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Commons Chamber

Volume 409: debated on Wednesday 28 March 1945

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 28th March, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

San Francisco Conference

Syria And Lebanon


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a decision has now been reached to invite the Syrian and Lebanese Governments to be represented at the San Francisco Conference.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the difficulties standing in the way of the invitation of the Lebanese and Syrian Republics to the San Francisco Conference have now been overcome.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can now make a statement with regard to the invitation to the Governments of Syria and Lebanon to attend the Sari Francisco Conference.

As I informed the House on 14th March, the question of an invitation to the Syrian and Lebanese Governments to be represented at the San Francisco Conference is under consideration by the Powers concerned. I am still not in a position to add anything definite to that statement, but I have every hope that a satisfactory solution will be reached very shortly.

Has my right hon. Friend recommended to the United States and Russian Governments that the two Republics be invited to attend the San Francisco Conference?

As I say, conversations are proceeding between the Great Powers, and I do not thing it would be right for me to say anything about the matter until they are concluded. My hon. and gallant Friend will observe that there is a note of optimism about the last part of my statement.

Racial Discrimination


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has considered the statement on the colour bar and racial discrimination issued by the Conference of Missionary Societies in Great Britain and Ireland and circulated to all hon. Members; and if the British delegates to the San Francisco Conference will bear constantly in mind the principles therein outlined, and will advocate them in any discussion that may take place on Colonial affairs and the relationships of great Powers and their dependent peoples.

Yes, Sir. I have considered the statement to which the hon. Member refers. With regard to the second part of the Question, I would ask the hon. Member to await the reply to be given to-day to his Question by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. This reply will indicate the general policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter; a policy which will be upheld by our delegates at San Francisco if the question arises there.

Will my right hon. Friend take into account the fact that that Question will almost certainly not be reached orally, and will he say whether the reply is generally favourable?

War Criminals


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will attempt to secure the agreement of all foreign Governments to the establishment of international principles which would prevent a country from providing asylum for a person wanted for trial as a war criminal.

The right of asylum is one which by international law States are entitled to exercise at their discretion. How- ever, as the House is aware, His Majesty's Government have made plain to neutral Governments their hope and expectation that the right of asylum will not be used for the protection of war criminals. They have received from these Governments answers which I described in the House on 6th December as broadly speaking not unsatisfactory.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that my Question is directed not to so-called neutral Governments but to any country whatever? We have undertaken to pursue these criminals to the uttermost ends of the earth, and I am urging some principles which would be applicable to any country, not merely to present neutrals.

My hon. and gallant Friend can surely take it that Allied Governments will refuse to deal with these people, enemy countries will be defeated, and all that is left are the neutral countries. That is why I referred to them.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether the reply of the Portuguese Government was more or less unsatisfactory?

I said that, collectively, they were not unsatisfactory. So far as I remember the Portuguese reply, it was a pretty good one.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government, or the War Crimes Commission, to secure the attendance for trial or questioning of an enemy or former enemy leader, alleged by a member of the United Nations to be a war criminal, who has already taken refuge in a neutral country.

The situation to which the hon. Member refers has not yet, so far as I know, arisen. If it does arise, it will be for the Allied Governments, and not for the War Crimes Commission, to concert together and to take appropriate joint action in the circumstances of each case. Meanwhile, the assurances on this subject received from neutral Governments, in reply to representations made by His Majesty's Government and the United States Government are not unsatisfactory, as I have already informed the House.

Could my right hon. Friend say when he is going to abandon the use of the phrase "not unsatisfactory," and describe something as satisfactory?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take immediate steps, with a view to securing agreement among all our Allies, that no consideration be given to devising legal machinery for the trial of Hitler, seeing that, as Commander-in-Chief of the German armed forces, he must have authorised or approved of the atrocities committed by such forces in Russia, Poland and elsewhere, and so has already merited summary execution.

Under the terms of the Moscow Declaration on German Atrocities, published on 1st November, 1943, those major war criminals whose crimes have no particular geographical localisation will be punished by a joint decision of the Governments of the Allies. I need hardly add that Hitler is regarded by His Majesty's Government as one of the major war criminals, coming within the scope of the Declaration.

Is it fully realised by the Allies that Hitler, as Commander-in-Chief of the German armies, has directly concerned himself with the smallest details of German military operations, and is fully aware of all actions taken or not taken by all German forces in the field?

If Hitler's only crime was to be concerned with the military machine, it would be one which in certain respects we might almost forgive.

Will it be the duty of a British soldier who sees Hitler to shoot him, or to bring him back alive?


Allied Assistance


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement of reassurance to the Greek people that all promised financial and other assistance from this country or from Allied nations will be given independently of the results of the forthcoming plebiscite and general elections.

As far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, I can give an assurance that the results of the plebiscite and the general elections will not affect any promises of assistance which have been made to Greece. I cannot speak for the Allies, but if my hon. Friend has in mind the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, he will no doubt be aware of the resolution which provides that relief and rehabilitation shall be distributed on the basis of the relative needs of the population and without discrimination because of race, creed or political belief.

Whilst thanking my right hon. Friend for that most satisfactory statement may I ask him whether he will have it repeated in Athens—[An HON. MEMBER: "And in Bulgaria"]—I am thinking about Athens—as people in Greece are being told that unless they vote for the present Greek Government or the Monarchy, British support will be withdrawn?

All sorts of foolish statements have been made but the Government's policy is set out here.

Varkiza Agreement


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered the protest made to the British Ambassador by E.A.M., to the effect that various departures from the Varkiza Agreement are being made on the other side; and what action he has taken on this protest.

I would refer to the statement I made on 14th March, in which I said that the Greek Government had undertaken to examine all the allegations made by E.A.M. and to take action in any cases where they are found to be correct. For their part, His Majesty's Government regard it as most important that the Agreement should be strictly observed by both sides.

Has the Foreign Secretary had any report on the result of these investigations by the Greek Government?

No, I have not. I understand that most of these allegations refer to local incidents in different parts of the country.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say specifically what action His Majesty's Government are now taking to see that the Agreement is properly carried through?

I dealt with that last time. I said that this information was communicated to the Greek Government, and interviews have taken place on the subject between members of the Greek Government and E.A.M. members.

Voting (Supervision)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any steps have yet been taken to secure that, when a general election or plebiscite is held in Greece, there are sufficient impartial observers on the spot to secure, as far as possible, a free vote of the electors.

As has already been announced, His Majesty's Government would be prepared to help in supervising elections in Greece and would welcome the co-operation of their Allies. The Greek Government have stated that they intend to ask for such assistance. No detailed preparations have yet been made to provide observers, since it is not yet possible to fix even an approximate date on which the plebiscite or elections will be held. When the time comes, however, we shall certainly try to ensure that any supervision which may be agreed upon shall be effective.

Do I understand from that, that other members of the United Nations will be asked to send delegations to supervise?

In addition to a free vote, will these observers ensure a secret ballot and an accurate counting of votes; and will this procedure also be carried out in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Poland?

My hon. and gallant Friend knows that we shall certainly do our best to ensure that in Greece. It is our desire to ensure the same practice everywhere. We think that is the only way in which the result will be satisfactory.

British Forces (Use)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that British troops are now garrisoning areas previously occupied by E.L.A.S. and of the recently attempted legislation which threatened freedom of speech, he will take all necessary measures to ensure that they will not be made use of in any way or at any time in such a manner as might intimidate Greek citizens or prevent the free expression of political and social opinion, as promised in the E.A.M.-Plastiras agreement of 12th February.

I am not sure what my hon. Friend has in mind when he speaks of recent attempts to impose legislation threatening freedom of speech. As regards the British Forces in Greece, one of their tasks is to ensure that law and order are maintained, and they must enjoy the necessary powers for this purpose. Subject to this qualification, however, I can give an assurance that they will not be used to intimidate Greek citizens or to prevent the free expression of political and social opinions. Indeed, I might add that at no time have they been used for any such purpose, and that the constant objective of His Majesty's Government in Greece has been to create conditions in which the Greek people could freely take their own decisions about the future form and composition of their Government.

British Works Of Art (France)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will ascertain as to the custody of works of art by British artists which have not yet been returned from the Paris Salon of 1940; what charges are being made in respect of the safe keeping of such works of art; and when it will be possible for the same to be returned to this country.

I understand that thanks to the efforts of the "Salon des Artistes Francais" all the pictures to which my hon. Friend refers are safe. The artists concerned have been informed accordingly. The pictures are at present in a furniture store and I am having further inquiries made about what charges there will be, if any, and how soon the pictures can be returned to this country.

Does my right hon. Friend realise the heavy burden which is entailed on artists in having to pay for storage, if the French authorities, whose kindly action in this matter we much appreciate, are unable to secure the temporary storage of their pictures free of charge?

I have not heard about storage. I think the French artists concerned have made great efforts to save these pictures and keep them safe from the Germans.

Egypt (Import Duty On Spirits)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make representations to the Egyptian Government to induce them to remit, in favour of His Majesty's Forces serving in Egypt, the recently imposed 100 per cent. import duty on spirits.

The question of such representations was considered by the Departments concerned at the time of the imposition of the increased duty, and it was decided that there were no good grounds for the action proposed by my hon. and gallant Friend. I regret that, after further consultation with those Departments, I do not feel able to re-open the question.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in view of the fact the Egyptians are several hundred million pounds up on us, I gather, as the result of the war, there is a certain degree of what I might call friendly resentment felt by the Forces at the imposition of this tax on what is one of the few consolations of service in that area? Would my right hon. Friend make representations that perhaps a little degree of lend-lease might not be inappropriate in this connection?

I fully understand my hon. and gallant Friend's sentiments. I share them to a large extent, but he will realise that this is a tax placed on luxury goods by the Egyptian Government. It is a lower tax than we place on luxury goods of a similar kind in this country, and I do not think my position about representations is a very strong one.

Does that mean that the Egyptian Government can put any tax they want on any article taken in by N.A.A.F.I. for the welfare of our troops?

It is not a question of N.A.A.F.I., but of the import of goods into Egypt. The Egyptian Government are independent and, of course, they can impose any tax they wish.

Are all Allied troops treated in the same way, or only British troops?

This is a duty placed on whisky going into the country. I understand that whisky is 22s. in Egypt, and gin £ 10s. 6d.

Finland (British Newspaper Correspondents)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether there are any British newspaper correspondents in Finland.

Since the Finnish armistice was signed, a few British newspaper correspondents have paid visits to Finland from Sweden, and others have been to Finland from Moscow in a party organised by the Soviet Government. So far as I am aware, there are no British newspaper correspondents in Finland at present.

Hungary (Provisional Government)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government are in touch by means of representatives, either diplomatic or military, with the present Hungarian Provisional Government.

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government are in touch with the Hungarian Provisional Government, through the British Political Representative in Hungary. His Majesty's Government are also represented on the Allied Control Commission in Hungary, which was established to administer the Armistice with that country.

United States Air Transport Command (Accident)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can give details of an accident to an aeroplane of Air Transport Command, on 3rd March, on a journey from England to Paris, which caused the loss of 16 lives.

I am informed that the aircraft involved in this accident belonged to the United States Air Transport Command. I am not in a position to add to the statement which has been published by the American authorities.

Has my right hon. Friend seen a report in a reputable newspaper that this aeroplane belonged to R.A.F. Transport Command; and were any British passengers involved in this accident?

I have already told the hon. Member that this aircraft did not belong to R.A.F. Transport Command. On the second part of the question, no British passengers were involved in the accident.

Waaf (Headgear)


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will consider substituting for the present form of head-gear of the W.A.A.F., which is neither practical, comfortable nor becoming, a form of beret.

The change suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend is under consideration. I am afraid that shortage of material and labour precludes any hope of early replacement.

Civil, Aviation

Commonwealth Routes (Cheap Return Fares)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, as representing the Minister of Civil Aviation, if he will take steps to secure that one of the conditions imposed on the new Commonwealth Routes Corporation shall be the provision of cheap return fares, to and from the Dominions, so that those close contacts which have been made during the emergency may be perpetuated in times of peace.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production
(Mr. Lennox-Boyd)

The fixing of fares on the Commonwealth routes will be a matter for agreement between the operators and the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the Commonwealth countries concerned. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the contribution which air communication can make towards maintaining close contact between the United Kingdom and other parts of the Commonwealth.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the whole future of the British race depends on close relationship between the members of the British Empire and the Mother Country?

Certainly, and we look to air communications still further to strengthen the links between the different parts of the British Empire.



asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, as representing the Minister of Civil Aviation, whether the Government have now reconsidered the possibility of establishing an air line in Scotland to operate a domestic, transcontinental and transoceanic service.

As is clear from the Whte Paper Command 6605, which was debated in this House on 20th March, it is not proposed at this stage, to create a separate organisation specially for operating services in and from Scotland. On the other hand the tentative schedule of routes now being worked out for Scotland provides for a comprehensive network of services connecting the main centres of population and the outlying areas such as the Western and Northern Isles.

Does my hon. Friend realise that Scotland does not accept the White Paper; and do the Government realise that this frequent disregard for Scottish interests will, in the end, drive some of us seriously to consider the arguments for Home Rule?

I think it is a thousand pities that so much concentration is placed on Prestwick, which is by no means the only matter of importance when considering Scottish aviation. When the schedule of routes comes to be published it may well be found that Scotland is far better off than any other part of the United Kingdom.

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is not only Scotland which does not accept the White Paper?

Is the hon. Member aware that we had experience between the wars of industries being taken away from Scotland, and that we do not want Prestwick taken away?

The schedule of routes will provide for increased industry for Scotland.

Post Office

Forces' Air Mail


asked the Postmaster-General whether any decision has yet been reached regarding reduction in the cost of airmail letters to members of the Forces serving abroad.


asked the Secretary of State for Air if, in view of the important part played by letters from home in maintaining the morale of troops overseas, he will make available to the Postmaster-General the aeroplanes required to enable him to extend to troops in the C.M.F. and M.E.F. the privilege of the Forces' 2d. air-letter recently instituted for troops in S.E.A.C., Ceylon and China.

The postal concessions now in force to troops in the Far East, including the 2d. Forces letter, have been extended to the Central Mediterranean Force and the Middle East Force, including Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Paiforce and East Africa.

Yes, for the one-ounce letter, which will go by air, the same way as for S.E.A.C. The other letters, which used to go for 6d., will go for 2d.

Telephone Directory


asked the Postmaster-General why the 1945 Telephone Directory is not being issued to private subscribers and only issued to business firms in quantities equal to the number of lines they have installed; and can he see his way clear to increase the issue to something approximating to the number of instruments installed.

In view of the urgent need for economy in paper, the supply of directories to residential subscribers ceased, and the supply to business subscribers was curtailed, as from September, 1940. Arrangements have now been made for all residential telephone subscribers to be supplied with a copy of their up-to-date telephone directory during the twelve months commencing in May next, but the paper situation is not yet good enough to justify me in supplying additional copies to business subscribers.

Is the Postmaster-General aware that, for every new directory supplied, an old one is, or should be, collected; and can he say, therefore, how this shortage of paper arises?

I gathered from the hon. Member's Question that he wanted more distributed than are now being distributed, and thus what he is now saying does not arise.

Allied Propaganda


asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware of the anxiety amongst parents of soldiers fighting the Germans as to the character and adaptability of the Allied publicity and propaganda in the fighting and occupied areas; whether the Germans are fully informed as to the effect of our peace terms; that the Allies have no intention of extirpating their enemies, and that an early conclusion of hostilities will be to the advantage of the Germans equally with the Allies.


asked the Minister of Information whether his attention has been called to the recent report of the psychological warfare experts of the American First Army, which indicates that Allied propaganda, as at present devised, is failing to induce a tendency to surrender amongst German soldiers; whether arrangements can be made to re-orientate our propaganda at an early opportunity; and whether he can arrange to make available a complete series of existing typical pamphlets and broadcast propaganda matter in use against Germany.

Many apologies, Mr. Speaker, for being late.

The Allies have repeatedly made it clear, most recently in the Declaration of Heads of Governments at Yalta, that it is not their purpose to destroy the German people. Millions of leaflets and hundreds of broadcasts are carrying this message to Germany. The people at the receiving end are much better qualified than I am to judge of the effectiveness of Allied propaganda. Some indication of its success is given by the extreme severity of the penalties imposed by the GermanHigh Command on troops found in possession of Allied leaflets or listening to Allied broadcasts. During the last three years the German Government have constantly warned their people against what they call the continuous stream of cunning British propaganda. They would not have imposed the death penalty for listening to the B.B.C. or reading British leaflets if our propaganda efforts had been in vain. Sets of pamphlets and leaflets in German are supplied regularly to the Library. So also, until recently, were the English texts of all B.B.C. broadcasts to Germany. But the Librarian found that these were very bulky and never read, and so I asked the B.B.C. to send no more.

Are we to be allowed to see copies of the leaflets so that we can be informed of their contents?

We sent stacks of these leaflets to the Library, until the Librarian of the House thought that the Library was becoming a stock pile for the Ministry of Information pamphlets, and asked me if I would oblige him by sending no more. However, if the House is really desirous of seeing the vast amount of material we are sending out to Germany, I shall be very glad once more to send a truck-load.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the war, at this moment, is being decided by arms, and not by words?

As one who is very interested in seeing these leaflets, may I ask if the Minister can say whether the House was told when they were placed in the Library?

At the request of several hon. Members about four or five months ago we started to send this vast bulk of material to the Library. The Librarian wrote to me that, the position was impossible, that they were occupying a large part of the Library, and that no hon. Member had ever taken the trouble to read any of them.

Are any English translations supplied, or are they all in the original German?

As a matter of fact, we did several translations of some of the pamphlets which have been dropped over Germany, but, as they were unread, I felt it was impossible any longer to ask the hard-working people in my Ministry to provide material which was unread.

Is it not possible that the German people will not understand that somewhat nebulous term, that it is not the intention of His Majesty's Government to destroy the German people?

The German people have to understand quite a lot of things before they can settle down to their old way of life, and, when the Conference at Yalta decided to put on record, once more, that it was not the object of His Majesty's Government, or their associated Governments, to destroy the German people, that is now the German people's best hope of survival. There is only one man in the whole world who wants to destroy the German people, and that is Hitler, who has already destroyed the people of his own country—Austria.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, for a long time, it was the declared policy of the Government not to allow people in this country to know the contents of leaflets dropped over Germany for propaganda purposes; and can he say when that policy was changed, and when that changed policy was communicated to the House?

If my memory serves me right, that decision was communicated to the House at least five months ago.


Temporary Houses, Fife


asked the Minister of Works whether he has given consideration to the resolution of the Fife County Council on the Government's temporary housing, forwarded to him by the hon. Member for West Fife; and whether he has any statement to make.

Yes, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to statements on this subject made both by the Minister of Health and myself, in the course of the Debate on Housing last week.

Is the Minister aware that the Fife county council has sites waiting, and that people are waiting to go into the houses, when the houses are supplied on the sites; and can he tell us when the houses are going to be sent and erected on the sites?

I cannot give the hon. Member off-hand the dates when houses will be delivered to particular localities, but any houses that have been promised will be delivered.

Can the Minister give an approximate date when they will get these houses?

Roofing Tiles (Supplies, London)


asked the Minister of Works whether the present supply of roofing tiles for the London area is adequate.

Tile-Makers (Release From Forces)


asked the Minister of Works the number of tile makers who have been released from the Army, Navy and R.A.F. during the past 12 months.

During this period 244 skilled tile-makers have been released from the Armed Forces and 20 from the Civil Defence Services.

Is the Minister aware that a great number of these brickyards, which will be needed even more in the near future than they are at present, cannot come into operation until the key-men are released from the Services?

We are very well aware of it, and that is why we have been getting the skilled tile-makers out of the Forces.

The number I mention—244—represents more than 10 per cent. of the total labour force now in that industry.

Ministry Of Works Office, Sheffield (Closing)


asked the Minister of Works whether he is satisfied that all proper interests were considered before deciding to transfer his Sheffield office to Leeds; and, as this action will cause delay and inconvenience if the people of the city of Sheffield have to transact their business in Leeds, will he reconsider the question.

The office in question has been dealing with bomb damage repairs and salvage. Work of this nature has diminished to the point where the retention of an office and staff is no longer justified.

Will the Minister bear in mind that Sheffield is a great centre of the steel industry, with large post-war problems of its own, and that it is not a suburb of Leeds?

Of course, I quite well appreciate that. The point is that this office is not a general office to carry out all the business of the Ministry of Works in the area. It was set up for the specific purpose of dealing with matters connected with bomb damage repairs and salvage. These questions now take up very little time, and we do not feel justified in keeping the office and staff going.

Emergency Repairs


asked the Minister of Works what are the emergency repairs which householders may undertake without licence.

The circumstances in which building work of an emergency character can be carried out without a licence are defined in paragraph 6 (b) of Defence Regulations 56A, of which I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him if he is satisfied that it covers all the most necessary urgent work, bearing in mind the fact that some local authorities take as long as three months to reply to an application for a licence?

The question refers to work that can be done without licence. The most urgent emergency work can be carried out without a licence. With regard to delays, I would like to tell my hon. and gallant Friend that, in London, where the £10 licensing limit has been applied during the last few months, the average time taken to issue a licence is under a week. Considering the other preoccupations of London local authorities at the moment, I do not think that that is slow.

Bearing in mind what the Minister has said, may I ask him to ginger up those local authorities which are raising the average to as long as three months?

Canadian Prefabricated Houses


asked the Minister of Works on what terms Mr. H. F. Brunton and Mr. C. B. K. Van Norman offered to supply 100,000 prefabricated houses from Canada; why the offer was not accepted; and if a specimen house was erected anywhere in this country.

This Question appears to be based on a number of misapprehensions. No such offer has been made by either of these gentlemen. The possibility of obtaining houses from Canada has, however, been explored at various times.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether a specimen house of this type is practicable?

A specimen house of another type does exist. I have seen this story in the newspapers. It is based on a whole series of misapprehensions. I should be glad to give my hon. and gallant Friend the complete story if he would like it.

Bomb Damage Repairs (Mobile Labour Force)


asked the Minister of Works if it is his intention to apply the mobile labour force, now engaged in war damage repairs in London, to help the other bombed towns in the same way as soon as the programme in London is completed.

As soon as the programme of emergency repairs in London is sufficiently far advanced, the mobile labour employed on this work will be released to return to the areas from which they have come.

Open-Cast Mining (Farm Rents)


asked the Minister of Works whether a farmer is relieved of the rent of that part of his farm on which prospecting for the purpose of working coal by open-cast mining is being carried on; or whether he is only relieved of the rent after his land has been requisitioned.

The position is governed by the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, of which I am sending my hon. Friend the relevant extracts.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say when a farmer is relieved of the rent?

I think it is a legal point, and I would not like to attempt to interpret the law.

Can the Minister say whether the farmer will have to interpret it, or whether he has to go on paying rent?

Royal Navy

Voluntary Recruitment


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has any plans ready for recruitment for the Navy on a voluntary basis; and whether he is satisfied that he can obtain sufficient numbers of officers and ratings by this method.

The conditions under which men are invited to volunteer for the Navy are being reviewed; in the meantime the pre-war arrangements remain in force. The answer to the second part of the Question is "Yes, Sir."

Can my right hon. Friend say whether that review includes pay and allowances and other matters of that nature affecting long-term engagements in the Navy?

Naturally the Admiralty, in reviewing the matter, would take all relevant considerations into account.

Is it the case that men are already coming forward willing to sign for a 12 years' engagement?

Wrns (Disciplinary Offences)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many W.R.N.S. have been tried by courts-martial for offences; and in how many cases did these offences involve desertion.

Members of the W.R.N.S. are not subject to the Naval Discipline Act and disciplinary offences committed by them are not tried by court martial. The second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the other day the Lord Chancellor published an order under some Act of Parliament in which he declared that W.R.N.S. were members of the Armed Forces of the Crown, and what is the significance of that order?

I have not been given notice of that question but the answer to my hon Friend's original Question is as I have stated. I am not sure what is the object of my hon. Friend but I must say that the behaviour and conduct of the members of the Women's Royal Naval Service fully justify their present position.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Lord Chancellor on the significance of this recent order?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as a member of the W.R.N.S. does not come under the Naval Discipline Act, her estate on her decease has to pay Death Duty?

There is a point on that which, I understand, has been raised with the Chancellor but any amending legislation which would be required to deal with that would have to come from the Treasury.

Are not the members of the Women's Royal Naval Service in rather a different category from the women members of the Army and Air Force, and therefore deprived of certain privileges common to the others?

I do not know of any really substantial privilege which is thereby denied.

Electrical Artificers


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why journeymen electricians are not allowed to be engine- room artificers on the same conditions as apprentice fitters of 20 years of age; and why electrical wiremen are not allowed to enter the mechanical section of artificers while able seamen can become wiremen and qualify for a full electrician's card at the end of the war or on discharge.

With regard to the first part of the Question, I presume the hon. Member refers to electrical artificers rather than to engine-room artificers. A high degree of skill in precision mechanical fitting and turning work or in trades involving precision work is required of electrical artificers, a qualification attained by apprentice fitters but not normally found in journeymen electricians, although any electrician who could pass the trade test would be acceptable as an electrical artificer. In reply to the second part of the Question, there is nothing to prevent electrical wiremen becoming electrical artificers if they can pass the trade test. Seamen are trained and transferred to wiremen only for certain special duties, the wiremen branch generally being reserved for electricians.

If I send my right hon. Friend copies of the correspondence I have received about a skilled man being refused permission to enter the engine-room artificer section and the mechanical section and made to go into the ordinary wiremen's section, will he go into the matter?

Most certainly I will examine the correspondence but I attach great importance to journeymen electricians being able to pass the Service trade tests.

Bodmin Moor (Admiralty Decision)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in view of the exceptionally interesting historical and antiquarian associations connected with Bodmin Moor, he will select some other bombing range for the use of the R.N.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any decision has been reached regarding the requisition by his Department of land on Bodmin Moor for use as a bombing range.

The Admiralty have decided not to proceed with the project to establish a bombing range on Bodmin Moor. There is close liaison between Government Departments about the requisitioning of land and, in view of public comment on this matter, I can assure the House there was no intention at any time on the part of the Admiralty to establish this bombing range without proper consultation with other Departments representing interests in Bodmin Moor.

Does the Minister realise the great happiness with which this decision will be received in the West Country?

Surely the Admiralty knew what Bodmin Moor meant? Why did they leave it until now to decide that they would not use it in this way?

The Service Departments know about most of these things before they have to consider special projects, and before the public agitation arose in this case the Admiralty were in touch with other Government Departments concerned in the special interests, of which they were aware, as to how they would be affected.

Civilian Personnel, Pacific (Uniform)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, before promulgating the recent order for civilian personnel employed by the Admiralty to wear R.N.V.R, uniform whilst serving in the Pacific, he gave full consideration to the resentment it might arouse among R.N.V.R. officers, especially as this civilian personnel is immediately to outrank most of them, despite their long years of service and that this civilian personnel are empowered to enforce naval discipline but are not amenable to it themselves.

These civilians are officers, generally with long Admiralty experience, who perform duties of operational importance to the Navy. In ordinary circumstances they perform these in a purely civilian capacity, but the conditions in the Pacific zone have made the grant of Naval rank essential. The rank given is that required for the performance of the duties and the uniform is that of the Special Branch of the R.N.V.R. with its distinctive green bands. A similar course has been taken throughout the war where the nature of the duties to be performed has made this necessary. I have no reason to believe that other R.N.V.R. officers do not appreciate the necessity for this.

Will the Minister be good enough to make further inquiries into this matter, in view of the fact that it must be extremely galling for officers with many years' active service to have a lot of civilians suddenly put in over their heads?

All these appointments must be subject to qualifications to do the job, and I can assure my hon. Friend that the members of the R.N.V.R. know the position quite well.

Ministry Of Production


asked the Prime Minister whether the Minister of Production is now fully engaged in the work of his Ministry; and if that Ministry will be retained after the end of the European war.

The Minister of Production is now fully engaged in the work of his Ministry and at this moment is in the United States of America on that subject. As to whether the Ministry will be retained after the end of the European war, that surely may be left to the Government of the day.

Of course, the Prime Minister is anxious to get rid of some of these Ministers as early as possible, is he not?

On general grounds I am always anxious that there should be as few Ministers as possible. As for disturbing Ministers who are doing valuable work at the present time, I think that that would be a mistake and a premature judgment of the situation.

Has the Prime Minister looked around and ascertained whether every Minister is actually undertaking full-time work?

Does the Prime Minister agree that most States are now adopting a policy of national planning, and if we also adopt a policy of national planning, will he consider retaining this Ministry and merging several other Ministries in it so that they can be organised on a basis of economic planning?

Obviously these are matters that have to be settled by hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite.

Germany (Surrender Terms)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider, as one of the terms to be imposed upon Germany, the handing over of a square mile or any conveniently-sized smaller badly-bombed area in Berlin to the United Nations, to be kept by them as a permanent record of the war started by Germany in 1939, appropriate notices to that effect being prominently displayed thereon.

Will my right hon. Friend remember that the German people are aggressive and that this would be a good memorial to show them the power marshalled against them as a result of their act of aggression?

Many proposals have been made; I think this was rather a silly one.

Ministry Of Supply

Paper Allocation (General Election)


asked the Minister of Supply if he will give particulars concerning the method of distributing paper and card for the purposes of the General Election; and if it is intended to give national party organisations a direct allocation for national poster propaganda, apart from ordinary constituency requirements.

Arrangements are being made to secure that paper shall be available to all candidates for the General Election on an appropriate scale but the precise arrangements for distribution have not yet been worked out. As regards the last part of the Question, it is the intention to make an allocation of paper for national party organisations as well as for constituency requirements.

May I ask my hon. Friend whether the House will have an opportunity of considering those arrangements before they are finally fixed?

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether arrangements will include handbills which have to be a certain size for the post office to accept them?

May I have an answer to my question? [Interruption.] May I direct my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that I have called for a reply?

Timber Importers (Visits Abroad)


asked the Minister of Supply why agents and importers of timber are not permitted to visit Sweden, Finland, Canada and the U.S.A. at the present time; and when facilities for such visits will be granted to them.

Visits by representatives of individual timber firms to the countries mentioned could not at present assist, and might prejudice, arrangements for supplies of timber for this country. My right hon. Friend, however, fully recognises how important it is that individual firms should be able to renew personal contacts and every effort will be made to facilitate such visits as soon as practicable.

Now that my hon. Friend has won his long-distance race and has weighed in, could I ask if he will use his influence with the Minister in order that representatives of British firms who wish to travel to different parts of the world may be enabled to do so?

Is the Prime Minister still determined to have men of good will in his party?

Wolfram (Cligga Mine)


asked the Minister of Supply what price was being paid for wolfram drawn from the Cligga mine immediately before the mine was closed; and what price has been paid for any wolfram subsequently imported.

The answer to the first part of the Question is 100s. per unit. Purchases abroad since that date have been at 75s. per unit f.o.b., except for one long term contract, made in 1942, at 100s.

In view of the fact that the difference in price is not very great, could not the Ministry of Supply consider re-opening the Cligga mine, and thus keep our own men employed in getting this metal for the war effort?

Timber Supplies (Germany)


asked the Minister of Supply if he will investigate the possibilities of getting timber from Germany for post-war housing and bringing it to this country in German ships as soon as the war in Europe ends.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by the Prime Minister yesterday to a similar question by the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison).

Could my hon. Friend say if any action is being taken, because I believe something over 20 per cent. of the surface of Germany is now covered with soft wood that would be suitable for this purpose?

I cannot add anything to the answer which was given by the Prime Minister yesterday, but every attention is being given to this subject at the present time.

Food Supplies

Cheese Ration


asked the Minister of Food whether he will give sympathetic consideration to the position of persons living alone when re-fixing the cheese ration and allow them to continue to have the present ration of three ounces.

My right hon. and gallant Friend sympathises with the difficulties of those who live alone, but he does not consider he would be justified in varying in their favour the general policy of fixing rations at the highest possible level for all to enjoy.

Stocktaking Date (Easter)

55 and 56.

asked the Minister of Food (1) if he will discontinue the use of Form G.C. 3 and Form R.G.C. 5;

(2) whether, in view of the fact that 31st March comes in the Easter week-end, he will remit the order for stocktaking this month.

Arising out of the answer to the two questions, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the filling up of these two forms is unnecessary and overlaps, and owing to the very short supply of help which the grocers can get, they cannot fill up the forms and, if these are not filled up, they are liable to prosecution? Is he also aware, on Question 56, that the very hard worked distributors of food want a few days' rest over the Easter holidays, and what harm could be done by extending the period on this occasion?

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at Question 56 again, and see whether it does not also involve the question of consumers, because the stocktaking does prevent them from getting their tea and sugar in advance as would happen at a normal week-end?

No, Sir, the stocktaking does not affect the question in which I know my hon. Friend is interested.

Livestock (Restrictions)


asked the Minister of Food if, when an area is closed by foot-and-mouth disease restrictions, he will make adequate arrangements for the slaughter of marketable pigs and other livestock within that area, bearing in mind especially the shortage of feeding-stuffs.

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that all reasonable steps are taken to minimise the inconvenience caused to farmers by restrictions on the movement of livestock imposed as a result of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Whenever practicable, special arrangements are made to accept marketable animals for slaughter without delay, but it is not possible to guarantee that the necessary labour and equipment will always be available within the infected area.

Oranges, Liverpool


asked the Minister of Food how many tons of oranges available in Liverpool for sale to the public during the month of March were, owing to their rotten state or bitterness, surrendered as waste food or collected and sent elsewhere to be made into marmalade.

About 50 tons of oranges, all of the bitter variety, allocated for sale to the public in the Liverpool area have been recovered during the present month and sent to manufacturers in order to avoid waste.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, in making supplies available to Liverpool in future, see that the oranges are sweeter?

Why did the Ministry persist in this policy when it was warned two months ago of the decaying state of these bitter Seville oranges, and yet used shipping space to bring in more and more to every greengrocer shop throughout the country?

The supply in London has not equalled the demand and it would appear therefore that the taste in London is not so sweet as in Liverpool.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the North also the supply is not equal to the demand?

Extra Milk (Expectant Mothers)


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that Food Executive Officers will not authorise on their own responsibility the issue of extra milk to a woman unable to name the father of her expected child and send the application to the Regional Controller; and whether he will direct that such applications shall be granted without such delay provided there is medical evidence of pregnancy.

Pregnant women are granted facilities to enable them to obtain extra milk as soon as medical evidence of pregnancy is produced. No further particulars are required.

Can my right hon. Friend say how the thing happens about which I wrote to him?

Temporary Ration Cards


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that members of the R.A.F. on leave, and on duty away from their parent unit, are supplied with emergency ration cards which entitle them to eggs, inter alia; that in many towns they are refused these eggs because they are not regular customers; and what steps he is taking to remedy this grievance.

Retailers of eggs are provided with eggs to meet temporary ration cards. If my hon. and gallant Friend will give me particulars of any cases where these arrangements have not worked satisfactorily I shall be glad to have them examined.


asked the Minister of Food whether, in seaside towns where there is likely to be in the summer months a large number of holiday makers using emergency ration cards, provision will be made to make sure that Service men and women on sick leave or leave from the front or doing duty, yet only entitled to an emergency ration card, will receive priority.

No, Sir. It is not practicable or necessary to make such provision. I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle) on 14th March.

Canadian Poultry


asked the Minister of Food, whether, in view of the increase in stocks of poultry and turkeys held by the Canadian Government and the shortage of meat supplies here, he will make the necessary shipping arrangements and secure these stocks for English consumption.

So far as I am aware no stocks of poultry and turkeys are held by the Canadian Government. While my right hon. and gallant Friend is anxious to secure all available food to which this country is entitled, in present conditions imports from Canada are determined by priorities of need, and there are other foodstuffs which must rank before poultry and turkeys.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the Canadian Government have double the stocks—14,000,000 lbs. of poultry and 566,000 turkeys—100 per cent. more than last year?

Confectionery Retail Licence, Erith


asked the Minister of Food if his attention has been drawn to the objection by the borough of Erith Chamber of Commerce to the granting of a licence for selling confectionery to Mr. Younger, at 113, High Street, Erith; if he is aware that his divisional food officer stated that as, Mr. Younger is connected with a multiple firm, he is under the Ministry's present arrangements, in a favoured position as compared with single owner businesses; and if he will reconsider his policy in this respect.

Yes, Sir, the attention of my right hon. and gallant Friend has been drawn to the matters set out in my hon. Friend's Question. The statement by the Licensing Officer of the London Food Division was incorrect and should not have been made. The object of the policy of my right hon. and gallant Friend is at all times to give equal treatment to all classes of traders and to avoid favoured treatment for any.

Parcels For France


asked the Minister of Food whether he can now give permission for parcels of food and small medical necessaries to be sent periodically, at the cost of the sender, to persons in France for whom satisfactory evidence is provided that such provision is temporarily needed to ensure their survival or restitution to health; and, if so, through what agency and under what conditions will this be allowed.

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) and the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) on 21st March.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the information given in that reply was practically nil, and in view of the interminable delays that were made in securing large scale supplies for France, what possible disadvantage could there be in giving this small concession which would involve a very small supply of food for France?

There is much more in it than that. The reply given to the earlier Questions was very definite, and perhaps the hon. Lady will wait for a further statement that may be made in the course of the Debate to-day.

Algerian Wine (Profit)


asked the Minister of Food under what authority was the profit on the importation of Algerian wine retained by his Ministry; and if Treasury sanction was obtained for the imposition of the equivalent of a tax.

Imports on Government account may involve surpluses or deficits according to the circumstances of the case and no special authority is required to include such balances in the Departmental accounts other than the general statutory authority under which the Ministry of Food operates. Treasury authority was obtained in this as in all such cases for the purchase price, the Ministry's selling price, the traders' margins of profit and the retail selling price.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his Ministry has, in fact, imposed a customs duty unconstitutionally, and will he find out what the penalty is likely to be?

Cargo Vessels (Post-War Construction)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what is the present method, and the method to be employed in the immediate future, in the making of contracts for building cargo vessels for postwar trade; and are orders placed with firms having building facilities on cost-plus or similar basis, or are they placed on contract on a competitive price basis of tender.

The present policy is to order merchant vessels on Government account only when they are required for specific operational purposes. Most cargo vessels now under construction, or which will be laid down in the future, are on account of shipowning firms. For such vessels an Admiralty licence is necessary but the contracts are a matter of agreement between the shipbuilders and shipowners concerned.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that shipbuilders at present put forward the argument that they are tendering on a competitive basis and, therefore, cannot discuss favourable conditions with the shipbuilding workers?

If they are dealing with private contracts, they may well be tendering with shipowners on a competitive basis.

Colonial Empire

Medical Appointments


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Sir Philip Bahr is still on the Appointments Advisory Board of his Department, which selects British-born medical men for Colonial appointments; what remuneration is paid for this work, whether by sessional fees or by yearly salary; and on how many such cases in the past seven years has he attended the interviews of medical applicants for Colonial appointments.

Sir Philip Manson-Bahr has never been a member of the Committee which interviews medical candidates and makes recommendations as to their suitability for appointment to the medical services of the Colonies. This Committee is staffed entirely by members of the Colonial Office.

Is the Minister aware that the statement I have made in my Question is in a Colonial Office publication?