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Trade And Commerce

Volume 389: debated on Tuesday 11 May 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Thermos Flasks (Miners)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make thermos flasks available for purchase by miners in West Lothian so that they may carry a warm beverage to the mines where there are no canteen facilities?

If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of the mines in question, I shall be glad to go into the matter with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power.

Boxinǵ Equipment


asked the President of the Board of Trade how many members of the British Boxing Board of Control are licensed to retail boxing equipment?

The information for which my hon. Friend asks would involve much research, but if he has reason to think that in any particular case the provisions of the Location of Retail Businesses Order are being infringed, I shall be very glad to look into it.

Is it not a fact that the Board of Trade are making a simple question somewhat difficult? I simply asked about the control of retailers of boxing equipment. Is is a fact that there are not more than a dozen retailers altogether? All I want to know is whether any of the dozen hold licences for retailing the equipment?

My information is that there are many more than a dozen. The first part of my answer was that the collection of the information would involve much research. I am informed that the number of retailers is very much greater than a dozen. Perhaps my hon. Friend will see me, if he has other information.

Latch Needles (Import Licences)


asked the President of the Board of Trade why import licences for latch needles for home consumption are issued only to firms who were importing latch needles during the last 12 months of peace?

Total imports of latch needles are considerably less than before the war, and I am satisfied that the fairest method is to issue licences to importers in proportion to their trade during the 12 months before the outbreak of war.

Is not the import of these articles considerably less now, because large numbers came from Germany, and at the present time a virtual monopoly is given to foreign subsidiaries of firms who were in Germany before the war? Should not British firms get their share?

The arrangements about which my hon. and gallant Friend is asking have been in operation since the beginning of the war, now more than three years. Our home production now is only about half our total requirements, and it is thought that the fairest way to make up what is required is to base it, as we do in other cases, upon the pre-war trade.

Does that mean that consumers who bought from British firms in the past are debarred from getting supplies?

Flash-Lamp Bulbs (Testing)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is prepared to amend Statutory Rule and Order No. 247 of 1943, which provides that, in the case of wholesale transactions, flash-light bulbs must be tested, so as to provide a similar condition in respect of retail transactions so that the ultimate consumer may be protected?

This Order does not provide that, in the case of wholesale transactions, flash-lamp bulbs must be tested. I am advised that the purchaser, whether wholesaler or retailer, of an untested bulb is sufficiently protected by the condition as to fitness implied by Section 14 of the Sale of Goods Act, 1893, but, to remove any possible doubt, I propose to amend the Order so as to put the wholesaler and the retailer on the same footing.

Diesel Engines (Manufacture, Oslo)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he has any information as to the manufacture of diesel engines at the Akers Mekanische Verksted, Oslo, Norway?

Yes, Sir. I have reason to believe that the diesel engine shops at this shipyard are working in connection with ship repairs which now form the principal activity of the yard. A new small vessels are also beign equipped with diesel engines.

Has the attention of my hon. Friend been called to the statement recently made by Rudolf Blohm, chief of naval construction division of the Board of Munitions in Germany, in which he said that the work of constructing submarine engines and their components is being done by German workmen in yards in occupied countries?

For various reasons, I think it is unliliely that these machines are being made in the particular yard mentioned in the Question.

In view of the bombing of German submarine yards that has been going on, is it not likely that German submarines are being made in yards wherever the Germans can get them manufactured?

Greece (Food Supplies)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he can give the latest information available as to the shipment of food supplies, and especially dried milk and vitamins for children, which are now being sent to Greece, and as to the adequacy of these supplies to prevent grave malnutrition; and whether the neutral authorities supervising their distribution continue to be satisfied that no abuse has occurred in connection therewith?

Food supplies which have reached Greece during the last three months, in pursuance of the relief scheme, comprise 28,703 tons of wheat, 8,561 tons of pulse and 1,096 tons of condensed milk. Further shipments which have left Canada but which have not yet arrived at Greek ports include approximately 32,000 tons of wheat, 6,000 tons of pulse and 600 tons of condensed milk. I have not yet been informed whether these cargoes include vitamin tablets, though we have agreed to their inclusion. As regards the state of nutrition in Greece, recent reports have shown a considerable improvement as compared with a year ago, especially in Athens. But, in the absence of definite information regarding many areas, I should hesitate to say that this improvement is equally marked throughout the country. As regards the last part of the Question, I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend on 16th March.

In view of the grave concern in this country about the starving peoples in Europe, is it not possible for the Government to change their policy, in view of the fact that the people who are suffering belong to nations which are very friendly to us? They are not enemies.

I think it does no service to the countries concerned to make out, as is done in many quarters, that there is any analogy between conditions which existed in Greece when the relief scheme was started and those which prevail now in Western and Northern Europe.

The wheat, which, so far as we are able to ensure it, is at the rate of 15,000 tons a month, is a free gift from the Canadian Government.

Is not a considerable portion of those supplies purchased by the Greek Red Cross or the Greek Government?

To the best of my recollection condensed milk is purchased with funds supplied by Greek sympathisers on the other side of the Atlantic, but the wheat is the free gift of the Canadian Government.

Aircraft Factory (Auditor-General's Report)


asked the Minister of Aircraft Production what action the Government propose to take to deal with the officials who have been responsible for the blunder of erecting a factory or building on a site composed mainly of combustible waste, which cost about £1,000,000, and, according to the statement of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, will now cost an estimated figure of a further 655,000 entirely due to this mistake?

On the information before him my right hon. and learned Friend does not accept the implications in the hon. Member's Question. The matter is, however, to be examined by the Public Accounts Committee, and I think it would be better if further discussion of the matter were postponed until the Committee's Report is available.

Railway Accommodation (First-Class Tickets)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that 130 first-class tickets were issued for the 8 a.m. train, from Newcastle to King's Cross, on Monday, 3rd May, with only seating accommodation for 70, and many of the passengers had to travel in the guard's van making up their own seating arrangements; and whether he will take steps to prevent such occurrences in future?

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

The 8.5 a.m. train left Newcastle on 3rd May with the maximum number of coaches. There were go seats in first-class compartments, but 118 first-class passengers joined the train at Newcastle, and 16 others at Durham. Only 30 first-class tickets, however, were issued, the other first-class passengers were either officers of His Majesty's Forces, who travel on warrants and do not require tickets, or passengers who held return tickets. I am afraid, therefore, that the conditions of which my hon. Friend complains were unavoidable.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that both inspectors and porters appealed to people at Newcastle and at York to lift up their arm rests to allow four people to sit on one side where there were three sitting and that the selfish, unpatriotic people absolutely refused to do so?

As I understand it, I do not think they had the right to refuse. I think the inspectors should have insisted I will look into the point which my hon. Friend mentions.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary at least take steps to see that these arm rests are fastened back or otherwise take steps to take off the first-class compartments altogether, let everybody travel third class, and leave those people who are so ridiculous in travelling in wartime to be hustled about?

I said that I will look into the hon. Member's point. I think there was a breach of the instructions which have been given.

Spider Crabs, South-West Coast


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can give any information about the spider crab which is being caught on the South-west Coast in great numbers; and whether this shell-fish will be sold in London?

I have been asked to reply. I am informed that the spider crab does not find favour in this country and so is not deliberately sought after, though taken incidentally in some numbers by fishermen on the South-West coast in the course of fishing for other varieties of fish. Spider crabs provide wholesome meat, but the extraction of the edible portions is troublesome and the yield small. For these reasons and because of the lack of any popular demand, it would be uneconomic to send these fish to distant markets, and it is therefore unlikely that they will be sold in London.

Does not my right hon. Friend think there is a possibility of getting one of these spider crabs sent to me, so that I may judge what they are like?

Would the right hon. Gentleman send a spider crab to the hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) and see whether he likes it?

Agriculture (Post-War Policy)


asked the Prime Minister when the Government intend to make known their policy in regard to post-war agriculture?

His Majesty's Government have in no way altered their view as to the im- portance of maintaining a healthy and well balanced agriculture after the war as a permanent feature of national policy. It has not, however, proved possible at this stage of the war for the War Cabinet to carry its consideration of the many problems involved in the formulation of a permanent post-war agricultural policy to a point at which the intentions of the Government can be made known. I am unable to say when that point will be reached.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, may I ask whether he is aware that there is considerable anxiety among farmers at the failure of the Government so far to make known their post-war agricultural policy, particularly in view of the fact of the almost unanimous agreement in the recommendations put forward by various agricultural societies in the past few months?

I am, of course, aware of the feeling in the agricultural community, and the Government are doing all they can to formulate their views with a view to making a statement as early as possible.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's views never lead to any action, and will he ensure that adequate Government action is taken in the future?

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House and the country that this delay is not caused by any shrinking on the part of the Government in this respect?

Workmen's Compensation


asked the Prime Minister whether he will give time for a discussion on the Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) and other hon. Members, calling upon the Government to take steps to raise the rates of workmen's compensation provided for in the 1925 Act by 50 per cent., and to adjust the method of calculating pre-accident earnings so that the injured workmen may be compensated on an equitable basis?

[ This House is of opinion that the scales of payment to injured workmen under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925, deny a reasonable standard of living to the injured workman and his dependants and delays his restoration to full industrial employment, and calls upon the Government to take steps to raise the rates provided for in the 1925 Act by 50 per cent., and to adjust the method of calculating pre-accident earnings so that the injured workmen may be compensated on an equitable basis.]

I regret that in view of the state of Business I can hold out no present hope of an opportunity being afforded for a discussion of this subject.

Does that reply mean that there is a private arrangement between the T.U.C. and His Majesty's Government, and that Parliament is not to be given an opportunity to discuss and decide the vital question of the future of workmen's compensation?

No, Sir, it does not. It means that there is no present hope because there is more pressing business.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many industrialists and insurance companies are very favourably disposed to the scaling-up of these rates of workmen's compensation?

I am only dealing at the moment with this Question. I said I regretted that there was no possibility of time being given now. It may be possible later on.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that there is no arrangement with the T.U.C. to prevent this matter being discussed in the House?

I can give the hon. Member the assurance that the Government are free agents in their decisions.

India (Political Situation)


asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the resolution of the Ponders End Branch of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which has been sent to him, urging the release of the Indian leaders and the opening up of fresh negotiations and demanding the immediate dismissal of the present Secretary of State for India; and what statement he has to make?

The attitude of His Majesty's Government in regard to these matters was made perfectly clear in the recent Debate in this House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India and myself, and I have nothing to add to the statements made on that occasion.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the people of India have no confidence in the Secretary of State for India, and that the same applies to the people of this country, and would it not be desirable to remove the Secretary of State for India and to release the leaders of Congress and get a settlement of the question?

No, Sir, I do not think the hon. Member is well informed as to the views of the people of India.

Atlantic Charter (Trade Unions)


asked the Prime Minister whether the provisions of the Atlantic Charter are intended to cover the rights of association in trade unions among the workers in every country on the voluntary system, without Government interference, in practice in this country?

The Atlantic Charter does not seek to explain how the broad principles proclaimed by it are to be applied.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that freedom of association in trade unions was not allowed in certain other countries belonging to the United Nations, and will he consider this problem, as there is not very much freedom for workers if they have no freedom of association in trade unions?

In view of the misgivings expressed in Great Britain and Allied countries about certain provisions of the Atlantic Charter, would the right hon. Gentleman consider opening negotiations again with Allied countries with a view to removing those misgivings?

Church Bells (Practice Ringing)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will supplement the recent decision to allow the ringing of church bells on Sundays by allowing them to be rung for practice and instruction once a week at a convenient time?

I cannot at present add anything to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in answer to a Private Notice Question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) on 10th April last.

But is not this a simple and practical corollary of the recent decision? Surely it does not need much consideration?

Forestry (Government Policy)


asked the Minister without Portfolio, whether he intends to publish a White Paper on Government policy on the future of forestry; and, if so, how soon it may be expected?

The question of our future forest policy is now receiving the active consideration of the Government. A statement will be made in due course and without any avoidable delay, but I cannot say at present when, and in what form, it will be made.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he intends to publish the Report of the Forestry Commission; and, if so, how soon it may be expected?

I have received from the Forestry Commission a Report on Post-War Forestry Policy, which is now being considered by His Majesty's Ministers. I cannot at the moment make any statement about publication.

Can my right hon. Friend say when the Government are going to let the House have some idea of the future policy of the Forestry Commission? Is he not aware that this Report has been in the possession of the Government for some time and that this Report is a statement of Government policy? Can he say what is holding it up?

I cannot say anything further at the moment, but I will take into consideration what my hon. Friend has said.

In view of the widespread deforestation now going on, is it not important that planting should be undertaken as soon as possible and that some really properly co-ordinated plan should be undertaken in order to carry out that planting?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he intends to publish the Report at an early date, as people want to know what the Forestry Commission are doing?