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Commons Chamber

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 17 March 1943

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 17th March, 1943.

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

French Coastal Areas (Bombing)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in the planning of the air attacks made on Lorient in the latter part of January, due consideration was given to the suffering and hardships inflicted upon French civilians; and whether the Government are satisfied that the importance of the military objectives attained justified raids on a scale and of a severity generally reserved for objectives in enemy territory?

As I stated in this House on 11th February, the task of overcoming the U-boats has been given first priority in all the British and American plans. The destruction of U-boat bases is an essential part of this strategy. Very heavy blows have already been delivered by the R.A.F. and the United States Army Air Corps against the U-boat bases, both in Germany and in occupied France. We have repeatedly urged the French population to leave coastal areas. A large part of the civil population of Brest and Lorient have in fact been evacuated, and the Germans have attempted to conceal the severity of the raids from the German crews expected to use Lorient. The qualities of resistance displayed by the French people day by day are well known, and I have no doubt that they will understand that operations such as the bombing of Lorient will bring victory nearer and thus hasten the day of France's deliverance.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is any direct evidence to show that the bombs do break through the U-boat kennels, as they are called?

Peace Aims

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the present trend of German propaganda, namely, that a German defeat means a Bolshevised Europe, the Government will issue and secure prominence for its announcement over overseas radio services, a White Paper, preferably in association with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the other Powers of the United Nations, emphasising their pledges that, as set out in the Atlantic Charter and elsewhere, complete liberty to settle their own form of government without external influence is to be afforded to all countries, occupied, unoccupied, satellite and even enemy when purged?

I do not think it is necessary at the present time to add to the declarations that have been made by the British and United States Governments and by Premier Stalin on behalf of the U.S.S.R.

Having regard to the fact that this propaganda is having a considerable effect here, will the right hon. Gentleman see that further publicity on our overseas broadcasting services is given to that announcement?

Will the Prime Minister consider that, if there is any further publicity, it will have a greater effect by showing that the populations of enemy countries have something to hope for through our victory?

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek (Visit To Great Britain)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any further statement to make on the possibility of a visit to this country of Madame Chiang Kai-shek?

I am not yet able to add anything to the statement on this subject made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 24th February.

If it is correct, as rumoured, that Madame Chiang Kai-shek's health may prevent her from crossing the Atlantic, will the right hon. Gentleman convey to her the disappointment and sympathy which will be felt widely here, and will he consider whether it would be possible to invite one of her two brilliant sisters to visit us instead?

I do not think that this arises immediately out of the Question.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that nobody would get a more spontaneous welcome than this lady if she did come?

War Criminals (List)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether arrangements can be made for Members of Parliament to inspect the list of war criminals?

This is a matter which concerns not only His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom but all the other Governments participating in the United Nations Commission, to whom the available information regarding war crimes is to be submitted. The answer is therefore in the negative.

Will the Prime Minister inform the House what Department is compiling this list in this country?

I will, but I am not sure myself whether it is under the Foreign Office or whether it has been devolved upon any special authority, but I can easily ascertain that if a Question is put down.

Will the right hon. Gentleman prepare a list of the home-grown war criminals?

Can the Prime Minister give an assurance that the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid) is not on the list?

French North Africa (Political Prisoners And Internees)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered the resolution by the factory committee of the Lea Bridge Works, A. C. Cossor, sent to him by the hon. Member for West Fife, demanding that the Government take immediate steps to obtain the release of all members of the International Brigade and other anti-Fascists at present interned in North Africa; and what statement he has to make?

I have nothing to add at present to the statement on this subject made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 3rd March making it clear that His Majesty's Government are endeavouring to obtain the release of all political prisoners interned in North Africa, including of course members of the International Brigade.

Egyptian Police (British Personnel)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered representations made to him regarding the pay and conditions of service of British officers and constables who have been retained in the Egyptian police for the duration of the war; and whether he can now make a statement?

Yes, Sir. These representations have been considered in consultation with His Majesty's Ambassador in Egypt, on whose recommendation sanction has now been given to the granting of certain allowances about which I am informing my hon. Friend in detail.

In thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his very satisfactory answer, may I ask whether he realises the invaluable part played by these officers and constables in the good relations between Egypt and the British Army?

Royal Air Force

Aircraft Accident, Whittlesea

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can give any information in connection with the aeroplane that crashed into two semi-detached villas near Whittlesea; how many people were killed; and whether compensation will be paid?

This regrettable accident, the causes of which are under investigation, occurred during the night of 4th-5th March, when a Wellington aircraft of the Royal Air Force crashed in the course of a training flight. Four civilians and four members of the crew were killed; the fifth member of the crew was seriously injured. Two cottages were damaged, one of which was demolished. The question of compensation for personal injuries is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions. Claims for compensation in respect of the damage to property will be considered by my Department. The House will wish to join with me in expressing sympathy with the relatives of those who were killed and with the injured.

Personnel (Walking Arm-In-Arm With Women)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that Royal Air Force personnel are forbidden to walk arm-in-arm with their wives when off duty and on leave; and whether he will cancel this instruction which is resented by the personnel concerned and in no way assists the war effort?

The instruction that R.A.F. personnel should be discouraged from walking arm-in-arm with women in public has been withdrawn. There was never any formal regulation to this effect.

Does the right hon. Gentleman ever take any disciplinary action against commanding officers or persons responsible for issuing such foolish orders as this?

There is no question of disciplinary action in a case of this kind. There was an instruction which was not well worded. It was brought to my attention, and it was altered at once, and I am sure that the House will be satisfied.

No, Sir, I cannot say who authorised the instruction. It is a question of the wording of an instruction which has now been put right, and nobody has suffered from it.

Could not the right hon. Gentleman issue some form of instruction to commanding officers in order that these matters shall not arise again and that in the main men and women in the Services shall be treated as human beings and not as children?

I cannot issue an order that nobody in the Royal Air Force shall ever make the slightest mistake of any sort. For the instruction, as originally framed and for the alteration which has been made, I take full responsibility.

Aircrews (Pay And Promotion)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Air when a full reply to the letter dated 19th December, 1942, from the hon. Member for Ipswich, regarding the pay and promotion of wireless operators and air-gunners may be expected?

I sent a reply on 31st December last to certain points raised in the hon. Member's letter. The remaining points raise the question of altering the relative position and prospects of different categories of aircrews and of altering the relation between the position of aircrews and that of certain other classes of Service personnel. I will send the hon. Member a reply on these outstanding points as soon as a decision has been reached.

Does not my right hon. Friend recall that this very matter was under consideration by his Department at the time I first wrote to him last December? Three months have now elapsed, and is it not a fact that it is really the Treasury which is standing in the way of proper adjustments being made?

These are very complicated matters. We have to be fair as between the various classes of airmen concerned and between them and men similarly employed in other Services. We are being as quick as we can, and I will let my hon. Friend know.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any kind of approximation when a decision will be arrived at? Will it be before Easter or next Christmas?

Air Sea Rescue Service Badge

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Air why the award of a badge to the Air Sea Rescue Service is confined to non-commissioned ranks?

The Air Sea Rescue Service badge is not a meritorious award but a distinguishing mark worn by airmen. It is not the custom in the Royal Air Force for officers to wear such marks, with the exception of those who are qualified as aircrew or whose service is confined to the Medical, Dental, or Educational Branches, or to the Royal Air Force Regiment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the resentment felt among the various sections of the Forces, who regard this decision as being a most undemocratic decision?

Oh, no, Sir; it is really not undemocratic. The position is that these are general duties officers and officers of the Administrative and Special Duties Branch who may be in the Air Rescue Service one month and in Fighter or Bomber Commands the next. The only marks they wear are those which are permanent and which they wear the whole time.

Commissions

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Air after what interval airmen, who have been interviewed by a Selection Board with a view to a commission, are informed whether they have been recommended or not?

An airman candidate for a ground commission who is recommended by a Selection Board is not commissioned until he has successfully completed a specialist course, if this is necessary, and in any case a course at the R.A.F. Officers' School. He receives instructions to attend a course of training usually within a period of about three weeks from the date of the Selection Board and this indicates to him that he has been recommended. In the case of an unsuccessful candidate, notification through Service channels is normally despatched within 24 hours.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether an intimation is given to those who fail to qualify as to why they have failed? If not, why not?

I do not think it is possible to go into details of that kind, which could only lead to lengthy controversies.

8,000-Pound Bombs

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what evidence, photographic or otherwise, is in his possession which justifies the use of 8,000-pound bombs in circumstances where double the number of 4,000-pound bombs can be carried; and whether he is satisfied that the use of the 8,000-pound bomb is so much more destructive in its effect as to more than counterbalance the disadvantage of the smaller number of probable direct hits?

I am satisfied that the use of the 8,000-pound bomb is tactically justified. It would not be in the public interest to say more.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that only last autumn Bomber Command regarded the 8,000-pound bomb as an experiment which would be continued only if photographic evidence proved of such a character as to justify its continuation, and will he say whether, in fact, he is now in possession of such photographic evidence?

I can only tell my hon. and gallant Friend that the use of this bomb is considered tactically justifiable.

Vesuvius (Bombing Of Crater)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the larger bombs we now have available, he will arrange, at the first opportunity, for a heavy bomb to be dropped down the crater of Mount Vesuvius in order to make a practical test as to whether the disturbances created thereby will give rise to severe earthquakes and eruptions?

All possible targets for our bombing attacks are carefully considered. It would not be in the public interest to say more.

Can the Minister give an assurance to the House that Bomber Command will not drop a "Purbrick" on this mountain?

Merseyside Dock Access Committee

15.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that the committee recently appointed to consider the transport facilities, accommodation and layout of the Merseyside port area and to submit proposals relating to post-war development, does not include a Liverpool steamship owner or director of a Liverpool steamship company; and whether, in view of this anomaly his Ministry will cause such representatives of the Liverpool shipping interests to be added to the committee?

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

The chairman and members of the Merseyside Dock Access Committee were chosen for their expert knowledge of the problems of road and rail access to the docks. In view of the Committee's terms of reference, my Noble Friend did not think it necessary to include a representative of the shipping industry. To include a spokesman of each of the interests concerned with the future welfare of the port would mean a large increase in the size of the committee. My Noble Friend is convinced that the work to be done can be most effectively accomplished by a small expert body of the kind which he has appointed.

Ferry Service, Queensferry (Rates)

16.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that the rates for the ferry service between North and South Queensferry have been increased by 10 per cent.; and whether he will arrange for this increase being cancelled because of the burden it represents to those upon whom it falls?

I am making inquiries, and will let my hon. Friend know the result as soon as possible.

Road Haulage Scheme

17.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport how many road-haulage firms, invited to become controlled undertakings under the new road haulage scheme, have signed the agreement unconditionally and how many have reserved for future negotiation the matter of a reasonable settlement of the financial conditions?

So far, 91 firms have signed an agreement with my Ministry and have thus become controlled undertakings. Seventy-eight other firms have made known without reservation their intention to do so. With some of these firms, however, certain details still remain to be settled. Fifty other firms have made known their intentions to sign agreements subject to a satisfactory settlement of the financial arrangements. This condition was made by a number of firms which subsequently became controlled undertakings. In general, it has not proved an obstacle to eventual agreement. Up to the present time no firm has definitely refused an invitation to become a controlled undertaking on the grounds that the financial arrangements were unsatisfactory; a few difficult cases, however, are still under discussion.

Will my hon. Friend include in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of these firms?

I think it would be more satisfactory to do that when the whole scheme is complete, but I will certainly consider that suggestion.

Has not the time arrived when the Government should take over the whole transport system of the country and not leave it to private enterprise?

Islamic Pilgrims (British Shipping)

18.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he has considered a report, which has been sent him, issued by the Arab News Agency in Cairo, last November, to the effect that 14,000 pilgrims were expected to go by sea from Suez to Jedda, this being a higher number than for several previous years; that a record number of pilgrims were going on the same pilgrimage from Palestine, the Lebanon and Syria and some 8,000 from the Sudan, Nigeria, and some parts of West Africa; and to what extent British shipping has been or is being used for these purposes?

I have read the report which my hon. Friend was good enough to send me. The facts are as follow: One British ship made two return voyages from Suez to Jedda. On the first outward voyage, and on both return voyages, this ship carried pilgrims. On the second outward voyage it carried essential cargo. No other assistance was given by the British authorities.

Does my hon. Friend realise that in the note I sent to him I especially stated that the British authorities had risen to the occasion and had provided shipping, and that while we appreciated the value of the pilgrimages, would he see that the rescuing of victims from the Nazi massacres—victims who never seem to be able to get any shipping—gets preference over pilgrims?

I have the greatest sympathy with my hon. Friend's purpose, and I would like to pay a tribute to the gallantry with which she defends her cause, but the small amount of shipping involved in this operation would not have been of great assistance to the Jewish victims of Nazi ferocity. There were strong reasons for giving this small amount of help to the Islamic pilgrims, and the Government were very glad to be able to do it.

Is it not a fact that there is nothing incompatible between helping refugees from Nazi persecution and assisting pilgrimages and that British help for these pilgrimages is the most effective form of propaganda it is possible to undertake?

Ministry Of Information

Speech, Colville's Clyde Iron Works

19.

asked the Minister of Information whether he has considered the letter from the Clyde Iron No. 2 Branch of the British Iron, Steel and Kindred Trades Association, sent to him by the hon. Member for West Fife, protesting against the anti-Soviet character of the speech made by a Dr. McLeod, at Colville's Clyde Iron Works, on 15th February; and what statement he has to make?

As I have already told the hon. Member in my reply to his letter, the Ministry of Information did not send this speaker to the iron works and cannot take any responsibility for his utterances.

As this meeting was held under the auspices, or direction, of the Ministry of Information, can nothing be done in view of the fact that this Minister was invited back for a further meeting?

I have enough trouble looking after some of the speakers sponsored by the Ministry of Information without adding to that responsibility by looking after orators unconnected with my Ministry.

Armed Forces, Northern Ireland (Gifts)

20.

asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that when it is desired to send to a unit of His Majesty's Forces in Northern Ireland gifts of a recreational nature the Postal and Telegraphic Censorship Department of his Ministry require, in duplicate, an undertaking of a character which has not been required in connection with similar gifts to serving members of His Majesty's Forces in any other part of the world; and the reason for this discrimination against His Majesty's Forces in Northern Ireland?

No censorship permit is required for sending gifts to a member of His Majesty's Forces serving outside Great Britain provided that they are addressed to his unit. If a private address in Northern Ireland is used, the regulations applying to packets for civilians must be observed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the case of a registered war charity, properly addressed, it was required to fill in a most elaborate document?

If I bring them to my right hon. Friend's attention, will he look into the matter further?

Allied Publications (House Of Commons)

21.

asked the Minister of Information whether, in order to save wastage and postage, he can arrange with the various despatching organisations that copies of the "Soviet War News" and similar daily or regular publications shall be left in the newspaper room or some other convenient place where they can be collected by Members who wish to read them?

I agree that this is a useful suggestion. I understand that the authorities of the House are prepared to arrange for copies of these publications of our Allies to be placed in the newspaper room for the use of Members who wish to cancel their individual copies.

Jews (Broadcast Propaganda)

22.

asked the Minister of Information whether he will arrange for the case for the Jews to be stated every week over the wireless in view of the fact that the Jews are the only minority selected for exclusive attack by the Nazi Government in their propaganda?

It would be an insult to our Jewish fellow-citizens if the B.B.C. were to attempt to broadcast replies to stale German lies. I cannot accept my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion that there is any need to state a case for the Jews. Our Jewish fellow-citizens have no need to be on the defensive. They play their fair part in bearing the burdens and sharing the dangers which His Majesty's subjects of all creeds have willingly accepted in their resistance to German aggression.

Post Office

Sub-Postmistress, Belfast (Displacement)

23.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the indignation aroused in Belfast by his decision to take away the means of livelihood of Mrs. Alice Mary Graham, the postmistress of Fortwilliam sub-post office, 573, Antrim Road, Belfast; whether he can state the nature of the inquiries he made before coming to this decision; whether he is aware that the source of his information is unreliable; and if he will set up an inquiry into this case?

One of the sons of Mrs. Graham, John S. S. Graham, was recently convicted of treason felony, while another son, James Ford Graham, was recently interned under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) (Northern Ireland) Acts; and the security authorities in Northern Ireland subsequently represented to the Post Office that Mrs. Graham was not only aware of the disloyal activities of her sons but also approved and assisted them in those activities. The Post Office did not feel justified in retaining a person whose loyalty was in doubt in a position where she might have access to information of vital interest to ill-disposed persons; and I agree with this view.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the source of his information is not reliable, and further is he aware that the statements contained in the document which I have personally seen are nonsense and untrue? Will he have a consultation with me with a view to placing the other side of the case before him on a sworn affidavit?

Are we to take it that it is the policy of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Department that a person is to be punished, although he himself may be loyal, simply because a relation is not loyal?

Are we to understand that when a request is made to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman by an hon. Member to consult with him he declines?

The hon. Gentleman must understand nothing of the kind, but in a question of this sort, which also touches upon the public constitutional position of the Northern Ireland authorities, some of the points which the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Beattie) had in mind would be more properly raised there than with me.

Will not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman reconsider his decision? If my hon. Friend wishes to meet him, will he not agree?

Of course, provided it concerns something for which I have responsibility. What the hon. Member referred to was no such thing.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that only one side of the case has been presented to him, and will he accept an invitation from me, without prejudice, that I am prepared to submit to him the sworn evidence of Mrs. Graham? Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman going to hold the mother responsible for any action of her older son, who left home many years ago?

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has laid down a guiding principle in connection with this matter. I want to know whether it will apply to the Secretary of State for India, who is conscious of where his son is and what he is doing.

In view of the fact that my hon. Friend was allowed to ask the Question, would it not be proper for you, Mr. Speaker, to give the Minister an opportunity of replying?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Air Mails

27.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will cease describing as air mail and charging for at the high air-mail rate, the mail such as that to and from India, which is sea-borne for the greater part of its journey?

Conveyance partly by surface means and partly by air is, and always has been, a feature of many air-mail services, and the term "air mail" is applied by international agreement to correspondence sent by such services, which should bear a special label and requires the same special treatment as correspondence conveyed by air over the whole journey. This form of service is of course normally resorted to only where air transport is not available over some part of the route but where the use of an air service for the remainder of the route offers as in this case a substantial acceleration over an all-surface route. The Post Office has been at pains to give the fullest possible publicity to the fact that the ordinary air mails for India and the Middle East are not sent all the way by air, but are conveyed by ship between this country and an African port. The shortage of aircraft capacity precludes conveyance by air throughout. Reduction of the air postage rate would increase the load to be carried and is impracticable so long as the present position as regards aircraft capacity persists; and I regret therefore that I cannot adopt the hon. Member's suggestion.

Is it not a fact that there is not a substantial acceleration at present of this so-called air mail? Is it not rather absurd that it often takes longer than the sea mail sent at ordinary rates?

No, Sir. On the average the gain by this route as compared with the all-surface route is between two weeks and five weeks.

Is it not recognised that the airgraph service provides a cheaper and satisfactory alternative to the air mail?

It is for that reason that our publicity is directed to getting the public to use that service.

Cheap Night Trunk And Toll Calls

28.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he has considered the advisability of abolishing cheap night trunk calls?

Yes, Sir. This matter has been under constant review since 1940, when the cheap night trunk service was restored, after having been withdrawn on the outbreak of war. This service is largely used by the troops and others living away from home, and I am satisfied that it is in the national interest to maintain the facility. It results, however, in serious staffing and transport difficulties during the later evening hours, and some modification of the existing arrangements is necessary. I am accordingly arranging for cheap night trunk and toll calls to be restricted to the period 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. for subscribers and 5.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. for call office users. The change will come into effect on Thursday, 1st April. I am sure that both the House and the public will recognise that some restriction is necessary under present conditions, and I hope that the public will assist the Post Office by reducing, as much as possible, both the number and the duration of such calls.

What is involved in the 9.30 p.m. stoppage of these trunk calls? Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman mean that calls put in before that time will in due course be fulfilled, even though there is perhaps a two hours' delay?

No, Sir. It is just the same arrangement as exists now, the only alteration being in the time.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this will cause great congestion during those hours and that any attempt to prevent boys and girls away from home and evacuated people from communicating with their parents will be resented all over the country?

The trouble is that we are also up against man-power difficulties. By cutting down the service to this extent it is anticipated that there will be a saving of from 300 to 350 operators.

In view of the uncertainty created by the answer to my previous Supplementary Question, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman take an opportunity of further informing the House of the actual position?

Yes, Sir. If the hon. Member will put down a Question oh any point of detail, I shall be happy to answer it.

Post-War Building Programme

29.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he can give any further information on the long-term programme of construction referred to in the recent White Paper on training in the building industry; and what plans are now being drawn up?

My Noble Friend has for some time had in hand the collection and co-ordination of all the available requirements and proposals for building, repairs to buildings, construction, and reconstruction after the war. For this purpose he has established a special section in the Ministry of Works which, in conjunction with all Government Departments concerned, including the various controls of materials, will prepare a comprehensive national programme in terms of labour, materials, cost, time and geographical location. On the basis of this survey it will be possible to take the necessary decisions as to works of first importance and the allocation of materials and labour and to set up any machinery necessary to secure that the post-war building programme is developed, and carried out, as smoothly and expeditiously as possible.

While I thank my hon. Friend for his full reply, will he inform the House when he expects to be able to give an outline of this plan to the House?

I can give an assurance, if my hon. Friend requires it, that the matter is being really actively pursued. There will be no delay, but to the question about the exact time when we shall be able to make a report to the House, I cannot give a reply.

What is being done now to make arrangements to provide bricks, so that there will be plenty of bricks ready when the time comes to build houses, which cannot be built without bricks?

The answer to that question, which relates to one commodity as far as building is concerned, is that my Noble Friend has taken steps to see that every brick-works which is temporarily closed down because of the concentration of the industry is adequately provided with every facility possible to maintain all machinery, boilers and so on ready for action, so that at any time when they are asked to go into full production, they can start off straight away.

Royal Navy

Casualty Figures (Publication)

30.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is prepared to reconsider his decision regarding the publication of casualty figures in view of the fact that losses of ships of the Royal Navy have already been revealed and that the United States Navy have published their casualty figures?

Why should the publication of our casualty figures help the enemy, whereas the publication of the American casualty figures does not?

The publication of these figures would enable the enemy to draw a more accurate picture of our manpower position, and it is not strictly accurate to say that the Americans have given the figures referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend.

Undelivered Letters And Telegrams

31.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in view of the fact that every month more than 50,000 letters and telegrams for men in the Navy are undelivered on account of their being incorrectly addressed, he will consider arranging that the special sheet prepared by the Admiralty entitled "How to communicate with, and inquire about, men in the Royal Navy," which will be inserted in naval allotment and allowance order books, shall also be displayed in the principal post offices throughout the country?

Yes, Sir, I am considering my hon. Friend's suggestion in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General.

Sierra Leone (Workmen's Compensation, Government Employees)

32.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that a workman employed by the Admiralty at the Boom Defence Depot, Sierra Leone, after many months' delay, for the loss of an eye, was awarded under the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance, 1939, £10, with one-third of his normal wages for the period of his illness, and was thereafter discharged as unfit for his employment; and whether he will recommend adequate compensation and the required amendment to the Ordinance in this respect?

The question appears to refer to an African labourer, Jacob Abbor. The delay in settling this case, which I nevertheless regret, was chiefly due to obscurities and contradictions in the evidence submitted by and on behalf of the claimant. It was not established that the loss of the eye was due to any injury while at work, but in all the circumstances a compassionate award of £10 was made to Abbor. In addition, Hurt Pay at the rate of half—not a third—of normal wages was authorised under Admiralty regulations, in respect of the time which he spent in hospital. Abbor was not discharged as "unfit," but on account of misconduct. The Sierra Leone Workmen's Compensation Ordinance, 1939, is not applicable to employees of the United Kingdom Government.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the Sierra Leone Press gave evidence taken on the spot refuting his statement and is he satisfied that the trifling allowance of £10 for the loss of an eye was fair and reasonable in the circumstances?

The facts as I have given them are accurate, but the whole question of these awards is being examined.

Can this assessment of £10 for an eye be the subject of any judicial investigation, and will any review of awards cover this particular case?

Yes, the review would cover this particular case. In reply to the first part of the question, it was not established that the loss of this eye was in fact due to the work he was engaged on.

Are we to assume that the £10 granted to this African is an indication of the value of an African as distinct from a British eye?

33.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance, 1939, of Sierra Leone, contains no provision for compensation to injured workers in Government service unless sanction has first been obtained from the Overseas Department, whereby months elapse, the injured man and his dependants being left without subsistence meantime; and whether he will amend this Ordinance so that satisfactory evidence and proof of the injury may be submitted 1o the local branch of the Overseas Department for settlement as in the case of injured workers not employed in His Majesty's services in this Colony?

The welfare of civilians employed in the Colonies by the Admiralty, the War Office or the Air Ministry is the concern of the Service Department by whom they are employed; and in the case of permanent, or partial, incapacity or death they or their dependants are entitled to receive compensation under the Injury Warrants and other regulations. They are therefore excluded from the scope of the Workmen's Compensation Ordinances enacted by the various Colonial Governments.

Why is it necessary to send ever to this country to have a case examined rather than have it examined and settled on the spot?

I have explained that the case to which I think the hon. Member refers had nothing to do with the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance. It was settled by the Admiralty.

Whether it had anything to do with the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance or not, why did it have to be investigated so far away; why did it have to take so long and why is it alleged after that lapse of time that the man is unable to prove something pertinent to his case?

Kenya

Juvenile Employment

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Ordinance amending the Kenya Masters and Servants Ordinance (No. 16) of 1939 is yet in operation; and what are the reasons for the delay in bringing it into force, in view of its importance as affecting conditions of juvenile employment?

The Employment of Servants (Amendment) Ordinance of 1939 has not hitherto been brought into operation owing principally to the depletion of staff for military and other war reasons, which made it impossible to introduce the system of registration of juveniles without which it could not have been enforced. I have recently been informed that a short Bill has been published for introduction in the current session of the Legislative Council to provide that no juveniles shall be subject to any of the penal provisions of the Employment of Servants Ordinance, 1937.

Labour Situation

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make a statement on the present labour situation in Kenya, giving information as to the number of strikes which have occurred during the last six months; and whether he is satisfied with the state of labour legislation in Kenya?

During the last six months, apart from the stoppages of work mentioned in the reply which I gave my hon. Friend on 3rd February, the only incidents which have been reported were certain repercussions of those stoppages in the form of small strikes in other towns. The strikers quickly resumed work on being informed that their complaints would be examined and dealt with. My present information is that the labour position is generally satisfactory, except that the difficulties in maintaining the food supply within the next few months must naturally cause the Government some anxiety. As regards the last part of the Question, a Bill has been published for introduction in the current session of the Legislative Council to amend the Trade Union Legislation in certain respects.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman look into the whole problem of labour legislation in Kenya?

From what I have seen of this Bill which it is proposed to introduce, it proceeds on very satisfactory lines.

Jamaica (Sugar Industry, Wages)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the actual wage-rates paid to task workers in the Jamaica sugar industry, as was determined by the agreement of March, 1941, have been in any way affected by the fixing of a lower minimum wage for workers on time rates; and whether he will consider increasing the time rates minimum wage to the higher level agreed upon by the Jamaica sugar industry and the workers in March, 1941?

Task workers who were included in the Agreement of March, 1941, and whose pay is in excess of the minimum rates recently fixed by proclamation, are not affected by that proclamation. As regards the last part of the Question, I must await the result of the inquiry which, as I informed the hon. Member on 17th February, was being addressed to the Governor.

Nyasaland (Land Policy)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the reference in a recent speech of the Governor of Nyasaland to the rise in land values and the considerable interest shown by purchasers in freehold estates suitable for tobacco growing in the Shire Highlands; whether any number of Europeans can purchase land in Nyasaland; what proportion of the land is freehold; and what is the Government's policy in the matter?

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. The total area of freehold and leasehold estates, which are mostly held by Europeans and are included in the reserved lands, is approximately 1,300,000 acres, representing 5 per cent. of the total area of the Protectorate. This area cannot be extended. With this exception, the land of the Protectorate is either Crown Land or Native Trust Land which is vested in the Secretary of State and administered and controlled for the use and the benefit of the natives of Nyasaland.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman quite satisfied that the interests of the natives regarding agricultural production are being fully safeguarded, and is he paying any attention to the increase in the price of land in that area?

I think the interests of the natives are being fully safeguarded. I will look into the other point.

Nigeria

Teaching Profession

40.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the present condition of the teaching profession in Nigeria and the exodus of teachers; what are the present wages paid, hours worked and holidays; and whether he is considering plans to make the profession more satisfactory and attractive?

As regards the first and third parts of the Question, the circumstances of the teaching profession in Nigeria have for some time been engaging my serious attention in consultation with the Governor, who has submitted comprehensive proposals for improving present conditions. These proposals are receiving active consideration in the Colonial Office. I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement giving in full the details asked for in the second part.

Do I understand that that statement includes proposals regarding the improvement of this profession?

Yes, they are comprehensive educational proposals which we are now considering.

Following are the details:

As regards the second part of the Question, wages vary according to the grades of the teachers and their certificates. In Mission Schools the pay of certificated elementary teachers is £30 to £60 per annum. In Government Schools £36 to £72 per annum. Mission teachers holding the Yaba Diploma receive £75 to £150 per annum. Mission School "graduates" receive £160 to £200 per annum. In Government Schools teachers with the Yaba Diploma are divided into three grades, the lowest receiving £88 to £128 per annum and the highest £240 to £375 per annum. Uncertificated teachers are on lower scales. The usual school hours are 9 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The holidays vary according to locality but are roughly two months in the year for both Government and Mission Schools.

Native Administration Services

41.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when the recommendations in the Dodds Report on conditions of service in the Nigerian native administrations are to be implemented; what is the nature of the control of service in these administrations; and how do they compare with Government service?

I am not aware of the recommendations in the Report referred to by the hon. Member, and I am asking the Governor for information about it. The Native Administration Services are under the control of the various native authorities which, in their turn, are subject to the supervision of administrative officers of the Nigerian Government. I have no detailed information as regards the last part of the Question, but generally speaking officials of the native administrations are paid at lower rates than corresponding officials of the Central Government of Nigeria.

When is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman likely to receive a copy of the Dodds Report, and therefore to be able to give his decision on the matter?

I cannot give an estimate. I shall ask for it as a matter of urgency, but the hon. Member will realise that communications are sometimes difficult.

Land Registration (Scott Committee's Recommendations)

42.

asked the Attorney-General what steps he is taking to implement the recommendations of the Scott Committee regarding the extension of the system of land registration throughout the country as a pre-requisite for post-war reconstruction proposals; and what progress has been made in overcoming staffing and mapping difficulties?

My Noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Rushcliffe to consider the recommendation referred to in the Question. Until the Report of the Committee has been received, it would be premature to make any further statement on the subject.

In view of the perfectly appalling Report produced by Lord Rushcliffe on the nursing profession, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman regard this as a good choice?

I will merely dissociate myself from the implications of that Supplementary Question.

Can we have an assurance that there will not be another committee to report on the Rushcliffe Committee?

I think, if the hon. Member has followed this matter, the recommendation of the Scott Report on this question was one which clearly required further investigation.

Post-War Housing

43.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning when he is going to announce the overriding regulations enabling local authorities to decide on the area of land required to satisfy their post-war housing needs, particularly in relation to treatment of large slum areas and bombed sites?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning
(Mr. Henry Strauss)

The Government have already announced their acceptance of the recommendation of the Uthwatt Committee that planning authorities should be given power to acquire war damaged and other reconstruction areas as a whole. I am not clear what overriding regulations the hon. Member has in mind, but my right hon. Friend will give guidance and advice to planning authorities through his planning officers and otherwise.

Will my hon. Friend explain how many houses to the acre are going to be allowed in future, so that the local authorities can decide how many sites they have to get to carry out the Minister's recommendations?

The hon. Member received an answer from the Leader of the House last week.

44.

asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning when he will be in a position to announce the Government's provisional proposals with regard to the stabilisation or otherwise of land values so that local authorities can intelligently carry out the Minister of Health's request to begin acquiring land as sites for post-war housing?

The Government are considering, together with other recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee, the detailed application of the principle that compensation payable in respect of the public acquisition or control of land should not exceed sums based on the standard of values at 31st March, 1939, but I am unable to say when legislation will be introduced. There is in the opinion of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health nothing to prevent local authorities intelligently carrying out his request.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that local authorities can purchase the land they need at any price by mutual agreement?

If my hon. Friend wishes to raise any question on the statement of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health he will no doubt direct his question to that Department. I was only concerned with denying the implication in my hon. Friend's Question.

Arising out of the terms of the Question, does the Minister agree that the value of land is the one thing you cannot possibly stabilise?

Post-War International Settlement

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider moving for the appointment of a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, of which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should be a member, to inquire into the political and economic principles and problems of the international settlement at the end of the war and the organisation of world security, to hear the views of representatives of allied and neutral Powers and of the Dominions, to take evidence from Government departments and other authorities and organisations, and to prepare a Report for the information and guidance of the Government, Parliament and the people?

In view of the fact that the minds of Ministers are fully occupied in the war, would not such a Committee of both Houses, consisting of men eminent for their past services and of future promise, perform a useful service by making a preliminary survey of these difficult problems?

Anti-U-Boat Warfare Committee

46.

asked the Prime Minister to which Department questions should be addressed concerning the work of the Anti-U-Boat Committee, of which he is Chairman, and the Minister of Aircraft Production, Vice-Chairman?

As I explained in the statement which I made on 15th December, the Anti-U-Boat Warfare Committee in no way supersedes or replaces the regular and systematic control of anti-U-boat warfare by the Admiralty. Questions on this subject should therefore be addressed to the First Lord of the Admiralty, unless they raise wide strategic issues which would more appropriately be addressed to me as Minister of Defence.

Could the right hon. Gentleman consider affording the House an opportunity to discuss this whole question owing to the fact that when the Navy Estimates were introduced special reference was made to the impossibility of one Department dealing with a matter that concerns two Departments?

The relations of the House are with Ministers of the Crown and not with the chairmen or heads of committees, Cabinet or otherwise, in their capacity as chairmen or heads of committees. The question of a Debate must be settled through the usual channels.

Colonial Empire (Minister's Speech)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether the views upon the future development of the British Colonial Empire expressed at Oxford, on 5th March, by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, represent the policy of His Majesty's Government?

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government are convinced that the administration of the British Colonies must continue to be the sole responsibility of Great Britain. The policy of His Majesty's Government is to plan for the fullest possible political, economic and social development of the Colonies within the British Empire, and in close co-operation with neighbouring and friendly nations.

Has not the somewhat truculent nature of the speech made at Oxford caused misgivings both in the United States and the Dominions, who had hoped to see the Atlantic Charter implemented in our Colonial Empire?

Does the Prime Minister still adhere to the principles of the Atlantic Charter?

Does my right hon. Friend's answer preclude the Government's consideration in future of the proposal relating to international mandates?

We should be opposed to the idea of condominions, which have always been found to bring about very bad results to the regions affected, but we naturally shall be in the closest touch and intercourse with our great Allies whose interests are closely connected with ourselves in some parts of the world.

Does the reply mean that the Dominions or member States of the British Commonwealth will also have a voice in the future of the British Colonies?

They already have a considerable voice in the future of certain Colonies which come in their regions.

Does the declaration mean that this country does not intend to give up its occupied territories at the end of this war as Germany will have to do?

Air-Raid Wardens (Awards)

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the advisability of issuing a decoration or a medal, to be known as the Civil Defence Medal or some other similar designation, for presentation with New Year or Birthday honours to selected wardens who have consistently carried out their duties during the war years in all weathers, night and day, but who have not had the chance of meriting the George Cross or George Medal?

I do not think there is any need for the institution of a new good service decoration or medal for Civil Defence in addition to the distinctions already available, which include appointments to the Order of the British Empire and awards of the Medal of the Order.

Housewives (Badge)

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the institution of a housewife's badge to mark the Government's appreciation of the magnificent contribution made by the housewives of Great Britain to every phase of the national war effort on the home front?

I do not consider that selection for the award of a badge of this nature would be practicable.

Would the Prime Minister consider a badge for agricultural workers who have no uniform and nothing to show for the fact that they are doing vital war work?

Liabilities (War-Time Adjustment) Act

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the appointment of a special committee, on which both the Treasury and the interests concerned will be represented, to investigate the problems raised by war measures in certain areas, of which he has been informed?

The Liabilities (War-time Adjustment) Act, 1941, was passed to provide a measure of relief to persons including those in the areas in question who are financially affected by war circumstances. I do not think that any special committee is required.

War Production (Booklets)

51.

asked the Minister of Production whether he will call the attention of managers of factories engaged in war production to the booklets on the most efficient methods of dealing with the clerical side of works production and organisation now in preparation by the British Standards Institution?

A note on the first of these booklets to be published by the British Standards Institution is included in the current issue of the Production and Engineering Bulletin published jointly by my Department and the Ministry of Labour and National Service, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy. Previous issues of the Bulletin, which has a wide circulation among managements, have contained articles on the work of the British Standards Institution in this field, and I am informed that the institution have themselves sent a prospectus describing it to many representative organisations. The publications in question have my warm support and will, I hope, be closely studied by managers of factories engaged in war production. I am examining carefully what further steps can be taken to ensure a full distribution to them.

Food Supplies

Prosecutions

55.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the total number of persons prosecuted by his Department; and how many were employers and servants, respectively?

My Department has taken proceedings on 76,730 summonses since the outbreak of war. The figures of numbers of persons prosecuted are not available except from the beginning of the year 1942. In that year 15,188 persons were prosecuted, the total number of successful prosecutions being 31,397. It would not be possible to make any significent analysis of the figures in the manner suggested by my hon. Friend. In this connection, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to a like Question on 12th May, 1942.

Is care taken to see that no assistant is prosecuted where the benefit of the offence accrues to the employer?

Cannot my hon. Friend be more emphatic and say with pride that his Department prosecutes more employers than any other Department and is not dealing with prosecutions of employees?

My hon. Friend will realise the difficulty of distinguishing between those who are employers and those who are employees, such as directors of companies.

Fish Distribution, Southampton

57.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he has any statement to make in regard to the fish supplies to Southampton?

From the returns furnished to my Department by the traders in Southampton, it has been computed that the quantity of fish supplied to that town in terms of whole fish was 16,000 stones in January and 11,860 stones in February.

Could my hon. Friend do something still further, because there is great perturbation in towns about fish supplies?

I can only say that in February Southampton received 145 per cent. of its entitlement of the total landings on a per capita basis.

Rationing (Change Of Retailers)

58.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, when the new food ration book period starts in July, the annual option much valued by consumers of changing their retailers will be preserved so that some stimulus to good service will remain?

Eggs (Complaint Of Wastage)

59.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether his attention has been drawn to a letter published on 18th February in the "Manchester Guardian," from a Mr. Whitson, of Keswick, of which a copy has been sent to him, in which grave allegations are made concerning egg wastage and, in particular, the inability of his Department to find a market for egg producers; and what action he is proposing to take in view of the urgent need for eggs in all parts of the country?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply on this subject which I gave on 11th February to the hon. Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby). The eggs to which reference is made had been incubated by the producer at a temperature of 100° for 18 days, and their only possible use was for breaking out for manufacturing purposes. No question arises of finding a market for egg producers, or of the wastage of eggs suitable for consumption by the general public.

Condemned Imported Commodities

60.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether his attention has been called to the condemnation of supplies of oranges and corned beef, etc., by the sanitary inspector of Golborne, Lancashire; and whether he can give any explanation why these commodities became unfit for human consumption and say on whom the ultimate cost of the loss falls?

I am aware of the condemnations referred to by my hon. Friend. The oranges were Spanish sour oranges and formed part of an allocation to a manufacturer. It is impossible to prevent a proportion of imported fruit from deteriorating while in transit. The corned beef condemned formed part of a consignment of goods which had been rejected by the Ministry's reconditioning agents as unfit for further storage. In both instances the loss falls on the Ministry of Food.

Can the Minister say whether it is possible to arrest the conveyance of such commodities before they reach the traders here?

It is rather a question of arresting them before they reach this country.

Control Committees (Appeals Against Decisions)

61.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether members of the public have a right of appeal to the Minister of Food against decisions of local or regional food control committees, especially where permission has not been granted by these committees for an individual to change his retailer?

Members of the public have no "statutory" right of appeal to the Minister of Food against decisions of local food control committees or divisional food officers. In practice, however, all appeals against decisions are carefully considered.

In view of the fact that certain local food committees like to give the impression that they have complete dictatorial powers in this matter, will my hon. Friend see that his answer is circulated, so that the general public know that they have an opportunity of appealing to the Minister?

I cannot accept the implication in the Supplementary Question, but I think that my original answer will satisfy the hon. and gallant Member's desire.

Recommended Employee, Pontardawe

62.