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Commons Chamber

Volume 391: debated on Tuesday 3 August 1943

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 3rd August, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

New Writ

For the County of Wilts (Chippenham Division), in the room of Colonel Victor Alexander Cazalet, M.C., killed on active service.—[ Mr. James Stuart.]

Private Business

Cardiff Corporation Bill Lords

As amended, considered.

I beg to move,

"That Standing Orders 240 and 262 be suspended and that the Bill be now read the Third time."

Regarding this Motion put down by the Chairman of Ways and Means to suspend the Standing Orders, I think the House should protest against what has been happening on this particular Bill. The Selection Committee originally put down this Bill for 6th July, and a week's postponement was asked with a view to the possibility of the opposition being withdrawn. Another postponement was asked for to 13th July, and a third postponement was asked for to 20th July, with the result that the Private Bill Committee which was set up—the declarations were duly signed, as you know, Mr. Speaker, because I had to consult you—had its composition changed at the last minute when another Member had to come in to take the place of one who could not sit on 20th July. As you know very well, Mr. Speaker, Members are very busy. When these Private Bill Committees are set up the only way the Members are able to make their plans is by knowing when Bills will come before them. In this case nearly a month was occupied. Now Standing Orders have had to be suspended in order to get the Bill. I do not want to object, but I want to protest strongly against these postponements. I think if agents realise that we will not suspend Standing Orders to suit them, Bills would come before the Committees or the opposition to them would be withdrawn very much more quickly.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bute and Northern (Sir C. MacAndrew) is perfectly in Order in making his protest, and I very much sympathise with him. The circumstances are, however, somewhat special in that the Bill is a very complicated one, and there have been a great number of authorities to consult. The promoters have expressed their regret to the House and to the Committee for the repeated adjournments, and I hope that under those circumstances the House will permit the Third Reading to be taken.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Oral Answers To Questions

Scotland

Oatmeal (Dietetic Value)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he can give any information about the effect upon the nutritional and health standards of persons who make oats and other characteristic Scottish products a prominent feature of their diet?

Oatmeal is a highly-nutritious grain, rich in some of the essential elements of an adequate diet, namely, vitamin Br, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Like any other item of diet, oatmeal is not generally consumed by itself as a complete food. But as a cereal it is shown by chemical analysis to be four times as rich in fat content as white wheat flour, while oatcakes are ten times as rich in fat content as white bread.

My right hon Friend has given us a very succinct answer, but may I ask him the authority for it and whether that authority is available to us?

Yes, Sir, it is founded on an analysis by Dr. MacCance, published by the Medical Research Council.

Will my right hon. Friend see that that answer is conveyed to the hon. Member for member Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)?

Is it not a serious indictment of Scottish affairs that while we have a cheap food of such high quality we have such a high tuberculosis rate?

Can the Minister say what makes it so difficult to get Scottish oats in England?

I might reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) by asking another question: What makes it so impossible to get decent cooking of them down here?

Radiography

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many miniature radiography units are now operating in Scotland; in any convenient period, how many patients have been examined by this method; and of those, how many have been referred for treatment?

The first miniature radiography unit has not yet been delivered in Scotland. Delivery to Glasgow Corporation has been promised almost immediately.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that Scotland has been rather badly treated in this respect? Further, does he not agree that this delay is quite inexcusable? Will he do what he can?

There has been no discrimination against Scotland in this matter. There are no mass radiography units, unless for Service Departments, yet in operation in England either.

When did my right hon. Friend promise a Committee of this House these units?

Tubercular Patients (Accommodation)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many acute tuber- cular patients were waiting for hospital accommodation on 1st July, 1943; and how many additional beds had been made available for such patients between 1st May, 1943, and 1st July, 1943?

At 1st July, 1943, the number of pulmonary tubercular patients who had been waiting for hospital accommodation for ten days or more was 1,007. As regards the second part of the Question, precise figures are not readily available for the dates mentioned, but between the beginning of April and the beginning of August 244 new beds have been occupied, and nursing staff has been obtained for 65 additional beds which had not been in use owing to lack of staff. A further 130 beds are ready for occupation as soon as nursing staff can be obtained, and a still further 330 new beds will be available immediately certain adaptations are completed, provided nursing and domestic staff is available. Proposals to cover the remainder of the waiting list by release of further emergency hospital service beds are being urgently examined.

While I greatly appreciate the work which my right hon. Friend is doing in this connection—and I would not like him to think that my Question was anything but friendly—will he tell me whether these 244 beds are included in the 300 which he promised when making his annual report, or are they additional to the 300?

Some are included, but between the beginning of April and the beginning of August 244 beds were made available.

In view of the seriousness of this question and the urgent need for nurses, will the Minister consider every kind of new suggestion, including those made when he received a deputation of Fife Members?

Yes, Sir, my hon. Friend knows that there is nothing more urgent in this regard than the provision of further nursing and domestic staff.

Petrol Allowance (Invalids)

4.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what instructions have been given to the regional petroleum commissioners about the treatment of applications for petrol allowances from invalids; whether a uniform practice is followed throughout the country; and why in some cases the commissioners have ordered invalids not to go beyond a radius of their homes, thereby in some cases preventing an invalid living in a country area from ever going into town?

Petrol allowances are granted to invalids for visits to a hospital or clinic freely and without a radial limitation, and to invalids, medically certified to need it, for carriage exercise. In the latter case, a radial limitation is imposed in order to confine its use to its intended purpose. This radius is now 10 miles. Regional Controllers have been instructed to deal sympathetically with the claims of the physically infirm, and have full discretion.

Coalmining (Employment Statistics)

5.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the number of persons employed in the coalmining industry, giving separate figures for those engaged underground and on the surface; and the number between the ages of 14–16 years and 16–18 years in each category?

The number of persons employed in the coalmining industry at the present time is 706,000; of these, 545,000 work underground and 161,000 work on the surface. The number of boys under 16 years of age at mid-December, 1942, the latest date for which particulars are available, was 8,803 underground and 10,960 aboveground. The number between 16 and 18 years of age was 21,225 belowground and 12,396 aboveground.

Having regard to these factors, would it not be wrong to conclude that by increasing man-power by 20,000 all round the number of boys the Minister will require will be about 3,000 or 4,000?

Prisoners Of War

6.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he can give any information in connection with four Italian prisoners of war who, for more than four weeks, rode by chauffeur-driven motor-car to work at a saw mill, have cost the employer £95 in hire charges and have used many gallons of petrol?

I have no knowledge of any such incident and shall welcome any particulars which my hon. Friend can give me.

35.

asked the Secretary of State for War how German and Italian prisoners of war are occupied in Britain; and whether, in particular, any machinery exists for making use of prisoners in their peace-time occupation?

The work on which it has been decided that prisoners of war can best be employed is forestry, agriculture, constructural work and quarrying, and prisoners who are known to be skilled at this work are employed at their own trades.

Is it not possible to employ skilled bootmakers in cobbling, for instance, or carpenters or bricklayers at their own jobs; and is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that at any rate in the last war the Germans had every prisoner of war card-indexed and put him in his peace-time occupation?

The War Office compile lists of those tradesmen which the Ministry of Labour need.

36.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the possibility of sending parcels to prisoners of war in Japan via Russia has been considered?

Yes, Sir. The Soviet Government, while not able to undertake transport of parcels addressed to individual prisoners of war, have indicated their willingness, in principle, to transport relief supplies for the Fast East provided that prior agreement is reached with the Japanese Government regarding their onward transport. Though the latter have said that they would be willing to consider the matter, it has not yet been possible to secure from them any indication of their attitude to the practical problems of distribution. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that His Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States have under constant consideration the problems involved and every possible step open to them, or to the National Red Cross Societies in co-operation with the International Red Cross Committee, will be taken in order to bring to prisoners of war and internees in the Far East the succour they so greatly need. But I must remind my hon. and gallant Friend that no efforts on our part can succeed until the Japanese Government recognise their responsibilities for ensuring delivery of such supplies.

39.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information concerning the circumstances in which Rifleman Brynley Harcombe, 6846379 King's Royal Rifle Corps, was shot on 8th June, 1943, at Camp M. Stammlager VIII B?

I regret that I have no information at present about this tragic incident. Inquiries are being made, and I will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as I receive any information.

40.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many members of the British Armed Forces, being prisoners of war in Germany, have been shot to date?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether steps are being taken to protest to the German authorities about this sort of thing, which is causing widespread anxiety among our people in the country?

These cases fall into different categories. Some have been shot while attempting to escape, and that is usually regarded as legitimate. There are a number of cases which we consider unjustifiable, and we have protested against them, and we are keeping account of these cases from the point of view of any trials of war criminals after the war. In a certain number of cases which are still under investigation I cannot say yet into which category they fall.

69.

asked the Secretary of State for War the cost of a camp for Italian prisoners recently constructed in a locality of which he has been informed; how the buildings compare with those provided for British troops; and the arrangements for guarding and maintaining discipline among these prisoners?

I understand that this hostel for Italian prisoners of war was built by the Ministry of Works for £3,550. In accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention, the scales of accommodation provided for prisoners of war is the same as for British troops. One corporal and a few privates are stationed at the hostel to ensure that the prisoners do not wander about at night and to receive any complaints about their idleness or lack of discipline. This is a satellite hostel administered by a parent camp and the authorities of the parent camp then take the necessary disciplinary action.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these Italians are treated too much as guests and too little as prisoners?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in one prisoner of war camp which I have recently seen a long brick wall was built at a cost of many hundreds of pounds in order to protect the prisoners from being seen by the public, the rest of the protection being only barbed wire?

Not having seen that particular camp, I cannot say whether that work is justified, but I know that one of the provisions of the Convention is that prisoners of war shall be protected from prying and humiliating curiosity.

Dominions (Electoral Truce)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in which Dominions the electoral truce is in operation and those in which a coalition government exists?

The Government in the Union of South Africa comprises members of the United Party, the Dominion Party and the Labour Party. At the recent election there was an agreement for the allocation of seats between the United Panty on the one hand and the Dominion and Labour Parties on the other, which operated in constituencies contested by the Government. So far as I am aware, no electoral truce is in operation in the other three Dominions, nor have they coalition Governments.

In spite of the fact that these Dominions have rejected this priceless boon, can my right hon. Friend say they are still putting their full weight into the war effort?

Emperor Of Abyssinia (Mr De Valera's Recognition)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether His Majesty's Government in Great Britain was consulted when Mr. de Valera recognised the King of Italy as Emperor of Abyssinia on 30th April, 1938, anticipating by his action the Imperial Government and all other Dominions?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during that same year Mr. de Valera was President of the Assembly of the League of Nations? Do you mean to say that you made no protest against this contravention—against this flagrant violation of Article 10 of the Covenant?

Clothes Rationing

New Period

14.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make regarding the clothing ration for the next period, beginning Ist September?

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many clothing coupons will be allowed for the next rationing period; and whether he recognises that many households are now in a worse position than they previously were to stand any reduction owing to reserves of clothing having been worn out?

19.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what the clothing ration will be after 1st September?

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make on the clothing ration for the next period beginning 1st September?

25.

asked the President of, the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the deep anxiety which exists, at the prospect of a cut in clothing coupons, especially among mothers with young children who are now able to get only shoes and clothing of poor quality; and whether he has any statement to make on the matter?

We enter next month both on a new rationing period and on the fifth year of the war. As the House knows, labour and materials have had to be increasingly diverted from civilian textile and clothing production to the direct war effort. I have been giving close and continuous attention to the question of what number of clothing coupons could safely be issued during the next rationing period, in order to match the prospective supplies.

I have now decided that, although it would not be safe at this stage to undertake to maintain the present basic ration for as far ahead as 12 months, I should be justified in maintaining it for a period of five months, that is to say, from 1st September next to 1st February, 1944. The basic ration during this five months will, therefore, be 20 coupons—that is, at the same rate as in the current period. I shall make every effort to avoid reducing the ration after 1st February, but future arrangements must depend upon the course of the war and its effects upon available supplies.

I am glad to say that I am able to maintain all the present supplements for children during the next rationing period. Moreover, in order that they may be used for purchases before the children go back to school, the 10 additional coupons in the children's new book will be valid from 15th August.

I can also see my way to maintain the present industrial supplements at the existing levels. I am discussing this matter with the Committee of the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation which advises me on this subject, and shall make a further announcement shortly.

All the coupons in the current 1942–43 clothing book will remain valid at least until the end of 1943, and probably longer. If it should be decided to withdraw them at any time during 1944, at least one month's notice will be given. Finally, I would appeal to all who are so fortunately placed that they can abstain from using their coupons, to do so, in the interests both of the war effort and of those whose need of clothing is most urgent.

While realising the importance of trying to prevent coupons being used, does not my right hon. Friend realise that for children going back to school 15th August is too late to give their parents an opportunity properly to provide for clothing? If they need clothing, why should they not be able to use these coupons at an earlier date?

I have been in touch with the President of the Board of Education, and it was after consultation with him that we fixed on the date of 15th August, which I think will be found satisfactory.

If nudists are supplied with coupons and do not need them, will they be used as a pool for supplying extra clothing for children?

The hon. Member, or anyone, is entitled on the grounds that he suggests, provided he keeps clear of the police, to make me a contribution.

Has the right hon. Gentleman been influenced in not reducing the number of coupons by the accumulation of medium and low priced clothing in the hands of retailers and wholesalers?

That is another Question on which I answered the hon. Member last week, and on which there is another Question on the Paper to-day.

Voluntary Youth Organisations

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can reduce the number of coupons to be surrendered for uniforms by members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Girls Training Corps and boy and girl cadets of the St. John Ambulance Brigade?

No, Sir. As I have explained in answer to previous Questions on this subject, I regret that, owing to the stringency of supplies, I cannot see my way to adopt my hon. Friend's suggestion.

In view of the work that these organisations are doing and the fact that there are other organisations the Members of which do not surrender coupons, will my right hon. Friend make some concession as they feel that they are being unfairly treated?

I have answered Questions on this before and have gone into it most carefully. The distinction we draw is between those organisations recognised by the Service Departments and those which are voluntary. It is not possible to go further at present and I hope my hon. Friend will not press me in view of the statement I made earlier on rationing. It is difficult to give concessions beyond the basic ration.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it certain that people bringing clothing into this country realise that they have to have coupons? I would like to have an answer.

I should be surprised to hear that any responsible citizen was ignorant of the Regulations.

Trade And Commerce

Anglo-Soviet Co-Operative Trading Association

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made in the formation of the Anglo-Soviet Co-operative Trading Association?

I do not know, but I have had it conveyed to the promoters of this scheme that I cannot give it my support. Further, since the promoters saw fit, without permission, to mention a number of Government Departments in their circular, I have indicated to them that it is their duty to make it quite clear to any persons who may be inclined to subscribe money that His Majesty's Government are not in any way associated with this project.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the circular definitely lays it down that the Department and the United Kingdom Corporation are working with the Association?

No. I read it with great attention. It does not lay that down, but it might create such an impression on a careless reader. That is why I have issued a warning.

Utility Bedding Order (Ceiling Price)

18.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the meaning of the words "ceiling price" in the Explanatory Note to the Goods and Services (Price Control) Utility Bedding Order (S.R. & O. No. 881 of 1943), having regard to the fact that the words "ceiling price" do not occur in the Order, despite the fact that the Order contains definitions of the words "maximum price" and the word "price"?

"Ceiling price" is a term well-known to the trade and means the same as the "overriding maximum" price, referred to in the Schedules to this Order.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that these explanatory memoranda are meant to throw light upon a technical document and, if the explanatory memorandum is as technical as the document itself, there is no point in issuing it?

It means the same as the overriding maximum, which is a technical term. Ceiling price is shorter, and I prefer to keep the explanatory memoranda as terse as I can.

War Factories (Post-War Conversion)

20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether plans are being prepared for the conversion of State factories built for the production of munitions to production for other purposes at the end of the war; and what steps have been taken to that end?

Yes, Sir. Plans are being prepared for the post-war use of these factories, but, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, final decisions cannot be taken, until we can see more clearly than at present the conditions which are likely to prevail at the end of the war.

Having regard to the fact that some areas have become almost en- tirely dependent on these factories, will my right hon. Friend make a statement about their future as soon as possible, as people are getting perturbed?

We do not know what further production of munitions will be required before the final ending of the war against all our enemies, and we do not yet know what total production of munitions will be required afterwards in order to make sure that there is no repetition of what we are going through at present. Until we get a clear view on the subject it cannot be decided which factories will still be required for arms production.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would be wise to issue a list of these factories to large industrial firms in order to find out whether they will be useful to them after the war, so that we do not get a hiatus between their closing down as munitions factories and their opening for other purposes after the war?

Location Of Industries

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is considering the recommendations made by the Royal Commission on the Geographic Distribution of Industries in regard to the control and regulation of the location of industries; and what steps have been taken, or are contemplated to implement the recommendations?

Yes, Sir. These recommendations are under consideration, but I am not at present in a position to make any statement.

Location Of Retail Business Order

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give favourable consideration to the question of continuing in the post-war period the Location of Retail Business Order, 1941–1942?

As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) on 8th June, I have invited the views of the principal organisations concerned regarding this matter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the object of putting this Question is to protect the tens of thousands of men and women who have been ordered into the Services and to essential work who formerly kept one-man businesses, for it is very necessary that their interests should be protected, particularly during the period of demobilisation?

Their interests are the better protected if they have taken the precaution of joining some organisation. Unorganised people are difficult to protect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because they are not organised. [Interruption.] I do not see why my hon. Friends should be so concerned. The National Chamber of Trade has several distinguished vice-presidents on these benches, and that is one of the organisations I am consulting. Small shopkeepers would do well to join that organisation, and the hairdressers, whom my hon. Friend is looking after, would do well to join their association, which is coming to my Department on a deputation on 4th August.

Book Publishing

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade under what conditions it is now possible to set up in the business of publishing books?

The practical difficulty is, not how to set up in business, but how to obtain a supply of paper. Paper for books is allocated, as a general rule, only to publishers who were in business before the war.

The exceptions are operated not by me but by the Minister of Supply. I think perhaps it would be more convenient if a further Question were put down, but broadly it is not desired to encourage people to set up in publishing at present if they were not in it before the war.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how it is that there has been a large crop of mushroom publishers recently, and where they get their paper from?

Is it not a fact that firms which do not want the paper sell their quotas to firms which want to start new businesses, and is not this a form of black market?

I do not think it can be accurately described as a form of black market, but I shall be glad to look into it if any hon. Gentleman with knowledge of the subject will give me particulars.

British Army

Sicilian Operations (Units, Mention)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for War why, on Sunday, 25th July, in connection with operations in Sicily, special mention was made of the exploits of the Seaforth Highlanders alone and not of other British regiments; and if he will discontinue the practice of piecemeal references to particular units?

The Commander-in-Chief decides when the name of a regiment can safely be released. Everyone appreciates the disadvantage of the present practice of releasing the names of individual regiments piecemeal as and when security permits but this policy is, I believe, generally considered preferable to the only other alternative, which is to withhold the mention of all regiments for a long period, perhaps even until the end of the campaign.

Could my right hon. Friend say why it was safe to release the name of this one regiment and not of any other regiment?

Escapes From Escorts

30.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give any information in connection with Driver Rogers, who escaped from his escort at Waterloo Station; whether Driver Rogers has yet been recaptured; whether he is aware that this is the third escape from military custody in London recently; that in one case, in Trinity Road, Wandsworth, two pedestrians were knocked down by the fleeing motor-car and died from their injuries; and what action he is taking about the matter?

This man was passing through London on his way to a detention barracks and made a run for it at Waterloo. He was picked up by a hackney hire car, and there is reason to believe that there was collaboration between him and the driver of the car. I am aware that there have been one or two similar cases, and if necessary sterner measures will be taken to prevent such escapes.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the people injured through this exploit has died since, and what action is being taken?

I understand that the escapees were tried for manslaughter and acquitted.

Cannot persistent deserters be sent overseas, where they really cannot desert?

My hon. and gallant Friend is mistaken in supposing that deserters cannot desert overseas.

Voluntary Aid Detachments

31.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the Elliott Report on the future status and service conditions of the Voluntary Aid Detachments and their officers serving in military hospitals?

I understand that this matter is being raised in the course of to-day's Debate and, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, I will deal fully with it then.

I have been given notice by an hon. Member who intends to raise it to-day. I had understood that it would be raised on the Third Sitting Day, but I am now given to understand that it will be raised to-day.

Special Campaign Pensions

33.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give directions that special campaign pensions be paid irrespective of means?

These pensions are in the nature of compassionate awards. Only ex-Regular soldiers with medals won before 1931, who have reached the age of sixty-five and do not draw a service pension, are eligible to be considered for the award. I do not consider it desirable to change the fundamental condition of this obsolescent class of pension.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that these old veterans deserve better of their country?

That does not seem to me to be relevant. These old veterans qualified under a scheme, and they are now an obsolescent class. People who have served in modern wars are cared for otherwise. I do not think it desirable to change the system.

Disabilities (Attributability)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is in a position to make a statement as to the progress of his reconsideration of the rules governing the attributability of soldiers' disabilities to their military service?

Soldiers suffering from disabilities are normally given medical attention under Army arrangements so long as there is a possibility that they may again become fit for service. When that possibility disappears, or when the soldier has been absent from duty for nine months, he is discharged from the Army. The decision as to continued treatment or discharge is not influenced by the attributability or non-attributability of the disability.

In the case of officers the arrangement is somewhat different. Wounded officers of all categories may be kept on pay for eighteen months. Regular officers suffering from other disabilities, whether attributable to their service or not, may be kept on pay for twelve months. Non-Regular officers are in the same position as regards attributable disabilities, but in their case if the disability is not attributable to service the limit is six months. Thus there is required of the Army Authorities in this later class of case a decision as to attributability. I am considering, with my Service colleagues and with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the rules governing this class of case require revision.

In view of the fact that it has been under consideration for five or six months can my fight hon. Friend give me any indication when the consideration will be completed?

I would not like to tie myself to a date, but there will not be any avoidable delay.

Is it proposed to state on the discharge paper whether the discharge was due to military service or not?

The papers are sent to the Ministry of Pensions in connection with any claims, but the Ministry are not bound to accept the War Office view.

Oversea Troops (Home Leave)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether troops returning from overseas after one or more year's service may be given a longer period of leave than 14 days?

Yes, Sir. Officers and men who are remaining in the Service will in future be granted the following periods of disembarkation leave: For those with less than 2 years' continuous service abroad 14 days; with 2 years, but less than 4 years' continuous service abroad 21 days; with 4 years or more continuous service abroad 28 days. Similar rules will apply in the R.A.F.

May I ask when these excellent new regulations come into practice, arid can the right hon. Gentleman say whether they will also cover, the Navy?

The naval authorities do not propose to alter their existing regulations. The Order was promulgated on 30th July.

Chiropodists, Middle East Forces

38.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many chiropodists are now attached to the Middle East Forces?

I regret that the figure is not available here, but 10 more have been sent to the Middle East since the reply I gave my hon. Friend on 23rd March.

"Soldier's Guide To Sicily"

41.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will procure by air-mail from the Middle East, and place in the Library of the House, a copy of the "Soldier's Guide to Sicily," issued to the troops?

A copy is being sent to me. As soon as I have received it I will consider the hon. Member's request.

Cadet Force (Bands)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many bands exist in the Army Cadet Force and how they are employed, both for the benefit of the Force itself and the civil community?

Bands are not part of the establishment of the Army Cadet Force, and I regret that it is not known how many have been formed by members of the Force or precisely when they play.

Would it not be a good plan, in view of the value of such bands both to cadets and to the civilian population, to give official concurrence to their formation?

The hon. and gallant Member has been at me on numerous occasions to use bands belonging to other organisations for other purposes, and I think the only answer I can give is that there are not enough bands for all purposes.

Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers

43, 44 and 64.

asked the Secretary of State for War (I) whether he is aware that highly skilled tradesmen of the R.E.M.E workshop company at a place, of which he has been informed, are asked to spend a large portion of their time in spit and polish and consequent negligence of the skilled craftmanship they thought they were engaged to perform; and if he will take steps to alter this;

(2) whether he is aware that, when a company of the R.E.M.E. arrived at a certain place, they were ordered to parade in battle order, with all equipment blancoed and brasses polished for inspection that, after standing in the rain for over an hour, the colonel decided to cancel his inspection till a later date; and what steps he is taking to prevent such occurrences in future;

(3) whether he is aware that skilled artisans of a R.E.M.E. Company paraded before the colonel on a Monday morning in their second-best uniform; were told to return and put on their best uniform; that they were then detailed to get all vehicles ready for the brigadier's inspection on Tuesday; that they worked till 9.30 in the evening, using gallons of petrol and diesel oil for the purpose; and if he will take steps to prevent the use of skilled mechanics for this sort of work?

Army Commanders are responsible for ensuring that the uniform and equipment of those under their command are maintained at the highest standard of cleanliness and smartness compatible with the conditions in which they are engaged. Inquiries are being made into the other questions referred to.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is evidence of these things taking place, and that many of these things are true, and will he ascertain the facts?

I said that I was going to make inquiries into the other questions referred to, but I cannot be taken in the least as accepting the hon. Member's assertions as having been necessarily established.

Officer Casualty, Sfax

63.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a serious casualty occurred to an officer, of whose name and number he has been informed, between 13th and 16th May, 1943, at Sfax, resulting in fractures of legs, patella, ribs and chest and other injuries, but that, by War Office letter dated 8th July, 1943, under reference P/94638/3 (A.G.8.o), the officer's mother was informed that there was no reason to think her son was other than safe and well; and what is the explanation of this?

I regret that there is no information in this country about this casualty, but particulars are being cabled here, and I will then communicate with my hon. Friend.

Is this not another illustration of the fact that informal information reaching this country from the Middle East is sometimes quicker and better informed than that going through the War Office, and will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider some recent decisions on that point?

There is a Question further down the Order Paper on the latter point. As regards the first part of the Supplementary Question, I think it is an indication that even the most perfect of machines occasionally makes mistakes.

Physiothereapists (Status)

65.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that Allied and Dominion nurses and physiotherapists are given officer's status, while British physiotherapists are given a lower rank, thus causing dissatisfaction and a drift to other branches, he will take action to remove this inequality?

The Financial Secretary received a deputation of physiotherapists last week. Their representations, which covered the point in my hon. and gallant Friend's Question, are now being considered.

Casualties (Information To Relatives)

67.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now make a statement regarding the restrictions on direct communication to relatives regarding men killed or wounded?

So far as I am aware, there are now no restrictions, other than those which are necessary to eliminate censorable detail from such communications, and the imposition of such delay as may be necessary to prevent unofficial messages reaching relatives in this country in advance of the official notification.

Could the right hon. Gentleman publish the new Orders, so that we may compare them with the old ones?

No, Sir. When I was in the Middle East I spoke to the Commander-in-Chief—I think the hon. Member had already been in communication with him—and I told him to make such alterations in the rules as he thought fit, and I do not think they have been sent home

Newspaper Distribution, Operational Areas

68.

asked the Secretary of State for War which branch of the Army is now responsible for the distribution of papers to the troops in operational areas; and whether he will make inquiries to ascertain whether the system is working satisfactorily?

Newspapers are at present usually sent forward to detail issue depots in R.A.S.C. lorries and are then collected by units in their own lorries when they collect their rations. With more transport the distribution of newspapers could doubless be improved, but considering that the transport available is limited I am satisfied with the working of the existing arrangements. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that 4,000, which is shortly to be increased to 8,000, copies of the "Tripoli Times" are being flown daily to troops in Sicily in addition to 8,000 copies of a weekly produced for the Eighth Army. Two thousand five hundred copies of the "Eighth Army News" are produced daily in Syracuse and are distributed from there.

War Office Staff (Return To London)

70.

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of civil servants connected with his Department who have now returned to London from the provinces; and whether he will consider extending this policy so as to relieve local housing conditions in the provincial towns?

Of the War Office staff originally evacuated to the provinces, 492 military personnel and 1,497 civilians have since returned to London. While there is some administrative inconvenience in having certain War Office branches in provincial towns, the lack of suitable accommodation in London for the numbers involved alone makes it undesirable to bring these branches back.

In view of the great difficulties which local authorities have experienced in the provinces in finding sufficient accommodation for various types of people who are now there, would it not be possible to utilise some of the big empty houses in London, of which there are many available, to accommodate the War Office staff?

Post-War Agricultural Policy

45.

asked the Prime Minister when he will be in a position to state to the House the post-war agricultural policy of the Government?

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now able to announce His Majesty's Government's long-term production policy based on the principles laid down in Resolution XV of the Final Act of the Hot Springs Conference (Cmd. 6451).

50.

asked the Prime Minister when His Majesty's. Government intend to implement Resolution XV. (3) (a) of the final act of the Hot Springs Conference?

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs announced in the House on 6th July, His Majesty's Government have accepted the Resolutions of the Food and Agriculture Conference at Hot Springs in so far as they are applicable to the conditions in the United Kingdom. I do not desire at this stage to make any further statement about His Majesty's Government's post-war agricultural policy.

In view of the splendid work which has been put in by the agricultural community and the great deal of anxiety there is throughout the country after the statement made by the Minister of Agriculture last week, is it not about time the Government stated their post-war agricultural policy in the immediate future?.

That, is a matter upon which most Governments have been allowed to be the judge.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise how impossible is the task of the Minister of Agriculture in present circumstances?

Can the Prime Minister give any indication of how long agriculture will be expected to wait before some decision is made?

I cannot at the present time. Matters are being considered. There is very good relationship between the Minister of Agriculture and the agricultural community. Very large issues are raised by these matters, and they must be given the proper amount of examination and reflection.

Sicily (Administration)

47.

asked the Prime Minister who is responsible for the selection of the personnel for A.M.G.O.T.; and which Government Department is the directing authority?

The military government of Sicily is a Joint Anglo-American Government carried out under the direction of the Supreme Commander General Eisenhower, who is responsible through the Combined Chiefs of Staff to the Government of Great Britain and the Government of the United States. The War Office is the Department in this country responsible for selecting the British officers required for this service.

In regard to A.M.G.O.T., are the Foreign Office in close consultation with the War Office on these matters?

Has General Eisenhower issued any directives to the personnel of A.M.G.O.T., and, if so, will the right hon. Gentleman place a copy of them in the Library of the House for our examination—I mean the general directions?

The hon. Gentleman has not appreciated what I said in my answer—has not taken it in. I said that the military government of Sicily is a Joint Anglo-American Government, carried out under the direction of the Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, who is himself responsible through the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Washington to our two Governments.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply. I fully appreciated what he said. If General Eisenhower has sent out any general directives to the personnel of A.M.G.O.T., not detailed ones, can they be put in the Library of the House for our inspection?

I have not got them in my hands at the present time, but, broadly speaking, complete agreement has been reached between the two Governments, and General Eisenhower acts within the limits of that.

Defence Regulation 18B (Indemnity)

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that it is not the intention of the Government to bring in an Act of Indemnity after the war with reference to action taken under Regulation 18B?

I know of no matters in connection with the administration of Defence Regulation 18B which necessitate an Act of Indemnity, but I have little doubt that at the end of the war consideration will have to be given to legislation such as was passed at the end of the last war to grant indemnity in respect of acts done in good faith and in the execution of duty or for the defence of the realm or the successful prosecution of the war. If such legislation is proposed, it will, of course, be subject to debate in the usual way.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that persons who have been detained without charge and without trial will subsequently have some opportunity, if they so desire, of proving that they were not guilty?

No, Sir, I am certainly not in a position to give such an assurance.

Would not some of the people concerned lose by being brought to public trial?

Italy And The War

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can now give an assurance that in the event of the Italian people forming a Government consisting of Socialists and other elements of left opinion and expressing their desire to negotiate terms of peace, the Allies will accord them recognition?

His Majesty's Government will be prepared, in consultation with their principal Allies, to deal with all situations as they arise.

Will not my right hon. Friend be a little more explicit in reply to the Question? On the assumption that such a Government is formed in Italy, would it not receive the encouragement of my right hon. Friend? At the same time, has he observed in the Press a report that demonstrators in Milan and elsewhere in Italy have executed several prominent Fascists, including some millionaires, and will he encourage that process?

I have nothing to add to what I have said, which I think is explicit and, I think, has the additional merit of being comprehensive.

Is it not the case that former secret societies in Italy which were suppressed by Mussolini were rather left wing in character? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake not to recognise the Mafia?

Dominion And Colonial Immigration

51.

asked the Minister without Portfolio whether a scheme of Dominion and Colonial emigration is contemplated as part of the Government's post-war plans; and whether preliminary discussions with Dominion Governments and Colonial authorities have yet been initiated?

I have been asked to reply. The position is as stated in my reply to the hon. Member for Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle) on 15th July, to which I cannot at present add.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be in a position to assure the House that every effort will be made, in co-operation with the Dominions, to avoid the mistakes which were made after the last war?

I assure my hon. Friend that every effort will be made to avoid all mistakes, whether they were made after the last war or not.

National Finance

Old Age Pensioners (Tax Assessment)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that old age pensioners, who have returned to employment to help in the war effort, feel that their pension, to which they have a statutory right through the contributory scheme, should not be brought into their total income for tax assessment; and whether he will give instructions accordingly?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Dr. Peters) on 8th July.

Wage-Earners (Income Tax)

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has any statement to make regarding the payment by small employers of the Income Tax deducted from the wages of their employees to the Exchequer at intervals less frequent than once a month?

Yes, Sir. The present practice is to accept quarterly, instead of monthly, payment of Income Tax deducted from employees' remuneration where the total amount of tax deductible by the employer does not exceed £1 a month. It has now been decided to increase this figure to £5. In addition collectors of taxes will accept quarterly, instead of monthly, payment in any case where there is only one employee from whose remuneration the employer has been required to deduct tax, irrespective of the amount of tax involved, provided the collector is satisfied that the quarterly payments will be made promptly.

In regard to the question of satisfaction on the part of the Inland Revenue, I suppose it will be open to an employer to pay quarterly in advance, if he wishes?

Yes, Sir. I will look into that point, although I do not think we have had any indication that employers would desire it.

Lira Exchange Rate

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the relative price and wages levels which were taken into account when the lira exchange rate was provisionally fixed; and to what extent the price levels include black-market rates?

The new rate was fixed, as I have already stated, after having taken into account so far as possible all the relevant economic factors. At this time I do not think a more detailed discussion would be advisable.

As the right hon. Gentleman said in his previous reply that price levels and wage levels were important factors in coming to this decision, may I ask why he cannot tell us what those levels were, so that we can judge whether the figure, which appears to be very far from being a true or fair one, was so in fact or not?

I said that the broad facts were taken into account, but I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates that this is a matter in which we have to act in conjunction with the American Government, and that the matter is provisional.

As those levels must have been available to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, why cannot he make the figures available to the House?

I have said that I do not think discussion is wise at the present time.

Surely when the right hon. Gentleman reaches agreement with the American representatives, there must be evidence upon which he reaches that agreement? Cannot we see it, or must we have this silly alibi?

There is no ground for saying that. I stated the matter as fully as I could.

Ploughing Subsidy (Income Tax)

56.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that by a recent decision of the courts the £2 subsidy for land ploughed up by order of the Ministry of Agriculture is in future to rank for Income Tax; and whether, in the interests of production and justice to the farmer, he will alter the law accordingly?

I assume that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to the recent decision of the Special Commissioners of Income Tax in a selected case that came before them. I understand that the appellant proposes to take that case to the courts and in these circumstances I do not consider it would be proper for me to express any view regarding the decision.

Was not this payment in the nature of compensation? Why do the Government set a bad example?

I do not think I had better comment on this matter, as it is apparently still before the courts.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Government's attitude to agriculture is becoming more and more impossible?

Would it not be fairer to give 30s. to the farmer and 10s. to the ploughman who ploughs the land?

Why should not the Government legislate on the matter and save costs?

61.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether farmers in the past have had to include as income the Government allowance of £2 per acre granted to them for ploughing up new land; and whether it is intended that any money received for ploughing up such land in the future shall be subjected to Income Tax?

As I stated in my reply of 2nd July, 1942, to the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price)—a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend—the view of the Board of Inland Revenue is that the ploughing grant is of a Revenue nature and should be taken into account in computing profits for taxation purposes. Assessments have been made in accordance with this view, subject to the farmer's right of appeal. As my hon. Friend is doubtless aware, the Board's view has recently been supported by the Special Commissioners of Income Tax, on appeal, and as I said in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Clifton Brown), I understand that the appellant in that case proposes to take the matter to the Courts.

Am I to infer from that that farmers in the past have always had this matter regarded as income and have actually paid Income Tax upon it?

No, Sir, I would not like my hon. Friend to infer anything more than I have said in my reply.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not consult with the Minister of Agriculture before taking this view?

No, Sir, I consult the views of the Board of Inland Revenue in regard to Income Tax matters.

On this£2 subsidy will not the right hon. Gentleman see that 30s. is given to the farmer and that 10s. goes to the ploughman who ploughs the land instead of it all going to the farmer?

I must remind my hon. Friend that I have no power to accede to that request.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the majority of farmers think that they have been deceived? They expected that the compensation would be £2 net, and it was never realised that it would be subject to 50 per cent. deduction.

As the matter is being discussed in the court, I therefore cannot comment upon it.

War Damage Contribution

57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been received from property owners under the War Damage Acts to date; and the approximate sum already disbursed by the War Damage Commission up to 30th June, 1943?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) on 22nd June.

Property Owners (Income Tax)

58.

asked the Chanceller of the Exchequer whether he is prepared to consider making some allowance to property owners in respect of the cost of the administration of their property, so far as assessment to property tax is concerned, having regard to the fact that the existing deductions are only intended to cover the average cost of repairs?

I would remind my hon. Friend that under the provisions of Rule 8 of No. V in Schedule A of the Income Tax Act, 1918, a property owner can obtain relief from Income Tax where his actual expenditure on maintenance, repairs, insurance and management, taken on a five years' average, exceeds the flat-rate allowances to which my hon. Friend refers.

Directors And Employees (Life Insurance)

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether premiums, paid by a company to insure the life of a director or employee in the company's interest, are admitted by the Inland Revenue as a trading expense in the company's accounts; and whether, when the policies mature by death, the sums assured are treated as capital or income in the tax assessment?

The answers to the points raised by my hon. Friend depend on the facts of the case, and if he will give me information of any particular case he has in mind, I will be glad to look into it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Inland Revenue were asked for a ruling about a particular case over four months ago, and may I ask when that decision will be given?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will send particulars of the case to me, and I will see what can be done about it.

Merchant Ships (Transfer Of American Tonnage)

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement on the offer by the American Government to transfer merchant ships to the British flag?

Yes, Sir, I am obliged to my hon. Friend for asking this Question. I will, with the permission of the House, read the letter which I have received recently from the President:

"The White House, Washington.

DEAR MR. PRIME MINISTER,

When you were with us during the latter part of December, 1941, and the first few days of 1942, after we had become active participants in the war, plans for a division of responsibilities between your country and mine became generally fixed in certain understandings. In matters of production, as well as in others matters, we agreed that mutual advantages were to be gained by concentrating, in so far as it was practical, our energies on doing those things which each of us was best qualified to do.

Here in this country in abundance were the natural resources of critical materials. Here there had been developed the welding technique which enables us to construct a standard merchant ship with a speed unequalled in the history of merchant shipping. Here there was waiting cargo to be moved in ships to your Island and to other theatres. If your country was to have carried out its contemplated ship construction program, it would have been necessary to move large tonnages of the raw materials that we have here across the Atlantic to your mills and yards, and then in the form of a finished ship to send them back to our ports for the cargo that was waiting to be carried.

Obviously this would have entailed a waste of materials and time. It was only natural for us then to decide that this country was to be the predominant cargo shipbuilding area for us both, while your country was to devote its facilities and resources principally to the construction of combat vessels.

You, in your country, reduced your merchant shipbuilding program and directed your resources more particularly to other fields in which you were more favourably situated, while we became the merchant shipbuilder for the two of us and have built, and are continuing to build, a vast tonnage of cargo vessels.

Our merchant fleet has become larger and will continue to grow at a rapid rate. To man its ever increasing number of vessels will, we foresee, present difficulties of no mean proportion. On your side, the British merchant fleet has been diminished, and you have in your pool as a consequence trained seamen and licensed personnel. Clearly it would be extravagant were this body of experienced men of the sea not to be used as promptly as possible. To fail to use them would result in a wastage of man-power on your side, a wastage of man-power on our side, and what is of equal importance, a wastage of shipping facilities. We cannot afford this waste.

In order that the general understanding that we reached during the early days of our engagement together in this war may be more perfectly carried out, and in order, as a practical matter, to avoid the prodigal use of man-power and shipping that would result from pursuing any other course, I am directing the War Shipping Administration under appropriate bareboat arrangements, to transfer to your flag for temporary wartime duty during each of the suggested next ten months a minimum of 15 ships. I have, furthermore, suggested to them that this be increased to 20.

We have, as you know, been allocating to the British services on a voyage-to-voyage basis large numbers of American controlled ships. What I am now suggesting to you, and what I am directing the War Shipping Administration to carry out, will be in the nature of a substitution, to the extent of the tonnage transferred, for the American tonnage that has been usually employed in your war program. The details of the arrangements we can properly leave to the national shipping authorities for settlement through the Combined Shipping Adjustment Board, whose function it is to concert the employment of all merchant vessels and will, in accordance with its usual practice, do so in connection with these particular ships.

Always sincerely,

(Signed) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT."

In my discussions with the President which were furthered in great detail by the Minister of War Transport, we confined ourselves purely to the war period, leaving arrangements suitable to peace-time settlements to be discussed at a future date. The transfer to our Flag of 150 to 200 ships has already begun and will be spread over ten months. It will absorb our reserves of trained seafaring population, and the resources of both countries will be economically and providently applied to the main purpose.

It gives me much pleasure to read to the House this letter from the President, which I have received his permission to make public. I think it shows a deep understanding of our problems, and of the general problems of the war, by the Head of this most powerful State, and of the intimate and sympathetic relationships prevailing between our two Allied Governments. This will I am sure be a source of keen satisfaction to the House and to the country, and certainly a powerful factor towards the abridgment of this period of war and destruction.

I should add that the Canadian Government are making a similarly generous arrangement in connection with ships built in Canada.