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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Scotland

Housing, Clydebank

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why, of the 1,000 new houses to be allocated on Clydeside, only 200 are allocated to Clydebank and in view of the fact that the destruction of houses by enemy action was greater in this burgh than elsewhere on the Clyde, that before the war Clydebank was overcrowded, and that since the war there has been an influx of workers into the area, whether he will reconsider this decision and authorise the provision of new houses in excess of 200?

Under the new Scottish housing programme of 1,000 houses 80 per cent. have been allocated to war-damaged areas on Clydeside. But there is unfortunately no known formula for giving universal satisfaction when only a limited number of houses is available to meet a large demand.

Is the Secretary of State aware that his reply will be heard with dismay in Clydebank? Is he aware that "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests" but that the workers in Clydebank have nowhere of their own to lay their heads? What is the Secretary of State going to do to meet this tragic situation in Clydebank, where there are no homes for the people?

The Question on the Order Paper relates only to the allocation of the very limited token number of houses to be built. I can assure my hon. Friend that we have done our best to allocate these as fairly as possible.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the heaviest amount of damage has been done at Clydebank and will he not see that Clyde-bank gets a bigger part of the allocation?

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there is substance in the pleas that have been made and that the dimensions of this token programme need to be reconsidered?

Hydro-Electric Development Bill

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will indicate the adaptations, modifications and exceptions which he proposes to make to the Electric (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1936, referred to in Clauses 16 (1) and 21 of the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill, in time to allow of consideration before the Bill is examined in Committee?

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate promised during the Second Reading Debate it is the Government's intention to table timeously Amendments to the Bill setting out adaptations and modifications in the provisions of the Acts of 1926 and 1935 relating to the Central Electricity Board in their application to the North of Scotland District. No undertaking was given to schedule the adaptation of the Electricity (Supply) Acts as a whole, but I hope that it may be possible to deal with this also by way of Amendments to the Bill.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that these Amendments-will be put down timeously so that they may be considered before the Bill is examined in Committee?

Crofters (Instruction)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the desirability that crofters in the West Highlands and Islands should be enabled to make the most effective use of their crofts, he proposes to take any steps to instruct the crofters in up-to-date agricultural methods?

For many years the North and West of Scotland Colleges of Agriculture have had instructors and instructresses stationed in these districts for the purpose stated in the Question. I am glad, however, to say that the North of Scotland College has now secured, in addition, the services of Dr. Fraser Darling. Dr. Darling is the well-known scientist and naturalist, who has successfully cultivated a croft on the Island of Tanera off the Ross-shire coast and is thus able to speak from practical experience of crofting problems. Dr. Darling's services which will be on a part-time basis, will consist of giving practical instruction, advice and demonstrations to the crofters.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his encouraging statement, will he see that when the demonstrations take place, good notice is given, as most of the crofters are in remote areas, where they are very widely scattered and where there are great difficulties of transport, as it would be to the advantage of every single crofter to attend the demonstrations?

Rating System (Committee)

4 and 5.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) whether the question of rating of site values is included in the terms of reference to the Committee which he has appointed to inquire into rating problems in Scotland; and, if not, will he reconsider the terms so as to include such a reference;

(2) the terms of reference on which he proposes to ask a Committee to inquire into rating problems in Scotland; and whether he can give the names of that Committee?

I announced the terms of reference to this Committee in the House on 24th February during the Second Reading Debate on the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill. I am sending to my hon. Friend a copy of the statement I then made. The purpose of the inquiry is to examine only very limited aspects of the Scots rating system. The membership of the Committee is at present under consideration.

In view of my right hon. Friend's well-known support in the past for the rating of site values, does not he agree that there is now a favourable opportunity to include this in the terms of reference of the Committee, and why has he not done so?

It is very obvious that within the terms of a Hydro-Electric Bill it would be impossible to amend the whole of the rating system.

Do the terms of reference include an inquiry into what seems to an Englishman to be the odd practice of requiring that houses shall be deroofed before the owner can be let off rates?

Did not the Secretary of State indicate in his speech that the terms of reference would be wider?

The exact terms which the right hon. Gentleman used and the terms he is using now are contradictory.

Education

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will issue a White Paper setting out the methods adopted in Scotland to solve the administrative problems of religious education?

A White Paper (Cmd. 6426) with regard to the provision made for religious instruction in the schools in Scotland was presented to Parliament last month, and it deals with the subject raised in the hon. Member's Question.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has remitted any special inquiries or asked for any interim reports from the reconstituted Advisory Council on Education and the Youth Advisory Committee?

After obtaining the views of the Advisory Council on Education as to the subjects into which they should inquire and their relative urgency, and with the approval of the Council of Ex-Secretaries of State, I have made five remits to the Advisory Council. I will with my hon. Friend's consent circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am at present discussing with the Chairman of the Scottish Youth Advisory Committee the subjects into which inquiry should be made by that Committee.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is intending to introduce an Education Bill for Scotland this Session?

I am afraid that in the present Session of Parliament there will be no opportunity for a Scots Education Bill.

Bombed-Out Families (Housing)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will ensure that in bombed areas house factors, when re-letting vacant private houses and flats, give preference to bombed-out families who are at present homeless?

I have no power to require property owners to let empty houses to families who have been rendered homeless by enemy action, but I understand that in at least one area the local authority have been able to come to an arrangement with the property owners under which a preference is given to such families. I welcome arrangements of this kind, and I hope that the publicity which will be given to my hon. Friend's Question will serve to encourage such arrangements in other areas. In addition, I have given all local authorities powers to find accommodation for homeless persons by billeting or by the requisitioning of empty houses.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he might seek powers for this purpose, in view of the fact that the arrangements have broken down in so many bombed-out areas?

This is a matter that can hardly be considered by Question and answer. There are very serious difficulties.

Fuel And Power

Petrol Allowance (Church-Going)

11.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether it is necessary for a householder in making application for petrol to allow him to attend church on the Sabbath, to give the names of the members of his household in the application so as to make them eligible to travel in the motor-car; and whether the nearest suitable church means the usual place of worship, that is, the church and congregation of which they are communicants and members, even if such place of worship is not the nearest to the home of the applicant?

The answer to the, first part of the Question is in the negative. As regards the second part, the nearest suitable church normally means the church of the particular denomination concerned, nearest to the home of the applicant, but I shall be happy to consider any exceptional case if my hon. and gallant Friend will give me particulars.

Coal (Quality)

12.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of the inferior quality of much of the coal, including domestic, due to stone and other non-combustible material being mixed therewith and now being brought to the surface, and of the waste of transport, labour, time and money caused thereby, together with frustration of statistics of output, etc.; and whether he will order more effective steps to be taken to secure that only genuine coal is put on rail?

Yes, Sir. My Regional Officers are keeping a close watch on the position and are taking all possible steps to maintain the standard of preparation of coal. Inquiries I have made indicate that over a considerable proportion of the national output the standard has been well maintained, but I would remind my hon. Friend that the position is now such that a use must be found for every ton of fuel produced, including some for which there was little or no demand before the war. It is mainly in relation to this inferior residue of the national output that difficulties arise.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be good enough to inspect a sample of alleged coal which I extracted, and which represents 4 lbs. of solid stone in one shovelful of coal, from a truck in a siding in Buckinghamshire, supposed to contain the best house coal, for which £3 a ton is charged; and does he think it reasonable that poor people should be asked to pay this price for coal which undoubtedly is adulterated?

No, Sir, I do not agree that it is right that it should be sold. I should be glad to look into the case which my hon. Friend has in mind. I must add, however, that every type of coal has to be used at the present time, and most of the complaints are of the type to which the hon. Member referred. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that there is a shortage of labour when it comes to the screening and sorting out of the coal, and that is one of the great difficulties.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that in certain areas there is a very definite complaint about this and that last week in Northumberland, in a supply of two tons of coal, there was from 50 to 75 per cent. of stone, and that I have a sample with me to show to him? Is he further aware that there is no shortage of men to do the screening work?

I cannot accept my hon. Friend's contention that there is no shortage of labour on the screening. That is not so. It may be the case in the particular instance he has in mind, and I will look into that case. I find it a little difficult to believe that 75 per cent. of stone was found in the coal.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that industrial coal, to which the attention of his Department has been drawn frequently, contains more than 50 per cent. of moisture and incombustible material, and when wagons are brought a long distance, does not this represent a very serious waste of transport?

Electricity Proposals, London

13.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power when and in what manner the recent proposals of the London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority had been communicated to the Electricity Commissioners or any member thereof; and what was the attitude adopted in regard thereto?

The London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority sent me on 15th February a memorandum of proposals, stating that a copy had been sent to the Electricity Commissioners. I appreciate the work that has been put into this memorandum, and I am consulting the Electricity Commissioners about its proposals.

Director Of Gas Supplies (Dr Smith's Resignation)

14.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will indicate the nature of the differences of opinion which have caused the resignation of Dr. Smith from his position of Director of Gas Supplies?

Dr. Smith wrote to me on 19th February saying that it appeared that he had fulfilled the task allotted to him when he was appointed in 1941 and he therefore desired to terminate his services with my Department. He felt that his effort? could better serve the national cause if exercised elsewhere. There have been certain differences of opinion between Dr. Smith and myself during the last eight months. These have arisen only on occasions when I felt myself unable to accept the advice which he rendered to me.

In view of the grave disquiet occasioned by Dr. Smith's resignation owing to the confidence they have in him, did the right hon. and gallant Gentleman personally discuss the differences of opinion between him and Dr. Smith since the resignation was handed in?

I have not consulted him' since that time, but I had on many occasions before.

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman believe that the appointment of a Committee with a non-technical chairman will be more advantageous to the national interest than a man with high technical qualifications?

Coal Production (Directors' Resignations)

15.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will state on the coal production side the names of those members of his Department who have resigned this year and the position they held?

The following officers of the Production Directorate have resigned or have been released during this year: Mr. T. E. B. Young, Chief Production Director at Headquarters. Mr. H. Watson Smith, Production Director, North Midland Region. Mr. J. H. French, Assistant Production Director, North Western Region.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give any indication as to the reasons for these gentlemen's resignations?

With regard to Mr. Young, the company which lent him to me were in a serious difficulty because his deputy was seriously ill and was not likely to resume work for several months. The company in question is a very important one as far as output is concerned, and I felt I should agree to Mr. Young's release. They have promised me that when Mr. Young's deputy returns they will be glad to let me have the advice of Mr. Young again from time to time. With regard to Mr. Watson Smith, much the same situation arose.

We have in the place of Mr. Watson Smith a panel of technical people doing the work. I am hoping to replace Mr. Young very shortly at headquarters and the same applies to the North Western region.

Coal Seams, Nottinghamshire

16.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he can give any information in connection with coal seams found 16 feet below the surface between the villages of Answorth and Cossall, Nottinghamshire; what sort of coal it is; and whether he has granted the lease to a new company to work the coal?

Yes, Sir, the coal is the Piper seam of general house and manufacturing coal which is well known, extensively worked in the North Midland coalfield and outcrops in the neighbourhood mentioned. The answer to the latter part of the Question is in the negative.

Coal Research

17.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he can make a statement indicating what steps are being taken to develop methods and processes of utilising coal, particularly of derivatives from coal; and what his Department is doing in this matter?

While my Ministry is not directly responsible for the conduct of research work, it is in close touch with the Fuel Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which is carrying out an extensive programme of research into the properties of coal, its utilisation and the utilisation of its by-products. My Ministry is also in touch with the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, the Gas Research Board and other industrial research bodies engaged on important work in this field. Moreover, as my hon. Friend may be aware, the Ministry is in control of the coal tar industry and of the production of benzole. Considerable progress has been made in substituting the liquid products of coal for imported petroleum products and the Ministry has acquired much valuable information bearing on the production and utilisation of coal by-products.

Do these various bodies report to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the findings of their investigations, and does he propose to publish their report?

Low Grade Fuels

18.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps are being taken to increase the use of waste coal such as anthracite duff?

Every effort is being made by the Ministry to increase the use of low grade fuels, and the opening up of further fields for their absorption is a special subject of study by the Fuel Efficiency Committee. Considerable tonnages have already been absorbed, releasing better quality coal for other purposes. Particular attention is directed to the possibilities of anthracite duff. Certain industries have given valuable assistance by taking increased quantities, and industrial trials, directed to widening the possible outlets, are at present in progress.

Coal Ash

19.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the total weight of ash in the coal used for industrial purposes and for domestic purposes in Great Britain during 1942; whether any estimate has been made in terms of thermal units of the waste in hauling such ash about the country; and in view of the increased efficiency in boiler plant which would result if this ash were eliminated, what action he proposes to take?

I regret that it is impossible to provide the statistics for which my hon. Friend asks. Every effort is being made, however, to maintain the standards of preparation of coal for both industrial and domestic purposes, and to reduce the length of haulage of fuel with high ash contents.

Are all the coal washing plants being used, and is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman taking any steps to increase them?

We are doing everything we can to increase the supply of the washers I think he has in mind, but the hon. Member will realise that there is a shortage of material and also of labour.

Eire (Coal From Great Britain)

20.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why certain colliery companies have been ordered to send coal to Dublin; and whether, in view of the shortage in this country this policy is to be continued?

The supply of coal for Eire has been considered by the Government from time to time and certain limited quantities have been made available. There has been no formal direction by the Ministry to collieries to provide coal for Eire. Supplies are released through the normal trade channels from those collieries where the coal can best be spared at the particular time.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that some of this fuel will be used to provide light and heat to the German and Italian Legations in Dublin; and that, as so many Seaham pitmen are fighting Germans and Italians in North Africa, our company resent this.

It is not a matter for me to decide. The Government have agreed that certain limited quantities should go to Eire.

Is there any reason why coal should go to Ireland when we are so short in this country?

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that there is universal support in the country for Ireland being allowed sufficient coal?

Great Britain And Dominions (Parliamentary Delegations)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the visit of Australian and New Zealand Members of Parliament to this country; and whether reciprocal arrangements for Members of this House to visit these two Dominions have yet been made?

I understand that the Empire Parliamentary Association have made arrangements for a visit to this country by a Parliamentary Delegation of seven members from Australia and a similar Delegation of two members from New Zealand to take place in the course of the next two months. The Association hope to be able to arrange for the visit of a small United Kingdom Delegation to Australia and New Zealand later in the year. Visits to other Dominions may possibly take place in the near future.

Trade And Commerce

Visit To Business Premises, Bristol

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the purpose and result of the visit of officers of his Department to Messrs. Jarrett and Company, 78, West Street, Old Market, Bristol?

30.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why inspectors from his Department recently visited the premises of Jarrett and Company, 78, West Street, Bristol?

Officers of my Department visited this firm on 18th May, 1942, for the purpose of inspecting their records of dealings in goods controlled under the Limitation of Supplies (Toilet Preparations) Order. No action was taken as a result of the visit.

Rubber Plantation Companies, Malaya

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that a large proportion of the rubber plantation companies in Malaya are controlled by administration companies such as Eastern Industries, Limited; and whether he will consider a revision of company law which would restore to shareholders democratic control of their companies?

I am informed that many rubber plantation companies used to find it convenient to employ agencies to supervise and manage their interests in Malaya, but that such arrangements did not affect the control of the shareholders.

Utility Clothing

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the wide dissatisfaction with the austerity clothes regulations, whether he will consider the advisability of conferring with practical representatives of the bespoke "tailoring trade, as distinct from the manufacturing interests, with a view to amending the regulations, thereby making them more practical and thus removing the serious irritation they are causing to professional and business men in particular?

These regulations were introduced in May, 1942, after consultation with the trade. Their purpose was to effect a substantial economy in shipping space, materials and labour, and in this they have succeeded. The need for such economies is even more urgent now than it was ten months ago, and I could not agree to any amendment of these regulations which would diminish their effectiveness in this respect. Subject to this condition, I shall be glad to consider any representations which the trade may wish to make.

May I thank my right hon. Friend for being prepared to receive representatives of the bespoke tailoring trade and ask him whether the austerity regulations were originally intended to apply only to utility clothing and not to non-utility? Is it not a fact that trousers with turn-ups wear longer than non-turn-ups?

No, Sir. There was never any limitation of these regulations for utility clothing. Turn-ups are a very debatable subject. I do not accept the view of my hon. Friend, and I would like to let him know that on the turn-ups regulations alone millions of square feet of cloth have already been saved. The Services have no turn-ups, nor do many hon. Members of this House who take particular care of their tailoring.

With regard to my right hon. Friend's statement that he would be prepared to receive representations from the trade on this subject, has he not already received representations from the National Federation of Merchant Tailors?

I have not met them personally. A deputation came a few days ago and met the Director-General of Civilian Clothing at the Board of Trade and put certain suggestion to him. I repeat that, subject to the condition that these economies are essential and must be maintained, I am prepared to listen to anything the trade may submit.

Perambulators

33.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the anxiety of expectant mothers caused by his failure to provide perambulators; and what steps he is taking to meet the current demand?

Many manufacturers, who were engaged before the war on perambulators, are now working, wholly or partly, on direct war work. Further, the materials available for perambulator manufacture are very short, particularly plywood and steel. Nevertheless, production has increased considerably since last year, thanks to the co-operation of the trade and as a result of simplification in design. If, however, my hon. Friend has evidence of a serious shortage in any particular area, I shall be glad to look into it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one shopkeeper in Middlesbrough said he had orders for 700 perambulators and could not supply more than 10 per cent? Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is an important industry and that it ought to be provided with more materials?

I have had this matter very much in mind and have taken special steps in conjunction with the trade to increase production. Production is considerably greater than last year. If my hon. Friend will send me particulars, I shall be glad to have the question of Middlesbrough's share of the output looked into.

But will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will take adequate steps to meet the demand?

Safety Razor Blades

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any steps are now being taken to improve the distribution of safety razor blades; and whether he is aware that there is now an acute shortage in the supply available to the general public?

Despite the shortage of labour and steel strip, the number of razor blades available for the general public is little less than before the war. Every effort is made to distribute supplies as fairly as possible throughout the country, but if my hon. Friend has evidence of a serious shortage in any particular district, I shall be glad to look into it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman go into any chemist shop or barber's at random in London, and in five places out of six he will be told that none are available? When he says that the same number are being made as before the war, is he counting the safety razors supplied to the Armed Forces?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise how unfair the shortage of razor blades is to us poor brunettes as compared with blondes?

I am anxious to be fair all round. The total production of safety razor blades is greater in spite of the difficulties I have indicated, but a considerable part of it goes to the Services. The civilian population, excluding what goes to the Services, have very nearly as many as before the war. If there are defects in distribution, I shall be glad to look into them on evidence from particular areas.

Board Of Trade (Motor Cars)

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many Government motor cars, of a horse-power of between 14 and 30, are in use by his Department; and how many of a horse-power above 30?

Spain (Imports)

35.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he is aware of the abnormal quantities of petrol imported by Spain; and whether he is satisfied that no proportion of these imports is delivered to the Axis Powers?

My hon. Friend is mistaken in supposing that recent Spanish imports of petrol have been abnormal. As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) on 10th March, imports of all kinds of oil into Spain, including petrol, are carefully regulated by a system of quotas designed to ensure that, while Spain can obtain sufficient oil for her essential needs, no surplus shall be accumulated. This system has been in operation for the past two and a half years, and there has been no recent increase in the permitted rate of imports. During the first six months of 1942, however, shipments of the quota amounts were delayed, pending a fresh investigation into the level of Spanish oil stocks, and allegations of leakage to the enemy. Following this investigation, the results of which were satisfactory, it was agreed between His Majesty's Government and the United States Government that shipments should be resumed at approximately the same rate as previous quotas. It follows that the answer to the second part of the Question is in the affirmative.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the statement made recently by the United States Ambassador in Spain that petrol and petroleum products are being imported into Spain to the full capacity of Spain's tanker fleet? Has the hon. Gentleman any information that that fleet has been substantially increased during the last 12 months, perhaps by tankers being handed over by the Axis Powers to Spain?

That is a separate question. To the best of my recollection there has been no substantial increase of the Spanish tanker fleet. In regard to the first part of the Question, I think that if the hon. Gentleman re-reads what the United States Ambassador said he will find that it was with regard to the resumption of oil shipments during last year.

Has not the hon. Gentleman seen the comment made by Senator Reynolds, of the United States, who described it as a "damned outrage" that these imports should go on to the extent that they do?

36.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he is aware of the extent that the ports of Spain are being used for the importation of certain products far in excess of the present needs of that country, and is he satisfied that such products do not pass to the Axis Powers for war purposes?

While I do not know what particular products my hon. Friend has in mind, I cannot accept the statement contained in the first part of the Question. The import into Spain of almost all commodities, and certainly of all commodities of any strategic importance, is regulated by our blockade quotas, which are designed for the specific purpose of preventing imports in excess of current domestic requirements. It is a condition of all imports under these quotas that there shall be no re-export and that no similar goods shall be exported. I am satisfied that this condition is generally observed, and that any leakages are insignificant.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the arrangement that has been working with respect to Spain will be overhauled and considerably tightened, in view of the suspicion that exists, based upon considerable information, that we have not the watertight arrangements there that we should have in these days?

If the hon. Gentleman has any particular information in mind, I hope that he will supply me with it. I can only inform the House that this matter is under constant examination and review and that if there wore any well-grounded suspicion of leakage in respect of any particular commodity we should at once hold up shipments of that commodity to Spain.

Will my hon. Friend consider allowing grants of these materials conditional on the release of British prisoners?

Would it be possible for the Government, in order to clarify the minds of hon. Members, to submit a statistical statement of the actual amount of our imports to Spain in order to ensure that we are not exercising too great a strain on our shipping resources?

I do not think our shipping resources are involved, because nearly all the imports are carried in Spanish bottoms, but if the hon. Gentleman cares to put down a Question on the subject of Spanish imports, I shall be glad to give him the figures.

Enemy-Occupied Countries (Food Supplies)

37.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether the latest reports received on the working of the measures of food relief in Greece under the supervision of the International Red Cross and the Swedish Red Cross continue to be satisfactory; whether dried milk and vitamins are now available for Greece; and whether further measures for controlled food relief for children, nursing mothers and expectant mothers are under consideration for any other countries under German occupation, in view of the increasing suffering amongst the civilian population?

My latest information is that the relief foodstuffs imported into Greece through the blockade have been distributed without interference by the occupying authorities. The Neutral Commission has also entered into certain agreements with the occupying authorities for the protection of Greek native produce, though I am not yet able to say how far such agreements are proving effective for their purpose. The monthly shipments to Greece include condensed milk, and the addition of vitamin tablets has also been approved, though none have yet been shipped. As regards the third part of the Question, this matter is constantly under consideration. But it is necessary to take account not only of the possible benefit to the persons whom it is desired to help, but also of the benefit, direct or indirect, to the enemy.

In regard to the last part of the Question, has my hon. Friend's attention been called to the publication of the Belgian Information Office "Our Daily Bread," and the especially urgent need of Belgium for food for children, infants and nursing mothers? The whole future of Belgium is at stake.

Can my hon. Friend state whether it is still the policy of the Government that the maintenance of the blockade is one of the essential weapons for the winning of the war?

Except for the special exception made in the case of Greece, our blockade policy remains as stated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in August, 1940.

Is my hon. Friend aware that if the Government pursue this policy and do not send food to the starving people, the war will end with the Germans being sleek and fat and all our friends starving and down and out?

British Army

Beveridge Report (Troops Overseas)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the Army Bureau of Current Affairs syllabus on the Beveridge Report and the decision of Parliament upon it will be available to the Army serving overseas?

A limited number of copies of all A.B.C.A. pamphlets published is sent overseas.

May I ask whether that will include the instructions which have been issued on this matter?

I said that a limited number of all the pamphlets published will be available.

Is it intended to enliven Army life by also sending a syllabus of the Scott and Uthwatt Reports?

Demobilisation Gratuities

4.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any arrangements have been, or are being, made to give war bonuses to soldiers at the end of the war?

As stated by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) on 4th March, 1942, the question of gratuities for soldiers at the end of the war will have to be settled by the Government of the day in the light of the circumstances then prevailing.

Farm Work (Pay)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for War what farmers have to pay for the use of soldiers doing farm work; who receives the pay; and whether the soldiers get any extra pay for the work?

Farmers have to pay either at rates comparable with the rates of wages fixed for unskilled farm labourers or, in the case of work for which piece rates are customary, at the appropriate piece work rate. The payments so made are credited to Army Funds; the soldiers are not given extra pay for the work. This is what is done when soldiers are detailed for this duty by arrangement with the military authorities. Soldiers voluntarily assisting farmers when off duty may make private arrangements with the farmer for payment, and may keep whatever money they get.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some cases soldiers do receive cash from farmers extra to what the farmer has to pay to Army funds, and that they would welcome a little cash recognition of their efforts for the farmers? Will he reconsider this matter?

Auxiliary Territorial Service

44.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the allowances his Department agreed to pay in respect of the children of widows serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service are now in operation; and whether officers as well as other ranks are covered by the decision?

I regret that the amendment of the Regulations has taken some time, but I hope that the changes will be promulgated shortly. Those entitled to the allowance will receive it retrospectively from the beginning of December. In some cases the regimental paymaster has admitted claims and paid the allowance. Officers as well as other ranks are covered by this decision.

Ministry Of War Transport (Parliamentary Representation)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider, in view of the number of problems and difficulties presented by constituents to their Members on matters dealt with by the Ministry of War Transport, giving additional representation to that Ministry in this House?

I cannot feel that the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport would be justified. I understand that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has been absent from the House for a short time through illness, but he is now fully restored. Every effort should be made to keep Ministerial offices at a minimum especially in times like these when the ordinary checks are not fully operative.

; Is my right hon. Friend aware how delighted I am to see him back restored in health, sound in heart and buoyant in spirit, and will he consider the possibility of letting us have a war transport Minister available more often in this House, where matters of great importance in connection with transport are arising?

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that the present Ministers in both Houses carry out their jobs very efficiently and with great courtesy?

Equal Compensation (Select Committee's Report)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether, now that the Select Committee on Equal Compensation has reported and the minutes of evidence have been published, the Government intend to implement the Report in its entirety, or whether it is proposed that the House should have an opportunity of debating the Report?

The question of policy is under the consideration of the Cabinet, and there will be no undue delay in coming to a decision. Whether a Debate should take place or not must be arranged through the usual channnels.

Anti-U-Boat Warfare (Allied Co-Operation)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied that the existing machinery for combating the U-boat menace ensures the most effective cooperation between the Allied Forces engaged in this task; and whether he will consider the suggestion made by Field Marshal Smuts for the setting up of an Allied General Staff to supervise anti-U-boat warfare?

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative and to the second part in the negative.

Is it not a fact that General Smuts' proposal was for an Allied anti-U-boat Staff, and would not this mean closer co-operation with the Allied Forces, and would not closer cooperation kill more U-boats and save more lives?

How often does this Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman presides meet, and is it not a fact that the preceding Committee, set up by the right hon. Gentleman, met only 18 times in 21 months?

Is it the intention to suggest the setting-up of an Allied General Staff for this purpose, as against a General Staff in this country?

That is fully covered by my answer to the second part of the Question.

Will my right hon. Friend consider asking the Committee to consult more frequently with officers of the Merchant Navy, who, no doubt, would be able to offer some suggestions as to practical methods of dealing with U-boats?

Army Officer's Letter To Press

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. BEVAN:

48. To ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that a letter appeared in the "Evening Standard" of Wednesday, 10th March, written by a serving officer attached to an intelligence unit in North Africa; whether he can inform the House if this letter was passed by a senior officer; and whether he has any comment to make.

In putting this Question to the right hon. Gentleman, I do so with special compliments on his health.

This Question should normally have been addressed to the Secretary of State for War, but since the hon. Member, no doubt from those motives of delicacy in personal matters which are characteristic of him, has preferred to put it to me, I will answer it myself. I have read the letter in question. I am advised that it does not fall under the restrictions of paragraph 547 (a) of the King's Regulations as it deals with political and not with military affairs. It was not passed by any senior officer. The Base Censorship deals with matters of security, which in this case are not involved, and not with matters of opinion. In reply to the last part of the hon. Member's Question, the only comment which I have to make upon the letter is that it appears to express a perfectly arguable point of view and one which is shared by many responsible people, American, British and French, in this theatre of war. As, however, many Members of the House may be at a disadvantage by not having read the letter, I should be willing, if it is desired to pursue the matter, to circulate it with the Votes.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, as I have already written and informed him, had I been permitted last Thursday to put this matter as a private notice Question it would not have been put to him, and I should have been exempted from his cheap sneer to-day? In the next place, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that an officer in a field of action is commenting upon the policy of his own Commander-in-Chief, and that the Prime Minister and President Roosevelt have said that the relations between the Vichy officials in North Africa are matters to be determined by General Eisenhower in terms of military necessity, and this letter comments upon it?—[Hon. Members: "Speech."]—Does he realise that we are broadcasting to France every night asking them to sabotage the Germans there and this officer commends those who shoot the Frenchmen who obey our instructions?

It has been made clear from what the hon. Member has said that I would be meeting his wishes in circulating the letter.

May I make one point here without taking any part in the controversy between my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member? Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that his statement that any officer is at liberty to write a letter on political subjects applies only to Members of this House? Otherwise, is it not rather an invitation to the Army to flood the newspapers with their views on the political situation in this House and elsewhere? Will he make the point clear?

The Regulations-paragraph 547a—is as follows;

"An officer or soldier is forbidden to publish in any form whatever, or communicate, either directly or indirectly, to the Press any military information, or his views on any military subject without special authority, and he will be held responsible for all statements contained in communications to his friends which may subsequently be published in the Press or otherwise. He will not pre-judge questions which are under the consideration of superior military authority by the publication, anonymously or otherwise, of his opinions, and he will not take part in public in a discussion relating to orders, regulations or instructions issued by his superiors."
I am informed—this is not in the Regulation—that an officer or soldier can write to the Press on other than military subjects without the permission of the higher authorities.

The hon. Gentleman knows better than the War Office. The position was made clear in an answer given by the Secretary of State for War to the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss), on 16th June, 1942. The hon. Member asked whether there was any ban in Army Regulations which prevents a soldier exercising his citizen's right to write to the Press on other than Army matters, to which the Secretary of State replied "No, Sir."

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that up to now there has been a regulation of censorship in the Middle East, forbidding officers and men from writing on political subjects connected with the Service in which they are serving; and is that now to be amended?

I was not aware of any special regulation which has been issued on the subject, and I was not so advised by the War Office, but in my answer I have made it clear that the fact that this letter did not pass through the Base Censorship had been referred to the authorities on the spot.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that numerous officers and other ranks not only abroad but in this country have been forbidden to write articles for the Press? If he will consult the Secretary of State for War concerning one editor of a newspaper who is now serving in the Forces, he will find that editor has to submit any articles which he writes before they are allowed by his superior officer.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the ban against serving soldiers in this country writing to the Press has been interpreted so severely as to prevent medical communications being sent to the medical Press on purely medical subjects?

In view of the entirely unsatisfactory nature of the Prime Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this whole question at an early opportunity, on the Motion for the Adjournment.

Fallowing is the letter referred to:

"To the Editor of the Evening Standard.

Sir,

No newspaper is produced in North Africa for the benefit of British troops. And it is very seldom that one gets an opportunity of reading any of the London newspapers. As a result, we are all rather out of touch with events and opinion at home. Recently I had the good fortune to get hold of a batch of British and American papers. I was disturbed to find what a critical and even bitter spirit seems to be arising towards events, and still more towards personalities in this theatre of war.

There seems to be a widespread tendency to assume that any Frenchman who has occupied any official position under the Government of Vichy, whether at home or abroad, must necessarily be a traitor, or possessed of a Fascist mentality; and that to make use of the services of such a man is to betray the cause of the United Nations and the future of France.

Such an intransigent outlook can only serve to perpetuate disunity among the comparatively few Frenchmen who are lucky enough to be outside the power of the enemy—and this at a time when the German invasion of the so-called unoccupied zone has at length brought real unity to Metropolitan France. If pushed to extremes, such a policy would create the perfect condition for a bloody civil war in France as soon as she is free. From such a struggle only extremist and violent minorities might hope to profit, and in the resulting catastrophe all hope of a liberal, democratic, republican France would disappear.

This Pharisaical attitude, which is, I fear, fostered by certain French elements in London, is devoid of any real moral justification. Those who escaped from France and who have played an active part in fighting the enemy have won the respect of all. But they are not, perhaps, the best qualified to judge of the actions of their countrymen in the homeland or French North Africa, many of whom, at acute personal risk, have resisted the enemy in all ways that were open to them.

The word "collaborator," usually prefixed by the adjective "notorious," seems to have become a stumbling block in this connection. Surely a wide distinction should be drawn between those Frenchmen in official positions, high or low, who have collaborated with the Germans in the internal administration of France and those who have collaborated to assist a German victory. These last are few, and they may truly be called "notorious." But the vast majority of French officials have only retained their positions in a desire to preserve some order and stability in their country and to protect their fellow citizens from the worst excesses of Nazi theft and savagery. To start a heresy hunt against such men who, by one chance or another, now find themselves in a position to aid the common cause would be insensate folly and injustice.

The French National Committee in London have very wisely welcomed to their aid French Royalists no less than French Communists. Why, then, such a furore at the discovery that some of the leading French personalities in French North Africa have Royalist connections? Why such a campaign of calumny against M. Peyrouton, who, if he had rallied to the Free French Committee six months ago, would certainly have been accepted, but who is: now bitterly denounced by people in London and Washington who know nothing of the liberalising influence he has already brought to bear and of the reputation he has long held in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as one of the ablest and most just administrators whom France has ever sent to North Africa?

Surely it is time that a truce was called in this campaign of recrimination. In the last analysis it is Frenchmen who must settle such differences among themselves. Our role must surely be to reduce quarrels among Frenchmen to their proper proportions, and to let it be known that we will help all Frenchmen, except proved traitors like Laval, to play a useful and honourable part in fighting the enemy. Such a policy is to the interest of the North African campaign and the wider cause of the United Nations. It also offers the only hope of recreating a great and free France when victory is ours.

Yours, etc.,

RANDOLPH S. CHURCHILL.

February 25, 1943. North Africa."

Inter-Service Cohesion

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the successful inter-Service cohesion that has been achieved in the Middle East since the appointment of a Commander-in-Chief, he will now consider appointing a Commander-in-Chief in Britain and in other theatres of the war in which British troops are engaged?

My hon. and gallant Friend is evidently under a misapprehension when he refers to the appointment of a Supreme Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East, since no such appointment has been made. I entirely agree that successful inter-Service cohesion has been achieved in that theatre, but I would point out that this is the result of intimate co-operation between all three Com- manders-in-Chief (Navy, Army and Air). So far as the co-operation between the Army and the Air is concerned, the Commanders-in-Chief have worked in accordance with my ruling of 7th October, 1941, which I quoted to the House on 7th July, 1942. From this ruling has sprung a most successful co-operation between the Army and the Air in the Middle East. This relationship will be taken as a model for operations under British command elsewhere, and it is not proposed to make any changes at present in the system of command prevailing in the United Kingdom, India or the Persia-Iraq area.

State Factories (Minister's Speech)

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether that part of the recent speech of the President of the Board of Trade, at Bishop Auckland, in which he said that State factories should be used for peace-time production represents the policy of the Government?

I understand that my right hon. Friend, as reported in the Press, said that State factories should be retained wherever possible and adapted to suitable peace-time production; and that it was particularly necessary to consider those factories now established in the former distressed areas. As the House will remember, my right hon. Friend developed this subject in some detail, when replying for the Government in the debate on Economic Policy on 3rd February last.

Would my right hon. Friend say whether this is the policy of His Majesty's Government; and would he bear in mind that the majority of hon. Members have a definite mandate to oppose any extension of State trading?

My right hon. Friend who debated this matter in the House, was speaking on that occasion for the Government.

Will the right hon. Gentleman have circulated an account of the locomotives that were made at Woolwich Arsenal after the termination of the last war?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if, at the end of this war, there is a sale of national property with scandals like those which occurred at the end of the last war, there will be a very great revolt in the country?

Would it not be useful if my right hon. Friend dissociated himself from the majority in his party?

I think it is very mischievous to try to cause disunity about this matter.

Egyptian Nationals (British Forces)

51.

asked the Prime Minister how many men of Egyptian nationality have served with the British Forces in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt?

National Finance

Crown Servants Abroad (Allowances, Taxation)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that some foreign service allowances to Crown servants abroad are taxed while some are not; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?

I am aware of the position to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, and I propose to bring forward a Clause in this year's Finance Bill to exclude from the charge to Income Tax all foreign service allowances to Crown servants abroad which are given as compensation for the extra cost of having to live outside the United Kingdom in order to perform their duties. Hitherto there has been included in the computation of foreign service allowances which are subject to tax an amount in respect of the Income Tax payable on the allowance. If the legislation which I propose to submit to the House is approved it will, of course, be necessary to revise the amount of such allowances so as to exclude any provision for Income Tax.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his very satisfactory reply, may I ask whether he can say on what date this will become effective, assuming, of course, that the legislation is passed?

No, I shall have to consider that between now and the introduction of the Finance Bill.

National Trust (Gifts Of Estates)

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what loss of revenue has resulted by gifts of estates to the National Trust in the last three years and the consequent saving of taxation to donors?

I am not in a position to say what loss of revenue present or prospective may result from gifts of property to the National Trust, and I do not think that it would accord with the secrecy that obtains in matters of direct taxation to disclose any figure that might reflect the liability of particular individuals. It is, of course, inherent in any gift that the taxation liability of the donor may be reduced, but I do not think that any such consideration should be allowed to detract from the merits of a public benefaction.

In view of statements that have been made in the Press that these are methods, not of philanthropy but for evading tax liabilities, would the right hon. Gentleman consider the matter further and make a more explicit statement, as it is very unfair to the donors that such suggestions as I have mentioned should be made?

"Wings For Victory" Weeks

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of the estimated savings during the "Wings for Victory" campaign will be in excess of the amount normally expected in the same period; what proportion of the amount is estimated will be actual savings out of current earnings; and whether the number of aeroplanes produced will in any way be effected by the success or failure of the campaign?

In reply to the first two parts of the Question, it is not possible to say how much of the amount subscribed during the "Wings for Victory" campaign would have been subscribed in any event, or what proportion of the total will consist of savings out of earnings, whether current or otherwise. In reply to the last part, a successful "Wings for Victory" campaign will help to secure a sound financial and economic basis for the war effort and will, therefore, definitely assist war production.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is not an authority in this country who would agree that it makes the slightest difference to production, but that everyone, without exception, would agree that it does increase the charges to the Chancellor enormously; and is this not a fraudulent practice, which should be brought to an end without any further delay?

The hon. Member may be content that he is probably the only one who holds that opinion on the matter.

May I say that I share that opinion; and may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he anticipates that the genuine savings in these "Wings for Victory" weeks will be more than 20 per cent. and whether all the rest will not be bogus money from the banks?

I have already informed the hon. Member that I will include in the White Paper which is to be issued about the time of the Budget, full particulars about savings of this sort.

Post-War Currency Policy

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the discussions now going on at the Treasury between His Majesty's Government and the representatives of the United Nations in Europe, in the presence of an observer of the United States of America on the subject of post-war currency, he will give an undertaking that the country will be in no way committed to any change or new system until this House has been fully informed and consulted?

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) on Thursday last.

I do not happen to know that reply, but will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that no commitment will be entered into without its first coming to this House? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the most unsatisfactory nature of the reply given to the Question last week by the Leader of the House?

I think my hon. Friend had better look at the reply to which I have referred.

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in, connection with the inter-Allied currency conversations, the Government have circulated any memorandum on the subject; and, if so, will a copy of such memorandum be placed in the Library of the House?

It is the intention of the Government in the fairly near future to publish as a White Paper the plan which has been put forward as a basis for discussion on post-war currency arrangements.

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that most of what is known as the Keynes memorandum has leaked out in the Press already? Does he not think it proper that a memorandum of this kind should be circulated to Members of this House at least at the same time as it is circulated to the Press?

63.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give an assurance that the Bank for International Settlements is not intended to play any part in the international post-war currency scheme which is at present under discussion in London by representatives of Allied Governments?

It would be premature to attempt to decide what functions will be performed by the Bank for International Settlements in the post-war world. It plays no part in the scheme which has been put forward as a basis for discussion.

Can the Chancellor give the House an assurance that no conversations, either direct or indirect, are going on with financial representatives of Nazi Germany?

War Damage Payments

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that necessary repairs to leasehold property damaged by enemy action are, in many cases, not being carried out, by reason of the fact that the lessee of the premises is without means; and whether instructions can be given to the War Damage Commission to advance money in these cases to meet the necessary cost-of-works payments to make the premises habitable?

The War Damage Commission has no power to make a cost-of-works payment before work has been carried out. I am not aware of the circumstances referred to by my hon. Friend, but if he will inform me of any particular cases he has in mind, I shall be glad to look into them.

Does my right hon. Friend realise how important it is to get houses that are only partially damaged made available for residence as soon as possible? Where the house owner is not in a position to do the work, would it not be better if the War Damage Commission made a grant to the owner for that purpose?

If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any case he has in mind, I shall be glad to investigate it.

Is it any good starting work on any of these contracts unless there is a guarantee by the Government that payment will be made?

61.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the fact that cost-of-works payments will be made in the case of large numbers of properties damaged by enemy action which, at the time of damage, were considered irreparable, whether consequential damage due to exposure to weather conditions is to be included in the cost-of-works payment?

Section 12 of the War Damage Act, 1941, which applies both to value payments and to cost-of-works payments, provides for deductions to be made from claims if the war damage is increased by failure on the part of the claimant to take any steps for preserving the property which he might reasonably have been expected to take. Subject to this provision, expenditure for making good deterioration due to exposure to weather conditions in a property which has sustained war damage, would not be excluded from a claim for cost-of-works.

Members' Salaries

65.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he will consider the question of revising the system of payment of the salaries of Members of Parliament, so that they may consist of a fixed amount, together with a further amount based upon the electorate of their constituencies, having regard to the fact that a part of a Member's expenses depend upon the size of his electorate?

I should deprecate any attempt to revise the basis of remuneration of Members of Parliament on the lines suggested.

Is my hon. Friend aware that his reply does not cause disappointment nor surprise although it is the antithesis of democracy which we profess?

Would it not be wiser to base the payment of Members upon the number of supporters they have in their constituencies?