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Written Answers

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1943

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Written Answers

British-Made Tanks (Russia)

asked the Secretary of State for War the nature of any reports received from the Soviet authorities in Russia as to the use and effectiveness of British-made tanks?

All reports received indicate that British tanks have given good service in action against the enemy on the Russian front.

British Army

Medical Grading

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied with the present arrangement whereby soldiers who are medically graded downwards by a board of experts can in a short period be upgraded again by a single medical officer?

A man's physical condition tends to improve as a result of Army training and in a normal case the medical officer who has watched the man at work in his unit can properly determine when a man is fit for a higher medical grading. This arrangement will, however, shortly be modified. In order to make full use of all the men available in the Army, including those of relatively low medical category, and to ensure that the duties a man carries out are, as far as possible, suited to his medical condition, Army Selection Centres are being instituted. Eventually all soldiers whose change of medical category entails a change of employment will pass through these centres. They will be there for a week and will then be classified and allotted to the duties they can best perform. Men suffering from defects which can be cured will be given special remedial training. It is hoped in this way to make as many men as possible fit for combatant duties. When a change of medical grade does not entail a change of employment the present system will continue in force.

Home Guard

asked the Secretary of State for War what will be the rates of pay for members of the Home Guard when they are mustered for actual or apprehended invasion?

The members of the Home Guard are unpaid. Those members who lose their earnings as a result of being mustered for an actual or apprehended invasion will be entitled to compensation within certain limits. At present the limits for members over 17 are £3 18s. 6d. a week or 13s. 1d. a day less an adjustment for food supplied and insurance contributions paid. It is intended at the outset to pay all claimants alike 7s. a day and to adjust any balance due later.

asked the Secretary of State for War, in regard to the announcement that as far as possible in demobilisation plans the troops will be released according to length of service, whether he will make it clear that service in the Home Guard will be taken into account in the cases of men of older years?

I regret that I have nothing to add to the announcement made by the then Paymaster General on 1st December, 1942.

Aliens

asked the Secretary of State for War under what condition nationals of countries with which we are at war are allowed to serve in the British Army and in which branches of it?

At present nationals of countries with which we are at war can enlist only into the Pioneer Corps for service in an alien company. Those with technical qualifications can transfer to the appropriate technical corps provided that there is no security objection, and the bulk of those possessing technical qualifications have been so transferred. As I indicated on 2nd March in a reply to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown), of which I will send my hon. Friend a copy, these arrangements have recently been extended and subject to certain conditions the men in question will be allowed to transfer from the Pioneer Corps to any arm except the Royal Corps of Signals. I am, however, considering the issue of instructions modifying the method of enlistment in order to make it unnecessary for those with qualifications specially needed in the Army to go through the Pioneer Corps.

Caretakers

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of caretakers in requisitioned buildings, respectively authorised and engaged in each command and the terms of employment offered to them?

1,921 caretakers are authorised in all commands, 778 are at present engaged. I append the details. The present position is by no means satisfactory but there has been a great improvement in the last month or so. Originally, a caretaker was set to look after a specific building and when the building was reoccupied by the Army the caretaker would lose the job. Caretakers in a given area are now pooled and look after the buildings in that area. This has given them a certain security of tenure in their jobs. Most of them are paid 12s. 0d. for a shift of not less than 8 hours with a liability to attend for up to 12 hours.

Following are the details:

Command.

Authorised.

Engaged.

Eastern285120
South-Eastern277135
Northern250102
Scottish17015
Southern469150
Western277152
London District10415
Northern Ireland District8989
1,921778

Vaccination

asked the Secretary of State for War whether vaccination in the Army is performed in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health to public vaccinators to produce a minimum of scarification; and whether present methods of vaccinating soldiers result in the absence of scars?

Vaccinations in the Army are performed in accordance with instructions which are essentially similar to those issued by the Ministry of Health to public vaccinators. Successful cutaneous vaccination must of necessity lead to the formation of scar tissue, but scar? resulting from present methods of vaccinating soldiers are generally very slight.

Arundel House, Stroud

asked the Secretary of State for War from what organisations he has received requests for the use of Arundel House, Stroud; whether the requests were granted; and when this house was last used by the Army?

The case is being investigated but I regret that in the time available it has not been possible to obtain the necessary information from the local military authorities.

Family Lodging Allowance

asked the Secretary of State for War why a married captain over 30 years of age, separated from his wife through service requirements, is eligible for a family lodging allowance at the rate of 8s. 6d. per day if he were commissioned before 1st January, 1942, but only at 4s. per day if he were commissioned after that date?

A new scale of family lodging allowance was introduced on 1st January, 1942, which varied according to the size of the family and not, as the old scale, according to the rank of the officer. Officers serving before this date were, however, allowed to remain on the old scale if they chose to do so. A married captain on the new scale receives in addition to the allowance of 4s. a day for his wife, 3s. for his first child, 1s. 6d. for his second child and 1s. for each additional child as against 8s. 6d. a day irrespective of the size of his family.

Men Under Arrest (Dependants' And Family Allowances)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will take steps to relieve the hardship inflicted on the wives and dependants of soldiers under close arrest after the first 28 days have expired?

Dependants' allowance and family allowance continue to be issued in full while a soldier is under arrest or in detention unless he is discharged or transferred to the reserve. Allotments from the soldier's pay to the family cease after 28 days in order not to throw the soldier's account too heavily into debt, but this rule is now being looked into.

Middle East (Retail Prices)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the arrival of American troops in the Middle East and elsewhere has caused prices to be put up locally; and whether he will consult with the American authorities regarding possible measures, such as price control, to prevent serious hardships being caused to British personnel?

I am aware that there have been rises in prices for a variety of reasons. Those articles of which the British soldier is most in need can be obtained from N.A.A.F.I. at regulated prices. The British military authorities are not generally in a position to control the retail prices of articles purchased outside the canteens which can be obtained not only by the troops but also by the civil population. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deal with the general question of price-control and other measures to check inflation in the Middle East in his answer to my hon. Friend to-morrow.

North Africa (Soap Supplies)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that British troops in North Africa have been enduring a shortage of soap, although many other needs less important than soap have been amply supplied; and whether the necessary action has been taken to rectify this?

I understand that there was always ample soap with the Army in North Africa but owing to difficulties of distribution unavoidable in a military operation of this kind some units may not in the early stages have received as much soap as usual from the normal sources. I understand that the arrangements are now normal.

University Graduate (Release)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give attention to the case, details of which have been submitted to him, of a graduate of London University, with first-class honours in science, who came before the Recruiting Board of London University in June, 1941, and was recommended to fill a post in a scientific department of the Ministry of Supply where his special training would be invaluable, but was called up from that employment in February, 1942, and, being registered as a conscientious objector, was assigned as a private to a non-combatant corps where he is engaged in duties in which his special training is wasted?

Since February, 1942, no application has been received from a Government Department for the release of this man. As he is a conscientious objector he cannot serve in combatant arms where his special qualifications could be used.

German Troops (British Uniforms)

asked the Secretary of State for War what action has been taken against German troops captured while wearing British uniforms?

In all cases of this kind His Majesty's Government is governed by the accepted rules and customs of war.

German Mark Iv Tank (Armament)

asked the Secretary of State for War when the German Mark IV tank, equipped with a 76-mm. gun, firing a 14-pound shell, with effective range of 3,000, was first used against our forces in Egypt and Libya?

The hon. Member is doubtless referring to the 7·5 cm. gun which has been the main armament of the German Mark IV tank since the beginning of the war. An improved version of this gun was fitted to a proportion of these tanks and was encountered in action for the first time in September of last year.

Battle Of El Alamein (Casualties)

asked the Secretary of State for War the numbers of Allied forces stationed in the Middle East before our recent offensive from Egypt; the total numbers of British and Allied forces engaged in the battle of El Alamein; the numbers of Axis forces defeated and the number of Axis prisoners taken, the estimated number of their casualties and our own losses?

I regret that it is not in the public interest to give the particulars asked for about the strengths of the British and Allied forces. It is estimated that 90,000 Germans and 45,000 Italians were engaged in the battle of El Alamein. The German casualties totalled about 30,000, of which 7,200 are prisoners. Nearly all the Italians were casualties and of these about half are prisoners. As the Prime Minister said in the House on 11th November, our casualties in the battle amounted to 13,600 officers and men.

Prisoners Of War And Missing (Far East)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a comprehensive statement regarding men previously situate in Malaya, Java, Hong Kong and Singapore, and now missing, giving the fullest information for the enlightenment of relatives whose long anxiety is deserving of all possible relief?

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any further statement to make regarding allowances to the dependants of officers and other ranks reported missing in the Far East?

In cases where the fate of individuals is known, the next-of-kin are of course informed. The Japanese Government are very slow in notifying the names of prisoners of war in the Far East and the number of individuals notified forms only a proportion of the total number who were originally missing. I am well aware of the strain and anxiety of the relatives of those whose fate is not yet known, and have from time to time given information in this House and to the Press, as to the position of prisoners of war in the Far East, so far as this is known. Definite news has now been received regarding nearly 95 per cent. of those originally reported missing at Hong Kong and I am afraid that in the case of the remaining comparatively few cases there is a strong presumption that they are dead. I do not therefore think that it is justifiable to continue indefinitely in these cases the special extension of allowances which is at present due to expire on the 31st March. In order to give notice of the change the allowances will continue for another month after that date, i.e., up to 30th April. Thereafter continuing allowances at pension rates will be issued where admissible.

Definite news is still lacking about the great majority of personnel missing in other Far Eastern theatres of war. While this continues the position of the allowances for their wives and dependants will be kept under review, but will continue at any rate for the period mentioned in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) on 9th February, i.e., for 16 months from the date the relatives were notified that the man was missing, or to the 30th September, 1943, whichever is the earlier, unless, in any particular case, other news is received in the meantime.

As regards the welfare of the prisoners their situation has been to some extent improved through the arrival in the camps of relief supplies sent by the British and Dominions Red Cross Societies. Efforts are being continued through the International Red Cross Committee to provide additional supplies of medicines and comforts. In view of the continued refusal of the Japanese Government to permit visits to camps in these territories and in view of the drastic restrictions imposed by them on the small volume of correspondence so far received there is little reliable information about conditions in the camps. Broadcasts are frequently made by prisoners in Java but they can of course only say what the Japanese wish us to hear.

Liquor Prices (Control)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is in a position to make a statement as to the advisability of establishing some control over the prices of spirits and other liquor?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given to the hon. and gallant Member for East Leicester (Major Lyons) on 25th February, 1942, to which I have nothing to add.

Pigeon-Breeding, Scotland

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he has considered representations from the pigeon breeders of Scotland relating to the approach of the racing season and the desirability of retaining a minimum of pigeons; and what assurance has he given them?

I regret that I am not yet able to make a statement on this subject, which is now under consideration.

Food Supplies (Potatoes)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will consider the idea that he should advertise that all distributors of beverages should serve a hot potato in jacket with all drinks in order to reduce the consumption of bread and cakes?

National Finance

Bank Notes (Forgeries)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can make any statement on the forged bank notes in circulation?

The number of forgeries of Bank of England notes impounded during the last three calendar years was nearly 50 per cent. less than for the preceding three years. During the year 1942 forgeries impounded amounted to about one for every five million notes paid. My hon. Friend can, I think, assume that the number of forged bank notes in circulation throughout the country is insignificant.

London "Warship Week" (Banks' Subscriptions)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the £27,000,000 raised by the London clearing banks for the adoption of H.M.S. "Rodney" was a free gift to the nation or loaned free of interest for the duration of the war?

The sum referred to by my hon. Friend represents subscriptions by banks of all descriptions to interest-bearing Government loans on issue during London's "Warship Week."

Income Tax (Friendly Societies)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the approximate amount of Income Tax actually refunded by the Inland Revenue to friendly societies, other than collecting friendly societies, in respect of income derived from their invested funds in the latest year for which the figures are available; and what approximate addition should be made thereto in respect of Income Tax which was not deducted at the source on income derived from friendly societies' investments and for which, in consequence, no claim to a refund was made by such friendly societies?

I regret that the information asked for by my hon. Friend is not available for any year.

Napier Company Assets (Purchase)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what sums of money were paid to the Napier Company in connection with the recent transaction with the English Electric Company; for what purpose and on what grounds the Treasury approved the transaction; and whether sums paid to retiring directors as compensation are subject to tax?

As was announced at the time, the Minister of Aircraft Production undertook, subject to the inter-company arrangements being concluded, to purchase for £750,000 certain fixed assets previously acquired by the Napier Company for the purpose of its war expansion programme. With regard to the second part of the Question, the Treasury approved the transaction and gave the necessary consent to the issue of shares by the English Electric Company, on the ground that essential production would thereby be benefitted. The answer to the last part of the Question would depend upon the facts of the particular case, as to which I have no knowledge, but I must point out that I could not, in any event, give information regarding the taxation affairs of particular taxpayers.

State Pensions Scheme (Estimated Cost)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated cost at the present time and five and 10 years hence, of granting pensions of 30s. per week to all persons at 60 years of age, without applying any test of need; and what addition per £1 on Income Tax would be required to meet the cost such a change would represent, as compared with the present cost of old age and supplementary pensions?

The additional cost to the taxpayer of paying pensions of 30s. a week on a non-contributory basis to all persons aged 60 and over in Great Britain, with no test of need, is estimated at about £380,000,000 a year, after allowing for savings in the cost of other services or about £410,000,000 if contributions under the existing scheme were discontinued. These figures would rise by about £30,000,000 in five years and by about £60,000,000 in 10 years. On the basis that 1s. in the £ on the standard rate of Income Tax is equivalent to £100,000,000, the additional cost would be, arithmetically, equivalent initially to about 4s. on the standard rate of tax, rising in 10 years to about 4s. 8d. on the assumption, for the present purpose, that the yield of taxation remained unaltered.

Post-War Credits

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether Income Tax post-war credits will be regarded as war savings for the purposes of the Determination of Needs Act, 1941?

Yes, Sir. I have decided that, in all the circumstances, this concession is justifiable. The Government will take the necessary formal steps in due course.

Wages (Taxation)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will reconsider the basis of assessment for Income Tax on wages of workers with a view to fixing assessment on current earnings instead of the earnings of the previous year?

I would remind my hon. Friend that during the course of the Finance Bill Debates last year I stated that I would gladly consider any scheme for the deduction of tax from wages on a current earnings basis which provided a solution of the difficulties set forth in the White Paper "The Taxation of Weekly Wage-Earners" (Cmd. 6348).

Government Departments

Training Of Civil Servants (Committee)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has yet appointed a committee to examine the general question of the training of civil servants; and, if so, whether he will state its composition and terms of reference?

Yes, Sir. I have set up a Committee with the following membership:

  • The Financial Secretary to the Treasury—Chairman.
  • Sir Harold Hartley—Vice-President, London Midland and Scottish Railway Company.
  • Sir Kenneth Lee—Chairman, Tootal Broad-hurst Lee Company Limited.
  • Miss Myra Curtis—Principal, Newnham College, Cambridge.
  • Mr. A. J. T. Day—Chairman, Staff Side, National Whitley Council.
  • Mr. A. L. N. D. Houghton, Staff Side, National Whitley Council.
  • Sir Thomas Gardiner—Director General, General Post Office.
  • Sir Robert Wood—Deputy Secretary, Board of Education.
  • Mr. H. Wilson Smith—Under Secretary, Treasury.
The terms of reference of the Committee are:
"To examine the general question of the training of civil servants, including the question whether a Staff College should be established, and, if so, the particular form and character which that college should take."

Rubber Boots

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that there are many pairs of rubber boots lying in Government offices, which were issued to fire squads in the early days of the war, are not now used and are useless for any work which the squads may be called upon to do; and whether, in view of the shortage of rubber boots for land girls and agricultural workers, he will call in these stocks and arrange for their re-issue to those who need them?

Instructions were issued to Government Departments in September last that all rubber boots issued for A.R.P. purposes, apart from those forming part of sets of anti-gas protective clothing, should be returned to the Ministry of Works. I should be glad to be informed by the hon. Member of any instances in which this instruction is not being followed.

Board Of Trade (Inspection Staff)

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) the horse-power of the motor-car used by his inspecting officers in Bristol;(2) the number and ages of the inspection staff of his Department in Bristol?

The number of officers, with inspecting duties on my staff at Bristol, who have to cover six counties, is 13. One is inspector of laundry services, aged 30. Three are investigation officers, aged 53, 56 and 60. Four are accountants, aged 28, 35, 43 and 54. Five work for the local price regulation committee, aged 31, 44, 49, 60 and 61. Two of these inspecting officers have motor-cars of 8 horse-power.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many permanent and how many temporary civil servants, fit for military service, are employed by his Department as inspectors, investigators and in similar posts on the outdoor staff of the age of 29 and under?

No permanent civil servants, fit for military service, aged 29 or under, are employed on these duties. Twenty-nine temporary civil servants are so employed. All of these are qualified accountants.

Requisitioned Premises (Valuation)

asked the Home Secretary what remedy is available to persons who feel aggrieved by decisions of the Government valuer in regard to requisitioned premises?

I have been asked to reply. Any dispute as to whether any compensation is payable under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, in respect of requisitioned premises or as to the amount of such compensation can under Section 7 of the Act be referred to the General Claims Tribunal set up under Section 8 of the Act.

Statutory Rules And Orders (Index)

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that up to 9th March His Majesty's Stationery Office had not issued any index of Statutory Rules and Orders in respect of such Rules and Orders published after 31st January; that the January index, which relates to certain Rules and Orders between Nos. 1 and 163, did not include in it some 40 numbers; that as far as can be ascertained by a search of the files of the Library of the House of Commons, it appears that many of these Orders are not yet available in the Library; and what steps he proposes to take to correct this?

Yes, Sir. The monthly index is a catalogue for reference purposes of all Orders sent for printing up to the last day of the month to which it relates. It is available about the tenth day of the following month and the February one is now available. In addition, the Stationery Office has a daily publication list, which includes Statutory Rules and Orders, and copies of that are in the Library. Some of the numbers to which my hon. Friend refers were allotted in advance to Orders which were not published before the 31st January and some relate to local Orders which are notified to those immediately concerned but not printed.

Towels Supply (Miners)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can state the facilities for miners to obtain towels at the pits where there are no pithead baths?

Yes, Sir. All miners working at pits without pit-head baths will be entitled between now and 20th June next, to obtain two towels, in return for coupons, through the canteen or colliery office.

Trade And Commerce

Defence Regulations (Prosecutions)

asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of persons prosecuted by his Department up to date for violations of regulations; and how many of these were employers and servants, respectively?

There have been 1,287 prosecutions instituted by the Board of Trade for contravention of the Defence Regulations in respect of breaches of Orders now admininstered by the Board. The information asked for in the second part of the Question is not readily available and I regret that I could not justify the expenditure of labour and time which would be involved in obtaining it.

Concentration Of Industry (Compensation)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any trades have been concentrated without prior arrangement for some form of compensation?

No, Sir. I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the replies given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Leicester (Major Lyons) on 17th December, 1941, and to my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) on 8th September last, of which I am sending him copies.

Hand Knitting Wool

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the growing shortage of white and pastel knitting wools and the increasing difficulty for expectant mothers in obtaining supplies; and what steps he is proposing to take to remedy the position?

Following signs of a growing shortage of hand knitting wool suitable for babies' garments, the wool controller, at my request, made arrangements some time ago for increasing very substantially the production of yarns of this type. Despite the reduced capacity of the wool spinning industry as a whole, the output of this kind of yarn is now greater than before the war. This increase in output should very shortly be reflected in increased supplies in the shops. In order to economise in labour and raw materials, the whole of the present output is being produced in white, pale blue or pink.

Used Cardboard (Manufacture Of Toys)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether manufacturers, having in their possession previously used cardboard, can be permitted to make from such cardboard cheap toys, over and above permitted quota under existing regulations, providing that no additional labour is employed in their manufacture?

No, Sir. Previously used cardboard can, of course, be used for manufacturing toys. But I cannot agree that toys made from such material should not be included in the permitted quota. The object of the Limitation of Supplies Order is to save material, as well as labour, for essential war purposes.

Colliery Canteens

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of collieries in the country that have canteens where sit-down meals are provided; the number of meals provided to a given date; and the various percentages of the workmen partaking of such meals at the collieries where such provision is made?

On 1st March, 239 collieries had canteens where full meals are provided and the number of such canteens is steadily increasing. Returns are not received as to the number of meals provided, but from the results of a special investigation it has been estimated that in the first week of January, the full meal canteens then operating provided daily about 62,400 full meals to an average of 29 per cent. of the men employed at those collieries, 71,000 snack meals to 33 per cent. and 43,000 packed meals to 20 per cent.

Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

asked the Minister of Pensions what would be the cost of allowing full disability pensions to all claimants whose claims have been disallowed as not due to or exaggerated by war service or are under examination?

I regret that the information desired by the hon. Member is not available and could not be obtained without a disproportionate expenditure of time and labour. In any event it would not be in the public interest to give figures relating to the number of discharges on medical grounds.

Scotland

Public Assistance

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the scale of public assistance for a married couple without means now paid by each local authority in Scotland?

I regret that I do not have this information. The Poor Law does not recognise scales of relief. While some local authorities have adopted scales for their own convenience, they are not required to report them to me and the scale rates may be varied according to the circumstances of the individual case.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many persons in Scotland are in receipt of public assistance?

The total number of persons in receipt of public assistance (excluding vagrants and persons in receipt of outdoor medical relief only) on 15th July, 1942, the latest date for which figures are available, was 95,920, of whom 40,000 were dependants.

Youth Registration

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will issue a White Paper on Youth Registration?

I have arranged with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education that we shall issue conjointly a White Paper on Youth Registration in England and Wales, and Scotland.

Housing Repairs (Local Authorities' Powers)

asked the Minister of Health whether, in cases where structural first-aid repairs have been made and the owner lacks financial resources to decorate and thus enable premises to be let, local authorities have power under regulation to perform this work at the owner's expense, recovering the amount so expended by way of rent until the indebtedness to the authority is cleared?

The provisions of the Housing (Emergency Powers) Act, 1939, as amended by the Repair of War Damage Act, 1941, enable local authorities to execute permanent repairs, as well as first-aid repairs in special circumstances and where the owner is unable or unwilling to do the work himself. The restrictions on the supply of material do not however permit of more than the minimum amount of decoration. There is no question of the costs being recovered from the owner, since the local authority is reimbursed by the War Damage Commission, who would also meet the proper cost of any work carried out by the owner himself.

Public Health

Advertising Campaign

asked the Minister of Health how many posters in the series entitled "Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases" have been issued by his Department for publication; and what has been the cost to the public of this advertising campaign?

In the current campaign which began last October, 152,170 posters and vehicle bills have been issued at a total cost of £12,600.

Milk (Tested Samples, Gloucester)

asked the Minister of Health the number of samples of milk infected with tuberculosis in Gloucester in 1942?

I am informed that in the county borough of Gloucester only two samples of milk were examined for the presence of tubercle bacilli during 1942 and both gave negative results to the test.

Tube Shelter Accident

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give further information in connection with the London shelter disaster; whether the shelter steps were well lighted; how many people were killed, giving the number of men, women and children separately and the number injured; whether compensation will be paid; and what he intends doing about the matter?

The figures of casualties are as follows: Killed: 33 men, 96 women, 44 children (under 16). Admitted to Hospital: 14 men, 33 women, 15 children. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions that compensation will be paid as for war injury. As regards the remainder of the Question, I do not think it would be proper for me to anticipate the conclusions of the independent inquiry now in progress.

Women's Internment Camp, Isle Of Man

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a woman official of his Department, named Skeen, in applying continental methods of questioning to women detained under Regulation 18B in Camp W, Isle of Man, has recently included, amongst other threats, one to the effect that, when we get a Government like the Russian one in this country, a worse fate than shooting awaits these women, and that one woman who had recently undergone a serious operation has had a breakdown in health since her ordeal; whether this technique and this particular threat, were used by his instructions; and whether he will take steps to deal with the matter?

I have been asked to reply, as the Question relates to an individual who is not a War Office official but is on the staff of the Women's Internment Camp in the Isle of Man which is under Home Office control. I have made inquiries, but am assured that no such methods of questioning as those referred to in the Question have been applied to women detained in this Camp, and that there is no foundation for the suggestion that one of them has had a breakdown in health attributable to improper threats.

National War Effort

Work Directions (Women)

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in connection with the utilisation call-up and direction of woman-power, he will give an assurance that in future greater care will be exercised to ascertain that there is accommodation and work actually available in the works and industries to which women are directed before instructions are issued posting them away from their present employment?

Workers are only sent forward to vacancies which have been specifically notified by employers. It should not therefore happen that work is not available for any person so sent forward. If the hon. Member is aware of individual cases of difficulty and will let me have particulars I shall be glad to look into them. As to accommodation, this is primarily the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. My officers and the officers of that Department act together in full co-operation to ensure that accommodation is available for transferred workers. Moreover, instructions are already in operation requiring all appropriate particulars of accommodation to be made known concurrently with notification of the vacancies to which workers are to be transferred.

Tank Production

asked the Minister of Supply whether any tank comparable to the American M.10 is being produced in this country; and whether he has any information to give this House?

The hon. Member will not expect me to give advance information to the enemy about the weapons which we intend to use against him.

Palestine (Refugees)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that refugees of all Continental countries are liberally admitted into the Mandated Territory of Palestine without regard to numbers or nationality excepting only those of Hebrew extraction; that such policy is contrary to the Mandate which provides that no person shall be excluded from the Mandated Territory because of his religious belief; and will he therefore direct that refugees of the Hebrew persuasion shall be permitted the same privileges and facilities granted to those of other creeds?

No, Sir. There is no such discrimination in the treatment accorded in Palestine to Jewish and non-Jewish refugees as my hon. Friend suggests, and there is consequently no contravention of the Mandate. As was stated in the reply given on 11th June last to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke Newington (Sir G. Jones), of some 4,000 persons who by that date had been admitted to Palestine specifically as war refugees about 40 per cent. were Jews. This figure does not, of course, include Jewish immigrants to Palestine, who numbered about 38,000 in the period from 1st April, 1939, to 30th September, 1942.

Sewage Sludge (Use In Agriculture)

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is now able to issue a statement on the production and use of sewage sludge as compost or otherwise?

I have now received, through the Agricultural Improvement Council for England and Wales, an interim report from the Agricultural Research Council based on investigations that have been in progress for the last two or three years. The present position may be summarised as follows: Certain types of sewage sludge, when not contaminated with injurious industrial effluents, have definite, though limited, value as a form of organic manure. Their main value is as a source of nitrogen, since most of the potash and phosphate in the raw sewage is inevitably lost. Sludges also have value on account of their content in organic material, but it is less than that of farmyard manure. The use of these sludges for manurial purposes has greatly increased during the war: but there are still large supplies in many districts of which no agricultural use is being made, and it is clearly desirable that this waste should be avoided provided that the limitations of the material are realised. It may therefore be concluded that the production and use of suitable types of dried sewage sludge—that is to say, of sludge free from injurious constituents—should be encouraged within the limitations imposed by the difficulties of transport: and supply of materials for the construction of sewage disposal plants other than those of a relatively simple character.

Consideration has also been given to the use of composts prepared from sludge and town refuse. Composts of this kind have been tested in a large number of trials, and have sometimes, though by no means invariably, given promising results. One of the great difficulties is that town refuse is a very variable material; and the more efficient our wartime salvage becomes the less does the final refuse contribute to plant nutrition. In these circumstances, it is clearly not desirable, at the present time, that material and labour should be devoted to the construction of new plants that would be required to make composts of this type available on an extended scale. The Agricultural Research and Improvement Councils have called attention to the possibility of composting sewage sludge with straw; and, at my request, they are actively pursuing inquiries along these lines. If this procedure proves successful, either by composting at the sewage works or on the farm, it would have the great advantage of returning the surplus straw to the land, together with its natural content of potash and lingnin. Similar trials are in progress using sawdust in place of straw; but it seems probable that the advantages will lie with straw. Any practical conclusions from these inquiries will be issued as and when they become available, but no results can be expected until after the end of the present cropping season.

"Desert Victory" Film

asked the Minister of Information whether the film "Desert Victory" has been despatched for exhibition in the Dominions, Russia and the United States of America?

Arrangements have been made for the despatch of "Desert Victory" by the highest air priority to all these countries. The film has already arrived in America and is on its way to all the Dominions. A Russian version is being printed and will leave very shortly.