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Commons Chamber

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1943

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 5th May, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Marriages Provisional Order Bill

"to confirm a Provisional Order made by one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State under the Marriages Validity (Provisional Orders) Acts, 1905 and 1924;" presented by Mr. Peake; read the First time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, and to be printed.—[Bill 29.]

London County Council (Money) Bill

"to regulate the expenditure on capital account and lending of money by the London County Council during the financial period from the first day of April, one thousand nine hundred and forty-three, to the thirtieth day of September, one thousand nine hundred and forty-four and for other purposes"; presented and read the First time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Oral Answers To Questions

Marshal Petain And Vichy Government


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give any information regarding the whereabouts and activities of Marshal Pétain and his Government.

I understand that Marshal Pétain and his administration are still located in Vichy.

Has my right hon. Friend reason to believe that Marshal Pétain's Government are still pursuing a policy of full collaboration with the German authorities?

I really do not know what they, are doing. I think interest from our point of view is at a low level.

Will my right hon. Friend have no truck with the Vichy virgins?

Great Britain And Japan (Exchange Of Civilians)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can now make any statement regarding further exchanges of civilians with Japan.

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government have recently received a communication from the Swiss Government, in reply to their earlier inquiries, containing certain proposals of the Japanese Government for a further exchange of civilian internees up to a total of 1,600 persons on each side. These are being urgently examined in consultation with the other Governments of the British Commonwealth who are concerned in this matter and also with Allied national authorities.

Can my right hon. Friend give any information as to the basis on which this exchange is to proceed? Will it be by categories, or will regard be paid to those who have been interned for the greatest length of time?

I am rather doubtful whether it is in the interest of the internees themselves that I should go into any detail. Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to consider his question.

Refugees (Bermuda Conference)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give the House any information on the progress of conclusions of the United States and British Bermuda conference on refugees?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any statement regarding decisions or recommendations arrived at by the Bermuda Conference on Refugees?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give the House any information in regard to the decision arrived at by the Bermuda Conference?

As my hon. Friends will no doubt have noticed from the statement issued at the conclusion of the Bermuda meeting, a number of concrete recommendations have been made, but as these involve certain military considerations, they must for the present remain confidential. I hope, however, a further statement may be possible before long.

Have arrangements been concluded for dealing with the 29,000 available permits for entry into Palestine?

Quite apart from the Bermuda Conference, we have been doing all we can to facilitate that movement, which we want to see go ahead.

Will the House have an early opportunity of discussing all these matters?

It was the intention that a day should be made available, but I had rather hoped that I should be in a position to say more before the Debate takes place.

Is it intended that some statement will be made as to the recommendations of the Conference?

That is the intention, though of course it will have to be made in consultation with the United States Government.

Seeing that this Report has been held back so long, cannot the right hon. Gentleman give some assurance that the gates of this country will be opened at least to some moderate extent so as to allow some refugees to get in? We were given to understand long ago that this country, after consultation with others, would make some contribution.

These recommendations have only been in our hands since my right hon. Friend came back two or three days ago. I do not think there has been any great delay. As regards entry into this country, I have nothing to add to statements that the Home Secretary has made.

In view of the extreme urgency of the matter, could the right hon. Gentleman give any indication that a Debate will take place early in the next series of Sittings?

I had hoped that a statement might be made when the Debate takes place, but I doubt whether it will be possible to do that early in the next series of Sittings.

Soviet-Polish Dispute


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the dispute between the Russian Soviet and Polish Governments is being considered by the Council of the United Nations?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the present state of Russo-Polish relations; and what action he is taking to try and improve them?

I have nothing to add to the statement which I made on this subject yesterday.

Prisoners In Enemy Countries


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any attempt has been made to conclude agreement with enemy countries providing for accommodation in a neutral country of prisoners who are in good health and have been in captivity a long time?

No attempts to conclude agreements of the kind mentioned have yet been made, and in the opinion of His Majesty's Government the moment has not yet come when the conclusion of such agreements can usefully be considered. The matter will, however, be borne in mind and carefully studied whenever the moment appears to be favourable.

My right hon. Friend will recollect that some of these people have been in captivity for three years?

I have that very much in mind, and I know that my hon. and gallant Friend has also in mind the sick and severely wounded prisoners of war, arrangements in respect of whom should have priority.

Royal Air Force

General Duties Officers And Air Crews


asked the Secretary of State for Air the proportion of officers belonging to the general duties branch together with the proportion of non-commissioned officers mustered to air crews as a percentage of the total personnel of the Royal Air Force?

Officers of the general duties branch and non-commissioned officer air crews constitute 7 per cent. of the total strength of the Royal Air Force.

In view of public misapprehension on the subject, will the right hon. Baronet take some suitable opportunity of letting it be known that only 7 per cent. of the R.A.F. personnel are qualified to fly?

That is not quite true. A number of general duties officers are not in fact flying at present, and a substantial number of men who are included in the total personnel of the Royal Air Force are in fact air crews under training. They are not non-commissioned officers.

Education Officers


asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent are the duties of education officers, serving as unmobilised officers of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, the same as those of mobilised officers giving technical instruction?

Some education officers are employed as station education officers, others as technical teachers. The station education officers have a variety of educational duties which are quite unlike the duties of mobilised officers engaged on technical work. The education officers engaged on technical instruction deal mainly with the actual teaching of scientific principles and their application to Service purposes. Mobilised officers are predominantly employed on organising and supervisory duties, but in so for as they give technical instruction they deal with the more distinctly Service and practical sides. In addition, these mobilised officers have disciplinary and administrative responsibilities and a liability for general service.

Are these unmobilised officers equally mobile with mobilised officers?

Requisitioned Aerodromes


asked the Secretary of State for Air the basis of payment made by his Ministry for civil aerodromes taken over for the duration of the war.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to his Question on 29th July last. The position remains as then stated.

Chaplains (Pay And Allowances)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether it is proposed to increase the pay and allowances of Royal Air Force chaplains holding the relative rank of squadron-leader?

Is the right hon. Baronet aware that the pay of Army chaplains has just been increased?

The pay of Army chaplains has been increased to the level of that in the Royal Air Force.

Officers ("Wings For Victory" Campaigns)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether Royal Air Force officers on the active list when detailed or invited to take part in "Wings for Victory" campaigns away from their stations receive railway warrants and adequate allowances?

Royal Air Force Regiment (Beret Badge)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will give an assurance that the beret, when it replaces the field service cap of the Royal Air Force Regiment, will carry the distinctive Royal Air Force Regiment badge?

No, Sir. The beret to be worn by the Royal Air Force Regiment will carry the cap badge of the Royal Air Force.

Air/Sea Rescue Service


asked the Secretary of State for Air what is the method of recruitment for the Air, Sea Rescue Service?

Personnel for marine craft duties in the Air/Sea Rescue Service are obtained from volunteers already serving in the Royal Air Force and from civil life. Officers and men for flying and other duties in the service are not recruited specially but are subject to the normal posting arrangements for the Royal Air Force generally.

Are there any restrictions on men who are serving in other branches being accepted as volunteers for this service?

British Overseas Airways Corporation

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will publish the whole correspondence between the four directors who resigned from British Overseas Airways and the Ministry?


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will publish the correspondence involved in connection with the retirement of each of the former members of the board of the British Overseas Airways Corporation?


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is prepared to publish the letters written to him by the recently resigned directors of the British Overseas Airways Corporation and dated 22nd February, 10th March and 24th March, 1943?

In deference to the wishes of hon. Members, I am arranging for the correspondence to be published as a White Paper.

Road Signs Committee


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is satisfied that the road transport industry is adequately represented on the Road Signs Committee; and which of the members represent the particular needs of the passenger service vehicle operators and the "C" licence holders?

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

Yes, Sir, I think that all those who use the roads are adequately represented on the Road Signs Committee. If any organisations of interests affected which are not directly represented should desire to give evidence to the Committee, the Chairman will be glad to arrange for them to do co.

Is my hon. Friend aware that 59 per cent. of this Committee is composed of Civil Service and municipal authorities and that the peculiar services that are rendered by "C" licence holders and passenger services are entirely unrepresented on this important Committee?

I do not think it can be said that they are entirely unrepresented. The services to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers are represented in considerable measure by some of the public officers who are on the Committee and also by the representatives of the Transport and General Workers Union.

Would my hon. Friend inform me which of these representatives represent "C" licence holders and passenger services?

I have said that some of the public officers and the spokesmen of the Transport and General Workers Union can rightly be said to represent those interests.

Road Haulage Organisation (Ex-Service Men)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport, with reference to the appointments recently made as divisional road haulage officers, their assistants and area road officers, respectively, how many were chosen from the list of ex-Service men brought to the Ministry by the Ministry of Labour; and what means suitable ex-Service men had of knowing of the vacancies and making the necessary application?

No special list of ex-Service men was submitted by the Appointments Department, but of the men put forward by that Department whom we appointed, six had previously served in His Majesty's Forces. It is not the practice to advertise vacancies in the Government service, and the proper course for those who desire employment is to register with the Appointments Department. I have no reason to think that any suitable ex-Service men have failed to secure places in the road haulage organisation because they were unfamiliar with this procedure.

Does my hon. Friend realise that Government Departments do advertise from time to time and that there is great public indignation at the fact that his Department and others take no steps to do anything to give ex-Service men an opportunity of applying? This way of treating ex-Service men really will not do.

I have no evidence of such indignation. If my hon. and gallant Friend knows of any cases of men who feel that they have been unjustly treated, I shall be glad to inquire into them.

They have had no opportunity of applying for these positions. They are filled secretly behind their backs, and it is grossly unfair and a shocking example to private employers.

I cannot agree that ex-Service men do not know the proper procedure of applying for appointments.

Omnibus Services, London


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether the new summertime schedules of - the- London Passenger Transport Board have been speeded up in such a way as to eliminate the nuisance of the crawling omnibus; and, if not, whether he will ask the Board to prohibit the habit of crawling, which is far more inconvenient to omnibus travellers than an 'occasional omnibus getting ahead of its schedule?

As I said in reply to a Question by the Hon. Baronet on 21st April, I hope that the summer schedules now in force may reduce the difficulties which are caused when drivers get ahead of time. Further adjustments of the - schedules are now being discussed by the London Passenger Transport Board and their employees. I recognise and regret the annoyance to passengers which results from the practice of "crawling," but I cannot accept the suggestion made in the last part of the hon. Baronet's Question. On the contrary, I believe that, if drivers were allowed to run ahead of their time tables, the inconvenience to the travelling public would be much greater still.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a very genuine grievance in London? Could he put the London Passenger Transport Board in touch with me, so that I can discuss with them the many letters I have received?

I shall be glad to put my hon. Friend in touch with the Board, and I have no doubt that they will be glad to talk to him. They are doing their best to deal with what is a very difficult matter.

Does not my hon. Friend think that it is really inconvenient when it takes a bus 30 minutes for the journey from Charing Cross to King's Cross which is scheduled for 15 minutes? Because they are over-running their time, they do dawdle on the way and commit the offence suggested in the Question.

I think my hon. Friend will find that the inconvenience of running journeys regularly ahead of schedule would be much greater to all concerned.

Seamen's Lost Effects (Compensation To Next Of Kin)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will take action to amend the Maritime Board Agreement so that payment of compensation for loss of effects of seamen to the next of kin of such seamen who lose their lives shall be retrospectively operative from the beginning of the war, in view of the fact that for the earlier part of the war such compensation was payable to survivors only and not to next of kin?

I understand that, under the National Maritime Board agreement, to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, compensation for loss of effects has been paid to the next of kin since March, 1942. I regret that, for administrative reasons, it would not be practicable to deal with cases that arose before that date.

Would not my hon. Friend agree that this is invidious and unfair to relatives of those seamen who lost their lives before this more favourable arrangement came into being?

It is in a sense anomalous, and I regret it, but I am afraid it is not the only anomaly, and the difficulties of meeting it are very great.

Should administrative reasons be allowed to stand in the way of what is now recognised to be proper justice?

I do not think it can be shown that there is any real injustice except in very exceptional cases. These have been dealt with already. The difficulty is to reassemble the evidence, as we should have to do if we raised them all over again under the earlier agreement.

If there are administrative difficulties in the hon. Gentleman's Department, have not other Departments overcome much greater difficulties? Will he not look at this matter again, for it means that the relatives of a man who died before a particular date are refused something whereas the relatives of a man who died after that date are granted it?

I will certainly look into it again. I have considered it with great care, and it is largely a matter of staff. It is difficult to get adequate staff, and the reassembly of evidence of cases three or four years old would be a very difficult matter.

Could not the hon. Gentleman arrange for a temporary transfer of staff from other Government Departments? I could give him information about Departments where staff is available.

Ministry Of Information

Invitations To Broadcast (Ministers And Members)


asked the Minister of Information whether it is the practice of his Ministry to confirm or veto invitations to broadcast issued by the British Broadcasting Corporation to Ministers or other Members of Parliament?

As regards Ministers, in practice the Prime Minister is consulted in all cases of political importance. As regards other Members of Parliament the B.B.C. is under no obligation to consult with me before issuing invitations. In practice they occasionally ask me for advice and sometimes act upon it.

Institute Of Historic Research (Rooms)


asked the Minister of Information whether he can give the House any information about the requisitioning of the rooms of the Institute of Historic Research provided by London University; and what provision is to be made for the large Institute library?

These rooms have not been requisitioned. The University of London has agreed that the Ministry of Information should take them over provided that suitable alternative accommodation is found and arrangements made for the removal of the Institute's library. The Ministry of Works is at present looking for alternative accommodation.

Postal Deliveries, Edinburgh


asked the Postmaster-General whether, in curtailing the postal deliveries in Edinburgh, he will take into consideration the importance of the second post delivered in the middle of the morning?

Yes, Sir, but if the hon. Gentleman wants any details, he should put a Question down.

Post-War Housing (Preparatory Plans)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the ministry Works whether, in view of the position of the constructional war programme and the urgency of rehousing all classes of workers in the bombed areas or on other appropriate sites in the immediate postwar period, he will use any surplus unskilled labour and available machinery in the preparation of lay-outs and approval of plans, clearance of sites and provision of services and foundations to surface level so that later the least possible delay may take place in the erection of the superstructure?

In the event of any unskilled labour becoming available, the possibility of using it for undertaking the preparatory work in the clearance of sites and in the provision of services for the rehousing of the population will most certainly be kept in mind. As regards the lay-out and approval of plans, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has already asked local authorities to carry out all the preparatory work necessary to enable one year's work on rehousing to be started as soon as labour and materials become available.

Did I gather from the answer that the Minister of Health has already circularised local authorities?

How is it possible to have lay-out plans until we know on what sites it will be permissible to build?

Until a decision has been made in regard to town planning, how shall we know whether we shall be able to build on cleared sites?

Scrap Metal

Churchyards And Cemeteries


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether salvage committees acting under his Defence Regulation B 50 have been authorised to take away not only the iron railings round a burial ground but also the iron chains and bronzes on the gravestones themselves without asking the sanction of the relatives of those buried there or giving any notice to the caretaker of the graveyard, as was done recently at a place of which he has been informed; and whether he will issue immediate instructions to his salvage committees in England and Scot- land to stop further actions of this kind in consecrated burial grounds?

The removal from churchyards and cemeteries of iron railings and other metal fixtures, unless of artistic merit or historic interest, has, with the concurrence of the Church Authorities, been authorised under Defence Regulation 50B. In such cases a notice is served on the incumbent or caretaker as the case may be and is posted on the site. Where relatives desire to appeal against the proposed action their wishes are respected. Notice was given in this manner in the case referred to in the Question. It is not possible to take any further steps to ensure that the relatives, if any, are aware of the proposed removal. Instructions have recently been issued making it clear that chains forming part of the monument or memorial itself are not to be removed.

In view of this undertaking that memorials on graves are not to be touched, may I ask why the fixtures are not mentioned in the notices and why in this and other cases the metal has been taken from the graves?

If chains on graves are not to be taken, will the Minister see that the small railings on the graves are not taken away, because the position is exactly the same as in the case of chains?

I said in my answer that where relatives desire to appeal against the proposed action, their wishes are respected

Gates, Royal Parks


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether gates, such as those to Hyde Park, rendered unnecessary by the removal of railings, can also now be taken for scrap provided they have no special artistic merits?

All gates to the Royal Parks which fall outside the excepted classes—including those necessary to exclude vehicular traffic at night and on special occasions—have already been taken for scrap.

Is not the retention of the gates without the railings rather like keeping a lock without a door?

I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate, in the case of Hyde Park, that if the gates at Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch were taken down it would be easy for vehicles to pass through the park during the night, and for that reason they are retained.

London Park Seats {Service Personnel)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he will give instructions that Service personnel in uniform shall not be charged for seats or chairs in the London parks?

The question of allowing Service personnel in uniform to use, free of charge, the chairs owned and provided in the Royal Parks by a contractor has already received careful consideration, but while I fully sympathise with the feelings which have prompted the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion, I regret that it has not been found possible to make any concession. Over 8,000 free seats on benches are already available in the Royal Parks, of which approximately 6,000 are in the Central London parks.

In view of the fact that the present practice leads to a good deal of misunderstanding and sometimes unpleasantness among the Allied and Dominion troops, will the Minister consider cancelling this contract and taking the business into his own Department?

Women's Royal Naval Service


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether recruitment for the Women's Royal Naval Service is still continuing and, if so, in what branches are vacancies still available; and whether recruitment for other branches is likely to be started in the near future?

Recruitment into the Women's Royal Naval Service is still continuing for cooks, stewards, experienced motor transport drivers, women with a fluent knowledge of German and applicants qualified in mathematics or physics, which are required for certain technical duties. No changes in the categories open are anticipated in the immediate future.

West Indies

Virgin Islands (Tobacco Industry)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the difficult situation facing the tobacco industry in the Virgin Islands; and what action is being taken to remedy the position?

Yes, Sir. Attempts were made between the years 1939 and 1942 to foster the tobacco industry of the Virgin Islands with the aid of financial assistance from the local Government. These efforts were unsuccessful, and the Governor of the Leeward Islands has been advised to consult the Inspector-General of Agriculture in the West Indies as to the best methods of renewing the attempt to develop this industry.

United States Bases (Wages)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies who is responsible for the level of wages on the American bases in the West Indies?

The United States representatives fix the rates in consultation with the Colonial authorities.



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many British or foreign subjects are now under detention or restraint in the West Indian Colonies for alleged subversive activities in connection with trade union or political work?

No persons are detained under the local. Defence Regulations or placed under restriction in the West Indian Colonies on account of their trade union activities. According to my information, detention orders under Defence Regulations on account of political activities likely to be prejudicial to public safety and defence are in force against one person in British Guiana and three in Trinidad; in British Honduras there is one person and in Jamaica two persons subject to certain restrictions. All these persons are British subjects.

Stockdale Report (Implementation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action the Government propose to take over the Stockdale Report; and how much of the money voted for the West Indies has been spent on relieving unemployment and raising the social and economic condition of the people of those islands?

Many of the schemes recommended in the Stockdale Report have been approved, and are in operation; others are under discussion with the Governors or otherwise under active consideration. In some cases, there are difficulties owing to the shortage of personnel or supplies. All expenditure on approved schemes is directed towards the improvement of social or economic conditions. In many cases schemes operate in relief of unemployment, but it is not possible to assess separately the amounts so expended.

Has all the money voted for this purpose been actually expended in the islands?

I think that if the hon. Gentleman had read the two days' Debate we had on this subject, he would see the position set out very clearly.

Burma (Operations)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the progress of operations in the Burma theatre of war?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes to have an opportunity of making a general statement on the war before we separate for Whitsuntide. The operations in Burma would have their appropriate place in this.

Gas Warfare (Retaliatory Measures)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make it clear that in the event of the enemy using gas as an implement of war this country is in a position to retaliate on an even more terrible scale?

It is not thought necessary to add to the carefully weighed statements which have been made upon this point.

In view of the fact that we have to depend upon newspaper reports for what has been described as the "forgotten front," can we have an assurance that the supply of tanks and aircraft has not been forgotten or wholly ignored?

Post-War Civil Aviation


asked the Minister without Portfolio whether he will give an assurance that no decision has been taken by the Government which would have the effect of placing all British overseas air transport services after the war in the hands of one organisation?

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it will be a major disaster if there is no real enterprise in our air transport services after the war, and could he say exactly what are the implications of the decision he has just announced?

As I explained the other day, we have been careful not to attempt to fix the national set-up until we know what arrangements, if any, can be made internationally with regard to civil aviation.

May we assume that there is absolutely no decision of any kind so far?

Machine Tools


asked the Minister of Production whether he is aware of the shortage of tools and equipment for machine tools; and what steps he is taking to switch over the production of surplus machine tools to the production of these much-needed accessories?

I am not aware of any general shortage of tools and equipment for machine tools. There is, of course, a tendency on the part of contractors to specify a more lavish provision of fittings and tools than is necessary. Over ordering of this kind is obviously liable to cause shortages, and the Machine Tool Control is organised so that all possible steps are taken to check the tendency. As I assured the hon. Member in reply to his Question on 17th February, where it becomes advantageous to switch capacity for making machine tools to the production of tools and equipment, this course is followed.

Can my right hon. Friend explain how it is that he is not aware of a shortage of these tools when in point of fact some manufacturers are completely snowed under with orders for them, and that in the case of one very essential tool, there is a waiting list of over six months? Can he explain why it is that the knowledge of the situation in his Department is so different from the appreciation of the situation in the country?

If my hon. Friend will give me particulars of this case, I shall be glad to look into it. There is no general shortage of tools or machine tools equipment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the machine tool position in the shipbuilding industry?

Could I have an answer to my Supplementary Question? I want to know if the Minister is satisfied with the machine tool position in the shipbuilding industry.

That is quite a different question. If my hon. Friend will put it down, I shall be glad to give him an answer.

Am I to take it that we do not use machine tools in the shipbuilding industry?

Joint Production Committees (District Problems)


asked the Minister of Production what steps are being taken to fill the gap in organisation now existing by the establishment of joint district production committees?

Joint production committees at individual firms were set up by agreement between the Engineering Federation and the unions concerned. Any suggestion for the setting-up of similar joint district production committees is a matter for consideration by both sides of industry. I would, however, remind the hon. Member that official machinery for the discussion of district production problems exists in the District Committees which have been set up under the Regional Boards of the Ministry of Production.

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been called to the recent article on this subject in "The Times," where it was pointed out that there was a serious gap in that chain as regards the district committees, and does he propose to take any action?

I have pointed out that the district committees under the regional board serve this purpose.

Is it not a fact that these gaps in the chain of committees are the only loopholes through which manufacturers can escape and get on with their work?

Will the Minister see that all these committees which are in existence are doing their work and not create any more?

Food Supplies

Fish (Maximum Prices) Order


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food for what reason the Food (Fish) Order (S.R. & O. No. 558, 1943) altered the date in article 24 of the Fish (Maximum Prices) Order, 1943, from 10th April to 12th June?

The date was postponed following discussions with representatives of the fishing industry, the object being to provide additional time for the negotiation of scales of wages of trawler crews.



asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the time that London milk is kept from production to distribution to the consumer?

I am informed that the time varies in general from a few hours to 48 hours, according to the distance the milk has to travel.

Is the Minister aware that my information is to the effect that some of this milk is four or five days old, or even more? Is it the wish of his noble Friend to insist that all the community should be compelled to drink this stale fluid, in spite of the fact that the death-rate from tuberculosis among children has increased enormously in some of our towns where the milk is already pasteurised?


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food how many complaints he has received from the City of Oxford regarding the operation of the milk zoning scheme; and whether he has any statement to make?

Apart from the complaints sent to my Noble Friend by my hon. Friend, only one other complaint has been received by my Department regarding the scheme for the rationalisation of milk deliveries in Oxford. The complaints referred to are receiving attention, and if any adjustments prove to be necessary, they will be made within a few days.

Will the Minister bear in mind the suggestion that people should be allowed to fetch their milk from the retailer of their choice, having regard to the fact that that would not cause the use of any additional petrol or rubber?

I think that point is being dealt with in the reply being prepared for my hon. Friend.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the disquiet in Manchester at the poor quality of milk supplied to the inhabitants and the fact that last summer thousands of gallons of milk were unfit for pasteurisation on account of souring and that 75 per cent. of the milk supplied to schoolchildren was unsatisfactory; and whether he will take the requisite steps to see that an adequate supply of Grade A milk is supplied to Manchester?

While precise complaints of the character suggested by my hon. Friend in the second and third parts of his Question have not been brought to my notice, representations have been made to my Department about the quality of milk supplied in the Manchester district. These representations are receiving consideration, and I will communicate further with my hon. Friend.

Is not the Minister aware that this matter is gravely disturbing the mind of the local medical officer of health? Is he further aware that several wholesale milk distributors would gladly refuse acceptance of this impure and unclean milk but are compelled to take it, on the advice of the Ministry of Food, and are compelled to mix this low-grade milk with the high-grade milk? Is not that a contamination that could be avoided?

I am aware of the concern of the local authority in this matter. Certain adjustments are to be made in the areas from which the Manchester milk is collected, and I hope that they will cause very considerable improvement.

Is it not better to throw away the sour milk than to mix good and bad milk together?

Surplus Oats


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, whether he can give an assurance that the necessary arrangements have been made for the speedy clearance of surplus oats from the farms after this year's harvest; and whether he is satisfied that adequate storage accommodation is at the disposal of his Department?

Beef Cattle (Quality)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is satisfied that the effect of the existing price structure for beef is not to discourage the breeding of high quality cattle?

I have no reason to believe that the existing price structure discourages the breeding of high quality cattle.

Is it not a fact that the quality of beef cattle has steadily deteriorated during the past two years?

Fish Distribution


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will permit consumers who are registered with shops which do not sell fish, to transfer their registrations to those which do, in view of the adoption by the latter of the practice of only selling fish to registered customers who are thereby able to obtain much larger supplies of fish than the generality of consumers?

Is the Minister proposing to restrict the supplies to these dealers who are restricting the number of people whom they propose to serve?

I made inquiries into the case of the store to which I think the hon. Member's Question refers. I think the store are making a very laudable effort to distribute their fish supplies fairly among all their customers, without under-the-counter sales. In any case, fish supplies are now so abundant that the store are not operating their scheme. Moreover, they did not confine their distribution merely to customers registered for other commodities.

Tomatoes, London


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what supplies of tomatoes have been disposed through London wholesale markets since the price was last controlled; and what proportion was disposed of to retailers in Battersea?

I am not in a position to supply the information for which the hon. Member asks.

The Price Control Order came into force on 19th April. Since then a very small quantity of tomatoes has come into the market, but the records do not show what the amount was or where the tomatoes have gone to. The allocation has not yet begun.

Ministry Of Supply

Barrage Balloon Scrap

61 and 62

asked the Minister of(I) whether he is aware that Rubber Control is calling for the release of barrage balloon scrap and that thousands of yards of uncut material are being offered for sale in South Wales free of Purchase Tax and coupon free; and whether he will explain the reason for this anomaly;

(2) the considerations that enabled the demolition contractors, engaged by his Department, to demolish a fire-damaged barrage balloon factory in South Wales, to dispose of some 10,000 yards of balloon fabric for resale in retail shops?

With the hon. Member's permission, I will answer Questions 61 and 62 together.

On a point of Order. When a Minister asks for permission and immediately assumes he has got it, what can an hon. Member do when he does not wish to give that permission?

It is so usual to give that permission that I do not know any other way out than to do so.

I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, answer the two Questions together. I am obliged to him for calling my attention to this matter. I regret that, owing to a misapprehension, a mistake was made in allowing this material to be disposed of, and steps are being taken with a view to recovering it.


asked the Minister of Supply why the Rubber Control has called for the return waste rubber scrap from barrage balloon manufacture which has been used for making shopping bags, etc., from a small factory in South Wales, whilst gill permitting the use of this scrap material for the same purpose in Luton; and whether he has any statement to make thereon?

The manufacture of shopping bags from waste rubber has been prohibited since June last by the Control of Rubber (No. 14) Order. I am not aware that any firm in Luton has infringed this prohibition.

Is the Minister aware that a firm in Luton is advertising these shopping bags and that I was able to get one last week? For some months now the prohibition has applied to South Wales. Will the Minister see that it applies equitably?

The Question I had to answer applied to the making of shopping bags, whereas the Supplementary Question refers to the selling of them. I shall be very glad indeed to consider this matter if the hon. Member will give me further particulars.

I referred in my Supplementary Question to a firm in Luton making and offering for sale a very substantial quantity. They are seeking for new orders and new production.

I shall be glad to have particulars, as my information is to the contrary.

Temporary Civil Servant (Undischarged Bankrupt)


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that Mr. R. J. Excell, of 47, Hadley Way, Lambeth, London, N.21, now a temporary civil servant in his Department, employed at Euston House, Eversholt Street, Euston, is going to America on Ministry business; and, in view of the fact that he is an undischarged bankrupt, is he satisfied that Mr. Excell is a fit and proper person to carry out commissions on behalf of His Majesty's Government?

Has the Minister changed his opinion since this Question was put upon the Paper?

Is it desirable that a gentleman in this condition should remain in a position of responsibility?

I hope that my hon. Friend will excuse me from going into details on this subject. I would point out that there are occasions when there is nothing personally discreditable about such a position. It is unfair to discuss these questions further.

Since when have undischarged bankrupts not been allowed to assist their country in the way for which they are best fitted?

Is the Minister aware that judgment was given against this man in December, that he was made a bankrupt in January, and that he obtained his passport in March to go to America and had permission to sail on 6th May? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that this type of individual should represent this country overseas?

The purpose for which it was proposed to send someone to America was a purely departmental one. In my judgment there has been nothing at all in the history of this case that should discredit this individual from performing that particular function; but it so happens that, apart from the merits of the individual, it has been possible to clear the situation for the present and to make it unnecessary to send anyone.

Would the Minister be willing to receive further information from me concerning this man's history?

Sierra Leone (Import And Export Licences)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether he is aware of the complaints in Sierra Leone of discrimination against Africans in the granting of permits by the director of supplies for the importation of various commodities and the export of certain African products and that adequate shipping space is granted to Europeans but refused to African traders; and whether he will inquire into these grievances with a view to remedy?

A complaint of this nature has already been brought to my notice, but on investigation was found to be without foundation. Import licences are allotted by the Sierra Leone Government as nearly as possible in proportion to the applicant's pre-war imports, and similar arrangements apply to exports. African traders who have secured import licences place their orders with export houses in the United Kingdom, and ship- ping space is allotted to these exporters in accordance with arrangements operated by the shippers themselves. If, however, the hon. Member would care to send me details of any specific complaints, I should be glad to have them investigated.

Is not the Minister aware that the Press is replete with cases of this kind? I shall be very happy to send the Minister details.

Kenya (Labour Officers)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any African labour inspectors have been appointed in Kenya arising from the adoption of forced labour in that Colony; and in what circumstances Africans are denied the right of assembly?

For the purpose of supervising the labour conscripted under the Defence Regulations, the Labour Department has been strengthened by the appointment of three additional European labour officers, two of whom have been seconded from the Provincial Administration. In addition, three African sub-inspectors and registration officers are being appointed, during the current year. If these appointments are a success, their number will be increased later. With regard to the last part of the Question, there are certain legal provisions applying to all persons in the Colony, irrespective of race, which give power to regulate assemblies with a view to preventing a breach of the peace. But if my hon. Friend has anything particular in mind, I will gladly look into the matter.

Nigeria (Tin, Price)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what agreement was reached with the Nigerian tin companies governing the price of tin; and whether an Excess Profit Tax is to be instituted in Nigeria?

As the reply to the first part of the Question is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. With regard to the second part of the Question, it is not at present proposed to introduce an Excess Profits Tax in Nigeria, owing to the absence of such a tax in the other three West African Colonies and the difficulties in securing the services of officers, with the necessary experience of dealing with this form of taxation.

Do I understand that the price of tin is included in the reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

Not the actual price, although I will get that for the hon. Gentleman. It shows the methods adopted for contracting with various types of producers.

Following is the reply to the first part of the Question.

While the details of the proposed agreement with the main Nigerian tin producers are still under discussion, tin concentrates are being supplied by those producers on the basis of the offer made by the Ministry of Supply to purchase on direct contracts at cost of production plus the profit per ton realised in a pre-war period—either the year ended 31st August, 1939, or the average of the three years ended on that date, at the option of the producers. Where—as with certain smaller producers—such a direct contract is inapplicable, the Ministry of Supply is offering to buy through the Nigerian Supply Board at a price which is approximately the average to be realised by producers on direct costed contracts.

Colonial Development And Welfare


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the provisions which the Colonial Governments have been notified are necessary for purposes of Section 1 (2a) of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1940; when were the instructions notifying Colonial Governments of the necessity for those provisions sent; and what are the Colonies whose legislation does not contain these provisions?

Colonial Governments were notified on 12th July, 1941, that for the purposes of Section 1 (2) (a) of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act their legislation should contain provisions corresponding to Sections 2 and 3 of the United Kingdom Trade Union Act, 1871, Sections 3 and 4 (1) of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, and Section 3 of the Conspiracy Act, 1875, as amended by the Trade Disputes Act, 1906. As the list asked for in the concluding part of the Question is of some length, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Before any payments are made under the 1940 Act, will my right hon. and gallant Friend get a definite guarantee or assurance from the Colonial Government that such legislation will be enacted, and will he see that as far as possible all the Colonies are brought into line with regard to this Section?

Certainly that is what I hope to do. The statement I am circulating will show the position in those Colonies where the legislation has not yet been enacted.

Following is the statement:

The following are the territories whose legislation does not comply with the provisions specified by me:

(1) Territories wholly or partially in enemy occupation:

British Solomon Islands, Federated Malay States, Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Hong Kong, North Borneo, Sarawak, Straits Settlements, and all the Unfederated Malay States.

(2) Territories who have no trades union legislation:

Bermuda, Gibraltar, Palestine, Somaliland, Tonga and Trans- Jordan.

(Note.—Legislation is, however, being prepared in Gibraltar and Palestine.)

(3) Territories which have trades union legislation which does not comply fully with the requirements of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act:

Bahamas, British Guiana, Ceylon, Dominica, Fiji, Grenada, Malta, Mauritius, Nyasaland, Seychelles and Uganda.

( Note.—The necessary amending legislation has been prepared in British Guiana, Dominica and Malta, and I am keeping in touch with the other territories.)

"Drive Yourself" Motorcars (Petrol)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is now able to announce the promised changes in the regulations for the supply of petrol to "Drive yourself" motor-cars?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power
(Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

My right hon. and gallant Friend hopes to do so shortly.

British Prisoners Of War


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered the information sent to him that certain officers taken prisoners by the Italians in Libya last June when serving in tanks were, at the time of their capture, wearing only tropical shorts and have suffered hardship in consequence; and will he arrange for battledress or uniform and shoes or boots to be supplied to them?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) on 16th February, of which I am sending him a copy. Adequate supplies of clothing were sent to this camp in November last. Letters written from the camp in January reported the arrival of clothing, but it is not yet known whether all the clothing sent has in fact arrived.

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman consider allowing relatives of these prisoners of war to send uniforms coupon-free if they so desire?

Fire Brigade Pensions (Local Authorities)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Government will reimburse fire brigade authorities the amount of any payments payable by them under the Fire Brigade Pensions Act, 1925, arising from war injuries?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for North Eastern Derbyshire (Mr. H. White) on 15th April, of which I am sending him a copy.

Newfoundland (House Of Commons Mission)

(by Private Notice) the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he has any statement to make regarding affairs in Newfoundland?

Yes, Sir. As the House is aware, I visited Newfoundland myself last September, accompanied by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. A. Jenkins). Under war conditions Newfoundland has become a centre of great activity; it is an important naval and air base and is making a most valuable contribution to the war effort in men and resources. This has resulted in a great improvement in economic conditions; but it has also given rise to economic and social problems which may be a difficult legacy when employment for war purposes comes to an end. Therefore, while concentrating on the winning of the war, we must think and plan ahead so far as this can be done. It would be premature at present to attempt to reach conclusions, but I feel, from my own experience, that it would be valuable if fuller knowledge of Newfoundland's war effort, and of the problems likely to face the island after the war, could be made available to Parliament. I am therefore arranging for a small mission, composed of three Members of this House, to visit the island during the early summer. I am happy to say that my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) has consented to lead this mission; his colleagues will be the hon. and gallant Members for Thornbury (Sir D. Gunston) and the senior burgess for Oxford University (Petty Officer Alan Herbert).

The mission will not be a formal body charged with a specific inquiry, constitutional or otherwise. Conditions at the end of the war cannot be foreseen, and the present war pre-occupations of Newfoundlanders and the absence of many of the younger generation with the Armed Forces make a formal inquiry into the island's future Constitution inappropriate at the present time. The mission will be of an informal and good-will character. It will have no defined terms of reference and will not present a written report, but I should hope that my hon. Friends on their return would give members of the House orally an account of their impressions. The mission's objects will be to acquaint itself with all that the island is doing in the war, to give to Newfoundlanders a first-hand picture of our own war effort, and to go about amongst the people in the outports as well as in the towns so as to see something of their way of life. In view of the United Kingdom Government's special responsibility for the welfare of Newfoundland, I feel sure that the House will regard such a mission as most valuable, and I am confident that it will be cordially welcomed by the Government and the people of Newfoundland.

Will this mission have the power to make definite recommendations, or will it be merely to inform itself?

I thought I had explained that the suggestion was not that it should snake a formal report but that it was more of a good-will mission.

Did the right hon. Gentleman in fact take any steps to find out whether the people of Newfoundland would welcome this interference with their internal affairs and regard it as a reasonable substitute for the immediate restoration of the self-government which was taken away from them several years ago?

I do not think that the people of Newfoundland would regard a visit from Members of this House as an unwarrantable interference with their private affairs. I have explained in the answer that the position with regard to the constitution is one of great difficulty, and I have endeavoured to make myself acquainted with the various opinions in the Island, and they are not all agreed as to the future.

I have no doubt that this mission will enjoy itself in Newfoundland and that the people of Newfoundland will treat it very hospitably. I have no doubt of that at all, but did the right hon. Gentleman take any steps to see whether the people of Newfoundland wanted such a mission? It is not merely a friendly visit, as I understood the right hon. Gentleman's statement; it is a visit of some importance, inquiring into what we are going to do for Newfoundland after the war. Are the Newfoundland people not wanting the right to decide for themselves what they are going to do for themselves after the war?

Of course the people of Newfoundland have the right to decide on their own future, and there is no suggestion, as I have pointed out, that this mission was designed to make any specific proposal or to interfere with that right. I think it is useful that there should be a greater acquaintance on both sides with this problem.

May I ask whether, pending the return of the Commission, all consideration of constitutional change or the development of local government will be held up?

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider issuing a White Paper to this House giving the position in Newfoundland, so that Members of this House may have some idea of it?