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Commons Chamber

Volume 351: debated on Wednesday 20 September 1939

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 20th September, 1939.

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

Death Of A Member

Mr. SPEAKER made the following communication to the House:

I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Harry Day, esquire, late Member for the Borough of Southwark (Central Division), and desire to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives.

Oral Answers To Questions

Far East


asked the Prime Minister whether the policy of His Majesty's Government in the Far East remains unchanged?

League Of Nations


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the advantages that would accrue to us if a statement of the international purposes in resistance to aggression for which we have entered the war was made to the Assembly of the League of Nations at as early a date as practicable by the leaders of Great Britain, the Dominions, France, and Poland?

The policy of His Majesty's Government in resisting aggression was made clear in the communication sent to the Secretary-General of the League by His Majesty's Government and published on nth September. A statement to the same effect was addressed to the Secretary-General by the French Government. I cannot answer for the Dominion Governments and for the Polish Government.

In view of the fact that there will probably be a meeting of the Assembly before the end of the year, will the Government consider the advisability of making a statement there also?

No date has been fixed for a meeting of the Assembly, but I will bear in mind the hon. Member's point.

Royal Navy



asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it is intended at an early date to issue regular naval communiques and thus avoid the spreading of rumours in the absence of same?

It is the intention of the Admiralty to issue through the Ministry of Information the fullest information concerning naval operations consistent with the necessity of secrecy in war time. Communiques will be issued whenever there is news to impart.

Will it be possible for the Admiralty to publish the number of German submarines that have been sunk without giving details?

A statement of the Government's policy with regard to submarine sinkings was made in the first week of the war. I think that at present it is better to observe that policy.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the desirability of keeping the German Government in suspense and guessing as to what is happening to their submarines?

Drifters (Employment Of Fishermen)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the terms of employment of fishermen engaged to man drifters acquired for Naval Service as regards wages, compensation for death or injury, victualling allowance, and allotments to dependants?

All drifters so far taken up for Naval Service have been requisitioned on the basis that the owners provide and pay the crews. The crews are signed on under ordinary Mercantile Marine Coasting Trade Articles. The rates of pay, victualling arrangements and allotment facilities are those normally provided for under these Articles. The crews of these vessels, as members of the Mercantile Marine, are entitled to compensation for death or injury arising from war risks, in accordance with the provisions of the Pensions (Navy, Army, Air Force and Mercantile Marine) Act, 1939, under a scheme which will shortly be issued.

Is my hon. Friend aware that these instructions are not universally applied? For example, some of the crews are to receive victualling allowances while others are not. Will my hon. Friend look into that?

I know the case which my hon. Friend has in mind. I gave him the normal practice, but in an extreme case provisions were placed at the disposal of a particular drifter.

British Guiana (Jewish Refugees)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made with the scheme for the settlement of Jewish refugees in the interior of British Guiana?

The refugee organisations in this country were on the point of setting up a corporation to carry out the proposed experimental settlement scheme in British Guiana, but owing to the outbreak of war further action in the matter has had to be suspended for the time being.


Railway Companies (Control)


asked the Minister of Transport what financial arrangements have been agreed to between the Government and the railway companies now under the control of the Railway Executive Committee?

Discussions on this subject are now proceeding.

In the event of direct negotiations failing to reach an agreement, will there be arbitration, and, if so, what will be the machinery?

I do not think that we can go into that now. I have every hope that the discussions will prove successful.


asked the Minister of Transport whether the Railway Clearing House is included in the control and conditions under which the railway companies have passed under Government control?

The Railway Clearing House is a body corporate, composed almost entirely of representatives of railway undertakers whose undertakings are controlled, but it does not itself carry on an undertaking of which control can be taken.

Will the regulations governing the railway companies also apply to the Railway Clearing House?

The Railway Clearing House employés are under the same; conditions as those of the railway companies, and the regulations will apply to them, generally speaking. The fact remains that the Railway Clearing House is not a body that can be taken over under the Defence Regulations.

Is not the Railway Clearing House a joint committee owned by the four main line companies, and, therefore, falls within the terms of the transfer of the main line companies?

The answer is as I have stated. I cannot add to it. It is a very technical point.

Workmen's Tickets


asked the Minister of Transport whether be has any further statement to make concerning the issue of workmen's tickets after the sounding of the all-clear signal?

Yes, Sir. I arranged for this question to be discussed between the Railway Executive Committee and the Trades Union Congress, with the result that it has been arranged to try the following plan: — An interval of 30 minutes will be given from the sounding of the "Ail-Clear." If during this period an applicant for a workman's ticket arrives at a station and takes his place in the queue waiting access to the booking office, a workman's ticket will be issued to him. The interval of 30 minutes will be reasonably applied and discretion will be given to extend it as necessary in particular cases under exceptional circumstances.

Railways (First-Class Compartments)


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make representations to the London Transport Board, and other railway authorities, with a view to their considering the desirability of abolishing first-class compartments, at least during the rush hours, on trains where third-class compartments cannot accommodate the waiting passengers?

I am informed by the railway companies and the London Passenger Transport Board that while third-class travel is not permitted in first-class compartments, in the event of any train being seriously overcrowded, latitude is given to the railway staff to allow third-class passengers to occupy first-class compartments. The board have abolished first-class accommodation on their Tube lines, and they are considering the question of extending this practice to their other services. In regard to railways generally, the view of the companies is that the abolition of first-class compartments would diminish the general convenience of railway travel without adequate corresponding relief in other directions.

Railway Services


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the serious inconvenience which is being caused by the drastic reduction in railway. and in particular, suburban services, and in view of the fact that the country needs an efficient and adequate railway service to an increasing extent due to the population having been scattered and many families divided, will he take steps to increase the facilities immediately he is in a position to do so?


asked the Minister of Transport whether he can make any statement as to the improvement of railway services both local and long-distance?

I am aware that the curtailment of normal railway services has caused inconvenience to the public but I think that the reasons for it are generally appreciated. I am glad to say that the situation has progressively improved and that during the past 10 days the railway companies have been able to add considerably to the number of passenger trains, particularly in suburban districts. The situation is being watched from day to day and I can assure my hon. Friends that the companies will provide the best possible passenger service-consistent with the movement of exceptionally heavy freight and other traffic of an urgent national character.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that I fully appreciate that the position has improved since I put the question down?

Will the Minister undertake to consider the question of road transport in so far as its drastic limitations, both as to passengers and goods, are throwing an overwhelming burden upon a limited railway service?

I am not sure that I appreciate the precise point of the hon. Member, but considerations like that are never out of our mind. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular case in mind I should be glad to have it.

Is it not obvious that, as the road transport services are severely curtailed, the only method of transport for goods or passengers is the railways, and that, as the railways are also curtailed, nothing that can be done with the railways qua railways will solve the problem?

The petrol rationing scheme for road transport has not come in yet, and I hope and believe that when it does hon. Members will see that it is not so dreadful as some people have made out.

Road Accidents


asked the Minister of Transport how many persons were injured and how many killed in road accidents during the week preceding and also during the week following the imposition of the regulations requiring the present restrictions on the lighting of vehicles and of roads?

On the outbreak of war the compilation of monthly statistics of road accidents was discontinued in order to release police personnel for more urgent duties, and because circumstances were so changed as to destroy the comparative value of the figures. I am considering the possibility of re-introducing monthly figures of persons killed in road accidents. The information asked for in this question is, therefore, not available, but I am informed by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that the number of accidents in the Metropolitan Police District during the hours of darkness has shown a very considerable increase since the blackout regulations were imposed.

Is it right that the public should continue to observe the actual effect of the black-out regulations, which are in some cases causing more casualties than they are potentially preventing?

Is it not essential that pedestrians should be permitted to cross only where traffic lights are in force?

We are aware of the difficulties of this situation and I hope that everybody, pedestrians and motor drivers, will try and co-operate to minimise casualties.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend consider the report of the Road Accident Committee, which said that there should be a control of drink?

Business Premises (Leases)


asked the Attorney-General whether he is now in a position to say when legislation will be introduced to deal with the question of leases on business premises, where, as a result of evacuation or other emergency reasons, the value has seriously deteriorated and the leaseholder is incapable of meeting his obligations?

The question whether there is to be legislation upon the subject referred to by the hon. Member is under consideration.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say when we are likely to know the decision of the Government on this very important question?

I quite agree that it is a very important question, but I am afraid that I cannot possibly give a date. The hon. Member will, I am sure, appreciate that these and analogous questions do raise very difficult points of principle in connection with any possible legislation.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind in considering this matter the question of the payment of rates, because houses of this type have to be emptied and people cannot get any depository which will take the furniture. It is a very serious matter for those whose tenants have been removed and who not only have no rental but have to pay the rates?

I can assure my hon. Friend that all relevant factors will be taken into consideration.

Education (Reception Areas)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether he can now issue instructions for all schools evacuated to reception areas to start work at once?

Local education authorities were informed by the Board on 3rd September that schools in reception areas should be reopened as soon as arrangements for the education of the children evacuated to the locality were completed. It is hoped that schools in such areas which have not already reopened will do so as soon as possible.

Will the hon. Member consider the possibility, as a means of affording some small relief to harassed householders, of issuing instructions to teachers to occupy the children by organising games in non-school hours?

As far as I have seen, the teachers are doing their best to do this, but I hope that very shortly all schools in the reception areas will be reopened.

But I was asking as to the possibility of arranging something for non-school hours.

In a great many cases that has already been done. A great variety of expedients are now being tried by the teachers with a view to making use of these hours. I should like to impress upon the hon. and gallant Member that it is not easy at a moment's notice to provide facilities, but already a great many experiments are being conducted with remarkable success.


British Canned Foods


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can give the figures showing the quantity of fruit, vegetables and other food products canned in Great Britain during 1928; the relative quantities for the year 1938; and what are the prospects for the year 1939?

I regret that the information asked for in the first and second parts of the question is not available. As regards the last part of the question, no quantitative information is available, but since the fruit crop this year was considerably greater than that of last year, it is probable that the quantity of fruit canned will show a corresponding increase.

May I ask whether adequate supplies of sugar have been provided for these factories?

That is really a question for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Feeding Stuffs


asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps the Government are taking to ensure that farmers can obtain the necessary credit facilities or cash to enable them to purchase feeding-stuffs to maintain the livestock they possess on their farms?

My hon. Friend will appreciate that there are bound to be initial difficulties in the adjustment of business to war conditions. It is, however, to be anticipated that both the credit and the cash position of farmers will improve now that they will have a guaranteed market and prices for as much of any of the staple commodities as they can produce on their farms.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend realise that this should have been done in peace time, and that in war time it is vitally necessary that farmers should be able to purchase the necessary feeding stuffs for their cattle if they are to make an effective contribution to the national needs?

Would it not be preferable for the Government to have their own credit scheme instead of allowing farmers to increase their indebtedness to the banks?



asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will take steps to check the retail price of tractors; and whether he can give any indication of the way in which tractor work will be shared between privately-owned and Government-owned tractors?

So far as I am aware, there has been no increase recently in the price of tractors manufactured in this country. There has been an increase in the price of imported tractors as a result of the recent change in the dollar rate of exchange and the increased cost of shipping tractors to this country but, so long as the increase in price is no more than sufficient to cover these increased charges, there does not appear to be a case for Government intervention. In reply to the second part of the question, it is intended that the fullest possible use shall be made of privately-owned tractors before recourse is had to the tractors owned by the Government. Full particulars of my Department's plans in this connection are contained in a circular letter that was issued to County War Agricultural Executive Committees on 18th September. I am sending a copy of this circular to the hon. Member.

Will the Minister consider sending copies of the circulars to all agricultural committees and to those members who represent agricultural constituencies, because it would be a great convenience to us to know what his directions to such committees are?

Committees (Workers' Representatives)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to make payments for remunerative time lost to workers' representatives serving on agricultural war executive meetings and subcommittees thereof?

Yes, Sir. It is proposed to make an allowance in respect of loss of wages sustained by representatives of agricultural workers through attendance at meetings of county war agricultural executive committees and their sub-committees.

Food Supplies

Fish Distribution


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the chaos in the fish trade consequent upon the transfer of the wholesale supply market, which has caused the waste of hundreds of pounds of good fish; and whether any action has now been taken to improve conditions?


asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is now able to announce his revised plans for fish distribution; and whether it is his intention to introduce a scheme of allotment of supplies to distributors, coupled with price control, as was done successfully during the last war?

I have been asked to reply. After full inquiry I have come to the conclusion that the present scheme for the distribution of fish has failed to achieve the objects for which it was designed, and that there is no prospect of the arrangements being sufficiently improved to make the scheme satisfactory in the course of the next week or two. In these circumstances, I have decided to wind the present scheme up as from Friday evening, 22nd instant. This will mean that fish auctions will be resumed at the ports as from Saturday, 23rd, and Billingsgate Market will be reopened on Monday, 25th. Coastal merchants and inland wholesalers will return to their normal methods of trading in their usual markets. One measure of control must, however, be retained. I propose, therefore, to make, as soon as possible, an Order under the Defence Regulations fixing provisional maximum prices for catchers, wholesalers and retailers.

I have also decided to set up a committee consisting of representatives of the trawler owners, skippers and crews and all branches of the distributive trades to advise me as to what further methods of control are necessary and practical.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that his answer emphasises the value of Parliamentary criticism in these matters?

I am the last person to deny the value of properly directed Parliamentary criticism, but I am bound to say that since last week I have received from a great number of sources complaints about the operation of this fish scheme, and it was only necessary for me to hear both sides of the question to come to a decision.

Cannot my right hon. Friend wind up the scheme before Friday, because some of the fishermen and trawler owners are being wound up already? At Brighton this morning we had no fish at all.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, in announcing the abandonment of the present scheme, give us the assurance that there will be no similar scheme hatched in the future; and, secondly —

With regard to the time limit for the reopening of normal channels of trade, that is necessary in order to enable the trade to readjust itself and to make arrangements to carry on. As regards the difficulties of obtaining supplies of fish, I should like the House to realise that owing to the war conditions in which we are operating there is a restricted supply, which we are doing our best to find some means of supplementing.

On a point of Order. I respectfully submit that the statement just made by the Minister and its implications are of very great importance to Members and that many of us have —

The point of Order which I was respectfully submitting to you was that it would be of great importance if we were permitted to ask one or two further practical questions of the Minister.

The hon. Member will see that there are more than too questions on the Order Paper.



asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many food prices have been fixed up to the moment; what these prices are wholesale and retail; and what was the basis of calculation before the prices were fixed and the period for which they are fixed?

I am circulating in the Official Report a list of the Orders which have been made under the Defence Regulations, up to and including yesterday, regulating the prices of various essential foodstuffs, either wholesale or retail, or in some cases both. It is not possible within the limits of a reply to a Parliamentary question to give the details. Maximum prices have been prescribed on a basis designed to ensure that foodstuffs are sold to the consumer at prices not in excess of those which would allow a fair margin to the sections of the trades concerned having regard to the actual conditions prevailing. No periods are specified, the Orders remaining in force until amended or revoked by subsequent Orders.

Where the commodity is partially produced in this country and partially imported will the price fixed apply to the imported article as well as the home-produced one?

Yes, Sir. The price will apply whether the article is produced here or imported.

It will be done as soon as possible, but I do not want to tie myself to a date, because there are many considerations involved.

Following is the list:

3rd September, 1939.

The Feeding Stuffs (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939.

The Flour (Prices) No. 1 Order, 1939.

The Pigs (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939. (Amended by the Order of 13th September.)

4th September, 1939.

The Meat (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939. (Revoked by the Order of 9th September so far as it relates to sales by wholesale.)

The Marine Oils (Provisional Control) Order, 1939.

The Oilseeds, Vegetable Oils and Fats (Provisional Control) Order, 1939.

The Animal Oils and Fats (Provisional Control) Order, 1939.

The Margarine and Cooking Fats (Provisional: Control) Order, 1939.

5th September, 1939.

The Tea (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939.

The Sugar (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939. (Revoked by the Order of 9th September.)

The Fatstock (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939. (Revoked by the Order of 9th September.)

6th September, 1939.

The Canned Salmon (Provisional Maximum Prices) Order, 1939.

7th September, 1939.

The Dried Fruits (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939. (Revoked by the Order of 19th September.)

9th September, 1939.

The Fat Stock (Provisional Prices) (No. 2) Order, 1939.

The Meat (Provisional Prices) (No. 2) Order, 1939.

The Sugar (Maximum Prices) Order, 1939.

The Potatoes (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939. (Amended by the Order of 15th September.)

13th September, 1939.

The Butter (Provisional Maximum Prices) Order, 1939.

Order amending the Pigs (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939.

The Eggs (Maximum Prices) Order, 1939. 15th September, 1939.

The Potatoes (Provisional Prices) (No. 2) Order, 1939.

18th September, 1939.

The Condensed Milk (Provisional Prices) Order, 1939.

19th September, 1939.

The Dried Fruits (Maximum Prices) Order, 1939.



asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, in view of the interruption of the normal landings and distribution of food in many customary centres through the diversion of shipping to other ports, he will confer with other Government Departments concerned with a view to securing at the earliest possible date a resumption of the normal centres for such landings, which are better equipped to deal with such commodities, than the temporary ones set up?

I have been asked to reply. The Departments concerned are invariably consulted before a ship is diverted. A ship is not diverted except in case of necessity, and in no case is a ship diverted to a port which is not equipped to deal with the commodities to be discharged.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend realise that these ports are quite unable to deal with the tonnage which is being diverted, and also that many thousands of skilled dockers in London, who have not worked for a fortnight, could discharge the ships far more rapidly than is the case under this extraordinary scheme which has been evolved?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will recognise that the whole of this shipping diversion scheme has been carried out in the interests of national safety.

Would my right hon. and gallant Friend have some conversation with me afterwards?

British Army



asked the Secretary of State for War the number of Army horses sold to Germany during the last four years and the average price paid for each?

The sale of surplus Army horses has been effected by public auction, and I have no information as to the number, if any, that have reached Germany.

Is it not the case that because of the sale of horses to Germany we are short of them for Army purposes?

Is there any possibility of tracing how many of these old Army horses went abroad, and how many of them were sold to Germany?

Obviously it would require very elaborate machinery to establish the whereabouts of Army horses that were sold by auction.

Is it not a fact that the number of horses sold to Germany is shown by the Board of Trade returns to have been negligible?


asked the Secretary of State for War the number of horses being purchased for the Army and the average price paid for each?

My Noble Friend will, I hope, appreciate that it would not be in the public interest to disclose this information.

Medical Examination


asked the Secretary of State for War the position of a candidate in possession of an Officers' Training Corps certificate A who has been accepted by an officer commanding a unit for a temporary com mission, after undergoing training with an officer cadet training unit, and has been graded A1 in the medical examination in every respect other than that of vision, where the category given is A2; whether the necessity to wear glasses when on duty precludes such candidates from entry; and whether such a rule has general application to the Army as a whole?

Acceptance or rejection, so far as vision is concerned, would depend on the degree of the visual defect, and this would be decided before a candidate goes to an officer cadet training unit. The necessity to wear glasses does not, in itself, preclude candidates from entry, and this applies generally throughout the Army.

Enlistment (Volunteers)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that there are a large number of men who are anxious to join up as volunteers before they are called upon under their age-groups; and whether he will make arrangements to facilitate their enlistment as soon as possible?

As my right hon. Friend has already stated, we have at present all the men we can handle, except for certain classes of tradesmen. Volunteers for these classes are still being accepted. It is not intended generally to allow young men to anticipate the age of calling up but, side by side with the calling up of age-groups, opportunities will occur of accepting a number of volunteers other than tradesmen.

Will facilities be available for men who are anxious to obtain military training in some form or other, so that they will be ready for the Army sooner than if they had to wait for their age-group to be called up?

Men are able now to register themselves as volunteers. The hon. Gentleman knows that, as opposed to what happened during the last War, we are proceeding this time upon a regularised basis and not upon some form of haphazard recruitment, which would lead only to confusion.

Would it not be a pity if the regularised basis were slower than the haphazard form; and did not 500,000 men, in fact, join up voluntarily in the first five or six weeks of the last War?

Our present basis cannot be slower because, as I say, we already have as many men as we can deal with.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that there are large numbers of men who are prevented from joining the armed forces because they are in scheduled occupations, or are over the military age, who are anxious to do part-time military training and who would be willing to do home-defence service; and whether he will sanction the organisation of training centres on the lines of the Volunteer Training Corps and the volunteer force during the last War?

At the present time, it is essential to concentrate on the training of soldiers on full-time service, though it may be necessary, at a later date, to accept men for part-time military duties. In the meantime, I think that those who are available for part-time work could be most usefully employed in connection with the air-raid precautions services.

Officers (Promotion)

33 and 34.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether his attention has been drawn to the conditions governing the commissioning and promotion of Army officers in war time, in which no distinction is made between years spent on active service and years of normal peace-time routine; that eight years for promotion to captain and 17 years for promotion to major is an unfair margin of time in present conditions and that serious injustice is likely to be done to many officers of the Regular Army Reserve of Officers, particularly those who have seen active service between the years 1914 and 1920; and whether he will take steps immediately to alter the present conditions;

(2) whether he will consider the advisability of reducing to five years and 10 years respectively, the time-serving condition of eight years for promotion to captain and 17 years for promotion to major which now applies to all officers of the Regular Army and the Regular Army Reserve of Officers?

Substantive promotion during the war will be confined to the Regular Army, and, in their case, the existing rules for time promotion to captain and major will continue to apply. These rules do not apply to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers. Vacancies in war establishments will be filled by acting promotions, which will, after various qualifying periods, be confirmed into temporary rank and confer upon the officer war substantive rank one grade lower than the temporary rank. This will apply to all officers, who will be selected for such promotion by merit.

Science Students


asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to a letter issued to Cambridge undergraduates in which it is stated that medical students, research or post-graduate students in engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology will not be used for normal combatant service; and whether this was issued with the approval of his Department?

I have not seen the letter referred to, but it has been agreed that medical and dental students who have attained a certain stage in their medical and dental studies should complete those studies with a view to medical or dental employment with the Forces or as civilians. Arrangements have also been made to secure that the services of the research and post-graduate students mentioned in the question should normally be used, either in the Forces or in civil life, in such a way as to make the best use of their scientific or professional abilities.

Will my hon. Friend convey to the right hon. Gentleman the fact that discrimination of this kind will lead to a population of twittering scientists?

Anti-Aircraft Units (Wireless Sets)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will arrange for the issue of portable wireless sets to the detachments in charge of anti-aircraft guns and searchlight sets, in order to relieve the tedium of their duties?

I am glad to say that the trustees of the Nuffield Trust have agreed to provide a number of wireless sets for detachments in isolated stations.

Commodity Insurance Scheme


asked the President of the Board of Trade on what calculations the premiums for compulsory insurance of stocks have been based; what percentage of the premiums is expected to be taken up by administrative and brokerage expenses; and what it is pro posed to do with the surplus profit on the premiums?

As was stated in an announcement in the Press on 16th September, the rate of premium had to be fixed, in the absence of any actuarial data, on the basis of certain assumptions. It is yet too early to say whether these assumptions may require modification. As regards the second part of the question, I am glad of this opportunity of stating that the fire insurance companies and Lloyd's have undertaken to work the commodity insurance scheme as agents of the Government without profit to themselves. While it is impossible at this date to give any figure, I anticipate that the expenses of administration will constitute only a small fraction of the premium receipts. As regards the last part of the question, it is the intention of the Government so to adjust the rate of premium from time to time in the light of developments as to provide a fund which will not be more than sufficient to meet claims and expenses, and due account would be taken of any existing surplus in the making of such adjustments.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that in many cases far more than 6 per cent. is being passed on, particularly by wholesalers, who charge 1¼ per cent., or some such figure, on these prices, and who turn over their stocks many times a year; is this not far more than 6 per cent. and is the right hon. Gentleman watching that aspect of the matter?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has called attention to this point. It has been assumed that in all cases this charge represents 6 per cent. on the stock. That, of course, is a complete fallacy, because it depends upon the number of times that the stock is turned over in the course of a year. I am investigating a case where that charge is being made to see whether, in fact, it represents the real turnover of the stock.

It is 6 per cent. on the stock. If the stock is turned over four times in the year it represents 1½ per cent., and not 6 per cent., per annum.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the compulsory commodity insurance scheme is pressing hardly upon the jewellery industry and that many firms are finding it difficult to raise the money for the premium demanded; and, as most of the goods are comparatively indestructible, can he sec his way clear to reduce the premium on gold and silver wares?

I have received representations from the jewellery industry as to the effect of the war risks commodity insurance scheme on that industry, and I am giving the matter urgent consideration.

National Service


asked the Minister of Health whether he will publish a list in detail of those classes of emergency or National Service workers who are paid, with the rates of pay, and those National Service workers who are not so paid?

As the statement includes a number of figures, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement: —

Medical officers employed on a salaried basis in the emergency medical service for the treatment of casualties in hospital are paid at the following rates:


(a)Consultant Adviser1,400
(b)Group Officer1,300
(c)Medical Superintendent.
Hospital of 1,000 beds and over1,200
Hospital of 750 beds and over1,000
Hospital of 300 beds and over900
(d)Officer in charge of
Surgical or Medical Division (hospitals of 500 beds and over)950
(e)Surgeon or Physician Specialists800
Other Specialists in charge of Departments800
(f)Medical Officers550
(g)House Officers350

Note.— The salaries stated are on a resident basis. If board and lodging are not supplied, an allowance of £ 100 a year will be paid in lieu thereof.

Medical officers employed in the same service on a sessional basis for work done in hospital are paid as follows:

For consultant and specialist work. — £ 2 12s. 6d. per session of two hours' duration up to five sessions in any one week with £ 1 2s for other sessions, subject to a maximum payment of 120 guineas a quarter.

For general practitioner work.—£1 us. 6d. per session of two hours' duration up to five sessions in any one week, with £1 5s. for other sessions, subject to a maximum payment of 75 guineas a quarter.

Medical officers at aid posts are paid for necessary attendances at a sessional rate of £ 1 us. 6d. for a session not exceeding two hours and £ 3 3s. for a longer session with a limit of three guineas per day.

The rates applicable to members of the Civil Nursing Reserve are as set out in the reply to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Captain Elliston) on 28th July.

With regard to the latter part of the question, the general principle applicable to Air-Raid Precautions and Civil Defence Service is, that part-time volunteer service is not paid for, and that whole-time service is paid for at £3 a week for men and £2 a week for women.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will relax his refusal to employ Members of Parliament in a Government Department, with or without pay; and allow no bar to the prosecution of the war?

Apart from the general constitutional difficulty to which I drew attention in my reply on Wednesday last to the hon. Member for the Clayton Division of Manchester (Mr. Jagger), there are statutory prohibitions against the acceptance by Members of this House of offices under the Crown. Under the law, however, certain exceptions are allowed, and, in addition, some Members are already giving help to Departments. I am aware that other Members are anxious to give their services, and I do not wish to take up a more restrictive attitude than is required by the limits of what is permissible. The broad consideration which I mentioned previously cannot, however, be overlooked, namely, that a conflict of responsibility must be avoided. The legal and technical position is, moreover, very complicated, and individual cases must be considered as they arise in consultation with the Treasury. Subject to these considerations, I am quite willing to arrange for individual cases to be examined.



asked the Minister of Health whether any of the parents of children evacuated to the country are paying or making any contribution towards the 8s. 6d. per week paid by Government for the keep of their children in the reception areas?

No recovery has yet been made from the parents of school children transferred to the reception areas, but, as my right hon. Friend informed the House in a Debate on the Adjournment on the 14th instant, it is the view of the Government, with which I believe all will agree, that parents in war, as in peace, should accept the primary responsibility of maintaining their children. It has been contemplated from the outset that parents of children who are evacuated in school units under the Government plan and for whose board and lodging and general welfare the householder is made responsible should be asked, where the family circumstances justify, to make a contribution towards the cost. Detailed arrangements are being worked out, and an announcement will be made in the near future.

Will the hon. Lady see that the unemployed man will not be charged more for his child than what the Department are paying?

I think the hon. Gentleman will see, when the arrangements are made, that all these points have been kept in mind.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction in the reception areas at the figure of 8s. 6d., in view of the fact that the parents of the children and the children themselves often are a good deal better off than the people who are receiving them? Cannot the whole question be reconsidered?

The question of the amount paid for billeting a child does not arise on this. The point here is that of getting from the parents something for the keep of the children.

When fixing this charge will the hon. Lady bear in mind that many of the fathers and mothers have now a charge of round about 10s. or 12s. a week to pay if they want to see their children?

If the hon. Gentleman will read the answer, I think he will see that all legitimate difficulties are to be considered.

In regard to the arrangements which are being made by the Department, is the Opposition, or the Trades Union Congress, or the trade union movement being consulted?

The question of the sum of money to be paid has been already settled. This question deals with the amount that the parents are to be asked to contribute towards the children's maintenance. The hon. Member will see that all matters are being taken into account, and very shortly a statement will be made. Then the hon. Gentleman will be able to put forward anything that he wishes to propose.


asked the Minister of Health whether he has given consideration to the need for the provision of communal meals for men in evacuating areas who are unable to provide cooked meals for themselves?

I have no information as to the extent to which a canteen system of meals would meet a real want among those whose wives have been transferred to receiving areas, but I understand that certain great voluntary organisations which are concerned to develop the canteen system to meet the needs of the troops, of civil defence workers, and of those whose domestic lives are dislocated by the war, are alive to this particular aspect of the problem with which they are dealing.


asked the Minister of Health what steps he proposes to take to protect hotel keepers, boarding-house keepers and others in evacuated areas, whose business has largely disappeared and who have therefore no income available from which to meet their liabilities, including rent, at next quarter day?

I do not think that the difficulties to which the right hon. Gentleman refers are attributable to the operation of the Government evacuation scheme, which was primarily concerned with the evacuation of children. On the general question, I would refer to the answer given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) to-day.

National Health Insurance


asked the Minister of Health what arrangements have been made to keep in National Health Insurance those members of His Majesty's Forces, such as those of the late Territorial Army, who transferred from compulsory to voluntary insurance on reaching the income limit which made such transference necessary?

All insured persons in the position referred to by the hon. Member will either be compulsorily insured or be able to continue as voluntary contributors during the period of their service with the Forces.

Widow Pensioners


asked the Minister of Health why an insured widow reaching the age of 65, with the necessary contributions, is refused the old age contributory pension in lieu of her widow's pension; and what provision is made for this insured person to receive a free doctor, medicine and such additional benefits as her approved society may give after reaching the age of 65?

It is specifically provided in the Contributory Pensions Acts that a widow shall not receive an old age pension while she is entitled to receive a widow's pension. A woman cannot, I think, be at a disadvantage by reason of this provision, for the rate of widow's pension, apart altogether from any additional allowances for children or step-children, is in no case less than that of the old age pension which she might otherwise be entitled to receive. As regards the second part of the question, a person who is insured on reaching the age of 65 remains insured for the rest of her life, and continues to be entitled to medical benefit and to such treatment additional benefits as her approved society may provide.

British War Aims


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make it clear in any statement of our war aims that there will be included the setting up of an inter national system which will effectively prevent future wars and provide justice for all nations?

The aims of His Majesty's Government have always included the formation of a stable international system, having as its object the prevention of war and the just settlement of international disputes by pacific means.

Questions To Ministers


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider making a change in the Standing Orders which would permit the handing in of Parliamentary questions on days when the House would normally sit but is not now sitting, in order to obviate the long delay necessitated by the present arrangements in obtaining oral replies?

The hon. Member's suggestion is being considered through the usual channels.

Neutral Countries (War Damage)


asked the Prime Minister whether any compensation will be paid to neutral countries for disasters which have been caused by unintentional infractions of their neutrality by war operations?

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government are willing to pay compensation for injuries and damage in all such cases where there is reasonable proof of British responsibility.

Have these neutral countries where injuries have been received been informed that they must put in claims?

Local Authorities (Finance And Rating)


asked the Minister of Health whether he has or will give consideration to the effect of war conditions on local authority finance and rating; whether it is intended to take any action; is he aware of the increasing problem of the variability of rating burdens; and has consideration been given to the need to revise the system of Exchequer grants or to the need to take appropriate action?

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Home Security is already in consultation with local authorities on the general question of the effect of war conditions on their resources, and of the financing of the Civil Defence services in war.



asked the Minister of Health whether supplies of radium are now available for patients who are in urgent need of this treatment?

I understand that in view of the great danger to the public which would exist if radium were dispersed by high explosive action, the Radium Commission and other holders have caused their radium to be deposited in places of safety and that it is not at present available for therapeutic purposes. Provision for X-ray therapy is being as far as possible maintained. I am communicating with the commission with a view to their considering the possibility of making radium available for treatment subject to suitable safeguards.

Has the Minister of Health considered the very definite and unanimous recommendation of the National Radium Commission, King Edward's Hospital Fund, and the British X-Ray and Radium Protection Committee on this subject?

My right hon. Friend has considered all these points, and is still considering what further efforts can be made.


Licensed Premises (Closing Hour)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether his Department has taken any steps to recommend to other towns in Scotland arrangements similar to those made in Glasgow for the closing of licensed premises at 8 o'clock in the evening?

I have noted the arrangement come to in Glasgow, which is the result of local agreement. As regards the general question of licensing hours, I am not at present satisfied that a modification of the existing law is necessary. I shall, however, keep the position under review.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that already the Lord Provost of Glasgow has stated that as a result of this step there has been 50 per cent. less drunkenness and a decrease also in accidents; and is he also aware that places like Clydebank, Paisley, Rutherglen and Coatbridge have already adopted this early closing, and will he bear the fact in mind?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that licence-holders in Scotland are of opinion that, if a man cannot get all he wants before 8 o'clock, he has been wasting his time?



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has considered the numerous complaints about defects in the working of the Scottish evacuation scheme; and what steps are being taken to remedy these defects?

Difficulties were bound to arise in some areas in such a large and unprecedented movement of the population as that which has been undertaken. I have taken careful note of all representations which have been made to me with a view to remedying any well-founded complaints. All difficulties are discussed on the spot with the local authorities concerned by officers of the Department of Health and the arrangements for further transfers which are taking place have been framed in the light of the experience already gained.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, is he aware of the very deep feeling that exists in North Queensferry, which is very vulnerable, about the lack of anything being done for children; and will he consult with the authorities to secure the evacuation of these schoolchildren?

Steamship "Athenia" (Survivors' Clothing)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the Government has accepted, or will accept, responsibility for the payment of the sum of over £700 for articles of clothing, apart from gifts from citizens of all sections of the community, supplied on the order of the chief public assistance officer, Greenock, to survivors of the steamship "Athenia" who landed at Grreenock and before they were able to proceed to Glasgow; and if he has any statement to make on the subject?

I have received information of the expenditure incurred by the town council on the immediate relief of survivors from the steamship "Athenia," and also full particulars of the circumstances which made the expenditure necessary. I am not able at present to make a statement as regards the financial aspects of the matter but they are under consideration. In the meantime, I should like to say how greatly the Government appreciate the willing help given to the survivors by all classes of citizens in Greenock and Glasgow, and the promptitude and thoroughness with which the town council and their officers met the situation.

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in view the fact that this expenditure was incurred on the suggestion of the Officer Commanding a naval vessel?

Has a request of the local authority for repayment been sent to the Scottish Department?

As things are at present, is not it the case that the officer himself will be personally liable?

Air-Raid Shelters


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of Anderson steel shelters supplied to the burgh of Kirkcaldy; and how have these been distributed, as between tenants of municipal and privately-owned property?

I have been asked to reply. The number of householder's steel shelters allocated to the burgh of Kirkcaldy up to date, including 300 in course of despatch this week, is 760. The information in my possession does not enable me to answer the second part of the question.

May I take it that there will be no discrimination between tenants of municipal and privately-owned property?


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that no air-raid shelters were available for the schoolchildren of Falkirk, Stirlingshire, as at 10th September, 1939; and what steps he proposes to take in the matter?

I understand that the schools in Falkirk have been or are being provided with a certain amount of air-raid shelter accommodation and that this provision is being increased as rapidly as circumstances permit. In a circular issued by the Scottish Education Department on the 7th September Education Authorities were urged to complete with the least possible delay the measures for affording protection for children in neutral areas.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the schools of Falkirk could not possibly be opened until 10th September due to this inadequacy, and in these circumstances what steps is the Minister himself taking to force the hands of the local authorities concerned?

I understand that there has been difficulty about materials. I am anxious to do all I can to get local authorities to have the work completed and the schools opened.

Is there any difficulty as to who is to bear the cost of erecting the air-raid shelters?


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether air-raid shelters are now erected and adjacent to schools in Kirkintilloch, Milngavie, Old Kilpatrick, Bowling, and the Vale of Leven, all in Dunbartonshire?

Proposals have been approved for the erection of air-raid shelters for schools in Old Kilpatrick, Bowling, and Vale of Leven, but the construction of the shelters has been delayed by the lack of materials. No proposals have yet been received for shelters at schools in Milngavie and Kirkintilloch. The education authority do not intend to open schools in neutral areas until adequate protection has been provided.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when, in the areas to which he has referred, the schools will be opened or, at any rate, the schools where shelters have been supplied?

I cannot say when they will be opened, but I am anxious that they should be opened as soon as possible, and I am in touch with the local authorities on the matter.

May I take it that the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with the matter as expeditiously as possible?

Air-Raid Precautions Work


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of ex- policemen on pension who volunteered for unpaid air-raid precautions service in Fife, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, respectively; the total number giving voluntary unpaid service in the districts mentioned; and how many ex-policemen have been called for full-time service and the weekly payments they receive?

I understand that no complete record is kept of the previous occupation or status of persons giving unpaid voluntary service, but that there are two police pensioners engaged for whole-time air-raid precautions work in the areas of Fife, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, their rate of remuneration being £3 per week. I may add that retired police officers can best serve in an emergency in the First Police Reserve, which was created for that purpose. I am informed that the number of police pensioners so serving in the areas in question is 37, 10 and 6 respectively.

Distribution Of Leaflets, Glasgow


asked the Lord Advocate if he is aware that William Kane and D. Livingston were arrested while handing out leaflets near Howden's engineering shop, Glasgow, taken to the police station and informed that they would be charged under the Defence of the Realm Act; that one of the officers, after an examination of the Act, suggested to another that the Section dealing with Liable to mislead and disrupt might be used; that they were searched and all their personal property taken; that they were then kept in a cell for four hours after which they were liberated with a warning that they must not distribute any more leaflets till the present charge was dealt with; that Livingston's membership card of the Young Communist League was retained; and can he say in what way people will be protected against such arbitrary treatment?

I am aware that William Kane and D. Livingston were arrested on suspicion of a contravention of the Defence Regulations for distributing leaflets outside the works of Messrs. James Howden, engineers. After full investigation it was decided not to proceed with a prosecution, and the men were released and their property returned. With regard to the last part of the question, I am satisfied that no action on my part is called for.

Is it not a complete travesty of anything in the name of liberty and democracy? [Interruption.] On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, when I am in the midst of asking a supplementary question, have I not the right to claim your protection, if hon. Members interrupt me?

The hon. Member is asking a supplementary question on a pure matter of opinion.

It affects the law of the country and the power of the police, and on that I am asking a question of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The right hon. Gentleman has replied, and in his supplementary the hon. Member asks a question which is a pure matter of opinion.

May I ask whether the Secretary of State for Scotland is prepared to take any action to stop this utterly unjustifiable action on the part of the police?

I am fully aware of the circumstances of this case and, knowing the circumstances, I cannot describe the action of the police as unjustifiable.

In regard to the distribution of leaflets of this description when the nation is in such a dangerous position, can the right hon. Gentleman say that active steps are taken to protect law-abiding citizens?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a leaflet signed by Sir Oswald Mosley is being circulated asking that every opportunity should be taken by members of his organisation to awaken the people and to demand peace?

Can the right hon. Gentleman state how the Glasgow action compares with the Moscow action in regard to Trotsky?

Old Redd Bing, Blairhall


asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that there is still a pronounced glare from the Old Redd bing at Blairhall; and what steps are being taken to deal with this and other such bings in Fife?

I have been asked to reply. The fire in this bing is of long standing but is now under control, and when it was inspected on the night of 17th September no flame or glare was visible. This and other bings are being successfully treated by various methods, and 1 have had a satisfactory report on the state of those which have been dealt with in Fife.

Is the right hon. Gentleman referring to the Old Redd bing or the New Redd bing, because, while at the New Redd bing the glare has been dealt with, I am informed that there is still a glare at the Old Redd bing?

I am referring to the bing at Blairhall, and an air officer flying over that area last night reported that nothing was visible.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is another old bing burning and that we have had no mention about it in the House?

Supply Ministry

67 and 68.

asked the Minister of Supply (1) whether he can now make a full statement on the policy, administration, and organisation of the Supply Ministry;

(2) whether he is aware of the great desire of all to assist in the nations' need as soon as possible, of their desire to avoid a 1914 to 1916 period, for a speeding up of the organisation of priorities in order that supplies of material can be secured for urgent needs and the maintenance of the export trade and of economic stability, of the need for local responsibility and systematic decentralisation; and what action has been, or will be, taken in this matter?

The Minister of Supply
(Mr. Burgin)