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Commons Chamber

Volume 360: debated on Wednesday 8 May 1940

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 8th May, 1940.

The House met at a quarter before Three of the Clock, Mr. Speaker in the Chair.

Deaths Of Members

Mr. SPEAKER made the following communication to the House:

I regret to have to inform the House of the deaths of The Right Honourable George Lansbury, late Member for the Borough of Poplar (Bow and Bromley Division); and Sir James Terence O'Connor, K.C., late Member for the Borough of Nottingham (Central Division); and desire to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with their relatives.

Private Business

Brighton Marine Palace And Pier Bill Lords

London County Council (General Powers) Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed, without Amendment.

Christchurch Corporation Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Littlestone-On-Sea And District Water) Bill

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Thirsk District Water) Bill

Read a Second time, and committed.

Cardiff Corporation (Trolley Vehicles) Provisional Order Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the Cardiff Corporation Act, 1934, relating to Cardiff Corporation trolley vehicles," present by Mr. Bernays; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 41.]

Huddersfield Corporation (Trolley Vehicles) Provisional Order Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the Huddersfield Corporation Act, 1936, re- lating to Huddersfield Corporation trolley vehicles," presented by Mr. Bernays; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 42.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Huddersfield) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the county borough of Huddersfield," presented by Mr. Elliot; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 43.]

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Corporation (Trolley Vehicles) Provisional Order Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by the Minister of Transport under the Newcastle-upon-Tyne (General Powers) Act, 1935, relating to Newcastle-upon-Tyne trolley vehicles," presented by Mr. Bernays; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 44.]

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Norwich) Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to the city of Norwich," presented by Mr. Elliot; read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed. [Bill 45.]

Oral Answers To Questions

China (British Missionaries)


asked the Prime Minister how many missionary stations have been evacuated owing to the anti-British movement fostered by the Japanese in Hopei, Shantung, Shansi and Honan districts of North China, respectively; and whether, as many such stations have been evacuated and more than 10,000 hospital beds closed, he will represent to the Japanese Government that the continued encouragement of the anti-British movement will render impossible the improvement of relations with Japan?

According to the latest information at the disposal of my Noble Friend, 25 missionary stations have been evacuated in the four provinces named, including 10 hospitals. As a result of representations made to the Japanese Government by His Majesty's Government on the subject of anti-British agitation, it would appeal that some improvement has recently taken place.

Are any alternative steps being taken with regard to hospital provision?

Kellogg Pact


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the breach of the Kellogg Pact by Germany in the case of her attack on Poland, Norway and Denmark, and in view of the expressed willingness of the United States Government to enter into consultation with co-signatories of the pact in such circumstances, he will consider the advisability of suggesting that a conference of signatories should be called, either by the British or American Governments, with a view to consulting together as to what action can be taken to refrain from assisting the aggressor by financial, economic, trade, or diplomatic action?

As stated in my reply to the hon. Member on 10th April, it is not for His Majesty's Government to suggest to the United States Government what attitude to adopt in regard to the violation of a treaty to which the United States are a party. His Majesty's Government are not at the present juncture prepared to take the initiative in convening a conference of the signatories of the Pact of Paris.

In view of the expressed willingness of the United States Government to consult with the other co-signatories, would it not be only a natural and reasonable thing to have a talk with them and see what they think about it?

Denmark (Allies' War Aims)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will include as one of the ob- jects of the Allies in the war that of securing the restoration of the freedom and independence of Denmark?

International Post-War Co-Operation


asked the Prime Minister whether he will assure the House that the creation of a Federal Union of European States is not one of the war aims of His Majesty's Government?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) on the 2nd May.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this plan, if adopted, will arouse hostility against us in almost the whole of Europe, who look upon it as the setting up of a Judaeo-Masonic super-state?

I would rather leave my hon. and gallant Friend's interpretation of this plan to him and the explanation of the Government's attitude to my Noble Friend's broadcast of 7th November last, to which I refer my hon. and gallant Friend.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he considers that in their interpretation of the reactions of neutrals His Majesty's Government really live in an atmosphere of reality?

Red Cross (Enemy Bombing)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will give the instances in which German air forces have bombed hospital units or ships belonging to Great Britain, the Norwegian Government, or private units under the Red Cross?

I am not in a position to give many details of operations in Norway. I can state, however, that bombs have been aimed, though unsuccessfully, at a British hospital ship which was lying quite apart from all other ships at the time of the attack and that on three occasions Norwegian hospital ships have been bombed in Norwegian waters, with serious loss of life to doctors and nurses. I understand that the Norwegian Government have asked the International Red Cross to make emphatic representations to the German Government to respect the red cross on Norwegian ships.

As I told my hon. and gallant Friend in reply to his Question on 1st May, it is hoped that a fuller statement on the German methods of warfare in Norway will be made when detailed reports come in.

Is there anything in the least surprising in this? Is it not what the Nazis always do?

Have His Majesty's Government submitted to the Red Cross at Geneva the evidence they possess on this point?

We are waiting on the evidence of the Norwegian campaign to give our full report. The hon. Member may be satisfied that we shall take the best possible steps to make the details known.

Royal Air Force

War Decorations And Medals


asked the Secretary of State for Air on what grounds, other than class distinction, have commissioned officers been awarded decorations of higher order than have non-commissioned officers for meritorious services performed under precisely similar conditions and of equal gallantry; and whether the Co-ordinating Committee on the grant of honours, decorations and medals in time of war have considered this matter?

I assume that the hon. Member has chiefly in mind the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Flying Medal, which are of equal value. The difference of form is in accordance with naval and military precedents of long-standing and the question whether any change should be made in this respect is about to be considered, by the Co-ordinating Committee to which the hon. Member refers.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that I was told some time back that this matter had been re- ferred to the Co-ordinating Committee; is it not time a decision was given; and cannot the Air Ministry free itself from precedent seeing it is a comparatively new service?

We are not in any way hide-bound by precedent, but of course the other two Services are concerned and the matter must be one for decision by all three Services. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, consistent with attention to matters that may have far more importance at the present time, no undue delay will take place.

Is not this matter one solely in the discretion of His Majesty?

Women's Auxiliary Force


asked the Secretary of State for Air what is the minimum age for commissions in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force; in how many cases have exceptions been made; and whether he will consider raising the age at which commissions can be given, in view of the responsibility of junior officers for certain aspects of the welfare of the women under their command?

The minimum age for appointment as an officer in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force is 18 and no exceptions have been made. No officer under 20 has been appointed for administrative duties, which involve the control of airwomen, and only one in 10 of the administrative officers is under 25 years of age.

Who makes inquiries into the pre-war experience and capacity in administrative work of these officers?

That is a different question, and if the hon. Member will put it down I will give her a reply.

Northern Ireland


asked the Secretary of State for Air what progress has been made towards establishing another aerodrome in, and whether any additional work for the Air Ministry has been allocated to, Northern Ireland?

Close co-operation is being maintained between the Government of Northern Ireland and my Department in regard to examination of all possible aerodrome sites. One further site has been provisionally selected. Additional firms are being employed on sub-contract work in connection with air-frame construction and are, where necessary, being assisted financially in the provision of essential plant. The possibility of utilising the capacity of other suitable firms is kept under constant review.

Shall I get an assurance to-day for Ulster from my hon. and gallant Friend that that aerodrome will be put into shape at the earliest possible moment, as it is very pressing?

Russia (British Ambassador)


asked the Prime Minister whether he can now say when the British Ambassador will return to Moscow?

Do not the Government appreciate that it is the height of folly not to have an Ambassador there in present circumstances?

The hon. Member can be assured that my Noble Friend has the importance of this matter very much in mind, in conjunction with the consideration which is now being given to the proposal made by the Soviet Union on the subject of trade exchanges between our two countries. We have an able representative in Moscow, but the importance of having our Ambassador there is fully appreciated.

Singapore (Disturbances)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information about the demonstration of workers in Singapore when three Chinese were shot, two being seriously wounded?

While the police were engaged in preventing by peaceful methods the mustering of an unauthorised and therefore illegal political demonstration organised by Communists in Singapore on the 1st May, a picket of 20 police, with a European Inspector, were attacked by a crowd of some 400 Chinese armed with heavy billets of wood and bottles. A warning shot was ignored, and the crowd struck down a sergeant. Four revolver shots were then fired by the police in self-defence. Six Chinese were hit and wounded, two of these, I regret to say, fatally. In the course of the disturbance six police officers received injuries. The action of the police was successful in restoring order.

Have not these Chinese workers been asking for some time now for higher wages and better conditions, and will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that these applications for better conditions are not put aside as being Communist propaganda?

The Chinese workers have asked for increased wages and have received those increased wages. In this case the agitation was a purely political one.

Northern Rhodesia (Copper Mines Dispute)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can state the terms on which the white employés at the Northern Rhodesia copper mines returned to work after the recent dispute; and, in particular, whether such terms included a guarantee from the mine owners that no African should be employed on skilled labour during the war?

Fulldetails of the recent conciliation proceedings have not yet reached me from Northern Rhodesia, but I am informed that the main points in the terms of settlement were (1) time and a half for overtime; (2) provision for a cost-of-living bonus; (3) a concession by the managements to deduct union subscriptions from pay rolls at the voluntary request of individual members: (4) submission to arbitration of a demand for an increase in the basic rate of wages on a scale ranging from 20s. to 28s. per shift; and (5) an undertaking that the question of an investigation into silicosis should be taken up through the Industrial Diseases Committee. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the negative.

Will any of the terms which may have been agreed between the parties be subject to examination by the Commission?

The whole question of the strike of Europeans and matters relevant to it can be covered by the terms of reference of the Commission.

Colonies (Exports)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what he is doing to stimulate maximum production in the Colonies, with a view to providing increased foreign credits and munitions and supplies for this country?

Since the war began, experience has shown that production of most Colonial commodities is fully adequate to meet the needs of the Allies and demands from foreign countries to whom we are exporting. In those few cases in which this is not so, for example, copper in Northern Rhodesia, steps have been taken by the producers, with the approval and assistance of His Majesty's Government, to increase their capacity to the maximum possible extent.

Do I understand that generally the right hon. Gentleman is not taking any steps to increase exports similar to the steps being taken in this country?

My answer indicated that so far as the countries we are exporting to are concerned the steps are adequate.

It is impossible to say yet what the actual yield of the current crop will be, but there was an increase of planting of something like 20 per cent.

West Indies

Royal Commission


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking or proposes to take to implement the section in the recommendations of the West India Royal Commission dealing with constitutional reform; and whether he is considering any similar proposals ultimately to be applied to other Colonial possessions?

As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a similar Question by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) on 24th April. The views of several of the Governors concerned have now been received and are under consideration. As regards the second part of the Question, the experience gained in this matter in the West Indies will doubtless be of value in connection with constitutional development in the Colonies generally.

Has the right hon. Gentleman carefully considered the reports of the Governors and can he say whether he is likely to be in a position to make a statement at an early date?

I have considered the reports which have come in from the Governors so far, and I am still waiting for some others. I cannot say when I shall be able to make the statement, but it will be as soon as possible after all the reports have been received.

Development Schemes


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can now state the schemes in the West Indies on which the £350,000 now authorised will be spent?

As the reply is long and contains a number of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

Approximate cost.

British Guiana.

Reconditioning of drainage in certain areas in the coastal belt; reconditioning of roads; reconditioning of central hospital and alms-houses and certain other buildings in Georgetown52,500

British Honduras.

Construction of a road from Belize to Cayo and certain feeder roads45,000


Anti-malarial measures, reconditioning of roads and reconditioning of land for land settlement in the country districts82,500

Leeward Islands.

Minor public works, public health and soil erosion measures10,750

Windward Islands.

Improvement of roads and rivers and swamp drainage27,810

The schemes mentioned above have been approved. Others are now under consideration.

Sierra Leone (Youth League)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why an official circular was recently issued in Sierra Leone that the Youth League, with Mr. Wallace Johnson in the background, organised, in February, 1939, several strikes accompanied by violence and mutiny amongst some African soldiers in Freetown; and whether he will cause the circular to be withdrawn?

The substance of the statement to which the hon. Member refers appeared in a bulletin issued by the Government Information Officer in Sierra Leone, which was intended to keep administrative officers and others living at a distance from regular sources of news informed of events. The answer to the last past of the Question is in the negative.

Will the right hon. Gentleman disclaim such a statement in view of the fact that the president of the court-martial made a very emphatic statement that neither the Youth League nor Mr. Wallace Johnson was concerned with organising the mutiny of the troops?

All the facts were considered, and I do not see any reason to disclaim the statement in the bulletin.

In view of the fact that this is a most libellous statement against a man who is now in prison and unable to defend himself, will the Secretary of State not make a public declaration that this official declaration is not in accordance with the facts?

If the hon. Member has any facts which are at variance with those which I have had at my disposal I shall be glad to have them, but pending the receipt of those facts I cannot alter my view.

Is this one of the allegations on which Wallace Johnson has been interned?

Colonial Sugar (Preference)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will state the year on whose exports of sugar the present system of special preference to the producing Colonies was fixed; and whether, since the position of production has changed considerably as between the Colonies concerned, he will consider a change in the system of allotment?

When the special certificate preference was introduced in 1932 in order to maintain the then existing Colonial sugar industry the allocation of quotas was made on the basis of the average exports in the three years 1928–30. In 1934 the scheme was somewhat modified and revised quotas were fixed which took account both of the original quotas and of increases in exports which had taken place in the interval. I do not think that the present is an opportune time to review these quotas.

Does the Minister not agree that certain of the Colonies appear to be adversely affected at present?

I think there certainly would have been a case for considering this question in peace-time, but the war has so altered conditions there, both as regards production and marketing, that I think this is not the time to reconsider it.


Stanraer Boat Trains, Sleeping-Cars


asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the fresh evidence placed before him, and the increase of passenger traffic during the summer months, he will take into his renewed consideration the possibility and necessity of having third-class sleepers attached to the boat train to and from Stranraer?

In order to ascertain the extent of the demand, a third class sleeping-car is to be attached to the night trains between Stranraer and Euston in each direction for a period of one month from Sunday last.

If it is sufficiently well patronised I hope we shall be able to continue it.

That is rather a different question, and perhaps the hon. Member will put it down or have a talk with me afterwards.

War Organisation

23, 24 and 25.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he can make a statement on what action is being taken to prepare a comprehensive scheme of national and local transport to meet the needs that may arise at any time;

(2) whether he can now make a statement on the steps that have been taken, or are proposed, in order to increase the use made of the canals and waterways of the country;

(3) whether he has considered the relief that could be made on the volume of traffic carried by the railways by the organisation of more water-borne traffic from Manchester, Whitehaven and other places to the South by the Irish Sea, and, if so, with what result?

As part of the war organisation of the Ministry of Transport, arrangements have been made for the rapid transfer of road vehicles, no less than railway rolling stock, to any part of the country where special emergency needs may arise. Discussions have recently taken place with the Road Transport (Defence) Advisory Committee in order to see whether the arrangements for the operation of road vehicles in an emergency can be improved. With a view to ensuring to the fullest extent the efficient organisation of all transport facilities in time of war (including coastwise shipping), I have asked the Transport Advisory Council to make a further examination of the arrangements already made. I am hoping to receive their report at an early date.

In regard to Question 23, may I ask whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will avoid making any unnecessary and expensive arrangements in view of the mobility of road transport?

Mobility is one of the great advantages of road transport and I shall certainly do nothing to impair it.

Is it not of great importance to complete the orbital road which was devised many years ago in order to short-circuit the traffic coming through London from the Midlands to the East side and to the Thames side?

We have a definite policy as regards continuing with road schemes. They are being continued where military needs require it; in other cases we are bound to think of the cost.

In this case is it not of vital importance, for military and other purposes, to get this road finished?

Fighting Services' Vehicles (Speed Limit)


asked the Minister of Transport for what reason he proposes to exclude all motor vehicles owned by the fighting Services from any speed limit even when not driven by employés of those Departments and on errands not connected with the national emergency?

The provisions which the hon. Member has in mind came into force shortly before the outbreak of war, and apply only to motor vehicles which are used for naval, military or Air Force purposes and either are the property of the Admiralty, the War Department or the Air Ministry, or are being driven by persons for the time being subject to the orders of a member of the Armed Forces of the Crown. The effect of the Regulations in question is that such vehicles may, if necessary, be driven at a speed exceeding the limit prescribed in relation to the class of vehicle concerned; they do not, however, give any exemption from the speed limits applicable in built-up areas to all classes of motor vehicles. The issue of new consolidating Regulations on 1st April did not change the position so far as motor vehicles owned by the fighting Services were concerned.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that he is imperilling public safety by giving wholesale permissions to these people to go at whatever speed they like on whatever errands they may be engaged?

I do not really think that is the case. First of all, these regulations do not, as I rather think the hon. Gentleman believes, give any exemption in any circumstances from the 30-miles-an-hour limit in built-up areas. All that they do in certain circumstances—and in at least one of the Service Departments written permission has to be obtained—is to give permission to a lorry which is restricted to 20 miles to go, in case of urgency, at 30.

Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that that restriction is not put forth at all in the regulations?

Well, that is what the regulations are for, and they are generally understood to mean that. The speed limit in built-up areas is in no way affected.

Motor-Driving Licences (Age Qualification)


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will take steps to ensure that the lowest age for the holding of motor-driving licences be reduced for the duration of the war from 17 to 16, subject, of course, to the passing of a driving test and to physical fitness?

I do not think that in present circumstances it would be in the public interest to reduce the minimum age for the driving of motor vehicles.

Has the Minister forgotten that, in the last war, young men were not called up for two years, which was quite different from the present position?

I do not think there is any reason to suppose at the present moment that the shortage of drivers is so great that it is necessary to repeat the experiment of the last war. I think the House will agree that there are certain road safety considerations which make it inadvisable to employ persons under 17 as drivers unless we have to.

Firth Of Clyde (Steamer Services)


asked the Minister of Transport what statement he has to make regarding sailings in the Firth of Clyde during the summer months; and, in particular, what arrangements will be made for sailings between Greenock and Campbeltown?

As most of the railway-owned passenger steamers on the Clyde have been taken over for war purposes, the companies' summer services have had to be curtailed, and they will be unable to run a service to Campbeltown. Owing to the small amount of traffic, the Clyde and Campbeltown Shipping Company have discontinued their service except for two small cargo steamers. Passengers to Campbeltown can, however, utilise the daily service by MacBrayne's steamer to Tarbert and proceed thence by omnibus to Campbeltown.

Railway Fares (Authorised Increase)


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that increases in rail fares, including London transport, are, in many cases, in excess of 10 per cent.; whether this is in accordance with the agreement reached with the railway companies; and what action he intends to take to prevent passengers being forced to pay the increased rates?

I would refer the hon. Member to the Railways (Additional Charges) Order, 1940, dated 17th April, 1940 (Statutory Rules and Orders 1940 No. 586), under which the authorised addition to railway fares is 10 per cent. of the fare in operation, subject to certain fractions rules. It was necessary to adopt some practical rules for dealing with fractions of a penny, and those adopted on this occasion were rules which have been applied by the Railway Rates Tribunal when increasing certain charges in the past. I am aware that the effect of these rules is to increase certain fares by more than 10 per cent., but this is offset by the fact that other fares are not increased at all, or are subject to an increase of less than 10 per cent. As the full explanation of the fractions rules would make my reply unduly long, and involves a number of figures, I will with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Did not the Minister assume, when the matter was before the House, that the increase would be 10 per cent., and is it not the case in many instances, particularly in the London area, that as much as 20 per cent. increase is being charged? Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that this constitutes a grave hardship on many people who have to travel to and from their work?

I have never sought to under-estimate the hardship that any increase in railway fares is bound to impose upon people, and the less well-to-do the people the greater the hardship; but it is in pursuance of an agreement that these charges are put on. We have dealt with fractions of a penny in the way they have been dealt with by the Railway Rates Tribunal in the past.

If the fraction has to be deducted, why cannot the travelling public occasionally have the benefit of the doubt?

I have explained in my answer that some people get the benefit of the doubt and others do not. In some cases there are no increases at all.

Following is the explanation referred to:

In the case of fares other than certain workmen's fares referred to later, the rule (Rule A) is that, in determining the amount of the additional charge, fractions of a penny if less than one-half are to be dropped, if one-half or more are to be charged as a penny. The effect is that fares up to 4½d. are not increased at all; one penny is added to fares of 5d. to 1s. 2d., representing an increase of from 20 per cent. down to 7·1 per cent.; two-pence is added to fares of 1s. 3d. to 2s., representing an increase of from 13·3 per cent. down to 8·3 per cent. and so on.

In the case of workmen's fares, except fares for conveyance locally upon the railways of the London Passenger Transport Board (other than their Metropolitan Railway), the rule (Rule B) is that, in determining the amount of the additional charge, fractions of one penny if less than one-quarter are to be dropped, if one-quarter and less than three-quarters are to be charged as ½d., if three-quarters or over are to be charged as 1d. The effect of this rule is that fares of 1d. to 2d. are not increased at all; ½d. is added to fares of 2½d. to 7d., representing an increase of from 20 per cent. down to 7·1 per cent.; 1d. is added to fares of 7½d. to 1s., representing an increase of 13·3 per cent. down to 8·3 per cent.; 1½d. is added to fares of 1s. 1d. to 1s. 5d., representing an increase of 11·5 per cent. down to 8·8 per cent., and so on.

The special rule (Rule B) applicable to workmen's fares has not been applied to fares for the conveyance locally of workmen upon the railways of the London Passenger Transport Board (other than their Metropolitan Railway), for the reason that it was desired to avoid disturbing the Board's practice of charging for the conveyance of workmen on these railways the single ordinary fare for the double journey.

Ordinary season tickets (except weekly season tickets to which Rule A applies) are governed by Fractions Rule C which provides that, in determining the amount of the additional charge, fractions of 1s. are to be charged as 1s. in the rates for 12 months' tickets; in the rates for tickets for shorter periods fractions of 3d. are to be charged as 3d.

Ministry Of Information

Broadcasting (Illicit Advertising)


asked the Minister of Information what steps he is taking to put an end to the illicit trade in advertising which is being carried on by means of programmes broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation involving hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, and which is contrary to the powers vested in the British Broadcasting Corporation?

I am not aware that the B.B.C. has acted contrary to the powers vested in it, but I should be glad to have any information that the hon. Member may have.

Is the Minister not aware from his previous experience that there are clauses in the contracts which prohibit dance band leaders from accepting fees, and is it not the case that the B.B.C. are winking at the matter, with the result that the band leaders are receiving from £5 to £25 an item in this way; and will the Minister see to it that if the money has to be paid it goes into the Exchequer?

I know that the B.B.C. has been trying to eliminate this evil of song plugging. I know that the items in a dance band programme were, and are, chosen on their merits, but I know that the B.B.C. finds an extraordinary difficulty in getting the co-operation of all concerned. They have been doing what they can and hope to minimise the evil.

British Legation, The Hague (Press Staff)


asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that in the German Legation at The Hague there are 43 trained Nazi pressmen, all of whom can speak Dutch fluently, whereas at the British Legation there is only one British journalist and he has no knowledge of the Dutch language; and what steps are being taken to remedy this state of affairs?

The Press staff at the British Legation at The Hague numbers five, two of whom speak Dutch. The staff at the German Legation is larger but results are not necessarily proportionate to the numbers employed. The staff at the Legation would be supplemented if it were thought necessary by the head of the Mission.

When will the right hon. Gentleman give trained British journalists an adequate share of the work of propaganda in those foreign countries where British propaganda is most needed?

I am sorry to say that I heard only the second part of the hon. Gentleman's Question, but from what I heard I can agree that we will do it wherever we can.

To make the matter perfectly clear, the first part of the Question was: Why will you not give an adequate share of the work of propaganda to trained British journalists in those foreign countries where they can speak the language?

I was not aware that trained British journalists were not being given their fair share of the work and I shall be glad to look into the matter. If it is the case I shall be glad to consider what can be done to rectify the matter.

I have received applications from many trained journalists—[Interruption].

World-Wide Propaganda


asked the Minister of Information whether he will arrange for the fuller world appreciation of the best British characteristics by the dissemination of facts concerning the development of our social services, the progress and benefits of democratic trade unionism, political associations and local government, and the preservation of religious, political and literary freedom, especially in comparison with totalitarian and other States where this does not prevail or has been substantially destroyed?

Yes, Sir, this is being done by all available means and as fully as possible.

Are systematic attempts being made to broadcast those facts to totalitarian States, or to those who are likely to be influenced by the totalitarian States?

Yes, that is so. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman would care to see them, but I am willing to bring to the House a packet of the pamphlets dealing with such questions as he mentions, and also with recent broadcasts.



asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to the fact that television programmes are still being transmitted in Germany; and whether he will investigate the possibility of resuming television services in this country on the same lines?

My attention has been drawn to reports that television programmes are being shown in a few public halls in Germany. As regards this country, I see no reason to differ from the view expressed by my predecessor on 21st February when he said, in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant), that, on the basis of information at present available and after consultation with the Television Advisory Committee, he could see little prospect of the provision of a television service during the war. The Committee are now considering, in consultation with representatives of the radio manufacturing industry, the probable lines of development of television in the more distant future; and they will, I am sure, bear in mind the experience in other countries, including Germany.

Post Office

Telephonists (Pay)


asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been drawn to the inadequacy of the standard rates of 49s. to 52s. per week for adult male telephonists in London, quoted in his letter of 15th April to the hon. Member for the Park Division, Sheffield; and whether it is his intention to utilise part of the revenue derived from the proposed increases in telephone charges to improve those rates so as to enable these responsible employés to obtain the necessaries of life?

The wage rates mentioned by the hon. Member have recently been increased with effect from 27th April. Moreover, employés of the Post Office are covered by the discussions regarding the pay of the lower paid grades of civil servants which are now taking place with the Staff Side of the National Whitley Council. The matter is referred to in the answer of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a Question by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) on 2nd May, of which I am sending him a copy.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information as to the nature of the increases?

When are these discussions likely to result in a settlement on an upward basis? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that auxiliary postmen in the London area are considering very earnestly whether to apply for an augmentation of their wages from the Public Assistance Committee?

I cannot answer the second part of the Question; but in answer to the first part, we intend to proceed with the negotiations as rapidly as possible.

New Stamps


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider the issue of a new 2½d. stamp inscribed postage and war tax so that those who have to bear this additional burden may be reminded that they are contributing something towards the cost of the war?

A new series of centenary stamps was issued the day before yesterday, and arrangements have been made for the issue of a series of Franco-British stamps in the autumn. I am afraid that it is impracticable to issue yet another design of stamp on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend.

Would it not be possible to adopt letterpress somewhat on the lines stated in the Question, as many people consider, to use an agricultural simile which should appeal to my right hon. Friend, that it would "temper the wind to the shorn lamb"?

I think it is known to the public that the increased postage rates are contributing towards the war.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of having the 2½d. stamps made very much smaller?

Office Cleaners (Pay)


asked the Postmaster-General why increases in wages have been refused to office cleaners working in London in his Department, whereas increases have been granted to office cleaners working under similar conditions under His Majesty's Office of Works?

Cleaners employed in the Post Office in London are covered by the discussions regarding the pay of the lower paid grades of civil servants now taking place with the Staff Side of the National Whitley Council. The matter is referred to in the answer of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a question by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) on 2nd May, of which I am sending him a copy.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that at present the wages of these office cleaners are lower than those paid in the Office of Works?

Royal Navy

Women's Royal Naval Service


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the minimum age for commissions in the Women's Royal Naval Service; how many commissions have been granted to girls under that age; and whether he will consider raising the age at which these commissions can be granted and insisting that such minimum shall be observed in all cases?

Officers of the Women's Royal Naval Service do not receive commissions. The minimum age for entry into the W.R.N.S. is 18 years, but in practice a rule is being applied that no candidate shall be granted officer rank who is less than 21 years of age. There are nine officers serving who are exceptions to this rule; seven of them are 20 and two are 19 years of age. All of these young women were called up on the outbreak of war having received training prior to it. I am satisfied that great care is taken in the selection of officers for the W.R.N.S., none of whom is placed in charge of a unit if she is under 25 years of age, and I see no reason for interfering with existing practice.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some of these very young girls are engaged merely on routine clerical work, and does he not think that some inquiry should be made into granting commissions, or whatever they are called in this case, to girls so young and doing purely routine work?

From inquiries that I have made, I am advised that experience does not bear out what the hon. Lady has said. These young ladies are discharging their duties most efficiently.

Will the Minister be so kind as to reply to the actual Question which I put to him, in view of the fact that I did not make any criticisms of what these girls are doing? I was only asking for an inquiry to be made as to whether it is necessary to rank for commission young girls doing purely routine clerical work?

Unemployed Lowestoft Skippers


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any decision has yet been reached regarding offering any employment to the Lowestoft skippers who recently commanded Royal Navy patrol vessels to the entire satisfaction of their superiors and who are now without any employment whatsoever?

As my hon. Friend knows, the possibility of these men being granted appointments as temporary skippers in the Royal Naval Reserve has been fully considered. Candidates for such appointments must, however, have served at sea as skipper of a British steam or motor fishing vessel within the previous two years if they are under 45 years of age or within one year if they are over 45. The men to which my hon. Friend refers do not satisfy this condition, while in addition the majority of them are above the normal upper age limit of 55. In view of their past satisfactory services, I am still endeavouring to find them employment, and I will communicate further with my hon. Friend.

Will my hon. Friend expedite his decision, in view of the fact that these men have splendid records in two wars and are now living on unemployment benefit; secondly, if I put the Question down immediately after the Whitsuntide Recess does he hope to be in a position to answer it?

There has been no delay. One of the difficulties is to find employment which would be suitable for these men and from which their ages would not preclude them. If the hon. Gentleman puts down the Question he suggests I hope I shall be in a position to answer it.

Evacuation Areas (Loss Of Trade)


asked the Attorney-General whether he can now inform the House as to the nature of the report of the Schuster Committee with reference to the serious losses occasioned to tradesmen, boarding-house keepers, and others, in certain evacuation areas by reason of the evacuation policy of the Government; and what action the Government propose to take in the matter, special regard being had to the extreme urgency of the cases of many of those affected who have lost their means of livelihood while they retain their liability in respect of rent and rates, etc.?

The committee to which my hon. Friend refers consists, as I have explained, of the departmental advisers of Ministers comprising the Home Policy Committee. Their observations on this subject were submitted to the Home Policy Committee and the action which the Government propose to take was stated on 30th April last in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson).

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Kensington there are some 6,000 empty rateable properties on which the London County Council and the police precepts had been levied, involving an expenditure on the borough of some £307,000 and an increased rate of 2s. 10d. in the £? Does he not think that the matter is of great urgency and that legislation should be introduced to deal with the matter at once?

I accept the figures which my hon. Friend has given. As I have stated, the action which the Government propose to take was given in an answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Blackpool and I have nothing to add to that.

Government Contracts (Messrs Wimpey And Company, Limited)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will move to appoint a Select Committee to investigate the number and value of the various contracts given to Messrs. Wimpey and Com- pany, Limited, by Government Departments since the outbreak of war, and for which no other contractor has been asked to submit a competitive tender?

No, Sir. As stated by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in answer to the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) on 9th April, it is not considered to be in the national interest to disclose the number and value of contracts placed with individual contractors, but I may add that the figure mentioned on that occasion by the hon. Member for Maryhill as being quoted commonly in Scotland has so little relation to the truth as to be utterly fantastic.

The Question I am asking is the one on the Order Paper and not about any reply given to a Question several weeks ago. I am asking whether a committee of inquiry can be set up to which the real figures of these contracts can be given. I am not asking what the hon. Member for Maryhill asked, or that the figure should be given across the Floor of the House. Owing to the grave dissatisfaction which exists amongst contractors in Scotland at this firm getting contracts as described in the Question, will the Prime Minister consider establishing a committee of inquiry to find out why this has been done?

I know that that was the Question which the hon. Gentleman put and my answer was: No, Sir. I thought that it was desirable to add the information which I gave, because it seemed to me that there might be some genuine and complete misunderstanding on the subject. I may remind the hon. Gentleman that there is already a Select Committee on Expenditure, and I see no reason why this matter should not be discussed by them.

Is it not the case that it was because of the figures given by the hon. Member for Maryhill that the decision was made not to set up a committee? Will he consider the question in the light of the new statement which I have made?

North-Western Expeditionary Force (Narvik)


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that it is now clearly proved that infantry without air supremacy cannot successfully engage a well-armed enemy possessing that superiority, he will assure the House that British forces at Narvik shall not remain exposed to such grave risks unless and until such aerial supremacy has been reasonably assured?

My hon. and gallant Friend can rest assured that His Majesty's Government have fully in mind the considerations such as he mentions.

Are we also to have in mind the possibility of Narvik being evacuated to the Nazi forces?

Would not everybody desire that young lives should not be thrown away, merely in order to retrieve the mistakes of politicians?

Ministry Of Supply

Steel Production


asked the Minister of Supply why the steel plant at Ebbw Vale is working short time at the present time when the greatest possible production is needed?

I am advised that, subject to normal fluctuations arising from internal causes, the blast furnace and steel furnaces at Ebbw Vale are working at full capacity. The rolling mills are fully employed within the limits of the supplies of steel which can be made available.

Is the Minister fully satisfied that the short time being worked by the rolling mills has no connection with the unfortunate management of the company?

In view of the fact that allegations have been made recently about the management of this firm, would the Minister ask the committee on waste and expenditure to call for inquiries to be made?


asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the need to promote the utmost productive effort of the steel industry during the present crisis, he will take steps to substitute the control of the Government for the control now exercised over the industry by the banks?

I do not accept the implications of the hon. Member's Question. The control now exercised by my Department over the iron and steel industry is, in my view, sufficient to ensure that the fullest possible use is made of the productive capacity of the industry.

Is the Minister responsible for the fact that the management of Richard Thomas and Company is being shared at present by a person who is also managing director of a rival concern? Is that a good way of promoting economic efficiency in the steel trade?

I am not responsible for the management of Richard Thomas's undertaking. I am responsible, through the Iron and Steel Control, for seeing that the productive capacity of those works is used to the best possible advantage.

Is it not a fact that the managing director of Richard Thomas and Company is appointed by the Governor of the Bank of England, and that he is not a person who ought to be in charge of several concerns at the same time, especially as one of them has the largest and most up-to-date plant in the country?

I am not interested in the management of this firm. What I am interested in is that there shall be efficient output from its works. I am quite satisfied that the Iron and Steel Control, which is one of the controls of the Ministry of Supply, is attaining the most effective output from these works.

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest opportunity.

Paper Economy


asked the Minister of Supply what steps have been taken up to date to discourage the unnecessary use of paper in retail shops; and whether he will consider the desirability of distributing notices which can be put up in every retail store urging the public not to insist on the unnecessary wrapping of goods which are already in containers or packages?

Under the Control of Paper Orders Nos. 8 and 11 of 8th February and 12th April, the amount of paper which can be delivered by producers of paper to their customers is severely limited. The Press has on several occasions called attention to the desirability of avoiding unnecessary wrapping and of using the shopping basket, and the Paper Controller has recently communicated with associations of retail traders to enlist their assistance in securing further economy in the use of wrapping papers. The suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member is being considered, in connection with other measures which have been proposed to secure economy in the use of wrapping and other papers.

Would the Minister also consider limiting the issue by retail firms of big catalogues containing a great deal of paper, and would he make a regulation or recommendation on the matter?

Pre-Fabricated Army Hutments


asked the Minister of Supply whether his Department are in possession of the details of construction used by the Swedish Government in producing their pre-fabricated building parts for army hutments, and which can be erected in three hours by six to eight men with built-in beds, cupboards, tables, chairs, etc., for 24 men?

It is understood that pre-fabricated parts are used in Sweden for hutments for holiday camping, but my Department is not aware that they are used for army hutments. In any case, I am taking steps to secure drawings and details of construction of the huts.

Waste Products (Salvage)


asked the Minister of Supply whether it is his intention to substitute orders under the Defence of the Realm Act for the recommendations he has hitherto made to local authorities in relation to the salvage of waste?

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies given on 13th March to the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams), on 21st March to the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), and on 1st May to the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Culverwell). Since March, there has been a substantial increase in the number of local authorities who have organised salvage work and also in the efficiency of their operations. In view of this, it is not proposed at present to make Orders under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act to enforce my recommendations, but this step is being kept in view by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and myself in case further experience should make it necessary or desirable.

Would it be of advantage if I and other people, who have a number of old books to get rid of, handed them over to the local authorities?

Yes, Sir. The repulping of libraries which are no longer required, would be a useful contribution.

Has the Minister any evidence that any local authority is deliberately refusing to reclaim salvage?

"Deliberately refusing" is a strong term, but some are not doing all that they might.

Is the Minister aware that some who are reclaiming salvage cannot get rid of it?

Scrap Metals


asked the Minister of Supply whether he can make a statement on the progress of the collection of scrap metals in response to the appeals which have recently been made?

The collection of scrap metals is being organised through the salvage schemes of the local authorities and by special campaigns conducted by the Iron and Steel Control. The progress of the local authorities' schemes is shown by their monthly returns. The collection of ferrous scrap rose from 4,800 tons in January to 8,900 tons in March, and of non-ferrous scrap from 532 tons in January to 709 tons in March. It is expected that, with the additional schemes recently launched, the amounts collected will again be increased substantially.

The campaigns of the Iron and Steel Control cover both industrial works and rural areas. An appeal to factories and mills, stimulated by personal visits, has produced nearly 100,000 tons of scrap iron and steel, apart from the quantity sold in the ordinary course. In co-operation with the National Farmers' Union and the Central Landowners' Association, a survey is being made, county by county, of scrap iron on farms and landed estates, with a view to organising the collections in the most economical way. Inquiries have been addressed to 25,000 farmers and landowners, and the collection has already taken place in Worcestershire. Other counties will be taken in turn. A scheme is being prepared in conjunction with the Red Cross Agricultural Committee for organising village dumps for scrap iron, and it is hoped to launch it shortly. Some quantities of old railings have been obtained, and an exhibition, which is being opened this week, will show the advantages to be obtained by scrapping iron railings in favour of other materials.

Would my right hon. Friend consider encouraging local authorities to organise "scrap iron weeks" in their areas?

Is the Minister aware that while railings are being pulled down in some parts, they are being erected in other parts. Will he see that no one is allowed to put up railings?

Will the Minister see that railings at pedestrian crossings are scrapped?

Wool Control


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that there is dissatisfaction among hosiery manufacturers in Scotland in respect that the ration of 65 per cent. of yarn supplies, based on the consumption of 1938–39, is inadequate; that in several cases supplies are exhausted, and that, though the next rationing period commences on 1st July, deliveries will not be made till about the end of that month; and what provision he proposes to make to avoid unemployment in the industry during the interval between now and the end of July?

A restriction of the amount of wool, as of other materials, made available for civil consumption is in the present circumstances unavoidable, and it is for the manufacturers to distribute the use of their ration of yarn over the rationing period in the most convenient way. As regards the opening weeks of the next rationing period, it is open to them to enter into provisional arrangements with their spinners to ensure the prompt delivery of supplies.

When the rationing schemes are compulsory, will registration be compulsory; and, if not, will those who refuse to register be allowed only the amount of the ration, or will they be allowed to have additional supplies?

Is my right hon. Friend quite satisfied that the system is working efficiently and satisfactorily?

Area Organisation


asked the Minister of Supply whether the establishment of the area organisation is now complete?

The establishment of the Area Organisation, as originally envisaged, is now complete. Representative members on the 12 Area Boards have been nominated by the Admiralty, Air Ministry, Ministry of Supply and Ministry of Labour and National Service, and the secretaries have taken up their duties. The employer and trades union members of the 23Area Advisory Committees have also been appointed and the necessary arrangements have been made for headquarters administration in the Ministry of Supply.

Further, with a view to the interests of the export trade being considered at the same time as Service needs, it has now been agreed that a representative of the Board of Trade shall be added to each of the Area Boards. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, is proceeding to make the necessary appointments, some of which have already been made.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that all manufacturers and others will have their applications considered properly?

Yes, Sir. It is exactly what I hope will result from the area organisations. When hon. Members have applications made to them seeming to show that the capacity is available for the national effort they should refer them to the area committee in their neighbourhood.

Is it the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to publish a list of these area committees?

Yes, Sir, I think that has been done already, but if there is any need to do it again, I will do it through the Official Report.

Subversive Propaganda (Paper Supply)


asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the great shortage of paper, and the consequent severe rationing imposed on newspapers and the general public, he will refuse to supply paper to Communist and other anti-war organisations who publish pamphlets and news-sheets opposing the nation's war effort?

The permitting or prevention of such publications as are referred to is not a matter for my Department.

If a paper is issued without an imprint upon it, would that be a matter for the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

Food Supplies

Poultry Feeding-Stuffs


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, in view of the stoppage of Danish supplies of eggs, he is now in a position to issue an increase of foodstuffs to poultry farmers?

A special issue of cut wheat for the rearing of chickens has already been made and is operating over the four months, April to July. In view of the supply position of feeding-stuffs I can hold out no prospect of a further special issue in the immediate future.

When the Minister says "special," does he mean over and above the normal supply which has been allocated?

Can the Minister say when any definite statement will be made as to when further feeding-stuffs are likely to be available?



asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the abattoir at Alloa is hygienically equipped to deal adequately with meat in the warm season; and whether he is prepared to consult with the Alloa Town Council with a view to speedy and effective remedy for the existing deficiencies?

The question whether the arrangements made under the meat and livestock scheme in all parts of the country will be adequate when the warmer weather arrives has recently been under close examination by the Ministry's expert advisers. As regards Alloa, the Department's local officers are already in touch with the Town Council regarding certain improvements which they consider necessary.

58 and 60.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (1) whether, in the North of Scotland area and the South of Scotland area, different arrangements are come to by the respective abattoir companies with local authorities regarding the use of abattoirs; and what steps he proposes to take to give all local authorities the best terms and conditions;

(2) what is the relationship between the Ministry and the South of Scotland Abattoir Company, 80, Milsborne Street, Glasgow; what persons form the company, with their respective salaries; and what steps he has taken to see that no surpluses have resulted from the working of the slaughter-houses in the counties of Clackmannan and Stirling?

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

Following is the reply:

The Ministry of Food has entered into voluntary arrangements with local authorities in Great Britain for the use of public abattoirs on the broad basis that the Ministry pays the same rents or tolls as were paid previously by private traders in return for the same services rendered. The slaughtering is a separate issue and is undertaken by persons or bodies under contract with the Ministry, payment being on a rate per head of stock slaughtered. The Ministry has, as far as practicable, placed contracts with the class of persons who normally slaughtered at the slaughter-house concerned and as a result contracts have usually been placed with companies of butchers.

In Scotland the position is peculiar in that certain local authorities previously undertook the actual slaughtering of stock in the slaughter-houses owned by them. A local authority, which previously slaughtered the stock, has where possible been given the slaughtering contract, and I assume that the hon. Member has this fact in mind in referring to North Scotland. In South Scotland difficulty was experienced in securing suitable contractors to undertake slaughtering at some of the smaller slaughter-houses, and it was found necessary, in order to provide for slaughtering at these small slaughterhouses, to make a comprehensive contract and this was effected with the South of Scotland Abattoirs, Limited. It was not possible in the circumstances to allocate contracts to individuals or local authorities, in this area.

This Company, which was specially formed for the purpose of undertaking the Ministry's slaughtering contract, has a membership of 53 wholesale meat salesmen, livestock traders and retail butchers. I am not aware of the internal organisation and staffing of the company, but I understand that some of the members are employed as managers, supervisors, etc. Where the members are so employed they receive weekly wages.

The original contracts at all centres in Great Britain were of an experimental nature and expire at the end of the present month. Decreased rates will be operative in the new contracts. Costings inquiries are being carried out at the present time and the hon. Member may rest assured that the rates of payment will be kept closely under review.

Retailers (Prosecutions, Coventry)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether his attention has been drawn to the discharge of a number of shopkeepers who pleaded guilty at Coventry recently to overcharging and selling rationed foods without coupons; and what steps he proposes to take to strengthen the law against such offences?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland) on 1st May.

Potato Inspectors


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why preference is to be given to unmarried men under 40 years of age in applications for the position of assistant potato inspectors?

The statement that preference would be given to unmarried men under 40, which I understand was based on the pre-war practice of the Potato Marketing Board, was made in error. There is no intention to limit the field of recruitment in this way, and instructions have now been issued to make this clear.

Rationing (Visitors, Summer Resorts)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what arrangements he proposes to make regarding the rationing of visitors to summer resorts?

The needs of such visitors can be adequately provided for under the rationing scheme. Special arrangements to facilitate smooth working have already been made and I am sending the hon. and learned Member a copy of our notice giving details.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that a number of Members in this House will be away at the week-end, and what are we to do about our ration books?