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Commons Chamber

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 12 May 1943

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 12th May, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

New Writ

For the Borough of The Hartlepools, in the room of William George Howard Gritten, Esquire, deceased.—[ Mr. James Stuart.]

Oral Answers To Questions

British Council

Middle East (Chairman's Visit)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the mission recently undertaken to the Middle East by the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson); whether he is satisfied that the valuable educational work which is being conducted by the British Council has been strengthened and expanded during the process of this visit; and whether a report will be published?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson), with my approval, recently visited Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Palestine, in the capacity of Chairman of the British Council, to inspect the Council's establishments and to make personal contact with the authorities and others interested in the promotion of cultural relations with Great Britain. The importance of the Council's work is clearly realised by all those whom he met and it is hoped that as a result of the visit the educational and other activities of the Council will be considerably expanded. The report of my right hon. Friend is now under consideration, as also the question of the publicity to be given to it. Its substance will be embodied in one of the quarterly reports of the Council, which are placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

In view of the work that has been done by the British Council and of the valuable effect of missions of this kind, is such work still receiving the continued support of the Foreign Office?

Yes, Sir, certainly. We are very encouraged by the results of my right hon. Friend's mission.

Brazil

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the recent progress of the activities of the British Council in Brazil, with the number of branches which have been founded and their approximate membership; and whether the British Council is prepared to accept the co-operation and support of the recently-formed Anglo-Brazilian Society?

New Anglo-Brazilian cultural societies have been opened at Santos and Curityba, the capital of the State of Paraná. There are now five of these societies in Brazil, and about 5,000 attend classes there. Four additional teachers of English have recently been sent out. The members of the societies are showing great interest in books, periodicals, films and pictures illustrating British life and British scientific achievements. Exhibitions of graphic art have been sent to Brazil. The British Council will gladly co-operate with the Anglo-Brazilian Society in London.

If an application is made to the Foreign Office by the Anglo-Brazilian Society, will my right hon. Friend see that it receives favourable consideration?

North Africa (Internees)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many political prisoners are still interned in North Africa?

No exact figures are available, but my latest information indicates that between 3,000 and 4,000 have been released during the past two months. I understand that there remain two to three hundred Frenchmen and probably rather less than 2,000 internees of all other nationalities. The majority of these are Spaniards, and a large number of these Spaniards are waiting until transport can be provided to take them to Mexico. Others are waiting for definite jobs and accommodation to be made available to them. There are likely to be a hundred or two who are medically unfit or incapable of employment for one reason or another. The medically unfit are to be admitted into a special rest centre organised with the assistance of the Red Cross. Up to 1st May, 794 internees had joined the British Pioneer Corps and a further 106 have been accepted for enrolment. The French authorities in Algiers have stated officially that all internment camps, except those for enemy nationals, are to be dissolved. I understand that this will be done as soon as employment and accommodation have been found for the remaining internees and as soon as transport has been provided for those of them that are willing and able to leave North Africa.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman very much for that very satisfactory reply, may I ask whether particular attention could be paid to the small number of so-called enemy nationals, many of whom have fought as anti-Fascists for many years, and see whether something can be done to improve their conditions, which, I understand, are not as satisfactory as those of some other nationals?

Do the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave for people interned include people who are working in the mines, who are not exactly interned, but whose conditions are reported as being extremely unsatisfactory? They are said to be working in the mines under semi-prison conditions.

I am not quite sure of the definition, but I rather think my figures include all who could be described as interned; but I will look into the matter.

Royal Air Force

Vesuvius (Bombing)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Air the size and number of bombs dropped in the crater of Mount Vesuvius; and whether he will give full details of the operation?

I presume the hon. Member is referring to a recent Press report to the effect that bombs were dropped on Vesuvius by accident during the first raid on Naples in 1940. No report of this incident has been received in my Department.

Is it not a fact that no scientific evidence exists to show that earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tidal waves cannot be produced by artificial means? Would it not be advisable for the Air Ministry to have some experiments carried out?

My hon. Friend may be assured that we have been in touch with seismologists, who are experts in this aspect of the possibilities of bombing.

Has my right hon. and gallant Friend ever heard of the old proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle?

Before the right hon. and gallant Member goes any further, may I remind him that I am one of the few people who have flown round the inside of the crater in an aeroplane, and that the active part of the crater is only about 12 feet in diameter?

Women's Auxiliary Air Force

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Air on what grounds women are excluded from the Women's Auxiliary Air Force unless they have family connections with the Force; and whether there will be equality of opportunity for all applicants and selection made only on grounds of merit and suitability?

Merit and suitability remain essential qualifications for enlistment in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. As, however, in the age group recently called up, the number who had expressed a preference for service in the W.A.A.F. greatly exceeded the authorised allocation for that Service, recruitment was restricted, except in cases of special qualification, to those who had been in civil employment under the Air Ministry or were closely related to personnel already in Air Force service. I am advised that under this arrangement sufficient recruits will be obtained of the requisite standard to meet the needs of the Service.

While it may suit the Air Force Selection Board to carry it through in this manner, is it not very unfair that intelligent and capable girls who are anxious and keen, and who are qualified to join the Air Force, are denied, simply because they have not family connections, while somebody with poorer qualifications may be admitted on these grounds?

The position is that we have far more applicants for the Women's Air Force, suitable applicants, than we can accept. Therefore, among the suitable applicants, we give preference to those who have some close connection with the Air Force. I think that is a fair and reasonable system.

Is it not a fact that the documents issued to the girls say that they are debarred, although they are qualified, unless they have these family connections?

Although the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has a large number of applicants, would it not be more efficient to choose the girls on the ground of merit rather than of background?

We have so many girl applicants with the requisite merit and qualifications that we have to make a distinction within the category of those who are eminently suitable. Therefore we say:

"Previous civilian work at R.A.F. unit or in the Air Ministry.
Father or brother in the Royal Air Force.
Fiancé, deceased, formerly member of the Royal Air Force.
Fiancé, prisoner of war, member of the Royal Air Fore.
Widow of former member of the Royal Air Force.
Mother or sister in the W.A.A.F."

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say that the existence of a former fiancé makes a girl more suitable?

Air Crew Refresher Course

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Air the purpose of the Royal Air Force officers' disciplinary course at a town of which he has been informed; and whether he is aware that officer and sergeant pilots are sent there for offences involving not discipline but some error of judgment in flying, correctable more readily at a flying refresher course than on a barrack square?

The purpose of the air crew refresher course is to assist in the elimination of tendencies likely to contribute to avoidable flying accidents. The course forms part of a general scheme of accident prevention. As for the second part of the Question, only those pilots are sent on the course who, in the opinion of their commanding officers, are likely to benefit from it.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that there have been a number of cases in which sergeant pilots in particular have been sent there with a view to sending them on a punishment course?

No, Sir. Pilots who made an error of judgment in flying would not be sent to a course, except when the commanding officer considers that carelessness or disobedience of orders, or tendencies in those directions, have been the cause of the error or are likely to cause errors in the future. Of course, there will be cases in which pilots consider that their error has not been due to carelessness. The commanding officer must be the deciding authority.

Will the Minister investigate certain cases I have in mind if I send them to him?

Yes, Sir, certainly. If the hon. Member will send me any particular individual case, I shall be glad to look into it.

100 Octane Aviation Fuel

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the statement made by Mr. Patterson, United States Under Secretary for War, to the Senate Truman Committee, regarding the serious shortage of 100 octane aviation fuel applies also to Great Britain; and whether he will again bring to the notice of officers commanding Royal Air Force units the need for the utmost economy in this matter?

I have seen Press reports of the statement referred to. The United States and United Kingdom Governments collaborate closely in the matter of supplies of 100 octane aviation fuel and operational needs have been and are being fully met. As regards the last part of the Question, regulations designed to ensure economy in the use of aviation fuel are in force throughout the Service.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman consider a case I have in mind in which, owing to the tightness of the rule about pool petrol, a journey which would have involved two gallons of pool petrol was found to be much more conveniently done by means of aircraft at a cost of about 40 gallons of 100 octane fuel?

Naturally, I cannot accept that version of the case until I have investigated it. If my hon. Friend will send me particulars, I will look into them.

Volunteer Reserve Officers (Promotion)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many officers of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve have been promoted to air rank since December, 1942; and how many have been promoted to group-captains in Bomber, Fighter, Coastal and Army Co-operation Commands, respectively?

The answer to the first part of the Question is "One." As for the second part, no such promotions have been made in the Commands referred to in the period in question.

In view of the high qualifications of so many officers of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think that this matter might be stepped up a bit?

We have only one test for filling these air posts, and that is, to try to get the best man available for the post, irrespective of whether he is a Regular officer or an officer of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Security Work (Second Front)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the organisation of the Royal Air Force security police for sending personnel abroad when we make a second front in Europe is complete?

In the circumstances referred to, the Army Field Security organisation will undertake security work for the Royal Air Force.

British Overseas Airways Corporation

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the opinion of the former members of the Board of British Airways Corporation, now made public, that they consider undue hindrance to the efficient discharge of their responsibilities and their duty of planning for a rapid expansion of air transport, during and after the war, was due to the attitude of the Government, he has any statement to make?

I cannot accept the implication of my hon. and gallant Friend's Question. In order that our limited air transport resources might be used to best advantage in the prosecution of the war, the Corporation were required in April, 1940, to place their undertaking at the disposal of the Secretary of State for Air in accordance with Section 32 of the British Overseas Airways Act. In these circumstances while management remains a function of the Corporation, the formulation of war-time policy is, and must be, the responsibility of His Majesty's Government. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the statement which my right hon. Friend made to the House on behalf of the Government, in the course of the Debate on Civil Aviation on 11th March.

Aircraft Production

Output (Workers' Limitation)

12.

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production in how many factories there has been a deliberate limitation of output, and a refusal to do overtime, on account of dissatisfaction regarding piece-time rates or for other reasons; whether he will give an estimate of the effect this action will have on the supply of aircraft to our Forces and the armies of our Russian Allies; and what steps he is taking in the matter?

Arising out of the recent award in the engineering trade, there have been a number of cases in which action such as that mentioned in the hon. and gallant Member's Question has been taken by the workers without the authority of their union. None of these were, however, in aircraft factories, though in some cases sub-contracts were being executed for aircraft or air engine contractors. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, with whom I have been in close touch on the matter, has taken the view, with which I am in complete agreement, that this is primarily a matter for the executives of the trade unions concerned. In the majority of cases the difficulties have been now resolved; in the rest the matter is being dealt with by the trade union executives. It is not possible to form any exact estimate of the effect of this action upon the output of aircraft, but any such action must, of course, interfere with our war production and is therefore to be deplored.

Factory Site Clearance, Wales

13.

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether any charge was made to the demolition contractor for the use of Army motor-lorries and personnel for the removal of the stores from a fire damaged balloon factory in South Wales; and whether the clearance of these stores was included in the demolition contract?

With regard to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to him yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. As to the second part, the answer is in the negative. The firm at whose premises the fire occurred requested help from the emergency services organisation of my Ministry in removing stores from the damaged premises to other premises close by. Transport was arranged which was paid for by the firm in question at the usual rates.

Colonial Empire

Housing

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he proposes to take to improve the urban housing conditions of non-Europeans in our Colonies, especially in the areas of ports and municipalities, and on a basis both of economic and sub-economic rental; whether he will insist on all Governments and railways preparing plans for improved housing of their non-European employees once hostilities cease; and whether he has yet acquainted himself with the success of the work in these directions by the Central Housing Board in the Union of South Africa, notably at Port Elizabeth?

Measures for the improvement of housing conditions are being taken in a considerable number of Colonial territories, but their progress has been retarded by difficulties in obtaining personnel and material under war conditions, and by the prior claims of construction for military purposes. Expert advice is, however, being sought for those areas where the need is most immediate and I propose shortly to invite the attention of certain Colonial Governments to the need to proceed now with any planning which is an essential preliminary to the taking of early action when hostilities cease. Experiments with local materials are being carried out in several Colonies, and my hon. and gallant Friend can rest assured that experience gained in South Africa and elsewhere will not be overlooked in considering parallel problems in the Colonial Empire.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend recollect the correspondence we had on that matter, and has he yet been able to acquaint himself with the material which was last submitted to his Department by the consent of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman himself?

I recollect having had some very interesting correspondence with my hon. and gallant Friend, but I must confess I cannot at the moment recall what his last suggestion was. I must look it up.

It is not my suggestion but a published document, which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was good enough to say he would consider if I sent it to him.

If I said we would consider it, I am certain we are considering it.

Post-War Reconstruction

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Colonial Governments have been asked to give their attention to the problems arising from demobilisation and transfer to peace conditions; and whether schemes of industrial expansion and agricultural improvement, together with economic planning and schemes of development, are being prepared in anticipation of this contingency?

This important subject is one which has already been closely examined by those Governments most concerned. In the course of this examination the various matters mentioned by the hon. Member in the second part of the Question are being taken into account. I am about to address Colonial Governments on the whole matter.

Rehabilitation And Training

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken for the rehabilitation and training of men and women discharged from the various services in the colonial territories?

An African Rehabilitation Centre has been set up in Kenya for the treatment of Africans belonging to any of the East African territories who have been discharged from the military Forces on account of injuries sustained during their service. The provision of similar facilities is being considered for West Africa. In Malta special consideration is being given to the problem of persons disabled, whether by enemy action, accident or disease. As regards other parts of the Colonial Empire, I have no detailed information.

Excess Profits (Taxation)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, what percentage of Excess Profits Tax is charged in the various Colonies; why there is no Excess Profits Tax in West Africa; and, in view of the necessity of West African Colonies securing a share of the extra profits from increased mineral exploitation for war purposes, whether steps will be taken to achieve this in West Africa?

The rates of Excess Profits Tax in the Colonies vary from 40 per cent. to 80 per cent., and I will circulate details as regards the several Colonies in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The primary reason why Excess Profits Tax has not been introduced in West Africa is the administrative difficulty of accurate assessment, in view of the absence of any well-established Income Tax machinery. Full Income Tax has only recently been established in Nigeria and in the Gambia, and is only now being introduced in the Gold Coast and in Sierra Leone. This has caused a very acute shortage of competent technical staff, and, although I should certainly like to see Excess Profits Taxes introduced there, as elsewhere, I prefer that the available staff should be used in the establishment of the Income Tax system on a sound basis before being asked to take on the additional responsibility of administering Excess Profits Tax. The hon. Member will no doubt realise that the larger companies are already subject to Excess Profits Tax in this country.

Could we have an assurance that when the Income Tax arrangements have been completed, special attention will be paid to the Excess Profits Tax to be operative in that area?

I certainly shall give it most serious consideration as soon as am satisfied that the Income Tax arrangements are working properly.

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

The present rates of Colonial Excess Profits Tax are as follow:

Per cent
Aden60⅔
British Guiana60
Ceylon50
Jamaica50
Kenya60
Mauritius40
Northern Rhodesia60
Seychelles50
Tanganyika60
Trinidad80
Uganda60
Zanzibar60

Students (Travel Restrictions)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information regarding regulations restricting Nigerians and others from proceeding abroad for study?

Owing to war conditions, it was decided in June, 1941, to advise all Colonial Governments that it would be in the best interests of students that certain conditions should be fulfilled before they came to this country. The main conditions were that they should have carried their studies as far as possible in their own countries, and that they should be adequately equipped financially. They were also to be warned that they would be ill advised to come for short time studies, in view of passage difficulties. Acting on this advice, the Government of Nigeria recently issued a notice in the Government Gazette, a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend.

West Indies

Jamaica Civil Service

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make any statement regarding the recommendations of the Public Service Committee appointed four years ago to inquire into the working of the Civil Service in Jamaica; and whether it is proposed to take any action arising from the investigations of the committee?

Subject to a few minor modifications made by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, the recommendations of the Public Services Committee for the regrading and reorganisation of the Jamaica Civil Service have been approved, and the necessary provision was made in the estimates for 1943–44 which have been passed by the Legislative Council.

Chief Probation Officers

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether chief probation officers for Jamaica and Trinidad, as recommended in the recent Stockdale Report, have been appointed?

No, Sir. Although my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has been most helpful and the National Association of Probation Officers have given every assistance, it has not so far been possible to secure the services of suitable candidates for these two appointments. Efforts to do this are, however, being continued.

Electoral Reform (Barbados)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action it is proposed to take in Barbados following on the presentation of a Select Committee's Report on a Bill to amend the Representation of the People Act, this Bill having provided for the reduction of income qualifications for voters and the introduction of the female franchise?

This report by a Select Committee of the Barbados House of Assembly has been under discussion in that House, but I have not yet heard whether, and, if so, in what form, they passed the Bill. The next step would be consideration of the Bill by the Legislative Council.

Firewood Shortage, Barbados

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the hardship experienced by the people of Barbados due to the shortage of firewood; and whether the Government are taking any steps to improve the position?

Yes, Sir, I am aware of the shortage of firewood in Barbados, and the Colonial Government are doing what they can to meet the position. But there are grave difficulties, owing to the lack of timber on the island itself and the shortage of supplies from Trinidad and the Windward Islands, due partly to the lack of shipping and partly to the necessity for maintaining the existing forests in those islands to avoid soil erosion.

In view.of the urgency of this matter, may we take it that the Minister is doing his best to rectify the position?

Yes, Sir, the hon. Member is quite right. This is a serious difficulty, one of the many caused by' shipping difficulties in that area, and I will give it attention.

Kenya (Compulsory Labour)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many natives of Kenya are working in the tea and coffee plantations under forced labour; and why this compulsory labour on tea and coffee production is considered essential for war purposes?

Compulsory labour has been suspended since February. There are, however, at present, according to the latest figures available, about 550 Africans who have been recruited for the coffee industry and rather less than 100 for the tea industry under the Defence Regulations. The main object of declaring these two important industries in Kenya to be essential undertakings under those Regulations was in order that they might be maintained in operation on a scale which would enable the Colony to play its part in meeting the food supply requirements of the United Nations, including those of the large numbers of refugees and prisoners in East Africa.

Is it considered necessary that these 700 should be subject to enforced labour? Is there no other means by which the requisite labour can be obtained?

I think it was because it could not be obtained by other means that these Regulations were brought into force.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say how I am to distinguish between coffee produced by enforced labour and coffee that is not?

I am afraid I can make no useful suggestion at all to my hon. Friend on that point.

In view of the very severe food shortage and the breakdown of food supplies due partly to the fact that native labour has been diverted to work other than food production, would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give special consideration to the transfer back to the reserves of some of these men, so that they can build up the food supply necessary for sustaining the lives of the natives in the reserves?

As I said in my answer, compulsory labour has been suspended since February.

No, Sir. I said that compulsory labour had been suspended in February. At that time, when it was suspended, those were the numbers employed.

West Africa (Legislative Constitutions)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has under consideration a revision of the legislative Constitutions of our West African Colonies, particularly with a view to the extension of self-government in the coastal areas?

I cannot at this stage add anything to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member on 14th April.

Is it not time, in view of the fact that our declared policy is to give self-government in our Colonial Empire, for something to be done in the West African Colonies, after the change in Jamaica?

I do not think that that. necessarily follows. Changes to be made in any Colony must depend on the conditions in that Colony. We are anxious to see an advance there, as elsewhere.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give an assurance that this matter of constitutional development in West Africa will be seriously considered?

Railways

Payment Of Fares (Change)

25.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that the Southern Railway have given instructions that change must not be given by booking clerks to persons who tender a £5 note in payment of fares; and whether this refusal of the company to accept legal tender is the result of instructions given by his Department?

I am looking into this matter, and will let my hon. Friend know the result.

If I let the hon. Member have details of the case of a squadron-leader who was unable to get a ticket for his wife and child because he had not less than a £5 note in his possession, will he look into them.

I shall be glad to look into any details that the hon. Member can give me.

Seating Accommodation

27.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware of the difficulties of passengers in obtaining seats at Stoke-on-Trent; that there were no seats available on several trains on 30th April, when people were not allowed to use first-class seats; and what action it is intended to take?

Apart from special trains for workmen, 113 local and through trains left Stoke on 3oth April. The loading of the local trains was normal, and it was only in certain main-line express trains that passengers had difficulty in finding accommodation. I am informed that only one instance can be traced in which third-class passengers were prevented from using first-class seats. This was on a train from Birmingham to Manchester, which leaves Stoke at 11.40 a.m. Passengers who were about to enter first-class compartments were directed to third-class compartments, in which there were unoccupied seats.

Will the Minister have observation made at this station, and, if necessary, take appropriate action?

Will my hon. Friend pay attention to this matter, because there is no doubt that porters are stopping people from occupying first-class carriages, when there is room in them and no room in third-class carriages?

I said yesterday that we shall see that these instructions are observed.

Is my hon. Friend aware that although soldiers are allowed to enter first-class compartments, they do not dare to do so if officers are in those compartments?

28.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what action it is intended to take in order that men and women serving in the Armed Forces, the Merchant Service, women with young children and those engaged on special National Service shall be given preference in the whole of the seating accommodation on all long-distance trains and in the use of trucks and other assistance in the carrying of kitbags, etc., on all railway platforms?

My hon. Friend's proposal would require the establishment of a system of priority permits for all those who use long-distance trains for any essential purpose. This would entail great inconvenience to travellers, and would necessitate the creation of an elaborate and costly administrative organisation. I regret that these disadvantages would outweigh the advantages which the plan might have.

If the action I have suggested cannot be taken, what action is being taken to deal with this problem?

I am afraid that there must be great discomfort for all classes of passengers in present conditions, because of the pressure upon our transport system. The railways are doing their best; I am not sure what more they can do. If my hon. Friend will make any proposals, I will consider them.

We recognise that there must be inconvenience, but will my hon. Friend see that that inconvenience is spread over all classes of travellers?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Ministry of War Transport itself is aggravating the position in some districts by increasing the fares by 60 per cent.?

As this war is being fought for democracy, why not abolish first-class carriages?

Macbrayne, Limited (Inspection Trip)

26.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that on i7th April, the chairman of Coast Lines, Limited, with one other person, made a special trip on the ss. "Lochearn" from Oban to Tobermory; that this is not the ship's normal voyage; that the mail boat ss. "Lochinvar" had left for the same destination one hour earlier; that both ships arrived at Tobermory within 10 minutes of one another; and the amount of oil fuel consumed on the voyage and the cost in overtime paid to the ship's company?

I am informed that the chairman and general manager of MacBrayne, Limited, had to make a necessary inspection of extensions to the shipping facilities at Lochaline, which is about midway between Oban and Tobermory, and that they took the "Lochearn," intending to land at Lochaline, and to go on from there, with the mail boat. They made this arrangement in order to avoid delaying the mail boat at Lochaline while their inspection was made. Unfortunately, the weather made it impossible for the "Lochearn" to land her passengers at Lochaline, and they were, therefore, obliged to take her on to Tobermory. The fuel consumed by the "Lochearn" was about 70 gallons, and the cost of overtime was £3 3s.

Does the Minister suggest that it was impossible for the "Lochinvar" to take this diversion on its way to Tobermory and save both time and money?

Of course, that could have been done, but it would have meant that passengers and mails would have been delayed for a considerable time at Lochaline.

Was this an inspection undertaken on behalf of the Ministry of War Transport, or was it simply an inspection conducted by Coast Lines, Limited, of which Sir Alfred Reed is chairman?

We are anxious to keep these services at the highest point of efficiency, and such inspections must be made by those responsible for running them.

I asked whether the inspection was undertaken on behalf of the Ministry of War Transport, and, if so, what was the nature of the inspection?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Ministry Of Information

"Daily Worker"

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper, in the name of Mr.DRIBERG:

31. To ask the Minister of Information whether he can now make any statement concerning the ban on the export of the "Daily Worker."

In view of the great interest in Question 31, is it not possible for the Minister to give a reply?

Publicity Campaign (Cost)

32.

asked the Minister of Information the amount of expenditure that has been incurred in paper and printing, salaries, etc., in connection with the propagation of the slogan "It all depends on me"; and whether he is satisfied that the results have been commensurate with the time, money and energy expended and the paper used?

This campaign is run by a non-official organisation. The M.O.I. has always been ready to give it what assistance it can, and altogether an expenditure of £2,900 has been incurred in helping it. At present no financial help is being given, but we still feel justified in assisting it in other ways.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of my constituents have been very much puzzled when they have received by the same post details of the scheme, and an appeal from the Ministry of Production Economic Committee to use as little paper as they can, and that they do not know what advice to follow?

May I point out to my hon. Friend that it is impossible to have a publicity campaign without using paper?

Russian Department (Mr H P Smollett)

34.

asked the Minister of Information when Mr. H. P. Smollett was appointed director of the Russian Department of the Ministry?

Mr. Smollett has been in charge of Anglo-Soviet relations work in the Ministry since October, 1941, to the great satisfaction of all those concerned with his work.

Can the Minister tell me what the Gentleman's name was before he changed it?

I do not know, but in answer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question, he might perhaps give me notice of it. He does not seem to like foreigners, at any rate, poor foreigners.

35.

asked the Minister of Information how long Mr. H. P. Smollett, of the Ministry of Information, has been a British subject; and when did he take up a permanent residence in Great Britain?

Mr. Smollett has been a British subject for 4½ years. He took up permanent residence in Great Britain in the autumn of 1930.

Since this gentleman is a Hungarian by birth and since Hungary and Russia are at war, does the Minister consider that his appointment to the important post of director of the Russian section of his Ministry is calculated to show our good faith in the Russian people?

Yes, Sir. I do not know whether he is a Hungarian or not, but he was selected because of his supreme technical qualifications, and, let me say, he has constant dealings with Russian representatives in London, who are entirely satisfied with his work in every respect.

Post Office

Letter Delivery, Glasgow

37.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that busi- ness firms in Glasgow are concerned at the proposal to abolish the mid-day delivery of letters bringing the bulk of the mail from the South which, if not delivered until the afternoon, cannot be dealt with the same day; and whether he will reconsider his decision and do away with the morning delivery and retain that at midday?

Yes, Sir. My right hon. and gallant Friend proposes to arrange for the second delivery in Glasgow to commence before noon. This arrangement is understood to be acceptable locally. The second part of the Question does not therefore arise.

Northern District Office, Islington (Working Conditions)

38.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is satisfied that the conditions of service at the Northern District Office, Islington, are such as to take fully into account the lower physique and higher age of those engaged there; and whether he will look into these conditions, as women sorters perform more work than pre-war male sorters and non-able-bodied men carry out duties beyond reasonable limits?

I am satisfied that the staffing arrangements generally at the Northern District Office have been framed with due regard to the age and physique of the present-day staff and that the duties of the women sorters and non-able-bodied men should be well within their capacity. The working arrangements are under constant review, and they are adjusted as necessary in consultation with the accredited representatives of the staff. My right hon. and gallant Friend is looking further into the specific points to which my hon. Friend has drawn his attention by letter and will write to him when his inquiries are completed.

War Damaged Houses (Repair Expenditure)

39.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works why local authorities are permitted an expenditure of up to £250 per house in the case of war damage whereas private owners are only to be permitted to expend £200 per house, while the need is the same in both cases?

Under the special scheme for the repair by local authorities of some 40,000 war damaged houses in England and Wales, the authorised average expenditure per house has been fixed at £200. Licences under Defence Regulation 56A are not required in these cases, but private owners wishing to do their own repairs must obtain a licence where the total amount spent on the property in any period of 12 months exceeds £100. The grant of a licence is dependent upon the facts of each case and is not determined by an arbitrary money limit such as that mentioned in the Question. For houses comparable with those being repaired under the special scheme, a broadly equivalent standard is now being applied provided labour and materials are available in the district.

Salvage Notices (Fixtures)

41.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he is aware that in numerous cases salvage committees have not filled up on the D.D. & R. 47 requisition notices the fixtures to be taken, making it impossible for occupier or owner to object or claim compensation; and whether he will make these notices valid only for the fixtures enumerated on the forms themselves as directed on the D.D. & R. 47 notice itself?

The form D.D. & R. 47 is not a requisition notice and is not intended, nor is it in fact used, to notify details of the fixtures to be taken. It warns the recipient that the schedule prepared and held by the local authority affects the property. Claims for compensation, if made, can be supported by the detailed receipt given when the fixtures are removed.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when officials send out the forms they are directed to fill in the fixtures they are going to take, and they do not do that; and that it is a great hardship on the owner in not knowing if they can go inside the house or anywhere outside without notifying any details on the back of the form, which they should have filled up?

The purpose of the notice is to avoid criticism about entering property without informing the occupier, and if the occupier wishes to object to the removal of fixtures, he should object to the local authority.

But notice is not given. Then these forms are of no use at all if they do not contain any fixtures on the back which are not there.

House Of Commons Chamber (Loud-Speaking Apparatus)

42.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he is prepared to instal additional loud-speaking apparatus in the Visitors' Gallery of this Chamber?

Yes, Sir. I am quite prepared if hon. Members so desire to consider the installation of additional loud-speaking apparatus in the Visitors' Gallery of this Chamber.

43.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he has carried out any experiments with additional loud-speaking apparatus in this Chamber to improve its acoustic properties so that the Chamber can be fitted with glass windows and ventilated with fresh air?

No, Sir. The existing microphones have been so placed and adjusted as to pick up speech from any part of the Chamber and relay it satisfactorily to the Gallery. I am advised that if loud speakers were installed on the Floor of the Chamber, the microphones would pick up the sound, and there would be an uncontrollable volume of noise.

Royal Navy

Limbless Ratings (Pre-19I4 Pensions)

44.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on what scale sailors who lost limbs when on duty prior to the war of 1914 to 1918 were pensioned; and what weekly amount was accorded to a man who lost one leg?

The naval regulations in force prior to the last war provided for the grant of pensions to the ratings in question according to length of service, rating, and character, and the circumstances of the casualty, within a range of 7s. to 10s. 6d. a week for the loss of one limb and l0s. 6d. to 14s. a week for the loss of two limbs, with appropriate additions in respect of Good Conduct Badges and Medal, arid for each year's service in the rating of petty officer.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether any wound pensions are now paid to officers and men who have lost a limb or who have been wounded in this war and whose services are retained in this war and who are still serving?

Industrial Undertakings (Authorised Controllers)

66.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of industrial undertakings predominantly working for his department to which, as competent authority, he has appointed an official controller?

Two authorised controllers have in the past been appointed to industrial undertakings by the Admiralty. In one case the control was terminated by the Admiralty when they were satisfied that it was no longer necessary; in the other case it was terminated by the Admiralty because the undertaking was being taken over by the Government at the request of the shareholders of the company.

Constantinesco Watercraft Invention

67.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the powers granted to the Admiralty by Order No. 1780/1941, paragraph 3 (3), under the Defence (Patents, Trade Marks, etc.) Regulations, 1941, have been exercised in order to obtain the design of the watercraft invented by Mr. George Constaninesco?

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware that Mr. Constantinesco has been asked to supply in confidence particulars of his design but has consistently refused to do so. If he wishes, as I am sure is the best method, to let this be of advantage to the country from patriotic motives, we are prepared at any time for experts to examine it under the assurances that I have repeatedly given.

What on earth is the use of taking powers to acquire particulars of an invention of this sort if they are not used? Surely the Admiralty want to use this thing?

I cannot see how the Admiralty can want to use a thing of which they have been given no particulars.

Is it not a fact that Mr. Constaninesco refused to submit his invention because it had to go to Professor Lindemann, in whom he had no faith?

Barge Sinkings, Welsh Coast

68.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has yet received the report on the disaster off the Welsh coast in which a number of ratings and marines lost their lives; and will he communicate its terms to Parliament?

71.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can now make a further statement on the result of the recent inquiry into the disaster to two barges off the Welsh coast as a result of which 81 ratings lost their lives?

The Report of the Board of Inquiry which was convened to inquire into the circumstances attending the loss of these barges has now been received, and is being examined. Until this examination is finished, it is not in the public interest to make a statement, except that in the meantime steps are being taken to prevent, as far as is humanly possible, any recurrence of this unfortunate event.

I take it that my right hon. Friend has not definitely turned down the idea of communicating the Report to the House?

There is no precedent at all for the Report of a Board of Inquiry being published, but I am prepared to consider, when due consideration has been given to it, the question of making a statement.

I am sure my right hon. Friend is too progressive-minded to say he will not make a statement because it has never been done before.

There are considerations that arise about the holding of a Board of Inquiry which it is essential to observe if we are always to get the fullest possible information.

Fruit Drying Experiments

46.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he can give any information as to the test of drying English fruit carried out by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research at the Ditton laboratory, near Maidstone, Kent?

Preliminary experiments were carried out last season at the Ditton Laboratory of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research on the drying of English fruits, mainly apples, pears and plums. The results so far obtained from these experiments and from the examination of the dried products after six months' storage are encouraging. The subject is being further pursued. Close contact in this work is being maintained between the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Ministry of Food, the Agricultural Research Council and the Ministry of Agriculture. Representatives of the National Farmers' Union visited the laboratory last week and were told of the methods employed and shown the results obtained.

Does this experiment in any way extend to Scotland at the present time, or will it be extended to include Scotland?

In that case will the Secretary of State for Scotland be brought into the picture in addition to those mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman?

Civil Aviation

47.

asked the Minister without Portfolio when he will be in the position to make a full statement of the Government's policy with regard to civil aviation generally and so relieve public anxiety that little progress is being made in this connection?

I have at present nothing to add to the answer which I gave on 20th April to Questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith).

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say when he will be in a position to announce the policy of the Government?

It depends on the conclusion of the discussions with the Dominion and Indian Governments, and I cannot give any date at all.

Machine Tools

48.

asked the Minister of Production whether he is aware that a large number of machine tools from America are still unallocated and are lying in stores; that machine tools now being manufactured in this country are being sent into store; that the production of machine tools and the placing of orders for machines continue uninterruptedly; and what steps he is taking to obviate surplus production?

Unallocated new British and American machine tools, of which the large majority are British, amount to only a small fraction of a year's supply. Of the machines in stores some are held available to meet requirements for the replacement of worn out and damaged machines: while a small number go into store as a result of changes in production programmes with consequential changes in the type of machines required. As in other forms of business, a small stock of machine tools is essential to secure prompt replacement and flexibility.

In view of the fact that it is a little difficult to reconcile that answer with the fact that there are over 8,000 machine tools in the hands of either stockists or agents, and that I do not think we shall be able to make much progress, will my right hon. Friend consent to receive some representations from me afterwards?

Joint Production Committees

49.

asked the Minister of Production whether he will give an assurance that the advisability of continuing in peace-time as a permanent part of our industrial system joint production committees is receiving active consideration?

Joint production committees are voluntary bodies established by agreement between employers and workpeople. I am sure that in the light of the experience gained their continuance after the war will be given the closest consideration by the organisations directly concerned.

Is there any possibility that these bodies will be continued after the war so far as the Government have any influence in the matter?

They are voluntary bodies, and the initiative must lie with industry.

Does the Minister suggest that there is any question of abandoning these most useful institutions?

Ministry Of Supply

Trade Advertisements (Circulars)

52.

asked the Minister of Supply why it is considered necessary to allow paper to be used for sending out circulars asking people to spend money on goods and services which they would not otherwise have demanded?

The gratuitous distribution of advertising circulars relating to the sale of goods or to any profession, trade or business is in general prohibited by the Control of Paper (No. 48) Order.

Is the Minister not aware that Members of Parliament, among others, receive numerous such circulars? How can he say that this prohibition is effective?

I am not aware of the circulars so described in the question, but if the hon. Member will give me any particulars, I shall be glad to look into the matter.

Industrial Undertakings (Authorised Controllers)

53.

asked the Minister of Supply the number of industrial undertakings predominantly working for his Department to which, as competent authority, he has appointed an official controller?

Authorised controllers have from time to time been appointed by the Minister of Supply to 17 undertakings in all, but in 15 of the cases the Control Order has been revoked, so that there are now only two firms with authorised controllers.

Does the Minister consider that production will be doubled through taking action of this character?

Anti-Diphtheria Immunisation Posters

54.

asked the Minister of Supply the conditions under which paper was supplied to the British Union for Abolition of Vivisection for the purpose of attacking on large placards throughout the country the Government's diphtheria immunisation campaign; and what is the quantity involved?

I have been unable to trace that any paper has been licensed specifically for these placards, but I am making further inquiries into the matter.

Can we be assured that no penalty will be attached to this body because they hold certain opinions?

I have already explained on a number of occasions that the Ministry of Supply do not apply censorship of any kind.

But does not the Minister think that a rather excessive amount of paper is being used for the purpose of attacking the war-time policy of the Government and the health of the nation?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in Blind that bodies like the Oxford University Press have no paper for essential printing while this sort of thing is going on?

Is not a rather excessive amount of paper being allowed for the Government's bogus campaign on immunisation?

Food Supplies

Milk

56.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether retail supplies of tuberculin-tested milk are included in the rationalisation of distribution scheme; and whether consumers requiring to change from non-tuberculin-tested milk to tuberculin-tested milk are at liberty to do so providing they can arrange a supply?

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. With regard to the second part, consumers may purchase whatever type of milk the supplier with whom they are registered provides, but if he does not provide "T.T." milk they are not permitted to transfer their registrations to another dairyman in order to obtain "T.T." milk. Efforts are being made to encourage and to assist dairymen to provide "T.T." milk for such customers as require it.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the despondency his answer will cause, and, further, is he aware that this will wreck the possibility of the extension of supplies of this clean and disease-free milk.?

I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will do his best to dispel any such despondency. The basis of the scheme is fixed registrations.

But is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this milk is different from ordinary milk, and that in the past it has been outside normal regulations? Will he reconsider the matter?

We are doing all we can to see that as little "T.T." milk as possible is bulked and that as much as possible is sold as "T.T."

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

58.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will give the number of gallons of milk used for consumption daily and what percentage of this is pasteurised; and whether the milk for school feeding is confined to one kind only?

I regret it is not in the national interest to publish the total gallonage of milk consumed daily, but I am able to say that from 6o to 65 per cent. is pasteurised. Milk supplied to schools does not all fall within one category but must be approved as to source of supply and quality by the appropriate Medical Officer of Health.

If all this milk was pasteurised, would it not have the effect of putting small retailer-producers out of business? Is not that the chief object of such a scheme?

Publication of figures of total production of any foodstuffs in this country is against the national interest.

Will the hon. Gentleman see that dried and tinned milk is taken off points?

As I have represented to my hon. Friend before, dried milk is not on points.

65.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can now give an assurance that it has been decided by his Ministry that all milk for human consumption shall be scientifically pasteurised, and by efficient handling and transit thereafter to consumers, ensure to the nation a clean, fresh and safe supply of this food?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is by no means complete agreement?

Fish Zoning Scheme

57.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether the scheme for the allocation of fish is related to the normal consumption of any particular district, or, if not, by what method is it allocated?

Under the Fish Distribution Scheme the country is divided into zones and sub-zones, and fish is allocated to each sub-zone in proportion to the population of that sub-zone. The fish sent to each sub-zone is allocated to each wholesale and retail trader and fish frier according to the purchases made during the datum period, July to September, 1941, which was agreed by the trade as a period during which distribution was on a reasonably equitable basis.