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Commons Chamber

Volume 415: debated on Wednesday 31 October 1945

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 31st October, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Levant States (French Troops)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether an agreement has yet been come to as to the date on which French troops will be withdrawn from the Levant States; what is the position in regard to the negotiations on this matter; and whether an early decision may be expected.

No, Sir. We are exchanging views with the French Government on this matter. I cannot say when a decision will be reached.

:Is it not a fact that the people of Syria are getting very disturbed and worried about the apparent delay in these negotiations? Will the right hon. Gentleman also say what responsibilities, if any, rest upon British troops for preserving order and avoiding bloodshed?

I know that the Syrians and the Lebanese are irritated at the delay, but we pledged ourselves to keep order, and we are pursuing the negotiations. I think I had better leave it at that.

Russia (Trade Agreements)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any reply has been received to the protests addressed by His Majesty's Government to the Soviet Government regarding the Soviet-Hungarian and Soviet-Roumanian trade agreements.

Yes, Sir. A reply was received this morning stating that the Soviet Government do not consider that legitimate British interests are affected by these agreements which have as their aim to promote the development of economic relations between the Soviet Union and countries geographically near her. I have not yet had time to consider this reply.

Is it a fact that the Soviet Government themselves offered, at Potsdam, fuller participation by us in the Control Commission, and should not they therefore have consulted us, in view of the offer they made?

I think that one of the most disturbing elements in endeavouring to get united action in this business is this constant bilateral procedure.

Yugoslavia

3 and 4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he hasany information as to whether the Tito-Subasich Agreement is being carried out;

(2) Whether, in view of the fact that the recognition by Great Britain of the Yugoslav Government was based on the Tito-Subasich Agreement, he can give any information as to the reason for the resignations of M. Grol and M. Subasich.

:As far as I am aware, no explanation of the reasons for the resignation of Dr. Grol and Dr. Subasic has been issued by the Yugoslav Government. It is known that Dr. Grol resigned becausein his opinion a number of new laws, and in particular the electoral law, had been given effect without adequate opportunities for discussion in the Cabinet, and because he considered that these laws would lead to the establishment of a one-party system. Dr. Subasic's letter of resignation has not been published. The position is, at present, under discussion between His Majesty's Government and the United States and Soviet Governments, who endorsed the Agreement at the Yalta Conference. A statement about the attitude of His Majesty's Government must await the completion of these discussions.

Did M. Subasich give any explanation of his resignation to His Majesty's Chargé ďAffaires when he called upon him?

Western And Northern Europe (Economic Planning)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the recent electoral victories gained by the Socialist and progressive parties in France and Norway and of the predominant position held by similar parties in other countries of Western and Northern Europe, including the United Kingdom, he will consider the advisability of inviting official representatives of these countries to discuss, at a joint conference or by other suitable means, the co-ordination of their economic and commercial policies in order to ensure full employment and rising standards of living and other economic and social question of mutual interest.

I do not think that a conference on the limited scale suggested by my hon. Friend would secure the ends he desires. His Majesty's Government will co-operate closely with all these countries in all measures calculated to secure full employment and higher standards of living.

While appreciating that reply, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he is aware that there is now, for the first time, a majority of these countries in favour of State economic planning for these ends? Does he not think it would be useful to provide an opportunity for their representatives, with us, to get together and endeavour to keep their plans in step and shape, in order to assist one another?

I cannot ride two horses. I am committed to the United Nations Organisation, and I am still hoping that, that organisation will work. Therefore I must pursue a policy not of dealing with separate entities in this way, but of aiming to make united action work.

Is it not a fact that it would be most undesirable that international relationships should be conducted on the basis of the political complexion of particular countries? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we admire him as the representative of this nation, and not as the representative of a party?

I have never known until now on what the admiration of the right hon. Gentleman was based, but the world is so small, economically, that we have rather to treat it as a whole, and not sectionally.

In the United Nations' Charter are there not provisions to provide for regional areas?

Yes, but if I express regret at bilateral action by other Powers, I do not think I ought to imitate their action in pursuing that policy.

Eastern European Countries (Elections)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement in regard to the progress being made in Hungary, Roumania and Bulgaria towards the achievement of democratic government and to recognition by His Majesty's Government.

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give any information regarding the state of affairs in Hungary.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the proposed elections in Hungary.

I understand that the Hungarian political parties have now decided that general elections should be held on 4th November as originally planned on the basis of separate party lists. His Majesty's Government welcome this decision and as soon as it is clear that the elections will be fairly conducted they will be able to consider the recognition of the Hungarian Government. In Rumania a constitutional deadlock continues and no progress has been made towards the formation of a representative government such as to justify recognition by His Majesty's Government. In Bulgaria elections are due to be held on 18th November. The opposition parties have unanimously decided not to participate in these elections on the grounds that in present conditions free and fair elections are impossible. His Majesty's Government are considering their attitude towards such elections.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he is satisfied with the general spirit of co-operation by our Allies in this democratic re-education of these countries?

I would not say that I was satisfied, but I have also to bear in mind that all these countries have emerged from a war, and we cannot get things perfect in a moment. It has taken 300 years in order that the hon. and gallant Gentleman may sit in this House.

Spain (Political Trial, Cadiz)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that 22 anti-Fascists of the Spanish Resistance movement are being tried before a summary court in Cadiz, Spain, for demanding the end of the Fascist dictator ship of General Franco, and are liable to be instantly shot; and if he will immediately approach the other signatories of the Potsdam Declaration with a view to taking further steps against the Government of General Franco.

I have nothing further to add to the reply which was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) on 29th October.

In view of the fact that large numbers of people in Spain are being done to death for their political opinions, will the Foreign Secretary make it known to the Franco Government that the people of this country are very much against the gangster method being adopted towards political opponents?

Dutch East Indies

Situation

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give any further information about the situation in the Dutch East Indies.

General Christison, the Force Commander, and Mr. Dening, Chief Political Adviser to Admiral Mountbatten, have met a delegation of sixteen Indonesians, including Dr. Soekarno. It is hoped that a meeting between the Dutch Lieutenant Governor General and the Indonesian leaders may take place shortly.

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm the news that a British brigadier was treacherously shot during a parley?

Lend-Lease Equipment (Usa Request)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made by the Government of the U.S. to the British Government regarding the operations now in progress in Indonesia.

Apart from a request to remove all United States markings from vehicles and other Lend-Lease equipment used by British forces in the Netherlands Indies, no other representations have been received.

Would the right hon. Gentleman now take the opportunity to answer the supplementary question which I put to him earlier, and to which he replied that he would answer a question on the subject later; namely, whether he can make a statement concerning the alleged treacherous shooting of a British brigadier in that country?

I have the answer here, but unfortunately the Question has not been called.

In view of the critical situation in Indonesia, would my right hon. Friend consider making a statement at the end of Questions, in reply to these Questions which have not been put orally?

Murdered British Officer

At the end of Questions

May I ask the Foreign Secretary whether, in view of the interest taken in certain Questions that were not asked today, and in view of the report of the murder of a British officer, he can now make a statement in reply to Question 21?

"21. MAJOR WELLS,—To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has regarding the state of public order in Java; and what steps are being taken to protect, care for and assist the repatriation of British nationals, and especially of British, Imperial and allied and ex-prisoners of war."

Fighting broke out in Soura-baya on 28th October, and the House will be aware of the B.B.C. report of the treacherous murder of Brigadier Mallaby, Commander of the British forces there, by extremist Indonesian elements when arranging the details of a truce. His Majesty's Government are awaiting confirmation as no official report has yet been received. Batavia is reported to be quiet, but in a number of the other towns the situation is reported to be tense. In Sumatra British troops are in control of Palembang, Padang and Medan, and the situation is satisfactory.

According to the latest information received, only 256 British Commonwealth ex-prisoners of war at present remain in Java. These are mainly Indian, but a few from the United Kingdom are remaining voluntarily to assist in the identification of war criminals. Altogether a total of 2,497 ex-prisoners of war have been evacuated from Java, of which 59 were American nationals, 157 Dutch and the remainder British.

In view of the tragic news of the death of this gallant officer, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House further information on the matter as soon as he receives it?

May I ask why the whole of this information was not given in reply to Question No. 9, which was asked?

When I was compiling these answers, the form of Question No. 21 seemed more appropriate for the answer. The hon. Member's Question did not ask for all the details asked for in Question No. 21. I was not aware that the hon. Member who had put down Question 21 would not be in his place to ask it.

Hungary

British Prisoner Of War

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is able to give any information regarding 937633, Warrant-Officer R. H. Barratt, R.A.F., who escaped from Stalag VIIIB and after several months freedom in Hungary was taken by the Russians when they occupied Hungary.

I urged the Soviet Embassy in London on 18th August to arrange for the release of Warrant-Officer Barratt. Ten days later I was informed that inquiries were being made. On 10th October I asked the Soviet Embassy to let me have as quickly as possible the result of their inquiries.

Could my right hon. Friend tell us on what charge Warrant-Officer Barratt is being held?

Elections

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the recommendations made by the Chairman of the Allied Control Commission in Hungary to the leaders of the Hungarian political parties, in respect of their election policy, were endorsed by the British member of the Commission.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the American and British representatives have been consulted about Marshal Voroshiloff's election arrangements; whether they concurred in them; and what exactly these arrangements are.

Neither the British nor, so far as I am aware, the United States representatives in Budapest were consulted before Marshal Voroshiloff made recommendations to the Hungarian Political Parties concerning electoral procedure. The British and United States representatives did not concur in these recommendations, which were described in my reply on 24th October to the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson).

If the representative is not consulted on matters of such importance, what functions does he fulfil?

As many functions are being carried out and there is a change in the treatment of the Allied Control Commission, it is very difficult; but I am quite satisfied that as we persist many of these suspicions will be removed and it will function much better than it has.

Persia (Allied Troops)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of Allied troops and auxiliaries left in Teheran, Persia.

I understand that the bulk of Allied troops have been withdrawn from Teheran. I have, however, no exact figures as to the totals which remain. As far as we are concerned, our withdrawal from Teheran has been completed except for a party of administrative personnel numbering 84, who are dealing with such subjects as claims and the disposal of assets. These will be withdrawn as soon as these matters are settled and in any case we have agreed to withdraw from Persia not later than 2nd March, 1946.

I have no right to be suspicious towards other Powers. They have agreed to carry out their Treaties, and I am not going to infer that they are not going to do so.

What does the Foreign Secretary mean by "as far as we are concerned"?

I do not know the exact numbers left there. I was asked for the numbers. I have been able to state that, as far as we are concerned, 84 administrative people have been left to clear up the claims. I do not know if there are 84 Russians or Americans. I cannot give the hon. and gallant Member the precise numbers.

Greece (Situation)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement regarding the present political situation in Greece.

The Regent continues to act as Prime Minister. I regret to say that all His Beatitude's efforts to persuade the political parties to set up a stable government have so far proved unsuccessful. As a result of this continued uncertainty, improvement in the social and economic situation is delayed.

Rashid Ali Gailani

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his investigations have satisfied him that Rashid Ali Gailani on his escape from Germany entered Syria without the knowledge of the French authorities.

I have as yet no definite information on this subject, but investigations are proceeding.

China (British Interests)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what form of administration will now take the place of the previous International Settlement in Shanghai and other treaty ports; and what steps he is taking to protect British interests and property in China jeopardised by the absence of British personnel.

The transfer of the administration of the International Settlement at Shanghai and other areas previously controlled by foreign municipal bodies in China is now under consideration with the Chinese Government. No decision has yet been reached regarding the eventual forms of administration. As regards the second part of the Question, His Majesty's Ambassador at Chungking, following our representations on this subject, was informed on 27th September that the Chinese military headquarters had been asked to ensure that effective measures are taken to protect Allied property rights and interests in China.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask if he would further impress on the Chinese Government, through the Ambassador, the necessity for avoiding various incidents in which property of British nations has suffered considerably?

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many applications have been received from British business firms for permission to return to Shanghai; how many visas have been granted, and how many have actually arrived in Shanghai; and why special facilities have been granted by the Chinese Government to American business interests which have been denied to British firms.

About 60 applications to return to Shanghai have been received from representatives of British business firms. Ten British business men are known definitely to have arrived at Shanghai from Chungking. Steps are being taken to arrange early air and sea passages to China for the remainder of the applicants. The hon. Member is, no doubt, aware that there are also at Shanghai a large number of British subjects, the majority of them business men, who have been released from internment there. I do not yet know precisely how many visas have been granted for Shanghai. His Majesty's Ambassador at Chungking, however, has reported that no difficulties are now being met with in obtaining permits there for British business men to travel to Shanghai and elsewhere in liberated China. I have no reason to suppose that the discrimination alleged in the last part of the Question exists in fact.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of British business houses appear to have been requisitioned by the Chinese, and does he not think that every facility should be given to our people to go back and take up their business interests?

In the course of the war the British Government requisitioned a lot of businesses in London. One cannot get them all released in a moment.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if any agreement has yet been reached with regard to the future status, employment and pension rights of former British employees of the Shanghai municipality.

No, Sir, not yet. But His Majesty's Ambassador at Chungking has taken up with the Chinese Government the question of the latter's obligations under the terms of the Service Agreements of British employees of the former Shanghai Municipal Council.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these employees are now reaching this country, that they have nothing whatever on which to live and that unless the British Government accept the moral obligation that rests upon them to help these people they will become completely destitute?

I should have thought that my answer did accept the moral obligation to help.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements are being made to enable this country to play its part in the rehabililtation of China and territories until recently occupied by the Japanese and to ensure that proper facilities are being provided for the immediate opening up of the normal channels through which reciprocal trade would flow.

U.N.R.R.A., of which His Majesty's Government is a member making substantial contributions, is responsible for relief in China. At present His Majesty's Government is making the necessary arrangements for relief and rehabilitation supplies for the British territories in the Far East. The French and Dutch Governments are responsible for the provision of supplies to their areas. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to the hon. Member for Western Dorset (Major Digby) on 29th October.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of British Consulates now operating in China; and the number of British Trade Commissioners attached to the Consulates.

Six posts are at present operating, namely, Chungking, Shanghai, Kunming, Foochow, Kashgar and Tihwa. Canton and Tientsin are likely to reopen at any moment and it is also hoped to make arrangements for the early reopening of Tsingtao. British Trade Commissioners are appointed to British territory only. There is, however, a Commercial Counsellor at Chungking, and he has opened an office at Shanghai.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Americans have trade commissioners attached to their Consulates in the interior of China? Could we not follow suit so that we may be enabled to compete with the Americans?

I would like to have separate notice of a question of that sort, but I will say that the less we divide Consulates the better, in my view. I am in favour of developing the Consulate services on a high and efficient basis.

War Damage, Far East (British Claims)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will ensure that in reference to claims for war damage in the Far East the claims of other Allied Governments are not given preference; that British claimants have proper access to all sources of Government information that may assist them in making their claims; and that where goods formerly the property of British nationals are found to be in Japanese possession, the claimants will not be prevented from recovering them, or from recovering their equivalent value if they have been taken over and disposed of by His Majesty's Government or Allied Governments.

The question of claims against the Japanese Government for compensation for war damage in the Far East is at present under consideration, and it is hoped that some inter-Allied machinery will shortly be set up for the purpose. The hon. Member may rest assured that His Majesty's Government will press for a settlement of all claims on an equitable basis. We will give every assistance to British claimants in prosecuting their inquiries and making their claims.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is really more a case of goods found in Japan being removed by Allies, particularly the United States, and will he impress on the United States Government that they should keep some form of tally so that claims can be authenticated later?

United States Mission To Europe (Report)

24 and 34.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he will ask for a copy of the report of the deputation from the House of Representatives in the U.S.A., on their visit to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria, and place it in the Library of the House of Commons, in order that Members may acquaint themselves with its contents;

(2) whether he is aware that a deputation from the House of Representatives in the U.S.A. has recently returned from a visit to Poland. Czechoslovakia and Austria, and is presenting a full report to the American Congress; and if he will make arrangements for the dispatch of a similar Parliamentary Commission at an early date.

I understand that the Sub-Committee of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives which visited Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria two months ago is to make its official report to the Foreign Affairs Committee shortly in closed session. It will be for the Committee to decide if the report or any part of it should be made public. If it is, I shall gladly arrange for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House. As regards a similar visit by Members of Parliament, if the House has any proposals to make and desires my help in arranging such a visit, I shall, of course, be glad to consider in what way I can be of assistance.

Rumania (British-Owned Oilfields)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will publish the report, or reports, of the British Missions on the condition of, and situation in, the British-owned oilfields in Rumania.

I have not received a complete report but a number of despatches. I do not think any useful purpose would be served by publication.

Is the House to understand from that answer that reports will not be published?

No, Sir. One is not to understand that, but it would be most unfortunate if I began publishing des patches without waiting for a complete report.

Danzig (Status)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is now the international status of Danzig; whether it is still a State under Articles 100–108 of the Treaty of Versailles; or when and by what juridical process it ceased to be a State.

The juridical position of the free city of Danzig is, in the view of His Majesty's Government, unchanged, and will remain so until it is re-determined at the Peace Settlement. The position of Danzig de facto is, as the House is aware, that it was placed under the administration of the Polish State by agreement between His Majesty's Government, the United States Government and the Soviet Government at the Potsdam Conference.

In that case, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the nationality of the inhabitants of Danzig; and whether, for purposes of deportation and so on, they are treated as Germans, or what?

British Newspaper Correspondents (European Countries)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Russian assurance of the freedom of newspaper correspondents in Rumania applies to other countries; and whether the effective freedom of British correspondents in all European countries is now assured.

The assurance given by M. Molotov to the Council of Foreign Ministers that the despatches of newspaper correspondents would not be subjected to censorship applied only to Rumania. The principle which it embodies, however—that of freedom of reporting—is honoured in most European countries now. I cannot say that the effective freedom of British correspondents is assured in all European countries. I have not, however, received any recent complaints from British journalists about restrictions on their activities. I am trying to obtain confirmation of a recent report that censorship of messages dealing with foreign affairs is to be introduced in Bulgaria.

The right hon. Gentleman said "most countries." Will he kindly indicate which countries do not subscribe to these restrictions?

I am afraid that in Europe it is liable to vary, sometimes from day to day.

Is it not a fact that the censorship is most severe in countries like Spain and Portugal?

World Peace (President Truman's Statement)

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government accept the 12 points recently made by Mr. Truman for the maintenance of world peace.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that American participation in world affairs on the lines set out in those 12 points, will be a most valuable contribution to the maintenance of peace?

Austria

States (Representation)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what States have at the present time fully accredited diplomatic representatives in Vienna; and what States have non-diplomatic representatives.

At the present time no country has diplomatic representatives in Vienna. In regard to the second part of the question, I understand that there are unofficial bodies in Vienna claiming to represent certain national interests, but none of these enjoys any form of recognition by His Majesty's Government or, so far as I am aware, by any of the other three Controlling Powers.

British Press Representatives

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, how many British Press representatives there are at present in Austria.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by the Minister of State on 17th October, in which he stated that, according to the latest information, there were then six British correspondents in Austria. So far as I am aware, the position has not changed appreciably in the meantime although the situation is rendered somewhat fluid by the fact that Press correspondents arein a habit of moving in and out at short notice in transit for other countries.

Can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that the despatches forwarded by the Press correspondents are uncensored?

I think I am in a position to give that assurance, but if the hon. Member has any information which would suggest that it is not correct, perhaps he will let me have it.

Could we be told what Press correspondents do to make a situation fluid?

I do not propose to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by that question, but the fact is that they occupy aeroplane space, and move from point to point.

Economic Reconstruction

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, in order to make a reality of the 1943 Moscow Conference declaration on future Austrian independence, any steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to urge the Soviet Government to stop creating inflation in Austria and to co-operate with His Majesty's Government and the U.S. Government in the rebuilding of Austrian economy.

The re-creation of the Austrian economy in accordance with the Moscow Declaration and the prevention of inflation in Austria are matters to which His Majesty's Government attach great importance. The British representative on the Allied Council for Austria is fully instructed as to the views of His Majesty's Government in these matters, which have also been conveyed by His Majesty's Representative in Moscow to the Soviet Government.

In view of the fact that the buck has been passed back to the hon. Gentleman by the Foreign Secretary in this little hangover from last week's Question Time, will he bear in mind that it was economic rather than political reasons which were the main cause for Austria being drawn into Hitler's orbit in 1938, thereby consolidating Germany's position for a world war; and will he do everything in his power to secure that Britain and other nations responsible do their utmost to rebuild Austrian prosperity?

The buck has not been passed. The question of inflation was raised as part of an omnibus supplementary asked last week which involved other matters. That question is being dealt with by the Control Commission, and, as I mentioned, it is being pressed by our representatives on the Commission in accordance with our policy that Austria should be dealt with as an economic unit.

Royal Navy

Small Craft (Dismantling)

36.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that the construction and armament is now being completed for his Department of a number of small craft which are then immediately dispatched to another port to be dismantled; and whether he will take steps to stop this waste of public money.

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. A. V. Alexander): I do not know of any small craft now being completed and despatched to another port to be dismantled, but shortly after V.J. Day some motor fishing vessels would have left the builders' works with their armament of an Oerlikon gun and two machine guns in place, and they would be disarmed at their port of destination. These motor fishing vessels in their disarmed condition are being used for various essential services.

Would the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that those who can be released to the fishing industry will be released for that purpose at the earliest possible moment?

We are doing our very best but, with regard to requisitioned drifters and motor fishing vessels, we have released 75 per cent. of those we requisitioned.

Fishing Vessels (Release)

37.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that 12 trawlers are now tied up and deteriorating at King's Lynn; and if he will release these boats at the earliest opportunity.

Only nine of these vessels are trawlers, the others being yachts. Of the trawlers one is Dutch, and another a German prize. The disposal of both of these vessels is being negotiated with the appropriate authorities. The rest are British and were built between 1905 and 1918 and could only be converted for fishing at the expense of more modern and efficient vessels. Arrangements are being made to dispose of two of the yachts, the third is being used to accommodate the shipkeepers.

40.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that a considerable number of ex-Servicemen are unemployed in Scotland, due to delay in the derequisitioning of former fishing boats; and what steps he proposes to take to expedite the release of these vessels, in order to ensure a speedy rehabilitation of demobilised fishermen, and thereby assist materially in augmenting the country's food supplies before the winter.

Three hundred and twenty-two Scottish fishing boats comprising 168 drifters and 154 motor fishing vessels have been released from Naval service up to 19th October, 1945. Sixty-five drifters and 33 motor fishing vessels remain on Naval service. It is expected that the majority of these will have been released by the end of 1945.

Rnvr

38.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps are being taken to establish the permanent R.N.V.R., in order that surplus modern equipment and diesel ships may be utilised.

:The constitution of the permanent R.N.V.R. is still under consideration. The hon. and gallant Member may rest assured that sufficient modern equipment and ships will be available for training purposes when a decision on the future of the Reserve has been taken.

Will the Minister bear in mind the fact that a large number of officers have already volunteered for this service, and take that into consideration when he is looking into the subject; and consider the re-establishment of the R.N.V.S.R.?

Reserve Officers (Civilian Employment)

39.

asked the first Lord of the Admiralty if he will consider the setting up of an organisation manned by Reserve officers to help with the problems of Reserve officers when demobilised in obtaining suitable employment.

No, Sir. This is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, with whose Ministry the Admiralty maintains the closest contact through the naval officers attached to the Appointments Department.

Demobilisation

42.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what disparity in de mobilisation group numbers now exists between sick berth attendants and other specialised ratings in His Majesty's Navy.

Sick berth ratings, in common with the regulating, writer and stores branches, are scheduled to reach Group 25 by the end of this year. Ratings in the engine room and stoker branches are one group better off, whilst Seaman Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers, together with cook and steward ratings are due to reach Group 27 by the same date.

In view of the sturdy health of His Majesty's naval forces, would the right hon. Gentleman not take steps to get these sickbay attendants released without further delay, as they are wasting their time?

I think my advisers know more about that subject than does the hon. and gallant Member.

43.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will ensure that A/B P.J.X. 631934 Wilson, J., whose embarkation leave is due to end on 31st October, is not dispatched overseas while his application for a Class B release, initiated in September, is being considered; and whether, in conjunction with the Minister of Works, he will hasten the investigation of this case which has been outstanding for some time.

Block releases in Class B are made strictly in order of age and service groups. Wilson was very young when he joined the Royal Navy and has served for only a short period. He will not, therefore, be eligible for release in Class B until his age and service group is reached.

73.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has any statement to make regarding the deferment in demobilising officers of the supply and secretarial branch of the Royal Navy.

The reply to this Question is unavoidably lengthy. I will, therefore, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer: The reason for the rate of release of the Supply and Secretariat Branch of the Royal Navy being slower than the average is that this Branch is now having to shoulder additional work in connection with the closing down of establishments and the administration of the release schemes. In order to ease the burden which it was foreseen would fall upon this branch, the entries have been increased as much as possible and redundant officers of other branches are being trained in these duties. As a result of these measures, the prospect of release of the Supply and Secretariat Branch has been slightly improved and it is hoped to release Group 16 by the end of the year.

There is, however, a number of older warrant officers who have been promoted from the permanent lower deck service and who are practically all in the earlier age and service groups. Their release is unavoidably deferred but it is hoped to release nearly all of them before June next year with the exception of course of any who volunteer to stay.

Wrns

44.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the present strength of the W.R.N.S.; and how this compares with the figure of the month immediately preceding the termination of hostilities in Europe.

The present strength of the W.R.N.S. is 60,500, which is a reduction of 18 per cent. on the strength on the 30th April.

Is it not a fact that a very large number of these young women are sitting about browned off, with little or nothing to do? Could not their release be expedited?

On the contrary, the Women's Royal Naval Service are doing a most valuable part of demobilisation work. We are very short of male writer and supply ratings, and without the help of the W.R.N.S. we could not get through the job.

Engineer Officers

72.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in view of the shortage of engineer officers in the Royal Navy and of the high standard of all candidates at this year's examinations, he will increase the number of appointments to the rank of warrant-engineer by the inclusion of those who reached a percentage of over 75 per cent. in the recent examinations.

No, Sir. The proportion of Warrant-Engineers to the Keyham trained engineers in the Engineering Branch of the Royal Navy is carefully calculated to meet the requirements of the Fleet. The Warrant-Engineer lacks the long scientific training of the Keyham man and is not therefore generally interchangeable with men trained under the Keyham scheme.

Equal Pay (Royal Commission's Report)

45.

asked the Prime Minister when the Government will be in a position to publish the Report of the Royal Commission appointed to consider the principle of equal pay for equal work.

The Royal Commission has not reported. It is still taking evidence.

Requisitioned Dwelling-Houses (Release)

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give instructions that in future, when requisitioned dwelling-houses are no longer required by the Department or authority for whom they were requisitioned, they will not be offered to other Departments and authorities before being derequisitioned.

No, Sir. I consider that the present policy should be maintained by which all requisitioned houses of the smaller type, when vacated by Government Departments, are made available to local authorities so that they may be used to the fullest possible advantage to the community. Large requisitioned houses when they are vacated by one Government Department are considered for housing other Government Departments to ensure their most advantageous use. Every endeavour is made, however, to release houses required for the personal occupation of those who owned them at the time of requisition.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the acute housing shortage will persist while houses are hawked about from Department to Department and small houses are maintained empty for a long period?

I do not think they are "hawked about"—[Hon. Members: "Yes, they are"]—but if the hon. and gallant Member knows of small houses being held for a long time by a Department, perhaps he will put down a question to the Department concerned.

Germany

Hamburg (Rebuilding)

48.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many architects, civil and mechanical engineers have been recruited for the rebuilding of Hamburg; and the salaries offered for these professional services.

I am having inquiries made and will communicate with the hon. Member.

Land Redistribution

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is happening in Eastern Germany as regards the redistribution of land.

Reports have been received to the effect that a land reform scheme has been introduced in Saxony, Thuringia and Mecklenburg. Under this scheme the land property of active Nazis and war criminals is being confiscated; also all inherited property of over 100 hectares. No compensation is being paid. The confiscated land is being redistributed in lots of five to 10 hectares to agricultural workers, small tenant farmers and refugees.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us under what principle or provision of international law it is the right or duty of an occupying Power to change social and economic arrangements in this way?

The administration of Germany is under the control of the Allied Control Commission. In the individual zones, certain steps are taken, generally by agreement on the Control Council. In this case the action was taken by a German administration set up bythe Russians in their zone.

Refugees And Displaced Persons

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whether he has considered the announcement of Herr Schlaffer, Director of Refugees and Displaced Persons in the Russian zone of Germany, to the effect that an agreement was reached on 15th October for orderly transfer of refugees from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, at the rate of 28,000 daily; the future arrivals to total 4,500,000, 2,500,000 from Czechoslovakia, 1,500,000 from Poland and 500,000 from Hungary and, as the proposed transfer during the winter months may precipitate widespread starvation, what action does His Majesty's Government propose to take; and whether the transfer was agreed to by the British authorities in Germany.

I have no knowledge of the announcement referred to other than has appeared in the Press, but inquiries are being made.

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many refugees, other than those returning to their own homes, have entered the British zone in Germany during the last three months from the Russian, American and French zones, respectively; what is the approximate daily average of entries from each of these zones since 1st October, 1945; and what arrangements have been made with the three Governments concerned to put an end to any further large influx of such refugees.

It has not been possible in the time available to obtain the statistical information asked for but inquiries are being made. It will be appreciated that in the conditions existing in Germany today it is difficult com pletely to control the unauthorized movement of refugees, but I can assure the hon. Member that our representatives on the Allied Control Commission are fully alive to the situation.

What positive action is being taken to reach agreement with the Soviet Government concerning this? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there has been an average daily influx of some 10,000 Germans from the Russian zone to the area of Hanover over the past four weeks?

I am aware that there has been a large influx of refugees into the Hanover zone, to our zone in Berlin and to other parts of our zone in Germany, but, as stated in my answer, this matter is being dealt with by the Allied Control Commission in Germany and our representatives axe doing everything possible to secure some arrangement to lead to the control of some of these un authorised movements.

In view of the poignancy and extreme danger of this problem is it not highly desirable that, with the approval of the Allied Governments, the hon. Gentleman or some Cabinet Minister from this country, should go there to investigate and see whether a stoppage cannot be made to this traffic before it ends in a major disaster?

I want to assure my Noble Friend that I have already visited Germany to make personal investigations into this and other matters. Other visits will be made to keep touch with the situation, and we are closely in touch with our representatives on the Allied Control Commission.

Will not a too rigid prevention of refugees entering our zone mean that they will be allowed to starve in the Russian zone?

Rigid prevention is impossible. The man-power position makes it impossible, but everything that is possible in present circumstances is being done.

Occupied Europe (Currency Stabilisation)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps are being taken to stabilise the currencies of countries under Allied control.

If, as I assume, my hon. Friend is referring to Germany and Austria, the objective of a stable currency is one to which His Majesty's Government attaches importance. In the case of Austria, difficulties have arisen in obtaining the necessary quadripartite decisions but it is hoped that the difficulties will shortly be overcome.

Food Supplies

Vegetables

54.

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that vegetables grown in the East Lothian area in Scotland and now surplus to market requirements are likely to be ploughed back into the ground; what immediate steps he proposes to take to avoid this waste; and if he will consider the establishment of de hydrating facilities for market garden produce in this part of Scotland.

I am aware that some cabbage is available in excess of present requirements in the East Lothians as in other producing areas. I regret that so far as the crop exceeds the total demands of consumers and of the processing plant, it may have to be used for stock feeding or be ploughed in as green manure. The reply to the last part of the Question is "No, Sir."

Pigeons (Feeding Stuffs)

55.

asked the Minister of Food how soon it will be possible to issue food coupons to pigeon fanciers other than those who are members of the National Pigeon Service.

58.

asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the fact that pigeon fancying and racing form a principal hobby of miners in remote parts of the country, as well as of the usefulness of pigeons for communicating purposes in an emergency, he will extend the ration of pigeon food now allowed to members of the National Pigeon Service and to other members of pigeon clubs.

I am afraid that there is no immediate prospect of rations being made available for pigeon fanciers other than those who are members of the National Pigeon Service.

While appreciating the right hon. Gentleman's possible difficulties in this matter, may I ask if it is the case that much more generous treatment is given to greyhounds and other animals which race, and does he not think that if this is so, comparable treatment might be given to persons who go in for pigeon racing?

I am not competent to give an answer with regard to greyhounds. It already takes 6,200 tons of food to supply the birds covered by the National Pigeon Service, and on the pre-war estimate of 2,500,000 birds it would need 45,000 tons to maintain them.

Will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to keep the dove of peace alive?

Sugar (Shipments To France)

56.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the reluctance of farmers to maintain the war-time acreages of sugar beet, believing that the recent shipments of sugar to France do not indicate any shortage here; and whether he has any statement to make on the matter.

The feeling to which my hon. Friend refers is based on a misapprehension. The recent shipments of sugar to France were by way of loan and are being repaid out of allocations made to France by the Combined Food Board. On the best estimate that can be made, world supplies of sugar in 1946will be no more than sufficient to maintain the present rates of world consumption. Home production from war-time acreages has provided this country with about 30 per cent. of its total requirements. In view of the world supply outlook it would be premature to contemplate a reduction in sugar beet acreage.

Grain Storage, Norfolk

57.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware of the difficulties in Norfolk since harvest in the storing and transport of grain; whether he has been able to obtain additional storage facilities from the Air Ministry; and whether he is making ample arrangements for next year's grain crops by acquiring the use of hangars and equip ping them where necessary with drying apparatus.

As regards the first and second parts of the Question, sufficient storage space has so far been secured during the present season to enable forwarding instruction to be given to sellers of home-grown grain. Such difficulties in moving grain as have arisen were due rather to transport problems than to shortage of storage accommodation. Every effort is being made to overcome these transport difficulties. As regards the last part of the Question, consideration is at present being given to the arrangements for storage of grain from the crops to be harvested in 1946.

Eggs And Poultry

59.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the black market in eggs and poultry has consider ably increased and that his enforcement officers find it almost impossible to enforce the various price orders; and what steps he proposes to take to combat this evil and to ensure fair distribution of the limited supplies available.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." As regards eggs, the present Regulations provide for the equitable distribution of the available supplies, and in the enforcement of those Regulations satisfactory results have been and are being obtained. As regards poultry, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 29th October to the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith).

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the answer he has given is not in accordance with the general opinion among the farming community?

I am not here to bolster up the opinion of any particular or peculiar section in the country. I have given a statement of the facts as I find them.

Meat Trade Employees (Class B Releases)

60.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the Manchester and Salford Meat Traders' Association asked for the support of the divisional food officer in regard to 50 applications for Class B release and that in each case they were informed that they had no claim, being distributors not producers; and will he cause clear instructions to be issued to the divisional food officer.

I am informed that of 48 cases put forward by this association seven were sponsored by the divisional food officer on industrial grounds, and some of these men are already back in their occupations. I think that the instructions issued to the divisional food officer in this matter are adequate.

Retail Shops (Re-Opening)

61.

asked the Minister of Food how many food-retailing shops have been re-opened under the scheme announced by his Ministry last July; and what is the total number of applicants to re-open at present on the register kept by Food Control Committees.

During the period 16th July, 1945, to 15th September, 1945, 892 retail licences were granted to returning ex-traders to re-open businesses which they closed because of the war. I regret that the information requested in the latter part of the Question is not available.

Cannot the Minister increase it; is not 892 a very small number?

My Divisional Food Officers are of course always susceptible to inquiries.

Gas Workers (Cheese Ration)

62.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will consider the granting of the special cheese ration to stokers in the gas industry where the number of such workers is small and the employer makes no provision for canteen facilities, as in the case of the gas company at Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

No, Sir. I am advised that in general it should be possible for the gas industry to provide canteens or packed meals for its employees. I regret that I cannot see my way to make special arrangements for workers at individual plants where the employer does not make such provision.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that many of these men live in the surrounding villages and that their shifts extend over a seven-day week, so that when the employer does not provide a canteen great hardship is inflicted upon a very fine body of men?

The obvious reply to that is that they can get packed meals whatever their working days are. It is quite impossible for me to put in an organisation to meet every request from every quarter.

Imports And Exports

63.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will issue a comprehensive statement on the quantities of food being received in this country from overseas at the present time; the quantities stored; and the quantities being exported to ex-enemy territories and former occupied territories in Europe.

I regret that I am not able to give details of imports and exports of food other than those which are given in the accounts relating to the trade of the United Kingdom issued periodically by the Board of Trade. I do not propose to disclose the levels of stocks of food held in this country.

Could the right hon. Gentleman make a statement of the amount of food we are exporting to Europe at the present time, as considerable disquiet exists on that subject?

That will appear in the documents to which I have already referred the hon. Member.

Short Weight (Complaints)

66.

asked the Minister of Food whether he will take steps to safeguard retailers against short weight by wholesalers; and whether he is aware of the prevalence of this practice during recent months.

Complaints by retailers of short weight supplies by wholesalers have been confined almost exclusively to the fresh fruit and vegetable trade; they have not increased during recent months. My officers are always prepared to investigate any such complaints and to take suitable action, but experience has shown that it is most difficult to secure evidence in this type of case owing to the reluctance of the retailer to give information or evidence. I am however looking into this matter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the retailer is reluctant to give this information for fear of being black-listed by the wholesalers?

That does not reflect the sturdy independence we expect from a Britisher.

Orange Juice

67.

asked the Minister of Food why orange juice is not made available for children over five years of age who have been released from Japanese prison camps.

I am advised that children over five years of age obtain an adequate supply of Vitamin C from their ordinary diet. Where, for any reason, this does not apply, rose hip syrup, blackcurrant puree and synthetic Vitamin C tablets are available.

Yes, Sir. I have tried them. I think they are excellent as a hot drink in the winter.

Turkey Supplies, Blackburn

69.

asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that the Blackburn Co-operative Society has had no allocation of British, Northern Ireland or imported turkeys during the whole period of controlled distribution; and whether, in view of the fact the Society had a large sale of Northern Ireland turkeys before the war, he will take steps to see that they receive an allocation this Christmas.

I understand that the Blackburn Co-operative Society received a small number of imported turkeys last year from the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and that a similar supply will be provided again this year. I do not control the distribution of home-produced turkeys and it would not be practicable to increase the number of towns receiving Northern Irish supplies by the inclusion of Blackburn.

Is the Minister aware that the allocation made last year amounted to one dozen turkeys among 20,000 customers, and is he satisfied with the allocation of Northern Ireland turkeys to the eight big towns of this country, leaving out the smaller towns which have equal rights to enjoy this elusive delicacy?

I can only repeat that the allocation is made by the Co-operative Wholesale Society, from which Blackburn gets its allocation. On the other hand, I have agreed, in an endeavour to attract turkeys to towns such as this, that home-produced turkeys can be sold at 2d. per lb. more.

Carpet Factory, Creetown (Licence)

70.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the reason for the refusal of his Department to grant a licence for the establishment of the proposed carpet factory at Creetown, Kirkcudbrightshire.

I am looking into his matter and will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this refusal caused widespread dissatisfaction amongst a number of people who had confidently looked forward to this industry being established; and will he convey this to the right hon. Gentleman and ask him to reconsider it?

We are quite aware of that. We have sent an urgent message to the Regional Controller.

Champagne (Importation)

68.

asked the Minister of Food what quantity of champagne has recently been or is about to be imported into this country; how much ship space it will occupy; and whether arrangements will be made to ensure that this wine shall be used only for the benefit of patients requiring stimulants, regardless of means.

The net weight of champagne which will be imported from France by the trade is 435 tons; the gross weight is approximately 1,600 tons. 85,000 cubic feet of shipping space will be employed, but the wine will not be shipped at the expense of any commodity of greater importance. I am afraid that it would not be practicable to adopt the suggestion made by the hon. Member in the last part of her Question.

Is it not anomalous that a Socialist Government should facilitate the import of this costly luxury at a time when shipping is scarce and when, even in this country, thousands are under nourished, and in Europe—

:The hon. Lady cannot have a reply. She did not ask a proper question; she only made an accusation. Questions should be asked to obtain information, and not to make accusations.

Royal Air Force

Stations (Redundancy)

75.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that a number of airmen are inadequately occupied at an R.A.F. station, of whose identity he has been informed; that they are engaged neither directly nor indirectly in providing transport for repatriation or in the policing of liberated territory; and whether he will take every possible step to detect and to check redundancy at this and other stations, with a view to expediting R.A.F. demobilisation.

This station provides signals training for members of Coastal Command. This Command has fewer aircrews to be trained now, and some of the men under training for aircrew have had to be remustered. The station will be closed down altogether by 31st December.

Vizagapatam Station (Conditions)

76.

asked the Under-secretary of State for Air whether he has considered the letter addressed to him on 22nd September by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) concerning conditions at the R.A.F. Station, Vizagapatam; and whether he can now make a statement on the points raised therein, particularly in regard to health and to the length of time that airmen are required to serve at this station?

Yes, Sir. With the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate a detailed reply to the points he has raised in the Official Report.

Can my hon. Friend say now whether he is going to reduce the time that men will have to serve at this very unhealthy station?

Yes, Sir. As a matter of fact the station is to be closed down by the end of the year, except for a very small staging post.

Following is the statement:

Vizagapatam was used as an assembly point for a recent operation and at the time of the hon. Member's visit was still suffering from the added discomfort which the needs of that operation entailed. Since then numbers at the station have returned to normal and it has been possible to move airmen into a new section of the camp where the domestic accommodation is fitted with electric lighting and fans, although the severe shortage of fans has made it impossible to provide them also in sleeping quarters. The station will be completely vacated by the end of this year, except for a small staging post unit for which adequate arrangements are being made.

The climate of Vizagapatam is trying and humidity is high; hence there is a high incidence of skin disease. In view of these conditions, a limited tour of duty is being instituted at this station. Of the present strength only about 100 men have been there more than six months, and only eight men have been there over 18 months.

All possible measures have been taken to accelerate the delivery of first-class mail to units in India; some delays in distribution are inevitable in monsoon weather.

The catering at Vizagapatam is considered to be as good as that at R.A.F. units in India generally. Every effort continues to be made to improve the standard and variety of diet in this theatre as a whole.

Closed Road (Reopening)

77.

asked the Under-secretary of State for Air when it is proposed to reopen to the public the Bicester to Buckingham road, which at present is closed where it joins R.A.F., Bicester; and what is the reason for the delay in opening this road?

Atc

78.

asked the Under-secretary of State for Air whether he has any statement to make on the future of the A.T.C.

A statement on the future of the A.T.C. will be made by my Noble Friend in another place and at an early date.

Service Personnel (Transport)

79.

asked the Under-secretary of State for Air how many squadrons of the R.A.F. representing what number of personnel are at present engaged solely or mainly on transport of Services personnel to and from overseas theatres.

The present figure, for Royal Air Force Squadrons, is already over 50. It is impossible to give an exact figure of the number of men which this represents. But I repeat that it is calculated that at the height of the trooping programme some 40 per cent. of the whole of the Royal Air Force will be engaged directly or indirectly on the transportation task.

Requisitioned Parks (Release)

80.

asked the Under-secretary of State for Air when he proposes to derequisition public parks and open spaces so that the public can enjoy once again without let or hindrance these amenities; and, in particular, when does he contemplate that Heaton Park, Manchester, is to be returned to the public.

I fully appreciate the importance of releasing public parks—and in particular Heaton Park, Manchester—for the enjoyment of the public. The trouble is that the huts at Heaton Park are urgently needed in order to enable us to release requisitioned house property elsewhere in Lancashire. However, I hope that we shall soon be able to work out a plan with Manchester Corporation for the release of part of the park in the immediate future and the whole of it as soon as suitable alternative accommodation can be found.

81.