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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 345: debated on Monday 20 March 1939

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

India (Officers' Housing, Peshawar)

1.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he will give particulars of the number of additional quarters and/or bungalows that have been made available for officers and their families for housing purposes in the Peshawar district of the North-West Frontier Province of India during the last two years; and whether the shortage of housing accommodation for officers in this district still continues?

I am asking the Government of India for particulars, and will communicate with the hon. Member on their receipt.

We have asked the Government of India for in- formation on the matters raised by the hon. Member's question, which I think include that point.

Spain

4.

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have obtained particulars of the State law in regard to political responsibilities promulgated by General Franco's Government on 13th February; and what action he now proposes to take to secure humane treatment of prisoners, seeing that under that law it is a punishable offence to have taken any public part in the elections of February, 1936, except on behalf of the Right, to have opposed the national movement since 18th July, 1936, or to have had any connection with trade unions or political parties supporting the Republican régime?

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 as yet nothing to add.

Is it not a fact that the 2,500,000 citizens who remain in Catalonia are well satisfied with the justice of the treatment served out?

6.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any further statement to make about the condition of the refugee camp at Perpignan?

18.

asked the Prime Minister the amount of the grant made by the Government to the British Red Cross Society to aid them in their work for Spanish refugees on the French frontier; and whether the Red Cross Society is working in co-operation with the French Government in the matter?

His Majesty's Government are contributing £50,000 to the British Red Cross Society for the relief of the Spanish refugees interned in the camps in South-Eastern France, and Major-General Sir John Kennedy and Major- General F. C. Fitzgerald, who are supervising this work in close co-operation with the French authorities, are now at Perpignan, where the distribution of material has already begun. I understand that there are definite improvements both in feeding and hospital conditions in the camps.

19.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the British steamship "Stangate" was captured outside Valencia on Thursday; and what steps have been taken to secure the release of the ship?

I understand that this ship was arrested by a unit of the Spanish fleet within territorial waters in the vicinity of Valencia, and it was subsequently ascertained by the British naval authorities that this arrest had been effected within the three-mile limit. The ship was conducted to Palma by the Spanish naval authorities, where she arrived on the morning of 17th March. The ship had entered Spanish territorial waters in disregard of a notice issued by the Spanish Government prohibiting shipping from doing so. His Majesty's Government do not propose to object in cases where the Spanish Government, after prohibiting the entry of ships into certain portions of its territory, prevent, by appropriate measures taken in territorial waters, the entry of ships into the closed ports.

Does not this attitude mean the recognition of blockade by General Franco and, therefore, the recognition of belligerent rights; and would the right hon. Gentleman further tell us about the safety of those on the ship, and has he any information that that is assured?

The position with regard to territorial waters was made quite clear by my Noble Friend the other day, and has been stated by me to the House. With regard to the last part of the question, we have sent a message to our representative at Palma asking him to do all he can to look after the safety and interests of the crew.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember what happened to the "Stangrove," when she was left for 14 days on the rocks and the captain died?

Can my right hon. Friend state the name of the owners of this ship?

20.

asked the Prime Minister on how many occasions and at what cost to the British Treasury were refugees in sympathy with the insurgent forces removed from Spanish ports in British warships during the first two years of the Spanish war; and in how many of these cases was the consent asked for or obtained from the then recognised Spanish Government?

No statistics are available to show on how many occasions refugees were removed from Spanish ports, nor the cost of such evacuation to His Majesty's Government, These evacuations were carried out with the consent of the then Spanish Government.

Are we to understand that that condition was always carried out by the Spanish Government?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why, if that is the case, the Republican Government were so much more reasonable in connection with this than General Franco's Government?

League Of Nations Covenant

5.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Protocol opened for signature by the League of Nations Assembly affirming the independent existence of the League Covenant, and its consequent separation from the treaties of peace, has been signed by His Majesty's Government; and when it will now come into force?

The Protocol was signed on 30th September, 1938, on behalf of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and all parts of the British Empire which are not separate Members of the League of Nations, and the instrument of ratification by His Majesty the King, in respect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was deposited with the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 20th January, 1939. The Protocol will come into force, in accordance with the provisions of Article 26 of the Covenant, when ratified by the Members of the League whose representatives compose the Council and by a majority of the members of the League whose representatives compose the Assembly,

Heligoland

7.

asked the Prime Minister what reports he has received relating to the fortification of Heligoland by Germany in contravention of the terms of Article 115 of the Treaty of Versailles?

As was stated by the then Foreign Secretary in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir W. Davison), on 29th July, 1936, the island of Heligoland was already being fortified at that time. According to our information, the fortification of the island has been completed.

It was not thought that this was a matter which should be taken up separately with the German Government. The action was unilateral and was taken by Herr Hitler following his repudiation of the Articles relating to disarmament in the Treaty of Versailles.

Czechoslovakia

8.

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government contemplate granting de jure recognition to the German Government's annexation and control of the territories formerly forming part of Czechoslovakia, namely, Bohemia and Moravia?

His Majesty's Government will require to give full consideration, in concert with other Governments, to all the consequences of German action against Czechoslovakia before any statement can be made on the question of recognition.

Is the British Legation in Prague still to receive diplomatic immunity, more especially in view of the fact that a large number of British citizens have taken refuge in the Legation?

Perhaps the hon. and learned Member will put that question down.

In the meantime, what is the position of the Czech Legation here?

I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman must put that question down.

10.

asked the Prime Minister what reports reached him from Prague or elsewhere, on or prior to 6th March, 1939, that it was the confirmed belief of the people of Prague that the Germans would march into Prague on 15th March; and what inquiries he made in Berlin and Prague on such reports?

There is, so far as I am aware, no basis for the assumption made in the first part of the question. The second part of the question does not, therefore, arise.

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to a statement made by Mr. Edwards, a member of the executive of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, and published in a London paper on 6th March, that it was the confirmed belief of the people of Prague, from whence he had just returned, that Hitler's troops would march in on 15th March?

I have not seen that, but if the hon. Member will bring it to my notice, I shall be very glad to look at it.

Are we to understand that a statement published in the London Press on the subject was not known to the British Intelligence Service? Are these things concealed from the wise and prudent of the Foreign Office, and revealed only to the "Daily Worker "?

I have no doubt that the wise and prudent of the Foreign Office noticed it, but it did not happen to come to my notice.

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to a statement made in the French Chamber by the French Foreign Secretary that he indicated something on the subject to His Majesty's Government about nth March?

I will inquire into the point which the hon. and gallant Member has brought to my notice.

12.

asked the Prime Minister how many pieces of artillery, tanks, and military aircraft have passed from the Czecho-Slovak Army into the possession of the German Army?

Has the right hon. Gentleman received a report, attributed to the French General Staff, that there are 3,000 guns, 2,000 tanks, and 1,500 modern aircraft?

15.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has been informed of the terms of the ultimatum delivered by Herr Hitler to President Hacha on 15th March; and what representations have been made by His Majesty's Ambassador in Berlin, following the intervention of the German Government in the internal affairs of Czecho-Slovakia?

23.

asked the Prime Minister whether it has now been decided to call home His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin to report on the situation, or whether the Ambassador has been instructed to make any representations to the head of the German Government regarding the German annexation of Czecho-Slovakia?

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of the Agreement signed on 15th March between Herr Hitler and the President of the Czecho-Slovak Republic. So far as I am aware, no written ultimatum was presented to Dr. Hacha prior to his acceptance of this Agreement. His Majesty's Ambassador in Berlin was instructed on 17th March to inform the German Government that His Majesty's Government desired to make it plain to them that they could not but regard the events of the past few days as a complete repudiation of the Munich Agreement and a denial of the spirit in which the negotiators of that Agreement bound themselves to co-operate for a peaceful settlement. Sir Nevile Henderson was also instructed to say that His Majesty's Government must take this occasion to protest against the changes effected in Czecho-Slovakia by German military action, which are, in their opinion, devoid of any basis of legality. His Majesty's Ambassador has now been recalled to London to report on the situation.

Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to a statement in the Press that Herr Hitler threatened to send his air squadrons to bomb Prague unless the President of Czecho-Slovakia accepted his demands?

Following is the text:

Translation of the text of the Agreement signed on 15th March by Herr Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop on behalf of Germany and by Dr. Hacha and Dr. Chzalkovsky on behalf of Czechoslovakia:

"The Führer to-day in the presence of the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, Herr von Ribbentrop, received the Czecho-Slovak President, Dr. Hacha, and the Czecho-Slovak Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Chzalkovsky, at their request in Berlin. At the meeting the serious situation which had arisen as a result of the events of the past week on what was hitherto Czecho-Slovak territory was closely and frankly examined. Both sides gave expression to their mutual conviction that the aim of all efforts in this part of Central Europe should be the safeguarding of calm, order, and peace. The Czecho-Slovak President declared that in order to serve this purpose, and in order to secure final pacification, he placed the destiny of the Czech people and country with confidence in the hands of the Führer of the German Reich.
The Führer accepted this declaration and expressed his determination to take the Czech people under the protection of the German Reich and to guarantee to it an autonomous development of its national life in accordance with its particular characteristics."

16.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the recent annexation of Czecho-Slovakia by the German Government, His Majesty's Government contemplate consultation with other Governments adhering to the principles of the League Covenant and the Kellogg Peace Pact, with a view to securing common measures of defence against unprovoked aggression?

The whole situation is at present under review by His Majesty's Government.

21.

asked the Prime Minister whether arrangements have been, or will be, made to avoid a repetition of the great congestion which occurred at the Legation and Consular offices in Vienna after the annexation of Austria by providing a substantial increase in staff and accommodation at Prague for dealing with visas, passports, etc.?

The necessary arrangements are being made, and further increases in staff are under consideration.

24.

asked the Prime Minister whether the premises of His Majesty's Legation at Prague still enjoy extra-territoriality; what is the position of British subjects who have sought refuge in the Legation; and how their evacuation from the territory formerly known as Czecho-Slovakia will be effected?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. His Majesty's Government are endeavouring to arrange with the German authorities for such British subjects, other than the staff of His Majesty's Legation, who are at present living in the Legation, to be allowed to return to this country without hindrance.

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can give any information concerning the suicide of the honorary British Vice-Consul at Brno, Czechoslovakia?

I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir. I much regret to say that Mr. Walter Neumark, British Vice-Consul at Brno, committed suicide on 16th March. It is known that Mr. Neumark had been in poor health for some time and was suffering from depression, and it would seem probable that the strain of recent events aggravated his condition.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of important people committed suicide on the same day?

Did this gentleman not apply recently for British naturalisation? Has there been any delay?

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he intends to take to safeguard the interests of the bondholders, and others, who are owed money by the late Czecho-Slovak Government?

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has any further statement to make as to the release of the gold reserves of the bank of the late kingdom of Czecho-Slovakia to the present controllers of the finances of the new State?

The House is already aware of the action taken with regard to Czechoslovak gold or balances held by the Bank of England, and I must now further report to the House that on Friday last the Bank of England, at my request, informed banks and other financial institutions in this country which hold balances, securities or gold on behalf of the former Czecho-Slovak Government, the National Bank of Czecho-Slovakia, or any other persons in the former Czecho-Slovak Republic that His Majesty's Government consider that it is desirable that they should not make any payments from such balances, or part with securities or gold without the assent of the Treasury. Legislation is required to validate compliance with this request, and to secure that the institutions concerned are effectively indemnified. The necessary Bill will be introduced immediately.

May I ask whether people who have balances in the Bank of Czecho-Slovakia and who are now refugees in this country and in France will be able to. withdraw any of their money if they can prove that they had balances in the Bank of Czecho-Slovakia?

Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer inform the House whether it is the case that German military lorries have removed £25,000,000 sterling from the Bank of Czecho-Slovakia to Berlin?

I cannot answer the last question because I do not know. With regard to the question of the hon. Lady, that is one of the considerations which is now being looked into. This is a complicated matter, and I think for the moment that the thing to do is to secure an effective embargo.

May I ask whether, pending the legislation to which my right hon. Friend has referred, the various banking institutions in this country have agreed to the suggestion of His Majesty's Government not to pay out any money of the former Szecho-Slovak Government?

Is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to say what are the gold reserves of the Czecho-Slovak Bank in this country, or balances held over here?

Will the legislation apply to branches of foreign banks in London as well as to British banks?

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. I will look into it. I do not think I can answer it now.

If there are claims by the German Government upon Czech assets in this country other than bank deposits, will they similarly be resisted?

I think the practical thing for the moment is being done. It deals with gold, securities and balances which might otherwise be moved from institutions in this country. That is the practical thing to do.

Abyssinia

9.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any information as to how many natives.in Abyssinia are being trained for military duties?

Numbers of natives in Italian East Africa are undergoing military training for purposes of local policing and territorial defence, but it is impossible to give any figures.

Wei-Hai-Wei (Opium)

11.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that during the whole of the British lease of Wei-hai-wei, from 1898 to 1930, the port and surrounding district was entirely free from the opium evil and continued so until the Japanese occupation, and that since the Japanese took over the port many opium dens have been opened; and whether he will draw the attention of the Japanese Government to the grave consequences of permitting opium dens to exist and increase in the Chinese territories in their occupation?

Is it not the case that this matter has been brought to the notice of the Japanese authorities? Has any reply been received?

Yes, Sir. We understand, as I have previously informed the House, that the Japanese authorities are giving the general matter consideration.

Central Europe

13.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of recent happenings in Central Europe, he is taking any special steps to obtain at the earliest possible moment better information as to political events and conditions in one or more of the Governments of Europe, in view of their probable effect on British interests?

No, Sir. His Majesty's Government are satisfied with their present sources of information in Central Europe.

In view of the serious situation in Europe would it not be in the best interests of the country that those who have all along believed in collective security should now have control of the Government of this country?

Armaments (Raw Materials)

14.

asked the Prime Minister to what extent the manufacture of armaments in Germany, Italy and Japan, is dependent on supplies of materials from the British Empire and the United States of America, respectively; and whether he is now prepared to advocate a limitation of armaments throughout the world by a limitation of supplies of raw materials from the British Empire and the United States of America?

It is impossible to give a reliable estimate such as the hon. Member desires, and I doubt whether the particular proposal of the hon. Member would have the effect he desires.

Is it not true that the armaments which Germany, Italy and Japan have at present are very largely manufactured out of goods supplied from the British Empire and America, and is the Minister not prepared to take steps immediately to stop it?

The hon. Member raises a broad question. I am prepared to investigate it. I cannot say anything more now.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen a letter in the "Times "this morning advocating this policy?

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

Libya (Italian Forces)

22.

asked the Prime Minister what reply has been received by His Majesty's Chargé Affaires in Rome to his further representations concerning the strength of the Italian forces in Libya?

The Counsellor at His Majesty's Embassy in Rome had a further conversation with the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs on 16th March. The position remains unchanged.

Is it the case that the position as regards the Italian troops in Libya at present constitutes a breach of the terms of the Anglo-Italian Agreement?

We have debated this question and have had questions and answers on it a great number of times, and I do not think that I can add anything to what I have said.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that the position is unchanged, does he mean that the number of Italian troops in Libya remains at 60,000, as on the last occasion?

Memel

17.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement concerning the present situation in the Memel district of Lithuania?

Conditions in the Memel-land have not appreciably changed since my reply to the hon. Member for Wolver-hampton, East (Mr. Mander) on 1st February, but the present situation is being closely watched.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the statement of the leader of the Germans in the Memel territory, that the time has now come when they must return to the Reich?

Yes, Sir, I have seen that statement, and I have said that the situation is being closely watched.

British Subjects, Shanghai

25.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that Mrs. Charles Sherwin, a British subject now in Shanghai, has, during several weeks past, repeatedly applied to the Japanese consular, naval, and military authorities for permission to rejoin her husband in Hankow, and has been consistently refused; and what action he is taking in the matter?

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that a large British company in Shanghai recently applied to the Japanese authorities on the Yangtze for permits for six of their employés to go to Hankow, four British and two Americans; that the permits were granted for the Americans but refused for the British; whether he has inquired why this discrimination was made; and what action he is taking to secure proper treatment for this British company?

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

26 and 27.

asked the Minister of Pensions (1) the number of ex-servicemen over 60 years of age who are in receipt of pensions, and the total sum paid out to them;

(2) whether in order to avoid elderly ex-servicemen being driven to supplement their pension by resort to the public assistance committee, he will consider introducing legislation to regard all pensioned partially disabled ex-servicemen of 60 years of age or over as being totally disabled, and grant them pensions at the appropriate rate?

In reply to the first question. I would remind the hon. Member that I gave him the figures he requires in my answer to him of 27th February. The suggestion made 'in the second question that all ex-servicemen of 60 years of age and upwards, who are in receipt of partial disability pensions, should be regarded as totally disabled and pensioned accordingly would, I am satisfied, be so contrary to the facts as to be unjustifiable.

In view of the fact that there are not so many of them left now, would it not be a gesture of consideration of the services they have given if they were put into a position that they did not have to go and seek out relief: and is it a desirable thing that those who were acclaimed as heroes during the War should now be put into the position of having to seek Poor Law relief?

The hon. Member's supposition is not correct. The majority of the men of this age-group are, I am glad to say, of comparatively low assessment. Two-fifths have only minor disabilities assessed at 20 per cent. or less.

28.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether having regard to the difficulty pensioners have at times in getting signatures on life certificates witnessed by a responsible person, he will add to the list of persons authorised to attest signatures members of rural, urban district, borough and county councils?

The classes of persons who may attest life certificates is prescribed by Treasury warrant. The list of such persons covers already a very wide field, and I have no evidence that pensioners are inconvenienced in procuring the necessary attestation.

If I send the hon. Gentleman evidence and particulars of this sort of thing, will he look into the matter?

Imperial Institute, Kensington (Board Of Governors)

30.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether the seat allotted to the Dominion of Canada on the Board of Governors of the Imperial Institute, Kensington, which according to the annual report of the Institute for 1938 was vacant, has now been filled; and if so, by whom?

I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade, who is the responsible Minister for the Imperial Institute. The vacancy in question has not yet been filled.

Is it likely to be filled in the near future, in view of the importance of encouraging the Dominions to take part in this work?

I cannot give my hon. Friend any information on that subject, but we should very much welcome it if the Government of Canada were willing to co-operate.

Trade And Commerce

Rumania (Commercial Mission)

31.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether any decision has yet been reached regarding the dispatch of a trade mission to Rumania?

It has been decided to send a commercial mission to Rumania, but the detailed arrangements have not yet been made.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this matter has been under the consideration of his Department for some weeks; and does he think that, in view of the serious economic demands which have been made on Rumania by Germany, it is worth while sending a British trade mission now?

I have said that the detailed arrangements and the personnel are not yet concluded.

Will the commission be empowered to negotiate on the output of the oilfields of Rumania on behalf of British interests?

Minister's Visits, Foreign Capitals

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the German incorporation of Czecho-Slovakia, he will add military representatives to the present delegation visiting Warsaw and Moscow to discuss matters of mutual interest?

No, Sir. As already stated, the objects of my right hon. friend's journey are economic and have been arranged to accord with a timetable.

Agriculture

Allotments

32.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can now make a statement on the case presented to him by the National Allotment Society; and what steps is it proposed to take to encourage the allotment movement and to secure more land for permanent allotments and assist local authorities where necessary?

The main proposals put forward by the National Allotments Society are based on the provision of financial assistance by the Exchequer towards the purchase of land for allotments by local authorities and allotment associations. Inasmuch as Parliament has entrusted to urban local authorities ample powers to provide allotments, including those governing the compulsory acquisition of land and financial assistance from the rates, the Government cannot see its way to introduce legislation on the lines suggested by the society. In announcing this decision, I would desire to emphasise the value and importance of allotments in the general scheme of local administration, and to urge local authorities to make the fullest use of their powers to extend the allotment movement. My Department will continue to do everything possible to encourage local authorities in the direction of providing more allotments on a permanent basis in order to satisfy the demands of those of their residents who wish to make good use of their spare time by providing food for themselves and their families from the cultivation of small plots of land.

Are we to understand that the Government are really not going to do anything to prevent the very deplorable practice of all sorts of councils taking over allotment land for housing schemes, schools, and all kinds of purposes?

Do the Government propose to do nothing to alter the present position? If that is so, I understand that the answer is "Yes."

The Government can urge the local authorities to exercise their powers.

Does not the Minister realise that the whole problem is, that the local authorities do exercise their power, which is to take back the land and that is what we want to stop?

It is for the local electors to educate their local authorities in the matter.

How can the right hon. Gentleman expect the local authorities to act honestly when they use the Public Authorities Protection Act to defraud people?

Feeding Stuffs (Prices)

34.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the operations of the price-fixing associations which exist and which have resulted in producers being charged unreasonably high prices over a long period, he will take steps in forthcoming legislation to give financial facilities and encouragement to bodies such as the National Poultry Council, the Milk Marketing Board, and the Bacon Development Board to purchase feeding stuffs and wheat offals direct from the growers and producers?

While I appreciate the motive underlying my hon. Friend's question, I doubt whether in every case mentioned by him it would be appropriate for the bodies to engage in the supply of feeding stuffs to their members. Provision is, however, made in the Agricultural Marketing Acts to enable a board to buy and to sell to registered producers anything required for the production of a regulated product, and it is for the boards concerned to make such use of this provision as they think fit.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend not realise the far-reaching and adverse effect on the dairy farmers and pig producers of the high cost of feeding stuffs, and can he say what steps he intends to take to stop this absolute scandal that has been going on for years?

I am always glad to have my hon. Friend's observations. It is in the hands of the marketing boards for them to carry out.

Does not this arise out of the tariff policy of the Government?

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the fact that since the marketing boards were first instituted, public opinion has changed and would now welcome a tariff policy?

Milk Marketing

35.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that E. Hodson, a small farmer of Fish lake, near Doncaster, has, since 1934, signed every form, supplied all the information asked for, informed the inspectors of the Milk Marketing Board at least twice each year of his activities, from time to time has sought advice and guidance from the inspectors to ensure compliance with the wishes of the board, but has now been find £250 for evasions in the years 1935 and each successive year; and will he refer the details of this case to the committee inquiring into the question of fines and penalties?

Since the producer concerned in this case has exercised his right to refer the matter of the penalty to arbitration, it would, I feel, be proper to regard the matter as sub judice for the present.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman comply with the request in the latter part of the question, that is, to submit the details of this case to the committee dealing with fines and penalties?

I doubt whether the committee could now look into it, because they have almost completed their report, which I am expecting in a very short time.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman undertake to inform the Milk Marketing Board that this gross imposition on a small farmer, retrospective for four years, is the kind of thing which will bring the Milk Marketing Board into bad odour all over the country?

I have no doubt that they will take notice of the hon. Member's remarks.

Is it not a monstrous thing for the Milk Marketing Board to be the judge in its own court? Why are not these men allowed a right of appeal to the ordinary courts of law?

36.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the Milk Marketing Board is demanding and exacting levies on producer-retailers of milk and using these levies, or part thereof, to make up the standard price to those who are not producer-retailers; and what is the amount of the levy per gallon?

Under the Milk Marketing Scheme registered producers in England and Wales are required to pay contributions to the board's fund in respect of milk produced and sold by them by retail or semi-retail; these contributions, which are credited to the appropriate regional pools, represent the producer-retailers' share of the cost, inter alia, of administering the scheme, of the accredited bonus, and of the loss falling upon all producers on account of the sale of milk for manufacture. The reply to the second part of the question contains a tabular statement, and with my hon. Friend's permission I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

:Why does not the right hon. Gentleman answer the question, whether some of this levy is being used to give to other milk producers? It is a monstrous thing to take one man's earnings and hand them to another. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman this definite question. Is it not a fact that in a case which was taken to the House of Lords it was clearly decided that it was grossly illegal to take the earnings of one man and give them to another? There is not a word about this in the answer.

Following is the statement:

Rates of the contributions payable by producer-retailers.
Description of Milk.Rate per gallon.
Category I—Tuberculin Tested Milk⅜d.
Category II—Accredited Milk⅝d.
Category III—Milk other than milk in Categories I, II and V1⅝d.
Category V—Accredited Milk produced from an Attested Herd⅜d.

NOTE.

1. The above rates are reduced by ¼d. per gallon if payment is made together with payment of all arrears of contributions (if any) within 14 days after the relevant accounting day.

2. The rates are increased by ½d. pergallon on all retail or semi-retail sales of a producer who sells any milk by wholesale (except on contracts carrying a level delivery premium).

Unemployment

Agricultural Workers (Insurance)

33.

asked the Minister of Agriculture in how many county areas it will be possible for unemployed farm workers to draw weekly benefits in excess of the minimum wage rates for those areas as at present determined under the Government's recently-announced proposals with regard to unemployment insurance for farmworkers?

:In the areas of three of the 47 agricultural wages committees it will be possible for an unemployed agricultural worker to become entitled to total weekly benefits in excess of the weekly minimum rates of wages at present in operation for ordinary adult male workers.

Does the Minister intend to make representations to the country committees concerned, drawing their attention to this possibility with a view to raising the minimum?

It is in their own hands to do that if they consider that the circumstances justify it.

Is the Minister prepared to countenance a man who is out of work in agriculture drawing more money than a man in work?

I am aware of that, and naturally one is trying to make it possible for wages to go up.

Transferees

52.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the increasing unemployment among workmen transferred by his Department from the depressed areas to the South of England, and, in particular, to the number unemployed due to the decline in the building trades; and whether he is taking steps to assist these transferees to find new work, or, failing that, if assistance will be granted them to move back to their original homes?

:I have no information which would suggest that workers who have transferred from areas of heavy unemployment to the South of England have been specially affected by any decline in employment that may have occurred in particular districts. The normal service of the Employment Exchanges for finding work for the unemployed is available for transferees on the same basis as for other workers. If they find employment in their home areas the usual facilities for advance of fares are given.

Post Office

Telephones And Telegraphs (Outer Hebrides And Isles)

39.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider granting financial assistance for the provision of automatic exchanges in the villages of the Outer Hebrides for the convenience of the local people, medical services and holiday visitors?

An extensive programme for providing telephonic communication between the various villages in the Hebrides and between the islands and the mainland is already in hand. The scheme has been designed to give the best arrangements for serving the localities from the point of view referred to by the hon. Member, and comprises either standard or small rural type automatic equipment served from three manual switching centres. The scheme will result in considerable financial loss, and I regret that I am not prepared to enlarge its basis.

40.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will make a statement on the recent improvements in telephone and telegraph communications in the Outer Isles of Scotland; and on the proposed improvements for this year?

There has been a marked improvement in the telephone service between the islands of Lewis and Harris and the mainland since the radio telephone channels were brought into use on the 1st of this month. As regards telegraph communication, arrangements are in hand to provide, by means of the radio telephone channels, an emergency link which can be utilised in the event of a breakdown in the submarine cable between the island of Lewis and the mainland. It is anticipated that the islands of Barra and South Uist will be connected to the mainland by radio telephone by July this year and that service will be extended to the islands of Benbecula and North Uist early in 1940. The hon. Member will, I am sure, be pleased to hear that the special cable charges on telephone calls to the Western Islands will be abolished as from 1st April next.

Automatic Telephone Exchanges, London

41.

asked the Postmaster-General when the Victoria telephone exchange, London, will become automatic; and when the conversion of the whole Metropolitan area will be completed?

The Victoria telephone exchange will, it is hoped, be converted to automatic working next May. The conversion of the London telephone system, within a radius of 10 miles from Oxford Circus, will, in accordance with the present programme, be completed by about 1944.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with this rate of progress, which is a great deal slower than in other countries?

On the contrary, the telephone developments in this country have been better than in any other country recently.

National Service (Cancellation Postmark)

43.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider providing a cancellation post-mark which will call attention to the need for more recruits for the National Service campaign?

There are difficulties in the way of adopting the hon. Member's suggestion, but I will certainly give it careful consideration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what occasion a similar cancellation has taken place?

We do it in certain cases, but these stamps go all over the world, and the hon. Member's question suggests that our National Service plan is not going well which is neither accurate nor a good thing to advertise.

West African Air Mails

38.

asked the Postmaster-General whether the air mail from Gambia is still carried in German aeroplanes; and what arrangements he is making for all air mails from British West Africa to be carried in British aeroplanes?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, air mail correspondence between this country and Nigeria and the Gold Coast, which represents about 90 per cent. of the total air mail correspondence to and from the West African Colonies, is already carried in British aircraft on the main Empire route between the United Kingdom and Khartoum, and by a British air service between Khartoum, Lagos and Accra. Air mail correspondence to and from Sierra Leone is carried by a British air service between Freetown and Bathurst, where is connects with the German service to and from Europe. When a direct British air service is available between the United Kingdom and West Africa it is the intention to use it for the carriage of first class mail on an "all-up" basis. As regards this proposed service I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 8th February by my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air to a question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter).

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend agree that all British mails for the British Colonies ought to be carried in British aeroplanes?

The difficulty is that we have to use a foreign service where there is not a British service available. I hope soon it will be done by British services.

Secretaries Of State (House Of Lords)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will so amend the constitution as to enable peers who are Members of His Majesty's Government to speak on the Floor of the House of Commons and so to be directly answerable to the elected representatives of the British electorate?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave on 14th March last year in regard to a similar question by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson).

Defence

Programme

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he intends to propose a revision of the National Defence programme in view of the acquisition by Germany of the war material and munitions factories in Czecho-Slovakia?

As I stated in my speech at Birmingham on Friday last, every aspect of our national life must now be reviewed from the angle of national safety; this statement, of course, covers the National Defence programmes.

May I ask whether this includes any representations to the Iron and Steel Federation of this country that pig iron and scrap iron should not be sold to Germany as was sold in the last War?

I think that might be called an aspect of our national life and safety.

Armament Manufacture (Profits)

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether his attention has been drawn to the Defence Purchasing Bill introduced in the Canadian House of Commons which, among other provisions, seeks to limit armament profits; and whether he is prepared to introduce similar legislation in this country?

I have been asked to reply. I am informed by the Dominions Office that a Bill dealing with defence purchases was introduced recently in the Canadian House of Commons. I do not know whether this is the Bill to which the hon. Member refers, as copies have not yet been received in this country.

Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer acquaint himself at an early date with the provisions of this Bill, as he may find it useful to himself in the near future?

Smoke Abatement (Liverpool)

50.

asked the Minister of Health whether the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company have yet started their series of experiments in methods of firing locomotives; if so, what are the nature and results of such experiments; and what effect has been produced towards mitigating the smoke nuisance in the central area of Liverpool?

:I am informed that these experiments are now in progress and are being carried out in conjunction with measurements by the Liverpool Town Council of the state of the atmosphere at tunnel openings. Until the experiments are completed it will not be possible to assess their result.

Registrar-General's Returns

51.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the long delays which occur in connection with the publication of information based upon censuses of the population and of production, and that the Registrar-General's Decennial Supplement relating to occupational mortality in 1931 was published only this month; and whether having regard to the importance of returns of this, and a similar, kind, both in respect of administration and legislation, steps can be taken in future for their more rapid publication?

The Registrar-General's Decennial Supplement, which was published in October last, is part of a series which cannot be taken in hand until the reports for the previous census have been completed, and I can assure my hon. Friend that every effort is made to secure the publication of the Registrar-General's statistical reports at as early a date as possible. The time between the census of production and the publication of the results has been progressively lessened at each of the last two censuses, and I understand from my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that some further improvement may be possible at the next census.

Air-Raid Precautions

53.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that if a man's income does not exceed £250 per annum the family is entitled to a free air-raid shelter; why a man with an income that exceeds that amount, if he has one or two children, must pay for the shelter; that in some cases the income of the family may exceed the £250, even although the father's income may be smaller; whether a man who earns £260 and has to maintain two small children must pay for the shelter; and what action he intends taking about the matter?

The standard which has been adopted for the free distribution of these shelters was fixed after very careful consideration and is, in my opinion, a generous one. I would point out that it covers all manual workers, whatever their earnings, and that where the income limit is applicable, that is in the case of non-manual workers, it takes account only of the earnings of the householders. I am afraid that no course intermediate between making everyone pay and universal free distribution would have avoided the sort of comparisons made in the question, and I can hold out no expectation that the decision will be reopened.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say on what principle preference is given to a manual worker over a clerical worker with less income?

The principle is the principle embodied in the National Insurance Act.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that clerical workers are fed up with the line which is drawn in these matters?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a special committee set up to inquire into these matters recommended that this discrimination should be abolished?

Accident, Earl's Court Exhibition

55.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he can give any information in connection with the accident at Earl's Court Exhibition, on Wednesday, 15th March, when two men were crushed to death; and whether he can state the cause of the accident?

My right hon. Friend understands that an excavation had been made for the purpose of underpinning a concrete base carrying a steel stanchion. The lower part of the concrete base parted and fell on the only workman who was working in the excavation. I regret to say that this man was killed. Two other men were treated for shock. The inquest is being opened to-day and it is not possible at present to make any further statement as to the cause of the accident.

Czech Refugees, Great Britain

56.

asked the Home Secretary whether generous and sympathetic consideration is given to all applications from Czechs, now resident in this country,to continue their stay in the light of present conditions?

My right hon. Friend fully appreciates the considerations which the hon. Member has in mind, and while each case will have to be considered individually and regard must be paid to the question whether an applicant has been admitted for a temporary stay with a view to proceeding overseas, the hon. Member can be assured that there will be no question of sending back to their own territory any Czechs who have a claim as refugees for protection.

Government Contracts (Employment)

57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will take steps to ensure that in future all Government contracts shall stipulate employment of personnel through the recognized exchanges?

The following clause is already inserted in all Government contracts with firms in Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

"The contractor shall notify the appropriate Employment Exchange as and when any additional labour is required to carry out this contract. Contractors are not precluded from seeking to obtain workpeople by other means also but they are requested to inform the Employment Exchange without delay of any vacancies so filled."
The question whether any modification is necessary is at present under consideration.

War Risks (Compensation And Insurance)

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will institute inquires for the purpose of ascertaining to what extent the recent decline in building plans approved by the local authorities is attributable to uncertainties in respect of the scheme of war-risk insurance?

The decline in the cost of building plans approved by local authorities dates from the high level of 1936, and it is clear that the risk of damage in a possible future war can be only one of several factors which have caused the decline. The 1938 figure though lower than in the three previous years was higher than in any year before 1934 and nearly 50 per cent. higher than the average of 1924 to 1929. The figures for individual months are not very important, but in fact the cost of plans approved in February, 1939, was about £2,000,000 greater than in January, 1939, and about £500,000 greater than in February, 1938. In all the circumstances I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by instituting the inquiries suggested by my hon. Friend.

Is it not true to say that the plans which have been approved are largely Government work and not the type of house referred to in the question?

I think the hon. Member's observation is probably true. No doubt that is a material factor influencing the total amount given.

In the interests of the trade generally should not this matter be further considered to see how far encouragement can be given to building and thus to employment?

May I ask whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is reviewing the policy of the Government in this matter?

It is a matter of importance and is constantly under consideration. The statement I made some time ago was a carefully prepared statement and was itself the result of an elaborate review.

Old Age Pensioners (Public Assistance)

44.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will inform the House as to the number of persons in receipt of old age pensions in Rotherham; and the number of those who are in receipt of allowances from the public assistance committee?

I regret that the information asked for in the first part of the question is not available, as the records of old age pensioners are not kept on a territorial basis. On 1st January, 1939, there were 920 old age pensioners in Rotherham in receipt of out-relief.

European Situation

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make any statement on the European situation?

The House will be aware from the speech that I made in Birmingham on Friday of the serious view which His Majesty's Government take of the events of the last week. The situation created by these events is engaging the urgent attention of His Majesty's Government, who are also in communication with other Governments.

May I take it that the Prime Minister will make a full statement to the House at the earliest opportunity?

Can the Prime Minister say with how many other Governments he has communicated?

Division No. 69.]

AYES.

[3.35 p.m.

Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)Calne, G. R. Hall-Drewe, C.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)Cartland, J. R. H.Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.Cary, R. A.Dugdale, Captain T. L.
Albery, Sir IrvingCastlereagh, ViscountDuggan, H. J.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)Duncan, J. A. L.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Dunglass, Lord
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)Eastwood, J. F.
Anstruther-Gray, W. d.Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)Eckersley, P. T.
Apsley, LordChannon, H.Eden, Rt. Hon. A.
Aske, Sir R. W.Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.Edmondson, Major Sir J.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)Clarry, Sir ReginaldElliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)Clydesdale, Marquess ofElliston, Capt. G. S.
Astor, Hon. W. W.(Fulham, E.)Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)Emmott, C. E. G. C.
Balniel, LordColman, N. C. D.Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Barrie, Sir C. C.Colville, Rt. Hon. JohnEntwistle, Sir C. F.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.Conant, Captain R. J. E.Errington, E.
Beaumont, Hon. R.E. B. (Portsm'h)Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)Erskine-Hill, A. G.
Beechman, N. A.Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)
Belt, Sir A. L.Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)
Bennett. Sir E. N.Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)
Blair, Sir R.Cox, H. B. TrevorFind lay, Sir E.
Boothby, R. J. G.Critchley, A.Fleming, E. L.
Bossom, A. C.Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. PageFoot, D. M.
Boulton, W. W.Cross, R. H.Fox, Sir G. W. G.
Bracken, B.Crossley, A. C.Fremtantle, Sir F. E.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)Crowder, J. F. E.Fyfe, D. P. M.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Holderness)Cruddas, Col. B.George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Brass, Sir W.Davidson, ViscountessGeorge, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G.Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.
Brocklebank, Sir EdmundDavison, Sir W. H.Gledhill, G.
Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)De Chair, S. S.Gluckstein, L. H.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)De la Bère, R.Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.
Bull, B. B.Denman, Hon. R. D.Grant-Ferris, R.
Bullock, Capt. M.Danville, AlfredGranville, E. L.
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.
Burton, Col. H. W.Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)
Butcher, H. W.Donner, P. W.Grigg, Sir E. W. M.
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.Dorman-Smith, Cot. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.Grimston, R. V.