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Written Answers

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

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Written Answers

British Army

Pioneer Corps (Aliens)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the discontent in the alien Pioneer Corps because of maladjustment of men to jobs; and whether he is satisfied that at the present stage of the war he cannot with safety allow all members of the Pioneer Corps to volunteer for normal services for which their qualifications suit them?

I am not aware of this discontent in the alien Pioneer Corps companies which have done and are doing excellent work. Extensive arrangements already exist for transferring skilled men from the Pioneer Corps to arms of the Service where their skill and qualifications are most useful. About one-fifth of the aliens, that is the bulk of those with qualifications of particular use in the Army, have already been transferred. After carefully reconsidering the question, I have now decided to extend these arrangements considerably. In future, aliens will be able to serve in all arms except the Royal Corps of Signals, provided in each case that there are no security objections. But no soldier has a right to a transfer, which can only be carried out if it is in the interests of the Service. In this respect aliens are in the same position as British troops in the Pioneers and elsewhere who wish to transfer but have not so far been allowed to do so owing to the needs of their corps.

Claims Commission (Staff)

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of men of military age employed in the Claims Commission; how many of these are under 30 years of age; and whether any of the latter are now to be released for service in the Armed Forces?

There are four male civilians under 41 now employed with the Claims Commission in this country. None of these is under 30. A fifth one, who was 29, has recently been released for service in the Armed Forces. It is considered that the four now with the Claims Commission are most usefully employed where they are.

Pay (North Africa, Rate Of Exchange)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that, in consequence of the increase in prices in North Africa following upon the arrival of Allied troops, the policy of discouraging spending by the troops by reducing the rate of exchange, resulting in a loss to the soldier of 5s. or more per week, is creating some discontent; and whether consideration will be given to the desirability of a scheme of compulsory savings rather than a reduction in emoluments?

It is rather soon to say with any certainty what effect the recent change in the rate of exchange in North Africa has really had on the troops, and I have not yet heard of any complaints. The change can only affect the spending power of the troops in so far as they draw money to spend there, and I am informed that they have drawn legs than the normal amount of cash, doubtless because they find that the opportunities for spending money in North Africa are limited. The change has moreover been offset directly in two days. Soldiers now draw an increased rate of colonial allow- ance and the prices charged in N.A.A.F.I. canteens were in general reduced in proportion to and at the same time as the change in the rate of exchange. I am informed that a substantial number of voluntary allotments have been made and a number of Post Office Savings Bank deposits have been begun by troops in North Africa. I am not satisfied that any new scheme for compulsory savings is necessary.

Maternity Cases (Accommodation)

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that sufficient maternity homes exist to meet the requirements of the mothers ready to use them; and, if not, whether he is taking any steps to encourage their establishment?

I would refer to the reply given on 23rd February to my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). Steps are being taken to encourage the establishment of further maternity beds in London and in other places where they are urgently required.

Electricity Supplies, Essex

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the extent to which cheap electricity is available for the rural districts in Essex; and what additional steps are being taken to improve the supply?

I am afraid that there are no detailed statistics on the availability of cheap electricity supplies in the rural areas of Essex. If, however, my hon. and gallant Friend is seeking information about a particular area, I shall be glad to arrange for the Electricity Commissioners to investigate and make a report. As regards the last part of the Question, I would like to point out that the shortage of labour and materials restricts electricity development at the present time to purposes which are essential for the war effort.

Unemployment Benefit (Women Workers)

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the recommendation of the Select Committee on National Expenditure that, as a wartime measure, the woman worker insured against unemployment should be eligible for unemployment benefit for two months before confinement and for a suitable period thereafter; and whether he is now prepared to take steps to extend eligibility for unemployment benefit to all such workers for a period prior to, during, and after confinement, to be determined after consultation with the Minister of Health?

This suggestion is mentioned in paragraph 48 of the Committee's Third Report, Session 1942–3; the Committee make no recommendation on it. Unemployment benefit in such circumstances would not be appropriate as the qualifications for the receipt of that particular benefit would not be fulfilled: a claimant to unemployment benefit must be available for and capable of work in addition to being unemployed.

Food Supplies

National Milk Scheme (Institutions)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the reasons for withdrawing from corporation institutions in Scotland the arrangements existing since 1940 under the Milk (Extension and Amendment) Act, 1938; and whether, in view of the fact that a scale of necessitousness governs disbursements by such institutions and their claims for recovery, he will take steps to reintroduce the financial arrangements now interrupted by a recent memorandum from his Department?

The primary reason for including institutions in the national milk scheme was to enable them to obtain adequate supplies of milk at a time when these might not otherwise have been obtainable. The milk supply scheme, under which the distribution of milk is controlled generally, now secures to institutions their appropriate supplies and it is thus no longer necessary for this purpose to include them in the national milk scheme. As regards the second part of the Question, it is not considered that there are good reasons for providing institutions such as my hon. Friend refers to with milk at a reduced price or free of cost.

Sweets (Rationing)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether customers are buying up to their full permitted rations of sweets; and, if not, what becomes of the surplus?

The latest available figures indicate that consumers in the aggregate "spend" about 90 per cent. of the personal points available to them for the purchase of chocolate and sugar confectionery. Production and distribution are so adjusted as to ensure that there is no surplus of supplies.

Saccharin Tablets

asked the President of the Board of Trade the approximate amount of saccharin placed on the market in the last three months; and what has become of it since few shops have a supply?

I have been asked to reply. The wholesale distribution of saccharin tablets is not regulated by permit, and my Noble Friend has no information of the quantity of saccharin tablets placed on the market in the past three months. The amount of saccharin supplied to tablet manufacturers has, however, been sufficient to maintain a monthly distribution of about 700,000,000 tablets, or more than 25 times the pre-war distribution. There is no doubt a considerable unsatisfied demand for saccharin tablets, but as the raw material from which saccharin is made has other more essential uses it is not possible to contemplate any increase in production.

Potato Processing, Northern Ireland

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will give the number of potato factories now completed and in operation in Northern Ireland; the number in course of erection; and whether these factories will be in working order in time to deal with the remainder of the 1942 crop in the centres where they are placed?

Five potato factories are now operating in Northern Ireland. Four are in the course of erection. As far as can be foreseen, however, potato processing capacity in Northern Ireland is sufficient to deal with any surplus from the 1942 crop.

Cabbages (Prices)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what was the price paid for Cornwall and Devonshire cabbages; and what is the maximum price fixed for their retail sale in South Wales?

The prices paid for cabbages bought by my Department in Cornwall and Devon are the contract prices announced in the autumn as applicable to contracts in various counties throughout the country. They vary according to the month of delivery and according to whether the grower nominated the period of cutting or left the decision on this to the Ministry. The contract prices for cabbage cut at the option of my Department in February are for winter cabbage £20 per ton, for savoys £22 per ton, for spring cabbage £27 per ton. The corresponding maximum retail prices are 5d., 5½d. and 6½d. per lb.

Sea Lords (Service Afloat)

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty which of the Sea Lords of the Admiralty have served at sea in command during the present war?

The following Sea Lords have served afloat during this war: the Second Sea Lord, the Controller, the Fourth Sea Lord, the Fifth Sea Lord, the Vice Chief of the Naval Staff and the two Assistant Chiefs of the Naval Staff.

Government Departments

Ministry Of Health Staff (Welfare Officer)

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that a trained welfare officer, appointed in connection with evacuated staffs at Blackpool, recommended the appointment of a welfare officer to deal with certain problems; that his Ministry has appointed a typist who was, until recently, a junior clerk with no training in welfare work, to this post; that a welfare officer in his evacuation welfare centre at Blackpool, with university training and practical experience in welfare work, is now not fully employed and seeking other employment; and why this lady was not transferred to the aforesaid duties in Blackpool?

The officer who made the recommendation referred to, advisedly and after consultation with my right hon. Friend's chief welfare officer, did not suggest the appointment of a trained welfare officer for this purpose. The officer actually appointed had, as secretary of the Staff Side of the Departmental Whitley Council, considerable experience of staff problems and her appointment has the expressed approval of the majority of staff representatives. My right hon. Friend himself has taken a close personal interest in this matter and has every reason to believe that the lady whom he has appointed is well qualified to carry out the work entrusted to her. The latter parts of the Question do not arise.

Ministry Of Works Staff, Edinburgh

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works how many staff are employed at the Works and Planning Department, Edinburgh; and how many of those employed have experience in the building industry?

The total number of staff employed in the Ministry of Works, Edinburgh (excluding typists, messengers, park-keepers and industrial staff), is 338, of whom 197 have experience in the building industry.

Trade And Commerce

Search Warrants

asked the President of the Board of Trade for what reason there is incorporated in Article 3 of the Miscellaneous Goods (Prohibition of Manufacture and Supply) (No. 3) Order (Statutory Rules and Orders No. 149 of 1943), dated 30th January, 1943, powers of information and inspection identical with those in the Board of Trade (Information and Inspection) Order, 1943 (Statutory Rules and Orders No. 102 of 1943), dated 21st January, 1943?

The Miscellaneous Goods (Prohibition of Manufacture and Supply) (No. 3) Order, 1943, re-enacts, with certain modifications, the Miscellaneous Goods (Prohibition of Manufacture and Supply) Order, 1942. To omit the provisions referred to by my hon. Friend might have misled traders who were not aware of the Board of Trade (Information and Inspection) Order, 1943.

Kettles (Supplies, Cheltenham)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will take steps to secure in the Cheltenham area an increased supply of kettles of a reasonable size, to ensure economy of fuel, as there has been a shortage for a long period?

I have arranged for an investigation to be made this week into the supply of kettles in Cheltenham.

Towels And Tea-Cloths

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider allotting additional clothing coupons to householders, particularly small householders, who have anyone billeted on them, so as to enable them to replace their stock of household linen which, as the war continues, is not normally sufficient to meet the needs of their enlarged households?

No, Sir. As I informed my hon. and gallant Friend (the Member for Cambridge) on 10th November last, the only essential household goods subject to coupon are towels and tea cloths; and everyone who does not provide his own should take his turn to contribute a coupon or two when replacement is necessary.

Employment Register, Northleach

asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons registered for employment in the Northleach district on 31st December, 1942, showing the numbers separately of men, women, boys and girls?

Secondary And Technical Schools, Liverpool

asked the President of the Board of Education the number of secondary scholars in each of the secondary schools in Liverpool for the years 1937–38 to 1942–43, inclusive; the number of new entrants into each of the secondary schools for the years 1937–38 to 1942–43, inclusive; and the number of students at each of the technical and trade schools, including the central technical school, for the years 1937–38 to 1942–43, inclusive?

As the answer is long and statistical in form I am sending direct to the hon. Member the information for which he asks. In the case of technical institutions it is regretted that, owing to restriction of returns in war-time, figures are not available for individual schools. No figures are available for such institutions in respect of the year 1938–39.

Land Utilisation Committee, Scotland

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what reasons have now induced him to set up a Land Utilisation Committee in Scotland, in view of the previous refusal to appoint a similar committee so that the Scottish people might be informed about the nature and scope of the land problem in Scotland, in relation to the Report of the Scott Committee for England and Wales?

As my hon. Friend was informed on 17th November last it was not thought necessary to set up a Land Utilisation Committee on the lines of the committee for England and Wales over which Lord Justice Scott presided, I explained that such an inquiry would duplicate the work of the many Scottish committees already appointed to deal with subjects of vital importance to rural Scotland. I have set up the committee of which Lord Normand is chairman solely to ensure that any recommendations of the English committee, so far as applicable to Scottish conditions, are covered by the work of the Scottish committees I have mentioned, or otherwise.

National Finance

Purchase Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the number of persons now employed by the Government in the administration of the Purchase Tax and also the number of registered business concerns where Purchase Tax is charged?

While there is a small number of officers at headquarters, and a few at important centres, wholly engaged on the administration and collection of Purchase Tax, the general position remains that this work is being done by the staff of the Customs and Excise Department as part of their ordinary duties. The answer to the last part of the Question is, approximately 45,000.

Post-War Credits

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will consider arranging that no post-war credits should be issued to pensioners and others of 65 years or over, but that refunds of Income Tax should be made, in view of the possibility of their not living sufficiently long to enjoy the benefits of such credits?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to a similar Question by my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) on 19th January, of which I am sending him a copy.