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Commons Chamber

Volume 414: debated on Wednesday 17 October 1945

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 17th October, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Civil Aviation

Internal Air Lines


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he is aware that the development of internal air lines is at a standstill pending the Government's announcement on the re-organisation of air transport; and what steps he is taking to enable these air lines to start work without delay.

:The policy of the Government for the future organisation of air transport is one of several factors on which the future development of internal air lines depends, but I am not in a position to add to the replies I gave to the hon. Member last week on this subject.

:Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the delay is prejudicing employment of ex-R.A.F. personnel, and that as a result of one advertisement for one pilot, an air line company received over 80 answers?

I cannot admit that there has been any delay, but there is a procedure for seconding R.A.F. men for civil flying.

Is the hon Gentleman aware that there is the greatest indignation in Scotland at the lack of any sort of policy in this connection?

:The Scottish position is well understood, and I have made it clear that an early statement of policy may be expected.

Airport Facilities (London)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he can make a statement of present plans for the provision of airport facilities, to serve the London area.

Considerable progress has been made with London civil airport policy and my Noble Friend will make a further statement soon.

Has my hon. Friend come to any decision about allowing Northolt to be used for civil aviation?

It is not for me or for my Noble Friend to come to a decision, but discussions on the subject are proceeding satisfactorily.

Who is to come to a decision? Surely my hon. Friend agrees that this is a matter on which he must fight the Air Ministry on behalf of civil aviation?

My hon. Friend is now announcing a very strange constitutional doctrine. We have found the Air Ministry very co-operative in this matter.

Eire (Discussions)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he can make a statement on the recent conversations between his Ministry and representatives from the Government of Eire in regard to civil aviation.

In the course of a recent visit to this country of Mr. Lemass, Eire Minister of Industry and Commerce, the opportunity was taken to engage in preliminary discussions about the arrangements to be made between the two countries for the operation of our respective air services. It was agreed that Aer Lingus Teoranta should operate services between Eire and this country, and that reciprocal rights should be enjoyed by United Kingdom airlines. The use of the Shannon airport for transatlantic services of United Kingdom airlines was also discussed and it was agreed that the existing temporary permit to British Overseas Airways Corporation authorising the use of Foynes and Rineanna should be renewed, pending the conclusion of a long-term agreement.

Can my hon. Friend say whether any progress has been made towards providing a transatlantic airport in Northern Ireland?

The question of a transatlantic airport in Northern Ireland has been considered, but such an airport as an alternative to Rineanna would involve operational difficulties and would place United Kingdom airlines at a disadvantage with the transatlantic operators of other countries using Rineanna. An airport of inter-continental standards will however be necessary in Northern Ireland in order to provide air connections between Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom and Continental countries.

Severn Services


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he is yet in a position to state when the air services over the Severn will be restored.

I regret that I am not yet in a position to add to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend on 23rd August.

Dominion And International Conferences (Reports)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he will publish a report of the conferences, with the agreements and conclusions reached, on Inter national Civil Aviation, which took place in Canada in the latter part of 1944 between representatives of His Majesty's Government and the Dominion Governments; and whether he intends to publish a report of the proceedings of the Inter national Conference on Civil Aviation held at Chicago in 1944, including all the protocols, drafts and other documents agreed upon at that Conference.

In answer to the first part of the Question, I refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by the then Secretary of State for Air on 1st November last year about the conversations held in Montreal before the Chicago Conference and to the statement made by the then Minister of Civil Aviation on 16th January last summarising the results of the second series of conversations held in Montreal after the Conference.

In answer to the second part of the Question I refer my hon. Friend to the account given in another place on 16th January last, by the then Minister of Civil Aviation, who led the United Kingdom Delegation at Chicago. Copies of the Final Act of the Chicago Conference, which includes the resolutions and agreements of the Conference, together with copies of the minutes of all the plenary sessions and of the meetings of the main Committees are available in the library. The Final Act, Part I, but not Part II, which contains the technical annexes, has been published by His Majesty's Stationery Office. In addition, I am arranging for a copy of the report of the Conference, prepared by the United Nations Information Organisation in co-operation with the United States Office of War Information, to be placed in the library. This report contains, inter alia, a day-to-day summary of the proceedings of the Conference and summaries of all important documents placed before it for consideration.

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is approved by the final act of the Agreement reached at Chicago that all these documents should be published by the United States Government? A number of them have been published. Will my hon. Friend take steps to represent to the United States Government that these should be made available in this country, and that they should get on with the job of publishing the remainder?

I cannot answer for the United States Government, but to the best of my knowledge they have fulfilled all the obligations which they have undertaken in this matter.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the minutes of the conference proceedings are not enough? We want to see the debates and the reasons for which the New Zealand and Australian proposals were turned down.

A full report of these debates and all the arguments used is, in fact, in the Library of this House. They are contained in Items 4 and 9 of the Volume placed in the Library. The only arguments used came at the second Plenary Session of the Conference and in the meeting of Committee I on 8th November. At the first meeting to which I have referred, the Plenary Session, the Australian and New Zealand delegates put the points of view of their countries. [Hon. Members: "Speech."] I hope the House will allow me to continue; it will save a lot of time if I can clear away once and for all this point which has taken up a good deal of the time of the House. At the Committee meeting speeches were made by the New Zealand and Australian delegates. They were supported by two speeches by the representatives of Afghanistan and France and opposed in a speech by the Brazilian representative, which was formally supported by a representative of Ecuador. The only other speech was one by Mr. Berle, the leader of the United States delegation. Lord Swinton did not speak.

Arising out of the last supplementary question and answer, might I ask whether the hon. Gentleman now thinks that the question concerning New Zealand and Australia has been resolved for good and that in future Debates we shall not hear that argument again?

The reason I asked for the indulgence of the House for a longer answer than I like to give, was in the hope that it would clear that point away.

Transatlantic Aircraft (Baltimore Base)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what number and type of civil aircraft engaged on trans-Atlantic operations are based at Baltimore; what is the number of air and ground personnel involved in these operations; and what is the cost of operation involving expenditure of American dollars.

Three flying boats of Boeing 314A type are employed by British Overseas Airways Corporation on trans-Atlantic operations and are based at Baltimore. I am informed by the Corporation that the flying staff employed numbers 85. It is not possible to state the number of ground staff directly employed on the operation of the flying boats throughout their route, but the number of all grades so employed at Baltimore is 305. The dollar expenditure on the operations is merged in the expenditure of the West Atlantic Regional Headquarters at Baltimore, and it would not be possible, without undue labour, to arrive at the dollar expenditure attributable to the operation of the flying boats.

As my information is that £480,000 is the cost of running these three flying boats, can the Minister give me an assurance that at an early date they will be based in this country, thereby saving dollar exchange?

I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend's information can be correct, because I am assured the sum cannot easily be broken up. The other part of the supplementary question is a separate question, but I shall certainly be glad to look into it.

British Overseas Airways Corporation


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what steps he takes to ensure that Government policies are efficiently carried out by the chosen instrument, B.O.A.C; if he is aware of the widespread discontent amongst all grades of the flying and ground staff and what steps he is taking to eliminate the causes.

It is the responsibility of my Noble Friend as part of the day-to-day administration of his Ministry to ensure that the policies of His Majesty's Government as laid down in the British Overseas Airways Act, 1939, are carried out by the Corporation. Inquiries and representations regarding specific matters arising from discharge of the Corporation's duties are made by the Department whenever such action seems desirable. In the unlikely event of representations regarding the carrying out of Government policy proving ineffective, my Noble Friend would consider what further action should be taken, including, if necessary, the exercise of his power to terminate the appointment of any member of the Corporation. With regard to the last part of the Question, I am not aware of widespread discontent among employees of the Corporation, but I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that under the provisions of the British Overseas Airways Act the functions of management are entrusted to the Corporation.

If I am able to produce a list of some 200 names of those who are showing this discontent, or introduce my hon. Friend to some 15 members of the senior staff who also feel this discontent, will he undertake to look further into the matter, and will he also see that there is no victimisation?

We will, of course, look into specific cases, but they must be specific, and in this particular instance I should require not only the names but letters from the persons concerned before I should feel authorised to undertake such an inquiry.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mauritius (Constitution)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can now make a satement regarding the proposed new constitution for Mauritius.

The Governor has discussed with the Colonial Office a constitutional scheme designed to broaden the basis of representation of the Council of Government and to place wider responsibilities on the Council for the affairs of the island. On his return to Mauritius he will lay the scheme before the Council with a view to ascertaining their acceptance of the proposed measures. The Governor will, of course, be reporting to me the outcome of these discussions, and when the proposals for constitutional changes have reached their final form, I will be glad to make another statement to the House.

Colonial Empire

Nutrition Policy


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken in the past year to implement the policy concerned with nutrition in the Colonies, announced on 21st June, 1944.

The Human Nutrition Research Unit of the Medical Research Council has, under Dr. Platt's direction, extended its Colonial work both on Colonial research problems and in the provision of courses for Colonial nutrition workers. The Director visited the Caribbean territories last winter, and as a result plans are being made for experimental development in Trinidad on lines which he suggested. He also visited West Africa in May and made proposals which are now under discussion with the West African Governments. Women nutrition officers have been appointed in Trinidad and the Gambia, and nutrition posts have recently been created in the Gold Coast and Northern Rhodesia. Twelve additional posts for domestic science teachers and hospital dietitians have also been created. These posts are in Kenya, Tanganyika (2), Seychelles, the Gold Coast (2), Nigeria (2), Gibraltar (2), Barbadoes and Trinidad. A team of experts is shortly to assemble in Malaya to investigate prevailing conditions there.

Leprosy Relief Work


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the amount contributed by the Government for the welfare of the 2,000,000 lepers in the British Empire is insufficient and has to be supplemented by private charity; and will he take steps to increase the amount to ensure that everything possible is done for these unfortunate people.

Although accurate figures are not available, my information is that a maximum of 700,000 out of the number of lepers mentioned by the hon. Member live within the Colonial Empire; of these the greater part are in Nigeria. Expenditure from Government funds on leprosy relief work in the Colonies generally is increasing. In Nigeria a big anti-leprosy campaign is now being undertaken. A grant of £258,000 for this campaign was approved last year from the Colonial Development and Welfare Vote, and a sum of £5,000 per annum for a period of five years is being contributed by the Nigeria Government. An application by the Nigeria Government for a further £170,000 from the Colonial Development and Welfare Vote is at present under consideration. I can assure the hon. Member that I fully appreciate the importance of leprosy welfare, and I would like to pay a tribute to voluntary organisations for the very valuable work undertaken by them in dealing with this disease. I should regard it as most unfortunate if this work was curtailed in any way.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask if he is aware that if more money were made available it would be possible to cure a larger number of lepers?

As I have said, we have provided additional money. It may not be enough, but it is very much more than it was, and we hope to be able to provide more in the future.

Is the Minister aware that while every assistance should be given in cases of this kind, the same thing applies in this country with regard to tuberculosis cases?

Awards For Gallantry


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many West African and other Colonial Servicemen have been awarded the V.C. and other medals for gallantry.

Two V.Cs. have been awarded during the War to members of the Colonial Forces. The first was won by Major E. C. T. Wilson, The East Surrey Regiment (attached to the Somaliland Camel Corps), during the 1940 campaign in British Somaliland; the second by the late Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, Fiji Military Forces, during the fighting in June, 1944, on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, in which he lost his life. Other awards for gallantry to members of the Colonial Military Forces include 35 D.S.Os., 180 M.Cs., 56 D.C.Ms., and 300 M.Ms. A considerable number of awards for gallantry have, of course, also been won by men from the Colonies serving in the U.K. Forces, particularly by West Indians in the R.A.F.

Can my right hon. Friend indicate the number of these awards given to soldiers from West African regiments? I did ask for this information in the Question.

We have had very little time to look into this matter but I will get the figures and send them on to my hon. Friend.

Officials' Wives (Travel Facilities)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether wives of members of the Colonial Service are included in the recently announced concession.

Arrangements are normally made for the wives of members of the Colonial Service to join their husbands overseas, but, as I indicated in the reply which I gave on 10th October to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), this is not at present possible in all cases owing to the present shortage of shipping.

Having regard to the clear terms of the Prime Minister's statement, does the Minister realise that Colonial servants' wives penalised in this way will be much dismayed; and, in view of the necessity for recruiting personnel of the right quality, will he not reconsider the matter in the light of the right hon. Gentleman's concession the day before his previous answer?

The concession which was announced by my right hon. Friend was confined to Service personnel.

There was some misunderstanding in connection with that matter. It was intended that it should apply solely to Service personnel.

In view of the importance of the Question put to-day, is it not plain that an early Debate on Colonial policy should take place? Will the right hon. Gentleman not consider that suggestion?

Ceylon (State Council Elections)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why it is not proposed to hold elections to the State Council of Ceylon in the near future.

The life of the present State Council extends to March, 1947. The Council can, of course, be dissolved at an earlier date, but I am not aware of any requests in Ceylon for an early election.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this State Council is already over nine years old—almost as old and decrepit as the last Parliament in this country—and how soon does he anticipate that the people in Ceylon will be allowed a new deal?

It is not a question of allowing the people in Ceylon, because they have the right if they desire it, and so far they have not made any request.

Is it not a fact that His Majesty's Government are about to make new constitutional proposals for Ceylon, and would it not be advisable to wait for the new election until these proposals are in force?




asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can now make a statement regarding the proposals for constitutional reform in Nigeria, and when these are likely to be implemented.

I regret that I am not at present in a position to make a statement on this matter but I hope to be able to do so shortly.

When the Minister has formulated his final proposals for Nigeria, will he bear in mind the widespread protests made by Nigerian organisations against the proposed qualification of £100 for the exercise of the franchise in relation to the proposed central legislative council?

All the representations which have been made have been considered, and in many cases they have been met and granted.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I gave a pledge to the last House of Commons that before this Constitution was implemented, the House would have an opportunity to discuss it, and does he propose to follow the same course?

We are aware of the pledge. It may be a question of holding up the Constitution if a Debate takes place—that is, provided the stress of Parliamentary time is what it is at present— but if there is any alteration I will consult the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Labour Recruitment


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what reports have been received regarding labour recruited in Nigeria for Fernando Po from the latter territory; whether conditions of employment, living and repatriation are satisfactory; and whether all Nigerian farmers reaching Fernando Po are officially recruited.

Monthly reports are furnished to the Foreign Office and to the Government of Nigeria by the British Labour Officer in Fernando Po on the conditions of employment of Nigerian labourers. All practicable steps are taken by the British authorities to ensure that those conditions are in accordance with the terms of the International Labour Conventions governing these matters. There has been some unauthorised recruitment by canoe between Nigeria and Fernando Po and every possible endeavour has been, and is being, made to prevent this traffic.

Cameroons (Development Plan)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps are being taken to deal with the housing and other present social needs of the Cameroons, particularly so far as plantation workers are concerned; and whether any policy has been evolved concerning the future of the Cameroons plantations.

Provision is made for the needs of the Cameroons in the general development plan of the Nigerian Government. One of the schemes is specifically concerned with the housing of Africans. The question of the future of the Cameroons plantations is under consideration and it has not yet been possible to reach a decision.

Kenya And Northern Rhodesia (African Representation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it is intended to extend the representation of Africans by Africans in the Legislative Councils of Kenya and Northern Rhodesia.

It is the general policy of His Majesty's Government to provide for the increasing representation of Africans by Africans in the legislative councils of the East and Central African Territories. I hope to have the opportunity of discussing the position in Kenya, where there is already one African member, with the Governor during his forthcoming visit to this country. The position in Northern Rhodesia is that Provincial African Councils have been set up and are making progress. When these have had sufficient experience an African Central Council will be assembled consisting of delegates from the Provincial Councils, and it is the intention that African members from this Central Council should in due course sit on the Legislative Council to represent African interests. At present African interests are represented by European members, the number of whom has recently been increased from one to three. I will write to the hon. Member to explain the position in Northern Rhodesia more fully.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects the Governor of Kenya to be in this country?

I think at the end of this week, but I will let the hon. and gallant Gentleman know.

Bahamas (Constitution)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the difficulties in the Bahamas regarding constitutional changes and the secret ballot have yet been resolved, and whether legislation has been passed.

The Bahamas House of Assembly adopted in April a report recording the opinion that the system of voting by secret ballot ought, subject to certain safeguards, to be extended to the Out-Islands. The report also expressed the view that simultaneously with that extension certain constitutional changes should be effected. They were asked to frame and submit, with the minimum of delay, any proposals for constitutional reform which they decide to put forward, and it is understood that the House of Assembly will consider this matter during their next session, which will open in November.

Could my right hon. Friend tell us whether it is or is not true that on the basis of the present franchise in the Bahamas, only one-sixth of the population now enjoys any franchise rights at all?

Yes, Sir. I regret to say that the figure given by my hon. and gallant Friend is quite correct. We are endeavouring to improve it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in January, leading politicians in the island gave me an assurance that they would make urgent proposals for dealing with this, and will he point out to them that there will be no sympathy in any part of the House for their dilatory tactics?

We have already anticipated what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said. We have pointed out to the Speaker of the Assembly and to the Government, that we shall expect the promise which was given to be implemented.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether the constitutional changes include the possibility of complete adult franchise?

Can my right hon. Friend say whether action will be taken to see that they do?

West Africa

Cocoa Trade


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the present position of the cocoa trade in West Africa; and whether he adheres to the statement on future policy as announced in Command Paper 6554 of September, 1944.

As was announced by my precedessor, all cocoa produced in the Gold Coast and Nigeria during the season which has just opened will be purchased and marketed by the West African Produce Control Board. On the recommendation of the Governor, the price has recently been increased in the Gold Coast from 12s. 6d. to 15s. a load, and corresponding increases have been made in Nigeria. As regards future policy, I have not yet been able to complete the examination of this question, but I hope to be able shortly to present to the House a full statement of the policy His Majesty's Government proposes to follow.

Can the Minister say whether the delegation of West African farmers who have been conferring about the price of cocoa are satisfied with the price of 15s. per 60 lbs.?

Is the Minister aware of the considerable dissatisfaction which exists in the Colony of Nigeria, where the price is regarded as insufficient to meet the cost of labour?

The price was fixed as a result of consultation not only with the Governor of Nigeria but with the chiefs in the area where the farmers reside who grow the cocoa.

West African Council


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any statement to make on the future arrangements for consultation and co-ordination between the West African Government consequent on the discontinuance of the post of Minister Resident.

Yes, Sir. It has been decided to establish a West African Council of which the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be Chairman and the Governors members. A senior civil servant from the United Kingdom will be appointed as Chief Secretary of the Council, the headquarters of which will be in the Gold Coast. I hope that the first meeting of the Council will take place in January next. I am circulating a fuller statement in the Official Report. Report.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask him to tell me whether, roughly, the plan is that which was proposed by the late Government?

Yes, Sir, roughly the plan is that which was agreed upon by the Coalition Government.

How often will the prospective Council be likely to meet during the year?

Following is the statement:

The important work which lies ahead of the West African Governments in many fields, particularly in those of social and economic development and research, makes it necessary to ensure that adequate means exist for co-ordination and consultation on all matters of common interest and mutual concern, and careful consideration has been given to the best means of securing this object.

During the last few years the necessary co-ordination in dealing with wartime problems has been achieved under the Minister Resident in West Africa. That appointment was created in 1942, at a time when new and urgent demands were continuously being made on the West African Colonies in respect of manpower for the Forces, Service works, and the production of many essential commodities. Circumstances then demanded that there should be on the spot a Minister of Cabinet rank, not connected with any one Department, who could give immediate decisions on priorities in relation to the competing demands of Service and Supply Departments in the United Kingdom.

The position has now materially changed and co-ordination, while still essential, is required not primarily between the demands of United Kingdom Departments on the resources of the West African Colonies but between the policies and activities of the Colonial Governments themselves. Decisions in these matters fall wholly within the sphere of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and in these circumstances it has been decided that the appointment of Minister Resident in West Africa should be discontinued.

Shortly before the war, the West African Governors' Conference had been constituted, and meetings of this body were held at which matters of common interest were discussed. It was intended that the Conference should meet from time to time in one or other of the several Colonies, and that the Governor in whose territory the Conference met should preside. A permanent secretariat was not provided.

It is felt that the reconstitution of this Conference, which was replaced by the Minister Resident, would not altogether meet existing needs, and in considering the form of the future peacetime machinery it is regarded as essential that the Secretary of State for the Colonies should himself be directly associated with it, so as to enable immediate decisions to be taken and differences to be resolved without delay.

It is proposed, therefore, to establish a West African Council, of which the Secretary of State will himself be Chairman and the Governors members. With the development of air communications it is hoped that the Secretary of State will be able to preside in person over meetings of the Council from time to time, but normally his place would be taken by a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. The Council will be provided with a permanent secretariat, and the chief secretary will be a senior civil servant from the United Kingdom. The Council's headquarters will be in or near Accra in the Gold Coast.

It is not contemplated that the senior representatives of the three Fighting Services in West Africa should be formally appointed members of the West African Council, but they would be invited to attend meetings at which matters were to be discussed which were of interest to them or on which their advice was desired. It is intended that, apart from his duties in connection with meetings of the Council and the conduct of correspondence both with the Colonial Office and with the Colonial Governments on matters arising there from, the Chief Secretary should be charged with the general supervision, on behalf of the Council, of the administration of such central services or institutions, e.g. the West African Cocoa Research Institute in the Gold Coast, as it may be decided to establish. It is proposed that the cost of the West African Council should be met from United Kingdom funds, and Parliament will be invited in due course to approve the necessary provision for this service.

British North Borneo (British Civilians)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many British civilians were in British North Borneo at the time of the outbreak of war with Japan; how many are now surviving; whether lists of survivors have been made available to relatives; and what steps have been taken, or are contemplated, to bring the survivors back to the United Kingdom.

Three hundred and sixty British civilians were reported by the Japanese to have been interned in British Borneo. Detailed lists of those who have been liberated in this area have not yet been received from the Australian military authorities, who are responsible for their preparation,but I am taking urgent measures to expedite this matter. Direct reports of release and transfer to Australia have been received in a number of cases, and all information, as it becomes available, is immediately passed to relatives. Arrangements for repatriation have been planned via Australia.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the great anxiety felt by many relatives, owing to the prolonged delay in receiving news; and will he urge upon the Australian authorities the desirability of making information available at the earliest possible moment?

When the right hon. Gentleman says "British Borneo" does he include Sarawak?

Unrra (Organisation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure that U.N.R.R.A. is being run as economically as possible; why U.N.R.R.A. has different registries in London doing the same job; why American citizens are paid $1,000 a year more than the salary offered to English people; and what the total cost to this country of U.N.R.R.A. will be for the next six months.

His Majesty's Government have endeavoured to make available to U.N.R.R.A. competent British members for its staff; they maintain a vigilant watch on the expenditure of the administration in the Committee on Financial Control; they helped at the recent Session of the U.N.R.R.A. Council to secure new machinery for the close and continuous review of supply programmes and of expenditure in the receiving countries. I understand that in the London office of U.N.R.R.A. there is one central registry, but, as the office is scattered over six buildings, several sub-registries are also required. U.N.R.R.A. had to recruit an international staff, and had to offer salaries that would attract competent people. Allowance had also to be made for the higher scales of salaries and the cost of living prevailing in the United States. The administrative costs of U.N.R.R.A. for the next six months will be approximately £350,000, of which the United Kingdom share is 15 per cent. I regret that I cannot now estimate the cost of relief supplies which will be furnished by the United Kingdom during that period of time.

Can the Minister assure the House that further assistance will not be given to U.N.R.R.A. which will necessitate further cutting the food supplies of this country?

I think that I can give that assurance without any qualification, but I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that the work of U.N.R.R.A. is for this country really enlightened self-interest. The sooner it puts the countries of Europe on their feet, the sooner we shall have a market for British exports.

Trieste District (Administration)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the latest position in Trieste and district.

Trieste and the surrounding district are now administered by Allied Military Government. One section of the population has shown some reluctance to co-operate with the Allied authorities, but no serious Incidents have occurred, and I am glad to assure the hon. Member that the Allied authorities have shown both tact and skill in their performance of a difficult task.

M Leon Blum (Visit To London)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Monsieur Leon Blum came to England on 5th September at the invitation of His Majesty's Government; was he the guest of His Majesty's Government; did he comply with all the regulations applicable to aliens visiting this country; and what conversations he has had with members of His Majesty's Government.

In September last Monsieur Leon Blum paid a private visit to London, and, like all visitors from other countries, he complied with the regulations which are applicable to aliens. Monsieur Blum came on his own initiative and was not the guest of His Majesty's Government, but my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and other members of the Government were proud to receive Monsieur Blum and were very happy to be able to congratulate him on his escape from the Nazis, and to have the pleasure and advantage of private conversation with him about matters of common concern. I believe that Monsieur Blum also met some of the right, hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench.

Diplomatic Documents (Publication)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the end of the war it is now proposed to publish the text of all diplomatic documents relating to events leading up to the outbreak of war.

The publication of documents, which is now being prepared, will run to many volumes. In view of the vast number and the length of the documents involved, there must necessarily be some selection, but I am glad to assure the hon. Member that no documents of importance will be omitted.

They will cover the period between the wars and will fall into two series, 1919–29 and 1929–39.

Will they include a report of Lord Halifax's conversations with Hitler before Munich?

Military Operations, Europe (Compensation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any scheme exists between Great Britain on the one hand, and France, Holland and Belgium on the other, with regard to compensation for damage done during the fighting on the territory of the latter countries between allied and German troops; and to what extent compensation will be payable by the Allies in this connection.

The Governments of France, Holland and Belgium will no doubt make claims for reparation from Germany for the damage done on their territory in the military operations of the war. No compensation is, of course, due from the Allies in respect of such damage, and no scheme of the kind mentioned by my hon. Friend has, therefore, been prepared.


Mixed Courts


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress was made in recent conversations toward ending the emergency jurisdiction of the military tribunals set up by the Egyptian Government and toward restoring the exclusive jurisdiction of the mixed courts to try British subjects in Egypt for all offences punishable by law in accordance with the Treaty of Montreux.

The military tribunals set up by the Egyptian Government under martial law have been abolished. Civilians of British nationality will, in future, only be subject in penal matters to the jurisdiction of the Mixed Courts.

British Schools


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in view of the need to develop pro-British feeling in Egypt, what steps are contemplated to increase the number of English schools there, and to see that the teaching staff of the existing ones are mainly British.

There are more than a dozen British schools in Egypt, which between them have over 3,500 British, Egyptian and other pupils. My right hon. Friend expects to receive further recommendations from His Majesty's Ambassa- dor in Cairo very shortly, but at present his desire is that existing schools shall be properly provided for before new schools are founded. The teaching staff of the existing schools are mainly British, and in spite of the present difficulties of recruitment more British teachers have recently gone out.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that the general opinion of British residents in that particular area desirous of having their children educated under a system commensurate with the English curriculum is such that they are sending their children to this island to be taught rather than to these schools?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of these are boys' schools and how many are girls' schools?

In view of the shortage of teachers in this country, are the Government still releasing teachers to go to Egypt?

Is it the intention of His Majesty's Government, when these representations for increased schools are received, to supply them to the best of their ability?

Eastern Europe (British Press Representation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British journalists are now working in Austria, Hungary, Roumania and Bulgaria, respectively.

According to the latest information I have received, there are now six British correspondents in Austria, none in Hungary, one in Roumania and one in Bulgaria. Two more will very shortly arrive in Roumania, and permission has been granted for several others to visit Hungary and Bulgaria. In addition, a number of British newspapers and agencies are represented in these countries by correspondents who are not of British nationality.

In view of what my right hon. Friend has said, how is it possible for the world to be made aware of the alleged democratic development of these countries? Is not such representation fantastic, and are the Government satisfied with the condition of affairs?

Including those correspondents who are not of British nationality and those who have received permission to go and have not yet gone, the number is considerable. The Soviet Government have given us an assurance that their despatches will not be censored from Rumania, and I have no doubt that that applies to other countries.

Whatever the number of correspondents may be, is there any organised arrangement for the distribution of their news?

I am afraid I cannot say, but if my hon. Friend will put a question down I will tell him.

Dutch East Indies (British Policy)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether General Christison had communicated with the Government before announcing that we were not going to interfere with the political position in Java and that we were not going in to put the Dutch back into power; and whether he will state the Government's policy in relation to the overseas territories of our Dutch allies.

I understand that General Christison's remarks were much distorted when they were reported in the Press. The hon. and gallant Member may rest assured that General Christison is fully informed of the wishes and intentions of His Majesty's Government by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. His Majesty's Government, of course, recognse no authority but that of the Netherlands Government in all the territories which are under the sovereignty of our Dutch allies.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is satisfied that we have sufficient liaison with our Dutch Allies on this and other Allied questions?

If British arms are to be used for this purpose, are the Government making representations to our Dutch Allies with a view to encouraging them to offer a liberal programme to these territories?

I understand the Dutch Government have gone very far in offering a liberal programme, but my hon. Friend can rest assured that the liaison between the Dutch Government and ourselves is very close.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on British policy in Indonesia and give what information he can about the present course of events.


asked the Prime Minister whether urgent steps are being taken, in conjunction with our Dutch Allies, to free the Allied authorities in Java from any dependence on the Japanese armed forces there for the maintenance of law and order.

Upon the Japanese collapse we were suddenly faced with the task over a very wide area and in various territories simultaneously, of disarming the Japanese forces, releasing Allied prisoners of war and internees and helping to restore normal conditions. With available resources of man-power and shipping strained in this way, problems such as have arisen in Java present particular difficulty. There, as indeed throughout the whole area of South-East Asia Command, it was necessary in the first instance to place responsibility on the Japanese forces for the maintenance of law and order outside key areas. But in Java we found that, outside Batavia, control had in fact been largely relinquished by the Japanese to an Indonesian independence movement. While we have had to take account of the existence of this movement we must be careful about accepting its claims at their face value. It has been sponsored by the Japanese for two or three years and during this time the people of the territory have been cut off from all outside developments.

Meanwhile, as the House is no doubt aware, Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands issued in December, 1942, a very liberal statement promising a large degree of self-government to all Dutch overseas territories. The Lieutenant Governor-General, who is now on the spot, has been authorised to discuss with the local Indonesian leaders how it is intended to apply these promised reforms in the case of Java.

I need hardly say that His Majesty's Government do not desire to be unnecessarily involved in the administration or in the political affairs of non-British territories and their object is to withdraw British troops as soon as circumstances permit. Meanwhile not only have we a strong moral obligation towards our Dutch Allies as the sovereign Power until they are in a position to resume control; but also the maintenance of law and order is essential to the fulfilment of the military tasks which arise out of the termination of the war with Japan and in particular to the safety of the several thousand Dutch nationals interned in the interior of the country.

I can assure the House that the whole of this delicate problem is engaging the most careful attention of His Majesty's Government and that they are in close and constant consultation both with the Netherlands Government and with Admiral Mountbatten about the measures to be taken.

While endorsing what the right hon. Gentleman has said, may I ask him if he will bear in mind, as I am sure the Government will, that the difficulties of the Dutch in this area are very largely due to their own action as Allies in declaring war on their own account against Japan?

We are very conscious of the fact that throughout these years the Netherlands Government have stood with us and that difficulties that face them inevitably arise from the conditions of waging war. We are keeping in very close touch.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that quite a number of Members of the House are very disturbed at what seems to be the case, that the Japanese and ourselves are collaborating in using force against the actual inhabitants of Indonesia?

The hon. Member and his friends, if they think that, are of the wrong impression.

Soviet Nationals (Repatriation)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what. proportion of the 2,000,000 Russians returned to Russia from the American, British and French zones by 20th September came from the British zone; how many Russian citizens remained in the British zone and whether they will be repatriated to Russia irrespective of their own wishes; and whether the definition of a Russian citizen in the British-occupied zone includes persons originally domiciled in Latvia, Lithuania and Esthonia.

The military authorities inform me that the Soviet citizens repatriated from Western Germany up to 15th September numbered roughly 2,000,000, of whom 917,000 were from the British zone. I am unable to say how many still remained on 20th September, but there are still a few coming forward from day to day. His Majesty's Government have agreed with the Soviet Government that each of them will arrange for the repatriation of all the nationals of the other who are liberated by the Forces under its command. Persons whose homes of origin are in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are only treated as Soviet citizens for purposes of repatriation if they so desire.

Do I understand from the reply that that repatriation is compulsory, in accordance with the agreement, whether or not the individual desires it?

I have explained that for those people whose origin was in these three territories it is only if they desire to be repatriated.

German Invasion Plans (Document)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now obtained the list found in Germany of British citizens to be arrested on the invasion of this country, and whether he will publish the names.

I have asked for this list to be sent from Germany, and I understand that a copy is now on its way. I feel confident that my right hon. Friend will see no objection to publishing the names of those whom the Nazis proposed to arrest when they invaded Britain.

Was any similar list found in Germany of potential British Quislings likely to be helpful to Hitler?

I have not heard of it, but I will make a particular point of inquiry.

Is the list referred to the one that has already received considerable publicity, and, if so, does the Minister regard it as an authentic document, considering the motley collection it is?

I have no information whether my hon. Friend's name appears on the list, but it is authentic, as far as I know.

Denmark (Food Exports)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the available food surplus in Denmark is being exported to adjacent European countries who greatly need it, through U.N.R.R.A., or otherwise; and, if not, what are the obstacles.

Yes, Sir. Food is being exported from Denmark to countries which have concluded agreements with the Danish Government. Among these countries are France, Belgium, Holland, Finland, Norway, Poland and the United Kingdom. Part of the Danish surplus of food also helps to feed the Army of Occupation in Germany.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether all the available foodstuffs are being exported, or only a relatively small portion?

I understand that there is no difficulty at all about exporting, except as regards live cattle. There is a difficulty there about shipping, and a further difficulty concerning payments in the areas to which they could go over land. The whole question of the export of live cattle is now under very active consideration.

Is the Minister aware that statements have been made recently that at least another3,000 tons a week could be exported from Denmark to Europe?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent the export of the Danish food surplus is being restricted by a deficiency of motor transport; and whether steps are being taken to meet this deficiency with unused British and American motor-lorries.

I have not heard that the export of Danish food supplies is hampered by a shortage of motor vehicles. I understand that the railways are capable of moving all the available surplus.

Greece (British Policy)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a widespread belief still persists in Greece that it is the desire of His Majesty's Government that the King of Greece should return; that they will use their influence to secure this result when the time comes for the Greek people to vote on the constitutional issue, and that British support would be withdrawn from a republican Greece; and whether he will make a statement of the attitude of His Majesty's Government.

Yes, Sir, I have heard it suggested that some Greeks still believe that His Majesty's Government wish to intervene in favour of the restoration of the Monarchy. I can assure my hon. Friend that if in fact this belief still exists, it is without foundation. His Majesty's Government consider that the Greek people themselves must decide the future constitution of their country, and we strongly resent insinuations which are apparently being made by interested persons in Athens that we wish in any way to influence that decision. We shall, of course, accept the vote, whatever the result may be. There is no excuse whatever for the suggestion that, if the Greeks decide to establish a Republic, our support for Greece will be in any way diminished. That is completely untrue. It has, moreover, been made clear in the statement issued on 19th September by His Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the Governments of France and the United States, that in the opinion of the three Governments the constitutional issue should not be raised at the present time. The date for the plebiscite should only be determined after the elections when conditions of normal tranquillity have been restored.

In view of the importance of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, can he give an assurance that it will receive the widest publicity in Greece so as to counter the present propaganda?

Is the Minister prepared to take the step of withdrawing General Scobie and the Ambassador, in view of the fact that they have been very closely associated with the Royalists?

I cannot accept the insinuation contained in the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Fishing Rights, Territorial Limits


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered the advisability of negotiating with foreign powers for the extension of the territorial limits for fishing operations beyond the present three-mile limit, in order to protect the inshore fishing from the destructive methods of trawling.

His Majesty's Government have given the fullest consideration to my hon. Friend's proposal for the extension of the territorial limit for exclusive fishing rights beyond the three miles limit now in force, but they have decided that it would be unwise to put it forward.

Is the Minister not aware that this antiquated three-mile limit does not protect the spawning beds, and these are being despoiled by British as well as foreign trawlers, thus jeopardising the livelihood of inshore fishermen?

I know that there is a strong case to be made for the inshore fishermen, but there are also the interests of our deep-sea trawlers to consider, and the Government believe that on balance the present arrangement serves us best.

China (British Ex-Prisoners)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that 621 civilian prisoners, mostly British, are still in the camp at Wienshien, in what was the Japanese-occupied Shantung Province of China; that it is eight weeks since the first American rescue teams parachuted into the camp; that the railway has been cut and there are not sufficient aeroplanes to fly them out; and what action he proposes to take to remove these people from this camp.

There were 1,400prisoners in the camp at Weihsien when it was freed. Those who wanted to go home were sent to Tsing Tao. Those who remained in the camp desired to return to their previous occupations in Northern China. It so far has been difficult to meet their wishes, not only because transport was not available, but because, in the present financial situation in China, they could not, I understand, maintain themselves in their homes. I am, however, calling for a further report.

Great Britain And Argentine (Relations)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the present state of relations between His Majesty's Government and the Argentine Government.

Diplomatic relations between His Majesty's Government and the Government of the Argentine are normal.

South Tyrol


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government regarding the future of the South Tyrol.

I regret that I can make no statement at present about the future of the South Tyrol.

Royal Navy

T124x Personnel


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether consideration has yet been given to the status of T.124X personnel; and if he can make a statement.

T.124X personnel are naval auxiliary members of the Armed Forces of the Crown. Their rates of pay and conditions of service are based on those of the Merchant Navy. T.124X ratings receive the basic rate of pay of their rank as laid down by the National Maritime Board; they also receive a consolidated rate of overtime and, when at sea, war risk money. T.124X personnel are being released in order of age and service group at a rate corresponding to that of General Service Naval personnel engaged on equivalent duties. On release T.124X personnel are eligible for 56 days' resettlement leave and a free issue of civilian clothing.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that their pension rights are fundamentally different, so that, for instance, a man suffering from tuberculosis, if he is T.124X, does not get a pension in circumstances where, if he were ordinary naval personnel, he would get the pension?

The answer to that is that they were paid ordinary civil rates with overtime, and are paid ordinary rates of compensation.

Post-War Strength And Conditions


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can now inform the House of his Ministry's proposals as to the size and conditions of service, etc., of the post-war Navy.

These matters are under active consideration but I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give a general indicationas to when he thinks he will be able to make this announcement?

Obviously such a matter is connected with high policy for all the Services. I really could not make a definite promise.

Is it not about time that the State, which should be a model employer, should announce what are to be the conditions of service in all three Services?

The conditions of service must depend to a very large extent upon what Parliament finally votes as being the post-war strength.

Clerical Workers (Release)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is satisfied that the general principles of release of civil servants from the forces, as prescribed in Treasury Circular 13/45, issued on 21st June, 1945, have been applied in the case of the release from the R.N. of clerical workers belonging to the Admiralty's Civil Service staffs; in what demobilisation category these individuals were placed; whether the Treasury sponsored these applications; and whether they were referred to Lord Rennet's Committee in accordance with paragraph 2 (h) of the Treasury circular.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on Wednesday last to the hon. and gallant Member for Waterloo (Captain Bullock).

Atomic Bomb (Political Issues)


asked the Prime Minister when he will be in a position to explain the views of His Majesty's Government relative to the political issues raised by the invention of the atomic bomb.

I am now in communication with the Governments of the Dominions and of the United States of America. In these circumstances I have no statement to make at the present time.

Germany And Austria (Control Office)


asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make about the Ministerial responsibility for the affairs of the British elements of the Control Commissions for Germany and Austria.

His Majesty's Government have decided to establish a separate Office to handle the affairs of the British elements of the Control Commissions for Germany and Austria. My hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will assume Ministerial responsibility for the new Office, subject to the ultimate responsibility to Parliament being retained by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. The duties of the Permanent Secretary, to be appointed to the new Department, will include those of Accounting Officer for the expenditure of the British elements of the two Control Commissions. This appointment will be held by Sir Arthur Street, who will be seconded from his post as Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Air.

The Office will have a section in London which will be responsible for maintaining the necessary contacts with other Government Departments. The new Office will assume responsibility for the work of the British elements of the Control Commissions on 22nd October next, on which date those branches of the Civil Affairs Division of the War Office which deal with Germany and Austria, together with the German Economic Department of the Foreign Office, will be transferred to it.

Should Questions relating to the control of Germany be addressed to the Secretary of State for War or the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster?

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain exactly what will be the relation between this new Ministry or Office and the War Office?

Perhaps the hon. Member will study the answer I have given, and then if he finds any difficulty perhaps he will see me about it. I thought it was quite plain.

Food Supplies

Dockers' "Go Slow" Movement


asked the Minister of Food how much food supplies were rendered unfit for human consumption owing to the "go slow" at the docks and elsewhere; and what was its value.

If, as I assume, the hon. Member refers to the "go slow" movement at the London Docks, which began at the end of May and lasted until the middle of August, the answer is "None."

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the Question again? It refers to the London Docks and elsewhere.

Milk Deliveries, Brighton


asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that large blocks of flats in the poorest areas of Brighton have recently been receiving sour milk which, due to the Milk Zoning Scheme, they have been forced to accept; and whether his regulations entitle the dairy in question to insist on payment or whether he will allow the tenants to change their dairy.

I am aware that there has recently been a number of complaints of this nature and I am looking into the matter to see what steps can be taken to prevent their repetition. With regard to the second part of the Question, it is usual for the dairyman to refund to his customer the cost of milk which turns sour after delivery; there are no Ministry of Food regulations on the subject.

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to make this well known in different parts of the country, as people do not seem to realise it?

I am quite sure that the Press Gallery have taken cognisance of the reply.

Business Of The House

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House whether, in view of the wide and deep interest taken in this subject by hon. Members of all parts of the House and of the large number who may be anxious to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, he will consider giving us an extra hour for to-day's Debate?

:I think the request of the right hon. Gentleman is a reasonable one and one that is in accord with the general feeling of the House on all sides. In the circumstances, I beg to move,

"That the Proceedings on the Motion relative to Housing Shortage be exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House) for one hour after a Quarter past Nine o'Clock."

This Motion can be put only without question or Debate, by our Standing Orders.

Question put, and agreed to.

Orders Of The Day

Supply 16Th October

Resolutions reported:

Supplementary Vote Of Credit, 1945

Expenditure Arising Out Of The War

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefore by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; for relief and rehabilitation in areas brought under the control of any of the United Nations; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war."

Civil Estimates, Supplementary Estimate, 1945

Class I

Repayments To The Civil Contingencies Fund

2. "That a sum, not exceeding £7,933, be granted to His Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for repayment to the Civil Contingencies Fund of certain miscellaneous advances."

Overlapping Income Tax Payments

3. "That a sum, not exceeding £250,000, be granted to His Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for payments to certain temporary Crown Servants in respect of overlapping Income Tax payments."

Class X

Home Office (War Services)

4. "That a sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the cost of the war services of the Home Office."

Class Ii

Colonial And Middle Eastern Services

5. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £80,200, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for sundry Colonial and Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain non-effective services and grants in aid."

Class V

Ministry Of Health

6. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £139,000,be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Health, including grants and other expenses in connection with housing, certain other grants to local authorities, etc.; salaries and expenses of the Local Government Boundary Commission; a grant in aid of the National Radium Trust, a grant in aid of the Civil Service Sports Council, a grant in aid of the Women's Voluntary Services; and other services."

Class Vi

Board Of Trade

7. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £200,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, and subordinate departments, including assistance to the watch manufacturing industry in Great Britain and a grant in aid."

Services In Development Areas

8. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,050,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for services in Development Areas."

Ministry Of Agriculture And Fisheries

9. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £255,090, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including grants, grants in aid and expenses in respect of agricultural education and research, eradication of diseases of animals, and improvement of breeding, etc., of live stock, land settlement, improvement of cultivation, drainage, etc., regulation of agricultural wages, agricultural credits, and marketing; fishery organisation, research and development, control of diseases of fish, etc.; and sundry other services, including agricultural training and settlement schemes, the management and use of land acquired for forestry, a grant in aid of the Women's Land Army Benevolent Fund and certain remanet subsidy payments."

Miscellaneous Transport Services

10. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £100,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the expenses of maintaining Holyhead Harbour and the Caledonian and Crinan Canals, and annuities in respect of Light Railways; and for the reimbursement to railway companies of payments to certain temporary railway employees in respect of overlapping Income Tax payments."

Class Iv

Ministry Of Education

11. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £4,168,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Education, and of the various establishments connected therewith, including sundry grants in aid, grants in connection with physical training and recreation, and grants to approved associations for youth welfare."

Class Iii

Police, Scotland

12. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £212,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Inspectors of Constabulary; the cost of special services, grants in respect of Police expenditure and a grant in aid of the Police Federation in Scotland."

Class Iv

Public Education, Scotland

13. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £568,975, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for public education in Scotland, including certain grants in aid of the Education (Scotland) Fund, and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including a grant in aid."

Class V

Department Of Health For Scotland

14. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £157,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of Health for Scotland; including grants and other expenses in connection with housing, certain other grants to local authorities, etc., a grant in aid of the Highlands and Islands medical service; and other services."

Class Vi

Department Of Agriculture For Scotland

15. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £96,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, including grants for land improvement, agricultural education and research, agricultural marketing, agricultural credits, expenses in respect of regulation of agricultural wages, management and use of land acquired for forestry, agricultural training and settlement schemes, certain grants in aid and remanet subsidy payments."

Class Vii

Miscellaneous Works Services

16. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for expenditure in respect of miscellaneous works services including certain new works and buildings, historic buildings, ancient monuments, Brompton Cemetery, certain housing estates and certain grants in aid."

Public Buildings, Overseas

17. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £180,300, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for expenditure in respect of public buildings overseas."

First Resolution agreed to.

Consideration of remaining Resolutions adjourned.—( Mr. R. J. Taylor.)

Second and subsequent Resolutions to be considered upon Friday.

Housing Shortage

Before you call on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) to move his Motion, may I raise a point of Order, Mr. Speaker? Scotland has a special interest in this subject, and Scottish Members generally feel that it might add to the value of their contributions of the Debate, and suit the convenience of hon. Members generally, if we could get some indication from you that at a certain stage of the Debate Scottish Members would find themselves more favourably placed for catching your eye.

I do not think it is possible to do what the hon. and gallant Member suggests. Quite frankly, I do intend if possible to call such hon. Members, but I cannot guarantee they will have any special time to themselves. There are a great many hon. Members who wish to speak. I have the names of 34 hon. Members who wish to make maiden speeches, and a large number of hon. Members who wish to make speeches that are not maiden speeches. All I can do is pick out one or two from each area, as far as possible, and I am sorry that the others will have to be disappointed.

Is it not possible during the proceedings for the "usual channels" to meet and decide to suspend the Standing Order? Many Members are anxious to speak on the question of housing—I am not one of them; I am not going to speak, and I am not speaking for myself—which is so near to their lives and the lives of their constituents and I would ask the Leader of the House what he has to say on the matter.

3.21 p.m.

I beg to move,

"That this House views with grave apprehension the existing shortage of houses in both urban and rural areas and urges His Majesty's Government to give continuous attention to the related problems of labour and material required for repair and reconstruction, as well as for the building of new houses."
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), speaking in the last Debate on housing in the late Parliament, said housing was one of the most vital human issues, and he went on to say that it was one, unlike foreign trade, which we could solve, if we chose, by our own efforts. The object of the Motion that stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and others of my right hon. Friends is designed to give the opportunity for as wide a Debate as possible, and also to try to elicit from His Majesty's Government an account of the efforts they are making, and the results they have achieved, and of the steps, if any, they have in contemplation. I understand that the Government welcome this Debate because it will afford the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health an opportunity of making an early statement. We hope, when he comes to make it, it will be a full and frank statement and that he will face up to realities, and will not attempt to draw red herrings across trails, or put up smoke screens. In order to help the right hon. Gentleman and to remove any temptation he might otherwise have felt to avoid questions on any particular subjects, my remarks to-day will consist to a very large extent of questions, to which we on this side of the House believe hon. Members as well as the public at large are entitled to receive answers which are both full and frank. The subject is a vast one, and I know from what Mr. Speaker has said that a very large number of hon. Members wish to speak, and I will try to be as brief as I can.

Before I turn to the wider aspect I want to spend a moment or two on the particular part of the problem in which I am particularly interested, namely, rural housing. This has been the subject of more than one Report by the Hobhouse Committee, and in their last Report, the Hobhouse Committee say that they
"fear that the less sensational though no less urgent claim of the rural areas may once again be pushed into the background."
There have been signs recently that this fear may be well-founded, and I am not sure that hon. Members in different parts of this House, and indeed the public at large, fully realise how desperate is the rural housing situation, and not only how desperate it is, but how vastly more important it is to-day, not only to the individualsliving in the country—that human issue about which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield spoke—but for the nation at large, if this nation is to continue to be reasonably fed. Perhaps the House will forgive me if I dwell for a moment on this matter. Before the war, it was estimated that, in urban areas, one person in four was living in a house that had been built within the last 20 years. The situation in the rural areas is far less satisfactory and it is probable that the proportion did not rise as high as one in 10. The low standard of accommodation in the country was, undoubtedly, one of the contributory factors of the then drift from the country into the towns, and, although to the nation at large that might have seemed in those days a matter of comparatively small importance, except in so far as it contributed to increasing the problem of unemployment in the towns, I believe the nation to-day cannot view a recurrence of that drift with complacency if, as I say, at the same time it desires to continue to be fed.

I think it is common ground on all sides of the House, and in all parts of the country now, that during many years to come, we shall have to maintain the production of food at home at something approaching the global total which we have achieved in recent years. If there was any doubt at all in the minds of anyone as to whether that was so or not, the events of the last few weeks, the comparatively short interruption or disturbance of the regular flow of supplies through the ports, and the prospect of our maintaining our existing rationing are sufficient to convince anyone, if they doubt it, of the truth of what I have just said. In the last days of the Coalition Government estimates were made by the Ministries of Agriculture and Food from which it was clear that, if this level of production was to be maintained, a substantial increase of man-power over pre-war figures in agriculture was essential. During the war we secured that increase of manpower by prisoners—Italian and German—by members of the Women's Land Army and by volunteers in harvest camps. Clearly, those sources are bound steadily to diminish and eventually to dry up and we shall then be confined to our own resources. In order to obtain the manpower, we shall have to rely upon attracting into the industry substantial numbers of new workers—I hope ex-Servicemen. But no intake of new workers will be of any avail unless living conditions in the countryside are sufficiently improved to induce existing workers to continue to remain in the country, once the effects of the present standstill under the Essential Work Order is removed.

In my view, therefore—and I think it is the view of most people who have made any study of it—two things are necessary. In the first place, we have to build a very large number of new houses. My own guess, based on a considerable study at the Ministry of Agriculture, is that we require a minimum of 300,000 new houses in the countryside, of which we require at least 100,000 in the first two or three years in order to provide the accommodation for that new intake. But it is idle to believe that there is any possibility in any time that matters of re-housing in new houses the whole of the existing workers in agriculture, let alone the tens of thousands of workers in rural areas in the industries ancillary to agriculture. Therefore, the second essential—the first being the provision of new houses—is reconditioning on a very considerable scale as a partner to new building.

It will be rightly understood, therefore, with what feelings of consternation we on this side of the House heard of the decision of the Government to drop the renewal of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. This action was defended on several grounds. It was stated, I think by the Lord Privy Seal, that the Act had been a dead letter. I should be the first to admit that the Act, in England, during many years, had not been made as much use of as many of us would have liked. It had, certainly, been made much more use of in Scotland, but the extent to which it was being made use of was steadily increasing in the last years before the war, and whereas, 10 years after it had been introduced, about 1,000 cottages were being reconditioned, that number had been more than trebled by 1938. If we look into this, we find that the Hobhouse Committee threw a very interesting light on many of the reasons why this Act had not been taken advantage of as much as we should have liked.

That Committee attributed, to a large extent, to local authorities the responsibility for failure to bring the conditions of using the Act permanently to the notice of the persons concerned. They said, further, that, in many cases, local authorities had adopted an attitude that it was a dole to private landlords which they were reluctant to encourage. But the Hobhouse Committee, at the same time, pointed out that this was based upon complete misapprehension. The Act was specifically designed, not to benefit the individual landlord, but to ensure that the whole of the benefits accrued to the occupier of the cottage. In any case, the Bill which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) introduced in the Summer was specifically designed, together with a number of administrative acts which he had made, to make the new Bill, when it became an Act, workable.

The second reason which was given for dropping the Bill, was that it would divert building labour from building new cottages. Again, I do not believe that there is any substantial foundation for that belief. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should confine all our activities to reconditioning. Reconditioning, as the Hobhouse Committee pointed out, ought to proceed in partnership with new building. That Committee pointed out that conditions in different parts of the country varied radically—conditions of availability of labour, and conditions of the necessity for new cottages—because, in some cases, the emphasis had to be on new cottages, and, in others, on reconditioning. But one of the great advantages of reconditioning, over new house building, as I see it, is that it does enable the small local contractor, with a few building operatives, to make the maximum contribution, which he probably could not make if asked to tender for a local authority scheme of 10, 12 or 16 houses. Above all, it has the great advantage that it can be put into operation forthwith without waiting for the delays inherent, however good the administration is, in purchasing land, providing roads and sewers and so forth before you can start building any new cottages. In other words, you can get reconditioning going on a substantial scale, while you are getting ready to start your housing scheme.

I am very much afraid that the real reason for the action of the Government is a dislike on the part of the Minister of Health and many of his friends for anything that savours of helping private enterprise. [An Hon. Member: "Landlords."] I am glad that the hon. Member agrees that my diagnosis is correct. That brings me to the first of the questions which I would like to put. I would like to know, and I am sure large numbers of hon. Members on this side of the House and of people in the country would like to know, whether the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health consulted his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture before he made this announcement. We should be very interested to know that. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health would like to give me an answer now, because, if so, I should be very glad to give way for him. Those of us who have been in previous Parliaments will agree that the right hon. Gentleman was not always so coy when sitting on these benches. However, as the Minister of Health does not seem anxious to answer, perhaps his right hon. Friend who use to be my Under-Secretary will tell me? Did he agree to this? I think the House can draw its own conclusions. After all, the answer is "Yes" or "No." I am willing to give way, but neither of the right hon. Gentlemen will answer that question, and I think we are entitled to assume that the answer is "No. "That is the first example we have come across of carrying out the plans for national planning about which we have heard so much.

Be that as it may, the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's action is twofold. In the first place, it is going to jeopardise the food supply of this country, because if you do not provide the houses for the new intake and do not make it possible to improve the existing houses sufficiently to maintain existing workers in the industry, you are not going to have the increased supplies of food, and above all, of milk, which the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food are so insistently demanding. The second effect is to condemn thousands, or tens of thousands, of agricultural workers up and down the country to continue to live in houses built long before the present standards of amenity were settled. You are going to condemn thousands of young men and women coming back from the Services to living conditions far below what they need have been, and for far longer than is necessary. I hope that, despite what has been said, the Government will review their decision, and that the Minister will announce to-day a revival of the reconditioning drive alongside the drive for new houses.

In that hope, I would like to make a practical suggestion. I would suggest that rural builders and contractors should be asked, forthwith, for a list of men who used to be in their employ and who are now in the Forces, and that instructions should be issued for the release in Class B forthwith of these men, on the condition that they return to their previous employment. It is important, if we are to get the full benefit of this proposal that the small local contractor should not be compelled to drop all his agricultural work and all his work on private cottages. I am sorry to see, in one or two instances that have been brought to my notice, these instructions have, in fact, been issued, and have been made a condition of getting the men back. I hope the Minister of Labour will look into this point and see that the necessary instructions are issued. Very urgent as is the need for new cottages in the countryside, and the reconditioning of existing ones, it is equally important, and I am sure the Minister of Agriculture will agree, that we should make available a certain amount of local labour to make a start on the overtaking of arrears of maintenance and repair of farm buildings, if we are to get the increased food and safe and clean milk which we all believe is so important.

So much for rural housing. Now let me turn to the general questions, to which we hope the Minister will reply. Last Spring, the Coalition Government announced a housing programme of 500,000 houses built or building in the first two years after V.E. Day, of which 300,000 were to be permanent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, in one of the speeches which he made here, described that programme as "chicken feed." Certainly, we, on this side of the House, and I think the public at large, expect that, with the sudden ending of the Japanese war, the Government would be able substantially to improve on that programme, and possibly, instead of chicken-feed, produce a lusty cockerel. We shall expect him to tell us what the new target is, and, in particular, how many houses he expects to have completed by March, 1946, and, still more important, by March, 1947.

Houses cannot be built without land, materials and labour. There are some signs recently that the right hon Gentleman may be going to try to ride off on the excuse that the land is not available. He will, no doubt, tell us what his new powers for local authorities are to be. When he comes to speak, I hope he will be able to say whether or not it is a fact that, as long ago as last March, local authorities actually owned land sufficient for 300,000 houses and were in process of acquiring land for another 350,000 houses, and that, as far as the central Government were concerned, clearance had been given for the acquisition of land for an additional 900,000 houses. It is very difficult for us, at all events, to believe that, if these figures are correct, as I believe them to be, land is, at the moment, the limiting factor. It may be, in isolated cases, but, taking the country as a whole, over the next two years, and looking at the global figures, that is not the bottle-neck. Is the Minister satisfied with the present output of building materials? If not, is labour the chief bottle-neck? If it is labour, we shall be very glad to know what steps he is taking, with the Minister of Labour, to direct more labour into the building material industry. So far as the building industry itself is concerned, the Coalition Government announced their intention of expanding it from 350,000 to 800,000 in the 12 months after V.E. Day. We shall be glad to know what the new target is.

There are two sources of labour—one the Forces and the other industry, especially munitions industry. I will not weary the House with long quotations from speeches by the Lord Privy Seal, but, if the right hon. Gentleman were here, he would no doubt remember that, last June, he claimed that there was a very large number indeed of men in the munitions industry who could be released and who could be, quite quickly and easily, trained for house building. It will be interesting to know whether his colleagues, now in power, entertain the same views, and, if they do, what measures they propose to take for implementing his claim. We should also like to know the number of releases to date in Class A and Class B, and the target set for Class B. The last figure I was given, in answer to a Question about releases, was 4,000, which seems to be a pretty disappointing figure, and we shall be glad to know whether the Government have any plans for expediting releases.

Then we come to the important question of price control. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will remember promising the country in a broadcast that we would get homes for the people at prices that people could pay and without bleeding the taxpayer to pay unduly high subsidies. We shall be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what steps he proposes to take to combine those two admirable objects. We have heard rumours of tenders being received at very high prices for houses. We have heard rumours that the right hon. Gentleman has refused to accept those tenders. We shall be glad to know what steps he proposes to take to fill the gap, and to deal with the provision of houses that would otherwise have been built. We should also like to know what he proposes to do about controlling the price of building materials. Important elements in the price of building materials are coal and wages. Do the Government propose to take steps to maintain the price of coal or to prevent a rise in the price of coal and in the wage levels? If they do not, do they propose to allow the price of building materials to rise proportionately? Failing that, we should like to know whether they propose to adopt the only other alternative we know of, which is to give a subsidy to the building material industry; and how does he reconcile it with the promise made by the Leader of the House?

Then we should like to know what are the latest views of the Government about prefabricated houses. Again, in the Debate in June, the Lord Privy Seal expressed the view that he had a great belief in prefabrication, allied to traditional building. We wonder whether the Government still believe that, or whether they have changed their views. We have heard rumours that they have sent a circular to local authorities asking whether they prefer prefabrication to traditional building methods. It is pretty clear that if you put the question that way, local authorities will answer that they prefer traditional building methods. Are the Government going to rely on replies from that circular to justify closing down the prefabricated programme to small proportions? Then we shall be glad to know what the future of Swedish houses is to be. The former Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Thomas Johnston, and I were very interested in this matter. We pinned very high hopes on it. We hoped, at one time, to get as many as 50,000 prefabricated timber houses in two years, which would have gone a very long way indeed to solving some of the problems of new houses in rural areas and also in Scotland. To our great regret, in the end we only got 5,000 houses from Sweden as an experiment. There were difficulties in the way, difficulties of the supply of timber and of exchange, but we should be glad to know whether the Government are doing anything about them, and whether they are trying to overcome those difficulties because, clearly, prefabricated houses of that type, of a very good design and permanent, would be an immense contribution to the problem.

Before we went out of office, we were making preparations to send experts, and also the necessary machinery, over to Germany with a view to cutting German timber and using German labour on the spot for prefabrication of components for wooden houses. When I was in Germany in July, between the date of the Election and the announcement of the result, we were talking to members of the Control Commission out there in terms of delivery of these wooden houses starting next April. We would be glad to hear what is the present position. The re- ports I have received fill me with gloom. To the best of my knowledge, no machinery and no men have been sent and no start has been made.

Could the right hon. Gentleman oblige us with the source of his information?

It is in a letter from the Ministry of Supply dated 26th September. The last paragraph reads:

"However, the small team of experts now in Germany have gone there to plan the operation."
I think I am entitled to say that I am disappointed to find in October that a small team of experts has gone to "plan the operation" when, last July, we were going to get the thing thoroughly under way. We shall be glad to know when the Government anticipate getting the delivery of these houses, if they do. We should also like to have some report—

I must try to complete my speech. We would like to have some report on the progress of London war damage repairs. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the people of London are becoming exasperated at the delays, and I venture to think that the taxpayers of this country will be exasperated when they see the bill. In our view, you will never get the thing going really quickly and reasonably and economically, unless you abolish the system of cost-plus and until you try to get specific contracts by contractors to do the job.

That brings me to the question of labour output, for it is not merely a question of the supply of labour if you are going to build houses. Of equal importance is the output of labour. Before the break-up of the Coalition we were, I understand, in negotiation with the trades unions with a view to securing the adoption of an effective system of payment by results, which would have given the men concerned a definite incentive to higher output. I do not know what has happened since. We shall be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to makes his statement, will tell us what progress, if any, has been made in these negotiations.

I now come to the crucial question—or at all events the question which in our view is crucial—what rôle the Government intend private enterprise to play in housing. We believe it has an essential part. We shall be glad to know whether the Government agree. We believe it is essential that the private owner should make a start, even if only in a small way, in order to re-establish his organisation. That was the unanimous advice of a Committee containing not only Conservatives but also Socialists and Members representative of local authorities. Let me remind the House that at the outbreak of war there were belonging to private developers in this country 31,000 acres in the course of active development, with roads and sewers. Surely much the quickest way to get houses going again would be to see that those private builders should be encouraged to make a start? I hope the Government agree. If they do not, do they intend there shall be no appreciable output of houses built by private owners cither for sale or letting? We want to warn the Government, in all seriousness, of our view, which is, quite definitely, that if they intend to rely on local authority activity absorbing all the building labour in towns and villages throughout the country, then we shall very soon find ourselves in this paradoxical and appalling condition of having millions of people wanting houses and substantial unemployment in the building industry.

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health will deal with Scottish housing, or whether the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will reply. I hope we shall be told what the Government propose to do in Scotland, and I would like to remind the hon. Gentleman—although I do not suppose he needs reminding—of a Report by a Committee presided over by the present Secretary of State. He will remember that that report pointed out that local authorities had been more active and relatively more successful in building houses in Scotland than they had in England, but, at the peak of the house building activity before the war—taking local authority building and private building in Scotland—they never achieved more than 17,200 houses a year. Before the war, that Committee said there was a shortage of 300,000 houses. I understand they believe that the present shortage has risen to 500,000 houses. The