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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 361: debated on Thursday 30 May 1940

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National War Effort

Reserve Labour Supply

1.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether, in order to know the amount of reserve labour supply, he will ascertain and inform the House in due course how many unemployed persons, while continuing to receive benefit, refuse work either because the work is outside his or her own trade or because it is in a different town?

These statistics are not available. I would point out, however, that the reserve labour supply must consist mainly of persons now in employment in less essential industries and persons not ordinarily in employment at all.

How many men have been refused railway fares to another town, although they have been offered jobs there?

Agriculture (Labour)

6.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether he is aware that large numbers of road employés attached to rural district councils are now busily engaged on brushing cow-parsley and surplus grass from Class B roadside wastes while nearby acres of sugar-beet, root and other vital crops are in want of labour for hoeing and singling the plants; and whether he will issue regulations forthwith requiring such road labour to be transferred to the farms at comparable wages?

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has asked the County Councils Association to convey to county councils generally his view that wherever possible, arrangements should be made for the transfer of men from road works to agricultural work, and has drawn attention to the provisions of the Local Government Staff (War Service) Act, 1939, under which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is prepared to recognise agricultural work as war service for the purposes of the Act. I understand that the Executive Committee of the County Councils Association is drawing the attention of county councils to the need for making these arrangements. The whole question of securing an adequate supply of labour for agriculture is under consideration.

Does the answer just given represent the present attitude of the Government to this question, and is the hon. Gentleman aware that if three weeks are allowed to pass it will be no good shifting these men off the roads in order to do the work, and that the work will remain undone? Is he aware that it is a question of now or not at all?

I can assure the hon. Member that very few Ministers are moving faster than my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

In this matter is any pressing action going to be taken by the Minister of Labour, and not the Minister of Transport?

Will the same action be taken in the case of the 400 rural district councils?

May I ask my hon. Friend what immediate steps are being taken in this matter?

My right hon. Friend is fully aware of this difficulty and is actively dealing with the matter, and I hope that some announcement will be made shortly. The question of rural district councils' employés will certainly be considered.

Locomotive Works Employes (Discharge)

8.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether he is aware that boiler-makers, riveters and other craftsmen have been discharged from the Stratford locomotive works; and what action he intends taking about the matter?

9.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether he is aware of the complaints that men in the London and North Eastern Railway shops at Stratford are not being fully employed or are likely to be dismissed; and whether he is taking action fully to utilise both men and plant at that place?

I would ask my hon. Friends to await the reply to be given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to a Question on the same subject by the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves).

99.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that a considerable number of workmen are under notice at the Stratford section of the London and North Eastern Railway; and whether, in view of the request of the Government that workers shall remain at their posts as much as is possible, he will cause immediate inquiries to be made and ensure that the services of these men be retained and further orders provided for these works?

I understand that 26 men are being liberated from the boiler shop at Stratford to enable them to take up work of national importance appropriate to their qualifications in outside industry. Ten of these men will take up their new work tomorrow, and the others will be released as soon as arrangements for them to commence their new work are completed.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that 30 men received their notices to-day and, as far as they are aware, there is no further job for them to go to; and is that the new idea of liberation, that they should get the sack?

I should imagine that the notices were purely formal. My information is that they have other jobs to go to.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of the men have had no such explanation of those notices?

Industrial Production, Scotland

13.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether he intends to set up a Scottish committee, with appropriate powers, for the purpose of obtaining the maximum industrial production of Scottish industry?

The new organisation set up by my right hon. Friend provides for the transfer to the Ministry of Labour and National Service of the Area Board for Scotland, and one of the Board's main objects will be to ensure the distribution of labour for war production to the best possible advantage.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether that Area Board is now operating, or whether it will operate in the very near future?

I believe the Area Board is set up, and it will certainly operate in the very near future.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many Scottish industries of a big character and big organisation are practically at the point of disbanding their organisation, although they have men who are absolutely essential for national service?

Military Service

Engineers (Release)

2.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether he is aware that the trade unions have spent money and time in try- ing to assist in the best utilisation of the services of skilled and semi-skilled engineers; that they are disappointed at the results achieved in regard to the release of urgently-required men from the Armed Forces, many of whom could be employed for the purpose of training others for special operations; that there are hundreds of engineers in infantry regiments and technical units who in many cases are employed in picking up paper, peeling potatoes, and acting as batmen or cooks; and what steps does he propose to take to get these engineers, of whom he has particulars, back into industry?

I am aware that valuable assistance has been given by certain trade unions in this matter. As the hon. Member is no doubt aware, a very substantial number of men have already been released from the Forces for work in industry and the question of there lease of other men is constantly under consideration. In spite of great difficulties I am satisfied that the Service Departments are taking appropriate action to ensure that, so far as possible, proper use is made of the industrial skill of engineers and others who are members of the Forces.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that appropriate action is not showing any concrete results, and that I have here a letter from one of the largest trade unions involved which expresses disappointment at the result? If I hand this letter to the hon. Gentleman, will he make full investigations into the matter in order that the position may be improved?

I should be only too happy to make the fullest investigation into any cases referred to in the letter, but I do hope it will not be thought that nothing has been done in this matter.

Can the hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that there is direct and intimate contact between the Ministry of Labour and the Service Departments on this matter?

Yes, Sir. There is constant contact between ourselves and the Service Departments interested, on these matters.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this letter says that fewer than 50 men, skilled engineers, have been released?

As I have not yet had an opportunity of considering the letter, I cannot deal with it at the moment.

The last time the Secretary of State gave an answer to such a question, he said that it was the equivalent of two divisions.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that out of 3,000 special cases put forward by an important union during six months, only 12 have been released?

Medical Boards

5.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether he will consider amending Section 11, Sub-section (1) (f), of the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, 1939, in order to permit local authorities to give information for the use of medical boards relative to men known to mental welfare associations as being mentally deranged or mentally disordered?

I shall be glad to arrange to lay before medical boards any information of the kind indicated which may be offered. It does not appear necessary for this purpose to amend Section 11 (1) (f) of the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, which defines the classes of men not liable to be summoned for medical examination.

Conscientious Objectors

12.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether, in view of the disparity in the rate of pay of His Majesty's Forces and that of the wages of conscientious objectors who are placed in work by tribunals, he will again consider the advisability of taking steps to amend the law so as to provide that the rate of pay for such work done shall not be higher than the pay and allowances of those serving in His Majesty's Forces?

This matter has again been considered and I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend so recently as Tuesday last.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great indignation all over the country on this matter, and is he aware that conscientious objectors are getting work at £5 or £6 a week while brave soldiers are going through hell at 2s. a day?

My hon. Friend will not forget that this matter was debated and considered by Parliament, and that the Minister is acting on the instructions which he received from Parliament.

Could not some conscientious objectors be invited to work on the land?

Reserved Occupations

14.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether he has considered the request of the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents to have the profession of patent agency scheduled as a reserved occupation, on the ground that patent agents are almost, without exception, qualified either as chemists or as mechanical or electrical engineers; and whether he is prepared to do this?

It has been decided to include patent agents and their technical assistants of and over the age of 30 under the Schedule of Reserved Occupations.

Refugees

4.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether he is aware of the expressed desire of Austrian refugees in this country either to join the Pioneer Corps or to engage in group land-work; of the appeal by the Austria office to Austrian refugees in this country; and whether he will utilise as they desire the offer of these refugees to undertake some service on behalf of this country?

I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War that any alien who is considered suitable is accepted for service in the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps. In regard to civil employment, Austrian refugees are permitted to take any employment subject to security considerations, and provided there are no suitable British subjects available. Further steps to utilise the services of certain classes of aliens in this country are at present under consideration.

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take steps forthwith to secure that refugees in scheduled areas who have been interned only on account of their residence in such areas, without having been afforded any opportunity to move into non-scheduled areas, shall be released from internment provided they move immediately into non-scheduled areas?

I had contemplated that the position of the male Germans and Austrians recently interned from the prohibited coastal zone would be reviewed as soon as circumstances permitted; but I regret that, having regard to the paramount considerations of national security, there can be no question at present of individual review except where release can be shown to be definitely and directly in the national interest or possibly in the case of youths undergoing training or education.

Is it intended to keep interned people who happened just for that day, or for that particular week-end, to be in one of the prohibited areas, when they normally live in London?

For the time being it is physically impossible to give consideration to individual cases.

70.

asked the Home Secretary how much public money has been spent in conformity with the announcement, on the 1st February, 1940, under which a limited State grant was to be given to help refugees in this country; how many of the refugees who were admitted on the understanding that they would emigrate to overseas are still in this country; and whether all those who undertook to be responsible for the support of refugees are fulfilling their obligations?

The sum of £207,000 has been granted to the Central Committee for Refugees as a contribution towards the expenditure incurred by the organisations which are raising funds from voluntary sources to maintain German and Austrian refugees in this country. Of the total number of about 55,000 Germans and Austrians who were classified as refugees by the tribunals, some 5,000 have emigrated since the beginning of this year. With negligible exceptions, all who undertook responsibility for these refugees have honourably fulfilled their obligations.

75.

asked the Home Secretary what steps are being taken to apprehend members of the fifth column who may attempt to enter the country in the guise of refugees?

It would not be in the public interest to give any detailed account of the measures taken, but I would refer to my reply of last Thursday to Questions on this subject, and I can assure my hon. Friend that all practicable measures are being taken for this purpose.

81.

asked the Home Secretary how the defection of the King of the Belgians with his Army in spite of the decision of the Belgian Government to continue, so far as lies in its power, the war against Germany affects Belgian refugees in this country?

All alien war refugees are subject to certain restrictions imposed by an Order made by me on the 21st May. The events referred to by my hon. Friend do not seem to me to affect the position of Belgian refugees to whom this country has given asylum.

King's National Roll

10.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour how many firms are now registered on the King's National Roll; and how many disabled ex-Service men they employ compared with December, 1938?

The number of employers enrolled on the King's National Roll on 8th April, 1940, was 26,409. These employed 319,430 disabled ex-Service men. 323,437 disabled ex-Service men were employed by enrolled firms on 9th January, 1939.

Dental Mechanics

11.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour whether the Committee of Inquiry into the conditions of labour, etc., of dental mechanics has yet issued a report?

I am informed that the report of the committee set up by the professional associations regarding dental mechanics is almost completed.

Drainage (Wednesfield)

15.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider the advisability of arranging for an inspector of his Department to visit Wednesfield, Staffordshire, with a view to exercising his good offices in connection with the petition that was recently presented by 407 residents in Broad Lane and Stubby Lane, complaining of certain conditions, in finding a solution to the problem which will be satisfactory to all concerned?

I am arranging for one of my inspectors to visit the area as soon as practicable.

Will the right hon. Gentleman let me know when he is going so that perhaps I might have an opportunity of seeing him, too?

Civil Defence

Nurses

16.

asked the Minister of Health whether, with a view to encouraging highly-trained nurses who emanate from the recognised teaching medical schools, he will take steps to eliminate, as far as possible, the unqualified but titled people who are hampering the development of this work in many parts of the country, since highly-trained women will follow best an equally highly-trained matron from a teaching school of known repute?

I am not aware of any hospital, whether in the emergency scheme or not, where trained nurses do not work under the control of a matron who is herself a trained nurse. Perhaps my hon. Friend will send me further particulars of the difficulty which he has in mind.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there are many cases where they have neither the ability nor the mind to organise properly and that the same thing is happening in this war as in the last war? Perhaps he will kindly go into this matter with me afterwards.

If the hon. Member has any information which he thinks I Ought to have, I shall be glad to receive it, but the position, I am advised, is as stated in the answer to the Question.

Is it not a case that the supply of highly-trained nurses and matrons is running short, and that it is highly desirable to bring in capable women, whether they are titled or not, to help in the administrative work?

Evacuation

17.

asked the Minister of Health whether, as the chief reason for not evacuating children from vulnerable areas is the unwillingness of parents to acquiesce in this operation whilst it remains on a voluntary basis, he will consider increasing the ability of the air-raid precautions services successfully to deal with damage by putting the evacuation scheme on a compulsory basis before an air attack takes place?

22.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is prepared to give immediate and favourable consideration to requests from local authorities that they should be empowered compulsorily to evacuate all schoolchildren, invalids and aged persons under their jurisdiction, whenever it is decided that such action is necessary?

Apart from other considerations, arising both in evacuation and reception areas, my information from all parts of the country is that a considerable proportion of parents would not co-operate in any scheme for their compulsory separation from their children. The Government's policy therefore is to encourage to the maximum extent possible the registration of schoolchildren for voluntary evacuation, and steps are being taken to achieve this. With regard to the evacuation of invalids and aged persons I have nothing to add to previous answers on the subject.

What actual steps are being taken to persuade parents to co-operate in a matter which is, clearly, in the Government's view, essential, having regard to the orders which have been given; and has it not now gone beyond the time when we ought to have compulsion?

Is the Minister not fully aware of the fact that the refusal of parents to agree to the children being evacuated, may mean, in the event of air raids, the destruction of a great deal of child life?

We have taken all considerations into account and as a result of that, we have, quite deliberately, come to the conclusion—with which I think the vast majority of the local authorities concerned agree—that we should continue this as a voluntary scheme. With regard to my hon. and gallant Friend's Question, certain further steps are being taken this evening which will be announced in due course.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it will be impossible under a voluntary system to secure the evacuation of all these children; and as it is in the interest of the children themselves and the country that they should be evacuated, is it not necessary for the Government to make it compulsory?

18.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will arrange an evacuation plan for old people?

Plans for the evacuation of school children are already taxing accommodation in the reception areas very severely, and I am afraid that it is not practicable to include within the Government's evacuation scheme special arrangements for the removal of large numbers of old people.

Will my right hon. Friend acquaint himself with the proposal which was made by the Government in September, 1938, during the Munich crisis, to pay the fares of old people who could get accommodation with friends or relatives in the country; and is he aware that if an offer were made, to provide free transport for such old people, thousands who have friends and relatives in the country would take advantage of it?

In view of the very acute shortage of accommodation in the country, not only for children, but for land workers—[Interruption].

23.

asked the Minister of Health whether powers will immediately be taken to enable local authorities to take over large houses and other buildings in relatively safe areas for purposes of housing evacuees from dangerous areas, recognising that the unpopularity of private billeting is a principal reason for large numbers of schoolchildren and others now being in danger areas?

In dealing with the large-scale evacuation of schoolchildren, billeting in private houses must continue to be the main method on which we depend, since there is no other form of accommodation which could be made available on the necessary scale. I have, however, informed local authorities in a memorandum, of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy, that I am ready to entertain proposals for the establishment of hostels in suitable cases where the difficulties of finding suitable accommodation for children cannot otherwise be solved.

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider publishing in the Official Report the circular referred to, so that the information contained therein may be available for all?

May I ask whether at the same time there will be an extension of the camp school movement and a provision of additional camps?

In so far as camps are available, for this purpose certainly, but it is impossible at this stage, owing to other requirements, to expect any large extension of that accommodation in the near future.

Are the Government prepared to provide equipment and furniture for these houses should the local authorities take them over?

Certainly, in one way or another, the Government will have to be satisfied with the accommodation.

68.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will issue an instruction that, in the event of air raids on this country, the civil population shall remain quietly at home, and not attempt to evacuate in mass unless a definite order is received from the local authorities?

Yes, Sir. Action is being taken in the sense indicated in the Question.

Homing Pigeons (Licence)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now in a position to make a statement regarding the case of Christopher Newbold, recently sentenced for keeping homing pigeons without a licence?

While the Minister's action in this particular instance will be very much appreciated, is there any means of testing the capacity of these men who repeatedly commit these vicious acts?

Delayed Action Bombs

40.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will issue instructions to the public immediately as to how delayed action bombs are to be dealt with?

It is not necessary nor do I think it desirable to instruct the general public in this matter. The Civil Defence authorities will take prompt action for the safety of the public; and any bombs, whether unexploded or delayed action, will be dealt with by skilled parties.

Is the Minister aware of the difficulties which arise in some areas in getting hold of people capable of handling these bombs?

Air-Raid Wardens (Compulsory Service)

41.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the growing feeling amongst senior air-raid wardens that service should be made compulsory; and is he prepared to consider introducing legislation to compel men in reserved occupations to serve eight or 12 hours a week on National Service?

In view of the powers conferred by the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1940, special legislation would not now be necessary for the purpose indicated by the hon. Member.

Is the Minister aware that there are 250,000 wardens needed throughout the country, and that the £3 a week paid to wardens for 12 hours work a day is unsatisfactory?

Auxiliary Fire Service (Reorganisation)

44 and 57.

asked the Home Secretary (1) whether he is aware that the proposed dismissal of 1,300 trained women members of the Auxiliary Fire Service is causing grave concern, in view of the present crisis; and whether he will make an announcement on the subject;

(2) whether he will consult with the proper authorities with a view to seeing that any competent women members of the Auxiliary Fire Service who may be dismissed from motives of economy will be given an opportunity of transferring to the Auxiliary Territorial Service or other suitable body, in view of the fact that the vast majority of those affected joined from motives of patriotism, and not for financial reasons?

As part of the normal reorganisation of the London Auxiliary Fire Service it will shortly be necessary to reduce the number of the women telephonists, and some 500 of these will probably be released during the next few weeks. This action will not impair the efficiency of the organisation, and steps will be taken to allow any women affected to be given the opportunity of transferring to the Auxiliary Territorial Service or other similar services. The number given in my hon. Friend's Question apparently includes about 630 cooks. There is no question of reducing the total number of cooks employed, but their position in the organisation is to be altered.

Personnel (Arms)

60.

asked the Home Secretary whether it is proposed to supply the fire brigades and certain air-raid precautions services, as well as the police force, with appropriate weapons, including machine-guns?

The provision of armed protection in appropriate cases is receiving attention, but it would not be expedient to give details.

Air-Raid Shelters

72.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the air-raid precautions report submitted to him by the Association of Architects, Surveyors and Technical Assistants; and, if so, can he make a statement on the report and indicate what action he proposes to take?

I have studied this report with interest. It may be said, speaking broadly, to assemble the conclusions of a number of schools of thought which favour large, centralised, and so far as possible strongly protected, shelters. It would be quite impracticable at the present time to initiate a new shelter policy, whatever its merits, which deviated so sharply from the general scheme by which shelter has been, and continues to be, provided by the local authorities and by the Government.

73.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has received a report on the progress made with air-raid shelters since the issue of his circular, H.S.C. 38/40/O; whether he is satisfied that the advice and requests contained in the circular have been acted upon; what action is being taken to see that adequate air-raid shelter accommodation is provided for the lower income grades; whether he is satisfied that the authorities responsible have acted, or are taking immediate steps to act, upon circulars H.S.C. 68/40/O.I. and H.S.C. 77/40/O.I; whether he was consulted by the Board of Education before circular Administrative Memorandum No. 212, 17th February, 1940, was issued; and whether he will make a statement on the whole position?

It would be impossible within the limits of an answer to a Parliamentary Question to deal fully with all the matters raised in this Question. I receive monthly reports on the progress of shelter construction in the specified areas, and examination of these shows that as a whole local authorities are acting upon the recommendations made in the circulars mentioned and are pressing forward with the use of brick and concrete shelters, including communal shelters, upon which it has now become necessary to concentrate in view of urgent demands for steel for other purposes. It is, however, true that in many parts of the country suitable labour is at a premium and work is thereby delayed, and that some authorities have fallen below the general standard of effective work. The Government will continue to press upon all concerned the vital importance of concerted and vigorous efforts in this matter. I should add that the memorandum by the Board of Education was issued after consultation with my Department.

If it is true that the Government have pressed for this matter to be dealt with in districts where labour is available, what is the right hon. Gentleman doing to see that the local authorities carry out the suggestions made in the circular?

We are doing everything possible by personal calls and by correspondence, and immense progress has been made, especially in some of the worst areas.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any powers to deal with areas that may be termed backward where labour and other things are not available?

Yes, every assistance is given in the way of lending staff from my organisation to local authorities and I have additional powers under the Act recently passed.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the utilisation of voluntary labour for this purpose?

I have encouraged in every way possible the use of voluntary labour in increasing protection in the homes of the people, but for work which has to be carried out on a large scale it is necessary to resort to the ordinary method.

Deaf Persons (Badges)

70.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider issuing a special lapel badge in white enamel to deaf persons to indicate to sentries on duty at certain strategic points that approaching people are deaf and will not halt when ordered to do so, thus avoiding confusion?

I do not think that it would be practicable to give effect to my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Water Reservoirs (Protection)

79.

asked the Home Secretary what steps are being taken to guard reservoirs throughout the country against destruction or pollution by parachutists or sympathisers with the enemy?

71.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the resolutions passed at a meeting at Manchester, on 22nd May, of 20 northern waterworks authorities representing almost every waterworks authority in the North of England; whether he has since then taken any additional steps; and whether military protection is now afforded to waterworks undertakings?

It would not be in the public interest to give details of the protection arrangements for waterworks, but I can assure my hon. Friends that this matter is receiving full consideration. I may add that the undertakings would be well advised to arrange for the enrolment of their own personnel in the Local Defence Volunteers for service at their own works.

Nazi Sympathisers

80.

asked the Home Secretary whether further steps are in progress, or contemplation, against notorious sympathisers with Nazi Ger many?

It would not be in the public interest to announce in advance what further measures are in contemplation.

Is it wise to lock up a man and leave his wife free when the wife is more notorious than the man?

Agricultural Workers (Housing)

19.

asked the Minister of Health whether, having regard to the need for extending the production of food and the delay in the construction of new dwellings, he will recommend local authorities to authorise the reoccupation by agricultural workers of dwelling houses subject to demolition orders, in cases where it is shown that suitable alternative accommodation is not available in the area?

I am considering, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, whether present circumstances are such that there is a case for permitting, under restrictions, the temporary reoccupation of the least unfit of the houses referred to by my hon. Friend.

National Health Insurance (Ex-Service Men)

20.

asked the Minister of Health how many disabled ex-service men receive free treatment under the National Health Insurance Act from the Army and Navy Fund?

The number of disabled uninsured ex-service men in receipt of free medical benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts at the cost of the Navy, Army and Air Force Insurance Fund on the 31st March, 1940, was 11,153.

Identity Cards

21.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will take steps to give power to local registration officers to remit, in exceptional cases, the charge of 1s. for replacement of an identity card?

Local national registration officers have been authorised in many individual cases of an exceptional nature to waive the charge referred to; and general instructions on this subject are already in preparation.

24.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the danger of unauthorised persons demanding from civilians and, in particular, from the younger generation the production of their identity cards and then appropriating them to their own use; whether he will enumerate the classes of persons who are entitled to the production of an identity card; and whether he will give clear and definite instructions by broadcast as to who are the responsible authorities who have this power?

I appreciate the importance of the point raised by my hon. Friend, which received very full consideration in Parliament during the passage of the National Registration Act. No persons have authority to demand the production of identity cards except a police constable in uniform, a member of His Majesty's Naval, Military or Air Forces in uniform on duty, and a local national registration officer. In the last mentioned case the power would be exercised in the local national registration office. The answer to the last part of the Question is in the affirmative.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of these cards have been misplaced or lost; and will he not consider having on the cards further identification particulars such as the photograph, or at any rate the age of the owner of the card?

With regard to the photograph, I cannot add to the answers which have been given previously. I very much hope that this whole difficulty will be greatly eased by the broadcast of information which we propose to make.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the question of putting the age on the card?

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

25.

asked the Minister of Pensions what is the approximate weekly amount now being paid to the dependants of men who lost their lives as a result of the sinking of merchant vessels since the outbreak of war?

Approximately £850 a week is being paid in pensions and allowances to the widows and other dependants of members of the Mercantile Marine who have lost their lives as a result of enemy action since the outbreak of war.

27.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether it is the practice to inform applicants for assistance that, under the War Assistance Allowance Committee, Form 21, in cases of rejection of claim in the first instance they have a right of appeal against such decision, and if such information is not given to them, will he consider giving the applicants such information when the decision of rejection is conveyed to them?

Any person whose application to the War Service Grants Advisory Committee is rejected, may at any time renew his or her application, and the case is then reconsidered in the light of the information supplied. The committee has no reason to doubt that this is appreciated, but any general invitation to appeal would not only heavily increase administrative difficulties but would be likely in the majority of cases to give rise to false hopes. My hon. Friend, however, fully appreciates the point and will consider what he can do to meet it.

28.

asked the Minister of Pensions what is the basis of assessment taken into consideration when a claim is made for assistance for dependants of the Armed Forces owing to hardship when the member of the Forces has been unemployed previous to being called to the Service, or where the man in the Service has been an apprentice in industry and would have finished his apprenticeship in the ordinary course shortly after the time of his being called up for Service?

29.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether the principle has yet been settled of pay to the families of men nearly out of their apprenticeship time, on the date of enlistment, with the grants taxed on their journeyman's wages in stead of apprentice pay?

Each case is judged on its merits but I may say, generally, that in the case of a man who was normally employed but happened to be unemployed when called up, the basis of assessment of any grant on account of hardship for the benefit of his family would be the wage he would have been expected to earn if he had been employed. As regards the second part of the Question the basis of assessment would normally be the wage the man would have been earning if the apprentice hip had terminated before the calling up.

Will the hon. Lady explain why enlistment in the Army previous to calling-up is looked upon as a disadvantage from the applicant's point of view?

Perhaps I may answer that question by asking my hon. Friend whether he means the regular Service man?

The question which I wish to ask is why an unemployed man who joins the Army before being called up, is, because of having joined, denied this dependant's pension?

Would the hon. Lady have been satisfied with that reply if she had been sitting on the other side of the House?

Sunday Trading Act

32.

asked the Home Secretary whether, in consideration that both men and women are now working long hours on munitions, including Saturday afternoons and Sundays up to 4 and 5 p.m., he will take steps to relax the restrictions due to the Sunday Trading Act, 1936, and so enable these people to make their necessary purchases?

The provisions of the Sunday Trading Act allowed of a number of exemptions and I have no evidence that further relaxation is necessary at the present time.

In dealing with any problems of this kind will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that shop assistants are now working longer hours than munition workers?

Undoubtedly there is evidence in industrial areas that some provision is seriously needed in order that workers can have the opportunity of purchasing necessities.

Perhaps the hon. Member will let me have any evidence he has on the subject.

Is the Minister aware that there is no occupation in this country which has contributed more men to the Army and Navy than the distributive trades, and that girls are now filling the men's places?

Aliens

33.

asked the Home Secretary whether any arms and/or ammunition have been found upon the person or premises or under the control of any aliens in this country?

While I could not, without prolonged inquiry, say whether in recent years cases have occurred in which aliens were found to be in unlawful possession of firearms or ammunition, I have no information to suggest that failure to comply with the law relating to the possession of firearms is prevalent among aliens.

34.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will have all aliens in category B interned forthwith?

As has been announced in the Press, I have ordered the internment of all category B Germans and Austrians, male and female, between the ages of 16 and 60, with the exception of the infirm and invalid, and the internment of these persons has already been carried out.

Is the Minister aware that the age limit of 60 does not automatically prohibit anybody above that age from doing harm to this country if he wishes to do so? Would it not be very much better to have the age limit raised to make sure that those people over 60 cannot do any harm?

I have already said that action taken so far does not represent finality.

This is a very important subject, and, therefore, may I not ask my right hon. Friend another Supplementary Question?

37.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider reviewing the number of foreign waiters employed in restaurants and road houses in the vicinity of important aerodromes and aircraft factories and take action in the matter?

I know of no reason to discriminate between foreign waiters and aliens engaged in other occupations, but I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I shall not hesitate to take appropriate action in the case of any alien whose activities give rise to suspicion.

Will the Minister, in the interest of public safety, have an inquiry made into the Savoy Hotel, which is staffed with anti-British Italians, seeing that highly placed officers frequently dine there?

39.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can state the number of enemy aliens in this country, as to males and females, and the number of each which have been interned?

69.

asked the Home Secretary how many male and female enemy aliens between the ages of 16 and 60 are still uninterned in this country?

The numbers of persons of German or Austrian nationality in this country are approximately 31,000 males and 42,000 females, of whom about 5,600 and 3,200 respectively are interned.

59.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has now come to a decision on the question of interning all enemy aliens, irrespective of sex, including those over 60 years of age?

It would not be in the public interest to announce any decision which may be taken on this subject before it is put into effect.

Is not the Minister's opinion that a man over 60 might be a danger to England, seeing what a great danger to Germany is the Prime Minister, who is 65?

62.

asked the Home Secretary the composition of the Home Office Advisory Medical Committee dealing with the admission to Great Britain of foreign medical practitioners; the secretary of this committee; the total number of foreign medical practitioners entering this country since the German invasion of Austria in March, 1938, who have been placed on the medical register and allowed to remain in this country without such registration, respectively; how many of these are of German, Austrian or Czecho-Slovakian nationality, respectively; and whether any precautions were adopted, or are now in operation, to prevent enemy agents from being included in these admissions and allowed to remain at liberty?

As the answer is necessarily detailed, I will with permission arrange for it to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

After the invasion of Austria and Czecho-Slovakia my predecessor, after consultation with the medical profession, decided that 50 Austrian and 50 Czech refugee doctors might be allowed, provided they obtained a British medical qualification, to practise in this country. Of these 100 persons only four, all of whom are Austrians, have as yet obtained a British medical qualification. The bona fides of all the doctors so admitted to this country was carefully tested before they were allowed to come here, and since the outbreak of war each case has been examined by one of the tribunals appointed for the purpose.

The committee which advised the Home Office in the selection of these doctors consisted of the following persons—

  • Sir Robert Hutchison (Chairman).
  • Sir Cuthbert Wallace.
  • Sir William Willcox.
  • Dr. G. C. Anderson.
  • Sir William Girling Ball.
  • Dr. P. W. d'Arcy Hart.
  • Professor Samson Wright.
  • Mrs. M. Ormerod.
  • Mrs. Y. Kapp (Secretary).

77.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has satisfied himself that the large number of alien students and others in the different universities should not in extreme cases come within the scope of the internment regulations; and whether all the chief constables concerned are satisfied with the position in their respective districts?

In the measures taken for the internment of certain classes of persons of enemy alien nationality, no differentiation has been made in favour of students or persons working in universities. If my hon. Friend has in mind the internment of individuals as distinct from the internment of classes of persons, all chief constables are aware that in any case where the character or conduct of an individual gives ground for suspicion, appropriate action can be taken.

Have chief constables been informed that any students or others of whose loyalty to the country they have any doubt, whoever they may be, are to be interned immediately?

They have been informed that they should send particulars of any individual cases to the appropriate quarter and immediate consideration will be given to the question of internment.

Subversive Activities

asked the Home Secretary what action he proposes to take with reference to the National Freedom League, an organisation engaged in pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda, and illegally publishing leaflets without an address or publishing office?

If I can give the right hon. Gentleman details of this organisation will he be good enough to look into them?

I may find that it is only a well-known organisation masquerading under another name.

42.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has yet received the report on the police raid on the London office of the National and Provincial Anti-Vivisection Society; and, if so, what action he has taken on it?

Yes, Sir. One of the people connected with this Anti-Vivisection Society was an adherent of the British Union of Fascists and was using the office of the society for British Union business. The searching of this office was one of a number of steps taken for the purpose of investigating the activities of the British Union.

66.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has taken cognisance of the anti-British activities of an organisation calling itself Information and Policy, which holds weekly meetings under the guise of discussing the relation between agriculture and industry, but which are really held for German propaganda purposes; and whether he will take immediate steps to dissolve this organisation, bring its meetings to a close, and inquire into the antecedents and activities of its members?

64.

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to a meeting, held on the 23rd May last, at the Alliance Hall, Palmer Street, Westminster, of an organisation calling itself Information and Policy, at which anti-British and pro-Nazi speeches were made; and what action he proposes to take against this organisation?

I have information about this body, which has been under observation for some time. It would not be right for me to announce beforehand what action it may be necessary for me to take.

67.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will now declare illegal all organisations and societies whose purpose is calculated to undermine the spirit of our people or their determination to win the war?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given on 23rd May to a Question by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander).

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a matter of great pain to relatives of men fighting overseas now to hear members of these organisations declaring that the men have been fooled and betrayed?

Northern Ireland (Defence)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the threats from Germany regarding the independence of Northern Ireland, he will give the assurance that, in conjunction with the Government of that State, nothing will be left undone to maintain the safety and security of Northern Ireland against every enemy?

I can assure my hon. Friend that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, in co-operation with the Government of Northern Ireland, will see that nothing is left undone for the defence of Northern Ireland.

Will my right hon. Friend definitely give the people of Northern Ireland the assurance, to-day, that they have the strength of Britain behind them in defending their land against all attacks?

Agriculture

Protection Of Crops

47.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in respect of ramblers and others who frequent the countryside, he will take steps to draw their attention to, and urge on them, the necessity for special care in not damaging the crops and farmland through thought lessness?

Since the outbreak of war wireless and Press appeals have from time to time been made to ramblers and others to take special care not to cause damage to farm crops and livestock. I will gladly arrange for further appeals to be made periodically.

Financial Assistance

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what capital sums have been made available for agricultural development work, since the outbreak of war, through the various schemes for supplying capital to farmers at low rates of interest?

I am not sure what my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind in speaking of agricultural development work, but if he is thinking of permanent or semi-permanent land improvements the answer is that State assistance has been given by way of grants for ploughing up, drainage, and lime and slag, and not by way of capital loans. I have no information as to the total capital which may have been provided from private sources since the outbreak of war. If my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind the supply of requisites under the Agricultural Requisites Assistance Scheme, I would refer him to the reply given on 23rd May to the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts).

Unused Land

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the local agricultural war committees throughout the country have made an estimate of the derelict land in their respective areas; what is the total area of such land; and has any scheme been prepared to cultivate same with a view of increasing food production?

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that there are thousands of acres of good land in this country which might be growing food, but the landlord or tenant is either unable or unwilling to make use of it for that purpose; and whether he will see that all such land is taken over by his Department under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Bill, and used for growing more food for the nation?

The extent to which derelict land can be restored to cultivation is one of the points to which I am giving earnest attention. I can, however, give no precise figures at present.

When my right hon. Friend gives this matter his attention will he make provision for derelict land to be cultivated by fanners who are adjacent to it?

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his Department has yet adopted the suggestion made some months ago that idle grasslands in Sussex should be used for increased production of vegetables; whether he has made this suggestion to the Sussex county authorities; and, if not, will he do so now that the stoppage of imports of vegetables from the Low Countries can be partly remedied in the manner indicated?

I am not sure what suggestion my hon. Friend has in mind. A proposal which originated in Sussex for the cultivation or grazing of roadside wastes was communicated to all county councils in England and Wales early in April.

The suggestion is to bring about an increased production of vegetables. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the farming community are now looking to him for a lead and a drive?

The suggestion which was circulated covered cases where waste land might be used for allotments.

Will my right hon. Friend remind the people that vegetables are much better for them than beer?

Farm Workers' Wages

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the suggested minimum wage of 42s. a week for farm workers now under consideration by the Central Wages Board will not be a sufficient inducement for the retention of skilled labour on the farms; and what further action does he propose should be taken to ensure that the maximum number of men shall be retained on the farms for crop cultivation?

The general position with regard to the supply of agricultural labour, including the question of wages, is at present under consideration by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and myself, and I hope it will be possible for a statement to be made very shortly.

Has not the right hon. Gentleman seen the declaration in the papers to-day that the wage will be 48s.?

Race Meetings

74.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider the desirability of banning all greyhound race meetings until the end of the war?

Experience has proved that if workers are to maintain their efficiency for more than a very limited period, some measure of relaxation is essential and for that reason the Government have been anxious to avoid interfering unduly with facilities for sport and recreation. They have, however, kept the position constantly under review and they will not hesitate, should circumstances demand it, to impose such further restrictions on public entertainments as may be necessary.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has been to one of these meetings recently, and, if so, whether he imagines that the enormous number of motor cars drawn up outside belong to the workers? Does he really think that this is a sport at all, and does he not know that in the eyes of many people it is a vested interest and a complete racket?

I am afraid that I cannot match the length of the question with my answer. I have been in close consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on these matters.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the appalling sacrifices that are being made by men overseas, and does he not consider that it must be very irritating to them that this great extravagance should go on while the tragedy overseas is taking place?

I agree that that is an important consideration, but it is one only of a number of considerations which have to be taken into account. I must be guided by the opinions of some of my colleagues who are in a better position to judge the effect on the workers than I am.

Do I understand that the Home Secretary is considering vested interests in this matter?

Does my right hon. Friend not think it is most unsuitable at the present time that serious news on the wireless about the war should be followed by horseracing results?

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information.

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that this shocks the men who are fighting; that I have seen some of them who have come home and that they are horrified?

Wages Regulation

82.