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Commons Chamber

Volume 312: debated on Monday 11 May 1936

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House Of Commons

Monday, 11th May, 1936.

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

Private Business

Llanelly District Traction Bill,

Solihull Urban District Council Bill,

Surrey County Council Bill,

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

South Staffordshire Water Bill [ Lords],

Read a Second time, and committed.

Epsom and Walton Downs Regulation Bill [ Lords] (by Order),

Read a Second time, and committed.

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Essex) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the County of Essex," presented by Sir Kingsley Wood; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 103.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Heathfield And District Water) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Heath-field and District Water Company," presented by Sir Kingsley Wood; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 104.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Helston And Porthleven Water) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Helston and Porthleven Water Company," presented by Sir Kingsley Wood; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 105.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Lancaster) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the borough of Lancaster," presented by Sir Kingsley Wood; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 106.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Leeds) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the city of Leeds," presented by Sir Kingsley Wood; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 107.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Ramsey And Saint Ives Joint Water District) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Ramsey and Saint Ives Joint Water District," presented by Sir Kingsley Wood; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 108.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Tees Valley Water Board) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the Tees Valley Water Board," presented by Sir Kingsley Wood; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 9.]

Oral Answers To Questions


Political Department (Cadre Posts)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India the total number of posts filled and held on the political department cadre as at the last convenient date; and how many of these were held by Europeans or Indians, respectively?

On 2nd January last the numbers of Political Department cadre posts held by Europeans and Indians respectively were 93 and nine. In addition, three Indians were seconded to other duties and one was under training.

Has the recruitment of Europeans increased since the report of the Lee Commission.

The Lee Commission recommended a certain ratio, and although there has been a larger proportion of Europeans recruited recently, the recruitment of Indians has not ceased.



asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware of the investigations by the League of Nations into problems of nutrition and the recommendation of the mixed committee that national committees should be set up to make national investigations; that the conference on rural hygiene in the Far East and the Congress of the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine propose in their next sessions to consider nutrition in Asia and the Far East; and whether he is taking steps to investigate the standard of nutri- tion of the Indian people and how to improve it?

I am aware of the facts stated by the hon. Member in the first and second parts of the question. The question of nutrition is, and has been for some years, engaging the attention of the Government of India; and nutritional surveys in selected areas are now being carried out under the auspices of the Indian Research Fund Association, which is financed by the Government of India.

May I take it from the answer that the matter of nutrition is looked upon as of great importance?




asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is yet able to give any information as to the results of Sir Eric Teichman's recent journey through Sinkiang; what are the present conditions in that province; and what is being done to preserve British trading interests and rights in that province?

As regards the first part of the question, Sir E. Teichman's report is still under consideration, and I am not in a position to make a statement upon it. As regards conditions in Sinkiang, I understand that the Tongan forces remain in possession of the Khotan area, where they have been since 1934, but the general condition of the province is peaceful. As regards the last part of the question, every effort is made, whenever the necessity arises, to preserve British interests and rights in. Sinkiang by means of representations to the local authorities by His Majesty's Consul-General at Kashgar.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some hope that Sir Eric Teichman's report will be published shortly?

We have not come to a decision on that point yet. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will put a question on the Paper at a later stage.

Outer Mongolia


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information as to the agreement recently concluded between Soviet Russia and Outer Mongolia providing for mutual assistance by all means in the matter of averting and preventing the menace of military attack, as also of rendering each other aid and assistance in case of attack by any third State; to what extent this agreement constitutes Outer Mongolia an independent State; and whether Outer Mongolia is no longer a part of the Chinese dominions?

As regards the first part of the question, I would draw my hon. and gallant Friend's attention to the statement on the subject which my noble Friend made on 21st April in reply to a question put by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell). As regards the second and third parts of the question, His Majesty's Government continue to regard Outer Mongolia as under Chinese suzerainty; and since the conclusion of the Protocol of 12th March the Soviet Government have declared that, in their view the Sino-Soviet Treaty of May, 1924, in which Outer Mongolia was recognised as an integral part of the Chinese Republic, is not infringed by the Protocol and retains its force.

Surely it is rather extraordinary that Soviet Russia should make a defensive treaty with some part of the Chinese Republic? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this should be the subject of sanctions against Soviet Russia to prevent this act of aggression?



asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can yet say what steps are to be taken to safeguard British trade in North China, in view of the extensive smuggling of Japanese goods from Dairen into China through the autonomous area of East Hopei; and what is being done to check the smuggling?

His Majesty's Government are at present in active correspondence with the Japanese Government in regard to this question with a view to protecting the British interests involved, which have been explained in representations made by His Majesty's Ambassador in Tokyo. I am unable to say more at the present stage.

When does the right hon. Gentleman hope to be able to say something more about this important point?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that in the terms of the Tangku truce between the Japanese army and the North China authorities not more than two Chinese revenue cutters are permitted to approach within three miles of the coast; and whether he will draw the attention of the Japanese and Chinese Governments to the serious encouragement to smuggling arising from this limitation, to the detriment of the Chinese customs on which British and other foreign loans are secured?

I am not aware that the restriction mentioned by my hon. Friend is imposed by the Tangku armistic agreement, but the difficulties experienced by the Chinese authorities in combating smuggling activities have been brought to the notice of the Japanese Government by His Majesty's Ambassador in Tokyo.

Not that I am aware of. Perhaps the hon. Member will put down a further question.

Italy And Abyssinia


asked the Seretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action has been taken by the Council of the League of Nations in connection with the following communications from the Italian Embassy, and designated: official No. C63.M22. 1936 VII, dated 28th January, 1936; official No. C104.M45. 1936 VII, dated 10th March, 1936; official No. C123.M62. 1936 VII, dated 19th March, 1936; and has he called the attention of His Majesty's Government to the documents in which the Italian Government give details of Abyssinian barbarity?

As regards the first part of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by my right hon. Friend on 22nd April last in answer to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton East (Mr. Mander), and the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) showing the action taken by the League of Nations with regard to the alleged violations of the laws of war on either side during the recent campaign in Abyssinia. As regards the second part of the question, the communications were circulated by the League of Nations to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom for their information.

As regards the second part of the question, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us on how many occasions the Ethiopians used gas?

Is it not the case that the Committee of Jurists reported a large number of authorised mass atrocities by Italian airmen and a relatively insignificant number of cases of unauthorised atrocities by Ethiopians?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the total receipts paid, or payable, by the Italian Government to the Suez Canal Company since the beginning of the transport of troops, munitions, gas tanks, etc., to East African ports?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say the date when I can put a further question on the subject?

The hon. Member can put down a question at any time, but the Suez Canal Company is a private company, and we have no means of compelling them to give information.

As the British Government have the larger number of shares in the company, surely there is some means of getting this information?

Do not the Suez Canal Company publish complete figures for each month of the number of persons who go through and their receipts?

I will look into that. If it is so, it might provide an answer to the question.

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to get this information if I put a further question to him?

I am always anxious to give information, but I do not know how this information can be obtained unless it is in tile way suggested by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris).


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the proclamation of annexation of Abyssinia by Italy, it is the intention of the Government not to regard as rebels those subjects of the present empire who maintain resistance to Italian annexation?

I presume the hon. Member is referring to those Abyssinians who make take refuge in British territory while still under arms. So far as these are concerned, it is not proposed to treat them in any other way than has been done in the past.

I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my question. I was not referring to those who might have taken refuge in British territory, but to those remaining in their own territory and who are continuing the struggle against Italian annexation?

Are these loyalists in Abyssinia not to have the support of His Majesty's Government?

May I refer the right hon. Gentleman to his own answer to a question concerning Manchuria earlier this afternoon, when he stated that they were still recognised as Chinese subjects? Is the same privilege to be extended to the Abyssinians as His Majesty's Government now extend to the Chinese over whom the Japanese claim sovereignty?

I find it rather difficult to understand what the hon. Lady meant in this question. I am obliged to her for her supplementary question. In regard to the position inside Abyssinia, it is, of course, one of extreme complexity, and one that must be dealt with by the League of Nations. It is not one with which we can deal as a Government alone. I thought she was alluding to Abyssinian soldiers who got out of Abyssinia into British territory.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government that the Emperor of Ethiopia is to be treated according to the rules of international law relating to neutrality or as the head of a State which is a Member of the League of Nations entitled to the protection of the League Covenant?

The hon. Member will recall that my right hon. Friend stated on 4th May that the Emperor had informed His Majesty's Minister at Addis Ababa that he had renounced the direction of affairs. The personal position of His Majesty thus raises issues of considerable complexity which must be the subject of careful consideration.

Is it not a fact that the Foreign Secretary told the House the other day that the Emperor was expected, as long as he remained in Palestine, not to participate in the direction of hostilities in Abyssinia? Is it not a fact that this Government, as well as other States Members of the League, are equally interested with Abyssinia in resisting this aggression? That being the fact, is it not desirable that, so far from putting obstacles in the way of the Emperor, he should be afforded every assistance for dealing with the present situation in his own country?

I think the supplementary questions put by the hon. Member show what extreme complexity there is in the situation. He may depend upon it that the British Government will examine that with very great care, and undoubtedly it is a matter which concerns the whole League of Nations.

Will the Government resist any suggestion that the rules of international law relating to neutrality which have hitherto applied in such cases shall not be utilised to restrain the activities of the Emperor?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government will recommend the League Council to allow the Ethiopian Government to participate through its representatives in the forthcoming deliberations at Geneva despite the present military situation in Ethiopia?

The Ethiopian Government are represented at Geneva, and I see no reason to anticipate that their representatives will not be listened to.

May I take it from that answer that, as far as the British Government are concerned, the authorised representatives of the Abyssinian Government will be allowed the same facilities for representing their country's interests at Geneva as was the case up to the apparent annexation of their country as announced by Mussolini?

Is this not purely and simply a matter for the League of Nations, and would it not be fatal for this country to lay down decisions before the League of Nations?

I have given the answer to the question, and I prefer myself not to draw any deductions from it.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not at least be prepared to recommend the League of Nations to give the Emperor his money back?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the statements of the South African Prime Minister, Dr. Hertzog, and by General Smuts, in support of the continuation of sanctions against Italy; and whether, in deciding upon the policy to be pursued by the British Government at Geneva, he will take into consideration the views expressed by these leading members of the Government of the Union of South Africa?

Will the right hon. Gentleman pay as much attention to the views of these Empire soldier statesmen as he does to English political runaway rabbits?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can inform the House as to the approximate amount of oil supplied to Italy during recent months from British and Russian sources, respectively?

No official information in regard to these sources of supply to Italy is available later than that for the year 1935 published in Command Paper 5094.

Could the hon. and gallant Gentleman inform the House whether the oil supplied from British sources includes the oil supplied by subsidiary corporations to the Anglo-Iranian, such as the Anglo-Egyptian Corporation?

Not without notice, but perhaps it would interest the right hon. Gentleman to know that the quantity of oil of British origin is insignificant, that is to say, from Trinidad, India or the British East Indies.

Why does the hon. and gallant Gentleman say he cannot give information in respect to British supplies of oil when the Foreign Secretary stated the other day in the course of the Debate that we supplied 4 per cent. of the oil now being used by the Italians in Abyssinia?

Could this question not be decided by the Leader of the Opposition undertaking another continental mission on foreign affairs in order to ensure continuity of policy?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British Legation at Addis Ababa is still under military guard; and, if not, who is responsible for the protection of British subjects from violence?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. But primary responsibility for the maintenance of order in Addis Ababa now rests with the Power which is in military occupation of that place.

Can the Prime Minister assure the House that however much it may be necessary to recognise the de facto position of the Italian command in Abyssinia, he will take no step which will give legal or de jure recognition to their authority there?

As this brings up a very wide question, I am not prepared to go into it in answer to a question.

In view of the urgency of this matter, would it not be advisable to supplement the military guard at Addis Ababa by sending out the well-known regiments, Attlee's artillery, Dalton's dragoons and Lansbury's lancers?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will specify the Government to whom Sir Sidney Barton is now accredited; and whether His Majesty's Government propose to withdraw their Minister from Addis Ababa?

Sir Sidney Barton is accredited to the Ethiopian Government. I can make no statement with regard to the second part of the question.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that Sir Sidney Barton is accredited to the Ethiopian Government, is he referring to the group of Ministers to whom the Emperor delegated his authority, or does the Emperor still constitute a part of that Government?

The hon. Member asked me to whom Sir Sidney Barton was accredited. He was accredited to the Ethiopian Government. As the hon. Members knows, the position now is exceedingly complicated. I should not like to answer to whom he is accredited at this moment.

If he is still accredited to the Ethiopian Government on the authority of the Prime Minister, is not the Prime Minister able to state who the Ethiopian Government are?

Perhaps the hon. Member will be good enough to put that question on the Paper.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Emperor of Abyssinia made any application to the British Government for permission to come direct to London from Djibuti; whether it was the British Government who decided he must go to Palestine; and what was the reason for this?

If the hon. Lady will refer to the very full statement made by my right hon. Friend on 4th May, she will find that the arrangement to give the Emperor and his family passage from Jibuti in His Majesty's Ship "Enterprise" was made in accordance with a desire which His Majesty had expressed to His Majesty's Minister at Addis Ababa to proceed to Palestine. After the voyage had begun, the Emperor inquired whether it would be possible to convey him direct to England instead of landing at Haifa, but it was not found possible on practical grounds to make this alteration.

Was one of those practical grounds which made it impossible the desire of His Majesty's Government to avoid popular demonstrations in favour of the Abyssinians?

That is exactly the kind of idea that would come to the mind of a critic of the Government, but there is not a word of truth in it. I do not think the hon. Lady quite realises the position. The offer of a passage in one of His Majesty's cruisers was a special act of courtesy, which we were very glad to pay and very happy to be able to accord, but it entailed a good deal of inconvenience to keep a ship of that class from her normal duties, and I say that it was impracticable, having detached her for a week from her duties, to change the programme still further. It will be remembered, moreover, that there were also on board the Empress and her family and suite, and they were definitely anxious to take up residence in Palestine. Had it been possible, had we had an unlimited number of cruisers, we might have done more, but I shall look forward with some confidence to the hon. Lady supporting a Motion for more cruisers.

While saying that I should be charmed to support cruisers for the purposes of peace and conveyance, may I ask whether we are to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's answer that if the Emperor desires to come to London, this Government will be graciously pleased to receive him?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that sanctions were imposed upon Italy by the League of Nations as a deterrent against the aggressor and in order to shorten the Italo-Abyssinian war, that this war has now come to an end, and in view of the dangers of maintaining sanctions as a punishment, he will, at the forthcoming meeting of the Council of the League of Nations, propose the withdrawal of sanctions?

I have nothing to add to the statements made on behalf of His Majesty's Government in the course of last Wednesday's Debate.

Has my right hon. Friend considered that the League's policy of economic sanctions is forcing the Governments of the world into a policy of economic nationalism?


asked the Prime Minister whether he will instruct the British High Commissioner to ascertain from the Emperor of Ethiopia who are the individuals now comprising the Ethiopian Government?

So far as His Majesty's Government are aware, the constitution of the Ethiopian Cabinet is identical with that existing prior to the departure of the Emperor, with the exception of the Minister for Foreign Affairs who accompanied His Majesty, while the Minister for War was recently killed in action.


asked the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to take any steps at Geneva to ensure that, as a result of the issue of the Italo-Ethiopian war, Italy shall not recruit or conscript the Ethiopian native population for Italian military purposes?

His Majesty's Government have no information that any such action is contemplated by the Italian Government.


asked the Prime Minister whether the instructions to the British delegate at the forthcoming meeting of the League of Nations cover the recognition of Ethiopian representatives thereat; and whether, for their part, His Majesty's Government are prepared to accept any representatives who may be appointed by the group of Ministers to whom the Emperor delegated the de jure government of Ethiopia?

No special instructions have been issued. The United Kingdom representative will certainly not oppose the hearing of any Ethiopian representatives whom the Council may be prepared to accept in that capacity.

League Of Nations

Pan-African Health Conference Proposals


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any steps have been taken in pursuance of the suggestion, made by the Pan-African Conference at Johannesburg, that an African commission should be set up by the health committee of the League of Nations; and that periodical health conferences should be held in Africa at which the question of nutrition would be discussed?

I understand that certain proposals of the Pan-African Health Conference have been submitted to the Council of the League of Nations by the health committee in a report to be considered at the Council meeting which opens to-day.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been an inquiry into malnutrition in this country, and that about 7,000,000 people are suffering from malnutrition? What does he propose to do about that?

British Representatives


asked the Prime Minister who will represent the British Government at the forthcoming meeting of the League of Nations?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs accompanied by my Noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Will the Prime Minister say whether, in any question in relation to the Italo-Ethiopian dispute, these representatives of the British Government will be acting under the instructions of the Cabinet, or will be given a free band?



asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Government have decided what attitude they will take with the League of Nations in regard to the request of Turkey to refortify the Dardanelles; and what that attitude will be?

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are still examining the proposals made by the Turkish Government for the refortification of the Dardanelles, and I am therefore unable to add anything to the statement made by my right hon. Friend on 21st April last.

Will the Government bear in mind that the Turkish Government, for giving up the right to fortify the Dardanelles, received certain concessions of territory, and that if any question of allowing them to fortify the Dardanelles comes up, they will see that they return these territories?

I regret I was unable to catch all that my hon. Friend said, but, of course, the question of the fortification of the Dardanelles is not one exclusively for this country. It is one for all those countries concerned in the Treaty in which the relations concerning the Dardanelles were laid down. We can take no action without consultation with the other parties.

Eastern Mediterranean


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the failure of the League to prevent Italian aggression in Abyssinia, His Majesty's Government will approach the Governments of Turkey, Jugoslavia, Soviet Russia, Rumania, Greece and Bulgaria with a view to concerted action and mutual collaboration for the preservation of peace and order in the Eastern Mediterranean?

His Majesty's Government are always ready to consult, when necessary, with the other members of the League with a view to the preservation of peace.

In view of the statement by Signor Mussolini that he has now founded an eastern Roman Empire, is it not necessary to provide some counterpoise and counterweight such as I have suggested in my question for the Eastern Mediterranean?

I would not myself be in a hurry to take literally every statement made in a moment of enthusiasm.

Austria (Conscription)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to state what action His Majesty's Government propose to take in regard to the decision of Austria to introduce conscription?

I have nothing to add to the replies returned to the hon. and gallant Member on 27th and 30th April and to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge) on 29th April.

Dr Hans Wesemann (Trial)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a German subject, Dr. Hans Wesemann, was sentenced on 6th May, 1936, in Basle, to three years' imprisonment on the charge of kidnapping and conveying across the German frontier a journalist named Dr. Jacob, a German refugee enjoying the right of asylum in Switzerland; that in the course of the trial it was disclosed that the accused's activities were known to the late German Ambassador in London, to Prince Bismarck, the German Charge d'Affaires in London, and that the accused often conferred with Baron Marschall, Secretary of the German Embassy in London; and whether the Minister has any statement to make on this subject?

My right hon. Friend is expecting a full report on the trial in question from His Majesty's Minister at Berne, and in the meantime I am not able to make a statement on the subject, as my information is at present derived solely from the Press.

Having regard to the fact that the statement was contained in the "Times," which is a paper which gives great support to the right hon. Gentleman, will he not accept that statement and convey a representation to the German Embassy that this country does not approve of Embassies being used for the purpose of co-operating with secret police?

No one has more respect for the Press than I have, but I must rely on official reports in a case of this kind, and I am afraid I have nothing to add to what I have already said.

In view of the public interest that is taken in this question, will the right hon. Gentleman make the result of his investigations known to the public and to this House?

If a question is asked, my right hon. Friend knows that no one is more delighted than I to give an answer.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the evidence given in the Wesemann case at Basle; and whether, in view of the connections there established between the activities of Herr Wesemann and the German Embassy in this country, he pro-proses to take similar action to that taken by his predecessor in the case of Arcos?

My right hon. Friend has seen only newspaper reports of the trial, and is not in a position to make any comment on the first part of the question. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative.

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor Lord Brentford had far less ground to go on than sworn statements in a court of law, as reported in a reputable British newspaper, is it not about time that the Government began to take some notice of this abuse of diplomatic privilege?

Is it not a fact that the evidence given in this case implicating the German Embassy was given only by Wesemann himself, and was unconfirmed from any other source?

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has any information showing the relation between rates of disability pensions, wages, and the cost of living in Great Britain and in the other chief belligerents of the late War?

Country.100 per cent. Pension Standard or Flat Rate. (Per week.)Percentage of Pension to average weekly wage.Purchasing power of Pension in 1935 compared with purchasing power in 1920. (1920=100.)
Per cent.
United Kingdom40s.73·9174·5
New Zealand40s.48·1135·4
France120 Frs.62·8130·3
United States of America$23·0262·2146·7

Milk Marketing


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the Milk Board will implement the conclusions arrived at by the committee of investigation forthwith, or whether he is making an Order to vary the recommendations of the committee in some respects?

I gave notice on 6th May to the Milk Marketing Board of the action I propose to take with regard to the recent report of the Committee of Investigation for England, and have informed the board that, as required by Statute, I will consider any representations they may wish to make within 14 days from the date of the notice. After

Involved, I will, with permission, circulate the reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and will arrange for a chart to be placed in the tea room. I may say, however, that they show that the Imperial pensioner is at substantial advantage both in regard to cost of living and in relation to current wage rates by comparison with the pensioner in other countries?

The information is as follows:

The figures are based on particulars published by the International Labour Office, but in view of the known difficulties in the way of exact comparison between different countries they must be regarded as approximate only.

It has not been found practicable to include comparative figures for Germany owing to the extreme fluctuations in the value of currency in post-war years and the fact that since 1932 wages have been subject to arbitrary percentage reductions.

this date I will, of course, inform the House of the final decision reached.

Tithe Bill


asked the Minister of Agriculture what was the sum paid by the Commissioners of Crown Lands in the last financial year in respect of tithe; and how much do they expect to gain by the Tithe Bill?

As the answer involves a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

In the financial year ended 31st March last, the total gross amount paid by the Commissioners of Crown Lands in respect of tithe was £1,862 17s. 4d. The Commissioners also received tithe in other cases amounting to £486 12s. 7d. As regards the second part of the question, the following figures show what would be the approximate effect of the provisions of the Tithe Bill assuming that all the land concerned was agricultural land. I regret that in the short time available it has not been possible to carry out the detailed investigation necessary to separate the tithe paid and received by the Commissioners into the various categories, although, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, in any final calculation Allowance would have to be made, for example, for tithe charged on nonagricultural land.

Per annum.
Gross gain on tithe paid282
Loss on tithe received62
Net gain to Commissioners220

River Pollution

27 and 28.

asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) whether he is aware of the pollution of rivers by the waste water of sugar-beet factories; whether the Water Pollution Research Board have discovered any simple and practical process by which these waste waters can be purified; and, if so, will he call the attention of sugar-beet factories to this fact, with a view to the discontinuance of such pollution;

(2) whether he is aware of the constant pollution of inland waterways by the effluents from dairies and factories manufacturing milk products; whether the Water Pollution Research Board have discovered processes by which these effluents can be purified; and, if so, will he call the attention of such factories to these processes in the interests of anglers and the preservation of cleanliness and the purity of our water supplies?

The Ministry has no powers in regard to the prevention and control of river pollution, which is a matter primarily for the local sanitation authorities or fishery boards. I am aware, however, that pollution does occur in some cases. As regards sugar-beet, the Water Pollution Research Board advised in 1931 that the problem of pollution by sugar-beet factories could be largely, and in many cases completely, solved by modifications in the factory processes and by simple methods of treatment of the waste waters so that the waters could be reused in the factory. These conclusions were communicated to the industry and I understand that a number of factories have taken effective steps to prevent pollution. The British Sugar Corporation, which will take over control of the beet-sugar factories if Parliament approves the proposals in the Sugar Industry (Reorganisation) Bill, may be expected to give careful attention to this problem. As regards dairy and milk product factories, I understand that the Water Pollution Research Board has for some months been conducting experiments ion effluent treatment with the financial co-operation of the industry. I have every hope that these experiments, with the progress of which the industry is being kept in close touch, will lead in the near future to useful practical results.

Post Office

Telegraph And Telephone Poles


asked the Postmaster-General the number of telegraph and telephone poles purchased by the General Post Office during the three years ended December, 1935, from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Latvia?

The total number of telegraph and telephone poles purchased from the countries in question during the three years ended December, 1935, was 269,026, made up as follows:—Norway, 59,902; Sweden, 45,505; Finland, 153,621; Poland, 2,783; Latvia, 7,215.

We have not had offers from some of the Dominions, but we shall be very happy to consider any that come.

Air Mails (Scandinavia)


asked the Postmaster-General on what grounds it was decided that a contract for carrying British air mails to Scandinavia should be entered into before any regular British service of aeroplanes between this country and Scandinavia had been inaugurated?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) on 5th March of this year.

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend give the House any other example of the granting to a private company of a contract to carry mails, whether by sea, by land, or by air, before any regular service has been inaugurated by the company?

It seems to me that if there has been no regular service, it was time we had one and I am very glad to have established one.

Irish Sweepstake


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will state his statutory authority for refusing to convey a letter addressed to the Irish Free State containing 10s. for a ticket in the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake for the use of the sender, and not for sale or distribution; and, as this is a legal transaction, under what circumstances does the Post Office differentiate it from cheques sent to bookmakers to place on horse races or in connection with football pools?

The sale and distribution in this country of tickets in the Irish Sweepstake is unlawful and, as has been explained in reply to previous questions, the use of the post cannot be allowed to facilitate the distribution of tickets in this country by the promoters of the lottery.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend not aware that I specially said in my question that it was not for distribution in this country; is he aware that the Home Secretary in 1935 informed the House that it was not an offence for a man himself to send 10s. to Dublin for a ticket; and is he aware that that is the case in regard to which I have asked for information?

But is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that the case to which I have drawn his attention is the case of a ticket for the man himself, and the Home Secretary said in 1935 that that was not an illegal offence?

Sub-Office, Weston Rhyn


asked the Postmaster-General whether the case of embezzlement, extending over some years, by the late sub-postmaster at Weston Rhyn has been brought to his notice; whether he is aware that the position is now being offered at the remuneration of £2 3s. per week, out of which office accommodation, fittings, heating, and lighting have to be provided; and is he satisfied that this wage is adequate for a person who has public money in his trust?

My attention has been drawn to the case. The pay of sub-postmasters is determined by the volume of business transacted at their offices. At the smaller offices the Post Office work does not afford full-time employment, and the pay is not intended to provide the sole means of livelihood. The rates have been settled in agreement with the sub-postmasters' representatives. The post in question has recently been filled, and as there were more than 20 applicants there appear to be no grounds for supposing that the salary is incommensurate with the duties and responsibilities.

British Broadcasting Corporation

Television (Alexandra Palace)


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will approach the British Broadcasting Corporation with a view to obtaining an invitation for Members of Parliament to visit Alexandra Palace in order to inspect the progress of the preparations for television?

I will convey the hon. Member's suggestion to the British Broadcasting Corporation.


asked the Postmaster-General when the transmission of television programmes from Alexandra Palace is likely to commence?

I am informed that the structural work at Alexandra Palace is nearly completed and that the installation of the apparatus is proceeding. So soon as this is completed, there will naturally ensue a period of engineering tests. Following that, possibly in July, trial programes will begin. These will not, I understand, be elaborate in character, but will be intended to give the British Broadcasting Corporation experience in operation and the trade an opportunity of testing reception. The transmission of a full programme service may be expected in the autumn.

Government's Proposals


asked the Prime Minister whether he proposes to ask the House to consider any new arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation, involving a new agreement between them and the General Post Office; and will he give particulars?

Yes, Sir. I hope there will before long be an opportunity for a further discussion of this matter, at which the Government's proposals will be put before the House.


Temporary Work (Colchester)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will cause inquiry to be made into the circumstances in which a dozen men engaged at the military hospital, Colchester, as temporary employés in October, 1935, and on certain subsequent dates, were informed by the manager of the local Employment Exchange that the said employment was insurable employment and, after stamps had been affixed to their cards until the beginning of March in this year, were afterwards informed that the work in question was not insurable work and that they must, in consequence, receive back the amount contributed in stamps for insurance; and what the position of these men will be in the event of their now voluntarily leaving this employment?

My right hon. Friend's attention has been drawn to the case referred to. Inquiries are being made, and I will let my hon. Friend know the result so soon as they are complete.



asked the Minister of Labour whether he can now state at what date the unemployment regulations will be presented to Parliament?

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman give an assurance that whenever the regulations are brought forward, a proper period will be allowed to elapse between their publication and their discussion by this House?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman believes that summer has arrived, why did he determine the answer to this question on the probability of spring coming shortly?

If the hon. Member has studied the National Government's election address, he will see that we said spring at the earliest.

Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman seen in the Press that 20th May is the date when the regulations will be made known?

Royal Navy (Battleship Construction)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether contracts have yet been given for the construction of the two battleships of the 1936 programme; if not, when the allocation of these contracts may be expected?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. As regards the second part, no definite date can be given at present, but it will be several months before the design drawings can be sufficiently advanced for tendering purposes.

What do the Government propose to do with the £425,000 which they have asked the House to vote if there is to be no contract this year?

In order to take some preliminary steps which are necessary before battleships are built.

Scotland (Water Supply, Sherwood)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that occupants of a certain number of houses in Bonnyrigg are being charged a water rate of about 3½d. a week, in spite of the fact that they have no water laid on in their houses and have to share with many others an outside water supply, and not always adequate; and will he take steps in the matter?

I am aware that in the case of certain houses in the village of Sherwood, near Bonnyrigg, to which I assume the question relates, a charge of 3½d. per week in respect of water supply is made by the Lothian Coal Company owning the houses and that water has not vet been introduced into the houses. The county council are, however, in communication with the company on the question of improvements in the houses, including the introduction of water, and I shall keep my hon. and gallant Friend informed of developments.

In view of the fact that this situation has been going on for a long time and that these people have been continuing to pay water rate when they have had no water, and in view also of the fact that the subject is rather confused by the question of certain houses getting priority in regard to baths, will my hon. and gallant Friend see that a supply of water to these houses is made one of priority?

I will note what my hon. and gallant Friend says, but I can assure him that the Department of Health are in touch with the county council, and we are doing all we can to expedite the matter.

Budget Proposals; Alleged Leakage (Tribunal Of Inquiry)


asked the Attorney-General whether he will, by means of a statement in the House, direct the attention of all concerned as to where information bearing upon the alleged leakage of Budget secrets should be sent for the use of the judicial Tribunal of Inquiry?

I have been asked to reply. My hon. and learned Friend would refer the hon. Member to the statement issued by the Home Secretary, which was published in the "Times" of 7th May, that

"any communications on the subject of the Tribunal's Inquiry should be addressed to the Secretary of the Tribunal at the Royal Courts of Justice."

Palestine (Disturbances)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make on the riots in Palestine; whether troops have been sent from Egypt to deal with same; and what is the most recent information on the situation?

I have been asked to reply. Some minor breaches of the peace have been reported since the statement which my right hon. Friend made on 6th May, and the Arab strike continues. As a precautionary measure the Palestine garrison has been temporarily reinforced.

School Children (Conveyance)


asked the President of the Board of Education, whether he has considered representations submitted by county education authorities to the effect that the Exchequer contribution towards the cost of conveying children to school in cases where they reside more than three miles from the nearest school should be increased from 20 per cent. to 50 per cent.; and whether he has yet taken a decision in the matter?

As announced in Circular 1444 of 6th January, 1936, it is proposed to increase the rate of grant payable on the conveyance of school children to elementary schools from 20 per cent. to 40 per cent. as from 1st April, 1937.

Can the right hon. Gentleman see his way to bring this measure in earlier so that it will be ready for use next winter, instead of waiting until the spring?

All the circumstances were considered before the circular was issued, and I cannot undertake to reconsider it.

Is it too late to ask the Minister to alter the percentage from 40 to 50?

British Army

Marriage Allowance


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that married soldiers under 26 years of age, serving overseas, receive no marriage allowance; and whether he will have inquiries made, with a view to all married soldiers serving overseas being granted a marriage allowance and avoiding their wives having to apply to public assistance committees for out-door relief?

The age qualification for the grant of marriage allowance is 26 years, whether the soldier is serving at home or abroad. My right hon. Friend is aware of the considerations urged in regard to this matter, but is not prepared to reduce the age limit, which was decided upon after the most careful consideration of the requirements of the three Service Departments. I would point out that the enlistment of married men under the the age of 26 years is forbidden, and unmarried soldiers are fully aware that if they marry below the requisite age they will not receive marriage allowance.

Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to issue instructions that nobody will be entitled to enter the Army until he is 26 in order that he can get the full benefits?

Is it a good thing that the wives of soldiers should have to apply to the public assistance committees for help?

It is also not a particularly good thing that all our young soldiers should be married men.

Bren Machine-Gun


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the production of the new Bren machine-gun has now commenced; and, if so, whether this gun is being constructed exclusively at Government factories?

Preparations for the manufacture of the Bren light machine-gun at the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield, have begun. At present no arrangements have been made for the manufacture of the gun elsewhere, but it may be necessary to obtain certain components from trade firms.



asked the Secretary of State for War whether tithe is paid in respect of land owned by the War Office; and, if so, what was the amount paid in the last financial year?

Yes, Sir. The amount so paid in the last financial year was approximately £2,500.

South Wales (Intimidation)


asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the disclosures made in the course of the trials at the Glamorgan assizes, on 25th March, which resulted in the conviction of 55 persons, the Government will institute a full inquiry into the whole circumstances in South Wales which led up to the trials with a view to putting an end to the organised persecution and intimidation of persons in that district?

His Majesty's Government are fully aware of the circumstances in South Wales and my right hon. Friend does not think that there is any need for an inquiry such as that suggested by my hon. Friend. The Home Office is in close touch with the chief officers of police, who are responsible for maintaining law and order in the district, and my right hon. Friend is satisfied that those officers are keeping a close watch on the situation and will provide protection where necessary.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that anyone in South Wales who is not in sympathy with the extremists is subjected to continued violence and intimidation, and are the Government going to take no steps to stop such a condition of things in Great Britain?

Is the hon. Member aware that there are Members of Parliament who support the present Government financing these organisations that are causing malcontent?

Estate Duty (Tithe)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give, in relation to any recent examples, what has been the relation between the valuation of lay tithe for Death Duty purposes and the gross annual value of the same lay tithe?

Only an insignificant proportion of the total tithe rentcharge passes on death and the valuation for purposes of Estate Duty of tithe so passing normally varies between 10 and 12 times the gross annual value. It has, however, been as low as six times in special cases, for example, where the

Division No. 173.]


[3.34 p.m.

Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. DykeBoulton, W. W.Clarry, Sir Reginald
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartClydesdale, Marquess of
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.Bower, Comdr. R. T.Cobb, Sir C. S.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)Brass, Sir W.Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page
Aske, Sir R. W.Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.
Assheton, R.Bull, B. B.Cross, R. H.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)Burgin, Dr. E. L.Crossley, A. C.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyBurton, Col. H. W.Culverwell, C. T.
Balfour, Capt. H. H.(Isle of Thanet)Butler, R. A.Davles, Major G. F. (Yeovil)
Barclay- Harvey, C. M.Calne, G. R. Hall.Davison, Sir W. H.
Baxter, A. BeverleyCartland, J. R. H.Dawson, Sir P.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C.Cary, R. A.De la Bère, R.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)Denman, Hon. R. D.
Beit, Sir A. L.Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)Donner, P. W.
Bernays, R. H.Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.)Drewe, C.
Bird, Sir R. B.Chamberlain. Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)Dugdale, Major T. L.
Blair, Sir R.Channon, H.Duggan, H. J.
Blaker, Sir R.Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)Duncan, J. A. L.
Bossom, A. C.Chorlton, A. E. L.Dunglass, Lord

tithe is small in amount and subject to difficulties of collection.

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say what has been the highest in recent cases? He has given the lowest.

No, Sir, I have given the hon. Member the normal practice. If he wishes for the highest figures, I would ask him to put down a question.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the factors which are taken into consideration in calculating the value of lay tithe for death duty purposes; and how the calculation is made?

The principal value for purposes of Estate Duty of lay tithe passing upon death falls to be determined in accordance with the provisions of Section 7 (5) of the Finance Act, 1894. That value, which is the value which the tithe would realise if sold in the open market, is normally computed by capitalising at an appropriate number of year's purchase the amount of tithe payable, less a deduction in respect of rates, Land Tax, cost of obligation (if any) to repair the chancel and an estimated amount for cost of collection.

Business Of The House

Motion made, and Question put,

"That the Proceedings on Government Business be exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House)."—[The Prime Minister.]

The House divided: Ayes, 211; Noes, 79.

Eckersley, P. T.Levy, T.Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Lewis, O.Rothschild, J. A. de
Ellis, Sir G.Liddall, W. S.Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Elliston, G. S.Lindsay, K. M.Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Emmott, C. E. G. C.Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.Salmon, Sir I.
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Lloyd, G. W.Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)
Erskine Hill, A. G.Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)Loftus, P. C.Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Ganzoni, Sir J.Levat-Fraser, J. A.Sandys, E. D.
Gllmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.Lyons, A. M.Sovery, Servington
Gluckstein, L. H.Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)Scott, Lord William
Goldie, N. B.MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.Seely, Sir H. M.
Goodman, Col. A. W.MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)Selley, H. R.
Gower, Sir R. V.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)Shakespeare, G. H.
Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Granville, E. L.McKie, J. H.Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.Maclay, Hon. J. P.Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Gridley, Sir A. B.Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Grimston, R. V.Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon H. D. R.Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.Smithers, Sir W.
Guinness, T. L. E. B.Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Guy, J. C. M.Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Hamilton, Sir G. C.Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)Spender-Clay Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.
Hannah, I. C.Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Hannon, Sir P. J. H.Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)
Harris, Sir P. A.Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.Stourton, Hon. J. J.
Hartington, Marquess ofMorgan, R. H.Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)Tate, Mavis C.
Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.Titchfield, Marquess of
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)Munro, P.Touche, G. C.
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.Tree, A. R. L. F.
Holmes, J. S.Nicolson, Hon. H. G.Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Howitt, Dr. A. B.Orr-Ewing, I. L.Wakefield, W. W.
Hudson, R. S. (Southport)Palmer, G. E. H.Wallace, Captain Euan
Jackson, Sir H.Peake, O.Warrender, Sir V.
James, Wing-Commander A. W.Petherick, M.Waterhouse, Captain C.
Joel, D. J. B.Pickthorn, K. W. M.wedderburn, H. J. S.
Keeling, E. H.Pilkington, R.Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)Ponsonby, Col. C. E.Wilton, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Kimball, L.Pownall, Sir AsshetonWindsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Kirkpatrick, W. M.Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.Womersley, Sir W. J.
Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.Ramsbotham, H.Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Lamb, Sir J. Q.Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)
Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.Reid, W. Allen (Derby)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Law, R, K. (Hull, S.W.)Remer, J. R.Sir George Penny and Lieut.-Colone
Leech, Dr. J. W.Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)Sir A. Lambert Ward.
Leighton, Major B. E. P.Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)


Adamson, W. M.Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)Naylor, T. E.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Hardle, G. D.Paling, W.
Banfield, J. W.Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Parker, H. J. H.
Barr, J.Henderson, T. (Tradeston)Potts, J.
Batey, J.Holland, A.Ritson, J.
Benson, G.Hopkin, D.Shinwell, E.
Brooke, W.Jagger, J,Short, A.
Burke, W. AJenkins, A. (Pontypool)Silverman, S. S.
Charleton, H. C.Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.Simpson, F. B.
Chater, D.Jones, A. C. (Shipley)Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cluse, W. S.Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.Kelly, W. T.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Cocks, F. S.Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.Thorne, W.
Cove, W. G.Leach, W.Thurtle, E.
Daggar, G.Lee, F.Tinker, J. J.
Dalton, H.Leslie, J. R.Viant, S. P.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Logan, D. G.Walker, J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Lunn, W.Watkins, F. C.
Day, H.Macdonald, G. (Ince)Wilkinson, Ellen
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)McEntee, V. La T.Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Ede, J. C.McGhee, H. G.Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)MacLaren, A.Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.Mainwaring, W. H.Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Gallacher, W.Marklew, E.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Gardner, B. W.Marshall, F.
Garro-Jones, G. M.Mathers, G.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Green, W. H. (Deptford)Montague, F.Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Groves.
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)

Selection (Standing Committees)

Standing Committee C

Sir Henry Cautley reported from the Committee of Selection; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee C: Lieut.-Colonel Sir Arnold Wilson; and had appointed in substitution: Dr. Leech.

Sir Henry Cautley further reported from the Committee; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee C (added in respect of the Midwives Bill): Miss Cazalet; and had appointed in substitution: Mr. Henry Strauss.

Reports to lie upon the Table.

Gas Light And Coke Company (No 2) Bill

The Chairman of Ways and Means, in pursuance of Standing Order 91, reported to the House a special circumstance relative to the Gas Light and Coke Company (No. 2) Bill, viz.: "That the Committee on Group F of Private Bills found the Preamble of the Bill proved without having fully heard all the Petitioners against the said Bill."

Report to lie upon the Table.

Orders Of The Day

Special Areas Reconstruction (Agreement) Bill

Considered in Committee.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

Clause 1—(Power Of Treasury To Enter Into And Make Payments Under An Agreement)

The following Amendments stood upon the Order Paper: In page 2, line 11, leave out "written "; in line 11, leave out "the Treasury," and insert "Parliament."—[ Mr. Mabane.]

3.44 p.m.

On a point of Order. May I ask whether it would not be more convenient if I dealt with both of my Amendments together?

Quite clearly the two Amendments are dependent upon one another, and may both be discussed as one when the hon. Member moves the first of them.

:I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, to leave out "written."

I agree with the general purpose of the Bill to lend small amounts of capital to start businesses, but I am by no means sure that the Bill is the best way of achieving that purpose. The effect of my Amendments would be to substitute the consent of Parliament for the written consent of the Treasury in the event of the capital of the company being increased. It may surprise hon. Members to know that the capital of the proposed company can be increased. Those who have followed the Debates on the Bill will appreciate that there is a great difference between the popular estimate of what the Bill does, and what is in the Bill. The popular idea is that the Bill empowers the Government, through the agency of the Treasury, to establish a company with a capital of £1,000,000 and that the company shall, for an experimental period of 10 years, lend money to those who desire to set up businesses in the depressed areas but otherwise would be unable to obtain the capital. Hon. Members who have read the Bill know that the Bill does something a great deal more than that, and that it is a very obscure Bill.

The hon. Member will appreciate that that is exactly the point I am making. I am pointing out that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been conveying to the House that the Bill is for an experimental period of 10 years and that the capital is £1,000,000. Apparently the hon. Member has not yet read the Bill, or he would appreciate that there is nothing about that in the Bill.

It is a very difficult Bill to understand. In his explanation, the Chancellor himself concurred that the Bill was extremely difficult.

Not the whole Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman particularly referred to paragraph 4 of the Schedule. Hon. Members who have read it will find it is extremely difficult to understand. I presented it, together with pencil and paper, to at least half a dozen Members of this House and asked them to explain what it meant, but not one of them has been able to do so. The Chancellor has explained what it means, and we must take his explanation as being perfectly good. In the first Debate on the Financial Resolution, the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) interpreted what is now paragraph 4 of the Schedule in the way in which I myself did, but the Chancellor said he was wrong and that it meant something quite different from what I must have imagined up to that time.

If we take the explanation which the Chancellor has given, there is no doubt that the Bill commits the Treasury to an ultimate total liability of £1,000,000. That was a point that occasioned some discussion in the Debate on the Financial Resolution, and that was the point on which the hon. Member for Seaham fell. He interpreted the Bill as committing the Treasury to a liability of only £250,000, and he interrupted the Chancellor to ask if that were not so. The Chancellor said that the hon. Member for Seaham was wrong, and that the total liability was £1,000,000. It is important that the Committee should appreciate that at no point in the Bill is £1,000,000 or 10 years mentioned. The Bill commits the Treasury not merely to the liability which, we have been told by the Chancellor, is £1,000,000, although that is not stated in the Bill, but it may commit the Treasury and the State to an unlimited liability of £100,000,000, or any other figure that we may care to mention. In the Debate on the Report stage of the Financial Resolution, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:
"But if the company started with £1,000,000 capital proves to be a success there is no reason why its operations should not be extended in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1936; col. 874, Vol. 331.]
On the Second Reading he went further, and said:
"I might mention, in further comment on one observation which I made on a previous occasion, namely, that the losses of the State through the guarantee which it gives could not exceed £1,000,000—that that, of course, remains true as long as the capital of the company is limited to £1,000,000, but if the capital were to be increased then of course that would also increase the possible losses on the part of the State."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 7th May, 1936; cols. 1904–5, Vol. 311.]
Therefore, I think we may take it, from the Chancellor's statement on the Second Reading, that, if the capital of the company is increased, the liability of the State will increase with that increase of capital; and that increase of capital beyond £1,000,000 may be sanctioned by the Treasury at any time without the intervention of this House. That is to say, if the company started with a capital of £1,000,000, as indicated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if, having succeeded reasonably well, it desired that its capital should be increased to £50,000,000, the Treasury, by a Ministerial edict, could do that without asking this House, and the liability of the State could be increased to £50,000,000 without any sort of consent being asked. The first words of Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 are:
"In the event of the capital of the company being increased with the written consent of the Treasury."
That implies that the Treasury may at any time increase the capital of the company. No doubt many Members of the House would not have the slightest objection to placing such powers in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, but I think the House must recollect that it is not legislating for one Parliament, but for all time. There may come a time when, unfortunately, hon. Members opposite may be on the Treasury Bench, and, if this Bill were on the Statute Book, there would be little need for the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) to demand his Emergency Powers Bill, because he would have them virtually in this Measure. It is clear that, if the Labour party were on this side of the House, they could by a Ministerial edict increase the capital of the company, and at the same time increase the liability of the State, to an unlimited amount, and the House ought to be very chary of putting such powers into the hands of the Treasury. Indeed, I think it would be dangerous even for Parliament to assume to itself such powers, but I certainly do not think they ought to be placed in the hands of the Treasury. The Labour party, if they were on this side, could, by increasing the capital of the company, engage in what would be virtually State banking, and I think that the Committee ought to press the Chancellor to accept this Amendment, so that, in the event of its being desired to increase the capital of the company beyond the figure which the Chancellor of the Exchequer first proposed, he would have to come to the House and ask permission for that increase of capital, rather than that the House should find that the capital had been increased by a Ministerial edict, and that the House had committed itself to an expenditure far in excess of that which it had originally in mind.

3.55 p.m.

I approach these Amendments with the same friendly feeling as that with which I approached the Financial Resolution, but at the same time I find it very difficult to understand the Bill. It is a highly technical Measure, and I have not been able to find in it any statement of a term of years, though a term of 10 years has been mentioned. I agree with the spirit of the Bill, but I think that, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) has said, we want some further elucidation of the way in which the Bill will operate. The hon. Member has indicated what is in his mind and is largely in my own mind. Unless we have some assurance that the Bill contains some precautionary provision which we do not at the moment understand or detect, it seems to me that this company might take deposits of £1,000,000, £10,000,000 or £50,000,000, and convert itself into a banking undertaking, without any apparent transgression of the terms of the Bill, and we might find that, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield has said, we had sponsored a Bill which would provide that, while the company would have a capital of £1,000,000, which might be used as a reserve against losses, as in the case of a bank, it might seek, like any bank, to get deposits from private persons, and sooner or later might develop into a national banking institution. That is a point which ought to be dealt with, and, if the Chancellor would show us where we are in the dark and where the necessary precautions are taken, it would make us feel much more satisfied.

3.57 p.m.

If the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) had not been so obsessed by the prospect, however remote, that we on these benches might occupy the benches opposite, he could have found much more ingenious and practical reasons in favour of his Amendments than those which he has brought forward. It is strange that, when a Bill of this kind is brought forward with the avowed object of assisting the people in the depressed areas, both the hon. Member for Huddersfield and the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) should forget all about the objects of the Bill, and express their fear and alarm lest it might damage some vested interest in the form of banking or other powerful interests.

I must protest against that statement. I do not know whether the hon. Member was here when the Financial Resolution was being debated, but on that occasion I was brave enough to run the risk of boring the House for half an hour in order to try to help with such views as I have as to the way in which the Bill could be made to work. I was completely in favour of it, and made some suggestions which I thought might be helpful. Therefore, I must protest against the hon. Member's observation.

I completely absolve the hon. Member from any erroneous motive; I was referring to his whole outlook on questions of this kind. He is alarmed at the possibility of this company taking deposits, but it is much more likely to take doubtful overdrafts which the banks have had on their books for a considerable time, and which they will take the opportunity offered by the Bill to transfer to the company. I notice that the hon. Member for Huddersfield is looking surprised, but this company is going to be entitled to consider applications for money, and, if a bank has on its books a £10,000 overdraft which has been causing the manager considerable anxiety for a number of years, he can refuse to renew it, and there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the banks from unloading their dubious securities upon this company, whose losses the Treasury will guarantee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been singularly secretive about the operation of the company. We have had no information at all about how the board of directors is going to operate the Bill. I am extremely interested in this matter, as are other Members on this side of the House. We are not enamoured of the Bill, but we do not oppose it, because we hope it will be a useful experiment; but cannot the Chancellor of the Exchequer give us some information as to what a person who is going to get an overdraft—

It is perfectly true that these Amendments together cover a wide scope, but I cannot allow the hon. Member to go into details which are certainly outside the Amendments before the Committee.

With great respect, is it not generally the practice on the first Amendment to a Clause to allow a more general discussion on the Clause than would normally be given?

That may be, but it is certainly the rule and one which I try to enforce, that in no circumstances are we to have a Second Reading Debate on a Bill that is in Committee.

I, of course, bow to your Ruling, and will content myself with having stated the reason why I consider that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of watching how this company is operated, and that the consent of the House should be given before the capital of the company is increased. I hope that in order to allay the anxiety that is felt on that score the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be so good as to give us some information as to the kind of applicant who is to get overdrafts under the Bill.

I have not consulted my party on the point at all, and I have no authority to speak for anyone, any more than the hon. Gentleman. I am giving my opinion, and I hope that the Chancellor will be so good as to tell us the kind of applicant who is to get overdrafts under this Bill, in particular we do not want to find big businesses conducting their experiments through some nominee and merely shifting part of their losses on to the State. It is absolutely vital that we should have some information as to how this board of directors is to operate in the consideration of applications for overdrafts.

4.4 p.m.

I am not certain whether to express satisfaction or sorrow at finding myself in such excellent company this afternoon, particularly the company of the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) who, as everyone knows, is a prominent financial expert.

The hon. Member is an ex-Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and if he did not gain any financial information when he occupied that honourable post, it is a very poor outlook for the present holder of that office. At all events I am extremely encouraged to find myself in such company during the Committee stage of this Bill, and I was more particularly encouraged when I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane). I ventured to suggest, during the Debate on the Financial Resolution, that the Bill was one of some complexity and certainly obscure. Now I find that that obscurity was not peculiar to myself but is common to all Members. When the hon. Member for Huddersfield suggested that the Bill might allow an increase of the capital to £100,000,000, I was more than ever encouraged, because that is precisely the kind of Bill that we on these benches desire. Our complaint against the Bill throughout has been that it is of a very limited character. On the Financial Resolution I expressed doubts as to whether the £1,000,000 was actually to be raised, and I am not quite clear now as to whether that amount will be reached. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, on the other hand, takes the view that the amount that may be raised will be much in excess of £1,000,000, and may reach £100,000,000. If there is any likelihood of the company that is to be set up increasing the capital from £1,000,000 to a larger sum, then we on these benches will be more encouraged to support the Bill.

Moreover, if it is to be understood that the capital may be increased without any unnecessary delay, without unnecessary obstacles being placed in the path, then clearly it is a Bill that is well worth supporting. We shall not oppose the provision that the Treasury may agree with the company to increase the capital. If the matter is to be left to Parliament, with consequent Parliamentary discussions and many obstacles being placed in the way, then clearly that will be of little advantage to the company in raising capital and will be of less advantage to those in the depressed areas who have made demands on the Chancellor for submission of a scheme of this kind. What I cannot understand in the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield is that he should impute sinister motives to the Chancellor. He seemed to suggest that the obscurity in the Bill would provide the Chancellor with an opportunity for permitting the company to raise large sums, and he accused hon. Members on the Labour benches of seeking to use their opportunities, if and when they found themselves on the Government side of the House, to proceed along those lines. Surely the hon. Member does not seriously suggest that the Chancellor would assist hon. Members on this side to commit misdemeanours, as he described them, of that sort?

I gathered from the earlier part of the hon Member's speech that I was entirely supported by him in my view. I gathered that it was part of the policy of the Labour party to provide as large sums as possible for this particular purpose, and that it might be quite proper for the Labour party, when in office, to raise such large sums.

Exactly. That is my reason for asking the hon. Member why he imputed sinister motives to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the hon. Member suggests that through the medium of this limited Bill we could raise these huge sums of money for the purpose of meeting the difficulties that present themselves in the distressed areas, then I say I am more encouraged to support the Bill and to withdraw much of the opposition that I expressed in a previous Debate. But I have my doubts.

I can only suggest that the Chancellor may perhaps incorrectly have supposed that the National Government will always be in office. If that were not so—

That is an assumption which is ill-founded, in my opinion. One of these days we shall occupy the Government benches, and when that time comes we shall not come forward with what I ventured to describe previously as a very piffling and trifling Measure; we shall come forward with something very much more substantial, if the problem of the distressed areas is as acute then as it is now. On the Financial Resolution I expressed the opinion that no limit was prescribed in the Bill for the operations of the company. I never could understand why the Chancellor spoke of "10 years" as the period of the company's operations, without making any reference to that period being contained in the Bill or in the Schedule. Surely there ought to be some reference in the Bill or the Schedule to the period of the operations of the company. Reference is made in the Bill to the company being wound up at some future date. If it is to be wound up when is it to be wound up? Is it to be wound up when huge losses have been sustained and the company can no longer meet the difficulty that presents itself, or is the time of winding-up to be left in the hands of the Treasury or the Chancellor? On these points we are entitled to some enlightenment.

As regards the amount to be raised, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield said, there is considerable obscurity regarding the power of the company to raise capital. It may be recalled that during the Debate on the Second Reading the Chancellor said, in reply to questions, that the sums to be raised by the company could be relent from time to time. He seemed to suggest that if in the first 12 months those who had obtained loans from the company were able to repay those loans, the money could be re-lent to other business undertakings. In the Bill I can see nothing that lends any colour to that view. Perhaps on that point, which is one of substance, the Chancellor may enlighten us.

4.13 p.m.

I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be induced to give us some explanation on a question of principle. I do not go quite as far as my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. A good deal of misconception seems to have arisen on the Bill in the last quarter of an hour. I was very much amused at the way in which the hon. Member who has just spoken said, in effect, "Here we are; we are going to have lots of money for nothing."

Can the hon. Member produce any evidence in support of that statement? Is it not true that hon. Members on the Labour benches have all along declared that it was very doubtful whether the money would in fact be raised?

The point to my mind is whether the guarantee of the Treasury is to be given without coming back to Parliament. If the money were raised a further guarantee might be asked for a capital increase. All that we say in the Amendment is that if guarantees are to be given by the Executive in future the amount of those guarantees should not be indefinite. That is the first thing. Secondly, it is not unreasonable to ask the Chancellor to give some indication of the kind of amount that is in his mind, of the guarantee that may be required under the Bill. We do not ask any more than that. We have a very definite fear that the principle expressed in the Bill seems to allow an indefinite guarantee by the Treasury to the company that is to be formed, and to permit that without Parliament being consulted.

4.15 p.m.

I must apologise to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) for addressing the Committee on this Amendment without having heard his speech. I do not personally share the alarm that is being expressed. My fears are entirely the other way. I am not afraid that this is going to grow into something which the House will have to check. I am afraid it is not going to do enough. This is strictly limited in one way. It is limited to certain areas. I am rather sorry that it is so strictly limited. The areas are—