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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 355: debated on Wednesday 6 December 1939

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Great Britain And Japan

3.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement concerning the recent conversations between the British Ambassador in Tokyo and the Foreign Minister of Japan?

The recent conversations, to which the hon. Member presumably refers, were between His Majesty's Ambassador and the Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs. An informal exchange of views on the issues arising out of the position at Tientsin and other outstanding questions took place.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Japanese Minister raised the question of the silver reserves at Tientsin, and whether His Majesty's Government adhere to the principles which they have previously enunciated?

The question of silver, I presume, arose with various other questions when the position at Tientsin was discussed. His Majesty's Government adhere to the principles they have previously enunciated.

Czecho-Slovakia

4.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any information concerning recent events in CzechoSlovakia?

My Noble Friend's direct sources of information on this subject are restricted, but he has no reason to doubt the substantial accuracy of reports which appeared recently in the Press regarding the brutal measures of repression undertaken by the German authorities at Prague. It will be remembered that these reports stated that the ringleaders among the students were shot and the University at Prague and Czech high schools have been shut down. Some of these measures were, in fact, confirmed by the German wireless.

Have the Foreign Office been able to form any provisional estimate of the number of Czechs who have been shot in recent weeks and the number now in concentration camps?

German Ships "Windhuk" And "Adolf Woermann"

5.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make with reference to the escape of two German armed vessels from the territory of our ally Portugal at Lobito?

According to the information in the possession of His Majesty's Government neither of the two German ships, the "Windhuk" and the "Adolf Woermann," which left Lobito Bay on r5th November, and to which the hon. Member presumably refers, was armed. The latter vessel, which had 162 passengers on board, scuttled herself when intercepted by one of His Majesty's Ships, while the "Windhuk" is known to have been searched ať one time by the Portuguese authorities while she was in port. It is no part of the duties of a neutral Power to prevent the departure of the unarmed merchant vessels of belligerents from their harbours, and His Majesťy's Government gratefully recognise that the Portuguese Government have scrupulously observed their obligations throughout the course of the present hostilities.

Armed Forces (Decorations)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether there are any set principles upon which decorations for gallantry are awarded to officers and other ranks in the Royal Air Force; and which of these decorations carry financial rewards?

Conditions governing the award of decorations for gallantry to officers and other ranks of the Royal Air Force are set out in various Statutes and Royal Warrants, and, with the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate a summary of these in the OFFICIAL REPORT, together with particulars of the financial benefits, that are associated with the awards in certain cases.

In view of the widespread ignorance as to the way these awards are granted and the various grounds for complaint which, rightly or wrongly, arise, can the right hon. Gentleman say what authority decides how these awards are to be given between the Services, between various units in the Services and between various ranks in each unit?

I think the hon. Member had better put that question on the Order Paper.

Following is the summary of conditions:

VICTORIA CRoss.—Awardable to all ranks for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or sell sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER.—Award-able to officers who have been mentioned in despatches for distinguished services under fire or under conditions equivalent to services in actual combat with the enemy.

MILITARY CRoss.—Awardable to officers not above the rank of flight lieutenant and warrant officers, for gallant and distinguished services in action on the ground.

MILITARY MEDAL.—Awardable to airmen for individual or associated acts of bravery in action on the ground.

DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS AND DISTINGUISHED FLYING MEDAL. —The Distinguished Flying Cross is awardable to officers and warrant officers and the Distinguished Flying Medal to non-commissioned officers and aircraftmen, for exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.

AIR FORCE CROSS AND AIR FORCE MEDAL.—The Air Force Cross is awardable to officers and warrant officers and the Air Force Medal to non-commissioned officers and aircraftmen, for exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not on active operations against the enemy.

EMPIRE GALLANTRY MEDAL (MEDAL OF THE ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE FOR GALLANTRY).—Awardable to all ranks for acts of gallantry. (Normally awarded for acts performed on the ground, not in the presence of the enemy.)

FINANCIAL BENEFITS.

VICTORIA CRoss.—Officers—no entitlement, but may receive annuity not exceeding £75 a year if unable to earn a livelihood owing to age or infirmity.

Men-special pension of £10 a year, and £5 for each bar, payable from date of act of bravery. Pension may be increased under the same conditions and to the same extent as provided for officers. If discharged with service pension or disability pension, additional pension of 6d. a day payable (plus the special £10, pension). Only one additional pension payable per man. If the man was commissioned when awarded the Victoria Cross no additional pension is payable

MILITARY CROSS AND DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS. —Officers—nil.

Warrant officers— £20 gratuity, and £20 for each bar, payable on transfer to reserve or appointment to commission or discharge without pension. If discharged with service or disability pension, additional pension of 6d. a day payable in lieu of above gratuity. Only one additional pension payable per man. If the man was commissioned when awarded the Military Cross or Distinguished Flying Cross, no additional pension is payable.

DISTINGUISHED FLYING MEDAL.—AS for warrant officers granted the Military Cross or Distinguished Flying Cross.

EMPIRE GALLANTRY MEDAL, MILITARY MEDAL, AIR FORCE CROSS AND AIR FORCE MEDAL. —Nil.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that tile medal of the Order of the British Empire is regarded as an appropriate reward for the merits of shorthand typists, and ethers engaged on duties of clerical importance; and whether the same medal in the military division is also regarded as an appropriate reward for gallantry in action?

The medal of the Order of the British Empire, for meritorious service, is not granted to shorthand typists or to clerical workers, nor is it usually awarded for gallantry when in action with the enemy. The medal of the Order of the British Empire, for gallantry, is awarded without regard to rank or occupation. This medal also is not usually granted for gallantry in action with the enemy.

Does the right hon. G2ritIman recognise that this medal has, in fact, frequently been awarded for services of a clerical character? By that, I do not necessarily mean a low class of clerical service. May I further ask why, in the case of a non-commissioned officer, a pilot, who displayed great gallantry in the air when his machine had been shot down he was given the medal of the Order of the British Empire in preference to the Order of the Distinguished Flying Cross?

I cannot reply to that question unless the hon. Member informs me of the case he has in mind, and if he does so I will look into it. As far as tie granting of awards is concerned, I am informed that it is done as stated in the reply to the question. If the hon. Member has any further particulars to give me, I will examine the matter further.

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether there are any coordinated principles governing the award of decorations for valour and merit in the different fighting Services, and in particular governing the award of those decorations, such as the Victoria Cross, which carry financial benefits; and whether he will take steps to ensure that these awards are made on considered principles of consistency and fairness as between the various Services, and between all ranks within those Services?

A co-ordinating committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals in time of war was set up early in September. The scale of awards will be reviewed, and recommendations made, periodically by this body, which does not, of course, adjudicate on specific cases, selection for recommendation for the award of such decorations as the Victoria Cross being a matter for the Department concerned. I am not aware of any instance in which the principles of consistency and fairness as between the various Services and between all ranks within those Services are not observed, having regard to the differences in conditions. It is open to a Department to raise any question of this kind for investigation by the committee.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, however little he may have heard about it, there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the Service principals concerned, as between the various Services; and may I ask him whether the principles upon which this co-ordinating committee will operate will be published, in order to remove the impression of reticence which is characteristic of the Government's method of dealing with this matter?

Royal Air Force

Mattress Contract

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that the firm of William Rhodes, Limited, Carlton Cross Mills, Leeds, is not observing trade union standard conditions in the making of hair mattresses for his Department; and will he take steps to deal with the matter?

The attention of the Air Ministry was drawn to this matter in September last by the General Union of Bedding Trade Workers. In reply, it was suggested to the union that the customary machinery for joint discussion with the National Bedding Federation should be invoked. As no further communication has been received, it is assumed that the matter is progressing satisfactorily.

Is the Air Ministry content to go on placing orders with a non-fair firm?

No, Sir. I understand the matter is being discussed in the way I have indicated.

Aerial Navigation (Personal Training)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will consider the appointment of a director of aerial navigation with suitable staff to supervise the training of personnel in navigation for the different types of aircraft now being used under war conditions?

I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for his suggestion, but I have no reason to suppose that the present staff organisation both at the Air Ministry and at the Training Command does not provide adequately for the supervision of the training of personnel in aerial navigation.

Transport

Road Accidents

13.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the serious increase in road accidents, he will include in his statistical report not only the number killed but also the number injured and the class of vehicle involved; whether he is aware of complaints respecting the high speed of public vehicles during the black-out; why commercial vehicles are now freed from general speed limits outside built-up areas; and whether he will reconsider the provision of an all-red period at pedestrian crossings?

The preparation of the detailed information asked for in this question would entail the diversion of staff, both in the police forces and in the Ministry of Transport, from more urgent work, to an extent which I should not feel justified in accepting in present circumstances. I am aware that there have been complaints in regard to the speed of public service vehicles, and I have taken steps to assure myself that operators are not working to speeds which are unsafe under black-out conditions. If, however, the hon. Member has in mind any particular case where it is alleged that these conditions are not being observed, I shall be glad to make inquiries if he will send me the necessary particulars. With regard to commercial good vehicles, there has been no modification of the statutory speed limits except in the case of vehicles used by the armed Forces. In reply to the last part of the question, it is the present policy that an all-red period for pedestrians at traffic lights should be provided where the volume of pedestrian traffic justifies it and where it is practicable to hold up traffic simultaneously on all the roads forming the intersection.

Is the right hon. and gallant Member aware that certain users of commercial vehicles assume that outside certain limits there is no restriction applied to them, and in view of the very grave increase in casualties on the roads does he not think that a somewhat fuller analysis might be of some use?

I am afraid that I cannot agree to that, for the reasons I have stated. If people assume that the law is different from what it is, they are liable to be prosecuted.

Is the right hon. and gallant Member aware that there is as much danger of people getting influenza and pneumonia and dying through travelling too slow instead of too fast?

Is the right hon. and gallant Member aware that in the event of commercial vehicles exceeding the limit they will come under the same law with regard to the 30-mile limit which is still a fixture because there has been no change in it?

Road Hauliers (Petrol Supplies)

16.

asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been called to the great dissatisfaction of hauliers as a result of the restriction of petrol supplies, which renders it impossible for them to continue their business; and what steps he intends to take to alleviate these hardships?

22.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the grave dissatisfaction in the motor haulage section of road transport by reason of the harsh petrol restriction applied to the industry; and whether he will take steps to modify the present restrictions for fear that a number of important haulage transport concerns, unless the petrol restrictions are modified in respect of them, may be compelled to close down?

It is impossible to allocate to hauliers more fuel than is available for road haulage under the petrol rationing scheme necessitated by the war. I regret that this restriction of supplies must inevitably result in some inconvenience, and even hardship and loss, to hauliers and others. I am doing all I can to alleviate hardship, and the regional transport commissioners are distributing the available supplies in an equitable manner, with due regard to the essential transport needs of the community. This is one of the chief aims of the emergency scheme for commercial transport administered by my Department.

Is the right hon. and gallant Member aware that road transport is being supplanted by the railways, and will he arrange matters in such a way that the railways only handle rail transport goods, and that road transport goods, at present carried by the railways, are handed back ťo the road hauliers?

I cannot accept that proposition offhand, but I will look into into it.

Will the Minister agree ťhat the railways are now carrying 33⅓ per cent. more goods than they carried prior to the war, with the result that goods are held up in transit while road transport is unemployed?

That may be true, but it does not give us any more petrol. We are trying to make the best use of the transport resources available.

Will the Minister of Transporť allocate the petrol which is now given to the railways to the road hauliers?

I must distribute it among the various road hauliers, which include the railway companies.

Has the road haulier a right of access to the Petrol Control Board, or is the whole thing done by correspondence, some of which never seems to get to the responsible party at all?

The road haulier has access to the regional commissioner through his group organiser, and, if necessary, to the Commissioner direct.

17.

asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been called to the dissatisfaction of agriculturists in the Isle of Ely on accounť of the restrictions placed upon road hauliers on whom these agriculturists rely for the carriage of their produce; whether he will satisfy himself that the railways in the area offer an adequate and satisfactory alternative means of transport for such a large volume of traffic; and whether, in case of the railways not providing adequate facilities, he will take steps to augment the petrol allowances of hauliers in the region?

A resolution from the Isle of Ely branch of the National Farmers' Union was received on 30th October suggesting that railway facilities were inadequate. This complaint was at once investigated, and as a result I am advised that in general the railways offer adequate and suitable means of transport for the traffic to which the hon. Member refers. Where they do not, applications can be made for supplementary fuel rations for any necessary transport by road. If the hon. Member has in mind any recent case where it is alleged thať adequate transport has not been available and will send me the necessary particulars, I will gladly have the matter looked into.

A former answer of the Minister of Transport indicated that there was no available fuel to hand out. How does the present answer fit in with that?

Will the right hon. and gallant Member consider a proposal to give to these hauliers a basic ration which will enable them to register their vehicles?

23.

asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been called to the fact that hauliers, while receiving a petrol ration only sufficient to enable them to use a small number of their motor lorries, are yet obliged to keep all their vehicles taxed and insured on pain of having their ration still further decreased; and what steps he proposes to take in order to remedy this anomaly?

An operator is entitled to receive a basic fuel ration for every one of his vehicles which is licensed and available for use, but the hon. Member will appreciate that it would be impossible to issue basic rations for vehicles which cannot legally be operated. It is always open to an operator to apply for supplementary rations of fuel if they are required to enable essential road transport work to be done.

Is the Minister aware that the petrol ration given to each vehicle will not carry them very far? Would it not be better to give a basic ration to the company in place of the ration now given in order to enable the company to use fewer motors? Is the Minister aware that the cost of running these vehicles is about £190 a year, and is he going to do anything to remedy the grievance?

The hon. Member's suggestion would involve a complete recasting of the rationing scheme. The whole point of the rationing scheme is that there is a basic ration for every vehicle licensed. The object of the scheme is that as many people as possible should run vehicles and as many people as possible be kept in work.

Electrically-Propelled Vehicles

18.

asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been directed to the development of electric-battery vehicles, especially for delivery work in towns, not only as a means of saving petrol, but as an important contribution to the greater quietude, com- fort and health of the streets; whether he will take steps to stimulate such development; and, in particular, give all possible encouragement to any industrial initiative in this direction?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to him yesterday by my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply has a further question to-day on this subject.

Omnibus Services, Wales

20.

asked the Minister of Transport what improvements, have been made in the public motor omnibus services in Wales following the representations recently made to him?

The hon. Member will not expect me to give a detailed account of the many alterations and improvements in services which have recently been effected in Wales; but the Regional Transport Commissioner has assured me that he has taken steps to remedy as far as possible all legitimate grievances. I should be glad to ascertain for the hon. Member what action has been taken in any specific case.

Omnibus Services, London

14.

asked the Minister of Transport how many omnibus route services in London have been restored and how many withdrawn since the beginning of November?

As the reply is necessarily both long and detailed, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware of the considerable dissatisfaction that exists as to the inadequacy of the present services?

I hope that when the hon. Member has read my answer he will see that improvements have been made, and he will realise that we are doing our best in the circumstances.

Following is the answer:

I am informed by the London Passenger Transport Board that none of the withdrawn omnibus routes has so far been reinstated, but 350 omnibuses have been restored to service since the beginning of November. Altogether more than 600 additional omnibuses are now in service compared with the number running at the time when rationing of petrol and fuel oil was first introduced.

Omnibus Routes wholly Withdrawn.

No.

Pre-war Route.

Remarks.

21A.Wood Green—Brockley RiseCovered by omnibus route 21, tram route 74 and trolleybus route 641.
77.King's Cross—Tooting—WallingtonWith the exception of Nightingale Road, Hack-bridge, this route is covered by routes 39 and 77A. Arrangements are being made to restore this route shortly.
111.Finsbury Park—London BridgeWith the exception of Liverpool Road, Islington, and Drayton Park Road, this service is covered by omnibus routes 4 and 43.

Sections of Omnibus Route Withdrawn.

No.

Pre-war Route.

Remarks.

10A.Victoria—EppingWithdrawn between Victoria and Leytonstone. Covered by omnibus route 10.
19.Upper Tooting—Finsbury ParkWithdrawn between Finsbury Park and Highbury Park. Covered by omnibus route 4. Arrangements are being made to reinstate this service in accordance with its pre-war routeing.
32.Turnham Green—Raynes ParkWithdrawn between Turnham Green and Tooting. Covered by omnibus route 88 and trolleybus route 657.
34.Leyton—WhetstoneWithdrawn between Leyton and Walthamstow, Covered by omnibus route 38 and trolley-bus services.
39.Wood Green-SouthfieldsWithdrawn between Southfields and Clapham Junction and diverted to Tooting and Hack-bridge via route 77. With the exception of Replingham Road, Southfields, the route is covered by omnibus service 77A. Arrange-ments are being made to restore the pre-war route.
42.Camberwell Green—Wood GreenWithdrawn between Wood Green and Aldgate. Covered by trolleybus routes 653, 643 and 649 and omnibus route 41.
51.Sidcup Station—Bromley North StationWithdrawn between Bromley North Station and Farnborough. Covered by omnibus route 47.
63.Chalk Farm—Honor OakWithdrawn between Chalk Farm and King's Cross. Covered by trolleybus route 639.
83.Golders Green—SouthallWithdrawn between Southall and Ealing. Covered by trolleybus route 607.
89.Welling—Bromley CommonWithdrawn between Bromley Common and Lewisham. Covered by omnibus route 47.
105.Wandsworth Bridge—SouthallWithdrawn between Wandsworth Bridge and Shepherd's Bush. Covered by omnibus routes 28 and 49.
112.Palmers Green—Kew GreenWithdrawn between Kew Green and Ealing. Covered by omnibus route 65.
117.Hounslow—Virginia WaterWithdrawn between Virginia Water and Egham.
136.West Kilburn—Grove ParkWithdrawn between Grove Park and Victoria. Covered by omnibus routes 36 and 94.

Wagons (Collieries)

21.

asked the Minister of Transport what response has been made to his appeal to merchants to unload wagons more expeditiously; and whether the supply of wagons to collieries is now adequate to prevent short-time working due to shortage of wagons?

The board have supplied the following information as regards omnibus routes or sections of routes which have been withdrawn since the beginning of November:

I regret that the appeal of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and myself has not resulted in any reduction in the time during which wagons are being detained for the purpose of loading and unloading and I propose to make new Regulations in regard to demurrage which will come into force on the 15th December. Broadly speaking, the effect will be to reduce to 24 hours the "free time" allowed for loading or unloading and to double the demurrage charges payable for detention beyond the free time. As a special concession registered coal merchants will be allowed for unloading wagons 48 instead of 24 hours until 31st March, 1940, by which time they will be expected to have made such arrangements as will enable them to comply with the general requirements that wagons shall be released after 24 hours. Demurrage will not be charged on wagons of shipment coal in areas where there is a controlling body, representing railway and coal interests operating an agreed scheme for ordering wagons forward to the ports of shipment and generally for securing the most economic user of wagons. Steps are being taken to constitute such bodies in shipment areas where they do not already exist. I should like to assure the House that the Regulations will be administered with due regard to any genuine difficulties which traders and agriculturalists may have in giving strict compliance provided they can show that by the institution of a proper control of their forwarding arrangements and, where practicable and necessary, the re-organisation of their unloading and storage arrangements, they have taken all reasonable steps to adjust themselves to the needs of the situation. There have been temporary shortages of wagons in some colliery districts due in many cases to the excessive number of wagons standing under load. I hope that the quicker release of wagons which the proposed Regulations are designed to secure will be effective in enabling the railway companies to keep collieries supplied with sufficient wagons.

While welcoming the answer of the Minister of Transport, may I ask whether active steps are being taken to increase the supply of wagons?

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member will realise that it is not a thing which we can do in a few weeks.

Will not the qualifications and loopholes in this scheme enable people to keep wagons longer than they should?

No, Sir, these Regulations are fairly drastic, and because they are drastic it will be wise to administer them in a sensible way. We do not wish to penalise anyone who through no fault of his own is physically unable to comply with the requirements.

May I ask whether labour will be represented on the committee which the Minister proposes to set up, as they are the people who handle trucks and have the best knowledge of the most expeditious way of dealing with them?

Will the Minister bear in mind that in the sugar beet industry trucks are sometimes held up because of a change in Government policy?

Garage Proprietors

24.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will investigate the economic position of garage proprietors, automobile engineers and road hauliers with the object of ascertaining whether any steps can be taken to alleviate their difficult position?

An investigation is already being made into this matter by the Departmental advisers mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General, in his reply to my hon. Friend on 2nd November, 1939. These advisers include a senior officer of my own Department.

Ministry Of Information

News And Propaganda (Empire And Foreign Press)

26.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information what arrangements are made at the present time for sending news and propaganda material to foreign, Dominion and Colonial papers; to what extent this material is sent direct to the papers, or through their London correspondents: and what steps in particular are taken to keep the London correspondents in touch with what is being done so as to ensure no unnecessary overlapping?

As the House is aware, the responsibility for the issue of news rests now not on the Ministry of Information, but on the Government Department concerned. The transmission of news to papers in foreign and Empire countries is effected by newspaper correspondents in London, by news agency messages, or by British official wireless, not by the Ministry. The information for which the Ministry is responsible, including comment on news, is sent by the Ministry to Press Attachés at His Majesty's Embassies or Legations in foreign countries, and placed by them at the disposal of the local Press. In the case of Empire countries, a great deal of material is sent to Government information officers in Colonial territories and in India and Burma, for transmission to the newspapers of those countries, few of which have London correspondents and many of which do not subscribe to a news agency. On a smaller scale, material is also transmitted to Dominion Ministries of Information or their equivalent, for similar use at their discretion. I need scarcely add that the Ministry keeps closely in touch with the London correspondents of foreign and Empire newspapers. With regard to the third part of the question, the danger of overlapping is not great, since the Ministry of Information does not itself transmit news.

Do the Colonial Office and the Dominions Office keep members of their Press departments in the building of the Ministry of Information, as is done by the Foreign Office, the Admiralty, and some other Departments?

Staff Resignations

28.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information whether he will give details of recent resignations from his staff, and the respective reasons assigned?

Apart from clerical, typing and minor grades, seven officers have tendered their resignations from the Ministry since 25th October. Of these, two left to join His Majesty's Forces; one as a result of re-organisation; one to return to Australia; one in response to a request from his former employers and two for private reasons.

Did any of the private reasons expressed to the hon. Gentleman include the fact that there was no work for them to do to justify their receiving their salaries?

While appreciating that privacy must be maintained, can my hon. Friend say how many of these officers have resigned because of the fact given by them that there was no work to justify their receiving their salaries?

I have already said that the reasons given were private, and I have no reason to believe they were of the kind the hon. Member suggests.

Broadcasts

29.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information whether he will consider the desirability of broadcasting to neutral countries, Germany, and the places held in subjection by her, a selection of the best and most simply and clearly expressed views, as delivered by leaders of world opinion in all peace-loving countries, concerning the causes of the war, the aims and methods of Great Britain and France as opposed to those of Germany, and especially the necessity for the preservation of human rights; and whether, in order to ensure the maximum effect, certain of these broadcasts could be specially adapted and varied to influence by constant and even daily repetition in every country all sections of opinion calculated to strengthen the cause of the Allies?

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that such views as he refers to are constantly quoted by the B.B.C. in all its foreign broadcasts. The value of the repeated presentation of our cause in all its aspects is fully appreciated, and every effort is being made to broadcast it with the maximum effect.

Is my hon. Friend aware of a certain tendency to rate enemy propaganda higher than our own, and will he pay particular attention to the efficacy of repetition?

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the importance of repetition is fully realised.

Is the Ministry using all its authority to secure the maximum possible facilities for wireless services to foreign countries?

Reconstruction (Anglofrench Collaboration)

6.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the advisability of giving consideration to the possibility of making permanent the present association of Greať Britain and France as the beginning of an international structure open, in due course, to other nations?

The suggestion of the hon. Member would appear in present circumstances to be at least premature, but I am confident that Anglo-French collaboration will be as close and cordial in the work of reconstruction as it is in the conduct of the war.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that the closer and more permanent the association between this country and France, the more will the people of this country be pleased?

Free Wireless Licence

30.

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the decreased expenditure of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the larger financial balance available, he will consider utilising all or part of that balance for the purpose of granting free licences to certain necessitous cases, including old age pensioners, either with or without recommendations from local pensions committees or similar authorities; and whether he will issue free licences at least to old age pensioners not living with relatives or friends?

I do not consider that the possibility that there might for a time be a larger surplus of wireless licence revenue would justify a departure from the policy recommended by the Ullswater Committee of restricting the concession of free wireless licences to blind persons covered by the Wireless Telegraphy (Blind Persons Facilities) Act of 1926. If the hon. Member's suggestion were adopted there would be other classes of the community for whom an equal claim could be made.

Could not the other classes be considered on their merits? Does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman appreciate the fact that all users of wireless apparatus would appreciate this concession to a very hard-pressed and needy section of the community?

I think the wording of the hon. Member's question goes to show that he appreciates the difficulty there would be in administering this concession.

When there is a surplus arising out of the licence fees, is it not a legitimate way of using it to hand it over to the Treasury?

Expeditionary Force (Parcels And Letters)

31.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that despite the recent reduction in charges, the comparative costs of sending parcels to soldiers at home and with the British Expeditionary Force, respectively, are, up to three pounds, 6d. and 9d.; up to seven pounds, 10d. and 1s. 6d; and up to 11 pounds, 1s. and 2s.; that in practice it costs twice as much to send an average parcel to a soldier in France as it does to a soldier at home; and whether, in view of the unfairness thus shown to relatives of men in France, he will consider reducing the charges so that the cost of parcels will be the same for soldiers at home and with the British Expeditionary Force?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave on 8th November to a question on the same subject by the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Horabin).

Is not my right hon. and gallant Friend prepared to reconsider his decision in view of the sense of unfairness felt throughout the country?

The postage rates on parcels to members of His Majesty's Forces serving overseas apply to men serving in any part of the world. The rates are based on an estimate of the average cost of carrying them, without allowing for any profit, and the charge of 9d. for 3 lbs. compares with a charge of 1s. in the last war.

(by Private Notice) asked the Postmaster-General whether all letters addressed to the members of the British Expeditionary Force in France are sent by him to Liverpool before being handed over to the Army Post Office, and whether similarly letters from them are being sent to Liverpool before being delivered?

No, Sir. A statement to this effect which appeared in a British newspaper is absolutely untrue. The statement, like many other foolish rumours, was said to have originated from the German wireless.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in a position to inform the House of the paper in which this information appeared?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for the good fortune that he noticed this article and raised the matter. The newspaper in question, in a leading article, charged the Post Office with sending all letters between our soldiers in France and their homes via Liverpool. It also stated that this had been announced on the German wireless. If it be true that this was announced on the German wireless, the object must have been to cause discontent among the troops in France and their families at home. It is, in any case, unfortunate that the paper in question should have given widespread publicity to a statement which was mischievous and untrue.

Could not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman inform the House of the name of the paper?

I believe it is not usual at Question Time but I am not anxious to protect the paper. Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for me to name the paper?

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman see that a prosecution is made of the paper, as a newsvendor was sent to prison for three months for giving false information?

It is not for me to deal with the question of prosecution, but I have indicated to the House what I think of this incident.

Government Departments

Hutment Accommodation

33.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether the huts it is proposed to erect to accommodate evacuated civil servants will be erected on plans and in locations which will admit of their being utilised as holiday camps, or for other peaceful purposes, after the war, so that the expenditure incurred may become a national asset?

Wherever possible, the considerations mentioned will be taken into account, but the predominating factors must necessarily be availability of communications and of billets, supply of materials, speed of construction, etc.

Air-Raid Precautions

35.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction existing among the staff of many local inspectors' and collectors' offices of the Board of Inland Revenue, in view of the failure of his Department to provide blast-and splinter-proof accommodation for these staffs who are doing work of national importance; and whether he will take steps to see that work in connection with the provision of such shelters is carried out without undue delay, so as to ensure that all Government offices are provided with the same standard of protection as that provided by private employers?

No, Sir. So far from there having been undue delay, the work is well forward in all Crown buildings and in those buildings accommodating more than 50 staff which are the responsibility of my Department. In those buildings where the landlord is responsible under the Civil Defence Act there are still some schemes to complete and I am endeavouring to expedite matters. In addition, there are a number of smaller offices where no action is necessary under the Act, but where some measure of air raid protection is in hand or is being prepared.

Requisitioned Hotels

41.

asked the First Commissioner of Works how many more hotels have been commandeered in each of the last five weeks; and why, in the case of a Southern resort, another hotel has been commandeered within the last few days despite the fact that there were three empty houses immediately adjoining it?

Apart from one hotel which was requisitioned for the Department of Health, Scotland, on 6th November last for an emergency hospital, no other hotel has been requisitioned by my Department during the last five weeks. I have no knowledge of the hotel to which my hon. Friend refers.

Ministry Of Food

64.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many representatives of wholesalers, auctioneers, retailers and other middlemen in Scotland and England, respectively, are employed on the staff of the Ministry of Food; and whether producers of food in either country are also represented?

No one is employed on the staff of the Ministry of Food as a representative of any of the classes indicated, but directing staff in the commodity controls was drawn from trade circles, and there are also advisory bodies of a representative character. For information as to the previous business interests of certain senior officers in commodity controls, I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies given on 1st and 14th November to questions by my hon. Friends the Members for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) and The Wrekin (Colonel Baldwin-Webb). With regard to the last part of my hon. Friend's question, I would explain that my Department is not responsible for agricultural production.

As my right hon. Friend admits that various interests in the trade are represented on his staff, will he not agree that someone representing the producers should also, in the interests of the country, be there?

The interests of the producers are represented by my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretary of State for Scotland, with whose Departments mine works in close collaboration.

House Of Commons Libraries (Lighting)

34.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he will restore the normal lighting arrangements in the Libraries of the House of Commons?

As the hon. Member will have observed, normal lighting has now been restored in the Libraries.

Could not some improvement be made in the lighting in the Central Lobby?

36.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he will have the position of the enunciators in the Library and elsewhere adjusted so that they can be read during the blackout?

40.

asked the First Commissioner of Works whether he will arrange for the enunciators in the Libraries to be made visible during black-outs?

Alterations have been made to the blinds and curtains so that the annunciators can now be read during the black-out.

Royal Navy

His Majesty's Ship "Ark Royal"

42.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty wheťher it was with his authority that the details of the enemy attack on the "Ark Royal" were recently published; and were these details communicated to the First Lord by the commanding officer?

An account of the enemy air attack on ships of the Home Fleet, including His Majesty's Ship "Ark Royal," was given in reply to a question by the righť hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) on 27th September. No other statement has been authorised.

Department Of Scientific Research

43.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether there is funcťioning at the present time a body similar to that of the Admiralty Inventions Board in the last war; and whether he can state the duties of that board, and give the names of ťhe principal personnel engaged?

The Department of Scientific Research at the Admiralty now performs the functions carried out by the Board of Invention and Research in the last war. Its duties include co-operaťion in the general direction and organisation of research work and the consideration, in conjunction with the technical departments concerned, of proposals from outside invenťors. The names of the senior staff will be found in the usual works of reference. In addition the advice of outside scientists and engineers is freely and frequently obtained on particular problems.

Is it not true that the House of Commons votes very little for research unless there is a war on, and that the Admiralty have been greatly hampered by not having enough money during the last 10 years?

I know of no case where they have been hampered by a lack of funds.

Magnetic Mines

44.

I think it would be better not to make public at the present time the technical details of our knowledge of these mines.

British Army (Dependants' Allowances)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will arrange for the administration of service family and dependants' allowances to be transferred from the War Office to the Ministry of Labour?

No, Sir. I do not think such a transfer in present circumstances is either necessary or desirable.

As the right hon. Gentleman does not think this transfer desirable, will he do something to speed up the War Office in dealing with the many outstanding cases; and is he aware that in the country there is a great deal of dissatisfaction about the way in which cases are dealt with by the War Office?

Questions on that subject should be addressed to the Secretary of State for War.

But is the right hon. Gentleman, as the head of the Government, aware that the general administration of allowances by the War Office is proving very unsatisfactory, and will he not, as head of the Government, inquire into the matter and see whether he cannot transfer this work to another Department, or see that the administration by the War Office is improved?

If the hon. Member has any particular cases to bring to notice—

I am not aware that there is general dissatisfaction, but if the hon. Member will give me illustrations of delay or of other objections to the present administration which have been brought to his notice, I will have them examined.

Food Supplies

Herring

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is aware that, although herring are caught in large quantities around our coasts at most periods of the year, in many districts they are unobtainable and in others the price is prohibitive; and whether he will consult with the Herring Industry Board with a view to securing a wider and more efficiently organised distribution of herring of all kinds, at cheaper prices, amongst the civil population of this country?

I am not aware of herring being unobtainable except in localities at long distances from the landing ports, where the demand is small and costs of transport exceptionally high. Prices are already subject to a Maximum Prices Order, and I have received few complaints that the maximum prices fixed are too high. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the existing channels of distribution are adequate to the needs of the trade, but if my hon. Friend has any suggestions for their improvement, I shall be glad to consider them in consultation with the other Departments concerned.

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps are being taken to prepare in advance an efficient system of marketing to ensure that the herring caught during the winter fishing season on the Firth of Forth shall be disposed of at adequate prices to the fishermen and for the benefit of consumers in this country?

From inquiries which I have had made and after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, it appears that the ordinary channels of distribution are expected to be adequate to deal with such herring as are landed.

Rationing

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will give an assurance that, in any rationing of food scheme afterwards to be fixed, he will have regard to the needs of sick and invalid people; and whether, under doctor's orders, essential foodstuffs can be substituted for non-essential foods within the scheme and increased or decreased accordingly?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) on 30th November.

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether it is proposed under the rationing scheme to allow wholesale suppliers of bacon and ham to allot to their retail customers a weight of meat in excess of the permitted quantity to allow for bones, drafts and natural shrinkage?

The weight of bacon and ham allotted to wholesalers, and through them delivered to retailers, will be sufficient to give every registered consumer the full ration weight of bacon and ham free of bone. All shrinkages, natural and otherwise, will be allowed for in the price schedules.

As I have stated in the House before, I hope, by using the information that can be produced from the registration, to improve the allocation of supplies.

Is it not a fact that lots of shops can get no bacon at all, while others can get almost as much as they like?

61.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether those who do not eat bacon for religious reasons, such as Jews, are permitted to draw an increased butter ration; and whether this privilege can be extended to others who for reasons of health and taste are unable to eat it?

I have carefully considered the position under the scheme for rationing bacon and butter of the special classes referred to, but I do not feel, having regard to the supplies of alternative foods available, that there is sufficient justification for exceptional treatment at present. With regard to invalids, I would refer to the reply which my hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) on 30th November.

Does the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave me three weeks ago still hold good, in view of the fact that a diabetic must have not less than two ounces of butter per day?

Yes, Sir, that answer holds good, but the question of dealing with invalids is under consideration at the moment.

Am I to understand that the whole question is under consideration and that further concessions may be given?

67.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what arrangements he is making for relaxation of strict rationing to meet cases of isolated cottagers throughout Scotland, liable to be storm-bound and unable at such times to draw their rations?

I have at present under consideration the necessary arrangements to meet such cases as the hon. Member has in mind.

70.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, pending the coming into force of rationing, retailers will receive supplies of bacon, ham, and butter, in proportion to their pre-war ratio, or in proportion to the number of ration books now deposited with them?

The allocations will be adjusted as rapidly as possible in accordance with the recent registration returns.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is not much satisfaction to the people who are getting no bacon at all, that customers of the Doncaster Co-operative Society a fortnight ago got half a pound for three adults, and that last week most of them got none at all?

I am not aware of the facts to which the hon. Member refers, but, as I said earlier, where the registration returns show that bacon is being allotted in quantities less than are required, every effort will be made as speedily as possible to make up the shortage.

Imported Meat (Distribution)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether his attention has been called to the breakdown of the Food Ministry supply depots for imported meat which has led to the establishment of unofficial sources of supply, and has resulted in the small retailer being squeezed out by the large multiple firms and consequent profiteering; whether he is aware that the London wholesale distributors admit their impotence in dealing with the situation; and what action does he intend to take to deal with the situation?

I have received some complaints in regard to inequitable distribution arising out of the decentralisation of Smithfield and the reduced supplies available of imported meat, but I have not received from any quarter the suggestion that the present arrangements have broken down. All complaints brought to my notice have been investigated and I anticipate that the present difficulties will be largely removed with the introduction of full control early in the New Year.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not seen for himself a statement from the Society of Meat Retailers to the effect that the whole thing has broken down; and is he aware that although Smithfield Market is closed multiple firms have opened shops in Charterhouse Street and are competing with his own depôts in the supply of meat?

I have never received any suggestion that the scheme has broken down. I have received complaints such as I have indicated. With regard to the complaint in the question about the preferential treatment of multiple stores, I have inquired into that, and I may say that I have received, if not an equal number, at least a certain number of complaints from multiple stores to the effect that smaller firms are getting more meat than the multiple stores.

Where does the right hon. Gentleman get his information? Let him take a walk down Charterhouse Street and see for himself.

Barley (Brewing Industry's Requirements)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the estimated annual amount of barley required by the brewing industry; whether the brewing industry will be expected to purchase its requirements from home sources in war-time; and whether rationing of barley for brewing and distilling uses is to be enforced?

The annual amount of barley used by the brewing industry increased from 533,000 tons in 1933–34 to 625,000 tons in 1937–38. At present no barley is being imported for malting purposes and brewers are purchasing their supplies entirely from the home crop. The question of regulating the quantity of barley and other grain used for brewing and distilling is under consideration.

May I ask whether that consideration is to be with a view to making some of this barley accessible to people who are producing human food such as pigs?

Is the right hon. Gentleman taking note of the excessive increase in the prices charged by the farmers to the brewers during this war time shortage; and will he intimate to that section of the community that the reaction may be very adverse to their own interests when peace time comes?

The question of whether prices are excessive or not, is always a matter of opinion.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the beer brewed from home-grown barley is just as good as, if not better than, beer made from foreign barley?

Feeding-Stuffs

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the Government will take steps to include the so-called balanced rations for cattle under the Maximum Prices Order?

These rations are covered by Section 2 (b) of the Feeding Stuffs (Maximum Prices) Order.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these compound mixtures are not so successful as raw materials; and does he not realise that if they are not balanced and not economic, it would be better to do away with them altogether?

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will have some inquiry made regarding the allocation of supplies of grain at Bristol?

I have already made inquiries regarding the system of allocating supplies of feeding grain at Bristol and other ports, and I understand that the plan introduced about four weeks ago, whereby supplies are allocated by port committees to c.i.f. importers on the basis of their pre-war imports, is working satisfactorily at Bristol.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Evesham is an important agricultural centre and that farmers there are unable to get distribution of feeding-stuffs; and will he kindly look into the matter?

69.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, seeing that a large quota of cattle and pigs are shipped from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and that this shipment may be seriously diminished through the prevailing shortage of food for cattle and pigs, he will make provision for a larger quantity of feeding-stuff to be assigned to Northern Ireland?

Since the beginning of the war Northern Ireland has received as large a percentage of its normal requirements of imported feeding-stuffs as other parts of the United Kingdom, and every effort will be made to ensure the continuance of this policy.

Market, Spilsby

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, in regard to the proposed change of Spilsby market day to one which clashes with that of a neighbouring market town, he has considered representations from the Spilsby and District Tradesmen's Association, the Butchers' Association, the National Farmers' Union of Spilsby and the local authority, protesting against the change on the ground that it would ruin the town as a trading centre, Spilsby being dependent on its market day; and, in view of the general consternation in the town and that several meetings of protest have taken place, will he reconsider the proposal of altering the day for the collection, grading and selling of fat stock?

The proposal to change the market day at Spilsby arose out of the necessity to ensure an even flow of stock to the slaughterhouse at which stock from Spilsby is to be slaughtered when full control of meat and livestock is introduced. I have considered the representations to which my hon. Friend refers and I am glad to be able to inform him that arrangements have now been made which will obviate any change in the market day at Spilsby.

Livestock (Prices)

56 and 57.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) when the prices to be fixed for hill ewes will be announced;

(2) what steps he is taking to secure reasonable prices for producers of high-quality cattle?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 30th November to a question asked by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in the course of which I announced the withdrawal of the Maximum Prices Order for fat stock pending the introduction of the full plan of control. The question of the prices for high-quality cattle and hill ewes will receive consideration in connection with the preparation of the final arrangements for the introduction of the scheme for the purchase of fat stock by my Department.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects to be in a position to announce ťhe details of the full system of control?

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House any information as to the prices which are being charged for livestock this week as compared with lasť week?

I could give the House a general indication but the period under review is too short a time in which to found stable conclusions. As I anticipated, there has been an increase in ťhe prices of the best quality of cattle, but there has been no more than the usual seasonal increase in other respects.

Is the right hon. Genťleman aware of the 25 per cent. increase in the price of beef?

Pigs

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is aware that the uncertainty over the grant of permission to coťtagers to keep pigs for home or neighbours' consumption is seriously prejudicing this branch of the food supply of the country; and whether he can make any statement now as to Government policy on the matter and what are the reasons for the delay in reaching a decision?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer I gave on 22nd November to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd). The measures of control ťo which I then referred are under active consideraťion.

Will my right hon. Friend consider allowing at least one pig, per cottager without restriction?

There is no reason, if any cottager should desire to keep a pig for consumption, why he should not do so.

Bacon Production

62.

asked ťhe Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the amount of bacon throughput in the registered bacon factories for the months of October, 1938 and 1939?

The quantity of bacon produced by registered bacon curers in Great Britain in October, 1938, was 231,996 cwt. and in October, 1939, 170,871 cwt.

65.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is aware that of the 20 bacon curers in Edinburgh and district not one now qualifies for a licence to produce bacon; that these bacon curers are now receiving circulars from large English curing firms offering to supply them with bacon; and whether he is satisfied that the saving on throughput by the large curers is equal to the cost of transport of pigs from Edinburgh to the large curer and their return as bacon to the curers who are refused the right to cure?

As the hon. Member will be aware from the answer which I gave yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs), I now propose to extend the issue of licences to permit the production of bacon on premises licensed under the Bacon Industries Act where the average weekly output of bacon in 1938 was 5 cwt. or more and where the conditions which will be embodied in the licence can be complied with.

68.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will now consider the advisability of continuing to issue licences in respect of small bacon curers to produce bacon, in view of the great hardships which will otherwise be involved, and the fact that in Wolverhampton, in particular, all the small curers have been obtaining their supplies from the Wolverhampton abattoir, and there is no reason, from the point of view of economy or administration, why this practice could not be advantageously continued?

I would refer the hon. Member to my answer yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs). It is now proposed to issue licences permitting the production of bacon on premises where the average weekly output of bacon in 1938 was 5 cwt. or more. I am informed that as a result of this decision there are six small bacon curers in Wolverhampton who will now qualify for a bacon production licence, provided they comply with the appropriate conditions as to the type of bacon to be produced.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the small bacon curers who were prevented from curing from last Friday and will now on Wednesday be permitted to produce can have any guarantee that to-morrow there will not be another order changing the situation again?

Butter Distribution, Nottingham

66.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he is aware that in the Nottingham area butter wholesalers are allowed to distribute only 50 per cent. of normal July supplies to retailers, and that in consequence, since July is a holiday month, Nottingham is being unfairly treated for supplies in comparison with coastal towns; and will he remedy this immediately?

Under the temporary distribution scheme butter has been distributed to first-hand suppliers on the basis of 50 per cent. of their sales in the June-July period of 1939. In subsequent distribution through trade channels every effort is made to secure the most equitable distribution possible, taking account of all the circumstances. Distribution in the Nottingham area on the reduced allocation has been in line with that applied to the country as a whole, and supplementary allocations have also been made in that area.

Can the Minister say when the supplementary allocation was given and what was the percentage?

I could, with notice, give my hon. Friend the date in question, and the quantities.

Is it not a fact that butter is being distributed on the basis of registered customers in each area?

Yes, Sir. We are commencing now to correct the allocations with the information that has been derived from the registration of customers, and from to-day there will be, I hope, an improvement in the position.

Margarine (Vitamin Content)

71.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will make it clear to the public that only certain margarines on the market contain added vitamins which make them equivalent in vitamin content to butter?

I am informed that in the case of vitaminised margarine the fact is clearly stated on the wrapper. The public is thus able to judge for itself in this matter.

Does the right hon Gentleman associate himself with the statement which was issued from his Department and published in the "Times," on 17th November to the effect that the vitamin content of margarine is equivalent to that of butter, and does he think that that is in the public interest? Is it not misleading?

I had better have a look at the statement to which the hon. Lady refers. I am not aware of it. If she will refer me to it, I will look at it.

Meat (Prices)

72.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the abandonment of meat control prices means that before full control comes into effect negotiations will be opened up for a fresh range of producer prices; and will those negotiations be based on the price levels reached under open market conditions now prevailing, and which will include the Christmas trade?

As I stated in my reply to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) on 30th November, before full control is introduced consideration will be given in consultation with producers' organisations to the question of appropriate adjustments in the schedule of initial prices to be paid for fat stock as published on 11th November, in the light of seasonal trends and other relevant factors. It will be open to the producers' organisations to call attention to any factors which they consider relevant, although I should hardly regard the exceptional prices which are frequently paid during the Christmas trade for specially prepared animals of high quality as falling in this category.

Will the Minister take into account the way in which pigs are rushing up in price? I take it he would not regard that as a normal factor?

I would not regard an unusual phenomenon of that character as a factor.

Ministry Of Supply

Jute (Price)

73.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that the increase in the price of jute is having a serious effect upon the carpet trade in this country; and what steps he is taking to enable firms in that industry to obtain the necessary raw materials at reasonable prices?

I am aware of the increase in the price of jute. It is, of course, a world price applying to all users, and does not so far appear to have affected consumption by the carpet industry in this country. The situation is, however, being carefully watched.

Wool Control

74

asked the Minister of Supply what steps he has taken to control and to fix prices for the sale of wool; is he aware that the voluntary organisations who are engaged upon providing comforts, mainly involving knitting, for men serving in all branches of His Majesty's forces are finding great difficulty in purchasing wool, and that the prices charged are nearly prohibitive; and what is he doing to remedy this?

The sale of wool is regulated by a number of Orders made under the Defence Regulations, 1939, which specify maximum prices for wool and certain derivatives up to but not including yarn. Wool acquired by His Majesty's Government is supplied to the industry by the wool control at fixed prices. Demands for yarn by voluntary organisations and others engaged in knitting comforts for the fighting Forces have been very heavy, but arrangements have been made for special allotments of wool to spinners engaged in the supply of wool for such organisations. If the hon. Member has any evidence of unfair prices being charged for knitting yarns, I would suggest that it be brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the retail price of wool has, since the commencement of the war, risen by 3s. a pound, making the purchase of wool practically prohibitive for voluntary organisations?