period of six years, will the Department take steps to see that this matter is closed for good and all?

There is a claim for an amount slightly over the figure which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned by the contractor against the corporation on the private enterprise scheme, but how much of that claim will be ultimately met I am not in a position to say at present.

Following is the answer:

The cost per house of the types in question as brought out by the final measurements submitted by the Corporation of Glasgow to the Department of Health for Scotland are as follows:

Type.Drumoyne.Craigton.
££
C1516720
C2509707
F1612842
F2640919
F6611869

The figures given for Craigton are exclusive of a sum of £36,000 claimed by the contractors, which claim is still under consideration.

Red Biddy

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has received the medical report on red biddy; will he reveal its contents to the House; whether he has found that red biddy is produced in any other place than Leith; and whether it is consumed in districts other than the West of Scotland?

The medical investigation into the effect upon consumers of cheap red wine, and of such wine when mixed with methylated or other spirits, will take some time. I am informed that red wine is manufactured at Cleland and at Perth as well as at Leith, and that the consumption of red wine, whether by itself or mixed with other ingredients is not limited to the West of Scotland.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any evidence to prove that red biddy is manufactured in the Hulme Division of Manchester or in Middlesbrough?

Is it not a perfectly easy matter to have red biddy analysed and to let us know the result?

Sanitary Inspectors (Appointments)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether his attention has been drawn to the growing practice in Scotland of appointing medical officers as sanitary inspectors: and whether he will take steps to see that fully qualified sanitary inspectors are employed who are specially trained for this important work?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the nega- tive. As regards the second part, I am afraid I cannot accept the suggestion that a medical practitioner who is also the holder of a diploma in public health is unqualified for the office of sanitary inspector.

Is it not a fact that the qualifications for a sanitary inspector's certificate carries with it a knowledge of building trade construction; and, if I bring specific instances to the notice of the hon. Gentleman, will he cause inquiries to be made?

Unemployment

Dockyards (Alternative Work)

12.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he will be in a position to inform the House of Commons on the nature of the Government scheme for providing alternative employment to men thrown out of work in Government dockyards and private workshops by reason of reductions in naval armaments?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave on the 11th February to the hon. Member for North Newcastle (Sir N. Grattan-Doyle), a copy of which I am sending to him.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that answer did not deal with this particular aspect of the question at all?

On the contrary, I think that the reply then covered this question. The gist of the question was whether any special steps were to be taken to meet the unemployment resulting from the proposed abandonment of certain naval construction. The answer I then gave was "No."

Is it a fact that any schemes for alternative work in the dockyards have been definitely abandoned?

Scottish Wholesale Co-Operative Society (German Machinery)

14.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he can now state the result of his inquiries with reference to the recent purchase of German machinery by the Scottish Wholesale Co-operative Society?

My inquiries show that, while it is the normal policy of the society to purchase in this country, there were circumstances connected with this case which called for a departure from that policy.

Has the right hon. Gentleman satisfied himself that there is a real and proper reason for this purchase?

I took the unusual course, when my attention was drawn to this case, to inquire into it personally, especially having regard to the fact that I issued a circular urging the purchase of British goods. I examined the case personally, and I am satisfied that it was entirely Justified.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make special inquiries into the number of foreign cars owned by Members of this House?

Pit Mounds (Levelling)

15.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is aware that the Association of Midland Local Authorities is still awaiting further proposals from him with reference to the scheme for the levelling of pit mounds in the Black Country; and can he state the reason for the continued delay?

The length of time for which this matter has been under consideration is accounted for by the complexity of the subject and by a desire to go to the limit of what is possible to meet the local authorities. Proposals which must be regarded as the most favourable which can be made, and as final, were sent to the association on the 1st March. I hope the offer will be accepted in the spirit in which it is made, and that there will be no further delay in commencing the work.

Am I to understand that at long last an offer in writing has been actually sent to these local authorities?

Not at long last; but, after long negotiations, we have endeavoured to meet the difficulties of the local authorities. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that their borrowing power is affected, and I have been endeavouring for six months to find ways and means of getting over it.

Liverpool University (Grant)

17.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is prepared to treat Liverpool University as a statutory body of the kind qualified to receive benefit under the Development (Loan Guarantees and Grants) Act, 1929, and consider an application from the university for a scheme of improvement involving a grant which would relieve unemployment?

Grants under Part II, Section 4 (3), of the Development (Loan Guarantees and Grants) Act, 1929, can be made only to local authorities, and any such statutory bodies as carry on undertakings under statutory powers otherwise than for profit. If the university claim to be eligible under that Section, my right hon. Friend will be glad to consider a statement of their case. Part I of the Act would in any case not be applicable.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman consider applying Part II of this Act to such applications?

As I have already said, it is up to the particular body to establish their claim under the Act. It is not for me either to anticipate that claim or to pre-judge it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not consider, in view of the suitability of universities to put forward such schemes, undertaking, if necessary, to amend the Act, so as to make it possible; and is he aware that the University of Liverpool have been definitely informed that they are not eligible under the present Act, and that statutory changes would be required?

The answer I gave was that, if any university could establish their claim under the Act, consideration would be given to it. If, however, the hon. Lady informs me that they have made a claim, and that they are not eligible, I cannot promise to alter the Act.

Inland Waterways

20.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has in view any comprehensive scheme to deal with the inland waterways of this country, and particularly to make the existing canals of value to trade by deepening and widening?

The policy of the Government in regard to this matter was recently explained fully to the House by my hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, on the occasion of the Motion for the Adjournment on the 25th January last.

Government Proposals

21.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the Cabinet Committee who are considering proposals in relation to the mitigation of unemployment have yet arrived at any conclusions?

As the right hon. Gentleman must be aware, it is not the practice to divulge the recommendations of Cabinet Committees.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chancellor of the Duchy is getting very anxious about this matter, and cannot he give some satisfaction to the House?

Government Policy

22.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in connection with the mitigation of unemployment, he will consider the raising of a loan for the provision of relief and other works; the grant of pensions to the old workers in industry; a short-term programme of certain economic works; and a long-term programme for the fundamental reorganisation of industry?

The policy of the Government in regard to the relief of unemployment has already been announced to the House.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise the valuable nature of these proposals and the source from which they have been derived; and is he going to give any satisfaction to his colleagues, who are so well and loyally supporting him?

Are we to take it that the full policy of the Government in regard to unemployment has been completely announced?

The hon. Member can take it for granted that the policy of His Majesty's Government has been and will be announced by me.

May we ask the right hon. Gentleman when he announced it, so that we may be able to ascertain what the whole policy of the Government is?

On two or three occasions before the return of the right hon. Gentleman.

Canadian Wheat And British Products (Exchange)

24.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has any statement to make respecting the results of his consultations with the representatives of the Canadian wheat pool?

I have nothing to add to the full statement which I made on this subject on the 25th February, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. Member.

Coal Exports (Canada)

25.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he can state the coal area which will supply the 40,000 tons of coal which are to be shipped to Canada; and from what ports in Great Britain the shipment is to be made?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he will be able to make a statement?

I am quite sure the hon. Member will appreciate that these matters must be determined by the particular firms. I was concerned in getting orders for this country, and I was quite impartial as to where the coal came from.

Mossley, Lancashire

27.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether his Department has yet received any schemes for the relief of the unemployment situation from the Mossley Borough Council, Lancashire?

Having regard to the very heavy unemployment in Mossley, I am disappointed to learn that no formal application has yet been submitted by the Mossley Town Council to the Unemploy- ment Grants Committee for a grant towards works for the relief of unemployment.

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate the position in Lancashire as disclosed by the latest unemployment figures?

I have already expressed my disappointment that no application has come from a town suffering so heavily. The figures for Lancashire again this week shows 11,000 odd increase in Lancashire alone.

Is the right hon. Gentleman preparing any schemes for reducing the number of unemployed in Lancashire?

I am in almost daily consultation with the representatives of the cotton trade in Lancashire. The difficulty will be manifest to the whole House. It is one of those cases where no temporary relief can really help the permanent solution.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has made any representation to India about the new Import Duties?

The hon. Member will have seen in the Press the very strong representations made by His Majesty's Government on that side of the question.

Is one of the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman his disagreement with the Chancellor of the Exchequer over certain matters?

On the contrary, the friendship between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself would almost equal the unanimity among hon. Members opposite.

Aged Workers (Retirement)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government will reconsider its decision regarding the voluntary retirement of aged workers in view of the increase in the number of unemployed?

I have nothing to add to the previous replies on this subject

May I ask whether this matter has or has not been before the sub-committee, whether that sub-committee has met, and, if it has come to a conclusion, what are the findings of the Cabinet in respect to that matter?

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman promised work or maintenance just before the last election?

Channel Tunnel

19.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he can now state the terms of the Channel Tunnel Committee Report?

23.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether it has been decided, if the Report of the Channel Tunnel Committee is favourable as to the economic aspects, to have the strategical aspects investigated; and whether the same committee or a differently constituted one will be used for this purpose?

26.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he can make any statement as to the position of the Channel Tunnel proposals; and whether he has considered the erection of a bridge, which would provide for road as well as railway traffic, as an alternative proposal?

Formal notice of presentation to Parliament of the Report of the Channel Tunnel Committee was given yesterday, and copies will be circulated as soon as possible. The Government propose to give immediate consideration to the Report in all its aspects.

The right hon. Gentleman does not answer the second part of my question, whether the same committee or a differently constituted committee will examine the strategical aspects, as promised by the then Prime Minister?

There is at the moment only one copy of the Report in existence. It is now being printed, and will be cir- culated. Whatever that Report says will be published to Members, and, in the interval, the Government will consider the Report. It would be unwise for me to anticipate the decision of the Government when they have not considered any aspect of the Report.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say if the alternative of a train ferry was considered?

I think that it would be better for the Report to be in Members' hands, so that they can consider it themselves.

Can the Lord Privy Seal say how long it is likely to be before the Government will come to a decision on this matter?

I can hardly say that when, as I have already informed the House, the Report is not yet printed. It has to be printed before the Government as a whole see it. All that I can assure my hon. Friend is that, in view of the urgency of the matter, the Government will not delay.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say, roughly, whether the committee recommend the building of this tunnel or not?

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the second part of my question, whether the erection of a bridge has been considered?

As I say, many alternatives have been considered, and I think that it would be better for the Report to be printed.

Trade And Commerce

Russian Refined Petroleum (Imports)

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give the imports of refined petroleum from Russia for the 12 months ended to the last convenient date?

During the year ended 31st January, 1930, the quantity of refined petroleum imported into the United Kingdom and registered as consigned from the Soviet Union (Russia) was approximately 220,800,000 gallons. This quantity included 87,200,000 gallons of lamp oil, 84,600,000 gallons of motor spirit and 27,200,000 gallons of fuel oil.

Tariff Truce

31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he expects to be able to give the House the results of the Conference in regard to the proposed tariff truce; and whether it is his intention to issue a White Paper on the subject?

I cannot say when the Conference will conclude its labours. As I have already stated, the proposals of the Conference in their final form will be communicated to the House.

Import And Export Restrictions (Convention)

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of nations which have ratified the Geneva Convention of 1927 on the abolition of import and export restrictions; which other nations must ratify this Convention in order to make it binding; and the latest date by which ratifications must be deposited?

By virtue of a Protocol drawn up in Paris in December last, the Convention has been brought formally into force between 17 countries as from 1st January last. The hon. and gallant Member will find a full statement of the present position of the Convention on page 59 of the Board of Trade Journal of 9th January, of which I am sending him a copy.

Norway (British Commercial Travellers)

33.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any fee is payable by British commercial travellers seeking business in Norway; what is the amount of such fee; and whether there has been any alteration in the amount during the past six months?

Commercial travellers not inhabitants of Norway and seeking business in that country are required to take out a licence for which a fee of 100 Kroner or about £5 10s. is charged for each period of 30 days or part thereof during which it is valid. A law of 21st June, 1929, which was to have taken effect on 1st January of this year, proposed to increase this fee to 200 Kroner for the first 30 days and 100 Kroner for each subsequent 15 days, but the old rate has recently been restored and I understand that arrangements are being made for the refund of any difference in the fees paid by travellers who took out licences after 1st January at the increased rate.

Foreign Imports (Marking)

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the provisions for marking imported articles as of foreign origin are being evaded by certain importers in that the notification is printed in such small type and in such obscure places as to give the impression that the articles are of British make; and is he aware that this practice is not confined to fragile articles or those whose artistic appearance would suffer from a legible inscription; and what action he proposes to take in the matter?

If the hon. Member will furnish me with particulars of any such cases, I shall be happy to investigate them.

Arising out of that answer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down!"]—may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware how pleased the whole House is to see him back again?

Egypt

39.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give the comparative figures of British export trade with Egypt for the last five years, showing the proportion of that trade to the total imports into into Egypt?

With the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following are the figures:

The following statement shows the total value of merchandise imported into Egypt during each of the years 1925 to 1929, and distinguishes the proportions, consigned from the United Kingdom.

YearTotal.Of which from U.K.Proportion from U.K.
Thousand £.Thousand £.Per cent.
192558,88414,51324·6
192653,08911,11820·9
192749,36012,34825·0
192852,17811,50422·0
192956,44411,89721·0
Values have been converted from Egyptian currency at the rate of 975 L.E. = £1.
The figures for 1929 are provisional.

Empire Wink (Foreign Substitutes)

43.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that an alcoholic beverage, synthetically prepared from concentrated grape juice imported from Greece and other foreign countries, to which has been added grain spirit or potato spirit and other substances, is commonly sold in substitution for Empire wine or port wine; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent this substitution?

I have no information regarding the practice to which my hon. Friend refers. It is an offence under the Merchandise Marks Acts to apply to any goods a trade description which is false in any material respect, for instance, as regards the place or country in which the goods are made or produced or as to the material of which they are composed. If my hon. Friend will send me particulars of any cases which he has in mind, I will look into them.

Cotton Industry (Inquiry)

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the increasing gravity of the situation in the cotton industry, he can hold out any hope of an early Report of the inquiry at present proceeding and prompt action following upon it?

As I stated on Tuesday last in reply to a similar question by the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe, the Cotton Inquiry is being pushed on as expeditiously as possible.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the position of the cotton industry in Lancashire is as bad, if not worse, than the condition of the coal industry?

May I draw the Prime Minister's attention to an article in this week's newspapers—

Cinematograph Films Act

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether replies have been received by his Department from the Kinematograph Renters' Society and the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association to the communication in which the Board drew the attention of these bodies to the tendency that was stated to exist among their members to ignore the requirements of Part I of the Cinematograph Films Act, 1927; and can he state whether any suggestions have been made by these Associations as to the manner in which their members would co-operate in future in carrying out the conditions laid down in Part I of this Act?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to letters which the Board addressed to the bodies mentioned on 1st December, 1928. These letters called attention to the necessity of securing the strict observance of the provisions of Part I of the Act in question, and there is every reason to suppose that the Board's representations received the fullest consideration. No further action has been taken, and owing to the changed conditions of the trade none appears now to be necessary, as the tendency referred to in the question is said to exist no longer.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his recovery, and can he say whether he is satisfied that Part I of the Act is now being operated satisfactorily?

I think my hon. Friend refers to Part I, and I am quite satisfied that the difficulty has now disappeared.

Coast Erosion, Essex

35.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that, owing to the present position of the Coast Protection Bill, nothing has been done to retard the coast erosion in certain small parishes on the Essex coast, which are financially unable to carry out any sea-defence works as a 1d, rate in such parishes produces under £20; and whether he will consider some emergency legislation to deal with cases of this kind until some larger co-ordinating measure can be passed into law?

I am aware that erosion is occurring in Essex as well as in other districts, and the measures recommended by the Royal Commission are embodied in the Coast Protection Bill now before the House. A large number of amendments have been put down to that Bill and the Government have shown by their own amendments how far they are prepared to meet the main difficulties. I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by attempting to prepare an abbreviated Bill. I may remind the hon. Member that, subject to certain conditions, grants are available for the construction and repair of sea defence works through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Unemployment Grants Committee.

British Seamen (Foreign Imprisonments)

41.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he can state the number of cases of imprisonment of British seamen in foreign ports which have occurred in the past five years under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, Sections 220 to 230; in what countries and ports the cases occurred; the average terms of the sentences; if there were delays prior to the hearing of the cases; and whether there is any record of the subsequent careers of the seamen concerned after release?

I have no record of any case of imprisonment of a British seaman in a foreign port during the past five years for an offence under any of Sections 220 to 230 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.

Companies Act

44.

asked the President of the Board of Trade in how many cases of registered companies the penaltiesunder the Companies Act, 1929, have been imposed by the registrar for failure to submit annual returns and balance sheets; and what is the total sum of such penalties collected to 31st January, 1930?

In accordance with the usual practice companies which have failed to file an annual return in respect of 1929, are being circularised by the Registrar, and the question of prosecution will only arise when this procedure fails to produce the return. The Registrar himself has no power to impose penalties.

Maritime Law

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether in connection with the discussions at the Naval Conference concerning the protection of merchant ships in time of war against being sunk by submarines without the safety of the crews and passengers being ensured, the Government will consider the necessity of provision being made by international law for similar protection against sinkings by seaplanes or aeroplanes?

While I will certainly consider the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman I cannot guarantee that the matter will be discussed during the present Conference.

47.

asked the Prime Minister in view of the fact that the second schedule of the treaties of Washington, known as the Root Resolutions, was signed by all the nations taking part, and subsequently ratified by all except France, whether the Government will adhere to these resolutions so that the lives of neutrals and non-combatants are fully protected against any form of attack from air or sea on merchant vessels except when the vessels refuse to submit to visit and search, and no merchant vessel can be seized until its character has been determined by visit and search?

As the hon. and gallant Member is of course aware, the question of air attacks upon merchant ships was not touched upon in the Washington Treaty. The submarine parts of the Washington Treaty are now being considered.

Surely, if the right hon. Gentleman looks back at the Boot Resolutions, he will find that they certainly cover air attack without mentioning it, and all forms of attack on merchant ships?

Quite obviously, this is a subject that has to be taken up as a consequence of anything that may be done at the Conference.

Economic Advisory Council (Scotland)

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that the unemployment figures in Scotland are heavier than the figures for England and Wales, he can say why the Secretary of State for Scotland is not included in the list of Ministers who comprise the Economic Advisory Council?

As my hon. Friend will see from the terms of the White Paper, provision has been made for the attendance at meetings of the Council of Ministers who are not members of it when matters affecting their Departments are under consideration.

Disarmament

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is in a position to make any statement as to further disarmament conferences for the purpose of bringing about mutual reductions in land and aerial armaments after the conclusion of the present conference on naval armaments; and when it is hoped to hold this further conference or conferences?

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the answer which I gave on the 5th February in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Freeman).

French Loans (British Investors)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to cases recently submitted to the Permanent Court of Inter national Justice by France against Brazil and Jugoslavia, as a result of which it was decided that French holders of pre- War foreign bonds must be paid their interest in gold and not in paper francs; and whether he will consider the advisability of bringing a similar test case with regard to the position of British holders of French loans?

I am aware of the cases referred to in the first part of the question, and I noted with interest the judgments given in July last, although the claims of the French bondholders in these cases are not in all respects identical with the claims of British holders of French loans. I will, as I previously said, take any appropriate opportunity which presents itself of placing the claims of British holders of French loans, with which I have the greatest sympathy, before the French Government for consideration. If agreement on the matter cannot, be reached, I shall certainly consider whether it will be desirable to propose that the matter should be settled by arbitration.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is willing to consider referring this matter, not to arbitration, but to the Permanent Court, as suggested in the question?

No, I think there are reasons against that course. When the hon. Member sees my answer in print, he will see that I say that the claims in the two cases are not identical.

Income Tax

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has received a copy of the memorandum by the Federation of British Industries, published in the Press on the 17th instant, which contains a table purporting to show that the yield of the income tax per penny of standard rate has been steadily declining since 1924; and what reply he has sent thereto?

A copy of this memorandum was sent to me by the Federation of British Industries and I have had the table to which the hon. Member refers examined. This table puts the produce of the Income Tax for the year 1928 at £220,000,000 with a yield per penny of £4,583,000. The true figures for that year are £233,000,000 and £4,850,000 respectively. Apart from this inaccuracy, however, a comparison of the yield of Income Tax over a series of years cannot properly be made without taking into account the taxation changes which have taken place. There were greater Income Tax allowances in the later years of this table than in the earlier years and if adjustments are made on this account the yield per penny for 1928 is not, as the table states, the lowest of recent years but the highest. The pessimistic inferences contained in the memorandum are therefore unwarranted, and I cannot think that the interests of trade and industry are being served by the dissemination of inaccurate information in this way.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the interests of trade and industry will be helped by the attitude he has taken up?

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he can give information as to the number of companies formerly domiciled in this country that have in the last 10 years been transferred abroad; and the approximate amount of Income Tax paid by these companies prior to their withdrawal?

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply of the 6th February to a question by the hon. Member for Harborough (Earl of Castlestewart) on this subject, of which I am sending him a copy. The hon. Member will find information for years ending 1923–24 in Appendix XVII of the Appendices to the Report of the Colwyn Committee on National Debt and Taxation.

Safeguarding And Import Duties

Silk Industry

56.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has received a communication from the joint industrial council for the silk trade, representing both employers and employed in that industry; if so, will he state the nature of that communication; and whether he proposes now to make any statement?

I have received a resolution from the council referred to advocating the retention of the existing Silk Duties. As I have repeatedly said I am not prepared to anticipate the Budget statement in this or any other matter.

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that eight out of 11 trade union members of that council voted in favour of that resolution?

I am not aware of that fact, but I am aware of the fact that there was strong opposition to it by certain trade union members.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the present moment there is very serious disturbance in the silk industry owing to his persistency in not disclosing his intentions?

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that he is not prepared to anticipate his Budget speech on this occasion?

I have some recollection of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) stating that he has had some experience at the Treasury, and I am very much surprised that, out of his own knowledge, he is not able to give to himself an answer to that question.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to give [HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"]—I am putting "surely" in an interrogative form—Is it not, surely, the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to give to the House and to the country some better reason than he has given to-day for persisting in an attitude of spiteful contumely?

If I were guilty of spiteful contumely, I should find a precedent for that in the action of the right hon. Gentleman in spitefully reimposing the McKenna Duties, an action which has given rise to whatever troubles the silk industry finds itself in to-day.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a statement with regard to what I was supposed to have said, and I wish to say that I never said it.

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that if the duties on silk and artificial silk are removed there will be a flood of imports from the Continent, and that there is not even a possibility of improvement in the silk and artificial silk industries whilst the present uncertainty remains, he will receive a deputation from the trade so that he may be in possession of the full facts of the situation?

I have already received representations from the silk trade, and several deputations have discussed various aspects of the question with the Commissioners of Customs and Excise on my behalf. In these circumstances I do not think there is any necessity to trouble the trade to send a deputation to me.

Surely, it has long been the custom for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the weeks preceding the introduction of the Budget, to receive freely, 10, 12 or 15 deputations from different trades and interests in the country that are anxious about possible financial legislation, and that wish to put their case before him—

Why does the right hon. Gentleman depart from a practice which is so respectable and so long established?

One reason for that is that I do not find so much enjoyment as the right hon. Gentleman did in airing his views before these deputations —[Interruption].

On a point of Order. May the House not have serious answers to serious questions, instead of this continual flow of petty irrelevancies?

I had not finished my reply. If my answer was vulgar, I am sorry that I had fallen into the precedent just set up. [Interruption.] I will complete my reply by saying that last week I received a most representative deputation from the Association of Chambers of Commerce, who raised this matter, and I am to meet another from the Federation of British Industries in the course of a day or two. They, no doubt, will raise this matter, and they, too, will get my views.

Having regard to the great technicality of the Silk Duties, and the special position which this trade occupies, will not the right hon. Gentleman, bearing in mind the fact that he is a public servant, receive a deputation from the silk industry himself, as Chancellor of the Exchequer? [Interruption.] Will he not, in the course of his duty, receive a deputation from a trade who wish to put the facts before him?

I have already said that deputations representing the silk trade have already been received on my behalf by the Board of Customs and Excise, and all the knowledge in the possession of these industries has been placed before the Board. Therefore, they can add nothing to the information that they have already placed before me.

Is it not the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—[Interruption.]

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, may I say that very important points of departmental and even constitutional usage are raised by the refusal of a Minister to discharge in the ordinary manner the duties of his Department, and to be accessible to the various interests concerned?

May I not, surely, be permitted to press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to act with reasonable courtesy and good feeling in this matter?

I understand that that question of the right hon. Gentleman is addressed to me, and I would say, as regards the continuance of these supplementary questions on this particular question, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to me to have given a very definite answer, and I doubt whether any further pressure will induce him to say more.

On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is in accordance with the custom of the House at Question Time for a Minister, when answering questions, to preface his answer to a question by endeavouring to give a rebuke to a right hon. Gentleman on a matter which arose on a previous question?

I think it would be very much better at Question Time to confine ourselves to questions and answers.

May I draw your attention, Sir, to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), having been advised to desist from questioning by you, then proceeded to hurl objectionable remarks across the Table?

I need not specify any individual, but would re-state what I said, that it would be better for hon. Members simply to put their questions and for Ministers to answer them.

New Import Duties

57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that British motor car manufacturers and traders would welcome an impartial committee of inquiry into the operation of the McKenna Duties and in relation to Empire trade, and are ready to place information respecting costs and methods at the disposal of such a committee; and whether, in view of these circumstances, he will favourably consider the initiation of an inquiry?

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has considered the offer made on 24th February, 1930, by the British section of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders offering to pay the whole of the costs of an inquiry to investigate every aspect of the question in relation to the motor industry, whether by the Economic Advisory Council or by a special commission; and whether he intends to take advantage of this offer?

No such offer has been submitted to me, and I have no information on the matter beyond references to it in the Press.

If such an offer were submitted, would not His Majesty's Government fortify themselves by the advice and opinion of an impartial committee on a matter which, apart from party controversy, is of great consequence to a large number of people?

This alleged statement by this Society has not been submitted to me, and, therefore, I am not called upon to offer any observations upon it. The right hon. Gentleman knows that these duties were imposed, not in the interests of trade, but purely as revenue duties, and, therefore, it is the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider them from that point of view.

Is that the only point of view from which the right hon. Gentleman is going to consider them?

Manchester Chambers Of Commerce

61.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that the letter written to him by the president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, dated 24th December, 1929, had concern with the treatment of stocks and had nothing to do with the question of retention or repeal of the silk and artificial silk duties, and in view of the January resolution of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce which stated that the fear of disturbance of the existing duties was hampering progress and development of the trades concerned, he will reconsider his refusal to make an early pronouncement on the subject?

Revenue Appeals

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been drawn to the judgment in the final Court of Appeal on the 25th February last, wherein useless appeals by the Crown to the detriment of the taxpayer were referred to; upon whose ad- vice was that particular appeal prosecuted; and whether he will take steps in the future to prevent cases involving no question of principle being taken to the final Court of Appeal?

I have seen newspaper reports of Lord Dunedin's remarks, and I confess to finding great difficulty in understanding what prompted them. Judgment had been given for the Crown by a High Court Judge of exceptional experience in taxation cases. It is true that this judgment was overruled by the Court of Appeal, but the case was one in which over £200,000 was at stake, and an important point of principle was in issue. The Crown was contending for the maintenance of a long-established practice, and that practice was one which in the vast majority of similar cases is more favourable to the taxpayer than what has now been declared to be the true interpretation of the law. I may add that since the beginning of 1929 nine appeals in Inland Revenue cases have been heard by the House of Lords. Seven of these were appeals by taxpayers, and two by the Crown. Judgment was given for the Crown in all the cases but one. No further defence of the Crown's advisers seems necessary.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that, when doubtful points have to be settled in this way, the Crown reimburse the taxpayer as regards the costs of the proceedings, since otherwise it is impossible for an ordinary individual to have a point of this kind decided?

That is a matter which is very often raised, but I am not prepared to give a decision on an important matter like that in answer to a supplementary question.

Children Allowances

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the estimated cost of children's allowances of 5s. per week from birth until school-leaving age for all children whose parents are not chargeable for Income Tax after deducting the amounts that would be saved in payments on account of unemployment and poor relief?

Under the existing law as to the school-leaving age, the cost would be about £130,000,000. Payments in unemployment benefit and Poor Law relief in respect of children vary from time to time with the state of employment, but are insignificant in comparison with this figure.

Empire-Grown Sugar

63.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to increase the percentage of Empire-grown sugar consumed in this country?

So far as the question of policy in regard to the Sugar Duties may be concerned, I must refer the hon. Member to previous replies on the subject. I would, however, remind him that a substantial preferential re-hate from the Sugar Duty is granted to Empire sugar, and, as I stated in Debate on 9th July last, the Government proposed to maintain existing preferences so long as the duties upon which those preferences are given remain in force.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will do nothing to discourage the growth of sugar within the Empire?

My policy never discourages industry. It is always devised for the purpose of encouraging it.

May we conclude that the right hon. Gentleman will not reduce the preference?

It must not be assumed that I regard protective duties as being an encouragement to industry.

Religious Situation, Russia (Intercessory Prayers)

I have received notice from the Leader of the Opposition of a question by Private Notice. There is a very old Rule in the House that a Private Notice question cannot anticipate a question notice of which has been given and which appears on the Paper. The only way I can allow the right hon. Gentleman to put it will be by leave of the House.

I thank the House for its courtesy. I had hoped the questions were all withdrawn, but I find that inadvertently one was left on the Paper for to-morrow. The question I desire to ask the Prime Minister is whether His Majesty's Government have decided that the intercessory prayers proposed by the heads of all the Churches to be read on the 16th March shall be prohibited at services attended by members of His Majesty's Naval, Military and Air Forces, and, if so, whether he will withdraw such prohibition, which is an interference with the expression of a deep religious feeling approved by the heads of the religious bodies concerned.

First I ought to say that the first part of the question is very inaccurately expressed, and the second part, therefore, does not arise. To give a fuller reply, the intention of the Government was accurately described, and apparently to the satisfaction of the House, by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty in answer to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) on 19th February. I would also refer the right hon. Gentleman to the answer which would normally have been given this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in answer to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Colonel Burton), and which reads as follows:

"Orders have been issued which make it clear that no compulsion to attend such services is to be exercised. These instructions apply only to persons under military orders. Both civilian and military personnel are free to attend in a voluntary way any service they wish to attend."
From this, it will be seen that the Army instructions were not intended to alter the position as it was explained to the House by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. The instruction refers only to what amounts to an official and compulsory service.

Is it not accurate that this decision has been taken in view of the political character that the controversy has assumed? That is the description of the decision that was given in a letter addressed by the Army Council to general officers commanding. Is it a fact that, because of the political character that it has assumed, this direction was given?

The direction was given, quite obviously, because it is absolutely impossible under circumstances such as would have obtained by the reading of the prayers at a compulsory military parade to forget the circumstances connected with this agitation. Where there is a sincere, voluntary, religious, spiritual desire to help by prayer and supplication the wrongs that may be inflicted upon Christians in Russia, neither the Government themselves nor any other Department will stand in the way of the expression of that desire, but it is perfectly obvious that when addressing an Army service one has to be very careful that he is promoting the interests of the persecuted Christians and not giving further arguments to the continuation of that persecution.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that he is introducing a political element into the decision that these prayers shall not be read at services which soldiers and other members of His Majesty's forces attend?

I would be the last to desire any incident to take place on this particular question, and I hope that the hon. Member will withdraw what he said.

In view of the protest which you have made, I withdraw, and I apologise for making the statement.

I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether the answer which was given by the First Lord of the Admiralty on the 19th February in respect of services under his control applied also to the services in the Army and in the Air Force. As I understand it, it was only to apply to parade services in barracks which are compulsory, and, in order to elucidate that point a little further, I should like to ask him this: There are, where there are small units, a great many services which, as we know, are also parade services and compulsory. They are marched to particular churches or chapels, generally Roman Catholic or Nonconformist, where the bulk of the congregation is civilian but where the chaplains are Army chaplains. Would the Order apply to those cases, and would the chaplain under those conditions, although the majority of those present were civilians—there might be only a small proportion of soldiers, although it is a compulsory parade—be forbidden to use the services which had been ordained by their own churches?

May I confess to the House that when the answer was given on the 19th February by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty the Government naturally assumed that, if there were to be any points of detail, or any points of inquiry made by sincerely religious people regarding the application of that Order, we should have had them. We did not have them. There was no agitation at all until certain newspapers, which have been carrying on this agitation, got hold of the report. I want to say, that in my own mind—and I certainly give my word as representing the Government—nothing in the nature of what is in the right hon. Gentleman's mind should be interfered with. Certainly not. But formal parades in barracks, on board ship, and so on of a compulsory nature—a pure parade—ought not to be used in the present circumstances for that form of service. What I would propose is, that, on the whole matter, opinions should be exchanged regarding the operation of it, and for goodness sake do let us keep politics out of it.

I am very glad to hear that explanation, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that this is really not a newspaper agitation. If I may be permitted to say so, I have received from many important leaders of the Free Churches who are not unfriendly to the Government communications which show their very deep concern, and in which they say that, if that Order were carried out, it would be quite impossible to get young men of high character to take the positions of chaplain in the Army.

I do hope that whatever is going to be said about this matter, there will be no misunderstanding about it. I also have had letters not only from the leaders of Free Churches but from leaders of other churches, and, as a result of explanations, I believe that the whole of the difficulty has been removed. There is still a question arising as to how, under certain circumstances, the Order can be applied. I make a free offer to everybody who is interested in that, to get into contact with us between now and the date of the service, and everything will be candidly and sincerely examined and inquired into.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that these church parades are compulsory parades and that, if a unit wants to go to a Methodist chapel, for example, it is marched off from the parade ground to that chapel and is only a very small proportion of the congregation there. The Order as it now stands is that the service in that chapel cannot include the intercessory prayers, and it is that to which I take exception. If the right hon. Gentleman says that he will have that altered, it is another matter.

May I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that, as the Prime Minister has left the position, it now means that a small squad going to a Wesleyan or to a Baptist church or to a Roman Catholic church will be compelled, whether it likes it or not, to go to that service and to hear these intercessory prayers, and may I further suggest to the Prime Minister that, if the principle of voluntaryism is going to be maintained in this, he should allow all those small squads to please themselves whether they attend these services or not.

May I ask the Prime Minister how it will be possible for sailors at sea in ships to attend any alternative services?

I really cannot, as Prime Minister, charge myself with, or profess to be possessed of, the knowledge of all the details of services in the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, but I know the spirit in which the decision was come to, and that spirit had better be carried to the responsible heads. I pledge myself to nothing except this, that every attempt will be made to allow full spiritual liberty on this occasion, and not only for matters of individual conscience but for larger matters. No action must be taken which will appear to make these exercises an official military exercise.

Do I understand from the Prime Minister that he would be willing to discuss this matter with the Leader of the Liberal party and myself?

Because the Leader of the Liberal party and I, as he knows, do not always see eye to eye. On this matter, I can assure the Prime Minister—and he knows me well enough to take my word—that I feel very deeply.

The only complaint that I have of the expression used by the Leader of the Opposition is with reference to himself and the Leader of the Liberal party. Why not make a trinity and include myself, because I am in precisely the same position as they are? I should be only too glad to do what the right hon. Gentleman suggests.

Selection (Standing Committees)

Standing Committee B

Mr. Frederick Hall reported from the Committee of Selection; That they had discharged the following Members from Standing Committee B: Mr. Dallas and Sir Joseph Lamb; and had appointed in substitution: Mr. William Bennett and Sir Godfrey Dalrymple-White.

Mr. Frederick Hall further reported from the Committee of Selection: That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee B (added in respect of the Canal Boats Bill): Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle; and had appointed in substitution: Lord Colum Crichton-Stuart.

Reports to lie upon the Table.

Orders Of The Day

Supply

[1ST ALLOTTED DAY.]