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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 361: debated on Tuesday 4 June 1940

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Group Insurance (Armed Forces)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can now make some statement regarding the inquiry which is being made by his Department into certain cases of group insurance by the Legal and General Insurance Company in respect of men who have joined the Forces?

I am advised that the company are entitled for the purposes of their group insurances to regard men who have joined the Forces as having left the service of their peacetime employers and the question of the effect of such termination of service on group insurance depends upon the terms of the individual contracts which are subject to considerable variation according to the types of employment covered. Where, however, the original group policy contains no clause specifically excluding war risks, an individual who leaves his employment for service with the Army, Navy or Air Force is permitted to effect a life or endowment assurance upon his life for the amount for which he was insured under the group policy at ordinary rates applicable to a person of his age and without evidence of health and free from the restriction as to war risk. The companies have also undertaken to take special measures to bring this option to the attention of the employés concerned, and I am greatly obliged to my hon. Friend for bringing this matter to my notice.

Will the Minister face the facts? Are not these men who have left to serve in the Forces, pulling their full weight; and is it not a most deplorable manœuvre on the part of the Legal and General Insurance Company to seek to evade their obligation to give fair treatment to these men? I think it is very wrong.

It applies to all people who leave their service to take service with the Army, Navy or Air Force.

Will the Minister see that publicity is given to this matter? It is a scandal and it is exceedingly important that the facts should be known.

I think that publicity is being given to it at the present time. The answer sets out the full facts.

Economic Warfare

Sheepskins (Hungarian Imports)


asked the Minister of Economic Warfare whether he is aware that Hungary is importing large quantities of South African woolled sheepskins, which are re-exported to Germany and used for the lining of airmen's coats; and will he take the necessary steps, in co-operation with the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to stop this traffic?

Hungarian imports of sheepskins during the first five months of 1940 were much lower than during the corresponding months of 1939. At first sight, therefore, the position is not unsatisfactory, but, if the hon. Member will provide me with any information he may have to show regarding the import of woolled sheepskins into Germany, I shall be glad to consider it. I would add that I shall be glad at all times to receive from any hon. Member in any part of the House information which may assist me in intensifying the economic war against the enemy.

Ministry (Staff)


asked the Minister of Economic Warfare how many persons were employed in his Department on 1st April, 1st May and 1st June, respectively?

The numbers are 1,338, 1,487 and 1,461. I am at present engaged on reorganising the work of the Ministry, having regard to recent changes in the war situation and to new possibilities of effective economic warfare against the enemy. It is possible that such reorganisation will result in some further reduction in the total number of the staff, but the paramount consideration which I shall have in mind will be to increase to the utmost the effectiveness of the Ministry.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that recent events have considerably reduced the sphere of his activities, and is it not time that some reduction was made in the size of his staff instead of an increase?

If the hon. Member will read my answer with attention he will see that I have in mind the point he has raised, but I judge it to be more important to help our fighting men to win the war than to save a few jobs.

Can the Minister say whether the hon. Gentleman is anxious to promote the efficiency of the Department or not?

Does the Minister think that a greater number of staff will mean more efficient work being performed?

British Army

Explosives (Instructions)


asked the Secretray of State for War whether he will consider and inquire whether there are any people in this country whose experience of fighting in Spain would qualify them to instruct miners in the means by which the explosives kept in conjunction with coal-mining operations could be most effectively used in warfare if occasion should arise?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the methods employed and the experience gained in the use of explosives in Spain, Finland and other theatres of war have been studied and embodied in the instructions issued to the troops.

Are miners being given advice, as they may have to take part in operations?

Parachutists And Gliders


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he intends to organise a corps of parachutists and gliders?

Recent operations are being carefully studied by my Department in order to decide what, if any, changes in the organisation of the Army are required. It would not be in the national interest to make any further announcement at this stage.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that operations of this kind have been in process of experiment in other countries for many years; and is this the first time that they have come under the study of the British War Office?

I never said that. The hon. Gentleman is reading into my words what I have not stated.

I am asking the right hon. Gentleman whether this form of warfare, which has been experimented on by foreign armies over the last three years, has been equally studied by the British War Office?

The reply which I made, referred to recent operations and it is those recent operations, which are a new development of a method practised before, which are now being studied.

On a point of Order. Is it in order for a Member of this House when another Member is asking a Supplementary Question, to refer to him as "Fifth column"?

May I draw your attention, Sir, to the fact that two voices at the other end of the Chamber uttered those words?



asked the Secretary of State for War whether he intends to make use of the services of those who served in the former cyclist battalions of the Territorial force by forming cyclist companies in each area of the defence force?

It is hoped that all ex-service men who have served in cyclist battalions and are not at present enrolled or enlisted in the armed Forces of the Crown, and who can offer their services without interfering with other vital duties, will come forward and enrol in the Local Defence Volunteers. Despatch riders, both pedal cyclists and motor-cyclists, will be of the utmost value.

Internees And Prisoners Of War


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in connection with the internment of aliens, arrangements are being made to keep separate genuine refugees from known Nazis?

The persons interned fall into two broad classes, namely, those interned as the result of an individual examination of their cases, and those interned in pursuance of general directions. The former class is kept separately in different camps from the latter class.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider the desirability of transporting internees and prisoners of war to places remote from the British Isles in order to prevent co-operation with enemy aircraft and parachutists?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he will suggest to the Government of Canada that arrangements be made so that all German prisoners be shipped to Canada and kept there till the end of the war?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 28th May by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office to a Question by the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) to which I am unable to add anything.

Will the Minister bear in mind the danger which may result from the landing of parachutists from German planes who may fall inside German camps in this country?

The protection of German prisoners is primarily a matter for the Secretary of State for War and no doubt he and the Army Council have that point very much in mind.

Sick Leave (Travelling Facilities)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider the granting of free travelling facilities from their station, camp or base, to their homes and back, to serving soldiers who are coming home on sick leave?

As a general rule free travelling facilities are given to soldiers who are ordered to go on sick leave by the medical officer.



asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider making, for public information and encouragement, a statement as to the military training now being imparted to the numbers of young men who have been called up?

The men who have been called up receive the normal military train- ing given to recruits, and I should add that their keenness enables them to make rapid progress. It is not in the public interest to give any further details of this training.

River Usk (Bridges)


asked the Secretary of State for War what steps he is taking to safeguard from enemy action and sabotage the road and rail bridges crossing the River Usk in Newport, Monmouthshire; and whether he is aware that these bridges are the vital traffic link between England and South Wales?

I do not think it would be desirable to give details, but my hon. Friend may rest assured that all such important places have been reviewed, and that such protection is being provided as is considered necessary.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it desirable that a Question of this kind should appear on the Order Paper?

Dependants' Allowances


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that members of His Majesty's Forces who receive promotion or proficiency pay and thereupon increase their allotment to their dependants, have the Army allowance paid to those dependants reduced as a consequence; and whether he will have this matter reconsidered?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cambridge (Lieut.-Commander Tufnell) on Tuesday last of which I am sending him a copy.

Does the Minister think it is in accordance with general feeling that widows and widowed mothers should have their Army allowances cut down from 5s. to 1s. 6d., because this proficiency pay has been granted?

It is a very complicated question and I do not think it is quite as the hon. Member has described it. Perhaps he will kindly study the long answer which sets out the details.

Is the Minister aware that I have here a paper from the Army authorities announcing that the 5s. will be reduced to 1s. 6d., because the proficiency pay has been increased by 10s.?

I gave a detailed answer last week, and I am rather loath to make extractions from it now.

Is the Minister aware that letters have been sent, not from him, but from his deputy, stating that this 3s. 6d. is to be taken into account and the amount is to be reduced? Will he take steps to have the matter corrected?

Bombing Attacks On Red Cross


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the policy of the German High Command to make hospitals, hospital trains and hospital ships an important objective of their bombing, he will take immediate steps to remove the red cross or other distinctive markings from all hospital accommodation in this country?

During recent operations, the enemy have deliberately bombed hospital carriers in circumstances which admitted no mistake about their identity and incomplete disregard of the immunity given them by international agreement to which the German Government are a party. As regards hospitals and ambulance trains and convoys, I am not yet in possession of official information. I am not at present prepared to make any recommendation on the lines suggested in my hon. Friend's Question.

Is the Minister aware that the Germans do this because they believe it has a very demoralising effect on troops in action? Therefore, is it not in the interest of our defence soldiers here that hospitals should have no special marking upon them? Will he consider this matter further?

I am sure the hon. Member will understand that there are a great many far-reaching considerations in this connection and that is why I do not want to go beyond this answer at present.

Impressed Motor-Vehicles

19 and 20.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether he will indicate the approximate number of motor-vehicles of all descriptions that have been hired by his Department in this country in connection with present hostilities to date;

(2) whether he will state, in connection with both the impressment and hiring of motor-vehicles by his Department for the present hostilities to date, the total number of claims of all classes not yet finally disposed of in all areas and commands?

Some 35,000 motor-vehicles have been impressed for the War Department since the outbreak of war, and, in regard to these, only six claims are outstanding. These are in course of settlement. I regret that corresponding figures for hirings are not available.

Does not the Minister consider the present administrative machinery, whereby these claims are disposed of, is a very cumbersome one, and will he reconsider the whole position?

My attention has not been drawn to that; but my hon. and learned Friend will appreciate that I have had other anxieties during the last few days.

Calling-Up Acceleration


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that France is mobilising everybody, even up to its older men, he is aware of the number of young men in this country who are not engaged in any work of national importance, and who, although registered, have not been called up for military training; and what steps he is taking to expedite the calling up of these men and to inform our Allies of what we are doing?

The calling up of men is being accelerated, and the maximum number that can be trained will be called up during this month, giving an intake of about double the normal rate. In addition, there is an opening for volunteers between the ages of 18 and 19½ in the extra companies which are being raised in certain Home Defence battalions.

Will the Minister consider calling up some of the older men?

Local Defence Volunteers


asked the Secretary of State for War what types of ammunition may be used by Local Defence Volunteers who may be armed with shot-guns or sporting rifles?

Local Defence Volunteers providing their own shot-guns or sporting rifles may use ordinary shot-gun cartridges or buckshot with the former, and bullets other than soft-nosed or expanding with the latter.

Will there be any restriction on the purchase of this ammunition by volunteers?

I do not think so. Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend would have a word with me about it later.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether Army officers on the retired list who are authorised to wear uniform on appropriate occasions and who are authorised to retain their rank may, if duly enrolled in the new anti-parachute corps, wear their old uniforms on duty until such time as new ones are available and issued; and, if so, whether they must remove their badges of rank?

Retired Army officers who enrol in the Local Defence Volunteer Force should conform in all respects to what is prescribed for the Force when they are on duty as members of it.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will allow home defence forces in include elements which know the district where they are operating; and whether, in this connection, he will allow back from overseas gamekeepers and others acquainted with the use of firearms for service in their own districts against parachutists?

As has been stated in answer to previous Questions, personnel are allotted to Home Defence battalions, so far as is practicable, which are stationed near their homes, and Local Defence Volunteers are definitely to be employed near their homes. My hon. and gallant Friend will understand that the transfer of men from Field Force units cannot in present circumstances be considered.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether adequate numbers of volunteers have been enlisted for the defence of London; and whether those volunteers are armed with defensive firearms issued by the War Office or with weapons provided by themselves?

Is it in the national interest that a Question of this nature should be on the Order Paper in the House of Commons? Can nothing be done in the matter?

Sufficient volunteers are available for the defence of London. Those detailed for the defence of vital factories and certain public utility services are armed with weapons issued by the War Office; the remainder are detailed for specified duties, and, where necessary, are armed either by the War Office or with weapons provided by themselves.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that very large numbers of volunteers in inner London are resigning because they are not allowed either to use their own arms or to be provided with arms?

Does not that Supplementary Question show the desirability of either you, Mr. Speaker, or some committee, vetting these Questions before they are placed on the Order Paper, considering that the country is fighting for its life against a foe who studies these Questions meticulously?


asked the Prime Minister whether he will take steps to put all air-raid precautions organisations throughout the country under military control and discipline?


asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that an essential part of German military technique in tank air attack is the herding of all civilians on to main roads between important centres of communication; that in Northern France and Belgium the mobility of allied military forces was greatly handicapped as the result of the movement of the civilian population in this way, as roads vital for counter measures to invasion became a shambles of civilian casualties and broken wagons and motor cars; and will he take immediate steps to ensure that in any part of Great Britain which may be subjected to intensive bombardment from the air, the civilian population comes automatically under the control of the competent military authority?


asked the Prime Minister whether any steps are contemplated for bringing under a single command the Local Defence Volunteers, the air-raid precautions service and special constables?

If at any time and in any area military necessities so require, the military authorities will assume complete control of all defence organisations and civil authorities. In the meantime radical changes in the composition and organisation of the Civil Defence Services would be undesirable. The military authorities already work in close touch with the Regional Commissioners, who can be invested by the Minister of Home Security with all necessary powers.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise the difficulty of effecting this transition when the emergency does arise? Is it not better to do it before the emergency has arisen?

If the hon. Member will read the answer he will see that all provision has been made for action in an emergency.

Is not the Minister of the opinion that the efficiency of the three Services would be very greatly increased if they were all under a single command to-day?


asked the Minister of Information whether he will prepare an instructional film showing the general public what action to take in encounters with parachute troopers; and also a more technical film for the instruction of Local Defence Volunteers?

:The preparation of both the types of film suggested was considered several weeks ago, but, after careful examination, it was decided that the necessary instructions would be better conveyed by other means.

It is at present contemplated to do it by means of pamphlets which will be circulated to every household, and they will provide full instructions.

German Troop-Carrying Aircraft


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can state precisely the nature and calibre of the armament, other than small arms, carried by German troop-carriers and similar aircraft which have been employed in the operations on the Continent?

I have been asked to reply. The German aircraft engaged on troop-carrying operations are generally of the unarmed transport class. In addition to the usual small arms, the troops carried are known to have been equipped with heavy machine-guns of 13 and 20 m/m calibre; with 5 c/m and 8.1 c/m mortars; with 7·5 c/m infantry guns and possibly 10.5 c/m light howitzers.


Compensation (Defence) Act Claims


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will give an undertaking that Scottish claimants for compensation under any provision connected with the war will not be put to inconvenience and extra expense by having cases adjudicated in England?

:I assume that my hon. Friend has in mind claims under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939. Any Scottish case referred in default of agreement to the General Claims Tribunal may be heard by a division of the tribunal sitting in Edinburgh.

War Agricultural Committees


(for Mr. J. J. Davidson) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the total number of drainage improvement or alternative recommendations made by the Scottish war agricultural committees up to date; and the acreage of hitherto uncultivated land now taken over for agricultural purposes since the setting up of such committees?

The answer to the first part of the Question is that 16 such recommendations have been made. As regards the second part of the Question, farmers in Scotland have, since 4th September, 1939, notified their intention to plough 252,550 acres of old grassland under the ploughing subsidy scheme. In addition, the agricultural committees have, with my consent, taken possession for agricultural purposes of nine subjects, of a total area of 1,939 acres, which were not being cultivated in accordance with the rules of good husbandry.


(for Mr. Davidson) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the total number of crofters now serving as members of Scottish agricultural committees?

The number of crofters now serving as members of the agricultural executive committees appointed for the crofting counties in Scotland is 49. In the district sub-committees, set up by the main committees, 137 members are crofters.

What proportion of the total number of the committees is represented by the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has given?

In the 11 agricultural committees in the seven crofting counties, there is a total membership of 226 persons of whom 49 are crofters or landholders. The total membership of the sub-committees is 275 of which 137 are crofters.

If the hon. Member will put that question on the Paper I will endeavour to give him the information.

Coal Industry

Fuel Storage


asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is now in a position to make a further statement as to the rationing of coal and, in particular, whether it is proposed to encourage those in a position to do so to store coal during the summer months so as to ease the problem of distribution next winter?

It is too early as yet to say whether the efforts now being made to increase coal production and to economise in the consumption of all kinds of fuel will enable us to avoid the reintroduction of rationing. In the meantime, it is of the highest importance to make full use of our transport facilities to distribute supplies for next winter and I would urge all domestic consumers who can do so to lay in stocks in so far as supplies are available in their area. I have arranged with the trade that their supplies shall be distributed fairly.

Does the Minister realise that that means that some who can afford it will be able to lay in stocks of coal and those who cannot afford it will have to rely on what is available to them?

Is the Minister aware that, particularly in the West of Scotland, where there are tenement dwellings, the storage of coal is absolutely impossible? Will he consider storing coal on a community basis?

I will take note of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. The House must not assume that while we invite individuals to lay in some coal for their own purposes, we are not also providing stocks from which every one may be served in turn.



asked the Secretary for, Mines how many more men are employed in the mines of the country since the outbreak of the war; and what increase in production has taken place in the last nine months, compared with the first nine months of 1939?

It is not in the public interest to publish the figures. They are, however, supplied confidentially to the Mining Association and to the Mine-workers' Federation of Great Britain.

Transport (Workmen's Fares, Sundays)


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will arrange for workmen's fares to be available on Sundays to all workers travelling to and from their employment?

On the main line railways, the London Passenger Transport Board's railways, and the Board's road services on which workmen's tickets are issued on weekdays, the Railway Executive Committee have arranged that, as a war-time emergency measure, workmen's tickets will be issued at any time on Sundays for journeys between places of residence and places of employment, to all applicants producing a works' pass, shift certificate or other means of identification associated with the place at which the work is to be performed. All regional transport commissioners have been asked to use every endeavour to ensure that arrangements for the issue of workmen's tickets on Sundays on provincial road services are equally wide in scope.

Will that include men employed in Government Departments in Whitehall, such as attendants and men with low wages, who during the present emergency have to go to work on Sundays?

I am afraid I cannot answer that Question without notice, but I should imagine not.

Will my hon. Friend look into the question to see whether it is possible to include these men, who are in receipt of low wages and are put to considerable expense by having to go to work on Sunday?

Can my hon. Friend look into the question of issuing tickets to all those who can prove that they use workmen's tickets during the week?

Is my hon. Friend aware that workmen's tickets are not issued after a given hour in the morning, and will he see that they are made available later?

If my hon. Friend will read my answer he will see that workmen's tickets will be issued at any time on Sundays under this arrangement.

Shipbuilding (Employment)

31 and 32.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (1) the arrangements made for unemployed men, skilled in shipyard work, to report to the appropriate authority for transfer to those districts whether labour is required;

(2) whether steps will be taken to bring back into ship construction some of the older men who still retain a knowledge of their craft and the requisite physical ability?

A review of the men registered as wholly unemployed in the main skilled shipbuilding occupations is now being undertaken in co-operation with representatives of both sides of the shipbuilding industry. The results of this review will show which of the men concerned are suitable for immediate employment in the shipyards as well as those who could be absorbed if given the opportunity to become fit again for such work. These men will be submitted for shipyard work for which they are suitable and arrangements will be made for their transfer to other areas where this is necessary.

Steps are also being taken to ensure that any older men of the type referred to by my hon. Friend who may not be registering at Employment Exchanges are considered for employment in shipyard work. Any skilled shipyard workers now in less essential employment would be doing a great service to their country by informing their local Employment Exchange that they are ready to go back to their old trade if they are still suitable for such employment.

Ministry Of Supply



asked the Minister of Supply whether special steps are being taken to increase the importation of steel into this country from the United States of America and the Dominions?

My hon. and gallant Friend may rest assured that the question of obtaining increased supplies of steel from the United States of America and the Dominions has received special and urgent attention. He will not, of course, expect me to give exact details of the arrangements which have been or are being made.

Satisfaction in regard to both questions and answers is a matter of degree.



asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the paper shortage, it is proposed to restrict the large number of brochures and catalogues sent out by fashionable shops and large stores, especially in view of the fact that they mainly advertise goods of a luxury nature?

Under the Control of Paper (No. 16) Order, the gratuitous distribution of circulars by retailers and others in any three consecutive months is cut to one-third of the distribution in the corresponding period of 1939. For this purpose retailers and others can use existing stocks of paper, but it is improbable that further quantities of paper will be made available for the purposes mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Hotel Residents (Identity Cards)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether during the emergency, he will consider the advisability of visitors to licensed premises or boarding-houses, who may be requiring rooms, producing their identity cards to prove their British nationality, in addition to the required written statement?

The production of a National Registration identity card would not secure the hon. and gallant Member's object, since these cards do not show whether their bearers are of British or foreign nationality.

That is a question with which the Ministry of Health are more concerned than the Home Office because the Ministry of Health prescribe forms of this kind.

Is it not desirable that these antiquated methods should be done away with?

Civil Defence (Water Reservoirs)


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that representatives of northern waterworks undertakings are of the opinion that the Government are not taking adequate precautions to safeguard the water supplies of this country; and what action he intends to take?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend on Thursday last to Questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Etherton) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Leeds (Captain V. Adams).

The answer on Thursday did not cover the point. I want to know whether adequate precautions are being taken, because people in the north who know all about the business say that precautions are not being taken. May I have an answer? On a point of Order. I am told this question was answered, but it was not, and I want an answer to-day. It is an important Question and it ought to be answered.

I have had trouble in the city of Liverpool in regard to this. Can I have an answer? On a point of Order. If I call attention to an important point with regard to defence without giving any publicity, is it not necessary that I should get an answer?

A similar Question was asked the other day and the Minister did not answer because he did not think it was in the national interest to do so, and to-day he has said the same thing.

Post Office (Telegraph Service)


asked the Postmaster-General what has been the ascertained loss on the telegraph branch of the Post Office for each of the last three financial years; and what proportion of that loss is estimated to be due to the granting of reduced rates for Press telegrams?

The losses on the telegraph service during the three years ended the 31st March, 1939, which are the latest years for which figures are available, were £635,600, £739,000 and £823,300, respectively. The proportions of those losses which it is estimated were attributable to the inland Press service are, 14, 11 and 8 per cent., respectively. These figures are arrived at after allocating to the Press traffic a proportion of the general expenses of the telegraph service. They do not purport to represent savings which would follow the cessation of Press telegrams.

Naval And Military Pensions And Grants


asked the Minister of Pensions when the terms of the amendments that have been approved by the Government to the Royal Warrant of September last will be available to Members of this House?

Some delay has unavoidably occurred in the matter, but I am hopeful that copies of a new Royal Warrant embodying the recommendations referred to will be available to Members in the course of next week.

Spain And Russia (British Missions)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how much in sterling per year is represented by frais de representation in the cases of the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) and the hon. and learned Member for Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), respectively?

I can at present only reply to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's Question. As I stated on 29th May, frais de representation will be at a rate appropriate to the mission concerned in present circumstances.

May I ask whether it will be possible to pay the right hon. Gentlemen in future according to results?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can yet say when our diplomatic representation by an Ambassador in Moscow will be resumed; and whether he will give an assurance that the Government is prepared to enter into fully normal relations with the Russian Government?

I hope to be able to give a reply on this subject to-morrow. As regards the second part of the Question, the answer is in the affirmative.

Anglo-French Co-Operation


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in the case of national demonstrations being held in connection with the purpose of the war, consideration will be given to the desirability of having also a representative, such as M. Blum, of the French nation, to cement the comradeship of the nations; and whether he will make a like offer from our side to the French nation for an exchange of information, Ambassadors and interpreters of our common purpose?

We shall naturally always be delighted to welcome members of the French Government and other distinguished representatives of the French people at any gatherings in this country of the sort indicated by the hon. Member. In the same way Members of His Majesty's Government and other representatives of the British people visiting France have never failed to find the most cordial reception. Unity of purpose and complete co-operation between this country and France has already been so clearly achieved that I do not think it is necessary to propose further joint machinery as suggested by the hon. Member.

Since this Question was put down a large number of Frenchmen have involuntarily landed on these shores, and would it be possible to make representations to the Secretary of State for War that members of the French Forces should be taken to other parts of the country in order that the people can see them and get the same inspiration from them as the French people get from our men?

Refugees (Military Service)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider the desirability of issuing regulations to provide that Dutch and Belgian subjects who wish to remain in this country during the war shall be under the same liability to military service as British subjects?

I understand that the Netherlands and Belgian Governments are already calling up for service in their own forces all their subjects in this country of military age.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the announcement by the Belgian Ambassador, prior to the surrender of King Leopold, that every male Belgian in this country should register for Army service still holds good?

Members Of Parliament (Emergency Service)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will open a register for Members of both Houses of Parliament who wish to enrol for useful work during times when Parliament is not sitting?


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the urgent necessity of utilising to the fullest extent the nation's man-power resources, including business and technical knowledge and administrative experience, he will immediately consider some method of using the services of those Members of Parliament who have the requisite time and ability to undertake additional duties during the present emergency?

His Majesty's Government is desirous of utilising to the full the services of hon. Members, and I am considering the best way in which to meet the desires of hon. Members in this respect.

Economic Organisation


asked the Prime Minister whether he is now able to make a statement concerning the proposed changes in the economic organisation of the Government's activities?

As the reply is rather long and detailed I propose, with Mr. Speaker's permission, to make a statement at the end of Questions.


The work of Ministers, under the direction of the War Cabinet, falls into three divisions:

  • (a) Defence:
  • (b) Foreign Policy:
  • (c) Economic and Home Affairs.
  • As regards (a), the Prime Minister, in his capacity of Minister of Defence, is assisted by a Defence Committee which comprises—
    • The First Lord of the Admiralty,
    • The Secretary of State for War,
    • The Secretary of State for Air
    with the Chiefs of Staff as Advisers.

    As regards (b), questions of Foreign Policy will continue, as heretofore, to be submitted by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs direct to the War Cabinet at its daily meetings.

    As regards (c), Economic and Home Affairs cover a wide range of interrelated subjects. These will be dealt with by the following five Ministerial bodies:
  • (1) The Production Council (Chairman, the Minister without Portfolio) will give general direction as to the organisation and the priority of production for war purposes;
  • (2) The Economic Policy Committee (Chairman, the Minister without Portfolio) will concert and direct general economic policy;
  • (3) The Food Policy Committee (Chairman, the Lord Privy Seal) will deal with problems of food including food production;
  • (4) The Home Policy Committee (Chairman, the Lord Privy Seal) will deal with questions relating to the Home Front and social services; it will also be responsible for the framing of regulations and draft legislation;
  • (5) The Civil Defence Committee (Chairman, the Home Secretary) will deal with civil defence including home security questions.
  • The work of these Committees will be concerted and directed by a Committee under the Chairmanship of the Lord President, of which the Lord Privy Seal, the Minister without Portfolio and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be members. It will be the function of this body to ensure that the work of the five Ministerial Committees is properly co-ordinated, and that no part of the field is left uncovered.

    Lord Stamp will continue to preside over the Survey of Economic and Financial Plans. The Survey, with its associated economic staff, will be at the disposal of the Ministerial Committees dealing with economic and related subjects. The staff will also provide digests of statistics bearing on the development of our war effort, and reports on the progress achieved by Departments in giving effect to decisions on economic questions reached by the Ministerial committees referred to above.

    Can the Lord Privy Seal say whether Lord Stamp will devote the whole of his time to this work, and if not, what proportion of it? Will he be a half-timer?

    Is the economic committee with which Lord Stamp was associated, and over which the Chancellor of the Exchequer formerly presided, now abandoned in that form?

    Yes, Sir. As I have explained to the House, there is now a committee under the Minister Without Portfolio, dealing with general economic matters. Lord Stamp's organisation will report to that committee.

    Are we to understand from that answer that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer will not preside over that committee?

    Will the right hon. Gentleman consider co-opting on the Economic Advisory Committee men like Professor Harrod and Mr. Maynard Keynes?

    May I ask a question, Mr. Speaker, which is whether any Minister is specifically charged with the vitally important task of the co-ordination of foreign intelligence in regard to counter espionage?

    That subject is dealt with by the Cabinet, and the special organisation dealing with the subject.

    Armed Forces (Wireless Orders)


    asked the Prime Minister whether he will issue an order that, in the event of an attack on this country, all orders apparently given on the wireless to cease fire or lay down arms shall automatically be disregarded by the fighting services?

    Appropriate measures are being taken to deal with enemy interference of the kind suggested, but I would add that it seems to me inconceivable that members of His Majesty's Forces should ever assume that orders of such a kind were genuine.

    Eire (Invasion Dangers)


    asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied that, in our measures of defence in this country, adequate safeguards have been taken to protect us from an attack on and through our western seaboard by air and submarine via the Dominion of Eire; and whether, in particular, adequately armed detection and prevention personnel is provided for the Isle of Man, Anglesey, Bardsey, Stockholm, Lundy, Caldy and Walney Islands?

    As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to a similar Question of his on the 23rd May. As regards the second part, I do not think it would be desirable to enter into details as regards particular localities.

    Bank Rate (Control)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he now controls the fixing of the Bank Rate?

    Under Clause 2 of the recent Emergency Powers Regulations and within the ambit of those Regulations I have power to give directions in this matter.

    Could the right hon. Gentleman exercise the authority which he states that he now has?

    Bank Of England (Profits)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is proposed that the profits of the Bank of England should be subject to 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax?

    Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that under Section 68 of the Income Tax Act, 1918, the Bank of England is empowered to assess its own profits for taxation, and will he put an end to that ridiculous system so that they may be fairly assessed by an independent authority?

    That is another question, and perhaps the hon. Member will put it on the Paper. I thought I had given him a very good reply.

    Can we assume that the Bank of England will now publish a proper balance-sheet?

    Limitation Of Dividends Bill (Withdrawal)


    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the decision to raise the Excess Profits Tax to 100 per cent., he intends to proceed with the Limitation of Dividends Bill?

    The decision to raise Excess Profits Tax to 100 per cent. all round has materially affected the limitation of dividend proposals. The main object of the Bill was by limiting dividends to prevent an increase in the purchasing power in the hands of shareholders and this will now be substantially attained. Moreover, companies which would now be mainly affected if the Bill is passed are those which have shown themselves prudent in the distribution of their dividends. In these circumstances, I have decided not to proceed with the Bill. The prohibition imposed on bonus issues for the period of the war will, however, remain. I should like to emphasise that the objective of the original proposals remains as important as ever, and to the limited extent that it is not attained by the imposition of 100 per cent Excess Profits Tax, I am sure that all public companies concerned will act in accord with the general principles underlying the Bill. The national interest requires reduced consumption by individuals and the greatest measure of support for new Government loans from all.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that as a result of the decision he has just announced it will be possible for certain companies, in spite of the 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax, to pay increased dividends if they so desire? Will he give the matter further consideration before abandoning what was really an excellent Bill and is still desirable?

    I think my hon. Friend will see that I have anticipated a question of that kind, because the companies he refers to are those which have been prudent in regard to the distribution of their dividends.

    Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer state exactly what will prevent a company from distributing its reserves in additional dividends?

    Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that by dispensing with the 100 per cent. Profits Tax he will create a very sad feeling among workmen who have thrown in their whole lot on the assumption that this tax was to be included?

    Emergency Convalescent Homes


    asked the Minister of Health whether, in addition to those voluntarily offered to the Government, he will acquire other large houses or mansions suitable for conversion into convalescent and recreation homes under public control and in which wounded and sick men of the fighting forces, women, children and the aged and civilian male workers could be accommodated?

    This question has already been carefully considered in its various aspects, and I can assure the hon. Member that the Government will be prepared to use to the full the powers which it possesses as the need may arise.

    Is the hon. Lady satisfied that an adequate number of these houses and mansions are being used for convalescent homes?

    I think all the houses of which we have heard are being inspected, but, as the hon. Member will realise, some of them, although they may have been quite suitable and very nice as family residences, are not suitable to become convalescent homes.

    Evacuated Children (Medical Services)


    asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that arrangements are adequate for the medical examination of children to be evacuated; whether the examination was fully carried out in the recent evacuation; whether he is making arrangements medically to examine refugees and their children; and whether those refugees can fully utilise the public medical services in the municipal areas in which they are billeted?

    Very thorough arrangements for the medical examination of children in the event of further evacuation have been prescribed for all evacuation areas. The evacuation last Sunday from towns on the East Coast which had not hitherto been classed as evacuation areas was carried out at short notice, but so far as time permitted the same arrangements were made there. The evacuation on the previous Sunday, referred to in the second part of the Question, was a transfer of London children from reception areas on the East Coast to other reception areas in Wales. This was carried out at still shorter notice, but my right hon. Friend has received reports which show that the authorities in the new reception areas are well satisfied with the condition in which the children arrived. As regards the third and fourth parts of the Question, refugees are medically examined both at the ports where they land and at the receiving centres in Greater London. Directions have been issued to authorities in whose areas refugees are accommodated to bring to the notice of refugees the health services that are there provided.