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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 415: debated on Monday 5 November 1945

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Trade And Commerce

Cutlery And Jute Webbing (Distribution)

1.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that since the cancellation of Orders affecting distribution certain goods, notably cutlery and jute webbing, are unobtainable through the normal trade channels; if he will ex amine the position and, if necessary, reinstate the controls and ensure equitable distribution.

I should be glad if my hon. Friend would send me particulars of the difficulties he has in mind so that I can have them looked into.

Factories (Allocation)

2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement in regard to the present position at the Ford Motor Company's Barton factories; and what are the future plans in regard to these factories in view of the distress that is being caused by redundancy of labour and the uncertainty of their future activities.

It is intended that all three of the Government factories occupied by the Ford Motor Company in this area shall continue to be used for production. The main factory at Eccles has been allocated to Messrs. Platt Brothers for the production of textile machinery. Details of the allocation of theremaining two will be announced in the near future.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that this factory was allocated to Platt Brothers many months ago and that they have received no security of tenure, as a result of which orders for plant for the production of textile machinery have been held up, and some 2,000 people have been discharged as redundant? Will my right hon. and learned Friend take steps to ensure that Platt Brothers receive security of tenure almost immediately so that they can place orders for their plant, and thus avoid unnecessary unemployment?

The factory has been allocated to Platt Brothers and they are aware what the position is.

Retail Licence Application, Cupar

3.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has considered the case brought to his notice of the ex-Serviceman discharged through being medically unfit, whose application to open a small business on his own account in Cupar, Fife, has been disallowed by the local price regulation committee, though an Italian, interned during the war, has recently been allowed to do so; and what action he is taking.

I am having the case examined, in consultation with the local price regulation committee, and will write to the hon. Member.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend indicate whether the Board of Trade now propose to take a more generous view of the applications of these ex-Servicemen who want to set up in business, and have every right to do so?

German Plant And Machinery

4 and 5.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) how many trade or business representatives have been given facilities to proceed to Germany to select any plant or machinery to be brought over to this country; who granted such facilities; and what authority these representatives have;

(2) if it is proposed to bring over from Germany to this country any plant or machinery; if so, what is the nature and extent thereof; and by whom will the selection be made.

35.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that manufacturers are unable to get any decision from his Department as to what plants, machinery and tools in Germany are available for use in this country; and whether he will appoint a Board to give prompt decisions and to facilitate inspections.

It is proposed to bring certain German plant and machinery over to this country as reparations. The Potsdam Agreement on Reparations provides that 75 per cent. of such industrial capital equipment in the Western zones of Germany as is unnecessary for the German peace economy shall be made available as reparations to the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other countries entitled to reparations other than the Soviet Union and Poland. The amount of plant to be so removed is to be determined by the Control Council for Germany by 7th February, 1946, and provision is made for certain advance deliveries. Arrangements for allocating this plant amongst the countries entitled to reparations are now under discussion by the Governments concerned.

Limited numbers of technical experts selected in consultation with industry are being sent by the Government to visit Germany to inspect and report on certain plants. These experts will act on behalf of the Government and not in a personal or business capacity, and their reports will be made to the Government. Under the Potsdam Agreement, it is the duty of the Control Council in Berlin to determine what plant and equipment in Germany is available for Reparation deliveries. This task must be finished by 7th February next, but in the meantime certain plants are being declared available and arrangements have been made for the claimant countries to put in claims in respect of them. When they have been decided upon it is hoped that certain plant will become available for importation into this country.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman decided to appoint a committee of some organisation in this country to take charge of the allocation of this plant when it comes to us; and has he received a report from the Economic Commission in Germany on the amount of plant that will be available for this country?

As regards the second part of the question, only the plant that has already been announced by the Control Commission in Germany is known to be available. The rest will not be decided before 7th February.

Is not this spoliation of a defeated enemy people, depriving them of their means of livelihood, altogether contrary to all good Socialist principles?

As I said in my answer, it is such machinery as is unnecessary for the German peace economy which will be made available.

:Does not my right hon. and learned Friend think that, until there is an agreed economic settlement—

I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is asking for an opinion and not for facts. I am always suspicious of a question starting, "Does not the hon. Member think.…?"

Women And Children's Footwear

9.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the continued shortage of children's shoes in Birmingham, whether he will take immediate steps to ensure that Birmingham receives its fair share of available supplies.

I am satisfied, from the information given by my area distribution officers, who keep a close watch on the distribution of goods in limited supply, that Birmingham is receiving its fair share of the available supplies of children's shoes.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there are no Wellingtons, sandals or gym, shoes available in Birmingham, which is causing a great strain on the supply of ordinary shoes? Is he aware that, in one instance, it was necessary to turn away 100 regular customers, and that children are having to go to school without proper footwear? Will he take steps to increase these supplies so as to ease the demand on the ordinary supplies of shoes?

We are taking every step necessary to increase the supply of children's shoes. If my hon. Friend will give me details of the case he has in mind, I will look into it.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take steps to improve the quality of the shoes?

10.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will extend to nurses the facilities for obtaining shoes, at present enjoyed by women officers in His Majesty's forces.

I regret that I cannot give one group of civilians special priority. I appreciate that nurses may have difficulty in buying suitable shoes, but the only remedy is increasing production. I am doing all I can to secure this, including types of shoes suitable for nurses.

Export Markets

11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what indications he has given as to the overseas countries to which exporters should especially direct their attention.

As our needs of most overseas currencies are great, it is not at present necessary to concentrate on some export markets to the exclusion of others. Our objective is to build up stable markets from which there is likely to be a continuing demand for British goods. Apart, therefore, from exports of certain essential goods in very short supply, it is left to exporters themselves to distribute their exports over the markets most likely to prove of long term value. This policy has been fully explained to exporters in the course of discussions with my Department. We shall watch carefully the detailed development of our trade with every oversea market and will give guidance and advice to exporters whenever that seems to be desirable.

Surely the Board of Trade must give some general indication to the exporting community in this country of the markets which are available to receive our goods?

The position is that all markets are available, and we ask exporters to choose those which are likely to persist after this period of shortage of supplies.

Is it not a fact that exporters do not know to what countries they can export until their licences are granted or refused?

Wireless Sets (Adaptor Units)

12.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when adaptors will be available to enable utility wireless receiving sets to receive long waves.

Arrangements have been made with the manufacturers under which the wartime civilian receivers can be modified to receive the long wave programme. Those who wish to have their sets adapted should get in touch with their retail suppliers. A separate adaptor unit for the sets is also on the market at a price of 43s. including Purchase Tax.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that these adaptors are not so far available, with the result that a large number of owners of utility sets will be unable to hear the broadcasts of the Royal Command performance tonight?

Clothing (Shop Window Displays)

13.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an approximate estimate of the amount of cloth and ready-made suits immobilised in the shop windows of tailors and outfitters in Great Britain at the present time.

No, Sir. The quantities in shop windows are negligible and I have no reason to suppose that any supplies are being immobilised in this way.

Is it not a fact that some 200,000 suits or the material for them are so frozen?

Hairdressers' Equipment

15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will allow an increase in the number of coupons available to hairdressers for towels; and why it is proposed to introduce a purchase tax on scissors and clippers supplied for use by licensed hairdressers.

Ex-Servicemen reopening their hairdressing businesses are given coupons to obtain an initial stock of towels. I am discussing the possibility of extending this concession with the National Hairdressers' Federation. As regards the second part of the Question, hair clippers and scissors are chargeable under the Seventh Schedule to the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1940, at 33⅓ per cent. ad valorem. The law provides no relief from tax on any kind of articles in favour of any particular class of purchaser.

Is any increase intended of the purchase price of these scissors and clippers?

Synthetic Rubber Manufacture

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any progress has been made in the building of a plant for the manufacture of synthetic rubber under a licence which was granted to the British Celanese Corporation in 1943; and if so, what types of rubber are being manufactured and what is the out put per month.

I understand that in May, 1945, the company decided not to continue with their original proposals but to proceed with the erection of a pilot plant.

Plastics (Prices)

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the wholesale prices of Perspex, Diacone, Polystyrene, cellulose acetate and Beetle plastic in the United Kingdom and the sterling prices of the same materials in the U.S.A., respectively.

Polystyrene is not at present being made in this country. The other materials are sold in a variety of forms, and if my hon. and gallant Friend will let me know what descriptions and specifications he has in mind, I will endeavour to furnish him with the prices in this country and to obtain information as to prices of similar materials in the U.S.A.

Furniture (Dockets)

18.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider the issue of dockets for furniture of married couples serving in His Majesty's Forces prior to their securing the living accommodation required to set up homes.

Yes, Sir. This is the present practice, provided that these couples have reasonable prospects of getting accommodation and of setting up home within two or three months.

Clothing Coupons (Service Personnel)

20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will arrange for an issue of clothing coupons to other ranks who have been in His Majesty's Forces for a long period, have volunteered to continue in the services as Regulars, and are anxious to wear civilian clothes while on leave.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given on the 30th October to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cambridge (Major Symonds).

Office Premises, London (Rents)

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the hardship to small professional and commercial concerns in London as a result of being given notice to quit or to pay increased rentals by large scale organisations buying or leasing their buildings; and whether, as a measure of protection to the people concerned, he will consider exercising his powers under Regulation 51 (1) and (5), of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, and delegate to local authorities power to requisition such premises or necessary parts thereof.

My attention has been drawn to a number of cases of increased rent demanded for office premises. I can only exercise the powers under Regulation 51 if it appears to me to be necessary or expedient to do so for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community. At present, I have no evidence that the action suggested by my hon. Friend is necessary for the purpose stated.

If I were to supply the right hon. and learned Gentleman with numerous cases in London, would he arrange to look into them?

I have looked into a number of cases but they did not convince me that it was necessary or expedient to do something towards maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

Surgical Appliances

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will arrange for the purchase of surgical appliances to be coupon free.

Surgical appliances which are not a substitute for ordinary clothing are already coupon free. In other cases, coupons must in fairness be surrendered. Supplementary coupons are, however, normally given to people who have to wear surgical appliances for the first time and in other cases of exceptional difficulty.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say on what date these appliances were made coupon free?

If the hon. Member will put that down on the Paper, I will let him know.

:Why will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman look at the list, and realise that nobody wears any of these things either for show or for entertainment; and will he reconsider the question of making the whole list free of coupons?

Wool Textile Industry

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he in tends to visit the West Riding to discuss the future of the wool industry.

I hope to visit Bradford on 30th November to discuss with representatives of the wool textile industry the question of establishing a tripartite working party for the wool industry.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware that they do not make woollens in Bradford, but worsteds?

Sanitary Towels

25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now able to make a statement regarding the supply of sanitary towels and to indicate the steps he is taking to remedy the general shortage of these articles.

Normally demand for sanitary towels runs at a rate of just under 5·3 million dozen a month and production was held rather above this level until the end of last June. But largely on account of factory and V.J. holidays, production fell to 5.2million dozen in July and to 3·9 million dozen in August. Although there was recovery to 5·6 million in September, it was insufficient to prevent shortage in the shops which caused anxiety and forward buying which in turn led to more widespread shortage in October.

Emergency measures have been applied. Firstly, although exports have been small, we have stopped supplies leaving the country. Secondly, the Service Departments have given up part of their small stock and this is now coming on the market. Thirdly, the cotton allocation for October to December has been increased to permit production up to a rate of 6·3 million dozen. And fourthly, as an insurance and to provide further immediate relief, dollar currency is being spent on imports; between now and the beginning of January we expect to get from 2½ to 3 million dozen sanitary towels from the U.S.A. and about half the quantity should arrive during the next few weeks. It is clear from the figures that the additional supplies now becoming available are considerably in excess of the quantities lost by the temporary setback in July and August and I have now every confidence that in the near future the shortage at home will end. I greatly regret any distress and inconvenience that may have been caused by the shortage and I can assure the House and the public that these additional supplies will be coming along soon and that there is now no need for further anxiety.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his answer will bring reassurance to many of my constituents and to women generally throughout the country?

Coupons And Dockets (Changes)

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that coupons of a class with which many retail traders have not previously been acquainted are now being tendered to them; and whether he will ensure that retailers are fully acquainted with all classes of coupons or dockets, outside those in civilian clothing ration books, either through the medium of trade journals or the Chambers of Trade.

Full information regarding any changes in coupons or dockets is always circulated to the trade journals, the appropriate trade associations and to Chambers of Trade and Chambers of Commerce throughout the country. No new types of coupons or dockets have, however, been issued in recent months.

Individual Unit Traders

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement on the attitude of the Government on the preservation and expansion of individual unit traders in our national economy.

Yes, Sir. The Government believe that the efficient unit shop keeper has a continuing and important role to play in the distributive trade.

:Has my right hon. and learned Friend received a communication from the National Chamber of Trade on this subject; and is he giving the suggestions embodied in the communication sympathetic consideration?

I am afraid I cannot answer that question without seeing it on the Paper.

Oilskins And Rubber Boots

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will take steps to expedite the production of oilskins and rubber boots for bona fide fishermen.

Arrangements are being made to direct additional cloth to the oil skin manufacturers who supply those ports where the demand has recently risen. The production of fishermen's boots is being increased by 25 per cent. for the last six months of this year.

Parachute And Balloon Material (Disposal)

31 and 32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he will give information concern- ing the stocks of silk, nylon, cotton and other fabrics now held by parachute and balloon manufacturing firms; and will he authorise the release of such materials to be used for the purposes of clothing;

(2) whether he is aware of the quantities of silk, nylon, cotton and other fabrics rendered useless in their present forms as parachutes; and will he authorise their conversion into articles of clothing.

It is estimated that the total quantities are approximately 6,500,000 yards, of which approximately 3,500,000 yards are cotton and the remainder nylon, with the exception of small quantities of artificial silk and linen. These piece goods are being released for clothing and other civilian requirements as fast as they become available. 26,000,000 yards of nylon, cotton and celanese will become available from finished parachutes which have been surrendered by the Services as surplus, and when a full review has been made these quantities may be increased. Arrangements are being made for the conversion into clothing and other goods of these parachutes.

Timber Imports

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what quantity of timber was landed in United Kingdom ports in October; and how this quantity compares with his estimate of timber imports for the same period.

The information asked for will not be available for some days. I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as it is available.

Paper Allocation (Fish Friers)

36.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the present allocation of paper to fish friers is less than at any time during the war; and to what extent this is due to any alteration in the allocations made by his Department to distributors.

I have been asked to reply. The allocation of paper for fish friers is not now less than at any time during the war. It is part of the general wrapping allocation made to the retail food trade, which has remained constant during the last two years of the war, but has been cumula- tively increased this year. A substantial increase has recently been made, the effect of which should be apparent shortly.

Indian Army

Free Cigarette Issue

37

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that the free cigarette issue to Indian other ranks in the Indian army has been cancelled; and whether he will take steps to reinstitute this free issue.

There has been no cancellation of the free cigarette issue to Indian other ranks. My hon. and gallant Friend is presumably referring to the abolition in April last of the semi-concessional areas within the India Command. In 1942 when the Japanese threat was acute, parts of Southern and Eastern India in which troops were concentrated owing to their vulnerability to attack were declared semi-concessional areas. In these areas a free cigarette issue was given to Indian troops. When the Japanese threat to India had been removed, however, it was decided to abolish such areas. This involved the withdrawal of the free cigarette issue and a return to uniform treatment of all Indian troops in India.

War Gratuity

38.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India what rates of war gratuity will be paid to Indian other ranks of the Indian Army.

With the hon. Member's permission I will circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT

Following is the statement:

Indian Army Ranks and Rupees per month for each month of reckonable War Service.

Daffadar, Havildar and equivalent rank2/8/-
L/Daffadar, L/Havildar, Naik2/2/-
L/Naik, Sepoy1/12/-
Non comb. enrolled1/2/-
Boys-/14/-

Albania

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any conversations have been begun with a view to recognising the government of Albania.

Yes, Sir, but I have no statement to make for the moment.

Could the House have an assurance that no claim on Albanian territory, from whatever quarter it may come, will have the approval or support of His Majesty's Government until there exists in Albania a recognised Government which can put the Albanian case before world public opinion, and the Council of the United Nations?

I think that that is quite another question, of which I should need notice.

China (Situation)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the present position in China.

The process of disarming the Japanese forces in China is virtually complete. To facilitate this, United States troops have been landed at a number of points in Northern China. In the province of Yunnan, the Central Government have strengthened their control by removing the former Governor, General Lung Yun. Although reports of fighting between Government and Communist forces should be treated with reserve, the situation remains tense. Negotiations continue, however, between the Chinese Government and the Communists. The economic and financial situation remains confused. Dr. T. V. Soong and the Minister of Finance have recently visited Shanghai where currency difficulties are particularly acute.

Will the hon. Gentleman state what the position is in Manchuria at the present time?

Germany

Geneva Convention

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, as Germany has been defeated and no longer exists as a sovereign State, he will give instructions that the Geneva Convention shall no longer apply to German prisoners.

No, Sir. Germany has not ceased to exist as a State, though the exercise of supreme authority in Germany has been assumed by the Allied Powers. His Majesty's Government consider that it is right that the standards of the Geneva Convention should, so far as practicable in present circumstances, continue to apply to German prisoners.

Populations (Expulsion)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that the Allied Commission has not yet reported on the rate at which expelled Germans can be received into occupied Germany, what action he has taken with the Governments of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary on the decisions to expel 4,500,000 Germans at the rate of 30,000 a day, commencing on 15th October.

:My right hon. Friend still has no official knowledge of any decision to expel 4,500,000 Germans, nor has he of the reports in this morning's Press of expulsions contemplated by the Soviet authorities, but he has called for immediate report upon both these points.

:As the matter is so very urgent, may I ask my hon. Friend whether, in view of the fact that the Russian Government could obviously stop these deportations if they so chose, he will assure the House that the strongest possible representations have been made by His Majesty's Government to the Russian Government in this respect?

While my right hon. Friend would not wish to appear unsympathetic, I must point out that we cannot, lacking official confirmation, accept the implications in my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

Is it a fact or not that 500,000 people are being dumped in the British zone?

As I have already explained, we have no information on this subject and I could not accept that as a fact.

In view of the tragic situation, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter once more on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Murdered British Prisoners

48.

asked the Prime Minister when the murderers of British prisoners of war at Stalag Luft III will be brought to trial.

I have been asked to reply. The murders at Stalag Luft III are included in the indictment against the major war criminals being tried at Nuremburg later this month. The exact date of the trial of the many other persons involved in the murders has not been fixed. Some of those implicated are not yet in custody; others have been found to be dead. Investigations are being vigorously pursued, both by British and Allied personnel.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be sure that this does not develop into another Belsen trial?

Polish Displaced Persons (Postal Facilities)

52.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps are being taken to allow the Polish displaced persons in Germany to communicate with their families in Poland.

Regular postal services are available between all Allied displaced persons located in assembly centres in the British zone of Germany and their next-of-kin in other countries. The services operate in both directions, but next-of-kin may originate correspondence only after they have received their first letter.

While I thank the Minister for his reply, is he aware that nearly a fortnight ago these people were under the impression that they were not able to communicate with their relatives at home?

The fact is that a special postal service has been in operation for some time between Polish displaced persons in the British zone and their relatives in Poland, but this arrangement was superseded on 20th October by a service which is provided now for all displaced persons in the British zone, which provides free postal facilities with next-of-kin in their own countries.

France (British Consulates)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to reopen British consulates in France.

British consular posts have so far been reopened at Paris, Bordeaux, Havre, Lille, Lyons, Marseilles, Nice, Rouen and Strasbourg. It is expected that the post at Nantes will be reopened shortly.

Palestine (Government Policy)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the urgency of making provision for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, he will make a statement on short-term policy of immigration into Palestine before he goes to America

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) on 30th October, in which I said that I was not yet in a position to say when a statement would be made but that it would be made as soon as possible.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the continued silence of His Majesty's Government makes it impossible for the loyal Jews in Palestine to exercise any control over the terrorists?

I do not accept that for a moment. I cannot see that a matter of waiting for a day or two is any excuse whatever for resort to violence.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows that since 1939 there has been in existence a White Paper which has been declared time after time to be illegal, and that it is not fair to make the people in Palestine wait further for permitted immigration in view of what was decided by the Mandates Commission..

I have already said that a statement will be made. There can be no excuse whatever for not giving a reasonable time to allow a statement to be made and in any case there is no excuse for violence.

I beg to give notice that I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Agriculture

Long-Term Policy

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture when he will be in a position to announce the long-term policy of His Majesty's Government for agriculture..

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the farm-workers' application to the Central Wages Board for a minimum wage of 90s. per week, which involves farmers' prices, he will now inform the House when the agricultural policy of the Government will be announced.

I have nothing to add at present to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) on 15th October.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that the agricultural industry has been waiting for a long-term policy now for three years and when does he think he will be able to announce it?

Does my right hon. Friend realise that delay in announcing the Government's agricultural policy is inter ferring with the men returning to the land and that the application now before the Wages Board is not likely to receive the consent of the farmers until they know what is the Government's policy?

Dispossessed Farmers

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what is the number of farmers dispossessed by order of the County War Agricultural Executive Committees for the years 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1944, respectively.

As the reply contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

:Does my right hon. Friend realise that there has been a number of very doubtful cases of eviction and will he carefully consider the possibility of setting up machinery by which these evicted farmers may have a right of appeal?

YearTaking possession of Land (including all cases where tenancies have also been terminated).Termination of Tenancies(excluding cases where possession has also been taken).
No. of cases.Acreage.No. of cases.Acreage.
19401,21082,10568763,357
19411,174117,29881771,951
19421,972126,79088478,660
19431,12349,85837025,665
19442409,8101267,102

In only a small proportion of the cases have the farmers affected been compelled to leave their homes and farms.

Requisitioned Land, Norfolk (Release)

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will now state the acreage of agricultural land in the county of Norfolk that has been taken for all military and Air Force purposes since 1938; how much of it has since been returned to agricultural purposes; and, in view of the paramount needs of food production, whether large acreages will be returned for cropping during the coming season.

The total areas of such land is approximately 40,000 acres, 7,700 acres of which have been derequisitioned and in large part returned to agricultural use. I am unable to say at present whether any further large acreages will be returned to cropping during the coming season, as this will depend on the requirements of the two Services, but my Department is working in close co-operation with them on this matter.

:Is it possible for my right hon. Friend to get this land back to food production just as urgently as it was taken over for war purposes?

I do not agree that there have been a number of doubtful cases of eviction.

Following is the answer:

The numbers given below are net figures after deduction of cases where possession has subsequently been given up. I am unable to state the gross number of cases.

:Most certainly. My Department is very anxious that all suitable land should be restored to its former use when the Services can make it available to us.

:Will the right hon. Gentleman give active assistance to Members of this House who desire to get these areas back to their constituents from the War Office?

German Prisoners Of War

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will take steps to put an end to the difficulties of farmers in Leicestershire who have been unable to get German prisoner-of-war labour for gathering their potato harvest on account of priority claims on such labour for demolishing air raid shelters in Leicester City.

Nearly 4,000 prisoners of war as well as a considerable amount of military labour is available for agricultural work in Leicester and well over 90 per cent. of the potato crop has already been lifted.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the question of employing further parties of prisoners from Leicester Prison on this work, in view of the satisfactory results which have been obtained from the parties who have gone out from the prison hitherto?

Class B Releases

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many applications for release from the Forces under Class B have been received by His Ministry; how many have been passed on to the appropriate authority; and how many have been granted up to the lastest date for which figures are obtainable.

One thousand four hundred and eighty-three applications for Class B release under the individual specialists scheme of former agriculturists and persons required for "key" posts in industries ancillary to agriculture have been received by my Department up to 31st October. Of this number 572 were recommended to the appropriate authority who have approved release in 380 cases, and rejected 30 others either for non-compliance with the essential conditions of release or for Service reasons. Decisions in the remaining 162 cases are outstanding.

Wheat (Deficiency Payment)

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether in view of the proposed reduction by £2 of the acreage deficiency payment on wheat planted for the 1946 harvest, he will give farmers the right of a free market for that crop.

I have been asked to reply. The prospective supply position for wheat makes it essential that as much home-grown mill-able wheat as possible from the 1946 crop shall be used for the production of flour. I am not therefore prepared to relax the existing regulations which require a grower to sell such wheat to an approved buyer.

While thanking the hon. Lady for the reply, may I ask whether she considers, in view of the rise in the cost of production, that this is the right time to reduce income for this very necessary article of food?

In view of the fact that we need all the wheat produced in this country for human consumption, we cannot possibly leave it to individual farmers to decide how they shall dispose of this crop.

May I ask the hon. Lady why she does not return to the 85 per cent. extraction loaf instead of pouring the stuff into the bowels of cows?

Returns And Surveys

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the experience of various types of production, due to pre-war and war-time conditions, now possessed by farmers, he will call for a return through W.A.E.C.s giving farmers the opportunity of saying what could be their maximum annual output of crops, live stock and other produce; how many regular workers, in addition to those they now have, would be required by them to produce that maximum; what housing would be required, both new and reconditioned, to accommodate this labour satisfactorily, and if he will give an assurance that he will take into consideration the answers an framing his post-war policy.

Generally speaking, existing returns and recent farm surveys provide the information necessary for; the consideration of agricultural policy, including the assessment of production potentialities and of labour and housing requirements. Additional inquiries will be made as they are needed, but I do not think that a special return of the kind suggested is necessary.

Women's Land Army

63.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has considered the W.L.A. National Charter, a copy of which has been sent to him; and if he has any statement to make thereon.

This document contains a number of suggestions about the treatment and conditions of service of members of the W.L.A., many of which are already effective. Others, however, cannot be adopted for reasons which have already been explained to the House.

Calves (Vaccination)

64.

asked the Minister of Agriculture when he proposes to extend the calfhood vaccination scheme against contagious abortion to all cattle in addition to dairy herd heifers.

Until more veterinary manpower is available, it would not be practicable to consider the extension of the calfhood vaccination scheme to all cattle herds.

Trained Ex-Servicemen (Housing)

70.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he is taking to ensure adequate accommodation is available for ex-Servicemen who complete the agricultural and horticultural training courses.

When a man has been trained and takes up farm work he will, as regards housing, be in the same position as other members of the rural population. The provision of more houses in rural areas is receiving the urgent attention of the Government.

Bulb-Growing Industry

71.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is taking any steps to safeguard the bulb-growing industry of this country; and to encourage a full re-establishment of this industry.

Resettlement Grants

73.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, when the financial assistance in connection with the resettlement grants for smallholders will be forthcoming and why, in view of the fact that a substantial number of small shop keepers have received their resettlement grants already, smallholders have been kept waiting so much longer for this assistance.

As I informed the hon. Member on 29th October, the resettlement grants scheme for agriculture will be introduced at an early date. I would remind him that the Supplementary Vote providing for expenditure on this scheme was taken as recently as 16th October, and there will be no avoidable delay in bringing the scheme into operation.

Is the Minister aware that I want to avoid delays—avoidable, unavoidable or any other sort of delays—as this is an important matter?

Fishing Industry (International Conference)

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to obtain an international agreement to, prevent the grounds in the North Sea and Channel from being over-fished; and to prevent the destruction of immature fish by limiting the size of mesh for all fishing other than that conducted for certain special purposes in defined areas.

As stated in my reply to the hon. Member's question on 29th October, His Majesty's Government have decided to convene an International Conference to try to reach agreement to prevent the over-fishing of the North Sea. This will no doubt afford a suitable opportunity for discussing the limitation of the size of mesh of fishing nets.

Liberated Europe (Food Distribution)

74.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any steps are being taken to ensure the survival and feeding during the coming winter of those people who gave assistance, at great risk to themselves, to allied armed forces and to escaped allied prisoners of war during the German occupation of Europe..

Food distribution in the liberated European countries is under the control of the National Governments concerned. Arrangements have, however, been made by which His Majesty's Government are able to compensate in other ways those people who, during the German occupation of Europe, served the Allied cause so well.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if a reliable list of these people has been compiled?

:Is the Minister aware that very many of the people referred to are Jewish and other people, who are now living under miserable conditions, in camps which are not very much better than the German internment camps?

Yugoslavia (Members Of Parliament, Visit)

77.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to send observers to Yugoslavia to report on the coming elections; if he is in a position to give their names; and if he will consider giving facilities to Members of this House to visit Yugoslavia for that purpose..

His Majesty's Government are sending no observers to report on the elections, but they will be kept fully informed by His Majesty's Ambassador.

Can I take it, therefore, that the group of Members of Parliament who have just gone to Yugoslavia are in no way going as representatives of this House of Commons?

It is correct to make the assumption that the hon. Gentlemen who have proceeded there are not a Parliamentary delegation.

Surely, some arrangement must have been come to with the Foreign Office whereby these gentlemen have been sent out to Yugoslavia? Would not the Foreign Office make arrangements for their visit?

Neither the Foreign Office nor His Majesty's Government would seek to be their brothers' keepers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] These hon. Gentlemen proceeded at the invitation of the Yugoslav Government.

Roads

Reconditioned Motor Cars (Doctors)

78.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will consider granting permits for reconditioned motor cars to doctors demobilised from the Services in view of the fact that many of these doctors find that the price of new motor cars is beyond their means.

The present limited supply of these vehicles falls far short of the number of very deserving applications from disabled ex-Servicemen, nurses and mid-wives, for whom they are being reserved, and I regret therefore that I cannot adopt this suggestion.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Secretary of State for War to see whether there are any spare motor cars?

Transport Services

80.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will facilitate an in crease in transport services in the county of Durham, especially in the Sedgefield and Bellingham areas, and thereby obviate the present queues where people are kept waiting for sometimes over an hour and often longer.

Most of the services in Sedgefield and Billingham have now been restored to pre-war strength. I have no recent information indicating special difficulties in these areas, but if my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind I will inquire into it.

Would it be possible to put on extra buses during the period, because I have the experience every weekend I am there of having to wait a considerable period before I can get from one station to another?

:Of course, I would like to improve services, but as my hon. Friend knows, it depends very largely on the increase of labour; and his own area has not done so very badly compared with the average throughout the country.

81.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he will indicate when he will strengthen transport services in rural areas, particularly the Lonsdale division of Lancaster.

Services in rural areas are being strengthened progressively as the necessary crews and vehicles become available. There have been steady improvements in the services of the Ribble company in the Lonsdale division.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the rural areas deserve better transport, before he increases the number of charabancs?

I am very well aware of the necessity of improving rural transport services, but I would emphasise to the hon. and gallant Member that we cannot look for regular and uniform improvement of these services, and I think the policy that I am adopting, of improving them wherever it is possible, will show the best dividend.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it is advisable to make a frank statement on this question to many of the small bus companies, because the wages they pay are not good enough, and they are not able to attract the labour for the crews?

When he speaks of motor transport in that part of Lancashire, does not the right hon. Gentleman know that all transport in North-East Lancashire is even more atrocious today than it was when I first came to this House, ten years ago?

84.

asked the Minister of War Transport what steps he is taking to remedy the inadequate omnibus service of the village of Slawston, Leicestershire, where the only omnibus serving the village is between Hallaston and Market Harborough on Tuesdays and one return journey to Leicester on Wednesdays, as the omnibus company have omnibuses standing idle in their gagages but not the manpower to cover the services needed..

The operator concerned intends to restore a Saturday service between Slawston and Leicester and beween Slawston and Market Harborough as soon as the necessary crews can be obtained.

:Is the Minister aware that the buses are in the garages awaiting the crews which the Ministry of Labour has been unable to supply for them?

I am afraid we are all somewhat aware of that position, and we are doing our best to remedy it.

Haulage Licences

83.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will state in what circumstances his representatives have the right to cancel existing A licences or to downgrade them from A to B.

:Under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, where a vehicle specified in a licence ceases to be used as prescribed under the licence, it may be removed from the licence. Permits in lieu of licences may be terminated simi- larly. If the hon. and gallant Member has any particular case in mind, perhaps he will let me know.

Dock Strikes (Effect On Shipping)

79.

asked the Minister of War Transport the extent to which ships engaged upon or earmarked for the repatriation of British prisoners of war and of members of the forces returning to this country, have been delayed by the dockers' strike..

Some delay has arisen in the supply of materials requiring shipment to certain vessels fitting as troopships in Northern Ireland and on the Continent which will retard the dates of completion of these vessels. The extent of such delay cannot, however, yet be stated.

:Does that mean that the dock strike had no effect on the repatriation of men from the Far East and the Middle East?

:With the exception of what I have indicated here, certainly no substantial effect has been caused because special military attention was given to the problem.

Services Personnel, Far East (Shipping Allocation)

87.

asked the Minister of War Transport for how many men and women in the Services at present stationed in India, Burma or elsewhere in the Far East, he has allotted shipping space in each of the months of December, January, February and March in the coming winter..

:Whilst I am responsible for the provision of the shipping to meet the world-wide requirements of the Services for the movement of the personnel, the detailed allocation of this shipping between the various requirements is a matter for the Service Ministries. I am informed that detailed allocation of shipping for the months in question is still under consideration.

:Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman has not the faintest idea how many men will be brought to this country in December?

Civil Aircraft (Production)

88.

asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production if he will give figures showing the monthly production, by types, of civil aircraft in the United Kingdom since 1st January, 1945..

Fifty-six civil aircraft of eight different types have been produced from 1st January to 31st October, 1945. With the hon. and gallant Member's permission, I will cir-

1945
Jan.Feb.March.April.May.June.July.Aug.Sept.Oct.Total
Lancastrian 112325233223
York21227
Dominie12434620
Viking112
Auster11
Dove11
Aerovan11
Proctor11
Total1233988111156

Motor Vehicles (Spare Parts)

90.

asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production if he is aware that the shortage of spare parts and accessories has become even more acute during the past three months; what steps he is taking to remove this handicap on general trade; and whether he will endeavour to acquire stocks of accessories now in the hands of manufacturers which were purchased by the U.S.A. but which, apparently, are no longer required..

The shortage of spare parts and accessories for motor vehicles has been aggravated by the re-introduction of the basic petrol ration, by the removal of restriction on the export of spares and accessories, and by the age of the vehicles now in use. Every effort is being made to encourage both vehicle and component manufacturers to meet the increased demand, and vehicle manufacturers can draw on surplus Service spares to meet their civilian requirements when such a course is practicable. I am not aware of the stocks of accessories purchased by the U.S.A. to which my hon. Friend refers and I shall be glad if he will send me particulars culate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement showing the types and monthly deliveries..

Will the right hon. Gentleman say how we are going to lead the world in civil aviation with ten months' production of 56 machines?

Following is the statement:

Released Vehicles (Disposal)

91.

asked the Minister of Supply and Aircraft Production how many of the 51,600 vehicles which have been passed to industry for disposal to the public through trade channels have, in fact, come into the hands of members of the public through those channels.

The 51,600 vehicles referred to have been passed to industry over a period of more than four years, and I have not the figures of disposals by the trade for which the hon. Member asks.

Is the Minister satisfied with the number of vehicles of this class now in the hands of the public, and is he taking any steps to increase the number?

The number is being rapidly increased, and we are doing everything we can to urge it forward.

Fuel And Power

Electricity Supplies, Kent

95.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that the Kent Electric Power Company, Ltd., before agreeing to bring a supply to the owner of Basing Farm, Cowden, Kent, who is an attested milk producer, require a payment of £500 towards the cost and a guaranteed revenue of £150 per annum for five years; and, as such terms are unlikely to encourage farmers to bring their farms up to date or to encourage milk production, will he take steps to see that such demands are considerably modified or waived.

I understand that some revision of these terms may be possible if another farm on the road of the proposed mains is prepared to take a supply of electricity. The matter is not one in which, under my present powers, I am able to intervene. As regards the general question of rural electricity supplies, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) on 9th October.

May I ask whether the Minister will take powers to interfere in these matters, because these charges are preposterous, having regard to the facilities given by the electric supply companies?

Is the Minister aware that I am asking him to do this during the course of the week?

Liquid Paraffin (Stocks)

96.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the present position of stocks of liquid paraffin in this country; what is the reason for the shortage of supplies in many districts including the Alderley Edge district of Cheshire; and what steps are being taken to remedy the position.

Stocks of liquid paraffin in this country at present represent six to seven weeks' normal supply. Distributors are receiving supplies at the same rate as during the last three years, namely 100 per cent. of their 1938 trade. The shortage of supplies for medicinal purposes, appears to be due to the use of large quantities for culinary purposes. The Departments concerned are actively considering what steps can be taken to ensure supplies for medicinal purposes, and I hope that the publicity given to the matter will help.

Would it not be possible to discourage the improper use of this liquid by mixing a little peppermint with it?

Royal Navy (Dsm Awards)

97.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that naval ratings awarded the D.S.M. in the 1939–45 war received an increase of 6d. per day in pension rates, whilst those who were awarded the D.S.M. in the 1914–18 war received no such increase; and whether he proposes to take any action with regard to this anomaly.

No, Sir. As stated by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the previous Government on 10th April last, in reply to a similar Question by the former Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery), this concession applies only to members of the Forces awarded the medal for service since 3rd September, 1939.

Empire Casualties, Singapore

102.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will publish a statement showing the total casualties suffered by men of the Imperial Forces, taken prisoner at Singapore, during their captivity; and if he will give an estimate of the number of Indian labourers who died as a result of being taken to Siam to work on the railway.

I regret I am not yet in a position to furnish the figures asked for.

When will the right hon. Gentleman feel that he can make public a statement, considering the ghastly casualties suffered by our men who were taken prisoner at Singapore? Is he not yet in a position to make a statement on the number who died?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows very well the difficulty of getting information about this particular incident, and also, of course, the difficulty of making contact with people who were on the scene at that particular time.

British Army

Germany (Marriage Ban)

103.

asked the Secretary of State for War when he is prepared to lift the ban that prohibits the British soldier from marrying whom he pleases, if his choice should fall upon a girl of German nationality.

I am unable to make any forecast. I would refer any hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 18th October, to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Solihull (Lieut.-Colonel Lindsay).

Press Interview (Officer's Statement)

104.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the fact that Captain J. G. Johnson, of Oxford, recently gave a Press interview, reporting statements of German prisoners in the transit camp he commands, containing slanders upon our Russian allies; and if he will ensure that, in future, no British officer repeats this conduct..