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Written Answers

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 17 March 1943

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Written Answers

Trade And Commerce

Tobacco Imports

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the imports of tobacco into this country are larger or smaller than before the war and by what proportion; and whether he will estimate the amount of shipping space or tonnage that would be saved if tobacco imports were reduced by a specified proportion, say 10 per cent.?

The quantity of tobacco taken from bond and retained for home consumption last year was between 20 and 25 per cent. more than in 1938. Precise information about current imports cannot be furnished, and for that reason I am unable to give a specific reply to the last part of the Question.

Post-War Exports

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider setting up a post-war export trade development committee with a view to stimulating a healthy export trade in order that the financial obligations of the Beveridge scheme may be able to be implemented and the hopes of the people for security from want fulfilled?

As explained in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) on 2nd February and during the Debate on economic policy on the 3rd February, my right hon. Friend has already established a committee on post-war export trade which is conducting a comprehensive study of the special problems which will face our export trade after the war.

Government Departments

Paper Economy

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what saving in paper has been effected by the recent reduction in forms in Government Departments?

Absence of detailed statistics precludes a reliable estimate on a tonnage basis. The saving is, however, considerable.

Ministry Of Supply (Wool Control)

asked the Minister of Supply the grading of the post in the Wool Control to which Mr. A. Ewart Brooke has been appointed, and the duties attaching to that post; whether, before he was appointed, the existing staff of the Ministry of Supply were considered for transfer or promotion to the post; whether recourse was had to the Treasury pool; and whether the machinery of the Ministry of Labour and National Service was used in filling it?

Mr. Brooke is in general charge of the office arrangements in a branch of the Wool Control and is paid £400 a year. The qualifications of existing staff in the Control were considered and recourse was had to the machinery of the Ministry of Labour and National Service.

Ministry Of Town And Country Planning

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether he will describe the machinery set up in regional areas and/or municipal authorities for carrying out the tasks of his Ministry; and how far the personnel of his Ministry is substantially the same as that of the Ministry of Health when that Department was responsible for town and country planning?

In order to facilitate co-operation with local authorities in town and country planning, ten planning officers have been appointed to cover the whole of England and Wales outside London. Their headquarters are at convenient centres and they are available for consultation by the local authorities, and also to advise the Ministry regarding problems arising in their areas. In answer to the last part of the Question, less than one-fifth of the staff of my Department served in the Ministry of Health.

Middle East (Anti-Inflation Measures)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps are being taken to prevent a serious inflation rise in prices in the Middle East and the consequent injurious effects on local economies?

It is not possible to deal with this subject fully within the limits of a Question and answer. Inflation in the Middle East is mainly caused by the very large local expenditure of the Allies for the prosecution of the war on the one hand and a shortage of supplies occasioned by shipping stringency on the other hand. The military expenditure of the Allies is subject to continual review and is kept to the minimum consistent with military necessity. Lack of supplies is inevitable as long as it remains necessary to concentrate our shipping resources on winning the war. It is, therefore, necessary to remove surplus spending power in the hands of the public by taxation, by loans and by the stimulation of saving in order that it may not compete for limited supplies of goods and services available but may be retained for the benefit of the countries concerned when supply and transport conditions return to normal. The importance of taking such measures and of controlling prices, rationing commodities in short supply and keeping down the cost of living by subsidies is constantly impressed upon the Middle East Governments by the Minister of State and His Majesty's representatives in the Middle East. Action by the various British authorities concerned is co-ordinated by a Standing Committee on anti-inflation measures which meets in Cairo under the chairmanship of Lord Moyne. This Committee which has Anglo-American membership was set up as a result of a conference on inflation of representatives of His Majesty's Government in the Middle East territories and of certain American representatives which was convened by the Minister of State last September.

Scotland (Advisory Council On Education)

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?

pursuant to his reply [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1943; col. 1015, Vol. 387] supplied the following information:

Remits to the Advisory Council on Education

1. To consider how the educational system of Scotland can most effectively contribute to training in the duties, rights and practice of citizenship, and to make recommendations.

2. To review the educational provision in Scotland for children from the time of entry into the nursery school until the completion of primary education, and the arrangements for promoting them from primary to secondary education, and to make recommendations.

3. To review the educational provision in Scotland for young people who have completed their primary education and have not attained the age of 18 years or discontinued full time attendance at school, whichever is the later, the examinations for which they may be presented, and the certificates which may be awarded, and to make recommendations.

4. To consider whether the existing arrangements for the recruitment and supply of teachers in Scotland are adequate, and to make recommendations.

5. To consider whether grants from the Education (Scotland) Fund should be made to voluntary organisations making provision in Scotland for the education of adults of 18 years of age and over, and if so, under what conditions, and to make recommendations.

British Army

Accident, Leicester

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give any information in connection with the Home Guard officer, Lieutenant Jack Moffat, of St. Saviours Road, Leicester, who was killed by a mine which blew up during a river exercise; and will compensation be paid?

This accident is the subject of a court of inquiry and I will communicate with my hon. Friend when its proceedings have been received. The question of compensation is for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions.

Pioneer Corps (Aliens)

asked the Secretary of State for War how many aliens of enemy origin serving in the Pioneer Corps have volunteered or have been drafted for service overseas; whether any of these are technically deserters from the armed forces of enemy Powers; whether, if taken prisoner, they are liable to the death penalty; and whether he is yet in a position to say how they can be assured of protection from such a fate?

I regret that it would not be in the public interest to give the figures asked for in the first part of the Question. I have no information on the points referred to in the second and third parts of the Question, but special steps are being taken to give aliens such protection as is possible against the possibility that my hon. Friend has in mind if at any time they are required to serve overseas. It would clearly not be in the interests of the men themselves to say what these steps are but I will gladly let my hon. Friend know what has been decided.

Anti-Aircraft Shells (Delayed Explosions)

asked the Secretary of State for War the reason for the number of delayed explosions of anti-aircraft shells during the recent raid on London, resulting in ground casualties; and whether he has considered using self-exploding or automatic fuse devices to prevent ground or contact explosions?

I can assure my hon. Friend that these problems are under active consideration in my Department.

Missing Officers (Family Allowances)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, as he has now received from the hon. Member for the Petersfield Division of Hampshire the requested particulars of cases of officers' wives who are in considerable distress on account of the inadequate allotment made to them from the pay of their husbands reported missing in the Far East, he will now, realising the urgency of the problem, arrange that some more generous provision for these ladies shall be made?

The particular cases brought to my notice by my hon. and gallant Friend were few and, owing to the present system, under which officers' contributions to the support of their families are not disclosed to the War Office, any variation of the basis of the missing allowances presents numerous difficulties. The matter has been under active consideration and I hope to be able to send my hon. and gallant Friend a definite reply at an early date.

Tank Board

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps he proposes to take to improve the Tank Board?

Whatever steps my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply and I agree to be necessary from time to time will be taken. At the present time we have no such steps in contemplation.

Industrial Fire Brigades (Uniforms)

asked the Home Secretary whether it is possible to make a free issue of fire service uniforms to members of industrial fire brigades and without the surrender of personal clothing coupons for such clothing worn in that service?

I have nothing to add at present to the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend on 17th February last in reply to a Question on the same subject. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Production has the whole question of uniform still under review. As was explained to my hon. and gallant Friend, efforts at present are being made to retrench, rather than to extend, the supply of uniforms.

National Fire Service

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give an assurance that, in the event of a fire occurring oh industrial premises in which an industrial fire brigade is maintained and in action, the control of operations will not be taken out of the hands of the officer in charge by any member of the National Fire Service of equal or lower rank?

No, Sir. The National Fire Service are charged, by law, with the duty of extinguishing fires and protecting life and property, and the senior officer of the National Fire Service, whatever his rank, would, in the normal course, take over control on his arrival at the fire.

Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can explain the regulation by which, if a retired flag officer of the Navy volunteers for service afloat as commodore of merchant ship convoys and is killed or drowned whilst performing this duty, his next of kin is thereby deprived of the pension and compensation rights that would have been due to him had he not volunteered for this war service and accepted the lower rank on which he is assessed for these financial payments; and whether he will reconsider this method of paying, in view of the importance of the war work these officers perform?

The hon. Member is under a misapprehension since there is no question of the widow being deprived of any pension rights that she would have had if the officer had not volunteered for war service. On the contrary I explained in the Debate on 13th May, 1942, that as a minimum the ordinary pension to which my hon. Friend refers is supplemented by the pension which the widow would have received had her husband lost his life as a Civil Defence volunteer, and she may receive more if the pension of a Commodore's widow under the War Warrant exceeds this total. This provision is limited only by the condition that the amount payable does not exceed the attributable pension for the officer's retired rank.

Local Authorities (Financial Assistance)

asked the Minister of Health when he is going to announce the Government's provisional proposals for financial aid to local authorities for their post-war housing and other constructional schemes so that they may estimate approximately prospective financial liabilities?

Any such announcement would have to be preceded by consultations with the various bodies representing local authorities. Such consultations would be premature at the present time but I can assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend is keeping in close touch with local authorities on all post-war problems.

asked the Minister of Health what is the aggregate amount of money hitherto advanced to local authorities in certain areas of which he has been informed to enable them to carry on their essential activities?

Up to 28th February last the aggregate amount advanced under the scheme for assisting local authorities to maintain essential services was £16,513,420.

Tuberculosis Statistics

asked the Minister of Health the number of deaths from tuberculosis and the number of children suffering from this disease in the year 1942?

I regret that the number of deaths from tuberculosis in 1942 is not yet available. I have no information as to the number of children suffering from tuberculosis at a given time.

Cyprus (Government)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to how many applications for registration of clubs, co-operative store societies and organisations of villagers, teachers, bank employees and Government clerks, the Government of Cyprus has refused registration in the last three months; why such application was refused and, in particular, why registration has recently been refused to the Akel Club, in Limassol, and to agricultural associations in Ayios, Theodoros and Silikou; whether the teaching of Greek and Turkish history in the schools is still prohibited; whether he will reverse these policies; and whether he will govern this Colony without the application of prohibitions and restrictions?

In order to enable me to answer the first three parts of the Question it will be necessary for me to ask for a report from the Colony. With regard to the last part, it is the policy of His Majesty's Government in Cyprus as elsewhere to govern with the minimum of prohibitions and restrictions necessary for the preservation of law and order and for the peaceful development of the Colony.

Malaya (Temporary Civil Servants, Dependants)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the ordinances under which wives, now in this country, of temporarily locally recruited officers of the Malayan Civil Service are not entitled to any allowance because their husbands are not entitled to accruing salary while they are prisoners of war; and the reason for the differential treatment in the cases of wives whose husbands, just before the fall of Singapore, were enrolled in some branch of the military services and who now receive a regular weekly payment?

There are no ordinances governing this question. It will be appreciated that His Majesty's Government have to consider the claims of dependants not only of the temporary officers of the Civil Government in Malaya but those also of temporary civilian staff employed in Malaya by the Naval, Military, and Air Services. In all such cases of locally recruited and temporarily employed staff it was decided that His Majesty's Government could not accept a general claim to continuing salary, but that in individual cases of need ex gratia grants could be given in excess of the ordinary rates of maintenance if it could be shown that His Majesty's Government or the Malayan Government had any special responsibility towards the officer concerned. The distinction in the case of dependants of men in the combatant forces in Malaya is due to the fact that the local military forces are regarded as entitled to the same treatment as the Regular Army and their dependants accordingly receive the standard Army allowances.

Fuel And Power

Coal Mines (Statistics)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of mines at work in the coal-producing counties of England, Scotland and Wales, for the years 1938 to 1942, and the number

Numbers of mines at work and number of wage earners employed.
District.1938. No. of Mines at Work.1938. Average No. of Wage-Earners.1939. No. of Mines at Work.1940. No. of Mines at Work.1941. No. of Mines at Work.
England and Wales.
3.Cumberland and Westmorland256,544222322
4.Lancashire and Cheshire15557,214151142137
5.Yorkshire, South12198,156118114113
6.Yorkshire, West11844,033113114110
8.Derbyshire, North10341,6561009690
9.Derbyshire, South133,203121111
10.Staffordshire, North6023,605615453
11.Cannock Chase3919,722363838
12.South Staffs, and Worcester644,726545451
16.Forest of Dean314,908383638
20.South Wales and Monmouth424134,053412387376
21.North Wales289,729252424
22.Fife and Clackmannan5122,906524949
23.Lothians (Mid. and East)3313,335353535
24.Lanarkshire, etc.28443,505279259265
25.Ayrshire, etc.5812,245606360
GREAT BRITAIN2,107782,8012,0681,9861,956

Mine-Workers (Dermatitis)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps are being taken to deal with the increasng number of dermatitis cases in the mining industry?

of miners employed in each county during the same periods?

The figures relating to the number of mines at work in the years 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941 are given below, together with those relating to the number of miners employed in 1938. It would not be in the public interest to publish figures of miners employed in years later than 1938, but I am sending them to my hon. Friend for his private information. Comparable figures for the year 1942 are not yet available either in respect of the number of mines at work or of the number of miners employed.

Any epidemic of this disease, however small, which is reported among a particular set of workers at a particular mine is investigated medically in relation to the working conditions, and ameliorative measures taken so far as possible. But the large majority of the cases appear to be sporadic in the sense that they comprise, in ones and twos, workers having many different occupations and employed at many different mines. These cases present a difficult problem which will be further investigated through my medical officers of mines who are now taking up their duties in the coalfields.

Post Office

Flowers And Plants (Postal Packets)

asked the Postmaster-General what instructions he has issued to his staff as to the method of enforcement of the warrant Statutory Rules and Orders, 1943, No. 219, whereby he can refuse any postal packet until he is satisfied that it does not contain flowers or plants?

All counter staffs have been instructed to refuse to accept any postal packet tendered which is suspected of containing flowers or flower-plants, until satisfied to the contrary.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will arrange that as a special concession specimens of flowers sent to botanical departments and institutions for scientific purposes can be transmitted through the post?

I am considering this question in conjunction with the Minister of Agriculture, but there are practical difficulties in the way of the course proposed. I will write to the hon. Member as soon as I have had an opportunity of fully considering the matter.

Airgraph Service

asked the Postmaster-General (1) when the contract regarding airgraph services, entered into with Eastmans Kodak, is to terminate; and whether it will be open thereafter to any other firms to offer airgraph letter services to the public;(2) whether he has considered the future of airgraph communication; and whether he intends this service to become, now or eventually, a normal part of Post Office activities?

The agreement with Messrs. Kodak regarding airgraph services will terminate one year after the cessation of hostilities with Germany. I am not at present in a position to forecast whether the airgraph service will be continued thereafter. It would not, however, in any case, be open to Messrs. Kodak or any other firm to offer an airgraph service to the public since this is a service operated by the Post Office in which Messrs. Kodak at present act as contractors in respect of the photographic processes involved.

Mining Subsidence (Planning Schemes)

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether he is giving consideration to the effect on buildings and roads of mining subsidence; and what steps are to be taken to improve as soon as possible localities affected and to plan in the future to avoid building where subsidence is likely to take place?

I am aware of the effect which mining subsidence may have on buildings and public services, and, in view of the fact that the remedy is difficult when damage has occurred every effort is made in planning an area to avoid the allocation for building development or road construction of land likely to be so affected. Where, notwithstanding the risk of subsidence, building development cannot be avoided, special provisions for me regulation of building may be included in the planning scheme so as to minimise the possible injury.

Raf Trainee (Removal From Draft)

asked the Secretary of State for Air why the airman, of whom he has been informed, was removed from draft: whether these reasons were in existence when the airman began his flying training eight months before removal from draft; and whether the airman's training record was satisfactory?

This airman was removed from draft because of complaints made by his comrades which, in the interests of the airman himself, called for the fullest investigation. Inquiries are being made and some of the men concerned are overseas. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the negative. As regards the third part, so far as I am aware no adverse reports were made on his proficiency during training.

Nurses And Midwives (Registration)

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will consider the need of recalling from other work all nurses and midwives who were registered and certificated, in view of the great shortage of these qualified women and the consequent difficulties of local authorities who are responsible for these public services?

My right hon. Friend is proposing to register nurses and midwives by a special registration at an early date. The extent to which such women will be recalled from other work will depend on the advice which my right hon. Friend receives from the national advisory council for the recruitment and distribution of nurses and midwives.

Food Supplies

Eggs (Price)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether domestic poultry keepers are entitled to ask more than the retail price of 2d. for eggs supplied by them to persons who have registered with them; and, if so, how much?

Surplus Milk

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the average time which elapses between the date on which a milk supplier notifies the appropriate regional milk supply officer that he has too much milk, and the date at which such officer gives him directions as to the disposal of such excess milk under the provisions of the Food (Milk) Order (Statutory Rules and Order, 1943, No. 233)?

When the surplus milk is temporarily diverted from the dairyman to a depot, from 2–3 days are usually required in which to complete the necessary arrangements. If, however, the surplus milk has to be permanently diverted at the farm, the new arrangements may take from 2–3 weeks to complete. The dairyman, until these arrangements are completed, is allowed to dispose of the surplus to his registered customers, but must surrender the surplus milk so soon as the necessary direction reaches him.

Food (Green Onions) Order

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can furnish an estimate of the number of retailers to whom the Food (Green Onions) Order (Statutory Rules and Orders, 1943, No. 235) applies; and whether he can furnish an estimate of the cost of keeping the records prescribed by the Order?

The answer to the first part of the Question is about 70,000. In reply to the second part of the Question, I regret that I am unable to estimate the cost to a retailer of retaining invoices or of otherwise recording his purchases of green onions.

India (German-Jewish Internees)

asked the Secretary of State for India how many Jewish internees from Ceylon are still in internment in India; whether their cases have come before any tribunal; and whether he will consider treating these people with the same generosity as has been shown in this country and in other parts of the Empire?

Sixteen German-Jewish internees were received from Ceylon for detention in India. All of them have been or are in process of being transferred from internment camps to parole centres. The Government of India propose to review the position with a view to the release of these Jewish refugees when the threat of invasion has disappeared.