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Commons Chamber

Volume 380: debated on Wednesday 3 June 1942

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 3rd June, 1942.

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Private Business

London Passenger Transport Board Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

House Of Commons Chamber (Lighting)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Before the first Question is put, may I ask whether it is in your power to cause the Chamber to be made a little brighter and for sunshine to be brought in? There was a saying in olden days: "Let candles be brought in"; I would ask, in modern language: "Mr. Speaker, bring in the sunshine."

Oral Answers To Questions

Shanghai Municipal Pensioners


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that the British Government was prepared to pay the pensions of French civil servants in Madagascar, he is willing to reconsider his decision with regard to the pensioners of the Shanghai municipality; and to recommend that a loan be granted to the London agents of the municipality on the security of the present and future assets of the municipality, which will enable these pensions to British subjects to be paid?

I am unable to accept my hon. Friend's suggestion that the two cases are comparable. The offer to Madagascar was a consequence of the general offer, made after the French Armistice with Germany, to guarantee the pay and pensions of the officials of any colony which continued the struggle. I would point out that such a guarantee would not necessarily involve payments from public funds, since the territories concerned would, so far as possible, continue to provide the necessary revenues. As regards the last part of the Question, His Majesty's Government have every sympathy with these victims of enemy action, but I regret that I have nothing to add to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) on 6th May.

Considering the tens of millions of pounds which this country has received from Shanghai, does not my right hon. Friend feel that the British Government might take a more generous attitude towards the Shanghai Municipality and might make them a temporary loan till the close of the war to enable them to meet their just obligations?

As I have said, we have every sympathy with those people, but it would be wrong if the House were to think that they are alone. There are others whose claims might be as strong or even stronger. I am going carefully into the matter, and at the moment I can add no more to what I have already said.

Turkey (Greek And Jewish Refugees)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements have been made with Turkey to receive 5,000 Greek refugees; and whether he is considering making the same facilities available for any Jewish refugees?

A considerable number of Greek refugees have reached Turkey recently, and care is being taken for their maintenance, but I have no knowledge of any scheme under which Greek refugees are received for permanent residence in Turkey. The second part of the Question therefore does not arise.

French Warships (German Sailors)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether official information has reached him that the Vichy Government have given permission for the training of German sailors on French warships; and whether any protest has been made by the Allied Powers?

The answer to the first part of the Question is No, Sir. The second part, therefore, does not arise.

If any indication comes to my right hon. Friend that steps are being taken by the Vichy Government to facilitate the training of German sailors, will an appropriate protest be made?

Ecuador (British Minister Resident)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign. Affairs whether his attention has been called to the peculiar position which the British Minister Resident occupies in the Republic of Ecuador; that in his present diplomatic status he suffers in precedence in contrast with the representatives of other countries; whether, to maintain British prestige he will consider according to this Minister such rank in the Diplomatic Service as would confer upon him his appropriate place in the local Corps Diplomatique; and whether an entertainment allowance commensurate with the position of British Minister will be provided in Ecuador?

The position of His Majesty's Minister Resident at Quito in no way differs from that of His Majesty's Ministers Resident in certain other Latin American countries, and his precedence is determined by international diplomatic usage. He receives emoluments on the same scale as his predecessor. He has, however, been instructed to furnish a statement of his expenditure if he finds the allowances made to him inadequate, in order that, if necessary, authority may be sought for an increase.

Is my right hon. Friend really satisfied that this Minister enjoys full diplomatic status? If application is made to my right hon. Friend for an increase in the allowances for this Minister, will he give the application sympathetic consideration?

This is a recognised diplomatic position. As to the second part of the question, I have asked for a report on the matter, and if more money is needed, the matter will be looked into.

China (Assistance)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement as to the assistance now being given to China in the form of munitions, aircraft, etc., and as to the effect of the great help of her troops upon the campaign in Burma?

I am sure that there is no one in this House or in the country who does not fully recognise the important part played by China in the ranks of the United Nations, and the need to give her every assistance in our power. China is being furnished, under Lend-Lease arrangements made by this country and by the United States, with all the munitions of war and military equipment which it is possible to supply, having regard to other urgent requirements and to the difficulties of transport. The allocation of those munitions is made from the common pool by the combined Munitions Assignment Boards in Washington and London. I would also remind the House of the £50,000,000 loan which His Majesty's Government are making available to the Chinese Government for war purposes, and the earlier sterling credits amounting to £8,000,000 under which we have done our best to deliver all the material required which we could possibly spare from the needs of our own Forces and our other Allies. In addition to these sums His Majesty's Government have made available to the Chinese Government a credit of £5,000,000 for currency stabilisation. The Chinese troops contributed very materially indeed towards protracting the delaying action fought by Imperial Forces in Burma. I am happy to say that good feeling and a spirit of co-operation prevailed whenever and wherever the two armies fought side by side.

Perhaps I could have notice of that Question, and I will find out from Washington. I am not sure.

Has any attempt been made to give a closer definition to Lend-Lease as applied in this country than the rather vague definition which has been given to Lend-Lease by the United States Government?

I would not like to go into questions of definition. If my hon. Friend will put a Question down, I will endeavour to give him an answer.

I have not asked the right hon. Gentleman to define Lend-Lease, but whether any attempt has been made to define it, or whether it has been left vague?

That is a separate matter, and I should like to see the Question on the Paper.

Will my right hon. Friend do his utmost to give publicity to his original answer, so that everyone may know the appreciation of this country for the great help which China has given?

Yes, Sir, and I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I think everyone in the House would wish them to cross the world to China.

Enemy-Occupied Countries (Shooting Of Hostages)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether steps are being taken, in consultation with our Allies, to keep records of the shooting of hostages in German occupied countries?

My right hon. Friend will be aware that there are difficulties in present circumstances in obtaining complete and accurate records of this kind. But the victims are nationals of the occupied territories concerned and I have no doubt that our Allies are doing whatever is practicable in this respect.

Are not the complaints of the German Government and authorities about these assassinations rather misguided, because many of them might have been carried out by deserters from the German army, of which there are now quite a large number in hiding in different parts of Europe?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the German Government are misguided. I find no difficulty about that.

United States And Japan


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, when an undertaking was given by him on behalf of His Majesty's Government that, if the United States of America were attacked by Japan a British declaration of war would follow within the hour, a reciprocal promise was obtained from the President of the United States of America?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that, in the absence of such a reciprocal arrangement, it is all the more inexplicable that adequate steps were not taken for the defence of Malaya?

Royal Air Force



asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that Flight-Lieutenant Goutrey, F.805937/41/F 7.A., took a short service commission in the Royal Air Force for four years in 1936, a gratuity of £300 to be paid upon completion of same; that just prior to termination of this service he was asked by the authorities to continue for a further two years, his gratuity to be increased to £500; that he agreed; that after the four years had terminated, but before the six years expired, he was killed; that although he had willed the £300 to his parents the authorities have refused to pay this money; and whether consideration will be given to an ex-gratia payment in this case and an alteration made in the Regulations?

The general rule governing cases such as that to which the hon. Member refers is that should an officer holding a short-service commission die before completing his initial period of service or, if he has voluntarily extended his service, before completing the extended period, no gratuity is payable to his estate. This is a term of his contract, and the reason is that gratuities of this kind are primarily intended to assist resettlement in civil life. Dependants are separately provided for by means of pensions and allowances. Similar conditions apply to the gratuities and retired pay of Crown Servants generally, and I know of no grounds on which an ex-gratia payment could be justified in this particular case.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that his Department admits that if this man had broken his continuity by only one day, £300 would have been paid? May I ask him for a reconsideration of the case? Perhaps he and I might have a chat about the circumstances surrounding it.

Awards For Gallantry


asked the Secretary of State for Air in what manner did the noncommissioned flying officers, recently decorated for their part in the recent raid on Lubeck, differ in responsibility, initiative or courage, from the commissioned officers who were given awards for their part in the same operation?

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the scathing comment on his replies concerning this matter in "Reveille," a paper which circulates among the men of the Air Service?

Why is the right hon. Gentleman so sticky about this? Why does he not respond to public feeling and grant a distinction which is fair to everybody?

There is no question of stickiness. These awards are equal. The D.F.M. is an award which is cherished by those who receive it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the cheers from hon. Members behind him indicate their desire to retain class distinction?



asked the Secretary of State for Air the number of occasions in a year on which an airman is entitled to leave and the length thereof; and whether commanding officers have discretion to grant passes to destinations other than the man's home?

In reply to the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) on 21st January; and in reply to the second part to the answer given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stockport (Wing-Commander Hulbert) on 18th March.

Could I put this question definitely to my right hon. Friend? If a man is entitled to leave, and he desires to go to some other part of the country than his own and shows good cause, has the commanding officer power to grant him a pass to that place?

Yes, Sir, the commanding officer can give four free warrants every year to any part of the country; it is within his discretion.

German Cruiser "Prinz Eugen"


asked the Secretary of State for Air at what time on Saturday, 16th May, the German cruiser "Prinz Eugen" was sighted exercising in a Trondheim fjord; at what time on the following day she was sighted steaming south and at what time attacked; whether any 21-inch torpedoes were used by the attacking aircraft; and whether the present whereabouts and condition of this warship are known?

It is not in the public interest to give details of this operation. Excellent work on the part of Coastal Command enabled successful reconnaissance to be carried out in difficult circumstances on 16th and 17th May, in consequence of which the attack developed between 7.45 and 8.30 p.m. on 17th May. The most recent information indicates that the "Prinz Eugen" is now being repaired at Kiel; I have nothing to add to what has already been published regarding the damage she has suffered.

How is it that facts which it is not in the public interest to disclose to the House can be detected by hon. members for themselves by a careful study of authentic despatches by newspaper correspondents, and will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his refusal to give these facts in answer to my Question if I show him the answers to them in "The Times" despatches?

I do not know what the hon. Member means by "authentic." It is an adjective which would certainly not apply to a number of despatches on air operations. Certainly, if the hon. Member will show me any articles he has read, I shall be glad to consider them.

When this ship is finally disposed of, will it be in the public interest to tell us?

British Overseas Airways Corporation

Pilots (Flying Hours)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that many British Overseas Airways Corporation pilots are flying many more hours per month than are allowed by the regulation; that one has flown, approximately, 200 hours in 14 days recently; and what steps are being taken to relieve these pilots?

The regulations provide that a holder of a licence who has completed 125 hours flying as a pilot in any period of 30 days should be medically examined and pronounced fit before continuing to fly. War-time requirements necessitate from time to time that pilots should fly more than 125 hours a month; the average is less than this figure. I have no information which suggests that the regulations are not complied with generally, or as to the particular case referred to in the second part of the Question. If my hon. and gallant Friend will let me have details, I will have inquiries made.

Flying-Boat "Clare" (Incident)


asked the Secretary of State for Air why the British Overseas Airways Corporation's flying-boat "Clare" was left riding at anchor for 1¾ hours, on the 26th instant, when it was known to the British Overseas Airways Corporation authorities on shore that passengers were seriously ill; and will he take steps to avoid similar occurrences in future?

The circumstances of this incident are being looked into, and I will communicate with my hon. and gallant Friend in due course.

Government Departments

Controller-General, Aircraft Production


asked the Minister of Aircraft Production what change is being made in connection with the position of Director-General of Production in his Ministry; and what terms will govern any new appointment?

Yes, Sir. I very much regret that Sir Charles Craven, who has done such excellent work as Controller-General at my Ministry, has been compelled to resign that office under orders from his doctor. I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, my predecessor and myself are very grateful to Sir Charles Craven for the great ser-vice he has rendered to the country in the production of aircraft. I hope in the course of a few days to be able to announce the arrangements which I shall in consequence make.

Will this distinguished gentleman return to the management of Vickers, or will he remain mainly occupied by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Department?

If I put a Question down, will my hon. and gallant Friend be able to supply information to the House?

Ministry Of Food (Office Site)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings, whether it is still the intention of his Department to construct a building on good agricultural land, for the purpose of offices for the Ministry of Food in a town specified to him?

It is proposed to commence building work as soon as labour can be made available. As stated in my reply on 19th May, the site has been selected after consultation with the local land Commissioner of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Does the Minister think that it is a form of national economy to use labour and materials to erect a building now for the Ministry of Food in Colwyn Bay, when there are buildings available in the town which could be occupied, as one can see week by week from the advertisements in the local Press?

My hon. Friend will be aware of the discussions and correspondence that I have had with him, and every nook and cranny of that neighbourhood has been searched to try and find accommodation which is available.

As my hon. Friend and the Department have viewed other buildings, will he consider an available alternative site, which is not good agricultural land but derelict land, and has already been suitably prepared for building purposes within the area?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the Minister of Agriculture agrees that there is no alternative site which would have interfered less with agricultural production than the one we have selected.

War Office (Clerical Work)


asked the Secretary of State for War the number of officers classified A, from a health point of view, and under 40 years of age, engaged in War Office establishments on clerical work which could be done by older men or by women?

This information is not available, and the time and labour needed to collect it would not in my opinion be justified.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that these cases run into many thousands? If I send him specimen examples of this kind of thing, will he be good enough to look into them? It would make a valuable contribution to the manpower problem if he would.

I do not think there are many thousands, because the whole staff is not many thousands.

Palestine (Refugees)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it is intended to permit the refugees on board the s.s. "Mircea" to land in Palestine?

The "Mircea" passengers, to the number of 40, landed in Palestine on 20th May.

West Indies

British Council


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies the nature and extent of the proposed work of the British Council in the West Indies; and also the duties to be undertaken by Mr. F. W. Gray, as representative there of this council?

As the reply is rather long, with my hon. Friend's permission, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The extension of the activities of the British Council to the West Indies is part of a plan approved by His Majesty's Government for the expansion of the Council's work in the Colonial Empire. The nature and extent of the work in the West Indies will be determined in relation to local needs after consultation with the Governments, the Comptroller of Welfare and Development and local associations. The work will include collaboration with local cultural organisations with a view to the dissemination of information regarding British thought and ways of life including the drama, the fine arts and music, and the establishment of cultural centres where they do not already exist. Other activities will include the provision of scholarships to Great Britain, the organisation of libraries and the supply of British books, periodicals and Press material; the distribution of "British news" and documentary films illustrative of life in Britain and of British culture. The duties of Mr. F. D. Gray will be primarily administrative. It is intended to associate with him a Cultural Adviser for the West Indies.

Trinidad (Estate Development)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the necessity for increased food production in Trinidad, steps are being taken for development for this purpose of bankrupt and derelict sugar and other estates upon the island?

Very active steps are being taken to increase food production in Trinidad, including the compulsory planting of about 3,000 acres of sugar lands, divided between estate and cane farmers' lands, the extensive increase of allotments, house gardens, etc., and the more rapid development of land settlement schemes in hand. All these measures are additional to the food production campaign already in progress.

Is the Minister aware that the local Press are complaining that large areas in the estates are completely undeveloped at the present time?

I am afraid the local Press have a habit of complaining, not only in the Colonies, but in the Mother-country as well.

Anglo-American Commission


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether consideration can be given to the appointment of a West Indian to serve on the Joint Commission with the United States concerned with problems and future development of the West Indies?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider the desirability of selecting at least one qualified West Indian representative to serve on the British panel for the Anglo-American Commission for work in the West Indies?

The appointment of a West Indian to serve on the Anglo-American Commission has already been considered. It would not be possible, however, to make a single appointment to represent all the Colonies concerned, and to have unofficial representatives of each Colony would make the Commission unwieldy. My hon. Friends will, of course, appreciate that the Commission is purely advisory and that its recommendations will be subject to the appropriate consideration by the legislatures of the Colonies concerned.

While appreciating the practical difficulties, may I ask whether it is not about time that when social and economic development is involved the people who are vitally concerned with the recommendations should at least have the opportunity of sharing in their making?

Yes, Sir, but my hon. Friend says that he recognises the practical importance of keeping these Commissions small.

Is the Minister aware of the strong feeling in the West Indies that at least one representative West Indian should be nominated for the British section of the Commission?

Air-Raid Precautions


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now in a position to state when a compulsory air-raid precautions scheme will be enforced in Jamaica and other parts of the West Indies?

The Governments of Jamaica and other Colonies in the West Indian area have been impressed with the importance of the organisation of A.R.P. schemes, and the Governors have powers to institute compulsory service if and when they consider it necessary.

War Damage Compensation


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the absence of any war damage insurance scheme in the West Indies is a matter of grave anxiety to owners of commercial property there; and whether steps are now being taken to institute a scheme on similar lines to that operating in this country?

Yes, Sir. I am aware that anxiety exists in certain Colonies with regard to compensation for war damage. My Noble Friend is in consultation on the whole question with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the scheme for Malta is complete yet?

Mr W A Domingo


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Mr. W. A. Domingo is still under detention in Jamaica under the Defence Regulations; and, if so, whether his case has recently been reviewed?

Mr. Domingo is still detained in Jamaica. The Governor has been asked to re-examine the case and to refer it to the Advisory Committee for review, should circumstances justify such a course.

Sierra Leone (Essential Work Order)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that workers in Sierra Leone under the Defence (Essential Work General Provisions) Order, may be dismissed without right of appeal to a tribunal, and also that penal sanctions are being imposed under which the liberties of workers are being jeopardised; and will he call for the withdrawal of this sanction?

The recent amendment to the Sierra Leone Essential Work Order has abolished the right of both employers and employed to appeal to a local Appeal Board if they are dissatisfied with the decisions of the War Services Officer. The amendment also abolished the right of an employer to dismiss an employee for serious misconduct without the permission of the War Services Officer. The Order as now amended provides that on conviction by a court for any of a number of specified offences, the offender, if sentenced to a fine or to imprisonment, can be dismissed by the employer. My Noble Friend regrets the circumstances which have necessitated the introduction of these regulations, but he is satisfied that this step is necessary to ensure that work essential to the successful prosecution of the war is carried out.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Sierra Leone the workers, as a consequence of the failure under the Essential Work Order to mitigate their conditions, are in the position of virtual slaves and are being compelled to remain at work or are being dismissed without any remedy?

No, Sir. The situation is not at all dissimilar to the Essential Work Order operating in this country.

Does this imply forced labour in private employment for private profit?

The situation is very similar to that obtaining under the Essential Work Order in this country.

Is there anything in the Regulations that allows for the prosecution or imprisonment of the employers?

Colonial Empire (Defence Personnel)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it will be arranged that in the formation of Home Guard, Civil Defence and other local units in the Colonial Empire, as far as practicable the natural leadership of the colonial peoples will be respected and all superior ranks be opened to men of capacity and leadership, without regard to colour?

There is no bar on grounds of race or colour to membership of Home Guard and Civil Defence units in the Colonies, and my Noble Friend is confident that selections for the more responsible posts in those organisations are based solely on merit and capacity for leadership.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give serious attention to the development of Home Guard organisations under the natural leadership of the Colonial people involved?

Mauritius (Volunteer Forces)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the opposition expressed in the Mauritius Council of Government to the racial segregation practised in the raising of companies for the Territorial Forces of the Colonies; whether he is aware that there was no colour discrimination when the earlier Mauritius Volunteer Force was formed; and in what respect this new discrimination arises from military necessity?

My Noble Friend has seen a report of the relevant debate in the Mauritius Council of Government. It is not, I fear, possible at this date to consult the records of the Mauritius Volunteer Force which was raised during the last war. As regards the last part of the Question, my information is that an effort was made some years ago to form a Mauritius Territorial Force unit without any system of segregation and that it was not a success.

What was the military necessity which determined this departure from policy, and is not this departure merely enforcing segregation and discrimination between the races in Mauritius?

The military necessity was to make the force a success. My hon. Friend knows the conditions in Mauritius, and it was not thought that it would be a success if it was run on other lines.

Railway Stations (Booking Office Delays)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in view of the time required at railway booking offices to check Service warrants and the consequent delay in the issue of tickets generally, he will now authorise the Services to issue a form of warrant which shall be valid as a ticket?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport
(Mr. Noel-Baker)

As I informed my hon. Friend in a reply to a Supplementary Question on 25th March, this suggestion had then been considered and rejected on the ground that it was not practicable. It is, however, being examined afresh, and I will let my hon. Friend know the result as soon as I can.

While I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply, will he bear in mind that it takes about four times as long to check a Service warrant as to issue an ordinary ticket, and that in consequence many civilians either miss the train or else have to take a platform ticket and pay on the train, which practice itself delays the collection of tickets?

Yes, Sir. I am aware of the great difficulties caused by the large number of Service warrants which are now dealt with. Various plans for meeting the difficulty are now under consideration.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that, apart from the effect on civilians, the men themselves often have to queue up at these booking offices carrying heavy kits, and that they really ought to be relieved from this burden?

I think that the inconvenience caused to the men and the public is very considerable.

Would there be any difficulty in supplying a book of vouchers similar to the arrangement for Members of Parliament?

That is one of the plans under consideration, but the accountancy difficulties are considerable.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the War Department issue vouchers for tickets to places where stations do not exist, and that it has been known for a voucher to be given for a bus journey from Thurso to Kirkwall?

Shipyard Workers, Wallsend (Queue Barrier)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what action he proposes to take to implement the recommendation by his Northern Regional representative that a queue barrier should be erected to facilitate the travelling of shipyard workers at Wallsend-on-Tyne?

The Corporation have not seen their way to erect this queue barrier. The Regional Transport Commissioner has referred the matter to the Regional Board of the Ministry of Production, who will discuss it at their next meeting on 15th June.

In view of the waste of time which has been going on for something like six months, is the hon. Member aware that if I were a man and not a Member of this honourable House, my language would be unrepeatable?

Ministry Of Information

Bbc Staff (Military Service)


asked the Minister of Information whether, in view of the number of older British subjects available, possessed of special training as well as great knowledge and experience of the Near and Middle East and other regions, he will comb out of the British Broadcasting Corporation those younger men of military age already employed there who have little or no special knowledge of the languages or experience of the countries actually concerned?

My hon. and gallant Friend must surely be aware that all such questions of deferment and reservation are decided by Lord Rennet's Committee. The B.B.C. have applied for the deferment only of those members of their specialist staff for whom no substitutes possessing suitable qualifications can be found.

Is it really wise to get anybody to speak about the East who has never been East? It seems to me most dangerous.

Will the Minister bear in mind that broadcasting is a young science and that many departments of the B.B.C. can only be efficiently run by employing men of the younger generation?

Is the Minister aware that there are two young men whom I could recommend who have been put out of the Army because of their ability to make propaganda?

Army Officers (Foreign Languages)


asked the Minister of Information whether he will ask the Secretary of State for War for a list of officers of the Regular Army, serving or retired, who were educated in peace-time in certain selected foreign languages, so that their specialised training, acquired at Government expense, may be utilised by his Ministry in connection with propaganda, publicity and broadcasting to the countries of which they have special knowledge?

On several occasions, when suitable civilian applicants could not be found for such duties, requests have been made for personnel with special qualifications to be released from the Army. Linguistic ability is only one of the qualifications necessary for foreign publicity work.

Does the Minister not think that where officers have actually been living abroad in those countries, and have acquired special qualifications at the Government's expense, those special qualifications might very well be taken advantage of for the benefit of his Department, and is he aware that many officers of that type are available to him at the moment and are not actually employed at all?

I answered the Question of the hon. and gallant Member. In reply to his Supplementary Question, in special cases we do ask the Army to release men, but does the hon. and gallant Member really believe that just because a man has been abroad that makes him a good propagandist?

Does the Minister believe that just because a man has never lived abroad that makes him a good propagandist?

There are certain people who, if they were sent abroad, would not be useful.

Near East Department Bbc (Mr Hillelson)


asked the Minister of Information whether, in view of the need to prevent further exacerbation of anti-Semitic feelings among the Arabs and in view of the complaints already received from Moslems both in the Near East and in this country, he will reconsider the advisability of the retention as the official in charge of the Near East Department of the British Broadcasting Corporation of Mr. Hillelson, a Jew of German origin?

No, Sir. I cannot accept my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion. Mr. Hillelson was born in Germany, and educated at the University of Oxford. He became a British subject in 1908. He was a distinguished member of the Sudan Civil Service from 1911 to 1933. High tributes have been paid to his work in Sudan by a succession of Governors General, and, indeed, by all who worked with him. Mr. Hillelson later served for some time in the Foreign Office, and became a member of the staff of the B.B.C. in 1937. I cannot believe that the House will accept for one moment my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion that a man who has been a faithful public servant for 31 years should be removed from his appointment on the ground that he is a Jew of German origin. I should regard myself as being a most unworthy servant of this House were I to approach the B.B.C. to suggest to the Governors that they should absorb Hitler's loathsome anti-Semitic prejudices.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has totally mistaken the purpose of my Question and my objection? I have no objection in the slightest to the character or attainments of the distinguished public servant whom he is so unnecessarily leaping to defend on those grounds. The objection is solely—

Ship's Departure (Press Restrictions)


asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that an employee of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Terence de Marney, obstructed accredited journalists in the performance of their duties on the occasion of the departure of a certain vessel from a Scottish port; whether he will make it clear that this employee had no authority from the British Broadcasting Corporation, or two Government Departments, for refusing normal facilities for interviews and photographs; and whether he will ask the British Broadcasting Corporation to take appropriate disciplinary action against the employee concerned?

I understand that no instructions were given for the refusal of normal facilities for interviews and photographs but that the officer concerned felt himself to be responsible for avoiding any publicity which might draw attention to the departure of the vessel. The strong protests which I have received on the matter have been conveyed to the B.B.C. and have been brought to the attention of the officer concerned.

While thanking the Minister for his assurance, may I ask him whether he thinks that a photograph in an hotel lounge would draw attention to the departure of this vessel?

Army Absentee (Employment)


asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that a certain man, aged 24, whose full name has been communicated privately by the hon. Member for Hendon, was found to be an absentee from the Army by the Wealdstone bench of justices; that this man has been recently employed by the Ministry on film propaganda work and also by the British Broadcasting Corporation as a broadcaster; whether he is still employed; and if such employment began before or after his name had been removed from the register of conscientious objectors by the tribunal?

This gentleman has never been employed by the Ministry of Information. I understand that more than a year ago he worked as an actor for a company engaged in the production of one of the many films in which the Ministry was interested. I am told that the B.B.C. has used him in a number of dramatic feature programmes.

I have already told the hon. Member that he has worked as an actor in some of these dramatic programmes. I would point out that the B.B.C. employs something like 3,000 people per week who go to the radio.

Intelligence And Propaganda, Near And Middle East


asked the Minister of Information whether, in view of the fact that there is a supply of qualified British subjects available for propaganda, intelligence and broadcasting to the Near and Middle East, he will choose trained intelligence officers, with knowledge of the language and of the country concerned, in preference to persons with academic mind and outlook?

If my hon. Friend will supply me with the names of any qualified persons who he thinks might usefully be employed or re-employed in this field, I will certainly consider them.

I will send the right hon. Gentleman the names of some qualified persons.

Astrological Predictions


asked the Minister of Information whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that astrologers are predicting that Germany is on the verge of collapse; and whether he will stop astrological predictions about the war in order to counteract the risk that addicts of astrology will relax their efforts?

Astrologers seem to have the misfortune to be perpetually in conflict. And as no sensible person takes their predictions seriously, I cannot ask our overworked censors to meddle in their mysteries.

Has the Minister seen the recent statement in the "People" that, owing to the conjunction of the stars, no invasion of this country can ever take place, and is he aware that a great many people do treat such statements very seriously indeed and direct their actions accordingly?

Yes, but I must point out that some other papers' astrologists have probably said that England can be invaded. As Hitler is known to dabble in astrology, may it not be that certain articles are written for him?

Is the Minister aware that one astrologer last Sunday predicted a Government crisis this month? Is there any truth in that?

Letter Censorship


asked the Minister of Information why, after the correspondence of a member of His Majesty's Forces has been duly censored at headquarters, it is necessary to have it censored again by the civilian censorship; and whether he will issue instructions that all such correspondence is exempt from a second censorship which causes delay in delivery?

My hon. Friend must be referring to letters censored by an officer in the senders' unit, some of which are subsequently re-examined by Service base censors. In some cases civilian examiners assist the base censors, but they do so on Service instructions. I will, therefore, bring my hon. Friend's suggestion to the notice of the Service Departments.

House Of Commons (Post Office Staff)


asked the Postmaster-General to what extent the staff in the House of Commons post office has been reduced during the war; and whether, in any general revision of the staffs in post offices, it will be borne in mind that the post office in this House has to deal with exceptional circumstances and that the personal service rendered to Members cannot be assessed on the basis of units of work as applied to post offices in general?

Owing to the considerable decline in the volume of the work at the House of Commons post office since the beginning of the war, the staff has been reduced from 12 to 10. The exceptional nature of the work at the office has been, and will continue to be, taken into consideration in any review of the staffing position.

Is the Minister aware that, although he says that the work has declined, it has actually increased in many ways, because of the different places in which Members now live, and the necessity for forwarding letters? Will he see whether it is not a fact that the staff are, as I think, being overworked, and whether they are insufficient for the great work which they carry out for Members?

The total volume of work has declined a great deal, and the staff association concerned agreed at the time to this revision. I am always ready to receive any reasonable complaint of that character, but I have received none.

National Guild Of Telephonists


asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the National Guild of Telephonists, representing the female members of the Post Office telephone staff, has been promised official recognition when 40 per cent. of the female telephonists are members of the Guild; that the members are prohibited from trying to increase the membership by canvassing and collecting subscriptions on official premises; and whether he will consider according to them the same privileges in these respects as are enjoyed by the male staff, so that they may be enabled to attain the membership necessary to qualify them for official recognition?

The facilities to which the hon. Member refers are granted to all staff associations in the Post Office in respect of those grades which they are officially recognised as representing, but in fairness to other associations I am not prepared to grant them to an association in respect of a grade which it is not qualified to represent. The National Guild of Telephonists is officially recognised in respect of male telephonists, but not in respect of female telephonists, who are represented by another association and only a small proportion of whom are, I understand, members of the guild.

Rural Post Offices


asked the Postmaster-General how old age pensioners and recipients of billeting and Forces allowances are to collect their allowances if their rural post offices are closed, as is now proposed, and travel to the nearest remaining post office would, as in the case submitted to him, involve the 58 recipients in total omnibus fares of £2 18s. per week?

I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that in the case submitted to me, namely, Lorton, near Cockermouth, the post office is being maintained.

Is it not a fact that a number of these small rural post offices are being abolished, and that it is almost impossible sometimes for old age pensioners to travel to the nearest post office?

They are not being abolished; but in some rural districts, when a sub-postmaster resigns, it is found difficult to obtain a suitable person to replace him. That difficulty exists in a greater degree in some of the rural places mentioned. There is no question of abolition; but, where a postmaster resigns, it is sometimes difficult to get a man to replace him.

Madagascar (British Forces, Command)


asked the Prime Minister who is in command of British air, naval and military Forces at Madagascar?

The local command of all naval, military and air Forces in the Diego Suarez area is vested in the Fortress Commander, Major-General Sturges, of the Royal Marines.

Is it quite clear that he exercises command over the naval, military, and air Forces, without reference to London in an emergency?

He is exercising command over all the Forces in his area, but naturally he comes under the general direction as I have described it in that area.

My right hon. Friend has not described it. What I want to know is whether this is an example of truly united command of the three arms of the Service?

Commander-In-Chief, Mediterranean


asked the Prime Minister the relationship, or authority, of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, to the Commander-in-Chief, Malta?

The Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, controls the disposition of all His Majesty's ships in the Mediterranean. Those detailed by him to operate from Malta do so under the direction of Vice-Admiral, Malta, who is himself under the direction of the Commander-in-Chief, Malta, General Lord Gort, for all purposes in connection with the defence of Malta.

Malaya And Singapore


asked the Prime Minister on what date the first offer was made by the Chinese Generalissimo to send Chinese troops to help in the defence of Malaya; and, if refused, why?

Discussions took place with the Chinese Government before the outbreak of war in the Far East, but it would not be in the public interest to discuss the details.

Why is it not in the public interest to say whether the Chinese Generalissimo offered to help or not? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was a report in the "Daily Herald" on 12th January that it was being widely advertised in the Chinese papers that such an offer had been made and had been refused?


asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied that the demands for men and equipment sent home from Malaya and Singapore in the late summer and early autumn of 1941 were adequately met?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does not wish at present to add to the full statement on this subject which he made to the House on 27th January of this year.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Sir Keith Murdoch has reported that the demands sent home from Malaya were whittled down in Whitehall; and can he say whether those responsible for the whittling down are still holding office?

I am not prepared to accept those statements without further examination; and, as I have already said, my right hon. Friend is not able to add at this moment to what he has said.

Permanent Secretary To The Treasury


asked the Prime Minister whether the functions of the officer designated to succeed Sir Horace Wilson as Permanent Secretary to the Treasury will be the same as those discharged by Sir Horace Wilson, or whether he will be relieved of responsibility for the organisation, recruitment, etc., of the public service?

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend on 14th May.

Would the Deputy Prime Minister consider representations from the Civil Service unions as to the necessity, from an efficiency point of view, of adopting the course proposed in the Question?

Ministry Of Supply

Factory Management (Complaints)


asked the Minister of Supply how many cases he has had reported to him for action of employers or managers of factories engaged on essential war Work whose methods have led to a slowing-down of the war effort; how many prosecutions have been initiated, and with what results?

Complaints in respect of the management of factories have been received from time to time from various quarters. They are at once investigated and where necessary the management is changed or strengthened. No sufficient grounds for prosecution have been disclosed in these cases. In many cases change of management has been voluntarily effected as a result of our suggestions and in several cases we have for one reason or another put in authorised controllers.

Paper Supplies (Publications)


asked the Minister of Supply whether he has examined a pictorial publication, named "Rising Tide," issued by the Oxford Group, a copy of which has been given him by the hon. Member for Govan; whether, as it weighs 10 ounces and is printed on thick paper, he authorised the release of paper for this publication, which has no bearing on the war effort; and why the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, Limited, Glasgow, was refused paper to print a symposium for the London Scottish Self-Government League, written by experts and dealing with planning for Scotland?

I understand that "Rising Tide" was last reprinted in May, 1939, from stocks of paper acquired in 1937. With regard to the third part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a similar Question by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) on 29th April.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that "Rising Tide" is still being circulated?


asked the Minister of Supply how many foreign newspapers and periodicals are now published in this country; to what nationalities they belong; and whether, in view of the shortage of paper for British publications, he will arrange that paper for only one publication be allotted to each nationality?

Sixty-three, covering 14 nationalities. They include daily, weekly or monthly journals of various types, with subject matter that could not suitably be incorporated in one publication for each nationality.

Is it not possible to reduce this number, seeing how other papers are being inconvenienced for want of newsprint?

We are examining the subject in association with the Minister of Information.

Fuel And Light Economy


asked the Minister of Supply what steps he has taken to see that proper economies have been effected in the consumption of light and fuel in all establishments under his control; and whether he will consider the appointment of a qualified officer to ensure that all such considerations are effectuated as time and opportunity permit?

Instructions for securing economy in fuel, light and power were issued to Ministry of Supply establishments in October last, and heads of establishments were required to designate an officer to ensure their observance.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that those instructions are being satisfactorily carried out?

From the most recent report, it is clear that substantial economies have been effected.

Laid-Up Motor-Cars (Tyres)


asked the Minister of Supply whether he can give an assurance that if tyres are removed from motor-cars in storage it will be possible to obtain service ones if the financial circumstances of the owner make it necessary to sell the motor-car and demonstrate its capabilities?

The administrative difficulties which would arise from the requisitioning of tyres from laid-up vehicles are being examined, and the point made by my hon. Friend will be taken into account.

Rubber Salvage


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware of the difficulty in obtaining adequate insurance for stocks of scrap rubber, or machinery in close proximity to these stocks, as a result of which the scrap rubber salvage scheme is likely to be seriously hampered; and what steps he is taking to prevent this?

I am not aware of any general difficulty of this kind. Arrangements have been made for periodical removals from waste rubber merchants, so as to keep stocks from becoming unduly large; and reclaimers need not hold stocks in excess of their normal requirements.


asked the Minister of Supply what steps he proposes to take to ensure that local authorities follow the lead of the Birmingham Corporation, who are conducting a vigorous rubber salvage campaign; and whether he will press upon other local authorities throughout the country the urgent need to collaborate with those responsible for the rubber salvage scheme so that effective results may be achieved?

The importance of rubber salvage has recently been impressed on local authorities. I feel sure that they will collaborate fully with all concerned in the effort to collect all available scrap rubber, though the precise methods adopted will vary with local circumstances. A national publicity campaign on the subject has just been launched through the Ministry of Information.

Would my right hon. Friend ask local authorities to follow the example of Birmingham in every other matter as well?

Soap Rationing (Miners)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is yet in a position to make a statement with regard to the soap ration to mineworkers employed at collieries where no pit-head baths exist?


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food when the extra ration of soap for miners without pit-head baths will be brought into operation?

I hope that within the next two or three weeks such miners may be placed on the same footing in respect of soap supplies as the miners with pit-head baths.

Food Supplies

British Restaurants, Abertillery


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that recently at Abertillery, a British Restaurant after the expenditure of £804 was opened; that the trustees of the estate, who are the lessors, informed the local authority on the 30th March, that they would require at the conclusion of the occupation of the premises, presumably after the war, their restoration to their pre-occupation condition or compensation for the cost of such restoration; and whether, in view of the premises having been requisitioned on the instructions of the Ministry of Food, he proposes to take appropriate steps to prevent this?

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's Question is in the affirmative. The premises referred to were requisitioned with the approval of my Noble Friend in the exercise of powers under the Defence Regulations, and compensation, if any, will be payable in accordance with the provisions of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939.



asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what estimated percentage of eggs, received by clearing stations in April and May, have reached, or will reach, the public in edible condition?

Apart from small losses through breakages, which are inevitable in the case of a fragile product such as eggs, I know of no reason why the whole of the eggs received by packing stations in April and May should not reach the public in edible condition.

Are not some of these clearing stations storing eggs for a considerable time, and is it not their business to clear eggs and not to store them?

I have no information that the storing is for such a time as to have any effect on the eggs, but if my hon. Friend has anything in mind where a station is holding eggs longer than he thinks is necessary, I will certainly look into the matter.



asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is satisfied with the new arrangement for manufacturing yeast at Ipswich, whether the present quality is such that, as required by his Department, it will for seven days keep good in the possession of the merchant; and will he give the approximate number of tons of yeast that have become unfit for human consumption since the Order came into force?

I presume that my hon. Friend refers to complaints by distributors in Lincolnshire of the quality of yeast delivered to them, following the introduction of transport economies by the yeast manufacturers. Inquiries made by my' Department amongst bakers in the areas concerned have not confirmed complaints of the quality of the yeast supplies, and though losses occurred in the early stages of the scheme they appear to have been due to initial delays in transit, which have now been overcome. In the time available, I have been unable to obtain particulars of the quantity of yeast lost, but I have no reason to suppose that it was considerable.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend watch this matter very closely in the future?

Yes, Sir; it is being watched very carefully at the present time.

Northern Ireland


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, in view of all eventualities, he is satisfied that sufficient food to meet any demand made thereon is stored in Northern Ireland; and, if not, whether he will, at the earliest possible moment, have additional storage accommodation provided in Northern Ireland?

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative; the second part accordingly does not arise.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend make a fresh survey of the food stored in Northern Ireland?

That would be a considerable thing to do, but we are already keeping in touch with the position day by day, and I can assure my hon. Friend that he need have no fear about the situation in Northern Ireland as far as food is concerned.

Iron Railings, Kensington Gardens


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings what is the Ministry's intentions regarding the iron railings surrounding Kensington Gardens?

As I informed the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) on 28th April last, the retention of these railings is primarily considered necessary in the interests of public safety, owing to the considerable differences in the levels of the Gardens and of the public pavement.

Surely, if it is necessary for railings to be required for war purposes, privileges of this kind should not be allowed to stand in the way?

They will not be allowed to stand in the way if the difficulties can be disposed of.

Palace Of Westminster (Reconstruction)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings whether, in deciding upon any scheme of reconstruction of the Palace of Westminster, he will take into consideration the lack of accommodation for Members of the Commons, both in the former Chamber and in the Library and Smoking Rooms, and the total absence of rooms for interviewing visitors; and whether he will consider the possibility of obtaining permission for the Commons to continue to use the Chamber at present occupied and make use of the site of the Commons' former Chamber to provide the additional accommodation required?

I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for his suggestions, which will be borne in mind when proposals for the reconstruction of the Palace of Westminster are under consideration. In regard to the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given by the Prime Minister on 19th June, 1941, to the hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds (Major Adams).

Will my hon. Friend agree to appoint a small committee of Members of this House to make recommendations on this subject?