House Of Commons
Tuesday, 2nd November, 1943
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Old Age Pensions
The National Federation of Old Age Pensioners have asked me to present to the House a Petition on their behalf. This Petition is signed by over 4,090,000 electors from various parts of the country. They say in their Petition:
This Petition has over 4,000,000 signatures, and I have very great pleasure in presenting it to the House."We the undersigned do solemnly protest against the Government's Old Age Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill and consider it is a denial of the will of the people. Wherefore your petitioners pray that a new Pensions Bill be introduced immediately providing for a pension of 30s. per week for all at 60 years of age, to be given unconditionally, thereby ensuring justice and freedom from want in old age."
Oral Answers To Questions
Gas Industry (Post-War Organisation)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what suggestions he has made to any sections of the gas-producing undertakings to formulate proposals; whether he proposes to set up a committee to hold an inquiry to consider the conditions of the industry; whether he is yet in a position to give the names of the individuals who have been invited to join the committee; and what interests they represent?
I have asked the gas industry to submit proposals on the organisation of the industry in the post-war period, and I have just received the British Gas Federation's Report on this subject. Until I have had the opportunity of considering this Report, I am not in a position to make any statement.
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman make a statement as soon as possible after he has read the Report?
Open-Cast Sites, Stoke-On-Trent
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why Mr. Arthur Jones, a farmer, and several miners, who are not fit to work in the mines, are prevented from working the easily accessible coal on 30 acres at Ashenough Farm, Talke, Stoke-on-Trent?
The site is believed to contain a considerable tonnage of coal which could be worked by open-cast methods and has already been earmarked by the Ministry of Works for future operations.
Is it not a fact that these men have wanted for some time to work this coal; who has prevented them from doing so? Men not fit for work in the mines are eager to work at getting this coal.
My hon. Friend will be aware that the Ministry of Works, who are responsible for the working of these open-cast sites, have been making borings for some considerable time, and this is one of the sites which in their opinion they will be able to work.
Will the men mentioned in the Question be given preference when work is begun?
We will certainly look into that.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is in a position to state how many young men have volunteered for work in the coalmines who would otherwise have had to go in the Services and whether any part of the country has shown a marked preference for colliery work?
I have been asked to reply. Up to 25th September, the latest date for which figures are available, the number of men who had volunteered for work in the coalmines as an alternative to service in the Forces, and had been placed in coalmines, numbered 3,366. An additional number volunteered but subsequently withdrew their offers. There is no evidence of any marked preference for coalmining as against service in the Forces in any part of the country.
When men volunteer for coalmining are they allowed a preference for any particular part of the coalfield, or do they have to go wherever they are directed, whether they want to or not?
I could not answer that without notice, but I think they go where they can best be used.
Miners, Armed Forces (Release)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the conditions by which ex-colliery workers will be released from the Services; and can he give the number who will come under it?
As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 19th October to my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring). As regards the second part, I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War that it is not possible at this stage to estimate the number who will be affected.
Have the Government laid down definitely the conditions under which these men shall be released from the Services? I take it that the answer to which he has referred did lay them down definitely, and if that is so, it is the cause of a lot of dissatisfaction, because the House of Commons has not discussed what the conditions ought to be.
If my hon. Friend will study that answer, he will find that it is clear what men are involved and what has happened at the moment. The reason the information cannot be given is because all the particulars have not yet come in.
Is the Minister aware that since he made his statement hundreds of these men have been writing to hon. Members asking what is to be done, and can he not be more specific, so that these men can be satisfied?
I am sorry if that is the case, but that is not due to anything we have done. I gave an answer to the Question I was asked, and it is a very explicit one. I have written to many hon. Members personally, and if any hon. Member wants further information, I will give it, but if the hon. Member will study the answer given, he will find there all the information which is necessary.
In view of the unsatisfactory state of the position, I beg to give notice that I want the whole matter cleared up, so that people may know exactly what they have to do.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how the number of shifts per person per week worked in the coalmining industry during the period 1st January to 30th September, 1943, compared with those worked in the corresponding period of 1942, in the country as a whole and in each district?
As the answer involves a number of figures, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. As stated in my reply to a similar Question on 26th October, there were more holidays taken in January/September, 1943, than in the corresponding period of 1942, and it would, therefore, be misleading to compare the figures for the two years.
Following is the answer:
Average number of shifts worked per wage-earner per week in the Coalmining Industry.
|S. Wales and Mon.||…||5·22||5·03|
|Lancs, and Cheshire||…||5·37||5·16|
|Forest of Dean||…||5·38||5· 02|
Coal Face Shifts Lost
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how the percentage of shifts lost at the coal face in September, 1943, compares with the percentage lost in September, 1942?
The percentage of shifts lost at the coal face during the four weeks ended 25th September, 1943, was 15.2 per cent., as compared with 13.7 per cent. during the corresponding period a year ago.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the average percentage of voluntary absenteeism at the coal face on each day of the week during September, 1943?
Absenteeism percentages for each day of the week are not available. The percentage of voluntary absenteeism at the coal face during the four weeks ended 25th September, 1943, was 6.1 per cent.
Will my right hon. and gallant Friend consider making this information available to us?
I am afraid that is quite impossible, because already colliery companies have been complaining to me of the shortage of their staffs and this would mean a tremendous addition to their work, and I could not possibly contemplate it.
Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not consider cutting out some of the unnecessary information which collieries are asked to supply, in order that they may supply this vital information?
What is unnecessary is a matter of opinion.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the reasons for the decline in the output of coal per man-shift worked at the coal face since his Department was established?
The output per man-shift worked at the coal face improved considerably following the establishment of my Department and was well maintained relatively to the preceding year until the early summer of this year. It is impossible, by way of question and answer, to give the reasons for the recent decline, but I would refer my hon. Friend to the statements made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself during the recent Debate on coal.
Does my right hon. and gallant Friend admit that in fact the output per man is less now than when he took office?
I could not admit that unless I go further and say that it has improved considerably over the three quarters following upon the quarter in which the Ministry was formed. At this moment it is only very slightly below what it was at the start.
Clifton And Point Of Ayr Collieries
10 and 11.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) in relation to the Clifton Colliery, Nottingham, the shares of which are now held by the Treasury, the total monthly output and the output per man-shift, respectively, for each of the 12 months prior to Government acquisition and corresponding figures for each month since that date;(2), the output and the output per man-shift, respectively, for each of the six months prior to Government control of the Point of Ayr Colliery and the figures for the months of the period since that control?
It is not in the public interest to give figures relating to individual collieries.
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether there has in fact been a decrease in production since the Government controlled these two undertakings?
No, that is not in fact so, but I do not think it is very wise to give information of that character, because, as I have tried to point out, what has happened is not because the Government have taken the collieries over. In one case there has been an improvement; in the other case, owing to the condition in which the colliery was, a tremendous amount of development work had to be done.
What is the public interest which prevents the giving of this information? Are the Government afraid that if they gave it the Germans would drop a bomb down one of those collieries?
I do not want to discuss that, but I dare say my hon. Friend would think that. If he worked it out for himself, he would see there was nothing in it.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will consider increasing the allowance of petrol for taxi-cabs?
The taxi-cab service is at present being reviewed by my Department, in consultation with the other Departments concerned. I will let my hon. Friend know when I have come to a conclusion.
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman also review the position of the private hire services, which in many respects have been in a worse position than the taxi-cabs in regard to supplies of petrol?
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that at places like Waterloo people have waited from 10 till 12, two hours, without a single taxi coming, although outside 120 taxi-cabs have been seen to go by with their flags up?
Is not one of the difficulties the lack of rubber for tyres for these vehicles, and for buses also? It is not necessarily a case of petrol.
Trade And Commerce
International Cartels ("Germany's Master Plan")
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can make any further statement on the question of an inquiry into the infiltration of German influence into British industry, in the light of the book "Germany's Master Plan"?
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether an examination has now been made of the public- cation "Germany's Master Plan"; who were the British firms and persons involved in these arrangements; whether he will make a full statement on the allegations made and whether it is the Government's intention, in preparation for the post-war period, to put an end to all such arrangements?
This book by two American authors is mainly concerned with the relations, over the past 30 years, between American and German firms. So far as British firms are concerned, His Majesty's Government, as the Prime Minister has stated, already have under consideration the question of international cartels after the war.
Would the right hon. Gentleman cause some inquiry to be made comparable with that which took place in the United States, so that we can obtain the facts with regard to this country?
I must plainly tell the hon. Gentleman that it was at the suggestion of himself and certain other hon. Members that I read the book, and, frankly, I learned nothing new from it. There is nothing new, so far as British firms are concerned. I think the book has been somewhat over-publicised in this country so far as British firms are concerned. I repeat that this is mainly a story about American and German firms.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember that a few of us on this side of the House raised this issue before the war and got nothing but jeers and sneers from other people? In view of the fact that it has now been proved correct, will he have a full investigation made into this matter so that we can know the firms and persons responsible for betraying the interests of this country before the war?
I would always be very happy to organise or arrange an investigation if it were going to tell us something new. It is the business of the Government to acquaint themselves with the necessary facts in this case, with a view to a decision as to post-war policy. The Prime Minister has answered a Question in this House, and I have also answered Questions on the same subject. The Government regard it as an important item to be decided in relation to post-war policy, as to what regulations, if any, should be imposed upon these international cartels. We are studying that matter, and we have a considerable amount of information about it, and I am frankly doubtful whether a further investigation would tell us more than we know already.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he read the American version of this book or the British version, and if he has not read the American version, will he procure a copy?
I have taken great care to read the American version. I did not read the British version, because it has been abridged and reduced.
If the right hon. Gentleman denies certain of the allegations made in this book, will he cause to be published a Government refutation, so, that we may know where we stand? May I ask him to treat the matter rather more seriously from the standpoint of the German and enemy patents, held by various cartels operating in this country?
I would beg hon. Members not to assume that the Government are completely ignorant in this matter. We do not need to make ad hoc investigations into these matters in order to acquaint ourselves with the facts. I believe that we know the facts in this case, and I have already stated that the Government are considering what action is necessary. The matter of German patents is one for the Peace Treaty. For the moment these are all abrogated. All these agreements with enemy aliens are frustrated legally. I have said that to the House before.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the shortage of black-out material and that some shops have not had a supply for months; and what steps he is taking to remedy the inconvenience so caused?
Owing to a heavy seasonal demand, there is at present some shortage of black-out cloth. Output is being maintained at as high a level as supplies of labour and cotton yarn permit and is sub- stantially greater than last year. The public can help by not renewing their black-out curtains if they are still serviceable, or can be repaired.
Is some of this material held by firms being diverted to other purposes?
I hope not.
Surplus Goods And Factories (Post-War Disposal)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has a statement to make regarding the post-war disposal by the Government of surplus goods and factories?
Yes, Sir. As I have already stated in the House, there must be, after the war, an orderly disposal of surplus goods, which, on the one hand, will not allow profiteering at the expense of the consumer, and, on the other hand, will pay due regard to the interests of producers and distributors. The Government have decided that disposal shall be carried out, in each particular case, through the agency of the Department mainly concerned with the supply of the goods during the war. Before working out the plans for disposal, the Board of Trade, together with other responsible Departments, will consult with representatives of the producers and distributors concerned.The Government have further decided that the Board of Trade, through its Factory and Storage Control, shall co-ordinate the disposal of all surplus Government factories. With a view to decisions being taken as to the best use to which these can be put in the national interest, the Control will compile lists of factories and of applicants for them. The Government recognise the importance of reaching such decisions before the end of the war in as many cases as possible, but much must depend on the course of events, including future programmes of war production. Special attention will be paid to the release of factories urgently needed for peace-time production and to the possibility of converting into trading estates some of the premises no longer required for Government work.
Arising from that reply, for which I thank the right hon. Gentleman, may we presume that it is possible within the ambit of the reply that the Government will retain in their own possession some of the factories that are necessary? Will the Government be good enough to bear in mind, in disposing of these factories, their location, in relation to those areas that were depressed between the two wars and into which no new industries have entered before?
Yes, Sir, and I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for asking this question. Certainly, it is not ruled out that the Government will retain these factories. We are anxious, in the first instance, to have information as to the alternative uses to which each factory can be put, whether by Governmental, private, trading estate or any other agencies. There are many possible agencies who desire to avail themselves of these very valuable premises, in which, in many cases, much Government money has been sunk. In reply to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, we shall certainly have particular regard to the employment aspect of the case in each particular locality.
Bearing in mind the importance of the distribution of surplus stocks, will the right hon. Gentleman have regard to the desirability of not making the avenue of distribution too narrow, because in so doing he may create a new vested interest?
Certainly. We are anxious that all legitimate interests should be fairly and properly represented, and it is largely with that object in view that consultation will take place between my Department and other Departments on the one hand, and representatives of producers and distributors on the other. When I say "producers," I include the representatives of the trade unions and of the industries concerned.
Schoolchildren's Boots, Stoke-On-Trent (Leather For Repairs)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will issue permits to Stoke-on-Trent education authority for supplies of leather for the repairing of boots of schoolchildren in some of the senior schools and boys' clubs, in view of the fact that boot repairing shops are working to a maximum, with long periods being required for repairs, such permits to be approved by His Majesty's inspectors of schools?
In view of the shortage of leather, supplies to schools and boys' clubs for repairs could only be made at the expense of skilled repairers, and I do not think that, in these circumstances, I should be justified in adopting my hon. Friend's suggestion. I have asked for a special report on the position in Stoke-on-Trent from my Regional Director of Footwear Repairs, and I will communicate again with my hon. Friend.
Lost Clothes Coupon Books
asked the President of the Board of Trade what percentage of clothing coupon books have been lost by the public during the year to the latest date for which figures are available; and what proportion have subsequently been reported as found and returned to the owners or to his Department?
The number of lost clothing books reported to the Board of Trade between 1st January and 31st August was about 1 per cent. of the total annual issue. The number of lost books returned to the Board of Trade in this period was 26,000.
Woollen Piece Goods (Export)
asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent the release of woollen piece goods already prepared for shipment to the United States of America has been refused and export licences for woollen goods held up in respect to North and South America; and will he make a statement on the Government's policy on this matter?
Licences have been granted for the export of all piece goods produced from wool allocated for that purpose. The arrangements for the control of exports of woollen piece goods are well known to the trade, and loyally accepted by them. The total available for export is now barely sufficient to meet minimum Empire requirements. The policy of His Majesty's Government on this matter is to give priority to the essential needs of the home market and of the Empire.
Refugees (International Action)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the British delegates to the International Relief Conference intend to urge the formation of a supreme economic council to co-ordinate the different policies of the eight combined boards for the purpose of simplifying negotiations with other international bodies in process of formation or contemplated?
I have been asked to reply. I fear that it would hardly be within the competence of the Council of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to put forward such far-reaching proposals as those indicated by my hon. Friend.
Seeing that there is a prima facie case made out for the co-ordination of these Boards, could not some other action be taken to see whether such co-ordination could be effected?
That is another question.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what will be the relationship between the Inter-Governmental Committees on Refugees and the Repatriation Committee of the United Nations Relief and Reconstruction Administration which will be set up at the forthcoming International Conference on Relief; and whether it is intended that the League of Nations Commission for Refugees shall be invited to co-operate with both?
The Executive Committee of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees has recommended that, in order to avoid overlapping the proposed United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration should be responsible for maintenance of refugees in areas where it will operate, if it is prepared to undertake this task. The recommendation is down for consideration at the international conference on relief about to assemble in the United States. I cannot anticipate the results of their discussion, but from what I have said it will be clear that the question of co-ordination is receiving all due attention. In regard to the League of Nations High Commission for Refugees, I would point out that co-ordination is already assured by the fact that the High Commissioner is also Honorary Director of the Inter-Governmental Committee.
Would the right hon. Gentleman also indicate whether the Com- mission as such apart from personnel will be co-ordinated in some organic way?
I think that is a matter which might be considered. It must be remembered that the Inter-Governmental Committee have only recently been set up. They are already getting on with their job and doing it very well.
Would the right hon. Gentleman correct something in the statement he has just made? The Committee has not only recently been set up, it has only recently had its duties extended.
Yes, that is so. There was a recommendation from the Bermuda Conference that the mandate of the Inter-Governmental Committee should be extended and that the Inter-Governmental Committee should be called together for the purposes of carrying on their functions in accordance with the extended mandate.
Swedish Ball And Roller Bearings (Export To Germany)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he has any information as to Germany being supplied with ball and roller bearings from factories in Sweden; and whether any pressure has been brought to bear upon the Swedish Government to prohibit such supplies?
Yes, Sir. A large part of the output of Sweden's ball and roller bearing industry is absorbed in meeting the requirements of Sweden's national defence forces. The surplus is available for sale to other countries, including Germany. The requirements in bearings of the United Nations are, however, extensive, and large scale orders have accordingly been placed with Swedish manufacturers. My information is that as a result Sweden's productive capacity of the more important types of bearings is fully booked up for some time ahead, and it is therefore unlikely that enemy purchases of this type will appreciably increase. As regards the second part of the Question, matters of this kind are frequently the subject of communications between His Majesty's Government and neutral Governments, but it would not be in the public interest to reveal the nature of such communications.
British Prisoners Of War, Italy
asked the Secretary of State for War how many British prisoners of war in Italy have been able to join the advancing Allied Forces; and whether he will request the Protecting Power to ascertain whether any further transfers of prisoners from Italy to Germany are now taking place?
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement with regard to the number of prisoners in Italy who have been removed to Germany and the numbers who have escaped or who have found their way to Switzerland?
asked the Secretary of State for War how many British prisoners have now reached Switzerland from Italy; whether their relations in this country have been notified without delay; and whether the Protecting Power or the International Red Cross is looking after them financially and otherwise?
I would refer the hon. Members to the replies I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) on 26th October and to my hon. Friends the Members for Stockport (Wing-Commander Hulbert) and Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) on 12th October. I am, however, circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT information which has been forwarded by the Protecting Power about the camps in Germany to which prisoners transferred from Italy have been sent. Arrangements are made by His Majesty's Minister and the Swiss Government for the accommodation, clothing, feeding and welfare of British prisoners who reach Switzerland and for advances of pay for them.
Can the right hon. Gentleman further say whether there has been any speeding-up of communications between the Protecting Power and the War Office, which were at one time very slow?
If the hon. Member wishes to make that particular accusation, perhaps he will put down a Question, and I will answer it.
Are there any instances of our prisoners having been prevented by the Italian authorities from escaping after the Armistice terms had been signed?
I should require notice of that Question. The only case I have in mind at all in that connection is one to which the Minister of State referred in an answer a few days ago. If the hon. and gallant Member will put down a Question, I will try to get him the information.
Have the relatives of those prisoners who have escaped into Switzerland been informed?
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me the number?
As I have previously said, I would rather be excused from giving any information about the number who have escaped.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it would be dangerous to give the figures of prisoners who have escaped across the frontier, as it would clearly tell the Germans how many they had to look for?
That is precisely the consideration which I had in mind.
Following is the information:
The Protecting Power reports that the Transit Camps in Germany being used for prisoners of war from Italy are Stalag VII A, Stalag XVIII A and Stalag XVIII C, from which officers are sent to Oflag XII B and Oflag V A, and other ranks to Stalag IV B, Stalag VIII A and Stalag VIII B. British officers, whom it has not yet been possible to accommodate in Qflags, owing to lack of space, are temporarily accommodated in these Stalags. All these camps will be visited by the Protecting Power during October and November.
General Headquarters, Mef (Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for War what reduction has taken place in the staff of general headquarters, M.E.F.?
The strengths of this and other headquarters are reviewed from time to time, and whatever reductions are possible are made. My hon. Friend will, however, appreciate that, as the staff of a headquarters is related to the present and future operational requirements in the theatre of war concerned, it would be of value to the enemy to make public details of changes in the strength of this or other headquarters.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the large number of American Sherman tanks lying unused in this country; and whether he will arrange to equip British units with these tanks in preference to less reliable British tanks?
The American tanks in this country are intended for the equipment of British Forces or for the accumulation of the necessary reserves. Naturally I do not propose to give information about the equipment of British formations which might be of value to the enemy but I may say that I do not accept the implications of either part of the hon. Member's Question.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the large numbers referred to in the Question are arrived at after making allowances for reserves on the most generous scale, and am I to understand that there are not sufficient armoured units to be furnished with these American tanks?
The hon. Member is repeating the implication which I expressly refused to accept, namely, that there are tanks in this country which are being wasted.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are to infer that he is satisfied that the British tanks in use in this country are better than the Sherman tanks?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put that question down.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether a member of the Home Guard is in any way prohibited from communicating with Members of Parliament; and what are the regulations dealing with this matter?
I am not aware that there are any regulations which prohibit Home Guards from communicating with Members of Parliament.
If I bring to the attention of the Secretary of State a case where a Home Guard was recently reprimanded by his commanding officer for communicating with a Member of Parliament, will he be kind enough to look into it?
asked the Secretary of State for War what nurnber of Regular officers, under 35 years of age and medical category A, are now employed as Home Guard training officers?
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction prevailing among all ranks of a certain battalion of the Home Guard, of which he has been informed, which has resulted in the resignations of three company commanders and three junior officers, and applications from 18 non-commissioned officers to be allowed to resume their former position in the ranks; and whether he will make a statement as to the steps to be taken to restore the confidence of officers and men in the higher command?
An investigation into these matters is now being carried out.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the recent instruction that Home Guard boots needing repair must be sent to one centre in each area applies universally to all districts?
I am not aware that such an instruction has been issued, but if my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of it I will have inquiries made.
Am I to understand that certain instructions can be issued without the War Office knowing about it?
A certain amount of latitude must be allowed to local commanders. If the hon. Member will give me particulars of instructions having been wrongfully issued, I will look into the matter.
Defence Of Egypt (Casualties)
asked the Secretary of State for War how many British lives were lost in the defence of Egypt; what active military help was rendered by the Egyptian authorities; and how many Egyptian lives were lost in the defence of their country?
The defence of Egypt itself was an integral part of all the operations conducted in the Middle East against the Axis and cannot be isolated therefrom so that the specific information asked for by my hon. Friend cannot be given. The Egyptian Government fulfilled their obligations under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936.
Can the right hon. Gentleman affirm that the Egyptian Government faithfully did its duty in protecting its country and risking the lives of its citizens in its defence?
The answer I gave was that they fulfilled their obligations under the Treaty of 1936.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Egyptian Army gave invaluable help in the defence of the Canal and at Alexandria?
asked the Secretary of State for War what increase there has been in recent months of mobile cinemas available for the entertainment of the Forces serving overseas?
Since 1st July, 52 additional mobile cinemas have been provided by the Army for showing entertainment, educational and training films to the Forces overseas. A further 50 will be provided before the end of the year.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, might I ask whether there is not some difficulty by reason of divided responsibility between E.N.S.A. and the Army entertainment service? Would it not be better to bring the whole thing under the control of the Army?
That matter, as I said in reply to other hon. Members, is engaging my attention. Not only is there divided responsibility at present, but there are many divided opinions.
Would the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member not lead to waste of man-power? Is there any lack of co-operation on the part of the Army in this matter?
On the last part of the Question, which is the relevant one, the answer is quite definitely, No.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that E.N.S.A. and similar organisations are providing the maximum of entertainment possible for the Forces serving overseas; and, if not, whether he will take steps to improve the position?
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of criticism of the arrangements by E.N.S.A. for the entertainment of the troops overseas and the fact that many professional stars are giving little or no assistance, he will investigate the possibilities of improvement in their programmes?
The War Office and the other two Services are doing all that they can, in conjunction with E.N.S.A., to secure the improvement for which my hon. Friends look.
Mine-Clearing Devices, Italy
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the Forces fighting in Italy are now equipped with an effective mine-clearing tank; and, if so, whether he will state the type?
Our Forces in Italy are equipped with the best mine-clearing devices available, but it would clearly not be in the public interest to give particulars of them.
Has the right hon. Gentleman read General Alexander's statement that "all roads lead to Rome, but unfortunately all the roads are mined"? Is one to infer that mine-clearing equipment is totally inadequate?
It is certainly so.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make the Regulations regarding married personnel in the same camp similar to those in the R.A.F., so that married couples need not be separated?
I am afraid that my answer on 19th October may have misled my hon. Friend. The Army rule forbids married couples serving in the same unit; it does not forbid them serving in the same camp if both their units happen to be there. This seems to me a reasonable rule in the circumstances, particularly as the conditions of service in the Army are not in general very similar to those in the R.A.F.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that this Regulation is not conducive to the best human relations between people serving in the same locality? Why should Army Regulations generally be more harsh than those of the R.A.F.?
I do not admit that Army Regulations are invariably stricter—
I said "generally."
—or harsher than those of the R.A.F. The suggestion that this rule is conducive to ill-feeling is I think incorrect. I may have misled my hon. Friend. In the case of two different units in the same camp the rule does not operate. If my hon. Friend will consider the matter it is possible that he will see that there are good reasons for the rule.
Will my right hon. Friend see that where two people get married they are posted to the same locality even if not to the same unit? In many cases when a couple marry they are dispersed to opposite ends of the Army.
If a man and a woman in the same unit marry quite obviously one of them must change their unit. I do not think that there is any deliberate policy of posting them as far apart as possible.
What special reasons apply to the Army which do not apply to the R.A.F.?
That is obvious. Some of the mixed Army units have an operational function, which R.A.F. units have not.
Requisitioned Land (Reinstatement)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether buildings erected on land requisitioned by his Department will be cleared away before handing back the land to the owner?
The Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, prescribes only an obligation to pay compensation in respect of the cost of reinstatement, and in general I regret that I am unable to give any guarantee on the method by which reinstatement will be carried out during or after the war. Where, however, the removal of works serves an essential wartime purpose, for example, by restoring the land to food production, every effort is made to do it.
Are we to understand that it is possible that the War Office might well erect immense Moorish castles and then leave it to the owners of the land to clear them away?
Why should the War Office hand back the land to the robber landowners instead of to the people to whom it belongs?
Why should not the land be handed back to the legitimate owners?
Combined Services Advisory Bureau
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the Combined Services Advisory Bureau, of 8, Hazlewood Court, Victoria Rise, Clapham, S.W. 1, has any official recognition as a war charity; whether it is registered as such; and whether he has any information concerning its activities?
As far as I am aware, the answer to the three parts of my hon. Friend's Question is "No, Sir."
In view of the fact that this organisation is circularising ex-Service men who have had accidents, on paper with a heading which makes it look as though it is an official charitable organisation, will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the appropriate Government Department as to whether they can take steps to prevent this from going on?
I believe my information is correct that it is not a Government Department at all which is responsible for dealing with that particular matter, but the London County Council.
Is it not the case that under the Charities Act the Home Office is certainly responsible, and will he in all these cases communicate with the Home Office, where there is reason to believe that ex-Service men or their dependants are being victimised?
My knowledge is not deep enough to challenge the Noble Lord's statement, but I am informed that the people primarily responsible are the L.C.C., but I will pass on the suggestion to the Home Office.
Will the right hon. Gentleman not make adequate provision for ex-Service men and their dependants and do away altogether with charity? Is it not a shameful thing that there should be charity?
Missing Personnel (Search Organisation)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the Report on the Organisation for Searching for the Missing has now been received?
I understand it was reported last August to the War Organisation of the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John, by their Commissioner in Cairo, that he was satisfied with the progress of searching work in the Middle East, having regard to the necessary restrictions on transport and on accommodation in hospitals.
Is this Report the one which my right hon Friend promised to cable at the end of July?
I do not remember saying that I would cable. The normal machinery would be for the Red Cross people in Cairo to report to their own organisation and that is what has been done. This is the only Report that I am aware of. What I undertook was to pass on any information which I got to the Red Cross.
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to look at the reply which he gave at the end of July in which he promised to cable the Report?
Civilian Deaths, Air Raids
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the War Graves Commission accepts any re- sponsibility for the maintenance of the graves of British people killed at home by enemy air raids?
No, Sir. But the Commission is empowered to record the names of civilians killed in air raids.
Italian Prisoners Of War (Employment)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will now give further consideration to the employment of Italian prisoners of war in industry?
I have been asked to reply. As stated in the reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) on 14th October, this matter is under consideration.
Can the hon. Gentleman say when decisions will be reached?
Will the hon. Gentleman look into the question of whether or not we are going to employ German prisoners?
asked the Prime Minister why only two despatches out of 27 received from commanders-in-chief in the field have been published?
His Majesty's Government consider that the publication of further despatches would give information of value to the enemy.
Why did not these Instructions apply during the last war, when all the despatches of the Army chiefs were published within a few months of their receipt by His Majesty's Government?
I have responsibility only for this war. I cannot say why the same course was not adopted in the last war.
But is it really the case that the despatches of the commanders-in-chief would give information to the enemy? Would they not rather give information to our own people?
I have stated that, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, they would be of service to the enemy.
Burma (Civil Administration, Report)
asked the Prime Minister whether the despatches from Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith from Burma will be published as a White Paper?
I understand that a report on the civil administration of Burma during the Japanese invasion has been completed. When it is received, the question of the action to be taken on it will be considered.
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the military commentaries on Allied operations and possible future plans of attack by officers who have held high military appointments which are appearing in the Press; and, as it is not in the national interest that well-informed criticism and suggestions should be made available to the enemy, whether he will take steps to stop this practice?
The officers to whom my hon. Friend refers are no doubt those retired officers of the Services who are employed as military commentators by some newspapers. As retired officers they have no access to official plans and papers. Breaches of security will be dealt with in the normal way.
Is not an officer of such rank necessarily a man of responsibility, whose opinion on military matters is of value? Is it not likely to be of assistance to the enemy to have their opinions on our plans confirmed from a responsible source?
I do not think that in this case any opinions are formed for the enemy which he could not have formed for himself.
Will the right hon. Gentleman resist in every possible way the encroachment of the freedom of the Press advocated by the hon. Gentleman opposite?
Is it not the case that these articles, like other articles in the Press, are submitted voluntarily to the Ministry of Information, for voluntary censorship?
I think that that is so, and if there was any exception in any way, some action would be taken.
British Troops, India (Welfare And Administration)
asked the Prime Minister whether in view of the establishment of a Far Eastern Command, the Secretary of State for War is to be given any direct responsibilty for the welfare and administration of British Forces serving in India?
The Commander-in-Chief, India, is directly responsible for the welfare and administration of British troops serving in India and the Supreme Commander, South East Asia Command, for that of the British troops serving under him. The Secretary of State for War is responsible to Parliament in the second case. In the first case it is the Secretary of State for India who is so responsible but clearly the Secretary of State for War has a general interest in seeing that British troops are adequately cared for.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Questions affecting the welfare and administration of British troops in India can be addressed to the Secretary of State for War and receive an answer, because under the present arrangement it is not satisfactory to put these Questions to the Secretary of State for India, who then has to cable out to the Viceroy or something like that?
Clearly, my hon. Friend should put down his Questions to the Minister who is responsible to this House.
asked the Minister without Portfolio whether he will give an undertaking that in any plan for demobilisation a substantial period of service in the Armed Forces overseas should be rewarded by a measure of priority?
asked the Minister without Portfolio what progress has been made in settling the principles upon which the men and women in the Forces will be demobilised; and what steps will be taken to familiarise them with these principles in order to ensure co-operation and smooth working of the plan?
I would refer my hon. Friends to the reply that I gave on 23rd September last to Questions by my hon. Friends the Members for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) and Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). The general re-examination of the demobilisation plan, to which I then referred, is proceeding. On its completion decisions will be taken by the Government and communicated at the proper time to the House with a view to a discussion of the whole matter.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the widespread interest in the country to know the general principles and priorities of demobilisation policy, and will he therefore apply to this problem those qualities of drive and energy with which he is so plentifully endowed?
I am well aware of the points the hon. Member has made and of the desirability of getting a decision, but, on the other hand, I think he will realise, too, that there is another consideration. A suitable time to discuss these matters must to some extent depend upon the progress of the war, and therefore there is the matter of time governing what shall be done.
Is the Minister aware that the men in the Forces are apprehensive on this matter, and is it not possible for the Government to distinguish as between a declaration on the principles concerned and the details? Could we have a statement on the principles affecting demobilisation at an early stage?
No, Sir. It is very difficult to separate the principle from the details. A discussion in this House would not be of any value unless there was a considerable measure of detail given.
Artificial Limbs (Income Tax Deduction)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will consider allowing the cost of artificial limbs to rank for Income Tax deduction in the case of civilians who have lost a limb?
I am afraid that I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
Is the Chancellor aware of how heavily handicapped these civilian cripples are and of the heavy burden of keeping up their payments? Surely consideration should be given to a simple matter of this kind?
I am not unsympathetic to the point of view put forward, but I am bound to tell the House that the particular method of giving the assistance suggested is open to strong objection from the Revenue point of view.
University Grants Committee
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how often the University Grants Committee has met during the last six months; and whether, in view of the urgency of the equipment of the universities to deal with the post-war situation, steps are being taken by the committee to formulate appropriate plans?
The reconstitution of the University Grants Committee has been under consideration for some time and I hope very shortly to announce the appointment to the Committee of a number of new members. Pending its reconstitution, meetings of the Committee have not recently been held. As regards the equipment of universities to deal with the post-war situation, the universities themselves have been studying the various problems which will face them after the war. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals have asked the University Grants Committee to undertake a review of these problems in order to form a considered estimate of the need for increased assistance from the Exchequer. This request will have to be considered as a matter of urgency by the reconstituted Committee; meantime, the universities are being asked to formulate their post-war needs so far as they can be estimated in present circumstances.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the universities are being asked individually to formulate their needs, or is it to be done through the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals?
I am not sure, but I think it is through the Committee.
Ground Rents (Income Tax Deductions)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the reason for the inequality arising from the rule of the Inland Revenue which permits, in the case of a private company owning ground rents, the deduction of expenses of collection and management before payment of Income Tax, whereas such deduction is not allowed when similar ground rents are owned by an individual, although he will have to incur an equal expense; and whether he will consider remedying this?
The relief to which my hon. Friend refers is allowed under a provision of the law, namely, Section 33 of the Income Tax Act, 1918, which is applicable only to companies. I am afraid that I cannot see my way to an extension of that provision to the case of the individual who incurs expenses in collecting his income from ground rents or other investments.
Can the Chancellor say what is equitable? Is it equitable in the one case to give a certain amount of rebate and not in the other case, which is similar on all points?
Why not take them away from them altogether?
In the case of companies, it is treated as a matter of business and ranks as business expenses. On the point put by my hon. Friend, the law does draw a distinction in other respects between companies and private individuals.
Monetary And Currency Policy
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the nature of the agreement in principle between the United Kingdom and the United States of America referred to by Mr. Morgenthau, on 26th October, 1943?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has any statement to make to this House, in view of Mr. Morgenthau's announcement in Cairo on 26th October, that Great Britain and the United States had agreed in principle with regard to the implementation of the Keynes and White plans for world stabilisation?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the nature of the agreement in principle between the delegation to the United States of America and the United States representatives?
I have seen references in the Press to a statement attributed to Mr. Secretary Morgenthau. The exploratory discussions between officials which were recently concluded in Washington have made an appreciable advance towards agreement on principles, though there are still some important points outstanding. The full report of these discussions has not yet reached me and tae position remains as it has been stated by the late Chancellor and myself, that no commitment in this field will be entered into without previous debate in this House.
Can the Chancellor say whether the statement in the Press of last Wednesday is without foundation?
I cannot do better than refer the hon. Gentleman to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on that subject last week.
May I ask the Chancellor whether the delegation, with which Lord Keynes was associated and which went to the United States of America to discuss these matters, were empowered to come to an agreement in principle, or was their reference merely to discuss the matter in an exploratory fashion?
That is so. There was no power given to anyone on either side to arrive at agreement in principle. The word "agreement" in my answer must be interpreted again, as the Prime Minister indicated, as a union of minds rather than a bond.
Will the Chancellor, before we have a Debate, consider laying a further White Paper for the guidance of the House, giving a general outline of the scope of the discussions and the proposals of His Majesty's Government?
It will not be practicable to lay a White Paper dealing specfically with the discussions which have taken place between technical experts on both sides, but I will certainly consider publishing material as far as it is relevant to the views of His Majesty's Government.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of President Roosevelt's declaration that nations benefiting under Lend-Lease will be expected to make repayment after the war in goods or other benefits, he will now cause to be recorded the value of goods already sent to America by Great Britain under Lend-Lease?
I have nothing to add to my reply to the hon. Member on 26th October last.
That was a reply to a totally different question to the question of the amount of American Lend-Lease in this country. I am now asking whether, in view of the President's statement that the countries which receive the benefits of Lend-Lease will be expected to repay, if not in kind, in goods or other benefits, he will now cause the amount of Lend-Lease in reverse to be recorded?
I explained to the hon. Gentleman the difficulty of making an exact record in terms of money of the value of goods and services, whether under Lend-Lease or what we call reciprocal union.
How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to deal with the matter when the President sends in his bill?
I think we had better wait.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that public controversy as to which of the Allies has been of the most material help to the War is undesirable at this juncture, and should not these matters be left to the several Governments concerned?
Certainly, I myself wish to avoid all unnecessary controversy.
Research (Taxation Relief)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether any specific attention and investigation are being given by his Department to the practicability of relief from taxation of industrial research by making the costs of such research and development work, including the cost of patents, proper charges against taxable profits?
As explained by the Financial Secretary in his speech during the Second Reading of this year's Finance Bill (OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1943, col. 1070), revenue expenditure on research is generally allowed as a deduction in computing profits, and the case of capital expenditure is one of the matters for consideration in the inquiry now being carried out by the Board of Inland Revenue into the treatment of expenditure for taxation purposes.
War Damage Contribution
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the decline which has taken place in the destruction of property by air raids, he will consider the reduction of the insurance premium paid by the owners of property?
No, Sir. I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that the contribution now payable is that prescribed in the original War Damage Act in respect of damage done within the first risk period ending 31st of August, 1941, only; and that this risk period was extended indefinitely by subsequent legislation without any addition to the contribution. Provisions for its ultimate adjustment either upwards or downwards if that should be necessary are laid down in Section 80 of the War Damage Act, 1943.
War Damage Insurance Fund
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount of the War Damage Insurance Fund collected to 30th September last?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer my predecessor gave to the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) on 22nd June.
Can my right hon. Friend say how much the Exchequer has put into the Fund up to date?
Statements are made to the House from time to time, and I think it is much more convenient that that should be done at appropriate intervals rather than that I should attempt to make a running commentary.
I want to know whether it is still nothing.
Injured Civil Servants (Pay Increments)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will issue instructions to provide that when civil servants are injured by enemy action while on duty and as a result of such injuries prolonged sick absence is necessary, they shall not as a result of such absence lose any right to increments in pay to which they would otherwise be entitled, but that they shall be accorded the same privilege as civil servants serving in His Majesty's Forces who, when wounded, continue to receive incremental credit?
The question of loss of increments only arises after the civil servant has had long paid sick leave which may amount to as much as a year in any period of four years. His position in this respect is precisely the same as that of a civil servant who has been invalided out of the Forces, is back on the payroll of his Department but is still unfit for civilian duty.
Dutch-Belgian-Luxembourg Monetary Agreement