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Commons Chamber

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 30 June 1943

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 30th June, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Mr Speaker's Broadcast

Now that Prayers are over, may I be allowed to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your splendid speech which you made last night in the broadcast to the American people? I am convinced that your speech will be accepted very gratefully by millions of people in this and all other countries.

Private Business

Bridgwater Gas Bill

Lords Amendment considered, and agreed to.

Oral Answers To Questions

China (Grant-In-Aid)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government are prepared to give any further assistance towards medical aid for war victims in China?

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government have agreed to make a further grant-in-aid of £30,000 for the maintenance of medical and surgical teams for work among Chinese troops and civilians in the war zones of China in co-operation with the Chinese Red Cross and the Chinese medical services. The grant on this occasion will be made direct to the Friends' Ambulance Unit, who have been responsible for the work carried out with the assistance of the grant-in-aid of £50,000 voted in 1941 and 1942 to the British Fund for the Relief of Distress in China. Application will be made to Parliament in due course for the provision of the necessary funds.

Will it be necessary to convert any of this money into Chinese dollars, and, if so, will my right hon. Friend convert it at the ordinary rate of exchange or any special rate that may be allowed?

I am not sure about the rate, but I understand the position to be that the Chinese Government signified their readiness to make a contribution of 50 per cent. over and above this contribution to any funds that are paid to the Red Cross.

Polish Nationals (Military Service)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that many Polish nationals have already joined the Polish Forces reluctantly; and whether he will ask the Polish authorities to allow all those men who wish to do so to transfer freely to the British Forces?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall the previous statements made on this subject, the advertisements that have appeared and the threats of dire penalties to these people; and is he also aware that there was no time for them to make any choice in the matter, that news items prepared for the B.B.C. and the Press were deleted that night and these peoples, who, under a misapprehension, joined these Forces have no chance now of correcting that mistake?

No, Sir. I think my hon. Friend will realise that it is impossible for us to take any action of that kind. Under the Allied Forces Act these Governments have certain powers, and once men have joined their Forces it would be creating an impossible position if they were allowed to option out if they wished to do so.

Have not the different authorities used persuasive powers in many cases, and cannot the right hon. Gentleman use his persuasive powers where great injustice is being done to these people?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether steps are taken to inform these nationals and the nationals of other countries in similar positions that they have the right to join British Forces in preference, if they so desire?

The position has been made clear many times in this House by the publicity which attends the Business in this House, and it is also clear from the Act itself. I do not know what more I can do.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it is not likely to make for military efficiency to have men in the British Forces whose knowledge of English may easily not be sufficiently thorough to enable them to understand orders fully?

Is it not the case that the call-up notices printed in many British newspapers informed those who were called up that, if they did not respond to the notice, they would be treated as deserters under the law of this country?

And does it not follow on the free option which this House wanted to give to these men that there has now been put upon it the limitation that, if they exercise the option to join our Forces, they may be shot by the Poles for doing so?

I do not accept at all what the hon. Gentleman has said. I have seen no notice whatever that if these men do not join Forces of their own nationals they will be liable to penalties under the law of this country.

I listened to the hon. Gentleman, and he said, "under the law of this country" quite distinctly. The hon. Gentleman made a mistake—I heard very clearly all he said—" under the law of this country." They are liable to penalties under the laws of their own country, and that is a matter which, obviously, I cannot control.

Rome (Bombing)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will endeavour, through a neutral Power, to obtain from the Italian Government reliable guarantees that by an early date, to be specified, Rome shall be divested of all military and other installations likely to assist the Axis war effort so that the city may be regarded by the United Nations as an open town?

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether representations have been made to the Italian Government that Rome should be declared an open city in order to avoid any possible destruction of ancient monuments in connection with the inevitable bombing of the large industrial plants and military objectives in and around Rome which will be necessary in order to save British lives during the forthcoming invasion of Italy; and what reply has been received?


asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government are willing to declare Rome an open town and safe from aerial bombardment if all military objectives are removed; whether this restriction of aerial warfare without detriment to the war effort will also be applied to other areas in Great Britain, the countries occupied by enemy forces and in enemy countries; and whether diplomatic and international action has been or will be taken to secure sympathetic consideration of this possibility of minimising the destruction of life and cultural treasures?

His Majesty's Government have made no approach of any kind to the Italian Government in regard to the bombing of Rome, and we do not intend to make one. I repeat that we should not hesitate to bomb Rome to the best of our ability and as heavily as possible if the course of the war should render such action convenient and helpful.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not think it desirable, in connection with the essential and inevitable bombing of war objectives in and around Rome, to place the responsibility for any consequential damage to ancient monuments upon Signor Mussolini in not proclaiming Rome as an open town?

I think the responsibility is clear enough. Nobody invited Signor Mussolini to attack France, and nobody invited him to send his bombers to bomb London.

On what authority then was the statement made by one of the daily newspapers that, if Rome were divested of military objectives, it might be considered as an open town?

What happened was that there was a misunderstanding of some remark made off the record in a Press conference, but what I have just said is the position of His Majesty's Government.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the principle involved would not be considered, seeing that it would be in the interest of common humanity to consider the possibility of not bombing open towns divested of military objectives?

On a point of Order. I believe the right hon. Gentleman was going to give me a reply to my supplementary Question, and will it be permissible for me to receive it?

I was only going to remark that I think it would be in the interests of humanity if Signor Mussolini was to realise that the best thing to do for his country is to accept the unconditional surrender terms of the Allies.

War Crimes (United Nations Commission)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the present position with regard to the creation of a United Nations Commission for the investigation of war crimes; to what extent agreement has been reached; and whether it is proposed to set up an international criminal court to exercise jurisdiction over certain categories of war crimes?

All the Allied Governments concerned have expressed their agreement in principle with the intention of His Majesty's Government to set up a United Nations Commission for the investigation of war crimes, and detailed discussions with a view to the establishment of the Commission are still proceeding. In reply to the last part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) on 10th March last.

Good-Will Message To United States


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will circulate for the information of hon. Members the speeches delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, on the occasion when the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A. Evans) presented a good-will message from Mr. Speaker on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and other bodies?

I am arranging for copies of the speeches to which my hon. Friend refers to be made available in the Library of this House.

Royal Air Force

Air Crews (Steel Vests)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will take steps to provide for air crews of the Royal Air Force steel vests similar to those now worn by some American bomber crews?

This equipment is being tested by the U.S.A.A.C. but is still in the experimental stage. The Air Ministry are being kept informed, but in the meantime it is not proposed to issue this equipment for Royal Air Force use.

Travelling And Ration Allowances


asked the Secretary of State for Air the amounts allowed to airmen, travelling on duty with lorries, trailers, etc., in respect of lodging, attendance and meals; and whether he is satisfied that these allowances are adequate?

Nightly travelling allowances for airmen who cannot he provided with accommodation and food under Service arrangements vary, normally, from 4s. 6d. to 8s. a night depending on rank and the circumstances of the journey. These rates can, however, be increased in special circumstances on the authority of an airman's Commanding Officer or Air Officer Commanding. Ration allowance of 3s. 2d. for each period of 24 hours is payable in addition. These allowances are generally regarded as adequate. If, however, my hon. Friend has in mind any particular case where he considers that hardship has occurred, and will give me details, I will gladly look into it.

Statutory Rules And Orders


asked the Secretary of State for Air why no explanatory memorandum was attached to the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order, 1943 (S.R. & O. No. 748 of 1943); and whether he will state the purpose of the Order?

In reply to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) on 23rd June. As for the second part, the position is that by an Order made in July, 1939, the Air Navigation (Consolidation) Order, 1923, was amended so as to limit the grant of a Class B (Public Transport) pilot's licence in the first instance to one type of aircraft, and to require the licence-holder to make a further application and undergo further tests before his licence could be extended to other types. A fee of two guineas was to be paid for each application for an extension. It has been impossible in wartime to undertake these flying tests, and so the new Order to which my hon. Friend refers, accordingly restores the status quo.

Would it not have been as well to have given this explanation at the start? Is the Minister aware that to understand the Order it is necessary to look at four different Acts of Parliament, including one passed in Queen Victoria's time? How can the ordinary person find out what this Order means?

The arrangement with regard to explanatory memoranda has been restricted to Defence Regulations. The reason is that to apply this procedure to a very large number of Departmental Orders made under the limited powers conferred by numerous Statutes would involve formidable practical difficulties. As I have already told my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith and Cockermouth, even if an explanatory memorandum is confined to a Defence Regulation, there is no reason why a Department should not try to make Orders in the simplest possible form.

Is it not the case that the undertaking given by the Home Secretary has been followed by many Departments, who have issued explanatory memoranda with all statutory Orders?

Having regard to a pledge given to me in the presence of a large number of Members, will my right hon. and gallant Friend reconsider the matter?

Does not the Minister realise that the formidable difficulties confronting his Department are even more appalling for a private citizen?

That is why I say that the Executive must be careful to make things as simple as possible and not complicate them as much as possible.

Tactical Air Force


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has any statement to make about the recent announcement concerning the formation of a Tactical Air Force?

I have nothing to add to the announcement referred to except to say that the reorganisation has proceeded satisfactorily.

Do I understand that the Army Co-operation Command has now been absorbed?

The Army Co-operation Command disappears, and the new Tactical Air Force is formed.

Bombs On Germany (Tonnage)


asked the Secretary of State for Air the estimated tonnage of bombs dropped on Germany during the three months ended 26th June; the percentage dropped by the Royal Air Force and the American Air Force, respectively; and the tonnage dropped during the corresponding period in 1942?

Aircraft of Bomber Command dropped about 37,50o tons of bombs on Germany in the three months ended 26th June as compared with approximately 12,000 tons in the corre sponding period of 1942. The tonnage dropped by the United States Army Air Corps is not published.

Civil Aviation

Quantas Empire Airways


asked the Secretary of State for Air what requests Mr. Fysh, of Quantas Empire Airways, has made for concessions or co-operation for operating his company; and whether any statement can be made?

No requests for concessions have been made. Quantas Empire Airways, of which Mr. Fysh is Managing Director, are associated with the British Overseas Airways Corporation and were partners in the operation of the U.K.-Australia service before the Japanese invasion of Malaya. The purpose of Mr. Fysh's visit was to discuss with the Corporation matters of mutual interest. I am accordingly not in a position to make a statement, except to say that, according to my information, the visit has been most valuable to all concerned.

Do I understand from that answer that Mr. Fysh got exactly what he came to get?

No, I said that I was not in a position to make a statement, except to say that according to my information his visit was most valuable to all concerned. I can inform the hon. Lady that Mr. Fysh has been seen by Ministers and has had frequent contact with Air Ministry officials, who have benefited by his views and ideas.

No; this is a domestic matter between the British Overseas Airways Corporation and Mr. Fysh. If the hon. Lady would ask the Corporation, they may be in a position to tell her what the result will be.

Flying Boats


asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether the firms who have been commissioned to evolve designs for post-war civil aviation have to take into consideration sea-plane as well as land-plane construction?

No, Sir. In accordance with the advice of Lord Brabazon's Committee, existing plans will produce flying boats suitable for post-war civil use.

Shelmerdine Report


asked the Minister without Portfolio whether it is now proposed to publish the Shelmerdine Report on Civil Avation; and what is the reason for the delay in doing so?

It is not proposed to publish this Report, which deals with secret and confidential matters.

War Factories (Fires)


asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether he will arrange that the substance of his recent address on the wastage of effort and material that arises from constant fires occurring in war factories, caused in the majority of cases by the carelessness of individuals, receives publicity in all war factories?

Yes, Sir. All Government Departments are co-operating to see that this matter receives the utmost publicity in all war factories.

Colonial Subjects (Commissions And War Honours)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider publishing the number and ranks of Colonial subjects and, in particular, those of the West Indies and West Africa who hold commissions in His Majesty's Forces, and those who have won honours for courageous or meritorious conduct during the course of the war?

I am looking into the matter and will write to my hon. Friend as soon as it is clear what information is available.

When the Minister finds it possible to make a statement, will he do so publicly in this House, because numbers of West Africans and other Colonials will appreciate very much a statement of this character?

I will give it the utmost publicity I can, but I am not quite sure that I can give accurate information in the form in which the hon. Member has asked for it, and I would like to be in a position to write to him first.

Mauritius (Development And Welfare)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether detailed consideration, with a view to prompt action, is being given to the Report of Major St. J. Orde Browne, as to the improvement of the condition of the workers in Mauritius, described by him as a poorly paid, under nourished and sickly population?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, arising out of the Orde Browne Report, comprehensive plans are now being prepared for improvements in regard to health, economic and sub-economic housing and nutrition in Mauritius; and whether he will make a substantial grant from the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund to assist the Colony in these directions as soon as circumstances permit the work to be commenced?

The Governor of Mauritius has under consideration the recommendations in Major Orde Browne's Report, and will, I am sure, lose no time in submitting plans prepared in the light of those recommendations. An anti-malarial unit is operating at Mauritius at present, and a malarial engineer is shortly being sent to Mauritius at the Governor's request, to prepare, in conjunction with the local authorities, long-range plans for reducing the incidence of malaria. A nutrition unit is also working in the Island, and plans for further extension of its activities are awaited. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Leicester (Major Lyons) that any applications for assistance under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act to, forward these, and other schemes for improvement, will be most sympathetically considered.

As Major Orde Browne's Report is now getting old, can we have some action?

Everything will be done as quickly as possible in so far as war conditions will permit, but the hon. Gentleman must realise that both materials and labour are extremely scarce in Mauritius at the moment.

Omnibus Facilities (Workers)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that the withdrawal of unlimited travel facilities by the West Yorkshire Road Car Company, Limited, and other omnibus operators, increases the cost to the workers without curtailing travel, as most journeys made by contract tickets are unavoidable; and whether he will issue instructions that some other method of curtailing travel is to be sought?

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

I regret that I cannot accept the assumptions made by my hon. Friend in his Question. The withdrawal of tickets allowing an unlimited number of journeys has undoubtedly reduced the amount of unnecessary travel and has, I believe, done so without causing any avoidable hardship. In the area to which my hon. Friend refers, multiple journey tickets or daily workmen's return tickets have been substituted for unlimited travel tickets. They are available on the outward journey up to 9 a.m. and are also provided for Sunday and night shift workers. Some workmen's tickets are cheaper and are available till a later hour than they were before. Similarly, for some tickets which allow six return journeys a week, the fare is less, while in others where there is an increase, the amount of the increase is very small.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the implication of his statement is that workmen will take their meals in restaurants instead of at home, thus throwing a burden on the Ministry of Food, and, further, is he aware that this step has caused great indignation, as has been shown by the many petitions and resolutions of councils?

I regret that we have had to make similar arrangements in many different parts of the country. They have caused a certain amount of inconvenience to begin with, but they were accepted as being necessary in the national interest.

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter to see that workers are not charged more; under the new conditions and so that they can go back in the middle of the day?

As I have explained, in some cases workers are actually being charged less. Where the charge is higher it is only a very little higher, and I think that on the whole it has come out extremely well.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that facilities are adequate, especially in the Elland Division, where they are all cross-country and there is no real sectional transport road?

The definition of the word "adequate" varies according to what the hon. Member has in mind. Unfortunately, we have to do the best we can with our limited resources, and we have to hold the balance equally between the different areas.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some workers are paying 16 guineas a year more under the new travel system?

African And West Indian Colonies (Income Tax)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will set out the current rates of Income Tax in the East African, West African and West Indian British Colonies, respectively?

Income Tax in the Colonies is in general assessed at a fixed rate in the case of companies and a table of the company rates in the Colonies referred to will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. In the case of individuals there are many varying rates in each Colony, according to the person's income; and the deductions allowed in respect of a wife, children, etc., vary between the different Colonies. It is not, therefore, possible to draw up a simple statement giving the information asked for. The minimum and maximum rates of tax (including Surtax) in those Colonies will, however, also be included in the table circulated with the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the table:

(rate in £)(rate in £)

East Africa:

Northern Rhodesia601080

West Africa:

Gold Coast{Income Tax legislation is to be introduced this year based on the Nigerian legislation.
Sierra Leone

West Indies:

British Guiana501120
British Honduras50126

Leeward Islands:

Virgin IslandsNilNilNil
St. Kitts-Nevis701136

Windward Islands:

St. Vincent404106
St. Lucia506100

Shipping Companies (Reserves)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether his attention has been called to the accounts of the ship liner companies and their accumulations of profit and, in particular, to the recently published accounts of the Ocean Steamship Company, Limited, which has a nominal capital of £425,337, with, in addition, accumulated reserves which have increased from £5,390,241 in 1939 to £9,676,283 in 1942; and whether he proposes to take any steps to reduce freights or revise agreements which permit of such increments?

My Ministry receive and scrutinise the published accounts of the shipping companies. In determining rates and conditions of hire, however, and for other financial purposes, we take all relevant information into account, and do not rely on these Accounts alone. If my hon. Friend will look at the accounts of the Ocean Steamship Company again, he will see that the increase in reserves to which he draws attention includes the insurance money paid for ships which have been lost. I am sure he will agree that adequate reserves should be held for the replacement of tonnage after the war. In general, the present arrangements are designed to allow a reasonable return to owners for the use of their ships, but the rates of hire are subject to revision from time to time, and I should like to assure my hon. Friend that, in the future as in the past, the whole matter will be very closely watched.

Is my hon. Friend aware that after the last war there was a sense of horror among people when they saw the great fortunes left by shipowners, that figures of this kind, unless carefully checked, might lead to a similar situation after this war and that it would be considered a great reflection on his Department unless a careful check was kept?

My hon. Friend may be assured that fortunes on the scale made after the last war are not now being made. With regard to these figures, we must remember that the shipping companies show their fleets in their accounts at a depreciated value when they have been written down year after year, whereas they insure them at their full replacement value.

Are we to understand that my hon. Friend is doing everything possible to prevent any impairment of the capitalist system?

My hon. Friend may understand what he likes, but I think, if he examines the thing, he will see that this is a pretty fair arrangement all round.

Is the hon. Gentleman sure that there will be adequate employment after the war in shipbuilding and the Merchant Navy?

Channel Tunnel


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in view of the success of the tunnel underneath the Mersey, he has now made plans for tunnelling under the Channel in order that, after the war, easy access for road and rail traffic may be made available between this country and the Continent?

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer in view of the fact that employment results when there are easy communications and access to trade? In making plans for the future, is not this an important consideration?

I do not want to express an opinion on the merits of the Channel Tunnel, in favour of which I have spoken in the past, but no new plans can be made except in co-operation with the authorities who rule on the other side of the Channel, and it is premature to hope that the present authorities will give it their help.

Would it not be advisable to give priority to a tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland, of which the distance would be only 19 miles, say, between Portpatrick and Donaghadee?

Shipwrecked Seamen (Wages And Leave Concessions)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he has a statement to make as to the payment of full wages to shipwrecked seafarers and at whose charge and the commencing date of same?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for this opportunity of saying that my Ministry, in agreement with the shipping industry and with the representatives of the officers' and men's societies, have recently revised the arrangements made for shipwrecked seamen. In future, every shipwrecked seaman will receive full wages, including his war risk money, until he returns to the United Kingdom, or until he is offered employment in another ship or manning pool abroad. He will also be granted, on arrival in the United Kingdom, 14 days' special shipwreck leave, with full pay, and this will be in addition to any normal Service leave which may be due to him. These arrangements will apply to all shipwrecked seamen who arrive in the United Kingdom on or after 1st July, 1943. Half the cost will be paid by the shipowners, and half by my Ministry.

Upon whom does the responsibility rest that this was not initiated at the outbreak of the war?

Ministry Of Information

News Few Armed Forces


asked the Minister of Information whether he is satisfied that adequate channels exist for the purpose of conveying information to the Fighting Services as to the social, political and military developments of the war, so as to ensure that every fighting man is fully acquainted with the progress of events at home and abroad?

My hon. and gallant Friend asks me to assure him that the fighting man is fully acquainted with events at home and abroad. I cannot do so. His Majesty's Forces are fighting on land, in the air, on the sea, and under the sea in many parts of the world. Some of our warriors must often lack news. But I can give my hon. and gallant Friend the assurance that, working with the Service Departments, the Ministry of Information does its best to provide the fighting man with newspapers, broadcasts and summaries of news.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his comprehensive reply, will he not consider, in conjunction with the heads of the Fighting Services, extending the scope of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, which I consider a first-class publication, in making it applicable to all the Services?

I do not think A.B.C.A. would be much good in a submarine, because they would not have room for instructors, but I will bring the matter to the notice of my colleagues.

British Tanks (Letter To Newspaper)


asked the Minister of Information why a letter written by the hon. Member for East Willesden on the subject of British tanks, which "The Times" newspaper desired to publish, has been censored by his Department when submitted by the editor?

The letter to which my hon. Friend refers contained a certain amount of information the publication of which could not be approved on security grounds and "The Times" newspaper was advised accordingly.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the letter contained very restrained criticism of certain aspects of tank policy and that that policy was indicated and explained by responsible Ministers at a meeting which was neither confidential nor secret? Is he satisfied that to prevent the ventilation of a point of view which is sincerely held by many well-informed people is really in the public interest?

I must inform my hon. Friend, first of all, that the Censor is no respector of person, including Ministers. He has a very great responsibility resting on his shoulders, and I have told him to be as tough as possible in all matters which affect the security of the country. I daresay that censors sometimes suffer from an excess of zeal, but I had rather they did that than that they should be incompetent.

Since when has a censorship of the English Press been imposed opposed to the censorship of material, Press and other, leaving this country?

I do not quite understand my hon. and gallant Friend's Question. It is open to any newspaper not to submit articles or letters to the Censor. They can take the risk themselves. But if a newspaper editor submits any document or letter to the Censor, he must abide by the Censor's judgment. The Censor is sometimes not infallible, but I am satisfied that in this case he is doing his duty.

Bombed Enemy Targets (Raf Photographs)


asked the Minister of Information whether he will arrange for a national tour of the exhibition of Royal Air Force photographs of bomb damage on enemy targets recently displayed in this House for the benefit of hon. Members?


asked the Minister of Information whether the aerial photographs now being shown in a Committee Room of this House will be shown throughout the country in order that the general public can see what damage has been done to bombed areas in Germany; and whether they will also be sent to Russia and America?

Photographic exhibitions of the damage done to enemy targets by our bombing attacks have been touring the country for some time, and we intend to add to these exhibitions some of the stereoscopic panels recently shown in this House. I hope it will be possible to arrange also for copies to be sent to Russia and the United States, where earlier photographs have already been shown.

German Crimes (Publicity)


asked the Minister of Information whether his attention has been called to the account given by a Dutchman, who recently reached this country, of the cruelty practised in German slave labour camps upon foreign workers; and whether widespread publicity is being given to this organised and officially directed barbarism throughout the United Nations?

The Netherlands News Agency has cabled this report to leading capitals abroad, and both the B.B.C. and the Dutch have broadcast it.

28 and 29.

asked the Minister of Information (1) whether he has considered the protest issued by the Dutch Reformed Church, on 16th May, on the indignities, misery and starvation imposed on the Dutch people; and whether publicity is being given in the United States of America to this indictment of German criminal action upon a helpless people;

(2) what publicity is being given, especially in the United States of America, to the treatment of 3,000 Catholic priests in the Dachau concentration camp, 2,000 of whom are Poles?

The Press of the United States retain a large number of able and active correspondents, who miss no significant news. I am informed that these bestial German crimes and the protests issued by the Churches have been given wide publicity in the United States.

As these stories are becoming more and more common and the cruelty seems to be increasing, would it not be possible for the Government to consider having evidence taken on oath and, where possible, witnesses, so that we could publish a White Paper with Governmental authority behind the stories?

Air Mail (Overseas Forces)

33 and 34.

asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether he is satisfied that there is an adequate supply of mail-carrying aircraft to ensure as efficient an air-mail postal service to and from our Forces overseas as is possible in the existing circumstances;

(2) whether he will institute a service whereby business papers and documents, greater in bulk or weight than ordinary letters, may be sent by all air routes to and from our Forces overseas?

The aircraft capacity available for the conveyance of mails to and from the troops abroad is at present sufficient to enable airgraphs and light-weight air letters to be carried all the way by air, but 1 regret that unless and until a substantial increase in aircraft capacity becomes available it is impossible to provide all-air transmission for heavier types of correspondence, such as ordinary letters, with or without enclosures, exchanged with the troops in North Africa, the Middle East and countries beyond

Post Office Counter Work (Women)


asked -.he Postmaster-General in how many Crown post offices a male counter staff has been replaced by a female counter staff; and to what extent this If ks involved an increase in personnel?

I regret that the information desired is not available and could not readily be obtained, Before the war women were employed at the counters of many Crown post offices, but during the war many additional women have been recruited not only to replace the men withdrawn for service with the Forces and other duties, but also to provide for the war-time increase of counter work. The replacement of men by women on counter-work does not usually involve any change in total staff.

Agricultural Workers' Cottages


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether the agricultural cottages to be built by his Department are to have concrete floors and stairs?

In the agricultural cottages to be built to the Ministry of Works' specification, there will be no concrete floors with the exception of the larder and W.C. The kitchen, hall and bathroom will be quarry tiled. The living room floor, staircase and the bedroom floors will be of timber.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that local authorities and others who have desired to use timber for floors, stairs and so forth have been unable to use it because of the shortage of supply, and how is it, if there is this shortage, that timber can be used for these cottages?

An application has been made to the Timber Controller, and timber has been released.

Are these the agricultural cottages we heard about many months ago or some other cottages?

Will the Minister give a further explanation of the known fact that cottages built by his Department seem to have a call on any amount of timber and that those built by anyone else are restricted by his Department?


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works how many prefabricated dwellings for agricultural key workers have been built for which his Department is responsible; what was the cost per dwelling and per foot super; and what was the shortest and longest time taken from the decision to build being made and their fitness for habitation?

The Ministry of Works has so far built 10 married quarters for agricultural key workers. The cost is about £600. The cost per foot super is 19s. 5d. The actual time taken in building varies between three and five months.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied with the speed of erection and the price of these buildings?

Does not my hon. Friend think that in these questions it would be better to mention feet and yards instead of super feet, so that we can understand them?

Can the Minister tell us why the cost is so much greater than the pre-war cost?


asked the Minister of Health whether local authorities were advised by his Department that if difficulty were experienced in securing materials or labour for the construction of cottages for agricultural workers, his Department would make available reserves of material and introduce the necessary labour?

Local authorities were informed in the Circular which my right hon. Friend sent to them on 4th February that every priority for labour and materials will be accorded to approved schemes.

While I thank the hon. Lady for her reply, is she aware that this Question was addressed to the Ministry of Works, and is it not the policy of that Department to transfer all awkward matters to other Departments?

Is it not a fact that the situation has changed since February, and that the promise of assistance from the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Works is now of no value whatsoever in this matter?

Yes. I am glad to say that the prohibition that the Ministry of Works imposed for the houses at first, saying that timber was not to be used, has now been rescinded, and timber will be permitted to local authorities for exactly the same purpose as announced by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works.

Adopted Naval Ships (Welfare Funds)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to proposals made by some boroughs and local authorities regarding the establishment by them of a fund for the benefit of the officers and men of His Majesty's ships which they have adopted, the fund to be used to help cases not covered by existing service facilities and to be administered by the commanding officer; and whether, in in view of the good such arrangements would do, he will authorise and encourage their establishment?

Under existing arrangements sums contributed for welfare purposes by localities in connection with Warship Weeks can be earmarked, up to a certain limit based on the ship's complement, for the provision of amenities for their adopted ship. In general the Admiralty are averse from the creation of separate welfare funds for individual ships on account of the great inequality as between one ship and another to which they are likely to lead. Central funds exist, both for benevolent purposes and for amenities, which can distribute money or goods on an equitable basis; and to these the public can contribute with the assurance that their money will be spent in the fairest possible way and with full regard to the relative needs of the recipient, whether individual or ship. There are no calls, either for charity or for welfare, which cannot be met from these central funds.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that at the beginning of the war a great-hearted American lady adopted two whole Tribal flotillas and, amongst other things, annually placed at the disposal of each commanding officer and the captain "D" of each flotilla a sum of money to be used in order to help any hard cases of necessity which might occur in the flotillas, and that the scheme worked very well? Is there any reason why localities which adopt particular ships should not be tied to those ships by this bond of kind- ness and charity? Would it not be a very good thing in the public interest?

The locality is tied to the ship for a certain amount, but we would prefer that the locality and the country should be tied to the Royal Navy. The adoption of ships for purposes of this kind does lead to a feeling of inequality and creates certain abuses. One wealthy city may adopt a ship and another locality very much poorer may adopt another ship, and the transfer of the officers and men from one ship to another would lead to the difficulties which I have mentioned.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that while the country owes a debt of gratitude and affection to the Royal Navy the whole idea underlying the exchange of these plaques is the formation of a link between a locality and one of His Majesty's ships in which that locality can take a personal interest, and that this kind of fund would help that personal interest very much?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that as a result of personal adoption much more work is done, and that in one case at Croydon 1,200 garments were supplied in 10 days to a ship which was moving to tropical waters? That would not have been done if there were not personal interest.

This is a matter of subscribing money, and it would lead to the difficulties I have referred to.

North Africa (4Th June Celebrations)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what expense was incurred by the Admiralty in the supply of material for the 4th June celebrations in North Africa; and whether this expense is being reimbused by anyone?

I regret that I am not at present in a position to make any statement in reply to this Question, but inquiries are being made, and I will communicate with the hon. Member in due course.

British Army

Discharged Personnel (King's Badge)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that disappointment and a sense of griev- ance is increasingly felt by many officers and men who volunteered and were accepted for service early in the war and have since been discharged, without a pension, on grounds of ill-health, owing to the fact that they are still ineligible for the King's Badge, he will now give further consideration to their desire to be granted this tangible sign of their service?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) by the Deputy Prime Minister on 9th June, 1942, of which I am sending him a copy.

In view of the disappointment which the answer will cause among ex-Service men, could the hon. and learned Gentleman hold out any hope that the matter will be reconsidered?

Soldiers' Death, Detention Camp (Court Of Inquiry)


asked the Secretary of State for War what measures he intends to take to prevent a recurrence of the Army treatment which resulted in the recent death of Rifleman Clayton in the Gillingham detention camp; and whether consideration will be given by way of pension or grant to the dependants of the deceased soldier?

As my right hon. Friend promised in answering several Questions on this distressing case on 18th May, a military court of inquiry will now be held into the circumstances of this case and will deal fully with all the issues raised. Any question of an award to dependants will be considered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions.

Does the Secretary of State himself really appreciate that the country has been profoundly disturbed by the revelations in this case and that nothing short of some drastic measures will satisfy public opinion?

I can certainly answer the first part of the question in the affirmative. As regards the other part, I can assure the House that this court of inquiry will have the fullest possible terms of reference in regard to this particular case. It is hoped that it will commence its sittings in the next few days.

My hon. and learned Friend said that all the circumstances will be taken into consideration; will those circumstances include a general consideration of the medical arrangements?

Certainly, Sir. I said that there would be the fullest possible terms of reference in regard to this particular case.

Will the inquiry include other detention camps and the recommendations of the jury with regard to them?

This court of inquiry will consider only the situation in relation to this particular camp.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that these cases are becoming far too frequent and that there is a general feeling that there ought to be an inquiry into all the detention camps and adequate medical staffs so that this sort of thing will not occur again?

If my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to cases of violence, his statement is not correct. During the last 18 months there have been four cases reported and convictions in two of them.

Is not my hon. and learned Friend aware that this is not the only fatal case in such circumstances, and does he not think that the time has come when there might well be, in order to satisfy public opinion, a full inquiry into the conduct of all detention camps?

I am not aware that there are other cases where death has resulted from violence in detention camps.

Have the Army Council considered the statement made by the Judge and jury in this case?

Certainly it has been brought to the notice of the military authorities, but nothing can be done until the court of inquiry has sat, received evidence and made its report.

Occupied Countries (Post-War Policing)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the possibility of mobilising at the conclusion of hostilities all fit men in industry, Home and Civil Defence personnel and others who have not served overseas during this war, to provide a force for the policing of occupied territories so that many of those now serving overseas in the Army may be demobilised and returned home?

The whole question of the continuance of compulsory military service after the cessation of hostilities is being considered, but I am not prepared at present to make a statement as to the circumstances likely to obtain at the end of the war.

Would this question of fit men also include young men who are Members of Parliament at the present time?

Service Administrative Duties (Women)


asked the Prime Minister whether, with a view to relieving junior male officers for more active duties at home and overseas, he will consider selecting officers of the Women's Services in the Navy, Army and Air Force for employment in their place in administration duties in static offices at home?

Yes, Sir. This policy has been pursued for some time in all three Services.

National Nutrition Organisation


asked the Prime Minister what steps it is proposed to take in this country to implement the recommendation of the Hot Springs Conference that every country should establish a national nutrition organisation composed of authorities in health, nutrition, economics and agriculture?

There exists already in this country a Standing Committee on Nutrition, composed of representatives of various Government Departments and scientific bodies, which performs all the functions recommended in this connection at Hot Springs.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the International Labour Office has been invited to co-operate in this matter?

I should be glad if my hon. Friend would put that question down. I know it has been associated in some way, but without notice I cannot say exactly how.

Ministry Of Supply

Revoked Orders


asked the Minister of Supply why the Emergency Powers (Defence) Ministry of Supply Orders (General Revocations) do not indicate in the explanatory note what is the general nature of the provisions of the Orders revoked, or which are rendered nugatory by an Order in Council; and why the Order referred to is not specified?

This information is clearly set out in the preamble to the Order, and it was thought unnecessary to repeat it in the explanatory note.

Will the hon. Gentleman say why it does not indicate which Orders are rendered nugatory?

As it has been given as a pledge to this House that explanatory notes shall be attached to these more or less unintelligible Orders, why should it be left to the discretion of one of my hon. Friend's administrators to decide whether an explanatory note is necessary or not, when it has been understood and promised and pledged that explanatory notes would be attached to these Orders?

As I understand it, the question whether or not an explanatory note should be attached is one for the Minister to decide.

In this case the Order is perfectly plain, and if an explanatory note were added it could not be very much more explicit than the preamble to the Order itself.

Hendon Paper Works Company, Sunder-Land (Contract)


asked the Minister of Supply upon which terms of the contract between himself and the Hendon Paper Works Company, Limited, of Sunderland, he is advised that there is no call upon him to reimburse the company the cost of unloading straw stored on his behalf and subsequently removed upon his instructions after damage by fire?

I am advised that there is no term of the contract which entitles the company to reimbursement in the case in question, nor any liability on the Ministry of Supply outside the contract to make reimbursement.

Does the Minister support the contention of the Paper Control that the straw removed had ceased to be paper-making material within the terms of the contract?

That is another question. The Question which was asked to-day is whether we, the Ministry of Supply, accept any liability in this case. According to the best legal advice we have, under the terms of the contract we have no liability whatever.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Food Supplies

Ships From North Africa (Ballast)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will obtain fruit, or other foodstuffs, for use as ballast in vessels return-log from North Africa instead of Algerian wine?

Fruit is not suitable for shipment as ballast, nor should it be supposed that any substantial amount of foodstuffs are in excess supply and available for export in North Africa at present. My hon. Friend may rest assured that if foodstuffs become available they will be brought to this country whenever practicable.

As I said, it would be false to suppose that there is any substantial excess of food supplies in North Africa.

Has the Minister been told whether it is good Algerian wine?

Why is it that the wine, having been brought to this country, is not yet made available to the public?



asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that during the last season the South country received an average of over 6 lbs. of tomatoes per head of the population, while in the North-East country it was 3.85 lbs.; and what steps he is taking to give the North-East coast an equal share with the rest of the country?

No, Sir, supplies of tomatoes distributed under last year's scheme did not average 6 lbs. per head of the population in the South of England. Taking Great Britain as a whole, the supply of tomatoes distributed under the scheme averaged 4.19 lbs. per head. The average supply distributed in deficiency areas amounted to 3.98 lbs. per head. My Department cannot arrange for a crop so perishable and so variable in supply as tomatoes to be distributed with mathematical accuracy, but every effort will be made to ensure that all parts of the country, including North-Eastern districts, receive in the course of the season supplies of tomatoes in proportion to the size of the local population.

Cases From United States (Pilfering)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that retailers are complaining that cases of pork luncheon meat imported from the United States of America contain bricks, apparently packed to fill up space, and that drain pipes are found in cases of tinned salmon; and what action is being taken to remedy this and protect retailers here?

I am aware that tins of canned meats and canned fish are pilfered occasionally and that foreign bodies are sometimes inserted to fill the gaps so caused in the cases. The volume of complaint from retailers on this score is negligible. Retailers generally have no difficulty in obtaining reimbursement from their suppliers for the lost goods on presentation of satisfactory evidence.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these bricks, worth a penny, are substituted for meat which costs 15s. to the consumer?

As I say, we have had very few complaints, and we cannot avoid a certain amount of pilfering. It does not appear that these foreign bodies have a foreign origin.

Fish (Prices)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he has seen the reduction of 10d. per stone in fish prices to the inshore fishermen and whether any representative of the inshore fishermen attended the price-fixing meeting; and whether he is aware that the new price is below the pre-war price and with the increased cost of gear, bait and labour, will cause distress and hardship to our inshore fishermen; and will he take some steps to keep this important industry on a sound economic basis?

The prices to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers were discussed with the Fish Industry Joint Council, but I understand that, although that Council represents the industry as a whole, it does not contain at present a special representative of inshore fishermen. The new prices, which are in general substantially above pre-war prices, apply to all producers and were fixed after full consideration had been given to all relevant factors including the cost of gear and labour. It is not practicable to fix special prices to inshore fishermen whose catch constitutes only a very small proportion of all the fish landed.

Does not my hon. Friend consider it is absolutely necessary for our inshore men to be properly represented on this body, so that we do not get these complaints, and if this industry is not vital to the country and is not going to be made an economic industry could not these men be usefully used in something else rather than be left to dwindle away in declining numbers?

I wholly agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and the Fish Industry Joint Council is trying to persuade the inshore fishermen to appoint a representative to sit on the Council.

Price Regulation (Charges For Containers)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what steps he is taking to ensure that traders are not evading maximum price regulations by the device of any excessive charge for containers of a damageable character, for instance, paper bags?

It is the practice of my Department to include, where appropriate, in its maximum price Orders a provision prohibiting in terms the making of any additional charge for containers. I have no reason to believe that there is any general evasion of our maximum price Orders in the manner suggested, but I shall be pleased to have investigated any specific cases brought to my notice.

Does that reply mean that if a charge of 1d. is made for a paper bag without which the article purchased cannot be taken away, that is regarded by the hon. Gentleman's Department as an evasion of the price regulations?

I think the precise terms of the regulations must be interpreted by the courts.

Carrots Order


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the object of paragraph 14 of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Carrots) Order (S.R. O. No. 831 of 1943); and, in particular, what was intended to he meant by the words "any artificial transaction"?

This article appears in all Orders made by my Department to control prices. Its object is to make it an offence to attempt to evade a controlled price by some collateral bargain which is fictitious and not bona-fide. Whether a charge purporting to be made for some fictitious service is or is not an artificial transaction must be a matter for decision by the courts.

Why is not the term "artificial transaction" used in the Order, which contains a long interpretation clause?

I think the hon. Member will appreciate that a similar term was used in the Finance Act, and that the interpretation must be left to the proper body charged with the duty of interpretation.

merely used the Act as an illustration. I am sure that the hon. Member fully appreciates that it is impossible to define in an Order what is an artificial transaction.

Northern Ireland Potatoes (Price)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, owing to the dissatisfaction among farmers at the lower price fixed for potatoes grown in Northern Ireland as compared with that paid in Great Britain, he will go afresh into the whole matter and fix the price of the 1943 crop at the same rate for the whole of the United Kingdom?

Prices of potatoes of the 1943 crop from 5th August onwards are now under discussion, and representations on behalf of Northern Ireland farmers will be carefully considered. My Noble Friend however does not contemplate abandoning the customary practice of grading prices according to the district of production.

Will the Minister of Food bear in mind that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and that the farmers there have the same liabilities as farmers on this side and should receive the same consideration?

Closed Creamery, County Tyrone


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that Mr. Patrick McDermott, of Dromore, County Tyrone, has had the creamery he purchased for £1,200 closed, and has been deprived of earning a livelihood for himself and his family; and whether he will arrange that this man is adequately compensated for the loss of income arising from the closing down of his creamery?

Compensation is being paid to the owners of the closed creameries in Northern Ireland. Although the claim forms have been sent to Mr. McDermott, no application has yet been received from him.

Is the Minister aware that I have received a number of complaints from Mr. McDermott? I want to ask the Minister of Food to grant this gentleman ordinary British justice and to deal with him fairly and squarely.

Fish Friers (Frying Fat)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether-he is aware that fish-frying businesses in the Brandon, Langley Moor, Browney and Meadowfield districts are closed three days a week because of their inability to obtain supplies of fat, while at the same time they are unable to accept supplies of fish owing to the above shortage; and can he do anything to remove this hardship from the fish friers and the general public?

Yes, Sir. Some fish friers are at times unable to take up their full allocation of fish because they are temporarily short of frying fat. The average amount of fat allocated by my Department to fish friers is 75 per cent. of their pre-war purchases, the actual amount for each area varying according to changes in population which have since taken place. The supply position does not permit my Department to increase this percentage, and each frier must use the allowance in the best interests of his business and his customers.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that in the areas concerned there are 2,300 houses, between 9,000 and 10,000 of population, and over 4,000 workers? Cannot something be done for the population of that area? The general public are terribly affected by the closing down of those shops.

I am sure that my hon. Friend appreciates the supply position. We do give most generous assistance to fish friers.

Bilberries (Picking Rates)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the reasons which decided his Ministry to fix the price of 7d. per lb. to whimberry pickers this season?

The price of bilberries or whimberries has been controlled because of the large number of complaints last season that they were being sold in retail shops at quite excessive prices. The price to the picker, which is nearly twice as high as that allowed to the picker of wild blackberries, appeared to be reasonable in relation to the prices currently fixed for other soft fruits.