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Commons Chamber

Volume 345: debated on Wednesday 15 March 1939

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 15th March, 1939.

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

Private Business

Exeter Extension Bill,

Read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Foreign Legions

1.

asked the Prime Minister in what countries foreign legions exist at the present time, in which citizens of states other than the home state are permitted to enlist?

France has such a foreign legion. The Spanish Foreign Legion, so far as I am aware, is composed almost entirely of Spanish nationals.

Diplomatic Visas

2.

asked the Prime Minister particulars of the number of diplomatic visas that have been granted by the Foreign Office to members of foreign embassies and/or legations in London for the 12 months ended to the last convenient date?

Four hundred and six diplomatic visas were granted in London between 1st March, 1938, and 28th February, 1939.

China And Japan

3.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can give any information in connection with the Japanese bombing of a British hospital at Sian, which was marked with Union Jacks on the roof, and in which a Chinese nurse was killed?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. Windsor) on Monday last, to which I have nothing to add.

Czecho-Slovakia

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. COCKS:

4. To ask the Prime Minister what is the present position concerning the promise of His Majesty's Government to guarantee, with other nations, the frontiers of Czecho-Slovakia; and when is this promise to be implemented?

In the circumstances, I think it would be kinder and more dignified not to ask this question.

6.

asked the Prime Minister whether the neutrality of Czecho-Slovakia, required by Signor Mussolini as a prior condition to the international guarantee of the frontiers of Czecho-Slovakia, has now been established; and whether he is now in a position to make a statement on such guarantee?

7.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement on the present situation in Czecho-slovakia, in view of the moral guarantee of His Majesty's Government to protect the frontiers of Czecho-Slovakia?

10.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a further statement on the situation arising in Czecho-Slovakia out of action taken by Slovak separatists; whether any British guarantee to Czecho-Slovakia is involved; and whether any representations are being made to the German Government?

I would ask the hon. Members to be good enough to await the statement on business which the Prime Minister will make at the end of Questions.

World Peace

5.

asked the Prime Minister what steps he has taken in the preliminary preparation for a world conference on the limitation of armaments and on the economic question; and with what success?

I would refer the hon. Member to the Prime Minister's reply to questions on this subject on 27th February, to which I have nothing to add.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any approaches have been made to the United States Government?

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department represents the policy of the Government, when on 10th March he put forward the proposal that there should be a five-year plan for world pacification, involving collaboration between Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Italy, with the blessing of the United States of America?

My right hon. Friend was emphasising the obligation of the leading statesmen of Europe, each in his own way, to further the cause of peace. This is an objective, not only of His Majesty's Government, but also, I think, of every hon. Member of this House.

Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer be good enough to say whether this welcome advance remains the policy of the Government, in spite of the events of the last few days?

Germany

British Subjects (Treatment)

9.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the action of the German authorities in detaining the acting president of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain at Aachen and compelling him to strip; and whether he will make a protest against this action and thus prevent similar treatment to other persons passing through Germany?

My Noble Friend has seen accounts which have appeared in the Press, and if the hon. Member will furnish me with details, my Noble Friend will consider whether any action can be taken in the matter.

Am I to understand from that reply that no promise at all has been made by the Government?

We have had no official report on the matter and that is why I ask the hon. Member to let me have any information in his possession, when we will examine it.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman must have seen the Press re ports upon this matter during the week end?

I said in my original answer that my Noble Friend has seen accounts in the Press, and I have seen them my self, but I should like to have any further information which the hon. Member can give.

Did we wait for official communications before the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor made protests to the Russian Government about the arrest of the engineers?

What form should the additional information take? Will it be a statement by Mr. Lawther himself?

12.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the recent holding up at the point of a revolver of two British subjects by agents of the German Gestapo near Saarbrucken, a few miles from the German frontier, and their detention for six hours; and what action His Majesty's Government propose to take to protect British tourists travelling in Germany from such interference?

Yes, Sir, and His Majesty's Consul-General at Frankfort has been re quested to furnish a report on the incident.

Air Force

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has any information as to the present strength of the German Air Force, and the rate of production per month of aeroplanes in Germany; and whether he will make a statement on the matter?

No official information is published by the German Government, and I am unable to make a statement on the matter.

Is not the German Air Force likely to be greatly increased by the addition of the Czecho-Slovakian Air Force?

Canary Islands And Bissago Archipelago

52.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he has any information regarding the establishment of a German submarine base in the Canary Islands and of a coal and oil depot in the Bissago Archipelago off the coast of Portuguese Guinea?

I have no in formation which bears out the suggestion that a German submarine base has been established in the Canary Islands. A German company has been operating in the Bissagos Archipelago for some years, and, as this firm is connected with the palm oil industry, their installation naturally includes oil reservoirs.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider sending one of His Majesty's vessels on a voyage of discovery to the Canary Islands?

Is it not well known to the Admiralty that for the last two years, not only at the Canary Islands but at Cadiz, German submarines have been constantly there, and are particularly familiar with what may be necessary to set up bases?

Spain

11.

asked the Prime Minister the circumstances under which the British ship "Stangate" was captured by Spanish warships; what action has been taken; and what orders have been issued to our naval authorities regarding the declaration of an illegal blockade of the Spanish coast?

The steamship "Stangate" was arrested by a Spanish warship on the evening of 10th March at a position on the high seas of Gandia, and was ordered to proceed to Palma. On learning of the arrest of this ship from the steamship "Leilwyn" (the "Stangate" having no wireless), the British naval authorities ordered His Majesty's Ship "Intrepid" to intercept her and secure her release; this was successfully effected within a short time. His Majesty's ships have been instructed that their present orders remain unchanged by the Spanish Government's announcement of measures to prevent access to that part of the coast in possession of their adversaries.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in reference to the political conditions in Spain public opinion is perturbed by the apparent in ability of the Government to secure proper treatment for British ships which are un doubtedly proceeding on their lawful occasions?

I think that in this case the action of the British Navy has been very successful.

In view of the orders given to the Navy how does it come about that the "Stangrove" made a journey from Barcelona to Palma and that no attempt was made to rescue her when she was under an armed escort?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say who is the owner of this ship?

13.

:asked the Prime Minister whether he has now completed his inquiries regarding the law of political responsibilities promulgated by General Franco on 9th February, 1939, under which every Spanish citizen who did not belong to the insurgent movement, and all who belong to opposing parties, are liable to penalties ranging from 15 years' imprisonment to confiscation of property and loss of nationality; whether he is now satisfied that this law has been cancelled by General Franco's assurances to Britain in return for the recognition of General Franco; and whether he can now make a statement on the steps he proposes to ameliorate the suffering of the people who would be affected by the operation of this law?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Mr. Garro Jones) on 9th March, to which I have at present nothing to add.

Do I understand from that answer that the British Government are prepared to use their influence to prevent this wholesale persecution of large numbers of people in Spain?

I said on the last occasion that we are making further inquiries in regard to the matter, and until the' are completed I am not in a position to make any further statement.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when those inquiries are likely to be completed?

Civil Aviation

West Indies Service

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what progress has been made with the survey of the route for an air service connecting up the various West Indian islands; whether any other countries have plans for the provision of such a service; and whether he can make any statement as to when he anticipates it will be possible to provide such a British service?

The possibilities of establishing an inter-island service in the West Indies have recently been investigated by an officer of my Department, and will be considered as soon as that officer's report is available. Pending this consideration it would be premature to give any date for the commencement of any projected service. Communication between some of the islands is at present provided along certain main trunk routes passing the West Indies, but I am not aware of plans by other countries for the provision of an inter-island service.

Is it not the case that the Governors of the West Indian islands have been pressing for the establishment of a West Indian air service since 1926 and that all that happened was that in 1935 K.L.M. and Pan-American Airways were asked to establish services?

K.L.M. and Pan-American Airways have not been asked to establish inter-island services, and the latest views of the Governors on the subject will be available when we receive the report on the subject, which I hope will be very shortly.

Is it not a fact that the air ports in the West Indian Colonies are all rented to the Pan-American Airways?

London-Singapore Service

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Air the time allowances, allowing for the adjustments in standard time, for the journey from London to Singapore, and from Singapore to London, made by Imperial Airways, Limited; and the corresponding times for the same ser vice made by the K.L.M. service?

The present time-tables give the following transit times: Imperial Airways, Limited, London to Singapore, 6 days 4 hours, and Singapore to London, 6 days 10 hours 44 minutes. The corresponding figures for the K.L.M. service are 5 days 17 hours 15 minutes, and 5 days 13 hours 5 mintues.

Are any modern aircraft being constructed for Imperial Airways by which it is hoped to reduce that time?

It is intended to speed up progressively the time-table of the Empire Service by an extension of night flying and also, in due course, by the construction of aircraft, prototype production orders for which have already been placed.

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman answer my question whether any aircraft are being constructed?

There are 14 of a new type of civil aircraft being constructed now by Messrs. Fairey's, and they will probably, when completed in 1941 or 1942, be used on this and other routes.

Royal Air Force

Aerodrome, Scottow, Norfolk

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what establishment it is proposed to maintain at the aerodrome now in the process of erection at Scottow, Norfolk; what is the total estimate for the whole scheme; and what opportunities have been given to local firms to tender?

The Station now being prepared near Scottow, Norfolk, is in tended for use by flying units of the Royal Air Force. It would not be in the public interest to give particulars of these units. The total estimated cost of the scheme, including the purchase of land, is £776,000. For a scheme of this size, tenders can suitably be invited only from firms with considerable resources in labour and plant; one local firm which possesses such resources was invited to tender.

Agricultural Land, Acquisition

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Air how much agricultural land has been taken by his Ministry; what is the total amount paid for this land; and the amount paid in compensation?

Since the expansion of the Royal Air Force began the area of land acquired by the Air Ministry in the United Kingdom is approximately 40,000 acres and acquisition is proceeding or is in contemplation in respect of a further 40,000 acres. The cost of this land to the end of the present financial year is expected to amount to £2,000,000, of which £180,000 is estimated to have been paid to tenants by way of compensation. About 80 per cent, of the area acquired was agricultural land but I cannot readily state how much was actually under cultivation.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will be appalled by these figures?

Of course there are very vital reasons why we must proceed in the way I have suggested.

Can the Minister say how many of the Government supporters participated in the sale of the land?

Enlistments (British Subjects)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what regulations are in existence prohibiting the enlistment in the Royal Air Force of British subjects not born and bred in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland one of whose parents or grandparents is non-Aryan?

The regulations for enlistment into the Royal Air Force provide that an applicant must be of pure European descent. He must be a British subject and the son of parents both of whom are (or, if deceased, were at the time of death) British subjects. Provided that these rules are satisfied, the place of birth is immaterial. The regulations contain no reference to Aryan or non-Aryan parentage or descent.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are in the British Colonies a very large number of persons who are fully British subjects but not of completely European descent, and that they would be a great source of strength to the armed forces of the Crown if we were able to make adequate use of them?

Training School, Brindley Heath, Staffordshire

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can state the total number of persons, civil and military, respectively, to be engaged on the staff of the Royal Air Force training school at Brindley Heath, Hednesford, Staffordshire; and the number of trainees to receive instruction, with the approximate period of training they will receive?

The instructional staff of the school will consist of some 560 officers and airmen and some 350 civilians. The course for flight mechanics and flight riggers will be one of 10 months, and the course for fitters, grade II, one of six months. I regret that it would not be in the public interest to give the total number of trainees who will receive instruction.

Flights, Built-Up Areas

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the increase in the number of deaths caused by aeroplanes falling upon dwelling-houses, he will consider the urgent necessity of enforcing a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet for flight over built-up areas; placing an absolute veto upon all flying whatsoever during foggy weather; and requiring a much longer period of training, and a much higher standard of competence from young Royal Air Force pilots, before they are allowed to fly in discriminately over crowded areas to the public danger?

I regret no less than the hon. Member the loss of life and damage to property caused by the accidents to which he refers and all possible steps are taken to prevent their occurrence. A minimum height of 2,000 feet is already in force except when circumstances make it impossible to fly at this altitude; and all pilots flying over towns are required to fly at such a height as will enable the aircraft to glide to open country in the event of engine failure. The regulations are rigidly enforced by disciplinary action in the Royal Air Force, and in the case of civil pilots action can be and is taken by the police. It would not be practicable or in the interests of the Royal Air Force to prohibit flying in poor visibility.

Is the Minister aware of the growing alarm of the public on this question, not only in the interests of the public but of the pilots themselves?

I should hardly say that. The hon. Gentleman will see from my answer that we are taking all the steps we can.

Is the Minister aware that a young pupil of civil aircraft made a mistake on his first solo flight last Saturday and crashed upon a house, and would my right hon. Friend further consider prohibiting all completely inexperienced pilots from flying in the vicinity of built-up areas?

Contracts

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what has been the greatest difference during the past 12 months between the target price in Government contracts and the actual finished price; and if in all cases, regardless of the difference, a percentage bonus was paid?

The first contracts placed under the target cost procedure are only now approaching completion, and final information as to cost results is consequently not yet available. The target cost procedure provides for a suitable sharing of all savings within the target cost and as the hon. Member will appreciate the bulk of these savings accrues to the State.

Has there not been a difference of 500 per cent, between the target price and the finished price and a percentage greater even than the profit of 6 per cent, allowed on the commodity?

That, obviously, must be incorrect, because my information is as stated in the answer.

Are there no particular cases of that type which the Minister can get? I have information of that kind. I would like to know also how many Members on the other side are profiting from this matter.

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Air the estimated cost of building work for the Abbotsinch con tract; how many Scottish firms were asked to quote; and whether the tender accepted was the lowest?

The estimated cost of the building work at Abbotsinch is £1,000,000. On grounds of urgency it was necessary to dispense with competitive tendering, and nine firms were considered for the work, including one Scottish firm. The order was not given to this firm, but it has been stipulated that the steel work required shall be placed out with Scottish firms nominated by my Department and that Scottish firms should also, as far as possible, be employed for the execution of any further work which it may be necessary to sub contract, and for the supply of materials.

Has not this contract been under consideration for more than six months? How, after such consideration, has the matter become an emergency in which certain firms are not allowed to tender?

We had, as I explained last night, to act quickly in this case. That is the reason

Can we have an explanation from the Minister why he has to act quickly in placing contracts after six months' consideration?

If a period of six months elapsed it would be all the more reason why we should act quickly.

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Air the number of Scottish building firms on the Air Ministry list as direct contractors and the number now engaged on Air Ministry work in Scot land and England, respectively?

The number of Scottish building firms on the Air Ministry list is 75. The numbers engaged on work in Scotland and England are 12 and 2 respectively.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of these Scottish firms are located in Greenock?

Balloon Barrage, Glasgow

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Air how much has been ex pended up to date on the establishment of the Glasgow balloon barrage system?

Arrangements have been made for the purchase of the sites, con tracts have been let for the works services and orders placed for balloons and equipment; but as yet no payments have fallen to be made.

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether any Scottish firm received the contract for any of the northern or Scottish balloon barrage systems?

Civil Air Guard (Liverpool)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what has been the extent of response to, and progress made, in the Civil Air Guard scheme in the Liver pool area, centred on the Speke airport?

One thousand two hundred and fifty-four applications have been received in respect of this locality, but I would point out that this number does not necessarily indicate the number of applicants who will eventually be found to be suitable for training. Of this total, 196 have been enrolled and 116 have commenced flying. The number of members with "A" licences is 67, 13 of which have been obtained since joining the Civil Air Guard.

Does the hon. and gallant Member consider that progress to be satisfactory?

Yes, Sir, the results compare favourably with those in other parts of the country, and I should like to say that the authorities in Liverpool have been co-operating in a splendid way.

Transport

Passenger Service, River Thames

34.

asked the Minister of Transport whether the London Passenger Transport Board propose to exercise their powers under Section 19 of the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933, which relates to the institution of a Thames passenger transport service?

:The London Passenger Transport Board inform me that they have no intention at the present time of exercising the powers referred to by my hon. Friend.

What is the cause of the inactivity for five years, in view of the fact that in 1934 an inquiry found that such a service was desirable and practicable?

I think that my hon. Friend rather misquotes the report of the committee. The committee were not satisfied that there was an essential need for a regular passenger service, and it did not appear to them that such a service would tend to relieve existing land transport facilities.

42.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in the exercise of his powers under Section 17 of the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919, he will recommend the advance to the London Passenger Transport Board, or to private persons, of the capital sum necessary for the institution of a Thames passenger transport service, such as was contemplated in Section 19 of the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933?

Whilst being in broad sympathy with the object which my hon. Friend apparently has in view, I feel I must point out the facts. The London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, in 1934, held a public inquiry into the question of the institution of a regular passenger service on the Thames. The committee came to the conclusion that there was at that time no strong popular demand for the provision of such a ser vice, and that it would be neither a relief to existing land transport facilities nor likely to be self-supporting. I see no reason to-day to dissent from these conclusions, and I am, therefore, not pre pared to recommend that money should be advanced out of public funds for this purpose.

Can the Minister of Trans port name any form of transport which is "likely to be self-supporting" at the present time?

Territorial Officers (Railway Facilities)

35.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will consult with the leading railway companies in order to induce them to grant to junior Territorial officers the same facilities as are given by other large commercial undertakings to enable them to attend annual training or courses of instruction without personal pecuniary loss?

I am in communication with the main line railway companies on this matter.

Would my right hon. Friend do his best to get better treatment for these Territorial officers, in view of the fact that the pay they get does not compensate them for their loss of salary?

I am well informed of the position, and I shall be seeing the general manager.

Merchandise Traffic (Railways)

36 and 37.

asked the Minister of Transport (1) whether he has yet received and considered the report of the Transport Advisory Council upon the appeal of the railway companies to be freed from legal requirements attached to the rates on merchandise traffic in view of the competition of coastwise shipping and road transport; and what action the Government propose to take regarding the appeal;

(2) whether he has any recent information regarding a proposed agreement between the railway companies, coast wise shipping interests, and road trans port interests aimed at an abandonment of competition between the interests mentioned in the matter of transport rates for the carriage of merchandise traffic; and whether any Parliamentary action will be taken for the protection of the public interests concerned?

I have not yet received the report of the Transport Advisory Council on this matter. I understand that agreements between the railway companies and certain other interests have been reported to the council and are being taken into consideration by them in framing their recommendations. My remit to the council specifically asks them for advice as to what, if any, safeguards may be desirable for the protection of other interests.

I hope that it will be in my hands very shortly, but I have not been given any particular date.

Pedestrian Crossings, Huyton

39.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will now give a date on which the five pedestrian crossings in Huyton on the Liverpool-Prescot road will be in working order?

I have recently approved a revised scheme providing for the establishment of the five crossings referred to by my hon. Friend. I understand that the Huyton-with-Roby Urban District Council have already put the necessary works in hand.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the actual date when they will be ready? At the moment they are half-begun and not finished, and no work is going on, but accidents are still occurring on that road.

In reply to that further inquiry I could not give an actual date, but it is my desire that work be proceeded with as rapidly as possible.

Road Haulage (Maximum Weights)

40.

asked the Minister of Transport what steps have been taken to give effect to the recommendations submitted to the Minister in May, 1938, by the Transport Advisory Council, designed to fix the maximum laden weight for each goods vehicle licensed for road haulage, and to prevent the danger of unsafe overloading?

I have circulated draft regulations embodying the recommendations of the Transport Advisory Council to organisations representing those whom the regulations will affect, and, as soon as certain points of drafting have been settled, I intend to circulate a further draft.

Road Construction (Amenities)

41.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in the sanctioning, planning, or reconstructing of highways, he accepts as a primary necessity the preservation of places and buildings of aesthetic and antiquarian value; whether he is aware that some of these have been unnecessarily endangered, injured, or destroyed; and whether he will make a statement respecting the disputes over Old Oxted and the Devil's Punch Bowl?

Every care is taken to safeguard existing amenities and to preserve buildings of antiquarian value. I am not aware of the circumstances mentioned in the second part of the question, nor of any dispute on aesthetic and antiquarian grounds at Old Oxted. My officers are at present negotiating with the National Trust in connection with land required at the Devil's Punch Bowl for the widening of a section of the London-Portsmouth trunk road.

Is not the Minister aware of the statements in the Press to the effect that there is a great deal of unnecessary demolition of property of historic interest; and will he look into the matter, so that the best of our historic places may be preserved?

:I am not aware that that is the case, but the answer I have given shows that the very considerations that he mentions are borne in mind in determining the line of the road.

Piers And Landing Stages, River Thames

43.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the deficiency in piers and landing stages in the Port of London; that there is one pier only between Lambeth and Kew, a distance of more than 11 miles; none between Westminster and the Tower and none between Woolwich and Gravesend, a distance of 17 miles; whether he is aware that by this deficiency the emergency transport services of the port are likely to be much hampered, especially at low states of the tide; and will he call the various authorities concerned into consultation about it?

No, Sir. I am not aware that there is any deficiency of piers and landing stages in the Port of London, or that the emergency transport services of the port are likely to be hampered by lack of further piers and landing stages.

Is the Minister aware that there is a greater demand for piers in the Highlands than in this wealthy Port of London?

United States Navy (Visit, Edinburgh)

44.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty at what date or dates ships of the United States Navy are to visit the Fifth of Forth this year; and if they will be anchored off Queensferry, as usual, and made available for being visited by the public?

Notice has been received that the United States ships "New York," "Taxas" and "Arkansas" intend to visit Edinburgh from the 17th-26th July, 1939. Arrangements for their anchorage will be made by the Senior Officer of the Squadron direct with the local authorities shortly before the ships are due to arrive. Whether the ships will be open to visitors is a matter for the Senior Officer to decide.

Will the Admiralty in giving advice regarding the placing of the ships, keep in mind the importance of having them placed at the usual anchor ages, because they bring very great benefit to the locality?

Will facilities be given to the United States Navy men to join the local Labour party?

Unemployment

Trainees

45.

:asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the young unemployed hold back from Government training and instructional centres because of the lack of reasonable assurance of after employment; and whether instructions will be given to all Departments employing civilian labour direct, or through contractors, that precedence should be given to suitable trainees rather than to those already in work?

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour made it clear, in the course of the Debate of Monday last, that he fully sympathises with the object which my hon. Friend has in mind, and that he already has under review such steps as can be taken to achieve it.

Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer think that those steps will meet a situation such as that which now faces us?

Schemes (Usk, Monmouthshire)

92 and 93.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether employment on the Government scheme at Usk, Monmouthshire, is confined to unemployed men resident in any particular area;

(2) whether he is aware that unemployed men in the Abertillery district have been refused employment on the Government schemes now in progress at Usk, Monmouthshire, and that others have been unable to obtain their green cards from the Employment Exchange after receiving a promise of employment on these schemes; and whether, in view of no factories having been established in the Abertillery area, he will take steps to guarantee a share of the work undertaken by the Government at Usk for the unemployed resident in the district of Abertillery?

Up to the present the engagement of un skilled labour for these schemes has been confined to men registered at local offices of this Ministry within 10 miles of the site. As the demand increases an ex tension of this area may be necessary, and if so, the Abertillery office will be included. I understand that a number of men from Abertillery applied personally on the site, but in accordance with the arrangements I have mentioned they could not be engaged.

Is the hon. Member aware that the percentage of unemployment in Abertillery is considerably higher than in any one of the Exchange areas from which men are engaged upon these work schemes?

Without accepting that statement, I am aware that the present procedure, which is necessary if we are to place people from the Exchanges—I think the hon. Member agrees as to the desirability of that—is bound to lead to certain disappointment in some areas.

Defence

Flax (Inquiry)

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the Inter-departmental Committee on the Supply of Flax has completed its investigations into the possibilities of securing an increased growth of this material within the United Kingdom?

Yes, Sir. The Inter-departmental Committee on the Supply of Flax has completed its investigation and report. Certain action has already been taken, but the matter is still under consideration by the Departments concerned.

Food Storage

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the stores of food which are now being accumulated are designed to meet the danger that, as in the last War, our imports are likely to be seriously reduced in the course of a long war, or whether they have been planned merely to meet the difficulties resulting from dislocation in the early period of a war?

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement which I made during the Debate on 27th February.

Do I understand that the Government are doing nothing whatever with regard to the serious danger, not of a stoppage, but of a very great reduction of our imports in the event of a long conflict?

In the statement to which I have referred the hon. Member, the question was fully discussed. This matter would appear to be one of opinion.

Royal Navy

Dockyard Workers (Retiring Age)

49.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will consider raising the age at which service in dockyards is at present terminated in normal cases to 65 years, so that the men concerned may not have five years to wait after the end of their service before they qualify for old age pensions?

Although the normal age for retirement of Dockyard workmen is laid down as 60, the regulations pro vide that workmen may be retained up to 65 years of age in cases in which they can be recommended as deserving of retention and are found by medical examination to be physically fit to per form the duties required of them. I am unable to agree to the general raising of the retiring age to 65.

In view of the concern that has been expressed by the Minister of Labour with regard to this problem of older men being thrown out of employment, and of the fact that many of these men are quite capable of carrying on, will not the hon. Gentleman reconsider the whole question? Does he not understand the tragedy of these men being thrown out at 60 when they have to wait till they axe 65 before they get any pension?

The regulations provide that men may be allowed to carry on if they are fit to do so, but it is a good thing, I think, to fix an age to review a man's physical capabilities.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what proportion are retained after reaching the age of 60?

Fleet Reserve

51.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that men on re-enrolment in the Royal Fleet Reserve, often some years after taking their discharge, are called upon to pay for their uniform on their first appearance for drill, the cost being as much as £3; and whether this action, so prejudicial to voluntary service, can now be altered so that the cost shall not be borne by these men?

Men of the Royal Fleet Reserve receive a clothing allowance during their service in the Reserve, which is intended to cover the cost of maintaining the necessary uniform. I imagine my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind the men who have been invited to re-enrol for a further period after they have taken their discharge with gratuity. I am pleased to inform him that arrangements have now been made under which such men will be eligible for an additional gratuity of £15 on completion of their further enrolment, £5 of which may be drawn as an advance on re-enrolment in order to enable the man who has disposed of his kit to purchase the necessary uniform. This arrangement will apply only to those who have already taken their discharge from the Reserve, or will have done so before one month after the date or the orders promulgating the scheme.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the re payments will be retrospective; and will he convey to the proper quarter the lack of vision that is displayed in placing such handicaps on a voluntary system?

53.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether sea-going kit is provided for old seamen on being called on for further service; and whether it is the intention of the Government that they receive a retaining fee as from the date of their enrolment in the Reserve, and, if so, the amount thereof?

As regards the first part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) on 22nd February. Men who join the Royal Fleet Reserve are paid a retainer from the date of their enrolment. This retainer is 6d. a day for Class B of the Reserve, and is. a day for Class D.

Estimates

54.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will give the analysis of the numbers provided in Vote A for the Royal Navy under the several classes of officers, men, and boys for this year and the previous year, which figures were given on page 12 of the Navy Estimates for 1938; the naval cadets at Dartmouth and boys under training for the two years, as given on page 11 last year; the numbers and wages for sea service and other services, as given on page 16 last year; and whether he will state why this important information has been omitted from the Estimates this year?

It has recently been decided that it is not in the public interest to publish these details. This is the reason for their omission from the Navy Estimates for 1939.

Great Britain And France (Co-Operation)

55.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to what extent it is proposed that facilities for the joint use by the fleets of Great Britain and France of British and French naval bases has been put into operation, or is being contemplated?

If this country and France find themselves allied in any future war, it is contemplated that our naval co-operation will be complete.

In the meantime, are steps being taken to make the naval bases mutually available, so that the necessary practice and information may be obtained?

I would refer the hon. Member to a reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 21st February last.

Can the hon. Member say at this stage whether there are not now active exchanges of information between the British and French naval staff?

If the right hon. Gentleman will look up that reply, he will see that conversations begun between the respective staffs are being continued.

Is it not against the public interest that such questions should be asked?

Gold Coast

56.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken to improve sanitation in the mining districts of the Gold Coast, and especially to create township boards, or other forms of local government, with representation of the native population?

Various measures are being taken to improve general sanitary conditions in the mining districts. Additional staff has been provided: satisfactory building control has been obtained, and new town and village lay outs have been provided and. are being built upon. Further legislation of a comprehensive character dealing with townships and public health is in contemplation, and pending its enactment it is proposed to constitute a township board at Tarkwa by a special ordinance. Similar action later is contemplated in respect of Bibiani.

If those measures of sanitation prove successful will the right hon. Gentleman submit them to the Minister of Health for adoption in Wales?

60.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has yet received any explanation from the Gold Coast authorities as to the statement in their latest medical report that 50 Africans in the colony died from starvation last year; and what steps are being taken to ensure that such things shall cease?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. These deaths apparently occurred among immigrant labourers coming from the north. Every year as many as 100,000 men, of whom some two-thirds come from French territory, travel from 400 to 500 miles to the southern parts of the Gold Coast, where they obtain work. I understand that these men often start their journey with scanty resources, and suffer great hardships on the way. The Labour Department which has recently been set up is losing no time in dealing with this important problem, and steps are being taken to establish a labour ex change in Kumasi, labour offices at four of the more important centres on the labour routes, as well as eight rest camps for the use of labourers travelling along the regular routes in the Northern Territories. I trust that these measures will prevent a repetition of the deplorable occurrences to which the medical report drew attention.

Palestine

London Discussions

59.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he now has a statement to make as to the Palestine Conference?

No, Sir. I am not yet in a position to add to my previous replies.

Service (Recruitment)

71.

:asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make regarding methods of recruitment for police or other service in Palestine?

Recruitment for the Palestine Service is proceeding in the normal way. I am glad to have this opportunity of refuting most emphatically a recent published statement to the effect that, when prisoners convicted of violence are released from prisons in the United Kingdom, efforts are made to recruit them for service in Palestine.

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the possibility of taking action against the author of this slander, which plays into the hands of those carrying on anti-British propaganda in Palestine?

Colonies (Social Services)

61.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is pre- pared to make improved provision in the Colonial Office for encouraging the development of the social services in the Colonial Empire?

Yes, Sir. Consider able attention is, of course, already paid to this subject by my Department, but the volume of work has increased to such an extent that it has outgrown the arrangements at present made for dealing with it. It has accordingly been decided to set up, as from the beginning of next month, a separate Social Services Department in the Colonial Office in the charge of an assistant secretary. It will be the duty of this Department, working in close co-operation with my medical, educational, labour and other advisers, to assist me in dealing with all matters affecting public health, nutrition, education, labour, prisons, housing and the like in the Colonial Empire.

In view of that welcome reply, will the right hon. Gentleman be able to give information from time to time as to the development of this Department and the progress it is making?

Perhaps the hon. Member will put questions down from time to time from the beginning of next month.

Is it not a fact that the Governor of Jamaica announced an extension of social services only yesterday?

Sierra Leone

62.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has considered the protests from Sierra Leone from workers' organisations against the treatment of their members during the strikes and requesting the appointment of an independent commission of inquiry into the causes of strikes in the protectorate and of the general labour conditions prevalent; and what action has been taken in the matter?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. I do not feel that a commission of inquiry is called for. Before the strikes occurred it had been announced that a labour secretary was to be appointed,

whose duty will be to inspect and advise upon labour conditions and to help in the relationship between employers and employed. An experienced officer has been selected for the post, and is to take up duty as soon as this can be arranged.

If I put a question on a later date, will the right hon. Gentleman have some information as to the working of this?

I am certainly glad at all times to give the hon. Member in formation. It depends on what form the question takes as to how much information I can give him.

73.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies "whether he will give information to the House regarding the position in Sierra Leone; whether the proclamation issued by the acting governor on 31st January, under Section 34 of the Police Ordinance is still in force; and whether it is intended to make its provisions permanent?

My latest information is that the strike among employeés of the War Department is regarded as over, but that the strike among the employ6s of a coaling company unfortunately continues. The proclamation is being kept in force for the time being but there is no intention of making it permanent.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when it is likely that this Proclamation will be received?

Meanwhile, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable irritation and resentment about this Proclamation?

Kenya

Juveniles, Employment

63.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the recommendation in the report of last year of the Employment of Juveniles Committee in Kenya, to the effect that the application of the native registration ordinance to persons under 16 years of age in the Nakuru district should be can celled, has been accepted; if not, will he state the reasons for this; and whether he will state the number of juveniles convicted in the Nakuru district under this registration ordinance?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. I am not in possession of the figures asked for in the last part of the question, but I will ask the Governor whether he can supply them.

Natives

72.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the recommendation made by the Select Committee on Closer Union in East Africa in 1931 that sympathetic consideration should be given to native representations in Kenya Colony regarding the Kipandi or pass system, with its penal sanctions, any inquiry has been made into the merits or demerits of the system?

This matter has been under consideration from time to time, but the conclusion has been reached that the balance of advantage to all concerned, including the natives themselves, lies in retaining the system. I have, how ever, recently been informed by the Governor of Kenya that it is hoped that it will be possible, at an early date, to formulate definite proposals for the revision of the form of certificate with a view to the separation of the document of identity from the records of employment.

It is, in principle, an advantage to every section of the population, but I understand that on the question of the records of employment there has been difficulty.

West Indies

Royal Commission

64.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the urgency of some of the questions being investigated by the Commission of Inquiry into Economic and Social Conditions in the West Indies, any interim report of the proceedings of the committee may be expected?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a similar question, by the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) on 8th March.

In view of the appalling sanitary conditions in the Colony, is not the urgency of the need for doing some thing at the earliest possible moment realised?

We are already doing a certain amount, but these are all questions which are being considered by the Royal Commission, and further action depends on their recommendations.

68.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what urgent representations he has received from the Royal Commission now in the West Indies relating to the British and Colonial sugar quota, or other matters affecting the economic outlook in Jamaica; and further, whether an interim report is to be published, and when this can be expected?

70.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what recommendations were made by the Royal Commission in the West Indies which would tend to the immediate improvement of economic conditions in Jamaica?

74.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has received any recommendations from the Royal Commission in regard to Jamaica; and, if so, when they will be published?

The West India Royal Commission are still taking evidence in Trinidad, and have not yet submitted any formal recommendations. I received in formal suggestions from a number of members of the commission regarding certain aspects of the situation in Jamaica, but these were confidential, and I am not at liberty to disclose the views of the commissioners pending their formal report. They do not contemplate presenting an interim report, and I cannot yet say when their full report will be presented or published.

Does my right hon. Friend propose to take any action on the informal recommendations which have already been made?

Could the right hon. Gentleman not ask for an interim report, seeing that the matter is very important?

I suggested some weeks ago to the chairman the possibility of an interim report, but he answered that he thought it would be a mistake, as it would delay the preparation of a full report, which is a matter of great urgency.

Jamaica (Labour Officer)

67.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a labour adviser has yet been appointed to the Government of Jamaica; and whether he will state the reasons for delay?

69.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now in a position to state if any labour arbitrator has yet been appointed to the Government of Jamaica?

I hope that an appointment to the post of Labour Officer in Jamaica will be made very shortly, but I cannot at present make any announcement. I consider this post as one of very special importance and the delay in making the appointment has been due solely to the difficulty of finding an officer with the requisite qualifications and experience.

Binham Priory, Norfolk

75.

asked the First Commissioner of Works what will be the total cost of restoring Binham Priory, Norfolk; and at what date it is hoped to complete the work?

I have been asked to reply. The total cost of the work involved in the preservation of the remains of Binham Priory is expected to amount to £5,750. The work will be completed by the end of the coming financial year.

Whitehall Palace

76.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether it will be possible to preserve the four successive river walls of the ancient Whitehall Palace in the new buildings to be constructed?

It is hoped to be able to preserve the steps and river wall of Queen Mary's terrace. The other river walls referred to by my hon. Friend fall within the main walls of the new building, and it will be impossible to preserve them. They have, however, been fully recorded and photographed.

Will not half the significance of the final wall be lost if the three other walls are not preserved; and should not the matter be reconsidered?

Parliament Square (Old Print)

77.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he will allow the old print in the Office of Works, showing Parliament Square as it was early in the last century, to be exhibited in the Tea Room, so that Members may compare it with the present layout of the square now that Westminster House has been pulled down and form an opinion as to its suitability for the Memorial to King George V?

Arrangements will be made for my hon. Friend's request to be met. My right hon. Friend is, however, of opinion that this can have little bearing on the subject.

High Court And Assizes (Delays)

78.

:asked the Attorney-General approximately, how many cases are now due for trial in London and the provinces, and how many of them have been in the list for more than six months, as compared with the 2,000 cases at 1st January, some of which had been in the list for nine months; and will he now appoint several additional Commissioners of Assize to enable justice to be obtained within reasonable time, notwithstanding the help already given by the two new judges of the King's Bench assisted by three Lords Justices?

On 6th March 1,307 cases were awaiting trial in the King's Bench Division, out of which 140 cases had been entered for more than six months. Of these latter, 26 would have been tried at an earlier date had they not been postponed at the request of the parties. I have not the figures of cases set down for trial in the provinces but I do not believe there are at the present time arrears in these lists, and I have therefore no reason to suppose there is any case in these lists entered for more than six months. As I stated in reply to the hon. Member for West Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir J. Leech) on 15th February, I cannot adopt the suggestion made by my hon. Friend. I have every hope that the measures described in the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for West Newcastle-upon-Tyne will be effectual, and it is not proposed to take any further step in the matter until a fair trial has been given to those measures.

Crown Proceedings Bill

79.

asked the Attorney-General whether His Majesty's Government will reconsider their decision not to introduce the Crown Proceedings Bill, if it can be shown that this Measure commands general agreement in the House of Commons?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give the reasons why the Government are not prepared to move in this matter?