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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 236: debated on Monday 10 March 1930

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India

Detenus

1.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any in formation and can state the number of persons that are at present awaiting trial in British India for political offences or offences against the State?

If my hon. Friend will kindly tell me to what sections of the Code he refers, I will endeavour to obtain and supply to him up-to-date figures.

Khalsa College, Amritsar (Bomb Outrage)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any details of the bomb explosion at Khalsa College, Amritsar, on 23rd February; how many persons were killed or injured; what arrests, if any, have been made; and whether the perpetrators of the outrage have been definitely traced?

I have received a report on this case. I regret to say that the outrage cost the life of one student and inflicted injuries on 11. No arrest has yet been possible.

Civil Disobedience Campaign

3.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any information to show that Government telegraphic offices are being used for the purpose of sending messages recommending a refusal to pay taxes; and what action does the Government of India propose to take in the matter?

6.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can give any information as to the letter to the Viceroy of India, signed by Mr. Gandhi, wherein it is stated that the civil disobedience campaign will be launched within eight days unless some considerable concession is made to the Congress demand for complete independence; and what action it is proposed to take in the matter?

7.

asked the Secretary of State for India, what action he is taking to protect India from internal disorder and to counteract the activities of the Indian extremist leaders who are preaching a campaign of open civil disobedience and mob violence?

11.

asked the Secretary of State for India, whether he has any information with regard to the ultimatum that has been sent by Mr. Gandhi to the Viceroy; and what action the Government propose to take in this matter?

12.

asked the Secretary of State for India if his attention has been drawn to the despatch of an ultimatum by Mr. Gandhi to the Viceroy; and whether he has communicated the views of His Majesty's Government on this matter to the Viceroy?

13.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any information as to the commencement of the civil disobedience in India; and whether a meeting has taken place or is proposed between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi?

14.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any information respecting the position in India with regard to Mahatma Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign?

The fullest account I have seen of Mr. Gandhi's recent letter and of the Viceroy's reply to it is that published in the Press. As to the other matters, the Viceroy made a considered statement of the policy of His Majesty's Government on 25th January; and I do not think I need add anything to it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that next Wednesday steps are to be taken to commence this civil disobedience, and will the Secretary of State not take some steps to prevent it before it leads to bloodshed?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the effect of a policy of repression even on moderate opinion in India, and is he prepared, even at this hour, to take further steps to secure a settlement of this problem by agreement?

As my hon. Friend is aware, we are anxious, by means of a conference, to get this question settled. As regards the other part of the supplementary question, no one is more conscious than I am of the need for a spirit of understanding.

Would the right hon. Gentleman suggest to the Viceroy that, when he is writing again to Mr. Gandhi, who, whatever his merits or demerits may be, is endeavouring to stir up rebellion, the Viceroy should instruct his secretary not to sign his letter "yours very truly"?

I should like to say that I consider the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman is impertinent.

Does the Secretary of State not consider that the mere fact of answering these agitators has let down British prestige in India?

Constitution (Conference)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is yet in a position to state the approximate date of the meeting of the round-table conference on Indian constitutional reforms; and whether he can state the approximate number of delegates he expects to attend?

I am afraid that at this stage I can add nothing to the Viceroy's statement.

With reference to the second part of the question, may I ask my right hon. Friend if it is intended to send a formal invitation to the National Congress to send their representative?

If the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to tell me this, can he let me know next week or later?

I am very anxious to give my hon. and gallant Friend all the information at my disposal.

Opium Factory, Ghazipur

5.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can state the amount of the Various alkaloids of opium manufactured at the Government's factory at Ghazipur during the 12 months ended to the last convenient date; the amount derived from the sale; and the countries to which it is generally exported?

Following is the information:

In the 12 months ended with September, 1928, 916 lbs. of alkaloids of opium were manufactured at Ghazipur. The proceeds of sales during that period were Rs. 97,463. None was exported except to the United Kingdom, and since the period in question export has been suspended.

Dehra Dun College

8.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether in regard to the proposal of the Government of India to open another college like Dehra Dun, he will state the proposed constitution and capacity of the college and where it is proposed the institution shall be located?

I have not yet received proposals from the Government of India in this matter.

Lac Trade

9.

asked the Secretary of State for India if he will give information to show what action has been taken to improve the condition of the lac trade in India, following the result of the investigation into the condition of the trade made in 1920 by Mr. H. A. F. Lindsay and Mr. C. M. Harlow?

Full information on this topic will be found on pages 575 and 576 of the Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India. I am also sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy of the Indian Lac Cess Bill, 1930, together with the official statement of objects and reasons.

Agriculture

10.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is now in receipt of the Report of the Government of India showing the progress that has been made in carrying out the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India; and if he can make any statement on the matter?

Meerut Prisoners (Interviews)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that since the opening of the conspiracy trial in the Sessions Court at Meerut the accused are not allowed to have interviews even in Court; that this prohibition restricts the liberties which they enjoyed while the magisterial inquiry was in progress; and whether he will move the competent authorities with a view to securing that the accused may at least be permitted to have interviews in Court?

I have no information on this matter, which appears to be one for the discretion of the Court. I will, if my hon. Friend desires, make inquiries.

Russia

Propaganda

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the concluding proceedings of the Presidium at Moscow when a Report on Communist propaganda in Great Britain and the Dominions and Colonies was considered and the decision taken to instruct their agents in this country to organise strikes and riots amongst the unemployed; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the announcement made in the official newspaper, Pravda, of 28th February, by the praesidium of the Third International in Moscow, that instructions had been issued for the organisation on legal or illegal lines of mass risings and strikes in this country and the Colonies; and whether he will make representations to the Soviet Government against this breach of their undertaking to abstain from propaganda?

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that it is officially stated by the International Labour Office that the general council of the Communist International at its recent plenary meeting in Moscow issued instructions that special attention should be devoted to fomenting strikes in India and that all assistance possible should be given to the organisation of such strikes; and whether he proposes to make representations to the Soviet Government with regard to this breach of the undertaking to abstain from propaganda?

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the fact that last Thursday's unemployment demonstrations in this country were organised by the Communist party on representations from Moscow; and whether he is taking any action in the matter to avoid this interference in future with our domestic affairs?

I have seen the reports of the last meeting of the Comintern as they have appeared in the Soviet Press, the English Press, and other organs. I do not doubt that the Communist International were at pains to produce the manifestations of the 6th March. In view of the exceedingly feeble response to these efforts, I trust that no undue alarm will be felt in any quarter of this House. As I explained on the 3rd February, His Majesty's Government will not hesitate to take the House into their confidence should serious causes of complaint arise, but I would again repeat that they intend in the first instance to be the judges as to the gravity, or otherwise, of particular incidents, and the action which may be expedient and necessary to safeguard the interests of this country.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is not the result of this particular action that is complained of; it is the action taken by a Power with whom we were supposed to be in friendly relations, and does he not see that, in adopting an attitude of this kind, it is a direct infringement of the Protocol?

No. I do not see anything of the kind. I repeat that the question of whether it is necessary to take action should be left to the Government to decide.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since these questions were put on the Order Paper there has been a further breach of the Protocol by the Soviet official Press?

Why in dealing with the Soviet Government do the Government persist in suffering from inferiority complex?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House approved of diplomatic relations on definite terms, and is not the action of the Russian Government a breach of those terms?

I have already answered that question, and I am also aware that hon. Members opposite opposed the resumption of diplomatic relations with Russia.

When the official papers of the Soviet Government announce, as is reported in to-day's Press, that it recommends a hunger march on London to start on 30th March and continue until 1st May, does the right hon. Gentleman not consider that that is a breach of the Protocol?

I have already said that this question must be left to the Government to decide.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask whether it is within the province of the Government itself to be the judge and jury as to whether regulations have been broken or not. I would like to ask if the Government are satisfied that the regulations have not been broken.

The point raised by the hon. and gallant Member is a matter of argument, and not a matter of question and answer.

22 and 26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1), whether his attention has been called to a letter from the political secretariat of the executive committee of the Communist International in the issue dated 1st February, 1930, of the "Communist International"; and whether he will draw the attention of the Soviet Ambassador to this propaganda advocating revolutionary activity in this country;

(2), whether his attention has been called to the fortnightly publication entitled the "Communist International," published by Modern Books, Limited, of 26, Bedford Row; and whether, in view of its connection with the Komintern and of the pledge of the Soviet Government not to engage in propaganda in this country, he proposes to make representations on this matter?

There is nothing that is either new or original about the publication known as the "Communist International." It first appeared as a monthly in 1919, and from December, 1928, it has been published fortnightly. The article in the issue of the 1st February, to which the hon. Member draws attention, deals generally with the organisation of Communist parties outside the Soviet Union, but I do not consider that it merits any action on the part of His Majesty's Government.

Is it not becoming daily more apparent that the Soviet Government have no intention whatever of keeping the terms of the Protocol?

Religious Situation

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now satisfied himself as to whether there is religious persecution in Russia; whether he will also state the facts in relation thereto that are within the knowledge of the Government; and whether any action is being taken in the matter?

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can now state what action he proposes to take on the report of the British ambassador as to religious persecution in Russia?

From a study of the Decree respecting Religious Associations, I have no doubt that it indicates a continuance of the anti-religious pressure which has consistently and for many years past been a notorious feature of Soviet policy. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, in pressing me for a statement on this matter, is sincerely desirous of promoting the cause of religious liberty. I fully sympathise with his object, but cannot share his belief that any action which it is open to His Majesty's Government to take would be calculated to further that object.

I ignore the personal references to myself, but would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that it is a proper description of what is going on at the present time in Russia to call it pressure? Is it not persecution, and is not the right hon. Gentleman going to do something in the matter?

Do I understand my right hon. Friend to say that this pressure has continued for several years, and, if so, was this pressure not operating during the time of his predecessor; and what did his predecessor do?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that I at least belong to a creed that has suffered severely—[Interruption.]

On a point of Order. Is it in order for hon. Members opposite, in these questions, to give a statement of their personal beliefs, and also to make speeches during the course of their questions?

I hope that references to personal religious beliefs will not be made by either side.

May I make an appeal on behalf of the creed to which I belong —[Interruption.]

It is all very well for us to make appeals to behalf of any of our creeds, but I have said, in answer to the question, that it is very difficult to see what the Government can do to assist even members of the creed to which the hon. Member belongs.

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any instructions have been issued to British diplomatic representatives abroad respecting their attendance at intercessory services on behalf of Christians in Russia; and, if so, of what nature?

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

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that no instructions have been issued to the diplomatic representatives of this country in foreign countries with regard to this subject?

45.

asked the Prime Minister if he will state the number of written representations made to the Government by religious bodies, officials and members of the public as to their decision with regard to prayers in military and naval services on behalf of Christians in Russia; whether he has received any deputations on the question; and whether the heads of the Church of England and of any of the other religious denominations in England have approached the Government on this subject with a view to a change of policy?

Without circularising Departments, I am unable to give a definite answer to the first part of the question, but I understand that the representations of those interested in this matter have been voiced more fully in Parliament and the Press than by correspondence. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative. As regards the third part, since this matter was raised there have, I understand, been exchanges of views between the Government and the various denominations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied now that there is much more in this than mere political agitation?

I think the answer to that question might be inferred from what I said in the reply I have just given. The representations received from outside bodies are less numerous than the strength of those interested in the matter which has been shown in Parliament and the Press. It may interest the House to know that so far as I have been able to ascertain, representations have only been received from four bodies and six individuals.

I cannot say what the bodies were except that they were religious bodies.

Did the right hon. Gentleman read the speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury last week?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chairman of the Committee carrying on this campaign happens to be the most notorious anti-Socialist in this country?

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether the attendance of any of the fighting services at churches or chapels at which prayers in regard to Russian religious persecution are to be read on Sunday, 16th March, is to be compulsory?

Certain administrative details are now being adjusted. The only matter with which the Government is concerned is to take care that these prayers will not amount to an official exercise contrary to well-established usage in diplomatic relations.

Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Prime Minister the very strong feeling, at any rate on this side of the House, that any soldiers or sailors should be compelled to go to these services to listen to these prayers?

I will convey what the hon. Member himself has said about this matter to the Prime Minister.

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to a speech by the Secretary of State for War at Preston on Friday, where he made a disgraceful accusation—

British Relations

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Soviet Government has been informed of any limit to be placed on export credits pending the result of the negotiations in regard to repudiated debts and confiscated British properties; and whether the validity of British patents in Soviet Russia forms part of his negotiations?

No, Sir. Export credit guarantees are a matter concerning exclusively His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the individual British exporter. Details of such guarantees could not, therefore, properly be discussed with any foreign Government. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative. Soviet legislation is understood to provide that British subjects shall enjoy the same rights as Soviet citizens in regard to patents.

China

Situation Is South

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs wnether he can make any statement as to the present position of affairs in South China, particularly in Kwangsi; whether he has any information that the Communists have burned the Roman Catholic mission there and attacked and looted the Bible Churchmen's mission; and whether he has any information as to the safety of Dr. Rice, the Reverend Mr. Stott, Miss Loudwell, and Miss Lucas?

Disturbed conditions have prevailed in South China for a considerable time past, but according to my latest information the situation in Kwangsi and in South China generally is at present comparatively quiet. I have no information concerning the attacks on foreign missions in Kwangsi beyond what has been reported in the Press. It has been stated in the Press that the four British missionaries named in the question are safe.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries as to the truth of my statement that the Communists have burned the Roman Catholic mission and have looted the Bible Churchmen's mission?

On a point of Order. Ought not the right hon. Gentleman to have first satisfied himself as to the truth of his statement before putting the question?

Before the Secretary of State replies, may I ask how long the right hon. Gentleman opposite has been the champion of the Roman Catholic Church?

In answer to the supplementary question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), I may say that I must trust to my officials—and they are very capable—in giving all the information at their disposal, but it is very difficult for me to keep pace if I have to take notice of everything that appears in the Press.

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman considers that this is a sufficiently serious matter; and does not he. know that, since this question appeared on the Paper, there has been a communication in the "Times" newspaper from the Secretary of the Bible Churchmen's Mission expressing his anxiety, not only as to the fate of the people mentioned in the question, but also of a number of other young people?

There, again, it is a newspaper report, and the newspaper report that I have quoted says that the persons referred to in the question are safe.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider it his duty to make further inquiries?

Penal Code

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Chinese second revised draft penal code has yet been promulgated; and, if so, whether it is now in general application?

The second criminal code of the Republic of China was promulgated on 10th March, 1928, and was brought into operation on 1st September of that year. I am not aware whether it is now in general application.

Can we be assured that no British subject will be brought under the Chinese criminal law until that code is in action?

Criminal Procedure

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Chinese criminal procedure regulations regarding arrest and bail have now been re-cast in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission on Extra-territoriality?

I have no precise information to this effect, but from reports which have reached me in regard to particular cases it is apparent that a system of bail is in force.

Trade And Commerce

Portuguese Port Dues (Discrimination)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the reason why embarkation and disembarkation charges are to be made against our goods at the port of Lisbon; and whether His Majesty's representative has reminded the Government of Portugal of the signatures of the Portuguese representatives at Geneva in 1923 and of the undertaking given by Portugal in 1928 to abandon discrimination against our goods and ships?

I am unaware that any changes are contemplated in the existing port dues levied on vessels loading and unloading at Lisbon. These dues are at present greater in the case of foreign than of national vessels, and so involve discrimination against the shipping of all foreign nations Calling at Lisbon. His Majesty's Ambassador at Lisbon has been instructed to make comprehensive representations to the Portuguese Government on the general question of flag discrimination. These representations will cover the question of port dues. The only relevant international Convention signed at Geneva during 1923 is the Convention on Maritime Ports, but this was not signed by Portugal. The Portuguese Government have, however, been reminded more than once of the assurance given in January, 1928, by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs that all measures of flag discrimination would shortly be abolished.

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep a careful eye on this matter, in order that we at any rate may not be prejudiced in our trade with Portugal?

If representations can be made in the case of Portugal, why is it that they cannot be made in the case of Russia?

Export Credits

39.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department the number of cases during the 12 months ended to the last convenient date that the Government have been called upon to pay under its guarantee on bills lodged with importers that were given under the exports credit scheme; and can he give the nationality of the defaulters or where they were domiciled?

122 separate claims were paid under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme during the 12 months ended 28th February. The acceptors of the dishonoured bills in question were domiciled in 41 different countries.

Are the ordinary commercial trade inquiries made before these transactions are completed?

Does any loss fall on the British taxpayer, and, if so, what is the amount?

The final loss falls on the British taxpayer. Last year the amount was about £18,000 to £20,000.

So that it would be true to say the British taxpayer has really guaranteed any loss that may arise from Russian defaults?

If the bill has been guaranteed and the acceptor does not pay the Government make good the loss.

50.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department why he anticipates that the cost of implementing guarantees during the coming year under the export credits scheme will rise by 50 per cent.?

The anticipated rise in the cost of implementing guarantees under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme during the coming financial year is due in part to the expectation of heavier claims owing to the world wide depression of credit conditions, and in part to the expectation of an increasing turnover. In this connection, the hon. and gallant Member will also, no doubt, have observed that the Estimate for Export Credits provides for a 50 per cent increase in premium receipts.

May I take it that that applies to the countries which take out guarantees and that it will presumably be Russia?

Russia (Export Credits)

43.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if he will state how many applications have been received under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme for facilities in respect to exports to Soviet Russia; how many of these applications have been acceded to; and the total amount of money involved in those approved for guarantee?

55.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he can state the total amount applied for under the Exports Credit Scheme for trade with Russia; what are the amounts which have been granted; and why applicants who desire credit for more than 12 months are being refused?

The hon. Members will realise that a number of inquiries, which may or may not crystallise into definite proposals, are discussed with the Export Credits Guarantee Department. Moreover many inquiries and proposals relate to the same business. It is impossible, therefore, to give any reliable figures as to the number or amount of applications received. 144 definite proposals in respect of exports to Russia, involving £3,142,090, had been approved up to 4th February. It is not the practice to give reasons for the refusal of facilities.

54.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if he has received representations from the Leeds Chamber of Commerce Journal to the effect that since 1st January engineering contracts to the value of £3,500,000, which could have been secured from Russia had credits been available, have been turned over to foreign competitors against British firms; and whether he proposes to take any action in increased credit facilities to meet such cases?

Though I have seen the statement in the "Leeds Chamber of Commerce Journal" to which my hon. Friend refers, I have received no representations from the Chamber itself on the matter. Under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme, guarantees are given on the recommendation of the advisory committee to whom applications for facilities are referred. I do not propose to interfere with their discretion in the consideration of such applications.

Does my hon. Friend notice the very strong contrast drawn by Mr. Metcalfe, who was one of the delegation to Russia last year, between the British and the North American methods of dealing with this business?

Yes, Sir. I have had an interview with Mr. Metcalfe, and he has given me all the information on the matter.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is still a large unfilled market for British goods in Russia, and will he give ample notice of the date when he expects to hear of our having received those orders which the Socialist party told us were going to put unemployment right?

Is it not a fact that Russia has a large credit balance in this country to-day?

British Industries Fair

40.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he can state the nature and approximate value of any orders placed at Olympia by the one representative from Russia who attended the British Industries Fair this year?

No, Sir. It has never been the practice to inquire into the nature or value of orders placed by individual buyers.

Does the attendance of one single Russian at the British Industries Fair give any indication that the Russians are anxious to deal with this country?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is no very great possibility of trade being developed with Russia so long as the Opposition behave as they are doing?

41.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department the amount of admission money taken from the general public at the Olympia turn stiles during the period of this year's British Industries Fair; how this amount compares with last year's takings; and whether he has received any complaints from the exhibitors in connection with the extension of hours during which the public were enabled to visit this section of the fair this year?

The receipts from the admission of the general public this year were £2,565 16s., compared with the amount of £1,633 9s. in 1929. The hours during which the public were admitted were the same on both occasions, and therefore the last part of the question does not arise.

52.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether any woman has been, or is likely to be, appointed on the committee of the British Industries Fair; and whether, in view of the fact that women are the largest consumers of goods displayed at the London fair and many women are exhibitors, some such appointment will be made?

The position with regard to the Advisory Committees of the British Industries Fair is that the members are elected from among their number by the exhibitors themselves. It is always open, therefore, to the exhibitors to elect a woman representative.

Is it a fact that there are no Government representatives whatever on that Committee?

Does the hon. Gentleman accept the statement that women are the largest consumer of goods displayed, and, if so, is it not a fact that husbands sometimes pay for the goods of their wives?

I am afraid that I cannot express an opinion upon either of those points.

Imports (Prison Labour)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the case of imports produced by compulsory labour, it is the intention of the Government to work through the machinery of the League of Nations, as in the case of sweated goods, or to deal with the matter by legislation?

I have been asked to answer this question. The importation into this country of goods which have been made or produced in any foreign prison, gaol, house of correction or penitentiary is already prohibited by the Foreign (Prison-made) Goods Act, 1897.

Does that apply to the immense amount of compulsory labour that is employed in Soviet Russia?

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put down a fuller question.

Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to introduce legislation to prevent the exportation from this country of goods which are being produced by sweated labour here?

Commercial Missions And Trade Investigations

51.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department what commercial missions and trade investigations it is proposed to carry out during the coming financial year?

The matter is receiving my close consideration, but I am not at present in a position to make a statement.

Will the hon. Gentleman see to it that some special mission is sent to Russia to investigate the matter?

Germany And Persia (Consuls)

53.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether seeing that there are already 29 Consuls-general and Vice-Consuls in Persia, that an additional one is being proposed, and that already there are more Consuls in Persia than there are in Germany, whereas our trade with Persia is only one-fortieth of our trade with Germany, he will increase our Consular representation in Germany or reduce our over-representation in Persia?

The number of Consuls necessary to afford adequate protection for British subjects and trade must vary in different countries and circumstances. It must, for example, depend not only on the volume of trade, but on such factors as distances, means of communication, difficulty of language, and climate. The new appointment in Persia is that of a commercial diplomatic officer and not a Consular officer. In Germany there are already two commercial diplomatic officers.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the chief work at the present time is for our Consuls to find work for themselves, and, as our trade with Germany is far greater than our trade with Persia, cannot he send some of those redundant Consuls to Germany?

Is it not a fact that many of these Vice-Consuls are purely nominal Vice-Consuls?

I do not think that that is so. I think that these are men on the staff, and that the hon. and gallant Member who put down the question has not realised that a certain number of them are employed really by the Government of India, and that the Government of India find their pay.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is practically no work for them to do?

Wireless Telephonic Equipment (Exports)

56.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether his Department has since June last taken steps to stimulate the sale in the export markets of wireless telephonic equipment of British make; and, if so, with what success?

There are only two firms manufacturing this class of material registered in the United Kingdom and both are on my Department's list for receiving information regarding trade opportunities abroad. Whilst both these firms have received information regarding other forms of wireless equipment which they make, no information regarding wireless telephony equipment has been received for transmission during the last few months.

Can the hon. Gentleman expect British-owned firms to receive any orders for wireless telephonic equipment while His Majesty's Post Office supports an American producing firm?

I understand that most of these orders are Government orders, given by our own or other Governments, and that they are well acquainted with the firms which can supply them, and they go direct to them.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the greatest volume of orders which can actually be placed, can be placed by His Majesty's Government, and that they are not giving them to a British firm?

League Of Nations (Pact And Covenant Committee)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the procès verbal of all the meetings of the League Committee on Pact and Covenant as soon as the sittings of the Committee terminate?

Yes, Sir. I will place these papers in the Library as soon as they are received.

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

Seven Years' Limit

36.

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will state how many new pensions have been granted, and how many additional pension grants have been made, under the terms and conditions set out in the Circular No. 79 to the war pensions committees, issued 6th December, 1929, under the heading Applications for Pensions, in respect of disablement claimed more than seven years after discharge?

It is not possible to distinguish the number of cases which have been dealt with specifically under the modified arrangements referred to, but I may say that 117 awards have, during the last three months, been made in respect of applications submitted more than seven years after the man's discharge and, in addition, treatment has been provided in 14 cases.

Widows' Pensions

37.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in cases where a man's war disability prevents him from following an insurable occupation, so that at his death, by some cause other than the result of his pensionable condition, his widow is neither entitled to a war pension or widow's pension, he will allow a war pension to be granted to his widow?

I have no power to grant a widow's pension where the husband's death was not connected with his war service. As regards the position under the Contributory Pensions Acts, I am informed that a man who was insured during his service and who, after his discharge has been continuously incapable of work by reason of disability, would, subject to his having given the prescribed notice of incapacity to his approved society, remain an insured person so that, normally, his widow would be entitled to a pension under the Contributory Pensions Acts.

Government Departments

Overseas Trade Department

42.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if he will state the nature of the reorganisation at the headquarters of his Department and the number of new headquarter appointments, with the approximate additional cost, consequent upon the creation of eight new posts in the commercial, diplomatic and trade commissioner services?

The chief features in the reorganisation at the headquarters of the Department of Overseas Trade are:

(1) The creation of a special section to deal with trade investigations at home and overseas;

(2) the appointment of a Deputy Comptroller-General, together with an additional director, making four directors instead of three, and proportionate increases in each other grade in the Department.

The approximate increased cost of strengthening the headquarters staff is estimated at £15,000 for the first year.

Is the hon. Gentleman making any special efforts to open up this marvellous Russian trade that he used to talk about?

Will a Supplementary Estimate be necessary this year, or will the first charge fall on the next financial year?

44.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department what are the duties of the special commissioner; and whether the appointment has yet been made?

Mr. Beale, at one time His Majesty's trade commissioner in Canada, and later in New Zealand—at present general manager of the Travel Association of Great Britain and Ireland—has been appointed special commissioner for trade investigations overseas, and his appointment will take effect from the beginning of April. Mr. Beale will, in collaboration with overseas officers, undertake special investigations in markets overseas where British trade has declined, or where investigations may lead to increased export trade.

Ordnance Survey Department

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that a form of military conscription exists in the Ordnance Survey Department under which lads are only allowed to join the Department by undertaking to enter the Army on reaching the age of 18; and whether he will consider taking steps to abolish this system in a Government Department maintained by civil vote?

I can assure my hon. Friend that no form whatever of military conscription exists on the Ordnance Survey. The strength of the Royal Engineer Survey Companies of the Ordnance Survey Department is at present much below the authorised establishment, and arrangements are, therefore, made to engage only those boys who intend to enlist in the Royal Engineers on reaching the prescribed age of 18.

The military strength has been below the establishment for three years, and there has been no special order in the matter.

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture under what circumstances authority was given to increase the ultimate strength of the military personnel employed in the Ordnance Survey Department to that of a battalion; and whether he is aware that the effect of such an increase will result in the further depletion of the civilian staff beyond the numbers contemplated as a consequence of the recommendation of the Committee on National Expenditure?

The three Survey Companies have recently been reorganised into a Survey Battalion, but no alteration of establishment was involved by this change. The establishment of the companies was raised six years ago, however, on military grounds. The present strength is still much below that authorised. No civilians have been or will be discharged either on account of the increase made six years ago or on account of the reorganisation. The Committee on National Expenditure did not recommend any definite proportion of civilian staff on the Ordnance Survey.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as vacancies arise in this Department, they are filled by increasing the military strength?

The hon. Member is misinformed. All that has happened is that the military proportion is much below its strength, and it is being recruited.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why the work of the Ordnance Survey, which is cartographical and essentially civilian, should be carried on by the military?

The point is that the Royal Engineers have survey companies, and these companies are below their strength.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the preponderating part of the work of the Department is of a commercial character?

I am well aware of that fact. The fact is that in these particular survey companies there are 299 men on the strength, while the authorised number is 450.

Navy Estimates

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether it is proposed to introduce this year's Navy Estimates before the conclusion of the present Naval Conference; and whether he will consider the desirability of introducing a Vote on Account and presenting the final Estimates after the Conference?

I have been asked to reply. As my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, the Navy Estimates for the ensuing year have now been presented to the House. The alternative course which he suggests was strongly deprecated by Mr. Speaker when it was last adopted in 1922, and it has not been considered that present circumstances are such that the Administration need seek the consent of the House to such an exceptional procedure.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would be very difficult to discuss these Estimates and that they are the biggest Estimates of any Department of the Government? It will be very difficult to discuss them adequately.

I really do not see where the difficulty comes in. My hon. and gallant Friend suggests that the discussion upon them might be postponed until after the end of the Conference which cannot now be very long. We all hope for a happy outcome of this Conference, and, if the results should justify a further reduction in the Estimates, then there is nothing to prevent the matter from being considered.

Is it a fact that a debate on the subject at the present time would either be mainly unreal or extremely embarrassing?

I do not see that it is either unreal or embarrassing. The Estimates are before the House, and an opportunity will be presented to the House to discuss them.

Agriculture

Dairy Cattle (Shows)

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has consulted the Royal Agricultural Society and other similar societies as to the effect the Order recently issued by the Minister of Health to prohibit the entries of all animals licensed in certified and Grade A (TT) herds is likely to have on their shows; and whether he can give the number of cases, if any, that have been affected with tuberculosis by contact with other animals at agricultural shows?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health consulted the Certified and Grade A (Tuberculin Tested) Milk Producers' Association and also the British Dairy Farmers' Association, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, before issuing the Circular which makes effective the provisions contained in the Milk (Special Designations) Order of 1923, requiring licensed herds to be completely isolated from all other cattle. I regret I have no information as to the number of cases of tuberculosis in licensed herds due to contact with other animals at shows. Further inquiries are being made into the possibility of making adequate arrangements for isolation in these cases.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that at shows like the Royal Show there is any possible chance of contracting tuberculosis, and would he not allow these cattle to be exhibited at such shows, even if they are not closed in?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that there must be many possibilities of animals being taken to shows and being exhibited under these circumstances. It is only with a view to carrying out the existing Law that these Orders have been made.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the fact that these animals cannot go to shows and get prizes lowers their value for exporting purposes, and lowers the value of pedigree stock in this country?

Wheat (Guaranteed Price)

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what would have been the cost to the Exchequer if a guaranteed price of 55s. a quarter had been paid to British farmers, in excess of the sale price of wheat for the past three years?

The cost of guaranteeing a price of 55s. per quarter (504 lbs.) for that part of the British wheat crop estimated to have been sold off farms would have been £2,116,000 for 1927 and £2,481,000 for 1928. On the basis of the average prices ruling during the first six months of the current cereal year the cost in respect of the 1929 crop would have been £2,892,000. An extension of the guarantee to the total production would increase the cost by about one-third.

Will the right hon. Gentleman state what has been the financial loss incurred by the British producers and peasantry during the same period in producing wheat?

Policy

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has considered the resolutions from the Berkshire and other county councils urging the leaders of all political parties to co-operate in framing a national policy for agriculture capable of immediate application; and whether, in the meantime, he will consider putting into operation some of the recent recommendations of the Council of Agriculture for England?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, but I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply on this subject which I gave to the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) on the 28th November. In reply to the last part of the question the recommendations of the Council of Agriculture are always carefully considered with a view to such action as is practicable.

Seeing that important bodies like the county councils are agreed that something must be done for agriculture, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the recommendations of the Council of Agriculture for England and see whether anything can be done?

We are doing what we can, but I will send the hon. and gallant Member a copy of the last recommendations, and he will see for himself.

Milk Prices

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the average price paid to farmers for milk per gallon during the present yearly contracting period; what is the average price charged to consumers during the same period; and what is the average cost of transit from the point of delivery by the farmer to the wholesalers' premises?

The estimated average price paid to producers for milk—not including creamery milk—since October last has been about 16½d. per gallon. According to the Ministry of Labour's published prices the average retail price of milk since October last has been 26d. per gallon. The average railway passenger train rate for milk amounts to nearly l½d. per gallon. I have no information as to the average costs of conveying milk to the vendors' station or from the consignee's station to the wholesalers' premises.

Have the Department made any efforts to press upon farmers the value of acting as direct distributors to the consumers instead of through a third party?

In view of the discrepancy in the price between that obtained by the producer and that paid by the consumer, is not this a matter which might well be brought before the Food Council?

It is a matter that the Food Council has considered, and we are considering it.

Smallholdings

64.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the number of smallholders leasing or purchasing land from county councils; the average size of the holdings; and the percentage of failures for the past three years?

On the 31st December, 1929, there were 27,563 tenants of small holdings provided by county councils and councils of county boroughs in England and Wales; the total area of such holdings was 439,319 acres, giving an average of 16 acres per holding. The area of land sold by councils up to the same date, excluding land not needed for small holdings, was 5,463 acres and the number of purchasers 674, an average of eight acres. I have no precise information as to the percentage of failures during the past three years, but the number is believed to be very small.

Wheat Peices

66.

asked the Minister of Agriculture in view of the distress caused by low wheat prices, what steps are being taken, in co-operation with the Empire Marketing Board or otherwise, to develop the demand for the Home crop by advertising national-mark flour?

The Ministry, with the co-operation of the Empire Marketing Board, has maintained continuous publicity for National Mark flour by the distribution, to traders and to the public, of circular letters, leaflets, lists of authorised millers, and shop display material; use has frequently been made of the Department's broadcast talks, Press service and Press articles; the Department has also shown National Mark flour when participating in local and national exhibitions, while branches of the National Farmers' Union have taken steps to interest their members as consumers. I hope during the coming year to be in a position to develop still further the public demand for National Mark flour.

Horses (Export)

65.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will stop the export of all horses, sound or unsound, for slaughter?

The question of the export trade in horses was thoroughly investigated by the Departmental Committee appointed in 1925, who reported that closing the Continental markets was not justified. The position has not altered since that date and my right hon. Friend is therefore unable to take the action suggested in the question.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether recently any representative of the Ministry of Agriculture has been abroad to see these slaughter places, and will the Minister satisfy himself that no cruelty takes place now?

We have had a recent inquiry into the matter, and my answer-was given in consequence.

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he has power to prohibit this exportation, or has he not the power, without legislation?

Are the Ministry carrying out the same policy in this respect as their predecessors, of whose Government his questioners were Members?

I find that all horses were to be sent to certain places where they were to be killed by the humane killer. Until Parliament gives other instructions, we must carry out that instruction.

Is the right hon. Gentleman following the same policy in this respect as the last Government, of which his previous questioners were Members?

In view of the great interest in this matter throughout the country, will the right hon. Gentleman consider publishing the report on this question which he said had been received recently by his Department?

I will not say that it was departmental information. We are taking the fullest possible steps, and I see no reason for departing from my answer.

Government Buildings (St George's Day)

69.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he will consider the desirability of arranging that the flag of St. George be flown on all Government buildings on St. George's Day; and similarly other national flags on their appropriate days?

The proposal has already been considered on various occasions in the past, when a decision adverse to the extension of the number of occasions on which flags are flown on Government buildings was reached. With this decision I am in agreement.

Christmas Prize Draws, Manchester

72, 73 and 74.

asked the Attorney-General (1) the number of Christmas prize draws which took place in Manchester last year and the number of prosecutions following upon his instructions:

(2) whether he is aware that the directors of a Lancashire Socialist paper were recently prosecuted in Manchester for running a Christmas prize draw, whilst a precisely similar draw by the Lord Mayor of Manchester has not been interfered with; whether he has in his possession a report of the trial; and whether he will explain the reason for this discrimination;

(3) whether he proposes to alter the law of 1823 which stigmatises as rogues and vagabonds any persons raising money for purposes which seek no personal gain?

I have been asked to answer these questions. The Chief Constable informs my right hon. Friend that the police have information regarding two, and only two, draws organised for Christmas in Manchester last year. The police warned the promoters, and, as in one case the warning was disregarded, they took proceedings. During the proceedings reference was made by the defence to another draw; but although the police have since tried to obtain the papers relating to this draw, they have, so far, been unsuccessful. No discrimination is or was intended for or against any particular organisation, and all chief officers of police know that none should be shown. My right hon. Friend does not propose to introduce legislation in favour of lotteries that are not conducted for personal gain.

May I ask whether the information of the Under-Secretary that the papers relating to the other draw have not been made available, is quite correct. Is it not the fact that the Home Secretary was shown these papers personally by me?

I understand that efforts have been made to obtain information respecting this draw from the counsel acting in the case, and under notice. Counsel has not yet been able to supply my right hon. Friend or so far as I am aware, the chief constable of Manchester with the information that they desire.