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Written Answers

Volume 380: debated on Wednesday 17 June 1942

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Written Answers

Ministry Of Supply

Empty Cartons (Tobacconists' Shops)

asked the Minister of Supply the result of his consultation with representatives of the tobacco industry in regard to the disposal of empty cartons in the windows of occupied shops?

Discussions have taken place with representatives of the retail tobacconists, as a result of which a proposed scheme for the salvage of empty cartons in tobacconists' shops has been drawn up and is under consideration by the tobacco manufacturers and the retailers.

Greeting Cards

asked the Minister of Supply whether, in view of the shortage of paper, he will reverse his decision to allow 350 tons to be made available for the manufacture of greeting cards in 1942?

No, Sir. The conclusion was reached that in view of the needs of members of the Forces, evacuees and others separated from their families, the manufacture of greeting cards should be allowed this year, but on a much reduced scale.

Cheques (Use As Receipts)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether a decision has been yet arrived at, with a view to saving paper, by making it feasible and legal to recognise endorsed cheques with receipt stamps as full receipts of payment?

I understand that the banks already permit customers to incorporate receipt forms in their cheques, provided that the customer gives the bank a suitable indemnity. It would not be possible to make general provision for this practice without at the same time legislating to maintain the position of the banks under the Bills of Exchange Act. In addition, such a change would involve the risk of dislocating accounting systems and disturbance to business practice generally. While the Government are anxious to secure economy in paper consumption by all possible means, I fear that in this case the practical difficulties are such as to outweigh any gain that might result from the saving in paper supplies.

Post Office

Canadian Air Force Personnel (Parcels)

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that parcels sent from Canada to Canadian airmen in this country rarely arrive at their destination, while letters posted at the same time are delivered; and will he take steps to abolish the contents label attached to parcels and so make it more difficult for thieves?

Mails from Canada containing parcels for Canadian Air Force personnel serving in the United Kingdom are received in sealed bags by the British Post Office which, without opening them, transfers them to the Canadian Army Post Office in this country. The Canadian Army Post Office re-forwards the parcels in sealed bags to the units to which the addressees are attached. The responsibility of my Department is thus limited, but if the hon. Member will furnish me with particulars of any losses he has in mind, I shall be glad to have inquiry made in concert with the authorities concerned. The contents labels are required for Customs purposes by both the despatching and the receiving administrations and I have no power to authorise their abolition.

Mails (Ceylon)

asked the Postmaster-General why no mail from home has been delivered in Colombo since Christmas, 1941?

The hon. Member must have been misinformed. Ninety-nine mails of various kinds have been despatched from this country to Ceylon since 1st January, 1942, of which 64 are known to have already arrived and one only is known to have been lost. I hope to hear of the safe arrival of the remainder in due course. I have no reason to think that correspondence has not been duly delivered.

Bbc French Broadcasts

asked the Minister of Information whether representatives of the Free French living in this country are consulted with regard to the propaganda programmes which are broadcast to France; and, if not, whether he will arrange for them to be consulted in the future?

Yes, Sir. A daily liaison is maintained between Free French Headquarters and those responsible for B.B.C. French broadcasts.

Channel Islands (Refugees)

asked the Home Secretary what arrangements have been made to look after the interests of British subjects from the Channel Islands now in this country; whether they have the same facilities as British subjects to benefit under social services; whether they are assisted to find work and accommodation; and how many are there in this country?

The number of refugees from the Channel Islands in this country is about 30,000. They have the same facilities as the people of Great Britain to benefit under social services and immediately on their arrival the appropriate Government Departments took steps to find accommodation for those who were unable to make their own arrangements and for the support of those without sufficient means and for helping any persons wishing to find employment. At the same time an influential voluntary committee was set up under the chairmanship of Lord Justice du Parcq which has done and is doing most valuable work in promoting the welfare of these refugees by grants of material assistance, by giving advice and information; in particular they have compiled comprehensive records for the purpose of enabling Channel Islanders to keep in touch with their relatives and friends.

Soap Rationing

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will give permission to local food executive officers to grant supplementary allocation of soap without reference to Colwyn Bay?

The procedure governing the issue of supplementary permits for soap is at present under review and my hon. Friend's suggestion will be considered.

Beer (Railway Transport, Burton-On-Trent)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that 28 trains, loaded with beer, leave Burton-on-Trent each day; and whether he will, in the national interest, take steps to reduce this misuse of war-time transport and waste of coal?

About eight train-loads of beer a day are despatched by rail from Burton-on-Trent. Arrangements made with the brewers for the better loading of wagons have reduced the wagons required by about one-fifth.

Ice-Cream Distribution (Motor Vehicles)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will inquire into the necessity or desirability for motor-propelled vehicles to travel up to 14 miles from their depot or base to sell ice-cream by retail; and whether such vehicles are now included in the schemes for the rationalisation of retail deliveries?

Wholesale distribution of ice-cream to shops has been so arranged as to avoid unnecessary long-distance journeys. No fuel is issued for retail re-livery, except in accordance with local schemes of rationalisation. If my hon. Friend has in mind any specific instance where he considers that transport is being wasted, I shall be glad to look into it.

Vermin (Destruction)

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will organise clubs in county areas to protect our food supply by reducing vermin of various kinds with which lands, now no longer preserved, and small holdings and allotments, have become increasingly infected?

Whilst the formation of local clubs for the purpose indicated by my hon. Friend might be of assistance in supplementing the organised efforts of the county war agricultural executive committees who are armed with very wide powers for securing the destruction of vermin, I think the matter is one for local rather than central initiative and organisation.

asked the right hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Rye, as representing the Forestry Commissioners, whether they will take increased action to exterminate rats and wood pigeons on lands under their control?

As all reasonable action is taken to keep down rats and wood pigeons on lands under the control of the Forestry Commissioners, increased action is not feasible, particularly as the staff in the supervisory grades has been so much reduced.

Enemy-Occupied Territories (Relief Measures)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that large sections of communities in occupied territories in Europe, especially Jews, are suffering greater hardships than prisoners of war, he will consider means, possibly through the International Red Cross, of providing those sufferers with food, and especially medicines?

I need scarcely say that His Majesty's Government are acutely aware of the horrors and deprivations inflicted on the peoples in the occupied territories by the enemy, and they have facilitated such schemes for bringing food relief as appeared to them not to impair the effect of the blockade upon the enemy's war effort. As regards medical relief, as the International Red Cross Committee is aware, His Majesty's Government have always been ready to further the transit of medical supplies, within the strict sense of the term, to occupied territory. His Majesty's Government do not consider that the vital blockade considerations which arise out of this question are at all comparable with the considerations which govern their decision to allow in this war, as in the last, the despatch of comforts to prisoners of war. Moreover the International Convention for the treatment of prisoners of war provides that prisoners of war shall be authorised to receive individually parcels of food and clothing and the despatch of such parcels is governed by well-established rules of international law and practice.

West Africa (Air Raid Precautions)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is satisfied with the progress of air-raid precautions measures in West Africa; and whether the appeal for volunteers has met with a satisfactory response?

Yes, Sir. We are tolerably satisfied with the progress made so far. With regard to the second part of the Question, compulsory power may have to be exercised in certain areas.

Nigeria (Tin-Mine Workers)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies how many persons are likely to be involved in forced labour for the Northern Nigeria tin-mines; what protection and welfare arrangements for these workers have been put in hand; what is the present price offered for tin production per ton compared with the prices a year ago and before the war; and whether, in view of the increased price now being offered, a war bonus will be granted to the workers together with substantial improvement in conditions?

My Noble Friend is confident that the Government of Nigeria will only direct labour to specific work as may be required for the war effort; and that every consideration will be given to the protection and welfare of such labour. The price to be paid for tin under the current contract is now being negotiated. The price last year was £260 10s. per ton, and in 1939 £230 per ton. The wage position is under constant review.

Palestine (Currency)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the fluctuations of the English pound necessarily produce unfortunate effects on the economic life of Palestine; and as the Mandatory Power, by closely relating the Palestine pound with a currency foreign to the country impedes the development of its own policy aimed at preparing the mandated territories for the full exercise of their independence, will he consider giving this territory greater autonomy in financial and monetary matters?

I am not aware of any important fluctuations in the value of sterling since the war, and my Noble Friend is in any case satisfied that there would be no gain in stability or otherwise in divorcing the currency of Palestine from that of the country to which in ordinary times the bulk of Palestine's exports are sold.

West Indies

Labour Recruitment, Panama

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies under what conditions workers from the West Indian Colonies are recruited for work in the Panama Canal zone; and whether there is any control of the conditions of recruitment by the labour officers in the respective West Indian Colonies?

So far as is known, no workers other than Jamaican have been recruited for employment in the Panama Canal zone. Recruiting in Jamaica is carried out in accordance with the terms of the International Labour Conventions relating to the recruitment of workers and the regulation of written contracts. Recruitment is supervised by the Jamaica Labour Department.

Trinidad (Reclamation Scheme)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether consideration is being given to the reclamation of the Caroni swamp in Trinidad, seeing that such a scheme would supplement the water supply of the Colony, provide a large area for rice lands and permit of an extension of Port of Spain?

So far as my Noble Friend is aware, this project is not under consideration at the present time. Shortage of labour would in any case stand in the way of its execution.

Reconstruction Work, London (Licence)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings why a licence was given to permit the reconstruction of the ornamental facade of the entrance to Cleland House, Page Street, S.W.I; what was the cost of work carried out; and how much steel, concrete and bricks were required?

Licences were issued for the partial reconstruction of Cleland House in order to make this property available for Government occupation to meet an urgent need. There is no ornamental facade to the entrance hall as partially reconstructed and the second part of the Question does not therefore arise.

Railway Stations (Metal Lamp-Posts)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings whether all the old metal lampposts which were lying on certain suburban electric railway platforms have been collected and disposed of by the railway companies?

I am informed by the railway companies that there are now no metal lamp-posts lying on platforms, but if the hon. Member is aware of any such lamp-posts and will let me have particulars I will make further inquiries.

Building And Civil Engineering (Committee)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings which organisations, institutions, groups or persons were invited to attend, or to send representatives to, the meeting held by his Ministry on Thursday, nth June, 1942, with the object of forming an advisory council; how many persons it is intended shall be on this council; who will be the chairman and secretary; and what are the terms of reference?

The only meeting held in the Ministry of Works and Buildings on the date in question was for the purpose of giving further consideration to the question, which has for some time been under discussion, of establishing a Codes of Practice Committee for building and civil engineering. The following institutions and departments were invited to send representatives to the meeting:—

  • Royal Institute of British Architects.
  • Institution of Electrical Engineers.
  • Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
  • Institution of Municipal and County Engineers.
  • Institution of Structural Engineers.
  • Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors.
  • Building Industries National Council.
  • British Standards Institution.
  • Institution of Civil Engineers,
together with representatives of the—

  • Ministry of Health.
  • Research and Experiments Department (Ministry of Home Security).
  • Building Research Station (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research).
  • Ministry of Works and Buildings.

Tax Office, Bridlington (Lighting)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that electric lights are burning all day in the office of His Majesty's Inspector of Taxes, Bridlington, owing to the fact that the glass damaged by enemy action has never been replaced; and whether, in order to avoid waste of fuel, arrangements can be made for the permanently blacked-out windows to be replaced by glass?

I have been asked to reply. I am aware that in certain offices the natural lighting has been affected by substitutes for glass and by the pasting of scrim over glass. It would obviously be premature to relax precautions particularly in vulnerable areas, nor is labour and material available for wholesale re-glazing, but consideration is being given to the possibility of effecting some improvement in buildings where the lighting has been very badly affected.

Royal Air Force

Leave (Civilian Clothes)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether all ranks are permitted to wear civilian clothes while on privilege leave or short pass?

Yes, Sir, provided absence from duty is for a period of not less than 24 hours.

Protected Places (Defence Regulations)

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) in how many cases proceedings have been brought against employees for breaches of provisions relating to literature, notices or assemblies contained in any by-laws in force at any time prior to the 31st December, 1941, and made in pursuance of Regulation 14 of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, in respect of protected places; in how many cases there have been convictions; what terms of imprisonment have been imposed and what fines; and the like information in relation to proceedings against employers;(2) in how many cases, up to the latest date for which information is available, proceedings have been brought against employees for breaches of provisions relating to literature, notices, or assemblies, contained in any by-laws or directions in force at any time after the 31st December, 1941, and made in pursuance of Regulations 12 and 14 of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, in respect of protected places; in how many such cases there have been convictions; what terms of imprisonment have been imposed, and what fines; and the like information in relation to proceedings against employers?

Voluntary Aid Detachments

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will, in view of the anxiety felt by serving members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment regarding the intention of the War Office to merge them with the Auxiliary Territorial Service, state what is the policy of his Department in this matter?.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) on 2nd June, of which I am sending him a copy.

Basic Petrol (Unused Allowance)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he can now make a statement with regard to the use, after 30th June, of petrol saved from basic rations?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to-day to a Question upon this subject by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald).