House Of Commons
Wednesday, 1st March, 1939.
The House met at a Quarter before Three of the Clock, MR. SPEAKER in the Chair.
Experiments On Living Animals
I have pleasure in presenting a petition to this House signed by 212,539 subjects to protest against the continued practice of experimenting on Jiving animals in the interests of vivisection.
Oral Answers To Questions
Libya (Italian Forces)
asked the Prime Minister particulars according to his latest information of the present numerical strength of the Italian forces in Libya?
I would refer the hon. Member to my speech on the Motion for the Adjournment on 27th February, to which I have nothing to add.
Have these forces now been reduced in accordance with the Anglo-Italian Agreement?
I have answered several questions on that subject and have made a speech on the Adjournment, to which I would refer the hon. Gentleman.
Great Britain, France And Russia
asked the Prime Minister the precise terms of the official communication issued by the Foreign Office on 26th September, 1938, with reference to co-operation between Great Britain, France, and Russia, against German aggression?
I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate the text of this statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to read it out?
I do not want to waste the time of the House.
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say why no steps were taken to make such co-operation with Russia effective, in view of the willingness of the Government at the last moment to act with her?
I am afraid I cannot make a statement on general policy in answer to a question.
Following is the statement:
It is stated in official quarters that during the last week Mr. Chamberlain has tried with the German Chancellor to find the way of settling peacefully the Czecho-Slovak question. It is still possible to do so by negotiation. The German claim to the transfer of the Sudeten areas has already been conceded by the French, British and Czecho-Slovak Governments. But, if in spite of all efforts made by the British Prime Minister, a German attack is made upon Czecho-Slovakia, the immediate result must be that France will be found to come to her assistance, and Great Britain and Russia will certainly stand by France. It is still not too late to stop this great tragedy and for the peoples of all nations to insist on settlement by free negotiation.
Permanent Court Of International Justice
asked the Prime Minister how many cases have been sent to the Permanent Court of International Justice for settlement from the various countries since 1931?
According to the last annual report of the Court, since 1st January, 1931, four cases have been submitted to the Permanent Court by special agreement; 16 cases have been submitted by unilateral application. In addition the Court has, during the same period, received from the Council of the League of Nations nine requests for an advisory opinion.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think it is too late for the representatives of the Spanish Govern ment to apply to this Court of Justice for the settlement of their case?
I should certainly need legal advice before answering that question.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say how these cases were disposed of?
If I were given notice I would certainly investigate them.
Has there been any case in which the decision of the tribunal was not accepted by both parties?
I am afraid I do not carry all the findings of the Court in my mind.
asked the Prime Minister whether the British Government have incurred any financial liability in respect of the repatriation from Spain of British nationals who have been serving in the International Brigade of the Republican Government in Spain?
His Majesty's Government undertook to pay for the repatriation of volunteers of United Kingdom nationality from the Franco-Spanish frontier to their final destination on substantially the same conditions as apply in the normal course to the repatriation of distressed British subjects.
Does the same principle apply to the repatriation of officers and men of the Mercantile Marine who may be stranded in foreign ports?
It depends, I think, on the circumstances.
Have not these men a far better call on the public purse than men who contravened the Government's policy of non-intervention in Spain?
Is it not a fact that men of the Mercantile Marine who are stranded are always repatriated at the Government's expense?
I believe that is so.
asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government, following their recognition of the Spanish insurgent authorities, contemplate granting any form of financial assistance, whether by way of loan or credits, to the Franco Government?
There is no such proposal at present.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great opposition in this country to any form of financial assistance while foreign troops remain in Spain?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of any financial assistance having already been provided to General Franco?
asked the Prime Minister whether the recognition of the Spanish insurgent authorities as the de jure Government of Spain will affect the right of the Spanish Republican Government to be represented at the meetings of the League of Nations?
The question is one on which only the League itself can take a decision.
asked the Prime Minister whether any assurance was sought from General Franco on the subject of his intended treatment of vanquished opponents, to the effect that he would not attempt to enforce the provisions of the State law, published at Burgos on 13th February, which foreshadow the punishment of all persons who had opposed the Nationalist movement, excepting children under 14 and totally disabled men?
I would refer the hon. Lady to the Prime Minister's speech in yesterday's Debate, in which he read to the House the terms of the announcement which was received from General Franco's Government early last week.
Have any efforts been made to get from General Franco what interpretation he puts on the words "criminal charges" which were used in the Prime Minister's statement, and whether he attaches to this phrase the ordinary interpretation which we should attach to it, or whether he applies it to the long list of political activities outlined in his law of 13th February?
In view of this question, I asked to see the law of 13th February, which contains 98 articles. It has just been received at the Foreign Office and is being examined. At first sight the hon. Lady seems to be under a misapprehension as to the scope and purpose of the article in question, but I will give the matter further examination.
Is not the question of criminality a matter for the Spanish interpretation of their criminal law?
asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the communication from the Engineering Shop Stewards Committee asking him to receive a deputation from their members on the subject of allowing arms to be sent to the Spanish Republic; and what answer he has made?
I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir. The Prime Minister replied to the Committee informing them that he was unable to receive a deputation.
Is not the Patronage Secretary aware that this very important section of the community, which is vital for the defence of the country, is in complete opposition to the rotten policy of the Prime Minister?
Is it not quite impossible for the Prime Minister to receive deputations from every body that might wish to approach him on this matter?
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether His Majesty's Government are prepared to offer full rights of asylum to all those Spanish Republican leaders and their followers who are desirous of entering this country through inability to remain in Spain because of possible reprisals?
His Majesty's Government are always anxious to maintain the traditional policy of this country of offering asylum to foreigners who wish to take refuge here for political, racial or religious reasons. The number of persons who can be so admitted is necessarily limited, but if arrangements can be made for the maintenance here of a limited number of Spanish Republican leaders and their followers, applications for their admission will receive my right hon. Friend's sympathetic consideration.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether His Majesty's Government will get into touch with the Spanish Republican leaders with a view to giving effect to the offer which the hon. Member has just made?
I think that it is not my right hon. Friend's responsibility to take the initiative in this matter. I said that he is prepared to consider applications if they are made.
Will my hon. Friend be careful to see that they do not shout down the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison).
Will my hon. Friend see to it that asylum is not granted to subjects who have been guilty of criminal acts?
What are "criminal acts"?
China And Japan
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Japanese authorities at Tientsin have surrounded the British and French concessions with barricades and live wires; and whether he will take steps to ensure that full freedom of movement and actions shall be secured for the British residents of Tientsin and their employés?
Yes, Sir, and the matter is being taken up with the Japanese Government.
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that the Japanese-sponsored government in Nanking has announced a silent war against the International Settlement and French concessions of Shanghai and against British and French ships in the Far East; and whether he will inform the Japanese Government that His Majesty's Government do not recognise the so-called Nanking Reformed Government, and will hold the Japanese Government responsible for any hostile action from areas controlled by the Japanese against the International Settlement or against British ships in the Far East?
Yes, Sir. My Noble Friend has seen the Press reports on the subject, but he has not received any official confirmation. As regards the second part of the question, the Japanese Government can be in no doubt that His Majesty's Government do not recognise the Reformed Government at Nanking, and any further statement of our attitude appears to be unnecessary.
Will my right hon. Friend consider making the latter part of his reply known as widely as possible, in view of the fact that the facts in the question were broadcast by the B.B.C. on Sunday night?
I will see what can be done.
Is not the Government at Nanking very much in the same position as the Franco Government?
Italian Possessions, Africa
asked the Prime Minister the number of German troops recently despatched to the Italian possessions in Africa, together with war material and tropical uniforms?
My Noble Friend's reports do not indicate that any German troops or war material and tropical uniforms have recently been despatched to the Italian possessions in Africa.
Is it not a fact that, according to the Government case, there are no German troops or war material in Spain?
Berlin And Rome (French Visits)
asked the Prime Minister whether the British Government were informed of the objects of the visits recently paid by Messieurs de Brinon and Baudouin to Berlin and Rome on behalf of the French Government?
My Noble Friend has no reason to believe that either of these gentlemen was charged with any mission, official or otherwise, on behalf of the French Government.
Is it not well known that both these gentlemen went on behalf of the French Foreign Minister, M. Bonnet, and is it not really important that the British Government should be kept informed of any negotiations, official or unofficial, that have taken place?
I can only repeat my answer that my right hon. Friend has no reason to believe that these gentlemen were charged with an official mission.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was an unofficial mission, and has he no knowledge of it?
No, we have not heard of any unofficial mission either.
Royal Air Force
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that 500-lb. bombs are each painted by hand; that minor scratches cause the bombs to be condemned by Air Ministry examiners, who order repainting; whether these regulations apply to other types of bombs; and upon what grounds of efficiency or otherwise this meticulous system is justified?
:In order to prevent deterioration during prolonged storage and to avoid frequent examination, it is necessary to apply a strict control to various processes, including painting, in the initial manufacture and filling of all types of bomb. Contractors, however, are not restricted to hand painting; and minor scratches do not usually necessitate repainting but only touching up.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some large shell factories the management regard it as an order from the Ministry that the shells should be painted by hand, and that they would rather spray them?
Perhaps my hon. Friend will send me a case and I will have it investigated.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether civilian labour at Air Ministry establishments is recruited from Government training-camps for the unemployed; whether this practice has been followed at Yatesbury; and whether steps will be taken to inform all local commands of the Ministry's policy in this respect in the interests of the young unemployed?
Civilian labour required in Air Ministry establishments is normally recruited locally through the Ministry of Labour Employment Exchanges, preference being given to ex-service men. Some vacancies may also be filled by men with suitable qualifications from Government training establishments. As Yatesbury, however, will be mainly staffed with Royal Air Force personnel, it is not anticipated that there will be vacancies for this type of men at that station. I do not think that special instructions to Royal Air Force Commands are necessary, as the position is well understood.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Prime Minister recently made an appeal to the young unemployed to come forward to fill up the gaps in the training camps and that unless provision is made for workmen to be recruited from these camps, it is very difficult to get that appeal answered?
Can the Minister do something to prevent these contractors employing Irish labour? Is he aware that these Irish workmen not only prevent local workmen from obtaining employment, but that afterwards they go into agriculture and undercut the piece rates?
I answered some questions on that point last week, and I will send my hon. and gallant Friend the replies.
Will the Minister also consider that miners have been refused for the Army on the ground that they will be of great importance in the pits in war time?
asked the Secretary of State for Air what public money has been spent on the Yatesbury establishment; what further money is to be spent; and what are the intentions of the Ministry as to the future of this establishment?
The estimated expenditure to the end of the current financial year on land purchase and constructional work at Yatesbury is £295,000, and a further expenditure of approximately £85,000 will be necessary to complete the establishment. In order to avoid permanent interference with the Avebury preservation scheme, it is the intention to vacate and reinstate the site when accommodation is available elsewhere.
Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it is a great waste of public money to spend all this money on the Yatesbury camp, and to contemplate spending further sums, when it is the policy of the Ministry to abandon the camp in a very short time and to go elsewhere and to spend even larger sums?
No, Sir, I do not accept that statement. As I daresay my hon. Friend appreciates, this matter is very urgent and must be proceeded with.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that skilled engineers have recently been discharged by a large aircraft firm who are engaged on important Government contracts; that others are on notice; that production of a very successful machine is held up through a shortage of material; and what steps is it intended to take to remedy this state of affairs?
I am unable to identify the firm referred to, but if the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to give me further particulars I will look into the matter and communicate with him.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I hold in my hand a letter from the works committee of the Fairey Aviation Company, Stockport, in which they inform me that within the last three weeks 40 fitters have been paid off as a result of lack of raw material, and that more are to follow?
I shall be glad to have that letter if the hon. Member will give it to me.
Will the Secretary of State recommend to aircraft firms that they should apply Clause 12 of the national agreement, which states that when depression in trade takes place systematic short time should be worked rather than that men should be discharged?
I have no reason to think that there is any depression in the aircraft industry at this time.
Is the Minister aware that in the case of several firms near Manchester certain departments are working overtime, day and night, while other departments are standing idle waiting for material?
That may be so. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give me particulars of the cases.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can make a statement containing the main principles of the arrangements between the Air Ministry, shadow factories, and firms carrying out contracts; the methods of arriving at an agreed cost; the policy with regard to labour, research and development, and the principle of allowance or cost of same?
I regret that it would not be practicable within the limits of a parliamentary answer to deal with the various points raised in the hon. Member's question. Such matters could, no doubt, be raised in the course of the Debate on the Air Estimates.
In view of the allegations which have been made in this House and in leading articles in the Press, would it not be advisable for a statement to be made on the lines asked for in the question?
I gather that Mr. Speaker would not allow me to devote Question Time to that purpose.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will request all firms carrying out contracts and subcontracts for the Air Ministry that all piece-work prices should be fixed to enable men of average ability to earn at least 25 per cent., in accordance with the practice in the engineering industry?
General conditions of employment at contractors works are governed by the standard Fair Wages Clause contained in all contracts. It has not been the practice of my Department to intervene on questions which are normally settled by agreement between employers and the engineering unions.
In order to secure maximum production and to avoid friction in the factories, would it not be a good step for the Secretary of State to recommend that the national agreement should be applied in this respect?
I think I had better leave it, so far as I can, to the employers and the unions.
If we are able to put into the hands of the Minister data to prove the statements we are now making, will he look into the matter and use his influence with firms to persuade them to deal with the men in a more generous way than at present?
I think I must leave it to the employers and the unions.
Is it the case that the Minister cannot get any information, and has no information about the firms except such as is given to him from the Opposition benches? Cannot he get the information for himself?
No, Sir, I have made no statement that this is a question of getting information from certain firms.
Is the Minister prepared to do all he can to avoid stoppages?
I am always prepared to do that.
Technical Training Establishment, St Athan
asked the Secretary of State for Air the total cost, or near estimate, of the erection of the Royal Air Force station at St. Athan; and the maximum number of staff and trainees that can be accommodated?
The total estimated costs of erection of the Royal Air Force Technical Training Establishment at St. Athan is £780,000, including the cost of land. The maximum number of staff and trainees that can be accommodated is approximately 5,000.
In view of the large number of trainees, is the Minister satisfied that the recreational facilities are adequate?
The hon. Gentleman had better put that question down.
asked the Secretary of State for Air the total number of scheduled services by Imperial Airways, Limited, from this country to Singapore that have been completed on time, and the total number that have been late since 1st January, 1939?
Out of a total of 22 scheduled services due to arrive at Singapore from England between 1st January and 22nd February, 1939, 12 arrived late and 10 arrived punctually.
Will my hon. and gallant Friend compare those figures with similar figures for the Royal Dutch services?
What is the cause of these delays?
Four were due to engine trouble, six to bad weather, and two to missed connections with other aircraft which were carrying mails.
What causes the delays?
How is it that the Dutch services are much more effective than those of Imperial Airways?
I cannot accept that the Dutch services, taking things all round and taking all factors into consideration, are more efficient than Imperial Airways.
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that that is not the view of the passengers?
New York-Bermuda Service
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether all British aircraft on the New York-Bermuda service have to conform to the American standards of safety for prevention of ice in carburettors; and whether the "Cavalier" had always satisfied those conditions?
No, Sir. British aircraft on this service have to conform to British standards of safety for prevention of ice in carburettors. I am sending my hon. Friend the text of both the American and British requirements from which he will see that both countries require some provision for ice prevention. Neither country has, however, laid down the detailed technical methods by which the broad requirement must be satisfied.
Is my hon. and gallant Friend satisfied with the observance of the regulations in all cases?
No, Sir, I am not satisfied with the conditions regarding ice prevention in carburettors at the present time. The Bristol Aeroplane Company, Imperial Airways and the Royal Aircraft Establishment are collaborating in experiments for the better prevention of ice in carburettors.
Gliding Clubs (Air Defence Cadet Corps Training)
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether any arrangements have yet been made to enable some of the Air Defence Cadet Corps members to receive instructions at a gliding centre?
Yes, Sir. I am pleased to say that arrangements have been agreed in principle with the British Gliding Association, under which gliding clubs will make their resources available for giving gliding training to selected members of the Air Defence Cadet Corps. The training will take place in summer camps at gliding centres. The details of the arrangements are now being discussed between the British Gliding Association, the Air League of the British Empire and my Department, and I am hopeful that the scheme will be in operation during the coming summer.
Will my hon. and gallant Friend take account of the fact that these camps should be located in centres where they are easily accessible to cadets?
How many centres is it proposed that there shall be, and how many will be in Scotland?
Negotiations have still to be completed in this matter, and I should prefer to leave it over to the Debate on the Air Estimates, when my right hon. Friend or I will be glad to give any further particulars asked for.
asked the Secretary of State for Air by what methods statistics are selected for publication in the Monthly Weather Reports; and on what grounds certain stations are excluded?
Climatological data for all stations from which reliable daily observations are received are published in the Monthly Weather Report, except where two stations are so close together that publication of the data from both would be superfluous.
Would it not be advisable to publish the records of all stations, even though they may be almost adjacent?
For 1938 and previous years only a selection of the climatological data from the stations have been published in the monthly weather report, but as a result of a review, a decision was taken in November last year to publish data from all stations from which reliable daily observations are received.
How many of these stations are there in Scotland?
If the hon. Gentleman will put a question down, I shall be glad to inquire.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that in some southern, and eastern English holiday resorts sunshine records are manipulated; and what steps he is taking to ensure that all information published by the Meteorological Office is accurate?
Isolated instances of the manipulation of sunshine records have been discovered from time to time. Such manipulation is almost always easy to detect and when detected steps are promptly taken to withhold the daily values from the Press and from official publications and records. No data are published by the Meteorological Office without critical examination.
Is it not a fact that the summaries have been published without any queries in the Official Summaries published by the Meteorological Office and that entirely misleading information has been given to the public?
No, Sir, no data are published in the meteorological reports without having been previously examined.
Is it not a fact that although it has been examined, the original totals as assessed by the local observers are published without any communication from the Meteorological Office that those totals could also be challenged?
I do not think that those totals ought to be challenged after have been examined by the Meteorological Office. The instruments and methods of recording at the stations, as well as the results, are examined by officials of the Meteorological Office.
What are the names of these resorts? Are any of them in the Isle of Thanet? Can we have some of the names?
If the hon. Member will put down a question I will endeavour to give him an answer.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will incorporate in his proposals for the new Constitution of Malta some measure of effective local government in respect to local affairs?
The new Letters Patent deal only with questions affecting the Central Government of the Colony. Copies of the Letters Patent, which were proclaimed in Malta on 25th February, have been placed in the Library of the House.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very widespread dissatisfaction and disappointment with the Constitution, and will he not consider giving the Maltese some effective form of local government?
I do not think that that is a true description of the reception which the Constitution has received. In regard to local government, that is another question altogether.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give me an assurance as to how long it will be before some real measure of self-government is conceded to the Island?
Gibraltar (Spanish Refugees)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what representations he has received from the Governor of Gibraltar upon the problem of refugees from Spain, other than British subjects, in that Colony; and whether, as these refugees were responsible for the disturbances on 28th January, 1939, he will say what the policy of the Government is with regard to the repatriation of these refugees?
The Gibraltar Government's policy has been directed towards arranging for the repatriation of refugees in consultation with the Spanish Republican authorities, and a large number of refugees has been evacuated in the course of the past two years. In present circumstances, evacuation has practically ceased, but I am not in a position to make any statement regarding the position of the refugees still remaining in the Colony. I may add that my information does not bear out the suggestion in the second part of the question that the refugees were responsible for the disturbance in Gibraltar on 28th January.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any legal proceedings are being taken against a body of Jewish immigrants, landed on 7th February from the Greek steamship "Artemisi" on the Palestine coast north of Jaffa, and against the agents who conveyed these illegal immigrants inland after their landing?
The crew of the steamer in question, together with 17 passengers, have been arrested and are being prosecuted for offences against the provisions of the Customs and Immigration legislation before the Chief Magistrate at Tel Aviv to-day. It has not, so far, proved practicable to take any action against the local agents, but the feasibility of doing so is under review
Will the ships be, or have they been, confiscated, under any provision of the Palestinian law?
I should like to have notice of that question.
Will these illegal immigrants be deported?
As I say, action is being taken against those who have been arrested. Pending the decision before the magistrates I cannot make any statement.
Why harry these unfortunate people?
Will the number of these illegal immigrants be taken into account when the numbers of legal immigrants are next considered?
That matter will have to await consideration after the Palestine Conference.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman's own Department caused these people to be in an illegal position?
Public Works Department
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider the reinstatement of Mr. A. Shermeister who, after being employed in the Palestine Government's public works department for over 17 years on a monthly salary was, on 1st December last, informed that in future he would be considered for employment on a daily wage basis whenever there was sufficient work; what was the reason for this, as in 1922 he was given a contract, safeguarding his position, which has not been cancelled; and why his request for an interview with the director of the public works department has been refused?
I have no information concerning this case, but I will ask the High Commissioner for Palestine for a report.
If I put down a question in a fortnight's time, would the right hon. Gentleman be able to give me an answer?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be satisfied if I communicated with him and let him know when I have received the High Commissioner's report?
(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister when the White Paper containing the correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sheriff Hussein of Mecca in the year 1915 will be available for Members of the House.
I have been asked to reply. I am afraid that I cannot promise publication by any particular date, but I hope that it will be in the near future.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister promised this White Paper to the House a fortnight ago, and can he say whether these documents are being now circulated among Members of the Palestine Conference?
The answer to the last part of the question is in the affirmative. The delay is due to the fact that certain of the Arab representatives made suggestions for alterations in the translation. These alterations in the translation are being considered, and as soon as they have been agreed upon the official text will be produced.
Is it not most improper that these State documents should be circulated among the members of the Conference from other countries while the Members of the House of Commons are being kept completely in the dark on the matter?
I quite appreciate the hon. Member's point. When we decided to publish them, it was anticipated that it would be possible to publish them at once, but in the interests of accuracy we wished to get the most correct texts, and that is the reason for the delay. We do not wish to deprive hon. Members of the opportunity of seeing copies as soon as possible.
Is it more dangerous to circulate the inaccurate text among Members of the House of Commons than among members of the Conference?
The fact is that, after the first official circulation had been made members attending the Conference discovered certain inaccuracies in the translation, and, when these were discovered it was decided to present to the House of Commons an accurate version.
These documents being State documents which have been acted upon, and presumably acted upon on the text circulated to the Arabs, may I ask whether we ought not to have both texts circulated so as to know exactly what has been done?
May I ask a question in order that there shall be no misunderstanding? Is it not the fact that His Majesty's Government alone are responsible for the translation of documents in the possession of His Majesty's Government?
May I press now for the circulation to the House of the documents that were circulated to the Palestine Conference?
Is it not the fact——[Interruption.]
I want to put to you, Sir, the propriety of this matter from the point of view of the House. I ask you, Is it a proper thing that there should be documents circulated among other people which affect the status of this House and our duties without our having copies of them, accurate or inaccurate?
If copies are to be circulated to Members of this House, obviously the sooner they can be circulated accurately the better.
May I ask for an answer to my question, which affects the whole matter as to what is to be circulated? We now gather that there are two separate texts. The text which has been the accepted text is the one upon which, presumably, action has been taken throughout these years. It is now said that these texts were wrong and are to be altered. I want to know whether we can have both the texts, the one on which policy has been formed hitherto, and also the correct text?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman may appreciate the point better if it is understood that the original action was taken upon Arabic texts, and when the English translation of the Arabic texts was examined certain of the delegates found that it was inaccurate. It is in the interests of accuracy that this should be put right. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's previous question, I will certainly consider that with my right hon. Friend.
Do I understand that there has been no authorised translation of these Arabic texts into English?
The Arabic texts have been in our possession and we have made our own translation.
Is the right hon. Member trying to persuade the House that the Cabinet have taken action on Arabic texts? Surely the documents which we were promised are the documents which were before the Government and on which the Government have taken action? Those were the documents which the Prime Minister promised. Surely we should have these documents now, and if there are any errors in the translations they can be put right.
I have told the Leader of the Opposition that I will at once consider that point with the Prime Minister.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest opportunity.
West Africa (Cocoa)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the anxiety among West African cocoa farmers at the fact that the buyers' pool, though suspended, is not cancelled, and that the recommendations of the recent commission have not yet been implemented; and what steps he is taking to meet this anxiety?
I have received no representations of the nature referred to. Though the buyers' agreement is suspended, I understand that there is no intention that it should be resumed. As regards action on the recommendations of the commission, I am not yet in a position to add anything to my recent answers.
May I take it from that answer that the right hon. Gentleman now states definitely that the pool is not to be re-established?
That is my understanding of the position, although I, of course, am not responsible for any decision in this matter.
Could the right hon. Gentleman take steps to encourage the farmers in West Africa to believe that the pool will not be re-established?
I hope that my answer may be some reassurance for them.
Have not representations been made for several months on this matter, and have I not asked several questions about it and been told that the matter was receiving immediate attention? When could we put a question down that might result in some informative answer?
I have given an account of the progress that has been made up to date. We have already received interim reports from the Governors concerned, and in the Gold Coast a special local committee has been established to go into these recommendations more fully. We must await the final reports from the Governors concerned before we reach a decision on this matter, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that this very complicated and important matter is being considered on the spot as rapidly as may be.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that meanwhile an immense amount of harm is being done to the textile trade, and that the sooner we can get to the implementation of these recommendations the better for this country?
I fully appreciate the importance of this matter to the textile trade, and I have been glad to give answers recently to show that there is some improvement already in this respect. If there is anything further we can do to expedite the matter we shall be glad to do it.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the ceaseless Nazi propaganda which is being spread among the native population of Tanganyika, of the unsettling results of such propaganda, and of the insecurity felt by British settlers; and whether, since there is no intention of transferring this territory to German sovereignty, he will cause this propaganda to be suppressed?
The Government of Tanganyika has from time to time received reports to the effect that Nazi propaganda is being spread among the native population but these reports have not stood the test of examination. I have nothing to add to previous statements on the matter.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the phrase "ceaseless propaganda" is part of the actual instructions of the German General von Epp?
I can only say that we have looked into this matter very carefully and have found no evidence of this propaganda among the natives. If my hon. Friend has any information which he thinks we ought to have I shall be very glad to receive it.
Will my right hon. Friend consult representatives of the British settlers in Tanganyika?
I am certain that close touch is being kept with this matter.
Is it not a fact that the broadcasts from the German stations in these territories are propaganda all the time?
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that precisely the same technique is being followed in the schools as was followed in the Sudetenland and in Danzig?
Is not South-west Africa really being permeated with Nazi propaganda? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have evidence that I will gladly give him, from letters which I have received, showing that, in fact, preference is being given to this form of propaganda? If he would like to see these documents I would gladly let him do so.
What goes on in South-west Africa is a question for the Government of the Union of South Africa, and not for me.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to paragraph 122 of the Orde-Browne Report on labour in Northern Rhodesia; what steps are being taken to bring into cultivation the lands of the North Charter land Company; and whether, in view of the land shortage in the native reserves, additional land is. being added for native use?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. With regard to the second part. I am not at present in a position to make any statement. With regard to the last part of the question, the Government of Northern Rhodesia recently acquired from the British South Africa Company, partly on the basis of a free gift and partly at an agreed price, the surface rights over the whole of the Tanganyika Estate, comprising about 1,423,600 acres, and a large proportion of this area will become available for native occupation.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Orders in Council relating to the High lands of Kenya have now been issued and published?
Yes, Sir. Both Orders were laid before Parliament on 21st February.
Is the Minister satisfied that, as a result of these arrangements, justice will be done to both Africans and Indians by the prohibition of the purchase of land?
On a point of Order. The Orders in Council have a very direct reference to this supplementary question.
The hon. Member only asked whether the Orders had been published.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of considerable discontent in Kenya owing to the threatened segregation of Indians; whether the Government of India has made representations to him concerning this; and what steps are being taken to deal with the matter and the cause of the hartal announced to take place on Thursday?
I cannot accept the implication in the first part of the question that any change in the policy or practice of the Government of Kenya in regard to Indians is contemplated. As my predecessor informed the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) on 9th February last year, no change is being made in the administrative practice which has been followed for the last 30 years as regards the acquisition of land in the Highlands. His Majesty's Government have been in constant communication with the Government of India in this matter, and full consideration has been given to their views. As regards the last part of the question, the Governor will no doubt take all proper steps to deal with any developments in the local situation.
Is there not considerable discontent on this matter of discrimination and segregation, which is precisely the material that is so useful to Nazi propagandists?
There is often discontent with policies from various sections of the community. I would only point out that this policy has been pursued to the satisfaction of separate Governments for over 30 years in this country, including two Labour Governments.
Does it satisfy the natives who have been driven off their own lands for the benefit of the whites?
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement respecting the disturbance last week in British Guiana; how many were killed and wounded; and approximately the number of Natives and Indians working on the plantations?
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make in respect of the recent disturbances in British Guiana?
The Governor has reported that since the disturbances, of which particulars were given in my reply to a question by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) on 22nd February, there have been stoppages of work on several estates, but that work has been resumed except in one or two cases where it is hoped that work will be resumed this week. He adds that the position generally is much improved; and that there have been constant conferences between the Commissioner of Labour and the managements of various estates and with the trade union concerned. As a result, a working agreement as to procedure in settling disputes has been arrived at between the Sugar Producers' Association and the trade union. No casualties have been reported by the Governor in connection with the incidents last week. It is estimated that approximately 60,000 persons are employed in field labour on the sugar estates.
Has the right hon. Gentleman taken any further steps to meet the undoubted discontent that continually erupts in this part of the Empire?
I hope that the arrangements which have just been reached between the Sugar Producers' Association and the trade union will avoid trouble of this nature in the future, or at any rate reduce it to a minimum.
Will this have an adverse effect on the right hon. Gentleman's consideration of the reception of refugees in British Guiana, or not?
asked the Minister of Transport in how many instances since the Act was passed have the facilities provided by paragraph (b) of Sub-section (2) of Section 53 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, been used by highway authorities with the approval of his Department in connection with the freeing of toll-bridges; and whether, in view of the present restriction upon funds available for highway improvement, he will co-operate with highway authorities in arranging for the freeing of remaining toll-bridges by permitting them, under this paragraph, to recoup part of the cost involved by taking the tolls themselves for a limited period after purchase?
Since 1930, 19 toll bridges have been purchased with the assistance of grants from the Road Fund with a view to being freed from tolls. In no instance have the facilities provided under Section 53 (2) (b) of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, been used. I am prepared to consider on their merits any proposals which may be submitted to me by highway authorities in connection with the freeing of remaining toll bridges.
Motor Headlights (Dazzle)
asked the Minister of Transport whether he has considered and will state in what manner greater pub licity can be given to the regulations made on 30th April, 1936, for the purpose of restricting and controlling the dazzle caused by head-lamps used on motor-cars and moving vehicles?
I have had this matter under consideration recently, and I agree that drivers need to be reminded of their obligations. I hope shortly to issue a Press statement on the subject.
Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the remark of Mr. Justice Charles at the Kingston Assizes this week, in which he said that while motoring along the Guildford Road he had been almost blinded by these dazzling headlights?
Yes, Sir; I have said that drivers need to be reminded of their obligations.
Road Hauliers ("A" Licence Applications)
asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that the London and North Eastern Rail way Company have briefed counsel to oppose the applications to be heard on 28th February for public A-carriers' licenses of important and long-established road haulage contractors engaged in transporting fish from North Shields; and whether, as the action of the railway company appears to conflict with the assurances given by them that they had no desire to interfere with other forms of transport, he proposes to take action in this matter?
I have no power to take action on the lines suggested by the hon. Member.
Does not the Minister agree that the apathy he is showing is a distinct encouragement to the railways to attack other legitimate forms of transport?
I do not think that my saying that I have no power to do something is a sign of apathy.
Would it not be posible for the Minister to consider some alteration of the law which gives people power to put their competitors out of business?
As the hon. Member is no doubt aware, attempts are being made to reach agreement between the rail and road interests on a number of points, of which this is one. I understand that some agreement has actually been reached, and that it has been submitted to the Transport Advisory Council for their views, and I sincerely hope that some modus vivendi may be arrived at.
Does not the Minister agree that action of this kind by the railway companies makes agreement very difficult?
Merchandise Traffic (Railway Charges)
52 and 53.
asked the Minister of Transport (1) whether he has now considered the memorandum handed to him on 3rd December, 1938, by the railway companies relating to railway charges for merchandise traffic; and, in view of the extreme urgency of the matter, whether he can now state whether the broad proposals which they have put forward are generally approved by him;(2) whether, in view of the serious decline in railway receipts, and with a view to assisting this industry to maintain its efficiency in peace time, and in view of the wider responsibilities which would inevitably be laid upon it in the event of war, he will consider the immediate repeal of the existing statutory regulation of the charges for the conveyance of merchandise traffic by railway, together with the requirements attached thereto, including classification, publication, and undue preference, so that equality of conditions between all the various forms of transport should prevail?
I have referred the railway companies' proposals to the Transport Advisory Council, and am awaiting their report, which I hope to receive shortly.
Roads And Bridges (Expenditure)
54 and 55.
asked the Minister of Transport (1) what was the expenditure on the maintenance, improvement and construction of roads and bridges for the year 1937–38; and how much of this was provided by the Road Fund and the local authorities, respectively;(2) what proportion of the expenditure on the maintenance, improvement and construction of roads and bridges for the year 1937–38 was in respect of new construction?
The total expenditure in 1937–38 for highway purposes, including trunk roads but excluding expenditure recoverable from public utility undertakers, etc., is estimated to amount to approximately £59,000,000, of which about £40,000,000 was provided by local highway authorities and £19,000,000 by
|Year ended 31st March.||Grants made.||Loan Charge Grants.|
|1st April 1938, to 31st January, 1939||…||209,108||114,981||925||—|
Illuminated Advertisement Signs
asked the Minister of Transport whether he will seek powers at an early opportunity to control the erection of illuminated advertisements on motor roads?
No, Sir. Legislation on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend would involve formidable difficulties, and I am not satisfied that it would be warranted in present circumstances. In this connection, I would refer to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend on this subject on 12th December, 1938.
Is the Minister aware of the extent to which this form of advertisement, and others, on the roads, is increasing and rapidly becoming a vested interest; and will he call for a report on the conditions existing on, in particular, the London-Maidstone Road? the Road Fund. The expenditure on new construction amounted to some £4,500,000.
Can the Minister say how many men are employed on this work?
asked the Minister of Transport the total amount of grants sanctioned for roads and bridge works in Glamorgan and Monmouth, respectively, for the past five years to dale; and what is the Ministry's annual loan charge contribution paid separately to these two authorities over the same period?
As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the Official Report.
Following is the answer: