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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1943

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

Questions To Ministers (Foreign Parliaments)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can furnish a list of the countries, outside the British Empire, in the Parliaments of which the practice of the interrogation of Ministers by means of questions is in operation?

In present circumstances it would be impossible with the material at our disposal to draw up a list with any degree of accuracy, but if my hon. Friend desires, I can take steps to obtain up-to-date information as regards those countries with which His Majesty's Government now maintain diplomatic relations.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he knows of more than about two countries in the whole world that have our democratic practice?

No, Sir, I do not know that I do, but, of course, methods differ. There are interpolations of different kinds, not always like our Question time.

Is it not a fact that at Question time, in a few moments, we always give the Government a great deal of advice?

Is it not a fact that Question time is very good for the Ministers?

British Council

House Of Commons Official Report (Overseas Libraries)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the overseas libraries of the British Council are regularly supplied with copies of Hansard and with the bound volumes of Hansard?

The British Council have supplied copies of any particular issues asked for by their representatives or institutes overseas, but no regular distribution has been made hitherto.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that in the reference libraries of these places there should be a greater record kept of the Proceedings of this House?

The British Council are quite willing to distribute Hansard regularly to their representatives abroad whenever it can be used to advantage.

Overseaslibraries And Reading-Room Centres

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many libraries or reading-room centres have been established overseas by the British Council?

The British Council have founded 67 libraries and reading-room centres overseas. They supply additional books and current periodicals regularly to these, as well as to 17 libraries attached to Anglophil societies and to a large number of university and school libraries.

Is this not exclusive of centres of occupied Europe established before the war?

Tangier (British And French Rights)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now take steps to restore British and French rights at Tangier?

British rights in Tangier are covered by the modus vivendi reached with the Spanish Government early in 1941 about which a full statement was made by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on February 26th, 1941. Under this modus vivendi British rights are fully safeguarded pending a final settlement, which cannot at present be reached, since it is not possible during the war for the signatories of the relevant international instruments to enter into negotiation. I am not prepared to make any statement regarding French rights at Tangier beyond recalling that the provisional arrangement to which I have referred was expressly concluded without prejudice to the rights of third parties under the relevant international instruments.

Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman does not regard the present modus vivendi as permanently satisfactory?

Rome (Bombing)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can give an assurance that no agreement, explicit or tacit, exists that Rome shall not be bombed; and whether, in view of the importance of Rome as a railway centre and the number of targets of military importance in and around the city, the bombing of Rome will be included in the aerial offensive against Italy?

No assurance or agreement exists of any kind whatever that Rome shall not be bombed. On the contrary, as stated to the House on previous occasions, we shall not hesitate to bomb Rome if the course of the war should render such action convenient and helpful.

May I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend whether, in view of the known accuracy of our bombers, he will give instructions that they should avoid the antiquities as far as possible, as in the case of Cologne Cathedral?

I have nothing to add to the reply which I have given en this matter.

Royal Navy

Barge Sinkings, Welsh Coast

9.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has considered the report on the disaster off the Welsh coast; and can he now make a statement concerning the report?

I regret that I am not yet in a position to add anything to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend on 12th May. Proper consideration of the report will take some little time.

British Sailors, Philippines (Treatment)

10.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to the punishment of British sailors who were said to have posed as civilians in the Philippines; and whether he will make a note of such actions for eventual retribution?

Owing to the difficulties of obtaining news regarding prisoners of war in the Philippines, it has so far proved impossible to obtain any information beyond what has already appeared in the Press. Further inquiries are, however, being made through Diplomatic channels.

Captains (Promotion)

11

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many captains of the Royal Navy have been promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and acting rear-admiral, respectively, without consideration of their place on the list, since 14th December, 1940?

Since 14th December, 1940, 19 captains have been promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and five captains to the rank of acting rear-admiral, irrespective of their positions on the captains' list.

Is it not a fact that, in spite of these promotions, there are still very few, even rear-admirals, under the age of 50 in the Royal Navy, with the result that the Navy, instead of being the senior Service, is rapidly becoming the senile Service?

Any such suggestion, in view of the record of the Royal Navy in this war, is most uncalled for.

Wound Pensions {Serving Personnel)

12.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether pensions in respect of wounds are being paid to officers and men wounded during this war but still serving?

Pensions in respect of wounds sustained in this war are not payable to officers and men while they continue to serve, but on termination of their service they are eligible for consideration for awards from the Ministry of Pensions.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the practice that was in operation until this war was brought to an end; and is he not aware that all through the last war and the period before the war officers who were being paid wound pensions were being paid while in the Service?

I think that my hon. and gallant Friend has been a little misinformed. The present position was that it was based on the change adopted by this House after the Report of the Select Committee of this House in 1921.

Will the right hon. Gentleman further consider this matter, because there are now officers serving who have lost limbs in this war but who have not been paid any wound pension at all, and is that not contrary to previous practice?

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will refresh his memory about the arrangements which have been made and which brought certain other advantages with regard to the payment of pensions for disease as well as for wounds by bringing all the practice into line in 1921.

Nigeria (Copper Production Grant)

13.

asked the Secretar of State for the Colonies whether, in respect of the grant of £750,000 made to the Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines to increase copper production in Northern Nigeria, this development will employ more Africans; whether conditions will be attached to such grant and employment with respect to family accommodation and some proportion of permanent settlement with reasonable amenities; and whether conditions will be imposed preventing colour-bar practices and the adoption of the, recommendations of the Commission into the Copperbelt disturbances?

The Ministry of Supply is making a grant of 50 per cent. of the cost of certain capital expenditure at the Nchanga copper mine for the purpose of obtaining an increase in output. Within that expenditure a sum of £135,000 is provided for the building of a township and native housing. There is no information here as to the exact items upon which the £35,000 will be spent, but the company is asking its local management in Northern Rhodesia to supply this information. The Ministry of Supply contract does not include provisions dealing with the matters referred to in the second and third parts of the Question.

May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether, when this grant is actually made, conditions with regard to the welfare of the African workers can be embodied in it, particularly in regard to work of a superior character, so that the colour bar does not operate, and, further, that certain wage standards should be established and general welfare provisions made with regard to the conditions of employment?

The hon. Gentleman will realise that this grant is made by the Ministry of Supply for the express purpose of increasing copper output during the war, and that must be the primary consideration.

Solomon Islands Operations (Awards For Civilian Gallantry)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many British administrative officers and natives in the Solomon Islands have been decorated for gallantry during recent operations against the Japanese?

The British Administrative Officer who was acting as District Officer, Guadalcanal, and was serving as a captain in the Island's Defence Force, has been awarded the Military Cross. A civilian award for gallantry has been made to a native retired sergeant-major of police, who has received the George Medal. In addition, exceptional devotion to duty in a theatre of war has been recognised by the award of the C.M.G. to Mr. Marchant, the Resident Commissioner; of the M.B.E. to a British District Officer; and of the B.E.M. to three native officers of the local Administration.

In view of the very great gallantry shown, not only by the administrative officers, but also by the native population, would it be possible to recognise this gallantry by some similar method to that by which the gallantry of Malta was recognised?

Trinidad (Food Control)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of discontent in Port of Spain arising from food shortage and alleged maldistribution; and whether he will make inquiries into the matter with a view to removing hardships and grievances?

Representations made to him regarding the administration of food control in Trinidad have been forwarded to me by the Governor who has stated that they are being examined by the Control Board which advises the Food Controller on matters of policy. I have asked the Governor to send me a further report as soon as the Board's recommendations have been received and considered by him.

In view of the apparent grave shortage and even hunger, cannot something be done meanwhile to expedite this matter?

The Committee are considering whether it would in fact be advantageous to alter the system.

Colonial Empire (Conscripted Labour)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what British Colonies legislation for compulsory labour service has been passed; and what are the numbers conscripted under these laws in each territory?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to unskilled manual labour conscripted for work in Government civil undertakings or private undertakings. Such conscription is permitted only when the labour necessary for purposes essential to the conduct of the war or maintenance of the life of the community cannot otherwise be obtained. The territories in which schemes for the conscription of such labour have been authorised by legislation are Nigeria, Kenya, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia, Mauritius, Fiji and Seychelles. As the further information asked for by my hon. Friend necessitates a statement of some length, I will, with his permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is there anything really very dreadful in conscripting certain natives for food production when everybody in this country is conscripted?

Does the Minister appreciate the great distinction between natives who have no self-government and ourselves?

May I ask the Minister whether private firms for whom these people are being conscripted pay the full 1000 per cent. E.P.T., or do they make a profit out of the conscripted labour?

Conscription can only be where there is need for work which is necessary for the war effort.

Following is the statement:

The only labour conscripted in Nigeria for schemes of this character is the labour conscripted for the tin mines, and the latest figure in my possession was given in my reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on the 24th March. In Kenya, the total number of conscripted men in employment at the end of January last was 14,561, out of a total of 254,810 labourers registered as being in employment. In Tanganyika, 3,623 labourers were conscripted during the period March to December, 1942. In December, 1942, a further requisition was issued for 5,000 men in view of labour requirements for the following six months, but it is not known what proportion of these has been compulsorily recruited. In Northern Rhodesia, the only conscription is for a small Government Labour Corps of about 500 men, of whom 115 only were compulsorily recruited. The Corps is used on farms for food production, or for any urgent Government work. Government supervision is provided for at all times. In Mauritius, a Labour Corps is in process of formation on the same lines as the Northern Rhodesia Corps, and with the same safeguards. I have no particulars at present regarding the number of men enrolled. In Fiji, a Defence Regulation exists empowering the Director of Man Power to direct any male person between 18 and 60 to perform essential work in the employ of the Government or of contractors working under the direct supervision of the Government or certain public Authorities. I have no information what, if any, use has been made of this Regulation. In Seychelles, the Compulsory Service Ordinance provides that adult male persons can be, if necessary, enrolled to do any work or render any personal service which the Governor may think necessary to order in aid of or in connection with the defence of the Colony. So far as the conscription of labour for civilian purposes is concerned, it is not known whether any use has been made of these powers. Compulsory powers have also been taken under the Food Production Ordinance as amended by Defence Regulations to secure the planting of land with a view to increasing the food supplies of the Colony. I understand that only about 11 men have been called upon to render service in this connection up to the present.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why forced labour was abandoned in Kenya; and what is now the position of those workers who have been conscripted in that Colony?

Recruitment of labour by conscription was suspended in February in order that the food supply difficulties should not be aggravated by a further addition to the numbers of Africans employed outside the Native Reserves. While I have no definite information on the point, it now seems probable that those recruited prior to the suspension will complete their period of service. But I am asking the Governor for a report.

Has the release of these natives materially improved the food situation there?

It helped during the critical period. Of course, improvement depends upon the new crop, and I am glad to say that in most areas of East Africa crop conditions seem favourable.

Jamaica

Agricultural Holdings

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give the approximate number of agricultural holdings in Jamaica, giving the number of separate holdings of half an acre and holdings of not more than 5 to 10, 10 to 50, 5o to 100 acres; 100 to 200, 200 to 500 acres; 500 to r,000 and the number exceeding 1,000 acres, respectively?

I regret that I am not in possession of this information. I will ask the Governor whether he can supply it in this form and will communicate with the hon. Member when I receive his reply.

Does not the Minister consider that in view of the economic developments now taking place in Jamaica it is highly important that there should be an accurate return as to the distribution of land?

I am asking the Governor for that, but I cannot guarantee that the information will be available in exactly the form for which the hon. Gentleman has asked.

Constitution

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the new Constitution has now been accepted by the Legislative Council of Jamaica; and whether with, or without, amendment?

I am glad to say that that Legislative Council have, by an unanimous vote, accepted the proposals for a new constitution. The elected members have submitted to me a number of proposals on points of detail and these are being examined, but the acceptance of the constitution is not conditional on the decisions of His Majesty's Government on these matters.

Seychelles (Defence Regulations)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will take steps to amend Section 10 of the Seychelles Defence Regulations (No. 4), 1942, as the penalty of immediate forfeiture of all foodstuffs grown by the offender is out of proportion to the offence of pilferage?

No, Sir. The Seychelles Defence Regulation to which my hon. Friend refers leaves it to the discretion of the court whether the full penalty should be imposed, and the court would, no doubt, take into consideration any mitigating circumstances.

Does it not seem very unreasonable to withhold the livelihood of an offender in such cases?

The hon. Gentleman must remember that the offender has deprived someone else of his livelihood by stealing these crops.

Ceylon (Child Adoption Ordinance)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Adoption of Children Ordinance, 1941, of Ceylon, passed by that Government with the object of restraining child slavery, but which contained a section suspending its operation; whereby it can only be brought into force by proclamation, is now in operation; and, if not, will he take immediate steps to effect the same?

The Governor of Ceylon reported in January last that steps were being taken to prepare and to introduce in the Ceylon State Council at an early date legislation providing for certain amendments to this Ordinance which were regarded as desirable before it was brought into operation. I will ask the Governor for a further report and will communicate with the hon. Gentleman when I have received it.

In view of the years of delay in this matter, would the Minister put the maximum pressure on the local Government in Ceylon to push on with the task of implementing these Ordinances?

I am anxious to see this done, but the hon. Gentleman will realise that this is one of the matters in which Ceylon exercises a very great measure of self-government.

Stutley Colliery (Miners' Transport)

23.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport why arrangements for the conveyance of miners from Creswell, Clown and Whitwell to Stutley colliery have been so changed as to cause inconvenience, a longer period away from home, and debars them the use of the canteen and pit-head baths they are accustomed to; and whether the arrangements are of a temporary character or not?

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

The new arrangements were made at the request of the Shireoaks Colliery Company. They are now, however, being reviewed by the Regional Transport Commissioner and the Regional Controller of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, who hope and expect that a satisfactory settlement will be reached this week.

Empire Cables (Censorship)

24.

asked the Minister of Information whether the additional instructions issued to the censorship in March last year with regard to outgoing Press messages are still in operation; to what extent and with what results they have been applied during the past year to the despatches of Empire Press correspondents and others; and whether he intends to continue to make use of these powers?

Yes, Sir. Press censors are still required to refer to their directors any passage in an outgoing message which might cause serious misunderstanding or ill-feeling between the United Nations. Only a very small proportion of Press cables have, in fact, to be referred on these grounds. In practice it has not been necessary to modify or delete more than one word out of every 10,000 filed by overseas correspondents. Even then the emendations have nearly always been achieved by friendly agreement with the correspondents concerned. This is a very satisfactory state of affairs, and it is proof of the high degree of responsibility exercised by all the Empire correspondents in this country. Nevertheless, I do not think it would be wise to withdraw the powers conferred on the censorship in view of the harm that can be done by even a single indiscretion. I will gladly repeat the assurance I have given the House that these powers will never be used in such a way as to handicap legitimate criticism. It is right that the fullest and frankest despatches of Empire correspondents should be transmitted to their papers. These correspondents represent newspapers of great influence and responsibility and their work plays a vital part in the growth of sympathy and understanding between Britain and the rest of the Empire.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why quotations from American papers about certain events in this country are allowed in our Press here which the Ministry will not allow our newspapers to publish direct?

The hon. Gentleman is a little bit confused. Anything published by American newspapers is not subject to our censorship, and I do not intend to take responsibility for the Ministry of Information of the United States. I have enough work to do here.

Can the Minister explain why the Truman Committee's report on our shipping losses was published in this country from America?

If the hon. Gentleman will put that question down, I will see if I can provide him with an answer.

Scrap Metal Dumps (Collection)

27.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he will take steps to clear up the large dumps of iron-scrap which have been lying for years in most country villages before he proceeds with further requisitions from private owners?

Systematic arrangements are in operation for the clearance of village dumps, though it must necessarily take a considerable time to cover the whole of the rural areas. These dumps yield a high proportion of very light scrap, and there is a marked deficiency of heavier material which it is necessary to meet from other sources including requisitions from private owners.

Is the hom. Gentleman aware that people all over the country are tired of seeing these big heaps, which they have patriotically helped to put there, while their railings are taken away without due notice having been given? Why does he not do what the paper people do—have regular collections? Why cannot he have a collection once every year, every six months or every three months in order to remove these dumps?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that these dumps are being systematically cleared with every county drive. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Whenever there has been a county drive for scrap metal every dump has been systematically cleared. There are certain dumps in parts of the country where a county drive has not yet taken place. In addition to what I said in my answer and to reinforce it, I would like to point out that there is a large amount of light scrap in village dumps which is not rich enough in content for the purpose of smelting. Where this is so heavier metal has to be mixed with it.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether these county drives are supposed to synchronise with this war or the next?

There have been about 28 county drives so far, and if the hon. Member subtracts that number from the total number of counties, he will have his answer.

Band Performances, Royal Parks

31.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works the reasons for band performances in Greenwich Park being so much later in the season than similar performances in other London parks?

I regret that, owing to the limited funds available for band performances during the war, it has been necessary to reduce the number of performances in all the Royal Parks. I will, however, consider the possibility off making an earlier start in Greenwich Park next year.

May I take it that the residents of South London will not be unduly prejudiced as against other parts of London?

Yes, my hon. Friend may have that reply and may be satisfied that they are not being unduly prejudiced. The amount of money that has been made available for such entertainments has been substantially reduced and every one of the parks has had the opportunities of listening to bands limited.

House Of Commons Members' Fund

34.

asked the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope), as representing the trustees, whether he is aware that the income of the House of Commons Members' Fund, derived from the statutory contributions of hon. Members, is proving to be 10 times as great as the calls on the fund; and whether, in these circumstances, he will obtain an early report from the Government Actuary, as provided under Section 3 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act?

In view of the fact that several of us take considerable interest in this Question, will steps be taken to put it on the Order Paper for the next Sitting Day or the next subsequent Sitting Day, and will some intimation be sent to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that we should like his presence here?

It is customary when a Minister is not present that the Question can be asked again later. I propose to allow that in this case.

At the end of Questions—

On a point of Order. As the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) was not present to answer Question 34, will it be in Order for me to put that Question again in the next series of Sittings?

Enemy-Occupied Europe (Food Supplies)

35.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he will permit dried milk and vitamin concentrates to be sent to Greece, France, Belgium and Poland to provide children under 16 years of age, nursing and expectant mothers with a daily ration sufficient to ward off the worst deficiency diseases; and is he aware that the money, supplies and shipping are available and that the International Red Cross would be able to pro. vide for full control of the distribution?

As regards the shipment of milk and vitamin concentrates to Greece, I would refer my hon Friend t0 the answer which I gave on 11th May to my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey). Otherwise the policy of His Majesty's Government remains as laid down by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 20th August, 1940. After the fullest consideration, and with the deepest sympathy for the Allied peoples of Europe in their sufferings under German rule, His Majesty's Government are convinced that a general action of the kind described would inevitably be exploited by the enemy for his own advantage. Moreover, such action could hardly be confined to the countries named in the Question, and the provision of foodstuffs for children and nursing and expectant mothers throughout Occupied Europe would involve a very serious breach in the blockade. I regret, therefore, that except in the case of Greece the answer to the first part of the Question must be in the negative. As regards the second part of the Question, no information has been received by His Majesty's Government to show that money, supplies and shipping are now available for this purpose. Nor does there exist in France, Belgium or Poland any machinery of control which we could possibly accept as adequate. As I have frequently pointed out in answers to Questions on this subject, neutral control of imported foodstuffs is an insufficient guaranfee unless it is accompanied by control over the domestic food supplies of the countries in question.

In view of the fact that vitamins and dried milk could only be used for expectant mothers and children, is it not a fact that they could be of no value to the enemy?

I do not agree. Local supplies of milk are one of the commodities which the German occupying troops are most liable to seize, and if we sent in any substantial quantities of dried milk we should merely be adding to the pool of foodstuffs available to them.

In view of the fact that the Minister made an exception in respect of control as far as Belgium is concerned, is it not possible for this action to be taken experimentally with Belgium in order to do something at least to alleviate this very serious position?

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the original answer he will see that I made no exception as regards control in Belgium.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his reply will be 'read with very great satisfaction by many people who do not sympathise with the humanitarian agitation against the enforcement of the blockade?

Is there any evidence that the Germans have actually seized any of these foods which have been allowed in?

The only case in which they have been allowed in is that of Greece. For a considerable time throughout last summer when the first emergency shipments were going to Greece the German and Italian occupying forces were laying their hands as hard as they could on Greek domestic produce.

Will the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the best service we can do to the people in the occupied countries is to win the war as quickly as possible and that, to achieve that end, it is desirable that we should apply the very potent weapon of blockade? Further, is it not significant that just at the time when the weapon of the blockade is becoming most effective there is the strongest possible agitation to lift it?

Captured Generals (Pay)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether General von Arnim is now in England; how he will be treated; whether he will receive the same rate of pay as the Italian general captured some time ago; will it be paid by the Government of Germany; how many of our generals have been captured; how are they treated; and do they get the same pay?

General von Arnim is now in England. He will be treated in the manner appropriate to his rank like other prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 1929. This Convention lays down that officer prisoners of war shall receive the rate of pay, of their rank in their own forces or in the forces of the detaining Power, whichever is the less. British rates are higher than German rates, and so General von Arnim will receive the rate of pay appropriate to his rank in the German army, Italian generals in our hands receive Italian rates of pay, which are appreciably higher than, the corresponding German rates. All pay issued to German officer prisoners of war is recoverable under the Geneva Convention from the German Government after the war. One general from the United Kingdom is in German hands and four are in Italian hands. They are treated and paid in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

Could General von Arnim receive a ration card so as to prevent his getting too liberal an allowance of food?

Is any notice taken of promotions conferred on generals on the eve of their capture?

I do not know whether that applies to any generals, but the rule is that promotions are notified to the detaining Power, and thereafter conditions will apply in accordance with. the promotion.

General von Arnim is paid £16 a month, and that will be paid in sterling.

On what rate of exchange between the two currencies are the payments in sterling made?

Prisoners Of War, Far East

36.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now state the number of British and Allied prisoners of war released by the Japanese authorities to date; and also the approximate number still under detention?

Except for a few Chinese and Eurasian members of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, I am not aware that the Japanese have released any British, Dominion, Indian or Colonial troops. It is estimated that more than 108,000 of these troops are prisoners in Japanese hands. I regret that I have no figures of Allied troops who are prisoners of war.

Are negotiations going on now with a view to securing the release of as many British and Allied prisoners as possible?

I am not in a position to say that negotiations are going on at the moment, but I can assure my hon. Friend that every endeavour has been and will be made by the Government to achieve that object.

French North Africa (Administration)

38.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is yet in a position to indicate the future form of government and administration in the North African States?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply which I gave yesterday in answer to a Question by my hen. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne), to which I have nothing to add.

Is the process of discarding Vichy officials proceeding satisfactorily?

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that we are not fighting this war in order to acquire more territory?

Production Committees (Amalgamated Engineering Union's Report)

39.

asked the Minister of Production the result of his investigation of the individual cases cited in the report of the Amalgamated Engineering Union on Production Committees.

I have now had the report carefully examined. The report deals with difficulties of 1942, and generally speaking I do not think it would be profitable to take further action on any of the particular cases to which reference is made. In general, I am satisfied that existing machinery is adequate for dealing with current problems.

Food Supplies

Sacks (Size)

41.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will take steps to ensure that sugar and other commodities are bagged in one cwt. instead of two cwt. sacks as at present, so as to relieve the physical strain caused to those who handle them?

Commodities are packed in containers of varying sizes ranging up to 2 cwt. sacks. Owing to the shortage in the supply of jute it would not be possible to restrict the size of the container in all cases to 1 cwt. sacks. In the case of sugar the use of 1 cwt. sacks in place of a 2 cwt. sack would entail an increase in the quantity of jute required of well over 20 per cent.

If the hon. Gentleman's Ministry can possibly do this in the near future, will they take note of the suggestion I have made, especially in view of the fact that some of these workpeople are likely to suffer from rupture because of the heavy weights they have to handle?

We shall be glad to do so. We recognise the force of the hon. Gentleman's request.

North African Products

42.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Food whether, in view of the victory in Africa of the United Nations, he can make a statement as to the prospects of obtaining dried fruit, sardines and other foodstuffs for consumption in this country?

My Department has been represented in North Africa since the early days of the Allied occupation, and no effort is being spared to ensure that any useful foodstuffs in excess of local needs and of which an exportable surplus exists there are made available to the United Nations.

New Ration Books (Distribution)

46.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the proposal to issue the new ration books, with National Registration identity cards, to the public in Portsmouth from one centre only; what representations he has received from the municipal council on the subject; and whether he will take steps to meet the objections so far as possible?

I am aware of the proposal to issue new ration books and identity cards in Portsmouth from one centre, and representations have been received from the city council. My Department's local officers will take all possible steps to minimise inconvenience to the public.

If labour shortage is the reason, as I understand it is, cannot the Women's Voluntary Services be called in?

Fish (Prices)

47.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will give details of the prices of the varieties of fish which are below the pre-war price to the consumer; whether fishermen are satisfied with the yield to them; and whether he can state the basis on which they are remunerated?

Local and periodical variations of fish prices before the war make any comparisons with current prices difficult and probably misleading, but it would appear that, in general, the present maximum prices of soles and hake are not above pre-war prices. It is not possible to make detailed comparisons. So far as I have the means to judge, fishermen are, in general, not dissatisfied with their returns. The various sections of fishermen have different bases of remuneration into which fixed wages, poundage on the net return realised by the catch, risk money, share and stocker or perquisites may enter.

Shell Fish (Lobsters)

48.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that lobsters have a maximum retail price of 3s. 3d. per lb. where there is no maximum wholesale price; that hotels are buying them wholesale at 5s. 6d. per lb. and that consequently there are none available for the public; and will he take action in the matter?

44.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will consider a revision of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Shell Fish) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 631), having regard to the fact that the maximum prices fixed are such that supplies are not likely to be available to the public?

I saw a report in a newspaper to the effect that hotels were buying lobsters at 5s. 6d. a lb. An immediate and exhaustive investigation failed to reveal evidence of any sort to justify the report or that prices above the maximum were being paid by any buyers. In any case the current maximum price of 3s. 3d. a lb. applies to any sale of lobsters. The effect of the Order on supplies and distribution is being watched, and my Noble Friend will take any further action which may be necessary in the light of experience.

I shall be glad to have the facts on which my hon. and gallant Friend's Question is based.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Plaistow received two lovely crabs free of charge yesterday?

Is there no difference between the wholesale price and the retail price?

Milk (Cleanliness)

51.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that caps from previous fillings are frequently found at the bottom of bottles of pasteurised milk; whether the caps are pasteurised; and what steps he is taking to ensure the cleanliness of the milk supply?

My right hon. Friend has heard of a single instance of this. The enforcement of the relevant Regulations is a matter for local authorities, and he has recently taken the opportunity of asking them to concentrate attention upon cleanliness in method of production, treatment and distribution.

Is the hon. Lady aware that this Question was put down to the Ministry of Food, and an: I to understand that they disclaim any responsibility for the purity of the food supply?

Cleanliness of milk comes under the supervision of local authorities and therefore under the Ministry of Health.

Is the hon. Lady aware that this Question has nothing to do with pasteurisation, and that as the same accident in production may occur to sterilised milk, raw milk, T.T. milk or any other kind of milk, it does not reflect on the method of pasteurisation?

In view of the hon. Lady's last reply, may I ask what her Department is doing with a view to providing safe milk for the public?

Ministry Of Food (Public Relations Department)

43.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food how many men of military age are employed in the Public Relations Department of the Ministry of Food; how many are in the respective military grades; and whether he will consider replacing the men in the higher categories by women or by men of lower military categories or over military age?

The number of males of military age employed is 11, all of whom by reason of the fact that they were over 30 at the time of registration, are reserved under existing arrangements applicable to Government Departments generally. So long as these arrangements continue the question of replacement does not arise. One was invalided out of the Navy; one has been placed in Grade 11; no others has been examined for the purpose of medical classification.

Ministry Of Supply

Tree Felling

49.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that trees have been felled in an area, of which he has been informed, by contractors under his Department before any agreement has been made and in disregard of the terms of the draft agreement with the owner, in violation of the requirements of good felling and without regard to representations made to his officials on the subject; and will he take steps to rectify grievances in this case and avoid such damage and breach of contract elsewhere in future?

Yes, Sir. I regret that, owing to a misunderstanding, felling commenced on this estate before the agreement had been signed and before the work had been authorised. Steps are being taken to rectify the grievances in this case and to avoid a similar happening in the future.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his frank confession, may I ask him whether he recognises that the trees that have been felled and that were reserved for that particular estate, are no longer of value to the estate as felled trees because they cannot grow any more.

I am very sorry, and I regret what happened in this case, but I cannot do any more than promise that we will take any steps we can to rectify it.

Form Rp 331A

50.

asked the Minister of Supply how many forms, R.P. 331A, have been issued by his Department; and what is the estimated number of man-hours required for their completion by the recipients?

We have so far issued 288 copies of this form, which has been approved by a panel representing the industry. It is not possible to estimate the time required to complete the form, as this must depend on the number and nature of the contracts held and the state of the firm's records.

Is not consideration given to the amount of time required to fill up this form? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in one small company the filling-up of this form occupied four men a whole week?

I am surprised to hear that that is so. In any case, this form was approved by a panel of the industry consisting of technical persons all engaged in this business who knew exactly what was required. In such cases as I have been able to get information about the time has varied from five minutes to three hours.

Scottish Bank Notes

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that Scottish Service men stationed in England only receive 19s. 6d. in exchange for notes issued by Scottish banks; and will he take steps to end this practice?

Scottish bank notes are not legal tender in England, and a bank cashing such notes in England may charge for the service of forwarding them to the Scottish bank of issue for collection. In practice, I am advised that the holder of a Scottish note can cash it without charge at the head office in London of any of the Scottish banks. As pointed out by my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General in the reply which he gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Kennedy) on 26th March, 1942, post offices accept Scottish bank notes if tendered in payment for any post office transaction. Generally, the number of Scottish notes presented in England has been reduced by the administrative arrangements under which payments to members of the Forces proceeding from Scotland to England are made in Bank of England notes.

Is it not about time this position was rectified? If Scottish bank notes are not legal tender in England, will the hon. Member take steps to abolish them altogether?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that banks in Scotland are more or less controlled by banks in England, and why should the shareholders benefit from this transaction?

As Scotsmen make the pound go very much further than Englishmen, is it not fair that there should be such a charge?

As the Post Office pays 20s. for each Scottish pound note, will the hon. Gentleman undertake to get a promise from the banks that they will pay 20S.?

Public Road Transport Dispute, West Riding

53.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can make any statement regarding the present position of the stoppage of public road transport in Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Wakefield and other West Riding districts; and what action is being taken to reach a settlement of the dispute?

Following the issue of the arbitration award in respect of the recent application on behalf of road passenger transport workers, unofficial stoppages of work or restrictions on normal services have occurred in a few areas in different parts of the country. The unions concerned have taken urgent steps to secure a resumption of work, and a full resumption has taken place, except in some areas served by certain undertakings in the West Riding.

Is not the situation rather more serious than the hon. Member seems to indicate? It is not just two places, because a large number of districts have been without transport for several days.

Is the Minister aware that this stoppage—I will call it a stoppage; I had better not use the other word—is affecting the production of coal, and will he and some of the Members behind him keep this fact in mind, and not in future throw it at the miners that they are not producing coal?

Will the Minister not take some action to bring the parties together, so as to remove what is causing the greatest inconvenience to war workers in the area in addition to the mining industry?

The unions concerned have taken urgent steps in the matter, and I would rather not add to the answer which I have given.