House Of Commons
Thursday, 15th June, 1944
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
London County Council (Money) Bill
Read the Third time, and passed.
Oral Answers To Questions
National War Effort
Coalmining (Directed Youths)
asked the Minister of Labour how many ballottees have refused to enter the coalmining industry; how many have been prosecuted for refusing; and how many of them have been imprisoned.
I have no exact figure of the number of ballottees who have refused to enter coal-mining. Up to 31st May, there had been 285 failures to comply with directions to undergo training, but this total, no doubt, included a certain number of cases in which there were good reasons, such as sickness, for not complying immediately. Up to the same date, 135 ballottees had been prosecuted for failing to comply with directions either to coalmining training or to a working colliery. Of these, 32 were sentenced to imprisonment, but within a few days 19 of these were released, on promising to comply with their directions.
In view of the reluctance of some courts to convict in cases like this, because the boys prefer to enter the Forces rather than the mines, and in view also of the fact that the High Court of Justice in New Zealand has recently decided that compulsions like this are akin to the serfdom of the Middle Ages, will not my right hon. Friend reconsider his policy?
No, Sir. Some things in the Middle Ages were worth preserving.
Has the right hon. Gentleman completed his inquiries into the case of my constituent who wanted to go coalmining when directed, but was arrested by the Secretary of State for War?
Does my right hon. Friend know how many young men there are in the mines who desired to go into the Forces but were not allowed to go?
Injured And Unfit Miners
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the position of injured workmen in the mining industry when certified fit for suitable light employment and when work is not found by the employer the workman is being released from the industry by National Service officers; that in those cases where release has been refused, or a period of time elapses before release is granted, payment of the guaranteed wages has been refused under the Essential Work (Mining Industry) Orders, on the grounds that the injured workman is not fit for his usual employment; and will he take steps to remedy this position.
I am aware that there have been a few cases where hardship has arisen in the circumstances described in the Question, and I am considering what steps can be taken to avoid such cases arising in future.
Cannot my right hon. Friend take some steps through the National Service Officers to prevent employers obtaining the release of these injured workmen, and by that means getting rid of their liability in respect of compensation and rehabilitation or a return to work?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that I really act in this business as an agent for the Minister of Fuel and Power, but I will go into it with him and see what can be done.
asked the Minister of Labour if he is satisfied that when miners are released from the industry on medical grounds it is made sufficiently clear whether the release is temporary or permanent; whether he is aware many of these miners have now been called to the services; and will he take steps to ensure that when both the employer and the employee are satisfied as to the man's fitness to render a useful service in the mining industry and a job can be found, such person will not be called to the Forces.
A miner who is not permanently unfit for coalmining, may be transferred temporarily to other employment under a definite and clearly explained arrangement with him and his previous and prospective employers for him to return to coal-mining when fit. Such cases are kept under review, and a man would not be called up to the Forces, if coal-mining employment for which he was medically fit were available. If my hon. Friend knows of any cases of miners who are only temporarily unfit being called up to the Forces, I should be glad to have particulars in order that I may make inquiry.
Is my right hon. Friend not aware that I have myself had several cases before his Department where miners are not satisfied that they are permanently unfit; and would it not be a very good thing to make the fullest use of these men with coalmining experience?
I was not aware of that.
Does not my right hon. Friend think that a miner who has been doing high-grade work but who, owing to an accident, is unfit to do that work, could still do useful work on a lower grade?
Again I would point out that the question of the placing of the men is a matter for the Minister of Fuel and Power, but I will take this question up, equally with the one I answered just now, and look into it.
asked the Minister of Labour if he will arrange to make available to Members a supply of the pamphlet "The Story of Britain's Mobilisation for War."
I am informed that copies of this publication are available to Members, on application to the Stationery Office on the usual form.
Having regard to the fact that the information contained in this pamphlet has frequently been refused to the House on security grounds, why is it now published in pamphlet form available to the public?
There is nothing in the pamphlet that has been refused to the House on security grounds.
Does the right hon. Gentleman remember the Questions I have asked about the total number of people employed?
No Minister, however good his memory, could remember all the questions the hon. Member asks.
Does the right hon. Gentleman remember his own answers?
asked the Minister of Labour in what industries, in addition to coalmining, have the wages paid per unit of output increased by more than 100 per cent. between 1939 and 1943.
I regret that statistics giving this information are not available. I should add, that my information does not confirm my hon. Friend's suggestion that wages per unit of output in coalmining, have increased by more than 100 per cent. in the period mentioned.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I extracted that information on the day on which I wrote the Question, from the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," of which he is the editor-in-chief?
Has the right hon. Gentleman found any evidence that big wages in coalmining have induced the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), or any of his friends, to apply for a job?
Young People (Work On Ships)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he can make a statement as to the employment of young persons in such work as boiler-scaling and the cleaning of bilges on ships in port.
Yes, Sir. I am glad to be able to inform the House that, under the auspices of the Factory Department, an agreement has recently been concluded among the principal organisations of employers and trades unions concerned, under which, among various measures for the protection and welfare of older workers, it has been agreed that firms engaged in scaling, scurfing or cleaning boilers (including combustion chambers and smoke boxes), or in cleaning oil-fuel tanks or bilges in a ship, should not employ persons under 18 in such work. The agreement applies to ships which have been commissioned, and have been in service, whether they are in a dock, harbour or canal, or in a regular shipbuilding yard. I should add, that any work of this kind done by the master or crew of a ship, is excluded from the Factories Act, and the agreement does not cover it.
Peak District (National Park)
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he has considered the plan for the establishment of a Peak District national park, including Dovedale, a copy of which has been sent to him; and if he has any statement to make.
As stated in the answer to the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd) on 27th January, 1944, a special survey is being made of areas likely to be suitable for National Parks. My right hon. Friend has received the report mentioned in the Question, and will give it sympathetic consideration.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the great importance of preserving this area in view of its great beauty and also in view of the immense population involved, including Staffordshire?
Those considerations will certainly not be overlooked.
When will the survey be finished?
I do not think I can add to my answer. Perhaps my hon. Friend will refer to the previous answer that I have mentioned.
Can my hon. Friend say how long the survey has taken already?
Not without notice. If my hon. Friend fears that some damage may be done in the meantime, he will find the necessary reassurance if he will refer to the previous answer.
Land Acquisition (Compensation)
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning if he will give an assurance that, in formulating proposals for the compensation to be paid for the acquisition of land for public purposes, he will bear in mind that in many cases land has, since 31st March, 1939, been purchased by speculators at less than the value as at that date, in the hope of gaining profit based on the Government's announcement of 1939 values; and that such speculators will be deprived of any such gain.
I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to await the terms of the forthcoming Bill and White Paper.
I and many other Members are awaiting that Bill, but in the meantime will my hon. Friend give the assurance for which I ask in the Question?
I am not prepared to add to the answer that I have given.
In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the answer, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.
asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the annual increase of population in India and the low standard of agricultural production over that continent threatening recurrence of famine, he has taken any steps to appoint personnel and set up departments under the Central Government of India which will draw up a plan of land reform and agricultural and scientific development in food production.
The matters referred to by the hon. Member are primarily within the Provincial sphere. For co-ordination purposes however the Department of Education, Health and Lands has long existed at the Centre and has the assistance of the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research and the Nutritional Research Laboratory. A Food Department was set up in 1942. Land reform, agricultural improvement and scientific research are among the problems which the new Mem- ber of the Governor-General's Executive Council for Planning and Development will have to consider.
Do I understand from that reply that the responsibility in a matter of this kind rests mainly with the Provincial Governments? Do not the Central Government recognise the urgency of raising the standard of agriculture in India, and do they not take full responsibility for taking the initiative in this matter?
All that is covered by the answer I have given.
Parliamentary Franchise (Service Register)
asked the Secretary of State for India what percentage of British forces serving in India and adjacent commands have been issued with A.F. B2626 or its equivalent.
The Indian reprint of Form B2626 is expected to be available very shortly for all British forces in the Indian Command and South East Asia Command. The administrative arrangements for the distribution of the form have already been made.
Why has there been this delay in issuing this form to the large number of British troops in India? Will my right hon. Friend take steps, as the Service Ministers are doing, to find out the progress that has been made in registering Service men overseas?
The matter has been handled directly through the Service Ministries concerned. The troops in question are spread over a continent, and the necessary forms have been printed as well as circulated in India. I do not think that there has been unreasonable delay.
British Army Personnel (Income Tax)
asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that British soldiers serving in India who were exempt from Income Tax in this country have to pay Income Tax to the Indian Government; and will he consult with the Indian Government with a view to removing what is considered to be a decided hardship.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellen- ger) on 26th October, 1943, and to two earlier replies which I gave on this subject on 13th May and 3rd June, 1943. I am sending him copies of these. Since then, the position of British Army personnel has been improved, both by the raising of the Income Tax exemption limit from Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 2,000 per annum, and by the grant of a special allowance to junior married officers. These measures have gone a considerable way to remove or compensate for the difference to which the hon. Member refers.
As my right hon. Friend has given me earlier information on this matter, will it be possible to publish in HANSARD the information he is sending to my hon. Friend or to send me a copy?
I will do that with pleasure.
British And American Canteens (Customs Duty)
asked the Secretary of State for India what is the rate of duty on tobacco, beer and spirits charged in India for goods imported for the British and American forces, respectively.
In accordance with the general policy of His Majesty's Government, which also applies in this country, goods, including beer and tobacco, which are imported into India by the United States Government for the use of American troops are exempted from duty. Owing to shipping difficulties the great bulk of supplies of tobacco, and beer for consumers for the much larger number of British troops in India are drawn from Indian sources. For such of the articles mentioned by my hon. Friend as are imported the rates of duty are those laid down in the Indian Customs Schedule. As details are complex I will circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is it not most extraordinary that there should be discrimination between British and American troops in India in regard to the duty paid on their tobacco going into the country, and will my right hon. Friend ask the Indian Government to see if some way can be found to equalise the burden between the two?
The situation is not extraordinary because there is a similar situation in this country.
Following is the information:
Rates of duty on beers, spirits, tobacco, etc., imported into India.
|Item No.||Name of Article.||Nature of duty.||Standard rate of duty.||Preferential rate of duty if the article is the produce or manufacture of|
|The United Kingdom.||A British Colony.||Burma.|
|22(2)||Ale, beer, porter, cider and other fermented liquors—||The rate at which excise duty is leviable at the place of importation plus one-fifth of the total duty.|
|(a) In barrels or other containers containing 27 oz. or more||Revenue||Re. 1–2 per Imperial gallon.||—||—|
|(b) In bottles containing less than 27 oz. but not less than 20 oz.||Revenue||Three annas per bottle.||—||—|
|(c) In bottles containing less than 13½ oz. but not less than 10 oz.||Revenue||One anna and six pies per bottle.||—||—|
|(d) In bottles containing less than 6¾; oz. but not less than 5 oz.||Revenue||Nine pies per bottle||—||—|
|(e) In other containers*||Revenue||Re. 1–8 per Imperial gallon.||—||—|
|22(3)||Wines, not containing more than 42 per cent, of proof spirit—||The rate at which excise duty is leviable at the place of importation plus one-fifth of the total duty.|
|(a) Champagne and other sparkling wines||Revenue||Rs. 15–12 per Imperial gallon.||—||—|
|(b) Other sorts||Revenue||Rs. 9 per Imperial gallon.||—||—|
|22(4)||Spirits (other than denatured spirit)—||The rate at which excise duty is leviable at the place of importation plusone-fifth of the total duty.|
|(a) Brandy, gin, whisky and other sorts of spirits not otherwise specified, including wines containing more than 42 per cent, of proof spirit.||Revenue||Rs. 45 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||—||—|
|(b) Liqueurs, cordials, mixtures and other preparations containing spirit not otherwise specified—|
|(i) entered in such manner as to indicate that the strength is not to be tested.||Revenue||Rs. 60 per Imperial gallon.||—||—||—|
|(ii) not so entered||Revenue||Rs. 45 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||—||—||—|
|Item No.||Name of Article.||Nature of duty.||Standard rate of duty.||Preferential rate of duty if the article is the produce or manufacture of|
|The United Kingdom.||A British Colony.||Burma.|
|-cont.||(a) the duty on any article included in this item shall in no case be less than the duty which would be charged if the article were liable to a duty of 30 per cent, ad valorem;|
|(b) where the unit of assessment is the Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof, the duty shall be increased or reduced in proportion as the strength is greater or less than London proof.|
|22(5)||Spirits—||The rate at which excise duty is leviable at the place of importation plus one fifth of the total duty|
|(i) entered in such a manner as to indicate that the strength is not to be tested.||Preferential revenue.||Rs. 60 per Imperial gallon.||—||Rs. 54 per Imperial gallon.||—|
|(ii) not so entered||Preferential revenue.||Rs. 45 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||—||Rs. 40–8 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||—|
|(b) Drugs and medicines containing spirit—|
|(i) entered in such a manner as to indicate that the strength is not to be tested.||Preferential Revenue.||Rs. 48 Imperial gallon.||Rs. 43–31/5 per Imperial gallon.||Rs. 43–31/5c per Imperial gallon.||—|
|(ii) not so entered||Preferential revenue.||Rs. 34–121/5 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||Rs. 31–3 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||Rs. 31–31/5 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||—|
|22(5)||(c) Perfumed spirits||Revenue.||Rs. 60 per Imperial gallon or 25 per cent, ad valorem, whichever is higher plus one fifth of the total duty.||—||—||—|
|(d) Rum||Preferential revenue.||Rs. 45 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||—||Rs. 40–8 per Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof.||—|
|(a) on any article chargeable under this item with the lower rate of duty, the duty levied shall in no case be less than 24 per cent, ad valorem, and on any article chargeable under this item with the higher rate of duty, the duty levied shall in no case be less than 36 per cent, ad valorem;|
|(b) where the unit of assessment is the Imperial gallon of the strength of London proof, the duty shall be increased or reduced in proportion as the strength is greater or less than London proof.|
|22(6)||Denatured spirit||Revenue.||11¼ per cent, ad valorem.||—||—||Free|
|24||Tobacco manufactured, not otherwise specified||Revenue.||Rs. 4–8 per lb.||—||—||—|
|24(1)||Cigars||Revenue.||135 per cent, ad valorem.||—||—||10 per cent, ad valorem.|
|24(2)||Cigarettes||Revenue.||25 per cent, ad valorem and in addition either Rs. 8–2 per thousand or Rs. 3–4 per lb. whichever is higher plus one-fifth of the total duty.||—||—||—|
|24(3)||Tobacco, unmanufactured†||Preferential revenue.||Rs. 3–141/5 per lb.||—||Rs. 3–141/5 per lb.||12 per cent, ad valorem.|
|* Under Government of India, Finance Department (Central Revenue), Notification No. 33, dated the 22nd June, 1935, as amended subsequently, ale and beer in containers other than bottles are exempt from so much of the duty as is in excess of the duty that would have been leviable if such containers were bottles.|
|† Under Government of India, Finance Department (Central Revenues), Notification No. 33, dated the 22nd June, 1935, tobacco leaf for the manufacture of cigars when proved to have been imported for use in a cigar factory is liable to duty at Rs. 2–64/5 per lb. (standard) and Re. 1–124/5 per lb. (preferential).|
asked the Secretary of State for India what further steps he has taken to provide in N.A.A.F.I. canteens in India meals for British soldiers who now have to pay high prices to private contractors much in excess of the cost of meals in Britain.
In India the place of N.A.A.F.I. is taken by Canteen Services (India). This organisation is not run by individual contractors on a profit-making basis, but is administered by a Board of Control through a Canteen Directorate and is financed by the Government of India. Prices are fixed by the Quartermaster-General in India in the case of every item except fresh perishables and raw materials required for the tea and supper trade, prices of which are fixed by the local commanders in conformity with those ruling in the vicinity. In view of the widespread misapprehension which prevails on the subject I wish to emphasise that contractors have no say whatever in policy, fixation of prices, or procurement of stores, and are merely the retail distributors of the Canteen Services (India) in non-operational areas.
Is the Minister aware that it costs the soldier 5s. 3d. a day as against a maximum of 2s. 6d. in this country, and why should there be that difference?
I do not think that that is the case. Some articles may be dearer, but others are substantially cheaper.
Is it not a fact that the prices in these canteens are higher than those in American canteens, and why should the British soldier with a lower rate of pay be made to pay more than the American soldier who has a higher rate?
I am not aware of that fact, but I shall be glad to look into it.
In order that we can find out whether our troops are paying more in India than in this country, would my right hon. Friend be prepared to publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the prices charged in India?
I will look into that.
asked the Secretary of State for India to what industrial and other organisations the Government of India are giving or have agreed to give subsidies or financial assistance; what are the specific amounts; and under what conditions this is granted.
If the hon. Member would help me by making the object of his Question somewhat more explicit, I could make inquiries from the Government of India.
Is it really necessary to make it more explicit? Surely the right hon. Gentleman can find out what moneys are paid to voluntary and private organisations of an industrial or similar character? Is that outside the knowledge of the India Office?
Yes, Sir. The Government of India are responsible for the affairs of a continent and for a vast administration. They may be paying out subventions in various directions of which I would naturally not be informed.
Can I take it that subventions of a substantial character are being paid out to various organisations?
I am willing to make any inquiry if my hon. Friend will give me an indication of the directions in which he would like me to make inquiries.
Congress Leaders (Detention)
asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the freedom now enjoyed by Mr. Gandhi, and the political contacts he has made since his release, the present detention of Congress leaders is likely to be reconsidered; and how many Congress leaders and members now remain in detention.
The release of Mr. Gandhi, which was ordered solely for reasons of health, has no bearing on the continued detention of the Congress leaders. The number of persons remaining in detention on 1st May was, 3,508.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that, whatever may have been the motive for releasing Mr. Gandhi, he is politically free and is making political contacts; and that, as apparently no harm has been done by his release, others less important should also be released?
That is a matter of opinion.
In view of what I have said, should not the whole question be reconsidered at an early date?
I do consider all these matters.
Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman has a completely shut mind in this matter and is not prepared to consider the whole question anew?
Not at this moment.
Is it not the case that while the right hon. Gentleman knows the facts, his questioners do not?
Home Security Circular
17 and 18.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he proposes to enforce upon unwilling authorities the policy laid down in Home Security Circular No. 73/1944 that a member of a local authority should not be both a member of the emergency committee and a controller or sub-controller, paid or unpaid;(2) which regional commissioners he consulted before he issued Home Security Circular No. 73/1944, which lays down that a member of a local authority should not be both a member of the emergency committee and a controller or sub-controller, paid or unpaid.
All the regional commissioners were consulted before the issue of this circular and I have advised local authorities to refer to them when they are in doubt whether changes are necessary in their arrangements to bring them into reasonable conformity with the terms of the circular. The regional commissioners are in a position to advise them, and I have little evidence at present of general unwillingness on the part of local authorities to accept that advice. Indeed, Press reports suggest that many authorities have already welcomed the guidance given. I should be reluctant to make any statement at this stage which seemed to imply that local authorities in general were not in agreement with the principles enunciated or that any compulsion should be necessary on my part. But I do attach importance in principle to a distinction being drawn between a member of a policy-making and directing local authority committee on the one hand and an executive officer responsible to the committee on the other.
If a local authority satisfied the regional commissioner that a change was undesirable, he would not insist upon the change taking place?
I do not wish to commit myself to that extent. A local authority is perfectly free to make representations, and if there is an exceptional case it will be considered.
Is it not far more important that regional commissioners and their deputies should not be prospective Labour candidates for constituencies?
There has never been an embargo upon a regional commissioner being either a Member of Parliament or a candidate, and I must say I think it is a little wrong on the part of my hon. Friend to single out one political party?
The right hon. Gentleman says that I am wrong; will he explain in what respect?
In picking on one political party.
Fire Prevention (Churches)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether any special instructions have been issued to local authorities for fire-watching at churches.
Under the Fire Guard Orders issued last year, the same provision was made for fire prevention at churches as for business premises and the instructions issued to local authorities cover both classes of premises.
As church fires generally occur in the roof, could not my right hon. Friend see that something in the nature of a permanent ladder is fixed in churches, so that the fire hose could be made to reach the roof? Frequently, when fire occurs, there is nothing which can carry the hose up to the roof to stop the burning.
I will keep that point in mind. I think that is usually provided for.
Local Government Elections
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider the advisability of permitting the measure postponing local government elections to lapse in the autumn, so that electors may have the opportunity of choosing their own councillors; and if he will introduce any necessary legislation.
I recognise that in the view of my hon. Friend the advantages of holding local elections outweigh the reasons for which Parliament decided last December to renew the suspending Act for another year, but I do not think that since the date when Parliament took that decision there has been such a change in the circumstances as would justify the Government in making a definitive statement at the present time.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that we are approaching a period when town councils might be allowed to become once more democratic bodies, and will he bear that in mind in coming legislation?
Yes, Sir, I will keep that in mind. We are approaching some future period which must raise that question in an acute form.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of persons who had previously been rejected by the electors have been co-opted on to local councils?
Released Convicts (Press Photographs)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the publication in the Press of photographs of convicts on their release from prison after serving often a long sentence, full particulars being given of the crime in respect of which they had been punished; and whether he will introduce legislation to stop this practice as it is an obstacle to a convict in making a fresh start.
I need hardly say that I greatly deplore publicity of this kind. The great majority of newspapers recognise the considerations to which my hon. Friend calls attention and avoid such publications, and there will I am sure be general agreement that this standard is to be commended and ought to be universal. I do not think that there is a case for legislation on this subject.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is exceedingly unfair, when a man has paid the penalty of an offence, and is endeavouring to start life anew, that he should be pilloried, and the whole of his past life published, together with photographs showing his wife meeting him at the gate of the prison?
Yes, Sir, I agree with my hon. Friend.
Does not any newspaper which does anything of that kind lay itself open to heavy damages for libel?
I am afraid I could not say, as I am not an authority on the complicated law of libel.
Police (Detachment Allowance)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, when regular and auxiliary policemen are sent as reinforcements to other forces, he will consider allowing the auxiliary constables to receive the 3s. a day or 21s. a week which is paid to the regular constables, under Police Regulation 72, being the detachment allowance, since the auxiliaries are required for the same purpose as the regular constables.
Members of the regular police who are sent on reinforcing duties are paid detachment duty allowance by virtue of the long-standing conditions of service which apply to them as regulars. Members of the war-time auxiliary police, like the regular police, are in such circumstances given free board and lodging or an allowance in lieu and are thus not put to additional expense. I can see no sufficient justification for the payment of an additional detachment allowance to auxiliaries whose conditions of service are not assimilated to those of the regular police.
Does not my right hon. Friend appreciate that it is urgently necessary to have a review of the pay and conditions of the auxiliary police, in view of the difficulties which confront some of these men in maintaining their families on the existing rate of pay and allowances?
That is another question.
But it all has a direct bearing in the matter.
Electoral Register (Temporary Legislation)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has prepared any electoral registration regulations for submission to Parliament; and when he proposes to lay them before the House.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the new electoral register will be ready for use.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to be able to name the appointed day in relation to the Parliament (Elections and Meetings) Act, 1943.
I propose to make a statement on this subject at the end of Questions.
The regulations are in an advanced state of preparation, but it has been necessary to defer their completion because the electoral registration officers for Parliamentary counties in England and Wales have represented that, owing to shortage of staff and wartime difficulties, they will in many places be unable, in present circumstances, to produce electoral registers, unless the procedure prescribed by the Act of 1943 is simplified. The Act provides that the qualification for the civilian residence register shall be registration in the national register as residing continuously in a constituency for not less than two months before the qualifying date (i.e. the date on which the electoral records are frozen with a view to an impending election), and that, once a qualification has been acquired in one constituency, that qualification holds good until a qualification is acquired in another constituency. These provisions entail an intricate series of arrangements to ensure that newcomers to a constituency are not recorded as qualified for inclusion in the electoral register until each of them has had the requisite two months' continuous residence, and that persons leaving the constituency are not treated as disqualified until each of them has acquired a qualification elsewhere. The volume and complexity of the clerical operations required for these purposes would not present serious difficulty in normal times, but at the present time many electoral registration officers find that to recruit, train and supervise the necessary staff is beyond their resources and it must be remembered that failure in any one constituency to deal properly with arrivals and departures will affect the electoral records of all the constituencies from and to which such movements take place.There will, I am sure, be general agreement that to postpone the introduction of the new system, with the result that by-elections must be fought on the obsolescent register of 1939, would be most undesirable: and after examining the position with care the Government have come to the conclusion that the only solution is to suspend for a time the provisions which complicate the registration arrangements. It is accordingly proposed to introduce at once a temporary Bill to substitute for the requirement of two months' residence a provision that a civilian shall be included in the electoral register if he is registered in the national register as residing in the constituency on the qualifying date, and to put back the qualifying date by one month, so as to ensure that newcomers to a constituency will have been, as a general rule, residing in the constituency for not less than a month before the date on which an election is initiated, i.e. the date on which a writ for a by-election is received, and therefore for not less than two-and-three quarter months before the date of the poll. The Bill will require the Secretary of State to bring this temporary scheme to an end as soon as he is satisfied that sufficient staff and facilities are available for the operation of the 1943 Act, and will provide that in any case it shall expire by 31st December, 1945, unless a Resolution is passed by each House of Parliament extending the date. The Bill will be available in the Vote Office to-day, and the Government hopes for the co-operation of the House in passing it into law without delay. I regret having to ask the House to amend an Act which was passed in November last, but I am satisfied that there is no other way of attaining the object we all desire, namely, a Register which shall be available at an early date and shall be as fully representative as possible.
Can my right hon. Friend say why it is that, apparently, these difficulties have arisen in the counties but not in the boroughs, and can he also say whether his proposal is intended to apply only to by-elections?
I do not know that it does not apply in the boroughs, but I agree that the representations I have had have come from the counties, as the situation is more serious there. Why that should be, I cannot be sure, except, perhaps, that the staffing arrangements of the counties are not so easy in solving this problem as in the cities and boroughs. I imagine that that is so. With regard to this Amendment, which will, I trust, only apply to by-elections, I hope that by the time a General Election comes in the offing—as to which I have no knowledge—the labour situation will be easier, in which case I will bring the Act to an end. I do not wish to make an absolutely final promise, but I can assure the House that I will bring this amending Act to an end as soon as it becomes practicable to do so.
As these complications have arisen, and the Home Secretary is introducing legislation mainly to deal with by-elections, may I ask if he is also aware that considerable complications have arisen in the Services; and, as the Services are interested in by-elections just as much as civilians, will he take steps to include in his amending Bill some simpler procedure so that Service electors can be registered more accurately than they have been before?
This Bill will apply to civilian voters, and I am afraid I cannot extend its scope.
While recognising that it will depend on the passage of the Bill, can my right hon. Friend say the approximate date on which the new register will come into operation?
Of course, it is dependent, as the hon. Member has indicated, on the day when the Bill reaches the Statute Book, but I should hope that the appointed day can be fixed on a date about two months after the date on which the Bill comes into operation.
The Minister did not seem to me to answer Question No. 21. If regulations are to be made under the Bill which is to come before the House, will the right hon. Gentleman follow the practice which is usual on these matters now and consult hon. Members before the regulations are actually made public, as, by that time, the matter has gone past our control?
I do not think we did on the occasion when the present regulations were made, but, if we did, I will certainly give the point consideration. I do not know whether any difficulty arises there, and, of course, I am anxious that there shall be no needless delay, but I will give the point consideration.
While I recognise the character of the problem before the right hon. Gentleman, does he realise that it tackles only this question of the civilian voter, and ignores the Service voter, and that that might give a false impression that the right hon. Gentleman is more interested in the one than the other? Will he consider introducing legislation to deal with the problem of the Service man?
I think it would be undesirable to confuse the two things. This is, primarily, for by-elections, and, clearly, that issue does not arise there. [Interruption.] Well, I am not sure, but I do not think it is administratively practicable. However, that argument can be saved for another day. If I try to bring into this Bill whatever complications exist on the Service side, I shall only delay the Bill, but it has been arranged this morning that a deputation of all parties is to see the three Service Ministers and myself on the problems in the Services, about which hon. Members are anxious, and I think it will be better for that discussion to be continued at the next stage by that deputation.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question, being unaware of any deputation going to see him? He must be aware that the dates fixed for the registration of Service people were at a time when it was quite impossible for the conditions to be carried out. In these circumstances, there is considerable feeling in the Services that the men will not be able to vote, as was intended, mainly owing to circumstances over which they and their commanding officers have no control?
I must remind the House that I am not a Service Minister in this respect and that this is, primarily, a matter for the Service Ministers. But I am aware of the anxiety in the matter and that is why I wished to proceed. I think the matter had better proceed by deputation, and I will, with the Service Ministers, endeavour to get on as fast as we can.
In view of the fact that the Government appear to be planning a khaki coupon election, would it not simplify the matter, if the Government arranged for a national referendum upon the adult vote?
I do not know anything about a coupon election. I am a member of the War Cabinet, but I did not know anything of that before.
When the appointed day has been settled, will the Government see that the new register will be made available?
As and when a by-election occurs, the register will be made available. It will not be available otherwise.
Arising out of that reply, has the right hon. Gentleman taken steps to inquire the length of time it will take to prepare these copies; and will he inquire into it, because the same difficulties may arise in counties, where it may take up to three weeks to get the lists ready?
These physical difficulties will exist just the same, but the object is to make the first copies of the register more quickly than would otherwise be the case. There is bound to be more serious delay between the issue of the writ and polling day than there was before.
Having regard to the fact that the difficulty, apparently, is limited to some of the counties, why is it that the necessary labour force, which I calculate could not exceed 1,000, cannot be made available, instead of abolishing the residence qualification, to which some of us attach considerable importance?
That is another question.
In one of his supplementary answers just now, did the Home Secretary imply that, when the new register is in operation at by-elections, it will not be administratively possible for Servicemen who are constituents in the particular constituencies to vote?
Perhaps I said more than I ought, or less than I ought—I am not quite sure—but I do not recollect precisely what the position of the Servicemen in a by-election is. Perhaps if that question is to be pursued, it had better be put down, when I shall really know what I am talking about.
Is the Home Secretary aware that there may be contests in which the Service men and women will determine the result; and is it not the case that the Service men and women in these circumstances ought to be given the vote and ought he not to see that they get it?
My hon. Friend has not any more enthusiasm for members of the Services than any other Member of the House. We are all absolutely united in wanting the Service people to have the maximum opportunity for expressing their views at elections.
Parliamentary Franchise (Service Register)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new method of qualification for voting the Government proposes to adopt in view of the failure of millions of Service personnel to complete the necessary forms qualifying them to vote at the next. General Election.
I cannot accept the assumption on which my hon. Friend bases his Question. The process of transmitting Service declarations to the electoral registration officers is still in its early stage, and it is too soon to estimate what proportion of members of the Forces will or will not make use of the facilities for exercising the franchise made available by the Act of 1943. I need hardly point out that the attention of all three Services is being heavily engaged at present in other directions.
In view of the fact that the machinery has broken down, through nobody's fault, would my right hon. Friend agree to receive an all-party deputation from Members who have considered this question, like my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Quintin Hogg) and others?
My hon. Friend will, no doubt, appreciate that the responsibility for the Service aspect of the matter rests upon the Service Ministers; but, if there was an indication that Members representing all parties in the House wished to see the Service Ministers, possibly with myself present, I would endeavour to make arrangements accordingly.
Although responsibility is on the Service Ministers to obtain a register of members of the Services, is there not also responsibility upon the right hon. Gentleman, as Home Secretary, to see that the register is as complete as possible? Will he take action towards that end?
My hon. Friend is wrong. There is a statutory responsibility on the Service Departments, within this sphere, but we cannot get into a position in which one Minister is running another Minister. I will follow my own responsibilities, which are rather different, and I will be helpful in respect of the others, but it is impossible for one Minister to be held responsible for the statutory responsibilities of other Ministers.
When the time is opportune, could not my right hon. Friend ask the Service Ministers to meet him, to see what more can be done?
Certainly, I will keep that suggestion in mind. If the idea of an all-party deputation to the Service Ministers, with myself present, is proceeded with, I think that my hon. Friend's suggestion might well be associated with it.
Would it not be a good idea if members of the Services who do not register could be put on the electoral registers of the Service Ministers in their own constituencies?
Does not the Home Secretary recognise that, normally, he would be responsible for the civilian register and that the Service Ministers are now acting in a way for him? Does he not appreciate that the fact that a large percentage of Service personnel have not signed forms, is a definite menace to the future of democratic government.
That is a good try on, on the part of my hon. Friend, but I must point out that we have not reached the stage when one Minister bosses another, or when one Minister takes responsibility for another Minister's Department.
United States Forces, Great Britain (Death Sentences)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the number of persons sentenced to death in this country by foreign powers; and how many of these have been executed on British soil.
I am informed that sentence of death has been passed on fourteen members of the United States forces by United States courts-martial in the United Kingdom. In three cases the sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment; four cases are still subject to review; and in seven cases the sentence of death has been carried out by the United States authorities in this country. In every case in which the death sentence has been carried out the offence charged has been murder; in one of the cases rape had been committed as well as murder. So far as I am aware no sentence of death has been passed in this country by the courts of any other foreign Power but their courts-martial do not try cases of murder, manslaughter or rape.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether all those who have been sentenced to death were negro soldiers, or whether there were any whites among them?
I could not say without notice.
Conscientious Objector (Prosecution, Lewes)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions George Elphick, 66, Priory Street, Lewes, a registered conscientious objector, has been prose- cuted at Lewes police court for refusing fireguard duty and with what results; what has been the cost of the prosecutions to date and on whom has it fallen; whether he will give an assurance that no Government contribution has been made or will be made towards such costs; and whether he will take powers to prevent such persecution, which was deprecated by the regional commissioner in October, 1942.
This man has been before the magistrates seven times and was convicted on six occasions. Particulars of the cost of the prosecutions are not at present available, but the local authority has been informed that no grant from the Exchequer will be made towards expenditure on proceedings commenced against him after 8th October, 1942. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to my answer of 9th December last.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the action which he has already taken in this case, may I ask whether it is possible for him to take some further steps to prevent an obvious waste of public money and the time of the courts, in what is tantamount to absolute persecution?
These cases are often difficult to understand. I have tried, in the special circumstances of this case, to be as helpful as I can and I will do so, but I do not think I ought, so to speak, to usurp directly the functions of the local authority in the matter.
Could not the right hon. Gentleman make it quite clear that local authorities are not to be interfered with by Questions in this House, in the carrying out of their duties under the law?
I think that point is covered by the answer which I have given.
asked the President of the Board of Education what is the total expenditure, capital and annual, upon school education in England and Wales envisaged under the Education Bill now before Parliament.
The total annual expenditure estimated to fall on public funds, including the cost of the reforms envisaged in the Education Bill, is shown in Table II of the Financial Memorandum attached to the Bill as presented to Parliament. As regards the estimated additional capital expenditure referable to the reforms, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) on 1st February, a copy of which I am sending him. The annual charges on this capital expenditure are included in the figures given in the Tables in the Financial Memorandum.
Do the figures the right hon. Gentleman has given provide for any substantial increase in the salaries of teachers?
They provide for an increase in the salaries of teachers. Whether an increase is substantial or not varies very much, according to the point of view of the recipient or the giver.
asked the President of the Board of Education what is the amount of expenditure upon school education in England and Wales provided from scources other than Governmental, central or local.
Up-to-date information is not available. The latest Return of Expenditure on the Public Social Services (Cmd. 5906) shows that in 1936–37 the total receipts, other than receipts from rates and taxes, in respect of services falling under the Education Acts amounted to £7,999,000. This figure is exclusive of the receipts by way of fees and endowments in schools and institutions not provided by local education authorities. These, in the case of aided and direct grant secondary schools, which represent a very large part of such receipts, amounted in 1936–37 to rather over £2,000,000. The Board have no corresponding information in regard to independent schools.
Young Persons (Earnings)
asked the President of the Board of Education if he can give an estimate, however rough, of the cost to the country involved in persons between the ages of 14 and 16 years being excluded from productive employment.
I am afraid that I cannot give the desired estimate, as there are no statistics relating to the earnings of young people of 14 and 15 separately from the earnings of other age-groups.
Road Safety Training
asked the President of the Board of Education, in connection with the road casualties for April, numbering over 10,000, of which fatalities to children numbered approximately five a day, what are the precise measures which have been taken by his Department to secure that the head teachers of all schools throughout the country are impressing upon the children in their schools the serious dangers of lack of care in crossing highways and generally explaining the rules of the road.
I am sending my hon. Friend copies of four official documents in which my Department have drawn the attention of authorities to the need for including road safety training as a definite and regular part of the curriculum in all schools. A new film on road safety produced by the Ministry of Information in collaboration with the Ministry of War Transport and the Board of Education specially for showing to children has recently been made available to local education authorities.
Does not all this relate to post-war training? When five children are being killed every day surely some special request should be made now to local education authorities throughout the country that, each day, for say a couple of months, the head teacher should draw the attention of the children on assembly at the school to the great danger of road accidents?
May I say to my hon. Friend that, to my knowledge, frequent reference is made to this matter in schools, and all kinds of practical demonstrations and exercises are given, but I venture to say that if the same thing were said every day for two months, long before the end of the first month the children would be paying attention to something other than the words of the teacher.
Is it not the case that the real problem in connection with road fatalities to children is the urgent need for an extension of playing fields for the children, and does that not raise the question of taking over the land?
Hospitals (Food Supplies)
asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the allotment of food for military casualties admitted to civilian 'base hospitals is inadequate, and will he make arrangements to supplement it forthwith.
Arrangements have already been made, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, to enable hospitals with a substantial proportion of Service patients to obtain an additional allowance of meat.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in a certain Midland hospital the first convoy ate the whole of a week's meat ration on the first evening? I hope he will considerably increase the meat ration.
asked the Minister of Health if he will state the number of deaths from pulmonary and non-pulmonary tuberculosis, and the number of cases notified, in England and Wales and in Scotland during 1943, giving the sexes separately; will he give the comparable figures for 1938 to 1942; and whether any age-groups have been especially affected in any increases that may have taken place recently.
As the reply involves a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Will the Minister be good enough to publish what is called the Annual Report of his Department, which would contain these statistics?
The statistics asked for will be in HANSARD to-morrow.
Following is the reply:
|The following table in which the particulars relating to Scotland have been supplied by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, gives the information for which my hon. Friend asks.|
|Year.||England and Wales.||Scotland.|
Notes. Table for England and Wales. The figures for 1943 are provisional only; separate figures for males and females are not yet available. Comparison of the deaths from pulmonary tuberculosis by age groups in 2943 with those in 1939 shows that increases occurred amongst children under 15 and amongst men at each age group over 35, whereas decreases occurred amongst women of each age group.
Table for Scotland. Age groups specially affected by recent increases in pulmonary tuberculosis are:
|Under 5 (M. and F.), 10 to 25 (F.), 15 to 25 (M. and F.), and 25 to 35 (M. and F.).|
|There are no age groups specially affected by increases in non-pulmonary tuberculosis.|
Water Pollution (Toddington)
asked the Minister of Health whether he will make an investigation regarding the effluent from the canning factory at Toddington, which is alleged to have been causing serious pollution of the Washbourne and Carrant brooks, which in part run through the Evesham rural district territory; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy the pollution, which, apart from being a public nuisance, is a serious danger to cattle on the farms through which the brooks pass.
I am aware of the pollution of the streams from the factory effluent and the matter was last investigated by one of my officers on 12th April. The company responsible has carried out temporary works to remedy the position, and I am advised that the effluent is now much better but that the pollution of the stream is aggravated by the condition of the bed of the stream, which should be cleaned out. The necessity for this work has been brought to the notice of the Gloucestershire War Agricultural Executive Committee, who have the matter in hand. The company's technical advisers are in touch with the Director of the Water Pollution Research Laboratory of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. I shall continue to keep the position under review.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that recent samples taken after the experiments and so-called improvements had been made by the company, showed no improvement whatever; and is he not aware that the Cheltenham rural district council put forward a comprehensive scheme to deal with this nuisance which was turned down by the Minister and his Department on the grounds of expense? The matter is one of vital urgency, and does not seem to have had proper attention.
It was not turned down on the ground of expense alone but also on grounds of efficiency. Potato canning, which causes particular difficulty in the matter of effluent, is not going on there at the moment. The company are doing their very best and I hope that progress will be made.
Will the Minister ensure that any expenses incurred in purifying this stream, will be placed upon those who polluted it?
I am not satisfied, and I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter at the earliest opportunity.
Sites (Grouping Scheme)
asked the Minister of Health whether he will reconsider the policy of grouping local authorities for the advance preparation of housing sites as, in effect, this policy results in the overburdening of a few selected large contractors who are given priority for material and labour, while similar facilities are withheld from the smaller firms which would be employed by individual local authorities.
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply, of which I am sending him a copy, which I gave on 8th June to questions on this subject.
Does the Minister not consider that, apart from its gross unfairness to the small contractor, this scheme is unsound, as the individual local authorities will not have charge of the houses when they are built?
I should not have given the advice I did, if I had thought the scheme was unsound. I assure my hon. and gallant Friend that a small contractor who can do the work with equal economy will have complete fairness, and quite small schemes are in fact being authorised now. This has nothing to do with the actual building of houses. This is an attempt to get the sites prepared with the utmost economy and speed during the progress of the war.
Will the Minister give an assurance that this same policy of excluding small builders will not continue when it comes to building the houses themselves?
I have no intention of a scheme of this nature applying to the building of houses.
asked the Minister of Health whether, if local authorities reject his advice regarding the aggregations of contracts and the employment of large scale contractors, he will give an assurance that this decision will in no way affect the right of such authorities to enjoy equal priority in respect of the provision of labour and materials if they prefer to engage a medium or small sized builder.
As explained in the reply which I gave to the hon. Members for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Jewson), Peterborough (Viscount Suirdale), and Chislehurst (Sir W. Smithers), on 8th June, the object of the grouping scheme is to ensure the maximum saving in cost and labour. The scheme is a voluntary one, but it will be my duty in considering tenders submitted for my approval to satisfy myself that the work will be carried out in the most economical way. Subject to that, as I have already explained, every facility will be given to approved contracts.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there will be many small builders seeking to re-establish themselves at a most difficult time; and will he do everything that he can to encourage that laudable aim?
That is both my appreciation of the situation, and my intention.
Homes For The Aged
asked the Minister of Health what advice his Department has issued to local authorities on the establishment of small colonies of homes for the aged; and whether he is aware of the practicability of such a scheme.
Advice as to the need for special small dwellings for old people and as to the type of dwelling best suited to their requirements has been issued to local authorities on a number of occasions by circulars, housing manuals and otherwise. Further advice on the location and planning of such dwellings will be included in the forthcoming new manual, following the report of the Design of Dwellings Sub-Committee of my Central Housing Advisory Committee. About 48,800 special dwellings for old people have already been built by local authorities and many of them are in groups or colonies.
Will the Minister take note that elderly people do not want to be segregated, and that what they would desire is to have their smaller houses incorporated in housing schemes?
I took it that the expression "colonies" meant groups rather than separate and segregated units.
Evacuated Military Buildings
asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the houses heretofor used for military purposes now becoming vacant through the departure of troops for the Continent, he is taking any further action to see that those houses are occupied by civilian families or are put at the disposal of local authorities for this purpose.
This important matter is receiving close consideration, and I am conferring with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War about it.
Do I understand that some kind of direction will be given that, when that happens, the houses shall be passed over to the authorities for civil purposes?
That is, quite obviously, the matter on which I am consulting with the Secretary of State.
asked the Minister of Health when it is anticipated that the four agricultural cottages being built at Wan-stern, Somerset, by the Frome Rural District Council, and due for completion last March, will be ready for occupation.
The cottages are roofed in. I am making inquiry when they are likely to be ready for occupation, and will let my hon. Friend know the result in the course of a few days.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is the opinion of the district council that the cottages cannot possibly be finished before next December, and that had they been left with greater freedom the cottages could have been completed by December last? This is costing a great deal of money, and the position is extremely unsatisfactory. Will the Minister look into the Essential Work Order with regard to it?
The progress of all these cottages is being closely watched, but I am not sure that the council itself has proceeded with all expedition.
asked the Minister of Health what has happened to the 16 windows ordered for houses being built by the Frome Rural District Council, at Wanstern, which were put on the railway for delivery last November.
It seems clear that the windows have been lost in transit. Arrangements have been made for another consignment to be sent by passenger train.
Water Supplies Scheme (Compensation)
asked the Minister of Health whether the catchment board was consulted before compensation water was cut down for the benefit of the water supply of a certain area, of which the name has been supplied to him; if a public inquiry was held; and to what extent it is his intention to interfere with compensation rates settled by Acts of Parliament.
I apologise to the House for the length of the reply—
Perhaps it is the wish of the House that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should make his statement at the end of Question Time?
In this instance it was represented to me by the water undertaking concerned that, owing to lack of rainfall, a reduction of compensation water would be necessary if they were to be able to meet prospective requests, later in the year, for emergency supplies to certain other undertakings covering important areas. Normally, a local inquiry would have been held, of which due notice would have been given to the catchment board and other interests. It became evident, however, that, owing to the rapid falling in the level of the reservoir, due to the lack of rainfall, delay in taking action would, for technical engineering reasons special to the particular case, render the proposed action abortive. In these circumstances, I departed from my usual practice to the extent of making an interim Order, on 3rd June, to come into operation forthwith as a matter of urgency. The catchment board and others concerned were at once notified, and given full opportunity to make representations by 30th June, as to the period of operation of the Order. I have already received an intimation from the catchment board that they would wish to be heard on the question of renewal of the Order, which is at present due to expire on 31st July, and I am arranging for a local inquiry to be held early next month.
Can my right hon. and learned Friend say that all the suitable local interests, such as the agricultural interests, will be consulted? I am sure that he is aware that it is a very serious thing, for cattle and other things, that the compensation water should be cut down.
I appreciate that this is a serious and unusual measure to take. It is within a power similar to one given in rather similar circumstances in 1934. It was taken with due thought; and all those concerned have been notified and will have an opportunity of making their representations.
News Broadcasts (Announcers)
asked the Minister of Information if his attention has been called to the fact that the one o'clock news bulletin on Monday last was broadcast by an anonymous member of the B.B.C.'s staff, instead of by one of the usual named announcers; and whether this means that, in the event of urgent instructions to the public, arising out of enemy action in this country, attention is to be paid to any broadcast, no matter whether the voice of the broadcaster is familiar to the public or not.
I am assured by the B.B.C. that any urgent instructions to the public concerning enemy action in this country would be broadcast by someone whose voice is familiar to listeners.
Can my hon. Friend say whether some of the established B.B.C. announcers who were called up are still doing their work? Does he not think, in view of the splendid job that the B.B.C. are doing on the invasion, that it would be better to recall them?
Sittings Of The House (Standing Orders)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will move an amendment to Standing Orders to enable the suspension of the rule governing the hour of Adjournment to be moved during the course of business in Committee of Supply.
No, Sir. The power to suspend the Rule without notice on certain occasions was granted to the Government for the purpose of obtaining essential and urgent business. Business in Committee of Supply is regulated by Standing Order No. 14, and I do not think that the Government would be justified in asking for this extended power.
In arriving at this decision, has my right hon. Friend taken into account the fact that in several recent Debates, most important Debates, held in Committee of Supply, upwards of a dozen hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have not been able to be called? Cannot he somehow get over the technical difficulties involved, in order to facilitate an arrangement?
It is, of course, not a unique experience to fail to catch your eye, Sir. I do not think we can amend the Standing Orders on that ground. If I might explain in one sentence what the difficulty is, it would mean, in Committee, that Mr. Speaker would have to come back into the Chair, and then would have to leave the Chair in order that we could get back into Committee. That would be contrary to Standing Order No. 12. I think that we should be careful not to knock our Standing Orders about.
Quarrying (Land Restoration)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been drawn to the announcement of the appointment of a consulting engineer by the Minister of Town and Country Planning to carry out a technical investigation of the possibilities of restoration of land damaged by quarrying for ironstone; and whether he proposes to take any steps to examine the possibilities of restoration of any such land for agricultural use.
Yes, Sir. This question has been under consideration by my Department for some time. With the help of the companies concerned, a number of plots were levelled, and crop and fertiliser experiments have been conducted by the Northampton War Agricultural Executive Committee on my behalf. These experiments are now in their second year. The problems are complex, but the results are sufficiently encouraging to justify the inquiry into the engineering problems of levelling which was announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The whole matter is being handled jointly by our two Departments.
Second-Rate Pastures (Ploughing-Up)
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that many second-rate pastures cannot be ploughed up and directly re-seeded with satisfactory results, he will consider advising new methods of dealing with this type of land, which will involve longer periods of cultivation before re-seeding.
It is part of the duty of county war agricultural executive committees and their district committees and technical staffs to give advice of the nature indicated.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is considering reviving after the war, in some form, the marketing boards set up under the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1930.
The whole question of future marketing arrangements is being considered in connnection with post-war agricultural policy generally.
Pig And Poultry Feeding-Stuffs
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in the case of W. Preston, Junior, of Derby House, Station Road, Broadway, Worcestershire, a regular soldier who served, for nine years overseas, was wounded in Egypt, and discharged from the Army with a small pension, he will amend the terms of Serial No. 1477, so as to permit this man, and other cases similarly situated, to obtain sufficient feeding-stuffs for pigs and poultry, to enable him to earn a livelihood and supplement his small war pension.
The circular to county war agricultural executive committees, to which my hon. Friend refers, deals only with cases of men discharged from the Forces who were keeping pigs or poultry immediately prior to the war. Much as I regret it, I am afraid that the feeding-stuffs supply position at present does not enable me to extend its scope to meet cases such as that of Mr. Preston, who wishes to start pig keeping.
Does my right hon. Friend not appreciate the gross hardship to these men, who have done many years of loyal and devoted service to the country and are unable to supplement the very small pensions they have got? Will he not make some endeavour to give more feeding-stuffs, to enable them to supplement their small pensions?
That is so; but I also am aware that many pig and poultry keepers, including many disabled men from the last war, are suffering great hardship, through our inability to supply them with feeding-stuffs. It would not be equitable to provide rations for newcomers, even if they are ex-Service men.
Allied Administration, Italy (Official)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the head of the Italian African police, a notorious Fascist, is now employed by the Allied administration in Rome; and whether he will take steps to see that neither this man nor any ex-Fascist leader shall be accredited any recognition by our occupying Forces in Italy.