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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 389: debated on Tuesday 18 May 1943

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British Army

Billeting Allowances

1.

asked the Secretary of State for War what revision is to be made in billeting allowances to civilian householders?

The details of the new rates will be published in a Statutory Rule and Order which will be laid on the Table of the House in the course of this week. I will also arrange for some copies to be available in the Vote Office.

Cadets (Education And Recreation)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for War what educational and recreational schemes exist for Army cadets?

In units based on schools the governing bodies of the schools are responsible for the education and recreation of the cadets. Other units are encouraged to develop their own club life, and they are often connected with existing boys' clubs and youth centres. In co-operation with the Board of Education and the local education authorities, a technical training scheme for these cadets was introduced in 1942, which includes such subjects as engineering.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the schemes run under the supervision of the Air Ministry and the Admiralty, because his scheme is considered much inferior to those in respect of the facilities offered to these youths?

I will certainly do that, without accepting the implications of the last part of the Supplementary Question.

El Alamein (Losses From Mines)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for War what number of the 13,600 officers and men lost at the battle of El Alamein were lost owing to the necessity for going ahead of the armoured equipment in order to detect and remove mines?

I have no information which makes it possible to allocate casualties to one specific hazard or enemy weapon rather than to another.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Prime Minister in his statement in November last remarked that severe casualties were suffered by Engineers and Pioneers in mine-removing? On what basis did he make that statement?

The statement that severe casualties were involved in one particular incident is not the same as a specific calculation such as the hon. Member asks for.

Tank Accident, Bath

5.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give any information in connection with the Army i6-ton tank that killed a boy and knocked down a wall whilst going down a hill at Bath; the age of the boy; and whether the parents will be compensated?

This accident was the result of sudden mechanical defect, which put the steering gear and the brakes out of action. A military court of inquiry is being held. A boy seven years old was killed, and I should like to take this opportunity to express my sympathy with his parents in their loss. The War Department Claims Commission will carefully consider any claim.

Pending consideration of that claim, will the boy's parents have the right to sue for loss of expectation of life?

Voluntary Aid Detachments

9.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the Committee appointed to consider the status of the Voluntary Aid Detachments in military hospitals has finished its work; whether it has reached an agreed settlement; and whether its recommendations will be carried into effect?

As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) on 13th April, I have received the Committee's report. I am consulting the other Departments concerned, and hope to be in a position to make a statement to the House before very long.

Will that be done as soon as possible, in view of the anxiety and the bad effect on the Services caused by this whole question?

Inoculation Experiments

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the recent experiments in inoculating Service men and women with the object of producing the disease known as impetigo contagiosa were performed with his knowledge and consent; and whether the consent of the subjects was obtained in every case?

I assume my hon. Friend is referring to some investigations reported in "The Lancet" of 1st May. The regulations do not require an officer to obtain authority to carry out research work of this kind unless it is likely to interfere with his specific military duties. I understand that all the experiments were carried out on volunteers.

Will the War Office make itself responsible if any harm is caused to these people as a result of the experiments?

I would like notice of that. As I said just now, I hesitate to answer questions about legal liability without careful consideration.

Married Men (Living-Out Allowance)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that married men serving in the Eastern Command, for whom no married quarters are available, are no longer allowed to draw living-out allowance and rations; whether this change is universal; and whether he is prepared to reinstate the arrangements prevailing up to November, 1942, when the allowances in question were granted?

The separation of officers and men from their families is a normal feature of the exigencies of war-time service. For operational reasons, officers and men of the Field Army or on the staffs of establishments With operational responsibility are not in general allowed to live with their families. They are usually accommodated in War Department buildings, and have their meals in mess. They cannot at the same time draw allowances for accommodation and rations. But officers continue to draw family lodging allowance for their families, and soldiers families continue to draw family allowance. I have recently considered this question very carefully, but I am satisfied that there is no case for altering these arrangements at this stage.

Will the Minister have regard to married men in static employment disconnected with operational units, with a view to making some concession, so that their conditions may be more comparable with those of men for whom married quarters are available?

I think that the trouble in the case which has been brought to my hon. Friend's notice is the difficulty of drawing the line between operational and static units. That is a point which I have very much in mind.

Detention Barracks (Conditions)

15 and 17.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether, in view of the widespread anxiety caused by allegations made in evidence at the inquest on Rifleman Clayton, he will make a statement on conditions and methods of discipline and inspection in detention barracks generally;

(2) whether he is aware that treatment, similar to that which led to the death of Rifleman Clayton, has been administered regularly to prisoners in detention barracks for at least 18 months past; and what steps he proposes to take, having due regard for disciplinary necessity, to introduce penal standards in greater conformity with normal civilised practice?

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now been able to review the evidence given at the coroner's inquest on the death of Rifleman William Clarence Clayton, caused while undergoing sentence of detention, and, in particular, the jury's expression of grave dissatisfaction with the camp medical supervision; and what action he proposes to take?

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give any information in connection with the charge against Regimental Sergeant-Major Culliney and Quartermaster-Sergeant Salter for the punishment inflicted on Rifleman Clayton, of Enfield Wash; and what action he intends taking against the officers?

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the findings at the inquest on the death of Rifleman William Clayton, he will cause a searching investigation to be made into the methods of discipline employed in detention camps?

28.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the recent revelations of ill-treatment in connection with the death of a soldier in delicate health, he will bring to an end in the British Army harsh treatment of any member of His Majesty's Forces as the present case has caused unrest among the parents and friends of serving soldiers?

In the first place, I should make it clear that I do not believe that the case of Rifleman Clayton is in any way usual or typical of the treatment received by men in detention barracks. A departmental investigation was made some 18 months ago as to whether the treatment, training, accommodation and feeding of soldiers under sentence in detention barracks were in accordance with modern standards and satisfy the requirements of a war-time Army. It was found that in general the conditions were good. Moreover, a number of improvements have been made since then. The life of the men in detention barracks must obviously be subject to certain restrictions, but their treatment is humane and in general they now lead a normal life. This includes military training outside barracks, exercise such as football and boxing, and the lectures and debates of Army Education and A.B.C.A. Every detention barracks is inspected weekly by an officer not below field rank, and the commander of the area or district often visits the detention barracks in his command. In addition, the Inspector of Military Prisons reports direct to the War Office on his frequent visits. Since this departmental investigation four cases only of striking or bodily ill-treatment have come to notice, and in only two of these were convictions obtained.

On this particular case, I cannot at present add anything to the findings of the inquest and to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) on 4th May. Two men concerned have been charged with manslaughter and now await their trial by a civil court. The inquiry by the military authorities must therefore be suspended until the trial is over. I can assure my hon. Friends that when it is resumed it will deal fully with all the issues raised by this distressing case.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is not the case that the inspectors' "frequent visits," of which he spoke, are always notified in advance to the responsible authorities in each barracks?

I think that that has been the practice, but if the hon. Member is suggesting that the inspectors can have wool pulled over their eyes, I emphatically disagree with him.

I take it for granted that, if the man in question is found guilty of the offence against him, the right hon. Gentleman will consider as to the advisability of allowing such a man to remain under the War Department?

As I explained to my hon. Friends, the two men concerned are under trial by a civil court, and I think it is inadvisable to say anything while the case is sub judice.

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the usual rank of an officer in charge?

Not without notice. I imagine it is "lieutenant-colonel," but I will let my hon. Friend know.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered that portion of my Question which I do not think need wait until the result of the criminal trial. I refer in particular to "the jury's expression of grave dissatisfaction with the camp medical supervision."

I am sorry, but there is another Question later on, and I will answer that in connection with it.

The right hon. Gentleman has, with my permission, answered or purported to answer my Question, and cannot he say whether we have to wait until this criminal trial finishes before we can get some improvement in the medical supervision?

There are various Questions on the medical aspect later on, and I think that it is convenient to deal with these together. I am sorry if it does not meet the convenience of the hon. Member.

In spite of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman talked about wool being pulled over the eyes of inspectors, does he not think it would be right to have impromptu inspections?

That raises a very large general question about the system of inspection in the Army, and I would not like to deal with it now on a particular case.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that the two medical examinations of soldiers sent to detention barracks are carried out generally with sufficient care?

The regulations on this point are clear and explicit. The military court of inquiry which will be held as a result of the case of Rifleman Clayton will no doubt examine whether the regulations were observed in his case and whether they are generally observed at the Chatham detention barracks. The medical officer of this barracks has now been transferred elsewhere.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the considerable publicity that has been given to this case in the newspapers, he will disclose to this House and the country the results of the inquiry which he proposes to set up?

I will certainly make a statement in regard to the inquiry, and none of the issues will be burked. I hope that the hon. Member will be content to leave it at that for the time being.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War the medical category of the late Rifleman William Clarence Clayton on admission to detention camp; and whether there was any diagnosis of tuberculosis recorded on his medical history sheet?

Rifleman Clayton was in medical category C. The answer to the last part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is customary for men in medical category C to be sent to detention camps to undergo the rigours of these camps, of which he is aware?

I hoped that the long answer which I gave just now would have shown that, normally speaking, conditions at these camps are not unduly rigorous.

Wounded Soldiers (Drugs)

l9.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the drug M and B, or any allied preparation, is supplied to American soldiers in Africa for use if wounded; whether there are any figures as to the precentage of lives saved thereby; and if British troops are so supplied?

I am informed that drugs of this type were issued to American soldiers in Africa. These drugs are not issued to individual soldiers in the British Army, but medical officers hold the necessary stocks of them. The figures asked for by my hon. and gallant Friend are not available.

Will my right hon. Friend consult with the American authorities and find out what the results are, and, if necessary, adopt them?

I will certainly collect any information from any source possible, but I must say that I am prima facie indisposed to distribute these drugs broadcast among the troops, without control.

Lectures, Ipswich (Cancellation)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the reasons which led to the suspension, after the eleventh lecture, of a series of lectures by Mr. John White to certain troops at Ipswich imply any reflection against his moral character?

I am sorry if anything I said in the recent Debate was capable of conveying any kind of reflection on Mr. White's moral character. I certainly had no intention of conveying anything of the sort.

Are we to understand that the reasons for which these lectures were stopped were purely political? They cannot be anything else.

No, Sir. The hon. Member is capable, I am sure, of inventing other reasons than moral and political.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is to clear up the situation by making a statement to the House of the reasons why these lectures were stopped?

In view of the most unsatisfactory nature of the reply [Laughter]—it really is nothing to laugh at— I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment at as early a date as possible.

Prisoners Of War

6.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give, up till 30th April or latest available date, the total number of British prisoners in German hands and of German prisoners in British hands, and also corresponding figures as regards the Italians?

On 15th April there were 33,315 German and 284,776 Italian prisoners in British hands. Since then about 109,000 Germans and about 63,000 Italians have been captured by Allied Forces in North Africa. There are about 8o,000 British prisoners in German and about 70,000 in Italian hands. These figures include all the Services and Dominion, Colonial and Indian troops.

The only exchange which is under consideration at the moment is that of badly-wounded prisoners and pro- tected personnel under the Convention. I have answered Questions about that quite recently.

Are the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has just given the complete figures for the North Africa campaign?

No; they are an approximation to the final figures as far as we can tell at the moment, but they may be subject to variation.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for War what deductions are made monthly from the pay of officer prisoners of war of different ranks on account of the food received in German prison camps?

8.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether prisoners of war receive notification of alterations in pay or rank; and, if so, by whom?

Notifications of alterations in rank of officers are sent through the Protecting Power to the detaining Power, and should be communicated by the latter to the prisoner concerned. Arrangements have now been made for paymasters to notify other ranks of such changes as occur in their rank. Notifications of alterations in pay are not sent automatically to prisoners, but statements of account are furnished to all who ask for them. The addition to the mails and to the work of pay offices involved in sending notifications in other cases would not, in my view, be justified.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that it would be better to indicate these alterations in the rates of pay to the nearest relatives of the prisoners, as there are many cases where civilian employers make up the pay of men serving to the level of their civilian emoluments, and if these men are called upon after the war to refund money, it will give rise to trouble?

That is a matter which the hon. and gallant Member has ventilated more than once in this House. I have answered the Question.

Would it be possible, if a prisoner indicates that he would like matters affecting his rate of pay to be notified to his next of kin, for that to be done?

I have said before that if a prisoner indicates that he would like such notification to be made to his next of kin, that is invariably done.

Arrested Woman (Error In Posting)

18, Mr.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Miss Frances Sanderson, of Middleton, who was awaiting call-up for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force was, on Saturday, 8th May, arrested at her home by an Auxiliary Territorial Service escort on the charge of being an absentee from the Auxiliary Territorial Service; whether, prior to orders being given for her arrest, reference was duly made to the Minister of Labour to substantiate Miss Sanderson's claim to have been earmarked for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and whether he will now arrange for Miss Sanderson to be transferred to the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and for her to receive an apology for the inconvenience and unpleasantness she has suffered?

This case has been investigated. The A.T.S. Training Centres are notified of the recruits they are to receive, and they are concerned to see that these recruits report for duty at the appointed time. The commandant of the centre concerned in this case genuinely thought that Miss Sanderson had properly been posted to the A.T.S., particularly as it was on medical grounds that she did not originally report for duty and as it was on these grounds that the commandant of the centre granted her deferment for some weeks. But I agree entirely that it would have simplified matters if inquiries had been made into Miss Sanderson's claim. I understand that she has been discharged from the A.T.S. and will no doubt be called up into the W.A.A.F. in due course.

Will my right hon. Friend answer that part of my Question which asks that Miss Sanderson should have an apology from his Department?

The Minister of Labour is, I understand, answering that Question in a sense which, I hope, will be satisfactory to my hon. Friend.

52.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will have inquiries instituted into the mistaken posting of Miss Frances Sanderson, of Middleton, to the Auxiliary Territorial Service, instead of to the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, the service of her choice, for which she had already been earmarked; and why no steps were taken by the North-eastern Regional Office to rectify this erroneous posting between 19th March, 1943, the date when the error was brought to their notice, and 8th May, the date of Miss Sanderson's arrest by Auxiliary Territorial Service military police?

I very much regret that owing to a clerical error in the Ministry, Miss Sanderson was posted to the Auxiliary Territorial Service on 19th March instead of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. When she called attention to the error it was too late to cancel the posting notice. Owing to sickness, however, she did not join on 19th March and obtained sick leave from the A.T.S. Centre to which she sent medical certificates. Owing to an unfortunate oversight, for which I apologise, the Regional Office did not bring the error to the notice of the Ministry Headquarters who alone could take steps to rectify it, until a day or two before the escort visited Miss Sanderson on the expiration of her last period of sick leave. Miss Sanderson was formally discharged from the A.T.S. on 15th May; arrangements to post her to the W.A.A.F. proceeded immediately and will be completed in the shortest possible time.

Ministry Of Supply (Inspection Staff Meeting, Chilwell)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Colonel R. T. Raikes, D.S.O., M.C., proposes to pay an official visit to Chilwell, on Saturday, 26th June; that light tea will be served followed by a cabaret; that vouchers will be issued, covering inward and outward journeys of considerable distances, and that the staff will be allowed to claim travelling allowances and subsistence; that overtime and subsistence allowance will be payable to anyone unable to return on Saturday evening; and whether his approval was given to these arrangements?

I have been asked.to reply. Colonel Raikes, the Chief Inspector of Fighting Vehicles of the Ministry of Supply, proposes to hold a meeting of the inspection staff in the Chilwell area in order to explain to them the changes which have recently been made in the inspectorate system. Since attendance at this meeting will be obligatory, pay and allowances at normal rates will be issued. I am satisfied that the meeting will serve a useful purpose. If, after the meeting is over, the staff care to arrange social activities in their own time and at their own expense, I can see no objection.

Is the hon. Gentleman able to state what qualifications this officer holds?

Scotland

Milk (Pasteurisation)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has received any demands for a compulsory pasteurised milk supply in Scotland; and what action is he prepared to take?

Apart from Glasgow Corporation's private legislation proposals of 1936 that all milk sold in the City should be pasteurised, no such demands have been made recently. The recommendations for an extension of pasteurisation made by the Committee of the Medical Research Council on Tuberculosis in War-time are presently under consideration.

Timber Houses, Lanarkshire

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the cost of the timber houses erected by the Scottish Housing Association at Clympy Road, Forth, Lanarkshire?

The average cost of the houses in this scheme, including connections to water mains, etc., was —507. There are 120 hours in the scheme, 56 of three rooms, 44 of four rooms and 20 of five rooms.

Maybole Town Council (Filling Of Vacancies)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that Maybole Town Council has twice, within recent months, violated the political truce by declining to elect two Labour representatives to vacancies in the Town Council caused by the death of two Labour members; and what action does he intend taking to bring home to the Council the abuse they have perpetrated?

My right hon. Friend is informed that in recent months two vacancies have arisen on Maybole Town Council through the deaths of members who represented the Co-operative party and that the same gentleman was nominated on behalf of that party to fill each vacancy but did not secure election. The Secretary of State has no power to intervene in the filling of vacancies on town councils. He is, however, expressing to the Council his concern that, at a time when national unity is of the first importance, they should have failed to respect the Government's view, to which their attention has already been drawn, that the political balance in a local authority should not be disturbed.

Could my hon. Friend tell us whether it is the intention of the Secretary of State for Scotland, in the circumstances, to arrange for an election to enable this grievance to be rectified?

Is my hon. Friend aware that two seats have been stolen from the Cooperative party in Maybole? As these people are quite incapable of carrying out a gentlemen's agreement, will he ask his right hon. Friend to dismiss them?

Is it not rather strange that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan), who so consistently breaks the political truce himself, should be concerned over this matter?

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that I have never at any time broken the political truce?

Contractor (Proceedings)

32.

asked the Lord Advocate when it is proposed to proceed with the trial of the Scottish contractor who was proceeded against on petition and liberated on substantial bail?

The investigation of this case has been unusually difficult and prolonged. I expect to be in a position within a very short time to decide whether or not to proceed further with the case.

Will the Lord Advocate be good enough to communicate with me or answer a Question in the House when he is in a position to take action?

Certainly. I will inform the hon. Gentleman as soon as I have decided.

Pit Ponies

34.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the number of ponies employed underground in the mines of the country this year compared with 1938?

The number of horses, as recorded, on colliery books at 3oth June, 1938, at mines under the Coal Mines Act in Great Britain was 32,524. Particulars for 1943 are not available but the comparable figure at 30th June, 1942, was 26,593.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that in collieries where mechanisation has been advanced there are still sufficient pit ponies?

We have had no complaints recently, but if my hon. Friend has any particular pit in mind, I shall be glad to go into the matter.

35.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power to what extent, in the interest of maximum production, he receives reports as to the proper feeding and reasonable employment of pit ponies in the mines of the country; and how far there has been an increase in fatality rates due to underfeeding and overwork?

The feeding and conditions of work of pit ponies are watched from day to day by the Inspectors of Mines who take such action as is necessary at the time and report to my right hon. and gallant Friend periodically on the general situation, which continues to be satisfactory. The fatality rate has not increased and I know of no evidence which would suggest that ponies have died from underfeeding or overwork.

Is my hon. Friend aware that 44 per cent. of the ponies in Northumberland and Durham Counties are unemployed and that there are allegations in certain districts that ponies are being worked two shifts and are dying through exhaustion and underfeeding?

I know that relatively Northumberland and Durham County have the largest number of pit ponies underground. If my hon. Friend knows of any particular pit where ponies are being treated unfairly, I shall be glad to look into the question.

Electricity Supply

Consumption, London

36.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how far the consumption of electricity in London has gone down owing to voluntary and other economies; how far tariffs have been increased to meet consequent loss of revenue; and whether he will devise a means of preventing the public from being thus obliged to pay for their efforts at economy?

It is not possible to assess precisely the many different factors affecting the consumption of electricity under war-time conditions and I cannot therefore give a precise reply to the first two parts of the Question. As regards the last part, electricity supply undertakings have not, since June, 1941, made any increases in their charges without the approval of the Government and I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the only grounds on which such approval is given is when the increases are unavoidably necessary to enable the undertaking to continue its function of maintaining supplies essential for the life of the community.

The hon. Gentleman has used the word "unavoidable." Does he consider it is right that the public should be asked to economise in electricity while at the same time tariff rates are put up; in other words that they should have to pay for their own economy?

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman can take it that there has been no great increase in the charges for electricity due to economy. He will also recall that there were complaints about minimum charges being excessive when they were about 15s. per quarter. An order was made later altering that to 25s. a year, which was certainly an advantage to small consumers.

Could we not economise in electricity by letting God's daylight into this House?

Palace Of Westminster

58.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he is satisfied that the Palace of Westminster is receiving its electricity supply on the most favourable terms; what applications have in the past been made for a supply on a maximum demand basis; when, and how, did these negotiations conclude?

I am not satisfied with the terms for supply of electricity to the Palace of Westminster, and attempts have been made without success at intervals over a period of years to obtain more favourable treatment. A recent application for a revision of terms is still before the supply authority.

As this has been going on for many years, will my hon. Friend get his Ministry to take a much firmer line with the Central London Electricity undertaking?

Is not this building so wired that if alternating current were supplied the system would break down? Is my hon. Friend aware that until the Office of Works rewire the building so that alternating current can be supplied the electricity company will have to have a special installation to supply this building alona?

In reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, we will certainly press forward with all possible vigour. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), I have discussed this matter with him on previous occasions.

Is not this building so inefficiently wired that they dare not put alternating current in the mains?

I might have to come to the House for a considerable sum of money to change it.

Have the Government considered the advisability of installing their own electricity plant?

Imperial Chemical Industries House

59,

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, whether he will obtain figures to show the average price per unit, including fixed charges, being charged to the Government by Central London Electricity, Limited, for electricity used in Imperial Chemical Industries House, Millbank, and to the latter before the Government took over their premises; and the total bill per annum payable by the Government and by Imperial Chemical Industries, calculated at the average price charged to them, respectively?

The information in question is already available and forms part of the case on which my Ministry is seeking more favourable terms from the supply authority.

Trade And Commerce

Cycle Repairs (Labour)

38.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to see that a sufficient number of cycle repairers remain to take care of the essential needs of the civilian population?

The arrangements for the calling-up of men for military service are in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. But my deferment officers are well aware of the need to maintain an adequate service for cycle repairs, and they are in close touch with the District Man-Power Boards.

Clothes Rationing

39.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the number of coupons at present issued to persons whose clothing has been destroyed by enemy action is sufficient to enable such persons to obtain one suit of clothes only; and whether he will give instructions that a sufficient number of coupons be issued to enable such persons to obtain two suits of clothes?

Sufficient coupons are already issued to enable persons, whose clothing has been destroyed by enemy action, to bring their stock of clothing up to a standard which provides for at least two suits.

40.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the reduction of the number of clothing coupons, he will consider the possibility of reducing the number of coupons which have to be surrendered for the purchase of women's stockings?

No decision has yet been taken regarding the number of clothing coupons to be made available in the next rationing period.

In fixing the ration in future, would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that people are being asked to surrender for stockings more coupons than they can possibly afford?

I am giving most careful consideration, and will continue to do so, to the questions of the basic ration in the next period, the various supplementary rations and the pointing of different garments. I would like to assure the hon. Gentleman that a great deal of thought and trouble is being put into this question of stockings. No lady is satisfied with them, as I know, and I am doing my best with expert advice, both male and female, to improve the quality. That, I think, is a better solution of the problem than altering the number of coupons.

Will my right hon. Friend take into consideration the advisability of exempting clothing for deceased persons from the application of the coupon order, in view of the great hardship which is placed upon relatives in having to provide clothing for shrouds and the like?

That is a different question from the one on the Paper, but I should be glad to have a word with my hon. Friend about it.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that many women are not wearing stockings at all now?

No doubt that is due to the weather. There may have been a particular temptation to go without last weekend.

Hosiery Machine Needles

41.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered the complaints made by the Leicester Hosiery Machine Needles Company, Limited; why they cannot have the needles they want; and what he intends doing about the matter?

The complaints of the Hosiery Machine Needle Company, Limited have been fully considered. As I informed my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) on Tuesday last, 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. This company asked recently for a licence to import certain needles, but as they have since admitted that their pre-war imports of such needles were negligible, I do not propose to grant their request.

Illiterate Children

44.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is in a position to make any statement as to the degree of literacy of the present school generation; and whether he has any information as to the number of boys and girls in senior schools and in youth clubs who cannot read?

No, Sir, the information which my hon. Friend desires is not available.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there are a number of young people who leave school illiterate, partly due to very large classes which involve the bringing-up of a child with an age group and not getting proper attention?

I should not like to generalise, but there are instances of what the hon. Member refers to. I think one of the reasons is that there is no con- tinuing education after children leave school, and they are very often tested long after they have left school and have not had facilities for continuing the education they ought to have had.

May I take it that the right hon. Gentleman is going to get rid of that disability in future?

Burma (Operations)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take an early opportunity of stating, so far as is possible, the complete position of the Arakan operations in Southern Burma; and whether, as a matter of urgency, he will consider arranging to have sent to India forthwith a mission comprising a few officers of high rank and experience in the Army and Royal Air Force drawn from the armies serving with General Alexander, to advise on improved methods of training, tactics and air cooperation, as gained through experience in the recent operations in North Africa?

I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) on 5th May.

In view of the urgency of the matter, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the suggestion in the light of all present circumstances?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the lessons of one campaign bearing on another are very carefully considered. I do not think the particular suggestion that he has made would be useful.

Is there not a considerable difference between the terrain, the climate and the malaria-sodden jungles of Arakan and the deserts of Tripoli and the mountains of Tunisia?

National Finance

Fighting French Forces (Financing)

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer by what method the Fighting French Forces pay us for equipment and services; and whether gold from French stocks has been ear-marked or passed to our credit for this purpose?

The Fighting French Forces are financed out of a credit which has been granted by His Majesty's Government. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the negative.

Wives' War Savings

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will take steps to ensure that a husband shall not be able to claim his wife's war savings in stamps, certificates or bonds even when it can be proved that she used part of the housekeeping money for this purpose?

In the case of Savings Certificates and bonds in respect of which re-payment can be required, application for payment must be made in writing by the registered holder. There is no register of holders of savings stamps, and a signature is not required when they are cashed. As regards the position if a husband disputed his wife's right to receive re-payment in these cases, I would refer to the reply which the hon. Member received from my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General on 12th May.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider discussing the matter with the Attorney-General in order to remove this injustice?

Would not the suggestion in the Question be conducive to dishonesty among wives and perpetuate a standards of housekeeping and faked figures which would not be good for the husband?

Post-War International Currency

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he proposes to publish a third White Paper constituting a compromise between the British and American Currency Schemes?

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement which I made in the Debate on 12th May, that the form which further expert consideration should take must largely be settled by convenience and that I shall continue to keep in close touch with Mr. Secretary Morgenthau as the matter proceeds and develops.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that there is no such White Paper in draft and will he tell our American friends that we have no intention of going back to gold at any time under any circumstances whatever?

Is Mr. Morganthau's assistant, Mr. White, the same Mr. White who has been making speeches to soldiers at Ipswich?

United States Silver (Release To Industry)

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the United States silver to be made available under Lend-Lease facilities will be released to industry through the bullion market?

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the price will be fixed by the market or by the Government, and has this the approval of the United States Administration?

House Of Commons Official Report (Sales)

51.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the average daily sale of Hansard for the period January to April, 1943, or any other convenient period, and the sales of the Hansard which reported the Beveridge Debate?

The average daily sale of reports issued for the period November, 1942, to February, 1943, including the three Beveridge Debate reports, was 2,438 copies. The average daily sale for the Beveridge Debate was 4,626 copies.

Are not a very large number of copies of the OFFICIAL REPORT put into the scrap basket every day? Does the Treasury get any payment for that salvage?

Lifeboats (Improved Devices)

54.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the latest improve- ments in life-saving apparatus and equipment in lifeboats; and whether these include at least partial protection against exposure to seas and weather?

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

I have been asked to reply. In the comprehensive answer on the subject of lifeboats which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) on 16th December last, I explained that protection against sea and weather had been provided by fitting canvas hoods and weather cloths to the boats, and by giving protective suits for crews and passengers. Since I made that answer, the new devices adopted include the following: Luminous compasses, apparatus for converting sea water into drinking water, a fabric rain catcher, modifications in the life-saving waistcoat to render the wearer more conspicuous in the water and to facilitate rescue, lifeboat ladders and lifeboat seat extensions to enable the occupants to lie down. Further improvements are in preparation.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider extending these improvements as soon as possible to the smaller minelaying craft, many of which have no equipment whatever in their lifeboats?

Did my hon. Friend some years ago see a demonstration in the river here in connection with a life-saving jacket? Are any of these packets in operation now?

I should like notice of that Question. We have many very recent improvements in life jackets.

Yes, Sir. It is simply a question of perfecting ideas on which we have been working for some time.

Air Transport Auxiliary (Women Pilots' Pay)

55.

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary receive the same rates of pay as men?

It has been decided that from the beginning of next month women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary who are engaged on full flying duties will receive the same rates of pay, rank for rank, as men similarly employed.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware how gratifying it is that this decision has been arrived at without pressure from the women Members of the House?

Is it the case that pilots in the Air Transport Auxiliary are paid at a much higher rate than pilots of the Royal Air Force?

Foreign Policy And Relations

56.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider the publication of a report on the foreign policy and relations between the years 1928 and 1942 and to include a copy of the relevant documents; and will he arrange for copies of the United States publication entitled "Peace and War" to he available to the House?

His Majesty's Government have this matter under consideration. I shall be glad to place in the Libraries of the Houses of Parliament the United States publication entitled "Peace and War."

University Grants Committee

57.

asked the Minister of Health whether it is proposed to add to the membership and funds of the University Grants Committee, in view of the plans for increased teaching in voluntary hospitals?

It is too early to express any view upon this, pending the report of the Committee on Medical Schools which is now sitting under the chairmanship of Sir William Goodenough.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that none of this money will be allowed to go to a bogus university at Boscombe known as the College of Divine Metaphysics, Incorporated, Indianapolis?

My hon. Friend can assume that any money available will be carefully and properly distributed. I noticed that "Janus" has been looking two ways.

Flying Accident, Downside School

(by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has any statement to make on the accident which took place on Saturday, 15th May, on the playing fields at Downside School, as a result of which nine boys were killed and 15 wounded, 10 seriously; whether the strictest instructions will be given forbidding low flying over playing fields and buildings in future, and whether in any instructions issued the public will be invited immediately to report any low flying in similar circumstances, whether carried out by the Fleet Air Arm or the R.A.F.?

An official inquiry is being held into this tragic occurrence, and until this has completed its work it would be premature for me to make any detailed statement. I can, however, say at once that standing Admiralty orders prohibit flying below 2,000 feet except in a few specially selected training areas. Some cases of low flying by naval aircraft have previously been reported by members of the public and have been dealt with by the appropriate authorities. It would seem therefore that the public are well aware of their rights and duties in this matter. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the deep sympathy of the Board of Admiralty with the authorities of the school and the relatives of the boys who were killed and injured.

While not wishing to prejudice the issue in view of the inquiry, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is not aware that this was not just an incident and that these planes were flying low over the field for a considerable time, only a few feet above the ground, so that the game had to stop?

I am sure that all the necessary evidence will be given at the inquiry.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider, unless questions of security are involved, making the report of the inquiry public?