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Commons Chamber

Volume 395: debated on Thursday 9 December 1943

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 9th December, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Returned Prisoners Of War (Rehabilitation)

1.

asked the Minister of Labour whether arrangements are being made for the rehabilitation, so far as this may be required, and for the resettlement of the large number of prisoners of war who will be returned to this country at the end of the war after having suffered long periods of confinement?

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend may rest assured that all necessary steps will be taken in advance to achieve these objects, and the necessary measures are now being devised in consultation between the Departments concerned.

Ministry Of Labour (Registration Orders)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will publish an up-to-date list of the Orders which have been issued by his Department since the outbreak of war registering persons for entry into the Forces and Industry separately, giving the dates of such Orders, the ages of the persons involved, male and female, respectively, stating the purposes for which they were registered and the numbers who actually registered in each case?

No, Sir. I am not aware that there is any general demand for a publication of this kind, and it would not be in the public interest to publish some of the information asked for.

Can my right hon. Friend tell me how he arrived at the conclusion that there is no general demand?

The only communication I have had from the whole of the country for it is in the hon. Member's Question.

Serving Personnel (Post-War Reinstatement)

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the conduct of Messrs. Henry Head and Company, Lloyds insurance brokers, in endeavouring to induce employees in the Forces to accept lump sums in lieu of quarterly allowances and, where these employees have refused to accept such offers except without prejudice to their rights of reinstatement under the National Service Acts, to withdraw any allowance paid; and whether he will make it plain that any similar attempt to evade obligation under the National Service Acts will be resisted by his Department?

I will certainly take any action that may be open to me to deal with any attempt on the part of employers to evade their obligations under the National Service Acts. My attention was drawn to the action by Messrs. Head and Company in a particular case, but I see nothing in what transpired which should affect any statutory right of reinstatement.

Would my right hon. Friend consider bringing the facts of this case to the attention of Lloyd's Committee with a view of disciplinary action against the firm?

Home Guard (Enrolment)

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether anyone has been compusorily enrolled or directed into the Home Guard and so subjected to military law, with its various special implications and obligations, without a Royal Proclamation to cover the age group of that person in view of the fact that no one is compulsorily enrolled in the Armed Forces of the Crown and so subjected to military law unless and until a Royal Proclamation has been made covering the age group of the person called?

Yes, Sir. Under Section 1 of the National Service (No. 2) Act, 1941, the liability of any person to part-time service in the Armed Forces of the Crown, which includes service in the Home Guard, is such as may be imposed upon him under Defence Regulations, and Regulation 3 of the Defence (Home Guard) Regulations, 1940, gives me the power to direct men who are British subjects to enrol in the Home Guard. No Proclamation is necessary. I am not at present directing any men over the age of 51 into the Home Guard.

National War Effort

Directed Workers (Trade Union Membership)

8.

asked the Minister of Labour whether a person directed by his Department into the mining or other industry is forced against that person's will to join a trade union; and what provisions are made to protect individuals so directed by him into an industry where there is agreement between employers and employees in normal circumstances that only union labour be employed?

I have no power to force a person to join a trade union. As regards the second part of the Question, the position is that in exercising my powers of direction I have due regard to the conditions laid down in agreements between employers and workers. I am not aware that any serious difficulty has arisen.

Coalmining Ballot

9.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will direct to coalmining all physically fit conscientious objectors of military age who are not more usefully engaged in the war effort?

19.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he proposes to direct conscientious objectors to military service to work in the coalmines?

Conscientious objectors who are liable to be called up under the National Service Acts for service in the Non-Combatant Corps will take their chance for coalmining like anyone else liable to be called up under the Acts. In considering whether to direct other conscientious objectors to work in coalmining, I must have regard to the order made in each individual case by the independent tribunals set up by Statute to decide what work they should do as a condition of their registration.

Will not the genuine conscientious objector welcome this opportunity of service accompanied by some personal danger?

There are thousands of cases in which conscientious objectors, although they have refused to take up arms, have shown as much courage as anyone else in Civil Defence and in other walks of life.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note of the fact that it is now admitted that work in the mines involves personal danger?

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will exclude from the ballot for conscription for coalmining members of the Junior Training Corps who have shown exceptional military aptitude?

12.

asked the Minister of Labour whether members of the Sea Cadets, Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps will be permitted to serve in the service for which they are preparing themselves or whether it is proposed to direct them to employment in the mining industry?

21.

asked the Minister of Labour whether boys who have joined the pre-Service units, naval, military and air, before the announcement made by him on the subject of recruiting labour for the coalmines, will be exempt from the proposed ballot; and whether those who subsequently join these units can be made exempt provided they attain to certain standards of efficiency in those units?

On a point of Order. My Question is rather different from Question No. 10 and raises further issues on the matter. I have no objection to the Questions being answered together, provided the right hon. Gentleman answers my Question.

I regard it as essential that the ballot for coalmining should operate as widely and impartially as possible, and I cannot therefore allow any exceptions beyond the very limited categories mentioned in my statement in the House on 2nd December. Apart from this, no change is contemplated in the present arrangements whereby members of pre-Service Training Corps are considered for the Service of their choice when they become available for calling-up under the National Service Acts.

Will this not discourage recruiting for the Junior Training Corps and displace some valuable potential officers?

No, Sir, I do not think so. The country, if it is to win the war, must have the coal.

In view of the encouragement which the Government have given to these boys to join the pre-Service units, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that it is something in the nature of an implied contract, and will he not reconsider the position?

No, Sir. Recently, when there were not sufficient optants in the pre-Service Training Corps for the Navy, I had to direct men who had opted for certain Services from the Army to the Navy, and equally I have had to divert people away from the Air Force to other forms of military service. In this case, owing to a shortage in one direction, to maintain the war effort I must direct them similarly.

While I deplore the effect that this must have on the pre-Service units, does my right hon. Friend realise that if he gives way on the point, seeing that there are 450,000 boys in them, it would make nonsense of his scheme? Would he consider a pre-Service training scheme for mining on which the Forster Committee reported a year and a half ago?

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the young men who pass through the pre-Service units are the very best young men of their age and that we want the best men in the mines?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this question at the first opportunity on the Adjournment.

Indian Trainees (Pay)

14.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that in Government training centres, while Indian technicians receive 64s. a week, a single disabled man who is a boarder receives only 54s., namely, 24s. plus 25s. lodging rate plus 5s. in lieu of midday meal; and whether he will take steps to remove this discrepancy?

Indian trainees at Government training centres do not ordinarily receive 64s. a week. They are accommodated in a hostel and receive in addition to free board and lodgings a sum of 11s. 6d. a week. When sent out for further training with private firms, they receive a rate of 64s. a week, and this rate has been applied in one or two cases where for special reasons Indian trainees have had to be detached from their normal centre for special training at another centre where they had to provide for their own accommodation. I would point out that not only were these one or two cases quite exceptional, but that these payments are inclusive and there are no additions in respect of dependants or travelling expenses as in the case of disabled trainees.

Coalmine Volunteers, Portsmouth

16.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the regional office of his Ministry at Reading have turned down the application of Roy Tallach and Raymond Ollett, of Portsmouth, who, with the consent of their parents, had volunteered for the mining industry, on the ground that they had no relatives living in the vicinity of the pit, although lodgings were available; and if he will take action to reverse this decision?

These two boys are under 18 years old, and I find that their transfer to coalmining employment was suspended pending discussions about the conditions to be satisfied before boys of this age are transferred to coalmining employment outside their home district. I am giving instructions for the transfer of these two boys without delay.

Would not some form of supervision by local authorities enable those who volunteer for useful employment to do so?

I am going into that with the Minister of Fuel and Power. The difficulty is that I have a responsibility for these people.

Scottish Mobile Women Workers (Holiday Travel)

17.

asked the Minister of Labour whether Scottish girls directed to do war work in the south will be given free travel vouchers to their homes at the Christmas or New Year holiday period?

No, Sir. As explained in my reply to the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) on 30th April, a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend, the scheme of travel vouchers at reduced rates only applies during the summer months. This restriction is necessitated by the heavy demands on the railways and is even greater now than when I made the announcement.

Will not the Minister agree that these war workers who have been directed to work so far from their homes should have a prior claim to any travel facilities that there are on the railways?

I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend, but there are many thousands who want to go home, and the railways are congested at this period of the year. It is a period when we have to move enormous quantities of stock and ammunition, and we could not relax the rule.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the same problem exists in the North of England, where, because we have no factories, our girls have to travel right down into the south?

Yes, and I have explained already that I have done my best to see whether arrangements could be made, but the congestion is so much and the amount of stuff to be moved over Christmas is so heavy that we could not have extra trains put on.

Is it not the congestion of passenger accommodation which makes it impossible for these workers to be given the opportunity to travel?

Will the right hon. Gentleman appeal to local authorities in areas where these girls are working that facilities should be provided for them?

Royal Scottish National Institution, Larbert (Staff)

20.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the serious shortage of nursing and domestic staff at the Royal Scottish National Institution for mental defectives at Larbert, which has already led to the closing of one modern block and which will compel the superintendent to discharge 100 inmates in the very near future, although there is a long waiting list of which at least 100 are regarded as cases of extreme urgency; and how he proposes to deal with this situation?

I am taking special action in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, to deal with the staff shortage at this institution, and if necessary I will use directions.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this is not the only institution that is in the same predicament?

Yes, and I am always advising my hon. Friend not to object to people being directed.

As my right hon. Friend is not using his powers of direction to other institutions, will he take most careful consideration before initially using direction to an institution of this kind?

Certainly. I had to wait for the Hetherington Report since there were no conditions laid down which would enable me to provide labour.

Is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend has directed some of the staffs from these institutions and that is why some of them are closed?

Sir Oswald Mosley

13.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can give an estimate of the number of man hours lost to the war effort by demonstrators regarding Sir Oswald Mosley?

Can the right hon. Gentleman state whether these men received pay for the hours of war labour they have lost while joy riding?

I do not know whether it was joy riding, but they certainly were not paid for it.

33.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now give an undertaking that the fees of the two private consultants who gave an opinion on the condition of Sir Oswald Mosley will not be met from public funds?

No question of any fees from public funds will arise. The private consultants with whom the prison medical authorities conferred do not desire that any fee shall be paid in respect of that consultation.

63.

asked the Home Secretary whether in view of the widespread desire for the trial of those British Fascists leaders who co-operated with Hitler and Mussolini before the war, he will consider the desirability of preferring charges against them where evidence is available?

The tactic employed by the leaders of the British Union, both before and after the outbreak of war, was to exploit the liberty which our law allows and which Parliament was anxious to maintain, even under the stress of war, and to take good care not to bring themselves within reach of the criminal law. It was precisely because of our experience of Fifth Column activities in the over-run countries in Europe in the Spring and Summer of 1940, and because this abuse of our cherished traditions of freedom and liberty without any overt breach of the law constituted a serious menace to the security of the State, that it was felt necessary to arm the Executive with exceptional powers of preventive detention. Before exercising these exceptional powers in any particular case, the question of taking criminal proceedings is always considered, and it is the policy to prosecute wherever practicable. If the suggestion is that Parliament should have enacted, or should enact now, some new law under which Sir Oswald Mosley could be brought to trial and punished for his past behaviour and activities, the effect would be to make a person liable to punishment for doing things which at the time when they were done were not forbidden by law, and however widespread may be the desire for bringing the British Fascist leaders to trial, a provision on the lines suggested would be wholly out of keeping with our conceptions of equity and criminal justice and with sound liberal doctrine.

Is the Home Secretary aware that there is a very widespread desire throughout the country that specific charges should be directed against Sir Oswald Mosley? Do I understand from him that under the law at the present time there is no evidence on which such charges could be based?

So far as I know, the answer to the latter part of the question is in the affirmative. If I may say so with regard to widespread feelings in the country, there is a duty resting on Members of Parliament as well as Ministers to deal with such feelings when they are not based on evidence.

While I admit the cogency of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, will he at least consider the cases of those prominent members of the Fascist Party who are now equally prominent Communists and are responsible in some districts for running the "Gaol Mosley" stunt?

What is the difference between action in this case and action in the case of retrospective legislation which the House has already passed dealing with tax evasion?

I should have thought there was a lot of difference. The hon. Member may have another point of view, but I really cannot see the relevance of one to the other.

Could there be a greater condemnation of the action of the Home Secretary than that he should receive the commendation of the unspeakable Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson)?

There is no greater condemnation of the hon. Member than that in the early days he condemned this Regulation as a Fascist law.

44.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is prepared to publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT or in any other way make available to Members the medical reports on the health of Sir Oswald Mosley which preceded and led up to the certificate signed on 9th November, 1943?

I have already given to my hon. Friend during the Debate on the 1st instant a reply which I think commended itself to the House, and I have nothing to add to that reply.

In view of the appeal to history contained in my right hon. Friend's week-end speeches does he not think it advisable to supply history with the whole of the evidence and not merely with a selected portion of it?

If you call it a speech there is something in that statement, though it was very difficult to make a speech, I assure you; but I have given the House the essential matter, and I am surprised that my hon. Friend should want further information, because he appeared to know everything about it.

My right hon. Friend is right in saying that I am extremely anxious that my knowledge should be shared by other hon. Members, but it is his responsibility and not mine to give to the appeal tribunal which he himself selected the evidence upon which he acted.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that if Oswald Mosley had got the power which he was seeking for himself he would have put him where the right hon. Gentleman took him from?

Street Processions (Identity Cards)

18.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will arrange for the identity cards of the young men and women at present walking through the streets in procession to be checked to see whether they are properly absent from war work?

No, Sir. There are other and more appropriate methods by which absences from work can be controlled.

Has not the right hon. Gentleman carried out examinations of the cards of persons attending greyhound races, and are not these processions equally worthy of attention?

Will my right hon. Friend apply the same principle to the people who attended the bloodstock sale at Tattersalls the other day?

I am very reluctant to use any powers under the National Service Act which affect people visiting this House or in any way making representations to their Members of Parliament.

Intoxicating Liquors (Young People)

22.

asked the Home Secretary whether, as one means to reduce the evil of excessive drinking among young people, he will reintroduce the No-treating Order?

The provisions of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1923, which make it an offence for anyone to buy or attempt to buy intoxicating liquor for consumption by a person under the age of 18, already amount to a No-treating Order in respect of persons under 18. As previously stated my present information would not justify introducing a No-treating Order of general application but I am keeping a close watch on the situation, and if it appears that further measures are required I shall not hesitate to introduce them.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that he gave me a somewhat similar reply eight months ago? Since then there has been a continual stream of criticism from the Bench and the Press, and a very serious statement was made by Mr. Justice Charles only a few days ago.

I am aware of that, but, although I have kept very close observation, I do not think the case is yet proved. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I quite agree that the evidence is conflicting and a difference of opinion is quite understandable, but to me it is not yet conclusive. I am anxious not to pass restrictive legislation unless there is reasonable cause for it and a prospect of success.

Is the right hon. Gentleman directing his inquiries in the large areas of population or relying on what reaches him independently?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the growing apprehension throughout the country?

It is true that there are many communications on the point of the Questions that have been put. I ask for information and get it and analyse the information that comes, which I do not ask for but am glad to have. Much of it is based on apprehension. What I want is rather more concrete evidence.

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the evidence of all social workers in all crowded areas? Does he not realise the real feeling of almost alarm at the Government not taking a stronger stand and helping these young people?

This seems to me to be more of an argument than a question asking for information.

Eight months ago I called attention to the fact that licensees themselves were complaining about the matter and since then there have been notices calling attention to it.

That is on the narrower point of the administration of the under-18 law. I believe the licensees are trying to administer it. There is no reason why they should not. They have not so much drink that they need not. They have willingly co-operated as regards the posters that I have had put up, but they are in difficulties in knowing whether a woman is 18 or less or more.

23.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that police authorities in some instances prosecute employees of licensed premises and not the licensees for violation of the law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating drinks to persons under 18 years of age; and if he will consider removing this anomaly?

It is an offence for a licensee knowingly to sell, or for his servant knowingly to sell, intoxicating liquor for consumption on the premises by young persons under 18. The question of whom to proceed against depends upon the circumstances in each case. As an employee may contravene the law without the knowledge, or even against the instructions, of the licensee, it would detract from the efficacy of the law if only the licensee were liable to prosecution; but I have no reason to believe there is failure to proceed against licensees when circumstances warrant that course.

Will my right hon. Friend look into this point relating to violation of the law, that when a shop assistant for instance violates the law relating to the adulteration of milk or short weight it is generally the employer who is prosecuted and not the employee but in this case the employee is prosecuted and the employer, the licensee, gets off scot free?

If my hon. Friend persists in that argument, he will weaken the administration of the law. It may well be that an assistant may supply a person under 18 without the knowledge of the employer, and it really is important that the assistant as well as the employer shall have a sense of responsibility.

On the face of it, I do not see that, if an employer has given instructions to his employees that they must not do such a thing and they do it, the employer must be held accountable.

36.

asked the Home Secretary the number of persons who have been convicted between 2nd September, 1939, and the most recent available date for breaches of the Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Persons under Eighteen) Act, 1923; in how many cases has the maximum penalty been imposed; and in how many cases has the charge been dismissed on payment of costs?

I can send my hon. Friend information as to the numbers of persons found guilty, the numbers fined and the numbers who were dismissed under the Probation of Offenders Act. But the statistics collected by my Department do not show what was the amount of the fine, or in how many of the cases which were dismissed, the defendant was ordered to pay costs.

I did wish to do that, but I am afraid it will take a week to get the figures. If my hon. Friend will put down another Question, I will certainly do so.

Civil Defence

Street Lighting

24.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will, in conjunction with other authorities concerned, consider the advisability on dark nights and when enemy aircraft are not in the vicinity, of showing a sufficient number of searchlights at a low altitude to provide some light on the streets for the convenience of pedestrians and motorists and as a means of reducing the number of road accidents?

The possibility of using searchlights for this purpose has been fully considered, but I am satisfied that the objections to the suggestion are such that it is impracticable.

Conscientious Objector, Lewes (Prosecution)

62.

asked the Home Secretary on how many occasions George Elphick, 66, Priory Street, Lewes, a registered conscientious objector, has appeared at Lewes Police Court for refusing fireguard duty; how many times he has been prosecuted and with what results; on whom the cost of these prosecutions falls; how many times the Regional Commissioner has suggested to the Lewes Town Council to take no further proceedings against him; and what was the result of such representations?

This man has been before the magistrates six times and was convicted on each of the first five occasions. The cost of these proceedings falls on the local authority. The Regional Commissioner wrote to the town council in October, 1942, deprecating repeated prosecutions in this case, but the local authority decided nevertheless to exercise their power under the Defence Regulations to institute further proceedings.

Is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman to intervene with the local authority, in a way which I feel sure he can, and to ask them to abandon all these prosecutions and to save public money thereby?

I certainly should not be prepared to intervene with a view to their abandoning all these prosecutions, but in this case the Regional Commissioner did put a point of view to the local authority, and they did not accept it.

Is it not possible to induce them to have more sympathy with conscientious objectors?

If, in the opinion of the Director of Public Prosecutions, these repeated prosecutions are undesirable and if, nevertheless, they take place, will not the right hon. Gentleman consider some method of amending the Regulations so that undesirable prosecutions shall not take place?

I have carefully considered the question, but there are great difficulties about it, and I think that we must let it run as it is.

Austrians (Nationality)

25.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has now given consideration to the proposal that, in the light of decisions arrived at at the Moscow Conference, those who were Austrian subjects before the seizure of that country by Germany on 15th March, 1938, shall in future be described on their passports and other documents as Austrian and not German subjects; and whether he has any statement to make?

This matter is receiving consideration, but I am not at present in a position to make any statement.

If I ask a Question in the next series of Sittings will my right hon. Friend be in a position to reply?

I cannot stop my hon. Friend putting a Question down, but I doubt whether I shall be ready by then. I will try to let him know.

Juvenile Courts (Hereford Case, Inquiry)

26.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has any statement to make with reference to the Hereford Juvenile Court inquiry; and what action it is proposed to take in respect of the failure of the official concerned to supply the King's Bench Division with essential evidence by serving notice of motion on the prosecuting police officer?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for giving me an opportunity to express in this House my appreciation of the public service which Lord Justice Goddard has rendered by investigating this matter so thoroughly and so quickly, and by writing so admirably clear a Report. It is a matter for general satisfaction—and not least to the Hereford justices concerned—that the Report has completely dissipated the misapprehension that fundamental principles of justice had been ignored by the Hereford Juvenile Court. The Report draws attention to one or two minor questions of procedure as to which I am in consultation with the Lord Chancellor, and I shall consider with him whether the Rules governing the procedure of juvenile courts need any amendment.

The latter part of my hon. Friend's Question seems to involve some misapprehension. It is not the duty of any official to serve notice of motion on the prosecuting police officer; that is the duty of the party who is applying to the Divisional Court, and it is much to be regretted that neither he nor his solicitor took the proper steps to inform the prosecuting police officer that the application was being made. Lord Justice Goddard has pointed out in paragraph 3 of his Report that the police in fact knew nothing of the proceedings in the High Court until they read of them in the newspapers, and that had the police been duly informed a very different state of affairs might have resulted.

Is it not the case that Lord Justice Goddard has, in effect, unofficially reversed the decision of the King's Bench, and is this not a very curious position?

As far as I know, that is not the case, but in any case my hon. Friend is drawing me on to the threshold of dangerous and explosive matters, and I think I had better not express an opinion.

Did the three very experienced Judges who formed the Divisional Court take any cognisance in their judgment of the fact that an essential element in the procedure had not been observed?

If there is to be any question about the procedure of the High Court, it had better be put down.

In view of the fact that the solicitor concerned failed in his duty to inform the police, will he be dealt with by the Law Society?

I am afraid I am not expert enough in the practice of the Law Society to say.

In view of the fact that this Report raises some important and interesting questions and does not remove everybody's dissatisfaction on the original complaint, can an opportunity be afforded to the House to debate the matter?

That is a matter for the Leader of the House, but I should have thought that this Report really effectively disposed of the matter.

Police (Retirement)

27.

asked the Home Secretary whether regulations under the Police and Firemen (War Service) Act, 1939, which suspend the right of police officers to retire on pension during the present emergency without the consent of the appropriate local authority, also suspend the right of the authority to retire such officers solely on the ground that they have reached the retiring age of 50 years?

I am advised that the legal position is that the existing restrictions on the right of police officers to retire during the present emergency do not confer a right on any individual officer to continue in service. In practice, however, it is important that police authorities shall not during the present emergency terminate the services of competent men merely on the ground that they have reached the retiring age, and this principle is, I believe, generally understood.

What can a police officer who is retired by a local authority do in these circumstances?

I am afraid that if a local authority does this there is nothing he can effectively do about it, but I hope the Question and answer may be helpful in the direction my hon. Friend wishes.

Flogging And Birching

28.

asked the Home Secretary how many British citizens have been flogged or birched during the last 10 years in the British Isles?

During the 10 years 1933–42, 2,100 boys under 17 were sentenced by courts of summary jurisdiction in England and Wales to be birched, and 480 males were sentenced by courts of assize or quarter sessions to receive the birch or the cat. No doubt the great majority of these sentences were imposed on British subjects, but the available statistics do not distinguish between aliens and British subjects.

Is not an increase in crime proved by the figures of flogging?

Local Government Elections

29.

asked the Home Secretary whether, in connection with voters' rights in local government elections, he will now consider introducing legislation to make possible the holding of these elections with a view to preventing an increase in the large number of members who will otherwise have to be co-opted?

I regret that it is not yet possible to contemplate the holding of local elections. As my hon. Friend knows, a Bill further to suspend the holding of such elections is before the House at the present time.

Did not my right hon. Friend, about six months ago, give me some encouragement to believe that he would do everything possible to prevent an undue degree of co-option? Is not the number of co-opted members on councils throughout the country becoming rather unwieldy?

I always try to give my hon. Friend encouragement, though I do not think I went so far as to say that I would put the position right this year, but the matter will be kept under review.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not only encouragement I want but effective action?

Prisoners (Release On Medical Grounds)

30.

asked the Home Secretary whether it is the usual procedure to release prisoners suffering from thrombo-phlebitis; and how many such have been released?

The general policy with regard to persons convicted of offences and sentenced to imprisonment or penal servitude is that release on medical grounds is considered if continued imprisonment will endanger the prisoner's life or reason, or will shorten his life, or if he will be bedridden for the remainder of his sentence. During the year 1942 eight men and one woman were released from prison under this policy. There is, of course, no rule that prisoners suffering from one type of disease shall be released and prisoners suffering from another type shall not. Each case is considered by reference to the effect of the disease on the health of the particular prisoner and the degree of danger that continued imprisonment will entail.

Is not the Home Office suffering from moral malaria in releasing for this disease only a millionaire?

Clearly that statement is untruthful, and the hon. and gallant Member must know it. If he and I are going to discuss what he and I are suffering from, it will be a long Debate.

Acquitted And Bound Over Persons (Welfare)

32.

asked the Home Secretary how many persons detained in prison during the last year, for which figures are available, did not return to prison after trial; whether he is aware that many such persons who have been acquitted or bound over on probation are in need of care and assistance; and whether he will take steps to provide this?

During the year 1942 there were 11,287 persons committed to prison on remand or to await trial who did not subsequently receive sentences of imprisonment. Care and assistance are provided in the ordinary course for persons who are bound over on probation under the supervision of the probation officer. In all other cases, the probation officer is usually at the court, and it is part of his duties to give such advice and help as is required. Assistance is also given in some cases through the local Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies believe that they are unable to help these cases because they are not legally prisoners, and will he take steps to encourage societies to do that?

National Fire Service

38.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that a considerable time must elapse before a message, initiated by a fire guard reporting a serious fire, can be conveyed by the various messengers to an N.F.S. station through the prescribed channels to summon a fire engine during an alert at night; and whether he will both simplify the fire guard procedure and assure the House that other methods exist to prevent any delay in the arrival of engines at big fires?

The Fire Guard Plan was devised to secure that calls for assistance are received by the National Fire Service in the quickest and most orderly manner and to eliminate unnecessary and duplicate calls. Exercises have shown that under this system it is possible for the National Fire Service to deal with a large number of incidents more rapidly than hitherto.

41.

asked the Home Secretary whether he will give an assurance that the approval and presentation of a N.F.S. flag does not indicate that the Government propose to maintain a N.F.S. after the war in view of the definite pledge given to the local authorities that the firefighting forces would not be permanently run by the State but would again become a local authority service after the war?

The approval of a National Fire Service flag has no bearing on the post-war organisation of the Fire Service.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that he has given a definite pledge to the Fire Fighting Service on this matter?

Aliens (Detention)

39.

asked the Home Secretary how many aliens are under detention in internment camps or prisons on the ground not of suspected traffic or sympathy with the enemy but of offences against the law for which they previously suffered punishment in this or other countries and which are held to justify their deportation when deportation becomes possible; and how many of them have been in detention for over three years?

Forty-five aliens who are known to have been convicted are detained under Article 12 (5A) of the Aliens Order on the grounds that a Deportation Order has been made but cannot be enforced, and that detention is necessary or expedient for the preservation of public order. Seventeen of these persons have been detained for more than three years.

In view of the long period of detention that these men have already suffered in complete separation from their families and without opportunity of earning, is it not time that this policy was reconsidered?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the cases are considered from time to time and are reviewed, but it is important that aliens and particularly refugees should understand that they must behave themselves or something will happen to them in that way. I can assure my hon. Friend that I review the cases from time to time with, I hope, good sense and without lack of sympathy.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what are the considerations of public order referred to in the answer?

40.

asked the Home Secretary how many aliens detained under Regulation 12 (5A) are, respectively, of Allied, neutral or enemy nationality or Stateless?

My hon. Friend no doubt refers to Article 12 (5A) of the Aliens Order. The figures are as follow: 264 are of allied nationality, 27 of neutral nationality, 7 of enemy nationality, 9 are Stateless, and the nationality of 13 is uncertain.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say to what State he intends to send these Stateless aliens after the war, so as to prevent them from being kept indefinitely in detention?

East End Club (Police Raid)

43.

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give any information in connection with the police raid on the Apex Club, Mile End Road, as a result of which Mrs. Ettie da Costa, of Mabon Terrace, Stepney, and others were charged at the Old Street Police Court on Monday last; and what he intends doing to prevent the growth of such clubs?

This club was entered by the police on 4th December. Mrs. da Costa and two other principals were arrested, together with 27 persons found on the premises. On 6th December the three principals were ordered to pay fines amounting to £250 and £31 10s. costs; the remaining persons were bound over. The police do all they can to prevent the growth of such clubs by taking action whenever evidence of breaches of the law can be obtained.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the people concerned have plenty of money with which to pay fines and that the only way of getting rid of these clubs is to close them?

I entirely agree that many of these places are most objectionable, but my powers are, of course, limited.

When such raids take place do the police check up on identification cards, the nature of the jobs the men are supposed to be doing, and the ages, in particular the age relating to military service, and is any of that evidence passed over to the Minister of Labour?

Yes, Sir, it must have been done in this case, because I am informed that no deserters or persons evading military service were found in the club.

Local Government Reform

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the advisability of having a comprehensive statement, issued at an early date, indicating the Government's plans regarding contemplated changes in the scope and functions of the powers and duties of local authorities?

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of his recent declaration in connection with the nationalisation of the coal industry, he will give a similar undertaking with regard to the recent proposals for the enlargement and alteration of existing local government areas, bearing in mind the representations which have been made to him by national associations of local authorities and the anxiety with which such proposals are viewed by the members of local administrative boards in close touch with public opinion in their respective localities?

I would refer my hon. Friends to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 22nd September in reply to Questions on this subject. I have at present nothing to add to that statement.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware of the concern among local authorities over their uncertainty with regard to many of their present duties and cannot some statement be made which will give them an indication of how to arrange their programmes?

I am sure that if my hon. Friend will look at the reply by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to which I alluded he will see matter completely satisfying any fears of any general overturn of local government.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great disquietude in various parts of the country because people feel that the administration may be taken away from those in close touch with local affairs and handed to someone who is further off? They are very frightened.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the local authorities are dissatisfied with the Prime Minister's refusal to set up an inquiry before any change was made, and can he give further consideration to that point?

Is it not true that a comprehensive health service, and changes in the education service and in other services will necessitate some alteration in local government administration, and can we be told what is in the mind of the Government upon that point?

Would the Deputy Prime Minister consider giving time to the Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Stretford?

[ That this House, whilst recognising that changes will be required in the structure and functions of local authorities in order to meet the requirements of post-war conditions and whilst concerned that the consequent reorganisation of local services shall not be delayed, is determined to maintain the full responsibility of elected local representatives and thus to preserve the vitality and administrative efficiency of our democratic local institutions.]

Africa Star

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Africa Star will be awarded to troops in the Sudan and East Africa who took part in the Abyssinian campaign?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this statement will give very great satisfaction to large numbers of troops who were in great doubt upon that point?

May I ask when we shall get a Debate upon the White Paper which led up to this change?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wants to take that Debate himself.

Members Of Parliament (Research Department)

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the urgent need for an efficient research department for the assistance of Members of Parliament in carrying out their duties; and whether he is aware that an organisation at the disposal of Members can be made to save an immense amount of work for Ministers and their staffs?

Is the Minister not aware that more than 50 per cent. of the Questions on the Order Paper could be answered promptly by inquiry at an office formed on the lines which I suggest in my Question, and would not that be a great economy of time for Ministers and for the House?

I should have thought the answer to the hon. Member was that he might take up this proposal with the Ministries concerned, and not have put a Question on the Paper.

Surely hon. Members can get all the information they want by asking questions from the Government?

Have not hon. Members of this House their own ideas to guide them on these matters without getting instructions from others?

Agriculture

Water Supply, Yelling, Huntingdonshire

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the village of Yelling, Huntingdonshire, is entirely without water, as a result of which agriculture has suffered and the yield of milk diminished; and whether he will consider the possibility of piping water from the nearest river in order to assist local farmers during the present emergency?

I am aware that there is a shortage of water at Yelling, Huntingdonshire, and schemes for alleviating the position are under consideration.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what those schemes are, and as the position in that area is a scandal could not something be done in view of the fact that large sums are being spent in other directions?

I would point out that Yelling is in no worse position in regard to water supply than a very large number of other areas, including areas in Huntingdonshire. During the war we cannot deal with all of them, but I hope that a scheme for laying on water not only to farms but to villages will be one of the first things we shall tackle when the material and labour are available after the war.

Crops Harvested

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the total weight of crops harvested in 1942 and the estimated amount for 1943.

I regret that detailed figures of this sort are not given at the present time.

May I ask why there is this refusal to give this information to Members of this House when it is contained in a pamphlet published by the Ministry of Information in the United States of America, together with a mass of other information which we are refused in this House?

I shall have to look into that. I will certainly see that Members here are given any information we give abroad.

Poultry Feeding-Stuffs

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider some method whereby ex-Service men who have been overseas and have been discharged on account of ill-health, who are desirous of earning a livelihood by way of poultry keeping, shall have some allocation to enable them to obtain feeding-stuffs for poultry keeping, in view of the large number of cases where they have been refused any allocation through the war agricultural executive committees?

The very small balance of feeding-stuffs left for pigs and poultry after provision is made for priority livestock, namely, dairy cows, calves and essential working horses, is, I am afraid, inadequate to provide for exceptional treatment for ex-Service men of either the present war or that of 1914–18.

Does not my right hon. Friend appreciate that ex-Service men who return from these arduous campaigns are entitled to some special priority? Why does he not ask the war agricultural executive committees to endeavour to give some small amount of feeding-stuffs at any rate to these men, in view of all they have done for the country? I do not think the matter should be dismissed in this way.

I think that nothing would be more disastrous to the future of those who have done so much for their country as to encourage them to go in for a calling of which the future is so uncertain for several years to come as poultry keeping, and in the interests of the ex-Service men themselves I deprecate their going into poultry keeping at the present time.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate that many of these men were poultry keepers before being called up for Service, as in the case to which I have drawn his attention, and that both he and the agricultural committees fail to recognise the priority right of ex-Service men? I am not satisfied with the position, and I do not like it.

Tenant Farmers, Montgomeryshire (Notice To Quit)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what inquiries has he made with regard to the cases of two farmers named Mr. Edwards and Mr. Williams in the area of Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire, who, as he is aware, were given notice last March by their landlord to quit their respective farms next March; and what action has he taken or does he propose to take with regard thereto?

At my request the county war agricultural executive committee have considered the circumstances of these two cases very carefully and have advised me that they can find no grounds on which they would be justified in seeking my con- sent to their taking possession of the farms in order to retain the sitting tenants in occupation. It is understood that the object of the landlords in giving the notice to quit is to farm the lands themselves and there is no reason to anticipate that the lands under their control will be less productive than under that of the sitting tenant.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these two farmers have an excellent reputation both as farmers and as food producers, and, secondly, that they and their families before them have been in occupation of these farms in one case for 100 years and in the other case for 67 years, and that now they are to be turned out, which is causing a great deal of anxiety and dissatisfaction?

Yes, Sir, but under the existing law the only case I have for intervening is in respect of food production, and I am satisfied that in this particular case there is no reason to suppose that the production of food will be interfered with by these transfers.

Is it not a fact that there is a lack of security for tenant farmers to-day, and would not the Government consider introducing legislation to make their tenure safer?

The question of tenure is one of the questions which will be discussed by the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself with the various branches of the industry, when we are considering transitional and long-term agricultural policies.

Does my right hon. Friend know that these two farmers know their land thoroughly, while the new landlord who is proposing to take possession has had no experience whatever of these farms?

Is the Minister aware that his answer is just the sort of trifling answer I received from the Secretary of State for Scotland in a similar matter which I brought before him?

Prices

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture on what grounds it is expected that the new farm prices will enable the bulk of the farmers' community, that is to say, those who farm a small acreage, to make a reasonable return while maintaining the improved position of the agricultural workers?

I have reviewed all the available evidence and acquainted myself with the views of the representatives of farmers, landowners and farm-workers, and come to the conclusion that the new prices will provide a sufficient and even generous remuneration for the work and enterprise of efficient farmers. This conclusion applies also to farmers who farm a small acreage, provided that the acreage is sufficient to form an economic unit.

Is the Minister seeking mutual understanding with the representative organisations of farmers and farm workers so as not to check food production?

I am satisfied personally that the new prices afford no justification for any assumption that food production will be checked.

Farm Workers (Clothing)

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will instruct war agricultural executive committees to give equal facilities for obtaining oilskin clothing and rubber boots to women who work regularly on the land, regardless of whether they are, or are not, members of the Land Army?

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will arrange that girls working on the land who are not in the Land Army, through no fault of their own, but excluded by the fact that they are agricultural workers, are given special facilities to obtain suitable clothing and equipment for the work which they have to do, with those who are members of the Land Army and doing similar work?

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether arrangements could be made for stocks of suitable clothing, such as that issued to members of the W.L.A., to be made available for the wives and daughters of farmers who are working on the land?

Women regularly engaged on agricultural work are in the same position as other agricultural workers in the matter of clothing. On taking up agricultural work for the first time they are entitled to an initial outfit allowance of 30 coupons. Subsequently they receive the supplementary allowance of coupons awarded to agricultural workers generally. Protective clothing consisting of oilskins, including coats and leggings, industrial gloves, and milking overalls, may be purchased by agricultural workers coupon-free by permit from the county war agricultural executive committees. As the large majority of the Women's Land Army come from the towns, their clothing is normally unsuitable for agricultural work. An initial outfit is essential, but they are required to surrender each year a substantial number of civilian coupons to cover necessary replacements.

Is it not a fact that after the initial outfit they were subsequently on the same level in all cases?

Defence Regulation 18B

61.

asked the Home Secretary whether in order to remove out of the area of political and party controversy all questions of a judicial or quasi-judicial nature arising out of the administration of Defence Regulation 18B, he will introduce an amended Regulation to provide a judicial tribunal to hear appeals from his decisions either to detain or to release persons affected thereby?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 4th August to my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Sir R. Rankin), to which I have nothing to add.

Since that answer was given, have we not had an example in the House of the undesirable results of leaving these questions to be dealt with on political grounds? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that if there is to be no appeal from his decisions except to this House, it is inevitable that those decisions will be dealt with in a political and not in a judicial spirit?

That may be true of some hon. Members of this House, but, generally speaking, I think the capacity of this House to approach a matter of this kind in a judicial spirit is one of the finest attributes of British Parliamentary life.

Is it not totally impossible for any Member to approach a specific question in a judicial spirit if the Government Whips are on, and he is told in advance that the fate not merely of the particular issue but of the Government and of Ministers depends upon it?

Secondary School Pupils (Employment)

65.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is aware of the growing practice of officials of the Ministry of Health, Post Office and other Departments in attracting pupils from secondary schools in Wiltshire and elsewhere, before the end of their term of education, thus disorganising the work of the schools and wasting school places; and whether he will consult with these Departments with a view to ending this practice and give directions to the education authorities as to the course they should pursue?

I am assured that no secondary school pupils are employed by the Post Office before the termination of their school life agreement without the written consent of the local education authority. In the case of the Ministry of Health, I understand that my right hon. Friend has no knowledge of the recruitment of secondary school pupils under the age of 16 to the local offices of the Ministry. If, however, my hon. Friend will furnish him with particulars of the cases he has in mind investigations will be made into the circumstances.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that I have already sent particulars of these cases to his Department, and may I ask whether he will give an undertaking that this matter which is so disturbing to secondary education will cease at the end of the present emergency?

The first part of my answer dealt with problems of my own Department and the second part with problems connected with the Department of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

Housing

Agricultural Workers

66.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in connection with the building of farm-workers' cottages in rural areas, he can now state if he proposes to adopt throughout these rural areas the standard plans which have been prepared by the Ministry of Works; and whether the rural district councils will be entirely precluded from submitting plans to meet the requirements of their individual areas?

The Ministry of Works were asked to prepare the plans referred to for use, in connection with the scheme for the provision of 3,000 agricultural cottages, by those local authorities who could not obtain reasonable tenders for the earlier plans. The answer to both parts of the Question is, therefore, "No, Sir."

Does the Minister realise how grievously the rural community need these cottages? Is it not very necessary to separate the truth from the false and the real from the unreal? What has been going on between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Works and Buildings? I think we really ought to have some enlightenment as to why this delay has taken place. It is very unsatisfactory.

Public Health

National Health Service

68.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to say when the White Paper on the Reorganisation of Health Services will be published?

67.