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Volume 389: debated on Thursday 6 May 1943

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Mr Jawarharlal Nehru


asked the Secretary of State for India whether Mr. Jawarharlal Nehru is under detention in India or has been transferred to another area; whether he is completely isolated from other Congress leaders; and whether communications can be sent to and received by him?

Mr. Nehru is under detention in India and is in the company of other members of the Congress Working Committee. He is permitted to correspond with members of his family on domestic matters.

May I ask whether Members of this House might please communicate with him on other matters, provided they supplied the right hon. Gentleman with a copy of the letter?

Mr Fazl Huq (Resignation)


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has a copy of the letter of resignation prepared by the Governor for signature by Mr. Fazl Huq, late Premier of Bengal; whether he has considered the protests from the Progressive Coalition Party of Bengal against the enforced resignation of Mr. Huq; and whether consideration has been given to the statement of Mr. Huq that he commands a majority of the Legislature, and is prepared to co-operate in establishing an all-parties government in Bengal?

I have no copy of the letter of resignation signed by Mr. Huq nor of any draft, and have nothing to add to my reply to the hon. Member's Question on 8th April.

Is it not true that a certain amount of pressure was, in fact, exerted on this gentleman, and will the right hon. Gentleman make further inquiries and give a report to this House as to the circumstances under which Mr. Huq was required to resign?

It was not any question of being required to resign; and in any case the matter is one dealt with in the Parliament of Bengal.

Political Situation


asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of recent events in India, he will take the opportunity of endeavouring to bring all parties there into a negotiation with His Majesty's Government?

I regret to say that there have not been any recent developments that would hold out a prospect of such negotiations leading to any fruitful results.

While I appreciate the difficulties which beset my right hon. Friend, will he not consider whether, in view of the gravity of the issues involved, we have not now reached a time when the Government of India might take a more constructive line?

Is the Minister aware that I have received an invitation to visit India, and if he will ensure that I get a permit to go there, I will see into things?

White Immigrants From South Africa


asked the Secretary of State for India whether it is the intention of the Government of India to pass, with respect to India, a trading and occupation of land restriction Bill, to operate against white immigrants from the Union of South Africa, similar to that against Indians which is now before the South African Parliament?

I understand that a private Member's Bill was introduced some time ago which, if enacted, would give the Government of India powers of the kind indicated by the hon. Member; but I am not aware of the present position of the Bill nor of the Government of India's attitude towards the Measure.

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to speed up that Measure in view of the regulations being passed against Indians in South Africa?

I am afraid that it is not my duty to speed up Bills in another Parliament.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any further information regarding legislation affecting Indians in South Africa?

Motoring Convictions, London (Appeals)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of appeals against convictions for motoring offences which came before the appeals committee of the London Sessions in 1942; the number which were dismissed; the number in which the penalties were reduced; and the number in which the penalties were increased?

As the answer is in the form of a tabular statement, I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the convictions in our courts are severe enough, in view of the loss of life, and should not the attention of the courts be called to the very serious loss of life?

I hardly think that it would be desirable for me to make any general observations about how the courts do their business.

Following is the Table:

The appeals to the County of London Quarter Sessions during 1942 against convictions for motoring offences numbered 21. The results were as follow:

Convictions affirmed—without modification of sentence12
Convictions affirmed—penalty increased1
Convictions affirmed—penalty reduced4
Convictions quashed2
Appeal abandoned2

Detainees, Isle Of Man


asked the Home Secretary how many persons are now interned or detained in the Isle of Man camps; how many officers and rankers, respectively, of the Army and the police force and other civilians are engaged in the work of the camps; and whether he is satisfied that in the case of at least some of the camps the staffing is not excessive?

There are, at present, approximately 3,300 persons interned under the Royal Prerogative, and 600 detained under the Defence Regulations or the Aliens Order, and there are, in addition, over 100 children. The administration as well as the guarding of the camps is carried out chiefly by military personnel, and, as it would not be in the public interest to state their number, I do not think that there are any figures that I can usefully give to my hon. Friend in reply to the second part of her Question. All the various staffs of the camps are constantly under review, with a view to adjusting the numbers to the needs, and, certain reductions are at present in contemplation.

Fire Guards


asked the Home Secretary when he is likely to be in a position to announce the decisions of the Government in relation to the recommendations of the Select Committee on National Expenditure on Fire Guards?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Report from the Select Committee has only recently been received. I am giving it consideration.

Can the Minister give any indication to the House when he is likely to be able to make a statement on the matter?

No, Sir. I am afraid I could not do so, but I contemplate that some consultation must take place, and I cannot be sure how long the consultation will take.


asked the Home Secretary what restrictions are imposed on allied and alien personnel in this country in respect of the Compulsory Fire-Watching Order?

Aliens are not at present liable for compulsory fire guard duties, but, as I stated in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. W. H. Green) on 4th February last, it is proposed to render certain classes of aliens liable for such duties subject to certain conditions, and an Order for this purpose will be issued as soon as the necessary consultations have been completed. In the meantime, it is open to any alien, who is exempted from the curfew restrictions imposed by the Aliens (Restriction of Movement) Order, to volunteer for such duties.

Is it the intention of my right hon. Friend to ensure that our women are not in future to be called upon to look after the safety of foreign men, whether they are aliens or Allies?

Is the Minister aware that a great number of aliens are only too anxious to take up these duties and are very mortified at being excluded, and that some of them are not merely 35 but are about double that age?

With regard to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, it is true that a considerable number of aliens are voluntarily fire watching, but it is the case that a fair number who could voluntarily do it are not doing so.


asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the dissatisfaction among various sections and classes of women with the Compulsory Fire-Watching Order he will consider amending the Order so as to provide that no woman over 35 years of age will be called on to fire-watch unless she volunteers to do so and that all women will be given equal opportunity of fire watching at their homes or business premises?

No, Sir. In view of the need for fire guards, I could not contemplate a reduction of the present age limit for compulsion for women. For the same reason it is not practicable to allow women to choose where they will perform their fire guard duties, but they will only be required to do so at their place of work if insufficient men are available for the purpose.

My right hon. Friend must realise that there are certain disabilities to which women are prone when over 35. Under those circumstances it is very much disliked and resented by women at that period and also very much disliked by men. Would he not reconsider this matter and establish an age limit over and above which women should not be called upon?

That point has, of course, been considered, and I have made inquiries, as well as one can. I am advised by many women that the men worry much more about it than the women do.

Police (Military Service)


asked the Home Secretary why members of the regular police force are being called to the Armed Services and younger men of the war reserve police retained?

My hon. Friend appears to be under a misapprehension. The police war reservists who have been retained are those who were over 30 on 1st May, 1942; whereas the call up of regular police under the National Service Acts applies to men under 25 at the date of registration, that is, to men born after 9th March, 1915.

Service Pay And Allowances


asked the Prime Minister whether in view of all the relevant circumstances, His Majesty's Government will now introduce an increased scale of pay and allowances for soldiers, sailors and airmen?

This matter was very fully examined by the Government in the summer of last year, and as a result a number of general increases were announced by my right hon. Friend the then Lord Privy Seal on l0th September last. It was explained that the Government were unanimously of the opinion that with the additions then made substantial justice would be done to all ranks of the Services and that the rates of pay should be stabilised at the new level so long as prices remain at the existing level. His Majesty's Government do not now see any ground for departing from that opinion.

In view of the fact that these proposals fail to meet the position and that there is great public concern about this serious matter, will the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues not reconsider the matter broadly?

Before the right hon. Gentleman does so, will he remember that the last Budget increased the price of beer and cigarettes?

United Nations (Consultation)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will now consider the advisability of holding a conference, or of establishing some kind of council, of the United Nations, with the object of achieving a measure of agreement about political, as distinct from purely military, objectives?


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of recent events, new methods of obtaining the maximum of unity between the Allied Governments are in operation?

No, Sir. I am satisfied that, having regard to the geographical and other factors involved, existing methods of consultation among the United Nations are for the present the best that can be devised.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that if better machinery for consultation between the Allies had existed, certain recent regrettable developments might have been prevented?

Is it not clear that existing methods of consultation do not prevent differences? As political issues impinge on the war situation, is it not desirable to have machinery to reconcile differences that occur?

I do not think my hon. Friend is logical. The fact that differences arise is not necessarily cured by a particular kind of machinery. There has been no suggestion that differences will be prevented by any other machinery than that which we have at present.

In that event, in view of what recently occurred, and particularly in view of the fact that the differences have not been reconciled, is machinery not in being to deal with that situation and any new situation that might emerge?

I have already replied to that point. In the opinion of the Government the present methods of consultation and the present machinery are the best that can be devised under present circumstances.

Would not the Minister have a private consultation with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) instead of raising the matter in public?

Women's Land Army


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that a considerable number of country-bred women with agricultural experience, other than those of conscription age, are lost to the agricultural industry as they are not allowed to enrol in the Women's Land Army and prefer to join one of the other Services open to women rather than stay on the land because in those Services they are supplied with clothing, boots, and other equipment free of charge and without having to surrender clothing coupons; and whether he will consider amending existing Regulations to permit of these women joining the Women's Land Army?

No, Sir. Regular women agricultural workers are not called up by the Ministry of Labour under the National Service Acts or the Registration for Employment Order, and I do not think that any appreciable number of them are offering themselves for the women's Services for the reason mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend. The reasons for not enrolling women agricultural workers in the Women's Land Army were explained in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Kerr) on 4th February, 1943.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that there is a grievance among a large number of these women, whom I might call civilian women, that the women of the Land Army should receive clothing and equipment, since 1st January, 1943, equivalent to 107 coupons? How is it possible for any ordinary woman to provide herself with clothing and equipment on the present clothing ration?

My hon. and gallant Friend, like some other people, is labouring under a misapprehension. Perhaps he had better read exactly what is the situation. He would then realise that agricultural workers who earn their permanent living in agriculture are not really under any disadvantage.