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Commons Chamber

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 2 June 1943

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 2nd June, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

House Of Commons Members Fund

Extract ordered from the Minutes of the 11th Meeting of Trustees, held at the House of Commons, on 4th August, 1942, and copy of a letter from the Government Actuary to the Secretary to the House of "Commons Members Fund, dated 16th January, 1943, relative to the extension of eligibility for pension to widows of Members.—[ Colonel Sir George Courthorpe.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Poland (Silesia And Slovakia)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider suggesting to the Polish Government that the cause of Allied unity would be promoted by the renunciation of Polish claims to the parts of Silesia and Slovakia annexed at the time of the Munich Agreement?

I have been asked to reply. No, Sir. This is a matter which concerns two Allied countries, and I do not feel able to intervene as suggested.

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted that the Czechoslovakian National Government have recently urged that the Polish claims should be renounced in the interests of friendship between the two countries?

Should not Poland be given every opportunity of securing East Prussia after the war?

Does my right hon. Friend not consider that Questions of this kind, at such a time as this, tend to serve the cause of the enemy rather than our own?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I think that, on the whole, it is better to abstain from this kind of Questions, which I think do no good and might cause trouble.

Does the right hon. Gentleman refer to the original Question or to the Supplementary?

Generally I think these matters are best left to be dealt with by the Allied Governments concerned.

French North Africa


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, by a further pronouncement that it is the desire of His Majesty's Government to bring about complete agreement and unity between the French National Committee and the French Administration in North Africa, he will accelerate the negotiations now in progress?

As my right hen. Friend informed the House on 8th April, we and the United States have only one desire, to see all sections of the French people who are prepared to fight the common enemy united together. I do not think that I can usefully add anything to that statement pending the outcome of the discussions now proceeding at Algiers.

Would it not be true to say that admirable work in bringing the two parties together has been accomplished by the British Resident Minister in North Africa?

House Of Commons Official Report (British Embassies)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether all British Embassies and Legations are supplied with copies of Hansard and with the bound volumes?

No, Sir. His Majesty's Ambassadors and Ministers abroad receive such extracts from Hansard as are necessary for the work of their missions; but, with very few exceptions, they do not receive a complete set of Hansard.

Will not my right hon. Friend take steps to see that Embassies are supplied with copies of the proceedings of this House? Otherwise it is impossible for them to know the state of opinion here.

However desirable that might be in ordinary circumstances, I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will realise the pressure on the transport services at the present time.

Does Hitler get copies of Hansard sent to him from time to time?

Polish-Czech Agreements


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will use his good offices with the Governments concerned to see that the Polish-Czech Agreements of nth November, 1940, and January, 1942, in regard to a Polish-Czech Confederation are duly honoured by both sides, in order thus to solve all pending frontier problems between these two countries and to secure the future peace of Europe?

As has been stated in the House, it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to foster agreements of the kind referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend, and to encourage the smaller States to weld themselves into larger, though not exclusive, groupings. The working out of detailed arrangements for the implementation of such agreements is, however, primarily a matter for the States directly concerned, who are fully aware of the views of His Majesty's Government.

Tangier (British Representations)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a series of anti-Allied demonstrations have been instigated or permitted by the Spanish authorities in Tangier; and whether he will make representations to the Spanish Government with a view to the cessation of such acts?

A number of persons have recently been arrested in Tangier, allegedly because they had enlisted with the French Consulate-General for service in French North Africa. No British subjects were affected by these measures. His Majesty's Government have, however, drawn the attention of the Spanish authorities to the bad impression created in this country by these developments, and His Majesty's Consul-General has been informed that the arrests have now ceased.

Royal Air Force

Women's Auxiliary Air Force


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that outsize members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force are failing to obtain the regulation issue of corsets and pyjamas; and whether he will make special provision for their needs?

I am advised that the largest stock size of pyjamas is temporarily in short supply. Special arrangements are being made to provide the quantities required. The supply of corsets is, however, adequate.

Low Flying, Great Britain


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in order to reduce the amount of dangerous low flying in built-up and other areas, members of the. Observer Corps will be invited to cooperate by reporting suit incidents?

Members of the Royal Observer Corps have on occasion been able to assist in detecting cases of unauthorised low flying, and an instruction that they are to continue to do so without detracting from their primary duty of tracking enemy aircraft is being issued.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman also emphasise to the public that when reporting low flying they must try to ascertain the number of the aeroplane; otherwise it will be impossible to trace the offender?

Yes, Sir; I think that is widely known, and I hope that the hon. Member's supplementary will help to make it even more so.


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the recent tragedy at a public school, when nine boys were killed owing to unauthorised low flying over the playing fields, specific instructions have now been given to all stations throughout the country emphasising the urgent need of restricting low flying to authorised localities?

As the hon. Member is aware, low flying is strictly prohibited except over specially selected training areas. The standing orders on the subject are 'brought periodically to the notice of the Service, and in accordance with this practice a further instruction emphasising the importance of strict compliance is now about to be issued.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that within a very few days of that disaster, aeroplanes were doing exactly the same thing over exactly the same area? Can special emphasis be laid on these instructions to get that sort of thing stopped?

I am not aware of that particular fact; but if we can get the number of the aircraft—if it is a Royal Air Force aircraft—the pilot will be dealt with with the utmost severity. I would like to make it clear that there is nothing more dangerous to the public, or worse manners, than showing off by young-pilots, by unauthorised low flying.

Has my right hon. and gallant Friend's attention been called to the extraordinary discrepancy in the evidence at the inquest where a schoolmaster declared that the aeroplane was flying at 50 feet, and the instructor declared that he had never been below 500 feet?

I have seen only the reports in the Press; not a complete transcript. This was not an R.A.F. aircraft.

What penalty is imposed on pilots who have been convicted of such low flying?

The regulations say:

"There can be but few cases where, in the absence of special circumstances, a sentence of dismissal in the case of an officer, or a sentence of detention in the case of a sergeant pilot would not be justified where the pilot has been tried by court martial and found guilty of a deliberate breach of low-flying regulations."

Uniforms (Volunteer Reserve)


asked the Secretary of State for Air what alterations in Royal Air Force uniforms are being considered; and whether he will assure the House that pre-war members of the Volunteer Reserve will receive equal treatment with auxiliaries?


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether it is proposed to abolish the wearing of the letters "V.R." on the lapels of officers' tunics?

Instructions are about to be issued that the distinguishing V.R. badge will no longer be worn by officers and warrant officers of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. During the war all entries into the Air Force have been in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve so that a distinguishing badge of this kind is no longer appropriate. Nor would it be feasible to make a distinction in this respect between those members of the Volunteer Reserve who joined before the war and those who have joined it since. As for the Auxiliary Air Force, this is comprised solely of pre-war members and the same considerations do not apply and their distinguishing badge will in consequence be retained.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend, at the same time as he is introducing these alterations in R.A.F. uniforms, also take into consideration another means by which great economy could be secured, namely, the abolition of patch and pleated pockets, as has been done in the case of the Army?

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend also do something about brass buttons?

Tip-And-Run Raiders


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has any further statement to make on the defence against tip-and-run raiders?

It would not be in the public interest for me to make any further statement on this subject at the present time.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that there is no desire adversely to affect arrangements for further air offensives against Germany, but that if further defensive and offensive equipment could be made available to the areas affected by these nuisance raids, the people living in those areas would be very grateful?

I cannot add to what I have said, except to give this assurance: that new methods of countering enemy air attacks of all kinds are constantly being studied.

Post-War Overseas Policing


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will forthwith call for volunteers to form the Air forces, or part of them, necessary for the occupation or policing of such areas overseas as, may have to be occupied or policed after the war, in order to release Royal Air Force personnel who have served abroad either to home establishment or to civilian employment as soon as possible?

As the Secretary of State for War informed my hon. and gallant Friend yesterday, his suggestion has been carefully considered, but I am afraid there are great objections to adopting his suggestion now. It will no doubt be considered in the future in the light of our commitments the world over.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend agree that it would be the right thing to give some sort of public assurance to these men, who have been abroad so long, that they will be brought home as soon as possible after the war?

This question, upon which my hon. and gallant Friend has asked my opinion, is a very much wider subject. I am afraid I would not like to go further than I have done in my answer.

Germany And Italy (Bombing)


asked the Secretary of State for Air the approximate weight of bombs dropped on Germany and Italy by the Royal Air Force during May?

Aircraft of Bomber Command dropped approximately 12,500 tons of bombs on Germany in May. The total amount of the tonnage of bombs dropped on Italy by aircraft operating from North Africa is not available.

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say whether this supply will increase month by month in future?

We look forward with confidence to being able to increase the supply of bombs delivered to Germany in due course.

Victoria Cross (Newspaper Announcements)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can explain the circumstances in which the decision to confer the Victoria Cross upon Wing-Commander G. P. Gibson, D.S.O., D.F.C., was known to the "Daily Telegraph," the "Daily Herald," the "Daily Express" and the "News Chronicle" a day before the official announcement was made?

The official announcement of this award was deferred in order that other awards in connection with the "dam" operations could be published at the same time. Meanwhile a reporter saw Wing-Commander Gibson with the V.C. ribbon, which he was then entitled to wear as the award had been approved, and passed the news to the Press Association.

Is it not the case that the "Daily Worker" was one of the papers that respected the request not to publish this information?



asked the Prime Minister whether he will now consider appointing a Royal Air Force officer as an opposite number in the Royal Air Force to the commander-in-chief, Home Forces, in the Army?

The organisation of our striking forces in this country for Continental operations has been under active examination, and my hon. and gallant Friend may be assured that his suggestion and others have been taken fully into account. It would not be in the public interest to say more at this stage.

Air Transport (Equipment)


asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether, in view of the decision to establish the Air Transport Command and of the great and growing importance of air transport, it is the intention to encourage British production by furnishing that command generously and as soon' as possible with British-made aeroplanes?


asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether he has a statement to make as to the proposed equipment of Air Transport Command in process of establishment?

My constant endeavour is to supply the Royal Air Force with all the aircraft they require, whether for the Air Transport Command or for other purposes. As was explained in the House yesterday, the Government are taking energetic steps to produce civil aircraft types to the fullest extent compatible with the maintenance of the maximum war effort.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that, as far as possible, these transport types will be British made?

Certainly, Sir, the ones that my Ministry are making an effort to produce are all British planes.

Telephone Amendment Regulations (Availability)


asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Telephone Amendment (No. 4) Regulations, 1943, signed on 30th April, which came into operation on 1st May, were not available in the Vote Office until 12th May, 1943; and can he state the cause of the delay in rendering the Order available to hon. Members and the date on which the Regulations could be purchased by the public at the Stationery Office or elsewhere?

The Telephone Amendment (No. 4) Regulations, 1943, give statutory effect to pew telephone charges which were announced to the House by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech and were specified in detail in a White Paper. Copies were placed on sale to the public late on 11th May and sent to the Vote Office the following morning. I am sorry that there was this delay

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend realise that great difficulty is created when Orders are not available to the public until after they have come into operation?

That might be in certain cases, but I do net think so in this one, because not only my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I made speeches in this House, but there was a White Paper published.

Railings Removal (Compensation)


asked the Parliamentary. Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he is aware that the 25s. per ton scrap now paid for railings is not regarded in many cases as reasonable; and whether as, after the war, many railings on the ground of public safety and amenities must be replaced, he will undertake eventually to consider compensation for the provision of substitutes so that sanction can be given for replacement expenditure?

The offer of the sum of 25s. per ton as compensation has been authorised by the Government on the assumption that scrap value only shall be payable for railings which are not essential to the use of the land. Railings which are required for public safety are not taken, and the hon. Member is no doubt aware that the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, provides that no account shall be taken of any loss of pleasure or amenity in respect of the diminution in the annual value of the land.

Is it not rather unfair to pay a certain standard rate as scrap for railings, regardless of what type of railings they are?

There is a tribunal to which a person who has his railings taken away may appeal and ask for a certificate of the value.

Could we not have some assurance that this matter of replacing the railings where necessary shall be sympathetically considered?

The answer that I can give my hon. Friend is that they are not taken away when they are necessary. It is only when they are not necessary that they are taken.

Is my hon. Friend aware that people of very small means are having their gates taken away and that these cannot be worth more than a shilling or two to the Minister, but cost £4 10s. to replace?

In reply to a Question last week in this House, I told the House that 400,000 tons of metal had already been smelted for munitions taken from small railings and gates throughout the country, so, therefore, if my hon. Friend tries to assess the value of these gates, as being only a shilling or two, in their totality they are worth much more.

That is not quite a reply to my question. While railings may be of value to the Minister these gates are of little value and cost £4 10s. if replaced by wooden gates, which are just as valuable.

Does the hon. Gentleman consider that it is fair that these private people should only be paid 25s. a ton for railings when the regular trade price is £3 per ton?

Will the hon. Gentleman give the names of the secretary and members of the appeal committee?

There are appeal committees in every town and their names can be obtained from the local authorities. If any one wants to make a claim, he makes it to the local authority, who make the arrangements for the appeal.

Royal Navy

Ships' Libraries (House Of Commons Official Report)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many ships' libraries are supplied with books at the public expense; and how many of such libraries are kept regularly supplied with bound volumes of Hansard?

Apart from motor torpedo boats, motor launches and certain other small craft, all H.V. ships have libraries which are supplied and maintained at Government expense. For small craft, libraries provided at Government expense are available in the base or shore establishment to which such craft are attached. H.M. ships are also provided with newspapers and magazines at Government expense. The foregoing facilities, particularly so far as small ships are concerned, are supplemented by the organisation known as the Royal Naval War Libraries, which is supported partly by public subscription and partly by Treasury grant. Bound volumes of Hansard are not included in any of the libraries provided for H.M. ships.

Will my right hon. Friend make daily copies available at any rate to libraries at large shore establishments?

I should be glad to consider making these facilities available at any time if it became a general request from the personnel of the Fleet.

Would my right hon. Friend agree to consider the correspondence which I have received from commanding officers of large establishments asking whether it is possible to arrange for Hansard to be supplied for their information?

I will certainly consider any submission that my hon. and gallant Friend makes.

Is it not really an astonishing belittling of Parliamentary debate that neither people in ships nor even His Majesty's Ambassadors abroad are thought to be desirous of reading Parliamentary Debates?

Post-War Overseas Policing


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will forthwith call for volunteers to form the naval Forces or part of those Forces necessary for the occupation or policing of such areas overseas as may have to be occupied or policed after the war, in order to release Royal Navy personnel who have served abroad either to return home or to civilian employment as soon as possible?

I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion is practicable at the moment.

Merchant Ship Repairs


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can make a statement on the repair position affecting merchant vessels; and how far this is affecting the use of tonnage?

I have no public statement to make except that the ravages of war always create a heavy demand on ship repairing facilities, especially in view of the large expansion of the Royal Navy, and that these demands are being dealt with satisfactorily.

Shipping Movements, Loch Foyle


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps are being taken to prevent any information as to the movements of our shipping in Loch Foyle from being communicated to the enemy from neutral Eire?

It would be against the national interest to state what steps are taken to prevent information which would be of value to the enemy from reaching him, but I can assure the hon. Member that the matter receives our most vigilant attention.

Anti-U-Boat Warfare


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has any statement to make on recent progress in anti-U-boat warfare?

As the answer is very long, I will with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of my hon. Friend, make a statement at the end of Questions.


Yes, Sir. Early in March I told the House that the shipping losses in December, January and February had been much lower than a year before. For a variety of reasons March was a poor month, though not the worst of the war. Indeed, owing to the high output of new tonnage achieved in the United States, there was a substantial net gain in that month. In April and May losses have been reduced again to the level of, the three months December to February, and even below. In each of the first five months of this year there has been a substantial reduction on the figures of the corresponding period of last year, and a saving of more than one-third of the losses over the whole of the five months. With the American merchant ship programme nearing its peak, this improved level of losses has resulted in large increases to the tonnage available to the United Nations.

This improved situation in the Battle of the Atlantic reflects the growing size of our escort forces—both ships and aircraft—and the growing deadliness of our new weapons and devices. The increased escorts available make possible not only a higher scale of protection but also a higher general standard of training, and this in turn enables our ships and the aircraft of Coastal Command and the United States Air Forces to reap, by the harmony and co-operation in which they work, a higher dividend from their constantly improving tactics. The escort carriers, of which several are now in service, have already proved their worth. By these means the curve of U-boat destruction has been kept steadily rising. During the last 12 months the number of kills exceeds that of the whole of the previous period of the war, and in the last six months the rate of destruction has been 25 per cent. above that of the previous six months. Large numbers have been damaged in addition. In the last two months the number of U-boats in the Atlantic Battle appears to have decreased. This has no doubt been due to more than one cause, but principally to the rising rate of "kills" at sea; From the provisional assessments it looks as if the number of U-boats destroyed, in May will exceed the number which the enemy may probably have brought into service. Certainly May is the best month of the war for kills so far. While the changed situation has thus been primarily due to the increased rate of destruction of U-boats at sea, there can be no doubt that the number of U-boats operating has also been affected by the bombing of the U-boat building yards and of the operational bases in the Bay of Biscay by both American and R.A.F. bombers. As time goes on the bombing of the building yards and component factories should have an ever-increasing effect.

We must no doubt still be prepared to encounter setbacks and periods of heavy loss. The enemy are bound to make great efforts to alter the present situation. Nevertheless, the report I have just made discloses a number of favourable tendencies, and I can give the unqualified assurance that the enemy are quite wrong in asserting, as they have done, that the low rate of sinkings in April was due to the small amount of shipping at sea. In that month our imports were the highest since the beginning of 1942.

The general improvement in spite of the tremendous U-boat efforts against us is in itself a tribute to all concerned, including officers and men of the Royal Navy, the Fleet Air Arm, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Merchant Navy; the pilots and crews of the Coastal Command and the Bomber Command of the R.A.F.; and officers and men of the Allied Navies and Air Forces. I would also mention the work of the training establishments, the technicians and the scientists, and the staffs and all sections of workers in the shipyards and aeroplane factories. I feel sure the House can rely upon all concerned to continue the good work Without any relaxation of their efforts in any respect until the U-boat menace is driven from the seas.

I am sure that the House would like to join in congratulating all concerned and thanking the members of the Navy and the Merchant Service for the work done. Might I ask the First Lord whether he feels fairly satisfied that the rate of U-boat destruction exceeds that of construction?

I put it rather carefully in the statement I made to the House. I think I gave an indication that, in the month of May, the curves of the two statistical lines had crossed, but we must be quite sure and not let up in any way or let it get into the other direction again.

Ceylon (May Day Meetings)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the reason why a May Day meeting was banned in Ceylon was because it was putting forward a resolution paying tribute to the Soviet Union, demanding a second front and a national Government for India; and why, on a further application being made, permission was given to hold the meeting providing the resolution contained only economic and not political demands?

No, Sir. No applications to hold May Day meetings were refused. Two applications were made. The agenda of the first included tributes to the Soviet Union and Red Army, and this application was approved by the Minister for Home Affairs. The second, from the Ceylon Trade Union Federation, was originally approved by the Controller of Labour under powers vested in him to approve meetings convened on purely labour matters in the belief that the meeting was of that character. When later, however, the agenda was found to include general political resolutions including resolutions similar to those in the first application, the Federation were advised that application for permission would have to be made to the Minister for Home Affairs. The Federation failed, however, to make its application to the Minister.

Are we to take it from that answer that there is a prohibition actually operating against political demonstrations in Ceylon?

Application has to be made in these cases. When an application was made it was granted, and I have no doubt that if the Federation had made application, that would have been granted too.

Northern Rhodesia (Native Land)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any action has yet been taken in connection with the Reports of the Native Land Trust Commission of Northern Rhodesia, in view of the admitted inadequacy of the native reserves and the large extent of unoccupied land which is available?

There are two Coin-missions at work, one in the Central and Western Provinces, and one in the Eastern Province. I have not yet received the Report of either Commission, but, as I informed my hon. Friend on Goth January, certain interim action has already been taken as regards the Central and Western Provinces. The Commission in the Eastern Province is dealing with the area of nearly 4,000,000 acres recently purchased from the North Charterland Company, but resettlement of Africans in this area has already begun, and 17,000 Africans were moved into it last year.

Could the Minister indicate the nature of 'the action which has already been taken to provide land for the natives?

West Africa (Education)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the number of children in the West African Colonies now receiving, respectively, elementary education and post-primary education; the number of students receiving advanced education; and whether particular consideration is being given to the need of providing a plan of primary education for all Colonial children during the 10 years following the end of the war?

As was stated in the reply to the hon. Member's Question of 9th September last, such statistics as those requested are not normally available owing to the abridgment of the annual reports of the Education Departments in war-time. It is, however, known that approximately 465,000 elementary scholars were registered last year in the West African Dependencies, and I will ask the Governors to send me any figures they may have for the two other categories. As regards the last part of the Question, long-term plans for the extension of education at all stages are under active consideration.

While thanking the Minister for his reply to the last part of my Question, is the plan which I suggest is necessary for the liquidation of illiteracy being borne in mind?

I think primary education must take its place with all other forms of education, and we are now considering long-term plans for the quickest advance which is practicable.

Can the Minister say when the result of his consideration is likely to be made public?

Windward And Leeward Islands (Constitutions)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any steps are being taken at present to extend self-government in the Windward and Leeward Islands of the West Indies; and whether he is aware of the beneficial effects of complete self-government before the war in the adjacent French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe?

The Constitutions of these Colonies are already broadly in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and no further extensions are at present contemplated. The second part of the Question is a matter of opinion.

Is not the Minister aware that they have full government in the French Islands side by side with the limited government in ours?

Yes, Sir, and I am aware of other conditions which differ between the Islands.

Would it not be correct to say that the effects in the French Islands have not been so beneficial since the war?

For the last three or four years, owing to the action of these French Islands, we have had no chance of finding out.


Land Settlement


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the approximate acreage of land acquired by the Government of Jamaica for land settlement as recommended by the West Indian Royal Commission since the recommendation was made; and whether it is now the policy in land settlement in Jamaica to concentrate on leasehold tenancies as distinct from freehold ownership?

18,994 acres were purchased in 1940–41 and 2,173 acres in 1941–42, a total of 21,167 acres. No later statistics are available. This land was acquired from loan funds authorised by the Legislative Council in 1938 for purchase by settlers by instalments on a freehold basis. It is hoped to introduce the leasehold system in the case of future settlements financed by the Colonial Development and Welfare Vote, though I am informed that there is some opposition locally to this system.

Bananas (Drying)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether research has been conducted into the possibility of drying or otherwise preserving the nutritive value of the banana; and whether use could be made of such a process, when shipping becomes available, during the war?

In addition to the known methods of drying bananas, both ripe and unripe, I understand that the newer techniques of the dehydration of foodstuffs have also been applied to bananas with satisfactory results. Whether bananas dried by this or any other means can be placed on the United Kingdom import programme is a matter for determination in the light of the competing claims for shipping space of similar types of foodstuffs, which is the responsibility of my Noble Friend the Minister of Food.

Is it not extremely important from the point of view of the economy of the West Indies and the Colonies generally that my right hon. and gallant Friend should make the arrangement himself with the Minister of Food?

My hon. Friend is no doubt aware that at the moment we purchase the banana crop in Jamaica. From the point of view of economy, whether the bananas go into the stomachs of Jamaicans or in dehydrated form into the stomachs of the people in the United Kingdom does not matter.

Is the Minister aware that a great deal of the research which has been done with regard to the preservation and drying of bananas has been challenged and that a great amount of further research is necessary?

Seychelles (Venereal Disease)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the widespread prostitution and prevalence of venereal disease in Seychelles; what steps are being taken to remove the causes and effect the requisite cures of these diseases; and whether propaganda is being conducted for the enlightenment of the population in these matters?

I am at present awaiting a report from the Governor of Seychelles on these matters, and I hope to be in a position to furnish my hon. Friend with the information he desires very shortly.

Is the Minister aware that there is urgent need for additional doctors and treatment centres in the Seychelles?

It is just that sort of thing I am hoping to hear about from the Governor.

Middle East Supply Centre

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he can give an estimate of shipping tonnage saved by the establishment of the Middle East supply centre; and whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to set up a similar centre in any other theatre of war?

I regret that it would be a laborious, if not an impossible task, to furnish a reliable estimate of the aggregate tonnage which has been saved, but I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Middle East Supply Centre, acting with the Governments and other interests within its sphere, has been instrumental in effecting drastic reductions in the shipping required for civilian supplies. These reductions have been secured by confining imports to essentials, by making full use of local resources, by increasing local production, and by converting locomotives from coal to oil. The North African Economic Board, on which we act jointly with the United States, is broadly similar in organisation to the Middle East Supply Centre, The establishment of other similar organisations elsewhere will depend on circumstances and on the general development of the war.

Special Trains, London-Glasgow


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that a special train, not shown in the public time-table, has been booked to run daily between London, Euston, and Glasgow, St. Enoch, in each direction, leaving at 8.40 p.m., the train being composed of 12 vehicles weighing 437 tons empty, with accommodation for 60 first-class sleeping passengers, 56 third-class sleeping and 290 ordinary third-class passengers; that 210 tons of the total weight is taken up by 60 first-class passengers; and, as there is a sleeping-car train in each direction at 9.15 p.m., will he, in view of the resentment expressed by the staff and the public, take steps to have such luxury travelling withdrawn?

It has been necessary, as a temporary measure, to provide these special trains, in order to cope with exceptionally heavy duty travel by Service personnel and others. Any spare capacity which may be available on any given night is placed at the disposal of the railway company.

Will my hon. Friend use his influence to see that this kind of travel is kept to a minimum?

Of course, we desire to keep it to a minimum, but I must ask my hon. Friend to believe that this train is really essential.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this train is advertised as being only for Service people? These people are terribly overcrowded when travelling from Glasgow to London and surely they are entitled to some kind of decency?

Laundry Zoning Scheme, Oxford


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will review the Oxford laundry zoning scheme in the light of the complaints received; and whether he will give an undertaking not to introduce similar schemes elsewhere without taking adequate steps to protect and consult the consumer?

My Ministry, together with the Board of Trade; have investigated the small number of complaints about the Oxford laundry zoning scheme which have been received, and have done what they can to remove the causes of complaint. I am glad to inform my hon. and gallant Friend that the scheme has saved at least a third of the transport normally required; that it has other advantages; and that I have received1no evidence of hardship which would justify a general review. I am always ready to consider improvements, but I would remind my hon. and. gallant Friend that there is a special Committee to deal with customers' complaints, and I think their interests are adequately protected. While everything practicable is always done to protect the interests of consumers, I regret that I am unable to give the other undertaking for which my hon. and gallant Friend asks in the last part of his Question.

Is it not a fact that in-the arrangement of this scheme no notice whatever was sent to customers as to what their new laundry would be and that no arrangements were made by the new laundry to call on any customer unless specially summoned? Is it not a fact that this scheme as applied to Oxford was an experiment that it was intended to apply to the rest of the country, and in view of those facts will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer?

I think the arrangement for notifying customers might have been better in the first instance, but every possible improvement has been made. Apart from a petition containing a small number of signatures which the hon. Gentleman sent me, only a dozen letters of complaint have been received, which, I think, shows that the scheme is working very well.

Has there not been a public outcry in the Press? I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter again at the earliest opportunity.

Post-War Shipping Policy


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether his Department is aware of the statements recently made by members of the United States Maritime Commission to the effect that at the end of the war American Mercantile Marine will be the largest and fastest in the world; and whether any action is being taken to maintain the position of the British Mercantile Marine in preparation for the post-war situation?

Yes, Sir, I have seen the statements to which my hon. Friend refers. In shipbuilding, as in other spheres, the productive resources of this country and of the United states have been applied jointly to the greatest advantage of the war effort, and I am glad to have this opportunity of expressing the gratitude we all feel for the magnificent contribution made by the United States by their astonishing output of merchant ships. I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that the ratio of fast ships in our programme has been increased and that, so far as possible, it will be increased still further. We are resolved that, after the war, Britain shall continue to serve the world with a large and efficient merchant navy, but my hon. Friend will realise that our post-war shipping policy does not depend upon ourselves alone but that, in due course, it must be discussed with other nations. In the meantime, we have constantly in mind the measures required to make good the losses which the war has caused.

If my hon. Friend and the Ministry have the measures constantly in mind that are necessary in order to maintain the position of the British Mercantile Marine, will he not make some of the information available to the House at an early opportunity?

I am always willing to give any information to the House if it desires and if it is possible to publish it.

There are many schemes in preparation. My hon. Friend will understand that a healthy shipping must depend very largely on a healthy international trade. My Department cannot do everything.

Are we to understand from that reply that we cannot promote the maintenance in its new form of the British Mercantile Marine without entering into international discussions, and if we are to enter into international discussions, is it not necessary that we should be in a strong position?

I have said that we are determined to maintain a strong and efficient Merchant Navy, but the action required will obviously depend upon international conditions.

Will the hon. Gentleman dissipate the impression which might be given by his answer that this is a matter for Anglo-American co-operation during the war? Will he also pay a tribute to what the Soviet and Norwegian marines have done to dissipate the idea that America and ourselves are going to share the whole of the carrying trade after the war?

The Question refers particularly to the United States. I have taken every possible opportunity to pay tribute to our Allies.

Omnibus Services, London (Information)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether notices could be affixed at London Passenger Transport Board stopping points, at least in the Greater London area, stating frequency of service betwen first and last services; and the times of local departure of the less frequent services?

For services on which there are four omnibuses an hour or less, time-tables are already posted at the principal stopping places. The London Passenger Transport Board are also preparing notices showing the times of the first and last omnibuses on other services. I will send my hon. Friend further details of their proposals.

Will my hon. Friend look into the matter more closely, as frequently intending passengers have to hang about at stopping places not knowing when vehicles are coming? It would facilitate their travel if information notices were affixed to stopping place posts.

We are doing everything possible subject to the limitations of labour and paper.

Ministry Of Information

Foreign Language Newspapers, Great Britain


asked the Minister of Information whether he has now completed his inquiry into the activities of foreign-language newspapers published in this country hostile to the Soviet Government; and whether he will make a statement?


asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that certain Polish newspapers in this country are still quoting German stories about the alleged Smolensk massacres; and whether he will consider stopping the publication of these papers in the interest of unity for the prosecution of the war?

The inquiry into the activities of foreign language newspapers in this country is nearing completion. Meanwhile, the warning I gave last week will, I hope, inculcate a due sense of responsibility in the minds of their editors. If it does not, I think the Ministry of Information will have the approval of the House in taking drastic action against those who abuse the hospitality of this country by attempting to stir up trouble between members of the United Kingdom.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that these attacks are to some extent still going on and that the cases referred to have nothing to do with those of Allied newspapers?

The papers, I am told, have shown a great improvement, but they are produced in so many languages that it is hard to catch up with their contents. I agree that these papers have no connection with the newspapers so admirably managed by Lord Kemsley, who showed admirable foresight in changing the name of his group.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the publication of stories of the kind referred to in Question 42 is calculated to create dissension among the Allies and ought to be strictly prohibited?

That is why we have given the warning and why I repeat that it is an abuse of the hospitality of Great Britain if papers indulge in such language.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that 31 is an excessive number of newspapers for the small number of Poles in this country?

Russian Broadcasts


asked the Minister of Information whether the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics give radio broadcasts in English; and whether there are arrangements to broadcast in the Russian language from this country?

The Soviet radio gives broadcasts in English which can be received by short-wave listeners in this country and in America. The B.B.C. do not broadcast in the Russian language. The hon. Member will appreciate that listening conditions in the U.S.S.R. differ greatly from those in this country; and so the B.B.C. wisely prefer to use their overworked transmitters for broadcasts to enemy and enemy-occupied countries.

Would it not be a good gesture, in view of the fact that the Russians broadcast in English and that some people in Russia will understand English when it is spoken properly from this country?

If spoken by Englishmen, they might understand it, but were we to do this we should expect the Russian Government to build, I should think, from 10,000,000 to 20,000,000 new wireless sets. They are busy dealing with the Germans, and they will give the Germans priority over the B.B.C.

British Information Service, United States


asked the Minister of Information whether he will consider appointing to the British Information Service in America at least one representative who is, or has been, an editor of a British national daily paper?

No, Sir. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will take the trouble to understand the elements of the journalistic profession, he will discover that editors have no wish to become civil servants. If I may be regarded as an accurate reader, I may say that one of the principal qualifications for an editor of a British newspaper is zeal to criticise the faithful, but not too popular, Civil Service.

Is not the administration of our Information Service in America a job primarily for first-rate journalists, men of the calibre of Mr. Frank Owen, late editor of the "Evening Standard," who is at present employed by the Government in one of the lower ranks of the Army?

The post has never been offered to him, but I should say he would refuse it out of hand. May I remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the British Information Service in America have to look after that not unimportant thing radio, and that is not a job for a national editor. Some people think that the film is a valuable medium of propaganda. Again a national editor is not the type of man for that.

Is there not a considerable amount of newspaper propaganda as well?

Army And Air Co-Operation


asked the Prime Minister what steps are being taken to publish a joint Royal Air Force and Army training manual setting out the principles which have been learned in North Africa of successful Army and Air combined action?

This method, among others, of applying for training purposes the lessons of the North African campaign is receiving attention.

Multilateral Disarmament


asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that His Majesty's Government will be prepared to propose drastic multilateral disarmament by all the Powers subsequent to the defeat of the Axis Powers, or support the revival of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic's previous proposal for drastic multilateral disarmament; and whether consideration of this necessity is being, or will be given, as one way of implementing the friendship, common interest and responsibility of the United Nations?

The general policy of the United Nations in this regard has already been made clear by Point 8 of the Atlantic Charter. How effect is to be given to this Point can only be decided at the appropriate time by the United Nations concerned. Pending discussion with them, it would be premature for His Majesty's Government to make any uni- lateral declaration regarding the policy which they intend to advocate.

May we take it that at least the assurance, which I suggest is implied in the point of the Atlantic Charter to which my right hon. Friend referred, is accepted by him?

I have given my hon. Friend an answer. I cannot decide what implication he would put upon it, but it is perfectly plain as a statement of fad.

May we have some assurance that our past policy of disarmament which landed us in the present mess, is not going to be repeated?

Is it not clear that the best way to prevent war is the retention of strong forces by those nations that have a vested interest in peace?

Tinplate Works, West Wales (Closing)


asked the Minister of Production the reasons for the closing of the Dynevor tinplate works, Pantyffynon, Carmarthenshire; how many tinplate works in West Wales have now been closed; and what steps are being taken to provide alternative employment?

I understand the owners of the Dynevor works decided that its production could be more efficiently provided for at their other works in Wales. About 30 tinplate works in West Wales have been closed since the beginning of the war. With regard to the last part of the Question, it is the policy of the Government so far as practicable to locate such new production facilities as are required in districts where labour is available and in accordance with this policy new production will be undertaken in West Wales as opportunity offers.

In view of the fact that this area has already lost thousands of men by transference, is there any immediate prospect of new work being established?

The hon. Member will be aware of the efforts that I am making to locate production in Wales. I am glad to be able to say that one such project, to establish an engineering works, is now in an advanced state of consideration.

Food Supplies

Shell Fish Order


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he now has any further statement to make as to the effect of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Shell Fish) Order on the supply to retail fishmongers of the classes of shell fish covered by the Order?

52 and 53.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (r) whether any lobsters have been caught since his new Order; and, if so, who were the principal ultimate buyers;

(2) whether he is aware that lobsters lose approximately 20 per cent. of their weight when boiled and, as there is no difference between wholesale and retail prices, alive or dead, no fishmonger can afford to sell them and the public cannot buy them; and whether he will take action to remedy this state of affairs?

During last winter and the early part of this year, the price of lobsters, crabs and crawfish became so high as to place these shellfish beyond the reach of the ordinary consumer. The price also tempted the inshore fishermen to neglect fishing for the more useful white fish in favour of fishing for lobsters and crabs. Maximum prices, which gave a fair return to the producer and were reasonable to the consumer, were consequently introduced. These shell fish are normally sold on, commission, and the consignor takes the risk of loss by reason of dead specimens or other casualties in each consignment, as it reaches the market. The extent of this loss varies considerably, and the fixing of a series of maximum prices which would be reasonably fair to the producer and wholesale merchants in all cases was not considered practicable. Only one maximum price for each species was, therefore, prescribed. This, in practice, becomes the maximum price of the boiled shell fish to the consumer. The effect of the Order has been to reduce substantially the price at which shell fish are being sold, but it has also disturbed the normal channels of trade through which these commodities, especially lobsters and larger crabs, passed to the consumer. Consideration is, therefore, being given by my Department to the steps which can be taken to direct a larger proportion of the supplies to fishmongers' shops, but my Noble Friend has no intention of raising the price to the high level reached earlier in the year.

Is it not the case that the Minister of Food has so disturbed supplies that there is no supply at all?

It is important to remember that the wholesale price of lobsters reached a figure of about 600 per cent. of the pre-war price.

Is my hon. Friend aware that fishmongers are refusing to take delivery because shell fish declines in weight when cooked and they have a great deal of trouble in cooking it, with the result that it all goes to restaurants?

I do not think that is wholly true. A great deal of crab is going to fishmongers, though perhaps not many lobsters.

Has the price of shell fish been taken into account in the cost of living?

Statutory Rules And Orders


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Soft Fruit) Order (Statutory Rule and Order,. 1943, No. 684), dated 7th May, which came into operation on 10th May, was not available to hon. Members in the Vote Office until 15th May; and will he indicate the date on which the Order could be purchased by the public?

Exceptional weather this year delayed the fixing of growers' prices for soft fruits. Accordingly, with fruit coming on to the market early the new prices had to be brought into operation on 10th May before printed copies of the Order could be made available to the public and to hon. Members. The prices, which were fixed after the fullest discussion with the trade, were announced on 6th May, and, following the usual practice of my Department, copies of the Order were available for inspection by any member of the public at any food office from the day of its operation. Printed copies could be purchased by the public on 13th May. I am informed that copies were sent to the Vote Office on the morning of the 14th, but apparently did not arrive until the 15th.

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary think it most unsatisfactory if the public are placed in a position where they may commit offences which they do not know are offences because copies of the law are not available?

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the soft fruit crop is a ticklish one to deal with, and we have to move very quickly when the crop is coming on to the market.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Carrots) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 686), signed on 8th May, which came into operation on 10th May, was not available to hon. Members in the Vote Office till 14th May; and will he indicate the date on which the Order could be purchased at the Stationery Office by the public?

This is a case in which it was desirable to give immediate effect to a decision to remove a restriction before printed copies of the Order could be made available. These copies were on sale to the public on 12th May, and I am informed were available in the Vote Office on 13th May.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that there are no fewer than seven Questions on the Order Paper to-day relating to Orders made by his Department, and does he not think that, together with the Questions asked yesterday and on previous days, they disclose the unsatisfactory position of his Department in regard to the manner in which Orders are brought into operation?

The House will appreciate that the Ministry of Food is dealing in many cases with highly perishable commodities, and action has often to be taken within 24 hours. The alternative is that I should have to explain waste of food in many instances if we did not make these Orders very quickly.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into the machinery of his Department that deals with this matter?

In view of the fact that the Order came into operation on the 10th and was available to the public on the 12th, can my hon. Friend explain what would be the position of a person who infringed the Order on the 10th or 11th?

There could not be any infringement, because the Order allows a person to sell carrots which he could not otherwise sell.

Are any steps taken to use the wireless to bring Orders to the notice of the public?


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Green Vegetables, etc.) General Licence (S.R. & O. No. 691 of 1943), which involves for its interpretation reference to one Order of 1942 and two Orders of 1943, did not contain any explanatory memorandum?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) and the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Etherton) on 26th May, but I may add that in appropriate cases my Department has now adopted the practice 'of adding explanatory notes to its Statutory Rules and Orders in accordance with the undertaking which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department gave to the House on that day.

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that tens of thousands of firms had to search back through two or three years of Orders, with the result that an enormous waste of time was entailed? Will he see that Orders are written and printed so that they may be understood without further research?

On this occasion there was a Press notice which was widely circulated indicating that the people concerned could sell their produce by count instead of by net weight.

Milk (Pasteurisation)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that in some American cities no milk older than 24 hours may be pasteurised and no pasteurised milk older than 30 hours may be sold; and whether he is prepared to introduce similar regulations here?

No, Sir, I regret that I have not information such as my hon. Friend mentions, but if he will supply me with particulars, I will have them examined, although I am afraid that the conditions in the two countries are not comparable.

Does the hon. Member not realise the need of supplying the public with fresh milk?

Milk Zoning Scheme, Oxford


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is yet in a position to make a statement with regard to the Oxford milk zoning scheme?

There is nothing I can add at present to the full letter which my Noble Friend sent to my hon. Friend on 15th May. I will communicate further with my hon. Friend as soon as details of the savings under the scheme are available.

Am I right in thinking that the hon. Member has already given notice that he will raise this matter on the Adjournment?

That was with regard to my laundry Question. This Question refers to milk. Is it not a fact that my hon. Friend's Order led to certain consumers in Oxford being compelled to receive milk from a retailer who is suffering from tuberculosis of the nose? Is it nut a fact that there is no power to compel him to cease business and that this can only be done by private negotiations and that if this matter had been raised before some representatives of the consumers this kind of thing would not have happened?

The question of the person suffering from lupus is dealt with in the letter to my hon. Friend. I think that he is now no longer delivering milk.

Wholesale Grocery And Provision Dealers (War-Time Associations)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food when it is proposed to issue the Order under which membership of a war-time association on the part of wholesale provision dealers is to be made compulsory?

Wholesale grocery and provision dealers in every Food Division have joined their war-time association willingly and are co-operating with my Department in preparing schemes of transport and man-power economy. It has not yet been necessary to make an Order requiring them to join a war-time association, and the Ministry does not propose to make such an Order unless and until it becomes necessary.

That appears to be another question. I had no knowledge of such a Press notice.

Cake And Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what amount of money the Cake and Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance, Limited, has spent, and has under contemplation to spend, on the advertising of biscuits and cake?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 27th May. My Noble Friend does not control the finances of the Cake and Biscuit Manufacturers' War Time Alliance, and I am not in a position to supply the information for which he asks. The Alliance is incorporated as a limited company, and I understand that the report and accounts for the year ending 30th June, 1943, will give him the information required.

Fish (Supplies And Distribution)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether arrangements can be made for larger supplies and a better distribution of fish so as to obviate the necessity of long shop queues in London and other centres and give a fair share to rural areas, as in Wiltshire.

My Noble Friend, in cooperating with my right hon. Friends who are responsible for Fisheries, makes every endeavour to secure the maximum possible quantity of edible fish, but supplies, whether landed by British vessels or imported, are much below the pre-war quantities and cannot be increased appreciably under present conditions. Subject to the over-riding consideration of transport economy, distribution in all areas is on the basis of population and over a period every area has its fair share.

Is it not a fact that a large number of rural areas have never seen fish for a considerable period?

That is entirely contrary to the facts. Rural areas are much better off for fish than they have been in any other period of the war.

How can this be when fish supplies are prevented under the rationing of petrol and rubber from being delivered in country districts, and there are no shops?

In many rural areas the fish available to the fishmongers is so great in quantity that they are refusing it.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why the best kinds and cuts of fish are not available in shops; and to what extent this is due to pre-emption by luxury hotels and blocks of flats, such as Grosvenor House, in the West End?

Mr. Mabane