Trade And Commerce
Deaf-Aid Apparatus (Batteries)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the continuing acute shortage of dry batteries for amplifying instruments for deaf people; and whether he will release sufficient batteries to remedy this state of affairs?
I fully appreciate the importance of maintaining the supply of batteries for deaf-aid apparatus; and I am aware that, owing to urgent war contracts, there has been some shortage recently of certain types of batteries. I hope that, as a result of arrangements which I have now made, the manufacturers will soon overtake arrears.
Thank you, Sir.
If that is so, will my right hon. Friend see that batteries are available for all types of instruments, because hitherto only some of the more expensive ones seem to have been dealt with?
Yes, Sir. We are conscious that there have been one or two gaps in the production programme, due, I repeat, to war contracts, as the troops need these things for several purposes; but I hope that all the arrears will be caught up.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been drawn to the recent speech of the Chilian Ambassador about the need for closer commercial relations between Chile and this country; and what immediate steps does he propose to take to facilitate this end, seeing that all the best opportunities will be lost if assistance to exporters is delayed till after the war?
I have seen a report of this speech. I fully share His Excellency's desire that commercial relations between Chile and this country shall be maintained and strengthened, and I shall continue to do everything possible to this end.
Do the Government realise the absolute need of stimulating exports to Chile immediately, now? It is most vital.
No, Sir, we cannot stimulate exports now unless they serve the war effort.
Will the Government prepare a place for them after the war?
Retailers' Bombed-Out Stocks (Replacement)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will reconsider the withdrawal of special licences granted to manufacturers to replace bombed-out stocks to retailers, as the present arrangement for retailers only to obtain commodities from normal quotas of manufacturers and wholesalers creates considerable hardship on themselves and the general public?
The general licences to which my hon. Friend refers have lapsed or been revoked, mainly because most kinds of essential goods are no longer subject to quota control. For goods still subject to quota control, it is open to a retailer, whose stocks have been bombed, to apply to my Department for the issue of a quota-free licence to his supplier. At present levels of production it is not of course always possible to replace stocks of non-essential goods.
Is there any real difficulty about bombed-out retailers getting sufficient supplies to replace the stocks they had, in order to carry on business? I understand that it is almost impossible to obtain supplies.
It is certainly not almost impossible to obtain them. It depends upon the class of goods. Where the goods are essential—clothing, for example—we do our utmost always to replace. On the other hand, there are some non-essential goods, which are in very short supply anyhow. If the trader had a stock of those, I am afraid that we cannot always undertake to replace it.
British Film Industry
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the serious concern which has been expressed by the Films Council and others regarding the tendency towards monopoly in the film industry, he has any statement to make?
Yes, Sir. I have discussed this question with Mr. J. Arthur Rank, who is chairman of two of the leading cinema-owning companies and controls a number of other film enterprises, including several production studios. I informed Mr. Rank that the Government could not acquiesce in the creation of anything like a monopoly at any stage in the film industry. He has assured me that he fully understands this, and has been good enough to give me an undertaking not to acquire additional cinemas or studios without the prior consent of the President of the Board of Trade. I am circulating in the Official Report the exchange of letters in which this undertaking is confirmed. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the public-spirited manner in which Mr. Rank has responded to the Government's wishes in this matter. Mr. Rank has already done much for British films and will, I do not doubt, play a great part in their development in the years to come. I have also received undertakings from the chief shareholders in the Associated British Picture Corporation—the other large cinema-owning company—that they will not dispose of their shares without first consulting the President of the Board of Trade, and I should like to thank all those concerned for their co-operation.
In view of the satisfactory termination of these negotiations, will not the right hon. Gentleman approach the same gentleman in respect of the milling combines?
I am afraid that that is not within my departmental responsibility.Following is the exchange of letters referred to:
28th June, 1943.
"My dear Mr. Rank,
During the course of our recent discussions, I explained to you that the Government, who desire to see the development of a vigorous and successful film industry and look to you to play an important part in achieving this aim, have lately been much concerned at the appearance of certain monopolistic tendencies in the industry. I emphasised that the Government could not acquiesce in the creation of anything like a monopoly at any stage— production, distribution or exhibition. I was glad to learn that you fully appreciated this, and to have the assurance that you had no intention of securing for yourself, or the companies with which you are associated, any undue measure of control.
You were also good enough to say that, to prevent misunderstanding, and to make sure that no action should be taken which might be contrary to the Government's wishes in this matter, you would undertake that neither you nor the companies which you control would take any steps to secure control, directly or indirectly, of additional cinemas or their booking arrangements, or of production studios, without the prior consent of the President of the Board of Trade, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.
I should be very glad if you would confirm this undertaking, which will, I believe, go far to allay the anxieties expressed in many quarters.
I understand that you wish to conclude some negotiations which are already far advanced for the purchase of certain cinemas and you were good enough to send me a detailed list. In cases in which bids already made are accepted I raise no objection, but I should like you to agree to make no new bids and not to increase any bids which prove unacceptable to the vendor. The total number of cinemas operated by Odeon and Gaumont-British Companies would therefore be something less than 607.
I shall be most happy to discuss with you at any time any problems which may arise out of this undertaking, or, indeed, any other questions concerning the British film industry, to the progress of which you have already contributed so much.
(Sgd.) Hugh Dalton. "
Reigate Heath, Surrey.
My dear Mr. Dalton,
Thank you for your letter of the 28th instant, in the second paragraph of which you set out the undertaking which I gave you verbally, and which I now have pleasure in confirming.
I can assure you that I have no desire to see anything in the nature of a monopoly created in the film industry; but I believe you appreciate that some degree of rationalisation was required if the British Industry is to be built on a sound basis, and given sufficient solidarity to compete in fields where powerful elements were already established.
It is with very real pleasure that I have received your assurance that I can come and discuss with you any problem which affects the British Industry.
(Sgd.) J. ARTHUR RANK."
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his inspectors are required, when questioning retailers or others in an endeavour to obtain evidence on which a prosecution can be based, to issue a prefatory warning analogous to that delivered by police officers?
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that, as regards members of the Home Guard, no endorsement of the identity card is permitted similar to that placed upon the old identity cards which showed the holder to be, in fact, a member of the Home Guard; that cards of members of the air-raid precautions personnel do carry details of the rank, etc., of the holder; and, in view of the desirability of a member of the Home Guard being able similarly to establish his bona fides, will suitable arrangements be made to achieve this result?
The identity cards of Home Guards in anti-aircraft units will, for operational reasons, be specially stamped. The application of this measure to all members of the Home Guard would involve administrative difficulties which probably outweigh the advantages which might be gained.
Is there any reason why the existing endorsements upon the old identity cards should not be transferred to the new identity cards when the cards are exchanged, because many Home Guards are proud of having the original endorsements on their cards?
Apart from the administrative difficulties, to which I have referred, I am not aware of any difficulty, and I shall be glad to look into the matter to see whether it is possible to adopt the suggestion.
asked the Secretary of State for War what number of Regular officers under 35 years of age and medical category A are now employed as Home Guard training officers?
There are seven such officers directly employed with Home Guard battalions.
Will my right hon. Friend consider whether they can be more suitably employed?
These are special cases, and there are very few of them. They are confined to cases where the circumstances do justify the use of Ai officers.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that the efforts of recruiting authorities to attract young volunteers with promises of continuation of training in their present trades are not being frustrated by the drafting of such recruits to non-technical arms subsequent to enlistment?
On enlistment all young soldiers sign a certificate in which they express a preference for a particular regiment or corps. But this certificate includes the words:
Generally speaking, they are not diverted from the arm of their choice unless they are urgently needed elsewhere."I realise, however, that such may not be in the interests of the Service and may not therefore be possible."
War Department, Palestine (Civilian Staffs)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the financial difficulties being experienced by members of his staff employed in Palestine, owing to the increase in the cost of living; and whether he will expedite the decision on the claim for compensation which was lodged by the staffs through their association with the military authorities in Palestine in March last?
A revised scheme of payments to meet the increased cost of living in Palestine was authorised in May last, and instructions have been issued for the additional payments to be made to War Department staffs with effect from 1st April, 1943. The scheme embodies the recommendations of the Wages Committee set up by the Palestine Government.
Does that apply to employees of the Army?
It refers to civil employees of the War Department in Palestine, and not to the Army.
asked the Secretary of State for War when the first psychiatrist was appointed by his Department during the present war; how many are now in the service of his Department; and how many men have already been discharged from the Army consequent upon examination by psychiatrists?
There were psychiatrists serving in the R.A.M.C. many years before the war, but the first new appointment after the outbreak of war was made on 8th September, 1939. There are 198 now serving. Since the beginning of the war about 23 per cent, of those discharged from the Army on medical grounds have been discharged for psychiatric reasons.
War Department Constabulary
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the associations which cater for the War Department constabulary have the same rights as regards arbitration as other bodies of workers enjoy?
No definite procedure has been laid down for arbitration on questions affecting the War Department Constabulary, but the War Department Constabulary Association, which raised this question has been informed that in the event of failure to reach agreement on any matter under negotiation between the War Office and the War Department Constabulary Association it would be for settlement between the Department and the association whether the matter should be referred to the Industrial Court or to some other arbitration body set up specially by agreement to decide the particular case.
Does that mean applying the agreement as to the particular piece of machinery to be used, that the War Minister does agree that these men should be entitled to increases without Question?
It means precisely what I have said, in the specific answer I have given to the hon. Member's question.
If the meaning of the answer is specific, perhaps the Minister will be good enough to tell me what it is?
The answer is that it is a matter for agreement in any particular instance whether the case should be referred to arbitration and what particular form of arbitration should be adopted.
While I thank the Minister for that reply, would he not then agree that there should be an automatic right of reference to arbitration, as there is in the case of employees of every other body? Why should these cases be looked at separately to see whether they are for arbitration or not?
The position of the War Department Constabulary is not the same as that of other civilian employees.
Is not the Minister aware that this right is already enjoyed in some sections?
Royal Armoured Corps (Cavalry Regiments)
asked the Secretary of State for War why the cavalry regiments, which now form part of the Royal Armoured Corps are not allowed to wear on their uniforms their regimental badge or name, as this decision has caused great dissatisfaction to these regiments with their individual traditions and long roll of battle honours?
These regiments are now part of the Royal Armoured Corps and follow in this matter the practice in other corps such as the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers. Personnel may, however, wear a flash in the colours of their particular regiment and they may wear a regimental cap badge.
Does not the Army A.C.I, begin with the words "In order to foster esprit de corps," and does the right hon. Gentleman think that this part of the A.C.I. will help that spirit? May I take it that it is not the policy of the War Office gradually to-destroy the individuality and identity of these old cavalry regiments?
Yes, Sir, that is the case but they have been transferred for some years past to the Royal Armoured Corps, and this A.C.I, was produced after very-careful consideration and after a very wide range of consultation. On the whole, I think it solves the difficulties of a very difficult problem as best they can be solved.
Is not keen regard to tradition a part, not only of the spirit of the British Army, but of the whole nation, and will not this really be a blow at the traditions which have made our Army great?
No, Sir, I do not think so at all. As regards the first part of the Question, it is necessary at times to compromise between tradition and the facts of the case, and on the whole, as I say, I think that this is a reasonable solution of an extremely difficult problem.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of these regiments which are now done away with are, so far as tradition is concerned, among the oldest regiments in the British Army, and is not this unfair discrimination against the cavalry units?
They are not being done away with in the least. Some years ago they were transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps. Special arrangements were made to preserve their identity as much as possible, subject to their being transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps.
I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.
asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of mechanics in the Army has been upgraded during the war from the lowest grades in the trades to which they have been attached?
The process of upgrading is continuous, and a large number of men have qualified for a higher grade since enlistment. I regret that no figures are readily available from which an answer to my hon. Friend's Question can be calculated.
Could the right hon. Gentleman suggest that it would be desirable to have more men upgraded than at present, considering the type of warfare we are experiencing at the present time?
To the best of my information all the people who can be upgraded are upgraded.
Is it not a fact that a considerable amount of accommodation and of teachers available for this are not being used at the present time?
I am not aware of that. If the hon. Member has any specific instances of that, I shall be glad to see them.
Royal Artillery (North African Campaigns)
asked the Secretary of State for War how many Batteries of Royal Artillery have been mentioned in the campaigns in North Africa up to the first battle of El Alamein and how many after; and will he consider releasing the account of further exploits especially where the enemy knows the units concerned?
No batteries of the Royal Artillery but 12 regiments were mentioned in the Press or on the wireless prior to the October battle at El Alamein as having taken part in the North African campaigns. Three batteries and four regiments have been mentioned since. In addition ten yeomanry regiments, now Royal Artillery, have been mentioned under their territorial titles. I am as anxious as my hon. and gallant Friend that the achievements of all units should receive the public appreciation due to them. I outlined the military factors which limit such publicity in a reply I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend on 8th June.
Pioneer Corps And Royal Engineers (Commissions)
asked the Secretary of State for War what grounds there are for barring promotion to commissioned rank in the Pioneer Corps and Royal Engineers, Dock Group, to any man over 40 years of age, provided he is in other respects a suitable candidate?
The normal age limits for candidates for commissions generally are 18 to 40 years. Candidates over 40 years of age are, however, considered for commissioned rank if they have technical or special qualifications for a particular arm.
Are we to understand that any suitable man over 40 in either of the Corps mentioned in the Question is debarred from getting a commission unless he has special technical qualities?
My answer was intended to convey the exact opposite, that the general rule for the Army is 18 to 40 years, but that exceptions are admitted much more readily in the particular arm which the hon. Member has mentioned.
What special qualifications are required for the Pioneer Corps?
The hon. and gallant Member had better put that Question down.
Infantry (Regimental Designations)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will authorise that the coloured shoulder strips, laid down by A.C.I. 905 of 1943, should be in conformity with regimental tradition and permit all infantry regiments to wear the distinctive colours of their respective regiments?
The regimental designations laid down by the Army Council Instruction referred to by my hon. Friend are intended to denote the arm of the Service, in this case infantry, and are coloured accordingly. The text of the designations shows the regiment to which the soldier belongs and he may in addition wear a flash in the regimental colours and a regimental cap badge.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the name of the regiment in the regimental colours is a part of regimental tradition? The colours have been won by battles in the past.
That is why they can wear a flash in the regimental colours in addition to the infantry title.
Official Report, House Of Commons
asked the Secretary of State for War what pamphlets on the subject of Parliament have been issued by the Army educational authorities?
Two of the booklets, "The British Way and Purpose," prepared by the Directorate of Army Education and issued monthly to all units at home contained sections on the subject of Parliament.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these excellent pamphlets suffer from one serious omission, that is, that neither in the text of the pamphlet nor in the bibliography of books of Parliament is there any mention made of Hansard at all, and will he be prepared to rectify that in future editions?
I do not think it is possible to go back and re-write them retrospectively.
I asked whether in future editions this omission could be rectified?
Future editions may deal with different aspects of the question, and I will take that into consideration, but so far as I know there are not going to be any future editions of these pamphlets.
I take it that if the right hon. Gentleman does as is suggested he will give this publication its correct title? Hansard ceased publication in 1908.
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether copies of Hansard are supplied regularly to the headquarter offices of the Army commands in Great Britain?
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information as to the use of heavy calibre guns and howitzers by the Russian and German forces on the Russian front; and whether these weapons have been used in any substantial numbers?
On the Russian front both sides are known to have used considerable numbers of heavy guns and howitzers, and super-heavy siege guns and railway equipments were used at Sebastopol and Leningrad.
In view of the shortage of heavy guns and howitzers in the British Army, are the Army Council constantly bearing in mind the fact that we may need a good supply of heavy guns and howitzers when we come to invade the Continent properly?
Without in the least admitting what is contained in the preamble to the hon. Member's supplementary, the answer is, "yes, we are constantly bearing this in mind."
asked the Secretary of State for War what items of expenditure the 5½d. a week kit allowance to soldiers is expected to cover; and when was this allowance fixed at its present level?
Until the outbreak of war this allowance was an element in clothing allowance, the rate of which was last changed in February, 1939. It is a grant in aid of the expenditure incurred by the soldier on such items as haircutting, toilet and shaving soap, razor blades, toothpaste and blanco.
Has my right hon. Friend had any experience himself which would lead him to believe that 5½d. a week is sufficient to meet the necessities he has mentioned?
No, it is not sufficient to cover the whole cost. That is why I said that it was a grant in aid.
Will my right hon. Friend increase the grant in aid?
That question was dealt with in the general settlement of pay and allowances, which was debated in this House some months ago. I think that at present it is as well that that settlement should stand.
Would it not save an enormous amount of labour if the sum was made a round 6d.? That would save the reckoning of small sums which has to be done now?
Missing Personnel (Dependants' Allowances)
asked the Secretary of State for War, when other ranks are reported missing, for how long their Service allowances, including any voluntary allotment and war service grants are continued, and is the wife or dependant thereafter placed under the Ministry of Pensions on allowances based on the assumption that the serving person is dead?
Family or dependants' allowances, allotments of pay, whether qualifying, contributory or voluntary, and war service grants are continued in the case of a soldier reported missing for 26 weeks from the date his relatives are notified of the casualty, provided that he continues to be recorded as missing. Normally, after the end of that period, the allowance payable, for so long as the soldier remains missing, is the same as the pension which would be payable if he were dead; but this allowance is administered and paid by the War Department, and not by the Ministry of Pensions. The period of 26 weeks has been specially extended in respect of those missing in the Far East. The latest decisions in this respect were contained in the statement circulated with an Answer given on the 29th June to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oswestry (Major Leighton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward).
Does my right hon. Friend not consider that it would be more just to retain the dependants on full Service allowance until such time as the position is clarified?
This subject has been considered and argued very strenuously in this House, and various concessions were made some time ago. Special concessions have been made for the Far East. On the whole, I think the present system is about as fair as any that can be devised.
Do the Admiralty and the Air Ministry hold the same views as my right hon. Friend's Department?
I have enough troubles of my own, without answering for anybody else.
Officers' Widows' Pensions
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the hardship to many widows of officers, who died during peacetime service, resulting from the low rates of pension which have not been raised since 1911 in spite of the greater cost of living; and whether as the rates as laid down in the Royal Warrant for Pay, Appointment, Promotion and Non-Effective Pay of the Army, 1940, varying from £40 a year for a lieutenant's widow to £100 for a colonel's widow, are inadequate, they can now be increased at least by a cost-of-living bonus?
I have been asked to reply. I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) on 4th August last.
In view of the strong feeling in the House and in the country in favour of more generous treatment for the dependants of all Service men, cannot this long-neglected question be dealt with?
Perhaps my hon. Friend will look at the reply I gave on that occasion.
British Prisoners Of War
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has received any further information regarding conditions in Campo P.G. 21 in Italy?
No further official information as to present conditions has yet arrived, nor has any reply to our demand for the closure of the camp in default of radical improvements been received from the Italian Government. The Protecting Power is believed to have revisited the camp recently, and a further report is awaited.
Is it not possible to speed up the telegraphic reports from the Protecting Power?
We do our best about it, but I am completely barren of any suggestions for speeding it up still further.
Shall we not be in a position to investigate for ourselves very shortly?
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that 480 lire to the £ has been fixed by agreement at Pan-tellaria as a fair rate of exchange; and whether he will take steps to bring about an alteration in the rate of 72 lire to the £ adopted for British prisoners of war in Italy?
I am not aware that any rate of exchange for Pantellaria has been fixed by agreement as stated by my hon. and gallant Friend, and I would refer him to a reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) on 6th July. Any change in the rate of exchange governing the pay of prisoners of war would, of course, require agreement with the Italian Government.
Surely it is most unfair that these men should have their pay cut in this country by £1, which will leave a purchasing power of only about 2s. or 3s.? It should be looked into.
As I have tried to explain to the hon. and gallant Member on many occasions in this House, they do get special allowances which are intended to compensate them for that.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that rate is more than five times the peace-time rate of exchange, and has he considered this in relation to the question of good relations between the occupying Power and the local people?
No doubt it is my fault, but I am completely unaware of what particular object that question is addressed to. I do not understand it at all.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that if an excessively favourable rate of exchange for the £ is fixed by the occupying Power, it may have deleterious consequences, both military and political?
The rate of exchange has not been fixed for local purposes but merely for the purpose of crediting soldiers who are furnished with lire locally?
Does the right hon. Gentleman not consider this question worth taking up in the interests of our prisoners of war?
I have tried to explain to the hon. and gallant Gentleman on a great number of occasions in this House that it has been taken up. It has been the subject of prolonged negotiations, and short of knocking them out of the war I cannot see any means of coercing the Italian Government.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give an estimate of the number of British prisoners, military and civilian, now in Japanese custody; and how many Red Cross parcels have been delivered to these prisoners?
The number of officers and other ranks of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force whose names have been notified to us as prisoners in Japanese hands is 31,800. Over 24,000 are still recorded as missing, but the majority of these are thought to be prisoners. The number of civilians in Japanese hands is not known, but it is expected to be of the order of 40,000.
Will my right hon. Friend answer the last part of the Question?
I will do it on the next Question.
asked the Secretary of State for War how many parcels for prisoners of war in Japanese hands are now stored at Lourenço Marques; how long these parcels have been there; and what prospect there is of delivering them to the prisoners?
All efforts to secure Japanese agreement to regular transport of relief supplies for the Far East have hitherto been unsuccessful; and it has only been possible to send such supplies on Japanese ships returning to Japan with exchanged Japanese subjects. Supplies of food, medicine and clothing were assembled through the efforts of the British, Dominion and Indian Red Cross Societies at Lourenço Marques last autumn in connection with the exchanges which then took place, and as much as possible was loaded on the ships returning to Japan. The remaining supplies, which could be suitably held, have been retained at Lourenço Marques for use in connection with any further exchanges. Definite information has been received that the supplies shipped reached prisoners and internees in places as widely separated as Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Efforts to arrange for despatch of relief supplies are still being pursued, and the Red Cross Societies of this country and of the Empire have plans laid to enable any opportunity which opens to be used.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that ground limestone has been sent from Derbyshire to Aberdeenshire, a distance of 350 miles, while there are enormous deposits of high-grade limestone within 50 miles of Aberdeen; and why this waste of transport has been allowed when limestone is available locally?
I am informed that substantial quantities of lime are being brought to the North East of Scotland from Derbyshire and the North of England for agricultural and industrial purposes. The local resources of limestone to which my hon. Friend refers cannot fully supply local needs until they have been developed with new plant. I understand, however, that negotiations are being pushed forward for the development of the main local quarry at the earliest possible date.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the facts outlined in this Question were given by Dr. Ogg, an authority on soil needs, in a broadcast some time ago, and will steps be speeded up to see that local limestone is made available?
Yes, Sir. Of course, my hon. Friend will be aware that there are two purposes for which this limestone can be used. One is agricultural and the other industrial. The agricultural side of the question is being dealt with.
Does my right hon. Friend mean to imply that the quarries in Aberdeen are not at present fully developed to meet this demand for limestone?
Yes, Sir, that is my answer.
Agricultural Holdings, Rosneath Estate (Repairs)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made in carrying out necessary repairs on agricultural holdings on the Rosneath estate?
The agricultural executive committee have served directions requiring considerable repairs to be carried out on buildings, fences and drains.
Four months have elapsed since this matter was brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend. Am I to take it that the agricultural holdings in the peninsula are being exploited by a London finance company, who refuse to carry out repairs? What steps does my right hon. Friend intend to take to enforce these repairs?
They have not refused to carry out repairs. They allege that a contractor with whom they had entered into a contract has so far been unable to implement his contract.
In the meantime the holdings are deteriorating because these necessary repairs are not being carried out.
All agricultural holdings are deteriorating.
Government Departments (Heating And Cooking Ppliances)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is in a position to secure that all heating and cooking appliances installed by or for other Government Departments shall be so designed and fitted as to achieve the maximum economy in fuel?
The responsibility for the purchase and installation of heating and cooking appliances by or for other Government Departments does not rest with me, but I have drawn their attention to the urgent need for considering fuel economy in selecting such appliances. My hon. Friend will appreciate that difficulties in the supply of labour and materials place a limit on what can be achieved in this direction during the war.
Is it not possible for the Ministry of Fuel and Power to stand in the way of other Departments installing appliances which may be cheap in the first instance but will be extravagant in the use of fuel?
We appreciate that point, and we are doing our best to deal with it.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he is aware that, with a view to fuel economy and smoke abatement, many of the coal-burning grates in Government offices in Whitehall were altered to burn smokeless fuel; and whether it is intended, as soon as conditions permit, to continue similar alterations in all Government buildings in London?
Before the war smokeless fuel was used in about 7,000 open grates in Government offices in the Westminster, City and South Kensington area. In one office, special grates for burning coke were installed and coke was tried elsewhere in ordinary grates suitably adapted. My Ministry is in close touch with the Ministry of Fuel and Power in these matters and will be guided by their advice in the future in securing the maximum fuel economy and smoke abatement.
Has the question of carrying this out effectively throughout the whole of the Government offices in London been actively pursued?
Yes, it has been pursued and in order to save coal during last winter a certain amount of coke was mixed with ordinary coal and used in open fires.
Will it not help if we could be told what percentage the 7,000 referred to in the answer was of the whole number of grates in Government offices?
Does the Department include anthracite among smokeless fuel, in view of the fact that it is the most perfect fuel for open grates?
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say that in any new buildings for which his Department are responsible open grates will be abandoned?
Mines (German Prisoners Of War)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the fact that above 1,000 British prisoners of war in Germany are working in coalmines, it is proposed, to remedy the shortage of active labour, to employ German prisoners of war in winning coal?
If it is competent for the Germans to employ British prisoners to win coal, is there any reason why we should not employ German prisoners for that purpose?
The simple reason that I am anxious to win coal, and I am not sure that such a step would enable us to do so.
In the last war did we not have over 63,000 German prisoners working? Why do we not employ them now, and allow them to help to recreate the country they have destroyed?
This is a different question. It is a question of coalmining. I do no, remember that there were any German prisoners used as coalminers in the last war. Certainly, in my view, this would not increase production.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that it is a very strange proposal to suggest putting prisoners in coalmines, particularly men who do not know the language, and cannot be guided?
Surely we are not afraid of the Germans?
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of the grave discontent aroused in the mining villages of county Durham in relation to the restriction imposed upon the workers in the coalmining industry of giving their surplus coal to their aged and retired parents who, in many cases, have been miners themselves and whose only income is the pension of 10s. per week; and whether he will reconsider this and endeavour to find some method of allowing this practice to continue?
The Order prohibiting the disposal of miners' coal except back to the colliery which supplied it was made after consultation with both sides of the industry, and I am not satisfied that any modification is called for.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this practice has been in operation for over 60 years and that these aged relatives of men in the mining industry must have coal from somewhere, and surely this regulation is a direct attack upon these old people and eventually is the knock-out blow as far as they are concerned?
I can assure my hon. Friend that the Order was not a direct attack upon these old people, far from it, but any modification of the Order would make it almost unworkable. And I would point out to my hon. Friend that miners, though they have been in the habit of giving coal, can still give money because they get cash in exchange for the coal they sell back to the colliery. Further, I believe there is a supplementary coal allowance for pensioners from November for six months every year.
While I thank the Minister for his reply with regard to coal, is he aware that its selling price during April was 26s. o½d. per ton, that the amount charged under the coalmining ascertainments was 20s. 5¾d. and that the amount at which it was sold back by the miner to the coalowner was 13s. 6d. per ton? Is he aware that the owners were making 12s. 6d. per ton profit on this transaction, and—
That is another question.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether optants for the mining industry require to go to mines where there are special schemes for training in operation, or whether they may go to work in mines where they would be under the supervision of a relative even though no training scheme operates at such mines?
The general instructions are that men who choose underground mining employment as an alternative to service in His Majesty's Forces should be sent only to coalmines where approved training arrangements are in force.
Is the Minister not aware that the relatives of die young men who wish to go into industry often train them, and does he not agree that it is ridiculous to take young men from mining villages and send them elsewhere, hundreds of miles away, to be trained?
If my hon. Friend will give me any case where a young optant has been transferred hundreds of miles, I will gladly look into it. It is quite unnecessary that anybody should be transferred hundreds of miles, because we have in operation at this moment 560 training schemes.
I would be very pleased to give the Minister full particulars.
Is the Minister not aware that it has always been the practice that fathers or elder brothers should train the young miners who went down the pits? Does the new arrangement mean that that practice will be discontinued and that young men will be sent to training pits?
I am not saying that what was the practice in the past must always remain so or that it was the best. What I am saying is that we are determined that young men shall not go to work in the pits unless they are adequately trained. It is the aim of my Ministry to have training schemes in every colliery.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Ministry is becoming bureaucratic.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps he has taken to bring to the notice of industrial users the possibilities of economising fuel by means of the application of thermostatic control to steam heating and to certain processes in which steam is used; and is he satisfied that sufficient thermostatic control units are being manufactured to secure extended fuel economy by industrial users?
My Ministry last February issued a bulletin, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy, setting forth the merits of thermostatic control in appropriate circumstances, and its value is being stressed in publicity addressed to industrial consumers. Although I should not like to say I am satisfied that the production of thermostats is adequate, I have made arrangements for a substantial increase in output.
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the rapid and disturbing rise in building costs, coupled with diminished output, which threatens seriously to affect post-war housing and repairs, he will move to appoint a Select Committee of the House to investigate the position?
The question of building costs during the war period may give a very false impression, owing to the fact that heavy contributing items in those costs are solely due to war-time conditions. I cannot accept the implication of diminished output. It would be difficult to establish comparative costs on the types of war-time building which are so different from normal building construction. The costs of erecting war-time houses are naturally high. As a result of widely different local conditions, accentuated by war-time difficulties, there are extreme variations in the tenders received for the agricultural houses from the 381 areas in which they are being built. During the last ten weeks a costing section has been established at the Ministry of Works, which is concentrating on the question of the costs for post-war building. The point put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend is thus being dealt with on a practical basis, and I do not think that at the present time there is any need for the appointment of a Select Committee.
In view of the fact that Parliamentary time has not permitted of a survey of the activities of this strange Ministry, and if a Select Committee is not the appropriate form, can the right hon. Gentleman devise some form whereby the administration of this Department can be looked into?
I do not gather to which Ministry my hon. and gallant Friend refers.
Will the prices now ruling in the building trade be prevented from continuing after the war is over, as I rather gather from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman that something on that line is contemplated? Can we have an assurance that the prices now ruling will not be continued?
That is not a matter arising out of the Question.
Was not our experience during and after the late war diametrically opposed to the supposition of the right hon. Gentleman in answer to this question inasmuch as building costs mounted higher and higher after the war?
The hon. Member is now giving information and not asking for it.
asked the Minister without Portfolio whether legislation is contemplated to enable the Forestry Commission to undertake an enlarged forestry programme?
Legislation would be necessary only if it were intended to alter the constitution of the Forestry Commission or to extend the wide powers which they possess under the Act of 1919. It would perhaps also be necessary on certain minor issues in relation to the dedication proposals and in regard to the proposals for fire protection and continuation of felling licences. If anything I may have said in the course of my speech in the Debate on Tuesday last conveyed a different impression, I am glad of this opportunity of correcting it.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman, I think, is saying "No," to the specific Question I put, and I simply want to ask him whether, in respect of the Scottish activities of the Forestry Commission, he will endeavour to see that nothing is done that will impinge upon other activities in Scotland that come within the province of the Secretary of State for Scotland?
I think that is a long way from the Question, but I said on Tuesday last that all these matters are being dealt with.
Sterling-Lira Exchange Rates
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether an exchange rate has been fixed between sterling and the lira for Pantellaria; and whether this rate will be applicable to all other parts of metropolitan Italy which may be occupied by the Allied Forces?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) on 6th July last.
Will my right hon. Friend impress upon his economic advisers that this is not only an economic matter but involves political considerations as well?
Yes, Sir. In my original reply to the right hon. Gentleman I said that I hoped to make a statement about this and allied matters at a convenient opportunity.
Advertising Expenditure (South America)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been drawn to an official letter sent to 400 American firms engaged in export trade giving the Treasury Department's assurance that normal expenditure for advertising in Latin America will be considered a justifiable and deductible trading expense for federal income tax purposes; and will he, in the interests of British trade, give similar facilities to our own exporting firms?
I have not seen the letter to which my hon. Friend refers. The position under our taxation code is that normal expenditure by United Kingdom concerns on advertising is a deductible trading expense for purposes of United Kingdom taxation.
Are the Government entirely satisfied with the position in which American firms are spending more than 12,000,000 dollars in advertising in South America while ours are spending nothing at all?
No, Sir, I am not.
In view of the supreme importance of this matter to my constituents, I can do no other than give notice of my intention to raise this vital question on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.
Foreign Loans And Export Credits
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the importance of our export trade to this country, he can clarify the position with regard to future policy in foreign loans and export credits and make a statement on financial commitments and understandings with any nations which may restrict trade between this country and other nations of the world?
I would refer my hon. Friend to my statement on 2nd February, in which I outlined the policies which seem desirable for the encouragement of international trade and finance.
Am I right in assuming that the House of Commons is always going to be informed of what goes on behind the scenes between the Treasury and the world?
I think that that would be a very dangerous procedure.
May I ask whether my right hon. Friend can enter into commitments without the House of Commons being aware of it?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the constitutional authority.
Will the right hon. Gentleman remember his categorical assurance about not returning to gold?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to whom the profit arising from the issue of Scottish banknotes accrues; and whether he will take steps to ensure that this profit shall in future accrue to the Treasury as in the case of the issue of English banknotes?
The profits accrue to the banks of issue. My hon. Friend will, how- ever, realise that the banks are liable to taxation on these as on other profits earned in their business. Further the amount the banks can earn by their note issues is restricted by the limits fixed by Statute for the fiduciary issues of the Scottish banks. Stamp Duty is payable on all notes issued, and those issued in excess of the limits must be covered pound for pound by coin and Bank of England notes. In reply to the last part of the Question, and without entering into the merits of the proposal, I could not consider a change at the present time which would involve legislation.
Can the Chancellor say what was the profit during 1942 owing to the issue of Scottish banknotes?
Tobacco Duty (Returned Overseas Personnel)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that members of His Majesty's Forces, on returning to this country from active service overseas, are required to pay duty on any unconsumed tobacco issued to them by the military authorities which may still be in their possession; and whether he will make a concession by which they will be relieved of the obligation to pay such duty?
Any member of His Majesty's Forces returning from service overseas is allowed to land his unconsumed tobacco duty free, provided it does not exceed a reasonable amount for his personnel use and is duly declared to the Customs. Where the quantity is considered to be excessive, payment of duty is required. I regret that I cannot see my way to extend this concession.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable discontent among members of His Majesty's Forces, because the first thing that happens on returning to these shores is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer picks their pockets?
Is it made clear to members of His Majesty's Forces what is looked upon as a reasonable amount?
I think they have a pretty good idea.
Long-Term Loans (Subscribers)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give details of the non-official sources from which 34 per cent, of the total of long-term loans raised since the outbreak of war have been subscribed?
The main classes of subscribers other than Government Departments are banks, including savings banks, building and friendly societies, insurance companies and other firms and individuals. As stated by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary in the House on 7th July, subscriptions from these sources account for some 34 per cent, of the total war loans raised to the end of last June, but I regret that details of the amounts received from each class of subscriber are not available.
"Wings For Victory" Weeks (Small Savings)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will state the amount of small savings subscribed in recent "Wings for Victory" weeks; and how the figures compare with small savings subscribed in "Warship" weeks last year?
Of the total results estimated to produce £605,000,000, local totals amounting to £500,000,000 have been analysed, and these show that small savings subscribed accounted for £143,000,000, or 29 per cent, of those totals. These subscriptions represented an increase of 25 per cent, over the small savings subscriptions of the same areas in "Warship" weeks.
Are we to take it that the £143,000,000 are small subscriptions made by genuine small subscribers? [Interruption.] He knows what I mean well enough.
I think they are as I have described them.
The right hon. Gentleman did not describe them adequately.
Vote Of Credit (Supplementary), 1943 (Expenditure Arising Out Of The War)
Estimate presented,—of the further Sum required to be voted towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on 31st March, 1944, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament, for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war [by Command]; referred to the Committee of Supply, and to be printed. [No. 100.]