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Written Answers

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 24 March 1943

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Written Answers

Seed Potatoes (Transport)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he has taken steps to facilitate the transport of seed potatoes from Scotland to the South of England to secure a satisfactory supply and distribution in time for spring planting?

Yes, Sir. It was estimated that about 440,000 tons of seed potatoes would be required for planting in England and Wales in 1943. Up to the end of February, 338,884 tons had actually been despatched from Scotland to England by sea and by rail, and I do not anticipate any difficulty in completing the movement of the rest.

British Army

Court-Martial (Sentence)

asked the Secretary of State for War for what reason Lieutenant A. R. Mercer, of the Royal Artillery, at Alder-shot, was cashiered on Saturday, 20th March?

Lieutenant A. R. Mercer was found guilty by general court-martial on a charge of deserting His Majesty's Service when on active service and was sentenced to be cashiered.

Pension Applications (Time Limit)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will withdraw paragraph 5, Army Council Instruction 733/41, so far as it imposes a time limit of three months within which a serving soldier, who has completed the qualifying period of service, may apply for his pension, as men are frequently not informed of the regulation and are thereby prevented from drawing a pension to which they feel they are entitled?

The intention of the regulation is not to deprive any of the soldiers concerned of the opportunity of electing to receive pension while serving, if they wish, but merely to ensure that the soldier does decide one way or the other within a reasonable time. The instruction referred to required that the provision should be brought to the notice of all soldiers likely to be affected, but if a soldier shows that his failure to claim was due to ignorance of the regulation or to other reasonable cause, the time limit is waived in his favour.

Palestinian Volunteers

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give the number of Palestinians, men and women, who have so far joined the Services as volunteers; what proportion of these are Jews; and whether, as family allowances are only two-thirds of the British amounts and the dependants' allowances are nonexistent, he will consider recommending an increase in the former and the establishment of the latter?

I regret that it is not in the public interest to give the figures asked for my hon. Friend. Over three-quarters of the Palestinian volunteers in the Armed Forces are Jews. The question of the allowances raised in the last part of the Question is now under consideration.

Postal Facilities, North Africa

asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether he will organise an air-mail letter service to North Africa without further delay, in view of the fact that these facilities are already enjoyed by our Allies in this theatre and by British troops in other theatres of operations;(2) whether he is aware that although the postal facilities to North Africa have recently improved they still leave much to be desired; and whether this Parliamentary Question, posted from a unit in North Africa on 4th March, has taken an average time in transit?

Both an airgraph service and a light-weight air letter service have recently been established from this country to the British North African Force. In the homeward direction, an air letter service has been provided and an airgraph service will also shortly be available. These new services represent substantial improvements in postal communication to and from the troops, and they should afford speedier transmission between this country and the base than was possible when my hon. and gallant Friend posted the notice of his Question.

European Post-War Recon- Struction (Ex-Service Per- Sonnel)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in the plans which the Government is making for the reconstruction of Europe, requiring a substantial number of young men or women to be sent to work in Europe, he will consider the claims of, and the valuable experience of, young men and women who have been in the Forces or the women's auxiliaries, in preference to others who have not rendered this disciplined service?

It is not clear whether British personnel will be required on any considerable scale for reconstruction work in Europe. Selection must be based primarily on special aptitudes for the work concerned, but candidates who have served in the Forces or the women's auxiliaries will certainly be borne in mind. His Majesty's Government are giving close attention to this question.

Service Members Of Parli- Ament (Leave)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether paragraph 2 of A.M.O.A. 355 of 1939 is man- datory or subject to any proviso; and, if the latter, where the proviso is to be found?

The Regulation referred to is mandatory but, in applying for leave, hon. and gallant Members will bear in mind that they also have obligations as Members of His Majesty's Forces and they will, I know, use the privilege with discretion.

National Finance

Old Age Pensions

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has considered the resolution sent to him by the Leigh Old Age Pensioners' Association asking for an increase of 5s. per week on the basic rate of all those old age pensioners who are not in employment; and will he make a statement?

As my hon. Friend is no doubt aware, this matter is now under examination in connection with the Beveridge Report.

Air-Raid Shelters, Outlay (Income Tax)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether owners of air-raid shelters provided for their tenants are assessed for Income Tax on moneys received from the tenants as a contribution towards the capital outlay made by the owner on such shelters?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave on 2nd February to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Salisbury (Major Morrison).

Service Entertainments (Cost)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the approximate annual cost of Entertainments National Service Association; and the numbers of men and women, respectively, under 35 years of age, fit for essential work, employed thereby?

The Entertainments National Service Association is a voluntary organisation without funds. It bears no part of the cost of national service entertainment and the personnel engaged in this work are in the employment of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. The approximate gross cost of national service entertainment provided in the current financial year, including salaries of administrative staff, is £2,200,000. The information asked for in the second part of the Question is not immediately available. Inquiries are being made and a communication will be sent to my hon. and gallant Friend as soon as possible by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service.

Road Fund

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amount of money has been paid over to the Treasury out of the Road Fund for the year 1942–43?

I think my hon. Friend has overlooked the change made in 1936 under which the Road Fund has been fed, since 1st April, 1937, with such grants from voted moneys as it required for the purpose of meeting its expenditure. No question of the Fund paying over money to the Treasury arises under the arrangements then introduced.

Tube Shelter Accident Inquiry (Report)

asked the Home Secretary whether he has yet received Mr. Laurence Dunne's Report about the London air-raid shelter; and whether the Report will be circulated to the Members of the House of Commons?

My right hon. Friend has just received Mr. Dunne's Report but has not yet had time to examine it. In these circumstances, my right hon. Friend cannot add to his previous statement regarding publication of Mr. Dunne's conclusions.

National War Effort

Work Directions, Northern Ireland (Appeals)

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will inform the House as to the right of appeal against direction given by a National Service officer in Northern Ireland under Regulation 58A; and whether any industrial undertakings in Northern Ireland have been certified as essential undertakings or otherwise?

I have been asked to reply. Defence Regulation 58A makes no provision for a right of appeal against a direction given to a person under paragraph (1) of the Regulation whether he is in Great Britain or in Northern Ireland. There are, however, in Northern Ireland, as in Great Britain, administrative arrangements whereby persons to whom directions have been given may be afforded an opportunity of appealing to an independent board. Essential Work Orders under paragraph (4A) of the Regulation have not been made as respects any industrial undertakings in Northern Ireland. The only Essential Work Order applying to Northern Ireland is one relating to the Merchant Navy.

Lumber Camp (Welfare Arrangements)

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that at a lumber camp, of which he has been informed, which is scheduled under the Essential Work (General Provisions) No. 2 Order, 1942, there is no canteen, no camp steward and cook, no facilities for bathing, washing and drying clothes, and no adequate supply of drinkable water; and what is being done to rectify these grievances?

I have had this camp visited twice and the action necessary to remedy the deficiences disclosed is under consideration with the Departments concerned. Meanwhile, though some improvement in the welfare arrangements was noted at the second visit, the conditions are not yet such as to justify continued scheduling under the Essential Work Order and the provisional certificate of scheduling is being withdrawn.

Lincoln District Man-Power Board

asked the Minister of Labour the names of those serving on the Lincoln Man-Power Board?

The names of the members of the Lincoln District Man-Power Board are:

  • Mr. E. B. McGuire (Chairman),
  • Mr. E. Kennedy,
  • Mr. B. H. Dobson,
  • Mr. C. D. Lodge, and
  • Mrs. M. J. B. Williams.

Sierra Leone (Mr Wallace Johnson)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will sympathetically consider the possibility of reviewing the case of Wallace Johnson, of Sierra Leone, with a view to the removal of the present restrictions on his liberty?

It would not be justifiable to relax the present restrictions on the liberty of Mr. Wallace Johnson so long as the Governor is satisfied that such measures are necessary in order to prevent him from acting in a way prejudicial to public safety or defence. I have no doubt that the Governor will reconsider this case when circumstances justify his doing so.

West Indies

Development Schemes (Controller)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will appoint a controller of development, with a view of preparing schemes for the improved welfare and development of West Africa along the lines of the work of Sir Frank Stockdale in the West Indies?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the remarks which I made on this subject in replying to the Debate on Colonial Administration in the West Indies on 16th March, to which, at present, I have nothing to add.

Technicians (Training)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the increasing scarcity of skilled and semi-skilled men and women technicians in certain war factories, he will consider the possibility of an increase of such labour from the West Indies?

In view of shipping difficulties, I should not feel justified at present in embarking on any further schemes for bringing West Indians to this country for training, but applications are, and will be, considered in the case of individual West Indians who already possess the necessary technical skill to enable them to take up skilled employment immediately on their arrival in this country.

North Africa (Political Internees)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps have been taken to improve the conditions of the camps in North Africa in which political prisoners and International Brigadiers are interned; and whether he has recently received any report about these camps?

One of the duties of the Joint Commission set up to investigate the position of political internees in North Africa is to ensure that such internees are housed, pending their release, in as good living conditions as possible. As my Noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal stated in another place on 17th March, representatives of the Commission recently visited four of the most important internment camps where over 1,200 men are living. They reported favourably on the conditions at these camps and ascertained that a large majority of the men held there were allowed to reside freely in the districts where they were employed and enjoyed considerable liberty of movement. Representatives of the Commission hope to visit other camps in the near future.

British Prisoners Of War, Far East

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what facilities exist for sending parcels of food, or other comforts, to prisoners of war in Japanese hands; and what country is acting as Protecting Power in their case?

I regret to say that no facilities exist for the despatch of relief stores to prisoners of war or internees in the Far East. If the Japanese Government accept our proposals to negotiate a further exchange of civilians, the ships used will no doubt, as happened in the first exchange last September, carry such stores. The Japanese authorities have been approached with proposals for a regular service of relief shipments and their reply is awaited. The Power protecting British interests in Japan and Japanese-occupied territories is Switzerland.

Food Supplies

Distribution, Scotland

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that the purpose of the sector scheme is being defeated in Scotland by an arrangement between Messrs. Lyons, of London, and a Glasgow bakery, whereby Messrs. Lyons' products are produced in Glasgow and distributed throughout Scotland, involving the use of considerable transport; and, as such goods, mainly luxury, could be produced by smaller firms in various localities and eliminate waste of man-power and fuel, will he take action to effect this result?

No, Sir. Scotland is one sector for manufactured foodstuffs and my Noble Friend has no reason for thinking that manufacture near a port is wasteful of transport; but if my hon. Friend will provide me with particulars of the economies which he considers could be secured I will gladly examine them.

Premises, Winchester (Food Officer's Visit)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the reasons for the action of a food officer in entering premises at 36, Jewry Street, Winchester, on 2nd December last, at a time when the manager was absent and there was only present a girl aged 15 who, despite her protests, was intimidated by the action of the food officer and his colleagues and induced to allow them to enter private premises adjoining; why the food officer did not produce any authority for his action in seeking to examine the contents of the premises visited; and whether he has any statement to make?

I regret that I have not had time to complete the necessary inquiries in this case. I will communicate with my hon. Friend on the subject as soon as possible.

Meat Manufactures (Advisory Committee)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, in what capacity Mr. Montague Gluckstein Abrahams has been attending meetings of the advisory committee to the Ministry on meat manufactures; and whether, as this man was fined £250 for aiding and abetting in an offence arising out of the sale of fish, he will assure the House no more advice will be accepted by the Ministry from this person?

In reply to the first part of my hon. Friend's Question Mr. M. G. Abrahams was appointed in December, 1940, a member of an advisory committee on meat manufactures on the nomination of the Sausages and Cooked Meat Manufacturers Association. My Noble Friend is considering what action he should take as a result of the recent proceeding taken against this trader under the Fish (Maximum Prices) Order and I will communicate with my hon. Friend when a decision has been reached. In the meantime Mr. Abrahams will not be invited to attend any meetings of the advisory committee.

Biscuit Factories

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why he proposes to close 120 out of 240 biscuit factories when the Cake and Biscuit Manufacturers Wartime Alliance claim that 5,262 workers could be released without closing one factory, while the Government scheme would release 5,137?

Bread Sales (Reduction)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, as a result of the "Eat more potatoes" campaign, there has been a noticeable reduction in the consumption of bread?

I regret that the evidence at present available to me does not enable me to answer my hon. Friend with any substantial degree of accuracy, but a recent sample examination of bread sales indicates that a reduction is taking place. Further returns now being collected will, I hope, enable me to give a more precise answer in about three weeks' time.

Milk Sales

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the sales of milk for the latest convenient monthly period of this year, compared with similar periods for the years 1941 and 1942?

I regret that I am unable to supply the detailed information requested by my hon. Friend, as the publication of such statistics is not in the national interest.

Local Authorities (Overdrafts)

asked the Minister of Health how many local municipal authorities in certain areas of which he has been informed are now carrying a bank overdraft in accordance with Government requirements when financial aid is given and to what sum these overdrafts amount?

The overdraft was in some cases a definite sum fixed by agreement with my Department, in others it was the overdraft existing at the time assistance commenced. In one or two cases no assistance has yet been required. The number of authorities concerned is 23 and the total overdrafts amount to about £375,000.

Medical Services

asked the Minister of Health whether he can give an assurance that the professions of physio therapists and masseurs and medical electricians will be consulted through their appropriate organisations as to the future of private practices and other relevant matters before any national medical scheme reaches its final stages?

It is certainly my intention to hear the views, at the appropriate time, of any representative body whose members' interests are likely to be affected.

Post-War Reconstruction (Mr G D H Cole)

asked the Minister without Portfolio what is the position of Mr. G. D. H. Cole in his Department?

Mr. G. D. H. Cole holds no position in my Department. He is chairman of the Nuffield College Social Reconstruction Survey which has been receiving a giant-in-aid from the Government in respect of its work in connection with post-war reconstruction.

Ministry Of Supply

Bren Gun (Royalties)

asked the Minister of Supply what is the total amount paid in royalties for manufacture under licence of the Bren gun between the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Germans and the outbreak of war; to whom such royalties were paid; and whether similar arrangements as were made and carried out after the last war, whereby Krupps received royalties, are in force in regard to payments after the present war?

It would be contrary to established practice to give information regarding payments to royalty owners.

Cotton Controller

asked the Minister of Supply whether the Cotton Controller devotes the whole of his time to the duties of that office; and whether he has resigned the position of managing director of the Lancashire Cotton Corporation, Limited?