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Written Answers

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 2 June 1943

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Written Answers

African Territories (Migrant Labour)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the bad conditions under which African labourers are compelled to move from Ruanda to Uganda when in search of work; whether he will consider constructing throughout all African Colonies permanent rest-houses or hostels under sanitary supervision and with facilities for the supply of good water and the purchase of cheap food along the principal travelling routes used by migratory labour and making the charge in the first place against the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund. with provision for gradual repayment?

As regards the first part of the Question, I would invite the attention of my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey) on 26th May. As regards the remainder of the Question a considerable amount of progress has been made in other African territories in regard to the establishment of properly equipped rest camps for the use of migrant labourers. In Northern Rhodesia, ten rest camps had been constructed at the end of 1940 for the use of labour proceeding to and from the mines, and during the following year other labour routes within the territory were surveyed by the Labour Department, with a view to the erection of further camps at suitable sites. These routes included those from Barotseland to Livingstone and from the Western areas to the Copperbelt area. Camps have also been constructed, or are in process of construction, in Nyasaland. In Tanganyika, no less than nineteen Government labour camps had been established along the main labour routes by the end of 1941, to eighteen of which dispensaries were attached. In Kenya, Labour Department rest camps have been provided at Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. In the Gold Coast, there were at the beginning of last year fifteen Government labour camps constructed at points along the labour routes from the north, as well as three refuges for labourers in need of assistance at Kumasi, Salaga and Tamale. In addition, there were over twenty caravanseries along the routes in the Northern Territories, which are administered by Native Authorities. In Nigeria, the Labour Department was only established last autumn, and this question is no doubt one to which it will give early attention. Government transit camps, have, however, been set up to accommodate the labour conscripted for the tin-mining areas. The labourers are sent in the first instance to these camps for medical attention and rest after their journey, and then on to Government reception camps established in the mining area itself, where they remain pending their allocation to the various mines. I have so far received no applications for assistance under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act for the construction or maintenance of camps of this nature, but I should be prepared to consider them on their merits.

Food Supplies

Tomatoes (Gift Consignments)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will amend the Emergency Powers (Defence) Railways (Transport of Tomatoes) Order, in respect of small quantities of tomatoes where the tomatoes to be consigned are not being consigned for sale?

Special provisions are being made to permit of the consignment by rail of gifts of tomatoes not exceeding one 14 lb. box to any one consignee. If my hon. Friend will indicate the nature of any amendment he has in mind my Noble Friend will be glad to consider it.

Statutory Rules And Orders

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food when it is proposed to publish the terms of the licence referred to in paragraph 3 of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Edible Oils and Fats) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, No. 701 of 1943)?

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why, in respect of all articles therein, except Article (1), the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Feeding Stuffs) (G.B.) (S.R. and O. No. 702 of 1943) Order was brought into force within 24 hours of its signature?

This Order gave legal effect to the Government's decision of which full publicity was given at the beginning of May to increase rations for pigs and poultry. It took two weeks to make the necessary administrative arrangements and draft the Order. It was not practicable, therefore, to allow a longer period between the date of signature and the operative date without postponing the date already announced from which commercial pig and poultry keepers could obtain their additional allowances.

Coal (Domestic Stocks)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the procedure to be followed by householders having stocking room in order to increase their stocks during the summer months?

It should be practicable for the majority of householders who have storage facilities to accumulate sufficient stock for their winter requirements by acquiring and conserving during the summer such quantities as are available to them under the ordinary restrictions. The stock limit of house coal under these restrictions is 2 tons. Householders, whose winter requirements on a strictly economical basis justify a stock of more than 2 tons of house coal, or whose premises are in remote localities, should obtain from their local fuel overseers or coal merchant a form on which to apply for a stocking licence. The licence will authorise the acquisition of larger quantities than are permitted generally, having regard to the conditions in the household. The merchant will only be able to deliver coal against this licence as his supplies permit and having regard to the needs of all his registered customers. Fuel such as coke and anthracite are more freely available, and can be obtained in considerable quantities without licence. The larger sizes are, in fact, free from all restrictions. Such fuel should be substituted for house coal by householders to the greatest possible extent.

British Army (Overseas Service)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether it can now be regarded that the normal term of service abroad, including the various campaigning and fighting, is approximately 10 years, with one or two short breaks of a few months at home in between?

In war-time there is no normal term of service abroad. Arrangements are, however, being made to bring home all British Army personnel who have served overseas for six years or more. Shipping is a limiting factor but progress has nevertheless been made. In calculating the total continuous service abroad periods of service or leave spent at home during this time are ignored if they do not exceed six months in all.

Rubber Tyres (Control)

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that used serviceable tyres which are in the hands of garages do not come within Tyre Control or Rubber Control Orders, and are not subject to statutory declaration; and what steps does he propose to take in order that these tyres should be made subject to return and put into service in the best national interest?

The tyres referred to are subject to the Control of Rubber Tyres (No. 4) Order, which prohibits their sale except under licence, or to an authorised tyre depot.

Wife's Savings (Taxation)

asked the Attorney-General whether he is aware that, while a wife's savings in a co-operative society are the property of her husband during her lifetime, they are treated as part of her estate by the Inland Revenue authorities for the purpose of Death Duties; and will he consider removing this anomaly?

The question of the legal ownership of moneys standing in a wife's name in a co-operative society is a question of fact in each case. The Inland Revenue Authorities do not treat savings belonging to the husband as part of his wife's estate for Death Duty purposes. If my hon. Friend will let me have details of the cases which she has in mind I will have inquiries made.

Civil Defence Personnel (Instructional Lectures)

asked the Home Secretary under what circumstances Civil Defence workers are expected to attend instructional lectures in off-day periods; and whether the regulations apply to both voluntary and paid workers?

So far as possible, and if necessary by temporary rearrangement of rotas, local authorities should arrange for instructional lectures for whole-time members of the Civil Defence Services to be held within their normal duty hours. The same principle applies as regards part-time members; time spent by them in attending lectures should count in computing duty obligations.

Ministry Of Aircraft Production (Women Workers, Pay)

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether, in view of his decision to pay women pilots, rank for rank, the same rates as men pilots, he proposes to apply the principle of equal pay for equal work to the clerical, executive and administrative workers in his Department?

No, Sir. The decision regarding the women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary was based upon the particular circumstances of their employment and not upon any general acceptance of the doctrine of equal pay.

India (War Effort, Publicity)

asked the Minister of Information whether the position in regard to the circulation, both in this country and the United States of America, of news, pictures and films of the war effort in India and Assam is becoming more satisfactory?

I must point out to my hon. and gallant Friend that Assam is one of the provinces of India. Having said this, I can assure him that in these matters the Ministry of Information is never satisfied. The supply of material from India has certainly improved however, although our victories in North Africa and our air offensive in Europe have naturally taken precedence on the screen and in the Press.

Empire Forces (War Casualties)

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to state the total casualties suffered up to the most recent date since the outbreak of hostilities by British, Dominion, Indian and Colonial, Air, Army and Naval Forces?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave yesterday to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Molson).

Refugees (Great Britain)

asked the Home Secretary how many refugees reached this country in the five months prior to December, 1942?

Exact figures are not available, but the number is estimated at about 3,000.

Worn Tyres (Prosecutions)

asked the Home Secretary how many prosecutions have been instituted for using tyres after the canvas is showing; and what have been the results of such prosecutions?

I regret that it has not been found possible to keep statistics of prosecutions in respect of each separate Statutory Rule and Order and the information asked for by my hon. and gallant Friend is, therefore, not available.

Ferry-Boat Accident, River Thames (Claim)

asked the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that Mr. G. B. Swift, of West Thurrock, fell into the Thames from a ferry-boat owned by the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company and injured himself; that the company admit that this accident occurred through the negligence of one of their officials, but disclaim liability for damages or compensation because of conditions attached to the workman's ticket entitling Swift to travel; and whether he will take steps to remove the legal disability suffered by Swift and others similarly affected?

I am informed that the defence filed by the company to the claim by Mr. Swift was a denial of liability, and that the action was discontinued before the hearing took place. The company then offered to make a payment ex gratia of £5 which was rejected by the claimant, who sought a sum of £10 and a substantial contribution to his costs. I think that the case was dealt with by the company on its merits and I am not satisfied that I should be justified in intervening as suggested by my hon. Friend.

House Of Commons Members' Fund

asked the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye, as representing the Trustees, whether he will publish the Report of the Government Actuary relative to the House of Commons Members' Fund?

Copies of the Report in question will be in the Libary and available at the Vote Office to-morrow.

Cost-Of-Living Index (Vegetables)

asked the Minister of Labour whether the price of vegetables, other than potatoes, is included in the cost-of-living indices?

Vegetables other than potatoes are not included among the items of which account is taken in the compilation of the official cost-of-living index. In view of the seasonal fluctuations in the supplies, and the variations in quality, of most of the principal vegetables, it would be difficult to obtain comparable price quotations month by month throughout the year, such as are necessary for the purpose of a continuous series of index numbers compiled and published at monthly intervals.

Women's Auxiliary Services

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has taken, or is contemplating taking, steps to find out what wastage of woman-power is taking place in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in view of the heavy strain on the woman-power left in civilian and domestic life?

The efficient use of women allocated to the Women's Auxiliary Services is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friends the Service Ministers, and I am not aware of any evidence which would justify me in intervening in the manner suggested by my hon. Friend.

Domestic Workers

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has concluded his inquiries into the problem of domestic service in this country; and whether, in view of the strain on many households at present, he has any proposals to announce to ameliorate the situation?

I have nothing to add at present to the reply given to the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) on 13th May, a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend.

Royal Air Force

Uniforms (Buttons And Buckles)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in any contemplated alterations in Royal Air Force uniforms he will consider the advisability of using plastic buttons and buckles on jackets and greatcoats instead of metal ones?

Plastic buttons and buckles are being introduced as stocks of the brass articles become exhausted.

Seadromes

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that American interests are now seeking monopolistic concessions to operate a chain of seadromes having the same purpose and functions as the less costly and more quickly-built Creed seadrome; and whether, in view of this threat to British aviation, he will resume the inquiry into the possibility of using the Creed seadrome in this way?

I have seen reports in the Press to the effect that the operation of seadromes is being considered in the United States. These reports also stated that no monopoly was sought or desired. As for the second part of the Question; I understand that the Creed project was exhaustively considered before the war but for a variety of reasons its development was not supported by the Government. The inventor has recently re-submitted his project and I am arranging for its commercial possibilities to be re-examined.