House Of Commons
Wednesday, 31st March, 1943
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
War Criminals (List)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what department or organisation in this country is compiling an official list of enemy war criminals?
Information regarding war crimes against British subjects which comes to the notice of the various Departments of His Majesty's Government is communicated through the Foreign Office to the Treasury Solicitor with a view to the submission of suitable cases to the United Nations Commission.
Is the Minister aware that no comprehensive, up-to-date list exists at all? Further, is he aware that that is one of the reasons why Members of Parliament have not been allowed to inspect such list?
The list obviously takes some time to assemble, and it is not the responsibility of His Majesty's Government to assemble such a comprehensive list. That is the responsibility of the individual Allied Governments concerned.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British Government have formulated plans to submit to our Allies at future conferences in the United States of America and elsewhere, for the purpose of preventing Germany, after the conclusion of the war, from starting yet another war?
I am not in a position to make any statement on this subject at the present time.
China (Financial Assistance And Medical Relief)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that 10 Chinese soldiers are dying of dysentery or malaria for every one dying of wounds, special efforts are being made to despatch medical supplies and assistance to China?
While I am unable to confirm the rate of casualties through sickness given by the hon. Member, His Majesty's Government have for long been fully aware of the urgent necessity of giving China all possible help in the way of medical relief, and have taken practical steps to do so, both by providing financial assistance and by the despatch of medical supplies.As regards financial assistance, His Majesty's Government have made a grant-in-aid of £50,000 to the British Fund for the Relief of Distress in China and a further £41,500 to the Chinese Red Cross. Apart from this, large sums have been collected by voluntary societies in this country, notably the United Aid to China Fund. Pending the reopening of the Burma Road, financial assistance of this kind must inevitably form the major part of the relief we are able to send to China, owing to the difficulties of transport. Every effort has been made to send medical supplies from India, and important allocations—for example, 5,000,000 tablets of quinine—have been made in the past. At the present time the shortage of medical supplies in India, in addition to the difficulties of transport referred to above, constitute serious limiting factors. His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the needs of the situation and will continue to do all that lies in their power to remedy it.
Has the Minister noted the statement made by Mr. Wellington Koo in Philadelphia on the point, in which he gave figures? While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask if he is aware that it will be regarded, I am sure, with great pleasure by the Government and people of China?
Can we be definitely assured that financial considerations are not in any way the cause and that the difficulty is solely one of transport?
I am certain that His Majesty's Government are doing everything physically possible.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has a reliable estimate, respectively, of the number of Jewish and political refugees from Poland and elsewhere who escaped before the war; the number who have escaped since then; the number of Polish Jews who have died since the beginning of the war through Nazi treatment; and the expenditure to date of His Majesty's Government in respect of assistance to refugees?
As the answer is long and somewhat detailed, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is any indication given in that report of moneys or guarantees offered to neutral Governments to cover the needs of refugee women?
On that point I must ask my hon. Friend to await the publication to which I have referred.
Will the OFFICIAL REPORT say what definition of "refugee" is used, since the word is rather vague in its connotation?
I think that the OFFICIAL REPORT will do its best to answer the Question, which is very complicated.
Following is the reply:
I am not aware of any Polish people having left Poland as refugees before the war. After the invasion of that country there was a very considerable movement of refugees in various directions. For further details I might refer my hon. Friend to pages 3 to 5 of the Report issued in 1942 by the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a copy of which is in the Library of the House. As regards information in the possession of His Majesty's Government regarding the number who have escaped since the war from Poland, I can only refer to the figures of Polish refugees already or in the process of being received in the British Empire excepting Palestine; exclusive of all Poles who have joined the Armed Forces, the number is approximately 32,234. No differentiation is made between Jewish and other Polish refugees. In Palestine the total number of refugees who have entered between 1st April, 1939, and 18th February, 1943, is approximately 39,227. The number of refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia in this country at the outbreak of war was approximately 78,000. Since the outbreak of war 66,000 refugees from enemy and enemy-occupied countries have come into the United Kingdom.
It is obviously impossible to state the number of Polish Jews who have been murdered by the Germans in Poland since September, 1939, but the figure has been put at above 1,000,000. The expenditure to date by His Majesty's Government in respect of assistance to refugees from 1st October, 1939, amounts to £1,210,000. This does not include the expenditure incurred by the Ministry of Health as no separate record is kept of cost falling on this Department in respect of accommodation and support of alien as distinct from British refugees.
Foreign Service Candidates (Languages)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in any future curriculum for the Foreign Office, candidates will be encouraged to make French their first language, Russian their second, and not be encouraged to learn German?
My right hon. Friend is not at this stage able to say which languages candidates for the Foreign Service should be required to offer at the regular examinations to be held after the war.
Can we be taught American first?
As German is spoken or understood probably by more people on the Continent of Europe than is any other language, would not the policy suggested in the Question be rather short-sighted?
Is not Spanish also important?
Royal Air Force
Wing-Commander Taffy Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Air why Wing Commander Taffy Jones, D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C., M.M., after organising three stations for the training of Spitfire pilots, was placed on the retired list; and whether he will provide this airman with the possibility of further assisting in the war effort?
This officer reverted to the retired list because there was no further employment available in the Royal Air Force for which he was considered suitable. It is not possible to offer him re-employment with the Royal Air Force.
Is not the Minister aware that this man is one of the most heroic officers and, at a time when advertisements are asking for women to do jobs in the Air Force, why is this very competent air fighter kept unemployed? Will the right hon. Gentleman not look into the matter again?
I have looked into it very carefully. I can assure hon. Members that we are by no means unmindful of the fine service which this officer has rendered.
If this man were an Englishman, would he not have been employed in a very high post, and will not the Minister have regard to the intense feeling that exists in Wales against the treatment of this gallant man?
Was not this officer one of the greatest aces in the last war, and is he not physically fit? Is there no place at all in the Training Command for such a distinguished flying officer of the last war?
There is no suitable place at the moment, and I am sure that the decision which I have taken is the best possible in the interests of the Service.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I will raise the question again.
Land Purchased And Leased
asked the Secretary of State for Air, how much land has been bought outright by the Air Ministry since 31st December, 1938, or other convenient date, and the total sum paid for it?
The total area of land purchased in Great Britain by the Air Ministry since 31st December, 1938, is 58,223 acres. The total cost inclusive of buildings existing on the land was £3,760,433.
asked the Secretary of State for Air, how much land has been rented by his Ministry; and whether he can give the general terms on which these rentals are based?
10,400 acres of land are held on lease at an aggregate annual rental of £40,267. The various rents were negotiated before the war on the basis of fair commercial value. Since the outbreak of war, land required for Air Force purposes has been requisitioned, and compensation paid, in accordance with the provisions of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939.
Can the Minister indicate whether, when these rents run out, the improvement on the land will return without cost to the landlord?
I would like notice of that question.
Non-Operational Officers (Clothing)
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in the interests of economy and practical work, he will give permission for non-operational Royal Air Force officers to be issued with aircrew suits, and with the necessary permission to wear them?
No, Sir. It would hardly be practicable to introduce this type of dress for wear by officers generally without arranging for its issue to airmen. This would render large stocks of clothing surplus to requirements and involve a big contract for new garments. From the point of view of economy the disadvantages are thus substantial, and they outweigh any considerations of practical convenience.
Is it not a fact that the present Royal Air Force service dress tunic still has patch pockets on it and pleated breast pockets, which, in the case of the Army, have been taken off on the ground of economy in cloth?
Volunteers, Northern Ireland (Ground Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for Air why volunteers from Northern Ireland are debarred from joining the ground staff section of the Royal Air Force; and whether he will consider the removal of this injustice?
The restriction to which the hon. Member refers has recently been removed.
Requisitioned Farm Land
asked the Secretary of State for Air, whether he will make known immediately his decision as to the date on which certain farms will be taken over by his Ministry so that the farmers may know whether to proceed with the tillage of these lands or not?
I regret that it is impossible at present to give the date when this land will be required. In the meantime, the farmers concerned have been advised that normal cultivation should continue in the expectation that they will be able to harvest their crops.
Can these farmers in the meantime continue their farmwork?
Yes, Sir, so they have been advised.
Is it not a fact that land is very often requisitioned beyond what was originally stated and that farmers are put to inconvenience?
I do not think that has happened in this case.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether on any occasion instructions have been given to British airmen to engage in area bombing rather than limit their attention to purely military targets?
The targets of Bomber Command are always military, but night bombing of military objectives necessarily involves bombing the area in which they are situated.
British Overseas Airways Corporation (Employees)
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the new board of British Overseas Airways will continue the policy of collective bargaining; and whether they will be prepared to negotiate with the British Air-line Pilots' Association?
Yes, Sir. The requirements of Section 37 of the British Overseas Airways Act, 1939, will continue to govern the relations between the Corporation and its employees. I am advised that the Corporation, for their part, have every desire to work in close and friendly co-operation with the Association to which my hon. Friend refers.
Has any member of this new board any experience of civil aviation in the past or ever been inside a British air lines machine?
I really cannot see what connection that question has with collective bargaining.
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether he is aware of the difficulties existing at the factories of British Overseas Airways because of the non-existence of negotiated rates of wages and conditions of employment; and whether he will take the necessary steps to expedite the negotiations which have now commenced.
I am glad to announce that agreement has now been reached on the machinery for the settlement of questions which arise between the management of M.A.P. factories operated by British Overseas Airways and their workpeople.
Messrs Short Brothers
asked the Secretary of State for Air what types of civil and military aircraft and flying boats have been designed and produced by Messrs. Short Brothers; and whether the Air Ministry has been satisfied with the types produced?
The types of aircraft designed and produced by this firm which are now in use are the Sunderland flying boat and the Stirling bomber in the military category and the "C" class and "G" class flying boats in the civil category. These types have given satisfaction as have others for which the firm has been responsible.
Is it not a fact that this firm has been established for 35 years and was responsible for producing the finest types of flying boats in the world on which all our civil aviation before the war depended?
Questions about the productions of the firm should be addressed to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production.
They are asking this Question to prepare the way for the next.
Is any recognition to be given to Mr. Oswald Short, the head of this firm, for his great work for the Admiralty in the last war, his great work for the General Post Office before the war in the Empire flying boats, and his great work in this war?
All the subjects mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend lie outside my responsibility.
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production what steps he is taking to ensure that the shareholders of Short Brothers receive their shares back at the end of the war?
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether it is intended immediately after the war to restore to the firm of Messrs. Short Brothers, Rochester, their full rights of ownership and private enterprise, recently taken from them?
The shares of Short Brothers were acquired by me under the provisions of the Defence Regulation No. 78. This Regulation provides that, if it appears to the competent authority expedient that all the shares in the company should be held on behalf of that authority the competent authority may by order made with the consent of the Treasury transfer the shares of the company to his specified nominees. The Regulation contains no provision for the return of the shares to the shareholders at the end of the war or at any other time, but provides that the shares so transferred shall vest in the transferees free from any mortgage, pledge or charge.The price to be paid for the shares is to be fixed as between a willing buyer and willing seller, and there is no provision whereby that price can be varied as a result of any special condition attached to the transfer of the shares. It would not, therefore, be competent or proper for me to take any steps to ensure the return of the shares to the shareholders after the war. The policy of the Government at the end of the war as to the disposal of shares acquired by them under the Defence Regulations will fall to be decided in the light of the circumstances then ruling. There is nothing in the existing position as I have stated it which would preclude the Government of the day, should it so decide, from making some fresh provision as to the repurchase of shares by the original shareholders in companies dealt with under the Regulation.
Is the Minister aware that while nobody wants to hamper his work in dealing with a purely temporary wartime difficulty, there is the gravest disquiet at the thought that he may be trying permanently to nationalise civil aircraft [Interruption]; and is it right to use a purely temporary difficulty in production to make a permanent change by the back door?
I am afraid that I am limited by what Parliament has decided, and I can only act within the ambit of Parliament's decision.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise that while very large numbers of people are not taking any exception to what he has done, they view with the greatest concern his reply to-day to this Question, because of the precedent which it is setting? Will he not be able to give a greater assurance to the House that what individual firms are sacrificing in the national interest during the war, and all the sacrifices for freedom which they are making, will be restored to them after the war?
I am afraid that Parliament has decided the steps which should be taken in such cases as the present, and unless other and new decisions are taken, I must operate within the ambit of these Regulations.
May we take it that the price which is paid as between a willing buyer and a willing seller will not be more than the price quoted on the Stock Exchange on the day this firm was taken over? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that in the case of a previous transaction the country paid much more than that?
I do not of course decide the price. In the event of dispute, that is decided by arbitration. That has not taken place.
Will the Minister bear in mind that much of the capital is watered capital?
May I repeat to the Minister of Aircraft Production my Question that I put to the Air Minister? Will he see that suitable recognition is given to Mr. Oswald Short, the head of this firm for his great air work?
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the action of the Ministry in dealing with vested interests has had a heartening effect on production all over the country?
Arising from the Minister's reply to the effect that these shares would be vested in the Government, free of all mortgage or charge, how is it proposed to deal with the bank loans of over £1,500,000? Are these to be paid off by His Majesty's Government? Secondly, will he say whether the main reason for taking over the shares of this company was a financial consideration?
The answer to the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question is in the negative. So far as the first part of his question is concerned, I should have to have notice of that.
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production why he has found it necessary to take over the whole share capital of Messrs. Short Brothers; will the concern be restored to private ownership after the war; and will the existing shareholders be given the option to repurchase?
As regards the first part of the Question, it was in my opinion necessary for the purpose of securing effective control of the undertaking, that all shares of the company should be held on my behalf. As regards the second and third parts of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply already given to the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor).
Arising out of the answer to the first part of the Question, may I ask the Minister whether he does not consider he could have attained the objects he had in mind by requisitioning the company at an agreed rental without taking over the share capital?
No; I am quite convinced that that method would not conceivably have worked in this case.
In view of the importance of this matter, can the Minister give the reason why this method would have broken down compared with the method he has chosen, in view of the controversy which has arisen?
The power as regards requisitioning does not extend to the business, but only to the physical assets, and it is not possible to take over the physical assets without taking over the business.
We must get on.
Factory Management (Complaints)
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production what resolutions of complaints he has received concerning the management of a certain aircraft department, of which he has been informed; whether the dissatisfaction is general among the men employed; has any inquiry been made, and with what results?
Some considerable time ago I was concerned as to the efficiency of this factory, and I therefore caused a careful investigation to be made into its organisation and operation by independent experts. Subsequently some complaints were received in my Department from workers employed in this factory. It was as the result of the investigation carried out that the company, at my suggestion, took very energetic measures to overhaul its organisation and to improve its production. I believe that those measures will overcome the difficulties that were being experienced by the company.
When such complaints arise, to whom are they made in the first instance—to production committees?
Such complaints should, of course, be made through the joint production committees at the factory, and in the event of satisfaction not being reached there, there is the regular trade-union machinery by which they can go further.
Society Of British Aircraft Constructors
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production what are the activities of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors; and how far is it the practice of his Department to confine itself to placing orders with members of the Society?
The Society of British Aircraft Constructors is an association whose primary object is to assist its members and co-ordinate their activities. Apart from representing the main body of the aircraft industry in its relations with the Government, the principal activities of the Society at the present time are concerned with some dozen technical committees, which they have set up to assist in the promotion of aircraft production both in quality and quantity. It is not the practice of my Department to confine orders for aircraft to members of the Society.
Sunk Enemy Tanker
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the source of the oil contained in the enemy tanker sunk by H.M.S. "Sussex"?
Direct information is lacking, since, as stated in the Admiralty communiqué, no survivors could be picked up from the enemy tanker. It can safely be assumed, however, that her cargo was obtained from a source under the control of Japan.
Women's Royal Naval Service
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, since to handle a boat in tidal waters requires at least as much skill as to drive a motor-car, he will grant members of the Women's Royal Naval Service, serving as boats' crews, as high a rate of pay as those driving motorcars on land?
I am unable to accept without qualification the statement in the first part of the hon. Member's Question. As regards the second part, while the skill of motor-car drivers is recognised by placing them in a specialised category, which carries a higher rate of pay, the responsibility of the senior member or members of a boat's crew is also recognised by a higher substantive rating, which again carries a higher rate of pay. Exact assessment of the relative skill required by such widely-different duties is impossible.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many admirals now holding executive positions have not had operational experience in the present war?
I understand that my hon. Friend has in mind the officers of the Executive Branch of the rank of Rear-Admiral and above who hold appointments at the Admiralty. As regards members of the Board of Admiralty, I would refer him to the written answer given on 2nd March to the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower). In addition, there are 15 active list flag officers serving at Admiralty Headquarters, of whom all except one have had sea-going experience during the present war. Three of these are captains, serving with acting flag rank. There are also 20 retired flag officers, of whom seven have had such experience. Five of the 20 are now serving in the rank of captain.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many admirals then upon the active list had attained the age of 52 years upon the outbreak of war; and how many of them have since retired?
There were 52 flag officers on the list, excluding admirals of the fleet, who had attained the age of 52 years on the outbreak of war. Of these 29 have since been removed from the list through retirement or death.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that modern warfare makes very great calls for youthfulness in mind and body, and that there is a large number of naval officers eminently suitable for appointment to flag positions whose ability we are unable to make use of because of lack of opportunity in the higher grades?
I think that examination will hardly bear that out. It was in the course of this war that the Admiralty decided, for the first time in 190 years, to go down the lists for promotion, and that course has been followed in regard to acting rank.
Is it not a fact that this procedure of going down the lists has been very little used—in fact, hardly at all?
It has been used. I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will agree that naval officers like to be judged by naval officers.
Is it not a fact that although acting or temporary rank has been given in the higher ranks, it has not been given to junior ranks, where it should have been?
I do not think that arises out of the Question.
Buckingham Palace (Mounting Guard)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Royal Navy have ever had the honour of mounting guard at Buckingham Palace; and, in view of the announcement that the Royal Air Force is to have that honour in April, if the Royal Navy is to be accorded a similar privilege?
The answer to the first part of the Question is in the negative, though the Royal Marines, who normally mount ceremonial guards afloat, had the honour of mounting guard at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 1935, the year of the Jubilee of His Majesty King George V. It is not proposed to ask for this privilege for the Navy while the war lasts.
British Solomon Islands Protectorate (British Gallantry)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the reports of gallant actions of civilians in the Colonial Service, under his Department, in meeting Japanese onsets in the Solomon Islands and elsewhere; and whether, in consultation with the Minister of Information, he will consider the publication of a booklet descriptive of this heroism?
Yes, Sir. I am glad to have this opportunity of paying tribute to the really magnificent work which has been performed in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, both by the small and devoted band of British civil officers, under the leadership of the Resident Commissioner, Lieut.-Colonel Marchant, and also by the Service Battalion and the Labour Corps which have been formed among the islanders. They carried on in the face of great danger and difficulty, and have been of real service to the American Forces in the successful operations undertaken by our Allies in that area. I hope that it will soon be possible to tell the whole story. Hitherto this has not been possible, for security reasons, but I am at the present moment in communication with the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific on the question of giving suitable publicity to the exploits of these men.
Bahamas (Commission Of Inquiry, Report)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can now make a statement regarding the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Conditions in the Bahamas; whether the Government proposes to put into operation the recommendations of the Commission; and whether Parliament will have an opportunity of discussing the Report and recommendations?
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. D. Adams) on 10th March, from which he will see that a copy of the Report, together with a copy of a Statement have been placed in the library of the House. I will send copies to the hon. Member for his information.
I asked whether the Government will put into operation the recommendations of the Report, and if not, what is being done about the Report?
If the hon. Member will look at the Statement, he will see what steps are being taken.
Could some public statement be made? We are aware that this Statement is to be seen in the Library, but there is a desire for a public statement.
A public statement could have been made by me in winding up the Debate a fortnight ago had anyone referred to this subject in the course of the Debate.
I did not get in.
West Africa (Medical Service)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the discontent among Africans respecting the West African Medical Service, he is considering appropriate reforms; how many West African doctors have been appointed to the Colonial Medical Service operating in West Africa; how many West Africans hold responsible administrative medical posts in West Africa compared with Europeans; and whether the medical services in the West African Colonies are likely to be co-ordinated?
Measures are under constant consideration for increasing opportunities for the employment of Africans as medical officers in West Africa. West Africans have not been formally included in the unified Colonial Medical Service, but 84 African medical officers have already been appointed to the West African Government services. So far, most of the senior medical administrative posts are held by Europeans, but the Medical Officer of Health at Lagos and his assistant are Africans, and a West African holds a specialist post in Nigeria. Measures to facilitate the interchangeability of African medical personnel among the four Colonies are being considered.
While I thoroughly appreciate that some progress has been made, is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that considerable disquiet exists about the disparity of treatment between Europeans and Africans in the medical service? Could he not have a survey, with a view to co-ordinating the whole of the services?
I am doing all I can. I do not know whether the hon. Member has seen a letter that I addressed to the President of the League of Coloured Peoples. Perhaps I might send him a copy?
I have got that.
Has my right hon. and gallant Friend considered the advisability and the possibility of having a subordinate medical service, such as they have in India, where it has done most useful work?
That raises a bigger question. Perhaps my hon. Friend will put it on the Paper.
Road Traffic Regulation
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport on what grounds it was decided to issue Statutory Rule and Order No. 2533 of 1942 under the Defence Regulations, having regard to the fact that there is statutory provision for such an Order, in precisely similar terms, under the Road Traffic Act, 1930, Section 30 (1) (a).
The purpose of Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act is to regulate traffic in peace-time with a view to promoting the public safety, and to preventing damage to the roads The sole purpose of the Statutory Rule and Order is to meet a war-time emergency and to save rubber for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the war effort and to the life of the community. It was, accordingly, considered more appropriate to make the Order under the Defence Regulations.
Is the hon. Member aware that there is nothing in Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act which makes the limitation that he has indicated? Is it generally accepted in his Department that Orders should not be made under Defence Regulations where they can be made under the general law? Can he give an assurance that where it is necessary to make an exception that will be indicated by a memorandum?
We should never have dreamed of making this an offence in time of peace. It was precisely in order to enable us to take such measures as this that Parliament gave power to act under the Defence Regulations.
What is it that the hon. Member would never have dreamed of making an offence in time of peace which is being made an offence under the Regulation?
To drive on tyres until they are so worn that the canvas material is showing.
Did not the Act of 1930 contemplate precisely that? Is not that the only thing which has been done to double the penalties which Parliament decided upon in 1930?
No, not at all. We gave very careful consideration to whether the Act did contemplate that, and we decided that it did not.
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that Statutory Rule and Order No. 2533 of 1942 is made under the Defence Regulations, when precisely similar powers are provided for such an Order under the Road Traffic Act, 1930, Section 30 (1) (a); and will he give an assurance that Orders made under the Defence Regulations will not in future be used for the purpose of indirectly increasing penalties in cases where the law is not otherwise changed?
While it is possible that a Regulation in similar terms might have been made under Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, that provision was designed for the regulation of traffic in peace-time in the interests of public safety and the prevention of damage to road surfaces, and it would have been inappropriate to use it to meet a war-time need for which it was never intended. The sole purpose of the Order to which my hon. friend refers is to conserve rubber as a measure of war economy and as such it is appropriate that it should be made under the Defence Regulations. The suggestion in the second part of the Question does not therefore arise.
Railway Stations, Manchester (Taxi-Cabs)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that, in view of the restrictions imposed by railway authorities limiting the number of licensed taximeter-cabs permitted to ply for hire on railway property, members of the public and Armed Forces arriving at the principal railway stations in Manchester are subjected to unnecessary inconveniences, particularly during the hours of darkness, by having to carry luggage to taximeter-cab stands a considerable distance from the railway stations; and whether he will favourably consider suspending these restrictions during the present emergency?
I sympathise with the purpose of my hon. Friend's Question, but I am advised that the limitation on the number of taxi-cabs authorised to stand in the principal railway stations of Manchester was imposed in order to prevent the congestion of traffic, and that it is, therefore, in the interest both of the majority of the travelling public and of the railway administration.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that repeated representations have been made by the licensing authority for such accommodation? Are they not, in his view, better judges of what is needed for the convenience of the travelling public in Manchester than the railway companies, which are actuated by considerations of private profit?
No, Sir; with great respect, I do not think that that is the motive of the railway companies. These restrictions are also required to ensure the proper distribution of taxis throughout Manchester City. I think the restrictions have the support of most of the Manchester taxi drivers themselves.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that repeated representations have been made by the police authorities in Manchester?
No, Sir, I have no information to that effect. If the hon. Member will let me have such information, I will consider it.
London Underground Railway Stations (Directional Notices)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in order to diminish overcrowding and confusion amongst passengers in the tubes of the various London underground railways, he will largely increase the number of "Keep to the Left" notices; and whether he will consider putting up similar notices in French and Polish?
I am informed that the number of directional notices in tube stations has been considerably increased since the beginning of the war. Where possible, the opposing streams of traffic are segregated; where this cannot be done, I am asking the authorities to consider whether it would be of advantage to erect more notices. I am afraid that the addition of notices in French and Polish would tend to reduce the value of the existing notices.
While thanking my hon. Friend for the reply, has it occurred to him that it is precisely those foreign linguists who in their own countries invariably keep to the right and therefore there is rather a special need for this?
I think that most of our gallant Allies have now learnt enough English to be able to read and understand "Keep to the Left."
Railway Staffs (War Bonus)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport the reasons for rejecting the claim for an increase in pay by railway staff earning between £500 and £1,000 a year; how many staff are affected; and whether the companies were willing to advance these salaries?
The decision not to pay war bonus to railway staff whose salaries are between £500 and £1,000 a year was taken in pursuance of the Government's policy on stabilisation and in accordance with decisions made in comparable cases by the National Arbitration Tribunal and the Industrial Court. The number of persons affected is 1,768.
The hon. Gentleman has not answered the last part of my Question.
My hon. and gallant Friend will understand that the views of the railways are conveyed to the Ministry by the Railway Executive Committee, who are the agents of the Government, and their advice has to be regarded as confidential.
Why is it that this small number of salaried people, who bear a vast burden of responsibility, should apparently be the only railway employees who are not allowed to have an advance?
Because the decision was made by my Noble Friend after consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and together they examined very carefully every aspect of the question. I think my hon. and gallant Friend ought to take it that the decision is final.
But where is the justice of it?
In the House of Commons. You have had a rise in wage.
Swill, West End Hotels (Transport)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that conveyances are being used daily to transport swill from West End hotels to Essex, Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire; and, in view of the fact that the Westminster Borough Council has installed a food concentration plant at the request of, and subsidised by, the Government and that this is not being used to full capacity, will he take steps to stop this transport?
The concentrator plant provided by the City of Westminster, which is used for processing domestic swill collected within the City and several adjoining Boroughs is now working to its full capacity. Road transport is being used to carry swill from West End hotels to Essex, Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire under licences granted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and, in view of the highly perishable nature of swill I think it is desirable that these movements should go on.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Westminster concentrator plant is only working to capacity because Fulham, Battersea, Chelsea and other neighbouring boroughs have been added to it? Is it true that the Westminster concentrator plant was actually constructed to cover the West End, that they have continued to receive petrol supply to the extent of 1,000 tons a month transferred from these respective councils, and that it means a waste of fuel?
If my hon. Friend can show me that there is a waste of road transport, I will look into it.
Is it not very difficult to keep people straight?
Return Railway Tickets (Availability)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will arrange for existing return railway tickets, now available for one month, to be extended to three months, in view of the fact that the existing restriction to one month does not diminish travelling and failure to use the return half within one month involves an inequitable surcharge to the passenger?
No, Sir. I see no inequity in the imposition of a maximum period of validity in return for a reduced charge, nor do I think that travellers are prejudiced by the limitation to a month.
Surely my hon. Friend recognises that sometimes travellers have to remain beyond one month, that therefore there is no diminution of travel, and it means that they are penalised and have to make certain additional payments?
This great concession of a fare and a third rate for monthly travel was put on to induce people to travel. If we extended it for longer periods, we would soon reach the point at which everybody would be travelling at reduced rates.
Is it not a fact that no one travels unless he has to do so? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If it is a case of long-distance travel, it is usually necessary, and will my hon. Friend reconsider the matter?
There is no occasion for adding additional inducements to people to go away and stay away up to three months.
Ministry Of Information
General Giraud's Memorandum
asked the Minister of Information whether he will endeavour to obtain permission to publish, as a White Paper, the whole or a summary of the memorandum that General Giraud wrote to Marshal Pétain?
I have seen a reference to such a memorandum in the Press, but, apart from this, I have no knowledge of it.
Broadcasts To Switzerland
asked the Minister of Information whether, in view of the announcement that the state-controlled Swiss radio has introduced into its broadcasting service an English language news bulletin, he will consider what steps may be taken to reintroduce into the British Broadcasting Corporation programmes a broadcast for Switzerland in their four languages?
The B.B.C. could not adopt my hon. Friend's suggestion for special broadcasts to Switzerland without overloading their crowded Overseas programmes. B.B.C. news bulletins are already available to the people of Switzerland in their three important national tongues.
Is it a fact that the broadcasts were stopped, owing to German influence, about a year ago?
Procession And Demonstration, Manchester
asked the Minister of Information why no mention was made in the British Broadcasting Corporation news on 20th March of the great procession and demonstration held in Manchester; and why, in view of its importance, this event was not recorded for the information of the country?
I am often told by persons who have no knowledge of the heavy burden borne by the B.B.C. that it is overstaffed. If they were to report every demonstration and procession held in the British Isles their news staff would have to be doubled, and even then, by some form of magic, they would have to run a 48-hour programme every 24 hours.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the fact that this was one of the first processions and demonstrations in the North, he will consider, through the B.B.C., placing Manchester on the map when there are matters of this importance?
I cannot add anything to the all-embracing answer I have given.
On this particular date did not the greater procession start in Tunisia?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a feeling that the provinces are neglected by the B.B.C. and that nearly everything is centred on London?
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that what Manchester thinks to-day, London thinks to-morrow.
Is it not a fact that Plymouth is neglected and that nobody hears anything about it unless I raise the matter here?
Bbc Staff (South Africans)
asked the Minister of Information how many British people born in South Africa have been, or are to be withdrawn from employment with the British Broadcasting Corporation?
The administrative officers of the B.B.C. are so greatly overworked that I cannot ask them to spend a great deal of time and labour in going through the records of all the staff in order to discover how many British people born in South Africa have been, or are to be, withdrawn from their employment. But if my hon. and gallant Friend will tell me what particular point he has in mind, I will try to answer him.
Broadcast Propaganda Subjects
asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that the British Broadcasting Corporation puts forward a large amount of propaganda for which it refuses any statements in disagreement, notably on vivisection, pasteurisation, evangelical religion, diphtheria immunisation, laudation of Pasteur, Jenner, Lister and others whose work has been largely discredited; and will he instruct the Corporation, with a view to securing a proper presentation by qualified persons, of the opposing cases on all such subjects?
No, Sir. As the B.B.C. has quite enough undeserved troubles, I cannot ask the Governors to bring down upon them the avalanche suggested by my hon. Friend.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am striving to make the B.B.C. a little more democratic and a little less fond of dictatorial methods?
I have been engaged on that labour for a year and a half, and I think some progress is being made.
Would my right hon. Friend like a little assistance?
No, thank you.
Parliamentary Debates (Broadcasts)
asked the Minister of Information whether his attention has been called to the broadcasting on the 9 p.m. news on Thursday last of the Parliamentary Debate which took place on that day; and whether, in view of the unrepresentative nature of that report, he will take such steps as may be necesary to ensure that a fairer account of Debates in this House is broadcast to the people?
I have read the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers. It strikes me as being fair, concise and clear.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the important pensions Debate last week "The Times" reported 12 speakers and the "Manchester Guardian" 14 speakers, while the B.B.C. reported only three? Is he aware that there is a growing tendency on the part of the B.B.C. to report long, boring and repetitive Ministerial speeches and to treat the House of Commons with indifference?
What the hon. Gentleman has said shows that he is not well acquainted with the different problems of the B.B.C. and the newspapers. The B.B.C. have, as a rule, three or four minutes to give to Parliament, while "The Times" often gives six or seven columns.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the report of that Debate by the B.B.C. that night the speakers who were reported were all Tory speakers and not one belonged to us?
The hon. Gentleman must look upon that as a coincidence, and he must also remember that we cannot suit all tastes in this House unless we get someone like the Admirable Crichton to enter the B.B.C.
In view of the important part that broadcasting plays—I am not asking the Minister to direct the B.B.C.—will he make representations to them that they should fairly represent us?
I will send them a copy of to-day's OFFICIAL REPORT.
Will my right hon. Friend realise that he has just as much power to direct the B.B.C. as any other Minister has to direct any other company and that the charter of the B.B.C. is overridden by the Emergency Powers Act?
asked the Minister of Information how many protests he has received in respect of the news bulletins of 25th March in connection with the reports on the Debates on the Catering Bill that afternoon; and whether in future such reports will be of a more balanced character?
I only received two protests. The remainder of His Majesty's 47,000,000 subjects in the United Kingdom do not apparently regard this news bulletin as having been unbalanced.
Is my right hon. Friend not aware that no fewer than 10 people 'phoned up immediately that night to the officer on duty?
I have not an officer on duty who takes 'phone messages in regard to the B.B.C. If Members of Parliament are attempting to bully the B.B.C. into reporting their speeches, they are doing a great disservice.
Post-War Policy (Political Views)
asked the Minister of Information whether opportunities will be given by the British Broadcasting Corporation for representatives of all the political parties to broadcast their views on post-war policy?
If I were to accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, the B.B.C. would have to jettison some of its news bulletins and many important programmes relating to our war effort. I am quite sure that the public do not desire that these programmes should be scrapped for the purpose of airing political differences about post-war policy.
While I recognise the importance of the war situation, as we get nearer to post-war elections should not opportunities be given to the representatives of all parties to state their views?
I am sure the House will join in congratulating the hon. Member on his growing recognition that there is a war on. The answer is "No, Sir."
Anti-U-Boat Warfare (Western Approaches)
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the increasing hazards, any increased priority has recently been, or will be, granted for the requirements of the admiral commanding the Western approaches; and whether, in view of the urgency, such priority will take the form of providing, amongst other things for operational use by the Admiralty, suitable aircraft now otherwise employed?
All these matters are under continual review, and I am not prepared at the present time to make any statement about them.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reason that this Question was put down is because of the constant references made by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Minister of Agriculture to the growing menace in the Atlantic and the assumption that these Ministers know all the difficulties that exist, the knowledge of which is denied to private Members? That is why I put down the Question, and not as an embarrassment.
There are certainly great difficulties and dangers, but I think they are being coped with, and His Majesty's Government accept full responsibility that satisfactory and adequate measures are taken to bring us safely through this trouble as through so many other troubles.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why he has fixed prices for rhubarb, which include a large proportion of inedible leaves; and whether he will make it clear to housewives that, in buying rhubarb at the controlled price, they are entitled to insist upon having the leaves cut off before weighing?
In permitting the sale of forced rhubarb with its leaf the usual marketing practice of the trade has been followed. On 20th March, however, my Department announced that as from 12th April, by which date out-door rhubarb can be expected to be generally available, the leaves of rhubarb must be removed before sale.
Is it not the case that part of the leaves are still to be left on, and what is the good of that, as that is not rhubarb, and is not even suitable to be put into the swill bin?
It is a very small part of the leaf. Each leaf has to be severed not more than 1½ inches from the point where it joins the stem.
Why is it decided by the Minister of Food that this should be charged for when it is entirely worthless?
There is not much leaf, as I have indicated.
Is it not a fact that rhubarb leaves are poisonous and that it is inadvisable for that reason that there should be any leaf on the sticks when they are sold?
It has been the immemorial custom of the trade to sell forced rhubard as it is grown.
Orders To Retailers
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will see, in future, in issuing any orders to shopkeepers, that sufficient time is allowed for such orders to reach the branch establishments of each firm, thereby providing against the possibility of offences being committed unwittingly?
My Noble Friend fully appreciates the point which my hon. Friend makes. In general, adequate time is allowed between the making of an Order and the date on which it comes into force for all concerned to obtain copies of the Order, except when there are good reasons why prior information should not be given. Full publicity is, however, always given by means of Press and broadcast announcements and, in appropriate cases, by notification direct to each licensed retailer. Copies of all Orders are available for inspection in food offices immediately after they come into force.
Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to instruct his officers that Orders must not come into effect be fore they have reached branch establishments?
Yes, Sir. It is the intention that that should be done.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that occasionally when amending and consolidating Orders are issued, introducing not much change, they are so lengthy that it takes shopkeepers hours before they can understand them? Will he arrange to issue an explanatory note on an Order of that kind?
We always issue a Press announcement which I think covers that point. As my hon. Friend is aware, the other matter is under review at the moment.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether in pursuance of the Government undertaking to simplify the purport of official Regulations, he can state how the Food (Local Distribution) Order, No. 291, 1943, modifies existing practice; and what are the objections to making the prescribed changes clear to retailers by the issue of an explanatory memorandum?
This Order modified existing practice by providing that retailers' licences were in future to be issued in the name of the Minister of Food instead of in the name of the local food control committees. The change was made clear to retailers by explanatory notices issued from the local food offices.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will consider placing the sale of all alcoholic liquor on points?
My noble Friend is of opinion that my hon. Friend's suggestion, even if desirable, would be impracticable.
Does not the hon. Gentleman consider that in fairness to all, when the necessaries of life are rationed, there should be rationing of a luxury like alcohol?
My hon. Friend spoke of points. I think he will appreciate the difficulty of proper pointing as between champagne and mild and bitter.
Since the Prime Minister made that remarkable and wonderful speech denouncing pub crawlers and saying he wanted more milk for babies, would not this be the time to put some restrictions on liquor?
That is a different question.
May I have the noble Lady's points?
As the answer to this Question was so unsatisfactory and as the matter is one of vital importance to the nation at this time, I beg to give notice
|The prices paid to farmers in February, 1943, were:—|
|For milk||…||…||…||…||29·91d.||per gallon (average)|
|For eggs||…||…||…||…||3s.1d.||per dozen (maximum producers' price)|
|For winter cabbage||…||…||…||…||from 3s. to 12s.||per cwt.|
|For savoys||…||…||…||…||from 2s. to 12s.||per cwt.|
|For spring cabbage||…||…||…||…||from 7s. to 23s. 4d.||per cwt|
|The cabbage prices include quotations for produce that has lost condition, so|
that the lowest prices quoted are not generally representative.
|Corresponding average retail prices in February, 1943 were:—|
|For non-designated milk||…||…||35·63d.||per gallon|
|For eggs||…||…||2s. 0d.||per dozen first quality|
|For eggs||…||…||1s. 9d.||per dozen second quality|
|For winter cabbage||…||…||2¾d.||per lb.|
|For savoys||…||…||2¾d.||per lb.|
|For spring cabbage||…||…||4¼d.||per lb.|
|Corresponding figures for February, 1939, for milk were 14·87d. paid to producers and 27·50d. retail. Retail milk prices now remain uniform throughout the year; producers prices are higher in the winter than in the summer.|
|Egg prices before the war both to producers and retailers underwent considerable seasonal fluctuations. During the year 1938–39 the average price for first and second quality eggs in town and country markets in England and Wales (as returned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) was 1s. 6d. a dozen. During the same period retail prices quoted in the Ministry of Labour Gazette (which include eggs imported from Eire and other near European sources) averaged 1s. 10d. a dozen.|
|No information is available regarding cabbage prices in February, 1939.|
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what action he proposes to take to protect manufacturers who have reduced their output at his request from new manufacturers putting substitutes on the market?
Action has already been taken by my Department with the object of protecting the public from being invited to purchase worthless substitutes, and further action with this object is under consideration. I am not, however, at present in a position to add anything to the statement made by my Noble Friend in his letter to my hon. Friend of 10th February last.
that I will raise the Question again on the Adjournment.
Farmers' And Retail Prices
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the average price paid to farmers, during February, 1943, for milk, eggs and cabbages and the corresponding retail price; and whether he can supply similar prices for February, 1939?
As the answer involves a statement of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the statement:
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food on what grounds the Ministry has taken power to veto representatives chosen by local authorities and trades councils to serve on food control committees; and, in view of the opposition which has been aroused, whether steps will be taken to rescind the Order?
As I explained in an answer to the hon. Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) on 14th October, 1942, the modification incorporated in the Food Control Committees (Constitution) Order, 1942, does not give my Noble Friend any general power of veto such as my hon. Friend suggests. It merely enables him to ensure that all nominees are eligible to serve, before they are appointed. The question of rescinding the Order on the grounds suggested does not, therefore, arise.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the complaints that under the rationalisation of milk delivery the daily supply in some cases is not delivered until late in the afternoon; that the milk although pasteurised has to be boiled in order that a portion may be kept till the following day; that it has again to be heated when fed to infants, with the result that it has been thrice heated; and whether he has any proposal to make for remedying this state of affairs?
I am aware that the rearrangement of milk rounds under a scheme of retail rationalisation has resulted in some consumers having their milk delivered at a different hour in the day from previously. If the milk is kept in a cool place, it should not be necessary for it to be boiled in order to keep part of the supply for the following day. My noble Friend sees no reason for taking any action in this matter.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that experience has already shown that this step is necessary? If it is necessary in this weather, will it not be far more necessary in the summer?
I do not think so. Rationalisation naturally involves some rearrangement of times of delivery in order to secure the necessary economies.
Barrow Hematite Steel Company
asked the Minister of Supply whether he can make a detailed statement of the reasons which have actuated him in buying the Barrow Hematite Steel Company?
The purchase is not of the shares of the Barrow Hematite Steel Company, but only of part of their works. A contract has been made for the purchase of the steel works and hoop works of the Company in order to carry out improvements which the Company themselves were not in a position to undertake. The modifications will be directed in the main to improving the quantity and quality of the steel ingot production.
May I ask whether this transaction is not subject to the consent of the shareholders?