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Commons Chamber

Volume 388: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1943

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 7th April, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Death Of A Member

Mr. SPEAKER made the following communication to the House:

I regret to have to inform the House of the death, on active service, of Lieut.-Colonel Edward Orlando Kellett, Member for the Borough of Birmingham (Aston Division), and I desire, on behalf of the House, to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives of the honourable Member.

Private Business

Sunderland Corporation Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Oral Answers To Questions

Archbishop Of Reggio

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply was given by His Holiness the Pope to His Majesty's Ambassador to the Vatican on his expressing regret for the death of the Archbishop of Reggio in an air-raid by British aircraft?

My hon. Friend appears to be misinformed. I have seen reports in the Swiss Press that His Majesty's Minister at the Vatican expressed to the Cardinal Secretary of State the regret of His Majesty's Government for the death of the Archbishop, and that the Pope communicated to him details of air-raid damage to Palermo and other Sicilian towns. Mr. Osborne informs me that these statements are entirely without foundation.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any statement was in- cluded in the reply protesting against the immorality of bombing open towns?

Refugees (Bermuda Conference)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made with the arrangements for the proposed conference at Bermuda between the British and the United States Governments concerning the rescue of victims from the Nazi terror; whether the date of the conference has been fixed; the names of the representatives to take part; the terms of reference; and whether the conference will be purely exploratory or will be able to decide on immediate measures of rescue?

While I was in Washington I had the opportunity of discussing this question with Mr. Cordell Hull, and it was decided that the conference should take place at an early date and as soon as the delegates could be assembled. The names of the British and American delegates will be announced as soon as practicable, in agreement with the United States Government. The discussions, for which an agenda has been agreed, will be exploratory in character but will naturally include any measures for relief of refugees, in addition to those already in operation, which may appear immediately practicable to the two Governments.

Will it then be possible for the conference to agree on immediate relief measures and not merely to discuss them for reference back to some other body?

I think my answer is clear. It says:

"naturally include any measures for the relief of refugees in addition to those already in operation."
If that is so, they can decide on immediate steps as far as they concern their two Governments. Of course, if they concern other Governments, these will have to be referred to them.

Royal Air Force

Deceased Personnel (Private Books And Papers)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether it is the usual practice of the Ministry to destroy, after their death, letters and personal papers belonging to officers and other ranks killed on service?

No, Sir. The normal practice is to hold the private books and papers of deceased personnel in safe custody until they can be handed over to the person entitled to receive them.

Is it a fact that under the regulations no station commander has the right to destroy any private letters or papers?

Requisitioned Estate (Amenities)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Air for what reason the fine trees in a park, which have been brought to his notice, are to be felled, beyond the limits of compulsory acquisition; whether the owner had been notified; whether it is proposed to pull down the historical William and Mary house?

I am advised that there is still a possibility that interference with the amenities of the estate to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers can be wholly or very largely avoided. In the circumstances, perhaps he will allow me to defer giving him the information for which he asks until a decision has been reached, which will be very shortly, when I will write to him fully on the matter.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the possibility of the pulling down of the historical building causing great dissatisfaction on the East Coast?

Yes, Sir, and I should be very sorry indeed to authorise it, but my hon. and gallant Friend will, I am sure, appreciate that operational considerations must come first.

Airman's Discharge

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Air, why J. Ormerod, 1758216, A.C./2, having been discharged from the Army as unfit was called up and passed fit for the Royal Air Force; how long was he in the Force and how many days was he sick in hospital; and what was the cost to the taxpayers of this attempt to keep an unfit man in the Royal Air Force?

The airman in question volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force and joined for duty on 5th August, 1942, after being medically examined under the customary arrangements made by the Ministry of Labour and National Service. He was admitted to hospital on 23rd December suffering from an old injury to the foot, for which he was offered but refused operative treatment. This injury did not render him unfit for Air Force service at home. While he was in hospital, however, evidence of another disability came to light. It was accordingly decided, as the result of a medical board, to invalid him, and he will be discharged on 25th April. He will then have been in the Service for about nine months, of which 93 days have been spent in hospital under observation or treatment. The details of cost for which the hon. Member asks cannot, I am afraid, be separately determined.

Is it not a fact that this man has not done a single day's duty and that all his time has been spent on the sick list; that he was discharged from the Army as unfit but was passed grade A when called up; and has it not been a sheer waste of money to try and keep this man in the Service when five doctors have said he was not fit?

I am not trying to keep him in the Air Force. He is being discharged, and, as regards his being not fit, I can only go by the report of the medical board of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, who examine men for all the three Services, and they passed this man fit for service.

Is it not a fact that the last letter the Minister wrote to me says that this man is still fit for service, when, as a matter of fact, he is at home and has been discharged, and the Minister has not the right information about him?

The last thing I have said to my hon. Friend is that the man is being discharged on medical grounds.

How comes a man discharged from the Army to be taken in the Air Force as A1?

Because he is passed on to the Air Force by the medical board which works under the Ministry of Labour and National Service for all the Services. He is passed by them as fit.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider appointing a medical board to examine the medical board?

That is the position into which I should be forced if I adopted the suggestion of my hon. friends opposite,

British Overseas Airways Corporation

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what salaries are paid to the newly appointed directors of British Overseas Airways Corporation; whether they are to give full-time to the work of the Corporation; and whether any of them have financial interests in other forms of transport?

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the new members of the British Overseas Airways Corporation will follow the precedent of their predecessors of giving their services without remuneration?

The answer to the first part of the Question of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) is that one of the new members is to receive a fee of £750 per annum. No other fees are being paid. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the negative. As for the third part, I have satisfied myself, as required by Statute, that such interests as the new members have in other undertakings are so remote, or otherwise of such a nature, that they can properly be ignored.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how directors can look after the interests of such a world-wide organisation as this on a part-time basis; and, further, to whom was this fee of £750 paid?

It would be very difficult indeed to find a sufficient number of men of sufficient experience and of the high quality necessary who would give the whole of their time to this work. These gentlemen have, in fact, applied themselves to this work with the greatest industry and energy and have sat nearly every day on the business of the Corporation since they were appointed. Did my hon. Friend ask to whom the fee was paid? To Mr. John Marchbanks.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House how it is that members who are not paid manage to live? They have no interest in any other form of transport or business, presumably, and will he explain how they live, and who pays them?

Is it a fact that the previous members of the board were not paid salaries?

It is true that the previous members of the board were not paid salaries. In reply to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), I do not think that the House of Commons can really expect me to express an opinion on how they live.

Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House that these two gentlemen regard this appointment as a whole-time appointment?

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has considered a resolution passed by the staff and departmental directors of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, making a suggestion regarding the appointment of a chairman and chief executive officer of the Corporation; and what action does he propose taking in the matter?

The suggestion made by certain members of the staff of the British Overseas Airways Corporation referred only to the office of chairman and has since been withdrawn.

Is it not a fact that though it has been withdrawn by certain members of the staff, departmental directors still adhere to it, that in any case it was only withdrawn because it might embarrass the new board, and that it still represents the collective mind of the staff; and will he give it consideration?

No, Sir. The people who made the representation to me on behalf of the staff have withdrawn it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that half the troubles of the British Overseas Airways Corporation are due to "Reith-ism"?

Messrs Short Bros

12.

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production, with reference to the purchase of the shares of Short Brothers, the amount owed by the company to its bankers and the amount owing to the Treasury on account of taxation at the end of the company's year, ended August, 1942?

The accounts of the company for the year ended 31st August, 1942, have not yet been completed. I cannot therefore give the actual figures. I may say, however, that the amount of the bank advance is very considerable, as with many concerns engaged in war production, and the amount owing to the Inland Revenue relatively small.

Scrap Metal, Newport

13.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the' Ministry of Works whether he is aware that there are at least 20,000 tons of scrap metal blocking the merchants' yards at Newport; and whether he will take steps to ensure that the contents of these yards are removed and utilised before any further private railings are taken down and collected by his Department?

The latest returns show 12,000 tons of scrap in merchants' yards in Newport. I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, however, that this figure is not excessive; nor is it a reason for suspending the programme of railings recovery, which has been organised on a country-wide basis to meet the expanding needs for scrap and should be carried through while the necessary labour is available.

Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to cause an investigation into the quantity of scrap in yards which has not been collected?

I have answered the hon. Gentleman by saying that it is 12,000 tons and that it is not too much.

Bomb-Damaged Houses (Repairs)

15.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works on what grounds it has been decided that contracts under the proposed scheme for the repair of C (b) houses on Merseyside shall be on a cost plus basis instead of the fixed price basis which has hitherto predominated?

It was decided by my Noble Friend after consultation with the Ministry of Health and the War Damage Commission that the cost plus system with adequate supervision offered the only satisfactory method of dealing with the accelerated repair of bomb-damaged houses in large numbers, by means of pooling the resources of local builders and operatives.

After all we have been told about the wastefulness and iniquity of the cost plus system, ought we not to have a rather more detailed explanation?

I think the hon. and gallant Member and others will appreciate that in repairing a bomb-damaged house it is very difficult to assess the degree of damage until the work is commenced. It is not like an ordinary contract.

Have they not been successful up to the present without the cost plus system?

16.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works on what grounds he has decided to introduce a voluntary scheme to pool all builders and contractors in the Merseyside area; and in what respects this scheme is superior to the present arrangement under which small firms have repaired and maintained nearly a quarter of a million houses since May, 1941?

The scheme to which the hon. and gallant Member refers is not confined to the Merseyside area but is being applied in all districts where there are substantial numbers of bomb-damaged houses. I am fully aware of the excellent work which small firms have done both in Merseyside and in many other parts of the country in the repair and maintenance of houses, but with a view to accelerating the repair of the large number of bomb-damaged houses, so as to make them habitable, the Government has decided that it is necessary to organise the work on a larger scale. The scheme, which will use, with certain exceptions, only immobile labour, employed mainly by the medium and small builder, has been devised so as to secure that the necessary labour is made available with the voluntary assistance of the industry, thus avoiding the more serious interference which would be caused by the operation of the normal method of direction. I am satisfied that such a scheme will produce greater efficiency and economy than a series of individual uncoordinated contracts.

Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that under this new scheme full use will be made of the great experience of the smaller men in the industry, so many of whom started as ordinary workmen and have worked their way up into their present positions and who have, in many cases, far greater experience than the big bosses who, apparently, will run this show?

I can readily give the hon. and gallant Gentleman that assurance, and I can also assure him that this scheme is designed to give them that help.

Kensington Gardens (Barbed Wire Fencing)

17.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he is aware that barbed wire fencing has been erected at one end of Kensington Gardens, near the junction with Hyde Park and Bayswater Road; and will he have an inspection made to see if it is necessary to use this method of fencing?

Yes, Sir. I have had an inspection made of the fencing referred to by my hon. Friend, and am satisfied that, for security reasons, it is necessary.

Can my hon. Friend find some other method of fencing rather than this hideous form of fencing? To see this barbed wire arouses a feeling of hostility in one's mind.

I hope my hon. Friend will give me credit for having removed a lot barbed wire, but this is necessary.

Building Practice (Codes)

18.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he will substitute his codes of practice, when complete, for existing building regulations and/or model bylaws of the Ministry of Health; and whether they will be made to apply to all towns, cities and rural areas?

I can assure my hon. Friend that every step will be taken to secure the most effective use of codes of good building practice when these are completed. The Ministry of Health is represented on the Codes of Practice Committee, and when the codes are established the question as to what action is desirable will be considered by the two Ministries. Meanwhile, I would emphasise that the first thing is to secure agreement on what is good practice, and to establish the codes.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider making it apply to all villages and towns throughout the country?

Royal Navy

Pack Drill

19.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether pack drill is now being used as a form of punishment in the Royal Navy; and, if not, when it was abolished?

No, Sir. Pack drill is not, and never has been, used as a form of punishment in the Royal Navy.

Anti-U-Boat Warfare Committee

20.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the representatives of the Admiralty normally attending the U-Boat Committee now include any with special knowledge of scientific and technical matters?

Yes, Sir, including two distinguished scientific specialists who are both Fellows of the Royal Society.

Maltese Civil Service

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whther he will reconsider his refusal to give facilities to attend the annual conference of his trade union in this country to Mr. R. G. Miller, the representative of the Maltese civil servants employed by the Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry in Malta, in view of the bad effect of this refusal on the morale of the Maltese people, a large proportion of whom are engaged in Government service, and desire to maintain trade union organisation in their island and contact with members of their organisation in Britain?

I sympathise with the desire of the Civil Service Clerical Association to welcome a representative of Malta at their annual conference. But in view of the heavy pressure on available transport facilities between this country and Malta, I regret that I do not feel justified in supporting the association's request for the provision of a return passage for Mr. Miller.

Is the Minister aware that this is the first time since the war began that the association have asked for these facilities for a member of their staff? Further, is he aware that the association regard direct consultation with Mr. Miller as important? Will he reconsider his reply?

I cannot reconsider my reply. I did consider those factors, and I am anxious to help, but the hon. Member must realise the extreme difficulty of communications and transport from Malta. In the present circumstances it is quite impossible.

Will the Minister see that all the transportation available is reserved for the serving men who have done such gallant work in Malta?

Is the Minister aware that Mr. Miller has rendered yeoman service in Malta, that he has lost two sons there as a result of bombing, and that he is a first-class servant of the Admiralty in Malta?

Colonial Office Labour Advisory Committee

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will now consider an expansion of the Colonial Office Labour Advisory Committee in view of the fact that larger committees dealing with other subjects have been set up; and whether he will state the present composition of the Committee?

I do not consider an enlargement of the Committee is necessary at the present time. As was stated on 23rd April, 1942, in reply to a Question on this subject by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), the Committee has power to co-opt members whenever the advice of persons with special knowledge on a particular question is required. The Chairman of the Committee is the Parliamentary Undersecretary, and its membership is the same as that given in reply to the Question to which I have referred.

Could the Minister say how many members there are on the Committee and how often the Committee meets?

There are five non-Colonial Office members. I cannot say exactly how often the Committee meets, but it meets regularly.

British Guiana

Labour Conditions

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken in British Guiana to implement minimum wage legislation, to introduce factory legislation and to appoint an advisory committee, as requested by local trade unions, to investigate conditions in the sugar industry; and whether the workmen's compensation ordinance is working satisfactorily?

Provision was made in the Labour Ordinance, 1942, whereby minimum rates of wages can be fixed by the Governor-in-Council upon the recommendations of an Advisory Committee appointed to investigate the conditions of employment in the occupation concerned. An Order was made on 19th May, 1942, fixing rates for various classes of water-front workers in the port of Georgetown. I am inquiring from the Governor whether further orders have been made and for up-to-date information concerning the appointment of Advisory Committees under the Ordinance. I am also asking the Governor for information on the other points raised in this Question, and will communicate with my hon. Friend on receiving a reply.

Nursing Service

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will inquire into the wages, hours of work and conditions of nurses in British Guiana; whether any steps will be taken to reduce the excessive hours now being worked; and whether a superannuation scheme for nurses is in operation?

I have no special information on these points but, if the hon. Member will let me know the particular points in which he is interested, I will ask the Governor for the information.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman also ask for a report regarding the general condition of nursing services in British Guiana, in view of the disquiet that exists, the long hours that are worked, and the conditions that prevail?

It is in order to prevent our having to ask, in the great stress under which Colonial Governments are working, for a general report, that I would like to consult with the hon. Member as to the particular points on which he wants information.

Colonial Development And Welfare

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any instructions have been sent to Colonial Governments regarding the provisions which should appear in their trade union legislation in order to comply with the requirements of Section 1 (2a) of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1040, for the purposes of schemes involving the employment of local labour; and, if so, whether any Colonial Government will be required to enact such legislation before any grant is made under this Act in respect to a scheme of this nature?

Yes, Sir. All Colonial Governments have been notified of the provisions which should appear in their legislation for the purposes of Section 1 (2) (a) of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1940. It was thought reasonable that an interim period should be allowed during which the actual approval of schemes should not be automatically withheld pending the enactment of the legislation, but it is certainly not my intention to allow that interim period to continue indefinitely.

East Africa (Refugees)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what number of Polish and other refugees have settled in Kenya and Tanganyika; whether such settlement is of a permanent character or whether reconsideration of their country of residence will be given after the war; and what parts of Kenya and Tanganyika have been assigned for the refugees?

The East African Governments have promised to provide accommodation for 21,000 refugees from Persia, of whom the majority have already arrived in East Africa. Owing to the present food shortage the arrival of the remainder has been temporarily postponed. In addition, they have accepted about 1,500 refugees of various categories from the Middle East. All these refugees are being accommodated in East Africa for the duration of the war only. Tanganyika has provided accommodation for 8,000 of the Polish refugees and for about 800 others. They are being housed either in specially built camps or in missions in various parts of the territory. Kenya is to provide camp accommodation for 1,500 Polish refugees but I have not yet been informed whether a site has been selected. The remainder are to be accommodated in Uganda, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say where these sites are likely to be? Will they be in the areas assigned for white settlement, or will they be in areas allocated for the use of Africans?

Kenya has not yet selected a site. I am afraid I could not answer offhand the question with regard to Tanganyika. I will let the hon. Member know.

Will they have the option of remaining in East Africa after the war if they so desire?

West Africa (Medical Service)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider the advisability and possibility of establishing a subordinate medical service in West Africa on the lines of that which has for many years done most useful work under the Indian Medical Service?

The whole question of medical services in West Africa is now under consideration in the Colonial Office, and I can assure my hon. Friend that the provision of African medical auxiliaries of all grades, as well as fully qualified medical officers, has already made considerable progress and will undoubtedly be extensively developed as increased training facilities become available.

When is the report of that investigation likely to be available to hon. Members?

It is not a report that is made available to hon. Members; it is not a report by a committte. I shall, of course, announce any decisions to the House.

Merchant Navy

Sea Training Schools

30.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in view of the large number of boys under 18 years of age not yet liable for registration who are already on a waiting list for entry into the Merchant Navy's Sea Training School, he will consider extension of the school and also arranging with the Admiralty that, in certain cases, entry into the Royal Navy might be permitted at an earlier age than at present prescribed?

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

I am aware that there is a long waiting list of boys who desire to enter the Gravesend Sea School. But this school, together with the other sea training schools, can already supply all the boys whom the Merchant Navy can absorb. No useful purpose would at present be served, therefore, by an extension of the school. I understand that the Admiralty would welcome an increased number of volunteers of 17 and 17½ years old for service with the Royal Navy. But on this matter my hon. Friend may desire to consult my right hon. Friend the First Lord.

Service Respirators And Steel Helmets

38.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he intends to issue Service respirators to members of the Merchant Navy; whether he is aware that tin helmets are not issued in sufficient quantities; so that some members of crews in action stations have no such protection; and whether he proposes to remedy this?

Respirators are now issued to the defence personnel in all merchant ships, but the personnel in ships which have not recently returned to this country may not yet have received them. Steel helmets are issued to the whole crew of ships sailing on routes which are specially subject to air attack. On vessels sailing on other routes, steel helmets are provided for each officer and petty officer, and for ten per cent. of the rest of the crew. If my hon. and gallant Friend knows of any vessel in which, in his view, these arrangements are inadequate, I will cause inquiries to be made.

Ferry Service, Queensferry

31.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he can make a statement regarding increased rates and fares on the ferry service between North and South Queensferry?

The ferry service between North and South Queensferry is operated by a private firm under agreement with the London and North Eastern Railway Company. The operators are entitled, under this agreement, to make charges not exceeding those for which the Company have statutory authority. The recent increase of 10 per cent. brings the total increase over pre-war charges to 20 per cent. on motor goods vehicles and 25 per cent. on other traffic, but the firm have, where necessary, so limited the increase made as to keep the new charges within the statutory maxima. My hon. Friend will understand that the increase did not require any authorisation by my Noble Friend. From such financial information as I have so far received, however, I am not satisfied that the increase is justified, and I am calling upon the operators to show reason why it should not now be withdrawn. If they cannot show good reason, and are not prepared to withdraw the increase, I will consider whether action can be taken under Defence Regulations.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to recognise that there is a strong opinion that the increase in these charges does not add to the revenue of the ferry but actually decreases it?

I know that is a point that is made, but I am not quite satisfied it is right, and there are other points about which I am not quite satisfied. I have given the hon. Member my present opinion.

Railways

Fares, Rural Areas

32.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in rural areas where connection with the neighbouring market town is both by omnibus and by rail, he will ensure that railway fares are reduced to the level of omnibus fares so as to encourage the public to use the railway and relieve pressure on the omnibuses?

The adjustment of railway fares which my hon. Friend proposes would involve a number of difficulties. Omnibus fares are laid down and authorised for individual services and are designed to meet local conditions; there are considerable variations throughout the country, not only in the basis of fares, but also in the types of tickets issued and the conditions governing their use. Railway fares are based on standard scales of general application, while the types of tickets and the conditions governing their use are uniform; local adjustments would, therefore, create serious anomalies as between different parts of the railway system. Moreover, road and rail routes often differ in distance, in the places which they serve and in the points from which fares operate. For these reasons, I regret that I do not think it would be practicable to adopt my hon. Friend's proposal.

Does my hon. Friend realise that there are often cases where a reduction in the rail fare would relieve the 'buses of very serious congestion? Cannot he do something about this matter?

I fully sympathise with the hon. Member's purpose and I agree that if it could be done without creating other difficulties, such reductions might be desirable, but the other difficulties are very formidable.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a very important problem and that where he has raised the rail fares by 60 per cent. in my area, he has driven people from the trains to the 'buses?

There is a special problem in that area to which my hon. Friend knows I am giving special consideration.

Seating Accommodation (Long Journeys)

33.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War' Transport whether he is aware of the trouble and discomfort caused to third-class passengers who, on long journeys, have to stand in the corridors owing to lack of seating accommodation in third-class carriages, while at the same time there are empty seats in first-class compartments; and will he have notices put up to tell such passengers they are entitled to take such seats and also to instruct the railway officials to see this is carried out?

I am aware that passenger trains are in general heavily loaded, both in first and third-class carriages. As I have said in previous answers to a number of hon. Members, the railway staff have been given discretion to allow passengers with third-class tickets to occupy seats in first-class carriages without extra charge, when the third-class carriages are seriously overcrowded. In answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's Question, I think the present arrangements are now generally understood, and that, on the whole, they are working well.

Is my hon. Friend aware that that is the reason I wanted the fact to be made more public? Whenever I travel I see the corridors full, and when I say to people, "Why not take a first-class seat?", I find they are afraid to do so because they might be ordered out of the first-class compartment.

Is the Minister aware that on seven occasions during the last few months the hon. Member for Lincoln has had to travel from Grantham to King's Cross in a luggage van?

I want to do what I can to make this known, but I am afraid the practical proposal made in the Question would raise great difficulties.

Will the Minister make it quite plain that the position he mentioned applies only when there are no first-class passengers who are standing?

I think the whole thing is pretty well understood, and I think the railway officers are administering it very well.

Coastal Areas (Restrictions)

34.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport why, since the contemplated ban on entrance to areas within the 10-miles depth from the coast of the so-called restricted areas must affect the train services should occasion arise, there is to be a ban on the notification to intending passengers that journeys to such areas cannot be completed and should therefore be abandoned?

The restrictions imposed by the military authorities will not necessarily affect train services to the restricted areas, since parcels, mails, and authorised passengers, for example, members of His Majesty's Forces, will still have to be carried. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary explained in his statement on 30th March, it will not be possible for the military authorities to make any general public announcement as to the nature, time, or place of any restrictions which may be imposed. The Railway Companies will not, therefore, be able to notify intending passengers.

Is it not a fact that the traveller will himself know in two hours' time, or whenever he gets to his destination, that there is a ban, and might he not be told this at the railway station and thus avoid unnecessary travel and hardship later?

The right course for him to adopt, I suggest, is when in doubt to inquire locally, before starting the journey, whether any restrictions have been imposed.

Is the Minister aware that I have already been told there is nobody to inquire from?

Weekly Season Tickets

35.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will consider the issue of weekly rail season tickets at a rate not exceeding six times the old cheap day rail fares?

36.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in order to meet the needs of regular daily travellers who previously used cheap day return tickets, he will arrange for the issue of weekly season tickets on railways wherever there is a demand?

I am grateful to my hon. Friends for this opportunity of reminding the public that in many parts of the country the railways have issued weekly season tickets, and of adding that arrangements will be made for the issue of such tickets wherever there is a demand. I regret that it would not be practicable to fix season ticket charges on the basis of the old cheap day fares. Season tickets provide unlimited travel for seven days a week, and are based on a statutory scale which gives a decreasing rate per mile as distance increases. Cheap day tickets were issued between certain places only and the hours of availability were often limited, while the fares were based on a rate per mile which did not vary with distance, although it differed in various' parts of the country. Except for short distances (up to about six miles), the rate per mile for a weekly season ticket, calculated on six return journeys only, is generally less than the rate per mile previously charged for a cheap day ticket, and the comparison is even more in favour of the season ticket when, as often happens, it is used for more than six return journeys a week.

In view of the public discontent, will the hon. Gentleman do his best to make the public aware of the concession that he has indicated and bear in mind that inequalities and anomalies still exist in respect to journeys of under six miles, particularly in view of the short hours for which workmen's tickets are available?

I hope the Question and answer will serve the purpose the hon. Member has in view.

Paddington Station (Washing Facilities)

37.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that at Paddington Station, Great Western Railway, there are no facilities for women and children to wash after 7 p.m.; and whether he will have steps taken to remedy this situation?

Washing facilities have been normally available at Paddington Station from eight in the morning till ten at night. Recently, however, the washrooms have been closed for varying periods of time, owing to the shortage of towels and soap. Instructions have now been given that they shall be open during the same hours as before, for passengers who have their own towels and soap.

Seaside Resorts (Advertising, Llandudno)

39.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether his attention has been drawn to the efforts of the Llandudno Publicity Committee to attract visitors to the town; and whether, having regard to the Minister's appeals to the public to avoid unnecessary travel, he proposes to take any action on the matter?

Yes, Sir, I have seen references to this matter in the Press. As I said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for the Moss-side Division of Manchester (Mr. Rostron Duckworth) on 31st March, I deprecate any campaign the effect of which is to induce additional travel. I have no power to forbid the Llandudno Publicity Committee to spend money on advertising, but I confidently hope that they will be guided in their action by the knowledge that our passenger train services are severely strained, and a sense of duty to the nation in the present emergency.

Would it save trouble if the hon. Gentleman advertised the fact that Llandudno is the place where Surtax is collected?

Road Haulage Scheme

40.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, seeing that membership of the new Government scheme is voluntary, he can give an assurance that adequate operational facilities and reasonable supplies are afforded to those operators who choose not to join; and that no indirect measures are taken to jeopardise their respective businesses?

The purpose of the Road Haulage Scheme is to secure the greatest practicable economy in the use and mileage of haulage vehicles. With this in view, the Government intend that all long-distance traffic shall be carried in vehicles working under the Scheme. As I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will recognise, hauliers who take part in the Scheme are guaranteed substantial rights in return for their acceptance of certain obligations. It would be wholly inconsistent with the object of the Scheme to assure hauliers who decline to take part in it that they will nevertheless receive facilities and supplies for carrying long-distance traffic outside the Scheme, and I regret that I can give no such assurance.

Does the hon. Gentleman, realise that if this is in fact a voluntary Scheme for the industry, it seems really all nonsense to say to those operators who do not join the bureaucracy that by threatening to withdraw supplies they will be forced out of business? They have been given an option and now is compulsion brought in by threat of extinction?

I can only remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the necessity to save rubber and petrol and therefore to curtail road mileage is imperative.

41.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport the numbers of divisional road officers and area road officers, respectively, now existing; whether, and to what extent, each of these numbers has been increased this year to date; and what are their salaries and duties, respectively?

There are now 12 divisional road haulage officers and 48 area road haulage officers. Last year the numbers were 6 and 14. Divisional road haulage officers control the road haulage organisation within their divisions. Four of them are unpaid; the other eight receive £950 a year. Area road haulage officers control the road haulage units in their areas which deal with long-distance traffic; they also arrange the movement of Government traffic for shorter distances. They are paid from £100 to £750 a year, according to the scale and the responsibility of their work.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the ultimate distribution and control both of material and in operative route remain in the hands of the Regional Traffic Commissioners and their many assistants, and in these circumstances are not many of these appointments quite unnecessary.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider whether such long answers are really necessary?

42.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in view of the diversion of load-carrying from roads to rail that results from the new Government haulage scheme, he has had adequate consultation with the main railways as to their capacity to receive such traffic; and whether he has received their assurances accordingly?

No traffic will be diverted to rail or to any other form of transport without consultation to ensure that it can be carried.

Is it a fact that this Scheme was put into operation without a single consultation with the railway companies on their capacity to carry?

Of course, we control the railway companies and we know what their capacity is.

43.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether his attention has been called to the fact that the small lorry-driver is greatly prejudiced by the regulation that he is forbidden to deliver parcels under the weight of 16 lbs., while the wholesaler is under no such restrictions; and will he arrange to treat all alike?

I am not sure what regulation my hon. Friend has in mind, but if he will let me have particulars, I shall be happy to look into the matter.

Ministry Of Information

Jewish Broadcasts

44.

asked the Minister of Information how many times Jews have spoken in British radio programmes on behalf of Jewry since the outbreak of war?

I regret I cannot ask the B.B.C. to conduct the laborious inquiry suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend. But I can tell him that British subjects of every denomination have spoken in the programmes of the B.B.C. in denunciation of the vile treatment of Jews in Germany.

I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that invitations are given by the Governors of the B.B.C. and not by the Government. If he applies to the Governors, I am sure they will consider his application sympathetically.

Beveridge Report (Talks)

66.

asked the Minister of Information whether it is the policy of his Department to authorise Ministry of Information speakers to give talks at public meetings on the Beveridge Scheme for Social Security?

I must refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 24th March in reply to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander).

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is the practice of his Department to authorise the official speakers of the Ministry of Information to give talks on the Beveridge Report?

I gave a most comprehensive answer to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and it would really be tautological for me to add to it.

That answer applied to some weeks ago. I am asking whether his Department is authorising talks on the Beveridge Report now.

The hon. Member is asking that Question, and I cannot add anything to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton.

Propaganda (By-Elections)

67.

asked the Minister of Information whether he will consider using some part of his powers of world propaganda in order to assure foreign peoples that British citizens do not express a desire for a termination or a weakening of the war effort when they record their votes at by-elections in favour of such candidates as believe that the British people would work and fight even more enthusiastically if they had an opportunity of looking forward to post-war prospects different from those offered by the present Government?

No, Sir. Perhaps the hon. Baronet will forgive me for suggesting that his interest in by-elections cannot justify his assumption that the Armed Forces of the Crown are not fighting with all the enthusiasm they possess.

Does the Minister realise that quite a lot of sincere and patriotic citizens do seem to share my views, and is it not part of his duty to try to present to the world the views and opinions of all sincere and patriotic citizens?

It is no part of my duty to use the British propaganda machinery to spread offensive observations about the Army.

Colonial Secretary's Speech, Oxford (Publicity)

68.

asked the Minister of Information whether he will circulate to such agencies and publicity organisations as may be available and to the newspaper Press throughout the Colonial Empire the speech delivered at Oxford, on 5th March, by the Secretary of State for the Colonies?

The admirable speech by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies was well reported by all the principal news agencies.

Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the increasing practice of legislation by reference, as exemplified by the Government's Amendments to the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Bill, incorporating references to 150 individual Sections in eight different Acts of Parliament dating from 1882 to 1935; and whether, in view of the necessity for saving the time of Parliament, local authorities and the business community, he will instruct all Government Departments to avoid this practice, either by the methods recommended in 1938 or by other methods?

I am not aware that the practice of legislating by reference is increasing. It is impossible to draft a Bill amending existing legislation without referring to that legislation. The Bill referred to by the hon. Member sets up a new Board on whom it is proposed to confer, subject to certain necessary modifications, the powers under existing legislation of authorised undertakers and of the Central Electricity Board. As the hon. Member is aware, the Bill as introduced proposed that the necessary modifications of the existing legislation should be made by Order in Council; and it was in deference to views expressed by hon. Members that amendments were put down by the Government to make the necessary modifications by the Bill itself. It is necessary to apply no less than 13 separate enactments comprising 299 Sections and 13 Schedules. To have set out in a Schedule the whole of these enactments with the proposed modifications would have resulted in the production of a Bill which, by its mere bulk, would be more difficult for Members to understand than the Bill in its present form with the amendments proposed. As regards the last part of the Question, the draftsmen of Government Bills have constantly in mind the proposals made in 1938 and all other available methods of making amending legislation as lucid as possible.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that in new major Measures of this kind a serious effort ought to be made to ensure that such a Bill as this is, as far as practicable, a complete legislative entity in itself, so that the House and the country may understand what they are doing without endless references to Acts more than half a century old?

David Brown And Sons, Huddersfield (Directors)

47.

asked the Minister of Production whether he will be in any way responsible for the appointment of the new directors of David Brown and Sons, Huddersfield, in place of those appointed on 1st July last who have now resigned?

Sir Charles Craven, as Chairman of the (Inter-Departmental) Munitions Management and Labour Efficiency Committee, is, at the request of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply and myself, in consultation with the firm to assist them in their appointment of new directors to the Board. The firm welcome these discussions.

As the directors recently retired were appointed by my right hon. Friend's Department or the Ministry of Supply, does my right hon. Friend propose to take some sort of responsibility for the administration of this firm?

No, Sir. At the present moment the directors are being appointed by negotiations.

Mechanical Equipment (Development Work)

48.

asked the Minister of Production whether it is the established practice of all departments associated with production that development work on mechanical equipment must be a continuous process and that until a machine has been built and tried out it should not be put into production?

Yes, Sir, whenever practicable; but my hon. Friend will appreciate that operational and other war-time exigencies sometimes make necessary a departure from the established practice referred to.

In cases where development and production have been elided has this practice not led to undue delay in the production of satisfactory equipment?

Is it not a fact that two years ago a stop was put to the development of tanks and aeroplanes and that that is one of the reasons why we fell behind in aeroplanes and never got a satisfactory tank?

Tanks

49.

asked the Minister of Production whether, in view of the urgency of developing a tank with heavier guns and heavier armour than any now in production for use in the future, he has now any precise information to give the House in this connection?

Did not my right hon. Friend himself say that he was proposing to follow this course and nothing has happened since so far as anybody knows?

51.

asked the Minister of Supply which tank has been produced from the drawing board in six months and in what quantity?

The hon. Member presumably refers to the Churchill tank, and I would refer him to the full statement made by the Prime Minister on 15th December last.

Is it not a fact that A23 is a modification of A20 and was two years in production from the drawing board?

Arising from that unsatisfactory reply, have there not been two statements by the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Production in the House that this machine, the A22, was produced in six months, which every engineer knows is an impossibility?

Is it not a fact that production from the drawing board is merely designing the machine after it has been made?

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman say whether a tank has been produced from the drawing board in six months?

52.

asked the Minister of Supply in which types of tanks the Liberty engine, designed in the last war, is still being used?

It is not in the public interest to give the information asked for. The engine has of course been greatly improved since it was adapted to make it suitable for tanks.

Will my right hon. Friend say why it is not in the public interest as the enemy must know as they have captured some? Why has no Diesel engine been developed?

Some tanks with this engine have not been captured, and are not in the fighting line.

I wish to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of these replies which the Minister of Supply has given, I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

53.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that, in June, 1940, the whole of the Special Vehicle Development Committee warned his Department against putting the A 22 into production until it had been vetted by engineers independent of his Department; and why that advice was not taken?

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." As regards the second part, I would refer the hon. Member to the full statement made by the Prime Minister on 15th December last.

Is it not a fact that such a letter was written in May, 1940, and will the Minister say why attention was not paid to the recommendation of these people, who were the only competent people to advise?

54 and 55.

asked the Minister of Supply (1), what has now happened to the Special Development Committee appointed by his Department in 1939 to design tanks with heavy armour and heavy armaments;

(2), whether the members of the Special Vehicle Development Committee appointed in 1939 by his Department were specialy chosen for their experience of mechanical warfare; and whether he will state their names?

The Special Vehicle Development Committee was set up in October, 1939, under the chairmanship of Sir Albert Stern, K.B.E., C.M.G. Other members were:

  • Sir Eustace Tennyson d'Eyncourt, K.C.B.
  • Major-General Sir Ernest Swinton, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O.
  • Major W. G. Wilson, C.M.G.
  • Mr. H. R. Ricardo, F.R.S.
The members of the Committee had taken a prominent part in the initiation, design and production of tanks in the last war. The Committee devoted its attention to the design of a particular type of tank and was dissolved in November, 1941.

As this Committee was experienced in tank design, why was it necessary to dispense with its services?

My predecessor in office felt that the work which the Committee had done had reached a stage when it was convenient that they should discontinue their functions as a Committee—and I fully agree with his decision—and that the services of Sir Albert Stern should be retained in the Department to develop further certain features of the tank design. That work has gone on and will be handed over to our own division in the Department at the end of this month.

Will the Minister consider appointing some of these people to the Tank Board in place of some of the incompetent people now there?

In the interests of greater accuracy, would it not be right to say that one of the members of this Committee, Major Wilson, resigned in the early part of 1940?

I was referring to the Committee as a whole. Another member of the Committee is rendering distinguished service to the Department.

Cannot this Committee design a tank which will deal effectively with the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes)?

Steel Tube Manufacture

50.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that the chairman of Messrs. Stewarts and Lloyds and another director of the same firm have joined the board of Messrs. Wellman, Smith, Owen Engineering Corporation, having previously joined the board of Messrs. Davey, Brothers, of Sheffield; that these two firms are the only two qualified to carry out the manufacture of rolling mills for steel tubes; that Messrs. Stewarts and Lloyds, the largest steel tube manufacturers in the country, are now controlling both Wellman's and Davey, Brothers; whether this amalgamation of interests has been carried out with his knowledge and approval; and whether any consideration has been given to the fact that this amalgamation may be used to monopolise this trade after the war?

I understand that directors of three steel companies have been appointed to represent the steel industry on the boards of the two engineering companies referred to. I am informed that the sole purpose is to further co-operation between the steel industry and that section of the engineer- ing industry specialising in the design and construction of iron and steel plant, and that there is no question of control by any firm.

Is it not the policy of the right hon. Gentleman to continue his life's work of fostering the formation of monopolies of every sort?

Food Supplies

Fish Retail Sales (Favouritism)

56.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction of many consumers caused by certain fishmongers showing undue favouritism to selected customers and by other back-door methods of selling prime cuts of controlled fish; and whether, upon receipt from his officers of authentic proof of such practices, he will take steps to terminate the supplies of fish to such retailers?

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." As regards the second part, my hon. Friend will, I am sure, realise that it is very difficult to obtain "authentic proof" of an allegation of "undue favouritism," but my Noble Friend is in sympathy with the object which my hon. Friend has in view and wherever satisfactory evidence is forthcoming that a retailer is deliberately disposing of his supplies in an unfair manner such action will be taken as lies within the power of my Noble Friend.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his statement, which will please the mass of the people who are writing to him and other Members, may I ask whether he will make it clear that anybody who cheats or does not play fair with the people's food will be dealt with severely and immediately?

They will be dealt with, as I say, within the powers of my Noble Friend.

Milk

59.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the break-down of milk supplies to consumers in an area of Bedlington owing to a retailer's refusal to deliver in the zone allocated to him, and that for nearly a week adults, children and babies were deprived of milk; and whether this zone has now been adequately provided for?

Yes, Sir. I am aware that a retailer failed to deliver milk to customers transferred to him under the scheme for the rationalisation of retail milk deliveries in the Bedlington area. Immediate steps were taken to provide supplies for these customers, as I think my hon. Friend is aware.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that for six days babies and children were without milk?

I thought that the hon. Member saw the local officer on 20th March and that since then the distribution has been working satisfactorily.

63.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why large retailers supplying milk are given progressively higher rebates per gallon than the small man, while the bigger firms are entitled to charge 2d. a gallon extra if they sterilise the milk?

With regard to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply on 21st October to the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major York). As regards the second part, no specific extra charge of 2d. per gallon has been prescribed for sterilised milk. All distributors, large and small, may sell sterilised milk at the same price as they charged for such milk in the same area in the corresponding period of 1941, plus any increase that may have been authorised in the price of ordinary milk.

Are the Government aware of the widespread feeling that there is discrimination against the small man?

64.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether all tuberculin-tested milk is sold unmixed with other milk?

Ministry Of Food (Fish Division)

60.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will state the number of persons em- ployed in the fish division of his Ministry; how many have had previous experience of the trade; and the present approximate amount of money being expended on the fish division of the Ministry?

The number of persons employed in the fish division of my Department at Headquarters is 172, and the number employed locally is 38. 17 officers have had previous experience of the industry. The salaries of Headquarter personnel are at the rate of approximately £40,000 a year; other figures of cost are not available.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that he is getting full value for that expenditure?

Fish Zoning, Merseyside

61.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, in view of the unsatisfactory system of zoning for Merseyside, whether he is prepared to receive a deputation of interests concerned to suggest a better method of co-ordinating distribution in this area?

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Bootle (Squadron-Leader Errington) on 17th February. Since then further modifications of zonal boundaries and of distributive arrangements have been made in consultation with the Fish Industry Joint Council and will shortly be put into force, and my Noble Friend proposes to obtain experience of the effect of these changes before entering into discussions such as my hon. Friend suggests.

I asked in the latter part of my Question whether the hon. Gentleman is prepared to meet the deputation of people from Liverpool who know something about the difficulties of the situation. Is he aware that the anomaly in Liverpool is that fish supplies are not being received by the public but that draper shops can get them?

That is rather a complicated supplementary, but, as I said in my reply, modifications have been made which I think will meet the difficulties. When we have had experience of the working of these alterations, we can consider further discussions.

I have seen people in queues this week-end, and is not the Minister prepared to meet a deputation and go into the pros and cons of the position?

I have indicated that my Noble Friend wishes to see how the modifications will affect distribution and he will if they are unsatisfactory be prepared to consider receiving a deputation.

Parcels From Abroad (Investigations)

62.