Skip to main content

Commons Chamber

Volume 398: debated on Tuesday 14 March 1944

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Tuesday, 14th March, 1944

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Beckett Hospital And Dispensary, Barnsley, Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Burns (First-Aid Treatment Formula)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is in a position to make a statement regarding the discovery at the Glasgow Royal Technical College of a new anti-bacterial method of treating burning whether caused by acids or by fire.

I am informed that Professor Todd and his assistants at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, in collaboration with the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, have produced a formula for a cream for use as a skin disinfectant and as a first-aid treatment for burns. While I understand that claims recently made for this prepara- tion in the Press go much further than those responsible for the formula would desire, I am advised that Professor Todd and his staff have performed a valuable public service in evolving this exceedingly helpful formula. It was described in the "British Medical Journal" of 4th March, 1944, in a letter from Dr. Leonard Colebrook, who was sent to Glasgow by the Medical Research Council to undertake investigations. I am sending the hon. Member a copy.

Scotland

Education (Government Proposals)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will be in a position to announce the proposals of the Government with regard to the reform of Scottish education; and whether he will do so in the form of a White Paper.

I would refer the hon. Members to my replies to his previous Questions on these subjects of 12th and 19th October, 1943, and 30th November, 1943, to which at the moment I am unable to add.

Cannot my right hon. Friend give any indication of how long it will take to complete his investigations?

In the meantime, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that a great deal can be done by enlightened administration as well as by legislation?

Herring Fishing Industry (Committee)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the Government proposes to introduce legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee on the Herring Fishing Industry.

The report of the Committee is presently being considered by the Fishery Ministers in consultation with the other Ministers concerned, and a decision as to the action to be taken upon the report will be announced alt the earliest possible moment. Discussions regarding post-war herring supplies are already proceeding with representatives of European allied countries.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the report presses the urgency of the matter, and the necessity for legislation to reconstitute the Herring Board at the earliest possible moment?

My hon. Friend is well aware that the report was published only three weeks ago and that there are many interests to be consulted before legislation can be drafted.

Housing

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will inquire into the methods adopted in allotting the new hutted houses at Clydebank among applicants: and is he aware that some of these houses have been allotted to people who already have houses while other homeless people, even including wounded ex-service men and their families, have been refused.

I am informed that the selection of eligible applicants for the houses to which my hon. Friend refers was made by the town council on the basis of the rules which they have publicly announced as governing their selection of these applicants. The town council are unaware of any cases in which houses have been allocated to persons who are already tenants of other houses. If my hon. Friend has any information of cases of this sort the council will be glad to receive it and make investigation.

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered the case of Mr. Hemphill, details of which have been sent to him; and what steps he is taking to secure a house for this ex-Service man, who has lost an arm in the Middle East, in view of the fact that he and his wife and daughter are now forced to share a small room with his landlady and her two sons and that the 200 new houses allowed to be built in Clydebank are insufficient even to replace those destroyed by enemy bombing.

I have brought the case to which my hon. Friend refers to the notice of the town council and the Scottish Special Housing Association to see whether there is any possibility of accommodation being made available to the family either in Clydebank or in the hostel now being converted at Milngavie. In addition to the 200 houses which the town council have recently been authorised to erect there are 40o houses in course of erection in Clydebank for occupation by families living in overcrowded or otherwise unsatisfactory housing conditions.

Is the Minister aware that the council had notice of the fact that this man was coming home minus an arm since last July? Surely in that time they ought to have had a house waiting for him, in view of the fact that this House was of opinion that he should have a house waiting and ready?

I have no information as to the prior knowledge that the council had as to when this man was returning. I have given all the information I have in my answer.

Is not the Minister aware that the case was raised in this House last July by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) on a letter which the man had sent to his wife saying that he had lost his arm and hoping that when he returned she would have a home?

Water Supplies (Rural Districts)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he can give any indication of the Government's intentions with regard to the provision of adequate water supplies in the rural districts of Scotland.

As the House was informed on l0th February the Government propose, as part of their general reconstruction programme, to introduce a Bill in the near future authorising Exchequer assistance for water supply and sewerage in rural localities, and to lay a White Paper outlining the Government's policy on water supply. These proposals will apply both to Scotland and to England and Wales.

Smoke Abatement

8.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the Government's plans for abating the pollution of the atmosphere by industrial and domestic smoke.

The subject of smoke abatement is a complicated one which is under consideration by a number of Government Departments. I regret that it is not now possible for me to deal with it within the limits suggested by my hon. Friend.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend appreciate that it is important to have a policy for smoke abatement before plans for new buildings are approved?

Is it not a fact that it is the duty of the local authorities to prevent smoke pollution?

Coal Industry

Supplies, North Africa And Italy

9.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in connection with the civilian and commercial supplies of coal to North Africa and Italy, he can make some pronouncement of the Government's policy and the basis on which the export quantities are arrived at.

For the Government's policy upon the supply of coal to liberated and ex-enemy countries, I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement which I made on the 4th August last in reply to a Question by the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on the 23rd September in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry). With regard to the last part of the Question, the quantities supplied are based on the minimum essential services of those countries.

Are we to understand that there has been no alteration since last August? Does not the position alter each month?

We are in constant communication. This responsibility is shared and we are in constant touch with each other.

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend assure the House that coal is not going to Italy to be consumed by private persons, and that it is used only by the Allied Forces and by public utilities which help the Forces?

10.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, in view of the shortage of coal for domestic purposes and the difficulties experienced by the public in obtaining supplies, the Government will make arrangements with the U.S.A. whereby some part of the supplies necessary for civilian and commercial requirements for North Africa and Italy are obtainable from the U.S.A.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement which I made on the subject of combined planning in the Debate on the coal mining situation on 12th October last. As a result of the work of the Combined Committees in London and Washington a large part of the requirements of the Mediterranean is now being supplied from Allied sources other than the United Kingdom.

Domestic Supplies

13.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that the coal ration brings considerable hardship to houses without gas and other ancillary cooking facilities; and whether any steps can be taken to increase the ration in such cases.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made on the 23rd November last in reply to a Question by the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring), in which I explained that there is no specific ration of coal for each household. The position since then has deteriorated owing to strikes and transport difficulties, and I can hold out no hope of any relaxation in the existing restrictions, though I would point out that provision is made for local fuel overseers to grant allowances for additional quantities in cases of illness or where there is an exceptional need.

Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman prepared to do anything for those houses which have no supplementary method of cooking and where the small ration that is given is largely taken up by stone? Can he give an assurance that the stone might be replaced by coal?

Naturally I would if I could. My hon. friend probably knows better than I do the difficulties with regard to screen work at the present time, and there is certainly a deterioration because of that. With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, exceptional need does mean cases such as he has referred to.

Is it not a fact that in certain areas there is unequal distribution of coal among registered customers because some suppliers have an unduly large number of registrations, which they are unable to handle? Is it not possible in such cases to secure that the registrations are spread more equitably over all the suppliers in the area, so as to ensure consumers getting their allocation?

I am prepared to look into that point if my hon. Friend has cases of that sort.

14.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that the so-called coal ration is frequently much reduced by the inclusion of stone in the ration and that this causes serious hardship to homes where no other cooking resources exist; and whether he is prepared to ensure that only coal will be supplied or that the charge for stone will be refunded to those so overcharged.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to a Question on this subject by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) on 18th February.

Output

15.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how the average weekly output of coal from British mines during the month of February compares with the similar period in each of the four preceding years?

As the answer involves a number of figures I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

In view of the fact that only five years are involved, could my right hon. and gallant Friend not give the figures now?

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say to what extent the shortage exists, compared with last February?

Certainly. The shortage is in the neighbourhood of 200,000 tons.

Will he bring to the notice of those responsible for the stoppage of work in the coal industry the results which would accrue if the Merchant Navy and the Services went out on strike?

Would it be possible for the Minister to give figures for the net output of coal without the dirt?

The information is as follows:

The average weekly output of saleable coal during the month of February in each year from 1940 to 1944 was as follows:

Tons.
19404,415,000
19413,904,000
19424,042,000
19434,019,000
19443,785,000

The figures for February, 1943, and February, 1944, are provisional.

Easington Colliery

16.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has any statement to make with regard to the proposal to discharge 450 employees of the Easington coalmine.

Following the award of the National Reference Tribunal on the 22nd January, output at the Easington Colliery declined very sharply from about 15,000 tons a week to 6,500 tons. In these circumstances I had to consider whether it was in the best interests of production to continue working the colliery, having regard also to the fact that the men's wages were being made up to the guaranteed minimum from the Coal Charges Account at the expense of coal consumers generally. After full consideration, I decided that certain sections of the colliery which were particularly affected could not be kept in operation and on the 6th March, at the request of my Regional Controller, the men concerned were given 14 days' notice to determine their employment at this colliery with a view to their being transferred to other collieries in Durham where the output per man is very much higher. Following this action, I understand that the question of restoring normal working at Easington was the subject of a ballot taken on the 9th March, and that a majority of the men voted in favour of lifting the restriction on output. I am not yet able to say whether this majority decision has been implemented.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend seriously contend that the way to increase output is to direct miners from one particular mine and distribute them to other mines, and to close down mines where output is available?

I thought I had made the position clear to my hon. Friend that, while output was available, it was not being got, and that 15,000 tons had dropped to 6,500. My duty is to use my power to the best possible purpose.

Was it not a foolish thing to threaten the men with transfer to other collieries, instead of trying to understand their grievances and to correct them?

I think my hon. Friend knows perfectly well that that is not a very good description of the situation.

Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this colliery is in my area and that I understand the matter very much better than he does?

The colliery may be in my hon. Friend's area, but if he does understand the matter, he has not been very successful, judging by the result.

I am on my feet, and the hon. Member must give way. I have called another hon. Member.

Are there not other factors responsible for the fall in output at this colliery, other than the action of the workers?

That is a very large question to discuss by question and answer. My hon. Friend knows that certain things are going on at the present time and I am very hopeful, as a result of the negotiations, that some of these difficulties will be removed. I could not possibly deal with the matter by question and answer.

Is not the right hon. and gallant Member aware that there have been legitimate grievances at this colliery for many months past, which are now admitted? Why was it necessary to threaten to transfer the men to other collieries; and why was not an attempt made to deal with those grievances?

I have always done my best to deal immediately with grievances brought to my notice. My hon. Friend ought to know perfectly well that that is no excuse for reducing the output in the way I have described.

Statistics

18.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, taking the figures for 1939 and 1943, the increases or decreases in the wages costs per ton, selling price per ton, profit per ton and wages per man-shift in the Somersetshire coalfield.

As the answer involves a number of figures, I will with my hon. Friend's permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The information is as follows:

SOMERSET COALFIELD.
Wages.Proceeds.Credit Balance.Wages per manshift worked.
Per ton disposable, Commercially.
s.d.s.d.s.d.s.d.
Year 1939132·77209·3419·3895·91
1943231·47332·1027·93169·43
Increase 1943 as compared with 1939910·70124·76010·5573·52
Percentage Increase74·76%59·66%49·35%76·83%

22.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, for the years 1939 and 1943, respectively, the average pithead price obtained by collieries for commercial disposals of coal, the wages cost per ton and the owners' credit balance per ton; and if he will also give in each case the percentage increase or decrease.

GREAT BRITAIN
Per ton disposable commercially.
Proceeds.Wages.Credit Balance.
s.d.s.d.s.d.
Year 19391711·321010·7317·51
Year 1943 (Provisional)2811·27203·0514·32
%%%
Percentage increase or decrease in 1943 as compared with 1939.+ 61·28+ 85·92- 16·35

Mining Subsidence

17.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the date when his Department commenced consideration and consultations with other Departments regarding the question of subsidence in the mining areas of this country; and when it is expected these will end.

Consideration by the various Departments concerned commenced in the autumn. It is not possible to say when the necessary enquiries into this difficult and complicated matter will be completed.

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not agree that there are so many reports on this question that

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I ought, however, to add to the figures shown that while the provisional credit' balance during the year 1943 was about is. 4½d. a ton, the Government is committed to making this up to 1s. 6d. a ton.

The statement is as follows:

it is not necessary to delay a settlement by additional considerations and consultations?

The only thing I would ask the hon. Member to consider is that there are good many other Departments concerned with this matter, particularly in regard to housing and so on, and that the Departments are very fully occupied at the moment. I can assure my hon. Friend that no unnecessary delay will occur.

In considering the problem of subsidence in coal mining areas and areas which are depressed, will the right hon. and gallant Member's Department take into account the very im- portant fact that new industries will not come to those areas because of the fear of subsidence of new factories?

Supplies, Epsom And Ewell

25.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of the number of complaints received at the Fuel Overseer's office respecting shortage of fuel in Epsom and Ewell; and what measures he is taking to deal with the matter.

There is no shortage of coal in Epsom and Ewell. Merchants' stocks are adequate, and Government reserves are also available in the area. Merchants are not seriously in arrears with their deliveries, except in the case of one of the larger merchants who has experienced considerable difficulty owing to sickness. In this case assistance has been rendered by other merchants and this arrangement will continue.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that last Thursday I telephoned the local fuel officer at Epsom and was informed by the assistant in charge, when I made a specific complaint, that the complaint was only one of many hundreds? When I told the assistant that the Minister said there were no complaints, the assistant expressed some surprise. Could the right hon. and gallant Gentleman explain that?

I did not say there were no complaints. If the hon. Member had listened to my answer he would know that there were difficulties in one case due to one of the large suppliers, the South Suburban Co-operative Society, having had very serious illness among their staff in the last few weeks, with the result that they have been very hard pressed to get their supplies delivered. There have been 150 complaints, largely because of the circumstances I have mentioned, but in a population of 60,000, it is not bad proportion.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that any complaints in the Epsom and Ewell district which have been made to me, have been brought to the notice of the Minister's Department and have been dealt with promptly as far as possible? Is it not a fact that any shortage of fuel in Epsom and Ewell is due not to his Department but to the coal industry itself?

Petrol (Allied Forces Vehicles)

11.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps are taken to exercise reasonable control or supervision over the petrol used by our Allies in Britain so that additional supplies may be made available for the urgent needs of the civilian community.

The arrangements made to exercise control or supervision over petrol used by Service personnel in this country are the same for Allied as for British personnel. Service requirements must, of course, be determined by the respective British and Allied Authorities, all of whom are concerned to secure the economical use of petrol and to prevent waste.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend realise that it is difficult to persuade our own people of the necessity to conserve petrol when they see large high-powered cars on the road belonging to our Allies and not always fully loaded?

Petroleum Board

19.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will state the composition of the Petroleum Board; whether provision is made for representation from independent companies and utilising the services of consultants not employed by the large oil concerns; and whether he can give an assurance that the organisation created for war purposes will not be used to drive out of the oil business the smaller firms.

The Petroleum Board covers substantially the whole of the petroleum industry in this country so far as it relates to the importation, storage and distribution of oil products. The number of participating concerns is in the neighbourhood of 120. I am sending my hon. Friend a list giving the present membership of the Board. Provision is made for the representation of the smaller constituent companies. The Board has available through the staffs of the constituent companies, adequate technical advice, but they are at liberty to utilise the services of other consultants if they decide that this would be desirable or useful.

As regards the concluding part of the Question, the Petroleum Board was established at the request of H.M. Government as a purely emergency body and the terms of the Agreement by which the Board was formed, make specific provision for limiting its activities to the war period, and a definite period afterwards, necessary for the liquidation of its activities.

Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the monopolies concerned in the oil distributing industry are able to exclude the services of technical consultants of an independent character, and have done so? Can he give an assurance that they will not be able to create conditions during the war which will crush out small consultants when the war is over?

Electricity Charges (Coal Clause)

21.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will confer with the Ministry of War Transport and other appropriate Departments with a view to ensuring that the power companies as a whole throughout the country do not increase their revenues by obtaining, via the coal clause, sums in excess of that required to cover the actual increase in the cost of coal; and whether he will take appropriate action to ensure a cheaper cost of current to the consumers.

The operation of the coal clause is generally an integral component of the tariffs charged by electricity supply undertakings to power consumers. A scrutiny of these tariffs must wait on the re-organisation of the electricity supply industry, which is at Present receiving the active consideration of the Government.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that, in the long run, it is always the consumer who pays, and that he is generally asked to pay rather more than he should be asked?

Women Mineworkers (Russia)

23.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has any information about the hours of work, the amount of coal produced and the remuneration of women coalminers working at the coal face in Russia.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend give an. assurance that, even if patriotic women volunteer to work at the coal face in the hour of their country's need, he will not accept that gesture?

There will be none of the women of the ruling class working in the coal pits.

Will the Minister get some information about this matter, on which there is a good deal of talk throughout the country, because we want to know what is going on in this paradise for workers?

Is it not time that these attacks on the miners ceased, and that there was some appreciation of the men's grievances?

Empire Gold Production

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs if he has any information to show how many of the 40,000 persons in Canada, 30,000 in Australia and 393,000 in the Union of South Africa stated by him, on 11th March, 1941, to be engaged in the production of gold are still engaged in that occupation.

I regret that the information for which the hon. Member asks is not available.

Am I to understand that the number has increased and not gone down; and will the hon. Gentleman say that these people would not be more usefully engaged digging for coal, rather than gold, which, after all, is a perfectly useless pursuit?

Is it not a fact that Russia is the second largest producer of gold and does not seem to share the hon. Member's views?

Arising from the question regarding 40,000 persons in Canada, 30,000 in Australia—hundreds of thousands of people—producing gold, will the hon. Gentleman tell us where all this gold is going? Is it going to America? Is it the case that all we get is paper while America gets the gold?

Am I to understand from the question put by the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) that the Young Tories accept the view that what Russia says is so?

British Seamen (Detention, Australia)

27.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs if he is aware that several British seamen have been detained or imprisoned in Australia for offences that have not incurred similar treatment when committed by Australian seamen; by what arrangement these seamen have been detained or imprisoned; and whether he has made any representations respecting the mattter to the Commonwealth Government.

My Noble Friend is not at present fully informed as to the fasts of this case but telegraphic inquiry is being made of Australia and I will communicate with the hon. Member on receipt of a reply.

Does the hon. Member appreciate that, meanwhile, this process gives rise to a good deal of disturbance in the public mind, and could he expedite the inquiry?

Trade And Commerce

Book Exports

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is seized with the significance of the economic as well as the cultural value of British book exports; whether his Department has analysed current tendencies; and whether he is making preparations against the day when conditions will permit a revival and extension of this vital export.

Yes, Sir. My Department is in close touch on these matters with the Publishers' Association, who estimate that the percentage of turnover exported has fallen from 30 before the war to 21 in 1942 and slightly more in 1943. I look forward to a rapid expansion in our exports of books after the war, but the rate of the expansion must, of course, depend on the labour and paper available.

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in close touch with the Dominions Office and the British Council on certain aspects of this matter?

If I brought the right hon. Gentleman some books which are being published now, which not only are not fit for publication in this country but are a hindrance to the publication of books for the export trade, would the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter?

Wireless Sets And Parts

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that there is still in many districts a great shortage of radio sets and parts; and whether he can state the exact position regarding deliveries both from home manufacturers and from the U.S.A.

About 55,000 sets were put on the market during 1943. The number of sets already imported from the United States is about 25,00o, and distribution will begin within the next week or two. As regards components, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) on 1st February, of which I am sending him a copy.

Processing (German Patent Rights)

30.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the handicap suffered by British industry before the war by reason of the wholesale and often vague patent rights secured by Germany in connection with the processing of British and other inventions and discoveries whereby rights of manufacture had to be bought and were frequently refused; and will he see that this impediment to British industrial expansion is removed in any peace terms granted to Germany, as well as by any necessary amendment of our patent laws, in order to secure more precise specification of manufacturing processes.

There are specific provisions in our patent law directed against the refusal by a patentee of reasonable licences in certain circumstances, including the non-working of the invention in the United Kingdom, and against vague and insufficient specifications. The question whether these provisions require strengthening will be for close consideration when our patent law is under review. The point regarding enemy-owned patents to which my hon. Friend has called attention will not be lost sight of in connection with the peace terms.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) drew attention to this matter but nothing was done; and is he further aware that owing to the vagueness of the specification it is quite impossible to manufacture many of these patents without the assistance of Germany? It is a most serious matter which ought to be receiving attention at the present time from his Ministry.

Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to set up an inquiry where these matters can be comprehensively dealt with and in such a way that papers can be sent for to enable the suggested overhaul of the patent laws to be carried out?

I have given a good deal of thought to the matter raised by the hon. Member, and I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject very shortly.

Photographic Material

31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is satis- fled that manufacturers of photographic material are, in general, able to supply retailers with their entitlement under the quota provisions.

As my hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate, the demands of the Services for photographic material are very heavy and are increasing. In these circumstances, I regret that it may be not possible for manufacturers to supply in full their quota for the civilian trade.

While I appreciate the reasons the right. Gentleman has given, will he do everything possible within his power to increase the supply of photographic material for photographers, as many are being forced out of business?

I will do everything I can, but the needs of the Services must come first.

Cotton Industry

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now make a statement as regards the Government's policy in relation to the future of the cotton industry of this country both on the productive side, spinning, weaving, etc., and in relation to the position of traders in raw cotton.

Since receiving the Report of the Cotton Board Committee, I have held a number of consultations on the post-war organisation of the cotton trade; but I am not at present in a position to make a further statement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to expedite his inquiries as far as possible to allow those in the industry to know where they are to be in the future?

A number of things are going on. The Chairman of the Cotton Board is, I hope, going to undertake some inquiries for me into the finishing section of the industry, as recommended in the Cotton Board Report. There is a Mission proceeding shortly to the United States, led by the Cotton Controller, to make a study of war-time conditions there, from which we may learn something.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Cotton Industry Act and the Spindles Act, those remarkable examples of planning, by no means did what those who advocated them anticipated?

May I ask my right hon. Friend in view of the very serious position facing the cotton industry in Lancashire whether he can give any idea of when he will be able to make a statement?

No, Sir, not at the moment. It took the Streat Committee eight months to make their report to me. The whole matter is very complicated, those concerned are not in agreement and I must have a little time to unravel it.

War Commodities Damage Insurance Fund

33.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the financial position of the War Commodities Damage Insurance Fund.

No, Sir. It would not be in the public interest to disclose this information.

Why is all information "not in the public interest"? It is time we had a little more light on this matter.

Footwear Manufacture Directions

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in the Footwear Manufacture Directions, 1944, the substitution of "more" for "less," made by No. 178, of Statutory Rules and Orders, is a change of policy or the correction of an error.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that an Order which appears to make a drastic, and, indeed, a revolutionary change, ought to be accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum, as recommended by the Committee on Ministers' Powers?

Even the best proofreaders sometimes nod. The point has been met, I think, by my answer to my hon. Friend. It is a very simple matter. If necessary, I shall be glad to issue a further Explanatory Memorandum; but I do not think that that will be required.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise the difficulty in which it places a manufacturer who is told that he must not make the heel of a lady's shoe of less than a certain height, and is then told some weeks afterwards that the word "less" should have been "more"?

I have tried to remove the unfortunate misunderstanding, which otherwise would have arisen, by the answer which I have given to-day.

Proprietary Articles

35.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that many proprietary articles are now frequently sold in containers which are only about three-parts full, although no notice to this effect is given to the purchaser; and what action he proposes to take.

This matter has not previously been brought to my notice, but if my hon. Friend will send me particulars I shall be very glad to look into it.

Furniture

36.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether it is his intention to remove the control on the design of furniture at the cessation of hostilities.

The demand for furniture after the war will be very heavy and the supply of material very limited. It will be necessary, therefore, to ensure that the best use is made of what is available. I have received a valuable report from the Furniture Industry Post-War Reconstruction Committee, who recognise the need for the continuance of control over production during the transition period after the war.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a great deal of the designing of ordinary-price furniture is done by craftsmen-woodworkers themselves, and does not require a great designing staff? Therefore, will be consider the decontrol of design before the decontrol of production?

I think I had better await the further report which is coming from the Furniture Industry Post-War Reconstruction Committee, on which both employers and employees are represented. Not all design before the war was worthy of British craftsmanship.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not consider it essential that control should continue until production overtakes consumption?

37.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why the wife of a serving soldier cannot be given sufficient coupons to enable her to set up house for her husband on his return from abroad if she happens to have been married before 1st January 1941.

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to utility furniture permits. Production is only sufficient to allow permits to be granted to very limited classes of people, including the newly-married. The latter have hitherto been defined as persons married since 1st January, 1941. But I am glad to say that, as output is increasing, I am now able to include those married on or after 1st September, 1939.

Food Supplies, Greece

38.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he is satisfied that the consignments of foodstuffs sent to Greece for the relief of famine have been of benefit only to our Allies and not to the enemy; and, if so, will he be prepared to permit further quantities of foodstuffs for the relief of Greek children to pass through the blockade.

According to my latest information, the relief foodstuffs shipped to Greece continue to reach the Greek population, and have not been diverted by the enemy. It does not follow, however, that the enemy derives no indirect benefit from these shipments. Indeed, as I explained in the Debate on l0th November last, we have no doubt that the action of the Allied Governments concerned in sending foodstuffs to Greece has been of some advantage to the occupying authorities, though in this particular case we think that the assistance to our friends outweighs the assistance to the enemy. As regards the second part of the Question, I am not at present in a position to add anything to the answer which I gave on 8th February to my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey).

Is it true that if this food had not been sent to Greece all that would have happened would have been that more Greeks would have died through starvation?

Has our action in this case actually relieved Greek people from starvation?

Yes, I think that our action has been of considerable assistance to the Greek people; but it must be borne in mind that it has been of some assistance to the enemy.

British Army

Prisons And Detention Barracks

39.

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps have been taken to provide additional commissioned officers at all military prisons and detention barracks, as recommended in the Report of the Oliver Committee.

The establishment of commissioned officers has been increased by six majors and 18 captains. Nineteen new officers have so far entered the Military Prison and Detention Barrack service.

41.

asked the Secretary of State for War if sick quarters have now been provided in all military prisons and detention barracks, as recommended in the Report of the Oliver Committee.

Sick quarters are now installed at all military prisons and detention barracks except Aldershot. At Aldershot considerable difficulties were experienced in finding suitable accommodation, but these have now been overcome, and the work should be completed before long.

Military Vehicles (Windscreen Wipers)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that road accidents are occurring owing to the absence of automatic windscreen wipers on many Army vehicles; and whether steps will be taken to have these fitted.

The information at my disposal does not confirm my hon. Friend's suggestions. I understand that, with two exceptions, all types of vehicles supplied to the Army are provided with automatic windscreen wipers, and that accidents due to the absence of such wipers or to defective wipers are rare.

In view of the fact that the Question has a foundation of fact, will the right hon. Gentleman make some inquiry into the number of accidents that take place on our roads due to the absence of these wipers, and see that Army vehicles and other road vehicles are protected by a further supply?

I have made inquiries, and they go to show that the number of accidents is very small; but if the hon. Member has specific information which will add to my knowledge, I shall be very glad to receive it.

Court-Martial Acquittals (Compensation)

59.

asked the Secretary of State for War, whether a soldier who has been tried by court-martial for larceny and the case dismissed is entitled to any form of compensation for having spent 27 days in detention barracks awaiting trial, or to the return of £3 3s. paid to his defending solicitor.

I am afraid that a soldier is not entitled to any compensation in such a case. I understand that this follows the general practice in civil life. The Army pay due to him for the period he spends in close arrest would, however, be issued to him on acquittal. A soldier may make what arrangements he wishes for his defence. If, for example, he asks for an officer to defend him he incurs no costs. If, however, he arranges for his own solicitors to do it he must bear their charges.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that in civil life a man would not be put under close detention for 27 days before being tried on a charge that an extra blanket was found on his bed? In view of the fact that in this case the man preferred to have his own solicitor, because he thought he would have a better opportunity of having his case put, and as the case was dismissed, ought not some regard to be paid to his case?

I am in some difficulty about this case as to whether my hon. Friend sent me particulars of it or not. But if he will send particulars of the individual case I shall be very glad to look into it.

Enlistment Notice (Detention Sentence)

60.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his atten- tion has been drawn to the case of 14202464 Private W. R. Watts, sentenced to six months' detention for not obeying call-up notice of February 1943, which was not received by him; and whether he is aware that, on receipt of a further call-up notice in November 1943, he immediately obeyed his instructions; and why, if the former instructions were issued, no steps were taken to enforce them.

This man was court-martialled for failing to obey an enlistment notice which was returned undelivered from the address which the man gave on registering. Inquiries as to his whereabouts were made, and it was found that he had moved twice without informing the Ministry of Labour. There is no evidence that any of the authorities concerned departed from the procedure normally followed in such cases.

Would my right hon. Friend inform the House whether the inquiry as to the delivery of this note was made at the house of the father of the man, where he lived at the time; and is he also aware that since then he got married and that immediately on receiving his final call-up notice he obeyed it?

Tanks

61.

asked the Secretary of State for War what complaints he has received from soldiers in Italy that they have no tank equal to the German Tiger or Ferdinand; and is he aware that the provision of such a tank would contribute considerably to ultimate success.

I have had no such complaints. I do not, of course, accept the implication in the hon. Member's Question.

Is it not a fact that soldiers coming home have stated that such a tank would be useful, and was not a tank equal to the "Tiger" tank offered more than two years ago and sabotaged by the Tank Board?

Bbc (Forces Programme)

62.

asked the Secretary of State for War what opinions soldiers at the front have expressed on the new B.B.C. programmes designed for the Forces; and if he will make arrangements to obtain their views.

My hon. Friend is no doubt aware that the transmission to listeners in this country of a programme which has been transmitted for over a year to troops overseas is the main change which has been made. It is as yet too early to assess the views of the soldiers in operational theatres about this change, but arrangements are being made to find out. I do not think they will hesitate to let the B.B.C. and the Army authorities have their views.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Members are receiving letters from constituents in the Forces expressing their extreme dissatisfaction?

British Prisoners Of War

40.

asked the Secretary of State for War if satisfactory communication has now been established with all British prisoners of war known to have been transferred from Italy to Germany shortly before the fall of Mussolini; and if parcels are reaching them regularly.

The 2,400 British prisoners of war in Italian hands who, as I mentioned in my reply to several hon. Members on 21st September last, were transferred to Germany shortly before the fall of Mussolini, have all reached permanent camps and their relatives have been notified. Since both the prisoner-of-war letter and parcel mails between Great Britain and Germany are functioning normally, there is every reason to believe that these men, in common with other British prisoners of war in German hands, are receiving the correspondence and parcels sent to them by their relatives in this country.

So far as the right hon. Gentleman knows, does the figure which he gave represent all the prisoners in, the category referred to in the Question?

The category was the comparatively small one of those who were transferred before the fall of Mussolini. To the best of my knowledge, that figure covers the whole lot.

42.

asked the Secretary of State for War, what steps are taken to alleviate the boredom in the Swiss camps of British prisoners of war.

Every effort is being made by the senior British officer, in consultation with the Swiss authorities, to meet the needs of British prisoners of war who have escaped into Switzerland, particularly by the provision of recreational facilities and by arrangements, where possible, for courses of study.

Will my right hon. Friend consider sending copies of HANSARD to these camps?

Will the Minister consider sending them copies of HANSARD, and letting them know how lucky they are?

Will he send out the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris)?

Old Age Pensions

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he has considered the resolution carried at a mass meeting of old age pensioners at Tyldesley, Leigh, on Saturday, 4th March, asking for an increase in the basic rate of old age pensions; and, as this question is being considered with the Beveridge Report, can he now say when a statement upon this will be made.

I am not yet in a position to add to the reply which I gave on 7th March to the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White).

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the anxiety of the old age pensioners, cannot he tell us something definite about what is intended?

In view of the increase in Civil Service pensions, does the Prime Minister not see the necessity for giving an increase, at the earliest possible moment, to the old age pensioners?

Post-War Economic Policy

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can give an assurance that no final or binding com- mitment in regard to post-war trade or Empire economic policy will be entered upon by the Government until such a matter has been freely debated in the House.

Local Authorities

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will provide facilities for a Debate on the Motion on Local Government standing in the name of the hon. Member for Stretford, and signed by a large number of right hon. and hon. Members.

[ 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 postwar 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.]

Sir, I regret that I can at present hold out no hope of time being found for the discussion of the Motion standing in the name of my hon. Friend.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the widespread feeling that there has been no adequate Government pronouncement as to policy on this matter, and no opportunity to discuss the tendencies in local government which are at present taking place?

Coalmining Situation (Negotiations)

51.

asked the Prime Minister, if, in view of the serious development in the coal stoppage, he will make a statement at the earliest moment and give the House of Commons an opportunity to discuss the recent negotiations.

Sir, I do not feel that it would be wise for me to make a statement upon the coalmining position at the present moment. I should also deprecate a Debate upon this matter until the negotiations which were opened last Wednesday by my right hon. Friend are completed. I must ask the House to sustain the Government in this view which they have not adopted without careful consideration of what is best in the public interest at so critical a time.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will take into consideration the fact that there is also a great deal of anxiety in the mind of the public, particularly as they have been told that military plans and the opening of the second front depend upon this; and will he also bear in mind that all that the public and the House of Commons have been told has come from the industrial correspondents of the newspapers?

While respecting what my right hon. Friend has said, in view of the fact that, in the last Debate we had on this subject, the right hon. Gentleman said:

"I do not feel that, provided everyone does his duty to the utmost, we are in any danger of a collapse in coal production in the coming year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th October, 1943; col. 928, Vol. 392.]
—does he not think that the time is approaching when another discussion of the whole situation is becoming urgent; and will he undertake that the House of Commons will not be asked indefinitely to postpone a discussion on what is clearly a widespread and continuing defiance of the law?

I never said anything about a time for discussion not approaching. I said that the time for discussion, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, had not yet been reached.

While not condoning what has happened recently so far as the miners are concerned, does my right hon. Friend not appreciate that these attacks on miners disregard quite legitimate grievances which have been persistently ignored, and that what has happened recently is the consummation of a series of tragic mistakes, for which the miners are not entirely responsible?

Well, Sir, I understand that some of the miners still out have not followed the guidance of their own accredited leaders and have not abided by the result of a majority vote. In that case, naturally, some disappointment must be felt in respect of their behaviour.

Surely my right hon. Friend understands that these miners, taken by and large and with very few exceptions, are as patriotic as any other section of the community, and are very anxious to assist my right hon. Friend in the war effort; and surely something substantial must have occurred to have persuaded them to take the action they did?

I certainly accept what has been said about the association of the miners of Great Britain with their country's cause, but the very reason why I did not want a Debate is because of the kind of Debate into which we might drift.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the psychology of the miners has now been exacerbated by the wanton attacks made on them by many sections of the Press, and by hon. Members of this House, and that the time must come very early when those of us who have special knowledge of the situation must have an opportunity of putting the miners' case before the House, if we are to create a sound psychology in the coalfields; and is it not the case that hon. Members should restrain themselves in these circumstances?

I am far from saying that there should not be a Debate on the coalmining situation, but not at the present time. That is in accordance with the best advice I have received from those who really have great knowledge of the problem.

National Finance

Bank Of England (Note Issue)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount of composition paid by the Bank of England under the Bank Charter Act, 1844, and the Bankers Composition Act, 1856, to other banks for the years 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1942, in consideration of the discontinuance of the issue of notes by these banks.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary gave to this same Question on 14th October, 1943.

Wages And Prices

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can make a statement explaining what is the inflationary effect of increased wages, salaries and pensions.

I will glady make a statement on this subject on a more suitable occasion. Meantime, I would refer my hon. Friend to the White Paper on Price Stabilisation and Industrial Policy (Cmd. 6294), which was published in July, 1941, and in which the views of the Government on the subject raised in his Question were set out in some detail.

Would not my right hon. Friend consider analysing this very important question, and, having done so, sending a statement of his conclusions to the Secretary of State for War?

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it was with his authority that the Secretary of State for War made a statement during the Debate on Service Pay and Allowances last week, that the increased cost asked for would cause inflation?

I do not want to be drawn into what I feel would be a fruitless attempt to deal adequately with this very large subject, within the limits of a Parliamentary Question. With regard to the supplementary question just put to me, I would say this—that, if some of the more extreme statements made in the course of the Debate in question were accepted and acted upon, the result, in my opinion, would definitely be inflationary.

The Chancellor has implied that he would make a statement on a suitable occasion. Surely, when the Secretary for War has told the country that to do justice to the soldier would cause the wildest inflation, that is a suitable opportunity for a discussion?

War Savings

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will indicate to head offices of banks, insurance companies and other large commercial institutions that it is desirable that their investments in Government securities, in connection with "Salute the Soldier," should be made exclusively in the area where the head office is situated and not spread over their branches.

No, Sir. The funds at the disposal of these institutions for investment in War Loans are largely derived from the activities of their local branches. It is, therefore, quite proper that these institutions should allocate their investments to their branches and so enable each branch to partake in the savings movement of the local community to which it belongs. The practice has been generally followed in previous savings campaigns, and I fully approve its adoption in the forthcoming "Salute the Soldier Weeks."

Arising out of that reply, does the Chancellor not realise that, owing to the practice described in this Question, the small saver is led to suppose on the day the campaign opens that the object has largely been achieved, whereas, in fact, nothing of the kind has happened? Is that not an unsatisfactory state of affairs?

I think not. I think it is all part of a necessary process of stimulating interest in small savings. I think we have every reason to be satisfied with the results so far achieved as a result of these campaigns.

Is not the whole plan one of continuing to deceive the people in this matter?

Does not the Chancellor's statement indicate that not one-tenth of these savings are genuine savings; and is it not a very expensive way of stimulating saving?

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the maximum contribution for savings certificates a firm is allowed to charge against E.P.T. under the heading "welfare" in schemes to assist their employees to purchase War Savings Certificates.

As my predecessor explained on the 5th August, 1943, in reply to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) contributions made by an employer towards the purchase of National Savings Certificates by his employees normally rank as a deduction in computing his profits for taxation purposes, provided that such contributions are not unreasonable in amount. The question whether contributions made by a particular employer should be regarded as unreasonable would need to be considered in the light of the full circumstances of the particular case.

Arising out of that reply, will the Chancellor agree that the case in which a 50 per cent. contribution is made is reasonable, in view of the fact that a person who buys a certificate can go on the same day to a Post Office and cash it for the full value, and is not the Chancellor losing revenue?

I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Currency

57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much new money has been created since the outbreak of war and by what methods.

If the word "money" in the Question refers to notes and coin, the estimated total of such currency held outside the banks increased by about £570,000,000 between August, 1939, and January, 1944. If more than this is meant to be covered, I can only say that I know of no satisfactory way of measuring the amount of "new money."