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Trade And Commerce

Volume 389: debated on Tuesday 4 May 1943

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Woollen Underclothing


asked. the President of the Board of Trade to what extent it is his intention to limit the sale of woollen underclothes to children and old persons; and will he announce the age limits and allow persons of other ages to obtain them on a medical certificate?

As supplies of wool yarn are limited, the production of all-wool underwear is now being concentrated on sizes for young children up to four years of age, and on styles suitable for elderly persons, while other underclothing, including mixtures of wool and other fibres, is being made in sizes and styles suitable for all ages. It is not my intention to limit sales to the public in the way my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind.

With regard to the provision of woollen garments for certain classes of people, would the Minister extend that, on medical advice?

I am anxious not to take up undue man and woman-power in administration. I think it would be very difficult to have a distribution of woollen underwear to individuals in the way suggested. What I am now doing is to limit it to certain sizes and styles for the most part, and I think that on the whole that is the best way of doing it.

For the purpose of this definition an elderly person is a person who likes old-fashioned combinations or long-sleeved vests and long-legged woollen pants, but large sections of the community do not care for these styles.

Local Price Regulation Committees (Methods)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can now make some statement regarding the methods employed by the Board of Trade committees against shopkeepers who are alleged to be breaking the Board of Trade's wartime regulations; and whether he can give some assurance that no objectionable and harsh measures will be employed by these committees?

I presume that my hon. Friend in referring to the Local Price Regulation Committees. These committees are doing most valuable work in enforcing the war-time regulations affecting prices and the licensing of retail businesses; and I have no reason whatever to believe that any of these committees have used harsh or objectionable methods in carrying out their duties.

Bespoke Tailoring (Coupons)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider making a small supplementary allowance of coupons to bespoke tailors who are finding that the coupons they can demand from their customers for suits cut on utility lines are, on the average, insufficient to enable them to replace the materials used?

No, Sir. The coupon pointing of suits has been calculated so as to provide full replacement of the material used.

Is it not a fact that these coupon values were based on the practice and the possibility of large-scale factory production, and that, now that the present stocks are running out, if the coupon values are maintained the small bespoke tailors will be rapidly put out of business?

No, Sir. There is a margin. The present coupon pointing for a man's suit, of coat, waistcoat and trousers, is 26, and we find that in a great many cases 24 coupons will cover it. The matter has to be averaged for different sizes. We have gone into it very carefully, and I am assured that there is no injustice to the section the hon. Gentleman mentions.

Swedish Diesel Engines (Germany)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare to what extent diesel engines are manufactured in Sweden and supplied to Germany; and whether any representation has been made to the Swedish Government suggesting that they should be included in the list of war material contained in the Royal Decree, dated 20th January, 1935?

I accept the assurance recently published by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs that Swedish shipyards do not export diesel engines to Germany, and in particular I have no reason to believe that submarine engines have been exported. In 1942, however, five diesel motors were exported to Norway, and it is admitted by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs that fishing vessels are delivered to Germany with engines which have been manufactured in Sweden. While no representation has been made in the precise sense suggested in the second part of the Question, this whole matter is still the subject of discussion between His Majesty's Government and the Swedish Government.

In view of the importance of the matter and the danger in which we stand from the submarine menace, will the hon. Gentleman take steps to impress upon the Swedish Government that these diesel engines shall be included in the list to which the Question refers?

I do not know if that is the best way of doing it. Vigorous representations have been and are being made to the Swedish Government.

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that what really matters is to prevent Germany getting diesel engines?

Prisoners Of War


asked the Secretary of State for War whether all the prisoners of war now being repatriated to and from Italy are disabled or seriously ill?

No, Sir. More than half of those repatriated are doctors, medical orderlies, drivers of ambulances and chaplains. These are entitled to be repatriated,under International Conventions, but a sufficient number has been retained at the camps to care for the needs of the prisoners.

On what principle does the exchange take place? Are they exchanged man for man, and do they give an undertaking not to take any further part in the war? How are they selected on either side? Are fit men sent while wounded men are left behind?

They are selected in accordance with the principles of the Convention.

Have those either in Italy or Germany who have been prisoners longest not a claim to be repatriated?

I am afraid the length of time has nothing to do with it. It is a question, at any rate in the case of Italy, of conforming to the terms of the Convention.

On what principle is it done? Are they exchanged man for man? Who goes first? How are they selected?

Does that mean that the total on one side has to agree with the total on the other?

Will my right hon. Friend circulate an explanation in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. JOHN DUGDALE:

44. To ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the hardship suffered by the wives of prisoners of war in having to buy clothes and send them out to their husbands; and whether he will consider making them a clothing grant towards the cost thereof.

I put this Question originally to the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence because it concerns all three Services, and may I ask why it has been found necessary to transfer it to the head of one of the Service Departments?

It is the usual custom that the Prime Minister hands the Question to the Department concerned.

Possibly I can throw a little light on this point. It has been the custom for a great many months for the War Office, which is the Service predominantly concerned, to answer general questions on the subject of prisoners of war. Sufficient uniform clothing, underclothing and boots for the prisoners' needs are despatched through the British Red Cross to the International Red Cross at Geneva to provide all British prisoners of war in Germany and Italy with adequate clothing, underclothing and boots. Relatives can, however, if they wish, supplement this provision by putting clothing in the quarterly next-of-kin parcels. If, in particular cases, they are unable to provide what they would desire to insert in the next-of-kin parcel, they might get in touch with their Regimental Association or with the nearest representative of the British Red Cross Society or the Order of St. John of Jerusalem who may be able to assist them in the matter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many cases the Red Cross simply send coupons, and the wives of these prisoners have to spend anything up to £10 or more in buying the clothes, and there is great dissatisfaction in many districts?

As I said, the ordinary official arrangements are supposed to supply sufficient uniform clothing, underclothing and boots, so I do not think it is necessary for supplementary provision to be made to an extent which causes hardship, as the hon. Member has suggested.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider circulating a list of the clothing which is supplied to these men, so that we may ascertain what they do obtain?