House Of Commons
Tuesday, 4th June, 1940.
The House met at a Quarter before Three of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.
Deaths Of Members
made the following communication to the House: I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Sir Joseph William Leech, late Member for the Borough of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (West Division), and of the death in action of Captain Richard Whitaker Porritt, late Member for the County of Lancaster (Heywood and Radcliffe Division), and desire to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives.
For the Borough of Croydon (North Division), in the room of Lieut.-Colonel Glyn Keith Murray Mason, D.S.O., commonly called the Honourable Glyn Keith Murray Mason (Manor of North-stead).—[ Captain Margesson.]
Farnham Gas And Electricity Bill Lords
READ A SECOND TIME, AND COMMITTED.
Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Norwich) Bill
Read the Third time, and passed.
Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Littlestone-On-Sea And District Water) Bill
Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Thirsk District Water) Bill
As amended, Considered; to be read the Third time.
Oral Answers To Questions
Group Insurance (Armed Forces)
Mr. De la Bère
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?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Major Lloyd George)
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.
Mr. De la Bère
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.
Mr. George Griffiths
Does this apply to volunteers as well as conscripts?
Major Lloyd George
It applies to all people who leave their service to take service with the Army, Navy or Air Force.
Mr. De la Bère
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.
Major Lloyd George
I think that publicity is being given to it at the present time. The answer sets out the full facts.
Sheepskins (Hungarian Imports)
Mr. G. Strauss
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?
The Minister of Economic Warfare (Mr. Dalton)
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.
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?
Sir Richard Acland
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?
The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Eden)
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.
Sir R. Acland
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.
Mr. Garro Jones
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.
Mr. Garro Jones
Mr. Garro Jones
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"?
I should say, certainly not.
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.
9. Mr. Higgs
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?
This question is under consideration.
Mr. Henderson Stewart
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?
The Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Shakespeare)
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)
Mr. W. H. Green
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)
Sir Reginald Clarry
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?
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 that answer to be published?
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 shall be glad to see that document.
Mr. Glenvil Hall
Why is there any complication about it?
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?
I shall be glad to look into the matter again.
Bombing Attacks On Red Cross
Mr. G. Strauss
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.
Is it not more demoralising for the Germans?
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.
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.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore
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.
Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas
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?
Sir William Davison
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?
The Minister need not answer it.
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?
Sir W. Davison
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?
That question may be considered.
Mr. De la Bère
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?
The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Attlee)
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.
Mr. De la Bère
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 Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information (Mr. Harold Nicolson)
: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.
By what means does the Minister intend to do it?
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?
The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Captain Harold Balfour)
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?
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ernest Brown)
: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?
Mr. E. Brown
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.
Mr. John Morgan
Are any crofters chairmen of any of these agricultural committees?
If the hon. Member will put that question on the Paper I will endeavour to give him the information.
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?
The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)
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?
It is intended that no one shall lay in any undue stocks of coal.
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.
Mr. G. Griffiths
Are they up or down?
They are up.
Transport (Workmen's Fares, Sundays)
Mr. R. C. Morrison
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?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Montague)
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?
Mr. Benjamin Smith
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?
I think that is covered by the answer.
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.
31 and 32.
Sir T. Moore
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?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Assheton)
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.
Sir T. Moore
May I thank my hon. Friend for a most satisfactory answer?
Ministry Of Supply
Sir T. Moore
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?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
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.
Sir T. Moore
But are they satisfactory—that is the essential point?
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?
Mr. Harold Macmillan
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 Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)
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.
Why do they not?
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.
Mr. De la Bère
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.
The Minister says that it was answered last time.
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 Assistant Postmaster-General (Captain Waterhouse)
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?
The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)
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?
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
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?
What does frais de representation mean?
It means expenses.
Why did not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman put it in the Question?
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.
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)
Mr. R. C. Morrison
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?
Sir R. Clarry
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.
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:
- The First Lord of the Admiralty,
- The Secretary of State for War,
- The Secretary of State for Air
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?
His position is unchanged in that respect.
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?
As I have said, the Minister Without Portfolio will preside.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider co-opting on the Economic Advisory Committee men like Professor Harrod and Mr. Maynard Keynes?
Mr. Garro Jones
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.
Mr. Garro Jones
Is any Minister specifically charged with that responsibility?
The Lord President of the Council is specifically charged with it.
Mr. Glenvil Hall
May I ask that Lord Stamp should not be put on this Organisation?
Armed Forces (Wireless Orders)
Mr. Hamilton Kerr
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)
Sir Henry Morris-Jones
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?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Kingsley Wood)
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?
Sir K. Wood
I could do so, but I am not satisfied that the situation requires it.
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?
Sir K. Wood
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?
Sir K. Wood
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.
Mr. Glenvil Hall
Can we assume that the Bank of England will now publish a proper balance-sheet?
Sir K. Wood
That is another story.
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?
Sir K. Wood
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?
Sir K. Wood
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?
Sir K. Wood
I think I have already referred to that.
Mr. Benjamin Smith
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?
Sir K. Wood
I do not think my hon. Friend could have heard my answer.
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?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
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.
Business Of The House
Sir H. Morris-Jones
On a point of Order. Will the very important statement on the war which the Prime Minister is contemplating making to the House, and which we are all anxious to hear, be made in the traditional way on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, and will any right hon. Gentleman or hon. Gentleman who cares to say a word be able to do so?
The statement will be made as a Statement, and not on the Adjournment of the House.
New Member Sworn
William Edward Woolley, esquire, for the County of York (West Riding) (Spen Valley Division).
Saint Mary Magdalene Hospital (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne) Bill Lords
Report presented of the Attorney-General on the Bill [pursuant to Standing Order 189];referred to the Committee on the Bill.
Message From The Lords
That they have agreed to,—
Ministry of Health Provisional Order (Blackburn) Bill, without Amendment.
That they have passed a Bill, intituled, "An Act to authorise the Gosport Water-
works Company to construct additional works; to authorise the transfer to the Company of part of the water undertaking of the Mayor Aldermen and Burgesses of the borough of Southampton; to extend the limits of supply of the Company; to confer upon the Company further capital and borrowing powers; and for other purposes." [Gosport Water Bill [ Lords.]
And also a Bill, intituled, "An Act to enable The Monmouthshire and South Wales Employers' Mutual Indemnity Society Limited to make special calls upon its members; to confer upon it preferential rights in certain events and to empower it to make certain agreements with its members; and for other purposes." [The Monmouthshire and South Wales Employers' Mutual Indemnity Society Limited Bill [ Lords.]
Gosport Water Bill Lords
The Monmouthshire And South Wales Employers' Mutual Indemnity Society Limited Bill Lords
Read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.
Publications And Debates Reports
Second Report from the Select Committee, with Minutes of Evidence, brought up, and read; to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 133.]
The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
From the moment that the French defences at Sedan and on the Meuse were broken at the end of the second week of May, only a rapid retreat to Amiens and the south could have saved the British and French Armies who had entered Belgium at the appeal of the Belgian King, but this strategic fact was not immediately realised. The French High Command hoped they would be able to close the gap, and the Armies of the north were under their orders. Moreover, a retirement of this kind would have involved almost certainly the destruction of the fine Belgian Army of over 20 divisions and the abandonment of the whole of Belgium. Therefore, when the force and scope of the German penetration were realised and when a new French Generalissimo, General Weygand, assumed command in place of General Gamelin, an effort was made by the French and British Armies in Belgium to keep on holding the right hand of the Belgians and to give their own right hand to a newly created French Army which was to have advanced across the Somme in great strength to grasp it.However, the German eruption swept like a sharp scythe around the right and rear of the Armies of the north. Eight or nine armoured divisions, each of about 400 armoured vehicles of different kinds, but carefully assorted to be complementary and divisible into small self-contained units, cut off all communications between us and the main French Armies. It severed our own communications for food and ammunition, which ran first to Amiens and afterwards through Abbeville, and it shore its way up the coast to Boulogne and Calais, and almost to Dunkirk. Behind this armoured and mechanised onslaught came a number of German divisions in lorries, and behind them again there plodded comparatively slowly the dull brute mass of the ordinary German Army and German people, always so ready to be led to the trampling down in other lands of liberties and comforts which they have never known in their own. I have said this armoured scythe-stroke almost reached Dunkirk—almost but not quite. Boulogne and Calais were the scenes of desperate fighting. The Guards defended Boulogne for a while and were then withdrawn by orders from this country. The Rifle Brigade, the 60th Rifles, and the Queen Victoria's Rifles, with a battalion of British tanks and 1,000 Frenchmen, in all about 4,000 strong, defended Calais to the last. The British Brigadier was given an hour to surrender. He spurned the offer, and four days of intense street fighting passed before silence reigned over Calais, which marked the end of a memorable resistance. Only 30 unwounded survivors were brought off by the Navy and we do not know the fate of their comrades. Their sacrifice, however, was not in vain. At least two armoured divisions, which otherwise would have been turned against the British Expeditionary Force, had to be sent for to overcome them. They have added another page to the glories of the Light Division, and the time gained enabled the Graveline waterlines to be flooded and to be held by the French troops. Thus it was that the port of Dunkirk was kept open. When it was found impossible for the Armies of the north to reopen their communications to Amiens with the main French Armies, only one choice remained. It seemed, indeed, forlorn. The Belgian, British and French Armies were almost surrounded. Their sole line of retreat was to a single port and to its neighbouring beaches. They were pressed on every side by heavy attacks and far outnumbered in the air. When a week ago to-day I asked the House to fix this afternoon as the occasion for a statement, I feared it would be my hard lot to announce the greatest military disaster in our long history. I thought—and some good judges agreed with me—that perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 men might be re-embarked. But it certainly seemed that the whole of the French First Army and the whole of the British Expeditionary Force north of the Amiens-Abbeville gap, would be broken up in the open field or else would have to capitulate for lack of food and ammunition. These were the hard and heavy tidings for which I called upon the House and the nation to prepare themselves a week ago. The whole root and core and brain of the British Army, on which and around which we were to build, and are to build, the great British Armies in the later years of the war, seemed about to perish upon the field or to be led into an ignominious and starving captivity. That was the prospect a week ago. But another blow which might well have proved final was yet to fall upon us. The King of the Belgians had called upon us to come to his aid. Had not this Ruler and his Government severed themselves from the Allies, who rescued their country from extinction in the late war, and had they not sought refuge in what has proved to be a fatal neutrality, the French and British Armies might well at the outset have saved not only Belgium but perhaps even Poland. Yet at the last moment, when Belgium was already invaded, King Leopold called upon us to come to his aid, and even at the last moment we came. He and his brave, efficient Army, nearly half a million strong, guarded our eastern flank and thus kept open our only line of retreat to the sea. Suddenly, without prior consultation, with the least possible notice, without the advice of his Ministers and upon his own personal act, he sent a plenipotentiary to the German Command, surrendered his Army and exposed our whole flank and means of retreat. I asked the House a week ago to suspend its judgment because the facts were not clear, but I do not feel that any reason now exists why we should not form cur own opinions upon this pitiful episode. The surrender of the Belgian Army compelled the British at the shortest notice to cover a flank to the sea more than 30 miles in length. Otherwise all would have been cut off, and all would have shared the fate to which King Leopold had condemned the finest Army his country had ever formed. So in doing this and in exposing this flank, as anyone who followed the operations on the map will see, contact was lost between the British and two out of the three corps forming the First French Army, who were still further from the coast than we were, and it seemed impossible that any large number of Allied troops could reach the coast. The enemy attacked on all sides with great strength and fierceness, and their main power, the power of their far more numerous air force, was thrown into the battle or else concentrated upon Dunkirk and the beaches. Pressing in upon the narrow exit, both from the east and from the west, the enemy began to fire with cannon upon the beaches by which alone the shipping could approach or depart. They sowed magnetic mines in the channels and seas; they sent repeated waves of hostile aircraft, sometimes more than 100 strong in one formation, to cast their bombs upon the single pier that remained, and upon the sand dunes upon which the troops had their eyes for shelter. Their U-boats, one of which was sunk, and their motor launches took their toll of the vast traffic which now began. For four or five days an intense struggle reigned. All their armoured divisions—or what was left of them—together with great masses of German infantry and artillery, hurled themselves in vain upon the ever-narrowing, ever-contracting appendix within which the British and French Armies fought. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, with the willing help of countless merchant seamen, strained every nerve to embark the British and Allied troops. Two hundred and twenty light warships and 650 other vessels were engaged. They had to operate upon the difficult coast, often in adverse weather, under an almost ceaseless hail of bombs and an increasing concentration of artillery fire. Nor were the seas, as I have said, themselves free from mines and torpedoes. It was in conditions such as these that our men carried on, with little or no rest, for days and nights on end, making trip after trip across the dangerous waters, bringing with them always men whom they had rescued. The numbers they have brought back are the measure of their devotion and their courage. The hospital ships, which brought off many thousands of British and French wounded, being so plainly marked were a special target for Nazi bombs; but the men and women on board them never faltered in their duty. Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force, which had already been intervening in the battle, so far as its range would allow, from home bases, now used part of its main metropolitan fighter strength, and struck at the German bombers, and at the fighters which in large numbers protected them. This struggle was protracted and fierce. Suddenly the scene has cleared, the crash and thunder has for the moment—but only for the moment—died away. A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valour, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by re- source, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity, is manifest to us all. The enemy was hurled back by the retreating British and French troops. He was so roughly handled that he did not harry their departure seriously. The Royal Air Force engaged the main strength of the German Air Force, and inflicted upon them losses of at least four to one; and the Navy, using nearly 1,000 ships of all kinds, carried over 335,000 men, French and British, out of the jaws of death and shame, to their native land and to the tasks which lie immediately ahead. We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations. But there was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted. It was gained by the Air Force. Many of our soldiers coming back have not seen the Air Force at work; they saw only the bombers which escaped its protective attack. They underrate its achievements. I have heard much talk of this; that is why I go out of my way to say this. I will tell you about it. This was a great trial of strength between the British and German Air Forces. Can you conceive a greater objective for the Germans in the air than to make evacuation from these beaches impossible, and to sink all these ships which were displayed, almost to the extent of thousands? Could there have been an objective of greater military importance and significance for the whole purpose of the war than this? They tried hard, and they were beaten back; they were frustrated in their task. We got the Army away; and they have paid fourfold for any losses which they have inflicted. Very large formations of German aeroplanes—and we know that they are a very brave race—have turned on several occasions from the attack of one-quarter of their number of the Royal Air Force, and have dispersed in different directions. Twelve aeroplanes have been hunted by two. One aeroplane was driven into the water and cast away, by the mere charge of a British aeroplane, which had no more ammunition. All of our types—the Hurricane, the Spitfire and the new Defiant—and all our pilots have been vindicated as superior to what they have at present to face. When we consider how much greater would be our advantage in defending the air above this island against an overseas attack, I must say that I find in these facts a sure basis upon which practical and reassuring thoughts may rest. I will pay my tribute to these young airmen. The great French Army was very largely, for the time being, cast back and disturbed by the onrush of a few thousands of armoured vehicles. May it not also be that the cause of civilisation itself will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand airmen? There never had been, I suppose, in all the world, in all the history of war, such an opportunity for youth. The Knights of the Round Table, the Crusaders, all fall back into a prosaic past: not only distant but prosaic; but these young men, going forth every morn to guard their native land and all that we stand for, holding in their hands these instruments of colossal and shattering power, of whom it may be said that
"When every morning brought a noble chance,
deserve our gratitude, as do all of the brave men who, in so many ways and on so many occasions, are ready, and continue ready, to give life and all for their native land. I return to the Army. In the long series of very fierce battles, now on this front, now on that, fighting on three fronts at once, battles fought by two or three divisions against an equal or somewhat larger number of the enemy, and fought fiercely on some of the old grounds that so many of us knew so well, in these battles our losses in men have exceeded 30,000 killed, wounded and missing. I take occasion to express the sympathy of the House to all who have suffered bereavement or who are still anxious. The President of the Board of Trade is not here to-day. His son has been killed, and many in the House have felt the pangs of affliction in the sharpest form. But I will say this about the missing. We have had a large number of wounded come home safely to this country—the greater part—but I would say about the missing that there may be very many reported missing who will come back home, some day, in one way or another. In the confusion of this fight it is inevitable that many have been left in positions where honour required no further resistance from them. Against this loss of over 30,000 men, we can set a far heavier loss certainly inflicted upon the enemy. But our losses in material are enormous. We have perhaps lost one-third of the men we lost in the opening days of the battle of 21st March, 1918, but we have lost nearly as many guns—nearly 1,000 guns—and all our transport, all the armoured vehicles that were with the Army in the North. This loss will impose a further delay on the expansion of our military strength. That expansion had not been proceeding as fast as we had hoped. The best of all we had to give had gone to the British Expeditionary Force, and although they had not the numbers of tanks and some articles of equipment which were desirable, they were a very well and finely equipped Army. They had the first-fruits of all that our industry had to give, and that is gone. And now here is this further delay. How long it will be, how long it will last, depends upon the exertions which we make in this island. An effort the like of which has never been seen in our records is now being made. Work is proceeding everywhere, night and day, Sundays and week-days. Capital and labour have cast aside their interests, rights, and customs and put them into the common stock. Already the flow of munitions has leapt forward. There is no reason why we should not in a few months overtake the sudden and serious loss that has come upon us, without retarding the development of our general programme. Nevertheless, our thankfulness at the escape of our Army and so many men, whose loved ones have passed through an agonising week, must not blind us to the fact that what has happened in France and Belgium is a colossal military disaster. The French Army has been weakened, the Belgian Army has been lost, a large part of those fortified lines upon which so much faith had been reposed is gone, many valuable mining districts and factories have passed into the enemy's possession, the whole of the Channel ports are in his hands, with all the tragic consequences that follow from that, and we must expect another blow to be struck almost immediately at us or at France. We are told that Herr Hitler has a plan for invading the British Isles. This has often been thought of before. When Napoleon lay at Boulogne for a year with his flat-bottomed boats and his Grand Army, he was told by someone, "There are bitter weeds in England." There are certainly a great many more of them since the British Expeditionary Force returned. The whole question of home defence against invasion is, of course, powerfully affected by the fact that we have for the time being in this island incomparably more powerful military forces than we have ever had at any moment in this war or the last. But this will not continue. We shall not be content with a defensive war. We have our duty to our Ally. We have to reconstitute and build up the British Expeditionary Force once again, under its gallant Commander-in-Chief, Lord Gort. All this is in train; but in the interval we must put our defences in this island into such a high state of organisation that the fewest possible numbers will be required to give effective security and that the largest possible potential of offensive effort may be realised. On this we are now engaged. It will be very convenient, if it be the desire of the House, to enter upon this subject in a secret Session. Not that the Government would necessarily be able to reveal in very great detail military secrets, but we like to have our discussions free, without the restraint imposed by the fact that they will be read the next day by the enemy, and the Government would benefit by views freely expressed in all parts of the House by Members with their knowledge of so many different parts of the country. I understand that some request is to be made upon this subject, which will be readily acceded to by His Majesty's Government. We have found it necessary to take measures of increasing stringency, not only against enemy aliens and suspicious characters of other nationalities, but also against British subjects who may become a danger or a nuisance should the war be transported to the United Kingdom. I know there are a great many people affected by the orders which we have made who are the passionate enemies of Nazi Germany. I am very sorry for them, but we cannot, at the present time and under the present stress, draw all the distinctions which we should like to do. If parachute landings were attempted and fierce fighting attendant upon them followed, these unfortunate people would be far better out of the way, for their own sakes as well as for ours. There is, how- ever, another class, for which I feel not the slightest sympathy. Parliament has given us the powers to put down Fifth Column activities with a strong hand, and we shall use those powers, subject to the supervision and correction of the House, without the slightest hesitation until we are satisfied, and more than satisfied, that this malignancy in our midst has been effectively stamped out. Turning once again, and this time more generally, to the question of invasion, I would observe that there has never been a period in all these long centuries of which we boast when an absolute guarantee against invasion, still less against serious raids, could have been given to our people. In the days of Napoleon, of which I was speaking just now, the same wind which would have carried his transports across the Channel might have driven away the blockading fleet. There was always the chance, and it is that chance which has excited and befooled the imaginations of many Continental tyrants. Many are the tales that are told. We are assured that novel methods will be adopted, and when we see the originality of malice, the ingenuity of aggression, which our enemy displays, we may certainly prepare ourselves for every kind of novel stratagem and every kind of brutal and treacherous manœuvre. I think that no idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered and viewed with a searching, but at the same time, I hope, with a steady eye. We must never forget the solid assurances of sea power and those which belong to air power if it can be locally exercised. I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty's Government—every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.And every chance brought out a noble knight,"
Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
:I am glad to think that the Prime Minister, in his call to the nation, has told it of the efforts which it will be called upon to make and of the gravity of the days through which it will pass, and I may say—
Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
:On a point of Order. I am somewhat at a loss to understand what is now taking place. I understood, in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones), that we were to have a statement from the Prime Minister and finish, and then proceed to the business on the Order Paper. Do I understand now that the right hon. Gentleman is proceeding to open an Adjournment Debate?
I understood that the right hon. Gentleman was desirous of making a remark.
Captain Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
:On a point of Order. Will the same indulgence be allowed to private Members of this House to say a few remarks as is permitted to my right hon. Friend? I, as well as others, have something to say.
The same indulgence will be given to every hon. Member of the House, but I do not propose to allow the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench any particular indulgence on this occasion.
Sir H. Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
Would it not be necessary, to meet the wishes of the House, to move the Adjournment?
May I explain that in accordance with the custom of the House—[Hon. Members: "No."] In previous statements of this character which have been made under these conditions it has been thought fitting that a few appropriate remarks should be made from this Bench.
I grant the right hon. Gentleman the occasion that when a statement was made and no Adjournment Motion was moved right hon. Gentlemen were allowed to make extended speeches on the issue before us. If a second speech is required in support of the Prime Minister from the Government side, I hope that one of the Ministers who has shared responsibility with the Prime Minister will be the man to make that second statement.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will confine himself to a few remarks and not attempt to make a speech.
On the last occasion last week when the Prime Minister made a statement under these conditions I followed with the general consent of the House, and I assumed that the same conditions would apply to-day.
Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)
Will this create a precedent for the future?
It is difficult to know what the hon. Member means by creating a precedent. No precedent is going to be made on this occasion, but I think in the circumstances, and in view of the misunderstanding of the situation, the right hon. Gentleman had better not proceed.
I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, not to stifle views which are prevalent among those Members who have returned from overseas, but to give us the opportunity, not perhaps now, but on an appropriate occasion, to say what we have in our minds. If you are going to stifle debate, there is going to be trouble.
The hon. and gallant Member will appreciate that there is nothing before the House at the moment.
May I ask the Prime Minister a question? He mentioned in his speech this afternoon that an opportunity would be given for a Debate in secret Session. May we take that as an assurance that such a Debate will take place at a very early date? I have no desire to speak at the moment, but if I am given that assurance, it will satisfy me.
The Prime Minister
I understand that it is to be next Tuesday.
Mr. Thorne (Plaistow)
:On a point of Order. I want to know whether it is not advisable for men in uniform to be at their jobs as well as the people working in factory and workshop?
They have been there.
And so they should.
You should go out.
I would if I were younger.
You have no right to make remarks of that kind.
Orders Of The Day
Post Office And Telegraph Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."After the account of the great events which has immediately preceded, the subject which I now introduce to the House causes us to descend to a more humdrum plane. In times when great events and days are shaping themselves, in which each one of us is attending to his own particular duty, I have to ask the House to bear with me while, in a very few words, I explain the contents of this Bill and ask the House to give it a Second Reading. The Bill itself is made necessary by Budget proposals which are now before the House in the form of the Finance Bill. It will be remembered that my Noble Friend, when he made these proposals on 23rd April, announced certain increases in postal, telegraph and telephone charges, and these increases are made solely to raise additional revenue for the purposes of the war. Speaking generally, many of these proposals which have been announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer have already been put into force because they did not require legislation for their enactment. All the postal increases, for example, with the exception of one, have been effected by Treasury warrant and are now operating, and the only reason for this Bill is that Parliament has in the past fixed certain statutory maximum charges for various forms of Post Office services, and there is no power to increase charges above these maxima without the consent of the House. That, in general, is the purpose of the Bill. As I have said, the bulk of the increased postal charges thus announced are not referred to in the Bill, because under the Post Office Acts it has been possible to effect them by warrant or regulation. The only postal charge for which it is necessary to legislate now is the inland registered newspaper rate. Clause 1 of the Bill removes the statutory maximum charge and makes it possible for this postal charge to follow the line of other postal charges and be enacted by warrant, as are the other charges. The fact that there will be these increases in the postal charge for registered newspapers—a charge of 1½for four ounces instead of 1d. for six ounces as at present—renders necessary the following Clause. Clause2 deals with cases where people have made contracts with the publisher of a periodical for the supply of that periodical at an inclusive charge covering the postage. This would necessitate those who sell these periodicals to meet the postal charge, which was not in contemplation by the parties when the contract was made. The Clause gives power for the contracts to be terminated so that the parties may make such fresh arrangements as they may agree on the matter. Clauses 3 and 4 deal with the telegraph service proper, and Clause 3 imposes a new maximum for the inland Press telegrams of 1s. 3d. for 60 words instead of 1s. Clause 4 raises the maximum charges for certain special classes of telegrams, that is to say, priority telegrams and greeting telegrams, where previously the maximum was 1s. for 12 words, and in future the charge for priority inland telegrams will be 1s. 3d. for nine words, and for greeting telegrams 1s. for nine words. Clause 5 deals with matters particularly affecting the telephone service. Hon. Members will see that without Clause 5 mention is made only of telegraph services and telegraph contracts and so on, but the word "telegraph" in its legal connotation includes the telephone services, and though certain private telegraph services are affected by Clause 5, the main purpose of the Clause is to deal with the telephone services. At the outset I should distinguish between the telephone exchange service and the private telephone service, because I find, from representations that have been made to me, that a certain amount of confusion exists in regard to this matter. The normal telephone service is the exchange service; that is to say, the line from the subscriber's house terminates in a telephone exchange, where it is possible to link him up with any other subscriber. That is the normal telephone service, but in addition to that there exist private telephone lines where the end is not in an exchange but in another office. Many newspapers in London have such private telephone lines to their offices in the so-called provinces, and there the exchange does not intervene at all. It is that second class where there is no exchange facilities which is the private telephone service proper. I mention that because some hon. Members have assumed that the private telephone service applied to the ordinary private subscriber, but it does not. The Budget charges which were announced were an increase in the charge of 15 per cent. on the exchange service and 25 per cent. on the private telephone service. In the ordinary exchange service the charges fall under two heads. There is the charge for calls, so much per call according to the distance, and the fixed periodical payment, of which rental is the most common and important. The charges for calls do not require legislation. The changes have been effected by regulation under the Telegraph Acts and are in force. Clause 5 deals with periodical payments like rentals, and the necessity for the Clause arises in this way. Telephone services are arranged between the Postmaster-General and the public by means of a contract made between them, and where new contracts come to be made they will be based on the new scale of charges, but in order to raise the necessary money which has been budgeted for, it is necessary that these increased charges should become exigible from 1st July. The purpose of the Clause is to deal with contracts which are now current and to make it plain that the charge will be exigible on 1st July. That means a unilateral intervention by this House in a contract entered into between two persons—the Postmaster-General and the citizen. Therefore we are enabling those affected by that variation, if they so desire, on proper notice to cancel their contract, so that they may, if they so desire, avoid a burden which they did not contemplate when they entered into the contract previously. Sub-section (8) of Clause 5 gives that power and Subsection (9) is consequential to the extent that if a person were given a month—
Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
:May I ask the right hon. Gentleman why there is a different rate of interest in respect of exchange contract services and private contracts? The right hon. Gentleman said that some representation had reached him, and that may be why on this point, I understand, no objection has been taken to the 25 per cent.
The best answer that I can give is this: This is, of course, taxation, and in all questions of taxation it is for the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to decide what any particular source of revenue will stand. The view was formed when the Budget was framed that what the private telephone service would stand is 25 per cent. As regards the ordinary exchange service, the appropriate increase for taxation purposes is 15 per cent. I was saying that as these charges are now being included it is proposed by Subsection (8) to give power to a party to determine a contract if he so desires. Sub-section (9) makes it plain that if he does decide to cancel his contract, then, for two months over which the contract can run after 1st July, no extra charge will be exigible. Hon. Members will observe in the Bill, notably in Clause 5, that there is a reference to "any local telegraph authority." These words refer in the main to the Corporation of Hull, who operate their own system within their own boundaries under licence from the Postmaster-General under which terms are arranged between them. By this Bill the private citizens of Hull will have a privilege equal to that of fellow citizens in other boroughs in paying more for telephones in order to aid the national finances and to provide the sinews of war. The Bill gives Hull, in regard to subscribers, the same right as the Postmaster-General has in regard to the public. Clause6 deals with the Title and construction of the Measure. That is an outline of the Bill, and it only remains for me to say that the Post Office, besides rendering great service to the public, vital in time of peace and still more vital in time of war, is also a great revenue Department. It is purely in its latter capacity that I now move that the Bill be now read a Second time.
Mr. Ammon (Camberwell, North)
The House might feel that to a large extent discussion of this Bill is something of an anti-climax after what we have just witnessed in the House However, I will take the opportunity of welcoming the Postmaster-General on his first appearance in Debate since he took office. To some extent he calls for the commiseration of the House, because he has had the most extraordinary ill luck. He has been from Department to Department, and each time he arrived something went wrong with it. He has been put into the position of having to clear it up and has even had to carry responsibility and blame for something which happened previous to his arrival. He has now come into this office at a time when we are celebrating the centenary of the penny post which no longer obtains. It is a pity, of course, that the actual increase of postage is not in this Bill, because that would have been about the only thing on which we could have obtained a grip. It is a long way from the four ounces for a penny letter-post, which was granted in the Jubilee of 1891, to the proposals which have been introduced in the Finance Bill.There are two main points in this Bill; one the increase in newspaper postage, and the other alterations with regard to the telegraph services. In 1870 the introduction of the halfpenny newspaper rate was brought in, and now, 70 years after, we are going back. It is curious to reflect that, so far as London is concerned, we are now very much worse off from the point of postal delivery, organisation and cost than we were in the seventeenth cen- tury. This has been done in order that the revenue may gain. It will probably gain from more than one angle, because the further impost on ordinary printed matter has the effect of indirectly increasing the revenue. It costs as much to handle halfpenny services as it does to handle the penny service. The only criticism one can make is that the tax on newspapers is, perhaps, a tax on information and commercial channels, but while we could have argued this a little while ago, it is now entirely another matter. Although we cannot oppose it, we may look at it with regret and reckon that one of the disadvantages that war brings to a nation is that it throws us back in respect of communications. However, we have not been bombarded by various interests, and there has been no outcry in the Press, which seems to suggest that the tax on commercial telegrams has been accepted with proper public spirit. It is curious to note that in 1868 the Press was allowed to send 100 words a shilling by night and 75 words by day, so that we have gone back, in that respect, two steps. In 1920 the rates were increased by 25 per cent. Turning from that to the telegraph services, the Postmaster-General answered the question put to him, which was, I think, the only point which might have been made, namely, the peculiar anomaly which exists in the City of Hull, which is independent owing to the accident of time and the fact that it did not come within the ambit of the Post Office proper when the arrangements were made for taking over the telegraph and telephone services. I would like to ask a question in connection with the increased charges for the telegraph system. Does the Postmaster-General intend to wipe out by Regulation or this Bill the 50 calls allowed to private subscribers before any extra charge begins to count?
Mr. W. S. Morrison
The answer is, "No."
I am glad to obtain that answer, because it does give an indication that things are not quite so bad as they seem from a first look at the Bill. With regard to the difference in exchange services, is it not so that they do recover a bit of their tax by the difference made in the charges?
The 15 per cent. is the surcharge on the exchange services and the 25 per cent. is on private wires, both for rentals and calls.
So that the private wire to a certain extent suffers in two ways by the 25 per cent. and by having to pay the extra amount. Newspapers too have private wires.
Perhaps I had better not interrupt the hon. Gentleman too much, because my hon. and gallant Friend will deal with these points later. The actual position is, however, that Press telegrams are sent over the Post Office system. The Exchange Telegraph Company, for instance, and companies of that sort, have private telegraph and telephone wires which they hire from us. They pay only for the wire and not for its use. They can use them much or little, as they desire.
Many newspapers use private wires, so that from that point of view the tax is not so bad as it seems at first sight. Greetings telegrams, I see, are to be charged a little extra. One cannot oppose a Bill like this on such an occasion. From the brief examination which one is able to give it, the imposts do not seem quite so bad as when looked at for the first time. One can now understand why the Press have not been active in their protests against this proposed increase. So far as the larger newspapers are concerned, they, to some extent, will escape, but their correspondents will have to bear the increased cost of increased telegrams. Naturally, we shall not do anything to impede the passage of this Bill, and I take this opportunity of congratulating the right hon. Gentleman, who is having a smoother passage with this Measure than has been his lot on many occasions in the past.
Sir John Mellor (Tamworth)
I want to ask the Postmaster-General a question, and it is with regard to the subscriber's right to cancel his contract with the Government when the Government propose to vary that contract unilaterally. I recognise that it is bare justice that subscribers should be allowed the option to cancel, but have the Government entirely counted the cost to the Revenue? There will be a number of subscribers, at the present time, especially those evacuated from their homes and those hard hit in business, who will welcome this opportunity as a convenient one to escape their obligations. Many would have to pay rentals for a substantial period of years, perhaps on a five or seven year contract. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that in view of evacuation particularly many people who have left their houses empty are still paying to the Government and would have been liable to pay several more years' rental. I think it may be a rather expensive thing for the Revenue if, in order to add generally 15 per cent. to rentals throughout the country a large number of people should be able to escape altogether from paying rentals which they would otherwise have had to pay to the Government for the next several years. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this point.
Mr. Lewis (Colchester)
Five years ago a request was made to this House to provide a lot of further money for the development of the telegraph service. It was pointed out how unsatisfactory it was that the service should be carried on at a loss year after year. It was then stated that one of the principal contributory causes of that loss was the loss made on Press telegrams. I observe in the Bill that power is being taken to increase the charge for Press telegrams. For my part, I am pleased to see that. I wish the increase had been higher. After all, every industry in the country has to bear a great burden of taxation and thereby contributes to the Exchequer of the country and its general well-being. Here we have a sheltered industry which, so far from making a contribution to the revenue, is a burden year after year. It seems to me that attention should be drawn to this; anything that can be done to remedy it is most desirable.With regard to Press telegrams in particular, the Press lords can very well afford to pay for the public service provided for them. I see no reason why they should be subsidised by being allowed to send telegrams at rates which constitute a loss to the telegraph service of the country. Moreover, I suggest that not only can they afford to pay for the service which is given to them, but that in point of fact they do not make so good a use of the service that we need worry very much about it? If we consider the information given in the popular Press, much of which has been telegraphed at the expense of the Exchequer, I think we may reflect that we could do without a good deal of it. As this subject has been raised by the Bill, I shall be glad if someone on behalf of the Government will give us a little information on this matter. It would be interesting to know whether any effort has been made by the Post Office to find out what the effect would be if such a charge was made for Press telegrams as would reasonably cover the cost of the service provided. No doubt that would result in some diminution in the amount of Press telegrams, but it would be interesting to know whether the subject has been investigated by the Post Office and what conclusions they have reached. I know that this is a rather thorny subject for the Postmaster-General. I have always thought that one reason why it has never been tackled is because very often we have had a young Minister, an Under-Secretary with a bright future before him, made Postmaster-General, and it is rather too much to ask him to do something which would be unpopular to the Press, which is so very powerful in the country. We are fortunate now in having a more seasoned Minister in charge of the Post Office. Whatever failings we may have attributed to the right hon. Gentleman we are bound to admit that he is not lacking in courage, and I hope he will take the opportunity, if he cannot do it within the scope of the Bill, to investigate the questions, first, why this great service, which should easily be made to earn large sums in revenue for the benefit of the country, should be carried on at a loss; and, secondly, whether that part of the loss which is attributed to the subsidy which in effect is given to the newspaper proprietors to-day, could not easily be cut out without any reasonable person in this country losing anything of value.
May I ask whether the City of Hull have a right to refuse this payment, or whether there is any power in the Bill to compel them?
The Assistant Postmaster-General (Captain Waterhouse)
Let me reply to the question of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) at once. The City of Hull are bound to pay to the Postmaster-General the 15 per cent. The hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor), of course, appreciates that there are comparatively few of the cases of the kind he mentioned, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to take into consideration the possibility that some at any rate might throw in their hands and give up their contracts. The maximum loss at the worst is about £90,000, which is a small item compared with the total revenue. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) raised the question of Press telegrams. He rather made a large mountain out of a very small molehill. The actual loss on Press telegrams is about £64,000, but I must even qualify that statement by saying that a proportion of overheads are included, and the actual out-of-pocket loss on Press telegrams is not really sufficient to warrant an inquiry at such times as these. The Postmaster-General, however, has authorised me to say that my hon. Friend's remarks will be noted.
Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[ Sir J. Edmondson.]
Superannuation Schemes (War Service) Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Assheton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."As the House is aware, one of the principal aims of the Ministry of Labour at the present time is to secure the best use of skilled labour. To get this it is obviously necessary for skilled workers to leave the employment in which they find themselves in order to go into factories engaged in the production of war munitions. It has been found that in certain cases the fact that a man is covered by a superannuation scheme in his present job is an obstacle to his leaving it and going where he is most wanted, as it means a loss to him of certain benefits upon which he had been very properly counting. The purpose of this Bill is twofold. It is designed, in the first place, to enable trustees and others concerned with administering superannuation schemes to prevent loss of rights under a scheme which might otherwise result from employés going into the Armed Forces or into civil employment for war purposes. Secondly, it is to enable the payment of contributions to be continued on behalf of persons after they have left the employment to which the schemes relate. I would remind the House that the rights of persons affected by the Military Training Act, 1939, and the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act, 1939, were protected by provisions of this nature made by Orders-in-Council under those two Acts. There was power also under the Armed Forces Act, 1939, to protect men called up for service by similar Orders-in-Council, but this power did not extend to men who volunteered for service nor to men transferring to war employment. It is necessary, therefore, to ask the House to pass this Bill in order to cover such cases. I do not think I need stress the desirability of a Measure to maintain the rights of men serving in the Forces, and I need hardly add that many concerns have been most anxious to do this for their employés, but in some cases have not legally been in a position to do so. As far as civil employment goes, unless power is given to trustees and others concerned, any men or women covered by a superannuation scheme who transfer to war employment would suffer loss which it would be hard for them to bear. We have already made provision in the Local Government (War Service) Superannuation Act, 1939, and in other Acts, to protect the rights of local government staffs, teachers, constables, firemen and civil servants, and the Ministry of Health is co-operating with the Ministry of Labour in taking the most active steps it can to encourage members of local government staffs who can be released for war work. In view of the urgent need for every skilled man and woman to find his or her way into vital war industries, it is clear that no measure should be neglected which will help to achieve this object. There are many private firms as well as a number of public and semi-public bodies whose staffs are covered by superannuation schemes and who should be encouraged, when they can be spared, to transfer to war work. Such schemes are of very diverse kinds, and about 1,500,000 employés are covered by them. Some are operated by individual employers or groups of employers through insurance companies. A few workers are covered by independent group schemes, but the vast majority are covered by schemes operated by individual employers themselves. The House will observe that this is an enabling Bill. It enables trustees, employers or insurance companies to take advantage of its provisions. It has been discussed by the National Joint Advisory Council, which represents the organisation of employers and the trade unions. As the employers' organisations have welcomed the Bill, and in view of their attitude and of certain undertakings given on behalf of life insurance companies, for which I should like to express my appreciation, the Government are asking the House to pass the Bill in the confident expectation that full use will be made of it and that employers who can spare workpeople covered by their superannuation schemes for work of a more urgent national importance, will do so to the greatest extent possible and will put no obstacle in the way of such transfers. It is in this confidence that the Bill is made permissive instead of imposing obligations which would not be easy to define owing to the very wide variation in the nature and terms of superannuation schemes. If, however, the Bill does not achieve the object desired, I want to make it clear that the Government will not hesitate to come to the House for further legislation in this matter. Hon. Members will notice that the Bill covers all service in the Armed Forces whether or not a man has entered the Armed Forces as a volunteer or has been compulsorily called up. It will be for the Minister of Labour and National Service to determine what employment should be recognised as employment for war purposes, but I think I should tell the House that it is the intention of the Minister to recognise employment in all industries essential to the war effort, including such occupations as agriculture and coal mining, as well as those industries directly connected with the production of arms. It will also be possible for the Minister to give the necessary certificate in the case of men who undertake training to fit them for the war employment they propose to take up. The proposals contained in the Bill have been discussed with representatives of the life insurance companies which are concerned in this matter. As the House is aware, many private firms make provision for superannuation by taking out group policies on the lives of their employés and in order that the rights under such schemes may be preserved, it was necessary to obtain an undertaking from the insurance companies as to the way in which they will deal with policies affecting any employés in respect of whom arrangements are made under the provisions of this Bill. The policies taken out with the companies often provide not only pension benefits but also life assurance benefits. With regard to pension benefits, the companies have given the Government to understand that they will continue to accept payment of contributions in respect of men serving in the Armed Forces or transferred to war employment. Where payment of contributions is continued the insurance companies will allow the employé concerned to continue in any scheme without loss of pension rights. If pension contributions are not continued after the date of the transfer to the Armed Forces or to employment for war purposes, the benefits secured by the contributions to the date of cessation of payment will be protected and contributions may be resumed at the end of the war upon the return of the employé and his re-entry into the scheme. With regard to the second class of benefits, life insurance benefits, and, in certain cases, total disablement benefits, the group premiums cover only the risks allowed for in the original employment and make no allowance for increased hazards such as military or certain other war-time services. Therefore, the insurance companies have intimated that they cannot continue to pay life assurance benefits under the group policies in respect of employés transferred from their original employment in cases where the employé is transferred to service in the Armed Forces or to war employment where there is a material increase in the hazard. In most cases, however, under the existing schemes an employé,on the termination of assurance under the scheme, is entitled, when he is under 60 years of age, to effect an individual policy for the amount for which he has hitherto been covered in the group scheme at the rate for his attained age, and this he can do without any evidence of health. If in a group assurance, as was the case in many policies taken out before 1937, there was no restriction as to war risks, the individual policy would be issued free from war restrictions or the imposition of any special war extra premium. The insurance offices have, however, agreed that where employés are transferred to war employment where there is no material increase in hazard they will continue to hold the employé covered both for life assurance as well as for pension if both contributions are maintained, provided that there is no selective discrimination by the employer in the choice of the men for whom he will continue to contribute. In the case of men serving with the Armed Forces, provision has already been made by the Government for death and disability, and as a general rule, of course, this provision is much in excess of the cover usually provided under group life assurance. In view of the urgent need of the transfer of workers to the production of armaments, I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading this afternoon, and I hope very much that it will be possible for it to be passed into law with all convenient speed.
Mr. Rhys Davies (West Houghton)
:On behalf of my hon. Friends and myself, we welcome this Bill. I should have been a little happier if the Minister had not stopped short when he spoke about what transpired in the negotiations between his Department, the assurance companies and the trade unions. He told us that the insurance companies had agreed to certain propositions, but I do not think he made clear what was the attitude of the trade unions; and before this Debate is closed, perhaps he will be good enough to tell us exactly what is their attitude. This Bill is necessary for the reasons which the Parliamentary Secretary has very well stated. The number of superannuation schemes in this country has grown enormously during our life-time, and it would be a thousand pities if men who, together with their employers, have paid contributions towards these schemes for years, were deprived of the benefit of them because they may have left their employment temporarily, either to go into the Armed Forces or some other occupation.For my part, I wish this Bill was not merely an enabling Bill; I think it ought to be made compulsory. Hon. Members and the Government will understand that during the earlier period of any war, the enthusiasm for men who join the Forces is very much greater than it is later on. I remember in the last war that at the beginning of hostilities employers made up the whole of the wages of their staffs when they joined the Army, but they did not continue the practice until the war ended. They made payment in respect of some of their employés who joined up first, but when the war had gone on for two or three years they paid nothing in respect of those who joined the Forces later. I imagine that a similar attitude may be adopted in connection with payments to superannuation schemes. Incidentally, I am myself within a small superannuation scheme, and I have been wondering what would happen to me if I were conscripted into the Forces and my superannuation payments suffered. I should like to put two or three points to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I hope he will look into them. I am never happy when a Minister of the Crown talks about discussions with insurance companies. We have discussed this sort of problem before. The impression given is that this Bill is, in a large measure, if not entirely, the Bill which the insurance companies want Parliament to pass. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. I wish he had sufficient grounds for shaking his head. I know the insurance companies probably as well as most hon. Members do; I have a fair idea of what they can do and what they will not do. This Bill is an enabling Bill, and the Parliamentary Secretary has told us that should it be found later on that this permissive Measure is not working properly, the Government will bring in compulsion. I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the tragedy that would occur if a man left his ordinary occupation to enter another, and died or was killed when following that new employment. Is the hon. Gentleman absolutely satisfied that under this Bill the committees which administer some of these schemes would make a payment to the widow and the dependants—because that is allowed under some of the schemes, if not most of them—if the man died before he arrived at the superannuation age? I will give an example. In most superannuation schemes the contributions are paid by the employer and the employed at about an equal rate. If a man dies before the age at which he is to be superannuated, generally speaking the contributions which he has paid, plus interest on them, are handed over to the widow. In other cases the contributions of both the employer and employed, plus the accrued interest, are all handed over to the widow. Those are the principles on which these schemes work. This, however, is what concerns me about this Bill, and it is a matter which is very much more important than appears on the surface. Suppose a man works in an occupation where the staff is covered by a superannuation scheme, and he goes into an occupation where there is no such scheme. That would probably be quite a common thing. For instance, in the co-operative movement, with which I am connected, nearly all the employés are covered by superannuation schemes. Suppose that such an employé became a coal miner, say, in South Wales, and there is no superannuation in that coal industry. Or supposing a shop assistant or a bank clerk were transferred to an occupation connected with the production of munitions. In his original employment there might be a superannuation scheme, but in the new employment there is none. Frankly, I know of no means whereby a man in such a new occupation where there is no scheme compelling a deduction from his wages would voluntarily pay his contribution to the old scheme covering his former employment. Therefore, unless there is compulsion, it seems that a great deal of hardship will ensue later on to that type of person. I was a little surprised when the Parliamentary Secretary talked about the insurance companies. I can almost predict now that in everything the insurance companies have done in connection with this Bill, about group schemes, annuities and contributions, they will have worked out the figures to decimal points and to the smallest fraction, and in the end their balance sheets and profit and loss accounts will not be affected adversely in the least by what they give away in this Bill. Having said that, and being usually a little critical of insurance companies, let me say that we welcome the principles of this Measure. We want it to pass into law. I think nevertheless it ought to be made compulsory, because otherwise I can foresee all manner of difficulties arising in connection with the administration of these schemes. We shall watch with interest how these provisions operate in practice, and if complaints reach us from people who find that they are likely to lose their rights under superannuation schemes as a result of transference to other occupations, I hope the hon. Gentleman, even though he is a Minister in a Coalition Government, will not be offended when we call his attention to those facts. I hope, too, that if it is found necessary, he will then take steps to make these provisions compulsory.
Sir Geoffrey Ellis (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
I am glad that the Government have, for the present at any rate, made this only an enabling Measure. I think the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) does not appreciate some of the difficulties which are involved in these schemes. Roughly speaking, there are two kinds of schemes. There are the schemes in which employers and employed work together, with hard-and-fast rules which cannot be varied. There is the other type of scheme in which the payments connected with the scheme go to an insurance company.
Mr. Rhys Davies
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that under any scheme, anywhere, there are rules which cannot be altered?
Sir G. Ellis
Of course I do not. I have no doubt that a Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a member, would probably alter the rules, whatever anybody might say. I am merely pointing out the distinction between the two kinds of scheme which now operate. The point is that when you are dealing with an insurance company you must, as far as possible, keep the contract which you have made. A contract has been made on a certain basis, and it has to be kept. We cannot complain if the insurance company says, "This risk which it is now thought desirable to include was not part of our original bargain, and if it is to be brought in, it must bear a certain monetary relation to the whole position." That is only fair. I am glad, therefore, that this Bill is permissive, because there are many schemes in existence which have nothing to do with insurance companies. Since the war started the rules of those schemes have been altered so as to do just what this Bill provides for doing. If the Government should think it necessary, in future, to bring in a Bill to make the plan of this Measure compulsory, I hope they will put in a Clause allowing for exceptions under certain conditions so as to allow schemes which are already fulfilling all the requirements of this Bill, to be treated as exceptions subject to all proper conditions being observed. In effect, I hope they will allow "contracting out" of any compulsory Measure, if such should be introduced later. If there is in existence a hard-and-fast set of rules and if they are being carried out, you should allow that to continue, but where the conditions are not being justly met then, I think, there might be ground for applying compulsion. I suggest, however, that my hon. Friend, before bringing forward a general proposal, ought to produce some individual instances by which his general suspicions might be crystallised into real evidence and let us deal with the matter on the basis of that evidence as far as it goes. I do not think it is just to make general accusations about insurance companies when, on the whole, they are at present helping all they can.
Mr. Rhys Davies
Has the hon. Gentleman read the Cohen Committee's report on industrial insurance?
Sir G. Ellis
I have read the report, but it is not germane to this question and does not really affect this situation. But I do suggest that if my hon. Friend has anything real to produce in the way of evidence, he should specify it and not treat this as a general question in the way he has done.
Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
This Bill is obviously necessary to fill certain gaps in previous legislation and to cover the cases of certain men who have joined the Colours or who are accepting civilian employment at war work. I presume that the scope of this proposal includes service in A.R.P. work, A.F.S. work, and other work of that kind. I am particularly interested in the type of insurance scheme, of which there are many in this country, in which an individual firm has its own joint scheme, contributed to by employer and employed. I think a certain measure of compulsion ought to be brought in wherever it is proved necessary. In a great many cases—I hope in all—it is practicable now for an employer to pay not only his own contribution but those of the employés, and this is being done. I think it is the desire of the Government that that should continue under the provisions of this Bill.The workers attach enormous importance to these schemes. I have noticed it during discussions in works councils connected with businesses with which I am associated. They are more anxious to ensure something for the years of their retirement than about almost anything else. If under war conditions the admirable schemes which now exist were spoiled or their value diminished in respect of persons who are giving their services to the State, it would be a great pity. I know that the Government desire to avoid that eventuality. Perhaps the Minister will tell us, when he replies, how far the Government themselves are acting in accordance with the provisions of this Measure. Are they keeping alive the insurances of persons in their own employment and setting an example to the rest of the country? If the Minister can give us any information about the practice in that respect, I am sure it will be appreciated by hon. Members and by the country as a whole. I do not know whether any difficulty is likely to arise as regards the question of period. I take it that the Bill is to operate until the war ends. It is easy to see how it would work in relation to the Forces, but as regards civilian employment, there are possibilities of difficulty. A man might stop work some time before the war ended, or might be required to carry on his work for a certain period after the war ended. I presume that in all such cases the rights of the men concerned will be preserved.
Mr. Watkins (Hackney, Central)
I intervene to seek elucidation of one point only, but before dealing with it, I would like to say that this is a very wise Measure. At a time of great stress like the present, it is tremendously important that all who give their services where those services are most required, should have their superannuation rights preserved. A man may easily be trans- ferred, in present circumstances, from an employment in which there is a superannuation scheme to another employment which is more urgent at the moment, but which is without a superannuation scheme. It is unfair to ask the man to sacrifice his rights and it is right that he should be able to carry on his superannuation benefits, even though he undertakes a new employment. This Bill may help to give the Ministry powers which they require in order to fit men in where their services will be most valuable.The point which I wish explained is how railway superannuation funds will be affected. In the Schedule there is a list of persons to whom this Measure will not apply. They are mostly people in the Civil Service and the local government service, and they are all members of statutory superannuation schemes. The railway clerical, supervisory and technical employés also belong to statutory superannuation schemes, but they are not mentioned specifically in this Bill. I realise, as I am sure the Minister realises, that it is unlikely that servants of railway companies, in clerical, supervisory and administrative capacities, would be transferred in any large number to other industries. The railway companies are carrying on their undertakings with the very minimum of staff. When we consider the strain which has been imposed on the Southern Railway in bringing the men of the B.E.F. back from the South-East Coast during the last few days, and performing that task so successfully, it is obvious that no great deduction can be made from the staffs of the railway companies. I would like the Minister to say whether this Bill will affect the statutory railway superannuation funds, and, if so, in what way.
Sir Robert Tasker (Holborn)
I wish to ask the Minister, first, whether this Measure has been made an enabling Bill because of the complications which would arise if it were made compulsory? I can foresee the possibility of many complications. The next question which I would ask the Minister to resolve is this: Is there any provision in the Bill to enable those who have contributed to schemes for many years and who fall into arrears, to pay up those arrears afterwards, so that their position may be restored? Suppose that a man has been paying so much a year into a superannuation scheme. Owing to the war he is unable to continue payment. At the end of the war, will he be able to say, "I will pay now the premiums which I should have paid during the war years, and you will restore me to the position which I should have been in, if I had not been on active service or engaged in war work as the case may be"? The third question to which I would like an answer is this: Will this apply to all persons engaged in war work except those mentioned in the Schedule, and in cases where there is any doubt, will the matter be left to the determination of the Minister of Labour?
I can speak again only by leave of the House. [Hon. Members: "Agreed."] There are one or two points which have been raised and with which I desire to deal as far as I can. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who, with other hon. Members, welcomed the Bill, asked about the attitude of the trade unions. I may tell him, although he may know it already, that the trade unions welcomed the Bill, but they too desired that it should be compulsory rather than permissive. There is, of course, a number of difficulties in the way of making it compulsory. Some of these were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ecclesall (Sir G. Ellis). I have given the House an assurance that the Government will be prepared to propose further legislation if this Bill fails to fulfil the desires of the Government, after a reasonable period has elapsed in which we can see how it works. There was another point raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton. He was somewhat critical of the insurance companies. I think it right to say in this particular case that insurance companies have made some very reasonable concessions, and only just before the House met this afternoon, one of the points which created some difficulty was decided, and in that particular case the insurance companies fell in entirely with the wishes of the Government.The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) also asked one or two questions. He asked in the first place what the Government did for their own employés. I understand that the position is that the Government do not contribute in these schemes, but the period of service of men who are away with the Forces is, of course, counted in their favour in determining their pension rights.
Is that the case if they go away on civil work?
I should like to make some inquiry upon that point, and I will let the hon. Member know. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton also asked about A.R.P. workers, and other workers doing that sort of work. The answer is that, as far as concerns paid workers, they will, of course, be amongst those people whom the Minister of Labour and National Service would certify as being employed for war purposes. It is entirely left in his discretion, as the House will observe at the bottom of page 2 of the Bill, whom he certifies as being employed for war purposes, and certainly he will exercise his discretion in the direction suggested by my hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Central Hockney (Mr. Watkins) asked about the railway companies. They are not among those exempted under the Schedule, and, therefore, they are covered by the Bill itself and are able to take advantage of its provisions. I do not think there are any other points, but if there are, perhaps we shall have an opportunity of dealing with them on the Committee stage.
Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[ Mr. Whiteley.]
National Service (Channel Islands) Bill Lords
Order for Second Reading read.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."This Bill is short, and it is good. It comes to us from another place, and I can explain its provisions to the House in three or four sentences. As its Title describes it, it is to provide for the enlistment of men called up in the Channel Islands for service in the Armed Forces of the Crown. While the people of the Channel Islands have always been liable to compulsory service in defence of the islands, they are traditionally exempt from compulsory service overseas, except for the particular purpose of rescuing their Sovereign. This immunity is of very long standing, dating back to the early thirteenth century, but it was confirmed by a charter of Queen Elizabeth as recently as the year 1562. To-day the islanders are willing and anxious to play their part to the full in our war efforts, and they have expressed the desire to waive their traditional privileges. In fact, the States of Jersey and Guernsey have already passed, or are in the process of passing, legislation to that end. Constitutionally, however, such domestic legislation undertaken by the Channel Island authorities can have no extra territorial validity, and an Act of the Imperial Parliament is, therefore, required in order to confirm and regularise the position.
Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
As probably one of the few Members of this House who can claim Channel Island descent, I should like in a very few words to support cordially this Measure and to say how delighted one is to see every part of the Empire doing everything they possibly can at this time. It is, of course, perfectly right that the Channel Islands should be treated with every possible consideration. They attach great importance to their ancient historic rights, and joint legislation is clearly necessary in this case. When William the First came over and conquered England in 1066 he was as Duke of Normandy supported by the Channel Islanders who were then under his sovereignty. So, in some sense, they have always claimed to have participated in the conquest of England. But to whom it may concern throughout the world I should like to add that it is the last occasion on which England will be conquered.
Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[ Mr. Whiteley.]
Evidence And Powers Of Attorney Bill Lords
Order for Second Reading read.
The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, dealing with three or four different matters, which I shall try to explain, very briefly, on going through the Clauses. The procedure in ordinary peace-time for enabling British subjects, or other persons, who have business here to swear affidavits abroad which would be accepted in this country is quite inadequate in war-time when there are so many of our fellow citizens serving overseas. It is, therefore, thought right that special procedure should be introduced to enable such documents to be taken before officers of the various units with which these men may be serving. Clause 1, Sub-section (1) provides that:
There are many occasions on which someone serving abroad may require to do that—one obvious example is where a man is concerned in winding up an estate. Sub-section (2) of the same Clause deals with those who might be in enemy territory, or territory which might be occupied by the enemy, and enables the Secretary of State to provide for empowering persons serving in the Diplomatic, Consular or other foreign service of a Power which by arrangement with His Majesty have undertaken to represent him in those countries, to administer oaths or take affidavits. Clause 2 deals with quite a different matter. The Censorship Department realised that cases might arise in which intercepted communications might be material evidence in criminal cases—for example, cases under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Under the ordinary procedure officials of that Department would have had to attend the trial—probably the commital proceedings and the trial— to give what would be purely formal evidence that these were the documents which had been intercepted by the Censorship Department. They asked, therefore, whether their officials could be exempt from that duty, both on the grounds of saving time, and also that there might be cases where, at the time of a trial, the official who was involved had subsequently been sent overseas. Anything which affects the law of evidence, particularly in criminal matters, is one which requires very careful consideration, and my Noble Friend asked a small Committee, consisting of Mr. Justice Humphreys, Sir Gerald Dodson and other lawyers familiar with criminal work, to look into this matter, and to see whether they thought these demands could be met without any danger or injustice. The result is that Clause 2 provides that a certificate by a competent officer that, either a particular identified document has been intercepted, or a photograph of the document which has been intercepted, shall be admissible as evidence in the ordinary courts. That does not mean it is conclusive if the defence has grounds for showing that it is not what it purports to be. It merely means it is admissible as evidence, and, as a result, formal evidence by officers of the Department will be dispensed with. Clause 3 deals with powers of attorney. The fact that so many men are outside this country serving overseas will mean that a great many more powers of attorney have to be executed by those abroad than was the case in ordinary times. There are many acts for which a power of attorney are necessary, and the main purpose in Clause 3 is to provide certain safeguards. Obviously, it does open certain temptations to certain people to fabricate powers for those who have gone abroad and cannot look after their own affairs, and to seek dishonestly to claim advantage by fraudulent use of those powers. These matters, together with the matters in Clause 1, were looked into by a Committee presided over by Lord Maugham—that there should be extra safeguards to prevent fraudulent action of that kind. This Clause provides that there shall be a file of an affidavit by a solicitor who drew up the powers. I think that these are reasonable safeguards, and that it is also true to say that the ordinary law with regard to powers of attorney does not provide any particular safeguard—at any rate it is regarded by some people as somewhat lax in that respect. Dealing therefore with the situation we have at present, with many people overseas who cannot look after their own affairs, it is reasonable that we should have special safeguards. Sub-section (3) is designed to protect third parties. I may want a somewhat different provision in Committee, and therefore I just make that passing reference for the time being. Clause 4 deals with a technical defect in the law. Under the present law, office copies of these documents filed in this country or in Northern Ireland are accepted at courts in this country or in Northern Ireland but not in Scotland. As the object of this Bill is that these documents can be filed in any of the three countries, the Clause puts the law on a uniform basis and enables office copies or the equivalent to be accepted in the courts of all the three countries wherever the original may have been filed."The Lord Chancellor may by order provide for empowering officers of His Majesty's naval, military and air forces, holding such ranks or appointments as may be specified in the order, to administer oaths and take affidavits during any war in which His Majesty is engaged for all or any purposes for which an oath may be administered or affidavit taken by a commissioner for oaths appointed under Section one of the Commissioners for Oaths Act, 1889."
Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[ Mr. Whiteley.]
"That Mr. Amery, Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Greenwood and Sir Archibald Sinclair be discharged from the Committee of Privileges, and that Mr. Clynes, Colonel Sir George Court hope, Sir Percy Harris, Sir Hugh O'Neill and Earl Winterton be added to the Committee.—[Mr. Whiteley.]
Kitchen And Refreshment Rooms (House Of Commons)
"That Miss Wilkinson be discharged from the Select Committee on Kitchen and Refreshment Rooms (House of Commons) and that Mrs. Hardie be added to the Committee."—[Mr. Whiteley.]
The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Whiteley.]
Adjourned accordingly at Thirteen Minutes before Six o'Clock.