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Oral Answers To Questions
06 June 1945
Volume 411

Austria (Provisional Government)

2.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any statement to make relating to the powers and scope of the Provisional Government in Vienna; what Allied Missions are in Vienna; what Allied Missions are in Vienna at the present time; and when it is proposed to allow British Press representatives to proceed to Vienna.

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I have been asked to reply. As regards the position of the Austrian Provisional Government, I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend on 30th May, in reply to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Sir G. Mander). Allied military missions arrived in Vienna on 3rd June for preliminary discussions; but it may be some time yet before the Allied Commission for Austria is set up. As soon as the Commission is established I hope it will be possible for British Press correspondents to proceed to Vienna.

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Could the right hon. Gentleman be a little more specific about "some time yet"?

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No, Sir, I do not think I can add anything to what I have said. We must first await the report of the Missions that have proceeded there.

European Relief Policy (Co-Ordination)

6

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the anxiety caused by the reduction in rations and the conflicting reports of the condition, and needs of the populations of liberated countries, he will issue a White Paper giving authoritative information.

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While sympathising with the objects which my hon. Friend has in mind, I am satisfied that any summary of information issued now would so soon become obsolete that it would not justify the great labour involved in its production.

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Is the report issued by S.H.A.E.F., stating that there was starvation in Europe, authoritative, in view of other statements which have been made regarding Holland, Belgium and France?

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It is extremely difficult to generalise about conditions in Europe. In some parts they are better than in others, in some parts they are very bad.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman consider issuing a statement showing just what can be done in the sending of food, and what it was planned to do, and which are the agencies?

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A good deal of that information has been made available in the House, but I will see that the hon. Member's suggestion is considered.

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Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it is important for the morale of our troops overseas that they should not be under the impression that there has been any reduction in the rations of their families at home on account of the necessity of feeding Germans?

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That is certainly a consideration which we must always bear in mind.

8.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the need for a co-ordinated policy for displaced persons, a representative of U.N.R.R.A. sits on the Inter-Governmental Committee for Refugees.

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I understand that a representative of U.N.R.R.A. attends plenary sessions of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees, in the capacity of an observer, and that representatives of the Inter-Governmental Committee attend the European Regional Committee of U.N.R.R.A. and the Technical Sub-Committee of U.N.R.R.A. in a similar capacity. The importance of a co-ordinated policy is fully appreciated, and I am informed that relations between the two administrations are close and cordial.

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Would not my right hon. Friend consider having a member of U.N.R.R.A. as a full member on the Inter-Governmental Committee?

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As far as I know, the present arrangements are working with perfect satisfaction to both parties. If there were any change, we would consider whether any improvement was necessary.

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In view of the fact that when the Inter-Governmental Committee was set up U.N.R.R.A. did not exist, is not the position worth reconsidering? An observer cannot take part in discussions, and it is obvious to anyone who has studied the functions of these two bodies that there is a great possibility of their overlapping.

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Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the rapid return of displaced persons to their homes is one of the most important contributions to economic reconstruction that can be made, and will his Majesty's representatives give the fullest support to the efforts of U.N.R.R.A. on that matter?

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His Majesty's Government are fully aware of the importance of that question.

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Is my right hon. Friend confident that his Majesty's representatives have been supporting U.N.R.R.A. in this matter recently?

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I am confident that His Majesty's Government have been doing everything they can to support U.N.R.R.A. in this matter of displaced persons and in all other matters with which they deal.

15.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how he proposes to ensure the satisfactory integration of U.N.R.R.A. with the Allied Control Commission operating in Germany in order that the interests of displaced persons may be adequately safeguarded.

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I am fully aware of the importance of this matter, which is at present under active consideration.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman say why the preparations for the Allied Control Commission have taken such a very long time?

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I suppose it is because the situation changes so rapidly from day to day, and, until we see how the Control Commission does, in fact, operate, it is very difficult to lay down hard and fast plans for its operation.

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Has the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster taken any action in this matter; and will he represent us at Berlin, or in any other capacity?

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Perhaps the right hon. Baronet will put that question down. It is another and wider question.

Persia (Allied Forces)

7.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the evacuation of Allied Forces from Persia, having regard to the note from the Persian Government on the subject.

12.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government have made any reply to the Note addressed to them by the Iranian Government requesting the evacuation of British troops from Iran; whether he can give any information regarding the attitude of the U.S. and Soviet Governments to the similar request addressed to them; and whether he will give an assurance that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government, in all circumstances, to safeguard our Imperial interests in South Persia and the Persian Gulf.

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The Tripartite Treaty provides for the withdrawal of all troops from Persia six months after the end of the Japanese war. In view of the Persian request and our desire to meet their wishes as far as possible, we are in consultation with the United States and Soviet Governments in this matter, but I have not yet been informed of their views. The answer to the last part of the question of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lancaster (Brigadier Maclean) is in the affirmative.

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Does the answer mean that, unless all troops are withdrawn, none will be withdrawn?

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The answer actually means what it says. What I said was that the Tripartite Treaty provides for the withdrawal of all troops six months after the end of the Japanese war. The Persian Government have made a request, and we are considering that request, in consultation with our Allies.

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Have the Persian Government been defeated on this matter?

Spain

Laval (French Representations)

9.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the Spanish Government has not yet handed over Laval as a war criminal; and will he make representations to the Spanish Government asking that this be done without delay.

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This is a matter primarily between the French and Spanish Governments. His Majesty's Chargé ďAffaires at Madrid has, however, been instructed to support the representations of the French Representative to the effect that Laval should be handed over to the French authorities without delay.

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Does not my right hon. Friend agree that Laval is probably one of the most contemptible figures thrown up by the war?

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What exactly are our powers when war criminals and prominent Nazis seek asylum in nominally neutral countries?

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I think that question hardly arises out of the case of Laval, who is not, technically, a war criminal. To be a war criminal he would have to be nominated by the French Government as a war criminal, and so far he has not been nominated.

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Is there any news of Ribbentrop?

Concentration Camps

10.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish the report of the representatives of His Majesty's Government who visited the concentration camps in Spain.

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No representatives of His Majesty's Government have visited concentration camps in Spain.

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Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was a statement on this matter on the wireless yesterday; and, in view of the concern in this country over the atrocities in Buchenwald and Belsen, will he not arrange for representatives of His Majesty's Government to visit these camps?

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I have quite a few responsibilities at the moment, but, mercifully, what is said on the wireless is not one of them. I doubt very much whether any useful purpose would be served at present by adopting the hon. Member's suggestion.

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Would my right hon. Friend support the suggestion that there should be an international inspectorate to inspect all prisons?

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That is quite a different question.

General Bor (Newspaper Article)

11.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to an article in the "Soviet News" of 25th May, issued by the Russian Embassy, which characterises General Bor, the defender of Warsaw, in most insulting terms; and whether he will protest against the circulation in Britain of attacks of this nature on a representative of another Ally.

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I have seen the article to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, and I share his regret that statements of the sort contained in it about one of our Allies should appear in an official publication of another.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman do anything to stop attacks of this kind? Does he realise that this article called the heroic General Bar "an agent provocateur" and "a dirty adventurer"? Is it seemly that the Press department of an Embassy in London should publish this sort of thing?

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I think that the view of His Majesty's Government on this matter is already known. If it was not known before, it should be known now, from the terms of the reply I have just given.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that, for years, so-called official publications in London from the Polish Government have been uttering the most atrocious slanders about the leaders of a great Ally, the Soviet Union, and we have had no protest from the Foreign Office? Will he protest about those slanders now?

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I have heard protests in this House on the point the hon. Member has made.

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Is it going to be the policy of the Government to interfere with the expression of opinion by another Power? Is it not a fact that, on several occasions, protests have been heard from this side of the House about the anti-Soviet propaganda of the Polish Government in London?

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Why does not the right hon. Gentleman deplore that?

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I do not think it is a question so much of policy as of what is seemly, and, as I say, we do regret that statements of this kind about any Ally should appear in the publications of another Ally.

World Security Organisation (Secretariat)

14.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make a statement concerning the proposal that the Secretary-General and the four Deputy Secretaries-General of the proposed World Organisation should be appointed on the nomination of the Security Council and for a period of three years only.

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The four sponsoring Powers have submitted to the San Francisco Conference amendments to the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals whereby the Secretary-General of the new Organisation and his four deputies would be elected by the General Assembly on recommendation of the Security Council for a period of three years, and the Secretary-General would be eligible for re-election. These proposals are at present under discussion by the Conference.

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During their consideration, will the right hon. Gentleman and the Government bear in mind the danger that, if these five superior posts were to become short-term diplomatic appointments, it would be impossible to build up a really international body of the kind that is required?

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I appreciate the point of view which the hon. Member is expressing, but I think that, on the other side, there is a good deal to be said for the argument that it is important that people in the international organisation who hold really important posts should have been, at some fairly recent date, in active contact with the world of men, so to speak, and not live in an abstraction of their own.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that those of us who worked in connection with the League of Nations know from experience the immense value of building up an international esprit de corps, which cannot possibly be done if you are going to make these diplomatic appointments?

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Is there not considerable danger, in these matters, of failing to see the wood for the trees?

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Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, while the institutions at Geneva were taken seriously there was no difficulty whatever about superior officials maintaining contact with their Governments at home, which, as a basis of international security, is essential to the strengthening of the whole thing?

United States (International Trading Arrangements)

19.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how the reciprocal trading arrangements made between the U.S.A. and other countries fit into the pattern of international relations as contemplated at Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco; and if he can give particulars of such arrangements.

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The functions of the Economic and Social Council, which will form part of the proposed International Organisation, are at present under discussion at San Francisco.

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May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if these reciprocity arrangements into which the United States have entered are not exclusive, but that any other countries will have the right to enter into agreements?

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I rather fancy that the particular arrangements which my hon. Friend has in mind are bilateral trading agreements, but the position is, I think, that the United States is willing to enter into such agreements with any other country that will enter into them.

Syria And Lebanon

20.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will issue a White Paper giving a record of events in November, 1943, and May, 1945, in Syria and the Lebanon from the reports of the British Minister.

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The deplorable events of November, 1943, and May, 1945, in Syria and the Lebanon have been fully described to the House in statements made at the time and widely published, and I do not think any good purpose would be served by publishing a White Paper, as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests.

Member Of Parliament (Visit To United States)

21.

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was recently invited to lecture in the U.S.A. under the auspices of the Society of Friends, at their expense; that the Foreign Office consulted the Ministry of Information and both Departments refused to sponsor such a visit or issue a new passport; that several Members of this House of all political parties have paid visits to the U.S.A. during hostilities to lecture; that Members of the American Congress of all shades of political opinion have visited this country under similar conditions; and, as this refusal violates the rights of a Member of this House and offends a considerable section of American opinion, whether he will reconsider this decision.

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The general issue which this case raises has been reconsidered in the light of the changed circumstances. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will be making a statement on this subject after Questions to-day.

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Does the right hon. Gentleman realise what satisfaction that answer will give to all parts of the House? Does he realise that the hon. Member for Westhoughton is an officer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and that his visit to the United States can do nothing else but strengthen the existing friendship between the United States and this country?

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am deferring my comments until I hear the statement?

Royal Air Force

Aero-Engine Mechanics (Badge)

22.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that first-class fitters in the R.C.A.F. are en titled to wear a distinctive badge on their uniforms; and whether he will consider granting a similar distinctive badge, after certain tests, to first-class fitters in the R.A.F.

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I am aware that the Canadian Air Council has authorised the use of a trade badge for Royal Canadian Air Force airmen and airwomen qualified as aero-engine mechanics. The introduction of a similar badge for the Royal Air Force would be contrary to present practice, but the question of badges will be further reviewed.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a considerable desire on the part of first-class fitters in the R.A.F. for this distinctive badge?

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Yes, but there is a sort of practice or doctrine, and I think it should be carefully considered before changes are made.

Aerodromes (Agricultural Land)

23.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air how many acres of former agricultural land in Norfolk are at present being used for aerodromes; and when he proposes to release part of this area for farming.

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The answer to the first part of the Question is, approximately, 24,400 acres, of which nearly 5,000 were in use as airfields before the war. Approximately 1,450, acres are at present let to farmers. With regard to the second part of the question I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my predecessor to the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on 28th February last. Meanwhile, there should soon be substantial increases in the acreage let for agriculture from these airfields.

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How soon can we expect a statement from the right hon. Gentleman's Department about the future use of this kind of land?

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The hon. Gentleman will recognise that it requires very careful consideration of the whole defence and strategic position of the future, and he would hardly expect me to make that investigation at the present time.

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Why not?

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Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that there are thousands of families homeless in Norwich, and that there is aerodrome accommodation available in the vicinity of Norwich?

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Yes, Sir. We will make every possible effort to make every alleviation consistent with strategic needs.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman see that his officers at these various aerodromes discuss this matter with individual farmers, so that in cases where the complete aerodrome cannot be passed back, yet those parts which could be released can be handed back for agricultural purposes?

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That is being done. That is the increased land released for agricultural purposes.

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Has the Minister started his careful examination of the defence and strategic considerations involved?

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These matters are, of course, under consideration by the post-war planning authorities of the Service Departments.

Night Flying, Peterborough

24.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware of the inconvenience caused to the people of Peterborough by the noise of a certain type of training aircraft which keeps children awake at night and is extremely annoying to the adult population; whether he will now arrange for training on this type of aircraft to be carried out on other airfields instead of at Peterborough; and pending such an arrangement, whether he will forbid all flying of this type of aircraft from R.A.F. station, Peterborough, between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. with immediate effect.

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I sympathise with my Noble Friend in this matter. Efforts are being made to find suitable accommodation for the Unit elsewhere, but I cannot yet say when a change will be possible. Meanwhile instructions have been issued that night flying is to be reduced to the minimum compatible with efficient training.

Low Flying Aircraft

25.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will have inquiries made about machines flying low over in habited areas; and whether there is a stated height to which machines shall not come below unless under special circum stances.

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Careful inquiries are always made in order to identify aircraft which disobey the orders in force against unauthorised low flying. Members of the public often give valuable assistance by reporting the identification marks of low flying aircraft to the authorities. All aircraft are required to maintain a height of not less than 2,000 ft., except, of course, when taking off or landing, or when weather conditions would make this unsafe, or when flying in certain areas which have been selected for low flying training. When over towns and thickly inhabited areas, aircraft are required to fly at a height which would enable them to glide clear in case of engine trouble. The hon. Member will, however, appreciate that conditions in this island often make it necessary to fly below the normal stated heights.

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I thank the right hon. Member for his reply, and would like to ask him whether he is aware that when I was recently in Blackpool aeroplanes were flying low over the town—much too low to give a feeling of safety—and I thought a warning ought to go forth?

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May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will make representations to the American Air Force because I think some of these machines are American aircraft? Could he not make friendly representations?

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The American authorities have been most co-operative and have taken very stern disciplinary measures parallel to our own.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman issue further instructions on this matter, as this is a common practice all over the country and is really abominable?

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Yes, Sir, the attention of all Air Force Commands was recently drawn to the order in force against unauthorised low flying and that has been specially emphasised lately, but I would re-emphasise the fact, which I am sure those who have had flying experience will know, that there are many days in the climate of this island when you must fly lower than 2,000 feet.

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Will the Minister state shortly what the deterrent is? What happens to pilots who disobey the rule?

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Very strong disciplinary measures have been taken, and I regret to say that even in my short period of office, it has been my duty to approve of sentences of dismissal from the Service for this offence.

26.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware of the disturbance to rest caused by aeroplanes which fly constantly over Bristol at low altitudes throughout the day and night; and whether he will take steps to abate this nuisance.

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This matter has been brought to my notice. The following steps have been taken: pilots who regularly fly near Bristol are specially warned to avoid the town; appropriate arrangements have been made for the observation and reporting of offenders; and in addition, the attention of all Royal Air Force Commands has recently been specially drawn to the orders in force against unauthorised low flying.

Overseas Postings (Demobilisation Priority)

27.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will set out in detail the principles which are to be applied in drafting R.A.F. personnel for service in the Far East so far as the various demobilisation priority groups are concerned.

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Men in early age and service groups for Class "A" release are not normally posted overseas except to Western Europe. For purposes of assessing priority of release there is no distinction between service at home and overseas; nor will a man be required to complete his overseas tour when his turn for release arrives.

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Is it a fact that men in the 25 group have already been informed by commanding officers in France that they are liable to be drafted to the Far East?

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I think this question was raised before, and any such order, if given, has been cancelled.

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Is the Minister aware that I have a reply from his predecessor which indicates that the people on the spot determine these things and that men of the 25 group have been notified that they are liable to be so drafted?

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That was an order of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in France which has been cancelled.

Royal Observer Corps

28.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether members of the Royal Observer Corps are authorised to retain any part of their uniform or any badge which would show that they had been of service to their country.

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Yes, Sir. Former members of the Royal Observer Corps may retain the main articles of uniform, including the lapel badges which may be worn with civilian clothes. In addition, members who have been injured are in certain circumstances eligible for the King's Badge, and those who fulfil the qualifying conditions will receive the Defence Medal. Though the Corps is no longer actively employed, most of its members, with commendable public spirit, have volunteered to continue their membership. These members will, of course, retain their uniforms.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there will be any special recognition of those members of the Observer Corps who are allowed to wear the shoulder flash "Seaborne" because they volunteered for service at the time of D-Day in circumstances of great danger and difficulty in boats crossing the Channel?

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I will look into that.

Marshal Stalin's Message

29.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will publish the congratulatory message that he received on or about 16th May from the Soviet Ambassador on the glorious part played by our Bomber Command in forging the victory.

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I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the message addressed by Marshal Stalin to the Royal Air Force as a whole. That message and my predecessor's reply were communicated to the Press on 16th May. They have also been published to the Service in an Air Ministry Order. I am circulating the full texts in the Official Report.

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Can my right hon. Friend say whether this message has also been widely published throughout the whole of Russia?

The messages are as follow:

From the Soviet Ambassador, Monsieur F. T. Gousev:

"I have the honour, on behalf of Marshal J. V. Stalin and my own, to express to you and to the valiant Royal Air Force sincere congratulations on the great victory over our common enemy—German Imperialism. Allow me to express to you my hope that the friendly co-operation between the peoples of Great Britain and the U.S.S.R., built up during the course of the war, will be successfully and happily maintained and developed in the post-war period."

Sir Archibald Sinclair replied:

"It is a great pleasure to receive your letter of yesterday, and on behalf of the Royal Air Force I thank you and Marshal Stalin for your congratulations. I share to the full your hope that the war-time comradeship between the peoples of Britain and Russia will ripen into a firm and lasting friendship. In that friendship, the mutual respect between the airmen of the Royal Air Force and those of the glorious Red Army will be a strong element."

Personnel (Re-Engagement)

30.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air if men over 30 years of age, who signed on for a further period of service in the R.A.F. as an alternative to being transferred to the Army, will now be given the opportunity of reconsidering the obligation taken.

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No recent regular engagements have yet been made final. Every airman who is provisionally accepted will have an opportunity of confirming that he is still willing to enlist.

Medical Staffs (Release)

31.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will give an assurance that doctors, medical orderlies and other medical staffs will not be retained in the R.A.F. after their release group has been reached.

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Generally, the position is as stated by my predecessor on 25th April in his reply to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). I can, however, say that in the categories to which the hon. Member refers it has only been necessary to restrict the release of nursing orderlies in the group lists so far promulgated.

Clerks And Cooks (Release)

34.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether R.A.F. personnel engaged in clerk general duties are likely to be delayed in their release from the Services; and whether recruitment for this trade category will be expedited.

36.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air why it is not found possible to release cooks in the R.A.F. at the same time as the rest of the release groups to which they belong; and whether he will take the necessary steps to remove this inequality as soon as practicable.

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The proportion of men in the earlier release groups is greater in the trades of cook and clerk (general duties) than the average for the Air Force as a whole. It is, therefore, necessary, at any rate for the present, that the rate of release of cooks and clerks should be below the average, but steps are being taken to reduce the variation to a minimum by the re-training of airmen not due for early release and by training new entrants as they become available.

General Election

35.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether service candidates for Parliament have now been given leave to contest the election.

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Yes, Sir.

Civil Aviation

Service, Orkney And Shetland

33.

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asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will issue instructions to enable civil air services to use the most direct route to Orkney and Shetland.

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Yes, Sir. The necessary instructions will shortly be issued.

Railway Companies (Air Lines)

38.

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will specify by name the railway companies which operated air lines before the war in England and Wales.

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The airline operations of the four mainline Railway Companies in the United Kingdom were conducted by a number of airline companies. These airline companies were:

Great Western and Southern Airlines Ltd.,

Guernsey Airways Ltd.,

Isle of Man Air Services Ltd.,

Jersey Airways Ltd.,

Railway Air Services Ltd.,

Scottish Airways Ltd.,

West Coast Air Services Ltd.

These companies had a total route mileage of approximately 5,700 miles. Of these companies, Scottish Airways operated exclusively in Scotland. Railway Air Services operated between England and Scotland, and Scotland and Northern Ireland. Isle of Man Air Services included a service between the Isle of Man and Glasgow. The other services operated in England and Wales and between England and North Ireland, Eire, Channel Islands, Scilly Islands and Isle of Man.

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While thanking my hon. Friend for his very comprehensive reply, may I say that it is not a reply to my Question? May I re-direct my hon. Friend's attention to the specific words of my Question? I asked what were the names of the railway companies operating air lines before the war. He has given me a very long, interesting and, as I say, comprehensive study of the whole question before the war, but not an answer to my Question.

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I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will raise this matter on the Estimates later to-night.

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I have every intention of doing so.

Aircraft Works, Clayton-Le-Moors (Black-Out)

37.

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asked the Minister of Aircraft Production if he will take steps to remove the black-out from the Bristol Aircraft Works, Clayton-le-Moors.

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Black-out at this factory will certainly be removed as soon as suitable labour can be spared from more urgent work, which I hope will be in a few months' time.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the same kind of comment was made 12 months ago; and cannot the Department speed up this matter so that they can get on with the work?

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As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, the real difficulty is that of labour.

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Is the Minister aware that there is labour available?

Nigeria (Constitution)

39.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has yet received any report regarding the acceptability of the proposals for the future Nigerian Constitution and Government.

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As I said in the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) on 19th April last, the Legislative Council of Nigeria on 22nd March debated the proposals and passed, without division, a resolution signifying its approval of them and recommending them for adoption. Since then I have received representations from various private bodies and individuals and these will be given due consideration.

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Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether those representations from private bodies and individuals were in acceptance or rejection of those proposals?

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Some were in favour and some against. One, particularly in favour, came from a body with which the hon. Gentleman is in the closest sympathy.

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Will there be a chance for the House to discuss this question?

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The hon. Member will recollect that I said the White Paper would not be introduced until the House had had a Debate. Recent events have, of course, prevented that opportunity arising.

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Will this matter ultimately be debated in Parliament?

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That is the Question I have just answered.

Merchant Navy (Releases)

40.

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport under what conditions engineer officers of the Merchant Navy are to be released should they desire it.

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My hon. and gallant Friend will recognise that this country will continue to need a Merchant Navy at least as large as that which we have today. In considering the question of release, it should be remembered that service in the Merchant Navy is the peacetime career of the majority of officers and men now at sea. The principles upon which those who desire to go will be released have been agreed with the representatives of the owners, the officers and the men. Releases will broadly follow the lines laid down for the Services, regard being had to age and length of service during the war. My Noble Friend proposes to proceed at an early date with the release of Groups 1–7 for the officers and 1–15 for the ratings in so far as the officers and men falling within these groups wish to be released.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that this class of officer is urgently needed in certain kinds of civil employment—in marine surveying, marine engineering and the ship repairing industry, of course in limited numbers, and will he take this need into account in arranging for the release of any such officers when they desire to take up civil appointments?

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Yes, Sir. My Noble Friend had that matter in mind when we decided to release this particular batch in the early stages.

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Will the Parliamentary Secretary see that the rates and conditions of these officers are kept at the very highest possible standard so as to encourage them to remain in the Service?

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That is another question.

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Can the hon. Gentleman give a precise date when this will commence?

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It will be at a very early date. The reason I did not give a date was so that we could inform the various organisations concerned.

Railways

London-Aberdeen Service (Restaurant Cars)

41.

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in view of the fact that the journey between London and Aberdeen takes between13 and 14 hours, he can now cancel his instructions to the railway companies and so enable them to provide restaurant or buffet car facilities on that route.

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The provision of restaurant or buffet car facilities reduces the number of seats that can be provided. Passenger services are likely to be heavily loaded for some time to come, and I regret that I am unable to say when it will be possible to provide these facilities on the journey between London and Aberdeen.

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Could not my hon. Friend leave it to the railway companies? If he would remove his restrictions, there would be only one obstacle, and the railway companies could run these facilities if they were able to do so.

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I have had special inquiry made into this matter recently, and I understand that the introduction of restaurant cars would reduce the seating accommodation, both because they cannot take so many people, and also because of the weight involved. However, I am keeping this matter in view, and if anything can be done I will do it.

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Does not my hon. Friend think it is more important that there should be more sleeping cars rather than restaurant cars on the trains to Aberdeen?

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I am, of course, aware of the limitations of transport in all directions. Restaurant cars cannot be provided as long as there is a shortage of seating accommodation.

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Would it not be a good idea to advise the railway companies that John Citizen should have a chance of getting a seat for the ticket he buys?

Cheltenham-London Service

44.

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport if he can now provide a fast train per day, each way, between Cheltenham and London, in view of the fact that at present the scheduled time of this journey of 100 miles is about four hours.

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This matter is being reviewed, and I will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as possible.

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While I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, will he bear in mind that Cheltenham is about the worst served of any city in the country?

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Does the hon. Gentleman realise that most of these trains have to stop twice at every station between Swindon and Gloucester, and that the delay is really intolerable?

Holiday Transport

66.

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is satisfied that sufficient engines, carriages and trains will be available to provide holiday transport for the large number of workers who, for the first time, will be granted holidays with pay this summer and autumn; and, in view of the fact that the few extra non-scheduled trains now provided are, at present overcrowded, what improvements does he intend to apply.

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My Noble Friend has asked the railways to run this summer such additional trains as their resources permit and the traffic requires, subject only to the overriding condition that they do not interfere with essential traffic. The number of additional trains the railways can provide for holiday traffic will undoubtedly be limited by shortage of engines and carriages.

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As the trains already provided are cluttered up and packed to suffocation now, and there will be no more available, what chances have war-workers, or those who have made the munitions to win the war, got of getting a holiday this year and getting some comfort on the trains?

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Everybody will have the same opportunity in this matter, but the hon. Member should not underestimate the difficulties we are in with the repairs and building programme.

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If the hon. Gentleman will look at the Questions to the Minister of Labour to-morrow, he will find that I have not done so.

Organised Parties (Travel Permits)

42.

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what is the basis adopted for granting permits to organised parties, such as bands, choirs, cricket teams, football teams, or any other groups who desire to travel by a public conveyance; and what is the maximum distance allowed for such vehicles.

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Where it is desired to hire omnibuses or coaches for private parties, application must be made to the Regional Transport Commissioner for the issue of fuel for the journey. The relevant considerations are generally the availability of vehicles and crews without interference with essential services, the length of the journey and the adequacy of other means of transport. In the case of cricket or football teams engaged in representative matches or in the leading professional football competitions, a maximum distance of 50 miles is generally prescribed and for other cricket or football teams a maximum of 25 miles. In other cases the distance allowed depends on the circumstances.

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Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Salvation Army band, Langley Moor, desired to travel to Dinnington and were refused, and because of that silly decision 10 men had to miss a shift in the pit, thereby losing that valuable contribution to coal production?

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I understand that in the case of that particular Salvation Army band the journey involved a round trip of 220 miles. While we try to give these facilities wherever we can, in a case like that I think the Regional Transport Commissioner's decision was probably a right one.

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Is the hon. Gentleman aware that musical competitions and musical festivals are a part of the national life of Wales, and that the time has now come to relax some of these restrictions and enable the Welsh people fully to enjoy their national institutions?

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I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that matter. We have given permission in a number of cases for these choirs to travel, but each particular case has to be considered on its merits.

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Is the Minister not aware that in this case the driver was there, the petrol was there and the bus was there, and still they were not allowed to travel?

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March upon music to victory.

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In all these cases the drivers have buses, but we feel that they should be used on essential services.

Jarrow Tunnel Project

43.

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in view of the importance of improving communications in the north-eastern area, he will give early consideration to the revival of the Jarrow tunnel project so that the plans can be ready as labour becomes available.

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Yes, Sir. My Noble Friend recently discussed this question with the Joint Committee of the Durham and Northumberland County Councils.

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May I ask the hon. Gentleman where the tunnel will emerge?

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I cannot say.

Wartime Ministries (Continuance)

45.

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asked the Prime Minister if he is able to make any statement with reference to the future of the Ministries of Aircraft Production, Information, Production, Food, Supply and War Transport; and if it is intended to continue them, in whole or in part, as separate Ministries.

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I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir. It is contemplated that it will be necessary to retain the Ministry of Information on a reduced scale during the war against Japan, each Department thereafter becoming responsible for publicity policy within its own sphere; that the Ministry of Food will be retained so long as the Central Government continues to control the purchase, sale, distribution and price of food; and that the Ministry of War Transport will continue after the war. While clearly no Government can pledge successors in a matter of this kind, the Departments concerned have been authorised to proceed on the above assumptions for planning purposes.

The offices of the Minister of Production and of President of the Board of Trade are now held by the same Minister. No decision has yet been reached as to the future of the Ministries of Aircraft Production and Supply.

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Will my right hon. Friend consider taking steps before winding up a Ministry like the Ministry of Aircraft Production to see that concerns like the flying boats works of Short Bros, in Rochester, my constituency, are restored to their proper and rightful owners?

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I am sure everything will be considered.

Three-Power Meeting (Venue)

46.

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asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the desire of hon. Members in all parts of the House that his projected meeting with Marshal Stalin and President Truman shall take place in London; and whether, in view of Marshal Stalin's release from the control of military operations and his own domestic pre-occupations, he will press for the meeting to be held on British soil.

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My right hon. Friend is sorry there is no chance of this.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman consider that the possibility of Marshal Stalin coming to London would be considerably enhanced if he were to meet here a Socialist Prime Minister?

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that President Truman and Marshal Stalin would be assured of the warmest welcome if they came here and furthermore that many of us would regard it as a just tribute to the unique part played by Great Britain in this war that one of these meetings should take place on this soil?

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I have already expressed regret on behalf of my right hon. Friend.

Food Supplies

Fish

47.

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asked the Minister of Food what arrangements he has made to ensure that catches of herring for which there is no possibility of immediate sale fresh shall be kippered and not wasted.

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All possible arrangements have been made to kipper any herrings that cannot be sold fresh to the full capacity of the smokehouses.

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In view of the reduction in the quantity of protein-containing foods, is it not important to increase the supply of fish?

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Yes, Sir, most important.

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Will my right hon. and gallant Friend make representations to the Admiralty to release, before October, the buildings and grounds at Lowestoft and Yarmouth which are required for kippering the large herring catch?

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That is a question which should be put to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty.

48.

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asked the Minister of Food whether he will take the necessary steps to improve the distribution of fish in the rural areas of the North Riding of Yorkshire.

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Yes, Sir, so far as I can.

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Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that rural areas suffer a great disadvantage compared to urban areas in the matter of fish distribution, because they have no fish shops? Will he make representations to his colleagues that travelling fish merchants should have every facility to make fish rounds?

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If it is merely a question of getting a fish licence, in any area where there is a consumer need there would be very little difficulty in getting a licence from my Department to sell fish.

49.

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asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that John Donnelly, of 211, Hilton Road, Sunderland, is hawking herring in the township of Crook, and travelling over 40 miles each day to do this work; and if he will arrange for a better distribution of herring in the Crook area and thus cut out this waste of time and petrol.

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This man is carrying out useful work in distributing fish, and I see no reason to put him out of a job.

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Is the Minister aware that business men in Crook cannot understand why a man should be allowed to travel 40 miles to sell fish on their doorsteps, when they are already selling fish?

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I like to see fish sold on doorsteps if we can get the facilities to do it.

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But is not the Minister aware that this man is travelling 40 miles to sell fish on the doorsteps of men who are in the trade? [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] Surely the people in business ought to get better distribution which would give them a chance to sell.

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This man is also in the trade as a distributor of fish. In regard to other facilities there, there are one fishmonger, 11 fish fryers, and nine fishmonger fryers to serve the Crook and Willingdon area, so there are plenty of "inlets" for fish.

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Will the Minister make the amenities of Crook available to the whole country?

Potatoes

50.

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asked the Minister of Food if his attention has been drawn to irregularities in the supply of potatoes reaching the Merseyside area; and what steps he proposes to remedy the existing shortage.

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Yes, Sir, and all possible steps are being taken to ease the position, but I fear that some shortages are likely before the new crop is available in adequate volume.

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Would the Minister care, without notice, to make a statement with regard to the prospects of the new potato crop?

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The old crop potatoes are now coming towards their end. We knew from the beginning of the year—and I said so frankly to the House—that because of the difficulties of last autumn we should have difficulties at this period with our potatoes. The new Cornish crop is now coming in, and we are deflecting supplies to the areas where there are the least supplies of the old crop potatoes.

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Are there any crops coming from Jersey?

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No, Sir, not yet.

63.

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asked the Minister of Food why Shropshire has been excluded from those areas to receive an allocation of Cornish early potatoes; whether he is aware that Shropshire as a producing county has exported all its potato surplus under instructions of his Ministry; and whether he will take steps to see that Shropshire shall share with other counties in receiving a reasonable allocation of early potatoes.

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The stock of old potatoes in Shropshire is still sufficient to meet a fair proportion of the demand and I do not, therefore, propose to allocate Cornish new potatoes to that district at present.

Returning Foreign Visitors (Food Parcels)

53.

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asked the Minister of Food what quantity of food raised in this country a Belgian or a Frenchman coming to this country on business can take back as part of his luggage.

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After a mere visit here, none, Sir.

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Does that mean that a farmer cannot give to a Belgian friend, who is starving, a bit of ham or bacon?

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Yes, Sir, it certainly does.

Fruit

54.

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asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the extreme shortage of fruit reaching retailers; to what extent this is due to the diversion of supplies through other channels in which exorbitant prices are obtained; and what steps he is taking to deal with this matter.

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Yes, Sir; because the sale of soft fruit has only just started. I have no evidence of sales through any but the normal trade channels, and when we have sufficient evidence that a sale contravenes our maximum price order a prosecution is instituted.

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If the Minister has no information what are his enforcement officers and the police doing?

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I regret to say that we have had quite a number of prosecutions, mainly of street fruit hawkers, for charging above the maximum prices.

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Can the Minister tell us why it is possible to buy British strawberries in expensive restaurants at 2s. 6d. per dish or portion, and it is not possible to buy them in ordinary shops, through the normal channels?

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I would not accept what the hon. Member says.

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Strawberries are only to be found in restaurants; they cannot be found in the ordinary markets.

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Can the Minister assure the House that his lack of information is not due to any reluctance on the part of the Government to enforce adequate control?

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I can certainly inform the hon. Member of that, and tell him that the policy I have pursued as Minister of Food is just the same to-day as it was a year ago.

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Can we have a photograph of a strawberry placed in the Library?

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We might accompany it by a raspberry, as well.

Tomatoes

55.

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asked the Minister of Food whether there is any prospect of tomatoes being available for retail in the shops in the County of Durham and the North-east area; whether he is aware they have been obtainable in London for the past month, and, having in mind the recent cut in rationed foods, whether he will endeavour at an early date to have some of the available tomatoes sent North where demand is very large.

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Yes, Sir; supplies have already been sent to Durham and the North-east area and as more tomatoes become available more will go.

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Is the Minister aware that his answer will give great satisfaction?

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What steps is the Minister taking to control the distribution of over-ripe tomatoes during the next month?

Food Lists

56.

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asked the Minister of Food whether he will put up in hotels, eating-houses, schools and council houses, lists of those foods which contain carbohydrates, fats, proteins and vitamins.

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My Department already supplies a list such as my hon. and gallant Friend mentions to schools, domestic science colleges and lecturers.

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May I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend whether there is any such list in the House; whether there are only two Cabinet Ministers who know what the list is, and whether man-power does not come before weapon power?

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Certainly there is a list in the House, because I have one here. I also have a poster, a copy of which I shall be delighted to send to my hon. and gallant Friend if he knows any place which would like to exhibit it.

Shop Queues

57.

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asked the Minister of Food whether he will in- crease stocks in retail shops and take other steps calculated to reduce the length of queues in the interests of the health of the people.

61.

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asked the Minister of Food whether he can introduce some arrangement which will reduce the amount of queueing which now has to be done.

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So far as the main rationed foods are concerned, the increase of stocks in retail shops would not reduce queues which are caused almost entirely by shortage of staff. As regards those foods which it is impracticable to ration, I regret that shortage of supplies prevents my taking action at present of the kind suggested by my hon. Friends.

Wheat

58.

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asked the Minister of Food what steps he is taking to relieve the present glut of wheat in storage in the Southern area of England as, in view of the impossibility of accepting further deliveries, all his storage facilities for the use of. the millers being exhausted, farmers are compelled to keep the wheat in their barns, etc., subject to rat and mice attack; and, as further arrivals of Canadian wheat are making the sitution worse, if he will ship more wheat to the Continent to relieve the scarcity in France, Belgium and Holland, etc.

60.

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asked the Minister of Food whether in connection with wheat for milling, he will give an explanation in respect of the difficulties farmers in many parts of the country are experiencing in selling their wheat, the difficulties the public are experiencing in many parts of the country in purchasing cereals, such as wheat flakes; and why, in view of the heavy stocks of wheat available, wheat flakes and other cereals are still to remain on points.

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Recent heavy threshings of wheat have caused a temporary surplus in some areas which cannot be immediately absorbed by millers. My Department is purchasing and storing the surplus. Substantial quantities of wheat have been and are being supplied to the liberated countries of Europe. The reason why wheat flakes and other breakfast cereals have to be rationed is not shortage of wheat but shortage of labour in the processing factories.

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Is there any prospect of relief in the near future?

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As I have said, the Ministry have now undertaken to purchase and store the surplus.

Meat Ration (Offal)

62.

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asked the Minister of Food whether he can do anything to bring about a more equitable distribution of offal, in view of the smallness of the meat ration.

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Issues of offal are based on the allocations of ration meat to butchers who, generally speaking, spread their supplies fairly among their customers. I shall be glad to look into any specific complaint of which my hon. Friend may be able to give me particulars.

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Does my right hon. and gallant Friend really believe that offal is at present fairly distributed? Is he inviting householders to communicate with him?

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I was inviting my hon. Friend to communicate with me.

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I shall send my right hon. and gallant Friend a large number of communications.

Home-Killed Meat

64.

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asked the Minister of Food to what extent the meat produced in this country is sent to prisoner-of-war camps and foreign or frozen meat supplied to British people; and will he take steps to see that all the meat produced in this country is consumed by British people.

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Home-killed meat is only supplied to prisoner-of-war camps in districts where imported meat is excluded at the request of the Agricultural Departments. The amount of meat involved is infinitesimal.

Ration Reduction (Petition)

65.

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asked the Minister of Food whether he has considered a Petition from the inhabitants of Wattsville, Cross Keys, Monmouthshire, protesting against the reductions in rations and asking that they may be restored, or in creased, especially to men engaged in hard manual work; and what reply he has made.

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The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." The answer to the petition is that the reductions would not have been made had supplies been sufficient to maintain rations at their previous levels.

Soap Supplies, London Area

51.

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asked the Minister of Food if he is aware of the shortage of soap, soap powder and flakes, in the borough of Bexley and in London generally; and if he will take steps to enable housewives who were unable to get their last month's ration to draw it later.

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The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." I am endeavouring to meet the increased demand for soap in the London area. I regret that I cannot adopt the suggestion in the second half of the Question.

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Is the Minister aware of the hardship which is caused to housewives in view of the shortage of their ration? During the war period they have had no reserves, and really need their soap ration.

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There are great distribution difficulties. In other countries, when people have not taken up their ration, in one period they are allowed to take it up later, but distribution becomes hopeless, and it is not a thing that I could contemplate doing here.

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Can the Minister say whether a large number of people now eat soap.

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I should not think any.

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Is the Minister aware that many retailers were sold out of soap within three days of the commencement of the last rationing period?

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The difficulty arose when we had to reduce the soap ration and a large number of people made a rush on the shops at that time. This was quite unnecessary, because there will be enough soap in the shops to meet the ration over the period. This rush put a strain on over distribution system, which cannot stand up to a great many people cashing their coupons on the same day. We are, however, getting the situation right.

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Is it not a sine qua non of a rationing system that the Ministry should always honour the ration on time; and is not the necessity for doing so the reason always given for not rationing fish, for instance?

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As I have said, there was this rush on the shops. Although the coupon is valid for a considerable period if everybody rushes into the shops in two or three days no system can quite stand up to that. During this period people will get their ration if they do not all rush to buy soap on the same day.

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But is it not a fact that when women presented their demands for their ordinary month's ration the soap was not there? Why should not the shopkeepers have the soap, whether a woman wants to get it in the first, second, third or fourth week of the period?

Questions To Ministers

The following Question stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. Kirkwood:

92. To ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is yet in a position to announce the setting up of a Naval base upon the Clyde.

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Before leaving Questions, Mr. Speaker, would you allow Question 92 to be put? It is a most important Question, the Minister is here to reply to it, and you have several times allowed Questions to be put in this way.

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There are a good many Questions between No. 67 and No. 92, and if I allowed the hon. Member to put his Question, all the other hon. Members with Questions on the Paper might want them to be answered also.

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Is it not the case that this has been done on one or two occasions?

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It has been done only as an exceptional procedure, when the Minister has wished to answer a Question and the House has agreed.