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Written Answers

Volume 344: debated on Wednesday 1 March 1939

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Written Answers

Spain

asked the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government in accrediting an Ambassador to the Government of General Franco to follow the same procedure which was adopted after the Spanish revolution of 1931?

The present position differs from that of 1931 in that there is at present no Ambassador in Spain, and it will, therefore, be necessary to accredit one. Subject to this, the procedure will not differ materially from that which was adopted in 1931.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement concerning the latest Note received from the Burgos authorities concerning the compensation to be paid for British ships illegally attacked by General Franco's forces?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith) on the 20th February, to which I have at present nothing to add.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the advisability of proposing that the machinery of the League of Nations should be made use of for the humanitarian work of dealing with the problem of refugees from Spain, having in mind the recent successful work of the League's military commission in evacuating the International Brigade?

As most of these refugees are on French territory my Noble Friend considers that any proposal to this effect would be primarily the concern of the French Government.

League Of Nations

asked the Prime Minister whether he will state the present position with regard to the proposals of the committee appointed to consider reductions in the expenditure of the League of Nations and the attitude of the British Government with regard to the proposals as a whole?

The Budgetary Economies Committee was appointed in accordance with a resolution of the Assembly of the League of Nations last September. The resolution, which was supported by the delegation of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, stated that the Assembly considered that it was essential, with a view to maintaining to the fullest possible extent the activities of the League of Nations, to provide the necessary economies in the budgetThe committee recommended that in order that the desired economies should be made in the budget for 1940, the reorganisation and reduction of the staff of the Secretariat and of the International Labour Office should be undertaken forthwith, so that the charges for compensation payable to the staff whose appointments were to be terminated, should so far as is possible fall on the 1939 budget. The Secretary-General and the Director of the International Labour Office are now proceeding with this task. His Majesty's Government see no reason to believe that the necessary reorganisation and simplification of administration will result in any restriction of the beneficent activities of the League as at present carried on.The other economies recommended by the committee fall to be considered by the Assembly of the League in September next, in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time. His Majesty's Government are accordingly unable to express any opinion on these proposals at the present stage.

China And Japan

asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the communication addressed to him from the Greenock Co-operative Party regarding, inter alia, the taking of action by the Government, with other democratic countries, to secure the withdrawal of all aggressors from China; and whether he has any statement to make regarding the matters therein contained?

Yes, Sir, and the views expressed in the letter have been noted.

Counterfeit Coins

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information in connection with counterfeit silver coins, mostly florins, that have been in circulation in the Rainham and Horn church areas of Essex; and whether adequate warning has been given to shopkeepers and others about this matter?

My right hon. Friend is informed by the Chief Constable of Essex that from August last to the present date, the number of counterfeit silver coins passed to the police from the Rainham and Hornchurch areas was four: three florins and one half-crown. In the circumstances, the Chief Constable has not felt called on to give any special warning to shopkeepers and others in this matter.

Licensing Justices, Kensington

asked the Home Secretary whether he will state the number of justices sitting on the Kensington licensing bench, on the 7th February, 1939, when an inquiry into the permitted hours was held; the number of the said justices who reside within the area of the Kensington licensing division; and the average number of justices attending the seven ordinary licensing sessions during the preceding year?

The number of justices sitting on the Kensington licensing bench on the 7th February, 1939, was 36, of whom 29 reside within the area of the Kensington licensing division. The average number of justices attending the seven preceding licensing sessions was between 26 and 27.

Civil Aviation

Municipal Aerodromes (Flying Training)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will state the names of municipal aerodromes which have no regular flying training at present taking place?

At the following municipal aerodromes no regular flying training is at present taking place:

  • Inverness.
  • Manchester (Ringway).
  • Worcester.
Flying training is expected to begin shortly at Manchester (Ringway).

Flying-Boat "Cavalier" (Loss)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has been informed if the American authorities propose to hold a separate inquiry into the loss of the flying-boat "Cavalier"?

Aeroplane Manufacturers' Profits

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the large profits apparently made by manufacturers on the approved list, he has prepared a plan for the further limitation of these profits?

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement which I made in the House on Monday last.

Libel Law (German Refugee's Death)

asked the Attorney-General whether his attention has been called to the conduct of certain newspapers, on the occasion of the recent suicide of a German refugee named Helene Stolt, in circulating, without foundation of any kind, a story to the effect that Miss Stolt, had been employed in this country as a Nazi spy, thus causing distress to many people; and whether he will consider introducing amendments to the law so as to enable criminal proceedings for libel to be instituted in respect of such conduct notwithstanding the death of the person whose character is traduced by such departure from the standards of honourable journalism?

As is implied in the question, it is impossible under the law as it stands for relatives or friends of the deceased referred to in the question to take proceedings in respect of the allegations which the hon. and learned Gentleman states are without foundation. While sympathising with those who may be affected in cases of this kind there would be great difficulties in amending the law in the way suggested.

Royal Courts Of Justice (Shorthand Writers)

asked the Attorney-General for what reason, by whom and under what authority the Association of Official Shorthand Writers, Limited, have recently been granted the sole rights to take shorthand notes in witness actions in the Royal Courts of Justice?

The reasons for the arrangement which has been made with the Association of Official Shorthand Writers for the taking of an official shorthand note in certain cases in the Supreme Court are stated fully in the report of a committee presided over by Mr. Justice Atkinson (Cmd, 5395), which was presented to Parliament in March, 1937, to which I would refer the hon. Gentleman. The arrangement has been entered into on the instructions of the Lord Chancellor with the consent of the Treasury.

Transport

Road And Bridge Schemes, Wales

asked the Minister of Transport what number of road schemes and what number of new bridges have been submitted in 1937–38, and up to date in Wales; what number has been sanctioned and what number rejected; if accepted what number could be employed on such schemes during this year; and will he give names of the authorities where such schemes are submitted?

The question asked by the hon. Member will involve several weeks' detailed research. I will communicate with him when it has been possible to make the compilations asked for.

asked the Minister of Transport when he contemplates giving sanction to the Glamorgan County Council to proceed with the Neath River bridge scheme, to find employment for the increased number of unemployed in the Neath area?

I hope that in the near future it will be possible for me to make an Order under Section 1 (3) of the Trunk Roads Act in regard to the Neath by-pass. I am not able to say at present when the work of construction will be started.

asked the Minister of Transport what steps are being taken to complete the joint river bridge at Pontardulais between Glamorgan and Car marthen County Councils; what is the cause of the delay; and will he say when the scheme is likely to be completed?

The negotiations for the acquisition by agreement of the land required for the construction and widening of the approach road on the Carmarthen side have been protracted by reason of interference with shop property, and have proved abortive in a few cases. I propose to make a compulsory purchase order and hope to be in possession of the land by June next. I expect that the agreement with the railway company for the widening of the level crossing on the Glamorgan side will shortly be completed. If possession of the land is secured in June the works will be started as soon as possible thereafter and completed within a few months.

Five Years' Road Programme

asked the Minister of Transport what is the estimated cost of the road improvement and construction schemes already approved for grant purposes; and what will be the Road Fund contribution to them?

I assume that the hon. Member refers to the five years' improvement programme. The estimated cost of schemes approved to 31st January, 1939, under that programme is £104 millions. The Road Fund contribution is estimated at £61 millions.

Royal Navy

Mediterranean (Anglo-Italian Agreement)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if, following the entry into force of the Anglo-Italian Agreement any plans for increasing the British naval forces in the Mediterranean, or any projected new defence works at Malta, Port Said, and in the Red Sea have been suspended?

No increase in the British naval forces in the Mediterranean was in contemplation prior to the Anglo-Italian Agreement and none has, therefore, been abandoned subsequent to it. No projected new defence works for which the Admiralty is responsible at Malta, Port Said, or in the Red Sea have been suspended following the agreement.

Officers Qualifying As Specialists

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will state the numbers of executive officers who qualified as gunnery, torpedo, navigation, signal, anti-submarine, physical and recreational training, pilot, and ob

Numbers of R. N. Officers qualifying as Specialists.
Specialist Qualification.Number qualified in 1938.Number at present undergoing courses.
TotalNumber ex lower deck.TotalNumber ex lower deck.
Gunnery222192
Torpedo12152
Navigation14
Signals78
Anti-Submarine918
Physical and Recreational Training2
Pilot { Fleet Air Arm. } 2917
Observer231211
Total1184885

Commissions (Seamen Ratings)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will state the number of seamen ratings who have been recommended on the special recommendation form for commissioned rank, in the harbour training establishments or at sea, who are now eligible to appear before the Fleet Selection Boards; and the numbers of Royal Naval Reserve officers it is intended to enter from the Mercantile Marine this year?

Apart from the 42 ratings now undergoing special instruction after being recommended by Fleet Boards, 179 seaman ratings have been specially reported on as possible candidates for commissioned rank. It has not been possible in the time available to ascertain whether all of these will be eligible, if recommended by their Commanding Officer, to appear before the Fleet Selection Boards this year. The hon. Member will, however, appreciate that in some cases very young ratings who have passed the Educational Test Grade II and are regarded as possible future candidates for promotion, may, nevertheless, be regarded by their Commanding Officers as insufficiently experienced for recommendation this year.I am not yet in a position to announce the numbers which may be entered in the server specialists, respectively, in 1938; the numbers now undergoing training, with the totals; and in each case the number of officers promoted from the lower deck?

Following is the information: coming year from the R.N.R., but details of a new scheme which includes transfer of officers from the Mercantile Marine, employment of R.N.V.R. officers in the Fleet for a period, and the special promotion of Warrant Officers to Lieutenant will, I hope, be issued next week.

1938 Shipbuilding Programme

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he can announce the placing of any contracts in the 1939 programme?

I presume my hon. Friend intended to refer to the 1938 programme. It has now been decided to place the orders for each of the four "Fiji" class cruisers of the 1938 programme with the following firms:

  • Messrs. Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson (Wallsend-on-Tyne). (Machinery by the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company, Limited.)
  • Messrs. Vickers-Armstrong, Limited, Barrow-in-Furness.
  • Messrs. Vickers-Armstrong, Limited, Walker-on-Tyne. (Machinery by the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company, Limited.)
  • Messrs. A. Stephens & Sons, Limited, Govan.
The order for the submarine depot ship of the 1938 programme is being placed with Messrs. Harland & Wolff, Limited, Belfast.

Volunteer Reserve (Recruitment, Manchester)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what facilities exist at the present time in Manchester for the recruitment and training of men for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 20th February. There are no facilities of the kind in question at Manchester.

Special Entry Cadets

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will state the total number of special entry cadets entered from the public schools at the age of 17 to 18 since the inception of the scheme in 1913, in the executive and engineering branches and also in the Royal Marines; and the numbers in each branch which have reached commander's and captain's rank?

The numbers of officers entered through the special entry examination into the executive and engineer branches of the Royal Navy, and into the Royal Marines, since 1913, are 1,178, 436 and 511 respectively. In the executive 78 officers have been promoted to commander and of these nine have been promoted to captain; in addition two officers have been promoted to commander (A); 34 officers have been promoted to commander (E); 60 officers have been promoted to the rank of major, Royal Marines, and of these five have been promoted to lieut.-colonel.

His Majesty's Ship "Liverpool"

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he has any statement to make in regard to the fact that His Majesty's Ship "Liverpool" is in difficulties at Malta; what are these difficulties, and if they have been caused by ordinary engine trouble anticipated in new ships or are due to sabotage, and, in the latter case, to whom is the damage attributed; and what steps he proposes to take to bring the offenders to justice and get the ship to sea?

His Majesty's Ship "Liverpool" has been delayed by defects to the main engines. Full reports have not yet been received but there is no reason to anticipate that the defects are attributable to sabotage. The work of repair is due to complete to-day.

Unemployment

Training Schemes

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that in the United States there are civilian conservation corps camps for unemployed youths of from 17 to 23 years of age which are run by the army and whose members wear army uniform but do civilian development work, and that these camps are very popular and have a waiting list of applicants; and whether he will consider giving similar advantages to the younger unemployed of our own country?

I may remind my hon. and gallant Friend mat there is already a very successful training scheme in operation in this country for the unemployed, and the question of training in its relation to unemployment is under constant review by the Government.

Pontypridd Exchange

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he has yet accepted the tender of any firm of contractors for the proposed erection of a new Employment Exchange at Ponty-pridd; can the name of the contractor be given and when is it intended that work should commence?

No tender has yet been accepted for the new Employment Exchange at Pontypridd. Plans have had to be reviewed and I cannot state when work will commence, but there will be no avoidable delay.

Cost Of Living (Inquiry)

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can state the present position of the inquiry into the cost of living and family budgets; and whether the necessary information has now been collected?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave on 9th February to a question on this subject by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson).

Education (School Site, Aberystwyth)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether the Board has given its approval to the acquisition by the Cardiganshire County Council under compulsory powers, of the site of 4.206 acres for school purposes in Panglaise Road, Aberystwyth; whether the site has been acquired, and if so, what was the price paid; for what purpose the land had been used; and what was its rateable value previous to acquisition?

After considering the report of a Public Inquiry held in July, 1937, the Board confirmed an Order for Compulsory Purchase of the site in question. The Board have not yet been informed of the result of subsequent negotiations with the owner. I am, however, making further inquiries. I understand that the site has not been assessed for rating purposes, as it is agricultural land.

Colonial Marketing Board

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider the desirability of arranging during the current year for a colonial trade conference to discuss the most effective means by which the marking of Empire commodities could be extended and the markets for British manufactured goods developed in the Colonies?

There is close and continuous contact between my advisers and Colonial Governments on the one part and Colonial producers on the other. I do not think it necessary to summon a conference such as is suggested by my hon. Friend, especially as the work of the Colonial Marketing Board is steadily developing.

Palestine

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether His Majesty's Government will propose the establishment of an independent Jewish state in Palestine comprising the city of Tel-Aviv and the area of 15 miles around?

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in any proposals which His Majesty's Government may advance to provide for the future of Palestine, the principles and obligations of the mandate will be maintained?

I cannot add anything at present to the answers which I gave to a number of supplementary questions on 27th February.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many delegates are representing the Mufti section at the London Conference; and how many are representing the national defence or Nashashibi section of Palestine Arabs?

The National Defence Party has two representatives on the Palestinian Arab delegation; the remaining seven delegates include representatives of four other political parties in Palestine, including the Mufti's own party.

Virgin Islands

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has considered the petition from the British Virgin Islands Pro-Legislation Committee of America, and the British Virgin Islands Civic League, for the establishment of an elective government; and whether he will make a statement on the matter?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply—of which I am sending him a copy—given to similar questions by the hon. Members for West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones)on 27th of February.

Colonial Dependencies (Textile Quotas)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give a list of the amount of the textile quotas in the different Colonies; and whether these amounts are subject to annual adjustment?

I regret that the full list of textile quotas in the Colonial Dependencies is too long for publication in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but I will send my hon. Friend a copy for his informa tion. The reply to the latter part of the question is in the affirmative.

Colonial Veterinary Service

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in accordance with the recommendation of the Lovat Committee, an adviser in animal health will be appointed to the Colonial Office to assist colonial veterinary services?

An adviser on animal health was appointed in 1930. On his death in 1932 it was decided in view of the financial position and of other considerations not to appoint a successor. Since then the matter has been reviewed from time to time and has recently engaged my personal attention. I recognise that in some ways there would be advantage in the revival of the post, but I am not satisfied that the circumstances are such as would justify me in making an appointment at the present moment.I understand, however, that the National Veterinary Medical Association wish to send a deputation to discuss this question with me, and I shall be prepared to receive such a deputation at an early date.