Skip to main content

Ministry Of Information

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 30 June 1943

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

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.