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Written Answers

Volume 400: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1944

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Written Answers To Questions

British Army

British Regiments (Austrian Platoons)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, following the precedent created in the case of the Danes, he will consider the advisability of grouping Austrians in the British Army into Austrian platoons attached to British regiments.

The position of the two groups is somewhat different. The Danes were enlisted in a body for combatant duty in the Buffs. The Austrians were originally enlisted into the Pioneer Corps. When the restrictions on aliens serving in other corps were relaxed the Austrians who volunteered were transferred to other branches of the Army where their trade and other qualifications could be most fully used. To withdraw them now and regroup them in Austrian platoons of British regiments would involve wasting skill and experience, and in my view would not be in the best interests of the Service.

Wives (Travel Concessions)

asked the Secretary of State for War why the wives of men in the Army are only allowed two cheap travel vouchers as compared with the three allowed to wives of men in the other two Services.

The wives of sailors, soldiers and airmen are all entitled to the same number of journeys at concession rates in the course of a year. Wives will be allowed four journeys during each period of six months during which the allowance books are current. The scheme came into force on 1st June, and the apparent discrepancy to which this Question draws attention arises from the fact that the current allowance books in the Army have a shorter period to run before they expire than the books in the other Services.

Army Form B2626

asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of strengths of units serving with the Home Forces have been issued with A.F. B2626; and whether units are expected to indent for supplies.

Non-Commissioned Officers (Acting Rank)

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that senior non-commissioned officers, returning to this country after five years' service abroad, are losing their rank on the grounds of redundancy; and has he any statement to make on this matter.

A warrant officer or noncommissioned officer in general can only retain his acting rank while he is performing the duties of the rank. But after acting rank has been held for a period, which varies from three to twelve months according to the rank, it is converted to war substantive rank and is retained even if the man leaves his unit.

Home Guard

asked the Secretary of State for War, whether he is aware that members of the staff of the Glasgow telephone area of the Post Office who, from the outset, have been voluntary fireguards, have recently been directed into the Home Guard so that, after the maximum compulsory employment of women fire-guards, a considerable deficiency is created in fire-guard personnel which has to be covered in part by the local authority and largely by directed male personnel as well as several hundreds of the Home Guard in buildings not normally used for Home Guard purposes; and whether he will consider releasing such a number of Home Guards as are necessary for the adequate performance of fire-guard duties.

As regards the first part of the Question, I understand that owing to a serious deficiency in the strength of the 13th Glasgow Battalion of the Home Guard the Post Office released to the Home Guard a certain number of its fireguard personnel on condition that the 13th Battalion took over responsibility for a proportion of the fire-guard duties. With regard to the second part, I am always ready to co-operate with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Home Security to secure that as far as possible Home Guard and fire-guard duties are both adequately performed. Instructions have already been issued enabling members of the Home Guard to assist under certain conditions in fire prevention and other Civil Defence duties.

War Department Staffs, Jerusalem

asked the Secretary of State for War what representations he has now received in regard to the inadequacy of the present cost-of-living bonus for members of the War Department staffs serving in Jerusalem.

I have received a report from the military authorities in Palestine which shows that apart from individual representations the only complaint received in regard to the cost-of-living bonus has been from the local branch of the Civil Service Clerical Association.

Operations, Italy (British And Indian Forces)

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now able to state what British and Indian divisions and units took part in the operations which led to the capture of Rome.

The forces responsible for the capture of Rome are still actively engaged in the pursuit of the enemy, and I regret that it would not be in the public interest to name them now. I am most anxious that the achievements of all units should receive the public appreciation due to them, and I can asure my hon. and learned Friend that the Commander-in-Chief will release these names as soon as it can be done without prejudicing the success of the operations or the safety of the troops engaged.

British Prisoners Of War

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that British soldiers captured at Leros, 17th Novem- ber, are complaining that they have not received any supplies of boots or clothing of any kind since that date and that many of them have nothing but the rags of tropical kit; and will he take prompt measures with the Red Cross or other authorities to see that these issues of necessary clothing are made forthwith.

Considerable quantities of clothing have been despatched from Geneva to all the camps in Germany which are known to have received prisoners from the Dodecanese but, if my hon. and gallant Friend will send me particulars of any men who are still without essential clothing. I will gladly have inquiries made.

Ministry Of Supply

Chemical Warfare (Research)

asked the Minister of Supply what steps he is taking to ensure that, in spite of the fact that chemical warfare has not so far been used by the enemy, the efficiency of the research services that have been established are maintained and the dispersal of the experienced personnel prevented.

I can assure my hon. Friend that research in the field of chemical warfare is being energetically pursued and that a powerful team of scientists, technicians and service personnel is engaged upon this work.

Metal Scrap (Railings)

asked the Minister of Supply what proportion of the 530,000 tons of iron railings that have been sent to iron and steel works for melting have been melted down; and what quantities are in stock at the works.

Railings are not separately distinguished in the returns of scrap stocks made by iron and steel works, but it is the practice of the works to use this material promptly on account of its quality and convenient size, and almost the whole of the 530,000 tons will have been used.

Ministry Of Food (Trading Profit)

asked the Minister of Food what was the trading profit in 1944; and how it was divided up among the different commodities purchased.

It is estimated that trading surpluses for the year ended 31st March, 1944, on certain commodities amounted to £5,500,000, consisting of oils and fats £3,000,000, canned fruits and vegetables £800,000, coffee and cocoa £1,200,000, sundries £500,000. These surpluses were applied in slight relief of the substantial cost of subsidies on other foodstuffs in that year.

Epnsions And Grants

asked the Minister of Pensions why a pension has not been granted to Mrs. Ball and her two young children living at 46, West Street, Godmanchester, Hunts, in respect of the death in action of the late Sergeant George William Hall on 3rd April, 1944.

Mrs. Hall remains eligible for family allowance from the Regimental Paymaster until 16th July. Pension will be payable from the following day and the rate has been notified to Mrs. Hall. She has been invited to apply for a rent supplement if her rent exceeds eight shillings.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether widows of officers of the Navy, Army and Air Force have had any small additions made to their pensions to meet the extra cost of living as was done in the last war.

The pensions of widows of Navy, Army and Air Force officers, whose death was attributable to service, have already been increased on more than one occasion since the outbreak of the present war in the light of prevailing circumstances. The pensions payable to widows of officers whose death was not attributable to service have been fixed with regard to different considerations from those governing attributable pensions, and provision is being made in the appropriate Services Instruments for increases of these pensions corresponding to the increases authorised by Section 1 of the Pensions (Increase) Act.

Admiralty Committees (Members Of Parliament And Peers)

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the names of any commit- tees, advisory councils, or other like bodies under the aegis of his Department on which any Members of either House of Parliament sit, together with the names of those Members.

To the best of my knowledge there are, apart from Committees on which Parliamentary Members of the Board of Admiralty sit, two cases only, namely:

The Central Consultative Committee for Ship-building and Ship-repairing Industries.

Lord Westwood, Chief Industrial Adviser to the Board of Admiralty—Member.

The Royal Naval Fund.

Admiral of the Fleet, the Earl of Cork and Orrery—Chairman.

Us Personnel, Great Britain (War Graves)

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements have been made for the upkeep and tending of the graves of American soldiers in this country.

The United States War Department is generally responsible for the care and maintenance of these graves. They work in close co-operation with the Imperial War Graves Commission. Arrangements for future maintenance are under discussion with the American authorities.

Royal Air Force

Hospital Death (Toronto)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has now received details as to the death of A.C. Dewi Wyn Williams, 21 years of age, a member of the R.A.F., who died, on 23rd April, in Christie Street Hospital, Toronto, from sulphathiazole poisoning and acute nephritis; and whether he is in a position to make any statement about the matter.

I regret that details are not yet available in this country. A report has been called for and I will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Benevolent Fund

asked the Secretary of State for Air what pressure is being brought to bear on the rank and file of the R.A.F. to induce them to subscribe to the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund; and what percentage has consented to subscribe.

Details of the scheme for the payment of subscriptions to the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund are published in Air Ministry Orders. It is well understood by all concerned that contributions are entirely voluntary. Records are not maintained in my Department or by the Fund of the number of subscribers, but inquiries suggest that possibly between 50 per cent. and 60 per cent. of all ranks subscribe.

Kenya (European Settlement)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Settlement Schemes Sub-Committee of the Kenya Agriculture and Production Settlement Board is preparing further schemes of settlement in addition to the 1938 scheme; and whether information as to the extent and nature of these proposals is yet available.

I understand that this sub-committee has been set up to devise schemes for the establishment on the land of classes of settlers to whom the conditions of the existing scheme would not be appropriate. So far as I am aware it has not yet made any recommendations, but, in any event, nothing in the recommendations of this sub-committee could involve any increase in the area of land available in Kenya for European settlement.

Gibraltar Vaccination Rules, 1944

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Rule 5 of the temporary rules for the vaccination of people resident in Gibraltar during the outbreak of small-pox in February and March contained any recognition of conscientious objection to vaccination; and what authority exists for imposing vaccination on persons leaving a colony.

Rule 5 of the Gibraltar Vaccination Rules, 1944, did not make vaccination compulsory; the effect of the Rule was, simply, to make it clear that persons who had not been vaccinated might not leave Gibraltar. The absence, therefore, of the element of compulsion made unnecessary, in this particular Rule, any reference to the recognition of the rights of conscientious objectors. As regards the second part of the Question, these Rules were made by the Governor under the authority conferred on him by Section 209 of the Gibraltar Public Health Ordinance.

War Time Leases And Tenancies (Legislation)

asked the Attorney-General whether the Government have yet decided to introduce legislation to deal with the situation created by the decision in the case of Lace v. Chandler which decided that a lease for the duration of the war is void.

The Government have decided to introduce legislation as soon as practicable to give legal validity to leases and tenancies created for the duration of the war or for a period related to the end of the war or the end of hostilities. The Bill will have retrospective effect to the date of this answer, but will not operate to revive tenancies already duly determined under the existing law or to cover cases in which a valid notice under the existing law to determine a tenancy has been given before to-day's date. This legislation will not affect contracts other than contracts for such tenancies as aforesaid.

Explosives (Transport)

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether, having regard to the recent disaster in Cambridgeshire, steps will be taken to amend the Order in Council relating to the conveyance of explosives (S.R. & O., No. 582, of 1944).

The Order in Council to which my hon. Friend refers, covers the transport of explosives for mining and quarrying operations only, and these were not, so far as I am aware, involved in the recent Cambridgeshire disaster. So far as the general question of transport of explosives is concerned, I will consult with the other Ministers concerned.

Investment Incomes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the number of single per- sons whose sole yearly income is investment income under £250.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the number of married couples without children whose sole yearly income is investment income under £300.

Vaccination (Rugby)

asked the Minister of Health what percentage of infants born at Rugby have been exempted from vaccination or withheld from the operation in each of the years since 1928.

Of the children born in the Rugby Registration Sub-District (which comprises Rugby municipal borough and part of Rugby rural district) the following are proportions in respect of whom either statutory declarations of conscientious objection to vaccination were received, or vaccination was postponed on medical grounds.

Per cent.
193969
194057
194153
194251
It is regretted that corresponding records for earlier years are not available.

Scotland (Housing)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland for how many of the first 1,000 houses, authorised for Scotland, tenders have now been accepted; on how many work has been started; how many have been completed; and if he will state the comparable figures for the second 1,000 houses authorised for Scotland.

Tenders have been approved for 934 of the first 1,000 houses; work has commenced on 870, of which 258 are roofed over; and to date 12 houses have been completed. Layout and type plans have been approved for the whole of the second 1,000 houses authorised in February and March last. Tenders have been approved for 350 of these houses which are either under construction or are about to be commenced. Tenders for 350 additional houses are expected this month.

Austrian And German Prisoners (British Dominions)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether arrangements for the separation of Austrian from German prisoners applied in this country are in operation in those cases where German prisoners are held by Dominion Governments.

Proposals on the lines of my hon. Friend's Question have already been made to His Majesty's Government in Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia. It is receiving careful consideration by the Canadian authorities. The Commonwealth Government have expressed their willingness to conform with the proposed arrangements as far as possible.