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Commons Chamber

Volume 414: debated on Monday 15 October 1945

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House Of Commons

Monday, 15th October, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Adolf Hitler

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proof His Majesty's Government have that Hitler is dead; and if he will make a full statement.

His Majesty's Government have no evidence proving conclusively either that Hitler is dead or that he is alive. Further investigations are however being made. My right hon. Friend does not consider a full statement would serve any useful purpose.

Will the hon. Gentleman through the Foreign Office, inform the House when there is any definite information?

Poland

Forces (British Citizenship)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any further statement as to the granting of British nationality to Polish Forces; whether this can be arranged for those Forces who are now being posted to France and elsewhere for their demobilisation; and what steps he proposes to take to have such Forces as wish to become British subjects demobilised in this country, thus saving them expense in returning here.

I can add nothing to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Gammans) on 9th October.

Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that the sense of the country is that we want to do all we can for the Battle of Britain pilots and others who survived, but that by this long delay we are almost deliberately forcing them back and not making it possible for them to become British subjects?

My right hon. Friend would not accept that implication. We are not running away from the hope which has been expressed but, as I have already said, we cannot even get an estimate of the size of this problem.

Katyn Massacres (Punishment)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to bring to trial, as war criminals, those responsible for the murder of 10,000 Polish officers at Katyn.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether those responsible for the murder of several thousand Polish soldiers at Katyn, near Smolensk, in April, 1943, have yet been arrested, or what steps are being taken to apprehend them and bring them to trial.

I should like to refer the hon. Members to the written reply which I gave to the hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) on 10th October. This was to the effect that since the victims of this massacre were of Polish nationality and the offence took place on Soviet soil, it would be under the terms of the Three-Power Declaration issued at Moscow on 1st November, 1943, difficult and inappropriate for His Majesty's Government to take the initiative. However, the hon. Members can rest assured that the question of including this subject was not overlooked when the indictment of the major German war criminals was drawn up. So far as I am aware, those responsible for the actual perpetration of this crime have not yet been discovered and arrested.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask him whether, in view of the mystery which still prevails in regard to this terrible murder, the Government would take the initiative in inviting the Great Powers to set up an international commission of investigation, in order that the perpetrators of this crime may be brought to justice? Further, is the hon. Gentleman looking in the proper quarter for the authors of this crime?

As I have already explained, under the terms of the agreement it would not be proper for us to take the initiative. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman has any information or evidence, the Government would be very eager to consider it.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, and in order to do something to comply with the hon. Gentleman's request, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

Former London Government (Winding Up)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in winding up the former Polish Government in London.

As the reply is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Following is the reply:

Upon the recognition by His Majesty's Government of the Polish Provisional Government in Warsaw, the Polish Government in London ceased to exist. His Majesty's Government entrusted the Interim Treasury Committee for Polish Questions with the task of liquidating the affairs of the latter Government and, at the same time, of maintaining essential welfare services. The Polish Ministries in London were closed; rapid steps were taken to terminate their political activities; and all assets of the London Polish Government came under the complete control of the Committee.

The Interim Treasury Committee are now well advanced in their task of winding up the affairs of the former Polish Government Departments other than those concerned with welfare services. In view of the fact that a large number of Poles here and abroad were dependent financially and administratively upon the London Government, which in turn was almost entirely financed through advances made by His Majesty's Government, the continuance of such services was necessary if these Poles were not to be caused undue hardship owing to the withdrawal of recognition by His Majesty's Government from the London Government. The Committee took over the care and maintenance of Polish refugees abroad, many of whom are to be found in the Dominions and Colonies, the payment of pensions to disabled soldiers and war widows and the upkeep of Polish hospitals and educational establishments in the United Kingdom. These activities and the other affairs and assets of the former Polish Government in London must necessarily remain under the control of the Interim Treasury Committee until a general settlement of all these matters has been reached with the Polish Provisional Government in Warsaw. Discussions on this question were begun in July with a Commission sent here by the Polish Provisional Government for this purpose under Monsieur Drozniak. He was, however, recalled to Warsaw for instructions on 20th August. Although His Majesty's Government repeatedly indicated to the Polish authorities that they were anxious for his early return in order to expedite an agreed settlement, he did not come back to this country till 10th October. Discussions are now being resumed. Meanwhile His Majesty's Government have made it clear to the Polish Government that no settlement would be satisfactory that did not cover the question of the liability of the Polish Provisional Government for outstanding Polish indebtedness to His Majesty's Government and did not ensure that the Poles who shared with us the fortunes of war should receive treatment acceptable to British public opinion.

Poles, Great Britain (Employment)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when the ban prohibiting the Poles in this country, who do not desire to return to Poland, from taking up employment in this country will be lifted.

I understand from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service that no such ban exists and I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to the Members for South Portsmouth (Major Sir J. Lucas) and Hornsey (Captain Gammans) on 11th October.

Will the Minister state the conditions under which these discharged men may take up employment?

There is no distinction between the nationals to whom my right hon. Friend refers, and any other aliens temporarily resident in this country. As to the conditions applying to registration, that is, of course, a matter for the Minister of Labour.

Can the Minister say what are the conditions under which they can take up employment later on?

I do not think I shall have to apologise for not knowing the answer, because this is a matter for the Minister of Labour.

Is it not the case that work cannot be accepted unless the Minister of Labour gives special permission in each individual case; and is that permission only given if the work is approved?

In reply to the first part of the question, that is not my information. As to the second part, I think that is a question which ought to be put to the Minister of Labour.

Forces (Repatriation)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs it he can state the percentage of Poles in the Armed Forces in Britain, Germany and Italy, who expressed, under the recent plebiscite, a desire to return to Poland.

No plebiscite has in fact been held. Facilities have, however, been given to any member of the Polish Forces to come forward and volunteer for repatriation to Poland. The offer is still open. So far the following percentage has volunteered:

United Kingdom, 33 per cent; B.A.O.R., 1 per cent; A.F.H.Q., 14 per cent.; Middle East, 4·5 per cent., giving a total, 17·9 per cent. Out of the 207,000 Poles in the Armed Forces under British control, 37,060 have so far volunteered to return.

In view of the very small percentage who desire to return to Poland, can the Minister say what is the Government's policy with regard to the future of those who do not desire to return?

I have already given an answer to that question and, at any rate, this process is not yet completed.

Is there not a most savage and unscrupulous propaganda being carried on among these Polish soldiers to persuade them not to go back, and is not lie upon lie being told to them about conditions in Poland?

So far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, that is not the truth. We have made it plain in the House that we consider that Poles should return to Poland when they leave this country, and get the assurances which were given to His Majesty's Government.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether there is any significance in the considerably smaller percentage of those who want to return, among those now serving on the Continent of Europe, who are perhaps now seeing things with their own eyes?

Can the hon. Gentleman say how long this offer will remain open?

Unrra

State Contributions (Arrears)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will issue a statement showing the contributions due to U.N.R.R.A. by each country and the names of those countries who are wholly or partially in arrears with their contributions.

I have been asked to reply. A statement showing the amounts contributed to U.N.R.R.A. by the various member States was issued by the Administration in August last. The statement shows the contributions made both to the operating and to the administrative expenses of the organisation. I have done my best to bring this statement up to date, and I will send my hon. and gallant Friend a copy of the result.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say which countries are at this moment in arrear with their payments?

I thing the hon. and gallant Gentleman had better look at the statement. He can then put down other Questions if he feels inclined.

Food Supplies (Distribution)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that much of the food supplies sent by this country through U.N.R.R.A. is finding its way in Balkan countries, especially in Yugoslavia, into the hands of the military forces in those countries instead of to the civilian population; that it is popularly supposed to be coming from Russian sources; and what steps U.N.R.R.A. is taking to ensure that supplies reach the persons for whom they are intended.

I have been asked to reply. I have consulted the European Director of U.N.R.R.A. and I understand that it is the Administration's policy to ensure that their supplies are made available to civilians only, and that they are justly distributed. To this end, the Administration appoints observers to supervise distribution, and to assist the local Government. It also appoints other special officers to inform the public about its work, and about the sources of its supplies. It has occasionally been alleged that the principle of equitable distribution has not been observed. Such complaints are always investigated by the Administration acting in co-operation with the Government concerned; hitherto, most of them have proved to be unfounded. The Administration has already received the report to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, and an investigation is now going on.

Does this not emphasise the desirability of having representatives of a free Press, as in countries like our own and the United States, present to be able to substantiate or deny these allegations?

I think they can only be substantiated or denied by responsible U.N.R.R.A. officials inquiring into the matter. They have full facilities for making inquiries, and I think the hon. Member may trust the results they obtain.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether in all the countries where these U.N.R.R.A. supplies are being distributed, U.N.R.R.A. is properly represented, that is to say if its representatives have the fullest right of investigation without interference by the local Government?

Foreign Service (Entrance)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the changed situation in many European countries, he will consider bringing the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Corps into line with the new developments by inviting representative workers to take up diplomatic and Foreign Office posts.

Except for a few temporary appointments entrance to His Majesty's Foreign Service is by open competitive examination according to the regulations made and published by the Civil Service Commissioners.

Is not the Minister of the opinion that it is necessary to bring the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Corps into line with the new political thought that is spreading throughout the world, and that in view of the letter read by Mr. Speaker last week it would be highly desirable to send out a working class Socialist as Ambassador to Peru?

Japan

Armaments Manufacture (Inspection)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is the policy of the United Nations that the territory of Japan will be subjected permanently to a system of inspection for the purpose of ensuring that the Japanese can never manufacture weapons of war.

Allied Control Commission

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will support the proposal made by the Soviet Government for the setting up of an allied control commission in Japan; and whether he will give an assurance that only a democratic Japanese Government which gives political freedom to all democratic parties, trades unions and co-operatives will be recognised by His Majesty's Government.

As regards the first part of the Question, my hon. Friend will have seen reports in the Press that a Far Eastern Commission is about to meet in Washington for the purpose of formulating and recommending policies for the control of Japan. I feel sure the House will agree that it is undesirable for His Majesty's Government to make a statement, in advance of the deliberations of that Commission, which might be construed as pre-judging any relevant issue. As regards the second part of the Question, I can only refer to the statement of policy contained in the Potsdam Declaration, to which His Majesty's Government have at present nothing to add.

Arising out of that, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House if the Far Eastern Commission that was envisaged, is to be a purely advisory body or not?

China (British Representation)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to augment the present insufficient British representation, both official and unofficial, in Shanghai and other important re-occupied Chinese centers; and whether financial arrangements, adequate to ensure the maintenance of British organisations in liberated China, are being made.

A representative of His Majesty's Embassy has been for some lime in Shanghai where His Majesty's Consulate-General has now been reopened. A number of representatives of British firms have also arrived there. Arrangements are now being made for a further party of British business men to proceed to China, and it is hoped to reopen His Majesty's Consulates-General at Tientsin and other liberated cities at an early date. The answer to the second part of the Question is that the matter is under urgent consideration.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that 20 business men who are to be permitted to go to China will be insufficient in number to get export trade going between the two countries, and to safeguard British interests in that country?

The hon. Gentleman is doubtless aware that there are many complications, but I can assure him that the Government are most anxious about this subject.

Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that no facilities are being given to American business men which are being denied to British business men?

Allied Forces (British Wives)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how soon he anticipates that British women who have married soldiers from the U.S.A. or elsewhere overseas will be afforded facilities for joining their husbands; and if, in view of the fact that such women cease to draw allowances when their husbands are demobilised, he will expedite their departure.

:As explained in reply to a Question put by the hon. Member for North Blackpool on 23rd August, the subject of British women married to United States soldiers is continuously occupying the attention of the competent American authorities with whom the responsibility rests and who are fully alive to the hardships involved. According to a statement issued by the American Embassy on 5th October the entire problem is now under study by the American Department of State at the request of the American Ambassador in London. It is understood that the United States officials assigned to this duty have now arrived in Great Britain to investigate.

Could my hon. Friend say, meanwhile, what action is being taken by the American authorities to assist cases such as those referred to in the second part of my Question, where there is some hardship?

As my hon. Friend knows, we have already made representations to the United States Government on this point, but I cannot, at this stage, give him any further information.

:Could we have an assurance that no preference will be given to these women until all British prisoners of war have been repatriated, and British wives of Canadian soldiers are sent out to their husbands in Canada?

Without taking sides on this subject at all, I want to say that it is, of course, primarily a matter for the United States Government.

Did not these women take on their husbands for better or for worse when they entered into the matrimonial state, and are there not many more important people and things claiming our attention?

37.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he will take steps to provide transport to enable British women who have married American soldiers who are now demobilised to join their husbands in America.

99.

asked

the Minister of War Transport how many British wives of American and Canadian soldiers are desirous of joining their husbands in North America; what priority is granted to these women for passages; and how soon he estimates they will all have rejoined their husbands.

I understand that at the end of September there were some 32,000 wives of Canadian soldiers awaiting passage, and that this number is increasing at the rate of some 2,000 per month. There are about 42,000 wives of United States soldiers awaiting passage. Wives of Servicemen can be transported in appreciable numbers only at the expense of the movement of Servicemen, which includes ex-prisoners of war, Dominion, Colonial and United Kingdom troops being repatriated from overseas Commands for release, Python and leave and also the occupation forces. It has been decided that such movements of Servicemen must be undertaken first, and I regret to say, therefore, that it will be some considerable time before the wives of the Canadian Service personnel can be transported from this country to Canada. The American Authorities here accepted responsibility for dealing with the problem of transport for wives of American soldiers, and I understand that a mission is on its way from America to consider ways and means.

Did I understand the Minister to say that Canadian wives are increasing at the rate of 2,000 a month? Can he say how many Canadian troops there are left here?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is a great likelihood that a large number of these wives will be deserted if they are not returned to their husbands? Does he not also realise that it would be an appreciable contribution to the housing problem in this country if 85,000 of these women concerned were given facilities for going to America?

I am sure we all desire husbands and wives to be joined together as quickly as possible, but I do feel that this matter must be kept in its proper perspective. The vast majority of the wives of British soldiers have been separated from their husbands for a far longer period. We naturally desire to give all the facilities we can, but we must carry out our own programme and get our own men back to this country.

Berlin Agreement (Publication)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider publishing the text of the Berlin Agreement as a White Paper.

I take it my hon. Friend has in mind the Berlin Agreement establishing the Council of Foreign Ministers. The full text of this agreement was included in the report on the work of the Berlin Conference which was published on 2nd August.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is some discrepancy between the text of this agreement as published in the newspapers and the extracts from it as quoted by statesmen, and is it not desirable that hon. Members should have the official text?

I am unaware of any discrepancy between the quotations made by the Press and statements by Ministers of His Majesty's Government, but my right hon. Friend will gladly consider whether, for the convenience of Members of the House, this should be published as a Command Paper.

Internees, Middle East (Repatriation)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the Pan-Hellenic Union of Families of Detainees in the Middle East on 9th August requested permission to use caiques of the union at their own expense for repatriating the detainees; and why the offer was not accepted.

This offer was brought to the attention of the British authorities in Cairo in September. It was then decided that owing to the bad weather conditions at this time of year the suggestion was impracticable. If caiques had been used there would almost certainly have been casualties for which the British authorities would have been held responsible. The Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean has, however, lent a number of landing craft for the repatriation of internees and this should provide a much more practical and satisfactory system than the use of caiques.

Armed Forces (South American Volunteers)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the number of volunteers from South America with dual nationality serving in the Armed Forces of the Crown; and what steps he has taken to secure their release from all obligations to serve in the armed forces of their South American country on their return.

Although the precise total of volunteers is not known, His Majesty's Government have exchanged notes with the Brazilian Government under the terms of which Brazilian citizens, who have effectively served in the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, will be entitled in Brazil to certificates of compliance with military service. A similar agreement is under discussion with the Chilean Government. The Argentine Government have issued a decree whereby Argentine citizens who have served, or are serving, in the armed forces of countries which have been at war with the Axis for a period of not less than one year, are given approximately similar exemptions.

Is it not possible to reach a definite agreement in other South American countries that these men will not be called upon to serve again; and will the hon. Gentleman try to make sure that if they have to serve they will at least go back to almost similar ranks to those which they held in the British Forces—that officers shall not have to start in the ranks again?

Jews (Admission To United States)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any information regarding the quota of Jews from enemy countries permitted by the U.S. Government to emigrate to America.

Will the Minister consider approaching the United States with regard to obtaining some information on this subject?

Can the Minister say whether it is the case that the only country in which people are not allowed to enter just because they are Jews, is the Jewish National Home?

Is it not a fact that immigration into the United States is, quite properly, based on nationality and not on religion?

I think that is a question which should be addressed to the United States.

Greece

Army Promotions

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Dionysious Papodongonas, colonel of the Tripolis Security Battalion throughout the German occupation and the author of a congratulatory telegram to Hitler, dated 28th July, 1944, on the occasion of Hitler's escape from the attempt on his life, was recently posthumously promoted to the rank of major-general in the Greek Army; and whether he will direct the British Military Mission in Greece to inform the Greek authorities that the arming, equipping and training of the three Greek divisions by the Military Mission cannot continue if notorious traitors are promoted and reappointed to high commands.

As soon as this report vas brought to my right hon. Friend's attention, he asked His Majesty's Embassy in Athens to ascertain the facts. The matter was also taken up in the Greek Press. Admiral Voulgaris immediately cancelled the order for promotion, down-graded a number of Security Battalion officers who had been promoted by the Puppet Government during the occupation, and instituted an inquiry to ascertain who had included the name of Colonel Papadongonas in the list for promotion.

Is not my hon. Friend aware that this promotion was only cancelled as a result of nation-wide indignation expressed in Greece, and that, in fact, coupled with the promotion of Colonel Papadongonas was that of Colonel Dertilis, the leader of the Security Battalion? Does he not think it symptomatic of the present balance of forces in Greece at the moment that such promotions should be made?

No, Sir. While I have already made it plain that Colonel Papadongonas was immediately demoted, my information does not lead me to any other conclusion than that his name was just one of a list submitted. I have already said that Admiral Voulgaris has attempted to find out how his name came to be included in the list.

Is it not possible that the wrong "Papa" has, in fact, been mentioned?

Detentions (Kalamata)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that out of the 22 members of the Resistance, who constituted the Liberation Committee and administered the town of Kalamata after its evacuation by the Germans and the Quisling administration, eight, including George Dallas and Brigadier Costopoulos, have been in gaol, without trial, since 1st March; that the charges against them are charges of shooting Greek members of the Security Battalions captured during the German occupation; and whether, in order to facilitate the holding of the elections, he will make representations for their release.

My right hon. Friend has already been in negotiation on this case, and has now telegraphed for a full report, but meanwhile I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the British authorities in Greece have made frequent representations to secure the release of George Dallas. His case and that of his colleagues have been taken up with the last Government and representations will be continued with the new Greek Government as soon as it is formed.

Ireland (Travel Facilities)

24.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he has any statement to make as to restoring facilities for travel to Northern Ireland to their previous standard.

25.

asked the Minister of War Transport when he will be in a position to announce a better travel service to Northern Ireland and Eire.

I hope that before Christmas two of the regular vessels, which are at present being reconditioned after release from war service, will be back on the Heysham-Belfast service. This will make a further vessel available for the Holyhead-Kings-town route and will enable sailings on the Liverpool-Belfast service to be increased to six a week in each direction. I also hope that before Christmas the Liverpool-Dublin service will be re-opened with three sailings a week in each direction and that an improved service will be provided between Glasgow and Belfast.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any information as to when the regular Liverpool-Belfast boats, of which there are two survivors, will again be available?

Is the right hon. Gentleman taking into account the improvement of the service between this country and Rosslare?

I am aware that that service must be restarted, but I cannot give any information at the present moment.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the possibility of conferring with the Minister of Civil Aviation with a view to a further air service between the two countries?

Roads

Transport Undertakings (Short-Term Permits)

29.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether in view of the large number of short-term permits granted to transport undertakings, which had been terminated and the increasing demand for transport, he is now in a position to announce his policy and at the same time give an assurance that every endeavour will be made to discontinue the withdrawals of these short-term permits.

During the war the normal licensing procedure was suspended and permits were issued instead. These permits are being reviewed as a preliminary to a gradual reversion to licensing procedure. Comparatively few permits have been withdrawn and only in cases where the Regional Transport Commissioners were satisfied that the need for them no longer existed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many small transport undertakings have been handicapped by the failure to speed up these short-term permits, and will he give us some assurance that this riot of red tape and redundant regulations will come speedily to an end?

The use of the word "many" is an exaggeration. The other points are receiving consideration.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not "many", it is an enormous number? The right hon. Gentleman cannot dispose of me in that way.

Omnibus Services (Rural Areas)

31.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware of the serious shortage of motor-omnibuses in rural areas; and what steps he is taking to extend the present inadequate services now that the war is over.

30.

asked

the Minister of War Transport when he expects to be in a position to augment the present inadequate motor-omnibus services in rural areas and to provide such services in areas where public transport facilities are lacking.

Considerable improvements in the services in rural areas have already been effected, but I am aware that in many cases they are not yet adequate to meet the reasonable needs of the public. They will be progressively improved as the necessary crews and vehicles can be made available.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this matter is closely associated with the shortage of agricultural workers, and that his Ministry could make a great contribution to the increase of home-grown food if these facilities were increased?

I am fully aware of the urgent need, from many angles, for improving rural services. I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that every effort will be made to accelerate that progress.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some areas Italian and German prisoners of war are still being conveyed to and from their work in coaches? Could they not be taken in Army lorries and the coaches released for civilian purposes?

I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member puts down a question if he desires a reply on that point.

Cycles (Rear Lights)

33.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is proposing to permit pedal-cyclists to dispense with rear lights and to revert to the use of rear reflectors.

I have no power to dispense with the obligation to carry red lights imposed on pedal cyclists by the Road Transport Lighting (Cycles) Act, which was passed by Parliament earlier this year after full debate.

Will the right hon. gentleman consider introducing the Continental practice of adding small reflectors to the pedals of pedal cycles, so that cyclists can be more readily seen in the dark?

If the hon. and gallant Member wants further information on that matter I suggest that he puts down a direct question on it.

Taxi-Cabs And Private Hire Vehicles (Operation Radius)

40.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will consider removing the present restrictions on the radius of operation of taxi-cabs and private hire vehicles.

I have been asked to reply. In view of the present petrol position as disclosed in my statement last week, I am unable to withdraw the limitations imposed upon the movement of taxi-cabs and hire cars, since this would mean either that the rations granted to these vehicles would need to be increased or that the normal transport needs of the localities immediately served by these vehicles would not be met.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this restriction causes very great inconvenience to the public for a remarkably small saving in petrol?

That may well be, but if I relaxed the present restrictions it would cause more inconvenience to others.

But really, the right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with it like that. What is the estimated amount of petrol saved by the continued imposition of this restriction?

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman puts the question down I will give him a reply.

Regulation 73B

41.

asked the Minister of War Transport when it is intended to rescind Regulation 73B, in so far as it prohibits the carriage of goods on roads in mechanically-propelled vehicles over a distance of more than 60 miles without official approval.

This Regulation must be retained so long as the Road Haulage Organisation continues.

At the moment I am not in a position to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman any date.

Tyres And Spare Parts

42.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that many C licence holders are experiencing great difficulty in transport matters at the present time, owing to the shortage of tyres and spare parts, and whether consideration will be given to ensuring that commercial road transport shall receive some priority in this matter, pending the return to normality in this field.

The policy of my Department and of the Ministry of Supply, which is responsible for the distribution of tyres, is to increase the supply of those tyres and spare parts which are still in short supply and to ensure that vehicles engaged on essential work have first call on them.

What is the use of granting Class C licences to people unless they have facilities to carry out servicing? Why not give them priority?

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to realise that these are two separate processes, and it would be no service to retailers or others with C licences to withhold the licence on the ground of the difficulty of spare parts.

Vehicles (Replacement)

43.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that traders and coach owners who have had vehicles requisitioned, and have voluntarily surrendered them to the Services, or have had to dispose of them because of temporary closing down of their businesses, cannot obtain replacement of them as in the case of those which have been worn out; and whether steps can now be taken to modify the rules applying to replacement of vehicles so as to assist traders in re-establishing their businesses.

Regional Transport Commissioners are prepared to consider applications for licences to acquire new goods vehicles or coaches from applicants who during the war have had their vehicles requisitioned, or had voluntarily surrendered them to the Services, or who had to dispose of them because of the temporary closing down of their businesses. Such applications are dealt with on the same footing, namely, whether it is in the national interest that a licence should be granted having regard to the vehicles available and the applications made for them.

In the granting of these licences could not preference be given to the people who surrendered their vehicles in the national interest to purchase them at a fixed price and not have to bid for them in the open market?

Railways

Missing Goods

34.

asked the Minister of War Transport what are the latest figures regarding thefts of goods consigned by rail; and whether these show an increase or decrease on previous figures.

In the first six months of 1945, £1,311,000 was paid by the four main line railway companies and the Cheshire Lines Committee in respect of 321,000 claims for articles lost or stolen. This compares with £1,197,500 and 343,750 claims in the first six months of 1944 and with £1,207,000 and 322,500 claims in the second six months of 1944. I regret that separate figures for thefts are not available.

Having regard to this very high and disquieting increase, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has in mind any proposed action, and whether he will possibly consider the release of more railway police?

I agree that this is a very serious development, and it is receiving every consideration.

Sleeping Facilities

36.

asked the Minister of War Transport what priorities are still observed in regard to first and third class sleepers.

38.

asked the Minister of War Transport if now that the war is over, he will cancel immediately the priority for Government officials booking sleeping berths in railways trains.

Since 17th September, about 50 per cent. of all first class and 75 per cent. of all third class sleeping berths on trains have been available for booking by the public through the Railway Companies. The percentage varies on the different routes. The remainder are reserved for allocation to Members of Parliament travelling between London and their constituencies or elsewhere on the business of the House, and to persons travelling on urgent business of national importance where the journey must necessarily be made at night and is sponsored by the Government Department concerned. Only a small proportion of the priority berths is in fact allocated to Government officials, and only senior officials are eligible for them.

Why should there be any such priorities now—that is, barring present company, of course—since they must be at the expense of the ordinary citizen, and surely at this time the ordinary citizen should have some of his rights restored to him?

I would like to remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the facilities afforded to the general travelling public have been considerably increased, and when the matter of priorities is being considered by this House the House must bear in mind its own position with regard to facilities for its own Members travelling to and from their constituencies.

Is it not true that the medical profession are now very helpful to the general public in providing medical certificates for persons to travel, and undoubtedly the Minister of War Transport is helping to carry people who are supposed to be sick but who are not?

I am afraid I cannot enter into a question concerning certificates issued by medical specialists.

Why should there be any priority at all? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that business men engaged on vital and important business necessary to this country cannot keep their business appointments? Why should not Government officials, however small the percentage, be treated like ordinary mortals?

The hon. Gentleman will probably be surprised to know that the majority of the priority reservations issued from this Department is for business personnel.

Exports To South America (Facilities)

39.

asked the Minister of War Transport to what extent improvement has been effected in shipping facilities for British goods to South American ports; and if he can give an assurance that further accommodation for consignments awaiting export will be made available with the least possible delay.

I am able to provide shipping facilities for all the manufactured goods now available for shipment to South America. At the end of September only small quantities of manufactured goods were registered with the shipping lines as awaiting shipment. Shipping is being arranged to lift these items together with any others as they come forward. At the moment there are orders outstanding for large quantities of cement for Brazil, and shipment is being effected as quickly as labour and other facilities can be provided to bag the cement for export.

I should like to take this opportunity of saying that the position in regard to South America is typical of the export trade generally, and I have every reason to believe that I shall be able to provide sufficient shipping to cover any manufactured goods becoming available for export.

May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, but at the same time ask him if he realises the importance of providing shipping with the least possible inconvenience to the shippers, in view of the importance of establishing and restoring our foreign trade?

Ex-Prisoners Of War (Christmas Leave)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will instruct the Service Departments that all returned prisoners of war, from whatever theatre, shall be granted Christmas leave this year at home.

Prisoners of war liberated from the Japanese will normally be on repatriation or release leave at Christmas time this year, unless they are on Regular engagements or have elected to serve on. Personnel released from other theatres have been granted, if in the Navy, 14 days plus seven days for each six months in captivity, or, if in the Army or R.A.F., a minimum of 42 days' repatriation leave. On return to units after this leave, the men take their place on the normal leave roster. It would be inequitable to give them the further preference suggested; there may be many others who have been unable to have Christmas leave in past years, including some with long overseas service. While it is not the intention to impose special travel restrictions on Service personnel at Christmas, the numbers who can proceed on leave at any one time are necessarily limited and it is ununkely that more than about 10 per cent. of the Forces at home can be at home on Christmas Day.

Are we to understand that it is going to be possible this Christmas for Service personnel to travel? Normally, they are not supposed to.

I cannot say more on this matter than I have said about the possibility of there being 10 per cent.

Do 14 days, plus seven days, mean 21 days, or do they mean something quite different?

Is it a fact, as stated in some newspapers to-day, that some serving men, including prisoners of war, who are on their way home, might not be home at Christmas because of the trouble at the docks?

Members' Letters (Departmental Replies)

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give a general directive to all chiefs of Departments to speed up answers to letters from Members of Parliament.

I do not think any general directive is necessary. I am sure that all my colleagues will continue to impress on their Departments the need for answering letters from Members as speedily as the size of their staff and the volume of their correspondence permit.

Is it not a fact that in the old days, when there was a smaller volume of correspondence than there is now, answers to letters were very much delayed and that now, with the much increased volume, the delay is even greater? Will the right hon. Gentleman not bear this question in mind?

I shall be pleased to bear it in mind, but I gather that my hon. Friend was referring to some Government of the past.

Will the right hon. Gentleman discourage some of his colleagues from instituting rubber stamp signatures?

Is the Prime Minister aware that, although my correspondence has increased enormously, the replies from Ministers have improved enormously?

Air Transport Auxiliary Pilots (Recognition)

47.

asked the Prime Minister if he will state the number of decorations awarded to pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary; and whether he is satisfied that the outstanding services of many of these pilots, who have frequently delivered aircraft to the battle areas, have been suitably recognised.

Twenty-two Honours and 12 King's Commendations for brave conduct, or for service in the air, have been awarded to air crew of Air Transport Auxiliary during the war. I do not consider that the scale of awards has been inadequate.

Royal Air Force Victories (Commemoration)

48.

asked the Prime Minister if he will establish 15th September as a Thanksgiving Day to Fighter Command and the R.A.F. in perpetuity, in memory or those who gave their lives and others who saved this country in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

The question of appointing a day which would serve to celebrate the victory referred to, and other victories, will be considered together with the question of fixing a National Day of Remembrance.

Polish Civilians, Great Britain (British Nationality)

50.

asked the Prime Minister whether, when he is examining the question of implementing the pledge given by the late Government to members of the Polish forces as to assuming British nationality, he will consider making available such facilities and privileges as are agreed upon also to Polish civilians in this country who were in their then Government's employment.

The statement made by my predecessor on 27th February last referred to members of the Polish Armed Forces who had fought during the war under British command, but I understand that the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member is that the principle under-lying this statement should be recognised as applying to the particular class of civilians to which he refers, as distinct from Polish civilians in general. All I can say at this stage is that the point to which he calls attention will be kept in mind.

Educational And Vocational Training Schemes

51.

asked the Prime Minister, in view of complaints that E.V.T. and its equivalents are not functioning satisfactorily and of the importance of such training in the Forces, if he will institute an examination of the deficiencies with a view to their correction.

The position as regards the E.V.T. scheme for the Air Force was announced by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air on Wednesday last. The Army and Navy schemes, although still in an early stage, have already shown substantial progress and are rapidly gaining momentum. There is no evidence to suggest that they are not functioning satisfactorily where military circumstances allow of their implementation. There are difficulties, due to man-power and the world shortage of books and materials, but as far as possible these are being effectively overcome.

War Gratuities

53.

asked the Prime Minister if he will authorise payment now of war gratuities to officers and men of the Services who have been invalided out, as their payment will greatly facilitate such persons to rehabilitate themselves in civilian life.

This has already been done. Full instructions were issued in the Press on 1st September stating how applications should be made by ex-Servicemen and women. Payment will follow as quickly as the applications can be dealt with, but the process of payment will necessarily take some time. Applications are not necessary in the case of personnel discharged since VE Day.

Agriculture

Farm Buildings (Report)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the Report on Farm Buildings is ready for publication; and what is his intention in regard to the Report.

It is expected that printed copies of the Report will be available in a few weeks' time. I would prefer to defer any statement as to my intentions regarding the report until it has been published.

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that this report is now being printed?

Is the Minister aware that paper has been made available for a most interesting report published in the "Soviet News" about the construction of farm buildings in Russia? Is there any reason why paper should not be made available in connection with the construction of farm buildings in this country?

I understand that paper has not only been made available but that the report is being printed in Edinburgh.

Smallholdings

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has now received the report requested by his Ministry from the Smallholdings Committee of the Cornwall county council; their replies to the four major questions giving an estimate of present-day costs and expenditure in providing a 50-acre small holding; and what is his policy in regard to the advisability of terminating the tenancy of either those who had the means of taking larger holdings, or those who were making no progress.

I have received from the County Councils' Association an analysis of the replies by county councils to certain questions asked by my predecessor. This information was requested for guidance in framing future smallholdings policy, and I do not think it would be desirable to disclose details of the answers provided by individual councils. No decisions have yet been reached on long-term land settlement policy which is at present under careful consideration.

Dispossessed Farmers (Appeal Tribunal)

57.

asked the Minisister of Agriculture whether he is now prepared to set up a court of appeal to which farmers dispossessed by the order of war agricultural executive committees can state their case.

Yes, Sir. I am proposing to set up seven or eight regional tribunals in England and Wales for this purpose. Details of these proposals are being discussed with the various organisations concerned, and I shall make a further and fuller statement to the House on the subject as soon as possible.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware with what very great pleasure—and what surprise—his reply will be read in the country, because it is a reversal of the policy of the old Government on at least one point?

Will cases of eviction which occurred in the past be re-opened?

Women's Land Army

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the great decrease in the number of A.T.S. personnel employed on gun-sites and other operational duties, he will arrange, with the other Departments concerned, for suitable clothing from Army stocks, especially oilskins, rubber-boots and greatcoats, to be issued at public expense to members of the W.L.A. to meet a deficiency of winter clothing.

An oilskin and a greatcoat are part of the standard uniform issue for members of the Women's Land Army, and ample supplies are already available. Rubber boots are issued to all members who are engaged on particularly wet farm and market garden operations. This year the Land Army has been successful in obtaining supplies of surplus A.R.P. rubber boots of heavy agricultural type, in numbers sufficient to cover all winter requirements.

64.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what changes of policy he has decided on in regard to the treatment of the W.L.A. in respect of release, gratuities and conditions of service generally.

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what concessions he proposes to make to maintain an adequate number of recruits for the W.L.A. and to compensate for the refusal to grant gratuities to its members.

76.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has reconsidered awarding a gratuity to members of the W.L.A., seeing that the refusal to furnish a gratuity to these workers has resulted in many leaving their employment to the disadvantage of the farmers.

81.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what are the plans for the demobilisation of members of the W.L.A. who were enlisted for three years or the duration of the war, and who have now served three years and desire to be released.

86.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will state the conditions on which members of the W.L.A. may be granted release.

I hope to be able to make a statement about the release of members of the W.L.A. in the very near future. As regards gratuities, I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) on 23rd August. As most of the members of the W.L.A. are in the employment of private farmers, it would not be practicable to interfere with the wages orders made by the Agricultural Wages Board which apply to all women workers on the land. I am afraid the clothing situation would not allow us to add to the outfit of the W.L.A. at the present time. It has, however, been agreed that members of the W.L.A. shall in future be entitled to four free travel warrants a year instead of two.

While not thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, which is completely inadequate to meet the demands put forward by the Women's Land Army in their charter, may I ask him, since he occupies the supremely important position of Minister, whether it is not time that adequate justice was done to these splendid young women who have been treated as the Cinderellas of the women's forces?

The hon. and gallant Member will be aware that I am repeating the action in regard to these gallant women that was performed by my predecessor.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great number of members of the Women's Land Army have left the land because of their disgust at the way they have been treated by the Minister?

I think that the numbers of women who have left the Women's Land Army on account of gratuities can be exaggerated. We all expected that at the end of hostilities there would be a decline in the numbers of the Women's Land Army, since they were recruited only for the duration of the war.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his decision will cause great disappointment to large numbers of the Women's Land Army, who un- doubtedly voted for his party in the belief that it was going to reverse the policy?

I would not be surprised if there was annoyance on the part of the Women's Land Army at the decision already taken by myself, which is slightly better than that taken by the previous Government.

With regard to Question 81, will the Minister realise that this is a particular case where delay is causing grave dislocation in agriculture, for these women were engaged for three years, their time is up, and they want to be discharged, not with ignominy but with gratitude?

My hon. Friend can be assured that a statement will be made very shortly regarding the release of the members of the Women's Land Army.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer is thoroughly unsatisfactory?

Fishing Industry

Rehabilitation Grants

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture the basis for the grants to be allocated to fishermen returning to their industry from service in the Forces in order to rehabilitate them in their craft.

Under the provisions of the Herring Industry Acts, 1935–1944, grants and loans may be made to persons engaged in or desiring to engage in the herring industry towards the cost of providing boats and equipment. No such grant may exceed one-third of the total cost, but a loan may be given in addition. Under this scheme ex-Servicemen are entitled to special consideration. Proposals for assistance on similar lines to other inshore fishermen are made in the Inshore Fishing Industry Bill which is now before the House. Provision is also made in both cases for suitable assistance towards the improvement or reconditioning of boats and equipment.

Poaching (Rye Bay)

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that French fishermen are continually poach- ing on British fishing grounds in Rye Bay by night; and why the police boats are not preventing it.

The hon. Member is no doubt aware that a naval patrol has now been instituted in this area and has already dealt with several offenders. I hope that these measures will prove effective. I am glad to say that the French authorities are co-operating in trying to stop these practices.

Why was action only taken 10 days after I put down this Question, if the trouble had been going on for months?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that English trawlers have been poaching unhampered for several years past in the Hebridian and Scottish waters; and will he take some action to deal with offenders at home before he goes abroad?

Industrial Organisation (Tripartite Working Parties)

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. Gaitskell:

143.

the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made in his discussions with industries in establishing working parties to inquire into questions of industrial efficiency.

As Question 143 raises a matter of importance, I would like, with the permission of the House, to give an explanation of the Government's policy of inquiring into the efficiency of our industries by the method of tripartite working parties, and some account of the progress that has been made with the cotton, pottery, hosiery, furniture and boot and shoe industries. I have explained to these industries that, while for a year or two they and other British industries will have no difficulty in selling abroad all they can produce, the special advantage of a seller's market in a period of world shortage will end and a time will come when it will be difficult to find and keep all the markets that we need. We cannot wait until these difficulties are upon us; we must forestall them if we are to be able to cope with them when they arrive. We cannot, therefore, neglect any steps which, on the one hand, will make our industries more competitive in the markets of the world, and, on the other, will provide us at home with the best goods at the cheapest price consistent with good conditions for those in the industry.

The Government must in one way or another get the best advice it can on what these steps should be. Three conditions are essential: firstly, advice must come from industry itself because that is where all the past experience resides; secondly, employers and workers should be equally represented because both sides not only have a contribution to make but also will have to carry out any plans that may be decided upon; and thirdly, the public and Parliament must be satisfied—whatever the recommendations may be—that they are truly in the national interest and that the two sides of industry have not "ganged up" against the consumer for their own advantage. The Government have decided that these three conditions can best be fulfilled by establishing tripartite working parties composed in equal thirds of representatives of employers and workers and of independent members, and consisting of persons who will be accepted nationally as an authoritative body.

I am happy to inform the House that I have received the most cordial co-operation from both sides of industry and that the task of setting up working parties for the five industries I have mentioned is now practically completed. I will not go into detail on the composition of these working parties which will be found in the statement that is being circulated in the Official Report, but two points I would like to mention. The first is that we have been fortunate in securing as Chairmen of the working parties, Sir George Schuster, Sir Archibald Forbes, Miss Caroline Haslett, Mr. T. P. Bennett and Mr. Andrew Dalgleish. Secondly, there has been a remarkable response from the score or so of engineers, scientists, economists and other persons of standing, who, like the chairmen, have without hesitation agreed to help, as independent members, with all the consequent disturbance of their busy lives.

The terms of reference of all these working parties are in common form as follows:
To examine and inquire into the various schemes and suggestions put forward for improvements of organisation, production and distribution methods and processes in the industry, and to report as to the steps which should be taken in the national interest to strengthen the industry and render it more stable and more capable of meeting competition in the home and foreign markets.
These terms of reference are wide enough to cover any question of industrial efficiency, but I have made it clear to the chairmen that matters concerning the relations between employers and employees, which are dealt with by employers' federations and trade unions, should be considered outside the scope of their inquiries. The point is not mentioned in the terms of reference, but I have told each chairman that he, himself, and the independent members should have particular regard to the broad national interest involved and to the interest of the consumers. The chairman, with the consent of his working party, will be at liberty to set up any subgroups that he considers necessary for examining particular aspects of the problem and to co-opt on to them any persons he considers advisable. I have also said that interim reports should be made upon matters of special urgency and, while undue hurry must not be allowed to spoil the value of the reports, they should be presented as soon as possible. I would nope to get the final reports early in the New Year. These will be published. The House will appreciate that this is only a beginning and that there will be more of such inquiries.

I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the statement he has just made is of far-reaching importance. As I understand it, there are other documents which will be available to us in the Official Report to-morrow, and in those circumstances I would not wish to ask any supplementary questions on the subject now. I think the Leader of the House will agree that when we have had chance to study these documents, we may ask for an early opportunity of further discussion.

This can be considered through the usual channels. The right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to give any undertaking at this stage.

May I ask the Leader of the House whether these arrangements "through the usual channels" will still be confined to the "Big Three" or whether the smaller nations will get consideration?

Following is the statement:

LIST OF CHAIRMEN AND MEMBERS OF WORKING PARTIES FOR INDUSTRY.

Representatives of:

Industry.Chairmen and Secretaries.Employers.Trade Unions.Independent Members.
CottonSir George Schuster, K.C.S.I., K.C.M.G., C.B.E., M.C.(Secretary: Mr. G. J. MacMahon Asst. Secretary: Mr. S. Wilks, c/o Cotton Board, Midland Bank Buildings, Manchester).Mr. C. B. Clegg (Weaving).Mr. T. Griffen (Finishing).Sir Roy Dobson, C.B.E., F.R.Ae.S., (Engineer).
Mr. R. C. Reynolds, O.B.E. (Finishing).Mr. A. Knowles, J.P. (Spinning).Professor E. L. Hirst, M.A., Ph.D., D.Sc., F.R.I.C, F.R.S. (Scientist)
Mr. A. V. Symons (Merchanting).Mr. A. Naesmith, O.B.E., J.P. (Weaving).Professor J. Jewkes, C.B.E., M.Com. (Economist).
Mr. W. M. Wiggins, J.P. (Spinning).Mr. A. Roberts, J.P. (Spinning).Mss A. G. Shaw, M.A., M.I.P.E. (Factory Organisation).
PotterySir Archibald Forbes. (Secretary: Mr. A. E. Percival, Board of Trade, Neville House, Page Street,

S.W.I.*)

Mr. E. H. Bailey.Mr. T. Ford.Dr. H. W. Webb, O.B.E., D.Sc., F.I.C., M.I.Chem.E. (Scientist).Vice-Chairman of Working Party.
Mr. A. E. Hewitt.Mr. H. Hewitt.
Mr. Ashley Myott.Mr. A. Hollins.Mr. H. Trethowan, N.R.D. (Design).
Mr. F. Shepard Johnson.Mr. E. Jones, J.P.Mr. C. Wansbrough, C.I.E.E. (Engineer).
Mr. F.G. Yorath, L.R.IB.A., F.V.I(Industrial Architect)
FurnitureMr. A. Dalgleish. (Secretary: Miss M. E. Strudwick, Board of Trade, Neville House, Page Street, S.W.I).Mr. MacA. Bexon.Mr. J. R. Shanley.Dr. F. Y. Henderson, D.Sc. (Scientist).
Mr. Herman Lebus, C.B.E., J.P.Mr. R. S. Shube.Mr. H. Tout, M.A. (Economist).
Mr. W. Welsford.Mr. A. G. Tomkins.Mr. J. C. Pritchard (Design and Research).
HosieryMiss Caroline Haslett, C.B.E., C.I.E.E., M.R.I. (Secretary: Mr. J. Wright, Board of Trade, Millbank, S.W.I.*)Mr. P. Bussens.Members to be appointed.Mr. R. E. Yeabsley, C.B.E., F.C.A. (Accountant).
Mr. T. W. KemptonMr. L. Foyster (Distribution).
Mr. S. F. Peshall, M.C, M.A.Professor A. Radford, B.Sc. (Econ.) (Economist).
Further member to be appointedMr. W. C. Puckey, F.I.I.A., M.I.P.E. (Engineer).
Boots and ShoesMr. T. P. Bennett, C.B.E., F.R.I.B.A. (Secretary: Mr. F. I. Lamb, Board of Trade, Horseferry House, S.W.I.*)Mr. J. H. Bott.Members to be appointed.Mrs. J. Robinson, M.A. (Economist).
Mr. Bancroft Clark.Dr. H. L. Guy, C.B.E., D.sc., M.I.Mech.E., M.I.C.E., F.Am. S.M., F.R.S. (Scientist).
Mr. G. R. Colvin, M.B.E.Mr. K. Holmes, A.R.C.A. (Design).
Mr. G. H. Denton.Major F. J. Stratton (B/Trade Controller of Footwear).
Further member to be appointed.Mr. J. J. Gracie, F.I.I.A., M.I.I.E.E.(Engineer)

* Temporary address; Offices, to be set up in the provinces, will be announced later.

Dock Strikes (Food Supplies)

asked the Minister of Labour and National Service whether he will give the House the latest information about the situation at the docks, and whether he will give an assurance that all possible steps are being taken to ensure that necessary foodstuffs are unloaded.

Yes, Sir. Work on the Tees was resumed this morning and a small number of Port of London permanent men who had become involved have also returned to work. On the other hand the coal porters at Tilbury have ceased work, as well as the dockers in the Surrey Dock area and the tally clerks at the Royal Docks. Elsewhere there is no material change to report. It is estimated that the total number of men on strike is 39,208, made up as follows: 10,031 in London, 3,850 in Hull, 1,016 in Tyne and Wear, 996 at Leith, 275 at the Hartlepools, 940 at Grimsby and Immingham, 18,100 at Liverpool and Birkcnhead, and 4,000 in Glasgow. As has been reported in the Press, the National Docks Group Committee of the Transport and General Workers' Union have held a meeting to discuss the present stoppage. This fully representative body unanimously stated that there is no justification for prolonging the present stoppage by one single day, and urged the men to resume work at once. I trust that the men will pay full heed to the advice of their democratically elected committee and will go back to work at once. As regards the second part of the Question, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government are taking all possible measures to prevent any hold up of necessary food supplies.

How many members of the military forces are engaged in landing supplies, and is it proposed to increase the number to make sure that all that ought to be brought in is brought in?

I cannot, without notice, give the number at present engaged, but I can assure the hon. Member that others are being brought in and that that process will continue to ensure necessary deliveries.

Is this stoppage likely to have much effect on the repatriation of men from the Far East and Middle East?

Without examining the consequences of the slow turn-round of ships it would be difficult to say anything about that at the moment. I would ask that whatever we may say at the moment may be guided by the hope of inducing the men to return to work and not to prolong the stoppage.

In view of the fact that the dockers have real grievances, would it not be desirable for the Minister to call a conference of employers, trade union officials and representatives of the dock areas, with a view to accelerating negotiations and getting the strike ended?

In view of the great number of applications which are reaching mo from unofficial bodies, I think it would be most unwise to let anything accrue to those who take unofficial action in this matter.