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Commons Chamber

Volume 400: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1944

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 13th June, 1944


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Anglesey County Council (Water &C) Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Chesterfield And Bolsover Water Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Gillingham Corporation Bill Lords

Read a Second time, and committed.

Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill


Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the Table, Report from one of the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, That in the case of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, Standing Order 72A has been complied with.

Private Bills Lords


Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the Table, Report from one of the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, That in the case of the following Bills, originating in the Lords, and referred on the First Reading thereof, the Standing Orders not previously inquired into, which are applicable thereto, have been complied with, namely:

  • London Midland and Scottish Railway Bill [Lords].
  • London Midland and Scottish Rail-way (Canals) Bill [Lords].
  • Herts and Essex Water Bill [Lords].
  • Wisbech Corporation Bill [Lords].

Bills to be read a Second time.

Oral Answers To Questions

Trade And Commerce

Export Goods (Raw Materials)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, with the greater supply of raw material now available, preference will be given to the production of goods for export rather than for home consumption.

The principal factor, now limiting the production of goods, both for home consumption and for export, is the supply of labour, on which, at this critical stage of the war, ever increasing demands are being made, and will continue to be made, in support of our military operations.

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he does not agree that it is in the long-term interest of the community to encourage the export trade, even if it means going without goods we should like at home?

Within reasonable limits, I think that is true but it is possible to carry that policy too far. At the moment, we must give first preference neither to export nor to home consumption, but to supporting our fighting men across the water.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in view of the stress laid in the recent White Paper on the importance of the export trade, he and his staff in the Board of Trade are giving every possible attention to lifting, at the earliest moment, the bans on the export trade?

Yes, Sir, at the earliest moment consistent with the other considerations I have mentioned.

Laundry Service, Malvern


asked the President of the Board of Trade on what grounds civil servants in Malvern are given a weekly laundry service, while the permanent residents often have to wait for five or six weeks.

Most civil servants in Malvern send their washing direct to the laundry like other permanent residents. But I find that a small number of civil servants, without the knowledge of the Directorate of Laundry Services, have been receiving preferential treatment. I have given instructions that this practice must cease. The laundry at Malvern has recently been giving the public a three to four weekly service. I am not satisfied that this performance could not be improved, and I have asked my Regional Director to see what can be done.

Curtain Material


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will consider the advisability of issuing additional coupons to be use for the purchase of lower priced curtains, in view of the need for the replacement of these articles.

Those entitled to utility furniture can apply for permits for a limited amount of curtain material, coupon free. I regret that, in view of the shortage of textiles, I cannot, at present, extend these arrangements.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very great difficulty there is in obtaining this material? This material and towels are the two most needed things at the present time. Will he do what he can about it?

I do not know whether my hon. Friend would suggest that towels are more needed than sheets. There are fewer towels than there were, because there are more sheets at the moment.

Government Surplus Stores (Disposal)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if the Government has settled its policy in regard to the disposal of surplus stores after the war; and what steps have been taken to implement it.

Good progress has been made in working out arrangements for the orderly disposal of Government surplus stores, and I hope to be in a position to make a further statement shortly.

May I ask my right hon. Friend, in view of the vital importance of this subject in the programme of reconstruction, when he expects to be able to make this statement? Will it be available to the leaders of industry?

Certainly I hope to be able to make a statement. I do not want to commit myself on detail at the moment, but it may be useful to issue a short White Paper indicating the plans we have been making. A lot of thought has been given to this subject, and we have been in the closest touch with representatives of industry about it.

Swedish Firms (Statutory List)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare how many Swedish firms have been put on the black list of traders abroad with whom it is not lawful to have dealings of any kind.

I have been asked to reply. The number of Swedish persons and concerns on the Statutory List is 437.

Beveridge And Uthwatt Reports (White Paper)


asked the Minister without Portfolio when the Government's White Paper on Social Insurance and Land Development based on the Beveridge and Uthwatt Reports will be published.

No, Sir. I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on 17th May to a similar Question by the hon. Member for Rom-ford (Mr. Parker).

Cannot my right hon. and learned Friend say whether it will be published, if not now, at any rate before the Summer Recess begins?

I am not going to make any promise beyond that contained in the answer of my right hon. Friend.

Could not the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who is a Parliamentary Private Secretary, find out this information through the usual channels?

Is it not the case that there was a promise that a White Paper would be published shortly after Easter?

That White Paper deals with land development and questions dealing with land development should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning.

British Army

Parliamentary Franchise (Register)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the preoccupation in recent weeks of officers and men in preparation for a second front, he will extend the time limit for the completion of A.F. B2626.

My hon. Friend will be glad to know that no time limit has been laid down for the completion of A.F. B. 2626.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether in view of the fact that there must be great numbers of fighting men in Burma, Italy and Normandy, apart from those at home, he will consult with the Home Secretary to see whether some new machinery could be devised? Otherwise, these men will be disfranchised.

No, they should not be. Arrangements have been made to bring the requirements of the Act to their notice and attention, just as much as in the case of soldiers in this country.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a time limit was imposed in certain units by certain commanding officers, and has he made it clear that this was irregular?

Perhaps the hon. Member will give me some information. There is no time limit laid down in the law or by the Army Council.

But will the right hon. Gentleman make that clear to these particular units?

Wounded Officers (Temporary Rank)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the fact that whereas a noncommissioned officer when wounded receives the pay of the war substantive rank confirmed by 60 or 90 days' service in a temporary rank an officer has to hold a temporary rank for go days before receiving war substantive rank in the next lower rank and, if wounded before the go days have been served, then only receives the pay and allowances applicable to two ranks lower; and whether, in view of this injustice, he will take whatever steps are necessary to accord to officers treatment corresponding to that enjoyed by noncommissioned officers.

I am aware that in these matters as in a great many others the rules which apply to officers are not the same as those which apply to non-commissioned officers. This question has been carefully considered on several occasions and it has now been decided that the following change should be made. Under the present rules a wounded officer retains his acting rank for three months, but this period does not count towards the period qualifying for temporary rank. In future it will count. As in all ranks up to and including Lieut.-Colonel acting rank is converted to temporary rank after three months, this change will mean that in practically all cases an officer will no longer drop two ranks in the circumstances described by my hon. and gallant Friend.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the changes will give very great satisfaction in the Army?

Dependants' Allowances


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement with regard to increase in dependants' allowances.

I have nothing at present to add to the reply I gave my hon. Friend last Tuesday.

Last Tuesday my right hon. Friend said he had an announcement to make shortly. Could he give me a definiton of "shortly" and say when the announcement will actually be made?

Personnel, South East Asia (Term Of Duty)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will consider reducing the period of the term of duty of Army personnel in the South-East Asia Command in view of the climatic and other conditions; and if he will consider instituting or expediting a system of exchanges.

The scheme whereby British troops are brought back to this country when they have been abroad for over five years applies to all commands, including South East Asia Command. Every man who returns under this scheme must be replaced. All available man-power has been concentrated on giving the maximum strength to our operations on the Continent but when shipping and man-power permit I hope to reduce the period. While troops are overseas steps are taken to ensure that they do not stay for excessive periods in the more unhealthy areas.

Can the Minister say why airmen can return and soldiers cannot? Do they not have the same difficulties in regard to shipping?

Yes, Sir, but the number of soldiers involved is, I believe, seven or eight times that of the corresponding number of airmen and, therefore, seven times as many ships are required.

Is the Minister aware that some soldiers are very doubtful whether the promise to bring them back in the stated time will be kept?

Will the Minister consider, particularly, the claims of married men, some of whom have been away since early in 1940?

I have made it clear that I am extremely anxious to consider the claims of both married and single men, but in the present situation of shipping and man-power my hands are completely tied.

When my right hon. Friend says that the soldier has no right to doubt, has he borne in mind the particular case I put forward for the attention of his Department, in which a soldier was sent behind the enemy lines in Burma, after his period had elapsed?

Private Soldier (Vaccination)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Private Butler, R.A.M.C., was forcibly vaccinated recently by the medical officer, Major Carson, and, in order that such operation could be enforced, four men were instructed to hold Private Butler down; and, as this action violates King's Regulations, what disciplinary action he intends to take with Major Carson.

Operations, France (Postal Arrangements)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now able to announce the arrangements for addressing of correspondence to troops taking part in the invasion of France.

Correspondence should continue to be addressed to the address in use immediately before the present operations started. Arrangements have been made to forward such correspondence to individuals who have left this country. This is merely a temporary arrangement, which will be made public.

Camps, Suffolk (Salvage Dumps)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the public protest of the Blyth Rural District Council, Suffolk, at the growing practice at military camps of depositing valuable equipment at salvage dumps and in refuse pits; that in this area such articles as machine-gun parts, mortar cartridges, periscopes and battle-dress have been found in dumps; that explosions have taken place; that similar protests have been made by magistrates at Weybread; and if, in view of the danger and waste and the discouragement to the salvage campaign, he will instruct commanding officers of military establishments that this practice must cease.

Will the Minister, as an old Treasury man, bear in mind the difficulty of running a "Salute the Soldier" campaign in a village when five machine guns in one day are thrown on to a refuse dump? Will he also bear in mind the difficulty of running salvage weeks when material is being dumped in this way?

Infantry Units (Transferred Officers)


asked the Secretary for War, if, in view of the considerable number of officers who are now being transferred compulsorily from the R.A.O.C. to the infantry, he will reconsider his decision not to allow them to retain the Corps pay to which their technical qualifications entitle them.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply I gave my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Major C. S. Taylor) on 21st March.

Do not the circumstances, about which I asked a Question previously, in regard to transference from the R.A.O.C. make it desirable that the position should be reviewed?

No, Sir, the need for men in the infantry is very pressing, and I must take all possible steps open to me to do my best to meet that need.

Petrol Consumption


asked the Secretary of State for War if he has made inquiries in respect of the incident when a number of military vehicles attended on three separate occasions at a petrol station for the purpose of obtaining petrol; and if he has any further statement to make.

I am making further inquiries in an attempt to resolve the conflict of evidence which appears to exist. But as I am not sure that the unit in question is still in this country, the inquiries may not be entirely successful.

Having regard to the fact that the last inquiry was directed to a date other than that on which the incident took place, and that my right hon. Friend has now in his possession definite information from the proprietor of the garage, will he expedite the inquiry?

I said that I would expedite it as much as possible, but if the unit has left the country, I shall be in some difficulty.

Personnel (Income Tax Collection)


asked the Secretary of State for War the procedure adopted for the collection of Income Tax from Service personnel; and whether they are now being dealt with under the Pay-as-you-Earn scheme.

As regards the first part of the Question, I will, with permission, circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT. As regards the second part, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Leeds (Major Vyvyan Adams) by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 20th January.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the practice is to set off tax against allowances due, and that requests to have the assessment looked into by the Army authorities are not replied to?

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member would put a Question down about that. I do not think that can by any means be a universal practice. The statement I am circulating says that the tax is deductible from pay due.

May I ask my right hon. Friend, in view of the fact that Income Tax is now being retained, whether it would not simplify matters, if my right hon. Friend issued a new scale of pay for officers and men free of Income Tax?

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in his opinion, the scheme is working satisfactorily or whether, when claims are made for rebate, officers and men have to wait a very long time before they get what is due to them?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will put a Question down, if she wants me to make inquiries into the number of complaints we receive, as I have not the information with me now, judging from my own post bag, however, I do not think there is anything seriously wrong with the system.

Following is the statement:

Army personnel in general continue to pay their tax on the basis of the earnings of the preceding year. The tax on Army emoluments is required to be deducted from the pay as and when it is paid and the Paymaster or Army Agent who issues the pay fixes the initial tax instalment at the beginning of the tax year by reference to last year's tax liability or to tax tables. These tables show the varying amounts of tax to be taken according to rate of pay and the personal and child reliefs to which the individual is entitled. It is necessary in certain cases where the tables are unsuitable to make provisional calculations of liability. The deduction so fixed continues until the officer or soldier renders his Income Tax return and the final assessment is made. The tax instalment is then adjusted. The collection is normally completed by March.

While the majority of commissioned officers of the Army pay tax on their pay, only a small proportion of other ranks do so. In their case the Regimental Paymaster or Army Agent notify the daily rate of deduction for Income Tax to the officer commanding the unit early in the year in order that cash payments to the soldier may be regulated accordingly. The microgram service is used for notification abroad.

Information on Income Tax matters likely to be of interest to the Army and copies of the tax tables employed in fixing the provisional deductions are published in Army Council Instructions from time to time.

British Prisoners Of War, Far East


asked the Secretary of State for War what quantity of Red Cross parcels despatched by the British, Canadian and American Red Cross Societies is now accumulated at Vladivostock; and whether any parcels have yet been allowed by the Japanese Government to go through to the prisoners' camps.

According to my information there are some 2,000 tons of Red Cross relief supplies waiting at Vladivostock for arrangements to be agreed for their transport to Japan. So far none have reached the prisoners.

Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether any reply has been received from the Japanese Government to the Russian intervention on this subject?

I think matters have been carried a stage further but, if it is a matter of negotiation, I would be grateful if my hon. and gallant Friend would put a Question down to the Foreign Secretary.

Industrial Development, Scotland


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will consider summoning a special convention in Glasgow to discuss the question of postwar industrial development in Scotland which all those interested, including Scottish Members of Parliament, would have an opportunity to attend.

In view of the stringent need for limitation of travel in present circumstances it would be difficult to arrange a convention of the nature suggested at the present time, but. as I have already indicated in reply to another question I am always prepared to endeavour to arrange a meeting either in Scotland or London, if a general desire for such a meeting is manifested through the usual channels. Meanwhile, as my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, the Scottish Council on Industry is actively considering questions of post-war development in Scotland.

Will the Minister keep this question in mind and, when a more suitable opportunity occurs, take advantage of it, as there are many demands from commercial and business firms in Scotland that such a convention should be held?

Yes, Sir, but as my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, the Railway Executive have issued a most firm appeal against unnecessary travel.

When my right hon. Friend is taking steps to call a convention for Scotland, will he give a hint to his colleagues in the Cabinet that England and Wales should have separate conventions at the same time?

Will my right hon. Friend circulate the findings of the Council of Industry for Scotland among Members, or publicly in the Press?

That is being done periodically, but I will consult my hon. Friend with a view to seeing what further publicity may be given to the matter.

Coal Industry

Domestic Supplies, West Lothian


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps are being taken to increase supplies of coal to householders in West Lothian, in view of the inability of coal merchants to give customers an average of one cwt. per week.

I am advised that supplies received in West Lothian have been sufficient to supply consumers who need solid fuel for current consumption with one cwt. per week, but if my hon. Friend has any particular case of hardship in mind perhaps he will communicate with me.

Is not the Minister aware that figures show that less than one cwt. per week has been available to consumers; and also that, in some cases, permits are available for people to get more than their ordinary ration because of illness and such considerations, which prevents others from getting their normal quota?

On the other hand there are those who have more stocks than the permitted quantity and who are, therefore, not in the market for coal. Taking one with the other, it means an average of one cwt. per week.

Is not it a very strange arrangement that people cannot get one cwt. per week in West Lothian? Is not the Minister aware that there are 15,000 miners in West Lothian, and that there has not been a stoppage of work in that district since the war began?

That may be so, but Scotland itself has been an increasing importer of coal since the war started, and I regret to say that, taking the country as a whole, of the very few disputes which have occurred since the agreement was signed, 89 per cent. have occurred in Scotland.

Is the Minister aware that this Question arises out of a declaration by his Ministry that up to 15 cwt. could be obtained by consumers in two months? Does not his statement make that absurd?

No, Sir. I said that Scotland had to have coal imported from England, and I answered the hon. Member's Question. He stated that there was inability to get one cwt. per week and I say, categorically, that there is sufficient fuel in West Lothian to get one cwt. a week. However, if there is any case where that is not so, perhaps the hon. Member would let me know.

Employment (Light-Work Miners)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of the loss in skilled workmen who are refused employment in or about mines on account of receiving light-work compensation; and whether he is prepared to have an enquiry to ascertain the number which could be employed.

My regional controllers are making every effort to ensure the re-employment in the industry of men in receipt of light-work compensation as soon as they become fit for work, and I am not aware of any evidence of refusal on the part of employers to engage men of this type if suitable work is available. The position is kept under constant review and my regional controllers will continue their efforts. As, however, my hon. Friend will be aware, the kinds of work on which such men can be employed are extremely limited and, in many cases, work of which they are capable cannot immediately be provided.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, judging by the amount offered in compensation, the injury in many cases cannot be severe, and the work that they could do as practical men is equal to the work that the Bevin boys can do? Is he also aware that there is an opinion that Bevin boys are preferred to practical men with light injuries?

I am not aware of that. If the hon. Member will give me examples, I will look into them.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman prepared to have an inquiry into the number of these men who could be usefully employed?

On such information as I have, I am not aware of any evidence. If the hon. Member can, give me one or two cases which would justify an inquiry I will consider it.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that in a large number of cases, light-work men have been refused employment, that the employer has no difficulty in securing their release from the National Service Officer, and that a large number of skilled practical men are being lost to the industry?

Severn Barrage Scheme


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what progress has been made by the committee of experts considering the proposed Severn Barrage; their terms of reference; and the names of the members serving on the committee.

As regards terms of reference and membership of the Committee on the Severn Barrage Scheme, I would refer to the replies which I gave on 30th November and 14th December last to my hon. Friends the Members for Everton (Mr. Kirby) and Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed). As regards the progress of their work, I have at present nothing to add to the reply which I gave on 2nd May to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith). I am sending my hon. Friend copies of these answers.

Electricity (Industrial Supply)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, having regard to the importance of an adequate supply of electric power at low cost for the development of new industrial processes, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that such a supply is available.

The provision of electric power at low cost for new industrial processes cannot be considered apart from the general problem of the re-organisation of the Electric Supply Industry which is at present before the Government.

Defence Regulations, Dominions (Detention)


asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs if defence regulations exist in any of the Dominions providing for the detention of a British subject without charge or trial, or facility for appeal.

I understand that in Canada, Australia and the Union of South Africa there are Regulations similar to those of Defence Regulation 18B, i.e. they provide for detention, by Order of a Minister, of persons likely to prove a danger to the State, with a right to the person concerned to present his case to a special Committee or tribunal advisory to the Minister.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the supplementary question that I have just asked, is contained in the original Question? I think it should have been possible to give a reply.

Cotton Industry (British Mission To United States)


asked the Minister of Production whether he will state the purpose of the visit to the U.S.A. of the British Textile Mission, headed by the United Kingdom cotton controller; and whether, in particular, the Mission is empowered to discuss the elimination of the cotton merchants of this country.

At the invitation of my right hon. Friend a Mission of seven members visited the United States and Canada between 17th March and 2nd May last. The sole purpose of the Mission was to study the methods used in the cotton industry in the United States and to advise upon any changes in methods that could be made in this country in order to increase the supply of cotton goods.

Was the elimination of cotton merchants in this country actually discussed or not?

I have given the right hon. Gentleman the terms of reference, to which I have nothing to add. Anything that fell outside those terms of reference, would not be authorised.

That is a different question. Perhaps my hon. Friend will put it down.

In view of the imporance of the issues involved in these missions to the United States, surely the result should be submitted to the House of Commons?

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the deputation would have shown a high degree of intelligence if they had discussed the elimination of the merchants?

Will the hon. Gentleman make inquiries whether or not the elimination of the cotton merchants was discussed?

My right hon. Friend has not yet received the report and, obviously, I cannot usefully inquire about the contents of a document which has not yet been received, much less about hearsay reports.

Agriculture (Post-War Man-Power)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will give an undertaking that under the proposals of Cmd. 6527, priority will be given to agriculture and small holders especially immediately after demobilisation.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture
(Mr. Tom Williams)

The White Paper outlines the Government's proposed policy for maintaining full employment after the war. I am not clear what aspect of those pro- posals my hon. Friend has in mind, but he can rest assured that the position of agriculture will be fully considered in connection with the steps to be taken in due course to implement the Government's general policy.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the vital necessity after the war of producing as much as possible and importing as little food as possible from overseas?

Industrial Canteens (Post-War Continuance)


asked the Minister of Labour whether it is proposed to continue existing legislation or to introduce new legislation for the purpose of maintaining in existence after the war the present system of workers' canteens in industrial establishments, on dock estates and on civil engineering sites, etc., which are of a permanent character.

My right hon. Friend contemplates that the existing requirements in this respect should be continued, and, if necessary, improved.

Will my hon. Friend express to his right hon. Friend the gratitude of the many thousands of workers involved?

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a good deal of the success of these canteens depends on food subsidies, and will be consider whether they are to be continued in the post-war period?

Armed Forces (Overseas Service)


asked the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to institute an inter-Departmental inquiry with a view to a reduction in the inequalities between the three Services regarding the periods of overseas service.


asked the Prime Minister whether, while it is recognised that the granting of home leave for all men abroad must depend on the availability of shipping, there is any reason why the qualifying period for such leave should not be the same for the Army and the R. A. F.

Every effort is made to equalise the conditions of service in these matters in all the Armed Forces but I regret that, owing to war-time conditions, this is difficult to achieve. I fear that an inquiry, as is suggested, will not solve these difficulties.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that we have been assured from time to time that the difficulties consist, first, in the unmanageable numbers the Army is said to have and, secondly, in the fact that the two other Services have their own means of transport? Would not an inquiry between the Services do something to improve the position of soldiers as compared with sailors and airmen?

I do not think the hon. Member is correct. I have referred him to the full reply that the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). There are many great difficulties.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the discontent that there is in the country over this question? Is if not possible to equalise the qualifying period, and let the men concerned wait until shipping becomes available?

I am aware that there is natural feeling about this, but the difficulty is really due to operational conditions.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the grievance felt by the men in khaki is that members of the Air Force, who are on the ground staff, can have leave whereas they, though they have undergone considerable hardships, have to wait, simply because they are in a different Service?

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that what the Army feels is that the War Office does not look after them as well as the Air Force looks after its men?

Will not my right hon. Friend consider the matter again? It is causing grave concern to everyone.

I will certainly look into it as fully as possible, and I shall be glad to have any information hon. Members can give me.

The right hon. Gentleman says one is not correct in stating what the difficulties are. Is he not aware that I am only paraphrasing what we have been told only to-day by the right hon. Gentleman sitting next him? Would not an inquiry solve these apparent discrepancies between the two right hon. Gentlemen?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that, with the extension of the Far Eastern war, these difficulties are likely to become more acute and widespread, and will he not take steps in advance to prevent them?

Is it possible to appoint a co-ordinating Minister to equalise the conditions between the different Services?

Sterling Balances


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is the policy of His Majesty's Government for sterling balances to be funded in the form of long term loans to this country from the holders of sterling balances.

This is a matter which will be kept under review, but I have no statement to make on it at the present time.

International Gold Reserves


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer approximately how much gold was held by the governments and central banks in all countries, at the most recent convenient date, and can he give figures for Great Britain, America, Russia and France for the years 1921 and at the latest convenient date.

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

A mistake has crept into the Question. Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to include in the answer the year 1932? I want the quantity of gold for both years.

Following is the answer:

The published gold reserves of central banks and governments on December 31st, 1942, amounted to the equivalent of approximately £7,625 millions. This excludes our own and other gold reserves, the amount of which is not published at present.

The published gold reserves of the United Kingdom, United States of America and France on 31st December, 1921, were as follows:

Millions of fine ounces
United Kingdom36.9
United States of America155.8

The published gold reserve of the United States of America in December, 1943, was 21,938 millions dollars, or about 626 million fine ounces.

No figures of the Russian gold reserves and no recent figures of those of the United Kingdom and France have been published.

India (Finances)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer approximately what amount of money was owing to this country by the Government of India previous to the outbreak of war; and what amount is now owing by this country to India.

The sterling public debt of India was approximately £350 millions at the end of March, 1939, and approximately £26 millions at the end of May, 1944. The sterling assets of the Reserve Bank of India, the bulk of which are held as reserve against the Indian note issue, have increased from about £55½millions on 31st March, 1939, to about £745 millions at the end of May, 1944, largely as the result of payments in sterling to the Reserve Bank of India against rupee payments in India on account of expenditure incurred by the Government of India on behalf of H.M. Government. There was also£7½millions held in the Silver Redemption Reserve on both dates.

Is there any kind of Lend-Lease arrangement with India; and is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the present financial agreements with India are satisfactory and have been of assistance during the war?

Will the Chancellor give an assurance that there will be no attempt to prejudice the Indian position in regard to credit balances by any attempt to manipulate the balances such as is suggested in the City columns of some newspapers, and, presumably, as might be inferred from the Question?

I cannot possibly deal with these matters by way of question and answer.

Employment Policy (Trade Fluctuations)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish statistics of the fluctuations of trade and employment relating to periods when trade was beginning to decline, on which is based the fundamental assumption in the White Paper on Employment Policy, namely, that a decline in the demand for capital goods precedes and causes a decline in the demand for consumption goods.

The White Paper on Employment Policy assumes that the main cause of fluctuations in the demand for consumption goods is the variations that take place from time to time in the national income, and so in consumer's purchasing power. This is not true of the demand for capital goods, which fluctuates often for quite different reasons. Such fluctuations in the demand for capital goods affect the national income and thus indirectly cause sympathetic fluctuations in the demand for consumption goods; but the speed with which a major decline in expenditure on capital goods affects expenditure on consumption goods is so great that actual precedence in time is often hard to establish statistically.

As that long answer is in conflict with such statistics as I have been able to look up, will the Chancellor have another go at this, because his assumption is totally unsound as far as I can find out?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will be good enough to give me the statistics he has been able to look up.

Franc Exchange Rate


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether a rate of exchange for the franc has yet been settled.

Yes, Sir. It has been agreed that the rate shall be fixed at 200 francs to £1.

In view of that reply, can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the position that has been created by the issue of a special franc for the invasion forces with a reply that he gave on 6th April, 1944, that nothing would be done to prejudice the French franc without previous consultation with the French National Committee?

The reply I gave in April, 1944, was to the effect, if I remember aright, that the rate of exchange would not be fixed without the fullest consultation with the French National Commitee. That assurance has been fully carried out.

Do I understand my right hon. Friend's answer to apply to the authorised French franc in France as well as to the francs which, for some reason, the American Government are proposing to issue?

Will not the Minister seriously consider taking over the banks and thus effectively organising this whole question?

Are these, in fact, Allied military francs, or are they francs issued by some arrangement between the Allies and the National Committee of Liberation?

My answer was concerned solely with the question of the rate of exchange to be fixed as between francs and sterling, and must be understood in that sense.

Having regard to the fact that under modern economic conditions it seems that there should be as many different rates of exchange as possible, will my right hon. Friend arrange for everybody to issue currency and so save a lot of trouble?

Has any member of the Cabinet ever raised the question at a Cabinet meeting of taking over the banks of this country?

Housing (Industrial Hostels)


asked the Minister of Health whether it is proposed as a temporary post-war measure to use existing industrial hostels for the housing of families who are otherwise without homes; and how many families could be accommodated in this way.

As my Noble Friend the Minister of Works and my right hon. and learned Friend have explained on previous occasions, the Government are investigating the possibilities of converting such of these hostels as may be released into dwellings to meet some part of the immediate post-war need. A typical hostel has already been partly converted in order to show what can be done. My right hon. and learned Friend is not yet in a position to state the total number of dwellings it will be practicable to provide in this way.

Will the hon. Lady please urge upon her chief the need to pursue this matter to the utmost limits, so that none of the hostels shall be lost as possible temporary means of housing the people in the first few post-war years?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is why this work has been done. It is to convert a certain number of them to see if they can be made suitable.

Milk And Dairies Regulations (Enforcement)


asked the Minister of Health in how many cases he has, acting under the powers vested in him by Section 93, Food and Drugs Act, 1938, empowered an officer of his Department to execute and enforce provisions in relation to Milk and Dairies Regulations, where he has been of opinion that a local authority has failed, in relation to the Milk and Dairies Regulations, to execute or enforce the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938.

Section 93 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, relates to provisions of the Act which it is the duty of a Food and Drugs Authority to enforce. The authorities defined in the Act as Food and Drugs Authorities are not responsible for the enforcement of Milk and Dairies Regulations.

House Of Commons (Wireless Receiving Set)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he is aware of the desire of Members of the House of Commons to have, as early as possible, all available authentic information about operations in progress; and if he will, therefore, arrange for an efficient wireless receiving set to be installed in some convenient and accessible place in the precincts of the House.

Yes, Sir. A wireless receiving set has been installed in the Committee Room corridor on the first floor, outside Room No. 13. If Members consider that the set might conveniently be placed in some other position I would suggest that they approach the Authorities of the House.

Will my lion. Friend see that this new set is more efficiently maintained than its predecessor?

I understand that the Post Office have given a good set, and I suggest that we should try it.

Was it given by the Government, the Post Office, or by some private person?

Business Of The House

I would like to make an announcement on Business. I announced last week that we would make an arrangement to debate Regulation 18B, and the detention of an hon. Member of the House. I have considered this matter carefully, and I suggest that the points which my hon. Friends have in mind and which are set out in two Motions on the Paper can properly be dealt with in Committee of Supply without in any way limiting the Debate.

[ That this House having acquiesced in the detention of an honourable Member without trial or charge, in view of the authority conferred upon the Home Secretary by Regulation 18B, is now of the opinion that such detention for a period of over four years threatens the ancient and well established right of the House to the service of its Members, constitutes a dangerous precedent damaging to the prestige of the House and ought now to cease unless justified to the House, if necessary, in secret session.]

[ That this House is of opinion that the time has come for reconsideration of Regulation 18s and of the practicability of bringing to trial those now in detention on the sole responsibility of the Home Secretary.]

I think that this is the right way to handle it. The salary of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will accordingly be put down.

I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether he will further consider this matter. Private Members' time has already been taken from us, and there seems little point in Private Members putting specific Motions on the Paper and collecting the signatures of Members in support if they are not to be discussed. Putting down the Home Secretary's salary does not appear to me to cover the desires of hon. Members on this question. It is not an attack upon the Home Secretary but a desire to discuss a matter which is of supreme importance to the House of Commons as a body. It seems to me very unfortunate that the Government are going to take the action which the right hon. Gentleman suggests.

I do not think there is anything unusual in my suggestion. There are two Motions, one of which deals with one aspect of the question and the other with another aspect. The House having asked for facilities, we have proposed this arrangement for the Debate. The first answer to my hon. Friend in regard to the putting down of Private Members' Motions is, therefore, that his action in putting down a Motion is resulting in this Debate. Otherwise, there would probably be no Debate. As regards the scope of the Motion, hon. Members will realise that these matters fall within the administration of the Home Secretary. It is perfectly right and proper, and not a criticism of him, that a discussion which affects his administration should be taken on his Vote.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us who do not necessarily propose, if there is a Division, to vote for my hon. Friend's Motion, are concerned that the question should have been dealt with in this way, for the reason that here was a clear issue on which the House was asked to express its opinion? It is well known that in Committee of Supply, one cannot raise that clear issue, without voting against the Minister's salary, which many of us may not want to do. Will my right hon. Friend explain more fully the reason for this change of arrangement?

There is no change of arrangement. I told the House last Thursday that I was anxious not to limit the Debate. There are two Motions, one dealing with the detention of a Member of this House, and the other with Regulation 18B. I am informed that the first Motion would not enable a wide Debate to take place, and so I have put forward the proposed arrangement, which, I think, will be more for the convenience of the House.

Will not my right hon. Friend reconsider this matter? For a long time hon. Members have desired to debate the question of the detention of a Member of this House—not a particular Member but any Member. I have a Motion on the Paper—

[ That in the opinion of this House Regulation 18B of the Defence (General) Regulations should be modified so as to provide that the detention of a Member of this House, under the powers con- ferred by the Regulation, should be reported immediately to the House and should not continue without the approval of the House after consideration of the charges against the Member and his defence against them.]

That is entirely a domestic matter for the House of Commons and does not involve any party or any particular Ministers. I hope that my right hon. Friend will realise that every effort seems to have been made to burke a discussion of a specific Motion by every artifice which can be devised. The House of Commons may understand what these artifices are, and the reasons for them, but people in the country outside do not understand them, and are getting impatient at being fobbed off with arrangements the meaning of which they cannot understand.

I do not accept any of the suggestions of my hon. and gallant Friend and I do not know what he means by being "fobbed off." There are two Motions on the Paper, one dealing with the narrow issue of the detention of a Member, and another dealing with the question of 18B and signed by a great number of Members of this House. The Government are under no obligation to take one or other of those Motions, in seeking to give the House an opportunity of discussion. As there are two different Motions, not covering the same ground, I have suggested putting down the Home Secretary's salary, so that both subject matters can be discussed. That is fobbing off nothing and need cause no indignation in the breast of my hon. and gallant Friend.

I am not sure that my right hon. Friend appreciates the general feeling of the House. The way in which he proposes to take this discussion would mean criticism of the administration of the Home Secretary but I think the House wishes to discuss—is very anxious to discuss—the Regulation itself, and not to blame the Minister for his administration of it. The House wishes to discuss whether such a Regulation is in accordance with the general wish of the House.

Before my right hon. Friend replies, may I ask him a further question? Has he not been approached since we last met with the suggestion that a third Motion should be put down, em- bracing the two which he has already mentioned, and thus getting rid of the objection that the original Motion in my name and the names of other hon. Members was of too limited a nature? Has he considered that suggestion, and if so, will he give it further consideration?

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that question, I would like to ask him, in view of the very serious changes that have taken place in the whole situation since these Motions were put down, whether he considers it desirable to have such a discussion as is now proposed. Would not such a discussion have a very damaging effect on the Forces, as well as among the people of this country and among our Allies? I think it would be a very serious step to have a discussion of this question in the existing situation.

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) may I say that I am seeing to the point he makes, and that the point is covered by the Home Secretary's Vote. The Home Secretary is the Minister responsible for the administration of the Regulation and will be responsible for any change that is brought about. I have consulted my right hon. Friend, and he does not feel, any more than the Government feel, that the discussion is necessarily a stricture upon him; but we consider that this is the most practical way to deal with the matter. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) I am afraid that I have not had a chance to see the terms of any third Motion, but I have given consideration to the whole question, in consultation with the Home Secretary, and I believe that the House would have a more satisfactory discussion if they would take my advice.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Members of this House, and many people outside, believe that such a discussion will be a great waste of Parliamentary time, while our men are fighting on the other side?

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the course he has suggested will prevent Members from expressing their opinion on the very important matter of the detention of a Member of this House? Surely this discussion is not a criticism of the Home Office as a whole. The House wishes to discuss the detention of one of its own Members; but the proposal which my right hon. Friend makes will prevent the House from expressing its opinion.

The Home Secretary and I have discussed this matter, and we fully realise the object of the Debate. It is my right hon. Friend's responsibility, and the House of Commons can express itself both in speech and in vote, if it so desires.

Business Of The House


"That the Proceedings on Government Business be exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House)."—[Mr. Eden.]

May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that I rose on a point of Order to ask you a question about Business and that I rose before you put the Question on the Business Motion?

Perhaps the hon. Member can ask his question later when the Committee stage starts.

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether this House has any way by which it can express its feelings, as to whether this undesirable Debate referred to in the discussion on Business should take place?

Orders Of The Day

Food And Drugs (Milk And Dairies) Money

Resolution reported:

"That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session (in this Resolution referred to as 'the new Act') to amend the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, relating to Milk and Dairies Regulations and other matters connected therewith, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of—
  • (a) any expenses incurred by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries under the new Act; and
  • (b) any increase in the sums payable under the Superannuation Acts out of moneys provided by Parliament which may be attributable to the provisions of the new Act extending the application of the rules made under section nine of the Superannuation Act, 1935."
  • Resolution agreed to.

    Food And Drugs (Milk And Dairies) Bill

    Considered in Committee.

    [Major MILNER in the Chair.]

    I propose to call the first Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams).

    On a point of Order. I wish to ask the Leader of the House about the procedure to-day. I was informed by Mr. Speaker that if the point was put at the beginning of the Committee stage, it would be in Order. If the proceedings in Committee on this Bill are protracted, as they may well be, will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the Third Reading will not be taken to-day?

    Yes, I think the hon. Member's request is a perfectly reasonable one. If the Committee stage were protracted—we hope it will not be—the Third Reading would not be pressed for to-day.

    Clause 1—(Amendment Of S 20 Of Principal Act)

    I beg to move, in page r, line to, to leave out "registration," and to insert "licensing."

    I think the Amendment is perfectly clear. Registration is, normally, a process in which everyone who falls into the category being registered is entitled to be registered. Licensing implies discretion, and as, under this Bill there is a Ministerial discretion, I think "licensing" and not "registration" should be inserted. I want the public to know what we are trying to do. I want this word put in the Bill because this is the first Measure, apart from those relating to the sale of alcoholic liquor, which introduces into this country the conception of the corporate State. [Interruption.] It is just that—you are not to be entitled to go into the industry, without either the permission of the State, or those inside the industry. When we get a Bill incorporating that Fascist doctrine attention should be drawn to it. It is no good the Minister of Agriculture grinning rather amiably. In this Bill the Minister is taking the power to refuse a licence to a man because he does not like him. It is 18B all over again. If the Minister thinks that a man is not going to comply with the regulations, he may refuse or cancel the registration. I think my purpose is clear, and while I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee, I do think that, constitutionally, this is a point of the utmost importance.

    The hon. Gentleman has put forward his objection to the word "registration." He would rather have the word "licensing," but, if the hon. Gentleman looks at the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, he will find the word "register" is used in that Act for premises used for the manufacture of ice cream, or for the preparation or manufacture of sausages and manufactured foods. The hon. Gentleman said he would prefer the word "licensing." He will agree that it makes for some confusion because in Section 21 of that Act, the word "licence" is used where the provision is made for licensing in relation to the special designations of milk. Thus we have the registration of the dairyman, but a licence for special designation of milk, and if the same word were used for the two meanings, I think the hon. Member will agree, there might be some confusion. In the Act the word "registration" is already used, and the word "licence" is used in a slightly different sense. Perhaps he will agree that we can leave it this way.

    I agree that the hon. Lady is in a difficulty with regard to terminology, but she has not answered my point. This Bill proposes that a milk dealer, before he can do business, must be registered, not that every milk dealer must be registered. It is because of the fact that, under Sub-section (2, b), registration can be withdrawn, that it ceases to be registration, and is in fact licensing. Public-houses are not registered, they are licensed. Doctors are registered, on the other hand, because every man who has passed the necessary examination, and gone through the prescribed study, is, automatically, entitled to be registered by the General Medical Council, and that registration can only be cancelled, if he has committed a medical crime and has been properly tried by the General Medical Council. Here we have no appeal of a proper kind. Here it is licensing, not registering, and I object to a misleading term being used in the Bill.

    Perhaps I might say one word more on this. Already there is power, using the word "register," to withdraw registration under the Food and Drugs Act. I know that if hon. Members were drafting that Act now, they might find more suitable words, but if we begin we shall have to make further Amendments. I do think the word "licence" should not be used in two senses.

    Can the Minister withdraw registration because of something "in his opinion"? That is the issue.

    The hon. Lady must read her own Bill. I do not ask Ministers to understand their Bills; that is beyond the capacity of many of them. Other people draft them, and Ministers come before us to try and explain them, but here it is stated:

    "for the refusal or cancellation of any such registration by the Minister if, in his opinion …"

    I am sorry if I did not actually read the Clause, but if the hon. Member will look at the Act of 1938 to which I have referred he will find it is stated, in Section 14, Sub-section (4):

    "If a person on whom a notice is served under the last preceding subsections fails to show cause to the satisfaction of the local authority, they may refuse the application or, as the case may be, cancel the registration of the premises, and shall forthwith give notice to him of their decision in the matter, and shall, if so required by him within fourteen days of their decision, give to him within forty-eight hours a statement of the grounds on which it was based."
    It is exactly the same. The word "registration" is used there.

    Under the 1938 Act each new dairy farmer has to apply for registration but local authorities have no power to refuse an application. It is automatic registration. Here there is nothing automatic and it, therefore, becomes a licence. It may well be that if this Amendment is carried, other consequential Amendments will have to follow.

    The hon. Member appears to be dealing with matters which will come under later Amendments.

    The Minister has explained that, under the original Act, there is power for the local authority to withdraw registration. I am not clear whether, under the original Act, there is power for the local authority to refuse to give registration in the first place.

    I am sorry if I did not make it clear. They may refuse the application for registration for ice- cream and other premises under Section 14 of the 1938 Act; and the same thing applies in other legislation under which other matters are registered. I was asked whether there is any other case where the word "registration" is used, where registration can be refused. There are several cases. One which I know more intimately than others, is in connection with adoption societies, because I, personally, introduced that provision. Under that, the local authority can refuse registration.

    Is not this an extreme example of the regrettable effect of legislation by reference? Neither the Committee nor the Minister knows where we are. We are continually being referred to some other Statute. That shows the great difficulty in which Members are put by this continual reference to other legislation.

    The only reason why I referred to another Statute, and to other cases of the same sort, was that I was asked whether the word "registration" was used with the same meaning in other Statutes. That is why I referred to the 1938 Act, and to other matters, such as adoption societies and nursing homes.

    The hon. Lady has not quoted enough. If she will look at Section 14, Sub-section (2), of the other Act, she will see that it says:

    "Subject to the following provisions of this section, the local authority shall …"
    register premises. In other words, they have to start by registering, and then they have to prove their case, not give their opinion. In this Bill, if the Minister thinks you should not be registered, you do not get registration, whereas, in the other Act, you are registered unless certain things are proved against you. It is shifting the onus on to the Minister.

    I am sorry to get out of Order, but I suggest, with great respect, that it was the hon. Lady and not I, who first referred to that.

    Amendment negatived.

    On a point of Order. Am I to understand that my Amendment, which is to leave out "Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries" in line 13, and to insert "local authority," and which carries with it certain consequential Amendments, is out of Order?

    Yes; it would be quite contrary to the intention of the Bill, as decided on the Second Reading. The hon. Member will remember that he specifically asked for a decision on that issue.

    With great respect, I would point out that, on the Second Reading, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health asked that a system of compromise with the local authorities should be brought in. This Amendment is put down in the hope of fulfilling such a request.

    During the Debate on the Second Reading, we were assured by the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary that every consideration would be given to the question of giving more responsibility in this matter to local authorities. It was on that understanding, quite definitely, that we agreed to the provision in the Bill.

    On the Second Reading the matter was decided on a Division and there it stands.

    Is it your Ruling, Major Milner, that an undertaking given by a Member on the Front Bench is not an undertaking?

    I am not concerned with questions of undertakings; I am concerned with matters of Order. If this Amendment were to be carried, it would be quite contrary to the decision taken by the House on Second Reading. For that reason, I cannot permit it to be called or argued.

    Without in the least disputing the Ruling of the Chair, may I put forward a consideration which may, conceivably, have escaped your notice, Major Milner? The long Title of this Measure is

    "A Bill to Amend the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, relating to Milk and Dairies Regulations and other matters connected therewith."
    There is no mention in that of what the Clause is for, namely, to hand over the whole powers to the Minister. Therefore, it seems to me that the Amendments on the Paper come within the scope of the Bill, and are not ruled out, if I may say so, as a result of the Debate and the vote on the Second Reading.

    I am sorry but I have given my decision, and the hon. Member's remarks are really not relevant.

    Mr. TURTON moved,

    "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"

    but The CHAIRMAN, being of opinion that the Motion was an abuse of the Rules of the House, declined to propose the Question thereupon to the Committee.

    On a point of Order. Can an opportunity be given to a Member on the Front Bench to explain what was meant by the undertaking which was given? Apparently, the whole undertaking is to be passed over sub silentio. I do not think that that is fair to the Committee.

    The Government have very much in mind what was said by my hon. Friend on the Second Reading, and, on an opportune Amendment, I propose to say what we have in mind; but it does not arise now.

    If there is an Amendment put down by the Government covering this matter, why cannot an Amendment in the name of a Private Member, which covers the same ground, be moved?