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Commons Chamber

Volume 342: debated on Monday 5 December 1938

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House Of Commons

Monday, 5th December, 1938.

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

Private Business

Committee On Unopposed Bills

Ordered, That, if at any time the Chairman of Ways and Means is of opinion that in order to facilitate the progress of the Bills then referred to the Committee on Unopposed Bills under Standing Order III the adoption of such a course is desirable, he may apportion the Bills between two Committees on Unopposed Bills, the composition and quorum of each being those prescribed by Standing Order III as modified by this Order, and each Committee shall have the assistance of the Counsel to Mr. Speaker, and all the Standing Orders applying to the Committee on Unopposed Bills shall apply to each Committee.

Ordered, That the Chairman of Ways and Means have power to select from the panel appointed under Standing Order III one Member to act as chairman at every meeting of a Committee on Unopposed Bills at which neither the Chairman of Ways and Means nor the Deputy Chairman is present, and at any such meeting the Member so selected shall be a Member of the Committee in addition to the three Members mentioned in Standing Order III.

Ordered, That during the present Session the Committee of Selection have power to add to the panel appointed under Standing Order III.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Committees On Opposed Bills Con-Taining Local Legislation Clauses

Ordered, That in the case of an Opposed Bill promoted by a municipal or other local authority containing clauses by which it is proposed to create powers relating to Police, Sanitary and other Local Government matters in conflict with, devlation from, or excess of the provisions of the general law, the Com-

mittee to which the Bill is referred shall, when considering such clauses as aforesaid, have the assistance of the Counsel to Mr. Speaker.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Oral Answers To Questions

India

Defence

1.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he can give any information about the conferences at Bombay on the question of the equipment of the armed forces of the States to take their part in a scheme of Imperial defence?

My Noble Friend has no information regarding the conferences referred to other than what has appeared in the Press.

2.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the Congress Party's opposition to the armament policy of the Government, the expert committee which has been appointed to consider the military and financial aspects of the India defence problem will be instructed to discuss this matter with Indian leaders and to give consideration to their views?

Invitations to give evidence have been issued to a number of Indian public men, including the leaders of the principal parties in the Legislative Assembly.

Considering the importance of the Congress Party's opposition to the Government's rearmament policy, will the hon. Gentleman press for an early meeting with the leaders of the Party to try to get the matter settled at an early date?

Among the invitations that have been issued to public men, have been invitations to the leaders of the Congress Party.

Civil Avlation

3.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India the amount of ordinary expenditure on civil avlation and/or the amounts of financial assistance given to the Government of India for the purpose of developing civil avlation in India for the 12 months ended the last convenient date?

Ordinary expenditure by the Government of India on civil avlation during the year 1937–38 amounted to Rs.21.4 lakhs. In addition, a sum of approximately Rs.20.9 lakhs was expended on capital works during the year out of the Special fund created for that purpose in 1934–35.

The ordinary expenditure included Rupees 1.4 lakhs by way of grants to flying clubs.

Czechoslovakla

4.

asked the Prime Minister what is the comprehensive definition of the term "existing installations," arrived at by the International Commission; what are the principles according to which that term should be interpreted as laid down by the said Commission; and what was the date or dates on which that definition was arrived at and those principles were laid down?

As the reply is somewhat long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The principle adopted by the Commission was that the transferred territory should be handed over in orderly condition; and that installations, within the meaning of Article 2 of the Munich Agreement of 29th September, 1938, were to be regarded as all fixtures which were in the nature of a public utility, whether or not they were public or private property; and that the moveable materlal which was necessary for the normal functioning of the installations should be regarded as

forming part of these installations. It was further laid down, as consequent upon the adoption of the foregoing principles, that the Czechoslovak Government could not be made responsible for the removal of goods from the ceded territory to the present territory of Czechoslovakla if this removal was freely carried out by those who had the right to dispose of these goods. On the other hand, it was agreed that it was not in the spirit of the Munich Agreement if these removals were carried out against the will of those who had the right to dispose of the goods owing to official instructions or under pressure of any kind. In these events, the right of those who had a right to dispose of the goods remained intact to reclaim the goods removed or, if they could not be returned in natura, to demand compensation. This arrangement applies to all goods removed after 20th September, 1938. These principles and the terms adduced therefrom were adopted by the International Commission on the recommendation of its economic and financial sub-committee, formulated in a protocol dated 28th October last, and the further measures required in accordance with them are in course of being laid down by a Special German-Czech Commission.

30.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government have yet been informed of the Czechoslovak frontiers which they are pledged to guarantee?

His Majesty's Government have received detailed information concerning the new frontiers of Czechoslovakla except as regards certain areas on the Polish frontier in which minor adjustments have been made, As regards pledges on the subject of a guarantee, I would refer the hon. Member to recent statements on this subject.

Do I take it that from the information that the Prime Minister has received we are prepared now to guarantee those frontiers?

The hon. Lady will remember what the statements are that have already been made on that subject.

I have refreshed my memory by reading them, and, therefore, may I ask whether the statement the Prime Minister has made refers specifically to the frontiers about which he has now received information? It is as well to know what we are guaranteeing.

Spain

5.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make concerning the bombing of the British ship "Lake Hallwil" and the nationality of the attacking aircraft?

According to my Noble Friend's information, in the course of an air raid on the Port of Barcelona at 8.0 a.m. on the 13th November, the British steamship "Lake Hallwil" was struck by a bomb. There is no indication of the identity of the attacking aircraft.

Have the Government called for any Special report with a view to finding out the nationality of the aircraft which attacked the ship?

We are awaiting a more detailed report on this raid, in which case I will try to supply the hon. and gallant Member with more information.

9.

asked the Prime Minister in how many cases any satisfaction has been received as a result of protests addressed to General Franco in respect of attacks upon British ships, or interference with British property, on the high seas; and whether any action other than protest is feasible and contemplated?

Satisfaction has been received in response to representations in a considerable number of the cases referred to by the hon. and gallant Member. As I stated on 14th November, His Majesty's Government will continue to afford protection as hitherto to British ships on the high seas.

Does "satisfaction" mean that compensation has actually been paid by General Franco?

In the cases referred to by the hon. and gallant Member, there have been nine foreign ships with British interests in them detained in recent months and subsequently released as a result of our representations.

Will the hon. Gentleman say why he feels satisfaction, since there was no legal cause whatsoever for the detention of these ships?

Are we to understand that the Government do not intend to claim compensation for the time lost by these ships?

14.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the recent outbreak of piracy in the Mediterranean involving the seizure of British cargoes by the Spanish insurgent authorities, His Majesty's Government will convene a conference of the Nyon Powers to agree upon the necessary collective measures against such piratical acts; and what action His Majesty's Government have meanwhile taken to protect British property against similar piratical interference?

No, Sir. The protests and representations made by His Majesty's Government to the Burgos authorities have resulted in the release of foreign ships in which there are British interests. His Majesty's Government will continue to press for satisfaction in outstanding cases. They regard the Nyon measures as dealing with a different class of case to which they will continue to be applied.

I have just said that we have made protests and representations, and that in many cases these have been successful.

Is it not evident that the Spanish insurgent authorities are arrogating to themselves belligerent rights; and do His Majesty's Government attempt to take any action to protect British ships and British property?

In these cases—even if we agreed on the question of belligerent rights—the ships are not British ships.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether in cases of British cargoes being detained and additional costs being imposed in consequence, compensation is to be paid?

That is a matter which, as I have informed the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), is under consideration at the present time.

Whether these are British ships or not, is it not to the interest of the British Government to see that there is no piracy on the seas?

Certainly it is to our interest to see that British cargoes and British interests generally are looked after, and that is what we are endeavouring to do.

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply to this question, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment.

21.

asked the Prime Minister the date on which the Burgos authorities informed His Majesty's Government that they had accepted the formula of an immedlate inquiry, and the immedlate payment of compensation, in those cases in which an inquiry by two naval officers found that an attack upon a British vessel had been deliberate?

23.

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government propose to press for the immedlate payment of claims for damage done by Spanish insurgent bombs to ships flying the Red Ensign and carrying on lawful trade with Spain?

The date on which the Burgos authorities informed His Majesty's Government that they accepted in principle the proposed investigation was 20th July. After some time spent in exchanging views with the shipping interests concerned, agreement was reached to submit certain proposals to Burgos, whence the British Agent reports that an answer is shortly to be expected.

No, Sir, because we are shortly expecting to receive a reply to a scheme put forward after consultation with British interests.

We did not then have the advantage of having discussed the matter closely with the British interests concerned.

Is it not a fact that on half-a-dozen occasions during the past century the British Government did make immedlate claims for compensation and take action when that compensation was not forthcoming?

I should be grateful if the hon. Member would give me those instances, so that I may examine them.

22.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the provisions of the Naval Treaty of London and of the importance to Great Britain in time of war of the maintenance of neutral shipping, he will undertake to consult the principal mercantile marine Powers, and, in particular, the United States of America, before agreeing to the exercise by the parties to the Spanish civil war of belligerent rights against neutral vessels by aircraft?

Neither of the London Naval Treaties has any bearing on the use of aircraft in connection with belligerent rights. His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the importance of neutral shipping in time of war. While realising the importance of the issues raised by the lion. Member, I am not in a position to give any definite undertaking.

Does not the very fact that the London Treaty does not consider the use of aircraft make it all the more important to consult the United States Government before any precedents are set up in regard to belligerent rights?

I have assured the hon. Gentleman that we appreciate the importance of the question, but I am not in a position to give the definite undertaking for which he asks.

27.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Non-Intervention Committee has information as to the number of volunteers from Portugal who are serving with the forces of General Franco; and whether any measures are being taken for their withdrawal?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. The Non-Intervention Committee's plan provides for the withdrawal of all foreign nationals from both sides in Spain.

Has the Non-Intervention Committee no information as to the number of Portuguese volunteers?

I am informed that the Committee as a whole has not received this information.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that there are Portuguese volunteers serving with the forces of General Franco?

When was the last meeting of the Committee, and when are they going to meet again?

28.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Government is in possession of information that military assistance has been given to General Franco from Italy and Germany during the last two months, he will place this breach of the Non-Intervention Agreement before the Non-Intervention Committee?

An alleged breach of the Non-Intervention Agreement brought before the Committee must be based on exact information for which the Government raising the matter must make itself responsible. His Majesty's Government would not be justified in taking the initlative proposed in this case.

What do the Government mean when they say that they have information that military help has been given to General Franco by Germany and Italy; does that mean inaccurate information?

No, it does not. It means that our information comes from sources which it is difficult to confirm, and that our information on this matter is not as detailed and exact as it may be on other matters.

Does that indicate that the Government hesitate to use or cannot use the reports of their military observers in Spain with regard to any specific subject?

I have said that our information comes from a variety of sources, and I am satisfied that we should not be justified in acting in the way desired.

Then of what use is this information unless it can be made use of afterwards?

31.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has received from General Franco an explanation of the mistake which led to the seizure of ships carrying grain for the British Government?

No, Sir. A full report has not yet been received from the British Agent at Burgos.

Have the Government considered the desirability of cargoes ordered by the British Government being carried in British bottoms, eSpecially when British ships are so much in need of freights?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that since the release of the "Mount Cynthos" and the "Nitsa," some 15 other ships with British cargoes have been seized and taken into Cadiz or Malaga or other ports, and what representations have been made with regard to those ships?

I should not like to accept without notice the exactitude of the right hon. Gentleman's information. I have answered a question to-day, which shows that there were other cases before and that nine ships have been released, but I do not think it is right to say that 15 have been detained since then.

But surely the Under-Secretary or the Government know that the Government themselves are responsible for the chartering of some 26 ships up to the moment for wheat cargoes alone, and that of these 18 are Greek or Yugo-Slavlan ships?

I am aware of that, but I should require notice to give exact information as to the numbers which have been detained.

Is it the position that these ships carrying British cargoes can be arrested, detained for eight or nine days, and then released, and that the Government say they are completely satisfied?

I have not said that we are completely satisfied. The Government are satisfied to this extent, that in a number of cases the ships have been released.

What is happening in the other cases, because I take it that the hon. Member intends to get satisfaction in all these cases? It is no good telling the House that he is satisfied about some and leaving the others.

The other cases are being actively dealt with, and I hope we shall receive satisfaction.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that General Franco is interfering with the food of the world, and of this country in particular, in order to ensure the starving of republican Spain?

I have given the information in my possession. I consider that the statement about 15 ships having been recently detained is very much exaggerated, but I am ready in answer to a specific question to give detailed information.

On a point of Order. Could the hon. Gentleman give the information at the end of questions of the number of ships that are being detained?

33.

asked the Prime Minister the total number of officers and men of the British mercantile marine who have been killed in bombing raids while engaged in legitimate trade with Government Spain; and the number who have been buried on Spanish territory since July, 1936?

I regret to say that since the beginning of the present hostilities the casualties as a result of bombing raids to British and foreign personnel in British ships in Spanish Government ports have been 30 killed. So far as I know, all the bodies have been buried in Spain when recovered.

Will the hon. Gentleman look at the question, which deals with legitimate trade and say whether he is satisfied that the number of deaths would have been more but for the protection afforded to them by the Spanish Government?

Protection has been afforded in the form of shelters about which His Majesty's Government have been in touch with the authorities of the ports concerned.

Have the British Government made any contribution towards the erection of these shelters for the safety of British sailors?

Is it nothing to the British Government that 30 officers and men of the Mercantile Marine should be killed when engaging in lawful trade?

Yes, it is a very serious matter, and that is why the British Government have warned ships trading with these ports of the serious risks they run.

34.

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have considered, or will consider, the utilisation of the British Commission for the exchange of prisoners for the purpose of obtaining medlation between the contending parties in the Spanish dispute?

His Majesty's Government consider that a successful outcome of the exchange negotlations which are the proper province of the Commission are more likely to be achieved if the Commission refrains from embarking at the same time on negotlations of another character.

Have His Majesty's Government in mind the utilisation of any such committee for the purpose mentioned in the question?

His Majesty's Government have always been ready to render their good offices at a suitable moment.

Have they made any approaches to either of the contending parties in Spain?

Abyssinla

6.

asked the Prime Minister whether Italy has ceased to be regarded by His Majesty's Government as the aggressor in the Italo-Ethioplan dispute, in view of the fact that fighting still continues in Ethiopla?

The views of His Majesty's Government on this subject were stated by the Prime Minister in the course of the Debate on 2nd May and have not changed.

In view of the fact that Italy is still recognised as the aggressor in this case, does His Majesty's Government not consider it would be wise to get a settlement of that dispute, and bring her within the law of nations before making a new agreement with her?

I do not think I can express the view of the Government better than by referring the hon. Member to column 543 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 2nd May.

May I ask the Under Secretary to answer this question—whether, in view of the recognition of Italian sovereignty in Ethiopla, the Government now regard the native people fighting against Italy as aggressors?

I cannot express the Government's view better than the Prime Minister did on the occasion mentioned.

Do the Government put the present rebels in Ethiopla on the same grounds as General Franco?

Is it not a fact that such fighting as is taking place is between the Italian forces and bandit forces?

Great Britain And Portugal

7.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will publish the details of all secret treaties or diplomatic undertakings existing between Great Britain and Portugal regarding any guarantee by Great Britain of the Territorial integrity of Portugal or her colonlal possessions?

There are no secret treaties or undertakings between Great Britain and Portugal. I will, if the hon. Member desires, give him detailed references to the publications in which the text of all our treaties with Portugal may be found.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman, will he indicate under which treaty or instrument the Government undertake to use the armed forces of this. country in certain events to protect Portuguese territory?

I would refer the hon. Member to all the treaties with Portugal. If he will give me a specific instance, I will certainly answer his question.

With reference to the supplementary question, I have that information, but can the hon. Gentleman Specially indicate which of those treaties governs our obligations in the respects I have mentioned?

Refugees

8.

asked the Prime Minister whether there has been published any report of the organisation and work of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees?

Full information regarding the organisation of the committee will be found in the authorised statements issued by the committee at the conclusion of its meetings in August last. Since then the director has been in constant contact with the members of the committee, but no report has been issued.

Will my hon. Friend agree that the position of refugees now is much different and much more important and direct than it was in August last year, and will he keep in constant touch with the Department concerned?

15.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that it is easier for orthodox Jewish refugees to get out of Germany and to enter this country than Christlan refugees, who by reason of Jewish descent are considered to be Jews in Germany; and whether he will take steps to ensure equality so far as possible between these two classes?

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department stated in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) on 24th November, His Majesty's Government make no distinction between refugees of Jewish religion and Christlan refugees of Jewish descent, or indeed between refugees of any kind. All have equal opportunities of entering the United Kingdom, providing that their maintenance, including plans for their settlement in this country or elsewhere, assured.

Is there equality in getting out of Germany, apart from getting into this country?

18.

asked the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the responsibilities of this country arising out of the Munich Agreement, he will arrange for the services of British Consular and other representatives to be available for refugees from Czechoslavakla who emigrate to countries where there are no Czechoslovaklan representatives to assist them?

I cannot accept the assumption on which the hon. Member's question is based, and I fear that his suggestion is not a practicable one.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is no proper recognition of the rights of these unfortunate people and that this matter arises out of what happened at Munich; and does he not appreciate the fact that, apart from the assistance which British representatives, can give them, they are now practically-without anybody at all to help them?

His Majesty's Government are doing their best to deal with the serious nature of the refugee problem.

League Of Nations

Finance

10.

asked the Prime Minister what is the gross figure in sterling contributed by His Majesty's Government towards the general expenses of the League of Nations for the 12 months ended the last convenient date; the comparable figure for the previous 12 months; and the number of nations which have defaulted in their contributions?

The contribution of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to the expenses of the League of Nations for the year ending 3ist December, 1938, is £158,440. The contribution for the preceding year was £162,773. On 31st October last nine States had not yet completed payment of their contributions due up to 31st December, 1937.

Can the Minister say what was the gross amount of the contributions on which there was a default?

Do the Government still grudge that expenditure, as they have done in previous years?

13.

asked the Prime Minister what are the terms of reference of the committee on standing charges set up by the last Assembly of the League of Nations as the result of a proposal by the British Government; who is the chairman of the committee; and who is its British member?

The terms of reference of the committee are

"To examine thoroughly the standing charges in the budgets of the Secretarlat and the International Labour Organisation and recommend what economies can be carried out either immedlately or in the near future."
The chairman of the committee is Count Carton de Wlart (Belgium). The United Kingdom member is Sir Russell Scott.

Was it not understood at the League Assembly last September that the chairman would be a British representative?

Danzig

16.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of any proposal to abolish the position of the League of Nations High Commissioner in Danzig having been put before the League?

South American States

32.

asked the Prime Minister what South American nations have left the League of Nations since 1935, or have given notice of their intention to leave?

Since 1st January, 1935, the following South American States have left the League: Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Salvador, Venezuela and Chile have given notice of their intention to withdraw from the League.

Can the Under-Secretary state reasons why these States have left or are leaving the League, apart from their disgust with the unrellability of the Great Powers, including His Majesty's Government?

China And Japan

11.

asked the Prime Minister what steps he has taken to remove the pressure which is being exercised by the Japanese authorities in North China upon Chinese firms to compel the latter to ship goods in Japanese or German ships instead of in British ships?

The position is that a ban exists at Chefoo and other ports in Shantung on the export to South China of certain articles, not being the property of third Power nationals. In one case, which has been brought to the notice of my Noble Friend, shipment in a foreign vessel was permitted, although the goods were apparently Chinese-owned. Representations have been made to the Japanese authorities in China and to the Japanese Government both as regards interference with trade in British ships and the discrimination in favour of a foreign vessel.

If representations are made in these cases, as in the case of General Franco, what do the Government do when no satisfaction is achieved? Do they apologise?

12.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the conveyance of goods in lighters between ship and wharf, which is enforced by the Japanese authorities at Tsingtao, necessitates the exposure of the cargo to the full violence of the weather in this exposed port and renders the shipment of certain types of cargo impossible; and what action he is taking to protect British trade?

Yes, Sir, and urgent representations have been made to the Japanese Government that British ships should be allowed to berth in the commerclal harbour.

19.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that, after the Chinese retreated from Hankow, British bluejackets were sent to cut wires and remove explosives laid by the Chinese in Japanese buildings; by whose orders this was done; and what was the reason for this interference with legitimate Chinese military operations?

Yes, Sir. After the withdrawal of the Chinese military forces from Hankow, British naval patrols were landed to maintain order in the former British Concession. On taking over temporary charge, the British naval authorities removed the dynamite and other charges from certain buildings there which had previously been prepared for demolition. This was done in order to prevent damage to adjoining British property and loss of life in the former British Concession, which was then crowded with refugees. As regards the last part of the question, my Noble Friend is satisfied that in the interests of humanity the action was fully justified.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the buildings in which explosives were laid were, in all cases, adjacent to British property and were not in fact in many instances in quite separate parts of the town; and in that case did this not constitute interference with Chinese military operations?

If the hon. Gentleman has any information that he would like to give me, I will certainly consider it, but on the information in our possession, we consider the action justified.

British Consulate, Vienna (Visas)

17.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that, owing to the great demand for visas at the British Consulate in Vienna, the staff and the premises are quite inadequate to cope with the large number of applicants, and that the Consulate is only open on two days of the week and can only deal with 40 persons on any one day; and what steps is he taking to expedite the issue of visas?

Visa applications at Vienna are dealt with by the Passport Control Officer, whose staff has been increased from four to twenty-six and who has been provided with larger premises to deal with the great increase in the volume of work. It is not a fact that the office is open on only two days a week and can deal with only 40 persons per day. The office is open for six days a week, but it has been found convenient to classify the types of application and to deal with them on different days according to category. I will, with the permission of the right hon. Gentleman, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement showing the detailed arrangements at this office, which my Noble Friend trusts will meet the situation.

Is it not the case that queues are formed all night long outside the Consulate; and have the arrangements in Berlin been changed in view of the fact that the centre of Berlin has now been closed to Jews?

We have tried to improve the situation in Berlin also. As regards Vienna I am aware that there has been congestion, and, as I have said, I am circulating a report of the steps which have been taken to try to meet it.

Is it proposed to move the Consulate in Berlin since it is now in an area which is prohibited to Jews?

With regard to Berlin, I should have notice as the question on the Paper relates to Vienna.

Following is the statement:

Members of the general public submitting new applications are dealt with on Tuesdays and Fridays; persons holding Ministry of Labour permits or in respect of whom authority has been given in the United Kingdom for the grant of visas are dealt with on Mondays and Thursdays, while Wednesdays and Saturdays are reserved for Special appointments, applications by post and general correspondence. On the days when the office is open to the general public the normal hours are 9.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m., but these hours are elastic and every effort is made to assist applicants. In the afternoons of those days when the office is open to the public in the morning the staff is fully occupied in dealing with the applications submitted.

Tunis, Corsica And Nice

20.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the reluctance of the Italian Government to restore friendly relations with the French Government and the propaganda at present being carried on in Italy for the cession of Tunisla, Nice and other French territory to Italy, he will assure the House that the Anglo-Italian Agreement in no way affects our obligations to France; and that he will not carry out his proposed visit to Rome unless such propaganda ceases?

24.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the course of the negotlations leading up to the Anglo-Italian Agreement, it was indicated that the assurances given by Italy as to the maintenance of the status quo in the Mediterranean included Tunis, Corsica and Nice?

26.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the demonstration in the Italian Chamber demanding Nice, Corsica and Tunis; whether he will make it clear to Signor Mussolini that friendly relations between this country and Italy cannot be developed unless these claims upon France are repudlated by the Italian Government; and that a visit by the British Prime Minister to Rome could serve no useful purpose if these demands are maintained?

Nothing in the Anglo-Italian Agreement of 16th April affects in any way our obligations to France, and while Tunis, Corsica and Nice were not specifically mentioned in the negotlations prior to the agreement they are covered by Annex 1 of the agreement, which deals with the maintenance of the status quo in the Mediterranean. In view of the demonstrations in the Italian Chamber His Majesty's Ambassador in Rome was instructed to represent to the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs on Saturday, that incidents of this kind, unless steps were taken to correct the impression created, must have a most detrimental effect on the prospect of collaboration between the four Munich Powers. From Count Clano's reply it is clear that the Italian Government do not assoclate themselves with the demonstration and have no intention of departing from the undertakings they have already given us. I see no reason to alter the arrangements for my visit to Rome next month.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it perfectly clear to the Italian Government when he goes to Rome that this country has no intention of sacrificing friendship with France, in order to purchase friendship with Italy?

Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that spontaneous demonstrations take place in Italy under present conditions?

We have assurances from the Italian Government, and of course we accept them.

Has the right hon. Gentleman read the report from the Rome correspondent of the "Times" to the effect that this demonstration could not possibly have been spontaneous?

Is it not clear that such visits as this one which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to pay to Rome, are made the occasion for inventing and fomenting quite spurious grievances, in order that their redress may be demanded in the name of appeasement?

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether any pact or covenant exists that if Italy should attack France, we are to come to France's aid?

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the fact that these demands for Nice, Tunisla and Corsica are demands which can be surrendered, provided the right hon. Gentleman surrenders Spain; and will he see that they are not used as blackmail in order to enforce such a surrender?

Will the Prime Minister inform the Italian Government that this Government is not responsible for the demonstrations which sometimes take place in this House?

Anti-Comintern Pact

25.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any information to show that the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany, Italy, and Japan has now been strengthened, so as to be a military alllance between those three countries?

Mr Mark Flanagan (Death, Sicily)

29.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has received any information with regard to the death of Mr. Mark Flanagan, which happened at Patti, Sicily, during a quarrel with the police there?

A report has been received from the Italian authorities through His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome. It states that in consequence of his behaviour, which was regarded as eccentric, Mr. Flanagan was asked by a gendarme to produce his identity papers and to accompany him to the barracks, whereupon Mr. Flanagan attacked the gendarme with a knife. The gendarme fired first in the air o intimidate Mr. Flanagan and then at him when the attack was renewed, inflicting a wound. A doctor was immedlately summoned, but, I regret to say, Mr. Flanagan died before he was able to arrive.

Will the hon. Gentleman make inquiries from the British Vice-Consul and not from Italian sources whether Mr. Flanagan's eccentricities consisted in making uncomplimentary remarks about the head of the Italian State?

I have given the hon. Lady the information which has reached us, but I am ready to refer the matter again to our Ambassador in Rome.

Are full inquiries being made in this case of a British subject who was shot by an Italian policeman?

We have received the information which I have imparted to the House, and I have informed the hon. Lady that I am ready to ask our Ambassador in Rome for any further information which he can give us.

Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that the statement which he has given us is an ex parte statement, and is it not possible to get from the Vice-Consul in Patti what really occurred?

That is why I said that I was ready to ask our Ambassador in Rome for any further information about this regrettable matter that he is able to sent us.

I cannot go any further than that. When our Ambassador in Rome has a sad and tragic matter like this referred to him, he may be relied upon to make the fullest inquiries.

Trade And Commerce

Argentina (United Kingdom Wallpaper)

36.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he is aware that, in the 1938 Report on Trade in the Argentine (No. 705), it is stated that United Kingdom manufacturers of wallpaper persist in offering wallpaper in 12-yard rolls while local buyers insist upon 8-yard rolls, and that marbled-pattern paper of non-British origin is preferred and sold owing to local taste in pattern being catered for; and will he ascertain from United Kingdom manufacturers why they lose trade by disregarding local tastes and measurement requirements?

Yes, Sir. I am in communication with United Kingdom manufacturers.

New York World's Fair (British Films)

37.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he is aware of the public interest which is being shown as to the nature of the films to be exhibited in the cinema of the British Pavilion at the forthcoming New York World's Fair; and whether he can make any further statement?

38.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department who is responsible for the selection of British films which are to be exhibited at the New York World's Fair?

Yes, Sir. As I stated on 29th November in reply to the question by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), the Joint Committee on Films of the British Council and the Travel and Industrial Development Assoclation of Great Britain and Ireland, has been requested to coordinate the selection of films to be shown in the cinema of the British Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. In this connection the committee has been in close consultation with all sections of the United Kingdom film industry and each section of the industry has been asked to make its contribution to the programmes. It is intended that these shall be varied and designed to secure the widest and most adequate presentation of the United Kingdom to United States audiences. Feature films, news reels, and documentary films will all be represented, and the Special tastes and requirements of United States audiences of all kinds are being carefully borne in mind.

Can we be assured that the feature films will be made by British companies and producers?

That is one of those matters on which I think the film industry itself can be left to make representations to the committee.

Mercury (Imports From Spain)

68.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the percentage of the total imports of mercury into this country coming from Spain during the current year; and the percentage carried in British ships?

Of the total quantity of mercury imported into the United Kingdom during the 10 months ended October, 1938, 89 per cent was registered as consigned from Spain. I am unable to state what proportion was carried in British ships.

In view of the fact that a very high proportion of the mercury required for rearmament comes from Spain, will the hon. Gentleman inform other Departments when any question of granting belligerent rights is being considered?

Will the hon. Gentleman ask the President of the Board of Trade to take into consideration the desirability of all cargoes ordered by the British Government being carried in British bottoms?

Agriculture

Dutch Bulbs (Import)

39 and 40.

asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) whether he will give figures showing the increase during recent months in the importation to this country of bulbs from the Netherlands and other countries; and what steps he is taking to protect the British bulb industry;

(2) the present import duties levied on bulbs; whether these operate to encourage the British bulb industry; and how they compare with the duties on other horticultural products such as rose trees, plants and shrubs?

As the reply includes tables of

(1) Statement showing number of Bulbs imported into the United Kingdom from the under-mentioned countries in the months July to October of the years 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938.
Millions.
Country whence consigned.19351936.1937(a).1938(a)
British Countries10.87.67.38.6
Netherlands609.1622.2647.7797.8
Other foreign Countries18.224.225.519.3
Total638.1654.0680.5825.7
(a) Provisional figures.
(2) Statement showing the duties on imported bulbs and certain other horticultural products.
Class or Description of Goods.Rate of Duty.
Bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes10 per cent. ad valorem.
Plants, flowers, etc. (but not including dried follage, dried flowers, dried plants or dried roots, being follage, flowers, plants or roots of the kinds (when dried) used solely for the manufacture of drugs or medicines):
(i) Flowering plants(other than plants in flower) and roots of flowering plants (excluding crowns and roots of lily of the valley).6d. per lb.
(ii) Trees and shrubs (excluding rose trees, fruit trees, azalea indica and sweet bays) whether with bare or balled roots, other than in flower.£1 per cwt.
(iii) Plants, trees and shrubs (excluding rose trees and fruit trees) in flower.9d. per lb.
(iv) Rose Trees:
(a) Standard trees including half standards, quarter standards and weeping standards.£5per 100.
(b) Other descriptions£1 5s. per 100.
(v) Fruit Trees and fruit stocks£1 per cwt.
figures, I propose to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to the announcement that the Dutch bulb growers are making a present of bulbs to our Government to celebrate the latter's contribution to peace, and is not this specious pretext being used to boost Dutch bulbs at the expense of the British bulb growers?

Following is the reply:

The statements below give particulars of the imports of bulbs in the months of July to October (the main importing season) in recent years, and the existing import duties on bulbs and comparable horticultural products.

The prevailing import duty on bulbs affords a measure of protection to the home grower and the acreage devoted to bulbs has increased in recent years. If growers consider that the present duty is insufficient it is open to them to make representations to the Import Duties Advisory Committee.

41.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can give any information concerning the operation of the Dutch bulb market scheme as it affects the bulb industry of this country?

Under a Dutch law which came into operation in July, 1933, a scheme of control over production was established, and provision was made for the destruction of surplus bulbs. Minimum export and inland prices were fixed, and the Government purchased the surplus bulbs at the end of the season, at a price 15 per cent. below the minimum inland prices. The minimum export and inland prices were discontinued on 1st January last, but I understand that the purchase of surplus bulbs by the Dutch Government is still in operation and that, in effect, the minimum internal price has been maintained. The limitation on Dutch production is, I believe, on the whole, beneficlal to bulb growers in this country.

Mr.

Will my right hon. Friend cause inquiries to be made into the methods used by Dutch exporters to evade the effect of our tariff?

I will gladly inquire into any matter about which my hon. Friend writes to me.

Beet Molasses

44.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that beet molasses manufactured by the British Sugar Corporation are being exported while British yeast manufacturers, requiring molasses produced in this country as best suited for their business, are being compelled to import from the Continent; and whether he will instruct the Government directors on the said Corporation to see that facilities are given to all British yeast manufacturers to purchase their requirements from the British Sugar Corporation on equal terms with foreign competitors?

I understand that the British Sugar Corporation sells its best molasses by tender, and that it is the Corporation's practice to accept the highest tender. British yeast manufacturers are, therefore, able to purchase their requirements from the Corporation on at least equal terms with any foreign competitors. The Corporation further state that they have never invited tenders from or sold molasses to a foreign buyer, though they do not stipulate that the molasses must be consumed in this country.

Barley-Growing Industry

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will find time for a discussion of the Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Evesham relating to the barley-growing industry?

[ That this House views with grave concern the crisis which has arisen in the barley-growing industry, and urges on the Government the necessity for prompt and immedlate action to prevent the financial collapse of the barley growers.]

No, Sir. I would inform my hon. Friend that facilities already exist for discussion of Private Members' Motions under the Standing Orders.

Can my right hon. Friend inform the House when some solution of the barley question is to be forthcoming? Is he not aware of the grave position of the barley-growing industry, and can we have some statement before Christmas, because this matter is very urgent?

Is not my right hon. Friend also fully aware that the position of oats is equally grave?

The question of my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bere) should be addressed to the Minister of Agriculture?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I cannot get any satisfaction from the Minister of Agriculture?

Credits

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the approximate indebtedness of British farmers to the joint stock banks and other credit institutions?

As the reply contains a number of figures I will, with the right hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The following table gives the indebtedness, at recent dates, of occupiers or owners of agricultural land in England and Wales to the bodies shown:

£

Joint Stock Banks.

Advances outstanding on dates between 3rd August, 1938, and 3rst November, 1938, to "agriculture and fishing"62,451,591

Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, long term mortgage loans, secured by first charge on agricultural land, outstanding on 29th November, 1938

8,716,039
Improvement loans, secured by rentcharges, outstanding on 29th November, 193888,386

Lands Improvement Company. Improvement loans, secured by rentcharges, outstanding on 30th June, 1938

1,769,791

Public Works Loan Board.

Long term mortgage loans advanced under Agricultural Credits Act, 1923, outstanding on 31st March, 1938

2,112,604

In addition to the sums shown above credit is available to farmers and landowners from such sources as private mortgagees, merchants' and auctioneers' credit, etc. I have no figures of the volume of this credit, but I believe it to be very considerable.

Livestock Advisory Committee

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many persons have been appointed to the Livestock Advisory Committee under the Livestock Act, 1937; how many marketing schemes have been prepared; and how many such schemes have been submitted to the Minister for his approval?

As regards the first part of the question, 35 representative members and four independent members have been appointed to the Livestock Advisory Committee. In addition, six further representative members, who are not members of the committee serve on one or other of the three sub-committees dealing respectively with matters relating to England, Scotland and Wales. As regards the second and third parts of the question, I assume that the hon. Member refers to Orders made under Part IV of the Livestock Industry Act, 1937. No Livestock Markets Orders under Section 15 of the Act have yet been prepared. Eleven Orders under Section 14 approving new or extended market premises have been made by the Livestock Commission and approved by the appropriate Minister; and in 13 other cases the market owners have been notified that Orders will be made on completion of the premises in accordance with the approved plans.

Does the Minister expect that a committee of 39 members will ever produce a marketing scheme?

The Livestock Advisory Committee exists in an advisory capacity. The executive power is in a much smaller body, the Livestock Commission.

But as there are 39 members of this committee in an advisory capacity does the Minister expect that there will be such unanimity that they will ever make any recommendation at all?

Oh, yes, they have acted with unanimity on a number of important matters.

Foreign Apples

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the reduction in the import duties on foreign apples imported into this country which will result from the operation of the Anglo-American Trade Agreement, he proposes to take any action to devise new measures of assistance to British apple-growers in order to counterbalance any harmful effect which may result to them from the increased imports of foreign apples?

The bulk of the imports of foreign apples come from the United States of America, and, as indicated in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) on 24th November, I do not anticipate that the forthcoming reduction in duties on foreign apples will have any appreciable effect on the position of English apple growers.

Fertilisers (Fruit Growers)

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the present scheme for providing cheap lime and basic slag to the agricultural industry is of no particular benefit to fruit growers, who require fertilisers of a different character; and whether he will consider the desirability of introducing a scheme for providing fruit growers with the fertilisers which they require at reduced prices on the same lines as the Land Fertility Scheme?

The reasons for the assistance given under the Land Fertility Scheme for lime and slag were explained when the Agriculture Act, 1937, was before Parliament, and would not justify an extension of the kind suggested by my hon. Friend.

Will my right hon. Friend say why, in giving assistance to agriculture as a whole, there should be any differentiation between one form of farming and another?

The whole matter is rather a large one, and I think was covered fully in the Debates upon the Agriculture Act. If my hon. Friend cares to communicate with me I will give him the reasons again in detail, but they are too long to state at Question Time.

Why should there be discrimination against fruit growers, and loganberry growers as well?

Is it not a fact that lime is most useful to fruit growers who know their job?

Barley, Wheat And Sheep

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture when he intends to lay before the House his proposals as to barley, wheat, and sheep?

As regards sheep and barley, I would refer my hon. Friend to recent replies given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself, and to my statement during the Debate on the Address on 15th November, and as regards wheat, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 1st November last to my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams). I have at present nothing to add to these statements.

Is the Minister aware of the very strong feeling in many parts of Great Britain on the subject of oats?

Poultry Industry

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it is proposed to make a grant towards the British exhibit at the World's Poultry Congress to be held in the United States of America next year; and, if not, will he state the reason why?

The preparation of a national exhibit at the congress is a matter for the poultry industry, and the question was referred to the representative poultry organisations. I was informed that the industry was unable to undertake responsibility for an exhibit without very substantial assistance from public funds. Having regard to the relatively heavy cost of preparing and staging an exhibit in the United States of America, and to the fact that little, if any, material benefit would accrue to the poultry industry of this country, it was decided that financial assistance on the scale required by the industry could not, in existing circumstances, be justified.

Did the Government find any difficulty in subscribing to the same exhibit in Germany two years ago; and taking that into account, is it not unfortunate that the impression should be given throughout the industry, both here and in America that, at a time when the Royal Family are to be in America, we are incapable of supporting a British exhibit there?