asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now give consideration to the formation of a Joint Allied Council for the consideration of problems of mutual interest and as a symbol of the international purposes for which the war is being fought?
:Consideration has been given to the question of inter-Allied co-operation, but I cannot as at present advised accept my hon. Friend's suggestion that a Joint Council should be set up.
:In view of the fact that we now have nine Allies fighting on our side and that one of the obstacles to a Council has been removed by the German attack on Greece, will not the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will keep the matter under his active consideration?
:This is really a question of method. We think that the method we are now employing works best. If we have any reason to modify our attitude, I will keep the hon. Member's suggestion in mind.
Is there not a further question beyond that of method, the question of an international symbol—so many nations working together for a common object?
China (Food Supplies, Shanghai)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the occupation by Japan of Ningpo, at the mouth of the Yangtze, an important source of food supplies for Shanghai, what steps have been taken to prevent Ningpo from being stripped bare of supplies by export to Japan, as has happened in other occupied districts; and what arrangements have been made to secure that adequate food supplies shall continue to reach the Shanghai International Settlement?
:There have been certain difficulties in the supply of foodstuffs to Shanghai arising out of present conditions in China. No reports, however, have been received which would indicate that the Japanese capture of Ningpo has resulted in any food shortage at Shanghai. The situation there in this respect will, however, continue to be closely watched. Meanwhile the Council of the International Settlement are doing all that is possible to ensure adequate food supplies for the area under their control.
Is it not a fact that Shanghai is suffering a good deal from the way the Japanese, like locusts, have drained the Yangtze valley of food?
It is clear that the Japanese attack on China must have repercussions on the position in Shanghai.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the increasing Nazi menace to Portugal, he can make arrangements for the return to Great Britain of British subjects who have found refuge in that country from other countries that are the victims of Hitler's New Order?
:These refugees are being repatriated as rapidly as the available transport facilities permit. My hon. Friend will appreciate that there are serious difficulties in the way of providing special shipping for this purpose at the present time. The matter is, however, receiving my close attention, and I hope to be able to communicate with my hon. Friend shortly.
Is the right hon. Gentleman in communication with the United States Government to see if they can help?
:I will keep that in mind.
Cotton And Oil Imports
asked the Minister of Economic Warfare why Portugal imported more cotton and oil in January of this year than in the whole of 1939?
My hon. Friend has been misinformed. In January, 1941, Portugal imported 1,401 tons of cotton, as compared with 19,165 tons for the year 1939. In the case of oil, imports in January were only 37 tons, whereas 226,173 tons were imported in 1939.
:Is my hon. Friend aware that these figures were published in a financial newspaper of standing?
:The hon. Member must not believe everything he reads in financial newspapers.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the British prisoners in Finland have been able to find employment?
:I presume that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to the British volunteers, of whom there are still about 130 in Finland; of these about 90 have found employment.
German Troops, Abo
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any official information regarding the landing of German troops at Abo, in Finland?
According to our information, three German transports arrived at Abo on 27th April with about 1,500 men. Several further vessels are said to have arrived at Abo since that date with men, military stores and material; but the total of those latter shipments is not certain.
:Was this incursion made at the invitation of the Finnish Government or not?
:There is a Finnish-German agreement made last year for the transit of troops to Norway. It may be that the Finnish Government agreed under the terms of that agreement.
:Surely the most direct route is through Sweden to Narvik, where they sent troops previously? Are they going to the nickel mines at Petsamo?
:I am obliged for the question, which I think will be most useful in Finland as well as here. On that point, I cannot answer.
:What is the date of the agreement?
I should like notice of that question.
Royal Air Force
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether his attention has been called to the Eighth Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure recommending that in many cases teams of professional men who had previously worked together as firms would be likely to be more effective than a technical section of a Government Department built up primarily to perform certain functions; and to what extent this advice has been followed by his own Department in connection with constructional work generally?
Yes, Sir. The recommendation was fully considered last year, when the Committee's Report was published. My Department had already been employing firms of quantity surveyors and land agents, and has since employed firms of engineers on certain specialised work. This policy will be continued.
:The hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware, of course, that certain Departments of State have already adopted this principle?
Balloon Barrage Crews
7 and 8.
asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) whether he will consider a release to other Services of all officers and men of military age and medical fitness now employed in balloon barrage crews;(2) what decisions have now been reached for the employment of members of the Women's Royal Air Force in balloon barrage so as to release men of military age and fitness?
The duties of balloon barrage crews are such that they could not be performed exclusively by men of low medical category or over military age. Measures are being taken to transfer from Balloon Command men who can be more usefully employed elsewhere, but this process is, to some extent, governed by the rate at which replacements can be trained. A large number of Women's Auxiliary Air Force personnel are already performing various duties in connection with the balloon barrage organisation and the possibility of extending the scope of their employment within the Command is under investigation.
Enemy Night-Bombing Raids
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can give an assurance that all suggestions for dealing with enemy night-bombing attacks receive careful and prompt consideration from his Department?
:Yes, Sir, most certainly.
:Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman's attention been drawn to an article in the "Sunday Express" on Sunday in which it was stated that a South African had a scheme for dealing with night bombers, and that he was sent over here by the South African military authorities and was kept waiting for several months without his proposals being considered?
My attention was drawn to that, and I was expecting that my hon. Friend would refer to it in a Supplementary Question. Inventions and new proposals must usually be considered by the Ministry of Aircraft Production, who are responsible for research and development. This particular gentleman was twice interviewed by the Director of Fighter Operations at the Air Ministry and on each occasion was given a letter of introduction to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. He was treated with the utmost courtesy in my Department. It was necessary that the experts in the Ministry of Aircraft Production should pronounce on the invention. He was interviewed twice, first on 21st December, three days after he came to my Department, by the Ministry of Aircraft Production. It was clear that this particular invention had merely reached the stage which the Department had reached in 1936, and his idea unfortunately, grateful as we were for its submission, was of no use. He was asked as a matter of courtesy to bring his model to the Ministry of Aircraft Production but did not do so until 24th February, three days after his second interview with the Director of Fighter Operations in my Department. It was then explained to him that his invention was of no value, and at that time he seemed completely satisfied with the reply. Since that date he has been in touch with the War Office, who in turn have inquired of the Ministry of Aircraft Production as to what had occurred during the previous investigations.
:Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that his full answer will do much to remove uneasiness?
Are we to sit back and allow bombers to come across every night and do nothing to stop them?
Private Houses (Requisitioning)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that requisitioning of country houses for the use of Admiralty personnel has recently been carried out on a considerable scale; that the occupants and their families have been required to vacate their houses at such short notice as to allow them little opportunity to arrange for accommodation for themselves, their families and their furniture; and whether, as the normal camping season has now commenced, the personnel in question could not be accommodated in tents or huts so as to avoid causing hardship of this description?
:Relatively few country houses have been requisitioned by the Admiralty for any purpose and only a very small number for the purpose of housing personnel. Whenever private houses of any class have to be requisitioned, particular care is taken to see that the occupants have other accommodation to go to, and such assistance as they may need is given to them in making arrangements for the removal and storage of their furniture.
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that adequate notice has not been given in certain cases, of which I am prepared to give particulars, and will he answer the Question whether use cannot be made, especially at this season of the year, of camps?
I should be very glad if my hon. and gallant Friend would give me particulars of the cases that he has in mind. I can assure him that we are using camps.
Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware of the great desirability of co-ordination in some way in the matter of this wholesale requisitioning of houses, many of them occupied by elderly people who have been removed from London and elsewhere? Is it not desirable to have some central Department to deal with the matter?
There is co-ordination at present.
His Majesty's Ship "Regent" (Kotor)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty under whose orders a British submarine remained nine hours in the Italian held port of Kotor, in Yugoslavia, risking a British war ship to rescue a British Minister?
His Majesty's Ship "Regent" was sent to Kotor under the authority of His Majesty's Government to evacuate British and Allied personnel. Endeavour was made to inform Mr. Campbell, but it is not known whether he ever received the message. The Admiralty had no knowledge that the port of Kotor had fallen into enemy hands until a report to this effect was actually received from His Majesty's Ship "Regent," but the commanding officer had been warned that this might be the case. He was instructed to try to make contact with the Yugoslav naval authorities but to approach Yugoslav warships with caution. The action of the submarine inside the Gulf of Kotor was dictated by the commanding officer's discretion, and a difficult situation appears to have been handled with great skill.
Surely it was quite wrong for a British warship, which took several months to build, to be sent to save a British Minister who was in no danger whatever?
Enemy Submarine Losses
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of German sub marines sunk from the outbreak of war to 31st March, 1941, or near date?
No, Sir. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave on 31st July, 1940, to a similar Question. The reasons given then for withholding the information requested are not less valid at the present time, but I can state that we have reason to be encouraged by recent results achieved in the anti-U-boat campaign.
While it is not desired to give any information which might be of use to the enemy, surely it is possible to publish some kind of figures?
We cannot do that without a certain amount of risk.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the vessels now being built in the United States of America on account of the British Government will or will not be of higher speed than those at present under construction at home; and whether he can make any statement regarding these speeds and matters resulting there from?
It would not be in the public interest to give the information requested.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping whether he has been officially informed by the United States of America Government how many million tons of new shipping will be available by 1942 for use by this country; and whether he has any statement to make on the subject?
:I have been asked to reply. I regret that I cannot make any statement on this matter, nor would it be in the interest of the country to disclose to the enemy the amount of shipping tonnage available or likely to become available to us.
Ship Turn-Round, Liverpool And Glasgow
(for Mr. Windsor) asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport whether there has been any appreciable improvement in the turn-round of ships at Liverpool and Glasgow as a result of the de-casualisation of dock labour?
:The schemes have been in operation for a few weeks only, but give definite indications that they are helping to improve turn-round.
Norwegian Vessels (British Seamen, Allotments)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping whether he is aware that difficulties have arisen regarding allotments by British seamen serving on Norwegian vessels; whether these difficulties have been cleared up, and whether he has any statement to make regarding future such allotments? Colonel Llewellin: Yes, Sir. We have been in communication with the Norwegian authorities and have explained the procedure used here for making allotments. The Norwegian authorities are anxious to remove the difficulties that have arisen and are considering the steps to be taken for that purpose.
Defence (Native Personnel) Regulations
asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the reversal of labour policy in Kenya by the introduction of the Defence (Discipline of Native Personnel) Regulations, 1941, which increase penal sanctions and apply to private employment; whether the consent of his Department will be necessary for changes in the Regulations; and why the scope of the 1941 Regulations have been made wider than those of 1940?
My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The Regulations to which he refers are complementary to and not in substitution for the Defence (Native Personnel) Regulations, 1940. The earlier Regulations made provision for the recruitment of natives for the East African Military Labour Service and for specific duties in connection with work of a military character. Members of the Labour Service are subject to military discipline and the new Regulations are designed to provide for the discipline of natives recruited for personal service in connection with the prosecution of the war but who are not enrolled in military units. There is no question of any reversal of policy, nor do the new Regulations apply to private employment. The consent of the Secretary of State is not required before Defence Regulations are made or amended by the Governor.
:Will my hon. Friend look at these Regulations again, because the drafting of the personnel which come under them is very wide and can be interpreted to apply to all kinds of employment? Will he also note that there has been an enormous increase in penal sanctions under these Regulations and that it seems to be a retrograde step?
I have gone into these Regulations and studied them carefully, and I am satisfied that my hon. Friend's apprehensions are not justified. I am quite prepared to discuss them with him.
Soil Conservation And Afforestation
asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies, whether attention can be given in Kenya to the expansion of the soil conservation service, and the extension of the timber replanting programme, in view of the grave continued loss of soil and trees; and whether the Government are con- sidering the problems that will arise in Kenya after the war, with a view to afforestation, better farming methods and the encouragement of village industries?
The position as regards soil erosion is still as stated in my reply to my hon. Friend on 20th November last. I have no up-to-date information regarding the tree-planting programme, but I fear that I cannot hold out any great hopes of extension in present circumstances. The reply to the last part of the Question is in the affirmative.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport whether he will consider the advisability of taking steps to separate canals from railway control and to bring all the canal systems of the country into one unified organisation?
We shall, of course, consider any suggestion that would materially improve the immediate efficiency and carrying capacity of the canals, but I doubt whether it is desirable at the present time to attempt to carry through the major reorganisation suggested by my hon. Friend.
:As this is a very old question, cannot my right hon. and gallant Friend say that the matter will be studied actively?
It is a very new one to me, and I will certainly study it.
How long will it be before Mr. Pick makes his report?
We expect the report in the course of a week or two.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport whether, in view of the many difficulties confronting the question of transport at the moment in the country and with the multiplicity of committees in existence of an advisory character in relation to the industry dealing with this problem, he has considered the advisability of taking over complete control of all transport in the country; and has a decision yet been arrived at?
We already have a very wide measure of control over transport, and my hon. Friend can rest assured that we shall not hesitate to extend it if that be necessary to obtain the maximum advantage from the facilities available.
Ministry Of Information
asked the Minister of Information whether he will consider the advisability of discontinuing the organisation of public meetings on the present scale, in view of their limited usefulness?
:Is there not a general feeling that a great many of the public meetings organised by the Ministry might in the public interest be abandoned and that they are not serving any useful purpose?
That is not my impression.
asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that the poster bearing the words "Be like Dad, Keep Mum," is offensive to women, and is a source of irritation to housewives, whose work in the home if paid for at current rates would make a substantial addition to the family income; and whether he will have this poster with drawn from the hoardings?
I am indeed sorry if words that were intended to amuse should have succeeded in irritating. I cannot, however, believe the irritation is very profound or widely spread.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this poster is not amusing but is in the worst Victorian music-hall taste and is a reflection on his whole Department?
I always thought that Victorian music-halls were then at their best.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he goes to modern music-halls, he will find that this kind of joke is not indulged in and that this suggests that he is a little out of date for the work he is doing?
Is this not typical of the lack of imagination of the Ministry?
Propaganda (Conquered) Countries)
asked the Minister of Information whether he is satisfied that the efforts and activities of his Department are encouraging the determination of the conquered countries to resist the tyranny of their aggressors?
Yes, Sir. If my hon. and gallant Friend has any suggestions to make whereby our efforts in this direction could be improved, I shall be glad to receive them.
Methil Fire Station (Telephone Exchange)
asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the delay and confusion caused through the Methil fire station being attached to the Leven telephone exchange; and whether he will grant the request of the burgh of Buckhaven and Methil that the telephone at the fire station shall be transferred to the Buckhaven exchange without charge being made?
No complaint of delay or confusion owing to the connection of the Methil fire station with the Leven telephone exchange has been received, either from the municipal authorities or from the residents of Buckhaven and Methil; nor has any application been made for the transfer of the telephone line from the Leven to the Buckhaven exchange. Such a transfer could be arranged if desired, and I am making further inquiries to see whether it could be carried out without charge; I will write to the hon. Member on this point as soon as possible.
Letters To Members
asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been drawn to the action of the censorship at Inverness in intercepting a letter addressed by a soldier to the hon. Member for South Croydon, and sending this letter to his commanding officer, who destroyed it; and whether he sanctioned the destruction of a letter which was his property until it had been delivered to the addressee?
My attention has been drawn to this matter. As I was duly authorised and directed to present this letter to the Censors, my responsibility for it ended when I had done so and the second part of the Question does not therefore arise.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been criticism of the censorship at Inverness and the personnel in charge right from its inception?
I am not responsible for the censorship.
Building Construction Priorities
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings whether he is aware that a state of confusion exists in regard to priorities of building construction; and what action he has taken or is taking in the matter?
No, Sir. I do not accept that a state of confusion exists. My Noble Friend has instituted a system of allocating the available building resources of the country to the various Government Departments in accordance with the relative importance of their essential war requirements. Within their own allocations Departments will determine their own priorities.
National Health Insurance
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the distress of those in receipt of National Health Insurance benefits, especially those who are on the lower scale of disablement benefits; and will he inform Parliament when he will be in a position to say when this matter will be dealt with?
My right hon. Friend hopes to be able to make a statement on this subject shortly.
Inferior Seams (Working)
asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that certain colliery companies are employing miners only on inferior seams of coal, thereby causing trouble to consumers, and contributing to rail delays through the use of bad coal; and whether he will take steps to ensure the production of better coal, and consult with the miners as to the remedy for this condition of affairs?
I am not aware of the practice referred to by the hon. Member. If he has actual cases in mind, I shall be glad to have particulars in order that enquiry may be made.
:I do not wish to disclose who is responsible for giving the information to me; has not my hon. Friend any vehicle through which he can make inquiries in the Scottish coalfields about this matter?
If my hon. Friend will assist me by giving me confidentially what information he has, I will look into it.
asked the Secretary for Mines whether, in view of the Government's request to brewers to maintain the average output of beer, and of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary amount of coal in the Midlands for this purpose, he will take steps to ensure in creasing supplies of coal during the coming months, otherwise brewing operations will be brought to a standstill by next winter?
:The Mines Department is well aware of the need for maintaining supplies of coal for all industrial purposes, and every effort is being made to increase the production of coal during the coming months.
Military Operations (Communiques)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the communiqués, issued by or on behalf of his Department with regard to military operations, are frequently so worded as to convey the impression that the troops of the home country only take a comparatively minor part in the operations de scribed; and will he give this his attention?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that under present conditions in the Middle East it is not possible to give an accurate picture of the forces engaged in recent operations without affording considerable assistance to the enemy. I am, however, most anxious that full recognition should be given to the heroic part played by our troops, and such information as may now be published without prejudicing the conduct of future operations will be made available as early as possible.
:While thanking my hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask whether he does not realise the need for doing full justice to our home troops, because an unfortunate impression is sometimes created overseas that when there is some hard fighting to be done our overseas brothers get the job?
Trade And Commerce
asked the President of the Board of Trade what arrangements have been made to recompense retail traders in respect of breach of rental, or other contracts, incurred as a result of the restriction of business made necessary by recent legislation?
It would be contrary to the policy of His Majesty's Government to grant compensation except where loss is due to direct enemy action. My right hon. Friend fully appreciates, however, the importance of this and other problems arising from the reduction in the amount of goods available for sale. While I cannot at present add to previous statements in the House, I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that my right hon. Friend has this whole question under urgent review.
:Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that my Question made no reference to damage by enemy action, but was concerned with recent legislation in regard to telescoping both manufacturing and retail trades? What I should like is to have a statement issued which will clearly define exactly where retail traders stand now, and what they are to do in the future, because they do not know and it is causing a great deal of anxiety and distress to them? Could I have an assurance that publication will be made soon?
I have informed my hon. and gallant Friend that my right hon. Friend has this whole question under review. I cannot say more for the moment. We do realise the urgency of the problem and are doing all we can to meet it, but it is a very difficult one.
:Will the hon. and gallant Member bear in mind in connection with concentrating retail trade that when branches of large firms are closed the company can still go on trading, but when a small shopkeeper is closed down he loses everything?
:The hon. Member seems to be confusing retailing and manufacturing. At present the Board of Trade have no plans for concentrating retail trade, but only concentrating manufacturing concerns.
It obviously follows that the telescoping of the retail trade must follow the telescoping of the suppliers.
Concentration Of Production (Periodicals)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the feeling prevailing in regard to the number of newspapers printed and circulated when there is need of economy in material and labour; and will he give consideration to having the question examined to see if it could be to the national interest to deal with it as many other industries have been deal with under the Concentration of Industries Act?
I would refer the Member to the Reply which was given to my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Leicester East (Mr. Lyons) yesterday. There is no intention of including newspapers among the commodities covered by the concentration policy.
May I ask whether it is the intention of the Department to take some action in the matter, and if not, what is the reason for not taking some action?
My right hon. Friend gave a negative reply yesterday to the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons). The reason is that we feel that we have already asked newspapers to make considerable sacrifices in the quantities of raw material they use.
Having regard to the great enthusiasm of the newspapers for the policy of concentration, would it not be a good idea to apply it to them, public opinion being preserved by allowing each newspaper to have one column of leading article in the combined newspaper?
Most newspapers have already concentrated themselves a great deal.
I am not satisfied with the reply, and I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first possible opportunity.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will introduce legislation prescribing that all companies, whether incorporated under the Companies Acts or not, should ascertain from the registered holders of their share capital and from all future transferees thereof, whether the holder or transferee is entitled to the shares as beneficial owner and, if not, who is so entitled; and that the replies of the holders or transferees should be made available for inspection by the public at the company's registered office and at the office of the registrar of companies, within ordinary business hours, on payment of a nominal fee?
There is a variety of legitimate commercial interests which are facilitated by existing arrangements, and it would clearly be against the public interest to alter the existing practice without full examination of this and other allied questions.
Will my hon. and gallant Friend consult once more with the President of the Board of Trade, who ought to be aware from his own experience of the undesirability of this practice?
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether his attention has been called to the dangerous practice of queuing at shops in the streets for unrationed articles of food; and in view of the fact that those who have most leisure have a preference in obtaining unrationed food, whether he will consider the advisability of making rationing for all foodstuffs compulsory?
Queues are due to many causes and not solely to a competition to secure un-rationed foods. Changes in the habits of the people in war-time have tended in many districts to concentrate shopping within a more limited period while the shortage of staff owing to the diversion of shop assistants to the Fighting Forces or to other work of national importance tends to slow down service and also to contribute to queues. As I explained in the course of the Debate on 30th April, rationing is not a suitable method of dealing with the distribution of those foods of which individual consumption varies widely.
:May I ask whether anyone has authority to investigate cases where there are queues, and if so, will the Ministry use that authority in order to prevent the formation of queues where it is not necessary?
:We have reports from all over the country on queries and the reasons why they form.
:In order to avoid queues, would it be possible to circularise shopkeepers asking that during the dinner hour and at tea-time shops should be kept open instead of being closed, because that accounts for many queues in the streets?
Bombed-Out Areas (Cooking Service)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, in all vulnerable parts of the country, adequate staffs of paid cooks have been engaged with a view to catering for bombed-out people either in their own towns or in surrounding neighbourhoods to which they may have to move; and whether there is now no danger of sufferers from air raids failing to receive such attention?
:Arrangements have been made to supply to local authorities in all vulnerable areas cooking equipment and foodstuffs to be brought into use in an emergency. The local authorities concerned arrange for the necessary staff, either paid or unpaid, to be available when the occasion arises. In addition, facilities for meals service has been provided by convoys and mobile canteens.
Oatmeal And Flaked Oats
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that retailers have great difficulty in obtaining supplies of oatmeal and flaked oats; and what the position is, and what action he proposes to take?
:I am aware that some retailers are experiencing difficulty in securing supplies of oatmeal and flaked oats; This is due to the exceptionally heavy demand for oat products at a time when imports of alternative breakfast foods have had to be curtailed. The output of the home mills has been greatly increased and will shortly be supplemented by imported supplies.
48 and 49.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (1) whether, in view of the public exasperation at the profiteering that is taking place in the sale of foodstuffs, particularly in speculation going unchecked in goods changing ownership many times prior to leaving their place of storage, and in distribution costs mounting without service being rendered so that consumers prices are entirely out of proportion, to original costs, he will take immediate steps to give some adequate protection to the public;(2) whether, in order to stop the present profiteering which is permitted throughout the country in relation to the sale of foodstuffs, he will immediately provide, as recommended by the Food Price Investigation Committee, North Midland Region, that producers and importers should be permitted to sell only to wholesalers; that wholesalers should sell only to retailers; that all sales be effected only with the addition of fixed percentages of profit; and that only persons who are registered and licensed be allowed to trade in foodstuffs?
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he proposes to carry into effect any of the suggestions recently made by the North Midlands Food Prices Investigation Committee, to prevent speculation in foodstuffs by those who render no service in distribution?
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he proposes to take any action, and, if so, of what nature, to deal with the exploitation by middlemen of certain food products?
:I would refer my hon. Friends to my reply yesterday to a Question on this subject by my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan).
Will the Minister direct his mind to the fact that it has been proved over and over again that commodities are sold without being removed from the place of storage, and that owing to this racketeering prices to the consumer are made very much higher, yet the Ministry is taking no action at all? There is real public exasperation. Will the Minister act? It is notorious.
:My hon. Friend really is not stating the facts as they are. The report to which he is referring was, as I said yesterday, the result of a Ministry of Food investigation. As the outcome of that investigation maximum prices were applied to many articles and there were standstill orders. Some cases are at this moment under investigation and are sub judice, and therefore, they cannot be discussed now.
:I am not attempting to discuss a matter which is sub judice, but may I ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that for more than a year he and his Department have known that, without any breach of the Regulations and because of the elasticity, these goods could be bought by the profiteers time and time again? Will he not take the simple step of making that process illegal, and so give protection to the harassed persons who are now being exploited day after day?
:My hon. and learned Friend is again stating that no action is being taken. I really must ask him to look at the facts. As a result of our investigation last year, many articles were controlled at all their stages, and breaches of those Regulations are at this moment the subject of investigation and action.
But the control is not watertight.
Industrial Women's Organisations
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he has recently been in communication with the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organisations on the subject of food supplies and rationing; and why the Minister refused to receive a deputation from this organisation?
My Noble Friend sent a full reply to the representations received from the committee to which my hon. Friend refers and expressed his regret that he was unable at present to adopt the suggestion that he should meet one or two representatives of the committee to discuss in person the subjects dealt with in the correspondence.
:Do not the Minister and his Noble Friend agree that the practical experience that these women have gained would be valuable to his Department and that they might be able to make suggestions for getting rid of some of the difficulties?
:I fully appreciate that point. I agree, after reading through the correspondence, that very valuable suggestions were put forward by the organisation to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, and a very full reply was sent and very careful note made of the suggestions.
:Do I understand from the Minister's answers that, in the near future, he or his Noble Friend will be prepared to reconsider the decision and to receive a deputation from this organisation?
:I could not answer for my Noble Friend, but I will convey to him what the hon. Gentleman has said.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that the firm with whom the chairman of the Vegetable Board is connected have been supplying oranges on a large scale to relatives and other persons not engaged in distribution to the general public; and what action he proposes to take?
I have made inquiries and have been furnished with a complete list of the firms and individuals to whom oranges were distributed recently by George Monro, Ltd. Of the oranges supplies to the firm, over 99 per cent, were distributed to wholesalers and retailers. From the remainder, free gifts were made of a few oranges to employés of the firm, one case being divided among 80 individuals. Major Monro himself retained a dozen oranges. Small quantities were sent to about 40 other individuals. A circular letter has been sent to the chairmen of all port area committees pointing out that all oranges received by primary salesmen should be distributed in the normal course of trade and that none should be distributed to private individuals or as gifts.
Is the Minister aware that I have in my possession the railway order showing the sending out of many hundreds, and in some cases of thousands, to private individuals? One per cent. may not sound much in this House, but it runs into many thousands.
I have made very careful investigation and I am told that, of the 1,230 cases which the firm in question had, not more than 13 were distributed in the manner suggested by the hon. Gentleman.
Will the Minister be willing to receive information showing that more than 13 cases were sent out in that way?
I most certainly shall.
I have that information.
I have already stated that circulars have been sent out to the chairmen of the port area committees saying that all oranges received by primary salesmen should be distributed in the normal course of trade and none to individuals.
Is it not possible to find patriotic citizens to take on the chairmanship of boards such as these and to dissociate themselves entirely from the trade?
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he or his advisers have worked out, in terms of the available commodities, the minimum iron rations necessary to sustain in full health and efficiency heavy workers, adults other than heavy workers, children and infants, respectively; and whether he has considered the possibility of devising a rationing system calculated to ensure that, while the well-to-do were encouraged to consume the more expensive foodstuffs, everyone could secure the approximate equivalent, and no one more than the approximate equivalent, of his appropriate iron ration?
The answer to the first part of the Question is in the negative. Certain foods are rationed, and it is the considered policy to allow the maximum possible ration to all rather than differential rations to particular categories. I am satisfied that the diet that can be obtained under existing conditions is adequate. As regards the suggestion contained in the second part of the Question, I am advised that difficulties of distribution would be insuperable.
Do I understand from the Minister's reply that no scientific estimate has been made of how far the country's food resources could be made to suffice if distributed with real equality and lack of waste?
No, the hon. Lady must not understand that at all. No scientific investigation has been made in regard to iron rations by the Ministry, but plenty of information is available.
Ministry Of Supply
asked the Minister of Supply whether he is satisfied at the rate new factories are coming into production under his Ministry and whether he has any statement to make on the matter?
No, Sir, I am not satisfied, and every effort is being made to improve on the present rate. I can, however, assure the hon. Member that when account is taken of the inevitable difficulties involved, the progress made has, on the whole, been considerable. During the last six months, new capacity has been brought into operation for almost all types of munitions production and is now contributing substantially to a rising output.
Workers Lost Time
asked the Minister of Supply whether he has reason to com plain of the amount of lost time among workers in the factories under his control; and whether he is satisfied with the out put in such factories?
Output from many of our Royal Ordnance factories has been very good, but during the winter months I have been seriously concerned at the amount of lost time at certain of the factories. The lost time was in large measure due to the situation of these factories, to transport difficulties and to the long hours away from home inherent in the two-shift system. By the introduction of the three-shift system, improved transport facilities, and the provision of greatly increased hostel accommodation—all of which measures have been taken—it is believed that the difficulties will be overcome and the total output increased.
Is it not a fact that, in the vast number of cases, workers are doing a great deal of overtime but are performing a splendid job? Can the Minister make that statement public for the benefit of some people who are whispering and making charges against the workers?
I hope that the statement will be made public. Maximum output at all times can only be the reflection of the maximum realisation of the need for total effort by all sections of the community.
:Can the lost time be made up during the summer months?
I very much hope so, and that the summer months will give zest to everybody.
Factories (Slowing Down)
asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that com plaints are being made that some factories are slowed down from time to time; that workmen engaged in such factories are criticising the conditions which reduces output; and what steps he is taking to deal with this state of things?
Under prevailing war conditions circumstances do arise from time to time which inevitably disturb the even flow of work in the factories, but every effort is made to overcome these difficulties. If the hon. Member has any special case in mind, I should be grateful if he would let me have particulars.
Is the Minister aware that letters and reports are sometimes received from various parts of the country making charges that the works are slowing down, and is it not a fact that there is no real basis for those charges?
Yes, Sir, but I do not base my conclusions upon private letters. I take care to visit the factories myself. I am able to say of my own knowledge that a great many of the complaints that have been received are completely mis-founded.
Is it not a fact that there is difficulty about co-ordination?
There are inevitable difficulties in the prevailing war conditions, and an even flow of production is not always possible. We do our best in every case.
Is the Minister taking steps to see that the shortest transport is used?
Industrial Waste (Salvage)
asked the Minister of Supply whether he is satisfied with the arrangements made at factories for the salvaging of industrial waste, and that scraps of metal, clean canvas wrappings, paper, cardboard and empty food-tins are not being thrown into incinerators?
At factories under the control of the Ministry of Supply, arrangements are in force for salvaging industrial waste, as well as scrap metal, wrappings, paper and containers. In the case of private factories, attention has been drawn to the importance of salvage both by direct communication and by such methods as articles in the technical Press and investigation by the Ministry's Area Officers. Many firms have responded well and any cases of alleged negligence which come to the notice of the Ministry are followed up. I am not aware of any cases where valuable material is being thrown into incinerators.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether any steps are taken to investigate, or to have the salvage inspected, so as to see whether his arrangements are being carried out?
Yes, regular visits are paid by my officers.
:Has the right hon. Gentleman taken any steps to see that material which is not scrap metal but goods which could be put on the market for sale is not destroyed by fire, as in Liverpool this week goods were burnt directly before the public eyes and nobody had any authority to go in and take them out?
Sir James Lithgow
asked the Minister of Supply the nature of the additional duties undertaken in his Ministry by Sir James Lithgow, Director of Shipbuilding Construction?
Sir James Lithgow succeeded Sir Alexander Roger as Chairman of the Tank Board.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether this gentleman is paid, and whether he has been retained or not on the directorship of the company?
Sir James Lithgow is not paid.
Treasury Deposit Receipts
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will take steps to ensure that, as from 30th June, 1941, the existing privileges of an option by the banks to convert the Treasury deposit receipts of 1⅛ per cent, into permanent long term loans at 2½ or 3 per cent. should be withdrawn, in view of the high cost which has to be borne by taxpayers throughout the country?
No, Sir. It is in the national interests that part of this short-term debt should be converted into long-term debt, and my right hon. Friend sees no reason to make any change in the existing arrangements.
Can the right hon. and Gallant Gentleman tell us whether there could be any limitation on the amount of Treasury deposit receipts which may be issued? I she not aware of the danger of inflation arising if no limitation is placed on that amount?
Has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman received representa- tions from the banks that the amount of deposits should be limited on financial grounds, and that they would prefer a larger issue of Treasury bills?
I cannot say that, because to-day I am only answering on behalf of my right hon. Friend. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put that question down.
War Damage (Repairs)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are his arrangements for immediate assistance to owners of shops and private houses to reopen or repair their premises, pending adjustment of their claims, under the War Damage Act?
The War Damage Act contemplates, where a property is repairable or a cost-of-works payment is appropriate, that payment shall normally be made on completion of the work of repair. It is open, however, to the War Damage Commission in appropriate cases to pay by instalments as the work progresses, and the attention of claimants is drawn to this on the claim forms issued to them.
asked the Minister of Labour the approximate number of males under 40 who have been registered as out of work for three months or more?
I am having the desired figures extracted and will send them to my hon. Friend.
Will the information be circulated, as it is of considerable interest?
Forms And Returns
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the waste of man-power and woman-power in the country owing to the need for filling up official and semi-official forms; and whether he will make an investigation to see whether this work can be substantially reduced?
I am not sure what particular forms my hon. Friend is referring to, but so far as returns relating to production and employment are concerned, I can assure him that I have the point he makes very much in mind and that every effort is made to reduce the information asked for from employers, workpeople and others to the minimum necessary and to avoid overlapping between Departments.
Is the Minister aware that many people will be pleased to see this innovation?
Members Of Parliament (Government Appointments)
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the increasing growth of patronage and Government appointments which have been secured by a large number of Members of the present House of Commons, he will introduce legislation to limit the number of these so as not to exceed 50 per cent. of the sitting Members, and thus ensure that the House of Commons remains representative of the electorate?
As my hon. Friend is aware, certificates which would prevent the extension of disqualification applying are required under the House of Commons Disqualification (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1941, to be signed by the First Lord of the Treasury, and a copy laid before the House of Commons. Any change in the law dealing with this matter ought, I think, to await the recommendations of the Select Committee now considering the position.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that power always corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely? Can he not see the danger of the power given to this group being utilised for intrigue or other purposes, and is it not absolutely anti-democratic?
I do not think that the general principle can be stated in such absolute terms. Power exercised under the vigorous and vigilant supervision of a properly elected Parliamentary Assembly has frequently been found to be compatible with a very high standard of public life.
My right hon. Friend does realise, then, that there is some danger?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the minds of Members on this side have never been corrupted in that particular way?
Post-War Reconstruction (Scotland)
asked the Prime Minister what Minister will be responsible for co-ordinating the work of the Ministry of Works and Buildings and the Minister without Portfolio in respect of the comprehensive planning of Scotland for post war development?
The co-ordination of the preparatory work on all reconstruction problems is carried out by the Ministerial Committee under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio. The various Departments concerned are represented at meetings of the Committee.
Does that mean that there is special oversight of the Scottish side of this business?
Yes, Sir, I am sure that that course is provided for. At the same time we have met the principle of not disclosing the actual membership and composition of committees. It is a very old rule.
Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind what he already knows as to the trend of Scottish susceptibilities?
Yes, indeed, having been a Member for a Scottish constituency for 15 years.
Minister Of State
Adams asked the Prime Minister whether it is intended to introduce legislation to legalise the new office of Minister of State?
No legislation is necessary for this purpose.
Is not this office a wholly novel one in our Constitution?
No, Sir, His Majesty has from time immemorial appointed what Ministers he thinks desirable to whatever office he thinks appropriate. Legislation is only necessary where it is desired that the holder of a newly created office should sit in the House of Commons. The Minister of State lately appointed sits, of course, in the other place, but no fresh legislation would be required even if it were desired to appoint a Minister of State who is a Member of this House, because provision has already been made by Section 2 of the Re-election of Ministers Act, 1919, whereby a member of the Privy Council may be appointed a Minister of the Crown at a salary and may sit and vote in this House, provided that not more than three such Ministers are so appointed at the same time.
:Will the Prime Minister let us know what is the distinction between a Minister without Portfolio and a Minister of State?
The advantage in the new term lies not so much in the distinction as in the difference.
:Have they got the same power and authority?
Certainly. They are both members of the War Cabinet and have both general and particular spheres of duty assigned to them.
Can the right hon. Gentleman state the salary which will be paid to the Minister of State?
It would be the salary of the other members of the War Cabinet, but I do not know whether he takes it or not. I have not been told.
Documents Left In Vehicles
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether he is aware that last week in the Harrow Road district, London, two suit-cases were stolen from a private motor-car, one of which contained papers of importance and value to the Ministry of Aircraft Production; what is the rank of the officer or official responsible; and whether, in view of the very serious nature of this offence and the promise given some months back, when cases of similar negligence were brought before Parliament, that any offences in the future would be punished, the person responsible will be dismissed and/or prosecuted?
I am aware of the incident which I think my hon. Friend has in mind. I am having immediate inquiries made into the matter, but until these have been completed, I am unable to say what disciplinary action will be taken.
:If I put down a Question in a week's time, will the hon. Gentleman be able to answer it?
Bank Of England (Accounts)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will introduce legislation to, cause the half-yearly accounts of the Bank of England to be drawn up in a form recommended by a committee representative of banking, commerce, the recognised societies of accountants, and the general public, and to cause the accounts of the bank to be audited?
:Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware of the great dissatisfaction felt by a large number of professional people at the way in which these accounts are drawn up?
:If I send my right hon. and gallant Friend a representation on the matter, will he make a proper study of it?
ALLIED POWERS (MAEITIME COURTS) BILL,
"to make temporary provision for enabling allied and associated Powers to establish and maintain in the United Kingdom Maritime Courts for the trial and punishment of certain offences committed by persons other than British subjects; to provide for the trial and punishment by British courts of similar offences committed by British subjects; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid"; presented by Mr. Herbert Morrison, supported by Mr. Eden, Mr. Bevin, Mr. Johnston, the Attorney-General, the Lord Advocate, Mr. Peake, and Colonel Llewellin; to be read a Second time upon the next Sitting Day; and to be printed [Bill 25].