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Commons Chamber

Volume 360: debated on Thursday 9 May 1940

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 9th May, 1940.

The House met at Eleven of the Clock, Mr. Speaker in the Chair.

Oral Answers To Questions

Unemployment

Government Training Centres

2.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps have been taken since 16th April, or are now proposed, to increase the output of semiskilled men from Government training centres?

1.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can give this House an estimate of the number of men who will pass through Government training centres this year?

The present output of the Government training centres is at the rate of 34,000 a year, including 9,000 soldiers who are being trained as Army tradesmen. The capacity of the centres is being expanded, and the double shift system is being put into operation where possible. As a result of these measures the annual output of the centres, including both soldiers and civilians, will rise to over 50,000 after a few months.

Greenock

3.

asked the Minister of Labour how the 684 men unemployed in the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry in the Greenock area are distributed in categories as wrights, riveters, platers, etc.; and how it is that these men are unemployed in view of the shortage of labour in the shipbuilding industry?

The number of unemployed registered at Greenock in the principal shipyard occupations on 11th March were 111 riveters, 57 holders up, 30 iron caulkers, 28 machinists, 26 platers, 10 shipwrights and six boilershop workers. This total of 268 fell to 206 by 29th April, the latest date for which I have figures. As the hon. Member doubtless knows, there are difficulties in securing the reabsorption of men who have been long unemployed even in the present state of demand, but no effort is being spared to achieve this in collaboration with the representatives of employers and trade unions.

Can the Minister say what actually is being done in order to re-absorb these men into employment, because this matter has been going on for a long time?

An examination of each man's name in the register has taken place, with the assistance of both employers and employed in the industry.

Apart from the examination of the man's name, is an examination being made of the man, and are efforts being made to put men on to productive industry, which is so much needed at the present time?

Arising from the original answer, in which the Minister said there were 20 platers unemployed in Greenock, if he sends those platers to Clydebank they will be immediately employed. Is he aware of that fact?

Hull

6.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that there is a greater proportion of unemployment in Kingston-upon-Hull than in any county borough north of the Trent; and will he inform the House what steps the Government is taking to improve industry in Hull?

The rate of the unemployment in Kingston-upon-Hull is considerably lower than that in several other county boroughs north of the Trent. I cannot state precisely the prospective demand for labour in Hull, but if strategic or technical considerations prevent full employment there I am confident that all able-bodied unemployed who are not liable to compulsory military service will wish to take part in the war effort either by assisting in other areas where there are urgent demands for labour or by filling the demands for volunteers in the Forces. My Department will give every help to men desiring to take advantage of such opportunities.

Will the hon. Gentleman give the name of one county borough in the county of Yorkshire, or Durham, or Northumberland, with figures worse than those for Hull?

Yes, Sir. South Shields, Tynemouth, Gateshead, Sunderland, West Hartlepool, Newcastle, Leeds.

Can the Minister say whether in those areas the Employment Exchanges are refusing to advance their railway fares to men who have got jobs in other districts, as has been done in Greenock?

That is another question, but I should not like to be taken as accepting the premises of the hon. Member.

Are not all those places where this unemployment is so rife war production centres, and, if so, what is the Minister doing about it?

Insurance Companies (Engineering Trade Unions)

4.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that three Manchester engineering insurance companies, namely, The British Engine, Boiler and Electrical Insurance Company, Limited, The National Boiler and General Insurance Company, Limited, and The Vulcan Boiler and General Insurance Company, Limited, refuse to recognise or negotiate with the trade unions representing a large majority of their staffs; and whether he will use his good offices to remove this cause of resentment?

This question has been brought to my right hon. Friend's notice by the two trade unions concerned, who at his request supplied him with certain information on the matter. He is now proposing to approach the three companies with a view to discussing the position with them.

I take it the Minister agrees that it is part of his functions to assist the removal of grievances in order that good will may prevail in this industry?

As the hon. Member is aware the Minister has no direct responsibility for this matter, but he will do what he can by seeing both sides.

Military Service

Conscientious Objectors

5.

asked the Minister of Labour under what circumstances applicants for registration as conscientious objectors have been granted the privilege of a hearing in camera before local tribunals?

By Regulation 19 of the National Service (Armed Forces) (Miscellaneous) Regulations, 1939, the hearing of cases before conscientious objector tribunals is in public unless this chairman in any particular case for special reasons directs otherwise.

Are there any rules governing the discretion of the chairmen of the tribunals? Is it not to the public advantage that they should sit in public whenever possible?

Low Category Men

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the hardship of unemployed young men whose low medical category may involve indefinite delay in their calling up for military service, but who, nevertheless, are refused employment because of their age group; and whether he will take any action in the matter, either by guaranteeing them a long period before being called up, or in some other way, enabling them to assure possible employers that the calling up will be postponed?

Men placed in Grade IV medical category are informed that they will not be called up. Men placed in Grade III will not be called up until further notice, unless they have been so graded on account of defective vision. Men placed in Grade III on account of defective vision may, if they wish, apply to be called up early, and those who do so will be called up before the remainder.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that it is precisely the men in this category who are in this most difficult position, in that they are not wanted either by the Army or by industry, and in those circumstances will he not ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to consider this particular difficulty?

Unfortunately it is not possible to see the military situation clearly enough in advance to say what the future of every man in the country shall be.

But could not some guarantee be given that those who are in that low category should not be called up for a year, so that they might be in a position to get a job?

Those who are in Grade III will not be called up until further notice, unless so graded on account of eyesight; but beyond that it is not possible to go.

India (Constitution)

11.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is now able to make a further statement as to the political situation in India?

I regret that I have nothing to add to the answer I gave on Thursday last to a similar Question by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen).

May I ask whether an interview has been arranged between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi with a view to exploring the possibility of such a settlement as was outlined in the Debate a week or two ago?

I said last week that I was quite sure that the Viceroy would be only too glad to do what he could to bring about such a conference as was suggested, provided it was likely to be acceptable to the different parties in India, and I am sure that the Viceroy will take note of that and act accordingly.

May I ask whether he or the Secretary of State for India is likely to take the initiative in this matter? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that everything depends upon initiative?

That is realised, and I think the hon. Member would agree that several times during the last few months the Viceroy has taken the initiative, but nothing has resulted; so far he has had no response.

Homing Pigeons

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has inquired into the case of Christopher Newbould, sentenced for keeping homing pigeons without a permit, a charge to which he pleaded guilty, with a view to remitting the penalty as there was no criminal intent?

I have instituted inquiries into this case, but they are not yet completed. I will communicate further with the hon. Member as soon as I am in a position to do so.

Civil Defence

Air-Raid Shelters

13.

asked the Home Secretary what steps are being taken to provide at once shelters for the homes of the people in cases where it is impossible to erect an Anderson shelter; and who is responsible for the planning and provision of such shelter?

It is the policy of the Government that, in all areas specified for the purposes of Part III of the Civil Defence Act, free shelter should be provided at or near the home for all who cannot be expected to provide it at their own expense. The responsibility for planning and providing such shelter rests upon the local authority; and, where the standard steel shelters cannot be made available, authorities should plan in terms of the alternative forms of shelter recommended by my Department. I am sending the hon. Member copies of circulars on this subject which have recently been issued by my Department. (Nos. 38, 68 and 77/1940.)

That is good as far as it goes, but what is the right hon. Gentleman doing to see that local authorities carry out the policy of the Government?

There are regional organisations which are in constant touch with the local authorities and do everything to ensure the most rapid progress possible.

Seeing that this is a matter of urgency, will the right hon. Gentleman send a circular to the area authorities calling their attention to the need for making this provision as soon as possible?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the provision of shelter is reasonably adequate in most parts of the country?

In view of recent happenings, has the right hon. Gentleman applied his mind further to the question of providing deep shelters where the ground is sloping?

14.

asked the Home Secretary what steps are being taken to ensure that adequate provision is made for air-raid shelter accommodation in houses, workshops, etc., and for the public in general, in cases where the houses are owned by people other than those resident in them; and who is responsible for the provision of air-raid shelter in such cases?

It is difficult to deal with the full range of points raised by the hon. Member within the limits of an answer to a Parliamentary Question. Briefly, the general principle is that, in areas specified for the purposes of Part III of the Civil Defence Act, a statutory obligation to provide shelter rests on the occupier of factory premises, and on the owner of commercial buildings, where more than 50 persons are employed. As regards private householders, persons in the lower income-ranges are provided with shelter free of charge at or near their homes; in other cases the responsibility for providing shelter rests generally with the occupier, though special provision has been made for certain types of private residential buildings. The local authority has also a general responsibility to take into account, in providing public shelter, the needs of persons for whom no special provision has been made.

While realising the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties in dealing with this matter in reply to a Parliamentary Question, will he take early steps to bring about serious consideration of the need to implement his circular amongst all authorities, in order that the best possible provision can be made?

I fully agree with regard to the urgency of the matter; I have been doing and am continuing to do everything possible.

21.

asked the Home Secretary in how many churches in Scotland and England, respectively, the crypts or lower halls have been adapted for use as air-raid shelters; and how many of these are open to the public?

I understand that in approximately 250 cases, of which about 25 are in Scotland, public air-raid shelters have been sited in the crypts or lower halls of churches.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what steps he is taking to extend this form of humanitarian service?

The use of these crypts and lower halls is subject to very definite limitations because of the nature of the superstructure, especially where there is a spire. I think the fullest use consistent with the public interest is being made.

Camouflage Methods

19.

asked the Home Secretary, in view of the effectiveness of parti-colouring as a method of camouflage being dependent upon violent contrast in tone between adjacent areas of colour, and of the numerous buildings, service vehicles, etc., camouflaged in patterns of brown, green and other colours devoid of this essential contrast in tone, whether he is prepared to take immediate steps to replace the present ineffective methods of camouflage by a scientific system based on contrast in tone?

The officers of my Department are fully aware of the principle to which my hon. Friend refers, and in appropriate cases it has in fact been applied in practical camouflage work on industrial buildings carried out under the direction of my Department. I am not directly responsible for the camouflage of vehicles belonging to the Service Departments, but I will see that my hon. Friend's Question is brought to the notice of the reconstituted Advisory Committee on Camouflage which will include representatives of all the Service Departments.

Would the right hon. Gentleman's answer still hold good if the word "parti" was spelt with a "y"?

20.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will state the approximate expenditure to date upon research in connection with war camouflage; whether such research in the different Service Departments is under unified control so as to ensure co-ordination and avoidance of wasteful effort; and, if so, whether he will inform the House regarding the name and scientific qualifications of the responsible director of research?

I am informed that since 1937 the various Departments concerned have incurred expenditure on camouflage research amounting to above £20,000. The central establishment responsible for camouflage research has now been placed under the control of Dr. R. E. Stradling, the chief adviser on research and experiment in the Ministry of Home Security; and the Advisory Committee on Camouflage is being reconstituted so as to include, among others, responsible representatives of those branches in the Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply which are concerned with camouflage work. I hope that these and other changes which are now being made will result in better co-ordination, and a more effective pooling of information, as regards all branches of camouflage work.

Schools (Children's Dispersal)

30.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he has sanctioned school children being dispersed in the event of an air raid while they are at school, and has he approved the use by education committees of Anderson shelters near the schools, erected to accommodate persons resident in the house, to provide shelter for children, instead of the required shelter being provided for the children at the school?

The Board's policy has been that, in cases where air-raid shelters for school children are necessary, they should be provided, wherever possible in or near the school premises for all the children attending the school. Local education authorities were, however, informed in the Board's Administrative Memorandum 212, of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy, that it would be open to them, in consultation with the Regional Commissioner and subject to certain safeguards set out in the Memorandum, to make arrangements for the dispersal to household shelters of those children for whom it was not possible to provide shelter at the school owing to restricted school site or similar reasons.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is a criminal suggestion that children should be dispersed in the event of an air raid, and will he ask the Board to reconsider their decision in order that panic may be avoided and adequate shelter provided for all children?

I am aware that there are difficulties in certain places. I am in touch with the authority at Stoke. My inspector has already seen the regional commissioners and is seeing the local education authority this week.

I have not only one locality in mind. This applies to other industrial centres. In view of the seriousness of this, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Board to reconsider their policy?

I could not accept the suggestion that throughout the country dispersal would be as dangerous as the hon. Member suggests, but I will look into the case of any specific locality.

Reception Areas, East Coast

33.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now prepared to reconsider the scheduling of the Blackwater River area of Essex as a reception area, in view of its position on the East coast and the experiences suffered recently in that vicinity from hostile aircraft?

34.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of recent happenings on the East coast, he will now remove East and South-East coast towns and villages from the list of reception areas, and arrange for the transfer of the children now in those places to areas less vulnerable to enemy aircraft or other forms of attack?

I assume the hon. Members have in mind particularly the recent crash of a German aeroplane at Clacton. I do not think that this incident justifies a change in the classification of the neighbourhood as a reception area. There are very wide areas of the country in which a similar occurrence might take place. If these areas were excluded from the reception areas the number of children who could be dispersed from the crowded cities would be substantially reduced. It is considered that, in the event of air attack on land developing the areas selected as reception areas, which offer the advantage of dispersal, give a greater degree of safety than the towns in which the children would otherwise be left.

In view of the experience of air bombing in this area berth in the last war and now in this war, does not my right hon. Friend consider it inadvisable to treat as a reception area a district which is obviously in the danger zone?

I am aware of the experiences of this area in the last war but the range of aircraft has greatly increased since the last war.

Apart from the vulnerability of these areas does the right hon. Gentleman think it in the interests of these children that they should be subjected to the noise of heavy gunfire for the duration of the war?

I have to take these matters into consideration, but I must be guided by the considerations that I have mentioned. If all these areas were excluded the number of children who could be dispersed would be substantially reduced.

It is not only the danger from the air in a place like Clacton but mines are being continually washed up?

I have that very much in mind but the area covered by the sea coast and a short distance inland is a very large area.

Money And Orders From Germany

16.

asked the Home Secretary what information he has showing the receipt of money or orders from Germany to formations or persons in this country; and whether he will give full details?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply which I gave on 2nd May to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower).

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House when and as soon as he gets any information regarding the organisations in this country getting money and orders from Germany?

My answer was that information of that kind ought not to be disclosed unil action has been taken on it.

Will the Home Secretary make inquiries about the hon. Member's own organisation and where it gets the money from?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is unfair that people of this country should be led to suppose that German funds and orders are coming to this country when there is no foundation in fact?

I always do my best to correct any unfair impressions which are held by the public.

Subversive Activities

17.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is keeping under close observation the members of the organisation in this country which is receiving money from and carrying out the orders of the Comintern with a view to their deportation or internment, in view of the fact that they are working for revolution through this war; and what steps he is taking to prevent breaches of the peace resulting from the campaign of vilification of their opponents by this body?

Close observation is kept on all persons who are seeking to subvert constitutional methods of Government. As regards insulting words and behaviour which are likely to occasion breaches of the peace, the law on this subject was strengthened by the Public Order Act, 1936, and active measures are taken by the police to enforce the law.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the essential characteristic of the Comintern is that it is not Russian but International-Jewish, and that, therefore, in opposing the foul works of this body those who do so must to that degree be anti-Semitic?

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of applying what he said in answer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's previous Question and doing what he can to make it clear that false and unfounded fraudulent statements of that kind do not receive public currency?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no one would be more pleased than I if such a thing were done?

Is the right hon. Gentleman keeping a sharp watch on the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Anti-Semitism And Pro-Nazism

18.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will give an assurance that care will be taken, both in the administration of the present regulations and in framing revised regulations, that a distinction is made between anti-Semitism and pro-Nazism?

I hope that any restrictive measures applied to organised propaganda may in practice be confined to such propaganda as is calculated to impede the national war effort; and from that point of view I cannot recognise as relevant the distinction which my hon. and gallant Friend seeks to draw.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, in view of the fact that he seems to be somewhat confused on the point, will he assure the House that he refuses to be stampeded into identifying the two things by a ramp in our Jew-ridden Press?

Defence Of The Realm

Government Proposals

26.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has now completed his review of the question of additional powers for dealing with possible dangers from enemy agents or evilly disposed persons, and from organised attempts to weaken the resolution of the people to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion; and whether he has any statement to make?

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and with the leave of the House, I propose to make a statement on this subject at the end of Questions. Perhaps my hon. Friend will await that statement.

At the end of Questions:

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I propose to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full statement on the matters raised in Question No. 26 by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss). It may be for the convenience of hon. Members, however, if I give now a short summary of that statement.

I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to supplement the powers conferred by the existing law for dealing with possible dangers of the kind to which my hon. Friend refers: and following consultations which I have had with hon. Members of various parties, Orders-in-Council amending the Defence Regulations have been made this morning and will be laid to-day before both Houses of Parliament. Copies of the new Regulations will be available in the Vote Office during the course of the day, but hon. Members may like to have a brief indication now of the subjects covered.

First, as regards possible dangers from enemy agents and evilly-disposed persons, the Government have decided to make four amendments of the law which will strengthen the hands of the authorities in dealing with any possible attempt by the: enemy to undermine resistance to any attack upon this country. There is already power to intern enemy aliens; and power has now been taken to intern non-enemy aliens who would ordinarily be deported but cannot be deported to their own country by reason of circumstances arising from the war. Provision has been made for control over the entry into this country of persons repatriated from enemy territory who, though technically British subjects, have no close association with British interests: power has been taken to detain these persons, where it is thought necessary, pending inquiries into their bona fides. Regulation 18B of the Defence Regulations has been amended so as to enable the Secretary of State to direct that a person to whom the regulation applies may as an alternative to internment be required to reside within a specified area and not travel outside it without permission. Fouthly, a Bill will be introduced to-day providing for the imposition of the death penalty in grave cases of espionage and sabotage.

The second group of Regulations is designed to check the spread of propaganda calculated to undermine the resolution of the people to prosecute the war to a successful issue. These Regulations have been very carefully drawn so as to avoid penalising the mere expression of opinions while at the same time giving full power to deal with mischievous activities directed towards impeding the war effort of the nation. The main Regulation provides that, if the Secretary of State is satisfied that any person or organisation is concerned in the systematic publication of matter calculated to foment opposition to the prosecution of the war to a successful issue and that serious mischief may be caused thereby, he may cause a formal warning to be given that if such activities are persisted in the persons responsible will become liable to proceedings; and if any person or organisation so warned subsequently publishes matter calculated to foment such opposition those responsible are liable to a sentence of penal servitude for seven years or a fine of £500 or both.

A second Regulation extends the scope of Defence Regulation 39A so as to make it an offence to endeavour to incite men who are liable to military service to evade their duties, or to endeavour to incite persons to abstain from enrolling voluntarily in any of the the defence services. Finally, a new Regulation has been made empowering the Secretary of State to direct that no further use shall be made, pending an application to the High Court, of any printing press which has been used for the production of documents published in contravention of the Regulations dealing with illegal propaganda.

These new powers will materially strengthen the hands of the authorities in dealing with the dangers to which my hon. Friend has referred; I am satisfied that these powers are necessary to meet situations with which we may be faced; and I trust that the action which the Government have taken will command support in all quarters of the House.

From what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I take it that the consultations with Members of this House on the subject-matter of these regulations in no way implies that those Members either approve or disapprove of the Regulations; and that they are necessarily passed on the sole responsibility of the Government?

Yes, Sir. While I am grateful to those hon. Members who have been good enough to enter into consultation with my colleagues and myself before these Regulations were framed, I wish to make it perfectly clear that the Government take sole responsibility for the Regulations in the form in which they appear.

Did the right hon. Gentleman consult all parties in the House, even the minority parties who are most likely to be affected? If not, will he say why he did not consult with these minority parties who are entitled to have an opportunity to express their views?

I consulted with representatives of the parties who were taken into formal consultation at a previous stage when the Regulations were under revision. I did, as a matter of fact, address a communication to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) which was designed to give him, if he thought fit, an opportunity to see me with any of his colleagues, but owing to circumstances of which I am not precisely aware but which I can conjecture, that letter did not elicit any reply.

I am aware of that, but I have been in the House for some time and no consultation has taken place with me. Minorities parties, no matter how small they are, are surely entitled to the protection of the Official Opposition? As far as we are concerned we have no part in the Regulations and shall oppose them.

In framing these regulations did my right hon. Friend have in mind the experience recently suffered by other countries as a result of enemy action; and does he agree that the whole country is likely to support action which shows that a democracy which is defending itself must guard against the enemies in its midst?

While I should be sorry to think that the circumstances in this country were exactly comparable to circumstances elsewhere, the Government had certainly in mind in framing these regulations the dangers to which the country may be exposed and against which it is entirely proper and very necessary to guard.

Can the Home Secretary give the names of those with whom he actually consulted? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is for the right hon. Gentleman to decide. Secondly, were these the actual proposals which were known to the representatives and, thirdly, shall we have an opportunity of debating them?

The regulations are in substance identical with the suggestions which were put before the conference. As to the composition of the conference, I would have no objection whatever to the names being published, but I do not think it is for me here and now to say before I have communicated with them. I have consulted the representatives who were nominated by the leaders of the parties concerned. In regard to the third point, the Regulations which have been made will be laid to-day and the question whether they should be debated or not depends on our recognised procedure.

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep a close eye on the insidious doctrine which is known as "Moral Disarmament," which has done so much damage in Scandinavia, America and elsewhere?

May I ask that the right hon. Gentleman when he gets these powers will not hesitate to use them to the full?

Will there be any attempt made to give a definition of what is meant by the very loosely worded phrase "opposing the national war effort," because it is very desirable that the working classes of this country, who were not taken into consultation in connection with the war, should have the right to oppose the war and take legitimate measures to change the Government and get a Government which will work for peace instead of for the spread of war? Will there be any effort made to provide a definition of this very loosely worded phrase?

Perhaps the hon. Member will wait until he has seen the Regulations. Every effort has been made to define the purpose of the Regulations in as precise terms as possible.

Will the Home Secretary note that the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert) is wrong in his definition? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that no action is contemplated by the Regulations which will have the effect of stultifying the efforts for Moral Rearmament?

Is not the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there is in this country a minority who are honest and clean and who oppose the war, and that under these Regulations there is power to punish people whose opinions are as honest and as clean as those of people who hold the majority view?

There is no question of punishing people who honestly express minority opinions. The purpose of the Regulations is to deal with activities which may constitute a grave danger to the State.

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will be able to take retrospective action; that is in relation to retrospective documents or speeches which have been made in the past?

There is no provision in the regulations for dealing retrospectively.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the powers he proposes to take will be adequate to deal not only with people who take part in subversive activities but with those who employ them?

Following is the full statement:

In a statement which I made on 25th April in reply to Questions by my hon. Friend the senior Member for the City of London (Sir G. Broadbridge) and other Members, I said that I was considering whether it was desirable that the existing law should be strengthened in some respects for the purpose of checking activities specifically directed towards impeding the war effort of the nation. After a careful review of all the circumstances, I came to the conclusion that, in view of the situation with which we may be faced, it is necessary that further powers should be taken to enable the responsible authorities to deal more effectively with subversive activities of this kind. During the last two weeks I have had the advantage of consultations with the Law Officers of the Crown and with hon. Members representing various parties in the House; and as a result of those consultations I think I can say that the measures now to be introduced are such as will command wide support in this House. While the Government itself takes full responsibility for these measures, every effort has been made to take account of the views of Members of all parties and I believe that public opinion in this country will recognise that the additional powers which are now to be taken are in no way disproportionate to our present circumstances.

The new measures fall into two groups, and I will first describe those which are designed to deal with possible dangers from enemy agents or persons in this country who might be willing to act as such. With the example before our eyes of the treachery which facilitated the German seizure of strategic points in Norway, it was only prudent—however different our circumstances may be—that we should consider whether any further powers were required to deal with any possible attempt by the enemy to undermine resistance to any attack upon this country. Our main guarantee against such dangers lies in unceasing vigilance by all the authorities responsible for national defence, and that vigilance will not be relaxed; but the hands of the authorities could be strengthened if their existing powers were supplemented in certain respects and new Regulations have been made for this purpose.

First, power has been taken to amend the Aliens Order so as to provide that, if an alien who would normally be deported cannot be deported to his country of origin by reason of circumstances arising from the war, he may be interned if the Secretary of State is satisfied that his detention is necessary in the interests of national security. Ample power to intern enemy aliens is already available; but a non-enemy alien cannot at present be interned unless he comes within the scope of Defence Regulation 18B as a person of hostile origin or associations or as having been concerned in acts prejudicial to the public safety. There is no power to intern the non-enemy alien who would in time of peace be deported because he is unreliable and an undesirable resident. A proper control of such persons is very necessary at the present time.

Secondly, provision has been made to enable the authorities to exercise due control over persons of British nationality returning to this country from Germany or from territory in the occupation of the enemy. A certain number of persons possessing British nationality are now being repatriated to this country from Germany and some of these may be only technically British and may have no close association with this country. Some may be women of German origin who have acquired British nationality by marriage, others may be foreign-born children of British parents resident for many years in enemy territory. While there is at present no reason to believe that any large proportion of these people are ill-disposed towards the British cause, it is only prudent that there should be power to keep such persons under control while any necessary inquiries are being made about them, and provision has therefore been made to enable the authorities at the ports to detain them on arrival, where necessary, or to require them to keep the police notified of their whereabouts, pending inquiries into their bona fides.

Thirdly, a small but valuable addition has been made to the powers of control exercisable under Regulation 18B in cases where it is thought unnecessary actually to intern a person who is of hostile origin or associations or has been concerned in acts prejudicial to the interests of national security. The Regulation has been amended so as to enable the Secretary of State, instead of interning the suspected person in such a case, to require him to reside within a specified area and not to travel outside the area without permission.

Finally, I should add in this connection that a Bill is being introduced to-day to enable the death penalty to be exacted in grave cases of espionage or sabotage. Regulation 2A of the Defence Regulations already makes it an offence, punishable by penal servitude for life, to do with intent to assist the enemy any act which is likely to assist the enemy or to prejudice the public safety, the defence of the realm or the efficient prosecution of the war. This Regulation is drawn in such terms as to cover a wide variety of mischievous activities undertaken with intent to assist the enemy; but for certain offences of quite exceptional gravity which involve a clear element of treachery the death penalty should be available. The Bill which has been introduced to-day provides that a person may be sentenced to death if, with intent to help the enemy, he does, or attempts or conspires with any other person to do, any act which is designed or likely to give assistance to the naval, military or air operations of the enemy or to impede such operations of His Majesty's Forces or to endanger life. In practically every case treachery of this kind would constitute an offence under the existing law of treason, but it has been thought advisable to make these treacherous activities separately punishable under an emergency measure valid only for the duration of the war which will obviate the necessity of complying with all the special forms and dignities of a treason trial and will also provide that the sentence of death may in certain circumstances be carried out by shooting instead of hanging.

The second group of Regulations is concerned with the activities of individuals and organisations who, by spreading defeatist or anti-war propaganda, are seeking to undermine public morale and to weaken the resolution of the people to prosecute the war to a successful issue. As I said in my reply to Questions on 25th April, there is a risk that our traditional reluctance to limit the free expression of minority opinions may be exploited by persons whose real purpose is to hamper, for ulterior motives, the war effort of the nation. The Defence Regulations introduced on the outbreak of war included stringent provisions dealing with propaganda, under which it would have been an offence for any person to endeavour to influence public opinion in a manner likely to be prejudicial to the defence of the realm or the efficient prosecution of the war; but after the Debate on the Regulations which took place in this House on 31st October last there was a drastic curtailment of those provisions of the Regulations which had attracted special opposition on the ground that they were capable of being used for the suppression of minority opinions. The Government are anxious to avoid any unnecessary interference with our traditional liberties, but they feel that a distinction can and must now be drawn between the mere expression of honest opinion on the one hand and, on the other, the deliberate and systematic advocacy of defeatist or antiwar policies with intent to weaken the national resolution to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion.

Legal provisions on this subject must necessarily be cast in somewhat general terms if they are to cover all forms of propagandist activity which are prejudicial to the national interests; and the difficulty has always been to find a form of words which will suffice to check the really mischievous activities without at the same time penalising expressions of opinion, with which we should all desire to avoid interference, however much we may disagree with the opinion expressed. The consultations which I have held have led me to the conclusion that this point cannot be fully met except by giving, to a responsible Minister answerable to Parliament, an administrative discretion to determine in what cases individuals or organisations should be made liable to criminal proceedings for engaging in mischievous activities of this kind; and in the new Regulation which has now been made a novel procedure has been adopted in order to secure that the sanctions of the criminal law shall be applied only to persons acting with deliberate intent to prejudice the national interest. The Regulation provides for the issue of a warning to any person or organisation who appears to the Secretary of State to be concerned in the systematic publication of matter calculated to foment opposition to the prosecution of the war to a successful issue. The warning will draw attention to the matter objected to and will make it clear that if after the warning there is any future publication of matter calculated to foment such opposition the person or persons concerned will become liable to prosecution under the Regulation. Until a warning has been issued no person can be prosecuted for an offence under the Regulation; but if after receiving such a warning there is a continuance of mischievous activities those responsible then become liable to prosecution and, if convicted, to heavy penalties—namely, seven years' penal servitude or a fine of £500, or both.

The Regulation provides ample safeguards against any misuse of the new powers which it confers. In the first place the Secretary of State must be satisfied, not by an isolated remark but by a consistent course of conduct, that there is systematic publication of matter which is calculated to foment opposition to the prosecution of the war to a successful issue, and further that the continuance of these activities may cause serious mischief. Then there must be a formal warning by a notice in writing of the consequences of persistence in this course of conduct. Then, if such conduct is persisted in, proceedings based on a specific contravention of the Regulation can be instituted only with the consent of the Attorney-General and can be taken only at Assizes or courts of corresponding jurisdiction; and the defendant cannot be convicted if he can show to the satisfaction of the court that he had no intent to foment opposition to the prosecution of the war to a successful issue and had no reasonable cause to believe that his activities were calculated to foment such opposition. I hope that what I have said will suffice to satisfy the House that this new Regulation is so drawn as to penalise only deliberate, organised and systematic efforts to undermine the national morale; and I need hardly add that it is the firm intention of the Government to apply the criminal sanctions provided by this Regulation only in cases of real gravity where the national interests may be seriously threatened.

A second Regulation in this group is designed to extend and strengthen the provisions of Defence Regulation 39A, under which it is already an offence to endeavour to seduce from their duty persons in His Majesty's service or in the various services of Civil Defence. Experience has shown that it is not enough to restrict this provision to persons already embodied in the various services. The efforts of those who wish to undermine the efficiency of these services may be directed not to persons already serving but to those who are shortly to be called up for service; and the Regulation has therefore been amended so as to make it equally an offence to endeavour to incite persons liable to such service to evade their duties or to endeavour to incite persons to abstain from enrolling voluntarily in any of the defence services. Here again care has been taken to avoid penalising the mere expression of opinion. It will be no offence merely to state the statutory rights of men liable to military service to claim exemption on conscientious grounds, nor will the Regulation prevent the giving of guidance to a young man who is troubled in conscience and seeks advice from a priest or a friend. The Regulation is aimed at those who try to incite young men liable to military service to simulate conscientious objections for the purpose of evading their duties. I am satisfied that this limited provision is necessary and that it will command general support.

Finally, power has been taken to apply really effective sanctions against the use of printing presses for the production of publications which contravene either the new Regulation dealing with the corruption of public morale, or the expanded provisions of Regulation 39A regarding attempts to cause disaffection or Regulation 39B dealing generally with the publication of false statements prejudical to the national interests. Under this new Regulation the Secretary of State may, if he is satisfied that any printing press has been used for the production of any document in respect of which any person has been convicted of an offence under any of these three Regulations, direct that the press shall not be used for any purpose until the leave of the High Court has been obtained for its further use. The High Court may grant such leave if satisfied that the use of the printing press for the production of the offending document was due to a mistake, or even though not so satisfied may grant leave for its future use subject to conditions, or may if it thinks fit order that the printing press shall be destroyed. In many cases documents constituting an offence under these Regulations will have been printed, by persons other than those convicted of distributing or publishing them; and in serious cases it is desirable that there should be power to bring it home to the printer that his plant cannot be used with impunity for the production of mischievous documents of this character which contravene the law. A power to seal up the printer's plant is likely to operate as a more effective deterrent than criminal proceedings leading to a fine; and this new power should materially reduce the extent to which printing presses will be made available for the production of documents of this type.

These new measures, taken as a whole, will substantially strengthen the powers which the responsible authorities can exercise for the purpose of checking organised attempts to undermine resistance to any hostile attack upon this country or to weaken the national resolution to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion. I am fully satisfied that in present circumstances it is necessary that we should arm ourselves with these additional powers, so that we may be ready to meet any situation with which we may be faced; and I trust that the action which the Government have taken will command support in all quarters of the House and throughout the country.

German Broadcast Propaganda

27.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that printed notices are being distributed outside factories in North London urging workers to listen in to the German broadcasting station named New British Broadcasting Station; and whether action will be taken against the distributors as hindering the national war effort?

I am obliged to the hon. Member for the information he has given me, which I have no doubt will be of assistance to the police in the efforts they are making to discover and bring to justice the persons responsible.

Enemy Aliens (Dover)

28.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can state the number of persons of enemy origin, giving numbers in each classification, in the protected area in which Dover is situated?

The time available since this Question appeared on the Order Paper yesterday has not been sufficient to enable me to obtain information except in respect of the Borough of Dover itself, where there are seven persons of enemy nationality registered with the police, all of whom have been placed in category "C" by the local tribunal.

Chief Constable, Liverpool

29.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has given his approval to the recent appointment of a chief constable in Liverpool; and whether his attention has been called to the general public dissatisfaction which has been caused by the method of selection followed?

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. I am not aware that the method of selection has given rise to any public dissatisfaction.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was no advertisement, public or private, of the vacancy, that no opportunity was given to any person to make application to fill the vacancy, that the City Council was prevented from discussing the matter, and does he think in those circumstances that this gentleman is likely to have the confidence of anybody in the city?

I think these are mainly matters for the local authority. Although advertisements are the general practice they are by no means the gen- eral rule where, as in this case, the Watch Committee of this authority recommend that the appointment should go to an officer who has for a long period held the position of deputy.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of any other instances at all in which such an appointment has been made against no competition of any kind from anybody?

I am aware of another case within the last few months where the appointment of a deputy was made without advertisement.

I am referring to the appointment of a deputy to be chief constable.

Drainage, Wednesfield

32.

asked the Minister of Health what action he has taken in response to the petition presented to him by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton East on behalf of 407 residents in Stubby Lane and Broad Lane, Wednesfield, Staffordshire, complaining of local conditions and, in particular, the lack of adequate drainage?

I have been in communication with the Urban District Council of Wednesfield concerning the petition, and I am sending the hon. Member a letter dealing at some length with the various points raised by the petitioners.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the land and gardens surrounding these houses are absolutely waterlogged and that the residents are most anxious to have the water courses opened? Can he take steps to secure that some remedy in connection with that point is found?

As I have said, I am sending the hon. Member a letter dealing with these points.

Mental Hospital, Nottingham

35.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the Nottinghamshire County Mental Hospital (Female Block) is gravely overcrowded; and can he state the reason for the continued refusal to allow necessary extensions to be undertaken?

I am afraid I am not clear to what refusal of necessary extensions the hon. Member is referring. I shall be glad to inquire fully into the position, if the hon. Member will send me the details of what he has in mind.

Widows' Pensions

36.

asked the Minister of Health (1) why Mrs. A. Shipley, of 7, Wellington Street, Colne, Lancashire, whose husband, a fully insured worker, died on 31st December last, has not yet received her widow's pension;

(2) why Mrs. J. Brown, of 27, Clarence Street, Colne, whose husband, a fully insured worker, died in January last, has not yet received her widow's pension?

I explained the reasons for the delay in determining claims for pensions under the Contributory Pensions Acts in the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Lambeth, North (Mr. G. Strauss) on the 11th April. Everything possible is being done to overcome the difficulties to which I then referred. As regards the two particular cases mentioned by the hon. Member I am glad to be able to say that Mrs. Shipley has now been awarded a pension and I am taking steps to expedite a decision in the case of Mrs. Brown and will inform the hon. Member of the result.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what date the award of a pension was made to Mrs. Shipley?

What steps is the Department taking to enable these people who are left without any means at all, to tide over their difficulties during the four or five months that it takes his Department to award a pension in a perfectly straightforward case without any complications?

The hon. Member is aware that machinery exists whereby pecuniary difficulty in such cases may be avoided. Also I have explained before the difficulties under which the Pensions Branch has been working, including the pressure of work caused by the Act recently passed by this House, inevitably mean that a certain amount of delay takes place.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the delays in question arose before the recent Act was even contemplated, let alone in operation, and that a period of four months to award a pension in which no question can arise is altogether too long?

I have pointed out before that not merely the extra work thrown upon the Department but other factors of which he is well aware have to be taken into consideration.

Old Age Pensions

38.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will recommend to assistance boards dealing with old age pensioners under the recent Act that they allow a proportionate increase in supplementary allowance for each five-point increase in the official cost-of-living figure?

Supplementary pensions will be determined in accordance with regulations made in the manner required by the Act and I have no doubt that the Assistance Board, from whom I expect to receive draft regulations shortly, have taken all aspects of the matter into consideration.

When are those regulations likely to be issued and will they contain some provision for systematically raising supplementary allowances to old age pensioners according to any substantial increase in the cost of living?

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that they are issued as soon as possible in order that we may have an opportunity of going through them before there is a Parliamentary Debate?

I hope to lay them as soon as possible. Obviously Members will require some opportunity for considering them closely before they are debated.

They could not be issued until the draft regulations have been laid, and I think it would be injudicious to issue them till the House has had an opportunity of considering, and possibly of debating, them.

In view of the fact that these old people are daily coming and asking what they are to do, could not the right hon. Gentleman issue some statement to allay their feelings?

I will keep the point in mind. I hope to receive the draft regulations at an early date, and it would be more convenient if the whole matter could be dealt with in one issue of documents.

Emergency Medical Service (Mental Hospitals)

39.

asked the Minister of Health whether he has given or will give guidance to mental hospital committees respecting charges to be made to the War Office to cover the use of mental hospital premises and services or whether any specific agreement has yet been reached on this matter?

The matter to which the hon. Member refers is primarily one for settlement between the War Office and the local authorities concerned. I understand, however, from the Board of Control that agreement has been reached in principle and it is hoped that the details will be settled at an early date.

When will those details be circulated to mental hospital committees, and is the right hon. Gentieman aware that there is great difficulty in discovering whether and when they are likely to get payment for their services?

National Finance

Inland Revenue Statistics

42.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the gross amount collected by the Inland Revenue for the years ended March, 1937, 1938, and 1939?

The figures are, for the year ended March, 1937, £483,842,726; for the year ended March, 1938, £529;634;963; and for the year ended March, 1939, £584,854,033.

Yes, the hon. Member may be assured that we may be able to carry on the story for a few more years.

War Savings Certificates (Weekly Statistics)

43.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will consider the advisability of arranging that the weekly statistics of subscriptions for War Savings Certificates shall, in future, be a net figure after deduction of the amount paid out for certificates which have become due?

I think that the figures of actual subscriptions to Savings Certificates are of general interest, and I should not like to discontinue publication in their present form. Information as to the principal of certificates paid off is, of course, available with weekly Exchequer Accounts: these latter figures are of very much smaller order.

But it is not clear unless the amount which is being paid out is shown at the same time. Will not the Chancellor consider publishing figures which will give a real indication of the additional net weekly subscriptions?

Such figures are not, I think, so immediately available. I dare say that the hon. Member will remember that in my Budget speech I was careful to make clear by how much receipts during the year as a whole exceeded repayments.

Will the Chancellor consider relating one figure to the other, instead of keeping them entirely separate?

United Kingdom Commercial Corporation

44.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether the directors of the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation have resigned their directorships of the companies with which they were associated; and what remuneration is to be paid to them?

The directors of the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation have not resigned their directorships of the companies with which they are associated, and I am not aware of any reason why they should be asked to do so. No remuneration is being paid to any of the directors, except to the managing directors, for their work in that capacity.

Are the managing directors connected with any existing company; and, if so, whom are these people to serve, the existing companies with which they are associated or the Government?

The managing directors are full-time directors. As I have said, there is no reason why the other directors should resign their other directorships because of their appointment to this Corporation.

Are the managing directors associated at all with existing companies? And might I ask the Financial Secretary to answer my other question, as to whether these people will be serving their private companies or the Government?

I do not think they are now associated with any companies, but I should like to have the question on the Paper, so as not to give any false impression.

Armed Forces (Co-Ordination)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether there is any staff course for senior officers of all three Services to provide an opportunity for the study of operations, involving the co-ordination of all three arms under a single command, with a view to making officers who have passed such a course eligible for appointment to such a command?

Up to the outbreak of war, the study of operations involving the co-ordination of all three arms (whether under joint command, unified command or command by the Service playing the predominant part) had been for many years the subject of particular study not only at the Imperial Defence College, but also at the staff colleges of the three Services. The courses at these colleges were closed on the outbreak of war, but it is clear that there are a number of senior officers who are qualified by their training for the command of combined operations.

In addition, an establishment known as the Inter-Service Training and Development Centre was set up by His Majesty's Government in September, 1938, with the following terms of reference:
"To study and develop the material, technique and tactics necessary for all types of combined operations."
This Centre is still in being, and functioning at full pressure.

Agriculture

Allotments

46.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what proportion of rent charged to allotment holders is paid to owners of land which has been taken under emergency powers?

No specified proportion of the rent charged to allotment holders on land taken under emergency powers is paid to the owners of such land. Where the land is occupied land, the local authority is authorised to pay a rent not exceeding the rental value of the land for agricultural purposes.

What is the position in regard to unoccupied land, where rent is charged to the allotment holders and the owner of the land receives nothing? Is it the intention of the Department that where there is a balance, the Corporation should keep that, or that the owner of the land should receive it, however small it may be?

What the local authority may pay is laid down in the Compensation Act. Perhaps I can send a copy of the Act to the hon. Member.

Labour

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has any statement to make as to the steps the Government propose to take to make available adequate and suitable labour to enable farmers to carry out the war-time programme of food production?

Steps have been taken by the Government to retain as many as possible of the existing skilled workers on the land, and also to obtain other labour for agriculture. On the first of these points, the low age of reservation fixed for most agricultural occupations and the arrangements for postponement of calling up have had the effect, for the time being, of reducing to small proportions the number of agricultural workers taken into the armed Forces. As regards additional labour, a number of schemes have been prepared, some of which are already in operation. They include the recruitment of a Women's Land Army of regular workers, the organisation of gangs, and the encouragement of older boys who are leaving school to go into agriculture until they reach military age. Further proposals to assist in relieving the labour shortage are under active consideration.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that this is a very urgent matter, and that much more must be done if the farming schemes and the obligations that farmers have been asked to undertake are to be carried out?

I fully realise the urgency. We are trying to work such schemes in conjunction with the military authorities. Every step that we can take is taken.

Are we to take it that public works contractors are instructed not to engage skilled agricultural workers; and, if so, are steps taken to see that the skilled agricultural worker is not penalised in any other way?

Are steps being taken to protect the skilled agricultural worker, who is called upon to make a financial sacrifice?

Are the Government taking all the active steps that could be taken?

Sugar-Beet

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what acreage of sugar-beet has been contracted for the 1940 season up to 6th May or nearest convenient date?

Contracts accepted by the British Sugar Corporation up to 4th May cover approximately 334,000 acres.

Is the figure not actually lower than last year's, and considerably lower than the figure set before the industry by the Minister?

It is perfectly true that the figure is lower than that for last year, but the contracts are still coming in at a greater rate than they were last year.

Is the Minister prepared to take special steps to get the acreage under sugar-beet which the Ministry of Food require?

We are doing everything we can, but one of the difficulties is the fear of a labour shortage.

But cannot you give a specific guarantee that the necessary labour will be available in the areas where sugar-beet is most grown?

Will the Minister prevent the Air Ministry taking land which has been planted to sugar beet and potatoes, for recreation grounds for aerodromes which are not even occupied, as has happened near Barnstaple?

Food Supplies

Feeding-Stuffs

52.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what new steps he is taking to see that there is an increased supply of straight feeding-stuffs available to milk producers and to check evasions of the terms of the Maximum Prices Order in respect of the prices charged for compounds?

I hope to be in a position to make a statement on this subject soon after the House reassembles.

Is not the main cause of this trouble the making of compound cakes by the milling combine; and will my hon. Friend take steps to see that undue making of these cakes ceases?

Bread (Price)

53.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what authority exists for the in crease in the price of bread delivered last week in provincial areas throughout the country?

Increases in the price of bread in provincial areas are made by bakers on their own initiative. An inquiry is being held into bakers' costs throughout the United Kingdom, and the results of this inquiry will enable a decision to be taken as to whether such increases are justifiable.

Are the public justified in resisting this increase, or should they await an announcement from the Ministry of Food?

Does the Minister suggest that there is no control over the price of bread?

Will my hon. Friend answer my question, as to whether the public are entitled to resist the increase or whether they must await an announcement from the Ministry?

Flour (Price)

54.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that straight- run flour, sold to wholesalers at approximately 1s. 3d. per stone, is being retailed in shops at prices varying from 1s. 4d. to as much as 3s. per stone; and what steps he is taking to stop this unfair practice?

I am aware that the retail price of straight-run flour varies in different localities and according to the service rendered by the retailer. The matter is receiving consideration.

As this is a. matter of importance to all housewives, and as the variation in price seems to me quite unjustified, cannot my hon. Friend indicate that quicker action is likely to be taken on this matter?

Our difficulty is the institution of the Maximum Prices Order, because it allows an increase in the price of flour in those districts where it is definitely sold, sometimes, even below cost price.

Is it not possible to make some arrangements to prescribe the price which existed before the Maximum Prices Order?

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that nothing causes so much discontent in this country as the profiteering that is going on in the food of the people?

Is not this a matter for the profiteering committee, and should not their attention be directed to it?

There is nothing to prevent anybody from making a complaint to the local price regulation committee.

Is not this matter affected by the milling combine, who are at the bottom of every single evil?

Animal Feeding Stuffs (Northern Ireland)

55.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, as Northern Ireland has not been receiving its promised quota of feeding-stuffs for some time past, he will at once make arrangements whereby the promise of a quota equal to that given to Great Britain will be implemented to the full?

My information is that Northern Ireland has received the same proportion of pre-war supplies of cereal feeding-stuffs up to the end of April as Great Britain. If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars in support of the statement on which his Question is based I will look into the matter.

I would like to know, both from the milling end and the stock-raising end, whether the deficiency will be made up at the earliest possible moment, because in one week there is a supply and in the next a shortage?

In regard to cereal feeding-stuffs, Northern Ireland receives the same proportion as other parts of the United Kingdom. I have not yet had time to make full inquiries with regard to feeding-cake.

Bacon

57.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that in one Yorkshire area a distributor was advised to sell bacon ends and trimmings to the fat refinery at 2d. per pound; and whether he will de-ration such trimmings and bacon ends to prevent the waste of good food?

No information has been received of advice having been given to a distributor to sell bacon ends and trimmings as suggested by the hon. Member. In reply to the second part of the Question it has been decided to de-ration such trimmings and bacon ends and an Order to give effect to this decision is now in preparation.

Sugar (Jam-Making)

58.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is yet in a position to make a statement in connection with the extra allowance of sugar for fruit, particularly for that in the most common use, namely, apples and blackberries plucked from the hedgerows?

59.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is now in a position to make a statement regarding the supplies of sugar for preserving home-grown fruits and rhubarb and also wild fruits gathered for preserving?

My noble Friend has decided to extend the date for the receipt of applications for sugar for making jam from home-grown fruit to Saturday, 18th May. How much sugar will in addition be available to persons who desire to make jam from wild fruit and purchased fruits, is a question which cannot be decided until the amount of sugar required for the preservation of the cultivated fruit crop is known. My noble Friend hopes that in view of the sugar situation the public will show moderation in making their applications. Special consideration is being given to the question of sugar for growers of rhubarb.

Does not the Minister realise that even the new date is much too early for people to be able to estimate what fruit they will be able to preserve, especially in the way of wild fruit, which is not ready until at least two months later than the date which is fixed for the application for sugar?

It is essential that we should have a rough idea of how much the home fruit crop needs in the way of sugar before we can help people who produce or buy rhubarb.

Will the widest publicity be given to the necessity for these applications to be in by the date which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned?

Is it not the fact that at this date it is quite impossible to estimate the yield?

Will the Parliamentary Secretary give serious consideration to this blackberry and apple business, because it comes on later when the poor people gather these fruits?

It will be because of that fact that we want the earlier statement as soon as we can.

Post Office

Appointments

62.