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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 236: debated on Monday 17 March 1930

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India

Shooting Outrage, Lahore

1.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether the person who fired at the car of the assistant district commissioner of Lahore on the 24th February, has been traced and arrested; and, if so, what sentence has been inflicted upon him?

So far as I know, no arrest has been possible.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman a little disturbed by the fact that there are so many of these cases in which no arrests have been made, and will he not represent this to the Government of India?

I do not think the number of these cases give rise to undue disquiet. In this particular case, the shot was fired by a man who was not even seen by the persons in the car.

Colliery Employés

2.

asked the Secretary of State for India the total number of men, women and children, respectively, employed during 1928 and 1929 in each of the three principal coalfields of India, namely, Jhairia, Raniganj and Bokaro, giving the figures of those employed above and below ground separately; what is the working time per shift; and what are the average wages paid per week?

My hon. Friend will find on page 6 and on pages 48 and 49 of the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Mines in India, which is in the Library of the House, the statistical replies to his question. As to shifts, the amended Indian Mines Act, which comes into force on the 7th April next, provides for a system of shifts in mines where working is carried on for more than 12 hours per diem.

Am I to understand that the whole of the information is contained in the Report?

All the information available is in that Report, but, if there is any further information which the hon. Member desires, and which is not in the Report, I shall be glad to make special inquiries.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for India the total number of men, women, and children employed in and about the coal mines of Jhairia, Raniganj, and Bokaro in 1928 and 1929, respectively, who were disabled for a shorter or longer period arising out of injured or poisoned feet and legs traceable to having to work bare-footed and bare-legged in the mine workings?

My only source of information is the annual report of the chief inspector of mines in India, which gives no particulars as to the question raised by my hon. Friend.

Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire from the chief inspector of mines in India as to the serious nature of these cases?

Yes, certainly. If the hon. Member will give me sufficient material upon which to work I will make further inquiries.

School Of Mines, Dhanabad

3.

asked the Secretary of State for India the total number of Indian students now in residence at the School of Mines, Dhanbad; how many of these students have been previously employed in and about the mines of India; and can he state whether any of them are the sons of mine officials or of working miners in India?

The latest information I have in regard to the first part of the question is that the total number of enrolled students was 125 in November, 1928. I have no information in regard to the rest of the question.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries as to whether it is not the case that no miner or miner's son has been educated at this college; and will he also inquire as to what steps are being taken to encourage their education at this college?

I will certainly make inquiries as the hon. Member desires. I am not sure that he is right in his assumption.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take my assurance and also visit the place himself?

I am prepared to accept the hon. Member's assurance. I was not expressing any doubt. I was expressing my own opinion on the facts available; but I will have further inquiries made.

"Britannia And Eve" Journal

5.

asked the Secretary of State for India on what grounds the proscription of the January issue of the British monthly journal "Britannia and Eve" was made by the Government of India; and whether this applies to that particular issue only or to all issues of the paper?

The prohibition applied only to the January issue, and was due to its containing an article grossly offensive to Moslem religious feeling.

Indian Army (Officers' Pensions)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that the pensions of majors in the executive department, Class D, of the Indian Army, which were assessed under the 1920 scheme at £360, have since been reduced by 4½ per cent. and are subject to still further reduction on account of fluctuations in the cost of living, while the pensions of warrant officers of the India unattached list under the same rules were stabilised by India Office notification in 1925; and whether he will take steps to rectify this inequality of treatment and to restore the pensions of the Class D officers to the maximum of £360, as originally assessed, with retrospective effect from the 1st July, 1924, being the actual date from which the stabilisation of the pensions of warrant officers became effective?

The distinction made in this matter between officers and warrant officers is based on a general distinction that is observed in the British Army at home as well as in the Army in India, and I am not prepared to modify it in this particular case.

Great Indian Peninsula Railway (Dispute)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can make any statement to the House regarding the strike on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway; whether he will say how long the strike has lasted, how many men have been out on strike, and what are the demands of the strikers; whether he is aware that convicts from Bombay gaol have been employed as strike breakers; and whether other services besides the railway service have been affected?

This strike began on 4th February. My latest information is that approximately 27,500 men are involved. Fourteen convicts have been employed on sanitary work and 14 on loading and unloading goods. I am ascertaining the precise circumstances. No other services save the railway are affected. The Government of India's communique of 7th February, which was published in the OFFICIAL REPORT for 24th February, dealt with the demands of the men, which were under sympathetic consideration when the strike was actually called. I may add that the Commerce Member of the Viceroy's Council has been in communication with the All-India Railway Federation in connection with the matter.

May I assume that the influence of the Government will be used to prevent the unwilling use of convicts on the work described?

Yes, I have stated the facts as I have learned them, and my hon. Friend will notice that in 14 cases it was a matter of sanitary necessity. I will make full inquiry and let him know.

Yes, but there are 14 other cases in which it was not a matter of sanitary necessity, and, in either event, what right have the Government of India to conscript the services of convicts who may be in prison for offences and who are not part of the regular strike breaking force?

It is precisely because the circumstances are not clear from the telegrams I have received that I have offered, very willingly, to make fresh inquiries.

Is not this a matter for the Government of India, not for the Government of this country?

The noble Lord knows that I make inquiries through the Central Government of India; and he knows also that this House takes a constant and proper interest in matters of this kind.

The right hon. Gentleman also knows that it has been constantly laid down that the Secretary of State should not interfere with the Presidency or Provincial Governments.

Is it not the fact that all these people are British subjects, and that, if they cannot be protected by the Indian Government, the British Parliament must protect them?

13.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any information with regard to the passive resistance at the Great India Peninsula Railway works at Byculla; whether he is aware that this form of passive resistance is due to the Gandhi programme of civil disobedience; and how many casualties have occurred?

I have no information except what has appeared in the Press. I have not heard of any casualties.

Meerut Day Celebrations

8.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been drawn to the revolutionary resolutions of the All-India Trade Union Congress and of the Hamshedpur Labour Association; and what steps the Government of India is taking to prevent them causing riots by celebrating Meerut Day all over the country on the 20th of March as a protest against the trial of Meerut prisoners and in support of a militant Communist movement?

May I ask if this is not a matter for the Provincial Government in India?

Labour Bureau

10.

asked the Secretary of State for India the reasons which led to the discontinuance of the Labour Bureau under the Central Department of Industries and Labour of the Government of India; and whether any provision has been made by local governments elsewhere similar to the establishment of the labour office in Bombay?

The Labour Bureau of the Government of India was discontinued on the recommendation of the Indian Retrenchment Committee. There are labour offices in Madras, Calcutta and Rangoon but on a smaller scale than the Bombay office.

Quinine Supplies

11.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been drawn to the statement of the Director of the Botanical Survey of India, in his Report for 1928–29, to the effect that the poor in India are unable to purchase quinine at the price at which it is being sold in India, and that the charitable dispensaries have to turn malaria-striken patients away empty or with inadequate doses; and whether, in view of this position, the Government of India are taking any steps to reconsider its policy in regard to the cultivation of cinchona in India and the manufacture and distribution of quinine?

I have not seen the Report referred to, but am asking the Government of India for an up-to-date Report on the position.

Civil Disobedience Campaign

12.

asked the Secretary of State for India the numbers of casualties that have occurred throughout India since the commencement of Mr. Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign last Wednesday due to clashes with the forces of law and order?

So far as I am aware there have been no casualties and no clashes except the incident covered by the next question.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Mr. Gandhi has actually broken the law or not?

The hon. and gallant Member must not put questions to me day by day on these delicate matters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] If he wishes to put questions of that kind, he must give me notice in order that I may have accurate information on which to answer him.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is lawful for us—

Cotton Import Duties

14.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he will lay upon the Table of the House the text of the correspondence with the Government of India respecting the proposed increased cotton duties there?

Following is the correspondence:

I.

Telegram from Secretary of State to Viceroy, dated 7th February, 1930.

With reference to the proposed increase of the Indian cotton duties, the Cabinet, at a special meeting held this morning, re-resolved that it would not be inconsistent with the procedure governing the now well recognised Fiscal Autonomy Convention to make, at this stage, the following representations to the Government of India.

First, the probability that such an additional duty would be likely to raise the price of goods in India itself to the great detriment of the poorer clashes generally in that country; and secondly, the probability that such an additional duty would have a disastrous effect in England at this moment—an effect which the Cabinet feels sure that you and your Legislature do not desire to create.

From both points of view the Cabinet views with the gravest apprehension the proposed additional duty and trusts that full weight will be given to the above considerations.

II.

Telegram from Viceroy to Secretary of State, dated 12th February, 1930.

Reference to your telegram of the 7th February. I have discussed Cabinet representation with my Council, and we are deeply impressed by a message of this nature. Nevertheless, we feel bound to adhere to our main proposals.

It must be remembered, firstly, that we want revenue; secondly, that customs is our chief source; thirdly, that general revenue tariff stands at 15 per cent. while duty on cotton piece goods is only 11 per cent.; fourthly, that Indian industry is suffering from deep depression, and that as regards Bombay, the mills are approaching a desperate position which may effect the whole future of this important centre of Indian commerce and finance. Moreover, in a year like present when we have to impose heavy new taxation, we could not for revenue purposes leave cotton duties alone.

As regards raising of cost to consumer, we believe in those goods where external competition is chiefly felt, namely plain grey shirtings and light sheetings and cheaper coloured goods, internal competition will be weapon to keep prices down. As regards bleached goods and finer quality grey and coloured goods, which Lancashire mainly supplies, a 4 per cent. increase in price cannot be represented as a crushing burden.

As regards second point in Cabinet representation—the danger to Brit shi interests—we recognise that possible decline in consumption of Lancashire goods may be a serious matter, but we are clearly bound to put India's interests first. We also recognise how important it is to India not to antagonise British opinion, and quite apart from this, we are of course concerned at this time to avoid unnecessary injury to British interests. We have carefully considered what we could do in this respect, and while we cannot modify general application of 15 per cent. revenue duty, we are prepared to propose to Assembly that, as regards any additional and temporary protective measures, their application might be limited to non-British goods, and that in these circumstances there should be imposed, in addition to 15 per cent. revenue duty, a 5 per cent. protective duty with a minimum of 3½ annas per pound on plain grey goods against all cotton piece goods from outside the United Kingdom. We should propose protective duty for three years only, and undertake to have its effects examined by Tariff Board before end of this period. We think it unlikely, having regard to immense preponderance of British imports in classes of bleached goods, of bordered grey goods and finer coloured goods, that additional duty would have any appreciable effect on prices.

In placing our proposals before the Assembly we shall point out that, so far as we are aware, this is the first occasion on which considered opinion of the Cabinet has been conveyed in this form to the Government of India, and we are impressed with significance of the precedent so established. We cannot ask the Assembly to commit themselves to Imperial Preference as a principle, but merely to adopt a particular course which in our judgment is consistent with India's interests at a critical juncture when much may depend on Indian response to British Government's appeal. We shall have to make it plain to Assembly that, while there are grounds for treating plain grey goods exceptionally, we could not in any circumstances agree at present stage, and for emergency purpose which we have in view, to an additional protective duty of five per cent. on all classes of piece goods irrespective of the country of origin, since immediate benefit to Indian producer would be wholly incommensurate with burden imposed on Indian consumer. We desire also to make it clear that in a matter of this kind after frankly stating our case we should desire to elicit the most free expression of opinion from the Legislature with whom final decision must rest.

III.

Telegram from Secretary of State to Viceroy, dated 19th February, 1930.

The Cabinet has received your telegram and recognising the position of India under the Tariff Autonomy Convention is precluded from offering any further comments on your proposals.

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations, if any, have been made to him on behalf of the Government of Japan respecting the imposition by the Government of India of a differential tariff on certain cotton goods imported from foreign countries; and whether he proposes to take any diplomatic action?

His Majesty's Government have received a communication from the Japanese Government complaining of the discriminatory effect on cotton goods of Japanese origin of the duties proposed by the Government of India. The Government of India, whose position in this matter is well known to the hon. and gallant Member, must necessarily be consulted before a reply can be given to the Japanese Government.

Was it made clear to the Japanese authorities that this is a matter entirely for the Government of India and that we cannot interfere?

On this matter, as I have already stated, we are in communication with the Government of India.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not going to do something to help the Japanese?

Customs Tariff (British Preference)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he proposes to denounce any com- mercial treaties with foreign countries which hinder discrimination in favour of Great Britain in the Customs tariff of British India?

China

Religious Institutions, Lungchow And Nanning

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make inquiries concerning the safety of some 20 girls who were attached to the Bible Churchmen's Girls' Orphanage, near Lungchow, which was recently looted by Communists; whether he will ascertain, in view of the safety of the occupants of the British Bible Churchmen's Hospital at Nanning, what is the present position there; and whether there has yet been any invasion by Soviet forces in this district?

I have already made inquiries, and from such information as I have been able to obtain it would seem that the girls in question, who are Chinese, have been released. There is a scarcity of news from Nanning where the hospital in question is situated, but according to the latest reports foreigners are not thought to be in danger there at present, though unsatisfactory conditions prevail in the province generally. There has been no invasion by Soviet forces. The nearest point in this district to Soviet territory is about 2,000 miles from the Soviet frontier.

British Military Forces (Tientsin)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the anxiety of the British residents at Tientsin in view of the intention to withdraw the British guard; and whether he is satisfied that in all the treaty ports of China the position and safety of British subjects is assured?

I have received the text of a resolution passed at a meeting of British subjects in Tientsin on the 1st instant in the sense that the withdrawal of a British battalion from that town was considered by them to be in- opportune at the present juncture of events in China. One British battalion is, however, still stationed at Tientsin and a considerable number of other foreign troops are in the vicinity. The strength and distribution of British military forces in China is in accordance with the recommendations of our military advisers.

Is it proposed to retain a battalion there for the protection of these people?

Situation

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any development of interest has recently taken place in the situation in China so far as British nationals and property are affected?

Negotiations on the subject of extra-territoriality are still proceeding. No developments of special importance or interest have taken place since my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Louth on the 19th February. As regards the internal situation in China the possibility of an early outbreak of civil war, to which I referred in my reply to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) on the 26th February, has according to my latest information considerably decreased.

Russia

Religious Situation

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Government has yet come to a decision on the question of taking steps under Article 11 of the Covenant of the League of Nations to bring before the League the question of the conditions affecting religious liberty in Russia?

The Government have decided that they could not properly or suitably take any action in this matter under Article 11 of the Covenant of the League of Nations.

Is it not possible for the Powers to take any concerted action at all in the matter?

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to pay no attention whatever to the solemn protest made by the leader of every religion in Europe and the United States yesterday?

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to make a further statement in regard to the policy of His Majesty's Government in respect of the conditions affecting religious liberty in Russia; and whether be will state the nature of the cases of religious persecution which he has already brought to the attention of the Soviet Ambassador?

As regards the first part of the question, I have nothing to add to the statements I have already made on this subject. As regards the second part of the question, I fear that the right hon. Gentleman may have misunderstood an answer which I gave to a supplementary question asked by him on the 27th January. It was not my purpose, when answering this supplementary, to convey the impression that I intended to bring individual eases to the notice of the Soviet Ambassador. Nor have I done so.

Is this the position of the Government—that they are going to take no action whatever in conjunction with other nations, and are going to do nothing themselves in this very grave matter?

When the right hon. Gentleman states that he is not prepared to take individual cases into notice with the Russian Government does he mean to imply that he has brought cases of persecution in the aggregate to the notice of the Russian Government?

Did not a great many of these cases occur during the régime of the late Government?

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the English church in Moscow is available for church use as and when required?

I have nothing to add at present to my reply to the hon. Member on Wednesday last.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is an important question, not so much as regards the specific church mentioned, but as an indication of the Soviet attitude?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are a good many churches in this country which are not in use?

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has recently received information pointing to a change in the situation in Russia regarding the attitude towards religion?

The only development of which I am aware is the recent announcement made by the Central Committee of the Communist party. It contains, I understand, instructions to local party organisations to close churches only at the genuine wish of the majority of the local population, with the concurrence of the regional executive committee. Further, those guilty of mocking the religious feelings of the peasants are to be held responsible, and Communist workers who do not accept and carry out these instructions are to be replaced.

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any official information at all on this or any similar subject, as yet, from the British Ambassador?

Has the right hon. Gentleman had any information as to whether the decree forbidding the teaching of religion to children is still in force or not?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if the report bears out to some extent the information which has been published in the Press?

In view of the divergence of opinion which exists, will the right hon. Gentleman lay Papers with regard to the correspondence, so that we may know exactly where we are?

The House is already aware of the position of the Government on this matter.

Yes, but we do not know what the British Ambassador has said, and, surely, we ought to know?

What has the right hon. Gentleman received in the way of information from the Ambassador in Russia, which he is afraid to publish?

I have already stated the position of His Majesty's Government in reference to the subject.

Propaganda

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the meeting held last month in Moscow of the Præsidium of the Komintern, at which the British representative was instructed to see that the Communist party in Great Britain strengthened its membership; and whether he will make this matter a subject of protest to the Soviet Government?

I have nothing to add to the answer given to a number of questions on this subject on Monday last, and the explanation which I gave on that occasion of the attitude of His Majesty's Government holds good for these instructions also.

Does the right hon. Gentleman adhere to the position which he originally took up last autumn, that the Soviet is responsible for the activities of the Komintem?

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not, if the statement in the question is true, it is not indeed a breach of the Protocol of October, 1929?

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, as a result of more recent experience, he is now satisfied that the Soviet Ambassador and Soviet Government put the same interpretation as His Majesty's Government on the mutual agreement concerning propaganda; and if there has been, as a result, any definite improvement in this respect?

His Majesty s Government have, at various times during the past three months, endeavoured to make plain both in this House and elsewhere their position in regard to the guarantee respecting propaganda, and I have nothing to add to the answers already given on this subject.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember saying in reply to a similar question that he had had cause of complaint; and are we to understand that he has had further cause of complaint?

No, the hon. Member must not understand anything of the kind unless it is stated from this Bench.

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has discussed with the Soviet Ambassador breaches of the Protocol with reference to propaganda; and, if so, whether he can state the nature of such conversations?

No, Sir. Except for the case which I mentioned to the Soviet Ambassador, as I informed the House on the 22nd of January, no such discussions have taken place. The second part of the question does not, therefore, arise.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that right hon. Gentlemen on the other side are arranging that something about Russia is to be brought in every day?

Timber Exports (Prison Labour)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the prohibition of the imports of goods that are the results of prison labour, whether he will call for a Report from the British Ambassador in Moscow as to the extent prison labour is entering into the export timber trade of Soviet Russia?

The import of goods made by prison labour is governed by the terms of the Act of 1897, which prohibits the import of goods proved to the satisfaction of the Customs by evidence tendered to them, to have been made or produced in any foreign prison, gaol, house of correction, or penitentiary. It is, I think, obvious that the provisions of this Act do not apply to the export timber trade of the Soviet Union.

Will my right hon. Friend also notify the Government of India that we disapprove of convict labour?

Is it not a fact that in the question there is a reference to forced labour, and in the circumstances will the right hon. Gentleman instruct the Customs to make inquiries into the matter?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether the Act covers forced labour as well as prison labour?

The right hon. Gentleman did not understand my question. I asked him courteously whether the Act covers forced labour as well as prison labour.

I did understand the question, and I again reply that I have given from the Act itself what the Act covers.

In view of the difficulty of obtaining information from Russia and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman will not accept the affidavits that I have got for him, is it not a matter of public interest whether we are importing the results of prison labour and labour in vast detention camps?

Is it not a fact that we import large quantities of prison goods made by prison labour in India?

British Relations

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can inform the House as to the progress of his negotiations with the Russian Soviet Ambassador as to the definition of the attitude of both Governments towards the treaties of 1924 referred to in the first paragraph of Clause 1 of the protocol of 3rd October, 1929?

As my hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, indicated to the House on the 5th of November, it is the view of His Majesty's Government that the settlement embodied in the treaties of 1924 would not be suitable for a new agreement although certain parts of those treaties would be useful as a basis of discussion in dealing with the questions referred to in the protocol of the 3rd of October. The discussions with the Soviet Ambassador have proceeded on the lines then indicated by my hon. Friend.

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect these negotiations to be completed? It is over three months since the Ambassador came here?

My hon. Friend must keep in mind that you cannot dispose of these questions very hurriedly in the interests of the country.

Yes, up to the present, on most of the cases; and the Board of Trade on other cases.

How many days a week does the right hon. Gentleman put in?

Debts, Claims And Counter-Claims

31. The following question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Sir N. GRATTAN-DOYLE:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a schedule of the counter-claims of the Soviet Government has yet been received; and whether he can state the total amount?

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider the desirability of setting up a Select Committee of the House to assist the Government to negotiate terms for the early payment by the Soviet Government of its debts to British nationals?

The Protocol of the 3rd of October contemplated the appointment of a joint committee of experts for the discussion and settlement of claims and debts. As at present advised, I think adherence to this procedure is preferable to the course suggested by the hon. and gallant Member.

Has not this House very good experts who would be very useful?

Is there not much greater likelihood of these matters being settled if friendly relations are retained with Russia?

Is it still the policy of the Government to grant financial assistance to Russia, before these debts have been settled?

That point does not arise out of the question. I have answered a similar question more than once and the position is unchanged.

British Trawlers (Arrests, Icelandic Waters)

24 and 25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1), if he will have full inquiries made into the circumstances of the arrest of the Grimsby trawler "Thomas Thresher" on a charge of not having her gear properly stowed whilst in Icelandic territorial waters; and will he cable instructions to His Majesty's representative at Reykjavik to render all possible assistance to the skipper of the "Thomas Thresher" in preparing and presenting his defence;

(2), if he will have full inquiries made into the circumstances of the arrest of the Grimsby trawler "Offa" on a charge of a breach of Icelandic fishery regulations; and will he cable instructions to His Majesty's representative at Reykjavik to render all possible assistance to the skipper of the "Offa" in preparing and presenting his defence?

Legal proceedings in these two cases have now ended, and the two vessels have sailed for home, after security had been given for payment of the fines imposed. I have no doubt that His Majesty's Consul-General in Iceland has given all possible assistance to the defendants; but I have asked him to send me a full report as soon as possible.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an appeal has been lodged respecting the case of the trawler "Offa," and will he cable instructions to our representative to give all assistance possible in prosecuting the appeal; further, will he bear in mind that the last Government entered into an agreement with the Icelandic authorities respecting these matters, and will he have special inquiries made as to how the "Thomas Thresher" was alleged to have broken the agreement?

Turkey (Public Debt)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give the House any information as to any proposals on the part of the Turkish Government to alter the terms of settlement of the Ottoman Public Debt which were agreed to in Paris in 1928 and confirmed by the National Assembly in Angora in December, 1928?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the agitation in Turkey is inspired from Soviet sources, and will he not have inquiries made so that our position may be safeguarded?

Naval And Military Pensions And Geants

36.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that dismissals are taking place from the Government service owing to disabled ex-service men being unable, through an increase of their maladies, properly to discharge their duties; whether he is investigating all these cases with a view to an increase of the pensions awarded; and whether he has any statistics to show the number of disabled ex-service men who are not able to live on their pensions, are too infirm to do work, and who have to accept public charity?

I would remind the hon. Member that the pension is related to the average extent of physical disablement, not to the fitness of the pensioner to carry on a particular occupation. Ex-service men, who may be in the condition referred to, have the same well-understood opportunities of obtaining medical treatment and consideration for their cases as pensioners in other occupations. No information on the point raised in the last part of the question is, I fear, available.

Trade And Commerce

British Industries Fair

37.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether any statistics are being compiled showing the figures for the values of orders taken at the British Industries Fair held in London and Birmingham; whether he has had any Reports of the amount of business done; and whether it is proposed to extend these fairs in 1931?

No statistics are being compiled of the business done by the exhibitors at the recent British Industries Fair at either the London or Birmingham section. While no formal reports have been submitted of the business done I have every reason to believe that it was on a satisfactory scale. The additional gross area available at Olympia next year will be 107,000 square feet, and I understand that further extensions are intended at Birmingham.

Certainly not next year, but the matter is one for further consideration.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with the volume of trade done with Russia?

38.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he has any further information to give the House regarding the results of the British Industries Fair?

I am afraid I have little to add to the information I have already given on this subject beyond the fact that my Department continues to receive evidence that the Fair produced excellent business.

Will the hon. Gentleman send a commission over to the Leipzig Fair to see the way in which it is managed? I think it would be possible to get many useful ideas.

The whole matter is now before the Committee which was appointed specially to deal with those questions.

Antwerp Exhibition

39.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he can make any statement regarding the British section of the Antwerp Exhibition; and whether any decision has yet been reached as to the date of the official opening of this Exhibition?

The British section at the Antwerp Exhibition is in an advanced state of preparation, the buildings are finished and the decoration and internal fitments are in process of completion. With regard to the second part of the question, according to present arrangements the exhibition will be opened on 26th April by His Majesty the King of the Belgians.

Is the hon. Gentleman in a position to say yet, if the British pavilion will be fully occupied?

Exports Credit Scheme (Russia)

40.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department the number and total value of the contracts entered into in respect of exports to Russia under the exports credit scheme during the month of February this year?

During the four weeks ended on the 1st March, 16 contracts were entered into under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme in respect of exports to Russia, covering goods to the value of £137,373.

Will the hon. Member consult the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. R. A. Taylor) to see if he can get any help from him?

I have been in very close consultation with the hon. Member, who has been very helpful.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the present limit of 12 months in the credit guarantees in respect of exporters to Russia has had the effect of stopping the placing of large numbers of orders in this country which would otherwise have been placed; and can he tell us when the Government's position on this matter is going to be revised and brought into harmony with what we said during the Election?

Commercial Diplomatic Officers

41.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department which countries in Europe are without a commercial counsellor appointed by his Department?

The following are the countries in Europe to which at present no commercial diplomatic officers are appointed:—

  • Albania.
  • Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania).
  • Bulgaria.
  • Finland.
  • Switzerland.
In the case of Denmark and Portugal, in each country an officer combines the duties of Consul and Commercial Secretary. It is proposed shortly to appoint a Commercial Secretary in Switzerland and Finland, respectively. The officer appointed to the latter post will also be available if required for travelling in the Baltic States.

Iron And Steel Industries (Inquiry)

52.

asked the Prime Minister if the membership of the committee inquiring into the iron and steel industries is the same as when the creation of that committee was first announced; how many meetings the committee has held; and when the Report is likely to be published?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part of the question, it is contrary to the precedent of established practice to give particulars regarding the meetings of committees. As regards the last part of the question, the committee have almost completed the taking of oral evidence.

Zoological Gardens, London

43.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the terms and conditions of the lease held by the Zoological Society of London in respect of Regent's Park; and whether he is prepared to make it a condition of the renewal of the lease that the Zoological Gardens shall be open to the public on Sundays?

The Zoological Society of London occupy 30 acres, 2 roods, 34 poles of land in Regent's Park as tenants of the Commissioners of Crown Lands at a rent of 6358 10s. 9d. It is a yearly tenancy, but has been in existence for a great number of years. The society are responsible for all outgoings and costs of maintenance. The suggestion made in the latter part of the question has been considered on several occasions, but it has not been found practicable to carry it out.

Is it in the power of the Government to make this a condition of the lease, and when was it last considered?

The question could no doubt be negotiated, but the objection of the Zoological Society is that they depend on the income derived from the subscriptions of Fellows, and that would be very seriously affected by this proposal.

Is it not a fact that this society has been created and maintained by the Fellows without any grant from the Government, and, if that be so, does the right hon. Gentleman not think it reasonable that the Gardens should be reserved on one day in the week for the use of those Fellows and their friends?

Agriculture

Grain Imports

44.

asked the Minister of Agriculture when the departmental investigation into the scheme for setting up a grain imports board in this country is likely to be completed; and whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to make no announcement of their agricultural policy until this investigation is at an end?

Land let in small holdings by Local Authorities under the Small Holdings Acts.
I.—County Councils.
County.Area on the 18th December, 1918.Area on the 31st December, 1929.Area newly acquired during year ended 31st December, 1929.
ENGLAND:Acres.Acres.Acres.
Bedfordshire5,72713,2474
Berkshire3,0564,80910
Bucks4,58411,03971
Cambs.9,72918,8397
Cheshire4,67310,129228
Cornwall2,88311,749373
Cumberland6751,363
Derby1,1383,014
Devon8,61515,945166
Dorset3,56710,635221
Durham2,4504,033
Essex3,1597,13996
Gloucester3,56014,051
Hants1,8584,6831

The scheme referred to by the hon. Member is, as he will appreciate, one of great complexity, and while I can assure him that the necessary inquiries are taking place with all reasonable expedition, I cannot at present forecast the date of their completion. In reply to the last part of the question, I would beg to refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) on 16th December.

Small Holdings

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how much land has been let to smallholders by each county council and county borough council, respectively, under the Land Settlement Acts since 1920 to the present date, and for the 12 months ended 1st January, 1930?

As a long statistical statement is necessarly involved, I propose, with the hon. Member's consent, to circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

It is presumed that the hon. Member desires information as to the action taken by local authorities in regard to small holdings since the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act of 1919. This Act gave legislative sanction and effect to the land settlement scheme for ex-service men which was started on the 18th December, 1918, and this date has been taken for the purpose of the following statement.

County.Area on the 18th December, 1918.Area on the 31st December, 1929.Area newly acquired during year ended 31st December, 1929.
ENGLAND—continued.Acres.Acres.Acres.
Hereford1,7524,77626
Hertford2,9006,4603
Hunts4,56411,102
Isle of Ely6,19413,986
Isle of Wight8511,353
Kent2,0505,76920
Lancashire2384,405
Leicester3,5528,106
Lines (Holland)8,72913,08314
Lines. (Kestevon.)4,3516,458267
Lines. (Lindsey)4,4028,506
Middlesex2191,133
Norfolk12,54327,863503
Northampton2,3834,441
Northumberland2,9134,837
Notts9434,287
Oxford2,2366,794
Rutland531774
Salop2,0726,234254
Soke of Peterborough5793,641
Somerset8,80721,42840
Staffs3,2387,2013
Suffolk, East1,2434,233145
Suffolk, West2,5587,617
Surrey1,4712,509½
Sussex, East3662,333
Sussex, West1702,041
Warwick1,8235,457214
Westmorland59202
Wilts5,72715,847
Worcester2,3815,302247
Yorks., East Riding4,4897,992382
Yorks., North Riding1,1793,154
Yorks., West Riding4,96113,409361
TOTAL—English Counties158,148373,4083,663¾
WALES.
Anglesey2,2206,262
Brecon5041,169
Caernarvon2,2803,031
Cardigan3,1643,303
Carmarthen1,1514,0244
Denbighshire3,0145,823
Flint9693,577
Glamorgan3,3156,098147
Merioneth2,4873,939
Monmouth2,6055,63734
Montgomery2,7367,633164
Pembroke1,6575,417278
Radnor3382,640
TOTAL—WELSH COUNTIES26,44058,553627
TOTAL—ENGLAND AND WALES (Counties)184,588431,9614,290¾

II.—County Borough, Councils.
County Boroughs.Area on the 18th December, 1918.Area on the 31st December, 1929.Area newly acquired during year ended 31st December, 1929.
ENGLAND.Acres.Acres.Acres.
Barrow-in-Furness5656
Birkenhead52
Birmingham3,344
Blackburn9898
Bolton99
Brighton186186
Bristol108179
Burnley105203
Chester6161
Coventry128354
Eastbourne67
Hastings50
Hull172
Leicester7879
Manchester59
Newcastle-on-Tyne8888
Northampton319626
Oxford223
Southport113
Stockport21
Stoke199
Tynemouth239
Wallasey98
Walsall53
Wolverhampton143
York3
TOTAL—English County Boroughs1,4666,626
WALES.
Cardiff466465
Newport249248
Swansea19
TOTAL—Welsh County Boroughs715732
TOTAL—County Boroughs2,1817,868
GRAND TOTAL—ENGLAND AND WALES.186,769439,3194,290¾

NOTE.—The Table does not include any holding sold by Councils. The figures in Column 4 are included in Column 3. Some land held and let on 18th December, 1918, or acquired between that date and the 31st December, 1929, has been given up

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many applications were received by his Department during 1929 from county councils to purchase or rent land for small holdings; how many were granted; the acreage granted and refused; and the number of persons who will be settled on the land obtained?

The number of applications received from county councils during 1929 was 51 relating to a total area of 4,859 acres. Of these 50 were approved and one covering 238 acres was refused. Fourteen of these schemes did not mature. The remaining 36 schemes cover a total area of 4,076 acres, of which 630 acres were previously held on lease. The 3,446 acres of additional land actually acquired will provide for 109 new holdings and the enlargement of some existing holdings.

Gas Attack (Peotection Of Civil Population)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether any decision has been come to with reference to the problem of the protection of the civil population against gas attack; whether any scheme has been prepared for the protection of the civil population in these emergencies in future; and whether this scheme has been communicated to the local authorities?

As I have said in answer to previous questions on this subject, in view of the ratification last year of the Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925 by most of the important European States, including this country, and also in view of the other international undertakings and agreements for the preservation of peace, I do not think the present time opportune to press on with plans dealing with gas attack. It is, I think, well known, and has been stated in the House on more than one occasion, that considerable preparatory work had been done by the Committee of Imperial Defence upon this problem prior to the ratification of the Protocol; this work will always be available should it be necessary, at any time, to reconsider our position.

Has my right hon. Friend considered the effect on public opinion of a little drill for the children in gas mask wear?

London Naval Conference

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a further statement on the progress of the Naval Conference?

53.

asked the Prime Minister if he can now make any statement as to the progress of the Five-Power Naval Conference and, in particular, whether any result to date has been achieved?

I can add nothing to the answers which have already been given in reply to similar questions.

Is this House to understand that nothing was achieved yesterday?

Ship Designs (Experimental Tank)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the great usefulness of the Froude national tank at Teddington to shipping designs; that owing to congestion of work ship-owners have on many occasions been compelled to have their designs tested abroad; and whether he will direct the attention of the Economic Advisory Council to the need of a second tank with a view to assisting one of the most important of our industries?

I am sending the hon. and gallant Member a copy of the reply given on the 4th March, in answer to a question by the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon), from which he will see that the construction of a second tank at Teddington has already been approved, and that the necessary plans and designs are in active preparation.

Imperial Economic Conference

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the discussions now proceeding as to arrangements for the Imperial and Imperial Economic Conferences of this autumn, he will invite opinions from the Dominion Governments on the suggestion that, in order to promote continuity of Empire economic policy, delegates to the Imperial Economic Conference should be representative of opposition as well as governmental opinion in each part of the Empire, while leaving full ministerial responsibility with the Imperial Conference?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave on the 13th November last, in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Newcastle North (Sir N. Grattan-Doyle). The considerations which determined the decision regarding the political conference are equally applicable to economic discussions.

Has there been any opportunity for ascertaining whether that is the view of the Dominion Governments, and whether they think that the same considerations would apply to the Economic Conference as to the Imperial Conference?

I cannot say regarding them all, but I know personally regarding some that that is so.

Are we to understand that the Imperial Economic Conference is to be held at the same time as the Imperial Conference, and with the same personnel?

It is to take place at the same time as the Imperial Conference. My latest information—I am not quite sure if anything has happened since—is that it was still under consideration regarding the precise personnel. The expert advisers would be different.

As the results of the Economic Conference must be adopted by the Imperial Conference, do the same considerations really apply?

Palestine

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether, apart from any decisions that may be come to as a result of the inquiry into the recent riots in Palestine, he proposes to set up a Royal Commission to consider the future government of that country, the position of Great Britain under the mandate, and the measures which it may be necessary to take in view of the Balfour declaration?

Until His Majesty's Government have had time to study the report of the commission of inquiry, I am not in a position to state what further measures will be taken.

69.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether copies of the report of the Palestine Commissioners have yet been despatched to the Government of Palestine; whether arrangements will be made for simultaneous publication in Palestine and London; whether, in view of the approach of religious festivals, he will consult the High Commissioner as to the most suitable date for such publication; and whether the publication will be accompanied by a clear statement of the Government's policy in Palestine in regard to all questions raised by the report of the Commissioners?

I have been asked to reply to this question. Yes, Sir, a copy has gone to the High Commissioner whom the Secretary of State proposes to consult on the question of publication. It is not clear whether simultaneous publication in Palestine and London would be practicable. My Noble Friend is aware of the considerations based upon the approach of the religious festivals Publication of the report will take place at the earliest convenient date, and will not be delayed pending its consideration by His Majesty's Government.

Do I understand from that that the report will be published by itself, and that any statement by the Government will follow publication, and not be made at the same time?

Can the hon. Gentleman yet indicate when the House is likely to have an opportunity of discussing this matter?

If my hon. Friend had listened to the first part of my answer, he would have noticed that I said that my Noble Friend is consulting the High Commissioner, and, after that has been done, possibly an opportunity may arise for discussion.

I asked when the House would have an opportunity of discussing the matter?

Is it the Government's intention to publish with the report the whole or any part of the evidence, and, if so, will it include any part of the evidence given in camera?

Premium Bonds

51.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the introduction of legislation to provide funds for building Charing Cross Bridge by means of premium bonds or a lottery, so as to test the public demand for this form of venture?

No, Sir. I am not prepared to adopt the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Westminster Bridge was built as a result of a lottery, and apparently it has not reposed under a curse since then?

Fishing Harbours (Dredging)

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture on which English fishing harbour the new Government dredger for fishing harbours, announced by the Secretary of State for Scotland as almost finished, will commence work?

The new dredger to which the hon. Member refers has been purchased by the Fishery Board for Scotland for work in a number of Scottish harbours which are greatly in need of dredging. The dredger will be fully occupied on this work for some time to come. No arrangement has been made up to the present for its employment in English harbours.

Are not English harbours entitled to a share of the money which the British taxpayers provide for the dredging of these harbours?

Scottish harbours require dredging by the fishery authorities. In the case of the English harbours, they are mostly of a kind which do not require assistance from the Fishery Department, but do their own dredging.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows that that is not the case, and is he not aware that English harbours require assistance just as much in many of these respects?

Houses Of Parliament (Stonework)

57.

asked the First Commissioner of Works the gross cost to date of structure, installations, furniture, etc., of the Houses of Parliament; and what sum it is still proposed to spend to save the stonework from decay?

To reply to my hon. Friend's question would call for an examination into the accounts for the past 90 years—a task of such magnitude as I am afraid I could not require to be undertaken. It is impossible to state how much money it will be necessary to spend on the restoration of the stonework, as the greater part of the building has not yet been surveyed. The cost has, however, been tentatively estimated as being in the neighbourhood of £1,000,000.

Would the work not have been finished long ago, and at a lesser expenditure, had the contract been in the hands of private enterprise?

As I had nothing to do with it until the last eight or nine months, that question had better be put to somebody else.

Government Contracts (Labour Conditions)

58.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he is now in a position to make an announcement regarding the conditions of employment of workers engaged on the work of his Department in Edinburgh who are employed through contractors?

This is part of a very much larger question affecting men employed through contractors in London and in all the large provincial centres, which I am now investigating, and I am not yet in a position to make an announcement on the subject.

New Government Buildings, Edinburgh

59.

asked the First Commissioner of Works if the model and plans of the building to be erected upon the Calton gaol site in Edinburgh have now been completed; if so, when they will be made available for inspection by the Scottish Fine Arts Commission and the Edinburgh City Corporation; and whether the model will be made available for examination by Members of this House after these two bodies have inspected it?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, and the model and plans of the proposed buildings are now before the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland for their consideration and advice. Until I have received and considered their report, I shall not be in a position to consider what further steps should be taken as to submitting the designs either to the Edinburgh City Corporation or to Members of this House.