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Oral Answers To Questions
18 October 1944
Volume 403

Prison Camps, Germany (Air-Raid Casualties)

1.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reports he has received respecting casualties among British prisoners of war alleged to be caused by bombing; approximately the number of such casualties; whether the Protecting Power has made representations on this matter; and whether he has any further information in regard to the deaths of prisoners in concentration camps alleged by the German Government to be due to bombing but suspected to be by execution.

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It is unfortunately the case that a number of British prisoners of war have lost their lives in Allied air raids on the Continent, but as the figures cannot be given with any degree of accuracy, I should prefer not to attempt an estimate. Under the German prisoner of war system there are a number of main camps to which are attached subsidiary work camps and detachments forming several thousand units scattered all over the country. Some of these camps have been or are situated near legitimate military targets in contravention of Article 9 of the Geneva Convention. All available information as to the location of prisoner of war camps is promptly passed to the Allied air forces and is used in briefing the air crews. Whenever the delegates of the Protecting Power during their periodical visits to camps have observed that our prisoners were dangerously close to a military target, they have made imme- diate complaints to the German authorities and demanded the transfer of the camp to a safer site. As soon as the details reached this country, His Majesty's Government have made strong representations to the German Government through the Protecting Power. I regret to say that in several cases the German authorities have not complied with these demands. Furthermore, as an additional precaution the German authorities have been urged to provide adequate air raid protection for our prisoners. There is no evidence to show that casualties in prisoner of war camps said to be due to bombing were in fact executions.

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Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he feels that, on the whole, there has been some improvement in this matter? Has he any information more specific than that already available, regarding the political prisoners alleged to have been killed by bombing some few weeks ago; and particularly the Communist and Socialist leaders?

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Sir, I have no more information than I have given in reply to the Question. With regard to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I certainly would not expect that this situation would get worse; I would expect an improvement in it. Air crews are very carefully briefed on this matter and, naturally, they exercise the greatest possible care.

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May I take it that there is no adequate evidence yet of the way in which the political leaders lost their lives?

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No, Sir, I have no further information.

Dodecanese (Greek Inhabitants)

2.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give an assurance that the Greek inhabitants of the Dodecanese islands will on their liberation be treated as Greeks and allies and not as Italian citizens.

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The post-war status of the Dodecanese cannot be decided now, and the formal position of the inhabitants will have to await this settlement. There is, of course, no question of maintaining or re-imposing Italian administration during the interim period before the future of the islands has been decided.

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While realising that the postwar settlement cannot be prejudiced, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that these people will, in the meantime, be treated as they are, loyal Greeks and friends of Great Britain?

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I can certainly give my hon. Friend the assurance that after liberation, and pending the settlement, the inhabitants of the islands will not be treated as enemies or as ex-enemies but as friends.

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Can my right hon. Friend say whether he regards the Dodecanese as former Italian colonies, or as part of metropolitan Italy?

Arab States (Conference)

3.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has been officially informed of the agreement reached at the recent conference of Arab States; and, if so, will he circulate the text of it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

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I have not yet received the official text of the proceedings. His Majesty's Government are watching with sympathy and interest the efforts of the Arab States to reduce the barriers between them. So far as I can judge from the preliminary reports which have been published, a gratifying measure of agreement has been achieved at the preparatory meeting in Cairo as to the direction in which further progress should be made.

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Will my right hon. Friend consider circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the summary of conclusions which has reached London?

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Yes, Sir, I will certainly consider that.

France (British Ambassador)

5.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will further clarify the position of a person holding personal rank of ambassador, who possesses no letters of credential from His Majesty, and is accredited to no foreign Government.

6.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will define the term "per- sonal rank of ambassador"; and whether this rank is recognised in international practice.

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The personal rank of ambassador is one which, subject to the approval of His Majesty, may be conferred upon an individual charged with the representation of this country abroad or with the conduct of negotiations of any kind on behalf of His Majesty's Government, for the purpose of enhancing his status and thus facilitating the performance of his task. The conferring of such personal rank is a common practice.

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Does not my right hon. Friend think it rather ridiculous to give a man the personal status and rank of ambassador, and to refuse to recognise the Government to which he is in fact accredited?

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Can my right hon. Friend publish in a White Paper, and lay it on the Table or in the Library, the instances in which this rank has been conferred in the past? Why is it—if his answer is correct, as no doubt it is—that when His Majesty's Government are represented abroad in most important negotiations, this rank is not conferred?

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I think my Noble Friend did not quite understand the reply I gave just now. I did not say that it was common practice to confer this particular rank; I said it was common practice in these matters to confer personal rank higher than the actual rank of the diplomatic officer concerned.

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Has it ever been conferred in the past?

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Personal rank?

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Yes, Sir.

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Personal rank has been conferred in the past. I would not be sure of personal rank of ambassador, but certainly there must be many instances of a counsellor with the personal rank of a minister.

7.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Provisional Government of France grants to the right hon. Member for the St. George's Division (Mr. Duff Cooper) the privileges, immunities and precedence usually accorded to fully accredited ambassadors.

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Yes, Sir, so far as I am aware.

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May I ask if we grant the same privileges and immunities to M. Massigli in London?

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This Question refers to my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper). I think I shall have to have notice of that further question.

Liberated Countries (Allied Representatives)

9.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the joint responsibilities that the Allies have assumed for the post-war settlement of Europe, the British and U.S.A. Governments have representatives in the liberated countries of South-East and Central Europe.

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His Majesty's Government and the United States Government have not yet got representatives in the partially liberated countries of South-East and Central Europe, since the Allied Governments concerned have not yet returned. When they return to their countries, it is His Majesty's Government's intention that British diplomatic representatives should accompany them. If my hon. and gallant Friend also has in mind enemy countries, I can assure him that provision has been made for His Majesty's Government and the United States Government to be represented on the Control Commissions which have been or will be established to enforce the armistice terms.

Diplomatic Privileges

10 and 11

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) the number of ambassadors and ministers accredited to the Court of St. James and members of their staffs who are accorded diplomatic privileges, and the number of ambassadorial and ministerial officials excluded from these immunities;

(2) the number of ambassadors and ministers accredited to foreign Governments and their staffs temporarily domiciled in Great Britain who are granted diplomatic privileges; and the number of ambassadorial and ministerial officials excluded from advantages.

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As the reply contains a number of figures, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

At the present time there are 22 ambassadors and 15 ministers accredited to the Court of St. James and three missions without titular heads are in charge of chargés d'affaires. The staffs of all these missions, holding diplomatic rank, total 359 persons.

The diplomatic representatives accredited to the heads of Allied States resident in this country or to their Governments temporarily established here include two ambassadors, 34 ministers and 19 chargés d'affaires, eight of the ministers and nine of the charges d'affaires being concurrently members of the Diplomatic Body accredited to the Court of St. James. Their staffs of diplomatic rank number 81, 15 of whom perform concurrent duties in missions accredited to this Court.

The diplomatic missions referred to above have, in addition to members of the staff who hold diplomatic rank, subordinate staff, who possess certain immunities, but whose privileges are less extensive than the diplomatic staff. Further, certain immunities are granted to servants employed in the households or offices of the heads of missions. The numbers of these persons are as follows:

Subordinate staff:
  • (a) Missions accredited to the Court of St. James, 325.
  • (b) Missions accredited to Allied Governments in London, 45.
  • Domestic staff:
  • (a) Missions accredited to the Court of St. James, 498.
  • (b) Missions accredited to Allied Governments in London, 6.
  • I have no information regarding the number of other persons who may be employed in foreign diplomatic missions whose names have not been notified to me and who do not therefore qualify for privileges or immunities of any kind.

    Royal Air Force

    Male Cooks, Scarborough (Pay)

    12.

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    asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that male cooks employed by the R.A.F. in a Scar- borough hotel earn less than unskilled labour owing to the unfavourable conditions of pay for overtime; and if he will take steps to put this right.

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    The conditions of service of civilian male mess grades employed by the Air Ministry are now under discussion with the trade unions concerned. I hope that as a result the earnings of these men will be improved.

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    Is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter has been considered with the trades unions for four months now? If it takes his Department such a long time to deal with that body, is there any need to hold up the increase in pay on that account?

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    No, Sir. My Department is not alone in dealing with this: it is being dealt with by the Whitley Council procedure, representing all the Departments negotiating with the trade unions.

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    Will the increased wage date back to the beginning of the negotiations?

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    I would be very willing to consider that point when I get the result of the negotiations.

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    That is what generally happens with trade unions, so I want the right hon. Gentleman to act up to the practice.

    Demobilisation

    13.

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    asked the Secretary of State for Air how a man, who has served four years in the R.A.F. in Great Britain, will be considered for demobilisation having recently been sent to India.

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    Under the Government scheme for release or transfer from the Forces, the Service authorities will make every effort to release men in their turn, wherever they may be serving.

    Hansard Reporters (Release)

    14.

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    asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that two of the most expert reporters from the Official Gallery of the House of Commons are serving in the R.A.F.; how many applications have been made for their release; and with what result.

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    The case of one of the airmen referred to was the subject of correspondence about a year ago, but so far as I am aware no formal application has been received for release of either of these men. If it is now decided to pursue their cases, it would be for you, Mr. Speaker, to send applications to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, in the first instance, considers all applications for the release of civil servants from the Forces.

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    Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if he does receive an official request for the release of these officers of the House, it will, in fact, be a request from the whole of this honourable House; and will he, therefore, immediately accede to it?

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    It will come to me through the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    Overseas Service (Home Postings)

    16.

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    asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will consider applications for compassionate release or posting of urgent cases from relatives of men who are serving overseas.

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    I can assure the hon. Member that all applications from relatives for the return of airmen from overseas receive careful consideration. After investigation, the facts are communicated by signal to the command concerned and the decision whether or not the airman can be posted home is left to the discretion of the A.O.C.-in-C.

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    Does not the Air Ministry insist that application shall come, in the first place, from the man to his commanding officer if he is serving overseas?

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    No, Sir. There seems to be some confusion between applications for compassionate posting and application for release from the Royal Air Force, and between applications for compassionate posting at home and those in, overseas commands. In the case of corn-passionate postings from overseas commands the facts are investigated by the Air Ministry here, and are supplied to the air officer commanding.

    Food Regulations (Offences)

    18.

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    asked the Secretary of State for Air what was the disciplinary action which followed the investigation into the cases of offences against the food regulations by officers of 54 Group, Training Command, Regent's Park.

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    The commander-in-chief concerned, after reviewing the summary of evidence, decided that the institution of court-martial proceedings was not warranted. Three of the officers concerned were, however, awarded a reproof by the commander-in-chief, which was coupled, in the case of the senior officers, with a formal expression of the Air Council's grave displeasure.

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    Does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is sufficient disciplinary action in a case of that sort?

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    Yes, Sir. A very experienced commander-in-chief considered this case and came to this decision, which I support.

    Beer Supplies, Italy

    20.

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    asked the Secretary of State for Air if he can inquire into the supply of beer to units in Italy, where American units get six bottles per head per week and men of the R.A.F. not more than a half-bottle.

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    I am looking into this matter and will communicate with my hon. and gallant Friend as soon as I receive a report.

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    Has not N.A.A.F.I. already taken over breweries in Italy, so that there is no longer any need to send beer there from this country?

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    I think there is a great shortage of supplies and I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) that we should do all we can to increase them.

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    But cannot supplies be stepped up there?

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    We do all we can.

    Aeronautics (Technical College)

    21.

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    asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether any progress has been made as to arrangements for higher technical education in aeronautics in this country.

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    Yes, Sir. The Aeronautical Research Committee were asked by me to prepare a report on this matter and as a result of their report I appointed an inter-Departmental Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Roy Fedden, to work out a detailed plan based upon the report of the Aeronautical Research Committee. Sir Roy Fedden's Committee has recently reported and has recommended the setting up of a college of Aeronautics to give advanced instruction in aeronautical science and engineering in all branches. It is further recommended that the college should be administered under the Minister of Education by a governing body representing the various interested sections of the community. Until such a college can be built it is suggested that a start should be made as soon as possible in temporary accommodation.

    The Government have accepted in principle the recommendations of the Committee and convenient premises for temporary adaptation are being made available by the Air Ministry though not at the location indicated in the report. The suggested permanent site is also under review. As the matter is of wide interest it is proposed to publish the report of the Fedden Committee as soon as possible.

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    While welcoming this development may I ask if the right hon. and learned Gentleman realises how important it is that this college should be placed near one of the great universities and not somewhere out in the country, away from all academic atmosphere?

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    It is hoped that the college will be situated close to at least two of the main universities.

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    Could the Minister say whether the college will be open to Empire students only or to foreign students as well?

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    It is recommended that it should be open to foreign students as well.

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    Can the Minister say whether academic opinion has been sounded about the site in question?

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    Yes, Sir. There were representatives of the universities on the Committee.

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    Are the main universities the provincial universities?

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    There are many main universities in this country.

    Parcels For Troops (Registration)

    23.

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    asked the Postmaster-General what is the reason for the Post Office instruction dated 1st September, 1943, which now prohibits parents and others from registering parcels to our Forces in France and other European countries; and whether, in view of the fact that there is growing evidence of the failure of non-registered parcels to reach their intended recipients, he will consider rescinding this instruction.

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    The Post Office registration system does not apply, and never has applied, to parcels for members of the Expeditionary Forces serving overseas but only to the letter post. I am not aware of any growing evidence of the failure of parcels to reach their intended recipients, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will forward me particulars of any cases he has in mind, I will gladly have inquiry made.

    Requisitioned Flats (Release)

    24.

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    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he will take steps to de-requisition the service flats of whose address he has been informed.

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    The flats referred to in the Question have been occupied by the French military authorities and are about to be vacated. No decision has yet been reached as to the future use of the building, but we hope to be able to de-requisition a number of flats at early date.

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    Is my hon. Friend aware that there are 250 of these flats, each with a kitchen and bathroom? What possible use can be made of small kitchens and bathrooms for office purposes? Will he also bear in mind the fact that housing accommodation is very short?

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    I am well aware of the point which my hon. and gallant Friend has put, and we are equally concerned, with him, about making these flats available for the purposes for which they were intended.

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    Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a matter of some urgency? Will he take urgent steps to have these flats released in order to provide more housing accommodation?

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    Yes, Sir.

    Royal Navy

    Officers' Marriage Allowance

    27.

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    asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in view of the recent alterations in pay, he will reconsider the question of naval officers' marriage allowances in order to place them on the same basis as the other two Services.

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    Officers of all three Services have, since 1st January, 1942, been on a uniform system of Marriage and Children's Allowance, though officers commissioned before that date had the option of remaining under the old systems in force in their respective Services or of coming under the new uniform system.

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    Is not the Minister aware that the naval officers' marriage scheme alone of the three Services, is a contributory one, and that in all other respects married service is the same? Will he not remove this discrimination against naval officers and put all on the same non-contributory basis?

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    We have been into this matter again and again, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, and I cannot promise that there will be any change.

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    Does not the Minister think that the senior Service should come first, and not last?

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    In view of the Minister's unsatisfactory reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter again on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

    Barracks (Blankets, Issue)

    28.

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    asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if the men in the naval barracks, of which the name has been sent to him, can be provided with two blankets each instead of only the one they are given at present.

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    The issue of an extra blanket to ratings accommodated in the main blocks of the naval barracks referred to is not considered necessary, as these buildings are warmed by fires or central heating. Extra blankets can be issued on loan on application, and men accommodated in temporary huts in outlying camps are automatically provided with additional blankets.

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    Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of these ratings are young men who are not yet hardened to naval life, and who suffer great inconvenience from the present arrangements? Is it not a fact that they have to pay if they want the loan of additional blankets?

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    Not for a loan.

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    Will the Minister give the matter further consideration? The blankets are there. Why should they not be made available?

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    If there is real need for a loan blankets are issued. I rather suspect that this particular complaint may have been caused by the fact that during the cold snap the men of these barracks, like all other citizens, were recently under the heating ban for about a week.

    Pensions Increases

    30.

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    asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether payment of the increased rates of pension referred to in the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1944, has now been made to all the categories of naval pensioners entitled to these increases.

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    Up to now over 8,000 awards of pension at the increased rates have been made to the various categories of eligible naval pensioners. The remaining claims will be dealt with as rapidly as staff difficulties permit.

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    Can the Minister tell us how many claims have yet to be dealt with?

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    I would like notice of that but, speaking from memory, I think about 30,000.

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    Then at this rate of progress it will take in this, as in other cases, about six years to wipe off the arrears?

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    No, I think not.

    Colonial Empire

    Technical Training, East Africa

    32.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, now that Makerere has ceased to function as a technical training school and, in view of the future need for assistant civil and mechanical engineers, surveyors, stenographers, book-keepers and so on, he will review what facilities exist for technical and vocational training for African youth of both sexes throughout the East African Colonies, with a view to the formulation of a comprehensive scheme on a regional basis and at suitable centres for an extension in these directions in coming years as and when instructors and equipment become available.

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    Full professional training will, I hope, be on a regional basis and the question of establishing a school of civil engineering at Makerere is now under consideration. Other vocational and technical education is generally best treated as a territorial responsibility and all the Governments concerned have planned, or are considering plans, for greatly expanded facilities for those purposes.

    Legislative Councils (Non-Official Members)

    34.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will consider abolishing the system under which non-official members of legislative councils representing European communities are nominated by Governors of Colonies and not elected and replacing it by a procedure more in consonance with the times.

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    When the proposed constitutional changes in the Gold Coast take effect Fiji will be the only Colony where such a provision operates. I see no reason to make a change.

    Ex-Servicemen (Settlement)

    35.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that numbers of all ranks now in the Services are anxious, on demobilisation, to consider residence in the Colonies, either as settlers on the land or in Government or commercial service; and whether he will facilitate information and co-operation and expedite the issue of statements as to likely openings and details of steps to be taken in the registration of applicants and the formulation of information.

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    Yes, Sir. But I must emphasise that for climatic and other reasons opportunities for permanent settlement in the Colonial Empire by Europeans are very limited. As regards employment in Government service, a statement on post-war recruitment was issued by my Department last month and I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy.

    Women (Transport Facilities)

    40.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many women have, within the last three months, received transport facilities to the Colonies; and how far newly married British wives of Dominion soldiers are given precedence in that respect over men time-expired, discharged or ex-prisoners of war who are now awaiting their return in this country after years of absence from home.

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    The number of women who have been provided with transport facilities to the Colonies since the 19th July, 1944, is 892. This includes officials, non-Government employees, returning residents, and wives of men normally resident or employed in the Colonies. In addition 205 passages were arranged for children. The second part of the Question does not appear to be applicable to the Colonies. If any case should occur no precedence would be given.

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    Is my right hon. and gallant Friend satisfied that no ex-prisoners of war are awaiting transport either to the Colonies or to the Dominions?

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    That is another question. There are prisoners of war awaiting repatriation.

    Nigerian Administration Staffs (Pensions)

    33.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made in the formulation of an adequate pension scheme for Nigerian Administration Staffs, and whether the representations made by the Federal Union of Native Administration Staffs have received sympathetic consideration.

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    The provision of superannuation benefits for Native Administration staffs in Nigeria is under consideration, but I am not in a position to make a statement at present. I will communicate with the hon. Member on the subject as soon as possible.

    Palestine (Jewish Immigrants)

    36.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the District Commissioner for the Southern District of Palestine has recently refused to requisition the houses of German settlers in Sarona near Tel-Aviv in order to make accommodation available for Jewish immigrant victims of Nazi oppression.

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    I have no information on the subject but I am making inquiries from the officer administering the Government of Palestine.

    Jamaica (Banana Industry)

    37.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can give the composition of the committee set up by the Governor of Jamaica to deal with the recent damage done by hurricane to the banana industry; whether he is aware that there is no representative of the industry on the committee and that the committee has refused to recognise representatives of the banana growers.

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    The hon. Member, no doubt, has in mind the committee appointed by the Governor to advise him on the requests made by the banana industry for financial assistance. Its work is completed now that decisions on those requests have been taken on the lines stated in my reply to the hon. Member on 27th September. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the names of the members of this ad hoc Committee, which included a number of persons experienced in matters concerned with financial assist- ance to the banana industry. No question of this committee according recognition to the banada growers appears to have arisen, as no further representations were made beyond the initial requests upon which they were appointed to advise.

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    Was there any representative of the banana industry on the committee?

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    I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend can have heard my answer. The committee was appointed to consider a specific request put up by the banana industry itself.

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    Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that the decision was very unsatisfactory?

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    No, I am not aware of that. I believe that the decision, which involves the taxpayers of this country in a large sum of money, provides a very adequate basis for the banana industry to rehabilitate itself.

    Following is a list of members of the Committee:
    R. W. Taylor, C.M.G., C.B.E., Financial Secretary and Treasurer (Chairman);
    Sir Alfred D'Costa, Privy Councillor, Director of various companies and Vice-Chairman of the Produce Advisory Board;
    Hon. H. E. Allan, O.B.E., Privy Councillor, Member of the Legislative Council, Member, Board of Management Jamaica Agricultural Society and of the Agricultural Loan Societies Board;
    Sir Gilbert Wainwright, retired Manager of the Bank of Nova Scotia, and Chairman of the Banana-Industry Aid Board;
    H. V, Alexander, C.B.E., Solicitor, Company Director, Chairman of the Agricultural Loan Societies Board and Vice-Chairman of the Food Production Coordinating Committee;
    H. H. Croucher, Acting Director of Agriculture;
    E. L. Jack, M.B.E., Manager Agricultural Loan Societies Board;
    W. D. B. Bruce, Food Controller and competent authority;
    G. G. R. Sharp, Superintendent of Banana Purchases and Chairman, Banana Disposals Committee.

    38.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what it is intended to do with the surplus receipts from the sale of Jamaican bananas, which are now likely to be at the disposal of the Government; and whether any undertaking can be given that the surplus receipts will be used for the future stabilisation of the industry.

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    His Majesty's Government can give no promise at present about the disposal of any surplus which may result from the operation of the Jamaica guaranteed banana purchase scheme over the period from now until the expiry of the present guarantee at the end of 1946. If such surplus is realised, its disposal will be considered at the time in the light of all the circumstances including the very substantial deficits incurred up to date in the operation of this purchase scheme.

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    Has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman no estimate of the damage done by the hurricane, and is the one institution which will make a profit likely to be His Majesty's Government?

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    That is grossly unfair. His Majesty's Government, as the result of the appeal for help from Jamaica, are going to propose to the House the provision of a very large sum of money, and it is a great mistake to denigrate the generosity with which the taxpayer of this country is asked to behave.

    Southern And Northern Rhodesia And Nyasaland

    42.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether His Majesty's Government can make any statement as to the future relations between Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

    43.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is in a position to make a statement with regard to constitutional development in Northern Rhodesia.

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    As the answers to these Questions raise matters of importance and are necessarily of some length, I will, with the permission of Mr. Speaker and that of the House and of the hon. Members concerned, reply to them at the end of Question time.

    Later

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    His Majesty's Government have recently had under further consideration the question of the relations between Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In considering this question, they have fully taken into account the recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1938–39, and they have also taken the opportunity to discuss the present situation in the three Territories with the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and the Governors of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland during their recent visits to this country. It is recognised that there should be the closest possible co-ordination of the policy and action of the Governments of the three Territories in all matters of common interest and it has been agreed with them that concrete and positive steps should be taken to ensure that this co-ordination is effective and comprehensive. With this end in view, it is proposed that a Standing Central African Council covering the three Territories should be established on a permanent basis and that a permanent Inter-Territorial Secretariat should be set up. The Council will be consultative in character and its general function will be to promote the closest contact and cooperation between the three Governments and their administrative and technical services. Its precise functions and constitution will be matters for consultation between the three Governments, but it is contemplated that it should deal with communications, economic relations, industrial development; research, labour, education, agricultural, veterinary and medical matters, currency and such other matters as may be agreed between the three Governments. It is contemplated also that permanent standing committees of the Council should be set up to deal with communications, industrial development, research and such other matters as may be agreed upon and that, in addition, ad hoc conferences should be held under the ægis of the Council to deal with technical and special subjects. It is intended that the leading unofficials in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland should be closely associated with the work of the Council and its committees.

    His Majesty's Government realise that the Southern Rhodesia Government still adhere to their view that the three Territories should be amalgamated. While, however, His Majesty's Government have, after careful consideration, come to the conclusion that the amalgamation of the Territories under existing circumstances cannot be regarded as practicable, they are confident that the present scheme will, by ensuring a closer contact and co-operation, make an important contribution to the future pros- perity of the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland.

    I am also glad to have this opportunity of making a statement on constitutional development in Northern Rhodesia. I discussed the reform of the Northern Rhodesia constitution with the Governor during his recent visit to this country and as a result it has now been decided by His Majesty's Government that the time has come to increase the unofficial membership of the Legislative Council. The number of nominated unofficial members will accordingly be increased from one to five, three of whom will represent the interests of the African community. The Council will then consist in addition to the Governor as President, of nine official members, eight elected unofficial members and five nominated unofficial members. The Governor will be provided under the constitution with the necessary reserve powers. It is intended that African interests in the Legislative Council should he represented by Africans as soon as a suitable basis of representation can be built up. Provincial African Councils have recently been established in the Territory, and, when these have had sufficient experience, an African Central Council will be set up consisting of delegates from the Provincial Councils. It is the intention that in due course African members from this Central Council should sit on the Legislative Council to represent African interests. In the meantime African interests will be represented by members directly nominated by the Governor. For the present these members will be Europeans; but, on the occurrence of a vacancy or vacancies at any time during the interim period before the representatives of African interests can be appointed from the African Central Council, it will be open to the Governor to select for nomination one or more Africans, if he considers that African interests would benefit from such a course.

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    In thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend for that very valuable statement, may I ask him whether, with regard to the first part of the answer to Question 42, we are to assume that the independence and integrity of the three separate territories will remain; and further, whether the Government's position in regard to amalgamation remains unchanged, and that consideration of the problem is postponed until there are further changes in native policy in the respective territories?

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    Yes, Sir, that is so.

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    These constitutional changes that have been announced to-day and which have been recently announced, are of great importance, and in view of the fact this House is responsible for the administration of these Colonies, shall we have an opportunity of discussing these matters before final ratification takes place? It is important that the House should know to what they are committed before the final settlement is made.

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    The change in the constitution in Rhodesia, as in the Gold Coast, has to be effected by means of an Order in Council. These Orders in Council are laid before both Houses in the normal course, and the usual means can be found to discuss them.

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    In view of the great importance of this matter to the inhabitants of Northern Rhodesia, can my right hon. and gallant Friend make it clear—I think it was clear from the reply he gave to the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones)—that this in no way prejudices the eventual possible amalgamation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia after the war, in view of public opinion on the subject in Northern Rhodesia? Does it leave the position unchanged?

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    That is the case. We have decided that, under existing conditions, amalgamation is not practicable; but I would not like it to be thought that existing conditions merely meant the continuance of the war.

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    Will my right hon. and gallant Friend make it quite clear that this does not mean that His Majesty's Government exclude for all time the idea of amalgamation of the African territories?

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    Certainly. I have said that it is not considered practicable under existing circumstances, and I have given the House some idea of what those circumstances are.

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    With reference to the proposed Central Council, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman used the phrase that "unofficial help will be sought." Will this unofficial help be African help?

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    What I meant was that unofficial members of the Legislature will be associated. Africans will not be associated at the moment, and the Governor will have to represent their interests. No doubt, as soon as Africans emerge who are capable of really contributing to discussions of this kind, they will be associated.

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    Will the Orders in Council, to which my right hon. and gallant Friend referred, be made in the course of the present Session?

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    I could not answer off-hand, but I should be doubtful if that would be so.

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    Have the Government of the Union of South Africa been kept informed of these proposals, and have they expressed approval?

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    This is the responsibility of His Majesty's Government.

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    Will the proposed Council have a full-time permanent chairman and secretariat?

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    It will have a permanent secretariat, and it will have a permanent chairman, but not a full-time one. Probably he will be the Governor of Southern Rhodesia.

    Regional Commissioners Ministerial Responsibility)

    45.

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    asked the Prime Minister which Minister of the Crown is responsible for the actions of regional commissioners.

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    Regional commissioners are officers of the Crown appointed by Royal Warrant on the recommendation of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security. Most of their functions relate to matters which concern my right hon. Friend, and questions would ordinarily be answered by him.

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    Are the orders made from time to time by these regional commissioners issued on their sole responsibility, or must they be approved by some Minister of the Crown?

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    Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put that question on the Paper.

    Allied Forces (Italian Units)

    46.

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    asked the Prime Minister what is the strength of the Italian forces in each of the three services now fighting for the United Nations.

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    I regret that it would not be in the public interest to disclose this information.

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    Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously contend that at this stage of the war it is not in the public interest to disclose—

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    That sounds like an argument. It is not a question asking for information.

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    I give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

    Service Personnel (Parliamentary Candidates)

    47.

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    asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that a general election cannot be long delayed and of the feeling throughout the country that the next Parliament should be largely composed of younger men and more especially of those who have seen active service in this war, he will direct that those of the latter category who have been already adopted by constituencies, but are now serving abroad, should be now returned for duties in this country so as to give them equal opportunity with civilians and with Service men stationed at home of placing their views personally before their constituents at meetings or other occasions.

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    The position is as stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, in reply, to a Question addressed to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) on the 6th June last.

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    In view of our experience and that of foreign nations, will the right hon. Gentleman see that these Service men are given every facility to place their views before the electorate?

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    Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information as to various persons who are going round the Services and suggesting to future candidates that their expenses will be paid in certain conditions? Who are these persons and where does the money come from?

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    I have no knowledge of that and the question should be addressed to the responsible Ministers.

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    Will my right hon. Friend facilitate the return to this country of personnel from the three Services, who have been invited to attend selection committees with a view to being adopted as candidates?

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    If my hon. Friend reads the reply to which I have referred, he will see that the point is covered.

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    Do we understand that the Government will not interfere directly or indirectly with the free choice of candidates for election to the House?

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    That hardly arises.

    British Empire Casualties, Western Europe

    50.

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    asked the Prime Minister whether he can state the casualties in Western Europe of the armies and air forces, respectively, of the British Empire from D-Day until the despatch of airborne forces to Arnhem.

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    The precise figures asked for by the hon. Member are not available, but the House may like to have the following information. From the opening of the campaign until the end of August the casualties sustained by the Imperial forces engaged totalled 103,842, of whom 20,795 were killed, 63,193 wounded and 19,854 missing or taken prisoner. These figures include casualties to Dominion forces and to other overseas personnel serving in the United Kingdom forces. The Air Force casualties are as reported from the 1st April, 1944, the rest from 6th June.

    Civil Aviation Conference (Northern Ireland)

    51.

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    asked the Prime Minister whether a representative from Northern Ireland will be included in the British Delegation to the International Civil Aviation Conference, to be held in the U.S.A. on 1st November, in order that the claims and suitability of Ulster for a civil airport may be placed before the Conference.

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    No, Sir. Civil Aviation is a reserved matter and it would not be appropriate for a representative of the Government of Northern Ireland to attend the International Conference. I can, however, assure my hon Friend that adequate steps will be taken to safeguard the interests of Northern Ireland.

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    Is it not intended that there should be a representative of Northern Ireland—

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    I am afraid this sounds like an argument and not a question.

    Waste Paper Collection

    52.

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    asked the Minister of Production what effect recent increases of paper supplies for publishing purposes will have on reserve stocks; and whether the need for waste-paper collections remains urgent.

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    While the recent increases in paper supplies for publishing purposes will not endanger our stocks, it is nevertheless essential that waste paper should continue to be collected to the greatest possible extent in order to maintain supplies of paper at their present level.

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    Will the right hon. Gentleman take some steps to impress on the public and a large number of authorities the need for increasing the collection of waste paper? The public appear to think that there is no longer any necessity.

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    I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising the matter and we will take steps to see that the answer I have given is widely known.

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    Can the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope of increased supplies of paper from pre-war sources?

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    That is another question.

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    Will the right hon. Gentleman go through the postal bags of Members of Parliament and see the great number of unnecessary communications?

    Food Supplies

    Milk (Service Personnel On Leave)

    53.

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    asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that men and women in the Services, while on leave, cannot get any milk; and if, in view of the hardship this entails, especially in small families, he will make some arrangement for these men and women to draw a milk ration.

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    Milk retailers are provided with milk with which to meet the needs of men and women on leave from the Services and all other holders of temporary ration cards. If my right hon. Friend will give me particulars of any cases where these arrangements have not worked I will have them looked into.

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    Will the Minister state under what regulation a retailer can be compelled to supply a rationed commodity on a temporary card?

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    There is no regulation compelling him to do it, but the milk is there, the ration card and the money are presented, and the retailers are, usually, very willing to make a sale.

    British Restaurants

    54.

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    asked the Ministry of Food to what extent his policy with regard to British Restaurants has been changed; and if he is now prepared to subsidise local restaurants for which there is no adequate local need and which the local authorities cannot effectively run.

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    The answer to the first part of the Question is, "It has not been changed," and to the second "No, Sir."

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    Has there not been a change, if Press reports are correct, with regard to certain British Restaurants in Yorkshire?

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    If my hon. Friend will let me know the particular restaurants to which he refers, I will look into it, but there has been no change in policy.

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    Is it not a fact that 400 British Restaurants have been closed, and, if that is so, is there any reason for it, seeing that the war is still on and the food situation is the same for war workers?

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    I am not certain of the numbers that have been closed, but they have been closed where the public support for them has not been adequate to justify further expense.

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    Is it not a fact that a considerable number could be closed with great advantage to the tax-payers?

    Sugar (Bulk Purchase)

    56.

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    asked the Minister of Food what arrangements have been made with overseas Colonies or foreign countries for the bulk purchase of sugar in the years immediately following the war.

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    We have arranged to purchase the whole exportable surplus of sugar from Australia, South Africa, British West Indies, British Guiana, the East African Territories, Fiji and Mauritius, as well as from San Domingo and Haiti up to the end of 1946.

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    While thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware of the general satisfaction it will give?

    Ice Cream Manufacture (Northern Ireland)

    57.

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    asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the strong representations made to him by the Northern Ireland Ice Cream Association, he will reconsider his decision and allow the manufacture of ice cream to be resumed in Northern Ireland in the near future.

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    Not yet, Sir.

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    Would my right hon. and gallant Friend consider whether the time has not come to abolish harmful substitutes and allow genuine ice cream to be manufactured?

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    The Order was made in order to save labour and transport, and as soon as I can see my way to abolish it, I intend to do so.

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    Have not the conditions which led to the original decision now entirely changed?

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    The original decision was made long before I went to the Ministry of Food.

    Extra Christmas Fare

    58.

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    asked the Minister of Food whether he can find it possible to make available any additional supplies of food for enjoyment by the British public at Christmas time.

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    Yes, Sir, this will be the sixth Christmas since the beginning of the war and the people of this country are entitled to such extras as the supply position allows. At Christmas we think first of the children and I have decided that everyone between the ages of six months and 18 years shall be entitled to an extra ration of a half-pound of sweets during the ration period commencing on 10th December. Secondly, during the same ration period for every person with a ration book there will be an additional half-pound of margarine and half-pound of sugar. These, plus the extra dried fruits we are putting on the market, will, I hope, help them to make better Christmas cakes and puddings and things of that sort.

    I hope that there will be a few more turkeys this year than last, and we are making similar arrangements for distribution to those made last year. I have also decided to increase the meat ration from 1s. 2d. to 1s. 10d. for the week preceding Christmas Day. We have already started a distribution of oranges and in addition I am making a considerable quantity of dates available, which will be obtainable on points at the small expenditure of one point per ¼ lb. packet.

    Having started with the children I come finally to the old people. I am glad that my supply of tea is now sufficient to increase the ration for everyone of 70 years of age and upwards by 1 oz. of tea a week. This will not be limited to Christmas but will start on 10th December and will, I hope, continue throughout the whole of 1945.

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    Will my right hon. and gallant Friend give some further particulars regarding the extra dried fruits to which he referred?

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    There will be 22,000 tons of sultanas, 4,000 tons of raisins and 9,000 tons of dates. The dates amount to 80,000,000 small packets.

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    Can we be assured that the very welcome extra supplies will not, in any way, diminish the amount of food available to be sent to the liberated countries of Europe which have suffered so much?

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    I am one of those who take the view that the people of this country, who have been on as strict rationing as anybody during these years of war, are entitled to something more.

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    While welcoming the addition to the rations, may I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend to consider increasing the amount of beer and spirits available?

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    Will my right hon. and gallant Friend, in his newfound rôle of Father Christmas, see that his cargo includes toys; and will he press the President of the Board of Trade to help in that direction?

    Ministry Of Supply

    Used Machine Tool Industry (Scotland)

    59.

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    asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware of complaints from members of the used machine tool industry in Scotland over the difficulties and delays in securing permits to obtain used machine tools, which are often in urgent demand; and whether anything is being done to improve the present position, which is causing dissatisfaction to those concerned.

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    I am not aware of any general difficulties in the issue of licences. If my hon. and gallant Friend will kindly give me details of any particular cases he has in mind I shall be glad to look into them.

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    Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is the greatest indignation among members of the used machine tool industry in Scotland, and that his reply will cause great surprise? Will he give me an assurance that an impartial investigation will be made by the Ministry of Supply into the many complaints against the Machine Tool Control in Scotland?

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    I am very surprised to hear that there have been these complaints. I have not heard of any except in one case, which is a special case on its own, and if the hon. and gallant Member has any further cases I shall be glad to have them.

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    Will direct application from users be accepted, or have they to apply to the merchants?

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    That is another question, and I shall look into it.

    Controls And Restrictions (Removal)

    60.

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    asked the Minister of Supply whether his plans for removing unnecessary controls and restrictions after the cessation of hostilities in Europe are yet complete; and whether he can make any interim statement.

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    Plans are under consideration for relaxing controls and restrictions wherever practicable as soon as circumstances permit.

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    Is it not a fact that officialdom and bureaucracy are loath to give up controls which they now have over nearly every aspect of our lives?

    Bathtubs

    61.

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    asked the Minister of Supply whether his Department has made an estimate of the total number of bathtubs required in the first year after the passing of the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Bill, for installation in permanent, emergency and repaired houses; and how long will it take to reconvert the average plant formerly making bathtubs which has been diverted to the manufacture of munitions during the war.

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    My Noble Friend the Minister of Works has furnished me with a provisional estimate of the number of baths required. It is estimated that the plants formerly making baths can be reconverted within three months.

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    Would my right hon. Friend answer my Question, whether he has an estimate of the total number that will be required?

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    I have said that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works has provided me with an estimate.

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    Will my right hon. Friend furnish it to the House?

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    That is a question which should be put to the Minister of Works.

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    Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will be able to supply the number of baths required?

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    Yes, Sir; I said in reply to a Question last week, that we were taking steps to ensure that the necessary labour and capacity would be available.

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    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in this industry there is a marked shortage of high skilled labouru, and will he see that skilled labour is returned to the industry?

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    Yes, Sir. There is a marked shortage of high skilled labour. The capacity is there and at the moment has not been manned, and we are taking active steps with the Ministry of Labour to meet the position.

    Mauritius (Jewish Refugees)

    62.

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    asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, especially having regard to the effect on their health of the climate and incidence of malaria in their present position, the Jewish refugees now interned in Mauritius can be removed to Palestine, or, failing that, to more salubrious place than Mauritius.

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    I regret that in present circumstances it is not possible to remove these refugees from Mauritius. I am satisfied that the Government of Mauritius is doing everything possible for their comfort and welfare and that the anti-malarial measures taken since their arrival have steadily reduced the incidence of the disease. Generally their health is good.

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    Will the Minister bear in mind that these are all people who have escaped from murder in most terrible circumstances, and that they have special claims for consideration as soon as shipping facilities permit?

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    I might point out, of course, that they are in safety.

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    Have not some, as a matter of fact, been transferred to other areas?

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    A few have gone.

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    Will the Minister bear in mind that about 1,400 of these refugees have been there for about four years?

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    My right hon. and gallant Friend said that these people were there in safety. Is it not a fact that they have been virtually interned for four years, without being charged with any offence of any character? Ought we not to do our utmost to see that these people are sent to a more suitable place?

    North Africa (Sailings In Ballast)

    63.

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    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport to what extent ships are still sailing from North Africa to England without cargoes.

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    Save in certain exceptional cases, no vessel now returns from the Mediterranean to the United Kingdom in ballast. It may occasionally happen, however, that, for operational reasons, this must be done.

    War Transport (Controls And Restrictions)

    64.

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    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he has compiled a list of Orders and restrictions which could now safely be removed and so benefit public liberties.

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    As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in answer to a Question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) on 3rd October, the question of revoking Orders and Regulations made under Emergency Powers is kept under constant review. A substantial number of the Orders made by my Noble Friend have already been revoked, and others will be revoked as soon as the reasons for which they were made no longer hold good.

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    Does the Minister realise with what great pleasure that answer will be received all over the country?

    71.

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    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether his plans for removing unnecessary controls and restrictions after the cessation of hostilities in Europe are yet complete; and whether he can make any interim statement.

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    My Noble Friend will be guided by the general policy of the Government in removing restrictions or controls when the public interest no longer requires that they should be maintained.

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    Will the Minister kindly make it known to his staff, and to everybody else he can, that lip-service to freedom is not enough?

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    My staff are always working at this subject, but I would like to assure my hon. Friend that while there is a shortage of labour, equipment and vehicles, many of the so-called restrictions mean, in fact, a much better service and a much more fairly distributed service.

    Merchant Navy (Booklets)

    67.

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    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport the cause of the delay in the publication of the booklets on the Merchant Navy which were in preparation in February, 1943, and one of which was finished in February, 1944.

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    As a result of editorial and publishing difficulties, galley proofs were not received until May. It was then decided to delay publication, in order that chapters on the operations in Normandy might be added. I hope that the book on ocean-going vessels will be published in December, and that on coasters a little later.

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    Is this a definite promise? I have asked this Question three times.

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    Yes, Sir, I know, and I hope this is quite definite. I hope this delay will have served the purpose of making the books more complete and more adequate to the great subject with which they have to deal.

    Railway Trains (Heating)

    73.

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    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport why, in view of the fact that the amount of extra coal consumed would be infinitesimal, long distance passenger trains are not heated, not even those travelling in the colder parts of the country.

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    Long distance night trains and troop trains have been heated since 25th September. Other trains will be heated as from Monday next.

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    Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it takes only 3 lbs. extra of coal to heat a passenger train running one mile; and will he call a halt in the punitive propensities of his Department against the travelling public?

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    It is not that. We have to try to help the Minister of Fuel and Power as much as we can.

    Ministry Of Information

    Regional Organisation

    75.

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    asked the Minister of Information if he can state when he hopes to be able to reduce the regional organisation of his Ministry.

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    No, Sir.

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    Will the Minister do his best to keep this matter under review?

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    Yes, Sir, I have done and am doing my best to try to work out a scheme that will help the harassed taxpayer.

    Controls And Restrictions

    76.

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    asked the Minister of Information whether his plans for removing unnecessary controls and restrictions after the cessation of hostilities in Europe are yet complete; and whether he can make any interim statement.

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    The only control or restriction for which I am responsible is the operation of the censorship. There is no doubt that the cessation of hostilities in Europe will thin the tribe of censors.

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    Could we not discontinue the local censorship of letters, for instance, in what were the banned areas?

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    I hope that when the war is over the postal censorship will disappear out of the banned areas and all areas.

    Postal Censorship (Northern Ireland)

    77.

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    asked the Minister of Information why, as the security reason for censorship is to prevent leakage of information across the Eire border, there is censorship of mail from Northern Ireland to Great Britain; and whether he will discontinue this procedure as it fulfils no useful purpose.

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    Some censorship examination of the mail from Northern Ireland to Great Britain is necessary in order to detect whether there has been any leakage of information to Eire, and to trace any channel of communication which may have been used.

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    Does my right hon. Friend really think that that is necessary? If he is putting a censorship upon information going from one part of the United Kingdom to another part of the United Kingdom why does he not put it on the whole of the United Kingdom internal mail?

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    I can assure my hon. Friend that the censorship is based only upon security reasons, and no other. I should be very glad to get rid of it, but the security authorities insist that it must be carried out.

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    In view of the reply that security is the only reason for preventing information leaking into Eire, is it not clear that the censorship of mails from Northern Ireland to Great Britain does not affect that in the slightest degree?

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    There does not seem to be much co-ordination among the Members from Northern Ireland, as there is an hon. Member on the other side who is always putting down Questions to ask me to take much stronger measures to stiffen up the censorship in relation to Eire.

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    We still want that done.

    Town And Country Planning

    National Parks

    79.

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    asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning whether he has received the Report of the Com- mittee on National Parks; and if he can state the policy of the Government on the subject.

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    I am not sure what Committee the hon. Member has in mind; but my right hon. Friend hopes soon to publish a Report on the subject of National Parks, which has been prepared for him by his Department.

    Housing Estates (Agricultural Land)

    80.

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    asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning what action his Department proposes to take to prevent local planning authorities permitting the construction of housing estates by speculative builders on good agricultural land.

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    I would refer my hon. Friend to a circular dated 3rd November, 1943, of which I am sending him a copy, in which my right hon. Friend gave advice to local authorities on the importance of preventing the unnecessary diversion of good agricultural land to other purposes and on the need for consulting the rural land utilisation officers of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.

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    Is my hon. Friend indicating that there is only advisory power and not compulsory power for these authorities to use agricultural land to the full?

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    My right hon. Friend has certain powers of control under planning legislation of 1932 and 1913, but perhaps my hon. Friend would like to consult the circular which I have mentioned.

    British Army

    Italian Partisans And Pioneer Units

    81 and 82.

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    asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether he will give some estimate of the value to our rearward services in Italy of the help rendered by Italian pioneer units or labour battalions;

    (2) what is the approximate strength of Italian partisan forces in northern Italy; what areas they hold; and how many German divisions are contained by their operations.

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    A large number of Italian partisans are fighting the enemy very gallantly. A certain amount of arms has been delivered to them. We are also receiving help from Italian Pioneer and Labour units which is of considerable value to our rearward services. It would not, however, be in the public interest to disclose further details.

    West Indian Troops (Training In United States)

    83.

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    asked the Secretary of State for War why, in view of colour bar prejudice, it was necessary for the West Indian 1st Caribbean regiment to be sent to the Southern United States for further training; what particular instructions and warnings were given to the troops; and whether he will arrange that no further West Indian troops will be sent to areas in the U.S.A. where colour discrimination is rife.

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    The area chosen for the final training and concentration of this unit has a climate which enabled training to be carried out with the least interruptions. There was suitable accommodation available and the port from which the unit sailed for overseas was near by. I am not aware that any special instructions were issued to the troops in question or that any difficulties arose while they were in the United States. The choice of a suitable area in which troops can train depends on the factors I have mentioned and I regret that I cannot undertake that they will not be sent to any specific areas. I should like to take this opportunity to say that we are greatly indebted to the United States Army authorities for the assistance they gave in training these troops.

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    Does not the Minister appreciate that the coloured troops in the West Indies do not suffer because of the colour bar whereas in the Southern States they might? Would it not be much better to arrange for them to go somewhere else?

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    I understand that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Colonial Secretary is perfectly satisfied with the arrangements made, and whatever apprehensions the hon. Member may have had, no such trouble arose.

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    I have had indication of it.

    Argentina (Axis Transactions)

    85.

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    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether his attention has been drawn to the Argentine ban on Axis transactions, whereby all transactions in money or property between Argentina and the Axis countries, or countries dominated by Germany or Japan, are totally prohibited; and whether he is in a position, to give any further information on the matter.

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    As the answer is a long one I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

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    Does not my hon. Friend consider the Argentine Government's statement very timely and welcome—which may result in far reaching economic advantages and tend to cement the good relationship which has existed between our countries for over one hundred and fifty years?

    Following is the answer:

    Yes, Sir. The Argentine Government's decree No. 1875/44 of the 27th January, 1944, prohibited as from that date all commercial and financial intercourse with Germany and Japan, and with territories dominated by those nations.

    With regard to the hon. Member's request for further information, I understand that the Argentine Central Bank's Circulars Nos. 349 and 351 of 27th January and 9th February gave instructions to Banks, Exchange Brokers and other Institutions dealing in exchange, in amplification of the Decree. The main provisions of these circulars were that transfers of funds and securities of all kinds to and from abroad in national or foreign currencies in favour of, for account of, or to the order of persons or firms domiciled in Germany, Japan and in territories dominated by them, were prohibited except with the express authorisation in each case of the Central Bank; moreover, credits, deposits, debits or withdrawals to or from cash or security accounts of all kinds in national or foreign currencies already opened or to be opened in the name of such persons or firms were also prohibited without like authorisation; finally, the Central Bank had also to give its express authorisation to all other operations in which such persons or firms had a direct or indirect interest.

    In a further circular the Central Bank have explained that the decree of 27th January last regarding the suspension of financial and commercial operations with Germany, Japan and controlled territories 'applies to the transfer of all kinds of assets in Argentina belonging to persons and firms resident in above territories and also to all direct or indirect operations on their account.

    Coal Dump Fire, Willenhall

    86.

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    asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement with regard to the burning of slack from outcrop coal at Short Heath, Willenhall, Staffordshire; where the responsibility lies; and if he will cause an inquiry to be conducted if necessary.

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    My right hon. Friend has already had an inquiry made into this incident. The statements which have appeared in the Press regarding the loss of coal by fire at Hilton Main Colliery Dump have been very much exaggerated. The coal consists of screenings normally flowing to industrial markets. The responsibility for the safety of the stock rests in the first instance with the colliery company but it must be recognised that with many coals there are serious difficulties in controlling spontaneous combustion. As soon as the Regional Controller was notified remedial measures were put in hand. The fire has now been quenched.

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    Is my hon. Friend aware that there was considerable uncertainty locally as to the relative responsibility of the Ministry of Fuel and Power and the Ministry of Works; and will he take steps to see that that is changed in the future?

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    As far as it is possible.

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    Is it not the case that fire can only take place if there is gross negligence, and that before a fire is seen it must have been heating for weeks? If my hon. Friend is in any difficulty in this matter I will get him half a dozen men, and if he will allow them to make a dump of 500,000 tons of coal I can assure him that there will be no fire.

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    Who is responsible for the negligence?

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    Responsibility in the first place rests on the colliery company.

    Gift Parcels (Purchase Tax)

    87.

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    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been drawn to the concern felt by the troops in the Middle East at the payment of Purchase Tax on presents sent by them to their relatives at home while better paid American and Dominion troops incur no such tax liability; and will he place British troops in this respect in the same position as the men from America and the Dominions who are fighting by their side.

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    I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for York (Captain Lord Irwin) on 10th October. It would not be accurate to say that there are no restrictions on parcels sent home by United States and Dominion Forces. The practice varies a good deal; no doubt each country gives what it feels is practicable, having regard inter alia to the extent and nature of its taxes.

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    Is my right hon. Friend aware that the U.S. Forces and Dominion troops are in a more favourable position in this matter than our own, and that these restrictions are bitterly resented by the men overseas? Is it really worth while to maintain them in view of the small amount of money involved?

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    My hon. Friend will appreciate that unfortunately it would be impossible to control imports into this country at all without some restrictions.

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    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is regarded as a major grievance by the troops concerned, and can he not go further to meet that legitimate grievance?

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    I am fully aware of that, and the Chancellor has done what he can, but it is quite impossible to give the full concession asked for. I hope that the Question and answer to-day will help a little to remove the difficulty.

    88.

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    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the amount received in Purchase Tax, for the last recorded date, on presents sent by troops overseas to their relatives in this country.

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    I regret that the information asked for is not available.

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    Is it not a fact that the amount received is infinitesimal compared with the revenue the Chancellor receives, and will he not at least consult the Secretary of State for War in view of the feeling in the Army on the matter, to see whether it is worth while?

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    I tried to make it clear, in answer to a previous Question, that it was not the amount involved which was the principal difficulty, but the control of imports to this country.