House Of Commons
Wednesday, 10th March, 1943
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
British Prisoners Of War
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what aid has been given by the Vatican Secretariat on behalf of British prisoners of war; and whether he is in a position to state the approximate numbers of requests for news of British prisoners, of broadcasts of information about individual prisoners and of messages from prisoners of war to their families transmitted by air-mail from the Vatican or by the Vatican radio?
The Vatican have given such material aid and moral comfort to British prisoners of war in Italy and in the Far East as it has been in their power to give. Their humanitarian efforts to assist our prisoners are much appreciated by His Majesty's Government. I regret that as the matters covered in the latter part of the Question are not dealt with through official channels, I am unable to give the figures which are asked for.
Would it not be true to say that very nearly 100,000 communications of one sort or another have been transmitted through the Vatican from prisoners of war to this country and elsewhere?
I am afraid I could not say about the figures. It might very well be so.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether our prisoners of war are still being held in chains or whether he now has any information as to whether they have been freed as the result of representations by the Protecting Power?
I regret that I have nothing to add to the statement which I made on 11th February.
Has not very great patience been shown in this matter, and is there not very great anxiety in the country? Is it not time that the Foreign Office gave the House information? Has not the right hon. Gentleman information as to the number of prisoners in chains? Can he say whether he has any information whether they are in chains?
I gave the House all the information I could on the date I gave it. I assure the hon. Gentleman that as soon as I believe it to be in the interests of the prisoners themselves, I will give further information. The Government must be the responsible judges in this matter.
War Criminals (Punishment)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any discussions have taken place between the United Nations for the purpose of deciding under what law and in what courts of law persons of Axis nationality, who are accused of war crimes, will be tried?
I understand that some preliminary discussion of these matters has taken place between some of the Governments concerned. I hope that it may shortly be possible for these matters to be further discussed, but I am not in a position to make a statement on the subject.
United Nations (Post-War Policy)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received an official request from the Government of the United States of America to take part in discussions on post-war economic policy?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in reference to the United Nations' discussions on post-war policy, mentioned by Mr. Sumner Welles, the Soviet Government were consulted; and whether they expressed their readiness to participate in these discussions?
The hon. Gentleman is apparently referring to a speech by Mr. Sumner Welles and to consultation between the United States Government and the Soviet Government. This is a matter for the two Governments concerned on which it would be improper for me to give a reply.
Are we to understand that conversations on post-war policy are likely to take place between the United States Government and the Soviet Government and we are not to participate in those discussions? If an approach has been made to Mr. Sumner Welles on behalf of the United States Government to engage in post-war discussion, where do we come in?
I am in some involvement—as I think our American friends would call it—about my hon. Friend's Supplementary Question, which appears to apply to conversations between the American Government and the Soviet Government. On that matter I have no information. We are in conversation with both the American Government and the Soviet Government ourselves; I can answer for His Majesty's Government but not for foreign Governments.
I can understand the right hon. Gentleman being bewildered, perhaps because of the form of my question. Perhaps I can put it in the form of another question. Are we to understand from the reply of the right hon. Gentleman that discussions are taking place between the United States Government and the Soviet Union upon matters affecting post-war policy and that on those matters we are not now being consulted?
No, Sir. My hon. Friend should not understand anything of the kind. I say that, as to what is passing between the Soviet Government and the United States Government, it is for one of those two Governments to express views about, and not for me.
That is to say that, although we are engaged in this struggle as the United Nations, discussions of a bilateral character are taking place and we are not being consulted?
No, Sir. My hon. Friend really must not put those words into my mouth. It is perfectly legitimate diplomatic practice for two Governments who are our Allies to have conversations with each other. They will no doubt, in due course, keep us informed. I am quite confident that nothing is going on of which I am not aware, but it is for those Governments and not for me to give an account of their conversations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
On a point of Order. In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of this reply—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and particularly because of the jeers from the other side of the House—I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment. We will see then what the answer is.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the speech made by Mr. Sumner Welles, United States Under-Secretary of State, at Toronto on 26th February, to the effect that the United States would at once undertake discussions with other members of the United Nations for examination of the international economic field; whether similar action is contemplated or is already in process in this country; and whether he will state the nature of the organisation created by His Majesty's Government to prosecute research and enter upon such negotiations as will arise?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government have considered the concrete proposal of responsible United States Government spokesmen that the United Nations should forthwith set up an organisation to study post-war reconstruction problems; and with what result?
His Majesty's Government warmly welcome Mr. Sumner Welles's proposal for discussions with members of the United Nations on economic matters. His Majesty's Government for their part have been in touch for the past six months or so with the Dominions and India on various post-war financial questions of common interest and have also had a number of informal meetings with the Allied Governments in London. These consultations will be continued. In addition to the work undertaken by many of the Government Departments in their individual spheres there are a number of Interdepartmental Committees, under the general guidance of my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio, engaged in studying these problems and preparing the ground for negotiations with the United Nations.
Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity from time to time to inform the House of the progress made in these negotiations?
Yes, Sir. They are, of course, at present in an informal stage.
Is it intended at some near future date to set up an authoritative body from among the United Nations to deal with the problem more effectively than can be done, as now suggested, dispersed among several Government Departments?
When that course is thought useful I have no doubt it will be examined. My own view is that bodies can sometimes be set up without proper preparation for their work. I do not think that is very good.
When are the informal negotiations likely to become formal?
It depends upon the progress of the informality.
In his original reply the right hon. Gentleman referred to financial policy. Can he assure the House that the Government will not enter into any arrangement with any foreign Power with regard to a new monetary system without first consulting this House?
The ordinary practice will be followed. The Government will assume their responsibility, and it is open to the hon. Gentleman to assume his usual attitude.
Can we be assured that the Government will not commit the country?
Can we have an assurance that the whole matter will not be cut and dried before the House has had an opportunity of dealing with it?
Rumania And Hungary
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance that His Majesty's Government is in no way bound by the Vienna Award of 30th August, 1940, fixing a new boundary between Rumania and Hungary and will take steps to undo it at the earliest opportunity?
I would refer the hon. Member to the statement made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on 5th September, 1940, when he said, with particular reference to the Vienna Award, that we did not propose to recognise any territorial changes which took place during the war unless they took place with the consent and good-will of the parties concerned. This remains the attitude of His Majesty's Government.
Nazi Massacres And Persecutions
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent his information coincides with the reports recently received by the World Jewish Congress that the Nazi massacres of Jewish men, women and children in Poland and elsewhere are continuing on a vast scale, and those received from other sources that great numbers of Poles and Yugoslavs, other than Jews, are also being massacred?
The hon. Member will appreciate that it is very difficult to obtain reliable direct evidence. But I regret to say that the information available to me certainly points to the conclusion that the massacre of Jews in Poland is continuing and that considerable numbers of Polish and Yugoslav nationals other than Jews, in addition to members of the other oppressed peoples of Europe, are also being massacred.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply has been or will be made to the recently published proposal by the Secretary of State at Washington that representatives of the British and United States Governments should meet at Ottawa for a preliminary exploration of ways and means of rescuing refugees from Nazi persecution whether, in view of the delay this procedure envisages and of the urgency of the problem, he will consider proposing that the meeting in question should be held in London at the earliest possible date and not be merely exploratory; and whether in the meantime His Majesty's Government will proceed with whatever measures of rescue lie within its own competence?
I have replied that His Majesty's Government welcome the suggestion for a preliminary informal discussion of the refugee problem between United States and United Kingdom representatives, and as regards the meeting place, we shall be ready to meet the United States representatives at any mutually convenient place. This, as well as the selection of the respective representatives, is under discussion. No time will be lost, and I can give an assurance that His Majesty's Government will in the meantime proceed with whatever measures they have already initiated.
Will this conference cover every aspect of the refugee problem and not be confined merely to somewhat narrow issues, as was the Evian Conference?
Yes, Sir, I should hope it would be wide in its scope.
Does the right hon. Gentleman contemplate that it will be necessary for representatives from this country to proceed to the other side of the ocean, and, having regard to the fact that this matter has been under the most urgent consideration since before Christmas last, will he bear in mind that there is all the difference between time and eternity?
Somebody has to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Which it will be, I do not know.
Are we to understand that the proposed conference in Ottawa will deal with the wide and ultimate refugee questions and not merely with immediate and urgent questions?
No, Sir, it is to deal with the immediate problems. It is an exploratory meeting between ourselves and the United States.
Will the right hon. Gentleman impress upon our Allies the extreme urgency of this matter?
Is it not worthy of consideration that most of the exiled Governments mostly concerned are resident in London and not in Ottawa?
Is it not possible that the proposed Ottawa conference will lead to delay and that the problem will not be dealt with in the meantime?
No, Sir. I tried to make that plain in my answer. That is the position.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the full text of the British Aide Memoire of 20th January to the United States Government concerning the problem of refugees from Nazi persecution and that Government's reply of 25th February, hitherto published only in abbreviated forms, can be published as a White Paper?
No, Sir. I do not consider that it would be appropriate to publish as a White Paper documents dealing with proposals which are still under active discussion.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the point that the American public have already had the privilege of reading the American Note in full? Is he not aware that the British public should have the opportunity of reading the British Note, especially as our people would mark with satisfaction that the British Note shows at least some sense of urgency in the matter, whereas the American Note shows no such sense?
I hope that the hon. Lady will not enter into comparisons which I do not think will help us to get on.
Royal Air Force
Officers' Private Residences (Domestic Help)
14 and 15.
asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) the conditions of an allowance for civilian domestic help in the private residences of Royal Air Force officers;(2) the conditions in which a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force can be ordered by her commanding officer to carry out the duties of a domestic servant in the private residence of the commanding officer?
Prior to 1936 an officer was allowed the services of a batman or batmen according to his rank, if he was living in an official residence or official quarters. At many of the Royal Air Force stations built since then, official residences have not been provided for the Commanding Officer and because of this and of the difficulty in many areas of obtaining domestic help, Commanding Officers of Stations or of Groups have been allowed the services of batmen at their private houses if the circumstances were held to justify it. In 1941 in pursuance of the general policy of substituting women for men wherever possible, the employment of W.A.A.F.'s as batwomen was authorised subject to certain provisos of which the main were that definite hours of duty would be laid down and that the working conditions satisfied the responsible W.A.A.F. officer.The scale of batmen and batwomen to which R.A.F. officers are entitled has recently been under review and a new regulation is shortly to be issued. This new regulation will include a provision that only women who volunteer may be employed as batwomen in married quarters or private residences and the authority of the Air Officer Commanding Will be required in each case. Women who do volunteer may withdraw from such employment at will. When batmen or batwomen are not provided, servant allowance at the rate of 2s. a day per batman or batwoman allowed is issuable to R.A.F. officers in aid of the cost of civilian personal servants.
While thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend for that very reassuring statement, would he answer that portion of the Question which deals with an allowance for civilian domestic help in the case of commanding officers of R.A.F. stations?
There is no specific allowance for civilian help as such, but when batmen or batwomen are not provided a Service allowance at the rate of 2S. a day is available in aid of the cost of civilian servants.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the National Service Acts were not passed by this House to enable private individuals to be mobilised to serve in a domestic capacity in the private homes of officers?
Is it not a fact that in the cases that have been mentioned, as no official quarters have been provided for the officers, their private home in fact becomes their official quarters?
Yes, Sir, that is so.
Surely we do not expect this Government to abolish the class system?
Is it not a fact that men batmen go out on errands for the officers' wives?
Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether an officer's wife who is childless and available for domestic work can use the services of a W.A.A.F.?
Waaf, British Embassy, Washington
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether his attention has been called to the refusal of British Women's Auxiliary Air Force personnel attached to the British Embassy in Washington to obey local black-out orders; and what action he proposes to take in the case?
I have made inquiries into this incident, and these show that there was a technical breach of local regulations by two members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force stationed in Washington. It appears that this breach was entirely unintentional, but in the meantime strict instructions have been issued to all members of the Delegation concerned emphasising the necessity for rigid observance of all local black-out regulations.
Commissions (Home Service)
17 and 18.
asked the Secretary of Slate for Air (1) whether there are vacancies for home service commissions in the Royal Air Force, and, if so, in which branches;(2) how many members of the Royal Air Force who have been recommended for home service commissions are now waiting for appointments?
Normally commissions are granted only to those fit for service overseas. Occasionally candidates with special qualifications are accepted for the Technical Branch and in certain categories of the Administrative and Special Duties Branch, even though they are fit for home service only. No vacancies are specially reserved for them. Seven airmen are awaiting appointment to commissions for home service only in the Technical Branch and a like number in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch. The numbers may vary from day to day.
Do these seven airmen know that they have been recommended and are still awaiting an opportunity to be posted?
I would like notice as to how soon the airmen are told that they have passed for recommendation.
Post-War Air Transport
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether when creating an air transport command to take over the British Overseas Airways Corporation and the operation of British air routes throughout the world, he will ensure that full use is made of the experience of British Overseas Airways executives and personnel, and that the whole of this organisation will not be relegated to the command of a retired air marshal?
Perhaps the hon. Member would be good enough to await the Debate on Air Estimates on the next Sitting Day when my right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position to make a statement.
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman see that the personnel of British Overseas Airways, who, as he knows, have considerable experience in British civil aviation, are given their proper place in any future Government set-up?
I am sure that the statement which is to be made on the next Sitting Day will take account of that particular fact.
Aircraft Factories (Workers' Complaints)
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether, in view of the time occupied by Ministry officials in investigating complaints of bad management made by individual workers direct to his Department, he will state why the usual channels for receiving complaints are ignored?
It is not the practice or policy of my Department to ignore the usual channels for dealing with complaints of the kind mentioned. On the contrary, whenever matters of complaint are raised which are appropriate for investigation by a works joint production committee or by the recognised trade union machinery, it is the practice of my Department to refer the complainant to those bodies and to point out to him or her the importance of utilising the proper machinery of negotiation. I am most anxious that these bodies which operate by agreement between the trade unions and the employers should be used in every possible case to resolve domestic difficulties between managements and workers; it is for this reason that I do my utmost to encourage the work of the joint production committees.
Ministry Of Information
Great Britain And United States (Broadcasts)
asked the Minister of Information how many British subjects are engaged under the auspices of his Ministry in broadcasting to and within the United States of America on the political and social conditions existing in Britain and the Empire, imperial and Colonial; and whether he will ascertain how many United States citizens are similarly employed under the United States Ministry of Information in transmitting information about the United States of America to Britain?
The work that my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind is done by the B.B.C. and the American broadcasting corporations. Certainly much time is devoted to it but I am afraid that I cannot possibly give an estimate of the number of British and American citizens who take part.
While I thank my right hon. Friend, will he bear in mind that mutual knowledge of each other is the best guarantee of permanent understanding?
I certainly think in the case of England and America that it is.
North Africa (Information To United Kingdom)
asked the Minister of Information whether he will consider appointing suitable British officials in North Africa to be responsible for disseminating information to the people of this country in regard to the political and military events in that area?
No, Sir. The political and military events of the war have always been reported to the public by correspondents in the service of the newspapers themselves. I am sure that the House needs no recital from me of the deplorable consequences which would result from placing this work in the hands of Government officials.
While I agree with my right hon. Friend's statement, does he not realise that there is a considerable amount of ignorance in this country as to the events in North Africa and that ignorance promotes suspicion, whereas knowledge promotes confidence?
My hon. and gallant Friend's worthy platitudes are, of course, most acceptable to us, but I cannot cure ignorance.
When information is being disseminated, will that include information about the number of political prisoners in North Africa and the treatment meted out to them?
My hon. Friend has had the fullest possible information on those matters.
Apart from war correspondents dealing with purely military matters, why were the British Press not allowed to send correspondents to cover the general course of events in North Africa?
I cannot understand what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. The British Press do not normally maintain correspondents in North Africa. I daresay that every newspaper should have a correspondent in every part of the world where anything is likely to happen, but the British Government did nothing to prevent the British Press from sending correspondents to North Africa.
Is the Minister aware that among Government officers there is great concern about the appalling consequences of entrusting affairs to some of His Majesty's Ministers?
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that no paper has been refused permission to send a correspondent to North Africa?
No complaint has come to me, and the Lord knows the Minister of Information is in receipt of every sort of complaint.
International Miners' Conference (Film)
asked the Minister of Information whether he has any information to give as to a film taken of an international miners' conference held in May, 1942, and of the progress made, with a view to it being exhibited in this country and those countries it was produced for?
Unfortunately, the technical quality of the film to which my hon. Friend refers proved to be so poor that it could not be publicly exhibited. This was nobody's fault in particular; it was one of the hazards of film-making.
asked the Minister of Information what censorship regulation prohibits cable companies from advising the sender of a cable whether or not the cable reached the addressee safely; and for what reason such a regulation is necessary?
This prohibition is an essential security measure, and 1s contained in the Regulations for Censorship. It would greatly assist the evasion of wartime currency and trade regulations if senders of cables could count on knowing whether or not these are delivered safely to the addressees.
Will my right hon. Friend tell me why a cable which I sent seeking confirmation of a statement made by Mr. Montagu Norman has never been received, and why I cannot get information from the cable company or from anywhere else as to what has happened to the cable? It is perfectly obvious.
In view of the eminence of the sender and of the gentleman mentioned in the cable, I will try to get the Chief Censor to make an exception in this case.
asked the Minister of Information what instructions were sent by or through his Department to the Press in this country and to the war correspondents in North Africa suggesting that the performance of the A 22 tanks in the recent operations had been satisfactory?
Is it pure coincidence that immediately following the Army Debate there was an absolute spate of reference to this matter all over the Press?
That was entirely due to the brilliant speech made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War.
Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman on these matters has as much power as Dr. Goebbels has in Germany?
It certainly is not a fact; and it never will be.
Indian Affairs (Broadcasts)
asked the Minister of Information whether he will consult with the Governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation with a view to arranging, once a month or more frequently, for the information of the British public, a commentary on Indian political, economic and cultural affairs, aspects of the lives of the people and current happenings of general interest?
I will certainly bring this suggestion to the attention of the Governors of the B.B.C. They are aware of the importance of maintaining a good output of broadcasts dealing with Indian affairs.
Is it not a fact that there is widespread ignorance in this country about conditions in India, and indeed about the geography of India? Will my right hon. Friend endeavour to see that more factual information on this subject is spread in this country?
That is more a job for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. There is no doubt a great deal of ignorance in this country about India, and there is a great deal of ignorance in this country about many other subjects; but I do not see what I can do other than by encouraging the B.B.C. Governors to give as many broadcasts as possible and by encouraging my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education to induce people to read history. That is a great corrective.
British War Effort (Broadcasts, Russia)
asked the Minister of Information how many Russian-speaking Britons are employed in Russia in broadcasting to the Russian people information as to the political and social conditions in Britain and the British Empire, and also in regard to the achievements of the British Armed Forces and Merchant Navy?
No Russian-speaking Britons are employed by the Soviet broadcasting authorities, nor are English-speaking Soviet citizens employed by the B.B.C. And so I can only express the hope that both broadcasting authorities will give up a satisfactory amount of time to informing their respective listeners about one another's war effort.
While I am willing to incur the risk of uttering further platitudes, might I ask whether my right hon. Friend's attention has been called to the statement of Admiral Standley the other day, in which he made reference to this case vis-à-vis America? Does he not consider it urgently necessary for some steps to be taken to make our efforts known to the Russian people?
I, of course, would in no circumstances make any comments on the statement attributed to Admiral Standley. Furthermore, our experience—that is, the experience of our Mission in Russia—is that we have had the fullest co-operation from the Russian Government. Our paper is increasing its sale every day, and we have to make no complaint of any kind.
Scrap Metal (Tram Rails)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works how many yards of old tramway-lines have been taken up for melting; what has been the cost per yard of taking these rails up and resurfacing the road; what proportion of the work is done by contract or local labour; and the name of the contractors, the rate of pay the men received per hour or day, and the number of hours worked per day?
The work of recovering tram-rails is being carried out by various highway authorities in collaboration with the Ministry of War Transport. The information asked for, in respect of the many jobs, is not available, and could not be obtained without a considerable expenditure of time and labour. I am, however, pleased to inform the hon. Member that over 50,000 tons of valuable material have been recovered from this source, and this is less than half the total amount which tram-rails can yield.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken to safeguard the sugar industry in Trinidad owing to export and shipping difficulties; and whether land formerly used for sugar growing will be utilised for the cultivation of other crops?
Arrangements have been made in Trinidad, as elsewhere in the West Indies, whereby His Majesty's Government will take over and pay for all sugar produced, even if it cannot immediately be shipped, and will hold it in store locally. The Trinidad Government is endeavouring to secure the maximum possible extension of acreage under food crops for local consumption, but its efforts are seriously hampered by the shortage of labour, which is the primary cause of such diminution in the sugar crop as is taking place in that Colony.
Are we to understand that the shortage in this crop is due not to land going out of cultivation but to labour difficulties only?
The chief difficulty in Trinidad at the moment is whether there will be enough labour to reap the crop.
Is there not available labour in some of the other islands—for instance, Barbados?
That is another question. The hon. Gentleman will realise the very great difficulty of communication between these islands at present.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether steps are being taken to control food prices in Trinidad; and whether there is any policy adopted to control at the point of origin the prices of food and other essential commodities imported by British Colonies?
The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. With regard to the second part of the Question, the Colonies are able to share the benefits of many of the co-ordinated purchase schemes of foodstuffs, etc., which have been the result of work of such agencies as the Combined Food Board in Washington. No generalisation is possible, since everything depends on the commodities concerned and the sources from which they must be drawn. I am, however, considering what action can be taken in regard to this problem as a whole.
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise the iniquity' of subsidising prices only to allow the benefit to be taken away from the people in the island by those who are able to put up the price?
The hon. Gentleman will realise that many of the sources from which these commodities have to be drawn are outside the control of this country.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the terms of reference upon which Professor Richardson's inquiry into the economic situation in the Bahamas will be made; and when it is anticipated the recently made Report on the Bahamas will be published?
Professor J. H. Richardson, who is at present Chairman of the Economic Advisory Committee in Bermuda, has been invited to visit the Bahamas when he has finished his work in Bermuda, in order to advise on the economic situation there. I am not aware that any specific terms of reference have been laid down. It as anticipated that he will remain in the Bahamas for about two months. As regards the second part of the Question, perhaps the hon. Member would await my answer to Question No. 35, by the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. D. Adams).
Riots Inquiry (Report)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can now give the date for the publication in this country of the Report upon the Bahama riots published some time ago in the Bahamas?
I am placing a copy of the Report in the Library of the House, together with a copy of a statement which indicates the action which the Governor proposes to take upon the main recommendations in the Report.
Will the Report be available to the public of this country?
Will it be available shortly?
I shall be placing it to-day. With regard to the availability of the Report, the difficulty is that it has been printed in the Bahamas. At present I have only one copy, and I am placing it in the Library. I expect some more copies shortly, and, although I do not think that it will be possible to make it available for public issue, there will be copies available for those who are interested in it.
Jamaica (Mr Domingo's Release)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Mr. H. Domingo has now been released from detention in Jamaica; and what are the conditions of his release and the reasons for his detention for this lengthy period?
Mr. Domingo has been released without restriction. He was detained under Jamaica Defence Regulations, because the Governor was satisfied that his detention was necessary with a view to preventing him from acting in a manner prejudicial to public safety and defence.
Does the Minister not consider it a remarkable thing for a person to be charged with an offence which he has not committed but which he might commit, and to be interned for a long period?
He was not charged with an offence. This is a similar procedure to the procedure here under 18B. He was detained to prevent him from acting in a manner prejudicial to public safety.
What information has the Governor had to induce him to change his mind? He was satisfied at one moment that the detention was necessary, and satisfied very much later that the detention was not necessary.
Like my right hon. Friend when he is dealing with I8B cases, I cannot go into details. The Governor was satisfied that the detention was no longer necessary.
When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that Mr. Domingo was released without restriction, does that mean that he will be allowed to remain in Jamaica and do the work of the National People's Party?
The answer is that he was released without restriction.
Was Mr. Domingo's release made on the recommendation of the local advisory committee, or was it the Governor's decision, by himself?
I would like to confirm this, but I understand that it was the Governor's decision, by himself.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of food shortages in the West Indies, to what extent food rationing has been introduced; and what further plans are in hand for the equitable distribution of food in these Colonies?
Although shortages of particular foodstuffs will no doubt continue to occur in the West Indies, as elsewhere, the general food supply position is considerably better than it was some months ago, and efforts are continually being made to improve both the organisation of imports and the methods of local distribution and to increase local food production. Hitherto food rationing has not been introduced to any large extent, as more use has been made of the method of price control to ensure equitable distribution. I will send my hon. Friend a summary of what has been done on these lines.
Is the Minister aware that there is very great perturbation in most of the islands on account of the present situation and that the local Press emphasises the necessity of rationing?
Yes, Sir, the situation has been very difficult, and although, as I say, it has improved, it still gives rise to anxiety, but the hon. Member will realise the difficulty of applying our methods of rationing to countries where the administrative machine is perhaps not so complicated as it is here.
Welfare And Development (Stockdale Report)
asked the Prime Minister whether it is his intention to arrange for a day for the discussion of the Stockdale Report on Schemes of Welfare and Development in the West Indies, the Report on the Proposed Changes in the Jamaica Constitution and the Report on the Administration of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act?
Yes, Sir. A request has already been made for time for such discussion, and the Government hope to make the necessary arrangements.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the extent of unemployment in Jamaica and the principal West Indian Colonies; the recent steps which have been put into operation to deal with unemployment; and how many persons are now employed on public relief works?
As regards Jamaica, it is not possible to give a reliable estimate of the total number of unemployed persons, but approximately 12,000 persons are at present employed on Government relief works. When the census has been completed more precise figures will, of course, be available. A loan of £1,000,000 has been authorised, of which it is proposed to raise £500,000 as a first instalment, for relief works, which include schemes for swamp reclamation, road construction, anti-malarial measures, food storage and rural water supplies. No figures of persons employed on public relief works are available for the remaining West Indian Colonies. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT details of relief works in certain other West Indian Colonies.
Following are the details referred to:
The latest information indicates that there is no appreciable unemployment in Trinidad, but lists of work have been ordered to be prepared by the various departments to be used if the necessity arises.
The necessity is not acute, but funds have been made available for a relief scheme in case of necessity.
The position has been seriously affected by the recent hurricane, and various relief measures are in operation for which a total sum of approximately £31,016 has already been provided.
The position has been recently aggravated by prolonged rains and flood. One major and seven minor drainage schemes, estimated to cost £118,584, have been sanctioned in the last few weeks and these are expected to provide work for the majority of the unemployed in the Colony.
Palestine (Jewish Immigra Tion)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give particulars of the arrival of Jewish children and adults in Palestine from Iraq; and in what circumstances and by what means they were enabled to reach their destination?
I assume that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to the recent arrival in Palestine of Polish Jewish refugee children and adults from Persia who had been granted immigration certificates for Palestine, 858 children, 100 men and 269 women arrived in Palestine on 18th February, having travelled from Persia to Egypt by sea, and thence overland to Palestine.
Would it not be true to say that they reached their destination by the good will and efforts of the British Government, and under the protection of the Royal Navy?
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give any news as to the arrival in Palestine of any of the 4,000 children and of the 500 adults from Bulgaria whose transmission was promised to us? Are they on their way?
That is quite another question.
Can the Minister tell us whether there is any disposition on the part of the Government to increase the number of Jews who will be allowed to go to Palestine?
I made a very full statement on that the other day. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the number amounts to over 30,000.
Is the Minister aware of the tremendous persecution of the Jews; and does he not realise that that figure is quite inadequate?
If the hon. Gentleman realises the difficulty there was to get in even these 1,200, he will also realise the difficulty there is to get in 30,000.
Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say whether they travelled in British ships or not?
This was arranged by the Ministry of War Transport, and I am afraid I am not certain of the nationality of the ships.
Colonial Affairs (Joint Standing Committee)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has yet come to a decision regarding the setting-up of a Joint Standing Advisory Colonial Committee consisting of representatives of both Houses of Parliament; and whether he is aware of the strong support given to the setting-up of such a Committee by Sir Hubert Young, ex-Governor of Trim-dad and Tobago, recently?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the full statement made on this subject by my right hon. Friend the Minister Resident in North Africa in the Debate on 26th November last, to which at present I have nothing to add. I am aware of the views expressed by Sir Hubert Young.
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman bear in mind the repeated requests that were made in this House regarding the setting-up of a Committee, and also the pre-eminence and urgency which Colonial problems will occupy in post-war times, and will he consider the matter from that angle?
Yes, Sir, I am very cognisant of that, but this is really not a matter you can deal with by question and answer. It was fully dealt with in this Debate, but I would point out that, although the hon. Gentleman asked for an Advisory Colonial Committee, Sir Hubert Young asked for a Joint Standing Committee, which would have full responsibility for formulating all plans and leave no responsibility either to the Secretary of State or to the House of Commons as a whole,
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what controls as to direction and employment are now exercised over road transport undertakings by his Department?
A general control is exercised over road transport through the system of carriers' defence permits and the issue of motor fuel rations. In addition, the new Road Haulage Organisation now coming into operation will take over the direct control of long-distance traffic and of the vehicles by which that traffic was previously carried.
Will the Minister consider the possibility of issuing a statement which will describe the scope, conditions and terms of the existing road control?
Several statements have already been issued, but I will certainly consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend.
Is this the same Controller who authorises the use of vehicles to convey flowers, which actually means petrol, oil and labour? Does this actually mean one and the same person and that he is the person responsible for the authorities which were given in recent weeks?
Yes, Sir; I am answering another Question on that subject a little later.
44 and 58.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (1) how many road vehicles have been licensed in the separate categories of A, B and C;(2) how many persons now separately own road vehicles with either A or B licences?
The latest available figures which show separately the numbers of A, B and C licences, and the numbers of vehicles authorised under these licences, relate to the year 1938. If it would be of use to him, I will furnish my hon. Friend privately with the total number of goods vehicles now in use and with some general information about the classes of work on which they are engaged.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport, what further steps are being taken to organise road transport so that it will play a more effective part in the war effort; and whether the necessity for doing this is being considered, especially in relation to the heavy call which is expected will be made on transport undertakings in the course of the current year?
My Noble Friend announced last November his intention to control long-distance road transport in order to ensure economy in the consumption of motor fuel and tyres, while at the same time maintaining a supply of transport immediately available to meet any increased demand or any emergency that may arise. The necessary organisation is now being set up. Some haulage firms have, by agreement, already become controlled undertakings and many others have made known their intention to do so. These controlled undertakings will provide the necessary facilities for the operating units, which will form the basis of the organisation. Already some nucleus units are in existence, and it will shortly be possible to proceed with arrangements for the hiring of the vehicles of other hauliers, provided these vehicles have been previously engaged wholly or mainly in the conveyance of the traffic which is to come under control.
Does either my hon. Friend or his Noble Friend take the view that when these rearrangements are completed we shall have reached a satisfactory position in road transport organisation?
I must remind my hon. Friend that we are working under difficult conditions, because our major objective now is to save petrol and rubber.
In view of my hon. Friend's statement that the over-riding consideration is economy in the use of fuel and tyres, will he see that his Department does not encourage any diversion of transport facilities from the electric railways to road transport?
That consideration is constantly in our minds.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say, broadly, whether the proposals of this scheme have met with general welcome or general hostility from the road transport organisations?
The road haulage industry is not well organised, and it is difficult to say what meets with their general approval, but a large number of the undertakings which have been invited to become controlled undertakings are accepting that invitation.
Can the hon. Gentleman say what proportion of the road transport undertakings have come into the scheme?
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put that Question down. I can say, however, that it is a high proportion.
Post-War Transport (Reorganisation)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport the broad outline of the proposals formulated by his Department for the post-war reorganisation of transport; and to whom have they been submitted?
When my Noble Friend has formulated definite proposals for the post-war reorganisation of transport, he will submit them to his colleagues in the Government for their consideration, but that stage has not been reached.
Will they be laid before the House?
Yes, Sir, in due course they will have to be laid before the House.
Am I to take it that there is under contemplation the State organisation of transport after the war?
I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman should make any assumptions.
War Cabinet (Departmental Responsibilities)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider separating the Ministry of Labour from the Ministry of National Service and the Home Office from the Ministry of Home Security and placing them under separate Ministers in order that the present War Cabinet Ministers may be free from heavy departmental responsibilities and enabled to give more time to their duties as members of the War Cabinet and to War Cabinet Committees?
No, Sir. No such changes are in contemplation.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether some of the bottlenecks in these Departments are due to the fact that Ministers have to spend much of their time at War Cabinet meetings; and does he think that Ministers can administer their Departments and at the same time give their full time to the War Cabinet Committee?
I am afraid that I do not know to what bottlenecks my hon. Friend refers, but it is certainly true, in the judgment of the Prime Minister, that this arrangement is the best that we can contrive.
Do we really need more Ministers?
Forestry Commission (Scottish Questions)
asked the Prime Minister whether in view of the fact that the Forestry Commission controls 603,000 acres of ground in Scotland, as against 459,000 in England, he will consider arranging for all Questions in this House concerning forestry matters in Scotland to be addressed to, and answered by, the Secretary of State for Scotland?
As indicated by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) on 2nd February last, the future of forestry in this country is one of the many subjects already engaging the attention of His Majesty's Government, and I do not think that it would be appropriate to make the change proposed in the present arrangements.
Would it not meet the position suggested in the Question if the functions of the Forestry Commission, as applied to Scotland, were vested in the Scottish Department of Agriculture?
Electoral Machinery (Reform)
asked the Prime Minister whether following' the precedent of the great war, it is proposed to set up a committee, at a reasonably early date, to enquire into the working of the electoral system?
As my hon. Friend is aware, the question of electoral machinery has been the subject of a recent inquiry. The recommendations of the Committee are under the immediate consideration of the Government. To set up another Committee to consider the wider question of electoral reform would not seem to be an appropriate course in present circumstances,
Does not the Minister feel that it is a very dangerous thing at the present time that all young people under the ages of 24–25 have no vote and therefore feel detached from Parliamentary institutions, and cannot something be done to rectify the matter?
Yes, Sir. However that may be, it is not a question for electoral reform; it is a problem for the new Register.
Will not my right hon. Friend re-consider the promise that has three times been made on behalf of the Government that there would be an opportunity in this Parliament for the consideration of this matter?
This Report has been received—a voluminous Report, as my hon. Friend knows—and there may be an opportunity for a discussion at a later date. It is presently being examined by the Government.
Has not this to deal with a possible emergency? What is demanded is that there should be an inquiry into the whole system, as was the case in the last war.
Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the fact that in the election of 1918 as many votes were cast against the Government as for them?
I do not know how to interpret that.
asked the Prime Minister what Minister will be in charge of legislation, foreshadowed in February, 1942, for dispersal of industries and population from congested areas and for encouragement of a reasonable balance of industrial development; when such legislation may be expected; and is he aware that great local authorities are having their plans for after-war building held up because the will of Parliament in such major problems of reconstruction is not yet fully expressed?
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio informed the House on 1st December, 1942, the consideration of general future policy in reconstruction matters is proceeding under the supervision of a Committee of Ministers over which he presides. It will be for that Committee to consider what legislation is necessary for these purposes. Bills which relate to the control and use of land will be in charge of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The decision as to which Minister will be in charge of any other necessary Bills will depend upon their nature. The Government recognise the importance to local authorities of Government decisions on major problems of reconstruction, and such decisions will be reached as soon as the investigations now proceeding and the exigencies of the war allow.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the necessity for an early decision with regard to planning if private builders and local authorities are to be in a position to start building houses when hostilities terminate?
I agree. I tried to cover that in the last part of my reply.
Does that mean that the Government have to come to a decision and that Parliament is not to have a say?
No, Sir, the constitutional practice will, of course, be followed.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will move to set up a Select Committee to consider the problem of maintaining full employment after the war, and to make recommendations?
I do not consider that the appointment of a Select Committee would be appropriate in this case.
My Question has been rewritten, no doubt in conformity with the practice of the House, but may I ask whether the Government have this question under consideration? It is no use waiting until the end of hostilities.
The point I had in mind was that this matter could not be dissociated from the general Government economic policy over the whole field. As the hon. Member will know from my earlier answers as Foreign Secretary, certain events are moving there.
Trees, Trentham Area
asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware of the concern expressed by the City of Stoke-on-Trent at the instructions given for the cutting down of practically the whole of the trees in the Trentham area; why this area was selected before the big estates and woods throughout the country, which are many miles from industrial centres, while Trentham is the main one left in North Staffordshire and was to be developed for the benefit of the industrial population; and whether he will give further consideration to this?
No instructions have been issued for the cutting down of trees in the Trentham area. Consideration is, however, being given, in consultation with the local authority, to the possibility of felling a certain number of trees in the area.
Will the Minister take the views of local authorities into consideration?
Certainly, we are having a meeting with local authorities next week.
Have the Government any policy with regard to replanting trees for amenity purposes in various parts of the country where, in industrial areas, trees break the effect of the harshness of industry?
That Question will have to be directed to another Department.
asked the Minister of Supply whether he can give any information in connection with cotton bicycle tyres; whether he has received a report from the scientists of his Ministry about them; and whether the cotton tyres will be suitable for motor-cars?
Tests of cotton bicycle tyres under road conditions are not yet complete. Motor car tyres made of cotton are also being investigated, but results so far are not promising.
Canning, Bottling And Freezing Of Vegetables Order
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether it is proposed to publish the terms of the licence referred to in paragraph 10 (1) of the Food (Canning, Bottling and Freezing of Vegetables) Order (Statutory Rules and Orders, 1943, No. 236), having regard to the fact that the breach of the terms of such a licence is a punishable offence?
It is the practice of my Department to publish all licences and directions which are of general application but not to publish licences and directions issued to individual traders. No licence in the former category has been issued in accordance with the provision of the Order to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers.
Fish Distribution, Keighley
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that fish supplies to Keighley in January under the zoning scheme averaged two ounces per head of the population; and whether, as large catches are being landed at the ports, he will arrange for a more equitable distribution?
I am advised that the supplies available in Keighley in January, while smaller than they should have been, were nevertheless substantially greater than is suggested by my hon. Friend. I regret that in the short time available I have not been able to collect the full information necessary to enable me to say what steps have been taken to rectify any deficiency.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that supplies of fish amounting to 483 stones, divided among 56,000 people, come to exactly what I said in my Question? Further, is he aware that this in no way corresponds with the large catches for this country and that a black market of huge dimensions is developing in fish?
As regards my hon. Friend's first point, I could not make out whether he was referring to weekly or monthly figures.
Two ounces a month.
That is wrong.
Assuming that the figure is accurate, or nearly so, can the hon. Gentleman say how it compares on a per capita basis with the fish distributed throughout the rest of the country?
It is about 8/11ths.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is now able to state the revenue of the controlled railway undertakings for 1942?
Estimates of the pooled revenue receipts and expenses and of the resultant net revenue of the controlled railway undertakings for the year 1942 will, I hope, be published in a White Paper before the end of this month.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the many rumours in circulation that in view of the expected high yield the existing rental agreement should be revised? Has he in contemplation any such revision?
No such rumour has reached me.
But has my hon. Friend in contemplation any revision of the agreement?
No, Sir, I have not in contemplation any such revision.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of, War Transport whether he can now furnish an estimate of the weight of traffic which has been discontinued by the prohibition of the conveyance of flowers by train?
In the last season in which there were no restrictions on the carriage of flowers by rail, approximately 10,000 tons of flowers were carried by rail from the principal growing areas to the principal markets. My hon. Friend will realise that flowers occupy a great deal of space in proportion to their weight; a load of 25 hundredweight of flowers fills a railway van weighing 25 tons. Thus the weight of the flowers themselves is not a reliable guide to the loss of transport capacity involved.
Is there any prohibition with regard to the weight of passengers?
In the case of the Great Western Railway, is not the amount of traffic that has been prohibited counter-balanced by the use of road transport from Penzance to London to bring flowers, thus using petrol and rubber, as is evidenced every day at Covent Garden Mark