House Of Commons
Tuesday, 28th March, 1944
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Jewish Colonization Association Bill Lords
"That in the case of the Jewish Colonization Association Bill [Lords], Standing Order 220 be suspended, provided that the Agent for the Bill shall give notice To-morrow of the day proposed for Second Reading."—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Oral Answers To Questions
Anti-Aircraft Personnel (Transfers)
asked the Secretary of State for War, whether he is aware that Territorials with 4½ years' service with anti-aircraft units have recently been transferred to infantry regiments; and why was not some choice allowed these men.
Such transfers are avoided if possible and only take place if they are necessary in the interests of the Service. In these circumstances, I regret that the men cannot be given an option not to transfer.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that a Territorial, who for years has voluntarily prepared himself for active service, should, at any rate, be afforded the same privilege as a conscientious objector—that of deciding in which branch he should serve?
I am sorry, but I can only repeat that at the present time the main need for the Army is infantry and that compulsory transfer from other arms must take place as necessary.
Medical Officers' Leave (Examinations)
asked the Secretary of State for War if a medical officer in the Army with English qualifications must forgo any leave due to him if he wishes to sit for Scottish medical examinations.
While a medical officer is not given additional leave he is allowed to draw on the next period of privilege leave due to him in order to sit for the examination. I need hardly add that these rules apply to all officers, no matter where they have acquired their present qualifications or where they wish to acquire further qualifications.
Personnel, India And Burma (Leave)
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that a number of officers and other ranks have been in India and Burma for over five years; arid does the question of leave consideration for those who have served abroad continuously for over five years apply to them.
Yes, Sir. In general, officers and men who have served continuously overseas for five years will have left India for home in a few weeks' time.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider, in deciding about those who are to get home, that those who come from warm climates should come home during the summer-time, in order to minimise the strain upon their health?
They will have to come home when shipping is available.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now prepared to consider an issue of socks lo the Home Guard.
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Murray) on 6th April last. I understand that the supply position has not improved since then and it is not possible to consider any additions to the items now issued to members of the Home Guard without coupons.
How does the reply of the President of the Board of Trade meet the situation? After all, the Home Guard have to wear socks whether they are provided by the Army or not.
On the contrary, this is a proposal that they should have additional socks.
Would my right hon. Friend consider wearing a pair of Army boots with civilian socks for one week, and then answering this Question again?
asked the Secretary of State for War when it is proposed that women members of the Home Guard shall be supplied with uniforms, respirators and steel helmets.
asked the Secretary of State for War if it is permissible for women Home Guard units to wear uniforms; is there any standard pattern for such uniforms or is each local unit permitted to wear a pattern of their own choice; is any part of such uniform issued officially; and is any grant made by the Government towards its cost.
No uniform has been supplied or approved by the War Office for women nominated for service with the Home Guard. There is no objection to women who are members of a uniformed voluntary organisation wearing their uniform on duties connected with the Home Guard. The issue of a uniform is not contemplated, but I will look into the matter of helmets and respirators.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that some local units are now wearing uniforms of their own choice and of varying patterns and is it not wrong that we should have a dozen or more different types of uniforms worn by women's units of the Home Guard?
The only prohibition is against wearing uniforms which simulate official uniforms. So long as they do not do that, I honestly think the best course is to turn the blind eye.
The right hon. Gentleman did not answer my question in regard to respirators and steel helmets.
Yes, I think my hon. and gallant friend will find that I did. I said I would look into the matter of helmets and respirators.
Is the right hon. gentleman aware that these women have to perform signalling, intelligence and clerical duties without any protection, the men wearing steel helmets and these women wearing unsuitable putty medals?
I can only repeat that I will look into the matter of helmets and respirators.
asked the Secretary of State for War the comparative amount awarded on mustering to men and women members of the Home Guard as to subsistence, feeding, travelling and compensation for loss of wages.
During their service in the Home Guard, male members are eligible for subsistence allowance of 1s. 6d. for a continuous period of duty of 5–8 hours; 3s. for 8–15 hours; 4s. 6d. for 15–24 hours. If practicable, subsistence in kind is provided in lieu. They are eligible for refund of reasonable travelling expenses incurred in attending authorised duty; and may claim compensation for loss of earnings, in respect of courses of not less than 6 days' duration or in certain other circumstances, up to a maximum rate of £3 18s. 6d. a week or 13s. 1d. a day. Women nominated for employment with the Home Guard are not eligible for these payments.
Is it not time that this miserable differentiation between men and women should cease? Why are these women called upon to give up their money and jobs without getting any compensation?
They are not called up. They offer their services. It is contrary to the intentions of the War Office that they should come from long distances or have their ordinary avocations interfered with.
Are we to understand that women who are trained for this kind of thing, have the option of not coming out in an emergency?
Their services are offered on a purely voluntary basis.
Middle East (Air Mail Letters)
asked the Secretary of State for War how many air-mail letters can be sent home from the Middle East each week by each soldier, sailor and airman; what are the reasons for rationing these letters; and whether there is any rationing of airgraphs.
The number of air mail letters which soldiers in the Middle East may send home is being increased from five to six in each period of four weeks. The limited aircraft capacity available makes this rationing necessary. Airgraphs take up a much smaller space and it is possible to allow soldiers to send as many of these as they like.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will take immediate steps to prevent the proposals to take water and erect military works in certain areas, of which he has been informed, in view of the existing shortage of water due to low rainfall and present difficulties in supplying water to villages and for farm stock.
I am aware of the shortage of water to which my hon. Friend refers. A committee representing the Services, the Ministry of Health and the Regional Commissioners is about to study the problem locally with a view to ensuring that the needs of the civil population in the area are safeguarded and detailed instructions have recently been issued to the troops in the area to prevent the waste and contamination of water supplies. Apart from certain measures to prevent damage to roads and the disturbance of cattle sanctuaries, I am not aware of any military works being carried out but investigations are being made into this on the spot. My hon. Friend will appreciate that the proper training of the troops—for which purpose the use of the land is taken in the first place—would be severely handicapped if they could not erect any works necessary for this training and if they could not use the water in the area.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that the troops in question came into the area without notice yesterday, and filled up their water wagons from these resources, which means that people cannot remain in the area and that immediate action is necessary?
Immediate action has been taken. The point about short notice is a new one, and I would like to look into it.
Booklet, "The Eighth Army"
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the official publication, "The Eighth Army," was approved by the Army Council prior to publication.
The Eighth Army booklet is one of a series issued to give in popular form an account of various features and phases of the war of general interest. The task of preparing these booklets is entrusted to selected writers who are given the necessary facilities for their work, but the booklets are not intended to be official documents of the blue book variety. They are not submitted for formal Army Council approval.
Is there any effective means of preventing newspapers drawing attention to, and making comments on, officers when such officers are unable to make any answer to the accusations?
Are these publications submitted for the approval of the Secretary of State for War?
The answer is, "No, Sir."
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of perturbation at this novel departure from precedent, which appears to be very unfair to many high ranking officers at present holding positions in other parts of the Empire?
There are only two alternatives in this matter, namely, either to have the booklets produced not on an official basis, and with no attempt to control them closely, or to have them carefully "vetted" and officially issued by the Army Council. I, personally, think that the former is the better of the two alternatives.
Is the Minister aware that the average reader accepts them as official publications? Will he bear that in mind?
I will certainly consider whether it is possible to make clear that they are not.
Can the Minister say whether the three generals referred to were given the opportunity of seeing this version before it was published in the booklet?
I think not.
Will my right hon. Friend consider issuing a preface to the booklet, making these points clear?
asked the Secretary of State for War whether members of the A.T.S. are eligible for awards such as the D.S.O., M.C., D.C.M. and M.M.
Members of the A.T.S. are not eligible for the D.S.O., M.C., or D.C.M. They are eligible for the V.C., G.C., G.M., M.M., for appointment to the appropriate classes of the Order of the British Empire (Military Division), or the award of the British Empire Medal (Military Division), according to rank, for Mentions in Despatches and for Commendations for brave conduct.
Does not my right hon. Friend think that if women are employed operationally in anti-aircraft units there ought to be the same eligibility for D.S.O., M.C., D.C.M. and M.M. as is given to the men serving alongside them?
I think there is an apparent inconsistency in the rules, but in point of actual fact the V.C. and the M.M. are now only awarded for active operations against the enemy in the field. Should conditions ever arise when women are really operationally employed against the enemy, the matter will require further consideration.
Are not operations in the air, really operations in the field? Many of these women are employed in the aircraft service.
British Prisoners Of War
asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is possible to arrange for the ribbon of the 1939–43 Star to be sent to the British prisoners of war in European enemy camps who are entitled to wear it, in view of the encouraging effects such action would have upon our men.
This matter is under consideration.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of giving a ribbon to all Members of Parliament who have served for 35 years?
There can be no possibility, as my hon. Friend will realise, of my taking such action.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether all prisoners of war have been treated for purposes of income tax payments as non-resident, and have been given the appropriate reliefs to which they are entitled.
I have been asked to reply. The ordinary rules determining residence apply to members of the Forces, and in particular any member of the Forces who is serving abroad or is a prisoner of war is a non-resident for Income Tax purposes if he is out of the country for the whole of any Income Tax year. Where the Revenue authorities are aware that a prisoner of war is entitled to relief on non-residence or other grounds the relief would automatically be given. As already announced, steps are being taken to give further publicity to the taxation relief to which Service personnel may be entitled and the case of prisoners of war will be specially dealt with.
In view of the very long delays which have occurred in obtaining answers from the Treasury, will not the right hon. Gentleman have the whole matter looked into so that notices can be sent to relatives without further delay?
I do not know the cases of delay to which the hon. Member refers. If she will let me have them, I will look into the matter.
May I have an assurance that the emphasis will be laid on the Treasury and not on the individuals who are prisoners of war.
This is a matter for the Board of Inland Revenue and as part of the publicity in regard to prisoners of war it is proposed to furnish the Red Cross Society with a statement for inclusion in the publications issued by the Prisoners of War Department of the Society.
Have the Army agents now adjusted the accounts of prisoners of war for 1940–1–2?
In all cases where they have the particulars.
What arrangements have the Service Departments with the Treasury to inform them and the Revenue authorities that Servicemen are in fact prisoners of war?
I must look into that.
Cypriots (War Service Grants)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is proposed to extend war service grants to the families, resident in Cyprus, of Cypriots now serving in the Forces.
A proposal to this effect has been received and is being given consideration.
Is it not a fact that a similar system was instituted in Egypt, and might it not be convenient if that system were to cover Cyprus?
Does my hon. Friend perhaps mean Palestine?
More or less.
It is not quite the same thing. There is a scheme in Palestine which has some resemblance to this but the circumstances are not on all fours. As I say, a proposal is now under consideration, but I cannot go beyond that at the moment.
Will the scheme also apply to Cypriots, Maltese and Palestinians resident in Egypt and called up under the Conscription Act there?
I will make a note of the hon. Lady's point in the course of the consideration which is being given to the scheme. But as no final decision has been given, I cannot tell her whether the scheme will apply to any particular place.
asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that there are complaints as to the fare provided in N.A.A.F.I. canteens and as to the attitude towards the men of employees, which compares unfavourably with that in Y.M.C.A. and other canteens staffed by voluntary workers; and if he will cause inquiry to be made.
I am not aware of any such general complaint and I do not think an inquiry is necessary. If my hon. and gallant Friend will send me particulars of specific complaints they will be immediately investigated.
Is not there a general idea that the fare supplied by N.A.A.F.I. is inferior to that supplied by the Y.M.C.A. and other voluntary organisations?
A general idea is one thing and a general complaint is another. I think we had better proceed from the specific to the general.
In view of the slur cast upon N.A.A.F.I. in this Question, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that serving behind a N.A.A.F.I. counter is quite different from serving behind a Y.M.C.A. counter?
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the conditions and the quality of the food supplied by Y.M.C.A. canteens vary from place to place just as much as in N.A.A.F.I.?
I am quite prepared to agree with that.
Is my right hon. Friend not aware that there is a very considerable disparity between the service given by N.A.A.F.I. and that given by the Allied organisations and will he take steps to bring it up to the same level?
Town And Country Planning
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he proposes to introduce legislation to deal with town and country planning and the acquisition of land for the purpose of reconstruction or development.
As already announced by my noble Friend the Minister of Reconstruction the Government's proposals—including proposals for Scotland—will be presented to Parliament as soon as possible after Easter.
Will the 1939 ceiling apply to Scotland as well as to England?
Whatever proposals are put forward will cover Scotland.
Has not my right hon. Friend observed that, when the statement to which he referred was made, one of his colleagues said that "as soon as possible after Easter" might mean shortly before Christmas?
The answer that I have given is as soon as possible after Easter. I said nothing about Christmas.
May we take it that the Minister will be ruthless in acquiring land and will have no consideration for the old gang?
Hill Sheep Industry
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the Government propose to introduce legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Balfour Committee on the Hill Sheep Industry.
I am presently engaged in discussions with the Scots hill sheep industry upon certain aspects of the recommendations contained in the Report of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee. I expect to have the considered views of all sections of the industry at an early date, and I shall then consider, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture who has before him a report on the industry in England and Wales, the measures which might most suitably be adopted.
Will the right hon. Gentieman afford an opportunity for discussion in the House on that Report?
Prior to the introduction of legislation?
That is a question which must be put to the Leader of the House.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a certain amount of valuable Lowland agricultural land is passing to the control of the Forestry Commissioners because the owners do not know what the future of farming is to be?
There have been discussions on all these subjects and that matter would more profitably be raised when a discussion takes place on the hill sheep industry.
Is there any justification for the hon. and gallant Gentleman's supplementary question?
To give my personal opinion, I am afraid that there is.
Hydro-Electric Board (Scheme)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he can give any indication of the progress made by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board in the preparation of the various types of scheme provided for in the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943.
Yes, Sir. The Board's development scheme, listing 102 projects with a potential annual output of 6,274 million units which the Board propose to examine, has now been approved by the Electricity Commissioners and confirmed by me. Copies have been placed in the Library and copies are available for inspection at the Board's offices at 16, Rothesay Terrace, Edinburgh, and at suitable points in the North of Scotland district. The development scheme indicates that the surveying and planning for the first of the construction schemes in Perthshire, Dunbartonshire, Argyllshire and Inverness-shire are already well advanced: and that the surveying and planning of distribution schemes in the North of Scotland area have already begun.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has any statement to make on the Order in Council (S.R. & O. No. 326 of 1944) relating to agricultural wages.
This Order made certain changes in the machinery for fixing the wages of agricultural workers in Scotland. I am circulating a statement on the effect of the Order in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Will the powers of the Scottish Board be the same as those of the English Board?
That is substantially the purpose of this Order. It will operate for the duration of the war.
Following is the statement:
Hitherto under the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) (Scotland) Acts, 1937 and 1940, responsibility for fixing minimum rates of wages for agricultural workers has rested with the eleven District Agricultural Wages Committees subject to the exercise of revising powers by the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board. The Defence Regulation enacted by the Order in Coun- cil has the effect of transferring the initiative in minimum wage rate fixation from the District Committees to the Board. The Board is required to consult the District Committee concerned before fixing, cancelling or varying any minimum rate for any district and the Committees are authorised to make representations and recommendations to the Board at any time as to the exercise of the Board's powers. As the Board is thus made the wage regulating authority for Scots agricultural workers, the powers of the District Committee under the Holidays with Pay Act, 1938, to give directions as to the allowance of holidays with pay for these workers are also transferred to the Board. The Regulation brings Scottish procedure into line with English, and, as in that country, its operation is limited to the period during which agricultural prices are fixed nationally and a market is assured for agricultural produce.
Fuel Advisory Council
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement as to the duties of the National Fuel Advisory Council.
I propose shortly to appoint a Fuel Advisory Council to advise on certain major technical and economic problems of fuel and power production and utilisation which I should refer to them. Within the limits imposed by war conditions my Department has been at work on these problems and a volume of valuable information is being collected. My intention is that the Council shall consist of a small number of experts in the fields of science, economics and industry, and, while it will not have executive or regulatory functions, I feel sure it will render valuable service, especially during the reconstruction period. I hope to be in a position to make a further statement on this subject in due course.
Will my right hon. and gallant Friend give an assurance that it is not part of the duties of this body to tell us exactly what we have to use in our own houses?
Will the terms of reference include smoke abatement?
I should think so.
Will it be within the functions of this Council to tender advice to the Minister on matters which have not been referred to them by him?
I should not reject that.
Is the Minister aware that he will never get anywhere with coal control and fuel advisory committees, until the Government take full control of the mines?
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many miners engaged in the industry at the outbreak of war are still engaged in the mines. Major Lloyd George: I regret this information is not available.
Why is it not possible to get the information?
It would involve examining everyone engaged in industry at the moment.
Could not a figure be given later?
I can give a rough figure.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many miners were employed in the coal industry at the beginning of the war; how many have since been lost, respectively, by death from natural causes, fatal accidents, industrial diseases, transference to other industries, conscription in the armed forces and retirement on account of age.
The number of wage-earners on colliery books on 2nd September, 1939, was 762,400. The number of persons killed at mines under the Coal Mines Act, 1911, between the 3rd September, 1939, and the 11th March, 1944, was 3,872. I regret that information regarding wastage from other causes, in the detailed form required by my hon. Friend, is not available.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many tons of coal were lost during the last six months, respectively, through stoppages of work and through restriction of output; and what this loss of tonnage represents in terms of the present monthly allowance of house coal for 1,000,000 homes.
The estimated tonnage lost during the 26 weeks ended the 11th March, 1944, owing to disputes in the coal industry was 1,508,000 tons. No information is available on a national basis regarding the tonnage lost owing to restriction of output. It is not possible to say how much of the tonnage lost would otherwise have been distributed as house coal, and it cannot, therefore, be expressed in terms of the present maximum permitted quantities.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the tonnage of British coal sold abroad for each year since the outbreak of War, including, if possible, the first three months of 1944.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to a similar Question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) on 25th January.
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree with the statement in the Press the other day that we sold 47,000 tons of coal to Portugal? How can he convince the miners of the necessity to produce coal for the war effort if we are able to sell coal abroad?
I can only assure my hon. Friend that there are things we need from abroad, and, as I said in my answer the other day, we are not exporting any coal which is necessary for our own war effort.
Trade And Commerce
asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of retail business premises, in the following categories, which have been closed since the outbreak of war: branches of multiple stores, branches of co-operative societies and shops of all other types, respectively.
Up to the 18th March, 11,490 applications had been entered on the register of withdrawing traders. Of these, 2,663 were in respect of branches of multiples; 173 in respect of branches of co-operative societies; and 8,654 in respect of shops of all other types.
Does not the answer emphasise the point that the small private shops are suffering the most?
I do not think that it does, having regard to the proportion to the probable number of multiple shops, of which we have no accurate figures.
Have the co-operative societies had any special privileges in this matter?
No section of the retail trade has had any special privileges.
Company Law (Committee)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Cohen Committee investigating company law has completed the taking of evidence; and whether any interim Report is likely to be submitted to him.
No, Sir. The Committee has not yet completed the taking of evidence. I do not anticipate that they will submit an interim report.
Lost Laundry Articles (Replacement)
asked the President of the Board of Trade on what basis coupons are allotted for replacement of articles lost through enemy action while in laundries; whether he is aware that in North London, Case No. 59204, only eight coupons were awarded for replacing the loss of two towels, three shirts and six collars; and whether he will take steps to remedy such anomalies.
In the present shortage of supplies, coupons can be issued to replace lost clothing only to the extent that the applicants' remaining stock falls below a minimum essential level. The case referred to by my hon. Friend was dealt with in this way.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the increasing difficulties being experienced by housewives, he will now consider the issue of a special grant of coupons to enable them to purchase towels for general household purposes.
No, Sir. As my right hon. Friend has explained in answer to previous Questions, I regret that shortage of supplies prevents the granting of extra coupons for this purpose.
In the interests of public health and hygiene, will not my right hon. and gallant Friend reconsider this decision?
I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend will realise the extreme difficulty of any rationing based on households. He will bear in mind also that the coupon value of towels is not a very large one.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that elastic, normally used for children's underwear, four yards of which pre-war sold for 3d., is now in short supply and being offered for sale almost exclusively by pavement hucksters and kerbside pedlars at 9d. and 1s. per yard; and if he will arrange with the manufacturers for any fresh supplies to be sold directly through properly established and recognised shopkeepers and fix a price-control Order.
I am aware of the shortage of elastic, but arrangements have been made for the allocation as from March of increased quantities of braid elastic to the retail trade. Following careful examination by the Central Price Regulation Committee, my right hon. Friend has signed an Order fixing maximum retail prices for a number of haberdashery items which are in short supply, including narrow elastic, the maximum price of which will be from 1d. to 2d. per yard, according to the type. This Order will come into force on 10th April. It is hoped that these measures will discourage the abuses to which my hon. Friend, refers.
I thank the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for the information, but may I ask whether he is aware that the Make-do-and-Mend Scheme, which is very popular with the women folk, is being undermined by various rackets such as are suggested in the Question, and will his officers keep a close watch on the operation of these rascals, who, somehow, seem to overcome every Order made?
I was not aware that the Make-do-and-Mend Scheme had been hampered by this, but I am aware of the practice to which the hon. Member refers, and our officers will do their utmost to put it down.
Why is the application of this Order being delayed until 10th April?
For administrative reasons.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the inferior quality as well as the high price of men's braces now on the market; and whether he will take steps to deal with both these matters.
No, Sir. Most of the braces now coming on the market must conform to close specifications and are price controlled. It, however, my hon. Friend will send me samples of the braces he has in mind, I shall be glad to investigate his complaint.
Is the Minister aware that at the present time it costs as much to keep trousers up for six weeks, as it did formerly to keep them up for six years; and that 5s. now buys a pair of braces which is worth only 6d.?
United Kingdom Commercial Corporation
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation propose to take to further British trade with Turkey and neighbouring countries after the war.
It is too soon to say what functions the Corporation will be needed to perform after the war.
As this is the last Question to the Board of Trade, would the hon. Member be good enough to convey to his right hon. Friend our sympathy and condolence in his sad bereavement?
Spain And Portugal (Wolfram Exports)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare what progress has been made in the negotiations to pre-empt the supply of wolfram from Portugal and Spain.
The negotiations in Lisbon and Madrid regarding exports of wolfram to the enemy are still in progress. Until these negotiations are concluded it is impossible to forecast the quantity of wolfram the United Nations will purchase in the Iberian Peninsula.
In view of the fact that 90 per cent. of German requirements of wolfram come from these countries, could not the Minister say what is the cause of these interminable delays? Is it not time that we informed our ancient Ally that she is acting more like an enemy in this matter?
The Portuguese Government have been left in no doubt of our views on the subject.
Do Spain and Portugal continue, at the moment, to supply Germany with 90 per cent. of her wolfram?
I do not think that it is possible in a word or two to give an answer which would not be misleading. Perhaps my hon. Friends will put their questions down.
Anti-Aircraft Fire, Casualties (Compensation)
asked the Minister of Pensions in how many cases to date has compensation been paid in respect of persons killed by our own anti-aircraft shells; and what is the normal amount of such compensation.
My statistical records do not enable me to distinguished between war injuries of this kind and those due to other war operations, and I therefore regret that the information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available. The rate of pension to the widow of a gainfully-occupied person is the same as that for the widow of a private soldier.
National War Effort (Drug Women)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he consulted by the Central Pharmaceutical War Committee before he came to his recent decision to withdraw women born in 1923, employed as drug women from pharmacy.
No, Sir. To meet the urgent demands for young women for vital services and industries, it was recently decided by the Government that all women born in 1923 should be withdrawn from their present employment, with certain specified exceptions which did not include drug women.
Is the Minister aware that the withdrawal of these women will paralyse the health services in certain parts of the country?
No, Sir, I am not aware of that.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that answer, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
War Despatches (Publication)
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the criticism of Army commanders contained in the official publication, "The Eighth Army," he will now publish the despatches of the Commanders-in-chief.
asked the Prime Minister whether, as a correction to adverse comments on officers holding high positions in the Services contained in some publications of the Ministry of Information, he will consider the need to modify the reply he gave to the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Abingdon, on 9th December, 1942, and publish the despatches both in regard to those campaigns and later operations, if they form the subject of criticism of individuals who have no other means of stating officially their point of view.
No, Sir. I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on 2nd November last.
Is not the position changed somewhat, in view of the publication of "The Eighth Army," under official auspices? Does not the Prime Minister think it highly improper that generals should be criticised in this manner by the War Office, while the public have had no opportunity of reading their despatches?
Especially while they are still serving.
This particular publication is one of a series which gives accounts, which I believe are of great interest to the public, of the different campaigns. The passages referring to particular changes of command were not written in any controversial style and do not, in my opinion, in any way alter the answer I gave against publication of despatches in time of war. They do not reflect upon the officers concerned in any manner which would require any further official statement. Of course, if I were pressed to make a further statement, I should be ready to state the reasons why I made certain changes, but I should deprecate it, in the interests of all concerned.
Could the Prime Minister say, for the information of the House, whether it is the case that, although despatches are not being published now, despatches are being received and considered by the appropriate authority, appointed by the right hon. Gentleman himself within the Cabinet, for subsequent publication?
Yes, Sir, certainly, Despatches are referred to the Defence Committee and are otherwise examined, but we are not making a practice of publishing them at the present time. As to this booklet, which was written by the War Office, I had not myself seen it until attention was drawn to it by this Question, but, as I say, it is one of a series of an informative character. I do not consider that it reflects upon the officers concerned in any manner which would require a special departure from the practice we have adopted.
Would the Prime Minister make it clear that his decision not to publish the despatches now in no way involves a departure from the custom which has always existed, of publishing such despatches after the war, provided they can be published without damage to the public interest?
Certainly; of course they will be published. I have not actually re-read them but I have looked through them, since this Question was put on the Paper. They are extremely lengthy, and I am not sure that they do throw very much light upon the position of these particular officers.
Would the Prime Minister take this opportunity of making it clearer to the public than it now is that these publications are not, in fact, official publications, and that the Government do not accept official responsibility?
I do not think the Government are responsible for anything in these particular publications.
asked the Prime Minister if he will consider making a statement on the progress of operations at Cassino and other Italian fronts.
No, Sir; not at present.
Does the Prime Minister consider it satisfactory that, despite his telegram, critical reports are still coming in from war correspondents in Italy, while, at the same time, no authoritative statement is made by His Majesty's Government in the House of Commons as to the progress of the operations?
Perhaps there might not be sufficient progress of operations for any statement to be made by His Majesty's Government.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind what he said on Sunday, that the British people can take it, and that the public want to be told about our setbacks as well as about our success?
I think the public are not denied a clear view of the conditions which exist in Italy. I do not think there is any advantage in going into all the details, as that would be very helpful to the enemy. I certainly have not concealed my disappointment that progress has not been quicker. I hope that that admission will give satisfaction to the hon. Gentleman.
Is it not very undesirable to make statements one way or the other about difficult operations which are still in progress?
Service Personnel (Civil Pay)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give the proportion of Service personnel who are having their Service pay made up to their pre-war rates by the Government, from local government sources or from other sources, respectively.
The number of civil servants serving with the Forces who were in receipt of, or eligible for, balance of civil pay on the 1st January, 1944, was 123,083. This number includes some who receive no balance because their Service pay exceeds their civil pay. I regret that no information is available regarding the numbers of Service personnel who are receiving balance of civil pay from local authorities or from private employers; and it would not be in the public interest to state what proportion of the total strength of the Armed Forces is represented by the Civil Service figure.
In view of the important bearings which this whole question has on the subject of pay and allowances in the Army, will the Chancellor consider taking figures of certain sample units with a view to arriving at the total?
I do not think it has any real relevance to the question of pay in the Army.
Would this procedure on the part of the Government be necessary at all, if the Services were adequately paid?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will consider giving encouragement to old people, who have returned to industry to help with the war effort, by making post-war credit notes payable on demand at the Post Office to all persons on attaining their 70th birthday.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my predecessor on the 19th January, 1943, to my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke).
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether members of the Services who are serving abroad or who are prisoners of war are subject to a deduction from their post-war credit on this account.
No, Sir. The Income Tax post-war credit depends solely upon, and is measured by, the additional tax payable by reason of the cut in the personal allowances and reliefs made by the Finance Act, 1941. Where a member of the Forces, whether by reason of service abroad or by reason of being a prisoner of war, is for Income Tax purposes nonresident, his post-war credit is unaffected if his whole income is liable to tax, for he gets the whole of the personal allowances and reliefs. If, on the other hand, he has income from foreign sources which ceases to be liable to tax because he is non-resident, the law provides in effect that he should be given only a part of his personal allowances and reliefs, proportionate to the amount of his income liable to tax as compared with the total amount of his income, including income not liable to tax, and this involves a corresponding reduction of his post-war credit, as compared with the post-war Credit which would be allowed if his whole income were liable to tax.
Will my right hon. Friend see that all prisoners of war are told what is the position, because the impression is that they are not getting a square deal?
Yes, Sir; I can assure my hon. Friend that special attention will be given to that matter.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if soldiers, sailors and airmen, serving abroad and prisoners of war are subject to a deduction in their post-war credits; and if they are treated as residents for purposes of taxation and non-residents for post-war credits.
As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer which I have just given to my hon. Friend the member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). As regards the second part, a person who is resident for tax purposes is treated as resident for all those purposes, including post-war credit, and similarly a person who is non-resident for tax purposes is non-resident for the purposes of post-war credit.
Has the prisoner of war to be non-resident for three years before he can claim the advantage of this concession?
No, Sir; I think not.
Tithe Redemption Annuities
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the receipts under the tithe redemption annuities during the last fiscal year and what was the cost of collection.
The receipts and payments of the Redemption Annuities Account are published annually, and the Accounts for the last financial year were published on 29th February (House of Commons Paper 32 of 1944). It will be seen that the instalments of annuities collected in that year amounted to £2,754,190 and that the total administrative expenses incurred under the Tithe Act, 1936, were £296,979. The separation of the costs of collection from the other expenses would involve an amount of labour disproportionate to the value of the result.
Does not the Chancellor consider that the cost of collecting this tax, included in the other figures he has given, is disproportionately high?
I really do not know.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the amounts of tithe redemption annuities outstanding at the end of the last fiscal year and in how many cases has action been taken to recover the same.
The total amount of instalments outstanding on 31st March, 1943, was approximately £384,000, of which £260,000 has so far been recovered. Statistics of the number of applications to the Court in respect of these arrears are not readily available and the labour of extracting them would not be justifiable.
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that it is high time, in the name of commonsense and good agriculture, that this antiquated impost should be removed from the land?
I think that is a matter which was dealt with by Parliament not long ago.
Is the Chancellor satisfied that the 1936 Act does provide machinery to deal with cases of excessive hardship?
That is a separate question. I should like to see it on the Order Paper.
Great Britain And United States (Double Taxation)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is in a position to make a statement as to the exploratory talks taking place between the respective Governments of Great Britain and the U.S.A., with a view to concluding a tax convention for the avoidance of double taxation and fiscal evasion.
I am not in a position to make any statement on this subject at present.
Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the Government will take every possible steps to secure an accommodation with our American friends?
Grassland Plou—Hing Subsidy (Income Tax)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been called to the recent judgment in the King's Bench Division whereby the £2 per acre grant for ploughing up old grassland was held to be liable for Income Tax; and whether, in view of the continued necessity of increasing the ploughing up of old pasture in order to grow more food, he will take steps to remove this anomaly.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been drawn to the finding in the King's Bench Division by Mr. Justice MacNaughton that the £2 per acre grant paid for ploughing up grassland is subject to Income Tax and not a capital payment exempt from tax; and what measures he proposes to take to ensure that farmers will receive the full benefit of the £2 grant and are, in addition, safeguarded against retrospective taxation as from the date of the grant.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the Inland Revenue claim Income Tax on the £2 an acre subsidy paid to farmers for ploughing up old grassland; and will he take steps to see that this anomaly is corrected with retrospective effect as this was never made clear to farmers at the time the subsidy was introduced.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in view of the judgment given in the King's Bench Division that the ploughing-up subsidy is subject to tax, he will insert a clause in the Finance Bill to make it clear that such payments are not subject to tax.
The decision of the High Court in regard to the ploughing grant was that it fell to be treated for taxation purposes as a payment towards the expenses of ploughing the land and bringing it into a state of cleanliness and fertility. While the payment thus is included as a receipt, the actual expenses of the ploughing and other cultivations, which I may observe are usually greater than the grant, are allowed as a deduction in the computation of the farming profits.The effect therefore of the decision is not simply that the subsidy itself is liable to tax but that the subsidy as well as the expenses towards which it is given are both taken into account in arriving at the balance of profit, and I cannot agree with the suggestion in the questions that such treatment, which is that accorded to traders generally in respect of any payment towards their expenses, involves any anomaly.
Is it not a fact that this grant of £2 an acre which was originally given by the Government for ploughing up old pasture, was looked upon as a capital payment; and is it not a fact that even if it was looked on as liable to Income Tax, the tax was then 7s. in the £? Since then the tax has gone up to 10s. and prices have increased.
I think the hon. and gallant Member is overlooking the other consideration, that the increase in the rate of tax increases the value of the allowances for expenses as a deduction in computing tax. As to whether it is to be regarded as capital, the late Sir Kingsley Wood, in the course of last year, made it quite clear that the view of the Government from the outset had been, as indeed is borne out by the wording of the Act under which the grants are made, that these grants are contributions in aid of expenditure.
If this payment is treated as a capital payment, the allowances will still be deductible expenses in respect of the farmer's other income. Really, has not the Chancellor muddled up the whole issue by bringing in the question of expenses?
I do not think so. Neither did the High Court think so.
Is it not a fact that this agreement was made with the industry on the understanding that this would not be liable to Income Tax?
That is certainly entirely new to me.
Did not the whole agricultural industry think that they were getting £2 an acre; and will not this have a very bad effect on the future policy of the Government?
I am sorry for that, but the wording of the Statute is perfectly clear that this was a contribution towards the special cost of ploughing up.
Is the Chancellor aware that these farmers do not find that this keeping of highly complicated accounts is easy? They are not like ordinary trade and business men, and would it not be much fairer to them if this was not regarded as a source of income?
In view of the complications on this point, may I ask the Chancellor whether his answer means that the Government take the money out of the farmer's right-hand pocket and put it back in his left-hand pocket?
No, Sir, what the answer means is that the expense to which farmers are put in carrying out the policy regarding the ploughing up of land is, in fact, reduced for all purposes by the amount of the subsidy.
In view of the very great anxiety which this decision has caused, and the necessity for ploughing up more grass land, will the Chancellor receive a deputation of hon. Members of this House?
I shall be very glad to receive any representations.
We cannot spend all Question Time on one Question.
Service Personnel, Eire (Income Tax)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether officers of His' Majesty's Forces, normally resident in Eire, pay Income Tax in Eire or in the United Kingdom; and at what rate.
The liability to tax is governed by the Double Taxation Agreement between this country and Eire, to which effect was given by Section 23 of the Finance Act, 1926, and by the war-time concession regarding individuals who come from the Dominions to join the Forces here. Under the Agreement, each country exempts from its own tax persons who are not resident within its territory but are resident in the other country, and in the case of a person who is resident in both countries Double Taxation Relief is given by both countries, which has the effect, broadly, that the total tax payable is the higher of the two taxes. Under the war-time concession, income which was not liable to our tax while the individual was resident in the Dominion is not subjected to our tax by reason of his coming here to join the Forces.I gather my hon. Friend has in mind the case of a member of the Forces who, before joining the Forces, was resident in Eire and not resident in the United Kingdom. If he is still a resident in Eire—and he may be if, for instance, he maintains residence there and pays visits to Eire—he would be liable to Eire tax but he would not be liable to United Kingdom tax, except on his Service pay, and then only if he were resident here. If he is not resident in Eire he would be liable to United Kingdom tax but not to Eire tax on his Service pay.
Why is it that British officers who were resident in the Treaty ports before the cession of those ports to Eire have been asked to pay arrears of Income Tax to Eire, although they had already paid Income Tax to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
I will communicate with my hon. Friend on that matter.
Blind War Worker, Oxford (Income Tax Allowance)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will explain the circumstances in which allowances for expenses in respect of a guide to take him to the omnibus stop for his place of work was refused to a totally-blind war worker of Oxford, of whose name and address he has been informed.
The case to which my hon. Friend refers is under inquiry, and I have not yet received a report. I will communicate with him in due course, but I must point out that the cost of travelling to and from work is not, in general, an admissible expense for Income Tax purposes. The only allowance that is granted is the special war-time allowance, for which provision is made in Section 23, Finance Act, 1941, and Section 26, Finance Act, 1942, in cases where additional expense is incurred owing to a change of place of residence or work through circumstances connected with the war.
If my right hon. Friend came to the conclusion that the present regulations would not permit the deduction of these quite reasonable expenses, which are not borne by the rest of the community, would he see that the regulations were altered?
It is not a question of regulations, but of the provisions of the Statute. Perhaps my hon. Friend will await the communication that I am sending to him.
Fishery Harbours (Repair And Maintenance)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will set up a committee to examine the financial position and future prospects of our fishing harbours and to make recommendations with the object of enabling such harbours as are essential to the efficient conduct of the white, herring and inshore fishing industries to be properly repaired, equipped and maintained after the war.