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Government Departments

Volume 237: debated on Monday 24 March 1930

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Foreign Office (Passport Department)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in order to secure a reduction in the number of persons employed in the passport department of the Foreign Office and to obviate the annoyance to the public, he is taking any steps to reduce the necessity for carrying passports and securing visas?

As I informed the House as recently as the 26th of February, the passport system has a very real value in connection with the white slave traffic, and also, in view of the unemployment problem in this country, for the control of immigration, as explained in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kennington (Mr. Matters), on the 6th of November. The Passport Office is not concerned with the issue of visas, but I would observe that agreements for the abolition of visas have been concluded with a considerable number of European countries, including those most frequently visited by British subjects.

Is it actually necessary for passports alone to employ 264 people in the Foreign Office?

When you employ anyone you set that person on and these people have not been set on during the régime of this Government. The right hon. Gentleman must have clearly understood that from my first reply.

May I press for an answer to a very plain question, whether the right hon. Gentleman really considers that for passport purposes it is necessary to employ 264 people?

As the late Government thought it necessary I o employ them, surely the right hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot object to me continuing them.

Consular Service

50.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department what is the total number of British Consular officers, including honorary officers, serving abroad; how many of these are unpaid; and whether it is proposed to increase the number of paid Consular officers?

There are at present 897 British Consular officers. Of these 376 are salaried officers. The remaining 521 are unsalaried, including 16 acting officers. As regards the last part of the question, it is not at present contemplated to increase the number except in regard to the Soviet Union.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of these unsalaried officers are in very important commercial posts? Is the matter receiving his continued attention?

I am aware of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman bas said, but I do not understand in what way he wants me to act.

The hon. Gentleman might increase the number of State officers, from whom naturally more service can be expected.

Export Credits Department

57.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department what action has been taken in connection with the Report of the Niemeyer Committee which was appointed to consider the future of the Export Credits Guarantee Department?

I propose to make a statement to the House on this matter at the earliest opportunity.

Embassy, Washington (Furniture)

79.

asked the First Commissioner of Works if he will give the reasons why it is the Permanent Secretary of his Department who should be directed to visit America with the primary object of dealing with the standard of furnishing of the new Embassy at Washington; and will he state the reasons why the technical officers of his Department are not considered suit- ably qualified to decide on the spot important points relating to the furnishing of the Embassy?

The matters demanding settlement are of sufficient importance to require the decision of the Permanent Secretary, and of such a nature that a decision could not properly be given without a personal visit. It is impossible to give the technical offcers of the Department the unfettered discretion implied in the second discretion implied in the second part of the question.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say, roughly, what this trip will cost?

New Buildings, Edinburgh

81.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he has yet received the Report of the Scottish Fine Arts Commission on the plans for the new buildings on the Calton site in Edinburgh; and whether he will state the terms of reference to the Commission?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative; the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland has not been limited to any precise terms of reference in this matter, but has been asked to advise and report upon the plans, etc., which have been submitted to it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that no final decision shall be come to in regard to these plans until the City Council of Edinburgh has been fully consulted?

That matter has been settled between the late Government and the city council.

Embassy, Rio De Janeiro

82.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he proposes to send the Permanent Secretary of his Department to Rio de Janeiro in order to set the standard of the building and furnishing of the new Embassy there, or whether he proposes to entrust the supervision to the discretion of the technical officers responsible for the work connected with the new Embassy?

The development of the scheme for a new Embassy at Rio de Janeiro has not yet reached a stage at which any question can arise as to whether points of policy or principle connected with the building and furnishing services, carried out by the executive divisions of the Department, call for a visit by the Permanent Secretary of my Department. Any such question will, however, be decided on its merits as and when occasion arises.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take advantage of the occasion of the opening at the new Embassy at Rio to give another joy-ride to one of the permanent officials?

I think that is a perfectly offensive question in reference to a civil servant who, I believe, is most highly respected by everyone.

Passports

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any negotiations are proceeding for the abolition of the passports between Great Britain and any foreign Powers, on the lines of the abolition of passports between Norway, Sweden and Denmark?

No negotiations for the abolition of passports are in progress. I would observe that, although an arrangement between the Scandinavian countries provides for the abolition of passports under certain conditions in the case of their respective nationals entering one another's territories, a so-called "Scandinavian travel card" is required instead.

Yugoslavia (Bomb Outrages)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any statement with regard to the representations made by the representatives, at Sofia, of Great Britain, France, and Italy, to the Bulgarian Government with a view to taking such steps as may be possible for the prevention of any repetition of the bomb outrages committed at Pirot and Strumnitza, in Yugoslavia, on the 3rd March arid 9th March by Macedonian revolutionaries operating from Bulgarian territory?

His Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the French and Italian Governments, have tendered advice to the Bulgarian Government through the intermediary of their representatives at Sofia; and, according to the latest information at my disposal, the Bulgarian Government are endeavouring with tact and courage to take the situation in hand and to arrest and punish those responsible for the outrages. The three Governments have also urged the Yugoslav Government to maintain an attitude of patience and forbearance, and both Governments will have all the sympathy of His Majesty's Government in their attempts to liquidate these incidents in a spirit of mutual co-operation.

Are His Majesty's Government satisfied that the Bulgarian Government have taken all possible steps up to the present to prevent a repetition of these outrages?

Egypt (Draft Agreement)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he intends to make any proposals to the Egyptian delegation going beyond the draft agreement of last year; and, if so, what is their nature?

No, Sir. The proposals of His Majesty's Government are already on record in Command Paper 3376 of 1929.

Does the right hon. Gentleman still consider them to be his absolute limit?

Great Britain And United States (Visa Fees)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the amount paid by British subjects visiting the United States in the way of visa fees annually; and the relation which this sum bears to the amount charged to Americans visiting this country on account of visa fees?

No figures are available as to the amount paid annually in visa fees by British subjects visiting the United States, but, according to the last annual report of the United States Secretary of Labour in my possession, 23,197 visitors from the United Kingdom were admitted to the United States in the United States fiscal year 1927–28. The majority of these persons would have paid a fee of 10 dollars, though a few may have been in transit. For the year 1928, the fees collected for visas issued to United States citizens visiting this country amounted to about £170,000.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this is a case for mutual cancellation of visa fees in both countries?

I have already stated to the House that for financial reasons we could not do it at present.

China (Attack On British Ship)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the attack on 15th January last on the British vessel "Tuckwo" by an armed boarding party of Chinese under the guise of their being under orders from the Kiangsu Government to intercept the ship and remove well-known bad characters and a quantity of ammunition; that, in the first place, this boarding party opened fire on the vessel with rifles, killing a Chinese passenger and seriously wounding a quartermaster; that, when on board the vessel, having searched for opium, of the existence of which apparently they were aware, they left the ship taking with them large packages of opium weighing about 50 pounds a-piece, also small packages of opium from the third-class Chinese passenger quarters; that the vessel was subjected to frequent volleys of rifle fire on the ship by Chinese on the river bank; that at the time a member of His Majesty's Legation was on passage in the vessel from Nanking to Shanghai; whether any official Report of the circumstances has been received from him or from the Legation; and whether any official steps have been taken to prevent occurrences of this kind in the future?

I have received from His Majesty's Minister at Peking a memorandum prepared by the member of His Majesty's Legation who was on board the steamship "Tuckwo' on the 15th January when the vessel was fired on and boarded by a party of Chinese who professed to be in search of arms, opium, and a bank robber, and removed from the ship a considerable quantity of opium. One Chinese passenger was apparently shot dead, and the Chinese quartermaster of the ship was shot and subsequently died. No attempt was made to interfere with the foreign passengers or their cabins. His Majesty's Minister subsequently made a vigorous protest to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs. Sir Miles Lampson 'said that, while he had instructed His Majesty's Consuls to arrange, in proper cases, for search in regular form by duly accredited Chinese anti-opium officials of British ships at the ports, there must be no more of these unwarranted attacks on British shipping.

In view of the very un-settled state of affairs which is developing in China, will the right hon. Gentleman consider giving more adequate protection to officers and seamen navigating British ships in Chinese waters?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any reply has been received from the Foreign Minister to the protest which has been made?

United States (Seizure Of British Ship)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the seizure in territorial waters of a British ship by American coastguards-men alleged to be acting in connection with an undecided civil claim against the company owning the vessel; whether he can state the facts of this seizure; whether this practice of seizing vessels under similar circumstances is adopted generally by foreign nations; and how many British vessels have been seized under similar circumstances?

According to reports in the Press—and I have no other information on the subject—a British ship, the "Chief Capilano," was seized on the 19th March within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States by a United States revenue cutter, on a writ obtained by certain United States shippers who had a claim against her owners. The "Chief Capilano" was, I understand, released on the 21st or 22nd March, the United States Federal Court at Seattle having held her seizure to have been illegal. As regards the hon. Member's inquiry whether the practice of seizing vessels under similar circumstances is adopted generally by foreign nations, this all depends on the domestic law of the nations concerned. As regards the last part of the question, I have no information as to the number of British vessels arrested in circumstances similar to the "Chief Capilano."

Will any compensation be paid, in view of the fact that the seizure was illegal?

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

39.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether the alteration he claims to have made in dealing with the pensions of men who have passed the seven-year limit applies also to the widows of men who have died more than seven years after discharge from the Army; and, if so, in what way the conditions of the latter have been altered?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which was given to a similar question by him on 17th February.

Palestine

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government maintains the view that the major questions of policy effecting the future administration of the Palestine mandate are out- side the terms of reference of the Shaw Commission and cannot be affected by its Report?

"Major questions" of policy are for the Government to determine. It was announced in September last that, when the Report of the Shaw Commission had been received, the Government would consider along what lines within the terms of the Mandate future policy in Palestine should be directed. That question they will consider; but I am certainly not prepared to say that their conclusions will not be "affected" by the Report of the Commission.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say that they will not be affected to the extent of deflecting in any way from the terms of the mandate?

Certainly. I only guarded myself, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question is a very wide one.

Are we to take it that the Government definitely do not intend to set up a Royal Commission in connection with the future of Palestine, but intend to come to a decision themselves on the subject after the Report is received?

If the House would just await the consideration, that is one of the points which we shall have to pass in review when we have finished the study of the Report.

London Naval Conference

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he call assure. the House that, in the discussions which he is conducting in connection with the Naval Conference, he has made it clear to the representatives of the other Powers that there is no intention on the part of His Majesty's Government to seek to abate in any way the obligations already assumed by this country under the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Locarno?

His Majesty's Government have neither contemplated nor discussed any abatement of their obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations or the Treaty of Locarno.

May we take it also that the Government have not discussed any increase in the way of those obligations?

I think all these questions ought to be put down, because the House will obviously understand that an unprepared answer is sometimes rudely given.

Coal Industry (Lord Mayor's Fund)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the intention to wind up the Lord Mayor of London's fund for the relief of distressed mining areas; and whether any steps will be taken to meet distress in these areas which would otherwise have been relieved from that fund?

I have been asked to reply. The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, the powers and resources in the hands of the new public assistance authorities will, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health anticipates, suffice without further emergency measures.

Will the hon. Lady say that, in the event of the Lord Mayor's Fund being wound up, due consideration will be given to the distress in those mining areas, which is now almost as great as it ever was before?

My right hon. Friend anticipates that the new public assistance authorities will be able to meet the situation. We shall certainly watch the matter.

British Holiday Resorts

54.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether, in view of the trade depression throughout the country generally, he will, in the interests of British holiday resorts, suggest to the Travel Association of Great Britain and Ireland the desirability of initiating an effective propaganda campaign by Press, poster, wireless, etc., urging the public to spend their holidays this year in Great Britain instead of abroad?

The Travel Association of Great Britain and Ireland is carrying out all over the world a national publicity campaign in order to increase the number of visitors to this country. The British health and pleasure resorts, a number of whom are members of the Association, will benefit directly from this campaign. For the Association to urge people in this country not to go abroad would be contrary to the objects for which the Association was formed. On the other hand, as the result of the publicity given to our own country, persons at home will, no doubt, realise that many of the advantages which they are in the habit of seeking abroad would be found in Great Britain and Ireland.

Horses (Export)

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the number of horses that were exported to France or Belgium for the three months ended to the last convenient date?

The number of horses exported to France or Belgium from Great Britain during the three months December, 1929, to February, 1930, was 970.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the majority of these horses are killed with the greatest cruelty in the slaughter-houses in Belgium and France?

Can my right hon. Friend say how many of the horses which were exported to France and Belgium were exported for slaughter?

Will the right hon. Gentleman make some public statement in the Press as to the true facts of the situation regarding the exportation of horses, because Members of this House are being inundated with letters from all kinds of people, and all that we want to know are the facts?

I made a statement in answer to a question last Thursday, and I think that their attention should be called to it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement in the Press in order to save the continuance of this enormous amount of correspondence?

Can my right hon. Friend say definitely that no horses have been exported to France and Belgium for slaughter during the last two or three months?

Fishing Industry (Loan Facilities)

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he proposes to extend to English fishermen the same loan facilities for the replacement of lost nets and gear as are being granted in the case of Scottish fishermen?

The loan facilities referred to are being granted only in respect of the replacement of nets and gear lost by Scottish fishermen in the gale of 11th November last. The loss of gear by English vessels in that gale did not, to any appreciable extent, fall upon the fishermen themselves but upon the shore owners of the vessels. These owners have made no appeal for public assistance, and I have no reason to think that they desire it.

English Harbours (Debt Remission)

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is taking any steps to relieve the financial and economic position of the English fishing harbours on the same lines as is being done for Scotland?

The remission of certain harbour debts due to the Development Fund in respect of English harbours has been considered on the same basis as debts in respect, of Scottish harbours. Remissions have been sanctioned in the case of the harbours at Berwick, Newlyn, Staithes and Brixham.

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to have a survey made of the other small harbours around the English coast in the same way as is being done in Scotland?

The subject is being gone into very carefully by the Fisheries Inquiry which is now proceeding.