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Commons Chamber

Volume 409: debated on Tuesday 10 April 1945

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 10th April, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Death Of A Member

I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Edward Dunn, Esquire, Member for the County of York, West Riding (Rother Valley Division), and I desire, on behalf of the House, to express our sense of the loss we have sustained, and our sympathy with the relatives of the honourable Member.

Private Bills Lords

Standing Orders Not Previously Inquired Into Complied With

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

Pontypool Gas and Water Bill [Lords].

Bill to be read a Second time.

Private Bill Petitions Lords

Standing Orders Not Complied With

Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the Table,—Report from one of the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, That, in the case of the Petition for the following Bill, originating in the Lords, the Standing Orders have not been complied with, viz.:

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Corporation [ Lords].

Report referred to the Select Committee on Standing Orders.

Oral Answers To Questions


Potato Harvesting (School Children)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the resentment caused in Scotland by the circular from his Department recommending the deportation of infants from the schools in Scotland, to places outside their towns, villages and counties, for the purpose of harvesting the potato crop in, the autumn of this year; and if he will withdraw this circular.

No circular of the kind mentioned has been issued. I assume that the hon. Member refers to the recent request to certain education authorities to invite children over 12 years of age to volunteer to help with potato lifting in some of the main growing areas where the labour available locally is insufficient to secure the crop. I have no evidence whatever that this request has given rise to resentment. On the contrary, at meetings with representatives of the, authorities concerned and of the teaching profession, general assurances of support for the scheme were freely forthcoming. In view of the vital importance of the potato crop in what will be a year of particular stringency, it is certainly not possible to dispense with the assistance asked for.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that the circular has been taken as a recommendation, and to mean that, specifically, 2,000 school children are to be sent from Ayrshire to Fife and Dumfries for the purpose of collecting these potatoes; is he further aware fhat the Ayrshire Education Committee has refused, and does not that show that there is resentment? Will he undertake now to withdraw this circular, which is causing resentment among people in Scotland?

So far as I am aware, the only council that has declined to come into the scheme is Ayrshire. The others have agreed.

Instead of the Secretary of State advising that children should be sent to do this work, will he not consult with the Ministry of Labour, in view of the redundancy which is occurring in industry, and ask for volunteers from industry to help in this work?

Yes, Sir; that has been done, and it is a prior consideration to this scheme.

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in view of the fact that it is the poorer children who are to be sent to work, and that the weather in October and November is very wet, he should see that they are properly equipped with boots and waterproofs?

I cannot give precise details, but I believe that welfare arrangements such as my hon. Friend has indicated are being carefully examined in consultation with the teachers.

But has my right hon. Friend considered inviting some of the children from the public schools to assist in this work? [HON. MEMBERS: "They are doing so."] Will my right hon. Friend tell me how many children are being sent from these schools? What is the proportion?

I can give no precise figures, but every possible volunteer—they are all volunteers—over 12 years of age has been invited.

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Hydro-Electric Schemes (Inquiries)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has now considered the objections to the Tummel-Garry Hydro-Electric Scheme and whether he intends to grant an inquiry into this matter.

Yes, Sir. As already announced, in reply to a Question on 29th March in another place, I have appointed Mr. John Cameron, D.S.C., K.C., Sir Robert Bryce Walker, C.B.E., and Major G. H. M. Broun-Lindsay, D.S.O., to hold an inquiry into the constructional scheme in question.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very strong feeling in the county of Perth that this inquiry is being rushed, and that objectors feel that they are not being given sufficient time in which to declare their objections and instruct their counsel; and will he use his influence to have this inquiry postponed until such time as they have been able to prepare their case?

As a matter of fact, they have had ten weeks' time between the date of the publication of the scheme and the holding of the inquiry. Moreover, we were assured that it was for the convenience of counsel on both sides that the inquiry should be held at the date and time arranged.

Could my right hon. Friend state what use it is to set up an Amenities and Fisheries Committee if no attention is going to be paid to their recommendations?

Attention is going to be paid to their recommendations, and has been paid to them, but, on questions where there is a dispute, an inquiry has to be held to determine which side is to prevail.

Will the Secretary of State tell us what are the qualifications of these three nominees?

Another is a distinguished member of the Bar in Edinburgh, and the other is an ex-county clerk of Lanarkshire.

Arising out of the first part of my right hon. Friend's answer, is he not aware that the Perth County Council and other local authorities interested think that they have not had enough time, and, as we must meet the legitimate requests of local authorities, will he not consider extending the period?

It is for the tribunal itself to determine when it will hold its sittings, but I submit that ten weeks for the preparation of the case is not insufficient.

Will the Secretary of State agree that it is the landlords in the Highlands who are responsible—[Interruption].

As it is a question of very great importance to the whole of Scotland, would it not be better, as so much heat has been engendered over it already, not to add any more fuel to the flames?

No fuel has been added, [Interruption.] I submit that it is an unreasonable request to expect a longer time than ten weeks in which to prepare a case.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in setting up inquiries to consider objections to constructional Schemes put forward by the Hydro-Electric Board, he will in future have more than one Commissioner inquiring into the matter and as far as possible adopt the procedure of inquiries held to consider Scottish Private Bill Legislation.

The composition of the tribunal to hold a public local inquiry into a constructional scheme must be determined in the light of the circumstances of the scheme. In the case of the second construction scheme now under consideration as has already been announced the tribunal will consist of three persons. The procedure to be followed at the inquiry is laid down in the Sixth Schedule to the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act, 1943.

Seeing that these schemes are confirmed by the Secretary of State's Department, and that advocates look to the Government for promotion, does he not think it would be better if the chairman was not an advocate, as lawyers may be more inclined to lick than to bite the hand they hope will feed them?

Does the right hon. Gentleman forget his "History of the Working Classes in Scotland"?

Electricity Charges, London


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will make a statement on the present position with regard to the large increases in charges for electricity which have been made during the war by the Central London Electricity Company and other companies; whether any recent review of the position has taken place; and what action is being taken in the matter.

The Electricity Commissioners periodically review the financial position of Central London Electricity Limited and other companies. Though there has recently been some improvement in the position of the company named, I do not feel justified on the information before me in taking any action in the matter at present.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that, though the Notting Hill and other electric lighting companies advertise all sorts of electric equipment, when inquiries are made by the public as to the installation of this equipment, they are put off with various excuses including the high charges in connection with installation? Does he not think that an inquiry should be made?

If my hon. Friend will communicate with me, I shall be glad to go into it.

Is not this company a privately-owned concern, and will my right hon. and gallant Friend not resist this vicious attack on private enterprise?

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend explain why the charges for electricity by this private company in London are nearly three times the corresponding charges for electricity supplied by municipal undertakings all over the North of England?

My hon. Friend says the North of England. One reason is that, in 1940, the experience of electricity companies in the North of England was very different from that of companies in London. There have been evacuation and damage on a large scale here, and a great increase in the cost of equipment.

Is the Minister aware that the charges of this company have been halved and that the costs of telephone calls have been doubled?

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that the comparative costs of electricity in London and elsewhere in the country before the war, and before any of these considerations applied, were always largely to the advantage of the areas outside London, and that the ratio was always nearly two to one?

I could not answer that question without notice, but I should think it would depend very largely upon the type of area which the company served.

Coal Industry

Technical Advisory Committee (Report)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, what action it is proposed to take with reference to the recommendations of the Technical Advisory Committee on Coal Mining, Cmd, 6610; and whether, in view of widespread agreement that public control through an appropriately designed public utility company, or companies, is essential, he will introduce the necessary legislation forthwith.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is in a position to make a statement on the Report of the Technical Advisory Committee; and what action he proposes to take in order to implement its recommendations.

My hon. Friends will appreciate that a report of this character must receive the most careful consideration before a statement can be made. There will be presented shortly a White Paper on the financial position of the coal mining industry dealing with the coal charges account, which will, I anticipate, further assist in presenting a picture of the industry at the present time.

In coming to a conclusion on the matter, will my right hon. and gallant Friend bear in mind that there is a large measure of support in all parties for a settlement on the lines indicated in my Question?

Is the Minister aware that no estimate of the cost involved was given in this report; and has he made up his mind as to the probable cost involved in the recommendations of the committee?

How many more reports must we have before some action is taken to put the industry on a proper basis?

The hon. Member will appreciate that there has never been a report of this sort made before. It is a very important report, because it is fundamental to, whatever approach is made to the settlement of this problem, and I am certain that nothing but good could come from the examination of this and other reports which I hope will be published. With regard to the cost which would be involved by the proposals in the report, that is, the other investigations and amalgamations necessary, it will be some time before we know what the costs will be.

Railway Wagons (Shortage, Nottinghamshire)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether his attention has been called to the serious loss of coal output in the Nottinghamshire district during the last three months owing to the lack of railway wagons; how this compares with the loss in the country as a whole; and what steps he has taken to improve the supply of wagons in this district.

Yes, Sir, I am aware of the serious loss of output which has occurred in the Nottinghamshire district during the last three months owing to the lack of railway wagons. This loss represents about 28 per cent. of the loss in the country as a whole. These losses are accounted for mainly by railway operational difficulties arising from a number of causes including severe weather and heavy sickness among train crews. I am in constant touch with my noble Friend the Minister of War Transport and the railway authorities on this matter, and I am glad to say in the last few weeks there has been a substantial decrease in losses from this cause.

Can the Minister say how many tons he estimates have been lost, how many miners are unemployed in Nottinghamshire, and how much has been paid in wages without any results?

I cannot answer that question without notice. It varies from week to week, and the greatest loss occurred during the period of very severe weather when no work at all was possible. If the hon. Gentleman would like to know, I will get the figures for him.

Petrol Allowance (Summer Holidays)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has considered the possibility of granting a special petrol ration for travel during the summer holidays.

The petrol situation is kept under constant review but I regret that present conditions preclude any relaxation of the existing restrictions on Civilian consumption.

May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether, if the war in Europe terminates before that time, he will then reconsider the matter?

I did say in an answer to a previous Question that the decision depends on the situation at the time, and I am constantly looking at the matter. The position is governed by the situation.

Newfoundland Service Personnel (Home Service)


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he will give particulars of the home leave scheme now approved for the Newfoundland regiments.

The scheme provides that all men in the two Artillery Regiments who have been absent from Newfoundland for 4½ years shall be entitled to 28 days of home leave exclusive of time spent in travelling, or, in the case of soldiers with wives or parents in this country, to a similar period of leave here, if they so prefer. Subject to reinforcements being available and to operational requirements, a total of too men will be allowed to return to Newfoundland each month, 68 being taken from the regiment in Italy, 17 from the Heavy Regiment in Western Europe, and 15 from the Newfoundland Royal Artillery Depot in this country.

May I ask if my hon. Friend will consider an extension of the benefits of this welcome scheme to Newfoundlanders in other units, including the R.A.F.?

Clothing (Gift Parcels For Europe)


asked the President of the Board of Trade how long the question has been under consideration of permitting parcels of clothing of under 5 lbs. each to be sent to France to other than French nationals, as have long been allowed to be sent to French people through the French Red Cross; whether this is now permitted; and, if so, through what agency can the parcels be sent.

The British Red Cross first approached the Board of Trade on this matter in February. Arrangements for a gift parcel service through the British and other Red Cross organisations to France, and other liberated countries, were completed last week and will be put into effect as soon as the Red Cross organisations are ready to handle the parcels.

Will the scheme include large-scale consignments for general redistribution as well as individual parcels; and how soon will it be time for donors to send in their individual parcels, as many are anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity?

We shall have to issue a Press announcement on the scheme when it has all been settled with the Red Cross organisations concerned. There is no delay as far as my Department is concerned. We are prepared to operate the scheme as soon as the Red Cross organisations are able to accept parcels, which are expected to be many. It is intended that parcels shall be sent from individual to individual, and not in bulk consignments.

Assurance Companies (Life Policies)


asked the President of the Board of Trade the total number of life policies of the value of £1,000 or under estimated to be in force issued by assurance companies other than industrial assurance societies.

Under the Assurance Companies Act, 1999, life assurance companies are required to state, at least every five years, tile number of life policies and the total amount assured, but they are not required to state the amount assured under each policy or the total number of policies for £1,000 or less. There are about 6,250,000 current policies covering about £2,500,000,000, issued by companies established in the United Kingdom.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been drawn to the hardships suffered by patentees in having the period of time for which the patent was granted curtailed by reason of the war and whether steps will be taken to extend patents taken out during the war for the period of time during which the war has made them inoperative.

Under Section 18 of the Patents and Designs Act, a patentee, who has suffered loss or damage by reason of hostilities, may apply to the Court for an extension of the term of his patent. The Patents Committee, which I appointed fast year, have made an interim report dealing with this point, and I have arranged for this report to be published and for copies to be available in the Vote Office on Thursday next.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these patentees have been deprived for nearly six years of the profits they were entitled to receive under their patents? Surely it is only fair that the time for which a patent is valid should be extended for a like period?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will read the report. This is a good Committee and they have gone into the matter very carefully.

Retail Business Licences


asked the President of the Board of Trade the total number of licences issued to date under the Location of Retail Businesses Order since its inception to individual unit traders, branches of multiple shops and co-operative societies, respectively; and the number of transfers of licences which have been made to multiple stores and co-operative societies from independent traders.

Between 1st January, 1942, when the Location of Retail Businesses Order came into force, and the 31st De- cember, 1944, 9,329 licences were granted for the opening of new retail businesses. Of these, 218 were granted to multiple stores; 73 to co-operative societies; and 19,038 to other traders. During the same period, 9,197 licences were granted to traders who had acquired the goodwill of existing businesses. Of these, 213 were granted to multiple stores; 151 to cooperative societies; and 8,833 to other traders.

Clothing Coupons (Released Service Personnel)


asked the President of the Board of Trade how many clothing coupons are to be issued to service personnel on demobilisation of release from the forces after the war with Germany.

This matter is now being considered by the Board of Trade, in consultation with the Service Departments.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we may expect a decision, in view of the issue by the Ministry of Labour of a pamphlet, which is being sent to every Serviceman, and in which no reference is made to this matter?

It would not necessarily benefit the Servicemen if we came to a premature decision. They will not be drawing these coupons until after demobilisation, and it is to their advantage that we should look into the thing carefully in the light of the available supplies. I am anxious to do the best I can for them.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether anything is being done for the Women's Land Army in this connection?

Regional Technical Directors


asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the qualifications for a regional technical director; what is his salary; and whether he takes precedence of, or has authority over, other Board of Trade technical officers in his area.

These officers deal only with engineering and must have a good general knowledge of the engineering industries. They are assisted, in each region, by a small staff, who have also been selected because of their experience of engineering. The salary range of the regional directors is £850 to £1,000 a year, plus Civil Service bonus of £60 a year.

Can the right hon Gentleman say what constitutes reasonably experienced men? Do they have to take any special qualifications?

No, Sir. I do not think it is difficult to decide whether a particular man has a good knowledge of engineering. We do the best we can in the light of our information about the applicants and they are a good body of men.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether one of these technical officers appointed with a good knowledge of engineering takes precedence, and has authority over a man who is, for instance, a chief engineer with a marine certificate?

I have tried to explain the position. In each region we are particularly concerned with reconversion from war to peace of the engineering industry. For this purpose we have certain officers whom we have appointed specially for this purpose. The regional director is the head of these officers in each region. He is not over other members of the staff.

Combines And Restrictive Aģreements


asked the President of the Board of Trade what action the Government propose to take to carry out Section 54 of the White Paper on Employment, involving obtaining power, to obtain information as to the extent and effect of restrictive agreements and of the activities of combines; and to take appropriate action to check practices which may bring advantages to sectional-producing interests but detrimental to the country as a whole.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) on 27th March.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that this is urgent; and will he undertake to introduce legislation at any rate some time before the end of this Session and the beginning of next?

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult with the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Information on this?

Aluminium Hollow-Ware


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to release for sale aluminium hollowware the production of which has been authorised by the Ministry of Aircraft Production.

The production of aluminium hollow-ware is at present limited to the articles most needed—kettles, stew-pans and steamers. Eighty-two firms have now been licensed to make these goods, and they have been asked to produce as much as they can with the labour available. Prices are controlled, but there are no other restrictions on the sale of these goods.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the principal manufacturers states that he is not permitted to sell what he has made?

In that case I think he had better get into touch with me, because he is misinformed.

But as he sells his own products and my right hon. Friend does not, is it not likely that he knows more about it than my right hon. Friend?

British Industries (Exhibitions)


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether it is intended to hold a British Industries Fair in 1946 and if consideration will be given to organising the pottery section exhibits at Trentham and cotton at Blackpool; and if he will make a full statement on the proposals for exhibiting British manufactured goods throughout the world after the war and on the organisation of suitable industry and trade films to be shown throughout the world.

As my predecessor announced, advice is being sought from the British Industries Fair Exhibitors' Advisory Committee as to the earliest date at which it will be practicable and desirable to hold the next fair. There are many difficult problems which must limit the effectiveness of any fair held at a short interval after the end of the European war. The importance of an early decision regarding a fair in 1946 is fully appreciated and I hope this may be forthcoming in the near future.

Distinction must be drawn between a National Fair on the lines of the British Industries Fair, which it is intended shall increasingly seek to attract overseas buyers, and a series of fairs representative of individual industries. There is a considerable volume of experienced opinion which holds the view that the use of a number of different centres reduces the appeal of a National Fair. It is my intention to discuss with individual industries their policy for exhibitions, both at home and abroad, or other methods to bring their goods to the attention of potential overseas buyers.

As regards the final part of the Question, my Department will use every opportunity to encourage industries and firms to arrange for the production of industrial films and to assist in securing their display abroad.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Leipzig, Paris and Lyons were centres of trade attraction before the war and is it the policy of the Overseas Trade Department to take the initiative in order to see that some place in this country is made the centre of a European trade exhibition?

The policy of the Department is to give full weight to those who have experience of exhibiting in the past and to any other considerations which will make for the success of the British Industries Fair.

British Army

Transfers To Bla (Home Leave)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that there is some dissatisfaction among men who, having served for more than four years in the Middle East and Central Mediterranean Forces, are eligible after transference to the B.L.A, for only seven days' home leave; and if, in any future modification of the B.L.A. leave scheme, con- sideration can be given to length of service in more remote theatres of war.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that a division, of which he has been informed, after three years' service in the Middle East, have now been transferred to Belgium; that these men have only been allowed seven days' leave similar to the B.L.A.; and if he will consider granting these men at least 28 days' leave after three years abroad, as there is a strong feeling of resentment amongst the personnel concerned and relatives.


asked the Secretary of State for War why it is that men who have had several years' service abroad and have been transferred to the B.L.A. are only given nine days' leave.

These were operational moves between overseas commands. I have repeatedly made it clear that operational considerations over-ride all leave rules. Subject to this the general position is broadly speaking that transferees come under the rules applicable to the theatre to which they are transferred but count their service in the previous theatre for the purpose of any qualifying periods. If the men now in question had remained in their previous theatres they would have been eligible in due course for repatriation and they would have taken their chance in the allotment of vacancies for 28 days' leave. On transfer they aggregate their service for repatriation and acquire greatly increased chances of leave but for the smaller period of seven days. As a matter of fact, I arranged personally with Field Marshal Montgomery that they should have a special allotment over and above that to the rest of the B.L.A. and at approximately double the rate. In the result they should get leave much earlier than they otherwise would have done and their repatriation rights are not appreciably affected. On the whole I think they have been very fairly treated in somewhat difficult circumstances. Incidentally, Field Marshal Montgomery personally visited most of the men affected and explained the leave arrangements to them.

But in all the circumstances, would it not be desirable to grant these men, as a special arrangement, double the present arrangements regarding the B.L.A. leave? In ordinary circumstances they would have been entitled to 28 days—

The right hon. Gentleman interrupted me. What I wanted to say was, apart from the question of entitlement, has it not been the custom in normal circumstances to grant these men 28 days' leave, and, in the special circumstances, would it not be desirable to double the leave and, instead of seven days, to give them at least 14?

Not at all. They take their chance in a very limited allotment of places. I think I can broadly explain the matter, that whereas in their new home the whole lot of them are likely to get the shorter leave in a period of three months, it would have taken a very great deal longer than that for all of them to have qualified for and to have obtained the 28 days' leave. Each individual has a smaller allotment bat they all get it much earlier and with much more certainty.

While the right hon. Gentleman has, of course, given a reasonable and correct Departmental reply, would he bear in mind that when a man has been overseas for four years or more, it is very hard indeed only to get seven days' home leave—almost worse than not getting leave at all—and could he not look into the matter again?

Certainly, Sir. I have looked into the matter with great care and I am willing to wager that the people concerned would very much rather that they all get seven days' leave than that a quarter or a fifth of them get 28 days' leave.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a good deal of feeling in the country amongst the relatives of these men and, seeing how widespread it is, surely he will agree that seven days' leave after three or four years abroad is not reasonable?

I have received a certain number of complaints on behalf of relatives but the men themselves, to the best of my information, regard the arrangements made as quite reasonable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those who have come home did not have the scheme explained to them by Field-Marshal Montgomery, as he has said?

I said that most of the men affected had it explained to them. I am sorry that my information is rather different from that of the hon. Gentleman.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it takes most of the men two or three days to travel to their homes after they arrive in this country?

Excuse me, it does. I am sorry to contradict the hon. Member, but arrangements are made for people who live a long way off to be given extra travelling time.

There are many cases where it takes 3½ days for the men to reach their homes.

Compassionate Leave


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will endeavour to arrange for compassionate leave for men in the Army who come from the Channel Islands as soon as the islands are liberated.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply I gave my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (General Sir G. Jeffreys) on 24th October.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether consideration has now been given to the application made to his Department, on 19th December, for compassionate leave for Signalman F. E. May, whose mother is suffering from cancer and father from pulmonary tuberculosis.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that after three months' delay the only reason given for not repatriating this gentleman was that he had some brothers at home who might see their dying parents, and does he think that would be adequate consolation for them?

I would be very grateful if the hon. Member would read the very full answer which I gave on 12th December to the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson) on this very subject.

Transfers To Indian Army


asked the Secretary of State for War what steps he has taken to ascertain the number of officers and other ranks who were compulsorily transferred from the British to the Indian Army; when and how these transfers occurred; and when an option to re-transfer will be granted.

I would ask my hon. Friend to await the full statement to be made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India on Thursday.

Does that mean that the Secretary of State for India will speak also on behalf of the War Office?

It is a matter for mutual arrangement, and whatever the Secretary of State for India replies will certainly have my agreement.

Far East (Higher Age Groups)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether men of 40 years of age and over are subject to a special medical examination to ascertain their fitness for the conditions prevailing in the Far East before being drafted for service in that theatre of operations.

No special medical examination is given to such men. The normal examination given to all men posted overseas, which naturally takes their age into account, is designed to ensure that no one is sent abroad who is not medically fit for the duties he will be called upon to perform.

Requisitioned Houses


asked the Secretary of State for War how many houses are still requisitioned by his Department; how many have been derequisitioned in the past six months; and how many of the requisitioned houses are empty at the present time.

The number of houses under requisition by the War Office in England, Scotland and Wales was approximately 30,000 at the end of February. One thousand were derequisitioned during February, but I regret that the figures asked for in the second and third parts of the Question are not readily available.

Will the Minister see that houses which have been requisitioned for security reasons are returned to their owners when the need for security has passed, and that requisitioning is not continued for entirely different purposes?

As regards small houses, I should hope that we shall derequisition them at the earliest opportunity.

War Decorations


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will introduce a rose Emblem as a clasp to the 1939–43 Star for personnel of the Army who are qualified for both the 1939–43 Star and the Africa Star, so that such personnel may enjoy the distinction enjoyed by personnel in the R.N., R.A.F. and Merchant Navy with similar qualifications.

No, Sir. The silver "8" and "1" Emblems on the Africa Star ribbon in the Army signify specified service in the North African compaign after 23rd October, 1942, in the same way that the silver rose Emblem on the 1939–43 Star ribbon in the Navy and Merchant Navy distinguishes those who had service connected with that campaign during that period.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he has any information as to the number of Service ribbons for service in this war so far issued for the U.S.A. Army and the Army of the U.S.S.R.

My information is that in the first case the total is 4, and that in the second there have been no such issues.

Will my right hon. Friend make sure that we have parity in these matters before the Armies meet in Berlin?

I do not know whether my hon. Friend means parity with the United States or with the Soviet Armies.

Does my right hon. Friend include in his figures the medal awarded to those in the Army at the time of Pearl Harbour?


asked the Secretary of State for War with reference to increase of the monetary award to go with the Victoria Cross and any other decoration, if he can state that such increases will also be paid to earlier holders of these decorations as from the same date as the increases become operative.

I have been, asked to reply. As stated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his announcement on 27th February, the various changes apply to awards made for service since 3rd September, 1939. The recipients will, if living, be eligible retrospectively for the new gratuities, and will be eligible for the new pensions as from 1st October, 1944.

Officers (Civilian Outfit)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether officers now being discharged from the Service are eligible for and able to obtain the civilian outfit announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being part of the war gratuity provisions.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether the issue of civilian clothes and outfit applies to officers as well as other ranks.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) on 29th March.

Did that reply indicate that officers are eligible for, and are getting, a civilian outfit on discharge now?

My answer gave the information, and perhaps I might read it now. It stated:

"… No officer is entitled to a clothing allowance on leaving the Service, but when the release period starts non-Regular officers leaving the Service will be entitled to the same civilian clothing as is given to other ranks." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1945; Vol. 57, C. 1551.]

Is it not a fact that another rank leaving the Service now does not get a cash allowance, but a civilian outfit? Why cannot officers be treated on the same level now as other ranks?

Is not the Minister aware that when the original scheme was launched in October, 1944, a general statement was made which conveyed the idea to the public that officers would benefit as regards the provision of civilian clothing in precisely the same way as other ranks? Why have we gone back on such an undertaking?

The undertaking referred to the release period, and that undertaking still applies.

Members Of Parliament (Addresses To Troops)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any further statement to make regarding instructions issued by the General Officer Commanding in the Middle East banning speeches by Members of Parliament to the troops under his command except by his express permission, and then only after submitting the script of the proposed speech.

I have been unable t6 find any substance whatever in the hon. Member's allegation. Perhaps he will let me have authentic copies of the evidence on which he based his Question.

British Prisoners Of War

Released Men, Germany (Return)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will assure the House that adequate plans have been made for the return to the United Kingdom, at the earliest possible moment, of British prisoners of war held in Germany and Italy, including those released during the Allied advance on all fronts.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he can give the names or numbers of Oflag and Stalag prisoners-of-war camps which have been overrun by Allied Armies in their advance from the Rhine eastwards; if prisoners in these camps have been liberated; if they are well; what arrangements are being made for their transport to this country, especially long-term prisoners; and when their relatives and friends may expect them to arrive.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement about -the position generally of British prisoners of war in Germany at present; how many have been released by British and Allied efforts; what action His Majesty's Government intend to take to free prisoners of war in the event of there being no Government in Germany capable or willing to negotiate their release or exchange at an early date; and what arrangements are being made after their return and what Department is now responsible for this work.

The Soviet authorities have notified us that they have recovered 3,312 prisoners from the British Commonwealth, and 2,679 of these have been evacuated from Odessa. It is clear that most of our prisoners who were in Eastern Germany were evacuated by the Germans.before the camps were reached by the Red Army. This is confirmed by information sent to us by the Protecting Power.

The Germans have recently attempted to withdraw our prisoners of war from Western Germany but owing to the speed of our advance 7,000 have so far been recovered, and 2,600 of these have arrived in this country. I am circulating the numbers of the camps affected in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Most of Our prisoners are now concentrated in camps in the centre of Germany. As soon as we receive the names of individuals released their next-of-kin are informed and I can assure the House that every available means will be used to ensure the quick return to this country of our prisoners. Detailed plans for reception in this country are complete, the necessary instructions have been issued and reception camps established. The general responsibility for the co-ordination of these arrangements rests with the War Department but on arrival in this country, recovered prisoners are taken over by their respective authorities, who are of course responsible for their future handling. Arrangements have been made to inform all recovered prisoners at the earliest time after their release of the details of their reception in this country including their leave and future prospects.

Can the Minister say whether Transport Command of the R.A.F. are co-operating in order to fly back as many of these men as possible?

I think the hon. Member had better address that question to the Secretary of State for Air.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether there is any organisation in Western Germany, either military or civilian, which has been specifically told off to deal with our escaped prisoners of war?

I cannot say whether any organisation has been specifically told off to do this, but there are military organisations at S.H.A.E.F. and in our Armies in Western Germany which are equipped to cope with this matter.

Has the Minister any information about Oflag 9A, from which British prisoners of war have been marched with nothing but a coat, blanket and some food? Has he any information as to their being followed up by the Americans?

The only information I have is that some prisoners of war from Oflag IX AH and Oflag IX AZ have succeeded in reaching our lines, but if my hon. Friend wants any more information perhaps he will put the question down.

Has my right hon. Friend any information with regard to the statement that the Germans are shepherding our prisoners of war to their last bastion of defence, in Bavaria?

I have no specific information, and could not say without notice; if my hon. Friend cares to put down a Question I will give him all the information I have.

Following are the numbers of the camps affected:

Most of the prisoners released by the British and American Armies are from Oflag XII B, Stalags IX C, XII A and Dulag Wetzler but some prisoners from Oflags IX A/H, IX A/Z, Stalags IX A, IX B, XII D, XII F, XIII C and Dulag Hadamer have also succeeded in reaching our lines

German Reprisals


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that British prisoners of war in a German camp, of whose identity he has been informed, have been deprived of their palliasses, allegedly in reprisal for similar action against German prisoners in Egypt; and if he can make any statement on this matter.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement about reprisals against British prisoners of war in Germany for the alleged conditions in Prisoner of War Camp 306 in Egypt.

Information was received at the end of January, 1945, that the Germans in violation of their obligations under the Prisoners of War Convention had removed mattresses, palliasses and most of the furniture from British prisoners of war in Oflag VII B and Stalag 357 as a reprisal for alleged conditions at two camps in Egypt holding German prisoners of war. The German allegations concerning conditions in these camps are entirely without foundation and no complaint on this matter had been received from the German Government. The strongest possible protest was at once sent through the Protecting Power to the German Government. As no reply was received a reminder was sent and the Protecting Power has been asked to report on the present position at Oflag VII B and Stalag 357.

Will the Minister himself make representations to the Secretary of State for Air in order that machines from Transport Command will be made available to bring the majority of these men back home at the earliest possible moment?

Army Of Occupation (Women's Auxiliary Services)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can say if it has now been decided to use the members of the Women's Auxiliary Services as part of the Army of Occupation in Europe.

I regret I have nothing at present to add to the reply I gave the hon. Lady on 6th February.

Can my right hon. Friend say when he will be in a position to answer this Question?

Government Contracts (London Area)


asked the Minister of Production to what extent an embargo has been laid upon the placing of certain Government contracts in the Metropolitan aea; whether it applies to the provision of parts of houses, temporary or permanent; and will he give particulars.

There is no embargo upon the placing of contracts in the London area, either for the production of munitions or to meet essential civil requirements, including the provision of parts of houses. In view, however, of the continued existence of an. exceptionally large number of unfilled vacancies for essential work of high priority in London, it has been arranged that, for the time being, Departments will avoid placing contracts there when the work can be done equally well in other places where the shortage of labour is less acute.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the method by which this embargo, for it is an embargo, is being carried out means that no contract will be placed in the London area unless it cannot be placed in the provinces and that this will mean that a number of businesses which have been established in London for many generations will be put out of business altogether because they are unable to obtain any material with which to continue their pre-war work?

There is in fact no embargo. Much new work is being placed in London and there is a direction of work to the provinces where it can be done there equally well as in London, where there is an acute stringency of labour.

Is the Minister aware that there has been a very substantial reduction in production in certain parts of London because no contracts have been placed, and that there is a great deal of unemployment arising out of this? Is he aware that many people are rather worried about it?

That is a very partial picture. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is very misleading.

Is it a fact that the Ministry of Production, the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the Ministry of Supply have received instructions not to place any orders for woodwork or for engineering work in London?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put that Question on the Order Paper.

Will the Minister look into any particular case of hardship where the factory is eminently suited to the work that is brought to his notice?

Yes, Sir, we are constantly looking into cases of hardship, and see that no excessive hardship is caused.

Women's Land Army


asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the further representations made to him about the W.L.A.; and with what result.


asked the Prime Minister whether representations made on behalf of the W.L.A. for recognition on demobilisation have been considered; and if he can make a statement on the matter.

I regret that I cannot add to the statement which I made on behalf of His Majesty's Government on 8th March.

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the Minister of Agriculture has been putting out urgent appeals for more workers on the land, and has he further noticed that 135 Members of the House, including Members of nearly all parties, have put down their names to Notices of Motion asking that there should be better treatment of these women?

The request for more woman labour, which is very necessary on the land, should be accompanied by conditions governing the future and not necessarily by gratuities or rewards which have relation to the past. With regard to the 135 Members who have put down their names on this question, nothing would be easier and, if I were so base, nothing more tempting, than to offer large and unconsidered concessions at the public expense.

Are we to take it from the right hon. Gentleman's answer that further representations on behalf of the Women's Land Army will be useless?

Further representations in respect of the special war-time gratuity must be considered to have fallen into that sphere of decisions which have already been taken.

In view of the disappointment which will be felt at the right hon. Gentleman's answer and in view of the fact that over 100 Members have put their names to Motions on the Order.Paper, will the right hon. Gentleman favourably consider giving us an opportunity to debate the question in the near future?

Questions about the Business of the House must be addressed to my right hon. Friend.

Will the Prime Minister consider, if he cannot give a gratuity, some other form of recognition of the magnificent work of these women?

I have looked around very carefully for something that would be suitable and would not open too wide a door, but one must be very careful, in a Parliament which is in its closing phase, not to embark on a competition for winning popularity, for any party, without due regard to the public and financial consequences.

When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of guarantees for these women who have been working on the land as a reason why he cannot meet their other claims for gratuities and the like, what guarantees does he refer to?

Surely the right hon. Gentleman did indicate that in the absence of gratuities there were certain other favourable conditions open to these women. Can he say what they are?

Certainly I cannot at the moment, but the principle of division is that the Women's Land Army fall into the general industrial sphere. That is the position we have taken up. We may be wrong, but we have taken it up. One hundred Members have put down their names to a statement that we are wrong, but probably we have a majority which thinks we are right. I do not know. But naturally the future is a separate topic from the past. In the future, if women are needed on the land the necessary attraction must be offered to secure their supply.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us feel deeply and sincerely that the decision has been taken on a false basis and that the parallel between women in industry in general and the Women's Land Army is not a true parallel? Will my right hon. Friend consent to receive a deputation or at any rate to allow some discussion on tile matter?

I am sure people do feel deeply and sincerely about it, but also there are those who have laid on them the heavy duty of endeavouring to keep the public finances in a certain state.

War Despatches (Publication)


asked the Prime Minister what were the considerations which led to the decision to publish Lord Gort's despatch on the Battle of France and to withhold publication of the despatches relating to other campaigns in this war.

Lord Gort's despatches were withheld from publication for over a year, until such time as they could be published without detriment to the public interest. I hope that the other numerous despatches will be published in the near future.

Although I welcome that advance on previous indications which the right hon. Gentleman has given, may I ask whether "the near future" means before the end of the war with Germany, or before the end of the war with Japan?

In regard to those that concern the war with Germany, it means the end of the war with Germany. As to those that concern the war with Japan, they obviously have to be looked upon with much more strict supervision.

Will the right hon. Gentleman now consider publishing despatches concerning the Italian campaign as the war with Italy, I take it, is now over?

The war with Italy began with Italy but it finished up with Germany, and for more than a year past we have been fighting Germany in Italy, and many Italian troops have been fighting on our side. Operations there are so intermingled that we had better restrain our impatience till the momentary lull which is supposed to follow the defeat of Germany. In that time there may be good opportunity to publish despatches, but it would be very foolish to pour them out on the newspapers at this time—apart from security—when our Forces are advancing with such great rapidity and when the newspapers are so small, and very likely the despatches of these distinguished officers would not receive the attention that they deserve.

War Graves (Relatives' Visits)


asked the Prime Minister if he will give an assurance to the relatives of those who have been killed on active service overseas that arrangements will be made for them to visit the burial ground as soon as it is reasonably practicable after hostilities cease.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to Questions put to me on this subject on 4th October last which was:

"This proposal will be very carefully considered. But not now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th October, 1944, Vol. 403, c. 931.]

The matter will be treated in a most considerate and reverential mood, but it may be quite a long time before it is possible.

Far East Operations (Higher Age Groups)


asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the fact that, except in special circumstances, men over 35 years of age are not to be called up, it is proposed, when the war in Europe is over, to send men over that age now serving with the Forces on the Continent to the Far Eastern theatre of war.

The policy we are pursuing is, naturally, to restrict overseas posting to the Far Eastern theatres as far as possible, to those members of the Forces who are not due for early release. This policy will automatically result in limiting the numbers of older men so posted but there is and can be no rigid upper age limit.

Requisitioned Hotels, London (Release)


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the great shortage of hotel accommodation in London and the inconvenience to business and other visitors caused therefrom, he will ensure that all Departments concerned take immediate steps to examine their present requisitionings in order progressively to release all possible accommodation.

Departments are already aware of the urgent need for surrendering hotel accommodation in London. Arrangements for releasing requisitioned accommodation are under constant review and hotels rank high in priority. This matter will be thrust forward with all possible despatch.

Ministry Of Information (Continuance)


asked the Prime Minister whether he has yet reached any decision as to the date beyond which the existence of the Ministry of Information will not be deemed necessary; and whether it is still the intention of the Government, as stated by the present Minister of Information, to abolish it completely.

I have no statement to make on this subject at the present time.

Does my right hon. Friend disagree in any way with the very clear-cut statement of the Minister of Information.

Considering the Parliamentary aptitude and knowledge of my hon. Friend, I am surprised that he should stray into such a wide degree of irrelevance.

In view of the new activities of the Minister of Information, would it not be desirable that his salary should be borne, instead of upon the Treasury, upon the central office of the Conservative Party?

The Minister of Information was speaking in his capacity as a Member of His Majesty's Government, in which, at present, great freedom appears to be allowed, and not as the admittedly impartial functionary who has for so long discharged the control of the Ministry of Information with considerable acceptance.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, on the constitutional issue involved, that if an hon. Member sought to put a Question at the Table bearing on speeches delivered by Members of the War Cabinet relating to party matters such Questions would not be permissible? How can these gentlemen be speaking as Members of the Government?

I do not understand. I imagine that speeches of Ministers can be raised in the House although delivered out of doors, but perhaps not by the procedure of Questions. That is subject to special regulations found convenient by all sides. But if people have reason to think that the Minister of Labour, for instance, has been speaking for the Labour Party rather than for the office that he holds, there are always opportunities in Parliamentary Debate at least of making some reference to the subject.

May we take it that it is accepted that peace has broken out on the political front?

There always has been peace and loyalty within. As we are by general consent moving into a dispute between parties, it is obvious that divergencies of outward expression will occur, but no statement has been made, or could be tolerated in the interest of representative Government and Ministerial association, which reflects upon the actual policy pursued by the Government. It has never been asked that Socialists should riot talk Socialism or Conservatives Conservatism, or even Liberals Liberalism.

Will my right hon. Friend consider substituting for the Ministry of Information a Ministry of Broadcastng after the war?