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Commons Chamber

Volume 414: debated on Monday 22 October 1945

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House Of Commons

Monday, 22nd October, 1945.

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock

Private Business


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Oral Answers To Questions


Official Cars (Priority Badges)


asked the Minister of War Transport why official cars allotted to Ministers and Government officials are still permitted to carry priority labels.

Instructions have been issued to all holders of these badges to discontinue their use and the badges are being returned.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for this overdue release from bureaucracy may I ask whether he will consider transferring these priorities to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health in order to assist him to build some houses?

I would like to remind my hon. Friend that this was a left-over from the last Government. We have soon remedied it.

Hauliers' Licences


asked the Minister of War Transport whether steps are being taken to see that road hauliers who surrendered A or B licences during the war are regranted such licences and assisted to secure vehicles.

Applications for A or B licences by operators who held such licences before the war and have surrendered them owing to call-up for the Services or other good reason will be sympathetically considered except where their business has been sold. Similar consideration will be given to applications by such persons for licences to acquire goods vehicles.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an absolute assurance that ex-Servicemen shall be granted their licences as of right, and not at the discretion of some official in a regional office?

Prisoners Of War (Transport)


asked the Minister of War Transport how many coaches and omnibuses are being used for the transportation of German and Italian prisoners of war to and from their work; and if he will arrange for these prisoners to travel in lorries so that the coaches and omnibuses maybe made available to augment the public transport facilities, particularly in rural areas.

There are about 250 coaches and omnibuses operated for this purpose by those employing the prisoners, usually with the employer's own driver. About 1,200 are operated by road passenger operators and most of these are engaged on, or available for, other work as well.

The arrangements vary according to local conditions. As a general rule coaches and omnibuses are not used where lorries are available, but in some instances coaches and omnibuses are used to carry prisoners of war because they are not suitable for ordinary public transport or cannot be used for that purpose owing to lack of crews.

:Is the Minister aware that the use of these coaches in country districts causes great exasperation to country people who often have to walk long distances to work and who have to stand in the hedges to allow these coaches carrying prisoners to pass by?

I am quite aware of the feeling on these matters, and I hope the answer I have given will go some way to alleviate it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many Army lorries parked in different parts of the country which could be used to carry these prisoners, thus releasing the coaches to convey civilians?

War-Time Accidents


asked the Minister of War Transport how many persons were killed and injured on the roads during the war.

From September, 1939, to August, 1945, inclusive, 44,307 persons were killed on the roads. The reporting of injuries was discontinued from September, 1939, to March, 1941, inclusive, but from April,1941, to August, 1945, inclusive, 608,940 persons sustained injuries due to road accidents.

Has the Minister any plans other than those of his predecessor for diminishing this appalling carnage?

Yes, Sir; if the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to wait about two weeks longer, certain plans will be launched which it is hoped will effect a considerable reduction in road accidents.

Cattle Grids


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will introduce legislation to enable local authorities to make payments in respect of the provision of cattle grids on roads under their control.

I will bear the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion in mind when a suitable opportunity for legislation on this subject occurs.

Motor-Cars (Purchase Permits)


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is in a position to state how many applications he has received since the end of the European war for permits to purchase new motor-cars; how many permits have been issued; what is the present rate of delivery of new motor-cars for the home market; and what steps he is taking to accelerate it.

Over 33,000 applications for licences to acquire new motor-cars have been received;8,000 licences have been issued and about 1,700 cars have been notified by the manufacturers as having been delivered. The programme of production authorised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply and Aircraft Production provides for avery considerable increase as rapidly as the manufacturers can achieve it.


asked the Minister of War Transport what conditions govern the grant of permits to purchase reconditioned cars; what is the present output; and whether the supply can be increased.

:Owing to the heavy demand and the small number available it has become necessary to restrict the issue of permits to purchase reconditioned cars to nurses, midwives and badly disabled ex-Servicemen who need a car to follow an occupation. The number of these cars available during the six months ended 30th September was 405. I am informed by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Supply and Aircraft Production that there is little likelihood of any material increase in the near future.

Eire (Travel Facilities)


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he contemplates any measure for the relief of the congestion, delay and inconvenience which arise daily in the transport of passengers between Holyhead and Dublin and between Fishguard and Rosslare, especially the provision of additional boat accommodation on both these routes; and whether more efficient methods of dealing with passports and travel tickets will be introduced at Fishguard and Holyhead.

As indicated in my reply to the hon. Members for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) and Oxford (Mr. Hogg) on 15th October, I hope that before Christmas an additional vessel will be available for the Holyhead—Kingstown service. There are services from Fishguard to Cork and Waterford but no service to Rosslare at present owing to the lack of a suitable ship. I regret that I am not in a position to say when it will be possible to provide a service on that route. The arrangements for dealing with passengers at Holyhead and Fishguard are constantly under review, and the time taken to pass them through the Controls and on to the ship has recently been substantially reduced. Further improvements will be made as and when conditions permit.

When will the right hon. Gentleman be able to tell the House when the improvement he suggests will actually come into operation and, in particular, the improvement in dealing with passports and travel tickets?

My hon. Friend is quite aware of the general difficulties on this route and of the improvements that have been made. These improvements will be pressed forward as rapidly as possible.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the delay in traffic between Holyhead and Dublin is a disgrace to civilisation; and, if he cannot provide the necessary accommodation, will he see to it that tickets are not issued?


Automatic Train Control


asked the Minister of War Transport whether his attention has been called to the safety signal devices introduced on the Great Western Railway with beneficent results in the prevention of accidents; and whether a similar system will be made compulsory on all railways in Great Britain.

I assume the hon. Member refers to the automatic train control ap- paratus which the Great Western Railway have used for many years. The war held up the experiments which the L.M.S. and L.N.E.R. were making with another type of equipment for the same purpose. What is the best device to assist drivers under differing conditions is a complex question, and pending further consideration I should not feel justified in requiring the general adoption of a particular type of automatic train control equipment.

Is it not a fact that if a particular device for the safety of the travelling public is brought into operation by one railway company, it should be made immediately available for all the railway companies in the country?

Yes, but there is such a thing as a difference of opinion between the experts.

Control Agreement


asked the Minister of War Transport how long he intends the Railway Control Agreement to continue; what modifications he proposes for the transitional period; and whether the existing rental will be increased so that all stockholders may receive some return from their capital.

Under the Railway Control Agreement, control is to be continued for a minimum period of one year after the cessation of hostilities. Before control comes to an end (that is, before all statutory rights and obligations as they exist at that time again apply to the controlled undertakings) time is to be given for the operation of any statutory machinery governing the level of charges. The Agreement, including the financial clauses, covers the whole period of control, both during the war and during the transitional period thereafter. I do not propose to make any modifications in it.

Will it not help their reconstruction if the companies can be told how they are going to stand in the near future?

That point can be met in a much more practical way than that suggested by the hon. Member.


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will now state the policy of the Government with regard to the railways on the expiry of the Control Agreement six months after the termination of hostilities.

My hon. Friend is mistaken; the Railway Control Agreement provides that control will be continued for a minimum period of one year after the cessation of hostilities. I am not yet in a position to make a statement upon the situation which will arise when the present control terminates.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the phrase "cessation of hostilities" refers to Germany or to Japan?

If it represents a minimum period of one year after the cessation of hostilities, I do not think it really matters much whether it is related to Germany or Japan, although that is a matter into which I shall look more closely.


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will put the moneys accruing to the Exchequer from the operation of the Railway Control Agreement into a separate fund and earmark this for future railway development.

No, Sir. I see no reason to make any special arrangements such as is suggested.


asked the Minister of War Transport how much has been expended by his Department on railway works, extensions or improvements on each of the four main railway systems during the operations of the Railway Control Agreement; how much has been charged to the railway companies; and whether they will be charged with the balance.

The estimated cost of railway works of a capital nature on the four main line systems and joint lines, financed by my Department since the commencement of Government Control, is as follows:

L.N.E. Rly.3,815,422
L.M.S. Rly.3,863,428
G.W. Rly.5,374,745
S. Rly.2,229,201
Joint Lines228,679

Pending their ultimate disposal, these works remain the property of the Government.

Accidents To Railwaymen


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will state the number of accidents, fatal and otherwise, separately, to railwaymen employed by all railway companies in Great Britain, together with their respective grades, for each year from 1938 to 1944 and for the first nine months of 1945.

The information sought will take some to collect, but I shall let my hon. Friend have it as soon as practicable.

Is it not possible on suitable occasions for instructions to be given in writing, and would not this lead to a reduction in the number of accidents?

I should like to ask my hon. and gallant Friend to put that question down.

Executive Committee (Chairman And Deputy Chairman)


asked the Minister of War Transport what functions are performed by him, as chairman, and by the deputy chairman of the Railway Executive Committee.

The Railway Executive Committee are my agents for the purpose of giving directions under the Railway Control Order and I exercise my powers of control through them. As chairman I reserve the right to preside at any of the meetings of the Committee, a course which enables me to maintain close personal touch with the members individually and corporately. The deputy chairman presides in my absence and is responsible for the day-to-day conduct of the Committee's affairs, consulting me as necessary.

Does the Minister maintain that his right to give such direction will be kept on indefinitely?

I would not like to use the word "indefinitely," but as to claiming that right, the answer is definitely "Yes."

Wounded Service Men (First-Class Seats)


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware, that wounded Servicemen in hospital blue are being turned out of first-class seats by railway officials, even when no third-class seats are vacant; and whether he will give instructions for this practice to cease.

Apart from the instance to which the hon. Member has drawn my attention, I am not aware of any case in which a wounded Serviceman in hospital blue has been turned out of a first-class seat when no third-class seats are vacant. To obviate the possibility of any recurrence of this, instructions are being given to the railway staff on the subject.

:Is the Minister aware that at Euston the other night a group of American soldiers were put out of a first-class carriage so that officers could be put in, and that a number of civilians in the corridor then got into the carriage and refused to come out, and will he give a ruling that when a train is crowded whoever gets into a carriage first has the right to stay there?

I am not responsible for all these interesting incidents that happen on the railways.

Cheap Day Fares


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will now reply to the recent request of the hon. Member for Stretford for a revival of cheap day travel facilities.

There are a number of difficult questions involved, such as the effect on passenger traffic, and I am considering the matter.

While the Minister may not be able to restore the whole of these facilities, will he consider whether the time has not come when cheap day tickets might be issued to recognised parties, such as football teams and organised outings from time to time?

I am afraid that at the present moment one must balance advantage against disadvantage in this matter.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give some indication to when these facilities may be provided?

Transport, Scotland (Water Barriers)


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will arrange for a survey to be made of water barriers to transport in Scotland, with a view to the utilisation of surplus Bailey bridges and landing craft suitable for conversion to ferries, in assisting to provide Scotland with better transport facilities.

A survey is already being made of water barriers to transport with a view to the consideration of providing better transport facilities.

In view of the situation existing in the Highlands, will not the Minister send a representative there, in company with the representatives of the Scottish Office, to work out plans for the ferries of one kind or another that are so essential for connecting the islands and the Highlands?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I am very interested in this subject and intend to have the matter thoroughly dealt with.

Service Personnel (Travel Facilities)


asked the Minister of War Transport what are the travel priorities given to men coming home on compassionate leave.

I have been asked to reply. Hon. Members will realise that there are many degrees of compassion, ranging from a case of extreme urgency, such as that of a dying wife, to one where there are strong grounds for bringing a man home which are not urgent in the extreme sense. No rigid rule is therefore possible. In general, cases of extreme urgency are given the highest priority possible by sea or air and those of lesser urgency are fitted in, in accordance with the relative needs of each case and the available transport.

Is the Minister aware that there are complaints from those who are granted these high priorities, that they often take longer to come on compassionate leave than on ordinary B.A.O.R.leave?

That is not our information at the War Office. We do everything possible to bring the really urgent compassionate cases home as speedily as possible by whatever means of transport are available.


asked the Minister of War Transport why 300 Indian students proceeding to Britain were transferred from the s.s. "Georgic" to the s.s. "Orion" in Bombay; and if he will assure the House that the use of troopships for this purpose will not delay the repatriation of His Majesty's Forces.

The number of Indian students being brought to this country in the "Georgic" and "Orion" are two and 269 respectively. The reason why some students were transferred from "Georgic" to "Orion" is not known, but I am making inquiries. The reason why Indian students are being brought to this country at a time when available space is very limited was given in the reply by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for India to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Garry Allighan) on 15th October. Some civilian movement must be maintained but the number of civilians being transported by ship at the present time is an absolute minimum and makes no appreciable difference to the rate of demobilisation of His Majesty's Forces from overseas.

Is the Minister aware of how exasperating it is to Service men in Burma and elsewhere, who are told that they cannot come on leave because of the lack of transport, to find that space is reserved on troopships for Indian students? Will he see that this does not occur again?

If the hon. Gentleman will read my reply, he will see that I deal with those two points.


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will allocate one additional steamer to the cross-Channel route from Dieppe, in order to widen the bottleneck through which C.M.F. leave parties have to pass.

Cross-Channel shipping at the moment is not the limiting factor in the movement of C.M.F. leave parties. The main bottleneck is the capacity of the European railways to bring the men to a Channel port. An increase in the rail movement is expected to be possible shortly and this additional movement will be provided for by additional shipping, but the port of embarkation will not be Dieppe.

Released Fishing Vessels (Surveys)


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware of the delay in completing off-surveys following the return of fishing vessels to their home ports; and if he is taking any steps to speed up the process.

Although there is an unavoidable shortage of expert surveyors to handle the volume of work arising from the release and reconditioning of shipping, I am not aware that there has been any serious delay in the return of fishing vessels to work because of inability to complete the "off-surveys" promptly. The return of the fishing vessels to their normal employment is governed rather by the shipyard resources available for converting them from war to fishing services. Clearly it would not be justified to make "off-surveys" at the expense of other important work if it is known that the necessary repairs and re-conversions cannot be put in hand for several months.

Waste-Paper Salvage


asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production whether, in view of the fact that waste-paper salvage has considerably fallen off since VE-Day and in order to avoid importing raw material, he will, in consultation with other Ministers, broadcast appeals to remind the public of the continued necessity to save waste paper and for merchants and local authorities to collect it.

May I hope the hon. Member was listening to the Home Service around 6 o'clock last Friday?

May I say that this question was put down before that broadcast, which was no doubt due to my representation; and may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if, in view of the vital necessity of reducing our imports, he will persistently encourage the saving of waste paper?

Certainly, Sir. I was, of course, greatly encouraged by the hon. Member's Question.

Is the right hon. Gentleman taking into consultation the other Members of this House so as to secure from them the pamphlets and various forms of written matter which come from every type of community in this country?

As many Members of the House were in railway trains en route to their constituencies at the time stated by the Minister, could he circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a rather more informative reply to the original question?

I shall be very pleased to send the hon. and gallant Member a copy of the broadcast, if he is so good as to think that desirable, or, of course, to any other hon. Member who would wish it.

Paper Supplies (Allocation)


asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production what amount of paper has been allotted each month for use by football pools; and if he is satisfied that, when school books and other necessary scientific books are in short supply, any allotment should be made for football pools.

During the football season paper will be allocated at the rate of 50 tons a month, which is about 1per cent. of the pre-war consumption. As regards the second part of the Question, I would point out that as from the end of this month paper will be allocated for books at the rate of 3,400 tons a month, which is about 65 percent. of pre-war consumption.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he could not, even at this late hour, persuade the objectors to allow football pool coupons to appear in newspapers as hitherto and thus save quite a lot of paper?

That question raises another issue to which I cannot give an answer now.


asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production the tonnage of paper now allowed to publishers of educational books; and how much is allowed for booklets and pamphlets issued for propaganda purposes.

The allocation of paper to book publishers generally is being raised as from next month to 65 per cent. of their pre-war consumption. I cannot say what tonnage of this is used by them for educational books. In addition, paper is supplied for the Services' Educational Scheme. The Board of Trade also administers a special reserve to make possible the publication of important books which would not otherwise be produced. A large proportion of this reserve goes to educational books. Booklets and pamphlets fall within a general category of miscellaneous printing usages the publishers of which will be licensed with paper up to 20 per cent. of their pre-war consumption.

would the Minister endeavour to look into this question of propaganda, because all Members of the House are inundated with useless pamphlets, and will he see that it is stopped?

It would be, I think, undesirable to embark upon a policy of paper rationing which might seem to be a means of censorship.

Could not the right hon. Gentleman dip into his archives and find out how much of this paper to which reference is made was used for the publication of "Tory M.P." and "Your M.P."?

Could the Minister arrange to inform the publishers of these pamphlets that hon. Members opposite really do not want to read them?

In view of the fact that capitalists have control over all the big newspapers for purposes of propaganda, will the Minister put no obstacle in the way of—[Interruption].

Tank Production (Labour Force)


asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production the number of persons now employed in the manufacture of tanks and the component parts of tanks; and what reduction in such numbers is likely to be made in the near future.

I regret that it is not possible to give accurate figures of the labour force employed on the manufacture of tanks and their components as much of this work is carried out by subcontract. I can, however, indicate the substantial nature of the reductions that are now being made in the labour force employed by saying that the output of all armoured fighting vehicles at the end of 1945 should as now planned show a reduction of two-thirds on the rate of production in May last. Further reductions are now under discussion but the Army's post-war requirements of armoured fighting vehicles are not yet fully determined.

Is the Minister aware that one of the greatest objections to-day of those employed in Government factories is that they are being taken off this work, which is being sent to contractors to be done by private enterprise?

The future use of the capacity previously used for various kinds of war material must be looked at as a balanced whole, and that we are trying to do.

Would it not be better if a few more motor cars were made and a few less tanks?

Trade And Commerce

German Fertilisers


asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production whether, in view of the shortage of potash fertilisers for British agriculture, he will make immediate arrangements for large shipments from Germany of such fertilisers, especially Kainit, as part of her reparations to this country.

Owing to shortage of coal, production of potash in Germany is at a very low level at present. My Department is keeping in close touch with the situation with a view to obtaining supplies from this source as soon as output and internal transport conditions permit.

Is the Minister aware of the example set by our gallant Russian Allies in the taking of goods from Ger- many, and can he assure the House that this country will not suffer in any way by lack of initiative on the part of his Department?

Tyres (Price)


asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production whether he is aware that the average cost of tyres to Nottingham City Council's transport department has risen since 1939 from 0.199 pence per vehicle mile to 0.87 pence; and in view of the high profits made by tyre companies, what steps he proposes to take to prevent manufacturers from charging needlessly high prices to consumers.

Transport undertakings obtain their tyres in one of two ways—either by purchase or on a mileage basis. The purchase prices of giant tyres have been raised by about 80 per cent. above pre-war on account of increases in costs. These increases have had the approval of my Department, The second method, which is that followed by the Nottingham City Council, includes not only the supply but also the inspection, servicing and replacement of tyres by the manufacturer. Costs here have risen more steeply because of factors such as the lower lasting qualities of synthetic rubber, and the consequent need for more frequent replacement. Arrangements on this basis are not subject to scrutiny by my Department, but it is of course open to any local authority to purchase its tyres if it desires.

Raw Materials (Imports)


asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production what are our estimated requirements for the year 1946 of imports of the raw materials of industry; and to what extent can these be obtained, respectively, from the British Commonwealth and Empire and from the sterling area.

The estimated import requirements of raw materials in 1946 are about £350 millions f.o.b. About £150 millions may be obtained from the British Commonwealth and about £130 millions may be obtained from the sterling area. These two figures, of course, cover substantially the same ground. Such estimates are liable to modification in the light of developments in the supply position of the commodities included in them.

Export Industries (Draughtsmen)


asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production whether, in view of the great need for draughtsmen in the export industries, he will arrange for a special release of such workers to be made from those now employed on munitions.

I have been asked to reply. Draughtsmen hitherto engaged on munitions are now, in many cases, employed by the firms concerned on civilian work, including work for the export trade. I am fully alive to the need for securing so far as is practicable adequate drawing office staffs for firms engaged in the export trade, and, where necessary and appropriate, my Department is giving every assistance to this end.

"Board Of Trade Journal" (Minister's Speech)


asked the President of the Board of Trade by whose instructions was a report of his speech at Blackpool to a conference of trades' councils included in the "Board of Trade Journal"; and will he give instructions that political speeches shall not in future be included in a statistical journal, the cost of which is borne by the general body of taxpayers.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) on Wednesday last.

Arising out of that informative answer, will the Minister give permission to, or make arrangements for, the hon. Member for Orpington to write a reply in the forthcoming issue of the "Board of Trade Journal" in answer to his speech?

May I ask the Minister how he dared to use an official publication for—[Interruption].

Household Coupons


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give an assurance that, when supplies of civilian clothing material increase, he will consider as a first concession the giving of a household allowance of coupons to housewives.

When the supplies of cotton yarn and materials increase I will certainly consider how best supplies can be allocated to those who need them most. For the moment there is no prospect of such an increase.

Unrationed Material (Mattress Covers)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to prevent the sale of unrationed and expensive material in the form of mattress covers, in view of the fact that better-off people buy these covers for conversion into clothing.

Yes, Sir. I have taken steps to prevent the sale of rationed cloth under the guise of unrationed articles such as mattress covers. Proceedings have already been taken against a number of persons and substantial penalties were imposed by the Central Criminal Court.

May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that, in certain retail shops, curtain material can be had at expensive prices like 43s. 6d. per yard whereas the cheaper curtain material can only be had on surrender of coupons?

I am afraid that is rather another question, and, if the hon. Member wishes for a reply, perhaps he will put it on the Order Paper.

Surgical Boots (Coupons)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that nine coupons have to be surrendered for surgical boots supplied by the Ministry of Pensions to injured ex-Servicemen; and if he will consider removing this hardship.

Surgical boots are rationed because they are worn instead of ordinary boots or shoes, and the same number of coupons have to be surrendered in both cases. I allow extra coupons, however, to ex-Servicemen and others who have to discard their ordinary footwear when they are first advised to wear a special surgical kind and who have to provide themselves with an initial supply.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in many cases, these men have to purchase a great many more boots than other people, and that they have to take the coupons from their families? Does he think that is quite fair? Is it not a great hardship?

This matter has been very carefully considered, and that is why arrangements were made, where an initial change takes place, to give extra coupons.

Tobacco Pipes


asked the President of the Board of Trade when tobacco pipes are likely to be on sale in reasonable supply again in the shops of Great Britain.

I fear I cannot say. Apart from labour, the difficulty is to secure sufficient quantities of suitable raw materials for production.

Rubber Teats


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the prolonged and acute shortage of rubber teats for babies' feeding bottles in the city of Norwich; and if he will take steps to ensure an adequate supply.

I am aware that there are still some local shortages of these goods, and I have arranged for considerably more rubber to be allocated to the manufacturers. I have also arranged for additional supplies of teats to be sent at once to relieve the shortage in Norwich.

Factory, Aberdeen (Utilisation)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the M.A.P. factory at Tullos, Aberdeen, is well equipped with high-class and modern machinery which is not being used, but could, and should, be used for peace-time production; and what steps he intends to take to put the factory to full use.

The Ministry of Supply and of Aircraft Production will cease to require this factory at the end of December, 1945. A number of industrialists have expressed an interest in the factory, and I am hopeful that it will be allocated before the end of the year.

Exports To Russia


asked the President of the Board of Trade what were the figures of exports from this country to the U.S.S.R. in 1938; what they are now; and what steps are being taken to stimulate trade between this country and the U.S.S.R.

Total exports to the U.S.S.R. (including re-exports) were valued at £17,000,000 in 1938. The annual rate for this year so far is about £34,000,000. I am most anxious to stimulate trade between ourselves and the U.S.S.R. and am prepared to discuss the future basis of trade between the two countries as soon as the authorities of the Soviet Union are ready.

War Damage Compensation


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that owing to changes in price levels the amount of compensation payable for goods destroyed by war damage will not enable the persons compensated to replace even articles necessary for a reasonable standard of life; and will he make a statement on the subject.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 23rd August to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers).

House Of Commons (Rebuilding)


asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of the dissatisfaction of many Members at being bound by the decision of a previous Parliament as to the proposed new House of Commons; and if he will consider moving to appoint a Select Committee of the present House of Commons to review the matter.

No, Sir. I am not aware of any general desire amongst Members to re-open the matter, and, for the reasons set out in my answer to my hon. Friend on 9th October, I am unable to adopt his suggestion.

Is it not very unreasonable that this House, being of an entirely different political complexion from the last, should be controlled by the very narrow terms of reference laid down by the previous Prime Minister, and could not the House have some say in the provision of its own accommodation?

Members Of Parliament (Salaries And Expenses)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make any statement on the question of the salary and expenses of Members of Parliament.

Is it the case, as is commonly reported in places where men meet together, that a statement was made before a meeting of one of the parties of this House—a private meeting to discuss matters like postage and so on—and, if the statement can be made to a private meeting, cannot it be made to the House?

:I do not know anything about a statement made outside the House, but a statement will be made as soon as possible on this matter.

I am referring to statements made inside this House and upstairs. If the Prime Minister does not know, will he inform himself on the point, and, if he finds that my information is correct, will he then consider whether he can tell the House?

Would not an increase for old age pensioners be of more use than an increase for hon. Members?

Ex-Prisoners Of War And Internees, Java (Dysentery)


asked the Prime Minister what steps are being taken to avert all danger of the 5,000 Allied prisoners of war and internees in Java suffering from dysentery when the monsoons start.

I have been asked to reply. Measures for the control of dysentery are, of course, constantly in force in all Commands. The military medical authorities in South-East Asia Command are fully alive to the dangers of dysentery and have supplies adequate to deal with any situation likely to arise. Incidenttally, I understand that all recovered British prisoners of war have now been evacuated from Java.

United Nations Organisation (Headquarters)


asked the Prime Minister whether the Government will propose to have the headquarters of the United Nations located in a European country in preference to America, as the distance and expense would be a handicap against Europeans attending the meetings of the assembly and councils.

This question was debated on 3rd October by the Executive Committee of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations, and the United Kingdom Delegation were in the minority which voted in favour of Europe and against the United States of America as a site for the Organisation. The reasons given by my hon. Friend were among the considerations which influenced the attitude of His Majesty's Government. The decision of the Executive Committee is subject to confirmation by the Preparatory Commission, and, eventually, by the United Nations Organisation itself. I cannot, of course, foretell the ultimate decision.

May I ask if the palatial buildings at Geneva are to be scrapped and if there is no probability of providing headquarters in Europe for the United Nations?

Military Reverses, 1939–40 (Investigation)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will move for a Select Committee to investigate the causes of the military unpreparedness which resulted in the British disasters of 1939–40.

No, Sir. I cannot see that any useful purpose would be served by such an investigation.

If such an investigation was made, would special attention be drawn to the utterances and actions of the present Leader of the House?

Decimal And Metric Systems


asked the Prime Minister whether his attention had been drawn to a resolution by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, supported by the other influential organisations, advocating the introduction of a decimal system of coinage and the metric system of weights and measures; and whether he will consider moving for the setting up of a Committee to investigate and report.

I have seen the resolution to which my hon. Friend refers, but I should see no advantage in setting up a Committee to examine this question.


Bulls, Seizure (Right Of Appeal)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the fact that on 9th July, 1945, an official of his Ministry supported by a superintendent of police, seized, without warning, two young bulls from the farm of Mr. C. W. R. Lockyer, Manor Farm, Frampton-on-Severn; under what regulation or Act of Parliament this action was taken; has Mr. Lockyer the right of appeal; and what action does he propose to take to avoid the recurrence of such procedure.

Yes, Sir. This action was taken under Sub-section (7) of Section 6 of the Improvement of Livestock (Licensing of Bulls) Act, 1931, after Mr. Lockyer had twice been convicted and fined for failure to comply with statutory notices to castrate or cause to be slaughtered the two bulls in question because of their unsuitability for service. The bulls were transferred to the Ministry of Food for slaughter, and their value, less expenses, has since been paid to Mr. Lockyer. Mr. Lockyer failed to exercise his right of appeal within the appropriate period against the refusal of a licence to use these bulls for service. I see no reason to propose any variation in a procedure which has been duly authorised by Parliament.

Without going into the question of guilt or anything else in this particular case, may I ask if it is the policy of the Ministry of Agriculture to allow a right of appeal to an independent tribunal in all cases of taking away property on a farm, or the farm itself?

I think I have already made it clear to the hon. Member that there was a right of appeal in this case, but that Mr. Lockyer failed to exercise his privilege.

Is the Minister aware that this case is on the border of my constituency and that I am quite able to deal with it?

Women's Land Army


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the Government's refusal to grant gratuities to the W.L.A., he can now indicate what improved conditions of service are contemplated with a view to stimulating recruitment.


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will consider the desirability of making gratuities to members of the W.L.A. equal to those given to other members of His Majesty's Forces.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given on 15th October to the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Vernon Bartlett) and other hon. Members.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is most unsatisfying in every way; and will he do something to ensure that these land girls have fair treatment and encouragement in view of the importance of their work?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the country as a whole, and the hon. Members of this House too, I think, if they had the courage to say so, are definitely dissatisfied with the way in which these Land Army girls are being treated, and will he please review the whole situation?

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, is it in Order for an hon. Member, in asking a question of a Minister, to impugn the courage of hon. Members of this House?

Members are responsible for what they say; one need not necessarily pay any attention to their statements.

Prices And Wages


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will so fix farm prices as to enable the efficient farmer to pay to the skilled agricultural worker a minimum wage of £4 10s. per week.

The minimum rate of wages to be paid to agricultural workers is a matter for determination by the Agricultural Wages Board in accordance with the provisions of the Agricultural Wages Acts. Under the procedure announced in this House on 5th December, 1944, prices of the main agricultural products are reviewed annually in February after consultation with the National Farmers' Unions of the United Kingdom. At these reviews account is taken of any changes in costs of production and any other relevant factors, including any modifications in the character of the agricultural output necessary to meet changing national requirements, but prices are not directly related to any individual item of cost.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask him if he is aware that present prices make the payment of this wage possible, and will he take steps to see that agricultural workers receive at least the same weekly minimum as the miners enjoy?

County Executive Committees


asked the Minister of Agriculture when he proposes to reconstitute the county war agricultural executive committees from lists of nominees to be submitted to him, with the retention of compulsory powers to ensure the maximum amount of food being produced from British farms.

Active consideration is being given to such adaptations in wartime arrangements as may be necessary to ensure the full development of home food production as indicated in the Gracious Speech. I hope to be in a posi- tion to make a statement on the subject in the near future.

Agricultural Colleges (Scholarships)


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the number of county scholarship holders who cannot enter agricultural colleges because of the lack of places; and what action he proposes to take to ensure increased accommodation.

I am aware that the demand for places at centres of higher agricultural education at present exceeds the supply. Every effort is being made to accommodate as many students as possible, but any permanent increase of capacity must await the report of the committee appointed by my predecessor to consider the character and extent of the need for higher agricultural education in England and Wales and to make recommendations as to the facilities which should be provided to meet the need.



asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is now able to make any statement as to the provision of smallholdings for agricultural workers and ex-Servicemen with the necessary experience.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 15th October to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Dye).

How long is it before the county councils, and those desirous of taking up land, will be made aware of the policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter?

After the consultations which are now taking place with the county councils and other representative organisations have been completed.

War Emergency Powers


asked the Minister of Agriculture how long he proposes to continue the exercise of war emergency powers, either directly or through the agency of war agricultural executive committees; and whether he will now extend to individual farmers, greater freedom to manage their own businesses.

The domestic and world food situation requires the continuation for the time being of war emergency powers. Subject to this, it is my intention to grant as great a measure of freedom of cropping to the individual farmer as is consistent with the national requirements and the overriding national interest in the proper cultivation of the land.

Dispossessed Farmers (Appeals)


asked the Minister of Agriculture on what grounds he has decided that the appeal tribunals, to be set up to review cases where farmers are dispossessed of their farms by war agricultural executive committees, shall not review cases which have occurred in the past.

Any such course would be impracticable. Decisions were made on the weight of evidence regarding the condition of the holding at the time of dispossession. No tribunal could reassess these conditions to-day. Furthermore, in most cases the land is now held under new tenancy agreements which I have no power to break.

:Is the Minister aware that after six years there has been no right of appeal at all? Does that mean that in no circumstances is the dispossessed farmer to be given any opportunity of seeking redress; and does that commend itself to the Minister as corresponding to the most elementary conceptions of justice in the matter?

I am afraid that is the case, since there would be no possibility of reassessing the conditions existing on the farm when dispossesion actually took place.

Is it not possible to provide that the dispossessed farmer should, at least, be given the opportunity of stating a case to these tribunals to show why he should be allowed to resume farming?

Assuming a statement was made to a tribunal, how could the tribunal—who were quite unable either to see or understand the conditions obtain- ing at the moment of dispossession—reach conclusions on evidence that did not exist?

Why should not the man be given a further chance and then, if he cannot make good, he could appeal to an impartial tribunal, and then, as a last resort, lose his land?

Internal Drainage Rates


asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the inequalities in the payment of internal drainage rates in urban areas; and whether steps will be taken to make easier the alteration of boundaries to allow county boroughs to be one rating authority for drainage purposes.

I am aware that an urban area may lie within two or more internal drainage districts, in which the incidence of drainage rates is different. The jurisdiction of an internal drainage board is fixed in relation to the benefit derived from drainage operations; and no adjustment of boundaries on the lines suggested is therefore possible under existing law.

:Is the Minister aware that in some urban constituencies four times the amount of rates is levied by internal drainage boards, as compared with the rate paid to the main drainage board, and in view of this fact, can the question of boundaries of internal drainage areas be considered when the question of the boundaries of municipal boroughs is being considered?

I am afraid that the only opportunity that could be afforded would be if the existing drainage law were to be amended.

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what has happened to the River Boards Bill, which would probably solve the whole problem?



asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that in the fourth quarter of this year the Soviet production of various agricultural machinery will increase, in comparison with the first quarter of this year, for instance tractor-ploughs, five-fold and tractor-cultivators, 30-fold, he will investigate the possibilities of obtaining such machinery for British agriculture from the four new agricultural machinery plants opened, during the war, in Russia.

I anticipate that the development of the agricultural engineering industry in the United Kingdom will provide sufficient supplies for our own needs and leave a substantial surplus for export. The question of obtaining such machinery from Russia does not therefore arise.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, may I ask whether it is not about time that we ceased to be the only nation to provide reverse Lend-Lease?

Is it not about time that Russia gave something under Lend-Lease?


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has investigated complaints that agricultural machinery now being produced in this country is inferior to American machinery in design, workmanship and material; and whether he has any statement to make.

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

:Arising out of that reply, I hope the Minister will not let it be said that British machinery is inferior to American machinery.

Following is the answer:

The excellence and popularity of many American types of agricultural machinery, and the great help that we obtained during the war from the United States, Canada and Australia in meeting our urgent needs machinery manufacturers, on whom we have relied for about two-thirds of our total requirements during the war, despite a multitude of war-time difficulties, particularly in regard to labour and materials. The agricultural engineering industry in this country is paying considerable attention to the development both of new and of improved machines, but they are still handicapped by acute shortage of designers and of labour in the factories. My Department is constantly endeavouring to foster the development of the industry and of its products. It is being assisted by the advice of the Agricultural Machinery Development Board, which has presented a detailed report on the development and specification of implements required in British agriculture, now under consideration by the interests concerned.


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether arrangements have been made to make available a sufficient supply of spare parts for caterpillar tractors and other agricultural machinery imported from the U.S.A.

Pig Styes (Demolition)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that pig clubs which receive licences to build styes for additional pigs are informed that these must be demolished within six months after the end of the war emergency; and, as this condition will deter the production of additional meat, whether he will extend the period.

The position is governed by Defence Regulation 62 (B) which suspends any powers which local authorities may have to prohibit the erecttion of pig styes within their area. The Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill now before Parliament makes provision for the extension by Order in Council of the life of that Regulation up to five years from the date of expiry of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts. The question of demolition of styes is not, therefore, likely to arise for some considerable time.

Could the Minister explain why a constituent of mine was told that he would have to pull his pig sty down six months after the end of the emergency period?

Probably because the authority referred to were not aware of the new Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill.

Is it not more important to produce the maximum amount of food than to stick to bureaucratic red tape regulations of local authorities?

May it not be that many of these pig styes are erected on land which is badly needed for other purposes, that it is not a matter of getting rid of a pig sty but of getting the land back?

Felled Woodlands (Replanting)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is now in a position to state the Government's policy for assisting the replanting of woodlands felled during the war.

The matter of assistance towards the replanting of woodlands felled during the war is under active consideration, and it is hoped that an announcement can be made in the near future.

Will the Minister hasten his statement so that some advantage can be taken of the planting season?

Foot-And-Mouth Disease Infection (Migrant Birds)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether the statement that the 1937–38 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease suggested strongly that migrant birds are mechanical carriers of infection, made by the Chief Veterinary Officer on 4th May, 1945, had previously been communicated to the veterinary profession.

Yes, Sir. The view that migratory birds were responsible for bringing infection to Great Britain from the Continent in the latter part of 1937 was given much prominence both in the national and the technical Press at that time.

Is the Minister aware that veterinary periodicals have stated that they had no knowledge of this fact until 4th May?



asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of its deadly effect on all insects, including bees, he proposes to impose any restrictions upon the sale and use of the new insecticide D.D.T.

There is no direct evidence that gamexane and products containing D.D.T. are likely to have harmful effects in this country when used for agricultural purposes strictly in accordance with the directions of the manufacturers. Further research and experiment is being carried out, however, and if any danger is discovered in the use of these materials the appropriate action will be taken. I understand that the production of D.D.T. has not been decontrolled but that limited supplies have been released for the manufacture of insecticides for general sale. There has been no control over the production of gamexane.

Fishing Industry (Fleets)


asked the Minister of Agriculture in view of the fact that the food situation demands increased supply of fish for our people and the supply has been diminished by insufficient fishing boats, what steps he is taking to get more boats for British fishing fleets built in our yards.

The shortage of fish supplies has been mainly due to the fact that a large proportion of the fishing fleets was taken during the war for naval service. Large numbers of these vessels are now being returned and are being reconditioned for fishing as speedily as possible. In addition, licences have been issued for the building of a certain number of new vessels. These measures should suffice to make up the present shortage of supplies in this country before any further building programme could become effective.

Is it not a fact that foreign licences have had priority over British licences; and will my right hon. Friend intimate to the proper authority that priority should be given to British orders over foreign orders?

I cannot agree with the first part of my hon. and learned Friend's supplementary question.

Women's Land Army (Government Proposals)

With the permission of the House I beg to make the following statement: Members of the W.L.A. who joined before the end of the war in Europe undertook to serve for the period of the war, and must now be regarded as having fulfilled that undertaking. I propose, therefore, to introduce arrangements whereby these members of the W.L.A. may be allowed to claim their release, if they so desire, over a period beginningon 1st December, 1945. I need hardly say that the loss of a considerable number of members of the W.L.A. during the coming months would cause very great difficulties for the farmers for whom they are working, and have a damaging effect on food production. The world food situation is still critical and the shortage of labour on our farms, particularly for dairy work in which so many members of the W.L.A. are employed is very acute and, in spite of the return of members of the Forces, is not likely to improve during 1946. I appeal, therefore, to members of the W.L.A. even if they qualify for release, to remain on the land for at least another year, and longer if possible.

There will, however, be a number of members who for good reasons will now, wish to claim the release to which they are entitled. In order to give farmers a reasonable opportunity to find substitutes for those who feel they must leave, releases will be spread over a period of four months. Those members with four years' service will be entitled to claim release in December, 1945, and those with three years' service but less than four in January, 1946. The remainder of those who undertook to serve for the period of the war will be allowed to claim release in February and March, 1946, those aged 30and over being released first and the balance according to length of service. This scheme will not affect members who have joined the Land Army since the end of the war in Europe and have undertaken to serve for a period of two years. Many members of the W.L.A., whom I am asking to stay on the land, have been working away from their homes on arduous work with very short holidays for several years now. They urgently need a period of rest and recuperation if they are to continue to give of their best for a further period. I accordingly propose that all members of the W.L.A. who have already served for two years or more, and who are prepared to undertake to serve for a further year, shall receive a holiday with pay at the State's expense. Members of the W.L.A. will receive a week's holiday if they have completed two years' service, with an extra three days for every additional year of service. These holidays will have to be taken by arrangement with the employer, but I am sure that employers will co-operate in allowing their W.L.A. employees to have this well-earned rest in return for their pledge to remain on the land for a further year. Women released from the W.L.A. will be subject to any general labour controls applicable to other women of the same age, but I understand that no woman who has been away from home for three years or more would be required to undertake work which involved her leaving home again.

Perhaps I may add that members of the W.L.A. who decide to remain on the land in response to my appeal, and new recruits, can be assured that their services will be urgently needed for another three years if they wish to remain. It is my intention that the W.L.A. organisation should remain in being to look after their interests for as long as it is required and the number of members justifies it. My right, hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is in agreement with these proposals and will adopt similar arrangements for the W.L.A. in Scotland.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether members of the Women's Land Army will obtain civilian clothing on release?

I suppose they will, on release, obtain civilian clothes on similar conditions to those who left earlier.

Can the Minister say why women in this Land Army are being treated differently from other workers on the land?

Those with whom this announcement is concerned are largely women who have served many miles away from their homes. Hence the suggestion of providing them with a holiday at the State's expense if they are willing to give another year's effort.

Will the Minister explain why they are not being treated the same as the women in the other Services, and receiving gratuities?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government, whatever previous Governments decided, will now take the opportunity, as an inducement to these women to stay on, of giving them a clothing allowance like the women now being discharged from the other Services?

As the age plus service scheme is now being applied to the Women's Land Army cannot the gratuity system also be applied?

Mr. Speaker