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Written Answers

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 27 May 1943

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Written Answers

Food Supplies

Milk (Rationalisation Schemes)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is satisfied that milk zoning schemes are not operated unfairly to individual retailers; and what investigation is made of complaints in this respect?

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. Where complaints have been received regarding the effect of rationalisation schemes on individual firms immediate action has been taken through war time associations to endeavour to remove the cause of the grievance. If the hon. Member's attention has been drawn to any cases where schemes are alleged to be operating unfairly, I shall be glad if he will supply me with particulars, so that I may have inquiries made.

Navy, Army And Air Force Institutes

asked the Secretary of State for War how far regulations prescribed to the civilian public with regard to the use of food need not be observed by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes in its transactions?

I have been asked to reply. The regulations relating to the obtaining or supply of rationed foods for household consumption apply whether such foods are purchased from Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes or from any other retailer.

Meat Ration, Northern Ireland

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why, in view of the fact that Northern Ireland produces more meat than is consumed there, it has been necessary to impose a local cut of one-third in the meat ration of Londonderry?

Whilst, over the year as a whole, Northern Ireland produces more meat than is required to supply the ration, local production falls below requirements at this time of the year and during the last two or three weeks it has been necessary to reduce the ration by about one-third, as a temporary measure to avoid the transport of meat from Great Britain. The full ration will be resumed next week.

Public Health

Tuberculosis

asked the Minister of Health whether any national survey has been undertaken to ascertain the effects of poor housing conditions and of malnutrition upon the incidence of tuberculosis?

Reports were published before the war by the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis on "Causal Factors in Tuberculosis" and "Tuberculosis and Social Conditions in England"; and t understand that the association is at present conducting an inquiry into the relation between malnutrition and tuberculosis. The subject is also mentioned in the report issued in October last of the Medical Research Council's Committee on Tuberculosis in Wartime. Various lines of medical research are being officially pursued on the general question of nutrition which may prove to throw some light on the particular question of the incidence of tuberculosis.

Diphtheria (Immunisation)

asked the Minister of Health what was the estimated number of children immunised under five and over five years of age, and the estimated percentage of children of the same age immunised, in the county districts of Northamptonshire, and submitted to him by medical officers of health for that county for the following periods: January, 1940,to June, 1941; July, 1941, to December, 1941; and for each of the six-monthly periods of 1942?

The county medical officer of health has informed me that at the end of 1942 the numbers of immunised children in the county districts of Northamptonshire were 8,000 children under five and 28,250 children aged five to 15. He estimates that these figures represent 46 per cent. and 74 per cent. respectively of the children in the two age groups specified. This information was obtained as the result of a special investigation made by the county medical officer of health. The periodical estimates referred to in the latter part of the Question are made to me by county district medical officers of health in order that the progress of the immunisation campaign may be roughly assessed. Estimates for this purpose need not be subjected to such careful scrutiny as the county medical officer of health has applied to his figures, and I should not be justified in publishing them.

Identity Cards

asked the Minister of Health on what date British subjects became exempt from the obligation to carry with them their National Registration identity cards, having regard to the fact that they are now specifically enjoined to carry it only in the four areas specified in the Emergency Powers (Defence) Regulated Areas Order (Statutory Rule and Order, No. 714, 1943)?

Under the National Registration Act, as amended by Defence Regulation 20AB, it is the duty of a person to produce his identity card when required to do so by a police officer or other prescribed person. He cannot of course discharge that obligation unless he is carrying his identity card at the time when he is required to produce it. But in the event of his failure to produce it, the Act as amended provides that he shall not be convicted of an offence in respect of his default if the identity card is produced within the prescribed period at the place and to the person prescribed. These provisions are not affected by the Order referred to by my hon. Friend which, as he will appreciate, imposes a specific duty to carry as well as to produce the identity card, without the qualification which I have mentioned.

British Army

Billeting Rates

asked the Secretary of State for War why the billeting allowance of troops fixed by Army Regulations remains at £I 3s. 6d. per week, including catering, whilst persons employed in sedentary occupation in the Army Pay Corps are given a higher allowance to make their own lodging arrangements at £1 7s. 6d. per week in the same district?

The billeting rates were increased on 18th May. The weekly payment made depends on the services provided. It will range from £1 6s. 10d. if only a billet and meals are provided to £. 9S. 2d. in winter and £1 8s. od. in summer if heating, extra lighting, laundry and baths are provided as well.

Officers (Hospital Charges)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider amending the Pay Warrant so that officers in His Majesty's Forces will.not, as now, be obliged to pay 2s. 6d. per day hospital charges while they are patients in the Emergency Medical Service or any other grade of military hospital, whether or not their injuries are directly attributable to military service so long as it is not the result of their own misconduct; and whether Naval or Royal Air Force officers have to pay this charge?

These payments are not in the circumstances unreasonable and I do not consider that the change suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend is justified. No charge is made in the case of admissions for wounds received in action or illness contracted in the field. Royal Air Force officers make the same payments as Army officers. The rules in force in the Navy differ in this as in other respects.

Weekly Newspaper Staffs (Calling-Up)

asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the importance of weekly newspapers, especially at the present time, in maintaining morale and stimulating the war effort, whether he will ensure, in all cases where possible, the retention of such minimum staff as is essential to continue publication?

I have already take steps to ensure that essential workers are not withdrawn from the weekly newspaper. A special Committee, set up two years ago, advises me on the deferment of calling up for military service of men engaged in the newspaper industry. No men over military age have hitherto been withdrawn from weekly newspapers and the advice of the Committee will be sought before any such men are withdrawn. As regards women, arrangements have already been made for the retention of essential workers in the industry.

North-West Frontier Province (Arrests And Sentences)

asked the Secretary of State for India the number of arrests, imprisonments and detentions for offences con- nected with or arising out of political disturbances in North-West Frontier Province during the past year?

The latest available figures show that in the period beginning last August a total of 2,484 persons have been arrested, 1,523 sentenced to imprisonment and 500 placed in detention.

Paint Supplies, Scotland

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that under present regulations the public may not purchase oil paint for the internal protection of their houses, even when the houses have become infested with vermin or been exposed to germs such as tubercle bacilli; and whether, as such conditions exist in certain areas of Glasgow and elsewhere, he will ensure that where there is reason to suspect the presence of vermin and infectious germs every facility should be given to householders and property owners to purchase paint for redecorating and protecting their homes against infection and the spread of vermin?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Supply, on 26th May, to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Accrington (Major Procter).

Civilian Steel Helmets (Chin-Straps)

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that most steel helmets issued to part-time fire-guards are without chin-straps and are useless in an emergency requiring movement on the part of the wearers; and. whether he will have this deficiency remedied?

No chin-strap is provided for the civilian type of steel helmet because this helmet does not normally require it. Lugs are, however, provided on the helmet, to which improvised chinstraps, such as tape, can be attached, and fireguards to whom helmets are issued can make their own chin-straps in this way.

Newspaper Article (Official Authorisation)

asked the Home Secretary whether he has now completed the promised inquiry into the disclosures about armament factories, &c., in the newspaper article sent to him by the hon. Member for Maryhill on 20th April, 1943; and has he any statement to make?

Yes, Sir. I have considered my hon. Friend's representations, but as I find that the statement to which he refers was officially authorised it is outside the scope of Defence Regulation 3, which contains an express exception for anything done under official authority.

Seadromes

asked the Prime Minister whether he will inquire into the reasons which have prevented the adoption of the type of anchored seadrome whose feasibility and value were recognised by the Plans Division of the Admiralty two years ago, but without resulting in effective action, as a protection against submarine warfare, to reduce shipping losses and facilitate the flying across the Atlantic of short-range aeroplanes now requiring shipment?

I have been asked to reply. The reasons why the anchored seadrome has not been adopted are substantially the same as those which were given by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty in his reply on 20th May to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield).

Agriculture

Harvest Workers (Advertisements)

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the need for men to help with the food harvest, the war agricultural executive committees or the chambers of commerce or trade or any other similar bodies are authorised to advertise for workers; and, in such cases, whether the State defrays the costs?

My Department is making arrangements with county war agricultural executive committees for local publicity, including Press advertisements, to secure supplementary labour for the harvest. The cost will be borne by the Exchequer.

Pest Control

asked the Minister of Agriculture what species of birds and mammals have, in connection with the control of pests, been listed for extermination and/or quantitative control; in the case of those listed for quantitative control, how is the desired population-level determined and the actual population-level measured; and what machinery is adopted for protecting British fauna from indiscriminate destruction and for protecting rare or beneficial species?

The pest control policy of my Department aims at the extermination of rats and mice, wild rabbits, grey squirrels and wood pigeons, and at reducing the numbers of deer, foxes, moles, rooks, sparrows and pheasants to a point where they cease to be so numerous as to be likely to cause injury to agriculture. It is the responsibility of county war agricultural executive committees to determine, in the light of the circumstances in each area, what steps if any should be taken to effect such reductions. As regards the last part of the Question, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has certain responsibilities under legislation concerned with the prevention of cruelty to animals and the preservation of wild birds.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many officers for control of pests have been appointed by his Department and the war agricultural, executive committees; and what scientific or technical qualifications are these officers required to have?

The number of technical officers engaged in pest control on the staff of the Ministry and the county war agricultural executive committees is six and in respectively. No specific technical or professional qualifications can be laid down for posts of this nature. Some of the staff are men with practical experience. Others, although they possess a general knowledge of rural conditions, have been appointed primarily because of their capacity as organisers which enables them to supervise and control the staffs who are engaged in carrying out the actual work of pest destruction.

Open-Cast Coal (North Midland Region)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether any production has been lost by industrial concerns owing to refusing to use open cast won coal in the North Midland Region?

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many refusals to use open cast won coal by industrial concerns in the North Midland Region have come to his notice; and how many representations he has received from household consumers who have had to use this product because of such refusals?

Detailed information is not available, but on the whole industrial consumers in the North Midland Region have co-operated in the utilisation of opencast coal, and I know of no case where, owing to its refusal by an industrial concern, it has been forced into the housecoal market.

"Aeroplane Spotter" (Paper Supply)

asked the Home Secretary whether a decision has yet been reached with reference to the supply of paper for the "Aeroplane Spotter"?

The matter is still under consideration. I will let my hon. Friend know as soon as a decision has been reached.

House Of Commons Chamber (Lighting)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether, having regard to the great improvement in the lighting and amenities of the Chamber which has been demonstrated, with no detriment to acoustics, when a certain number of windows have been thrown open recently, he will now arrange for the glazing of those windows?

I would refer to the reply given to the hon. Member for Leeds Central (Mr. Denman) cm 21st April and to previous replies on this subject. The window panels which were recently opened form only a small portion of the total window surface and the complete reglazing of the windows as suggested would undoubtedly affect adversely the acoustical conditions in the Chamber. Apart from this consideration, I should add that the metal frames of the windows have been removed and that considerable difficulty would be experienced in obtaining the labour and material required for their replacement. The opening of the windows would also raise problems of draught, whilst their reglazing would present difficulties of black-out which are not inconsiderable under existing conditions.

Air Services Appropriation Account (Report)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, while realising the necessity of providing for additional facilities arising from strategic considerations, he will make a detailed statement on the Auditor General's Report on the Air Services Appropriation Account for the year ended 31st March, 1942, as to who was responsible for the want of foresight and errors of judgment, especially as regards the £334,000 of estimated cost, stated to be abnormal; and whether it is proposed to take disciplinary action against any of the persons or companies concerned?

On the information before me, I am unable to accept the implications of the hon. Member's Question. The Report referred to will, however, be considered by the Public Accounts Committee very shortly. As the Committee will report to the House it would, I suggest, be inappropriate for me to make any further comment at this stage.

International Wheat Council

asked the President of the Board of Trade (r) whether a Report of the work of the International Wheat Council is yet available; whether a meeting was held in January in accordance with the provision of the Draft Wheat Convention; and, if so, with what results;(2) whether it is possible to give any indication as to the conditions which will have to prevail before the International Wheat Conference referred oto in the memorandum signed at Washington on 22nd April is convened?

The memorandum of 22nd April, 1942, provides that

"the United States, so soon as after consultation with other countries it deems the time propitious, should convene a Wheat Conference of the nations having a substantial interest in international trade in wheat which are willing to participate."
The International Wheat Council held its regular biannual meeting on 28th and 29th January last. No formal report was made but the following communique was published at the close of the meeting:
"The Council appraised the present and prospective supply position in Argentina, Australia, Canada and the United States and concluded that, despite the heavy demand in both. Canada and the United States for wheat to feed to livestock, the aggregate stocks of wheat in those four countries at the end of their 1942/43 crop-years would be the highest on record, about 1,750 to 1,800 million bushels compared with the previous high record figure of about 1,325 million bushels at the end of their 1941/42 crop-years. The delegates discussed the plans now being made to control wheat production in 1943 and concluded that those would probably result in a further substantial reduction in wheat acreage in each of the four countries, particularly in those countries where the greatly increased livestock population and the national campaigns to promote increased production of special war crops will facilitate the diversion of wheat lands to other uses. The members of the Council exchanged views on preparations to ensure that there shall be no delay in the provision of wheat and wheat flour for inter-governmental relief in war-sticken and other necessitous areas so soon as circumstances permit. With a view to facilitating the provision of such relief the Council empowered its Executive Committee to assume, upon the establishment of the intergovernmental relief body envisaged in the international wheat agreement, the Council's authority to call upon the governments concerned to give their already agreed contribution to the relief pool. The Council instructed its Executive Committee to request the Governments of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to deliver part or all of their initial contributions of 25, 25 and 50 million bushels respectively at the times, rates and places and in the forms recommended by that Committee after consultation with the intergovernmental relief body."

North-Eastern Trading Estate, Gateshead

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has delegated his powers as controller of the factory and storage premises situate in the North-Eastern Trading Estate, Gateshead, to the district valuer as the requisitioning authority to take possession of land and buildings situate in that estate?

The Controllers of Factory and Storage Premises, acting on my behalf, co-ordinate in their regions the demands of Government Departments for space for war production and storage and allocate it among the Departments. As evidence of allocation of any particular premises, the Controllers issue an "authority to acquire" to the Department concerned. The arrangements for requisitioning and compensation are the responsibility of the Department to whom the authority has been issued. I understand that the district valuer, to whom my hon. Friend refers, undertakes requisitioning negotiations on behalf of the Ministry of Supply.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many premises situate in the North Eastern Trading Estate, Gateshead, are now vacant; how many at the end of October, 1942; and how many during the past two years have remained empty for considerable periods after tenants have been compelled to get out of their premises on the ground that they were urgently required for essential national work?

I have called for a special report on the matters referred to and will communicate with my hon. Friend when I receive it.

British Prisoners Of War, Italy

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he aware of the high charges made by the Italian Government to British officers who are prisoners of war in Italy; and whether he can make a statement on the subject?

I regret that I cannot yet add anything to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill) on 16th February. The question has been taken up with the Protecting Power.

Business Of The House

Ordered,

"That the Proceedings on Government Business be exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House)."—[Mr. Eden.]