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Commons Chamber

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 2nd March, 1943.

The House being met, the Clerk Assistant, at the Table, informed the House of the unavoidable absence through indisposition of Mr. SPEAKER from this day's Sitting. Whereupon Colonel CLIFTON BROWN, The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, proceeded to the Table, and, after Prayers, took the Chair as DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Oral Answers To Questions

Trade And Commerce

Red Cross Fur Sale (Coupons)

1.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that at a recent Red Cross fur sale the articles sold by auction only realised about half their true market value owing to the fact that the purchasers were compelled to surrender coupons; and whether, on the occasion of future sales of this nature, he will consider allowing the articles to be sold without the surrender of coupons in order that the Red Cross may benefit to the extent of the full market value?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas) on 2nd February.

Utility Furniture (Manufacturers' Licences)

2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that Messrs. Zinkins, of Mare Street, Hackney, who were fined for evading the Purchase Tax regulations, and Mr. H. Lazarus, of Stamford Hill, N., who was fined for failing to disclose foreign securities, have been granted licences for the manufacture of utility furniture; and whether he will give instructions for these licences to be revoked?

These two firms were selected for utility furniture production, after consultation with the trade associations and trade unions concerned, because they were leading manufacturers among those available in the East London area. I have given careful consideration to these two cases, but I am not prepared to revoke the licences for reasons which do not affect the efficiency of these firms as furniture manufacturers.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it right to give preferential treatment—for that is what it amounts to—to people who have been convicted of offences against the State in war-time?

I have already told the hon. Member that these selections were made after careful consultation with the trade interests concerned. We must have some manufacturers in this area. These two firms are said by my advisers, and by the trade associations concerned, to be good manufacturers.

Boy Scouts' Uniforms

3.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether in view of the excellent work done by the Scouts, he will permit them to buy uniforms free of coupons like other similar organisations?

I much appreciate the excellent work done by the Boy Scouts, but, as I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) on 9th December last, I regret that, owing to the ever increasing stringency of supplies, I am unable to agree to a coupon-free issue of these uniforms either to the Boy Scouts or to other similar organisations.

They are not discriminated against. The Boy Scouts in this respect are on the same footing as the Girls' Training Corps, the Girl Guides, the Church Lads' Brigade and all other voluntary organisations, as distinct from those sponsored by the Service Departments.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether it will be possible to give these youth organisations coupon-free uniforms which would be the property of the organisations, only issued on loan? That would go a long way to solving the difficulty.

I should like to make a concession, but I am up against the root fact that supplies are very short indeed, and, knowing, as I do, the moral purpose of the Boy Scout movement, I do not believe, if it is plainly put before them, they will have any sense of grievance.

Hire Purchase Order (Pianos)

4.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, whether the supplementary Press notice with regard to the scope of the Hire Purchase Order, which explained that pianofortes are exempted, was due to a mistake in the original Press notice or a proposed change in the Order?

No supplementary Press notice has been issued dealing with the position of pianos under the Hire Purchase (Control) Order, nor are pianos mentioned either in the Order or in the original Press notice. The supplementary Press notice was issued to correct a statement by a news agency that it was compulsory to sell perambulators by hire purchase.

Constructional Industries (Export Group)

5.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what results have accrued from the formation of the Export Group of constructional industries formed by his Department a year ago; whether satisfactory progress has yet been made; and what further steps he is taking to further British interests?

As my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, since the formation of this Export Group in August, 1940, the opportunities of undertaking constructional contracts overseas have been very limited. But, like other Export Groups, this Group will have a most important part to play in the expansion of export trade after the war. I am glad to say that they have already made some suggestions to my Department for post-war developments, and further discussions are to take place.

Has the Department refused any licences where this Group could have obtained business' abroad?

Discharged Service Men (Clothing Coupons)

6.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether arrangements can be made for the supply of clothing coupons to persons who are on leave from the Services awaiting discharge; and whether he is aware of the hardships involved at the present time where these facilities are not available?

Such arrangements are already in operation for the Navy and the Army. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air that, as members of the Royal Air Forte receive their discharge papers eight days before the actual date of discharge, there is no need in their case for similar arrangements.

Cotton Board

7.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the numbers of the staff of the Cotton Board; and the latest annual cost of the organisation?

The total number of staff of all grades employed by the Cotton Board is 151. The administrative expenses of the Board for the year ended 31st March, 1942, were £38,253.

British Overseas Cotton, Ltd

8.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement concerning the activities of British Overseas Cottons, Limited; and whether the accounts of this Company will be made available to the public?

The main function of British Overseas Cotton, Ltd., is to assist, in conjunction with the Cotton Control and the merchant interests, in the planned production of cloth for export. It arranges production of suitable cloths in bulk and resells, at cost, to merchants holding export quotas. Copies of the Company's annual profit and loss accounts will, I understand, be published shortly.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that this Company is being operated really in the best interests of the industry and that the best use is being made of the services of merchants and others, who are far more familiar with the problems of the industry than most people in the Control?

The Control is under the Minister of Supply. This Company is of special service to the smaller merchants, many of whom would not be able to export at all but for having their orders grouped together through the good offices of British Overseas Cottons, Ltd., which is performing a very valuable service to the smaller people.

Is it not a fact that this Company has made a very substantial loss? Cannot we have some figures about it?

Search Warrants

9.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an undertaking not to use the powers assumed by the Board under paragraph 2 of the Board of Trade (Information and Inspection) Order, 1943, S.R.O. 1943, No. 102, without notice to the principals of the trade or business against which they are invoked and unless something may have been done by or in relation to the carrying on of that trade or business which constitutes an offence against some Statute, Regulation or Order?

It is not intended under this Order that my officers should enter any premises without asking to see the person in charge; but I cannot give any undertaking to confine its use to cases in which an offence has been committed. As I explained to my hon. Friend on Tuesday last, the Order is not designed to detect crimes, but to assist the Board of Trade to carry out their day-to-day duties in relation to the general war-time control of industry.

Are we to understand the object is to introduce a new form of snooping?

No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman is constantly seeking to sow ill will between the Board of Trade and the trading community, but he is singularly unsuccessful. These visits are welcomed in the great majority of cases.

How can the right hon. Gentleman say that the traders welcome these visits, having regard to the fact that none have taken place?

12.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the occasions to date on which he has found it necessary to invoke the machinery of Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 102, of 1943?

In view of the welcome to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred does he not think there has been extraordinarily little co-operation in the exercise of these large powers on only one occasion?

No, Sir. This is one particular Order. We are not talking about other Orders.

Having regard to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has said these visits are welcomed, is he aware that the only one who has been visited has written me a most indignant letter?

Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that on the contrary to any welcome to this Order, all sober-minded traders who have considered it regard it as the most monstrous piece of Gestapo machinery his Department has yet introduced?

14.

asked the President of the Board of Trade for what reason an official of his Department sought to search the premises of Delaney & Son, Limited, 18, Tib Lane, Manchester 2?

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make about the forcible entry of a Board of Trade official into the premises of Delaney & Son, Limited, tailors, of Manchester?

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make upon the forcible entry of a Board of Trade official into the premises of Messrs. Delaney and Son, Manchester?

No officer of the Board of Trade has sought to search, or has forcibly entered, the premises referred to. An officer paid a routine visit to Mr. Delaney's shop recently to inspect his coupon records and give any advice he might require about the Consumer Rationing Order. Such visits are primarily intended to assist traders and are normally welcomed by them.

I have a full report of the visit that was paid and of what Mr. Delaney said. I do not want in any way to prejudice Mr. Delaney, but I would ask the hon. Lady to take it from me that Mr. Delaney had no ground whatever for complaint with regard to the interview.

Did Mr. Delaney refuse the request of the right hon. Gentleman's official?

No, Sir; Mr. Delaney and my official got on perfectly well together so far as the business about which the call was made was concerned. If I am pressed, I can give more statements about this matter, but it would not help Mr. Delaney, and I would much rather not do so.

Is it not a fact that Mr. Delaney refused admission to the official unless he was accompanied by a police officer and a search warrant?

Does that mean that the letter Mr. Delaney has written to me contains a series of untruths?

If he said that, it undoubtedly does, and if my hon. Friend will send it to me, I will have it examined.

Retail Traders (Licensing)

11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether it is his intention to give special powers to chambers of commerce in respect of the licensing of retail trades after the war; and, if so, what are they to be?

No decision has yet been taken by His Majesty's Government regarding post-war licensing of retail traders.

Do I understand that no arrangements have been made through the chamber of commerce or any other agent?

Towels

13.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that clubs and licensed houses holding a catering licence from the Ministry of Food are entitled to an issue of coupons for the purchase of towels, whereas clubs and licensed houses not holding such a licence do not receive coupons for this purpose; and whether he will take steps to remove this anomaly, in view of the large number of premises which do not hold such a licence but which use a considerable number of towels?

I regret that, owing to the shortage of supplies, I cannot at present make any provision of tea-towels for the use of clubs and licensed houses which are not licensed by the Ministry of Food as catering establishments. I shall review the matter again a little later in the light of the supplies then available.

15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is yet in a position to make any statement about the provision of towels for people whose occupational requirements necessitate an exceptionally heavy use of these?

Yes, Sir. In addition to the existing facilities for hospitals, I have now made arrangements to provide a special allowance of towels up to the end of December for factories and certain medical users. The factory allowance will be at the rate of four coupons for every 10 manual workers employed, with a further four coupons for every 10 engaged oh particularly dirty occupations. These towels are to be kept for communal use by those entitled to them. The allowance for doctors, district nurses, midwives, registered masseurs and veterinary surgeous will be at the basic rate of four coupons each, and for dentists and registered chiropodists at the basic rate of eight coupons each. Additional coupons will be issued to doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons with exceptional needs. I propose also to make a special allowance for dairy farms and certain food trades. Details of this are under discussion. I regret that I cannot see my way at present to make any other special allowances.

Production of towels is limited by the need to conserve shipping space, cotton and labour, and these special allowances will absorb no less than one-fifth of the maximum production likely to be available for the civil population. In view of the shortage of supplies, I earnestly hope that those who become entitled to these allowances will not apply for them until their need is really urgent. By deferring their applications they will help to ease the strain on supplies.

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to extend the concession to the hairdressing trade, as thousands of hairdressers are having to refuse head-cleansing treatment, as a consequence of which there is a serious danger to public health?

I have had the hairdressers very much under consideration with regard to this. If my hon. Friend would like to see me, I shall be glad to have a talk with him.

British Army

Beveridge Report (Army Bureau Of Current Affairs)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is now his intention to include the subject of the Beveridge Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services in the syllabus of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs together with the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate in Parliament on this scheme?

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War how soon he anticipates that the revised version of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs Beveridge bulletin will be distributed; whether it will contain an objective summary of the original Beveridge proposals as well as a statement of the Government's intentions; and whether copies of it will be placed in the Library so that hon. Members may have the opportunity of comparing it with the former version?

At the moment I have nothing to add to the reply I gave last Tuesday to my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White).

In view of the fact that Sir William Beveridge was invited by the Government to send in a Report, will the right hon. Gentleman consider inviting him to give talks to those in the Army Department who are responsible for A.B.C.A.? Can he say whether this will also apply to the Beveridge talks to the troops overseas?

Is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman at least to answer the last part of Question 24?

I have learned since the hon. Member raised the question about this particular issue of "Current Affairs" that from the beginning issues of "Current Affairs" have been placed in the Library of the House.

Will the Minister consider sending the Tory opponents of the Beveridge plan to visit the camps so that soldiers can see what they are up against?

When does the right hon. Gentleman think he will be in a position to make a statement?

Pay (Savings)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War why it is forbidden to soldiers, having other sources of income, to put the whole of their Army pay into Army savings through the Post Office?

There is no rule forbidding a soldier to give a standing order to invest the whole of his pay in the Post Office Savings Bank. In view of the possibility of charges against his account—say for the loss of kit—it is, however, desirable that the standing order should be limited to a proportion only of his pay. There is nothing to prevent a soldier from investing all the pay he draws after any deductions have been made either in the Post Office, in National Savings Stamps or National Savings Certificates. Soldiers are encouraged to save as much as possible.

Hospital Suits

22.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction of soldiers in hospital with the absence of suitability in the hospital suits they are given; and whether, when such soldiers are able to visit friends, they will be permitted to wear their uniform or given suits which come near fitting them?

The distinctive dress which must be worn by soldiers who are patients in hospital ensures in a simple and practical way that they can always be identified as such. The range of sizes of the dress available at a hospital should normally enable every patient to wear a suit which fits him reasonably well and I am not aware of any complaints about this.

Is the Minister aware that many soldiers who want to appear smart and orderly when they go out on leave hesitate to avail themselves of passes from hospitals because they are forced to go out in sloppy dresses which would fit somebody twice their size? Could he not have this readjusted so that the soldier's sense of fitness can be accommodated when he goes out on leave?

If my hon. Friend knows of cases at any particular hospital where a large proportion of the dresses are misfits I shall be glad to consider them, but I do rot believe there are very many of them.

Cobbler, Coseley (Application For Release)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered the petition from citizens of Walbrook, Coseley, posted on 13th February, requesting the release from military duties of its only cobbler; and has he any statement to make?

A report has been called for. As soon as it is received, I will communicate with my hon. Friend.

Leave (Middle East)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that a number of officers have returned from the Middle East for various reasons, he will make arrangements to have a certain number of non-commissioned officers and men sent home each year from every battalion in the Middle East, to be chosen by their commanding officers as a reward for good service?

It is necessary from time to time to bring home a few officers from the Middle East in order to give the Army at home the benefit of their experience of active operations. Occasionally it is possible to bring individuals home for other reasons. I gave a brief outline of the arrangements for such transfers in an answer to my hon. Friends the Members for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and East Fulham (Mr. Astor) on 8th December, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy. I fear that the shipping situation and operational needs do not enable any more extensive scheme for bringing officers and men home to be introduced at the present time.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that to some of the soldiers M.E.F. stands for "Men England Forgets" and that this proposal would do a great deal to destroy that illusion?

Yes, Sir, and I have not the slightest doubt that this is one of the things which render it extremely desirable to have more shipping.

Is not the reason why some of these officers are brought home that they want to see their relatives and for no other purpose?

I do not know of any, and if the hon. Gentleman can give me instances, I shall be glad to investigate them.

Has my right hon. Friend gone into the whole question of priority passages, and cannot some of these be cut down so as to give the men referred to in the Question an opportunity of coming home?

I do not think that that arises, because at the moment there is a large back lag even in the priority passages.

Casualties (Unofficial Telegrams)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that there is normally no serious congestion in the telegraph facilities between the Middle East and England, he will consider relaxing the rule regarding personal communication to relatives in all cases except that of missing persons whose fate may still be under investigation?

As I have already explained, the rule referred to was introduced at his own discretion by the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and I do not propose to interfere with it. The governing consideration was the avoidance of distress and disappointment arising from the premature communication of unverified and sometimes unreliable information. The pressure on means of communication is a secondary consideration at the present time, but it may become a serious matter in times of heavy fighting when casualties are numerous.

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman shifts his ground for refusal every time I ask him this Question, may I ask whether he is aware that the ground he gives of worry in a case which is still uncertain is explicitly excluded from the proposal I put in this Question?

What is it to do with the Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East as to whether relatives in this country are caused distress?

The Commander-in-Chief is in control of the operations and also of the administration connected with them.

Why does that make him responsible for any distress that might be caused to relatives in this country?

The Commander-in-Chief is responsible not only for operations but for the morale of the troops in the Middle East and, that being so, I propose to take his advice on the matter.

Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Commander-in-Chief on this proposal, and has he taken his advice?

Why does the tight hon. Gentleman quote the Commander-in-Chief when he has not consulted him?

British Prisoners Of War

29.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the Imperial Prisoners of War Inter-departmental Committee, presided over by the Financial Secretary, is still in existence, the names of the members of the Committee and the dates on which it has met during the last six months?

The Imperial Prisoners of War Committee is still in existence. I have recently taken over myself the chairmanship from the Financial Secretary. The members of the Committee are the High Commissioners of the Dominions and a representative of the Secretary of State for India. It has met twice during the last six months, on 26th August, 1942, and on 3rd February, 1943. Its subcommittees, on which the Dominions are represented, meet at far more frequent intervals and deal with all questions on which reference to the Main Committee is not considered essential.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether this Committee sits with the knowledge of the War Cabinet?

30.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, when the lists of prisoners of war are released to the British Red Cross Society, he will at the same time see that similar lists are filed with the Prisoners of War Relatives Association in order that the quickest possible contact may be made by these responsible organisations with the relatives?

No, Sir. I regret that the facilities referred to cannot be extended to the voluntary organisations interested in prisoners of war other than the War Organisation of the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John, which is recognised as performing essential functions in relation to British prisoners of war.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply is a very bad psychological one? Will he not consider allowing this suggested arrangement in areas where the Red Cross Society is not functioning, so that relatives would be able to have the information at the earliest possible opportunity? Why does he make this discrimination?

I was very well aware from the prolonged earlier discussions I have had with the hon. Lady that my reply would not be regarded as satisfactory by her.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my previous discussions had nothing at all to do with this point? Will he start on terms of equality with me?

Scotland

Hill Cattle Subsidy

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is now in a position to state that the disparity existing between the hill cattle subsidy schemes of Scotland and England has been removed?

Proposals are under consideration for bringing the Scottish scheme in some respects more closely into line with that proposed for England, and I hope to be able on an early date to announce what the modifications will be. I would, however, repeat what I said in reply to my hon. Friend's Question on 2nd February, that it is by no means clear that the differences between the two schemes are on balance disadvantageous to the Scottish farmer.

Public Assistance

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether it is proposed to revise the present scales of public assistance, in the light of the increase in the cost of living?

The amount of assistance is fixed by the local authority, subject to the right of the applicant to complain to the Department of Health if he is dissatisfied with the amount or nature of the assistance offered to him. I am advised that most, if not all, local authorities take into account changes in the cost of living in fixing the amount of public assistance to be granted.

Will my right hon. Friend review the scales of local authorities, particularly those for married couples, in order to ensure that there is no case in which a local authority in Scotland is paying a rate which is below subsistence level?

As my hon. Friend is well aware, scales of relief are not recognised by the Poor Law. Many local authorities do, however, for their own convenience, fix local scales, and these scales are generally revised from time to time in accordance with the cost of living.

Will my right hon. Friend satisfy himself that in every case the rates paid are reasonable, and communicate with the local authority in any case where he thinks they are not making a reasonable payment?

As I have repeatedly informed the hon. Member, the Poor Law recognises no scales of relief whatever, and if he will give me particulars of any case in which a local authority pays unduly low amounts, I will look into it.

Railways

Armed Forces (Leave Trains)

34.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will consider the running of more trains reserved for members of His Majesty's Forces on leave?

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

Machinery already exists through which additional leave trains are arranged when the number of Service personnel travelling regularly between given points justifies that course.

Will the hon. Member consider allowing private soldiers and non-commissioned officers to sit in first-class compartments when the third-class are overcrowded?

Scheduled Times

35.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that many main line trains are unable to keep to their scheduled time for obvious reasons; and whether he will consider the re-scheduling of such trains?

The schedules for passenger trains and regular freight trains are drawn up with the object of ensuring the maximum use of locomotives and track capacity, and of providing connections with other services. They are based on timings which the railway authorities can reasonably hope to maintain and which, in fact, are normally maintained. Delays inevitably result from various causes, including, in particular, the provision of special service trains, of which large numbers are required every day. If a train were regularly the same amount behind schedule, at each point on its journey, it would obviously be desirable to alter its timing, but in practice this rarely happens. As I have said, delay occurs for different reasons; it occurs at different places, and varies in extent from day to day; it does not, therefore, provide a good reason for a general slowing-up of the main line schedules.

Unnecessary Travel

36.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is satisfied with the results of his Department's slogan "Is your journey really necessary?" and whether he intends to take further steps to restrict unnecessary civilian travel on the railways?

The slogan "Is your journey really necessary?" was originally introduced by the railway companies, to whom is due much of the credit for the considerable success which it has had. My Ministry have examined various proposals for the further compulsory restriction or rationing of railway travel. To be effective, however, these proposals would all require a complicated organisation, which would make demands on man-power out of all proportion to the benefit which would accrue. I am, therefore, grateful to my hon. Friend for this opportunity of saying that it will be more important this year than ever before that passengers should only travel by rail when they are certain that it is essential for them to do so.

Does not my hon. Friend think that the time has arrived when the whole question of railway travel ought to be inquired into again, both in the interests of the railway workers, particularly engine drivers and firemen, and in the interests of those who have to travel, particularly Service people on leave?

I fully agree with my hon. Friend about the great strain on train crews, and, indeed, on the whole railway system at the present time, but we have taken a number of measures, as, for example, the withdrawal of cheap day tickets, to reduce non-essential traffic, and they have had considerable success. Rationing is an extremely difficult proposition, and we are satisfied that if Herr Hitler has not been able to solve it, it will be very difficult for us to do so.

Was one of the steps, among others which the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned, the raising of fares by 68 per cent. for people who have to travel in the ordinary way of business?

I am considering a special case which my hon. Friend has put to me about the raising of fares.

May I ask whether generals of high position travel alone in first-class compartments and admirals do not?

Transport Of Flowers Order (Availability To Members)

43.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Emergency Powers (Defence) Railways (Transport of Flowers) Order, No. 232, of 1943, which was signed on 13th February and came into force on 16th February, was not available in the Library of the House of Commons up to midnight on 23rd February; that there were not available in the Library any of the Statutory Rules and Orders between Nos. 163 and 232; that at least six persons have been arrested and prosecuted under the provisions of Order No. 232 before it was available in the Library of this House; and whether he will give instructions that no proceedings will be taken under any Order in future before it has been made available to hon. Members?

Arrangements have recently been made whereby new Statutory Rules and. Orders are supplied to the Library of the House daily instead of once a week. The new arrangements were put into operation on 22nd February, on which day Order No. 232 was available in the Library. In future, the Orders will be available as soon as they are printed, and no such instruction as that suggested by my hon. Friend will therefore be required.

On whose authority does the right hon. Gentleman make the statement that the document was put in the Library on the 22nd? I was in the Library at midnight on the 23rd, searching the volume in which it was supposed to be, and I found that it was not there.

If hon. Members put down Questions based on accurate information, is it not the duty of Ministers to make sure that their answers are equally accurate?

Of my own knowledge, because with my own eyes I looked through the files several times, I state that the document was not there. Why does the Minister now tell me that it was there?

Factory Workers' Eyesight (Protection)

38.

asked the Minister of Labour what special steps are being taken in Royal Ordnance factories for the protection of the eyesight of workers; and whether, where required, similar schemes are being extended throughout the war industries of the country?

The main provisions for the protection of the eyesight of workpeople in factories are the requirements that lighting shall be sufficient and suitable and that where a process involves a special risk of injury to eyes from flying fragments or other hazards suitable goggles or effective screens must be provided. These requirements apply to all factories, including Royal Ordnance factories.

Cattle (Grading System)

40.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will examine and, if necessary, revise the present price structure for high-grade beef, with a view to encouraging the production and facilitating the preservation of pedigree stock in Scotland?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the second part of the reply which I gave on 4th February to a similar Question asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kincardine and Western (Major Thornton-Kemsley).

Is this matter still under consideration by His Majesty's Government, or is it finally closed?

Beveridge Report (Government's Attitude)

44.

asked the Prime Minister how soon the Government will be able to make a further statement of their attitude to the Beveridge Report?

It is too soon for the Government to say when they will be able to make a further statement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is very deep concern and anxiety in the country and the Forces at the Government's apparent surrender to the Prudential? Will he expedite this reconsideration, in view of the promise given by the Lord President of the Council?

Do the Government expect to make a statement within the next few months? May we have an answer to the question? Is not this important?

I should have thought my answer was quite adequate. I said that the Government were not prepared to make it at the moment. I cannot tie myself down to one or two months.

War Cabinet

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the increasing burdens involved in the central direction of the war effort, he will consider the setting-up of a small War Cabinet of Ministers, freed from the running of large Departments, in order that they may devote their whole time to a wider share in, and increased responsibility for, the problems of strategy and war policy?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) on 15th October last.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that it is possible for five Members of the War Cabinet to run one and sometimes two large Departments at the same time and be able to attend to their duties as Cabinet Ministers? Is it not time we had a full-time and not a part-time War Cabinet?

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the time to which he has referred the Prime Minister said that he would probably refer to the matter later in the Debate and that, unfortunately, the Prime Minister forgot to do so?

I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend's recollection is correct. The answer which the Prime Minister gave was:

"Yes, Sir. I am opposed to such an arrangement for reasons which I have fully explained to the House. But another Government might take a different view."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th October, 1942; col. 1762, Vol. 383.]
There was no allusion to another Debate.

Do we gather from the reply of the right hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister, like his predecessor, is a Unitarian and does not believe in triumvirates or "tangled Trinities"?

Is it not time that we had a full-time War Cabinet or Council of State, in order to take some of the responsibility off the shoulders of one man?

Army And Air Co-Operation

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Captain C. S. TAYLOR:

46. To ask the Prime Minister whether any members of the Staff responsible for the planning of an operation of which he has been informed, were attached to the Eighth Army in order to study the successful methods of Army and Air co-operation that have been practised by the Eighth Army?

Before the Question is answered, I would explain that the operations referred to in the Question are those of the First Army in North Africa.

No, Sir, but General Eisenhower and his Staff who carried out the detailed planning of this operation had before them at every stage all the available information and the advice of officers with practical experience of Army and Air co-operation in the Middle East.

Am I to infer from that answer that no members of the staff of the First Army were sent out to the Eighth Army to gain from the experience of the Eighth Army in air co-operation?

I think the answer is quite clear. Members of the staff responsible for planning whether attached to the Eighth Army or with General Eisenhower's staff, had the advantage of all the available information and advice of officers with practical experience of Army and Air co-operation in the Middle East.

Was there not one person from the First Army attached to the Eighth Army? Was there not one?

National Finance

Salaried Employees (Income Tax)

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that a salaried employee with £419 per annum receives benefits from the National Health Insurance, including the free services of a panel doctor, whereas an employee with a salary of £421 per annum is not only excluded from these benefits but is unable to claim medical expenses as a deduction from his Income Tax assessment; and whether he will make a concession with regard to such deduction?

I am afraid that I cannot see my way to adopt the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend.

Wages (Income Tax Deductions)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that James Douglas, of 2, McDowall Street, Paisley, has recently been compulsorily transferred from a naval torpedo factory to a shipbuilding yard at a loss of wages amounting to about £3 per week; that Income Tax of £1 8s. 8d. per week has to be deducted from his reduced wages; and whether he will give special consideration to this case with a view to reducing this burden?

I would remind my hon. Friend that the rules governing the deduction of Income Tax from wages provide that the week's wages shall not be reduced by deduction of tax below £2 for a single man, £3 for a married man, £4 for a married man with one child and £5 for a married man with two or more children. The effect of these rules, where the limits come into operation, is to spread payment of the tax over a longer period and thus to prevent hardship.

If I show the right hon. Gentleman proof that on Friday night certain engineers went home from their work with only £1 11s. 2d., what action would he be prepared to take?

If I produce the pay dockets, what will the right hon. Gentleman do? I want to know what action he would take.

If my hon. Friend will send me the case, I will look into it willingly.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider between now and his next Budget the possibility of a new basis of taxation on workmen's wages and not lose sight of the fact that great dissatisfaction is caused when tax is levied on past income?

Of course, I will consider anything which my hon. Friend desires, but that matter has been very carefully considered during the last 12 months.

Is it not true that I warned the right hon. Gentleman a year ago about the trouble which was going on in the shipbuilding and engineering industry, and which is still going on and has resulted in the present situation, and that nothing has been done?

War Damage (Payments)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, where property has been completely demolished by enemy action, he will approve half-yearly payment to owners in needy circumstances of the interest on the total amount due to them at the end of hostilities under the War Damage Act?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) on 18th February last.

Does not my right hon. Friend appreciate the distressing circumstances of many elderly people as a result of enemy action of this kind which often deprives them of their sole source of income?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will refer to the Debate which took place on 3rd June last year.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman consider making a more considered statement in order to meet the practical difficulties of these cases?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on the previous occasion.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is very real hardship, and is he not going to do something to see that the injustices are put right?

Requisitioned Premises (Re-Erected Machinery)

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will pay the cost of re-erection of machinery on the original site in cases where premises have been requisitioned and the machinery re-erected elsewhere at public expense to fulfil Government contracts?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 14th October last to the hon. Member for Pudsey and Otley (Sir Granville Gibson), of which I am sending him a copy.

As that answer is no more satisfactory than it was the last time this Question was put, when the same answer was given, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Tithe Redemption (Interest On Arrears)

52.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that the Tithe Redemption Commission mistakenly withheld the payment of some £62 per year for four years from the Archdeacon Johnson's Foundation Charity, Oakham and Uppingham, upon the alleged grounds of a possible liability to Land Tax, which was finally found not to exist; that if reasonable care had been taken this could have been discovered in the first year; that, as a result of this underpayment, the charity was unable to carry out its full obligations, with resultant hardship to the aged poor of the county of Rutland; and whether he will direct that the sum of £33 11s. 6d., representing interest at three per cent. on the sums withheld from the due dates, shall be paid to the said charity?

I have inquired into this case and am satisfied that the amount of interest withheld was a proper precaution against overpayment. I regret that full payment could not be made earlier, but this was one of the last of a great number of cases where the facts relating to Land Tax had to be ascertained. The Tithe Act provides for the payment of arrears of interest, and these have been paid; but there is no authority in the Act for payment of interest on these arrears.

If the Tithe Commissioners have retained this money for four years, has it not earned interest in their bank account, and why could not that income be paid over to this charity?

I have explained to the hon. Gentleman that there is no authority for doing so under the Act.

War Criminals (Punishment)

54.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in the statements made by His Majesty's Government regarding the punishment of enemy subjects guilty in this war of crimes against humanity, regard was paid to the possibility that these individuals may flee to neutral States; and whether the Governments of these States have been warned that the Allies will not tolerate such evasion?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) on 19th January last.

Can my right hon. Friend hold out any strong hope that we shall be more successful in hanging Hitler and Goering than we were in hanging the Kaiser?

Home Helps

56.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied with the response from local authorities to Circular 2729 in connection with the provision of home helps?

My right hon. Friend knows that many local authorities are doing all that is possible to provide a service of home helps, but he has heard from several districts of the extreme difficulty experienced in finding a sufficient number of the right women able and willing to undertake this work.

Is there a sufficient number of personnel to ensure that the scheme operates in the rural areas? May I also ask whether it is possible to employ home helps for the pre-natal period as well as the post-natal period?

As to the number of personnel available, that question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service. As my hon. Friend is aware, in this circular local authorities were asked if they could not provide the number of home helps required, to communicate with the local office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service. My hon. Friend will agree with me that there is a great shortage of domestic workers. That matter should be taken up with the Ministry of Labour and National Service.

Should not these helps be employed for the pre-natal as well as the post-natal period?

I think that these cases have to be judged on their merits where actual help is required. I do not think I can go further than that.

Is there any liaison between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour? What is the procedure for one Department knowing what the other is doing?

I think that one Department in this case does know what the other is doing, but my hon. Friend will agree that the fact of knowing has not led to the production of enough of the domestic workers required. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is in communication with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service. Local authorities have been asked to state their needs to the local office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service.

Is not the shortage due to the fact that most domestic workers are consistently underpaid?

Local Authorities' Houses (Sash Cords)

57.

asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the judgment of the House of Lords overruling the previous decision that a broken sash-cord in the window of a front bedroom in a two-bedroom house rendered the house not in all respects reasonably fit for habitation; and, as this judgment will have serious repercussions upon the obligations of local authorities responsible for the maintenance and letting of council houses, what does he intend doing about the matter?

My right hon. Friend has seen reports of the case referred to by my hon. Friend and has noted the interpretation given by the courts of the obligations imposed by Section 2 (1) of the Housing Act, 1936, on local authorities, in common with other landlords who let small houses. My right hon. Friend cannot accept the implication in the second part of the Question, and, as at present advised, he is not prepared to introduce legislation which would limit the safeguards to tenants conferred by the Section as it now stands.

Orders Of The Day

Supply

Considered in Committee.

[Major MILNER in the Chair.]

Civil Estimates, Supplementary Estimate, 1942

Class Ii

Diplomatic And Consular Services

Resolved,

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £93,800, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the expenses in connection with His Majesty's Embassies, Missions and Consular Esctablishments Abroad, and other expenses chargeable to the Consular Vote; certain special grants and, payments, including grants in aid; and sundry other services."

Class V

Old Age Pensions

Resolved,

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £600,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for Old Age Pensions, pensions to blind persons, and for certain administrative expenses in connection therewith."

Class I

Ministry Of Town And Country Planning

Resolved,

"That a sum, not exceeding £18,086, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning."

Resolutions to be reported upon the next Sitting Day; Committee to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.

Report 11Th February

Resolutions reported:

Civil Estimates, Supplementary Estimate, 1942

Class Ii

Colonial And Middle Eastern Services

1."That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10,273,650, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for sundry Colonial and Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain non-effective services and grants in aid."

Class Vi

Ministry Of Agriculture And Fisheries

2."That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,010,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including grants, grants in aid and expenses in respect of agricultural education and research, eradication of diseases of animals, and improvement of breeding, &c., of live stock, land settlement, improvement of cultivation, drainage, &c., regulation of agricultural wages, agricultural credits, and marketing; fishery organisation, research and development, control of diseases of fish, &c.; and sundry other services including certain remanet subsidy payments."

State Management Districts

3. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the State Management Districts, including the salaries of the central office, and the cost of provision and management of licensed premises."

Class X

Ministry Of Production

4. "That a sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge that will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Production."

Class I

Treasury And Subordinate Departments

5. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £5,291, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and other expenses in the Department of His Majesty's Treasury and Subordinate Departments, and the salaries and expenses of a Minister without Portfolio, a Minister of State, a Deputy Minister of State and the Ministers Resident in West Africa and at Allied Headquarters in North-West Africa."

Miscellaneous Expenses

6. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for certain miscellaneous expenses, including certain grants in aid."

Class X

Ministry Of Agriculture And Fisheries (War Services)

7. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1943, for the cost of the war services of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries."

Ministry Of Aircraft Production

8. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Aircraft Production."

Ministry Of Health (War Services)

9. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1943, for the cost of the war services of the Ministry of Health."

Ministry Of Home Security

10. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Home Security."

Ministry Of Fuel And Power

11. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Fuel and Power."

Ministry Of Supply

12. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Supply, including the expenses of the Royal Ordnance Factories.

Ministry Of War Transport

13. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of War Transport."

Ministry Of Works And Planning (War Services)

14. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1943, for the cost of the war services of the Ministry of Works and Planning."

Resolutions agreed to.

War Damage (Amendment) Money

Resolution reported:

"That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend sub-section (1) of section four of the War Damage Act, 1941, and to make consequential amendments, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase in the sums authorised to be paid out of such moneys by section fifty-four of the said Act of 1941 attributable to any provision of the said Act of the present Session requiring the question whether a payment in respect of any war damage (whether occurring before or after the passing of the said Act of the present Session) is to be a payment of cost of works or a value payment to be determined by reference to prices current at the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine."

Resolution agreed to.

War Damage (Amendment) Bill

Considered in Committee.

[Colonel CLIFTON BROWN in the Chair.]

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2—(Minor Amendments As To Rentcharges)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Do you propose, Colonel Clifton Brown, to call the Amendment standing in my name, dealing with properties partly repaired by local authorities?

No, the Amendment is outside the scope of the Bill, so I do not propose to call it.

On the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," could I ask the Financial Secretary whether anything could be done administratively to clear up the difficulty for dealing with which the Amendment is designed? The principle is a simple one. It has been laid down in the principal Act that the first £5 of damage——

On the Motion "That the Clause stand part," the hon. Member cannot discuss what is outside the scope of the Bill.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

On a point of Order. There is a new Clause on the Paper in my name and that of some of my hon. Friends dealing with compensation and repairs. Do you propose to call it, Colonel Clifton Brown?

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.

Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Money

Resolution reported:

"That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the law relating to agriculture, agricultural land and the drainage of land, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such additional Exchequer contributions and grants, and such additional expenses of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretary of State, as may become payable by virtue of provisions of the said Act, whether retrospective or not,—
  • (a) increasing the maximum amount of Exchequer contributions under section one of the Agriculture Act, 1937, towards purchases of lime;
  • (b) extending section fifteen of the Agriculture Act, 1937, to grants towards expenditure incurred by a drainage authority after the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and forty-four;
  • (c) extending the definition of agricultural land for the purposes of Part III and section twenty-nine of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1940, and the Land Drainage (Scotland) Act, 1941;
  • (d) extending the powers as to drainage schemes under section fourteen of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940, and under that section as set out in the First Schedule to the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1941;
  • (e) empowering the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretary of State to acquire:—
  • (i) land for drainage works;
  • (ii) land which was in the same ownership as land acquired under section nine of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1941;
  • (f) providing for the control of artificial insemination of animals."
  • Resolution agreed to.

    Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

    Considered in Committee.

    [Major MILNER in the Chair.]

    Clauses 1 to 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 4—(Extension Of Powers As To Drainage Schemes)

    I beg to move, in page 4, line 1, to leave out Sub-section (7).

    Those associated with this Amendment have no desire to hamper or to restrict the Minister in the work he has undertaken. The Committee will agree that it is the duty of the Minister, in the national interest, to bring under cultivation or into economic use every possible acre of land. That is no easy task. In a public declaration just before the war, the Labour Party called attention to the very backward state of the industry and to the grave difficulties which had arisen through the inability of owner-occupiers to provide the capital to carry on efficiently. Land, said the statement, was often waterlogged, water supplies were inefficient and soil deteriorating, and there was widespread under-farming. Some may think that picture somewhat over-coloured, but Lord Portsmouth, in "The Times" on Friday, wrote:
    "There are thousands of acres of alluvial land in my own county where water cannot flow off the land, as the river level during the crucial months is higher than that of the meadow drains leading back to the river."
    Lord Portsmouth goes on to advocate catchment board control. This state of things should not continue. It is a duty which we owe to our seamen that every acre shall be brought under cultivation or under economic use. But the responsibility, I submit, with respect, is a national one. Clause 4, Sub-section (7), places part of the responsibility of financing these very necessary schemes on the catchment boards. The Committee will be aware that catchment boards, set up under the Land Drainage Act, 1930, have, broadly speaking, no funds of their own. They are precepting authorities. While, of course, it is true that the Minister may make loans to a catchment board, those loans have to be repaid at some stage or other. The position, as I see it, is this—I am sure the Committee will forgive me for saying that I have not yet mastered the technique of Parliamentary draftsmanship, and this Bill is somewhat difficult to understand. [An HON. MEMBER: "They all are."] That I shall probably learn as time goes on. As I understand the Bill, if the catchment board desires to make a grant towards an approved scheme, 50 per cent. of the cost of the approved scheme will be met from Government funds, and the balance recovered by the catchment board from the local authorities within the area of the catchment board.

    We therefore have this very curious position. Agricultural land, as the Committee is aware, is de-rated as a result of the Local Government Act, 1929, and will not, when it is improved, make any contribution at all towards the local rates. Industrial undertakings are de-rated under the same Act up to 75 per cent. of the local rates and therefore—and I speak subject to correction—the cost of the contribution made by the catchment boards to these very necessary and desirable schemes will in the long run have to be met by the non-industrial undertakings and the ordinary ratepayers within the area of the catchment board. The agricultural industry perhaps has been sacrificed to an industrial economy, but I feel sure that the agricultural interest will not like and do not desire the cost of these schemes to be borne by ordinary working men and women out of local rates. But the Minister may say that so far as the cost is concerned, spread over a county and the county boroughs, the individual contribution of the local ratepayers would be very trivial. If that defence is put forward it will be something like the defence of the servant girl who speaking of her baby pleaded to be forgiven on the ground that it was only a very small one. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will see the justice of the case I am putting forward.

    There is one further point. May I ask the Minister whether it is proposed to retain the limit of the product of a twopenny rate which is the limit of the precepting authority of the catchment board under the Land Drainage Act, 1930? If it is proposed to retain the limit, a catchment board, which has been efficient, has carried out its work properly and spent up to the limit of its twopenny rate, will be unable to make any contribution unless the Minister advances the money. There may be land within a catchment board area which requires attention and for which a draft scheme may be brought forward. Therefore if the Minister cannot agree at this stage to the deletion of the Clause from the Bill, will he agree at a later stage to take out the words to which I have called attention which give authority to a catchment board to make contributions out of their funds to a scheme, and accept the responsibility nationally for carrying out this very desirable work?

    The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture
    (Mr. Tom Williams)

    I ought, at the outset, to say to my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) that we entirely agree with all his references to the necessity for draining the land of this country. It has been one of those things neglected on the part of our nation, and it has required a war almost to give it the necessary fillip. But the Amendment he now moves to delete Subsection (7) of Clause 4 is a very small matter, and I hope that I shall be able to satisfy him in two minutes that it is not nearly as large as perhaps he originally thought. This Sub-section is purely permissive. Only when a catchment board feel, with all their knowledge, that the scheme to which they make a grant is a scheme that will be of benefit to themselves would any grant be made.

    This Sub-section and these schemes do not apply to reclamation schemes which are being carried out by the Minister, through his agents in all parts of the country. The Sub-section applies only to schemes which are carried out by the catchment boards themselves under Sec- tion 14 of the 1940 Act. Therefore, the only possible circumstances where a catchment board may wish to make a grant—and only they themselves can decide whether they shall make a grant or not—would be when they themselves have carried out a scheme and they feel that the work they have accomplished will have a beneficial effect upon their main river, or that it might save the catchment board money on any subsequent schemes; and even then it is only where the catchment board feel that they may make such a grant that any grant can be made. I can tell my hon. Friend and the Members of the Committee that the number of cases where a catchment board would make a grant to such a scheme would be very few indeed. So far we only have in mind two such cases, and my hon. Friend can take it from me that the catchment boards are so careful in disposing of their funds, collected rightly, as he suggests, in many cases from urban dwellers, that they will not unduly give away money collected from districts of that description. The fact that it is merely a permissive power means that it will be used very rarely indeed, and only when the catchment board feel that the work they have carried out will help their main river will such a grant be given. I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment. As to the question he put about the twopenny rate, there is no idea at the moment at all events of affecting the maximum of the twopenny rate which a catchment board can spend at present. In these circumstances, I hope that my hon. Friend will feel disposed not to press the Amendment.

    I rather regret the somewhat apologetic tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary. I hoped that he was going to rebut what the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) had said. Why on earth should not the urban ratepayer pay towards the cost of producing food at the present time? This is now a beleaguered island, where every inch of ground is required for the cultivation of food, and, instead of using apologetic terms, should it not be said that the urban dweller as well as the rural dweller should contribute to the cost of producing food?

    The Noble Lord should appreciate that it would hardly help catchment boards to exercise such generosity as they felt disposed to do if words such as he suggests were uttered by a person standing at this Box. The catchment boards are only responsible for dealing with the main channel. The areas referred to in this Sub-section are areas that may be remote from the main channels in the sense that the responsible persons are either the local drainage committee, where one is in existence, or the owners of the land locally. Where the catchment board feel that they might make a contribution, we think they ought to be permitted to do so, but in the last analysis it clearly is the right and privilege of the catchment board to go into the particular circumstances of the case.

    I admit that my language may have been unfortunate, but what I wished to do was to get a rebuttal of the idea, which is far too common in this House and in this country, that at the present time of great emergency the urban ratepayer and taxpayer should not make every contribution he can, even beyond what he would reasonably do, towards the cost of producing food in this country.

    It seems to be assumed by the Mover of the Amendment, and also by the Noble Lord, that the only source of income of the catchment board is the twopenny rate, placed more or less upon urban people, but is it not the case that they have another source of income, which is the land in the internal drainage districts? It is taxed in order to maintain the funds of the catchment board, and in that case the land itself is paying a contribution.

    In view of the explanation which has been given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move, in page 4, line 35, at the end, to add:

    "(11) Where the landlord of an agricultural holding has become liable to pay any sum in respect of the holding, either to a Catchment Board under subsection (4). of the said section fourteen as so amended, or to any other drainage board under the corresponding provision of the said section as so set out, or to the Minister under the Third Schedule of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1941, as applied by section six of that Act, the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say:—
  • (a) if the landlord and tenant agree, or in default of such an agreement the landlord proves to the satisfaction of an arbitrator appointed under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, that any works in respect of which the said sum is payable were rendered necessary by the neglect of the tenant to comply with any obligation relating to the maintenance or repair of a water course imposed on him by virtue of the contract of tenancy, the landlord shall be entitled to recover from the tenant or any assignee or successor of the tenant interest on such amount as may be agreed between the landlord and the tenant or, in default of such agreement, determined by the said arbitrator, to be such part of the said sum as was attributable to the execution of those works;
  • (b) the interest shall be payable at such rate as may, in default of such agreement, be fixed by the Treasury, and shall be payable as from the date on which the landlord became liable in respect of the said sum, and shall be payable at the same times and be recoverable in the same manner as the rent payable under the tenancy;
  • (c) where the landlord has elected to pay any such sum as aforesaid by instalments, the whole of that sum shall, for the purposes of this subsection, be deemed to have become payable at the date when it would have been payable but for the election;
  • (d) for the purposes of any arbitration under this subsection, a certificate by the Catchment Board or other drainage board or the Minister, as the case may be, that such part of the said sum as may be specified in the certificate was attributable to the execution of works so specified shall be conclusive evidence of that fact.
  • This subsection shall not apply in any case where the arbitrator has made an award, or an agreement has been made between the landlord and tenant, before the passing of this Act under subsection (6) of the said section fourteen as so amended, or under the corresponding provision of the said section as so set out, or under subsection (2) of the said section six, as the case may be, but save as aforesaid shall apply, in substitution for the said provisions, in all cases where any such sum has become payable by the landlord of an agricultural holding whether before or after the passing of this Act."
    It has hitherto been possible under Section 14 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1940, for a landlord and tenant to agree—or where they cannot agree to have the point decided by an arbitrator—that if drainage works to which the landlord is required to pay contribution, under that Section are due to neglect by the tenant, the landlord can recover the cost from the tenant. Equally, under Section 6(2) of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1941, the landlord can recover from the tenant in the same way, where the work is performed by the Minister. It has been suggested that the landlord should be given an alternative, namely, the right to recover the interest on the money because he may have to wait an unduly long time if he can only recover the actual capital cost at the end of the tenancy, which may not take place for 10, 20 or more years. We do not think, and I hope the Committee will agree with us, that it is fair that the landlord should, so to speak, have the best of both worlds and should be entitled, either to claim repayment of the capital cost, or to claim interest on the money in the shape of increased rent, and we have come to the conclusion that, on the whole, the fairest thing to do would be to enable him to claim interest on the money and remove his power to claim the repayment of the capital cost. Of course, it is always open to a landlord and tenant, by agreement, to vary it, but the legal position will be that the landlord will be entitled to claim interest on the expenditure involved.

    I should like to express appreciation of the Minister's proposal. Perhaps he has not gone quite as far as some would have liked, but I think he has met the case in a very fair and proper way.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 6—(Acquisition Of Land For Drainage Works)

    I beg to move, in page 5, line 5, at the end, to insert:

    "Provided that no land shall be acquired under this Section unless the contract for the acquisition thereof is made, or, as the case may be, the notice to treat is served, while the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, is in force."
    This proviso fulfils a promise made by my right hon. Friend on the Second Reading, namely, that these powers shall remain in force only while the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, remains in force. Since the Amendment merely gives effect to that promise, I hope it will be accepted.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 5, line 5, at the end, to insert:

    "(2) In the case of land owned and/or leased by public utility undertakings the question of acquisition shall be subject to negotiation and failing a settlement to arbitration."
    I move this Amendment in the interest of the public utility undertakings. Their interests, I think, ought to be safeguarded, as far as the compulsory acquisition of land is concerned. I appreciate that the Minister has made every endeavour to meet the wishes of the public utility undertakings and has given a certain assurance that their interests will as far as possible be protected. The main effort, of course, to-day is the war effort, and in it, I maintain, the public utility undertakings are playing a very important part to-day. We are not seeking much. Water, gas and electricity undertakings ought, I think, to have the privilege of negotiating with a view to agreement or, failing agreement, of having the matter settled by arbitration rather than to have, compulsorily, to surrender any land which may be required for drainage purposes. As I say, these bodies are making a great contribution to the war effort, and it would be an unwise policy if we impeded any progress they may be required to make in the development of their respective undertakings. It is in that sense, and purely in that sense, and more particularly in the interest of municipal undertakings, that I move the Amendment.

    My hon. Friend's Amendment merely asks that in the case of land owned or leased by public utility undertakings, the question of acquisition shall be subject to negotiation and, failing a settlement, to arbitration. If I may say so with respect to my hon. Friend, that is exactly what the Clause provides. It states:

    "Where it appears to the Minister that it is necessary for him to acquire any land for the purpose of executing drainage works thereon, he may acquire the land either by agreement or compulsorily."
    It is clear that one cannot get agreement without negotiation. Therefore, agreement involves negotiation with the local authorities or the public utility companies, and only when that negotiation has failed to achieve agreement would compulsory powers be sought. My hon. Friend can see that the Bill, as it stands, foreshadows consultation and negotiation and, we hope, agreement with the local authorities and the public utility companies, and the Amendment, therefore, seems to me to be unnecessary.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clauses 7 and 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 9—(Recovery From Tenants Of Interest On Expenditure Incurred In Executing Works For Supply Of Water)

    I beg to move, in page 6, line 32, to leave out "on the holding."

    This Amendment and the following Amendment are inter-related to the new proviso, and their object is to make clear what the tenant is to be charged. For instance, where water is laid on it may happen that water is laid on to farm B, and in order to get to farm B it may be necessary to cross farm A. It is clear, therefore, that it would be unfair to charge the tenant of farm A with the work done on his holding, for which he will get no benefit, and also fair to charge the tenant of farm B with the cost of the works on his holding and on the holding of farm A which were necessary in order to enable him to get a water supply. This Amendment and the following Amendments make the position clear.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made:

    In page 6, line 33, after "water," insert "to the holding."

    In line 41, at the end, insert:

    "Provided that, in the case of works for the supply of water to the holding and to other land, the tenant of the holding shall only be liable to pay interest on such part of the net cost of the works as may be apportioned to his holding by agreement between the landlord and the tenant or, in default of such agreement, by arbitration, and the interest shall in that case be payable as from the date on which the share of the net cost was so apportioned."

    In line 46, at the end, add:

    "less the amount of any grant made by the Minister towards that expenditure."—[Mr. Hudson.]

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 10—(Improvement Of Common Lands)

    I beg to move, in page 7, line 7, to leave out "recoverable," and to insert "recovered."

    This is purely a drafting Amendment, and the same thing applies a little later in line 11, where we are also asking to leave out "recoverable" and to insert "recovered."

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made:

    In page 7, line 9, leave out "in," and insert "on."

    In line 11, leave out "recoverable," and insert "recovered."—[ Mr. Húdson.]

    I beg to move, in page 7, line 26, at the end, to add:

    "(4) A notice served for the purposes of this section shall specify the sum which the owner on whom it is served is required to pay and the rights in respect of which he is required to pay it and that sum shall not exceed either of the following limits, that is to say:
  • (a) the amount by which the value for agricultural purposes of the specified rights will be increased by the doing of the work;
  • (b) the same proportion of the expenses as the amount aforesaid bears to the amount by which the value for agricultural purposes of all the rights affected will be increased by the doing of the work."
  • This Clause, as the Committee will see, deals largely with common lands, and the object of the Amendment I am moving on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower) and other hon. Members is to endeavour to protect owners of common lands from any undue charge or high charge which they may be unable to bear. If the Minister was in a position to make a concession, it would be a pity if this Amendment was not moved.

    I realise the motives which led my hon. Friends to put down this Amendment, but the situation with which Clause 10 is designed to deal is, so far as I know, unprecedented. The situation is that there are a certain number of fells in Cumberland, and the right of grazing over those fells is at present completely uncontrolled. In the normal case of fells each farmer has what is called a stint, and that entitles him to graze a certain number of cattle and sheep under certain conditions. Whatever may be the original rights of the owners, the lords of the manors, they certainly have not been exercised for many years. They have lapsed. My committee in Cumberland consider that by doing a certain amount of work on the fells they can materially improve the grazing of those fells and, therefore, the number of cattle and sheep that those fells will carry. But it is clear that if we are to spend the State's money on this improvement, we must be able, after the improvement has taken place, to control the grazing. At present after the improvement had taken place anyone would be entitled to send as many cattle and sheep on to the fell as he liked and undo the good work which had been done. Therefore, we shall have to take possession technically of the fells, do our improvements and lay down an agreement with the farmers as to the number of cattle and sheep they are entitled to graze, the conditions under which they can graze them and the time they can graze them. In view of what we believe to be the increased agricultural value of the work we shall do, we think it only fair to recover from the farmers a reasonable proportion of the cost.

    I may say that this has never been tried before. We cannot possibly say what the final result will be. Frankly, it is an experiment, and for that reason we do not want to be tied by the particular wording of this Amendment, which might quite conceivably prove to be wholly inappropriate. I can, however, give an assurance that we shall carry out the principle of the Amendment and that in apportioning the cost we shall decide to the best of our ability what is to be the proportion of the cost that can properly be charged. But we think that to have this Amendment in the Bill would seriously hamper our work, because it is taken from a Clause in the Bill which applies to quite different circumstances. In view of the assurance that we shall take the spirit of the Amendment into account when apportioning the cost, I hope my hon. Friend will feel justified in withdrawing the Amendment.

    My right hon. Friend mentioned the fells in the North. Is this sort of thing liable to happen in other areas where there are large commons, such as Exmoor and Dartmoor?

    No, Sir, it is designed to cover only the cases which have come to my knowledge so far, that is, the Caulbeck and Skiddaw group of fells.

    But can this Clause be made applicable to commons in other places, or does it apply only to the North country?

    It applies only to similar conditions. If it were found that any similar conditions existed, clearly the Clause would give us power to take similar action if it was appropriate, and in that case my assurance would hold good. We would carry out the spirit of the Amendment when apportioning the cost.

    Can the Minister say how the additional cost will be recovered? Will it be by lump sum payments or rental? It would appear that a rental would be more reasonable, as the farmer might only be a short period in his holding and then give place to someone else.