House Of Commons
Wednesday, 11th April, 1945
The House met at a Quarter past Two, o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Commercial Gas Bill
Read the Third time, and passed.
South Suburban Gas Bill
Read the Third time, and passed.
London County Council (Money) Bill
"to regulate the expenditure on capital account and lending of money by the London County Council during the financial period from the first day of April one thousand nine hundred and forty-five to the thirtieth day of September one thousand nine hundred and forty-six and for other purposes," presented, read the first time; and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.
Oral Answers To Questions
Press Correspondents' Visits
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if members of His Majesty's Embassy in Moscow and Press correspondents are now able to visit that part of Poland which has been liberated by the Russian Army.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of British and American reporters now in Poland.
Since His Majesty's Government do not recognise the Polish Provisional Government at Warsaw, no member of His Majesty's Embassy at Moscow has yet entered liberated Poland. A number of Press correspondents have been able to visit Poland since the New Year, but no British correspondents are now there.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the good faith of the Yalta Agreement, to which His Majesty's Government are committed, is very largely dependent upon whether or not facilities of this sort are going to be permitted?
My hon. and gallant Friend asked whether a representative of His Majesty's Embassy in Moscow has gone and I explained to him that, as we do not recognise the Provisional Government, that cannot be. As regards Press representatives, we should very much welcome the very widest circulation of Press representatives.
New Provisional Government
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in the negotiations in Moscow with the object, of forming a new Government of Poland.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any progress has been made at Moscow in constituting a new Polish Government.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the final composition of the Polish Provisional Government has yet been completed.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs' whether he has received any further reports of arrests or deportations of Poles from the territories both east and west of the provisional demarcation line fixed at Yalta since the conference held at that place; how many persons are involved; and whether they have since been returned to their homes.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements have now been come to in relation to the holding of free elections in Poland.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is in a position to make a statement on the progress of the negotiations for the formation of a Polish Provisional Government
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make any statement respecting progress towards the establishment of a provisional government for Poland that will correspond to conditions acceptable to Great Britain, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. and whose representatives will be recognised at the forthcoming San Francisco Conference.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has yet obtained from the Soviet Government any explanation of their policy of arrests and deportations of prominent Polish citizens, Red Cross workers, democratic party leaders and other patriotic loyal Allies of Great Britain 'and the U.S.A.
As at present advised my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister proposes to make a statement next week, probably on Thursday, on the work of the Commission of Three in Moscow and on certain other aspects of Russo-Polish relations. I would therefore ask my hon. Friends and the House to be good enough to await that statement. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may also take this opportunity on Thursday of next week to say something about the war situation in general.
Does it follow from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that the statement of the Prime Minister will be debatable?
My right hon. Friend will make his statement, and if there is a general desire for a Debate, certainly a Debate will follow. We had that in mind.
Are we to have the Debate, which I think was promised, 'on San Francisco, before or after this potential Debate on the Prime Minister's statement?
That is a matter of Business, which I will deal with later; it does not arise out of these Questions.
Personal Messages (Facilities)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any facilities yet exist for persons in this country to make inquiries about friends or relatives in Poland, or to send personal messages to them.
I understand that the British Red Cross accept inquiries about persons in Poland, although they cannot undertake that such inquiries will reach their destination or that replies will be received. Inquirers are informed accordingly. There are as yet no facilities for transmitting personal messages.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, for some time past, the radio in Lublin has been publishing lists of survivors with relatives outside Poland; and would he make those lists available to interested persons in this country?
If there is any means by which I can do that, and it is desired, I will certainly consider it.
Polish Representatives (Russia)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information regarding the whereabouts of the Polish representatives who left for the Soviet Union to discuss the formation of the new provisional government Poland of.
While I have no confirmation of the reports that these Polish representatives have gone to the Soviet Union to discuss the formation of the new Provisional Government, I have instructed His Majesty's Ambassador at Moscow to make inquiries concerning their whereabouts. When I learn the result of these inquiries, I will report further to the House.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say when that telegram was despatched and how long it is likely to take?
I think it was either yesterday or the day before; I am not sure.
Madame Arciszewska (Release)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the release from arrest by the Soviet authorities of Madame Arciszewska, the wife of the Polish Prime Minister, has yet been confirmed by His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow.
As I informed my hon. and gallant Friend in reply to his Question on 7th March, His Majesty's Ambassador received an assurance that the Soviet Government were taking steps to set Madame Arciszewska free. I understand that the Polish Government shortly afterwards received confirmation of her release.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the wives of any other Prime Ministers are in danger in Russia?
Could my right hon. Friend say whether the people belonging to the Polish Red Crass, who were arrested simultaneously with Madame Arciszewska, have been released?
I am afraid I could not. I cannot recall whether I made representations for them at the time; I do not think that I did.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the wife of the Polish Prime Minister is still obliged to report every day to the police, and can he protest against this continued indignity?
I have had information about that and I would like to consider it. I made representations to secure the freedom of this lady, and I would like to consider whether I ought to make any further representations.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which political parties in Poland are defined by His Majesty's Government as democratic and non-democratic, respectively; whether these parties are similarly so defined by our Soviet Ally; and whether His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow is satisfied that all democratic parties in Poland have at the present time freedom to express and to work for their political opinions.
His Majesty's Government, the United States Government and the Soviet Government are at present concerned with the first step proposed at the Crimea Conference, the setting up in Poland of a broadly representative new Provisional Government of National Unity such as would command recognition by the Great Powers. When this has been done and His Majesty's Government are represented in Poland, they will be in a better position to form a final opinion as to what parties should be entitled to take part in elections, which clearly could not take place for some considerable time after the formation of the new Government. The scanty information at present available to His Majesty's Government about conditions in Poland indicates, as one would expect, that, as a result of the long German occupation and the recent operations in Poland, Party political warfare is not yet working in a normal manner. It may also clearly be that before elections were held new parties might emerge.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the British Government sought, on 27th January, the names of Polish politicians in Poland who might enable the Committee of Ambassadors to form a Provisional Government? Were they then in a position to secure the lives and liberties of those politicians, and are they now in that position?
What we are at present trying to do is to secure agreement about Polish democratic leaders. The question of parties comes afterwards. Certainly, it would be part of any arrangement, so far as we are concerned, that if any Polish leaders were invited they should have full security and full right to go where they wished.
Is it the intention that all the members of the National Polish Provisional Government shall be Polish citizens?
I should have thought that the answer was, "Yes."
The right hon. Gentleman says that he is awaiting a new Provisional Polish Government. There is nothing about that in the Yalta Agreement.
If the hon. Gentleman will read it he will find there the word "new," because I was anxious that it should be there.
British Prisoners Of War (Repatriation)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can report any progress in the scheme for the repatriation of prisoners of war who have been a long time in captivity.
I regret that I cannot report any substantial progress in this matter. His Majesty's Government had hoped that a first exchange of this kind could have been carried out at the end of March, the date mentioned in their proposal. It is clear from the reply which has now been received from the German Government that no early agreement is possible and we have been informed that in any case the German High Command would require eight weeks' notice in order to make the necessary arrangements.
While recognising the great difficulty in which my right hon. Friend finds himself in this matter, is there any suggestion he can make in order to speed up this matter, in view of the terrible anxiety of relatives at the long period these men have been in captivity?
My hon. and gallant Friend will know that the military events themselves are having two effects. First, they generally make communications extremely difficult on the German side, and, second, they are, happily, liberating a number of prisoners. The figures so far, I think, are about 3,000 freed by the Red Army from the East and about 7,000 from the West.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any progress is being made in the negotiations with Japan in relation to the liberation of prisoners?
I shall be obliged if the hon. Member will put down that question, as I would like to give a detailed answer.
Russia (German Labour)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will state the arrangement made at Teheran or Yalta with regard to the supply of free male German labour to the U.S.S.R. after the termination of the war in Europe.
It was agreed at the Crimea Conference that a Commission should be established in Moscow to consider the question of the extent and methods for compensating damage caused by Germany to the Allied countries. I am not in a position to anticipate the Commission's recommendations.
Can the Foreign Secretary say whether the rumours prevalent in the Middle East, and in responsible quarters, that it has already been agreed that Russia is to have 2,000,000 German male slaves for 20 years, are entirely without foundation?
The Russian Government did not ask for 2,000,000 or any other figure of male slaves for any time at all. All that was asked and settled at Yalta was that reparations in the terms I have put should be discussed at Moscow, and there is no commitment about labour whatever.
Does that apply to Teheran as well?
As far as I recall, it was not even mentioned at Teheran.
If they should, at some future date, require the services of German labour for the purposes of reconstruction, would there be anything wrong in that?
I have certainly not ruled it out in my answer. All I have dealt with is the extent of our commitments.
Mr. Hugh Lawson.
On a point of Order. As we may not ask any further supplementary questions on an important point, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
War Crimes (German Victims)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the United Nations War Crimes Commission has recommended that Nazi leaders should be held responsible for crimes committed by them against German nationals; whether he has any statement to make on this recommendation; and whether His Majesty's Government propose to treat Nazi leaders, who ordered the killing of German Jews, democrats and Socialists, as war criminals.
I am not aware that the United Nations War Crimes Commission has made such a recommendation. As for the remainder of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 31st January by my right hon. Friend the- Minister of State to my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss).
Can my right hon. Friend confirm the report which has been circulated this morning that Hitler has been assassinated and that his office is directly responsible?
As usual, the 1922 Committee knows the information before the Foreign Office.
Arising out of the original reply, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to have Germans indicted, or tried or condemned for crimes committed against German subjects?
My right hon. Friend's answer dealt with that at some length, and I would advise the hon. and learned Gentleman to look at it.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reports he has recently had from the Inter-Allied Control Commission on recent political developments in Rumania; and if he will make a statement.
As I informed the House on 14th March a new Government assumed office in Rumania on 6th March. The British representative on the Allied Control Commission has been closely watching the situation, but his reports show that the new Government's assumption of office has not so far been marked by any outstanding political developments.
In the answer on 14th March my right hon. Friend referred to a strict censorship; may I ask whether that censorship has been lifted?
No, Sir, I should think that is most unlikely, but perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend would put that question down.
Bessarabia And Northern Bucovina
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a large number of Rumanians who have moved from Bessarabia and Northern Bucovina since 1940 into Rumania have recently been ordered to return; and whether he will arrange with the Governments of America and Russia that they be allowed to opt as to whether they wish to return or remain in Rumania.
While I have no responsibility for the agreement I Understand that the Soviet Government acquired Bessarabia and Northern Bucovina by an Agreement with the Rumanian Government of 28th June, 1940. The persons who are now being required to return are those who subsequently left these territories without the agreement of the Soviet authorities. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT translations of a Soviet Decree of March, 1941, and of a recent Administrative Order by the Rumanian Government which appear to govern the position of the persons concerned.
In the interests of humanity, cannot something be done to allow these people to decide whether they wish to go back to Soviet territory or not?
Surely my hon. and gallant Friend will understand that these arrangements were made, with no responsibility on His Majesty's Government whatever, by the Agreement of 1940, which contains no provision for opting at all. I really do not see on what grounds His Majesty's Government have a locus standi in the matter.
Following are the translations:
Decree Of The Presidency Of The Superior Council Of The Ussr
By which the inhabitants of Bessarabia are restored in the rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R. those of Bucovina are receiving Soviet citizenship.
The official gazette of the Superior U.S.S.R. Council under No. 13 of the 23rd of March, 1941.
The President of the Superior Counsel of the U.S.S.R.
The Secretary of the Superior Counsel of the U.S.S.R.
(SS) A. GORCHIN.
(SS) COLONEL GUSEV.
8th March, 1941.
Translation Of Rumanian Government Order Concerning The Identification Of Soviet Subjects In Rumania
The Minister for Justice communicates the following:
Supreme Presidents and Presidents of Courts of Appeal, Supreme Presidents and Presidents of Law Courts, County Public Prosecutors, Survey Inspectors and Prison Administrators are obliged on their own personal responsibility to communicate at once by telephone, telegraph or by written reports sent by special messengers, all the information necessary for the identification of Soviet subjects in the services they conduct.
The following are considered as Soviet subjects:
The attention of heads of law-courts is drawn to the fact that in drawing up reports, they should examine, within the meaning of the above, the situation with regard to their entire staff, magistrates, clerks, servants, etc., regard- less as to whether they are officially appointed, delegated, or assigned in any other way, or non-budgetary.
The Minister for Justice requires this information, by 9th March, 1945.
Yugoslavia (Land Redistribution)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his report shows if land redistribution has yet begun in federated Yugoslavia; and what is being done to meet the objections of each of the federated units, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, etc., against admitting colonists from the others.
According to my information, land redistribution has not yet begun in Yugoslavia, though plans for it are under consideration. I understand that the Central Government is making every effort to meet the wishes of each of the federal units by the imposition of a tempo, rary ban on the return of colonists from other federal units to their former domiciles, until the question of land redistribution is settled.
Does it follow that His Majesty's Government recognise this federation of Yugoslavia, which has happened in advance of any kind of general election, or plebiscite, or other test of public opinion?
I thought my hon. Friend asked me what was actually happening in Yugoslavia, to which I have given the answer. If he wants the further information, I shall be glad to answer a question on that point.
Syria And Lebanon (Gendarmerie Equipment)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Syrian and Lebanese Governments have now been supplied, against repayment, with the automatic weapons and reconnaissance cars needed for the equipment of their gendarmeries.
I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend on 24th January.
My right hon. Friend said on 24th January that it was desirable that the States should be equipped, can he say why they have not yet been allowed to purchase this equipment?
What I said was that the matter was being discussed by the French and Syrian Governments and that we were in friendly touch with both. That situation still continues, with a definite improvement I think, because relations between the Syrian and French Governments have, fortunately, improved.
Greece (Political Situation)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Greece and on the events leading to the resignation of General Plastiras.
There have for some time been criticisms of General Plastiras' Government on the ground that they were no longer acting as a non-party administration. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the bulk of these criticisms have come from E.A.M. who have made many allegations that the Varkiza Agreement was not being observed. More recently Right Wing extremists have tried to discredit General Plastiras by publishing a letter which he wrote to the Greek Minister in Vichy in 1941. The Regent in these circumstances decided that in view of the criticism of the Plastiras Government it would be better to form an entirely nonparty administration which could govern the country until the plebiscite and elections can be held. It is certainly the hope of His Majesty's Government that the new Greek Government will act with impartiality during this difficult period and that they will refuse to be influenced by extremists of either side. As has been frequently stated, it is the aim and object of His Majesty's Government to ensure by a fair and freely held plebiscite that the Greek people shall have full freedom to choose their own form of Government.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether, in general, the new Government is more or less monarchist in sympathy than 'the old one?
No, Sir, I certainly could not; I have no grounds on which to judge, but I understand the Prime Minister himself is not a man who has had any previous party affiliations. This Government will continue in office until such time as elections can be held with a plebiscite.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say how soon it is expected they will be able to hold these elections and plebiscite, and so clear up the situation?
My hon. Friend will understand that it is not for me to decide that and, obviously, there are a great many technical difficulties. We would hope as soon as it is technically possible, but I cannot think that will be within three or four months.
Has the right hon. Gentleman observed that one of the first acts of the new Government has been an attempt to destroy the Federation of Greek Maritime Unions, inside and outside Greece, and to replace it with a purely scab union?
That is the first I have heard of it; the hon. and learned Gentleman's telegraphic exchange must be very quick indeed.
In view of the sustained interest in Greece of.His Majesty's Government, were they consulted about this change of Government?
It is not for His Majesty's Government to be consulted about changes of Government in a friendly territory, but we take a friendly interest and we think, on the whole, a not unbenevolent interest in the events in Greece.
In the interests of nonparty Government, could the right hon. Gentleman not send the Minister of Information out there?
Is it not the case that the Royalists and pro-Fascists were responsible for getting rid of Plastiras, and that the new Admiral Prime Minister is a notorious monarchist and counter-revolutionary?
I do not think it is fair to say that, though I did observe that the Communists, who previously had no words bad enough for Plastiras, now regard him as something of a hero of their own.
Germany (Occupation Zones)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now give further particulars respecting the German zones apportioned to Great Britain, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A.; whether an agreed common policy will be operative in each zone; and what co-ordination is proposed in respect of prospective zoning of Berlin and Vienna.
As stated in the communiqué issued after the Conference in the Crimea, agreement was there reached on common policies and plans for enforcing the unconditional surrender terms which will be imposed on Germany. The adjustments to the zones in Germany and Berlin in order to provide for French participation are under discussion at the E.A.C. The arrangements in regard to Vienna are also under examination.
Does that mean that in Berlin there will be three separate zones with possibly four different administrative policies being pursued?
No different administrative policies. Originally, of course, the arrangement was reached for three zones. Now, owing to the French participation, certain adjustments are necessary and are being discussed, but it is under a common policy.
Will there be some kind of co-ordination?
Yes, indeed. This has been worked out jointly by the Allies:
Royal Air Force
Tropical Kit Allowance (Waaf)
asked the Secretary of State for Air if he can now make a statement on increased tropical kit allowances.
With effect from 1st October, 1944, the tropical kit allowance for officers of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force is being increased from £10 to £22 10s. 0d.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that sum is absolutely inadequate, and will he make immediate representation to the Treasury about the shameful treatment of the women's Services as regards tropical allowances?
There have been prolonged discussions by the Service Departments and the Treasury, and I think we have come to as good an arrangement as we can make.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that W.A.A.F. personnel are being posted to a R.A.F. station in Iraq, particulars of which have been communicated to him; that this place is unfit for women, who are never allowed to live there in peace time, as men can only be kept fit there by sleeping every other night in an air-conditioned hospital; and whether he will see that no women are posted to this station.
Two W.A A F. officers who volunteered for service in Iraq are at present serving at the station referred to and other W.A.A.F. officers who volunteer may be posted there in future. No members of the W.A.A.F. are, however, posted compulsorily to Iraq, and the proposal to send airwomen volunteers there is not being proceeded with at present. I am advised that the statements in the Question as to the living conditions at this station have no foundation in fact.
Charge (Court Of Inquiry)
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will set up a committee of inquiry, whose chairman shall be independent and at which evidence can be taken on oath, in the case of Miss Middleton, of which particulars have been sent him.
No, Sir. This case has been fully investigated by a properly constituted Service court of inquiry, at which evidence was taken on oath.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Miss Middleton, against whom this very serious charge was brought, claims she was not in court all the time and had no opportunity of cross-examining other witnesses? As this was a travesty of British justice, will the right hon. Gentleman order a new inquiry?
No, Sir, certainly not. It was a thoroughly competent and careful inquiry and this very serious charge was brought, not against Miss Middleton, but by her against a doctor employed in the Royal Air Force. It was most patiently inquired into, and I am convinced that the report of the court of inquiry is correct.
Was she allowed to cross-examine witnesses?
No, Sir, she herself was a witness. She was not the accused; the doctor was the accused.
Can the Minister say whether Miss Middleton was present throughout the whole of the inquiry and had an opportunity of making any observations she thought fit, or conducting any cross-examination which she thought the evidence warranted?
As a witness, of course she was not present throughout the whole of the inquiry. The accused was present throughout the whole of the inquiry.
Repatriated Personnel (Overseas Service)
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the members of the R.A.F. repatriated from Greece, who were prisoners of war in that country and who are stationed at a place of which he has been informed, have been informed as to their future; and whether, in view of their harsh experiences, they will be kept in this country.
Unless they volunteer to return to the Mediterranean area, officers, and airmen repatriated from Greece who have completed a substantial part of their overseas tour are being posted to the home establishment under the normal rules applicable to those who are tour-expired. Subject to medical fitness, the remainder are liable for further service overseas, other than in South-East Asia, but only for the period necessary to complete the unexpired part of their tour. All concerned have been notified of these arrangements.
Leading Aircraft-Woman (Discharge)
asked the Secretary of State for Air why a leading aircraftwoman, particulars of whom have been supplied to him, was discharged from the W.A.A.F. on 8th May, 1944, as fit for selective employment in civil life when she was in fact an in-patient at a civilian hospital suffering from a disability which has now been accepted as aggravated by her service; and what steps are taken to ensure that W.A.A.F. personnel are not discharged to civil life until they are able to resume civil occupation or some other provision is available for them.
I regret that this air-woman's discharge certificate was incor- rectly endorsed, although I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions that this endorsement has not affected the amount of pension she has been awarded. In reply to the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. and learned Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) on 27th February.
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that the fact that this girl's certificate was wrongly endorsed has resulted in considerable delay in the issue of a pension to her; and will he agree that some steps are necessary to prevent a recurrence of this nature?
Certainly. It is an unfortunate incident and, of course, it has been brought to the attention of those concerned.
asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is now in a position to make a full statement as to the cause of the loss of the aircraft on passage from this country to Malta on 31st January to 1st February, conveying officials of the War Office and Foreign Office to the preliminary conference held on 2nd February.
I am awaiting the comments of the two Commanders-in-Chief concerned on the report of the court of inquiry, which only became available a few days ago. I will let my hon. Friend know when I am able to make a statement.
In view of the length of time which has elapsed since the accident, I propose to put a Question down this day week.
Was this aircraft under Transport Command?
Will the evidence at the inquiry be made available to the House?
Does not my right hon. Friend think that there would be great advantage, in view of the criticisms which have been made in the House, if he were to publish this report?
No, Sir, I am sure there would be great disadvantage. I am sure that anyone who has had to do with inquiries in any of the three Services would know that it is of the utmost importance that officers should be able to speak freely, and even criticise their superior officers, and that any divulgence of the report or findings would make it more difficult to ascertain the truth.
We cannot debate, by Question and answer, what we discussed yesterday.
asked the Secretary of State for Air the details of the accident which happened to a Transport Command Liberator at the Azores about three weeks ago when 16 or 18 people were killed.
On 14th March a Liberator aircraft crashed shortly after take-off at the Azores, causing the deaths of the six members of the crew and the 12 passengers. The accident has been fully investigated, but the proceedings of the court of inquiry are not yet available in this country.
When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to have the report? If he will tell me that, I will follow the example of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and put down another Question later.
I will communicate with the hon. Gentleman.
May I also ask whether in this case the evidence of the inquiry will be made available, and, if not, whether the right hon. Gentleman does not consider that in these cases where Transport Command is concerned mainly with the transport of civilian passengers, there ought not to be a public inquiry, exactly as there would be in the case of a railway accident?
That is a question which I have answered already. I am sure that the object of the House is, as it is mine, to get at the truth and to encourage people to give their evidence without fear or favour. All that is greatly fostered by non-publication of the report.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he really wants to get at the truth a public inquiry will take him there more quickly than a private inquiry?
Aeronautical Research Council
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether he can now state the future constitution of the Aeronautical Research Committee.
Yes, Sir, the Aeronautical Research Committee will, as from 1st April, be known as the Aeronautical Research Council. The Council will consist of 14 members of whom eight (including the Chairman) will be non-official members. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the terms of reference of the Council and the names of the members.
Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether this new Council is a Departmental Council, or an extra-Departmental Committee, as recommended by Sir Henry Tizard?
It consists of a majority of non-official members and, therefore, it is in that sense extra-Departmental.
Following are the terms of reference and names of the members:
Sir Melville Jones, C.B.E, A.F.C., M.A., F.R.S., F.R.Ae.S. ( Chairman). Professor L. Bairstow, C.B,E., D.Sc., F.R.S., F.R.Ae.S.
Dr. D. R. Pye C.B., M.A., Sc.D., F.R.S., F.R.Ae.S. Sir William Stanier, M.I.Mech.E. Sir Geoffrey Taylor, M.A., F.R.S. Dr. H. Roxbee-Cox, F.R.Ae.S., D.I.C. Dr. S. Goldstein, M.A., F.R.S. Dr. A. G. Pugsley, O.B.E., A.M.I.Struct E., A.F.R.Ae.S.
Director of Scientific Research, Admiralty. Representatives of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and of the National Physical Laboratory. Director-General of Scientific Research and Development, M. of Supply. Director of the Royal Aircraft Establishment. Director of Scientific Research, Ministry of Aircraft Production.
Members' Correspondence, Northern Ireland (Censorship)
asked the Minister of Information whether he will give instructions to the censorship that letters from British Ministers of State to Members of Parliament in Northern Ireland are not to be opened, but be exempted from the Censorship.
No, Sir, I do not think such an instruction is required. When the war in Europe ends, my hon. Friends in Northern Ireland will no longer be burdened by the censorship of their correspondence.
Why should Members from Northern Ireland and Ministers of State be suspected by the Crown, and have some of their letters opened by the Censorship, and examined? I do not think that that should be, and I feel very strongly about it.
It is not a question of suspecting Ministers of State; it is a question of making a differentiation between Members of Parliament and ordinary citizens. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] There are very serious administrative difficulties about making that differentiation.
Could the hon. Gentleman say which of his colleagues he distrusts—those who want to break away from the Government, or those who want to stay in it?
I have complete confidence in all.
Then why censor their letters?
If these letters to Members of Parliament are censored, and if the hon. Gentleman does not suspect Ministers of State, does he suspect the Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland?
I do not suspect anybody.
Post Office (European Communications)
asked the Postmaster-General what are the present arrangements for postal, telegraphic and telephonic communication between this country, Bulgaria, Finland and Rumania, respectively?
As the reply contains a number of details I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the reply:
Restricted postal services are in operation to Bulgaria, Finland and Rumania. The services are limited to letters not exceeding 2 oz. in weight, postcards, and packets containing printed papers, including newspapers and periodicals, and commercial papers up to the same limit of weight. Business and financial communications are restricted to those ascertaining facts and exchanging information. Newspapers, printed papers, etc., require a Censorship Permit. Correspondence may be registered but not insured. No air mail, money order or parcel post service is available except in the service to Finland to which an air mail service only is available.
The rates of postage are:
Bulgaria and Rumania.
Letters and letter packets not exceeding 1 oz. 3d.; 1–2 oz. 4½d.
Printed and Commercial papers ½d for every 2 oz. (minimum of commercial papers 2½d.).
Finland. (Air mail service only).
Letters and letter packets (including printed and commercial papers) not exceeding 1 oz. 5d.; 1–2 oz. 8d.
Mails for Bulgaria and Rumania are despatched by surface route via Turkey. Mails for Finland are despatched by air via Sweden.
Public telegraph service has been restored with Bulgaria and Finland and will be restored with Rumania to-morrow, 12th April. Telegrams of a commercial and financial character must be confined to ascertaining facts and exchanging information.
The rates for telegraph service to all three countries are:
- Ordinary 4½d. per word.
- ELT 4s. 8½c1. for 25 words and 2¼d.
for each additional word.
The re-opening of telephone service with the three countries referred to is not yet practicable.
asked the Postmaster-General what are the postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications at present between this country and Yugoslavia.
There is as yet no postal, telegraph or telephone service in operation between this country and Yugoslavia. I am endeavouring to arrange for postal and telegraph services to be opened as soon as possible, but the provision of telephone service is not yet practicable.
asked the Minister of Works what was the cost of erecting the hostel at Adwick, near Doncaster; for what purpose it was intended; and whether it has been occupied since it was built.
The cost was about £95,000. With regard to the rest of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Minister of Fuel and Power on 20th March.
For what purpose is this very expensive building now being used?
The Question, of course, referred to the past use, and that was fully explained by the Minister of Fuel and Power on 20th March. The building has now been released by the Ministry of Fuel and Power and has been handed over to the Ministry of Health, who are ting evacuated children into the hostel. Those children will be coming in during the course of this month.
How many people can be accommodated in it?
The hon. Gentleman had better put that question to the Minister of Health.
Is it not reasonable to assume that there will not be evacuees now that the bombing of London has stopped?
It may be that I should have said refugee children.
Why do Government Departments resist suggestions which have been made that this hostel should be converted into accommodation for homeless persons who are actually being evicted now?
That is another question.
asked the Minister of Works if the aluminium house designed by the Aircraft Industries Research Association will be available for inspection by Members of Parliament and the general public; and, if so, when and where.
Only one prototype aluminium house has so far been constructed. This is at present undergoing transportation and erection tests. When these are completed in a few weeks time I propose to arrange for this prototype to be available for inspection by interested persons.
Does the Minister intend to permit a large number of these houses to be manufactured before they have been properly tested and lived in?
They must be manufactured before they can be lived in.
As I was in one of these houses the other day and it had been completely erected, why cannot the public see it? Surely, there are no security grounds why this house, which is half a mile from the House, should not be seen?
There is no secrecy about it, but there is only one prototype in existence and transportation tests are at present being carried out. These are very important, since the houses have to be taken long distances on lorries. As soon as these tests are completed the house will be made accessible to those who want to see it. Personally, I am not so very keen on these exhibitions. The country wants houses to live in and not to look at.
Man-Power (Prisoners Of War)
asked the Minister of Works what decision has now been reached on the question of useful employment of prisoners of war on such urgent work as the preparation of housing sites, main drainage and sewerage extensions.
The employment of prisoners of war on work of this kind is at present being considered, but I am not yet in a position to add anything to the statement I made on March 23rd.
In view of the pressing need for work of this character to be completed, can the right hon. gentleman expedite a decision?
Building Labour And Material, Liverpool
The following Question stood on the Order Paper:
42. MR. LOGAN to ask the Minister of Works, in view of the priority rights of labour and material conceded to bombed areas, what action he has taken to provide labour and material for Liverpool.
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. In regard to the Question 42, I also put two other Questions, which now appear on the Order Paper as numbers 70 and 71 to the Minister of Health, to the Minister of Works. Could the Minister of Works reply to them?
The Minister can only reply to the Question which is addressed to him.
Except in a few cases such as London, where the needs are exceptional, labour has not for some time past been transferred to any part of the country for bomb damage repairs. Owing to heavy damage caused since last summer there is a shortage of certain building materials such as slates, plaster and plasterboard, but in the distribution of available supplies Liverpool has been given a fair share in common with other towns which have suffered heavy damage.
Is it possible for priority to be given to a seaport such as Liverpool, which has suffered such great loss, when London has had its job done?
I think I explained yesterday how much more there is still left to be done in London, but even leaving that out of account, Liverpool and all other towns which have been damaged are in fact receiving their fair share of the total supply. There is a shortage, but they are getting their fair share, having regard to their need in relation to the needs of other towns.
Building Priorities, Brackley
asked the Minister of Works whether it is intended to proceed with the erection of a block of buildings in the borough of Brackley for use by the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Labour; and whether the erection of such buildings will receive priority over the erection of housing accommodation and the execution of repairs.
No project of this kind is being undertaken.
Will my right hon. Friend inquire whether the journey of four officials to Brackley for this purpose was really necessary?
Repairs, Westminster (Private Builders)
asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that a considerable amount of war damage repair work is being held up because the Westminster City Council, with the consent of the regional licensing officer, refuses to allow private builders to operate though they are in a position and anxious to do so; and whether he will cancel the power of local authorities to hold up work that is otherwise approved by the investigator.
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the general statement I made on this subject yesterday.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the investigator told the client that he would recommend the work provided he gave it to the local authority to do? Is it not a very dangerous precedent to give powers to persons when the client is perfectly willing to pay for it himself?
I do not know exactly what my hon. and gallant Friend means by "the investigator," but I explained our policy fully yesterday. If this work is to be done quickly we must plan the job as a whole, tackling whole streets together. We cannot have builders leapfrogging from house to house and from street to street. We should never get the job done quickly that way.
The thing could be done without any expense or holding up.
Commercial Buildings, London (Rehabilitation)
asked the Minister of Works whether high priority will be given, when housing repairs are satisfied, for the rehabilitation of offices and commercial buildings in the City of London seriously damaged by enemy action, in consequence of which want of accommodation is acute.
Shops, offices and commercial buildings have, wherever appropriate, received field dressing attention immediately after the incident. In many cases licences have been issued for some further work sufficient to enable the business to carry on. Subject to satisfying the most urgent needs for the repair of dwelling houses in London, it will I hope soon be possible to grant licences for this type of work rather more freely.
asked the Minister of Food if he will estimate in terms of expenditure, or however else practicable, the proportion of this country's food consumption, excluding, if possible, supplies in bulk to the Armed Forces, which consists of foods for which neither coupons nor points are required, such as bread, oatmeal and some other cereals, potatoes and other vegetables, fruit, fish, sausages and other meat stuffs, cocoa and coffee.
I am having information prepared and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as it is available.
Is the right hon. Gentleman yet convinced in any way that many articles of food in this country are not rationed and are in unlimited supply, and in view of this, does he adhere to the extraordinary statement that was made by the Minister in October that we are as strictly rationed as any country in Europe?
I had better answer the Question on the Order Paper first.
asked the Minister of Food whether, owing to the constant demand for jellies by sick persons, invalids and delicate children, he will authorise the early resumption of their manufacture in order to meet a pressing need.
No, Sir. I regret that the supply position does not yet permit a resumption of manufacture.
As sugar is bring assigned for less necessary needs, will the Minister grant sufficient sugar to allow a certain percentage of jellies to be manufactured to meet a pressing public demand?
There is every desire to resume manufacture as soon as the supply position permits.
"British Wine Port Type"
asked the Minister of Food whether his attention has been called to the widespread sale of red wine called "British Wine Port Type" manufactured by a chemical process and bottled by Santiago, Neuhofer, of 11, Brushfield Street, E.1; whether he is aware that the sale price is 15s. 6d. a bottle; that the retailers pass it off as Algerian wine; and whether he will state the name of the manufacturers and the date on which his Department passed it as fit for human consumption.
Yes, Sir. I am aware that limited quantities of this product have been sold and inquiries are being made into the source of supply. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 7th March to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie).
Why is it impossible for the Minister to tell us the names of the manufacturers of this poisonous beverage?
Because we do not know.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why this spurious beverage is still on sale?
We are making inquiries to find out the source of supply. We have discovered the source of the first supply and that has been stopped.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was a prosecution in Bath police court, and that all the reports concerning it have been suppressed? Surely, when the stuff is sold the Ministry must know who made it and it must be done with the approval of the inspectors of the Ministry?
I do not know what the hon Member means when he says that the reports have been suppressed, but action in the form of a prosecution is a matter for the local authorities, who operate the Food and Drugs Act.
Could we have a sample in the Library of the House?
asked the Ministeh of Supply if there has been any improvement in the rate of collection of paper salvage.
Yes, Sir. There has recently been an appreciable improvement. More waste paper is, however, urgently needed; and I hope that, in spite of labour difficulties, still larger quantities will be obtained, with the aid of the drives that have been planned.
Is the right hon. Gentleman taking any action to bring home to local authorities and the public the continuing and urgent need for the maximum collection?
We have regular conferences with local authorities on the subject.
Pacific Fleet (Welfare Arrangements)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can make any statement regarding the welfare arrangements for the Pacific Fleet.
Yes, Sir. Considerable thought and effort are being devoted to the welfare arrangements of the British Pacific Fleet. The Australian Common' wealth Navy Board is undertaking the provision of amenities in the main Australian ports. In addition plans provide for canteens and recreation facilities both at the main R.N. Depot at Sydney and ashore in the forward area. Welfare Service Officers have been appointed to all shore bases in both Australia and the forward area as well as to the staffs of the Commander-in-Chief and the Flag Officer in charge of the fleet train. The Fleet is also to have an amenities ship which will contain a combined theatre and cinema, a canteen, a N.A.A.F.I. shop and restaurant, lending library, reading and writing rooms, as well as tailors, barbers and boot repair shops. The amenities planned ashore in the forward area will be similar but on a considerably larger scale. A number of amenities are also being provided in other ships of the fleet train. It is intended to instal brewery plants both in the amenities ship and ashore in the forward area. The supply of ice cream plant and soda-fountains are also receiving special attention in view of the climatic conditions. My hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that the shortage of labour and materials applies to this no less than to other theatres and a certain amount of time must necessarily elapse before the full provision we are making is realised.I need hardly add that the citizens of the Dominions are offering a great deal of private entertainment and recreation for the officers and men of the Fleet. Various bodies, such as the Australian Comforts Fund, are providing Clubs for officers and men, and the Lord Mayor of Sydney is raising a fund to establish a recreation centre in the city. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the gratitude of the Board of Admiralty for the liberal welcome which is being extended to the officers and men of the Fleet. There are other aspects of the Admiralty's welfare arrangements which I should like to mention but as I have already spoken at some length, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, arrange for a fuller account to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
While welcoming that admirable arrangement, may I ask whether there is a special officer and special arrangements to look after the Wrens who have been sent to that area?
I think I can say "Yes" to that.
Have similar arrangements been undertaken for the Fleet operating in the Indian seas?
Following is the Statement:
In my oral reply I dealt with the provision of amenities in the theatre of operations but the House will be pleased to learn of the other side of the Admiralty's welfare schemes which seeks to alleviate the anxiety of the men of the Fleet concerning their families at home. In addition to their duties with regard to the provision of amenities generally these Welfare Service 'Officers are also available to give advice on the procedure to be adopted in solving men's private and domestic problems. A comprehensive family welfare organisation is in existence in this country to give help and advice to all naval ratings, their wives and families. Affiliated to this organisation is also a free legal aid scheme. The voluntary organisations who handle so many of the men's problems in private life and those of their families work in the closest liaison with the Welfare Services Department at the Admiralty. Financial aid is also available through the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust to provide relief in cases of distress and make provision for training for civil life. Though he is so far from home, every man in the Fleet is able to take advantage of this family welfare organisation if he has troubles at home about which he wishes to set his mind at rest. By arrangement with his Commanding Officer, a signal can be made to his home depot where the organisation will provide a reply in the shortest time about almost any subject which concerns either his own future or the present and future problems of his family. Furthermore, on urgent matters the concession telegram service is available to enable men to receive communications from their families and to send messages to them.
Where it appears to the authorities that a man's domestic problem is serious enough to require his presence at home, arrangements are made to send him home by the quickest possible method, including air transport where this is available. Arrangements are now in force whereby mails for the Pacific Fleet are flown out to the station by air. By this means mails should reach main Fleet Bases with reasonable speed. It is hoped that it will also be possible to fly out every week a large supply of Sunday newspapers and the latest cinema news reels.
In implementing the re-allocation plan, Their Lordships intend to make every endeavour to ensure that those serving in the Pacific will be brought home in time for release in their proper turn. No man, therefore, should need to worry that the prospect of his future employment in civil life is prejudiced by his service in the Pacific Fleet.
Admiralty Civil Police (Pay)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if the increases of pay announced in November, 1944, for Special and War Reserve Police, are being paid to full-time special constables in the Admiralty Civil Police.
No, Sir. Admiralty Civil Police are not remunerated on the same basis as the Special and War Reserve Police. They are non-industrial civil servants eligible for Civil Service war bonus and in common with other civil servants they received an increase in bonus as from 1st November, 1944. In addition, their basic rates of pay have been increased, with effect from 1st December, 1944, by 4s. a week for constables after three years' service, with corresponding increases for higher ranks.
Tropical Kit Allowance (Wrns)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that the £10 allowance for tropical kit is inadequate for officers of the W.R.N.S.; what articles they are required to buy; and what articles are supplied as free issue.
W. R. N. S. officers are required to purchase all articles of tropical kit except one pair of serge trousers. I am pleased to inform my hon. and gallant Friend that the tropical kit allowance for W.R.N.S. officers will be increased from £10 to £22 10s. with effect from 1st October, 1944.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise how much this increase will be appreciated?
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether men serving with the R.N. are permitted to volunteer for work in the coalmines.
Men who are serving temporarily in the Royal Navy and who have had recent experience as mineworkers may volunteer for work in the coal mines and are released for such work unless they belong to one of the exceptionally important branches such as aircrew. Men without previous coalmine experience may volunteer for release for training in colliery work if they joined the Navy on or before gist December, 1940, and were born in 1910 or later: release in this category depends on the man's branch and the rating he holds.
When there are a number who wish to join the Royal Navy but are sent down as Bevin boys into the mines, is it not a pity that those who wish to volunteer for the mines from the Navy, should not be allowed to do so?
That is an argument and not a question.
Rnvr Officers (Depot Ships)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many R.N.V.R. officers are at present posted to H.M.S. "Victory" and other ships, not to join.
This figure fluctuates from day to day but approximately 650 R.N.V.R. officers are at any one time appointed to depot ships not to join. These appointments are given when officers are sick, on foreign or home service or compassionate leave, undergoing certain courses or are earmarked for appointments. In addition when requirements permit, a small margin of officers is maintained to meet unforeseen commitments and to provide replacements for casualties and sickness.
Is it not a fact that a proportion of these officers are unemployed, and could not the right hon. Gentleman see his way to discharge those for whom he has no further use?
That is not so. Where you have tens of thousands of officers in the Service being moved about from post to post and from theatre to theatre, you must have a pool attached to the depot ship. Some may be there a little longer than others but we keep the number as low as possible.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what is the average period?
Not without notice.
Can non-technical Members be told what the Question is about?
The depot ships have their own regular staffs. Those who are sent there "not to join" are those who await drafting elsewhere.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that Leading Seaman E. Bassett, now in M Ward, Upper Southern Hospital, Dartford, was given a medical examination at R.N. Barracks, Chatham, several weeks ago and was certified fit for service abroad though he protested that he was seriously ill; that he has now had a further examination which disclosed that he was suffering from tuberculosis; and whether he has any explanation to offer for this variation in the medical examinations.
No inconsistency in the assessment of medical category for service occurred in this case. The symptoms of which Bassett complained did not suggest pulmonary tuberculosis. He was examined by various specialists who reported that so far as they were concerned and subject to confirmation they saw no reason why he should not go to sea. On examination of his chest by X-rays, which took place about ten days later, pulmonary tuberculosis was suspected, although previous films had been negative: this diagnosis has now been confirmed.
Is it not the case that this seaman demanded a further examination because he was about to proceed to the Pacific zone, and that it was only after protest by his father and on representations made by me that this further examination took place? Will my right hon. Friend, in view of complaints, make inquiries about the medical examinations being conducted at the Royal Naval Barracks? It seems that there is something wrong.
Representations were made, as my hon. Friend states, a second time which led to a re-examination, but, in justice to the medical men concerned, I must say that, while there had been a previous X-ray film which did not show the complications which afterwards appeared, as soon as they were discovered he was sent to hospital for further special testing. None of the man's complaints had led them to look specially for pulmonary tuberculosis. They had been looking for symptoms that the man had complained of. May I say in general that we have on the whole very generous testimony to the medical officers? I had a letter this morning from a parent to say that he and his wife would never cease to be grateful for the service of the naval medical officer to their boy who had developed tuberculosis.
In view of the fact that mass radiography is now employed in industrial establishments, can my right hon. Friend say why it is not now used in the Navy?