House Of Commons
Wednesday, 1st December, 1943
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Road Accidents (United States Service Vehicles)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether there exists in respect of the United States army a Claims Commission similar to that established for the Home Forces; whether it is now functioning; the number of claims, both agreed and otherwise, and still outstanding; and what steps he is taking to effect settlements?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the increasing number of British citizens who have suffered personal injury or material damage from negligent driving of American army vehicles; and what progress has been made in the negotiations referred to on 10th November?
His Majesty's Government have no evidence to show that the number of accidents in which members of the United States forces are involved is in any way the result of unduly negligent driving or disproportionate to the increasing numbers of United States troops and vehicles at present stationed in this country. A United States Claims Commission has been set up and is operating in this country. It has power to consider all civil claims brought against the United States forces or members thereof arising out of the activities of such forces in this country, and to pay compensation, subject to the prior approval of Congress when the sum involved exceeds 5,000 dollars. I have no information as to the number of claims with which the United States Claims Commission are dealing but I understand that there are in fact extremely few cases in which it has not been possible to reach a satisfactory settlement. His Majesty's Government are still engaged in discussing with the United States Government the matters referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) on the 10th November and hope that a solution satisfactory to all Concerned will be reached before long.
Will my right hon. Friend state what further progress has been made since the discussions on 10th November and whether British-owned vehicles in America are subject to the same kind of restrictions, that is to say, do they come under British or American rule with regard to road traffic?
Some progress has been made, and a position has been arrived at where some of the accumulated claims, which were agreed by the Commission and were held up by the authorities in Washington, will be paid out of the United States Army funds. This will dispose of some of the more difficult cases. Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will put the second part of his Question down.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply might be interpreted as meaning that the Foreign Office accept the view that an increase in road accidents must necessarily follow an increase in American and other vehicles on the road? Will he assure the House that that is not the meaning?
I am not suggesting that an increase is inevitable where there is an increase in the number of persons and vehicles on the road, but the reason for that paragraph in the reply was to point out that, taking into consideration the number of American troops and vehicles, the number of accidents is not disproportionate to the average for the country.
I understood my right hon. Friend to say that certain outstanding claims would be amicably settled in the near future; does he mean in about a month or so?
I cannot say that. It takes some time when there has to be correspondence with the State Department in Washington, but we hope that settlements will be effected as soon as possible.
Why cannot the British Claims Commission deal with these claims in the same way as agricultural claims?
That is another question.
Prisoners Of War (Exchange)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any inquiries have yet been made by the International Red Cross with regard to the exchange of a certain number of prisoners of war to neutral countries, more particularly those who have been in captivity a long time?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is considered possible now to open negotiations through the Protecting Power for the transfer to a neutral country of prisoners of war who have been a long time in captivity?
A suggestion for the accommodation in a neutral country of prisoners of war who have been in captivity for a long time has been received from the International Red Cross Committee. This suggestion is under consideration, but the matter is one of some complexity, and it may well be that direct repatriation would be preferable to accommodation in a neutral country. The question clearly requires very careful consideration, but the importance of the matter is fully realised and a decision will be taken as soon as possible.
Is the Minister aware that in the last war when an agreement was made an arrangement was come to by which all prisoners undergoing punitive imprisonment for attempts to escape should be released from their cells within two months, and their sentences reviewed after the war? Will he see whether similar arrangements could be made now as there are prisoners undergoing long detention for attempts to escape?
The supplementary does not arise out of the Question on the Paper, but that matter will be considered.
In view of the reply that this matter requires consideration, would the right hon. Member take into consideration the fact that it has been raised repeatedly in the last two years, and surely the Government in that time ought to have been able to make up their mind as to the best course of action?
It was considered that it would be much better to conclude the negotiations for the return of prisoners of war who were seriously sick and wounded. Now that they are out of the way and fortunately a substantial number have returned to this country, we can now give attention to the Question on the Order Paper.
Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the matter is pushed on, as there is great anxiety about it?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any further statement regarding the constitutional crisis in the Lebanon?
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the situation in the Lebanon?
Thanks to the statesmanship of General Catroux and to the commendable calm of the local population, constitutional Government has been reestablished in the Lebanon and the local situation is normal again. As has already been made clear, our present desire is to see an understanding reached between the Lebanese Government and the French authorities which will enable constitutional development to proceed in an orderly and agreed manner as soon as possible. I am sure the House will agree that we are all entitled to expect both sides to meet the present situation in a conciliatory manner so as not to hamper the war effort throughout the Middle East.
Are the Government satisfied with such progress as has now been made?
Yes, Sir, I think it can be said that we are satisfied with the progress that has been made so far.
British Civilian Internees, Germany And France
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any steps are taken to supplement the rations of British civilian prisoners of war in Germany and France; and whether he can state the nature of the normal daily diet of these persons?
For a long time past the rations of the British civilian internees in Germany and German occupied France have been supplemented by Red Cross parcels of which the value is universally recognised. It is not possible to give the normal daily rations of the internees as this necessarily varies in different camps, but they are usually the same as those of the civil population.
In view of the complaints reaching this country with regard to these rations, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that they are at any rate sufficient to maintain health at a reasonable standard?
I can say that recently there has been an improvement and we are now inclined to think that in the circumstances, in view of the fact that parcels are received fairly regularly, things are not too bad.
Royal Air Force
Personnel, North Africa (Beer)
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that airmen in North Africa complain that they can only get one pint of English beer a week to drink; and whether arrangements can be made to increase this quantity?
I am aware that there has been a shortage of English and other beer for the Forces in North Africa. Efforts are being made to increase the supply but the difficulties, of which transportation is one, are considerable.
Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration that I have had a letter from the commander of a squadron who says that morale is likely to suffer if these troops do not get beer?
I am very anxious, I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend, to get more beer out to the troops.
Will the right hon. Gentleman also press for an improvement in the quality?
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the policy of limiting objectives of Bomber Command to targets of military importance has, or has not, been changed to the bombing of towns and wide areas in which military targets are situated?
I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave him to a similar Question on 31st March. There has been no change of policy.
May I say that the reply of my right hon. Friend does not answer this Question? Am I to understand that the policy has changed, and that now the objectives of Bomber Command are not specific military targets but large areas, and would it be true to say that probably the minimum area of a target now is 16 square miles?
My hon. Friend cannot have listened to my answer. I said there has been no change in policy.
asked the Secretary of State for Air the area in square miles in Berlin within which it was estimated that 100 per cent. of the 350 block buster bombs recently dropped in a single raid would fall?
I regret that this Question cannot be answered without giving useful information to the enemy.
Would not the proper answer be that the Government dare not give it?
No, Sir. Berlin is the centre of 12 Strategic railways; it is the second largest inland port in Europe; it is connected with the whole canal system of Germany; and in that city are the A.E.G., Siemens, Daimler, Benz, Focker-Wulf, Heinkel and Dornier establishments; and if I were allowed to choose only one target in Germany, the target I should choose would be Berlin.
Does not my right hon. Friend admit by his answer that the Government are now resorting to indiscriminate bombing, including residential areas?
The hon. Gentleman is incorrigible. I have mentioned a series of vitally important military objectives.
Will the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that while we deplore the loss of civilian life everywhere we wish to encourage and applaud the efforts of His Majesty's Government in trying to bring the war to a speedy conclusion?
Is it not a fact that these bombings are likely vastly to reduce our military casualties when we invade the Continent of Europe?
asked the Secretary of State for Air the approximate weight of bombs dropped on Germany during November and the estimated weight of bombs dropped on England during the same period?
During the month of November aircraft of Bomber Command dropped approximately 13,000 tons of bombs on Germany compared with some 120 tons dropped on this country by the enemy.
Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity of informing the German nation that this ratio will increase?
Yes, Sir, I have said that before.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will give figures showing the comparative losses of night and day bombing over Europe from 1st January to 30th November this year; and whether he has any information as to similar figures for American losses?
From 1st January, 1943, to 6 a.m. on 30th November, 1943, 2,083 British bomber aircraft operating from this country were reported lost over Europe by night and 106 by day. 829 bombers of the United States Army Air Forces operating from this country were reported lost by day over the same period.
asked the Secretary of State for Air why flight-sergeants, on being found unfit for aircrew duties, are remustered to general duties with consequent loss of rank and pay?
Flight sergeants and other ranks of airmen aircrew who are temporarily withdrawn from flying duties for medical reasons suffer no loss of rank or pay. If however they are permanently withdrawn from flying duties for medical reasons they are remustered to ground duties. Provided they have undertaken operational flying duties or the equivalent, they retain their rank and pay is regulated to that of the appropriate ground trade. If, however, the airman has not attained the requisite standard of trade proficiency, a lower rate of pay is applicable until such standard is reached. A lower rate is also applicable when airmen are remustered to trades in which posts have not been established in their ranks. Since airmen on flying duties normally receive promotion more rapidly than those on ground duties, the retention of both rank and flying rates of pay on remustering to ground duties would create invidious anomalies within the Service.
Is it not a fact that in this respect there is one law for officers and one for flight-sergeants, because officers are not remustered?
The Question referred only to flight-sergeants.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there are numerous cases in which flight-sergeants who have been engaged upon operational duties and have in the course of those duties become unable to continue have been taken off them, remustered and given the rank and pay and menial tasks of an A.C.2?
If there have been such cases in the past, they can no longer occur in the future.
I have had a case this week.
Is it not a fact that officers who go off flying duties are very frequently, especially in the case of the younger ones, remustered to the Administrative and Special Duties Branch?
asked the Secretary of State for Air why airmen have recently keen forbidden to send pyjamas to the Service laundries each week?
Airmen's laundry is sent either to a R.A.F. laundry or, under contract, to a commercial laundry. R.A.F. laundries cater only for barrack laundry and airmen's clothing which is a Service issue and therefore do not accept pyjamas, which are not an official issue. No new rule has been introduced, but owing to the general shortage of laundry facilities throughout the country I understand that it has been necessary for certain Regional Officers of the Board of Trade to issue instructions that commercial laundries shall not accept items additional to issue clothing.
Is the object of this to prevent airmen from wearing pyjamas?
The difficulty arises from the great restriction in laundry facilities.
asked the Secretary of State for Air the functions of the Brabazon Committee which is considering new types of post-war civil aircraft; and the purpose of the previous Committee over which Lord Brabazon presided?
The functions of the earlier Committee, over which the Noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, presided, were referred to by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister in the course of the Debate on civil aviation on 1st June last. These were, in the main to recommend in broad outline, and confidentially, what new types of civil aircraft were required for the post-war period and what types of military aircraft could suitably be converted to meet civil needs when the war came to an end. The Committee worked with great expedition, and, as the House is aware, the firms to which the types were allotted are already engaged on the preliminary stages of the design work. When the labours of this Committee were concluded, the Noble Lord was good enough to accept the Chairmanship of another Committee, also advisory in character, whose task it is to prepare, with due regard to traffic needs and economy of operation, a list of requirements for each type in sufficient detail to enable design and development to proceed beyond the preliminary stage. The work of this Committee is thus an extension of that of the earlier Committee, and I am glad to say that equally good progress is being made.
Could my right hon. Friend tell the House who are the members of Lord Brabazon's current Committee?
I should like to consider that if my hon. Friend will give me notice.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether there has now been adequate flying experience with the Avro-York air-liner for him to assess the value of this aircraft?
A final assessment of the merits of this aircraft is not yet possible. Experience to date suggests that it should give excellent service in the role for which it was designed.
asked the Secretary of State for Air what developments have taken place since the Air Transport Conference with the Dominions and India as regards the organisation of post-war air transport between Empire countries and other countries of the United Nations?
I can at the present time add nothing to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) on 27th October last.
In view of the long record of the delays of the Government in this matter, could my right hon. Friend at any rate assure the House that the Government have not become lukewarm about it?
Most decidedly; the Government are never lukewarm.
Could the right hon. Gentleman assure us that in view of the developments that are taking place in the United States in regard to post-war civil aviation we are watching our interests very closely?
Aeronautical Science (Proposed School)
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether the Aeronautical Research Committee has yet made any Report regarding the possibility of founding a school of aeronautical science?
Yes, Sir. The Committee has made a report, the main recommendations of which have been approved in principle by the Government. With the agreement of my colleagues, I have appointed an Interdepartmental Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Roy Fedden, to prepare and submit detailed proposals for the establishment of a School of Aeronautical Science within the general framework of these recommendations.
While thanking my right hon. and learned Friend for his reply, may I ask whether he could give the House the Terms of Reference of the Committee?
The Terms of Reference were:
"To prepare and submit to the Minister of Aircraft Production detailed proposals for the establishment of a school of aeronautical science within the general framework of the recommendations of the Aeronautical Research Committee in their report of 10th August to the Minister."
Could my right hon. Friend assure the House that this will be a real practical school of aeronautical engineering and not an academic hot-house?
I am sure that the Chairman of the Committee will certainly bear that in mind.
Demobilised Africans (Employment)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has under consideration any measures whereby demobilised Africans in East Africa can be absorbed into vocations for which they have become fitted during their services with the Armed Forces?
Yes, Sir. This is a matter which all the East African Governments have very much in mind in framing post-war plans.
Legal Systems And Police (Co-Ordination)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, since the East African court of appeal consists of the Chief Justices of the four territories, he will consider the advantages to be derived from the unification of the legal systems in East Africa after the war; and whether, similarly, the unification of the police has been considered?
Fox all practical purposes, co-ordination in East Africa is already secured by substantial uniformity in such matters as the codes of penal law and criminal procedure and the law of evidence and civil procedure, by periodical conferences of law officers with a view to obtaining uniformity in important legislation, and by the single Court of Appeal. I am not satisfied that a case could be made out at present for a combined East African Police Force.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Labour Adviser to the Colonial Office is presently visiting East Africa; and whether he will report on the extent and conditions of forced labour for private employer's in the East African dependencies?
My. Labour Adviser is now on a visit to West Africa, and the important inquiries on which he is there engaged will occupy him fully for some time. It is not contemplated that he will visit East Africa before returning to this country.
Is there any intention to have a similar inquiry in East Africa?
This is not an inquiry into any specific question. It is part of the normal tours to be carried out.
British Guiana And Trinidad (Constitutions)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the new Constitutions have yet come into operation in British Guiana and Trinidad; and whether he will have copies placed in the Library?
The amendments to the Constitution have come into operation in both Trinidad and British Guiana, and I will gladly arrange for copies of the instruments to be placed in the Library of the House. The Franchise Commission in Trinidad and the Franchise Committee in British Guiana are both expected to present their reports shortly.
Is it expected that there will be universal franchise in British Guiana and Trinidad?
Obviously I cannot anticipate the findings of a Commission that has not yet reported.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any steps are being taken to form a British West Indies Customs Union?
No, Sir. But I should be ready to consider the practicability of such a Union, if there was any general demand for it in these Colonies. So far as I am aware, there is no such demand at present.
Insurance And Social Security Schemes
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what preliminary investigations have been made relative to unemployment and insurance schemes in the West Indies; and what are the particular schemes to be introduced into the respective Colonies?
The Government of Trinidad have appointed a Committee to consider the possibility of introducing some form of contributory unemployment insurance and the prospects of establishing a health insurance scheme. In all the other West Indian Colonies the possibility of introducing some form of unemployment insurance has been discussed recently in general terms but no definite action has yet been taken. In Jamaica a Committee has been appointed to consider what schemes of social security can be adopted, and in British Guiana approval has recently been given to the introduction of legislation for establishing a scheme for old age pensions. In Trinidad and Barbados old age pension legislation is already in force.
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the speed of considering these various schemes? Can he do anything to stimulate the whole matter?
There is a live interest in the Colony, but these matters, as we have been reading, are extremely difficult and even outside the West Indies they do not often move very fast.
Gold Coast (Medical Services)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give the House any information about the medical services of the Gold Coast?
As the Question is couched in such wide terms, I think that the best way that I can answer it is to send my hon. Friend a copy of the latest annual report of the Gold Coast Medical Department which I have received.
Is there any proposal to set up a medical school in the Gold Coast?
That matter is, of course, bound up with the report of the Commission on Higher Education.
Thank you, Sir.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement respecting the present position of the West African cocoa trade; what effect the cut in price of cocoa arising from last year's loss is likely to have on West African growers; and what further efforts have been made to secure effective storage and processing in West Africa?
The hon. Member has been misinformed. There was no loss on the operations of the year 1942–43, and there has been no cut in the price to be paid for cocoa in West Africa during the season 1943–44 On the contrary, the position of the Gold Coast producer has been improved in that the full port price is to be paid at stations on the railway line up-country, thereby relieving the up-country producer of the cost of transport. In view of the much increased exports from West Africa, the storage situation no longer gives cause for concern, and in the present circumstances, there is insufficient surplus cocoa available to justify the provision of any elaborate equipment for the extraction of cocoa butter in West Africa as a war measure.
Mufti's Interned Supporters
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give an assurance that Jamal el Husseini and Amin el Tamimi, two of the leading assistants of the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem who is now with the Nazis, will not be permitted to return to Palestine from Rhodesia, where they are now interned, in view of their record of activities with the ex-Mufti during the Palestine disturbances and in Syria and Iraq, where they were connected with the events leading up to the revolt of Rashid Ali?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by the right hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan) to the Question addressed to him on 4th March last year, to which I have at present nothing to add.
Did that answer say whether or not these people had been released from internment?
No, Sir. It not only said that they had not been released but that there was no intention of releasing them.
Mufti, And President Of Supreme Moslem Council
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why no appointment has yet been made to fill the posts of Mufti of Jerusalem and President of the Moslem Supreme Council?
An important distinction must be drawn between the two offices referred to by my hon. Friend. The post of Mufti of Jerusalem is a purely religious office with no powers or administrative functions, and was held by Haj Amin before he was given the secular appointment of President of the Supreme Moslem Council. In 1937 Haj Amin was deprived of his secular appointment and administrative functions, but no action was taken regarding the religious office of Mufti, as no legal machinery in fact exists for the formal deposition of the holder, nor is there any known precedent for such deposition. Haj Amin is thus technically still Mufti of Jerusalem, but the fact that there is no intention of allowing Haj Amin, who has openly joined the enemy, to return to Palestine in any circumstances clearly reduces the importance of the technical point. As regards the presidency of the Supreme Moslem Council, the Government do not propose, in the absence of any request from the Council, to intervene in a matter which is giving rise to no trouble, and which is not impeding the adequate transaction of business in those affairs for which the Council is responsible.
Will my right hon. and gallant Friend give an assurance that no nominees of the ex-Mufti will be appointed?
I am not at the moment intending to appoint anybody.
Malta (Food Situation)
asked the Secretary for the Colonies whether he can make any statement about the food situation in Malta?
As the answer is necessarily long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the answer:
Yes, Sir, when the siege of Malta was raised at the end of last year the first task of the Government was to increase the rations of basic foodstuffs available to the people who had for many months been suffering from progressively severe privations. The early arrival of additional supplies which had been held in readiness made it possible to authorise substantial increases in the main articles of diet without delay. For example, during November, December and January last the ration of bread and sugar was increased by one-half, of paste was trebled and of fats was increased nearly four times. Further adjustments have been made in the ration scales during the year and while the rations in some respects still fall short of the estimated prewar level of consumption, they are not unsatisfactory.
Apart from increasing the basic rations the Government have been endeavouring to introduce variety into the diet by increasing the range of available foods. Considerable progress has been made in this direction and more will, I hope, be accomplished as a result of consultations which an officer of the Malta Government has recently had in this country, and of the efforts which are being made to obtain supplies for Malta from North Africa and Sicily. Cargoes of wines, citrus and almonds have already been received from Sicily and it is hoped to maintain regular shipments. Negotiations are being opened for the supply from North Africa of such commodities as dried dates, figs, apricots, peaches, tunny and sardines in brine. A further step which has recently been taken is the reopening of restaurants in which meals, necessarily limited to certain classes of food, may be served. The sale of local produce apart from fresh meat, vegetables, wine and cheese in the restaurant is prohibited.
Special arrangements have been made for children and invalids and it is particularly satisfactory that the Malta Government were able, as early as February last, to provide a ration of milk for children between the ages of 5 and 14. The ration which consists of half a pint of milk on six days a week is open to all children between the ages of 5 and 14 and more than 14,000 children were reported in July to be registered for this ration. Special measures have been taken to provide for the equitable distribution of fresh vegetables for which the Colony has to depend on its own resources. The system is working effectively and supplies are adequate although potatoes are, at present, short. This shortage should, however, be remedied when the new crop comes on the market in the spring.
I attach a full statement of the ration scales at present in force in Malta.
Civil Ration Scale
1. The present ration period is 14 days.
2. Rations per period per head except where otherwise stated.
|Males over 7 years||(per day) 21|
|Children under 7 years||(per day) 10½|
|Others||(per day) 14|
*Three times a week to all persons over 7. Children between 2 and 7 years receive half ration.
3. Certain commodities are issued on a reduced scale according to the number of persons in the family. For an average family of five persons the following is the scale, per ration period except where otherwise stated:
|Edible oil||40 fluid ozs.|
4. The following extra commodities were issued for an average family of five persons for the ration period beginning 15th November:
|Boiled sweets||24 ozs.|
|Sweet biscuits||7 ozs.|
Other extra commodities issued from time to time include marmalade, chocolate, dried fruit, helwa and cake.
5. Unrationed commodities which are for sale freely at controlled prices are:
- Dried milk.
- Tinned fish.
- Local citrus fruit.
- Locally slaughtered meat.
- Locally produced eggs, poultry, rabbits, and cheese.—These items are expensive in view of short supply.
- Arrangements have been made for the import of fresh eggs from Egypt.
- Locally produced wine.
- Galletti, a popular local pastry
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether an account will be given respecting the implementation of recommendations of the Bahamas Committee of Inquiry; what steps have been taken to improve trade union law in the Bahamas; and when a secret ballot is likely to be introduced?
Yes, Sir. The position is that trades union and workmen's compensation legislation has already been passed by the Bahamas Legislature. The Trade Union Act, however, falls short in some respects of the standard which I regard as desirable and the question of the introduction of an amending Act is now under consideration locally. It is proposed to introduce into the House of Assembly during the forthcoming Session legislation for the extension of the secret ballot to the whole of the Colony.
Will any kind of report be available to Members of this House indicating the progress being made by the various schemes in the West Indies?
I do not think I could issue periodical reports, but I should be only too glad to answer Questions at any time showing what has happened.
Is there any intention to establish a minimum wage law in the Colony?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put that Question down.
Is the introduction of the secret ballot to any extent in the hands of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Department, or is it entirely a matter for the Bahamas Legislature?
It is entirely a matter for the Bahamas Legislature.
Traffic Regulators, London
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport the number of men at present employed by the London Passenger Transport Board as traffic regulators; and whether, in order to release the physically fit for work of greater importance to the war effort, he will lay it down that one male traffic regulator at each omnibus terminus is all that is necessary in wartime?
The London Passenger Transport Board employ 670 traffic regulators on their road servives. I am advised that one regulator, working alone, would not be able efficiently to supervise at a number of the Board's important terminals the operation of the omnibus.
Is it then necessary to have six at the Elephant and Castle, three at Camberwell Green, three at Waterloo Station, three at New Cross Gate, two at High Street, Peckham—[Interruption]—about 22 in a very small area?
I will look into the figures which my hon. Friend has provided, but I assure him that the proper working of these omnibuses is extremely important to the passengers and that the Board have done their best to reduce the number of regulators to a minimum.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether any arrangements are in progress or prospect to provide shelters and other reasonable amenities at least at principal halts and railway stations for persons travelling by omnibus; what authorities are responsible for providing such amenities; and whether he is aware that in some parts of East Sussex large queues have now to face all weathers unprotected?
The Regional Transport Commissioners, in co-operation with the welfare officers of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, have already given close attention to the need for shelters at exposed omnibus stops, and a large number of shelters have been erected. No representations have been received about the need for shelters in East Sussex, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will let me know of any places where he thinks that additional shelters are required, I will have investigation made.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the very bad effect on the morale and spirit of people who have to stand about for hours waiting for buses? I will give one example—Haywards Heath Station.
I will certainly look into the case of Haywards Heath Station. I am aware that it is undesirable to stand in bus queues for long periods, and we are doing our best with the labour and material available to diminish the trouble.
Why not put on more buses?
But to all intents and purposes nothing has been done.
I will look into any cases that are brought to my attention.
Train Lighting, Southern Railway
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will approach the Southern Railway Company with the object of getting the lighting in the carriages of all the main line trains between London and Dover furnished with four lamps at the back of seats and displacing the small blue lights and centre lights which preclude any attempt at reading?
I regret that in view of the present shortage of labour and material I should not be justified in authorising the Southern Railway to instal the lights for which my hon. Friend asks in his Question. The small blue lights are required because the white roof lights must be switched off when trains are in areas near the coast.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there has been no improvement in the lighting on the Southern Railway between London and Folkestone during the last 12 months?
There never was.
It is not so easy as on some other lines, because these trains have to run into the coastal areas. At the present time we cannot undertake a large job which would take a big quantity of material and labour.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the trains from Victoria to Southampton which travel along the coast for 20 miles are very well lit?
I will inquire into that.
North London Termini (Outside Lighting)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether his attention has been called to the difficulty experienced by troops and others in locating King's Cross, Euston, and St. Pancras stations, particularly in the black-out; and whether he will have a shaded illuminated sign placed outside each station as well as the names printed up in prominent positions?
I have received no complaints that troops and others have difficulty in finding King's Cross, Euston and St. Pancras. I will, however, consider whether anything can be done to indicate by illuminated signs the street approaches to these stations.
Is the Minister aware that night clubs can have illuminated signs, and that there should be no difficulty about stations having them?
That is a matter for the Minister of Home Security. I will do the best I can.
Ministry Of Supply
asked the Minister of Supply why, in view of the fact that a joint investigation by official and staff side representatives of the Inspector-General of Armaments Office Whitley Committee into utilisation of staff in the clerical, draughtsmen and equipment assistant grades resulted in a saving of 20 per cent. at the headquarters of the inspectorate, a request by the staff side for a similar investigation into the inspecting and administrative grades has been refused; and whether he will have the decision reconsidered?
I am always anxious to enlist the help of the staff in securing the most economical use of man-power. I have seen Staff representatives on this matter, and an arrangement has been made with them for the immediate present. Future arrangements will be further discussed with them.
Is the arrangement to which the Minister refers an agreed arrangement?
Bedford Coach (Sale)
asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that on 10th April, 1943, his Department sold a Bedford coach, W.D. 4538153, to Mr. A. Tebb, of Carlton Hosthwaite, and that on 14th April, 1943, his Department, without Mr. Tebb's consent, delivered the same coach to Mr. H. Gilbert, of Tunbridge Wells; and whether he will now secure that this coach is returned to Mr. Tebb and that Mr. Tebb receives due compensation for the period during which he has been deprived of the use of his vehicle?
Yes, Sir. I am aware of the facts of this case, which I much regret. It is not possible to deliver to Mr. Tebb the original coach, but negotiations are in progress with his solicitors with the object of providing him with a similar coach and of meeting any expense to which he has been put.
Surely if a large company had been involved my right hon. Friend's Department would not have sold to someone else a vehicle they had already sold to that company and then instead of returning the vehicle merely conducted lengthy negotiations lasting eight months?
The difficulty in this case was that a mistake was made. It was not so easy to correct the mistake, because the property had passed to another person.
Is there any hope that the delay which has lasted eight months will be ended?
Milk Traders' Registration, Warsop
asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that in the area of the Warsop Food Control Committee his Department announced on 8th October, 1943, that in consequence of a change of ownership persons registered with Mrs. A. Chamberlain, Assarts Farm, Welbeck Colliery village, for milk would have their registrations automatically transferred to the new proprietor, Mr. B. W. Maddison, Castelle, Sherwood Street, Warsop; that consumers affected who could prove that they were members of a co-operative society could have their registrations transferred to the co-operative society delivering milk in the area, but that no other transfers of milk registrations would be allowed; and why local food committees are permitted to make such a differentiation?
Yes, Sir. An announcement in the terms described was published in the Warsop Food Area and was in accordance with instructions issued by my Department. In cases of changes of ownership of retail milk businesses in areas where a scheme of rationalisation is in force certain transfers of consumer registrations may be made. When a private trader sells his retail milk business to another private trader the registrations held by the seller are automatically transferred to the buyer with the exception of those consumers who can prove that they are members of a co-operative society and who wish to obtain milk from a society delivering in the area. The advertisement referred to was in accordance with this arrangement. Similarly in cases where a co-operative society purchases a private trader's business, consumers who are not members of a co-operative society are permitted to have their registrations transferred to a private dairyman distributing in accordance with the rationalisation scheme.
Are we to take it that henceforth it is the considered policy of the Ministry of Food that no other transfers of milk shall be allowed but to the co-operative society?
The hon. Gentleman may take it that the considered policy of the Department is as indicated in the reply.
Intoxicating Liquors (Labelling And Advertising)
asked the Minister of Food whether the Regulations concerning Foods (Labelling and Advertising), issued on 9th November, apply to intoxicating liquors to prevent advertisements which were de- scribed by the Royal Commission on Licensing as containing palpable scientific untruths?
The Regulations to which my hon. Friend refers do apply to intoxicating liquors.
Is it very wise to permit this advertising of intoxicating liquor to go on when the whole country is really distressed about the increased drinking among juveniles?
I do not think the Noble Lady's question is relevant to the Question on the Paper.
Milk (Self-Wholesaling Allowances)
asked the Minister of Food what amounts in respect of self-wholesaling allowances were paid, or will be paid, for the period 1st November, 1942, to 31st October, 1943, to co-operative societies in different parts of the country, to the Express Dairy and to United Dairies; and if any estimate can be given for the same payments for the 12 months ending 31st October, 1944?
It has not been the practice to disclose, in relation to particular firms or trading organisations, information of the character suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend, and I hope he will not press me to do so.
In view of the fact that this money comes out of the taxpayer's pocket, does the Parliamentary Secretary not feel that I am justified in asking this Question?
I would be very willing to give the total figures, but the hon. and gallant Member is asking for figures which there is no obligation on companies to disclose under the Companies Act. I think it would raise a difficult matter of principle.
Is it not the case that co-operative societies did not wish for this allowance, and is it not obviously a waste of public money?
That is another question.
As the producer-retailers do not get the same as bigger concerns, is it not a matter for the public to know the reason why?
I am very willing to give the total figures, but this is a Question which asks me to segregate particular firms and particular co-operative societies and to give information which discloses facts about their businesses which are normally not made public.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary really take up the position that this House is not entitled to have information about money paid from public sources? If so, it is an entirely novel one.
I precisely did not take up that position. If the House wants the information, it must have it. What I did was to ask the hon. and gallant Member not to press me. I would like to have an opportunity of presenting in considered form the question of principle involved to the House but of course if the House wants the information it must have it.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me how I can get the information?
asked the Minister of Food the amount payable in respect of self-wholesaling allowances to milk producers for the 12 months from 1st November, 1942, to 31st October, 1943; and by how much per gallon the price to producers could have been raised if this same sum of money had been paid to the producers?
The allowances to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers are not payable to producers. A few producer retailers are eligible for them, but the amount involved is negligible and would make no difference to producer prices if spread over the whole of milk production.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what sum of money is in fact being paid throughout the country for this self-wholesaling allowance?
The hon and gallant Member asked what was the amount payable in respect of producers. There is no allowance in respect of producers.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what sum of money is being paid out of the taxpayer's pocket in respect of this self-wholesaling allowance?
The hon. and gallant Member's Question gave me some trouble. I thought he had made a mistake, but I answered the Question. I thought he meant distributors, and I think he does, but he did not so notify me. If that is what he does mean the figure for the year ended 31st October, 1943, was approximately £2,400,000. I cannot give an exact estimate for the year ending the 31st October, 1944.
asked the Minister of Food why a central commission at Smithfield has been entrusted with the distribution of turkeys for Christmas; why they propose to do this on the basis of retailers' pre-war orders; whether he is aware that this is very unfair as populations have altered owing to bombing and evacuation; and whether he will institute a fairer scheme of distribution?
The arrangements for the distribution of turkeys from Northern Ireland, to which I assume my hon. Friend refers, were explained in detail in my reply on the 23rd November to the hon. Members for Edinburgh West (Lieut.-Commander Hutchinson) and Reigate (Mr. Touche). The allocation of supplies to traders in each area by a committee chosen by the local trade organisations concerned, acting under the guidance of my Department should, in my view, ensure equitable distribution amongst retailers. Moreover, arrangements are being made in each area for the setting up of an independent body to which retailers may appeal if they are dissatisfied with the decision of the local committee on their application for a share of the supplies. The proportion of the total supplies of Northern Ireland turkeys allotted to each of the five selected areas was determined by my Department, on the basis of the latest available estimate of civilian population in each Food Area. The equitable distribution of the supplies allotted to each centre among the retailers there is more likely to be achieved by reference to their pre-war trade than in any other manner.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that a large part of my constituency has been told that it is to have no turkeys at all? Would he look into that matter?
I think that turkeys are not yet on general sale, and I think that the hon. Member's constituency will find itself rather better placed than some others.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in most working-class areas butchers purchased foreign turkeys in 1938 and will not participate in this scheme of distribution, but the West End shops, which catered for better-class trade, will get the bulk of the supply from Northern Ireland and English turkeys as well?
That is not quite right. Eire turkeys are a far larger supply than Northern Ireland turkeys, and any butcher who purchased imported turkeys before the war from wholesalers who are now members of the distributing association will, wherever they may be, be entitled to have a share in these Eire turkeys, and of course there are the home produced turkeys as well.
Will they have a contrasting quota for the foreign turkeys they purchased in 1938?
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether he has been able to make effective provision in this distribution for the Armed Forces?
Yes, Sir. I should like to say that the Armed Forces have co-operated by issuing an order prohibiting the purchase of turkeys by messes, and General Devers, the General commanding the American forces in the European theatre of operations, has with great consideration issued an order prohibiting the purchase by units or individuals of the American forces of turkeys in the open market or direct from producers.
In working-class areas where turkeys are not available will the Parliamentary Secretary consider arranging for a supply of geese?
asked the Minister of Food whether it is his intention to allocate to Hull a quota of Irish turkeys; and, if not, why not?
Poultry retailers and caterers in Hull who, before the war, purchased imported turkeys from wholesalers who are now members of the Association of Wholesale Distributors of Imported Poultry and Rabbits, Limited, should receive a fair proportion of Eire turkeys under the arrangements referred to in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) and the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Touche) on 23rd November. As was explained in that reply, it has not been found practicable at the outset of the new scheme to make arrangements for the direction of Northern Ireland turkeys to Hull.
Is my hon. Friend not aware that supplies of poultry in the immediate countryside are very small, and that his reply probably means that turkeys will not be available in Hull at Christmas-time?
It is perfectly correct that the supply of turkeys is very small indeed. There are approximately 1,500,000 for the whole country; hon. Members will appreciate that that cannot work out better than one for every 10 families. We cannot make more.
Will my hon. Friend see that no Member of Parliament eats turkey at Christmas?
I wish no one wanted to eat turkeys.
Will there be any turkeys for consumption in Hull? Can the Minister reply to that?
Having regard to the widespread famine on the Continent, among our Allies, would the hon. Gentleman agree that the less we discuss these matters in public the better it will be?
Why has my right hon. Friend refused to allocate supplies to his own city of Leeds, where there are 500,000 people?
There is no foundation for that statement.
Will the hon. Gentleman arrange to sink all the turkeys in the Irish Sea?
asked the Minister of Food whether he realises that the system of distribution inaugurated by his Department for turkeys from Northern Ireland results in the South Staffordshire industrial area, hitherto largely dependent on supplies from that quarter, receiving supplies neither direct nor through the Birmingham wholesalers from whom they regularly buy, whereas the Birmingham consumer receives both a privileged supply and the right of drawing through wholesalers from the common pool; and whether he will immediately rectify this inequality?
asked the Minister of Food whether adequate provision has now been made for an allocation of turkeys to retailers in the Stretford area, equal in proportion to that made to Manchester and other areas?
The number of turkeys from Northern Ireland will be small, and is expected to be no more than one-fifth of the total supplies available in Great Britain. To create special machinery for a precisely equitable distribution over the whole country would not be justifiable on man-power grounds, even if it were practicable. Arrangements for fair distribution amongst retailers in the five areas which, before the war, bought a large proportion of the Northern Ireland supplies have, however, been found practicable. Whilst this will result in some concentration of the Northern Ireland supplies in a limited number of areas, this is considered preferable to permitting a repetition of the conditions which prevailed last year. Although poultry retailers in South Staffordshire and those parts of Lancashire outside Liverpool, Manchester and Salford will not receive Northern Ireland turkeys, they will be entitled, under the arrangements referred to in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh and the hon. Member for Reigate on 23rd November, to a share of Eire turkeys if they bought imported poultry from a member of the Association before the war.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, when he speaks of the equitable distribution of these turkeys, he is referring much more to an equitable distribution among wholesalers than among retailers, and that places like Hull and Coventry are penalised very much indeed?
No, Sir, the Northern Irish turkeys do not go to the wholesalers.
Fish Distribution, Manchester
asked the Minister of Food what steps he has taken to implement the undertaking given by Lord Woolton to Members of Parliament representing Manchester Divisions on 26th May, 1943, when he agreed that Manchester had been receiving less than the per capita allowance of fish to which it would have been entitled on an arithmetical basis, and promised that he would see that the present grounds for the complaint that Manchester was not receiving its fair share of the country's fish supplies were removed?
A revised distribution scheme effecting certain adjustments in the supply of fish to Manchester has been in operation since 16th October last. While preliminary returns for the subsequent tour weeks indicate that the city is now receiving its per capita entitlement, it will not be possible to give a conclusive reply to my hon. Friend's Question until final figures are available in a few weeks' time.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this position might be met in Manchester by permitting more Icelandic trawlers to land fish at Fleetwood, thereby enabling them to make more voyages and saving four to six days, as against the present practice of landing the major portion of the fish at East Coast ports? It would also save a substantial amount of coal on each voyage.
No, Sir; we have other parts of the country to consider.
Rural Areas (Rations)
asked the Minister of Food what steps he proposes to take to give rural populations access to a fair share of additional rations which urban residents can consume at various public and private catering establishments?
As it is not practicable to provide British Restaurants in rural areas to the same extent as in urban areas, my Department has instituted the rural pie scheme and provided the special cheese ration for agricultural and other workers for whom canteens cannot be provided. In addition, farmers may obtain supplies of rationed foods for the provision of meals to their workers during harvest time and certain other periods of special seasonal activity.
While allowing those slight concessions to a limited number of people, will my hon. Friend agree that the rural population get a smaller share of rationed foodstuffs than the urban population?
Is it not true that the rural population get much less variety than the urban population?
I do not think that that is the general experience.
Confectionery And Chocolate, Northern Ireland
asked the Minister of Food whether the quota of confectionery and chocolate per week to which Northern Ireland is entitled is being supplied; and whether it has been provided in full during any rationing period?
I have no evidence of any failure to meet personal points coupons in Northern Ireland.
Is the Minister aware that I have heard to the contrary? Is Northern Ireland receiving the same amount of confectionery and chocolate proportionately to population as other parts of the United Kingdoms, and has Northern Ireland received its quota of 1¼ tons per week during any rationing period?
Northern Ireland receives its supplies of sugar confectionery in accordance with the personal points presented. There has been no failure.
asked the Minister of Food whether, in order to obviate transport difficulties and overcome shortage of labour, he will transfer a largely increased quantity of sugar and other raw materials to manufacturers of confectionery in Northern Ireland where the required labour is obtainable and machinery available for producing a much larger output of confectionery?
I am informed that the spare production capacity in Northern Ireland in this industry is relatively small, and that the savings in labour and transport which would result from transferring production from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would also be small. The wartime associations in this industry have, however, arrangements for the transfer of production from one manufacturer to another in suitable cases on standard terms, and manufacturers in Northern Ireland desiring to use capacity not at present in use should get into touch with the association.
Is not the Minister aware of the great advantage that would accrue if we had more confectionery manufactured in Northern Ireland?
I have told the manufacturers to get on with it.
Potatoes, Northern Ireland (Price)
asked the Minister of Food whether he will give due weight to the figures bearing on the cost of growing potatoes in Northern Ireland which have been placed before him, in fixing the price of potatoes grown in that part of the United Kingdom from 1st January, 1944?
All relevant facts will be fully examined before the level of Northern Ireland potato prices from 1st January, 1944, is determined.
Control Order Violations, Glasgow (Penalties)
asked the Minister of Food whether his attention has been drawn to the disparity in the penalties imposed for violations of the various Food Control Orders in Glasgow; and will be take steps to have such offences dealt with by the Food Control Committee?
The answer to both parts of my hon. Friend's Question is, "No, Sir."
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is becoming profitable to violate these Orders in Glasgow, by reason of the scale of penalties imposed by the Sheriff Court?
That would not be a matter for me to comment upon.
National Flour (Rope)
asked the Minister of Food whether there is any evidence in the possession of his Department to show that there is any increase in the prevalence of rope in bakeries as a consequence of the use of national flour; and have any reports been received from master bakers or their associations on the subject?
My Department has no evidence that rope has been more prevalent since the introduction of national flour than in previous years. We have received no complaints on this subject recently from master bakers or their associations.
Cargo Shipments (Export Licences)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that commercial cargo to be shipped under export licences is in many cases delayed by countermanding orders issued by other Departments of his Ministry; and whether, to avoid this delay and expense, often resulting in loss of markets, he will ensure closer collaboration between the Departments of his Ministry and the Department of the Board of Trade responsible for export licences?
I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that there is already close collaboration between my Department and the Export Licence Department of the Board of Trade. The priority in shipping space accorded to particular classes of goods for particular countries is not, however, determined by the export licence but is generally decided by the importing country, in the light of its own needs. I have had no information about cases of avoidable delay caused by the action of my Department, but if my hon. Friend will send me particulars, I will make inquiries.
Road Transport (Economic Use)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that on 5th November last a 16-ton waggon and trailer, No. 7 Q 10/16, was sent by his Department from Bristol to Cardiff empty to report to the A.R.H.O., Newport Road and that up to 13th November this vehicle travelled 408 miles empty and 378 miles partly loaded; and whether, in view of the wastage of petrol and rubber involved, he will take steps to see that road transport is more economically employed under existing Government control?
Vehicle 7 Q 10/16 is a seven-ton vehicle with a six-ton trailer. It was sent to South Wales to carry urgent and essential traffic for which local transport was not available. It was there engaged in delivering cement to various points, at none of which back loads were available. Every load it carried was of ten tons, this being the maximum weight which its mechanical condition made it safe for it to take. In view of these facts, I cannot agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that the vehicle was wastefully used.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the scandalous misuse of road transport generally—the case I have introduced is only one of many hundreds—and of the enormous distances that unloaded vehicles are sent, with great wastage of petrol and tyres at this time?
This vehicle was sent, with many others, to deal with a particular emergency in South Wales and, taken as a whole, I think the job that was done in that emergency was a very good one. In such cases the loading must be unbalanced, and there must be some empty running, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will send any other special cases I will look into them, and I think the answer will be as satisfactory as I venture to think my answer in this case has been.
Will the hon. Gentleman consider setting up an inquiry into this case, which was a scandal?
I cannot admit at all that it is a scandal, but I will look into any particular cases that my hon. and gallant Friend cares to send me.