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Commons Chamber

Volume 350: debated on Tuesday 1 August 1939

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 1st August, 1939.

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

Private Business


As amended, considered.

The Amendments in this case are all purely of a drafting nature.

Amendments made.

Ordered, That Standing Orders 240 and 262 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the Third time. — [ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

London County Council (Improvements) Bill [ Lords],

As amended, considered.

Motion made, "That Standing Orders 240 and 262 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the Third time." — [ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

King's Consent signified; Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed with Amendments.

Metropolitan Water Board Bill [ Lords],

As amended, considered.

Ordered, That Standing Orders 240 and 262 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the Third time. — [ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Hamilton Burgh Order Confirmation Bill,

Considered; to be read the Third time to-morrow.

Oral Answers To Questions

Dominion Parliaments (Speeches, Time Limit)


asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he will ascertain and inform the House what arrangements exist in Dominion Parliaments for limiting the length of speeches?

I shall be glad to make inquiries and will communicate the results in due course to my hon. Friend.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider circulating the information and making it in some way available to Members?

Will my right hon. Friend also make inquiries as to whether there are any arrangements by which speeches are made more audible in the Press galleries?



asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether, recently, he has had conversations with the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia on the subject of the relations of the Rhodesias; whether any political or constitutional changes in respect to Southern Rhodesia are being discussed; and whether His Majesty's Government have yet formulated a policy in respect to Southern Rhodesia, so far as it is concerned in the report of the Royal Commission?

The Secretary of State for the Colonies and I have had conversations with the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia on the subject of the recommendations of the report of the Rhodesia-Nyasaland Royal Commission concerning the relations of Northern and Southern Rhodesia. These discussions are still in progress, and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are, therefore, not yet in a position to make a statement as to their outcome.

May I take it that the Government at the present moment are not committed to the proposal for amalgamation between the Northern and the Southern Rhodesias, and will there be consultation with the respective political parties in this House before a final line is taken on the matter?

With regard to the last part of the question, I gave an assurance to that effect some time ago to the hon. Member; and with regard to the last part of the question, no decision has been reached. The discussion, as I said, is still in progress.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the interests of the natives will receive primary consideration?

I think it is better not to add to or embroider statements that have been made. The interests of the natives will be kept prominently in the very front of our considerations.



asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether there has been any reduction in recent months in unemployment, underemployment, and general distress in Newfoundland; whether any progress in the rehabilitation of the Dominion is being achieved; and when it is proposed that some steps should be taken to democratise institutions again?

The number of persons in Newfoundland in receipt of public relief in June was approximately 66,800, representing a reduction of about 14,000 on the figures for May. The total for July is expected to be in the neighbourhood of 62,000, or some 5,000 less than the figure for June. A further substantial decrease is likely to take place in August when operations in the forests and on the land generally are expected to give increased employment. As regards the second part of the question, the Commission are making progress with their long-term reconstruction programme, of which an instalment is undertaken each year in addition to expenditure for current administrative purposes. Approval has recently been given, as the House is aware, to a substantial extension of the reconstruction programme, and a sum of nearly $3,000,000 (or approximately double the provision made last year) has been allocated for this purpose in the Commission's Budget Estimates for 1939– 40. As regards the third part of the question, I have nothing to add to the replies which I gave to the hon. Member on 14th February and 28th March.

:Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the improvements in employment are purely temporary or whether they are likely to be of a permanent nature; and whether, during his forthcoming visit to Newfoundland, he will take the opportunity of getting into touch with all sections of opinion in the Dominion, with a view to ascertaining their views about the restoration of a more democratic form of government?

I will, of course, consider that suggestion. Most certainly I hope to get into touch with all sections of the community and give the fullest possible opportunity for the expression of all views.

Have facilities been provided for members of the community in Newfoundland to join His Majesty's Forces, particularly the Royal Navy, at the present time?

As I have said on previous occasions, all facilities exist, except so far as they are limited by the distance of Newfoundland from this country.

Joining the armed Forces could scarcely be regarded as a permanent industry for the development of Newfoundland.

South Africa (High Commission Territories)


asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether consideration has been given to the conditions prepared by the South African Government which would govern native policy and native affairs in the High Commissioner's Territories in the event of any transfer being made; whether His Majesty's Government have any observations on these conditions; and when the South African statement will be published?

As I informed the hon. Member on 4th July, I have received from the Union Government a draft of the memorandum prepared by them. I am not yet able to say when the memo- randum will be ready for publication, and in the meantime I am not in a position to discuss it.

Is it not of the utmost importance that we should get this statement published at the earliest possible moment; and, further, may I take it that no lead will be given to the natives in these Territories with regard to their attitude towards this memorandum when it is circulated among them?

The hon. Gentleman will remember that this memorandum is being prepared by His Majesty's Government in the Union of South Africa, and until the document is printed I cannot say anything as to publication or discuss what may be contained in it.

Canada (Emergency Settlement)


asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether His Majesty's Government have considered the desirability, and the possibility, in the event of hostilities involving this country, of the temporary settlement of suitable infirm people, mothers and children in the Dominion of Canada?

I fear that the difficulties in the way of any such scheme would be insuperable.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that Canada would offer a greater degree of safety to certain suitable people than the East Coast of this country; and, in view of the large numbers of people enumerated in this question, will he at least make inquiries in the Dominion of Canada to see what can be done?

Of course, Canada is much safer than the East coast of the United Kingdom. I understand that the proposal has been receiving consideration in Canada?

Trade And Commerce



asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, with a view to assisting China, His Majesty's Government propose to give any guarantee for the purchase of United Kingdom goods by the Chinese Government on the lines of agreements made between His Majesty's Government and other foreign Governments?

As stated by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on 6th March, and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade on 14th July in the Debate on the Overseas Trade Guarantees Bill, a proposal to give guarantees for the benefit of British manufacturers in respect of exports to China has been under negotiation for some time. Certain technical and legal questions are still under consideration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects to be able to make a statement on this matter?

I cannot say when. There are these technical and legal questions, the settlement of some of which depends on the answers received from China.

Is it not the fact that the question is of great importance to the Chinese Government because of the very limited purchases they have been able to make during the last 18 months; and is it not of great importance that this matter should be expedited?

As I have said, the settlement of some of the questions at least depends on the answers received from them.


asked the President of the Board of Trade the value of the munitions, non-ferrous metals, rubber, and oil imported by China in the last two years, and the sources of supply?

As the answer involves a tabular statement, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Is it not a fact that the bulk of these imports come from the axis Powers?

My hon. and gallant Friend will see a long list of figures. He can make his own deductions.

Following is the statement:

Table showing the value of non-ferrous metals, rubber and mineral oils imported into China in the years 1937 and 1938, distinguishing the principal sources of supply, so far as specified in the Official Chinese Trade Returns.
Commodity and Country.19371938.

Non-ferrous Metals:

Thousand Gold Units.Thousand Gold Units.
Aluminium: Ingots, slabs, grains, sheets and plates—
Of which from:
Brass and Yellow metal: Ingots, bars, rods, sheets, plates, tubes and scrap—
Of which from:
Copper: Ingots, slabs, bars, rods, sheets, plates, tubes and; scrap—
Of which from:
United States1,565249
Lead: Pigs, bars, sheets, pipes and scrap—
Of which from:
United Kingdom 3116
Tin: Ingots and slabs—
Of which from:
British Malaya98117
Hong Kong732
United Kingdom1024
Zinc: Powder, spelter, sheets and plates—
Of which from:
Of which from:
United Kingdom 4321

India-rubber, crude, old or waste, and Gutta Percha, Crude

Of which from:
Netherlands East Indies 1,812568
British Malaya1,357737
United States204310
French Indo-China422123

Mineral Oils

Of which from:
Netherlands East Indies 25,45812,475
United States16,59216,123
(a) Less than 500 gold units.
Particulars of imports of munitions are not available, such imports being excluded from the Official Trade Returns.



asked the President of the Board of Trade the amount and particulars of exports from the United Kingdom to Japan for the 12 months ended the last convenient date?

As the answer involves a table of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the figures are for regular intervals during the year?

Will the statement which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT contain all particulars of munitions exported from this country?

Following is the answer:

Statement showing the total declared value of merchandise exported from the United Kingdom and consigned to Japan (including Formosa) during the 12 months ended March, 1939, distinguishing the principal groups of commodities so far as these particulars are readily available.


Declared Value.

Exports of the produce and manufactures of the United Kingdom—
Non-ferrous metalliferous ores and scrap78
Pottery, glass abrasives, etc.10
Iron and steel and manufactures thereof 190
Non-ferrous metals and manufactures thereof90
Cutlery, hardware, implements and instruments33
Woollen and worsted yarns and Manufactures21
Chemicals, drugs, dyes and Colours 93
Vehicles (including locomotives, ships and aircraft)19
Miscellaneous articles wholly or mainly manufactured69
Other descriptions233
Exports of imported merchandise379
Total 1,919


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that guns on the three Japanese planes brought down in Chungking on 3rd May were Lewis auto-guns, serial number A52016, made by the Birmingham Small Arms Company; and whether he will state the number of licences granted for the supply of such guns to Japan since January, 1937?

I am not aware of the source of the report to which the hon. Member refers but I am informed that the number he quotes is that of a gun supplied to Japan in 1933. As regards the latter part of the question, it would be contrary to the public interest to state the number of export licences which have been granted for a particular country for weapons of a particular description. I can say, however, that no licence for Lewis guns or machine guns destined for Japan has been issued since September, 1937.



asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in arriving at the standard or official price of flour which is announced from time to time, the price of blended flour is taken into this calculation; and whether he will make inquiries from some of the larger bakers in this country and find out at what price they have been buying flour;

I presume that my hon. Friend refers to the official price of flour in London. I understand that this price relates to flour made from a hypothetical blend of the wheats available at the time. My hon. Friend is aware that at his instance the Food Council are making certain inquiries into the relationship between the official price of flour and that paid by the bakers.

:Is my right hon. Friend aware that, by pressure, the Millers Mutual Price-Fixing Association compels bakers to buy flour at uneconomic prices, and as a result the bakers in turn have to pass on these uneconomic prices to the consumers of bread; and is he further aware that the Food Council is a voluntary body with no powers, and is it not simply being used as a smoke-screen to lull the public into a state of false security?

The hon. Gentleman's question is extremely unfair. Because of what he asked me, and in order to assist him, and at his suggestion, I have asked the Food Council to inquire into this matter, and, therefore, we ought to await the result of that inquiry. I should like once again to contradict the statement which the hon. Gentleman always makes in the form of a question, that the Millers Mutual is a price-fixing organisation.

Is not it the fact that at the moment the Food Council has a representative inspecting flour invoices of bakers, and that this inspection includes those of the Co-operative Societies, who are not in the combine?

Is it not vitally necessary that this policy of laissez faire and unawareness should cease?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will ask the Food Council to ascertain from the Millers Mutual Association what percentage of American subsidised flour is contained in the grist of the flour which is being sold to the bakers in the London area?

Imports of flour from the United States are negligible compared with our consumption. The matter is not one that concerns the Millers Mutual Association.

Is it not a fact that Kansas wheat is being blended with other wheat, and that the Millers Mutual do derive great benefit from that 5s. American subsidy?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will, with a view to preventing a complete monopoly, have some inquiry made regarding the practice which has become prevalent during 1939 of the milling combines purchasing bakery businesses throughout the country at inflated prices in order to have an outlet for the flour which is produced by the Millers Mutual Association?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will be good enough to communicate to me any evidence he has in support of his allegations.

If I do see the right hon. Gentleman, will he really conscientiously go into this matter? Is it not in the interests of the public that the matter should be inquired into? I cannot sit still here day after day and see nothing done.

The hon. Member must remember that we all have to sit here day after day.

Canned Beef (Imports)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the existence of a quota for the import of canned meat is operating to restrict the amount of food stored against a national emergency; and whether he will take steps to remove or enlarge the quota?

I presume that the hon. Member is referring to canned beef. I have seen no evidence that the quantities recommended for importation from time to time by the International Beef Conference have been inadequate to meet the demand.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as the result of the advice given to house wives to store canned food there is likely to be a considerably increased demand for these goods?

I can only say what has happened so far. At the moment the supply is equal to the demand. The whole purpose of the council is to see that the supply meets the demand. If the demand increases they will take the necessary steps to increase the supply.

Is that answer given in spite of the fact that adequate reserves are being accumulated for emergency?

Germany And Austria


asked the President of the Board of Trade particulars of the total declared value of merchandise imported into and exported from the United Kingdom in trade with Germany and/or Austria for each of the years 1937 and 1938?

The hon. Member will find the desired particulars on pages 188 and 191 of the issue of the monthly Trade Accounts for January last.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether there is a very large adverse balance against Great Britain?

Scrap Iron And Scrap Steel


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement indicating the quantities and destination of the scrap iron and scrap steel exported during the past three months from the United Kingdom, and the quantities and origin of the scrap iron and scrap steel imported into the United Kingdom during the same period; and whether he is satisfied that the arrangement between the British Iron and Steel Federation and the Scrap Merchants Federation, under which the latter have agreed to offer to the former all available

Quantity of iron and steel, scrap and waste, fit only for the recovery of metal, imported into and exported from the United Kingdom during the three months ended 30th June, 1939. distinguishing the principal countries of consignment.
Imports into the United Kingdom.Exports from the United Kingdom (United Kingdom goods)
Country whence consigned.Quantity.Country of destination.Quantity.
Total imports165,382Total Exports23,377
of which consigned from—of which consigned to—
United States109,868Italy1,231

Rumania (Oil)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps have been taken by the Rumanian Government to implement their undertaking in the Protocol, dated nth May, 1939, to introduce the legal conditions likely to lead to an expansion of the oil industry in Rumania and to simplify machinery of export control with a view to stimulating the exports of oil products?

I am informed that the drafting of a comprehensive Mining Law has reached an advanced stage. As regards the machinery of export control, I understand that some difficulties have already been removed and that other possible measures are under consideration.

Is it not a fact that the Rumanian Government promised definitely that a modification of the mining law would be promulgated within six

scrap in this country at a price which is settled between the two bodies, is effectively preventing the export of any scrap which is required for purposes of national importance?

As the answer to the first part of the question involves a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement showing the desired particulars. As regards the second part, I have no reason to suppose that the arrangements to which he refers are not effectively preventing the export of scrap required for purposes of national importance.

Following is the statement:

weeks after the British delegation left? In view of the fact that large credits are given to Rumania, will my right hoc Friend do his best to press the Rumanian Government to take action as soon as possible?

I am sure the Rumanian Government are as anxious as we are that they should implement their promise by introducing legislation, and I have said that it is already in an advanced stage.

Film Industry


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has taken or proposes to take action to prevent film studios from being closed down in a time of national emergency, either through being taken over as office accommodation for London firms, or for similar reasons; and whether he will ensure that film production will not unnecessarily be curtailed?

Discussions as to the appropriate use of studio space in time of war are at present proceeding.

:Is the right hon. Gentle-man aware that at least one studio has already been provisionally secured by a city concern for office use in an emergency? Does it not appear that the cinema industry just then might be very useful to the country?

All these matters have to be considered from the relative value of the purpose for which any premises could be put. I do not think that anyone could contemplate that in time of war the cinema industry is likely to continue completely unaffected.

Table showing, in respect of each description of cotton apparel separately recorded, the declare value of exports from and imports into the United Kingdom during the year 1938 distinguishing the imports consigned from Japan (including Formosa).
Description. Exports, United Kingdom goods.Imports.
Total.of which from Japan.
Fabric gloves of cotton, including fabric containing cotton shaped for making into or lining gloves.182182
Knitted, netted or crocheted goods (hosiery):
Underwear (including knitted, etc., shirts):
Of cotton or of which the chief value is cotton.2489682
Stockings and hose:
Of cotton or of which the chief value is cotton10229667

Mercantile Marine

Atlantic Services


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, when considering applications by liner companies operating Atlantic routes for inclusion in the provisions of the Shipping Defence Bill, he will give an assurance that he will endeavour to obtain better, more frequent and cheaper communication between this country and Newfoundland, Bermuda and the West Indies, and to make it a condition that more of the liners sailing to Canadian ports shall call at St. Johns on the outward and home-ward voyages; and will he refuse assistance where agreements exist with foreign shipping companies which limit the nature of the services which may be made available to British Dominions and Colonies?

Cotton Apparel (Imports And Exports)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can state for the last available date, the annual total exports of cotton apparel from this country; total imports under the same heading into this country; and value of such imports from Japan?

I regret that it is not possible to furnish the precise information desired, as the official trade returns only distinguish certain descriptions of apparel made of cotton; but I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement showing the particulars available for the year 1938.

Following is the statement:

If the occasion arises, the considerations referred to by my hon. Friend will be kept in mind.

23 and 24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether the Imperial Shipping Committee is considering the present services to and from the West Indies and this country; whether their attention has been drawn to the new British competition with the existing British lines; and whether they have made any report;

(2) whether his attention has been drawn to the intrusion of the Blue Star Line into the West Indies trade with serious results for the existing lines; whether he is aware that this line serves the trade only in one direction and that the existing lines cannot maintain their full services in face of this competition and are withdrawing the only British passenger service that has for long competed with foreign passenger services; can he say in what country these Blue Star Line vessels were built; and whether he will investigate if this recent development is in the interests of British shipping as a whole?

I am aware of the developments in the West Indies trade referred to. According to the advertisements in the Press, the new outward cargo service from the United Kingdom by Blue Star Line is carried on by nine vessels, five of which were built in the United Kingdom. The Imperial Shipping Committee is at present engaged upon an inquiry into West Indian shipping facilities, and I am informed that their attention has been drawn to the new service and that they are considering its effects. I am not in a position to comment on the matter in advance of their report, which I understand may be expected in the autumn.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the existing passenger service is being withdrawn in the next month, and may be withdrawn before the report is published?

When a matter of this kind is under consideration by a committee of this importance, it cannot be dealt with before the report is issued.

Does not this give the lie to the statement that competition is essential?

Is it not a fact that the principal competition in the West Indies service is by larger and faster foreign vessels?

Ship Reserve


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any second-hand tonnage has been

Vessels in respect of which negotiations to purchase have been completed.

Merchant Ship Reserve.
Name of Ship.Built.Tonnage.Normal Trading Speed in Knots
"Celtic Star"19185,5747,31810½–11
"Manchester Producer"19165,1068,57012½
"Pentridge Hill"19175,1198,0359

bought by the Government for the reserve of merchant ships; and, if so, will he give particulars of age, size, speed and other relevant data in each case?

Negotiations for the purchase of six vessels for the Merchant Ship Reserve have been completed, and I expect that the contracts will be signed shortly. With the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate details of the vessels in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will it include the price paid by His Majesty's Government for these vessels?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why it is that one vessel which was offered some months ago for £17,500 has been purchased by the Government at £20,000, and it is a vessel 20 years old?

Did I not ask that question in the course of the recent Debate and did not the Government fail to reply?

If what the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) says is correct, what action are the Government going to take in the matter?

Very careful arrangements are made for these ships to be valued, and I am perfectly prepared to trust the valuation of those who advise us.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on whose advice he acts in these purchases?

Following are the details:

Unit Trusts


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he proposes to make regulations under the terms of the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act, designed to prevent agents or representatives of unit trust concerns calling without previous introduction or invitation on bankers, solicitors, accountants and other professional persons, for the purpose of selling on commission, units or sub-units?

The conditions which authorised unit trust schemes must fulfil are specifically laid down in the Act. These conditions do not include a requirement such as my hon. Friend suggests, and I see no sufficient reason for its imposition.

British Army

Assistant-Adjutant, Queen's Westminsters


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the assistant-adjutant of a Territorial unit, the Queen's Westminsters, is a prominent member of the British Union of Fascists and participates in public demonstrations of that body; and whether he proposes to relieve this officer of his commission?

I am informed that this officer is not a member of the British Union of Fascists, but that he attended a meeting in which he took no active part.

Is it not notorious that he did and does take an active part, and is it desirable that members of Hitler's fifth column should hold commissions in the Army?

I have answered the question in accordance with the particulars supplied to me by the commanding officer.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make an effort to get better information, because the information he has is somewhat similar to that given to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs?

Militiamen (Fatigues)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether any men of the Regular Army have been moved out of their barracks and put under canvas in order that the barracks may be occupied by members of the Militia, and whether instructions have been given that militiamen are not to carry out the ordinary fatigues usually performed by private soldiers of the Regular Army?

The answer to the first part of the question is "Yes, Sir." As regards the second part, the instruction is that the employment of militiamen on fatigues will be restricted as far as possible, and the object is to enable the maximum amount of time to be devoted to training. Militiamen will, however, be trained in administrative and sanitary duties in the field, which are part of the education of every soldier.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the militiamen are only too anxious to share all the phases of Army life as well as those of the Regular Army?

Food Supplies

33 and 34.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether he is aware that the Fourth Green Howards, during the period of their summer camp at Halton, were fed on eggs produced in the United Kingdom, and that during the week ending 23rd July, the eggs they consumed were produced in Lancashire and Yorkshire; and whether he will direct the attention of messing officers to the fact that the cash messing allowances are sufficient to provide the troops with home-produced eggs for their breakfast;

(2) whether any Territorial or Militia camp is supplied with home-produced meat; and whether any of the units in these camps are permitted to commute their meat allowance into a cash allowance wherewith to purchase home-produced meat?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered a communication from the Glamorgan Branch of the National Farmers' Union making a request that the forces should be fed on home-produced meat; and what steps he proposes to implement this request?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give an assurance that the new Militia shall be fed on home-grown beef, so that their period of compulsory service will not be putting into the pockets of Argentine beef- producers money which might otherwise be going into the pockets of United Kingdom farmers?


asked the Secretary of State for War the weight and value of home-produced meat supplied to the Militia during the period of training; and the quantity and value of fresh milk supplied by the Government to the Militia in the same period?

38, 39 and 40.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) what would be the additional expense, if any, if the Army serving at home was supplied, wherever possible, with home-produced food;

  • (2)whether it is the policy of the War Department to provide the forces serving at home with home-produced eggs, and what is the proportion of home-produced eggs at present being supplied;
  • (3)what is the proportion of home-produced beef supplied to the Army serving in the United Kingdom; and whether it is the policy of the War Department to provide home-produced beef wherever possible?
  • 44 and 62.

    asked the Secretary of State for War (1) what arrangements have been made to provide the services with beef and mutton from British-produced cattle and sheep;

    (2) whether he will take steps to prevent the danger that, if the men now called up for service are fed on imported beef and mutton it will diminish the call on home-grown supplies, as in civil life many of these men were supplied from home-grown sources?


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will ensure that the largest possible proportion of food supplied to the military forces in the United Kingdom is home-produced; and that definite instructions are issued to units to that effect?

    All these questions relate to the purchase of home-produced in preference to imported supplies of food, and I hope it will be for the convenience of hon. Members if I make a comprehensive reply.

    As has been stated on previous occasions, financial and administrative considerations make it impossible to depart from the present policy of relying mainly on Dominion supplies of meat, and it is not practicable to make a new departure in the case of the Militia. The extra cost involved in supplying home-produced meat to the Army and the Royal Air Force would probably rise to approximately £1,000,000 a year. There was a recent trial of Argentine frozen meat in the Aldershot Command at Tidworth for one week only. Otherwise, supply of meat from South America is at present limited to preserved meat, and this is the only source from which it can be obtained with satisfaction as to quality, quantity and price.

    The proportion of fresh to frozen beef supplied to the Army in the United Kingdom is about 1 to 1,000. Apart from small local purchases, notably for hospitals, the only home station at which fresh meat is supplied is Aberdeen. There are about 150 militiamen at this depot, and the amount of meat involved to date is some 2,000 lbs. It would be contrary to practice to disclose the price. The suggestion that units might be permitted to use the cash value of the meat in the ration scale for the purpose of buying home-produced meat is impracticable owing to the difference in cost.

    In the case of the other items in the ration scale, preference is given to home-produced supplies, so far as this can reasonably be done. As regards eggs and milk, it has previously been explained that these are purchased by units from a cash allowance. Information as to the prices of the various commodities is available at the messing stores in all barrack and camp institutes, and it is not proposed to interfere with the discretion of units. I have no information as to purchases of milk, but the proportion of home-produced to imported eggs used for all purposes is about 1 to 2.

    On a point of Order. A number of questions have been put down dealing with different branches of food supplies, and the right hon. Gentleman has taken the unusual course of answering all of them, or attempting to answer them, in one answer. Is that in accordance with the ordinary procedure of the House? Is it not rather awkward to put a question about Estonian eggs and for the right hon. Gentleman to give an answer on an entirely different subject of meat?

    Does the right hon. Gentleman think that he has answered question No. 38?

    On a point of Order. As so many ex-soldiers have started poultry farming ought not the right hon. Gentleman to deal with eggs as a separate question?

    The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with the question of home-produced food.

    Arising out of the reply, may I ask in regard to Question 33 and the position of eggs, whether the Secretary of State thinks it fair that some units should be fed on stale Estonian eggs while others are receiving fresh newly-laid eggs from this country?

    I have already disposed of that suggestion on a previous occasion. The statement is most unfair to Estonia and to the unit concerned. The eggs were not stale and I informed the hon. Member that a number of officers and men cat the eggs with very good results.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that eggs from Estonia must be stale compared with newly-laid eggs from this country? Is he also aware that since he gave me his last reply I have had a large number of letters from those in camp complaining about these eggs?

    The hon. and gallant Member will recollect that I gave the figure, that the cost would be £1,000,000 or more. I could not give the cost of each commodity—they vary from week to week—but I gave it for meat because it was an available figure.

    As the Government are subsidising British beef to the extent of £5,000,000 does not the right hon. Gentleman think that militiamen and Regular soldiers ought to be able to get some of this commodity? Is he aware that the sale of beef during this year, and for some years previously, shows a continuous decline?

    I have already said that there are certain administrative difficulties. It is desirable that there should be uniformity.

    On a point of Order. Does not a new point arise regarding these militiamen? Questions have been asked with regard to the Regular Forces, but is it the same thing when you are compelling militiamen to serve their country that they should have to eat somebody else's beef?

    On a point of Order. There are 10 Questions down, and if an hon. Member objects to this procedure surely the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to deal with all these questions at once?

    If there are 10 questions on the same subject it is permissible for the Minister to answer them together.

    That was not quite my point of Order. If an hon. Member objects surely the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to answer all the questions en bloc? They deal with different aspects of the same problem.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these militiamen have fed, reared and looked after beasts all their lives and now are not to have the pleasure of eating them?



    asked the Secretary of State for War in how many Territorial camps this year the canteens are being or have been run by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes; how many units run their own canteens and how many units let the running of their canteens to contractors?

    I regret that the information asked for is not readily available, and could not be obtained without a disproportionate expenditure of time and labour.

    Is it not very important that this fact should be known so that we could feed the troops as cheaply and as well as possible?

    In view of the great labour involved in obtaining this information I hope the hon. Member will not press me to get it as a great deal of labour is now cast upon the authorities, and I have not the information readily available.

    In view of the fact that we are having many complaints of a general shortage of food in certain Territorial camps, particularly in the East Riding, will the right hon. Gentleman consider sending a representative of the Army Catering Advisory Department to look into this matter during the current period of training?

    Yes, Sir, with a great deal of pleasure. If the hon. Member will specify the units he has in mind I will see that an inspector goes at once. That practice has invariably been followed.

    Militia (Dependants' Allowances)


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that widows, whose sons who were their only support and are now receiving training under the Military Training Act, are being subject to the means test in respect of dependant allowances, so that in order to live widows possessing small savings are being compelled to draw upon these small amounts and, in addition to the loss of the son and his earnings for six months, are being called upon to make the additional sacrifice of having to pay for it; and whether he will give the undertaking that in cases where children are the sole support of either or both parents the full dependants allowances will be granted irrespective of any small savings the parents may possess?

    The extent to which other means of a dependant are taken into consideration in determining the rate of allowance issuable is shown in the White Paper (Cmd. 6043). It will be seen that only income, and not capital, enters into the calculation.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly inquire into this matter, because I have a case in my own constituency where the capital has been taken into account and has been assessed, that is, capital invested in the Post Office Savings Bank?

    If the capital has been wrongly taken into account and the hon. Member will be good enough to furnish me with the particulars, I will make immediate inquiry.


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can state the number of applications received for dependant allowances under the Military Training Act, 1939; the numbers of the respective rates that have been granted; and how many of such applications have been refused?

    The latest returns received indicate that approximately 14,000 militiamen have applied for grants of dependants allowance. Of these, some 5,300 have received awards at the rates of 7s., 12s., 17s., or 20s. 6d. a week (each inclusive of an allotment of 3s. 6d. from the militiaman's pay). In the remaining cases, the applicants were not found to be eligible for awards under the conditions prescribed (which are shown in the relevant White Paper, Cmd. 6043), but an allotment of 3s. 6d. a week from the militiaman's pay is being made in each case. I regret that particulars as to the numbers in receipt of awards at the 7s., 12s., 17s., and 20s. 6d. rate, respectively, are not available at the War Office.

    Anti-Aircraft Defences


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is intended to make a practice of calling upon anti-aircraft personnel of the Territorial Army to man their war stations each year?

    No, Sir, the intention is that certain of the anti-aircraft defences should be manned by militiamen during their continuous period of training. The militiamen will take over this duty from the Territorial Army this year as soon as they have been trained. Subsequently, the Militia will be responsible for manning these anti-aircraft defences until such time as the Territorial Army units forming the Air Defence of Great Britain are called out for actual duty

    War Department Land


    asked the Secretary of State for War the number of acres of land held by the War Department?

    The War Department freehold and leasehold property over 21 years amounts to 299,059 acres.

    Territorial Camp, Okehampton


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that some 2,000 Territorials are housed at a camp at Okehampton, Devon, which the recent rains have reduced to something approaching a morass; that there is only one hospital with only three beds and no kitchen or cooking accommodation attached; and what steps will be immediately taken to provide men who are voluntarily serving with adequate accommodation?

    It is the case that some 2,000 Territorials have recently been in camp at Okehampton, the excess over normal numbers being due to the desire of the commanding officers concerned that duplicate units should attend together with the original units. The troops sleep under canvas, and the exceptionally bad weather has involved discomfort. As regards hospital facilities, cases unlikely to recover in 48 hours are taken by ambulance to the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth. For minor cases, there is a reception station with four beds at the camp, and these beds have not, in fact, all been filled at any one time this summer. Cooking facilities are not normally provided at reception stations, meals being sent from the main cook house, but there are facilities for heating milk and so on, if required.

    May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to read that reply again in order that hon. Members may hear it?

    Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the facts are not as stated in the question, and that these men have been housed in a camp which has been reduced to a morass by recent rains; and whether he proposes to take any action to change the locality of the camp?

    I am informed that the camp has not been reduced to a morass. I have already explained that this was done at the desire of the commanding officers who were clearly warned that the extra numbers would involve difficulties, but they said they desired to have both these units together. Certain inconveniences have arisen here, as indeed they have arisen all over the country, on account of the exceptionally heavy rain.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the floorboards of the tents were covered with water, and that the men had to sleep on them afterwards?

    Was it not stated that these men would not be called up unless the facilities were there? Why is the right hon. Gentleman calling them up if the facilities are not there?

    These are not men who have been called up. These are Territorials in a Territorial camp.

    Militia Camps


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the militiamen in camp at Norton Manor have been given a lecture by the commanding officer in which they were told that one of their main tasks was to combat Communism; and whether political propaganda of this character has the sanction of His Majesty's Government?

    I am informed that the commanding officer at this camp made no such statement.

    In view of the fact of the wide publicity which has been given to the character of the lecture delivered by the commanding officer, will the right hon. Gentleman not make further and more effective inquiries?

    I have made the most effective inquiries that I could, and I have had a telegram saying that the commanding officer makes an absolute denial of the allegations in the question.

    Are not the allegations in these questions doing a great deal of harm?


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that at many reading tents attached to Militia camps all the national newspapers are to be found with the exception of the "Daily Herald," "News Chronicle," and the "Daily Worker"; and will he give instructions that no newspaper shall be banned for political reasons?

    Newspapers are not provided out of public funds, and they should be provided in accordance with the wishes of the men.

    Would it be in order if the men expressed a wish for the "Daily Worker" to be in the camp, for the "Daily Worker" to be in the camp?


    asked the Secretary of State for War what complaints he has received of the conditions prevailing at Blandford camp; and will he have steps taken to remove the causes there of?

    Exceptionally bad weather has interfered with the amenities of this camp, but I am informed that there is no lack of food or hot water, and that everything possible has been done to overcome the difficulties that have arisen. The camp is constantly being inspected, and I have received a recent assurance that there is now general satisfaction.


    asked the Secretary of State for War what complaints he has received regarding the conditions prevailing at the militiamen's camp at Oswestry; whether he is aware that the boys are sleeping eight in a tent, resulting in overcrowding; that the huts being prepared will not be ready for three months; that, owing to the recent weather the whole place is a bog; that there are 50 already in hospital and that one has died of pneumonia; that the food is poor and scarce, the menu being one small sausage and a small piece of bacon for breakfast, a spoonful of hard peas and possibly two potatoes for dinner, and two slices of bread and jam for tea; and whether he will have immediate inquiries made into these complaints with a view to their rectification?

    The amenities of this camp have suffered owing to the abnormally bad weather. The militiamen are not sleeping eight in a tent, but six. It is hoped that, with reasonably fine weather, the huts will be ready in two months, and not in three. There are not 50 men in hospital, but three men have been sent to a civil hospital at Shrewsbury, one suffering from pneumonia, one from tonsilitis, and one from bronchitis, and all are doing well. There are five men in the camp hospital suffering from trivial complaints, and there are 15 vacant beds. No militiaman has died of pneumonia or any other cause. The diet is not as described in the question, and there is no evidence of a shortage of food.

    Are we to take it then that the scores of letters and numerous telegrams that I have had from parents and men in these Militia camps are untrue? Will the right hon. Gentleman also say why there is this delay in the building of these huts, especially when certain firms say that they can be put up very rapidly? Thirdly, in view of the fact that a telegram has just come which states that there is a foot of liquid mud, which is beginning to smell, would it not be advisable either to let these lads return home or to remove them to another place in which reasonable conditions can be provided?

    As soon as this question was put on the Order Paper and was given wide publicity, I asked the Quartermaster-General to go in person to inspect this camp, and he has refuted every one of the allegations. I have had a letter from the Lord Lieutenant of the County this morning, who has also personally inspected the camp and who gives an account quite the reverse of that contained in this question. I do not wish to pretend that in the conditions which have prevailed the life is ideal—it never is in soldiering—but everything possible has been done, and there has been no delay in building the huts, which are not due for completion until 1st October.

    :Will the right hon. Gentleman permit me after Question Time to submit to him the information that has been supplied to me in this connection by men of standing and men whose words can be relied upon?

    Yes, I shall be most obliged. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has seen some accounts in the newspapers, notably in the "Times," which speak very highly of the conditions in this camp. Nevertheless, I shall be most obliged if the hon. Gentleman will give me that information, but I would ask him to believe that to put questions down at this time which suggest that men are seriously ill and dying does cause widespread alarm, and if he could manage to let me have such particulars so that I could verify them before publicity is given to them, I should be much obliged.

    I will let the right hon. Gentleman see some of the information that has been supplied to me.

    In view of the disquiet that prevails in many quarters in regard to these allegations, could the right hon. Gentleman afford facilities to hon. Members to visit some of these camps?

    Yes, Sir, I have already said that I should welcome very highly visits by hon. Members. All these camps have been thrown open—at least, such has been the intention—and I think the opportunity has been taken by journalists to walk freely about the camps, to ask any questions they like, and to see anything they like, and I think most of them are extremely favourable, although, of course, the weather conditions are exceptionally bad.

    I do not want to pursue the question, but it is so important that I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that some parents complain that they were refused permission to see the camp?

    If that be the case, it was very wrong, and I will see that it is rectified. It is not our intention to close these camps at suitable opportunities to parents or to the Press, and we should very much welcome visits from Members of this House.

    While appreciating all that my right hon. Friend has done to make inquiries, may I ask him whether, in view of the fact that I too have heard complaints about this camp, and only this camp, as regards catering, he will send one of his catering advisers to make inquiries?

    That has already been done, and the principal catering adviser has been there. If my hon. and gallant Friend has anything further in mind, perhaps he will speak to me about it.

    Retired Senior Officers


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether the policy of retiring senior officers in order to facilitate promotion is to be amended, in view of the expansion of the Army, and the present international tension?

    No alteration in the regulations is necessary or desirable, but the recent expansion has made it possible to retain on the active list a number of senior officers within the age limit who could not otherwise have been given further employment, and officers who have retired are being re-employed as is most suitable.

    While recognising the vigorous efforts that the right hon. Gentleman has made, may I ask whether he realises that numerous officers with considerable experience, which is vitally necessary in these times, are being retired, and therefore, will he reconsider the matter from the point of view of retaining the services of officers who are in the prime of life and who have had considerable experience?

    I think that that is not quite accurate, and that there are very few such officers who are being retired. I think there is another question on the Paper giving the figures. In all suitable cases I think they are being re-employed.

    Bren Gun (Territorials)


    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement with regard to the provision of Bren guns to second-line Territorial regiments?

    While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, I should like to ask for his assurance that those figures apply to the Scottish Command as well as to the other Commands?

    I hope so. My information is that they apply to the whole of the 104 infantry battalions.

    Sittings Of Parliament


    asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that adequate arrangements have been made to ensure that Parliament shall be able to meet during a war?

    Czecho-Slovakian And Austrian Loans


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, without prejudice to subsequent definitions of the scope of the scheme to be submitted for dealing with assets and claims under the Czechoslovakia (Restrictions on Banking Accounts, etc.) Act, he will state whether the issuing bankers or trustees for the Czecho-Slovakia 8 per cent. Sterling Loan and the Austrian Government 4½ per cent. Guaranteed Conversion Loan have lodged claims for registration on behalf of British bondholders generally; and whether it is necessary for individual bondholders, in order that their claims may be registered, either to have given notice individually before 17th June or by permission of the Treasury there after?

    :The bank which issued the sterling 8 percent. bonds of the Czechoslovak Government Loan asked His Majesty's Government to take note of the rights of the bondholders, but it is desirable that bondholders should lodge their claims individually as requested in the notice published on 3rd April last. The attention of His Majesty's Government has been drawn to the contingent claims of the Trustees of the Austrian Government Guaranteed Conversion Loan, 1934–59, under the guarantees given by the former Czecho-Slovak Government. The service of this loan, however, is being met without any call upon the guarantor Governments. There do not appear to be any grounds for individual holders of bonds of this loan to lodge claims. In answering the specific questions put to me by my hon. Friend, I do so, as he himself suggests, without prejudice to subsequent definitions of the scope of the scheme to be submitted.

    I apologise to my right hon. Friend if I ask a question which he has already answered, but I had great difficulty in hearing the beginning of his reply. Did he say that the trustees representing the bondholders in these two issues had lodged claims on behalf of the bondholders?

    What I said as regards the first issue was that the bank had asked His Majesty's Government to take note of the right of the bondholders, but that it was desirable for bondholders individually to lodge their claims according to the announcement already made.

    As regards the second issue, I said that there seemed to be no reason for anxiety. The guarantor Governments are not being called upon and the service of the issue is being duly made.

    In view of the uncertainty with regard to this matter, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the desirability of producing a scheme as soon as possible after the Recess?

    May I ask whether there is any truth in the rumours going round that there are individuals in this country who are more concerned about the money lost in Czecho-Slovakia than they arc-about the Czecho-Slovak people losing their liberty?

    Chinese Currency


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the new Anglo-Japanese formula, the Government still intends to support Chinese currency?

    The formula agreed upon at Tokyo does not imply any change in the views of His Majesty's Government as to the desirability of maintaining the stability of the Chinese currency in the interests of this country and of other countries which have important financial and trade interests in China.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will give no special support to the Japanese currency which is circulating in China and which is tied to the Chinese dollar, and by which the Japanese are trying to get financial control over certain parts of China?

    I do not think I can enlarge upon the answer I have given, which is a full answer to the question that was put. The hon. Member's supplementary question is of a different order.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that every action he takes in the interests of this country in supporting foreign countries is subsequently used as a ground for denunciation at meetings of old age pensioners?


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the statement on Chinese currency issued at Hong Kong on 8th June to the effect that the ability of the authorities to maintain the exchange will not be questioned still represents the views of His Majesty's Government?

    The statement referred to was not issued by His Majesty's Government, who have not at any time expressed a view as to the future exchange value of the Chinese dollar.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in answer to a question put by me, he quoted these very words from the statement that was issued in Hong Kong, and am I to understand that there was no purpose whatever in quoting the statement in answer to me, and is he aware that since that statement was made the Chinese dollar has depreciated further?

    My recollection is that the hon. Member asked me for information on this subject, and I referred him to the statement issued by the authorities in China.

    May I ask what was the right hon. Gentleman's purpose in referring me to that statement if he did not take it as being substantially correct?

    I think that the statement to a large extent was a statement as to future prospects. Obviously, attention must be paid to the opinion of the authorities in the country concerned as to their currency.


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the British Government will continue to do its utmost, in the interests of world trade, to maintain the stability of Chinese currency?

    I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) on 4th July.

    Bank For International Settlements (Annuity Trust Account)

    49 and 55.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he is aware that the Annuity Trust Account of the Bank for International Settlements is invested in Germany; that £2,000,000 of this money was advanced by this country; and, as the reparation scheme for which this account was instituted has been officially abandoned, will he take steps to secure the early return of this money to Great Britain;

    (2) what interest payment was made during the last fiscal year on the approximate £2,000,000 deposit made by the Treasury with the Bank for International Settlements in connection with the now-abandoned Young Plan?


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what sum is now held on behalf of His Majesty's Government in the Annuity Trust Account of the Bank for International Settlements, and what rate of interest is now being paid thereon; for what purposes this deposit was made and is now being maintained; and, as the whole of this account has been invested in Germany, whether he will take steps for an early withdrawal of the British deposit?

    The United Kingdom is one of 10 creditor Governments interested in the Annuity Trust Account, the British share being about 26,500,000 reichsmarks out of 125,000,000. Apart from the creditor Governments the German Government undertook during the period up to 31st March, 1966, to maintain a similar deposit of 62,500,000 reichsmarks. Under the Hague Agreement of 1930 these deposits do not carry interest although the depositors are entitled under certain circumstances to receive and have received in virtue of their deposits a share in the profits of the bank. The circumstances in which the deposits were provided by the creditor countries out of reparations due from Germany are set out in Command Paper 3484: the deposits are not at present liable to withdrawal. As regards investments of the Bank for International Settlements in Germany I would refer the hon. Members to the Young Report, Command Paper 3343, pages 13 and 14.

    May I ask whether it is a fact that the purpose for which these deposits were originally made has now disappeared and that, in fact, the British Government now have an investment of £2,000,000 in Germany through the Bank for International Settlements on which they are getting practically no return, and is it not a fact that this money could be withdrawn by application to the Hague tribunal, and should not application be made immediately?

    As the hon. Member knows, this is a very complex matter, and many countries besides ourselves are concerned. I have made inquiries on the line which the hon. Member has suggested to me, and I can see much force in the view that action of that kind would revive all sorts of claims and counter-claims in respect of war debts and reparations.

    In view of the fact that we are running the risk of losing £2,000,000 which belongs to us, will not the Chancellor seriously consider consulting with other Governments concerned with a view to bringing the matter before the Hague tribunal, which is concerned in the matter?

    I will take note of the hon. Member's suggestion, but I repeat that a number of Governments are concerned, such as the French Government, which has a very much bigger interest than we have. Probably there is very good reason for leaving things as they are.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the French Government on this matter?

    Income Tax (Sickness And Disablement Benefit)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that in April, 1933, a claim for Income Tax made by a local Bournemouth inspector upon Mr. T. J. Potter of Southbourne, Hampshire, a member of the United Law Clerks Friendly Society, was withdrawn at the instance of the Inland Revenue Department at Somerset House, on the ground that the benefit received by him from the society named was in the nature of a continued sickness or disablement benefit; whether the action taken by the Inland Revenue Department in that case is affected by the decision given on 11th July, 1939, by the Special Commissioners in the case of Forsyth; if so, in what way was it affected, and will Mr. Potter henceforth be called upon to pay Income Tax upon his benefit?

    As regards the first part of the question, the case referred to had already been brought to my notice. As regards the remainder of the question, I am unable to discuss the Income Tax position of individual taxpayers, particularly in relation to a decision of the Special Commissioners which, I understand, is to be the subject of appeal to the High Court.

    Mr. Benn