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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 302: debated on Monday 27 May 1935

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India

Silver Exports

1

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can state in terms of British currency the amount of silver exported from India in the years 1932, 1933, and 1934, and the countries principally concerned in the import of this silver?

The information in terms of rupees, which may be converted into sterling at lS. 6d. the rupee, is given on page 149 of the Accounts relating to the Sea-borne Trade of British India for 1934, a copy of which is being placed in the Library of the House.

Trade Relations With Burma

2

asked the Secretary of State for India whether the terms of the India-Burma trade convention have now been agreed upon?

As I indicated when describing the position in the Committee on 10th April, the discussions between the representatives of the Government of Burma and the Government of India have come to an end, and the two Governments have arrived at conclusions between themselves as to the arrangements which should govern the trade relations between India and Burma after separation. It now rests with Parliament to consider the outcome of these discussions, and the opportunity of doing so will arise when the appropriate draft Order-in-Council is submitted for approval.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it was the intention to send a deputation from both Houses of Parliament to wait upon him to make representations as to the terms of the proposed trade agreement; if the deputation does wait upon him, will it be competent for the terms to be modified; if not, would he explain why be has not waited for representations to be made, since he stated, in a speech in this House, that modifications could be made, subject to representation?

Lancashire representatives, of course, decide, looking at their own interests, whether they wish to send a deputation to discuss the matter with me or not. I am always ready and anxious to see them, if they wish to see me. At the same time I would point out, both to the hon. Member and to them, that Parliament is in no way pledged or compromised. The agreement which has been reached is an internal agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Burma. I have always made it clear that Parliament is uncompromised by an agreement of that kind, and Parliament will have to decide upon the merits of the question, when the Order-in-Council comes up for discussion, which will, I imagine, be in the autumn. I undertake to circulate the draft agreement to the House in plenty of time for the discussion, so that the various interests concerned will have full opportunity of considering the ques- tion in detail before Parliament has to take a decision.

Is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend said in this House that the Government, apart from Parliament, were prepared to receive representations on details and in respect of the time, and is it not a little discourteous for the matter to have been disposed of—

The position is exactly as I stated in the Debate. The details will be circulated and will be open to discussion, and the suitable time for discussion, both of the Lancashire interests and the other interests, will be when the draft agreement has been circulated, in plenty of time for the discussion to take place in this House.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as a result of the agreement between India and Burma, a very large number of people in this country fear that British interests will be excluded?

It will be much better to discuss questions of that kind when we have the specific debate on the Order-in-Council.

Manchuria (Oil Interests)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any reply has yet been received from the Japanese Government to the further note addressed to them by the British Government with regard to the establishment of an oil monopoly in Manchukuo, and indicating that the Japanese Government would be held responsible for any loss on this account by the British interests?

No, Sir. I cannot add to the reply I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend some 10 days ago.

Germany (Herr Hitler's Speech)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will arrange for a full and accurate text of Herr Hitler's speech of 21st May to be issued to Members.

I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for his suggestion, and I am arranging for a number of copies of a translation of Herr Hitler's speech on 21st May to be placed in the Library of the House.

Tangier

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the uneasiness created among some sections of the Moslem population by his recent statement on the Tangier question, and whether he can give an assurance that British policy in no way implies an attack on the Moslem religion and institutions?

I am aware of an uneasiness among the Moslem population of Tangier, and I am glad to have this opportunity of stating that the policy of His Majesty's Government is in no way directed against Moorish religion and institutions, nor has any proposal been made that could imply any such intention. So far from seeking to change the existing international regime in Tangier, the policy of His Majesty's Government is to strengthen that regime by seeking improvement in the administration of the zone, more particularly in the financial and judicial spheres.

Spain (British Student's Arrest)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the arrest in Spain of a British student, Mr. A. G. Ling, who was twice imprisoned for periods of three-and-a-half days for alleged espionage; and whether he will make representations to the Spanish Government with regard to the confiscation by them of Mr. Ling's thesis on architecture?

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Ambassador at Madrid requested the Spanish Government on the 18th May to furnish an explanation of Mr. Ling's detention. Steps are being taken to recover any of Mr. Ling's property remaining in their hands.

Has my right hon. Friend any information when these are likely to be recovered, because the thesis has to be submitted on Monday next for Mr. Ling's examination in architecture?

I did not know the fact added by my hon. Friend. I hope it will be done speedily, but I am not sure when it will be.

Eggs (Imports)

9.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether foreign countries have responded to his appeal to reduce imports of eggs in shell by 10 per cent.; and whether he can explain the increase from the Netherlands for the four months ended 30th April of this year from 247, 626 great hundreds to 1,047, 144 great hundreds as compared with the same period last year?

Imports of eggs in shell during the first four months of this year from foreign countries other than the Netherlands showed a reduction substantially greater than the 10 per cent. proposed. I understand that the increase in Netherlands supplies is given as being due to a variety of circumstances, the most important being a decline in the German market for Netherlands eggs.

Post Office

Telephone Charges

10.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider extending the policy of reducing charges as a means of popularising the telephone in preference to spending money on its advertisement?

The reduction of telephone charges continues to be a main aim of Post Office policy; but I am satisfied that the present expenditure on publicity is of financial advantage to the telephone service and thus assists the policy of rate reduction.

Can my right hon. Friend state how much has been spent on advertising?

Savings Bank Deposits

12.

asked the Postmaster-General the amount of savings in the Post Office Savings Bank, and the number of individual holdings represented in May, 1931, and at the present time, respectively?

The amount of deposits with accrued interest in the Post Office Savings Bank is approximately £369,750,000 and the number of individual accounts 9,720,000. The corresponding figures for May, 1931, were £294,000,000 and 9,370,000 respectively.

Facilities, Channel Islands

13.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the poor facilities for the collection and delivery of mails from Guernsey to the island of Alderney; whether he can state the times of daily collections and deliveries of mails both to and from the mainland; and whether he intends taking any action in the matter?

Postal Rates (His Majesty's Forces)

asked the Postmaster-General for what reason the specially favourable postage rates for letters and parcels to members of His Majesty's Forces abroad are not extended to officers and men of the British Army or Air Force stationed in Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, India, Iraq, or Hong Kong, and elsewhere?

Except in the case of the China Command (Shanghai Area and Tientsin Area) to which an Army Post. Office is attached, letters and parcels for officers and men of the British Amy or Air Force stationed abroad are delivered through the Civil Post Office and must therefore be subject to the same rates and conditions as civil letters and parcels. The Imperial rate of letter postage (1½d. for the first ounce and ld. for each additional ounce) applies, however, to letters for all the countries mentioned by my hon. Friend except Iraq.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that this is a matter for serious consideration? As these men are sent out there by this country to serve, should they not, therefore, have the same postal rates as in this country?

Site, Stepney

16.

asked the Postmaster-General whether any decision has been arrived at yet with regard to the using of the plot of land at the corner of Deal Street and Hanbury Street, Whitechapel, Stepney, for the erection of houses or flats, so that the urgent demand for housing facilities in that district may be relieved to some extent; and, if no decision has been reached, what is the cause of the delay?

It has been impracticable up to the present to obtain a suitable alternative site for the Post Office services for which the site in question was purchased, but the matter is being actively pursued.

In view of the fact that this matter has been pursued since December last, will the right hon. Gentleman see that greater expedition is now shown?

Air Mails

11.

(forMr. JOEL) asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Netherlands Government have decided that letters posted in Holland for other European countries shall go by air without extra charge if the senders so desire; and what would be the cost of a similar innovation in this country?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. So far as the second part is concerned, the whole question of European air postage charges is under examination, and I will write to the hon. Member as soon as I am in a position to do so.

Paddington Telephone Exchange (Learners)

(forSir PAUL LATHAM) asked the Postmaster-General whether the percentage of learners, telephonists, in the Paddington exchange is greater than that in other exchanges; and whether the chief supervisor attends personally to complaints?

The percentage of learners at Paddington exchange is somewhat above the average, but learners are additional to the normal staff of the exchange. The chief supervisor attends personally to complaints of a serious character which are brought to her notice. If my hon. Friend has any specific complaints in mind, I shall be happy to make inquiry, if he will give me particulars.

Public Health

Blind Persons

asked the Minister of Health what changes, if any, are contemplated in regard to the scheme governing the grant of financial assistance to unemployable blind persons; and what recommendations his Department has made to local authorities for the revision of their present schemes?

I understand that my Advisory Committee on the Welfare of the Blind is at present considering the model clauses issued by my Department on this subject, and pending their report no changes in these clauses are contemplated. My Department has not made any general recommendation to local authorities for the revision of their present schemes, but the attention of individual authorities is drawn as occasion requires to matters in which revision appears to be desirable.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why he called attention to West Ham, which has operated a scheme for 10 years satisfactorily, and why he asked them to revise it?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to give me notice of the question in order that I may give a satisfactory reply.

I put down a question last week and got a reply which was not very satisfactory. That is why I put this question down to-day.

18.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that in some municipal workshops for blind persons a large stock of mats, brushes, etc., are on hand because of the inability of blind people to produce such articles at a rate likely to successfully compete with those produced by sighted people; and whether he will circularise various Government Departments to purchase these articles more frequently?

I am aware that some workshops for the blind have a large stock of unsold goods on hand but as regards the relation between costs and selling prices I would refer the hon. Member to the recent report on Marketing by a sub-committee of my Advisory Committee on the Welfare of the Blind (page 50). I understand that some Government Departments are at present purchasing articles made by the blind and I will consider whether I could usefully press for a wider adoption of this practice.

Births

asked the Minister of Health the number of births in England and Wales for the years 1932, 1933, and 1934?

As the answer involves a tabular statement, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:.

England and Wales.

Live Births.Stillbirths.Total (Live and Stillbirths).
1932613,97226,471640,443
1933580,41325,084605,497
1934 (provisional)597,64225,209622,851

Schools (Milk Supply Scheme)

22.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is taking any action in respect of the refusal of certain county council medical officers to sanction the supply to schools of other than pasteurised milk; and whether his Ministry holds it to be within the competence of medical officers to exercise their discretion in a manner contrary to instructions from their councils?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. As regards the second part of the question, I am advised that under the arrangements made by the Milk Marketing Board for the supply of milk at reduced rates, the approval of the source and quality of the supply is a matter for the professional discretion of the Medical Officer of Health.

May I take it that the Ministry does not intervene in this matter between the county council and the medical officer?

Contributory Pensions Fund

21.

asked the Minister of Health the balance in the Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions Fund, and the income and expenditure during the last year?

I would refer the hon. Member to Table V on page 28 of the recent report of the Government Actuary (H.C. 82 of 1935), of which I am sending him a copy.

Coal Industry (Closed Mines, Durham)

24.

asked the Secretary for Mines whether the can state the number of mines closed and not reopened in the county of Durham since the end of the War, November, 1918, and also the number of persons employed when they were closed?

As the hon. Member was informed in answer to his question on 16th June, 1931, the information asked for is only available for the period since 1st June, 1924. I am afraid I cannot obtain the figures at such short notice, but if the hon. Member will repeat his question in a few days' time, I will give him such information as is available.

Unemployment (Pit-Head Bath Attendants)

25.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that attendants at pit-head baths at certain collieries in Yorkshire have been informed that they are not now insurable for purposes of unemployment insurance although they have been paying contributions for more than three years; and whether he will make a statement on the position?

I understand that the hon. Member refers to certain pit-head bath attendants at the Fryston Colliery, Castleford. My inquiries show that these men were wrongly regarded as insurable under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. Applications for the refund of the contributions paid in error will be considered as soon as they are received.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that this particular class of workmen will be brought under the Unemployment Insurance Acts; and, further, can he say how it comes about that contributions have been taken for three and a-half years and that men have been paid benefits when they have been out of work, but that they are now told that they are no longer insured?

As to the second part of the question, the position arises from a High Court decision. In regard to the first part of the question, as hon. Members know, this matter has been referred to the Statutory Committee, who are now considering it.

The Committee have a great many matters of importance before them. I know they are giving a good deal of attention to this matter, but I could not say when they will be ready to report.

Does not the Minister think that these men ought to be inside the unemployment insurance scheme?

London General Insurance Company

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can give the House any information in connection with the winding up of the London General Insurance Company, Limited; whether anyone will be allowed to represent the policy holders and those having a claim on the company; whether he is aware that a widow with two young children was awarded £3,000 and costs in November, 1934, as compensation for the death of her husband in a road accident, and that she will have to pay the costs of obtaining this judgment; and whether those having compensation claims on the assets of the company will be awarded a percentage by the court of arbitrators?

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether it has been brought to his notice that the winding up of the London General Insurance Company, Limited, entailed the loss of ·3,000 compensation and costs to a widow and two very young children, whose husband and father, a working man, was killed in a road accident in July, 1933; that, in addition, the widow has to pay the cost of obtaining the judgment; and whether he can now state what steps are being taken to ensure that all existing companies, as well as those to be formed, are financially sound, so as to avoid cases of this kind?

The case referred to by the hon. Members has been brought to my notice. An Order for the winding-up of the London General Insurance Company, Limited, was made on the 7th May, and I am not yet in a position to make any statement regarding the affairs of the company. I would, however, point out that it is the duty of the liquidator to consider every proof of debt lodged with him and that it is open to any creditor to be professionally represented at any stage of the liquidation. As regards the position arising from the failure of certain companies doing motor vehicle insurance business, I am unable at present to add to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) on the 30th April.

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the announcement of the tragic occurrence in Birmingham last week—the case in which a man had been awarded £800 odd. It preyed on his mind, and he murdered his wife and committed suicide?

I saw a newspaper report of the case to which my hon. Friend refers, but I am not aware that it has any reference to this insurance company.

In view of the great calamity that has befallen so many people in consequence of the failure of this company, do the Board of Trade intend to look into the problem to see whether such occurrences cannot be prevented in future?

Yes, Sir, certainly. On 30th April last, in response to a question to which I made reference in the original answer, it was announced that the question of legislation was under active consideration.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that disasters such as have overtaken these people will be repeated until the Board of Trade take steps to enforce annual examinations of accounts such as will reveal whether mushroom insurance companies have assets equal to the risks they underwrite?

I think the problem is a good deal wider than that. There is no short cut by legislation ordering accounts. The matter is rather wider.

Admiralty Contract, Huddersfield (Wages)

30.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can state the result of his investigations in the case of Messrs. L. B. Holliday and Company, of Huddersfield, Chemical Manufacturers, who are contractors to the Admiralty, who have not observed the fair wages clause; and what action he intends taking in the matter?

These investigations are not yet complete, since they necessarily occupy some little time, but I will inform the hon. Member of the result as soon as possible.

Royal Air Force

Municipal Airports

31.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether any steps have been taken or are contemplated to militarise municipal airports or to make representations to local authorities on the matter?

There is no intention of militarising municipal airports. It is proposed, however, in view of expansion requirements, to endeavour to arrange as a purely temporary measure for some squadrons to be accommodated at municipal aerodromes, pending the establishment of permanent stations. Under any such arrangement the aerodromes would, of course, continue in use for civil purposes.

Air Armaments (Contracts)

32.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is now in a position to state what steps the Government are proposing to take to prevent profiteering in air armaments?

As was stated by the Lord President in the House on 22nd May, the Government are resolved that no profiteering shall be allowed to arise in the course of the expansion of the Royal Air Force. The question is under active consideration in All its aspects, and my Noble Friend is confident that the aircraft industry will itself be most ready to meet the requirements of the Government in the matter.

In view of the fact that there is a widespread feeling that profiteering is going on in armaments now, and the general disgust among the public that this should be so, will the Government recognise that this is a question of great urgency.

Do the Government intend to bring in legislation or to achieve their purpose by taxation, or are they depending merely on promises from the interests concerned?

Education (Teachers' Pensions)

34.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether he is yet in a position to state what steps it is proposed to take to safeguard the pension rights of teachers affected by the economy cuts?

I am glad to be able to announce that my Noble Friend has informed the teachers' representatives that the Government are prepared to initiate legislation to secure that as from 1st July, 1935, no teachers affected by the salary cuts shall suffer any reduction in their annual superannuation allowances exceeding 2 per cent., the present position with regard to other allowances, e.g., lump sums and death gratuities remaining unaffected. The cost of this proposal will be borne by the Exchequer. I may add that the offer has been accepted by all the teachers' associations represented on the Burnham Committees as an agreed and final solution of the matter.

In thanking my hon. Friend, is he aware that this announcement will give great satisfaction, because a legitimate grievance has been removed?

Has any scheme been worked out to deal with teachers who suffered from a cut previous to July, 1935 —in the previous two years?

All teachers whose pensions were reduced as from 1931 will be benefited by the proposal, which has been received cordially and has been welcomed by the teachers representatives.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether similar arrangements are proposed for Scottish teachers?

That question is one for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is necessarily absent in Edinburgh on account of the meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, but I am authorised by him to say that Scottish teachers have accepted the scheme and similar arrangements will be proposed for dealing with their pensions.

Are we to understand that teachers who had their pensions fixed prior to 1st July, 1935, will suffer a reduction owing to the cuts made in 1931?

Yes, it is true that the reduction between 1931 and 1935 remains. I have explained that the reduction in the superannuation allowance is not to exceed 2 per cent. There will be a reduction, but they will have the rest made up. The solution is an agreed one.

Is the date 1st July, 1935, a date prior to which everybody suffers a grievance which will not be remedied?

The teachers have agreed to this and accept it and welcome it. It is perfectly true that in the case of teachers retiring between 1931 and 1935 there will be a reduction.

Have the teachers between 1931 and 1935 who suffer a reduction accepted it?

Conviction, Stoke-On-Trent (Successful Appeal)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will inquire into the case of Lawrence Smith who, in March, 1935, was convicted at Stoke-on-Trent Quarter Sessions on a charge of fraudulent conversion and sentenced to 15 months' hard labour, and whose conviction, on 14th May, was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal and whether he will consider if this case calls for compensation to be paid, in view of the fact that Lawrence Smith was in custody for six weeks on remand and served 10 weeks of the sentence pronounced upon him, and has, in consequence, lost his entire business?

I have been asked to reply My right hon. Friend is not aware that there is anything in this case to distinguish it from others in which a person has appealed successfully against a conviction by a lower court, and he knows of no grounds on which he would be justified in recommending that any grant should be made to Mr. Smith from public funds.

I beg leave to say that I shall raise this question on the Adjournment, at the earliest possible moment.

Factories And Workshops (Inspectors' Report)

38.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can now state whether he has been able to arrange to expedite the publication of the annual report of the chief inspector of factories and workshops?

As my right hon. Friend stated in reply to a question by the hon. Member on the 14th March, every effort is being made to expedite this report, so as to have it issued by the end of next month.

Aliens (Bruce Anderson)

39.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the conviction of a man called Bruce Anderson, a Swedish subject, at Barking, for counterfeiting; why the deportation order against him has never been enforced and what is the policy of the British Government in respect to men of this type who belong to other countries, but are not sent home apparently because their country of origin will not receive them?

Yes, Sir. This man's deportation has proved impracticable because, though he was born in Sweden, he left that country in infancy, and under Swedish law he is not recognised by the Swedish authorities as a Swedish subject. As my right hon. Friend explained in answer to a question by the hon. Member for Dorset East (Mr. Hall-Caine) on the 31st January, it is usual in such cases to make an order requiring periodical report, at stated intervals, to the police, and such an order was made in this case.

Royal Mint (Distribution Of Gold Pieces)

40.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will state the names of the 25 persons who were successful in the draw for the 25 gold £50 pieces struck by the Royal Mint in connection with the Jubilee; and what is the objection to striking a further quantity of these coins in view of the demand?

A list of the names will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. These gold pieces are not coins, as my hon. Friend seems to think, but pattern pieces of no nominal value as currency, a limited number of which were struck with particular care for the benefit of collectors. To increase the supply now, after the allotment has taken place, would constitute a departure from the conditions under which collectors were publicly invited to apply for the original issue.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the British Museum or any other of the national collections have received any of these gold pieces?

Will the hon. Gentleman put one of them in the Library, so that we can look at it?

Following is the list of names:.

Mrs. Grindey, Stoke-on-Trent.

Gilbert Beale, Esq., Teddington.

Colonel Hugh Knowles, London, W.2.

Doughty, Esq., Bow, E.3.

Webber, Esq., Highgate, N.6.

N. K. Shelmerdine, Esq., Macclesfield.

H. E. A. Fleming, Esq., Shanklin, I.W.

L. P. Argenti, Esq., London, E.C.2.

P. J. Richardson, Esq., London, E.C.3.

A. M. Searle, Esq., North Finchley, N.12.

H. W. Joslin, Esq., Uckfield, Sussex, David Goldblatt, Esq., Shootup Hill, N.W.3.

N. B. Kark, Esq., London, W.C.2.

C. H. R. Robertson, Esq., London, S. W.1.

Miss M. Morgan, London, S. W.1.

G. W. Dreyer, Esq., Edinburgh.

A. Gosschalk, Esq., Hampstead, N.W.6.

L. C. Liddell, Esq., Ringwood, Hants.

Mrs. Layton, Wallington, Surrey.

Miss Singleton, Littleborough, Lancs.

Arthur Johnson, Esq., West Bridgford, Nottingham.

Mrs. Hindley, Blacko, Nelson.

G. G. Exner, Esq., London, W.1.

Mrs. Swain, Brighton.

G. Lawrence, Esq., Dumbarton.

National Finance

Entertainments Duty

41.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, with a view to facilitating matters for amateur dramatic societies, he will have drawn up a list of plays and operas which have been held during the past five years by his Department to be wholly or partly educational, and on admission to performances of which accordingly Entertainments Duty has not been charged?

The law governing the grant of exemption from Entertainments Duty on partly educational grounds provides that the Commissioners of Customs and Excise must satisfy themselves that the entertainment is provided for partly educational purposes by a society, institution or committee not conducted or established for profit, and the Commissioners are advised that in considering claims to the exemption they must have regard, not merely to the particular work performed, but to the whole of the attendant circumstances. The compilation of a list such as my hon. Friend has in mind would thus not provide a list of works which are exempt per se, and would not, I fear, serve the purpose he has in view.

Income Tax Law

42.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he anticipates it will be possible to introduce legislation for the codification of Income Tax law during the current year; and whether he is satisfied that the preparation of such legislation is being pressed forward as rapidly as possible?

The Committee which is engaged on the codification of Income Tax law is approaching the end of its labours and hopes to present its report before the close of this year.

Have the Committee considered the advisability of obtaining Income Tax from the wife as well as from the man?

Late Colonel T E Lawrence

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether arrangements will be made for a memorial to be erected to Colonel T. E. Lawrence?

While I am sensible of the motive which prompts my hon. and gallant Friend's question, I do not feel that the matter is one for official initiative.

Air Armaments (Limitaion)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether it is intended immediately to convene a conference to negotiate on the basis of Herr Hitler's proposal to limit air armaments; and, alternatively, whether any and, if so, what, steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to mitigate the tension that prevails internationally?

I have been asked to reply. As regards the first part of the question, His Majesty's Government, who have throughout urged the importance of promoting agreement on this subject, have for some time past been in communication with the other Governments concerned, respecting the possibility of negotiating, between the Five Powers mentioned in the London Communiqué, an air pact and an air limitation agreement. As regards the second part of the question, it is unnecessary for me to assure my hon. Friend that His Majesty's Government are devoting their most earnest endeavours to the promotion of a general settlement, acceptable to all parties concerned, of the various questions now outstanding in the international sphere. For the moment, I have no further statement to make.

Transport

Motor Drivers' Hours

48 and 50.

asked the Minister of Transport (1) whether any danger was caused to the public owing to the variation order granted to C-licence holders in 1931; and, if not, whether he will consider his decision to refuse such orders in future; and

(2) why he did not feel justified in granting the application of C-licence holders for a variation order; and in what way it would depart from the principle of Section 19 of the Act of 1930, in view of the fact that an order was granted under this Section in 1931?

My hon. Friend carefully considered this matter, before coming to the decision that he was not justified in making an Order the effect of which would he very substantially to relax the requirements of Section 19 of the Act of 1930 in favour of drivers of all goods vehicles. While he cannot point to particular accidents which could be said to be due to the Variation Order granted in 1931, which expired two years ago, over-fatigue is a potential source of danger on the roads, and in present circumstances he cannot take the view that a wholesale extension of driving hours, such as was recently sought, would not be likely to be detrimental to the public safety.

If the Minister can grant a variation to holders of A and B licences, why can he not grant it to C-licence holders?

There is a difference between the A and B and the C-licence holders. In the case of the former there was no opposition to the variation, but there is opposition in the case of C-Licences. There are also other points of difference.

Are not the trade unions opposing this to force conditions on the employers, and is not the Minister allowing himself to be dictated to by these unions?

Is there not some dissatisfaction among traders at the differentiation in treatment?

That may be so, but Parliament gave sanction to insert this Section for purposes of road safety, and, if the Minister were to make the suggested variation, every commercial vehicle user would be able to drive for a greater number of hours, thus thwarting the will of Parliament. My hon. Friend is not prepared to do that without very much fuller information as to the working of the existing arrangement.

49.

asked the Minister of Transport what advice was given to him by the Industrial Court which considered the application for a variation order for C-licence holders?

My hon. Friend is not prepared to depart from the established practice of not publishing the reports or indicating the nature of the advice which he receives as a result of the statutory references to the Industrial Court in these matters.

London Omnibus Services (Stopping Places)

51.

asked the Minsster of Transport whether he will call the attention of the London Passenger Transport Board to the system of omnibuses ending a route run in front of traffic lights, and then, when the lights show green, turning across the street to return on the other side, with the result that the other traffic is held up and the lights change back to red before it can move, whereby confusion and delay is entailed; and whether he will, in this connection, lay stress on the case in point at the bottom of Putney Hill?

I am glad to inform my hon. Friend that arrangements will be made which will remove the existing difficulties.

Glamorgan And Monmouth Shire (Population)

20.

(forMr. GEORGE HALL) asked the Minister of Health the estimated population in each of the local government areas in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire for 1921, 1925, 1930, and 1935?

I would refer the hon. Member to Table 14 in the Registrar-General's Statistical Review (Tables Part I) for each of the first three years mentioned. The figures for 1935 are not as yet available.

Government Departments (Women Cleaners)

26.

(forMr. DENVILLE) asked the Minister of Labour whether since his Department employs a large number of women cleaners in Employment Exchanges for more than 30 hours per week during the winter months and reduces the hours of employment to less than 30 per week during the summer months, he will consider changing this policy since it brings their average to less than 30 hours per week all the year round, entailing the loss of gratuity on retirement, 30 hours a week being the minimum which constitutes a full-time cleaner?

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, the hours of work of cleaners must be related to the amount of time required for the proper performance of their work. This point is at present being discussed by a Committee of the Departmental Whitley Council.

43.

(forMr. DENVILLE) asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the Government offices which employ women cleaners direct and which offices employ these cleaners through contractors; whether he is aware that these employés in the latter case do not, in any circumstances, receive a gratuity at the end of their period of service, although the former do; and what is the objection to employing all these women cleaners direct by the State, qo that they can all receive the gratuity?

The cleaning of Government offices is normally carried out by direct-paid staff. In certain cases, however, for example, when the landlord has made arrangements for the cleaning of the premises generally and a charge for this service is included in the rental, it would not only be inconvenient and uneconomical but also impracticable to employ direct-paid staff. I regret that a comprehensive list of the offices where cleaning work is performed otherwise than by direct-paid staff is not available, and could not be obtained without a disproportinate amount of labour. As regards the second part of the question, I am aware that direct-paid whole-time women cleaners are, subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions, eligible to receive a gratuity from Government funds on termination of service, and that cleaners employed on a contract basis, like the employés of Government contractors generally, are not so eligible. I cannot, however, accept the suggestion contained in the third part of the question, that on this account all cleaning work in Government offices should be performed by direct-paid staff.

Scotland (Fishery Cruisers)

33.

(forMr. NEIL MAC-LEAN) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the registered crew, as required by the Board of Trade, of each of the fishery cruisers; and the number of crew actually employed?

I have been asked to reply. The fishery cruisers are not required to be registered under the Merchant Shipping Acts in respect of the numbers of the crews. The numbers employed are as follow:.

"Norna"21
"Freya"20
"Minna"20
"Brenda"18
"Vigilant"15

These numbers are in excess of the numbers required by Board of Trade regulations for merchant ships of similar size.

Metropolitan Police

(forMr. N. MACLEAN) asked the Home Secretary whether any action has been taken to investigate or refute the charges made by Leopold Harris on 3rd December, at Bow Street police court, that he had bribed important officers at Scotland Yard?

These charges have been exhaustively investigated by the Commissioner of Police, who has had the advantage of assistance and advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions. In the result it has not been possible to obtain evidence upon which it would be justifiable to take any action.

(forMr. MACLEAN) asked the Home Secretary the number of police of all ranks who have been dismissed or suspended from duty since 1st January, 1935; and whether he can state the reasons for any of the dismissals or suspensions?

In the Metropolitan Police Force 27 men have been dismissed or required to resign as an alternative since.1st January, 1935, and 43 men (including 23 of those dismissed or required to resign) have been suspended from duty. The action taken arose in all cases out of charges under the Discipline Code laid down in the Police RegulationS. My right hon. Friend regrets that he has no such recent information for other forces.

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether the men in question have a right of appeal?

Italy And Abyssinia

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the recent League Council resolutions regarding the dispute between Italy and Ethiopia?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. Before the Council meeting His Majesty's Government were engaged in active discussions on this matter with the other Governments chiefly concerned, and during last week these discussions continued, both between the Governments and between their representatives at Geneva. In the early hours of the 25th May the League Council adopted two resolutions dealing with the halo-Ethiopian dispute, which were accepted by the representatives of the two parties. The texts of these resolutions will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. They contain specific reference to Article 5 of the halo-Ethiopian Treaty of Friendship of 1928, the terms of which the President recalled to the Council. The English translation of the relevant portion of this article is as follows:

"The two Governments undertake to submit to a procedure of conciliation or of arbitration the questions which may arise between them, and which they may not be able to decide by the normal procedure of diplomacy, without having recourse to force of arms."
The resolutions also define, within specific time limits, the application of the conciliation and arbitration procedure mentioned by the treaty. Resolution No. 1 records the agreement of both parties that this procedure must be completed by 25th August next. Resolution No. 2 confirms this understanding by declaring that, in the event of the four arbitrators forming the Conciliation Commission being unable by 25th July either to agree on the appointment of the fifth arbitrator or upon an extension of time in which to continue negotiations on this point, the Council shall meet. In any event the Council will meet on 25th August if by that date the dispute has not been settled by conciliation and arbitration. It will therefore be clear that the Council will remain in close contact with the situation, and will meet again to deal with the matter should circumstances render this necessary.

The proceedings before the Council indicated that the liberty of the arbitrators would not be limited. They may consider all the circumstances bearing upon the differences between the two parties. It is understood that the actual delimitation of the frontier on the ground will not be part of the arbitrators' duties. This task, which will no doubt take time, will be carried out in due course by a special Italo-Ethiopian boundary commission. It is, however, satisfactory that both parties have renewed their assurances to proceed to an agreed demarcation of the frontier as soon as their present differences have been peacefully settled. Without suggesting that the Council's resolutions finally dispose of the tension which has unfortunately arisen between Italy and Ethiopia as a result of the Walwal and other incidents, I am confident that they represent an important advance towards a friendly solution. Both parties have accepted the co-operation of the League in seeking a settlement. By so doing the Governments concerned have made a contribution which it is earnestly hoped will lead to the early restoration of mutually satisfactory relations between them. But for the spirit of conciliation displayed by the Italian Government and its representative at Geneva (Baron Aloisi), together with the invaluable co-operation of the French Foreign Minister (Monsieur Laval), the progress which we are now able to record could not have been realised.

It would not be proper for me to try to attempt to discuss the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I hope that I may be allowed, I think in the name of the whole House, to congratulate the League Council, and certainly our representative, the Lord Privy Seal, upon the results of the conferences and negotiations, and to say also that everyone in the House will hope that this is the first and most important step towards an equitable and permanent settlement of the dispute which has arisen.

Following are the texts of the two resolutions adopted by the Council:.

Resolution No. 1.—(1) Whereas at the meeting of the Council in January, 1935, the Italian Government and the Ethiopian Government agreed to settle the dispute which has arisen between them as the result of the incident at Walwal on 5th December, 1934, in conformity with Article 5 of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty of 2nd August, 1928.

(2) Whereas direct negotiations through diplomatic channels having been exhausted, the two parties have nominated their arbitrators as provided for in Article 5 in the above-mentioned treaty;

(3) Whereas since 5th December, 1934, other incidents have taken place on the Italo-Ethiopian frontier and the two Governments are in agreement in entrusting the settlement of these incidents to the same arbitrators in accordance with Article 5 of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty;

(4) Whereas the Italian Government in view of the request which has been made to it, makes no objection regarding the nationality of the arbitrators nominated by the Ethiopian Government;

(5) Whereas the two Governments agree to fix 25th August next as the date on which the procedure of conciliation and arbitration shall be concluded;

The Council;

Requests the Secretary General of the League of Nations to communicate in the meantime to the members of the Council all information which may reach him from the two parties in particular regarding the development of the arbitrators' work.

Resolution No. 2.

The Council;

Leaving to the two parties full liberty to settle the dispute in question in accordance with Article 5 of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty of 2nd August, 1928;

Decides to meet if, in default of agreement between the four arbitrators for the settlement of the dispute, an understanding shall not have been reached by 25th July between these arbitrators as to the selection of the fifth arbitrator (unless the four arbitrators agree to the extension of this period); the Council also decides to meet to examine the situation if on 25th August a settlement by means of conciliation and arbitration should not have taken place.

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make with regard to the situation on the frontier between Abyssinia and the territory under British control?

I presume that my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind a series of statements recently published in Rome according to which His Majesty's Government have been concentrating troops on both the White and Blue Niles and the Sobat and near Lake Rudolph; have enrolled African natives; have built strategic railways towards the Abyssinian frontier; have constructed camouflaged landing grounds under the guise of playing fields; and have concentrated aeroplanes at various frontier centres and especially at Khartoum. I am glad to have the opportunity of stating publicly that the whole of these statements are destitute of any foundation whatever. I may add that the Abyssinian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has informed Press correspondents that the Abyssinian Government place no credence in such reports.

Water Supplies (Committee Of Inquiry)

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Health the extent of the proposed inquiry by a Select Committee into Water Resources and Supplies, and what powers it is proposed to give to the Committee.

The law relating to water supplies requires amendment in various particulars, and proposals for this purpose have been made from time to time, including proposals in three reports of the Water Advisory Committee of my Department. It is considered that the most appropriate method of investigating what amendments are desirable is by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, who can hear the various interests concerned. The Committee will of course be at liberty to investigate other aspects of the matter which they consider relevant to this purpose. It is proposed that the Committee shall have the usual powers, that is, to hear evidence and to make recommendations.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the terms of reference of this committee will be wide enough to enable them to investigate the whole question of water supplies, or whether they are merely to consider certain changes in the law?

It is certainly the intention that the committee should not be prevented from making any recommendations or suggestions in connection with the central purpose of their inquiry.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the terms of reference will be available?

I think that that is rather a matter for consultation through the usual channels. I cannot actually state the date 'at the moment.

Will it be within the purview of the Committee to consider questions of drainage and sewerage, which have over and over again been included in recommendations as going with the water supply in similar areas?

The first answer to that question must be "No." The specific purpose of the inquiry is to deal with the question of water supplies. But, as my hon. Friend will be the first to know, one cannot consider that question without also giving some consideration to the question of sewerage.