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Commons Chamber

Volume 415: debated on Monday 12 November 1945

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House Of Commons

Monday, 12th November, 1945

The House being met, the Clerk at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence through indisposition of Mr. Speaker from this day's Sitting. Whereupon, Major Milner, The Chairman of Ways and Means, proceeded to the Table, and, after Prayers, took the Chair as Deputy-Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Private Business

COLNE VALLEY WATER BILL [ Lords]

As amended, considered; an Amendment made to the Bill; Bill to be read the Third time.

MID SOUTHERN UTILITY BILL [ Lords]

As amended, considered; an Amendment made to the Bill; Bill to be read the Third time.

Oral Answers To Questions

Trade And Commerce

Export Trade (Information)

1.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if special instructions have been issued to the commercial secretariats and consular services in foreign countries to devote special effort to the encouragement of British export trade, to promote contact with local demands and maintain contact with agencies representative of British export organisation, and transmit immediate information on potential opportunities for entry into foreign markets.

Commercial secretariats and consular officers have received instructions in that sense. Moreover, officers of the Board of Trade and of any Department, among them the Comptroller-General himself, have recently visited several markets to consider and discuss on the spot with our commercial diplomatic and consular representatives and with trade commissioners problems connected with United Kingdom export trade. In addition, many other of these officers have been recalled for consultation on these and allied problems.

Is the Minister in consultation with the trade organisations in this country concerned with export trade, and taking their advice; and is he satisfied that the machinery for overseas trade is adequate for the purpose of stimulating export trade?

I am in constant consultation with organisations in this country. We have had meetings, two or three times a week, with separate industries reviewing their export problems. So far as the overseas prosition is concerned, I am not completely satisfied. It is impossible to buildup an adequate overseas service without recruiting men, and we are waiting, in some cases, for men to be discharged from the Forces in order to take up these posts.

Will the Minister see that his Department give direct backing to representatives of business enterprises, who wish to go overseas, to take advantage of the organisation he is creating, and thus break the bottleneck which exists?

During the last quarter, the average monthly exit of British businessmen going overseas was 1,600.

:If firms have orders from abroad will they have priority, so that they will be able to manufacture the goods ordered from them? I am referring particularly to the paper industry.

Egypt (Good-Will Mission)

2.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department what special steps he is taking to promote trade with Egypt in view of our close and friendly relations with that country; and the great opportunities for trade expansion afforded by the Egyptian market.

:I am very conscious of the importance of the Egyptian market and of the desire of the Egyptian Government, which His Majesty's Government warmly share, to increase and extend our mutual trade relations. Towards that end my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has invited Mr. Hanbury Williams, who is managing director of Courtaulds and a director of the Bank of England, to lead a good-will mission to Egypt, and I am glad to be able to inform the House that he has accepted this invitation. The mission is being sponsored by my Department, and I hope soon to be able to announce the names of the other members of the mission, which is expected to leave for Egypt before the end of this month.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether this applies to trade in general or only to particular interests?

To trade in general. This is described as a good-will mission. The other members of the mission will cover a wider variety of interests.

Will the Minister consider taking the same action with regard to Allied countries, such as China?

Yes, we hope to send more missions of this kind as soon as we can gather the personnel together.

Surplus Government Stores

81.

asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production if he will place the British Legion Car Attendants Company, a non profit-making organisation having for its object the employment of disabled men, on the list for the purchase of surplus Government stores.

I have been risked to reply. Government surplus second hand clothing, which I understand my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind, is sold to the Reconditioned and Salvaged Clothing Merchants' Association and the company should apply to them to see whether their requirements can be met.

China-Clay Industry

83.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the china-clay industry has over £250,000 worth of orders for export trade to America which they are unable to execute owing to the direction of labour away from the industry; that the livelihoods of many Cornish people depend upon this industry; and how many officials of his Department have any knowledge of, or experience in, the china-clay trade.

We have taken special steps, with the help of the Ministry of Labour, to assist this industry. The labour force has been increased by 750 workers during the last 16 months and exports to the U.S.A. are now at the rate of 98,000 tons per annum, against 62,000 last year. For over three years my Department has had the most valuable advice of Professor W. R. Jones, of the Royal School of Mines, who is an expert on china-clay, and at one time managed china-clay works.

Is the Minister aware that the industry is still desperately short of labour, and having regard to his well-known concern about the export trade, can he take any further steps to see that £250,000 worth of orders are not thrown away?

Could not the Minister take much more energetic steps than he is taking in this matter?

Patent Law (Legislation)

84.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he intends to introduce in the near future any amendment in the Patent Law.

:Steps are being taken to prepare a Bill to implement the recommendations contained in the First Interim Report of the Swan Committee as to the procedure for extension of term of patents in cases where the patentee has suffered loss or damage as a result of the war, and to make other provisions to deal with war circumstances, but I cannot say when the legislation will be introduced.

Utility Cloth

85.

asked the President, of the Board of Trade whether for the benefit of those who make their own clothes he will arrange for a larger proportion of utility cloth to be supplied through retail shops.

I regret that this is not possible at present since any increase in the share for the counter trade at the expense of makers-up would cause unemployment in clothing firms, including those in the development areas. Addiitonal quantities for the shops will be made available as soon as supplies permit. I am arranging for them to receive a substantial quantity of surplus parachute cloths in the near future.

Office Premises (Tenure)

88.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that in cases where his powers under Regulation 51 cannot be applied, he will use other means to give immediate protection to small professional and commercial concerns in London who have been, or may be, given notice to quit or to pay increased rentals by large-scale organisations buying and leasing their buildings.

I cannot give such an assurance since I have no powers to control rents and tenancies.

Are we to understand from the reply that the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposes to remain quite inactive while this very difficult position is maintained?

I do not think I have any justification at present for asking for urgent legislation upon the matter.

Export Credits Guarantees

89.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will inform the House on the measure in which the Export Credits Guarantee Department is making contribution to export trade development; and if he will indicate the amount of guarantees which are now operative as at the latest convenient date.

As a wartime measure, the Export Credits Guarantee Department by its War Emergency Policies covered exporters for a high percentage, up to 85 per cent. or 90 per cent., of loss arising, such as the insolvency of the purchasers and their inability to transfer sterling. This cover has been still further improved in the light of experience, and revised Guarantee Policies embodying these improvements were introduced on 1st May last. The export turnover coming under cover of the Department's guarantees is running at roughly the same level in value as just before the war. It shows an increase of nearly 30 per cent. for the first seven months of this year as compared with the corresponding period of last year. Policies issued for those months total £30,500,000 and the Department's present liability on all guarantees given is £27,000,000.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman intend to further and develop the work of the Export Credits Guarantee Department and Corporation?

Utility Furniture

90.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the inadequate apportionment of utility furniture in Northumberland and Durham; and what steps he is taking to speed up delivery of such goods in the Northern area.

92.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the shortage of utility furniture in Northumberland and Durham; that deliveries are from four to nine months in arrears and, in some cases, orders are returned or the wholesalers must wait 12 months; and if he will endeavour to speed up supplies for these districts and bring them into line with the Midlands and the South which have delivery in 14 days.

95.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the supply position as far as utility furniture in the North-East is concerned; and what steps he proposes to take to see that the people of the North-East get a fairer apportionment in the near future.

103.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the insufficiency of designated furniture factories for the making of utility furniture in the North-East; that out of 40 recent appointments not one supplier is for Northumberland; that three of the few manufacturers who served this area have notified the trade that they are so inundated with orders that they ask distributors to send orders elsewhere; and whether he will give more designations to manufacturers in the North-East.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Willey) on Friday last.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend, in addition to the statement to which he has referred, make a more general statement now affecting every area, and telling housewives and returning Service men what particular items of furniture may be available, because it is of the utmost importance that people should know this, and the position varies in different parts of the country?

Can the Minister justify the immense difference in the time which it takes to deliver goods in the North of England and the time it takes in the South and the Midlands? In the North it takes 14 months, whereas it is 14 days elsewhere.

That arises because of difficulties of getting equal distribution owing to the location of the factories. As I stated in my previous answer, steps are being taken to remedy that.

Indian Army (Officers' Release)

4.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India why officers of the Indian Army in Release Groups 22 and 23 have been instructed that their release is postponed till February, 1946.

The reasons which induced His Majesty's Government reluctantly to postpone release of the groups in question in the British Army apply with equal force to the Indian Army, since the release arrangements for the Indian Army follow as closely as possible the release arrangements for the British Service.

Would not the Minister agree that officers who volunteer for service with the Indian Army have received very harsh treatment with regard to leave, and could they not receive special treatment in the matter of release?

I agree that those who have served in the Far East have been handicapped, so far as leave is concerned, as against those who served in other theatres of war; but I think the House will agree that it is desirable that a uniform policy should be followed on the question of release with regard to both Services.

I am referring to those officers who transferred to the Indian Army, and not to those who served especially in the Far East.

I think that whether we are dealing with those who transferred or not, it is desirable that a uniform policy should be followed on the question of release.

When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of uniformity, however desirable it may be, will he also bear in mind that I do not think that the House would wish to see these men continue to serve solely for the sake of uniformity?

Is the Minister aware that these officers have been informed that their release would be accelerated?

Burma (Imphal Trunk Road)

7.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma whether it is intended to keep in full running order the all-weather trunk road from Imphal-Tamu-Kalewa constructed by the 14th Army.

I regret that I am not yet in a position to make any statement.

May I ask the Minister for an assurance that the necessary maintenance work will be carried on, while the Government are making up their mind?

Obviously, I cannot answer that without its being put down on the Order Paper.

Rashid Ali Gailani

8.

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

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is now able to state by what means of transport Rashid Ali travelled from Beirut to Saudi Arabia; and who assisted Rashid Ali to make this journey.

I have been asked to reply. Inquiries are being made into the means of transport used, and the assistance given, to Rashid Ali, during his journey from Germany to Saudi Arabia. The French Government have assured my right hon. Friend that they have no evidence that he travelled through France and the Lebanon. At their request, we have given them all the information which has reached His Majesty's Government in order that further inquiries may be made.

Would the Minister see that precautions are taken to ensure that the Mufti of Jerusalem will not adopt a similar plan to that which has been adopted by Rashid Ali?

M Michael Padev

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will inform the House of the considerations which have led him to request the withdrawal from this country of M. Michael Padev, a Bulgarian journalist.

I am making a close examination of this case, and will communicate with my hon. Friend.

Dutch East Indies (Situation)

12.

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

:It had been hoped to arrange a meeting, under the Chairmanship of General Christison, between Dr. van Mook and Indonesian leaders including Dr. Soekarno on the 8th November, but before the meeting could take place Dr. Soekarno informed General Christison that he felt it necessary to attend two meetings in the interior and would not therefore be available for discussions before the 15th November. While no serious incidents have been reported elsewhere the military situation remains tense in Sourabaya where reinforcements have continued to arrive. Following upon the issue of a warning by the Allied Commander at Sourabaya on November the 9th, Indonesian strong-points in Sourabaya were dealt with on November the 10th.

Will the right Hon. Gentleman say whether he has noted the expression of disloyalty to our Dutch Allies in Question 5 on the part of one of his supporters?

[5. Mr. SORENSEN.—To ask the Under-Secretary of State for India, if he is aware of the public resentment expressed in India against the employment of Indian troops in Indonesia; what action has been taken in respect of the refusal of Indians to load ships bound for Indonesia; whether recognised leaders of Indian political life have been consulted in the matter; and why Mr. Nehru has been refused a pass.]

Will the Minister say whether it is not possible to have consultation with the major Allies—the Soviet Union, the United States and others—with regard to this very serious situation in Sourabaya; and as this attack by sea, land and air is a major action taking place in a war, I would like—

It seems that the most desirable thing is to secure agreement among those on the spot; and His Majesty's Government hope that that may be done, and law and order may be restored with the least possible bloodshed.

Why should the odium of these attacks on the Indonesians be laid on our shoulders?

A representative of the Dutch Government has agreed to meet Dr. Soekarno, and I hope that the meeting will very shortly take place.

Will His Majesty's Government in any representations that may be made to the Dutch Government, endeavour to strengthen the hands of Dr. van Mook in his attempts to negotiate with Dr. Soekarno and protect him against repudiation and publicrebuke by the Dutch Foreign Office?

We shall do everything in our power to secure a settlement by general agreement.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that it will not assist a settlement to try to differentiate between representatives of the Dutch Government and the Dutch Government itself.

Korea (Status)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now make any statement about the future status of Korea, mentioning the kind of assistance which is to be given by Great Britain in the reconstruction of that country, as forecast by President Truman in his declaration of 18th September, 1945.

:As the hon. and gallant Member will recall, the Governments of the United States, China and the United Kingdom declared at Cairo on 1st December, 1943, their determination that Korea should in due course become a free and independent state. The Soviet Union subsequently adhered to that declaration. The help which may be given to Korea for the reconstruction of her national life is now under consideration, and I regret that I cannot make any further statement at the present time.

Great Britain And Russia

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to remove the differences of policy between the U.S.S.R. and His Majesty's Government.

It is very important that the differences between His Majesty's Government and the Soviet Government should not be exaggerated. It would indeed be miraculous if agreement could at once be reached on all the great matters which in this after-war period arise for decision between the victorious Powers. His Majesty's Government will use the various normal means of discussion between governments, as and when appropriate, in order to reach agreed solutions, by a process of give and take on both sides, in the spirit of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty of Alliance and Collaboration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that matters are not being allowed to drift, and that active steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to bring about a settlement of the differences? Can he say whether there are any prospects of a Big Three meeting soon?

The hon. Member's Question was very wide, and I gave him a considered answer. I will only add that in a number of international meetings we are working with success with the Soviet Union delegates, and I hope we shall continue to do so.

What is the use of asking other people to put their cards on the table, face upwards, if we keep an ace up our sleeves?

Is it not desirable that steps should be taken to ensure free access in the territories at present under the control of Russia, so that information can be made public as to what is happening in those countries?

I have answered questions previously on that point, and I have shown that a considerable number of Press representatives have been allowed or will be allowed access.

Europe (British Visitors, Accommodation)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take steps to provide hotel or other accommodation in Paris for British visitors, official and commercial, in view of the impossibility of finding accommodation privately at present prices compatible with the amount of sterling allowed to be taken out of this country; and if he is contemplating arrangements to assist British citizens travelling on urgent business in other European countries, including occupied territories.

I am happy to assure the hon. and gallant Member that arrangements were made some time ago to provide accommodation in Paris for official and business visitors, and I think that, on the whole, these arrangements are working well. I shall be glad to send him any detailed information he may require. In other countries, I am, of course, prepared in appropriate cases to ask His Majesty's representatives to help those who require to travel on urgent business. I must, however, add that in many of the liberated countries the shortage of food, transport and accommodation will inevitably cause difficulties to visitors from abroad.

Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that consuls are finding it excessively difficult, on their present pay and allowances, to meet their greatly increased burdens, and will something be done to help them?

I will look into that point. It had not been brought to my attention.

Eire (Overseas Representation)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the number of our embassies, legations, consulates-general, consulates, honorary consulates and vice-consulates where there are also diplomatic or consular officials directly appointed by the Government of Eire, and the number where the British representatives take care of the interests of Eireann citizens; and what financial contribution the Government of Eire makes for these services.

His Majesty's Government maintain 49 diplomatic and four political missions in foreign countries together with 363 consulates-general, consulates and vice-consulates. The Government of Eire have diplomatic representatives in seven countries and at the Holy See and a Consul-General in New York. In countries where there is no representative of Eire, the citizens of Eire, like other British subjects are entitled to the help and protection of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and no special fee for these services is made.

Is there no resentment at their being described as British citizens?

Greek Internees (Decamare Camp)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that many of the Greek internees at Decamare camp have their homes in Egypt; that it is possible to repatriate them by rail or by the Phaoronic mail line ship which twice a month sails from Massawa to Suez and does so half empty; and whether he will take steps to expedite the repatriation of such internees by either or both of these routes.

I understand that there are 33 Greeks at Decamare Camp who are domiciled in Egypt. In order to avoid the charge of unfairness, they are being kept in internment until all the Greeks in the camp can be transported to their homes. Every effort is being made to provide the necessary transport without delay.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Greek authorities are placing obstacles in the way of the repatriation of the majority of these internees, and that if he persists in his suggestion that 33 internees should wait until the other are repatriated, they may suffer a great injustice thereby?

I do not think they will suffer a great injustice, and I will be glad to give my hon. Friend the reasons why I think so if he desires. If he will give me evidence as to the attitude of the Greek Government, I shall be glad to consider it.

Having regard to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Radio Luxembourg

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government in collaboration with other administrative powers, intends to take steps to secure Radio Luxembourg as a United Nations' broadcasting station.

So far as I am aware, there has been no official proposal to make Radio Luxembourg a United Nations broadcasting station. His Majesty's Government are discussing with the French Government proposals to negotiate with the Luxembourg authorities for the use of this station for broadcasting programmes to be arranged under the aegis of the French and British Governments. This plan would permit of its later use by the United Nations, if desired, and I will certainly bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Ruhr And Rhineland (French Proposals)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, what progress has been made by the deputies of the Big Five Foreign Ministers towards reaching a decision on the French Government's proposals at the recent Foreign Ministers' Conference regarding future control of the Ruhr and the Rhineland.

The Council of Foreign Ministers agreed that the French proposals for the control of the Ruhr and the Rhineland should be examined through the usual diplomatic channels. Informal conversations, without commitment on either side, have taken place between officials of the French and British Governments. I understand that the French Government will have similar conversations with other Powers.

Do His Majesty's Government support the French proposals, or, if not, will they support some alternative form of concerted action to internationalise those vital areas of the country?

I think it is plain why I cannot answer that supplementary question but I would like to assure the hon. Member that in the conversations which have taken place His Majesty's Government have expressed no view on the French proposals or any other proposals on this matter. The conversations have been purely exploratory in character.

Foreign Ministers' Conference

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made towards reaching agreement on the questions referred by the Big Five Conference to the Foreign Ministers' deputies.

The deputies have at present no authority to proceed with the discussion of the matters referred to them by the Foreign Ministers.

May I ask the Minister whether, in view of the fact that there is no authority for the deputies to continue these matters, it is proposed to have another meeting of the Foreign Secretaries in the near future?

Germany (Central Administration)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make regarding the decision of Britain, the U.S.A. and Russia to establish a central German administration in Berlin.

As the hon. Member is aware, it was agreed by the British, United States and Soviet Governments at Potsdam that certain essential central German administrative departments should be set up. Discussions are still going on as to how this decision can best be carried out. The French Government, who had no representative at Potsdam, have expressed some misgivings about the plan, but I hope that an agreement may be reached without undue delay.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure collaboration between the Powers, which is so absent at the present time?

Transport

Trunk Roads (Country Amenities)

28.

asked the Minister of War Transport if, in the coming reorganisation of the trunk roads system, he will see to it that there is as little destruction as possible of the natural beauties of the landscape and of buildings of architectural or historic interest, including buildings of the eighteenth century and later which may not be scheduled as ancient monuments.

Yes, Sir, I shall certainly do my best to ensure that necessary road improvements or works of new construction are carried out with the least detriment to the amenities of the country and with due regard to the need for preserving, wherever possible, buildings of historic or architectural interest.

Cargoes (British Ships)

29.

asked the Minister of War Transport, in connection with bulk purchases of goods and produce from foreign or Dominion countries, what arrangements will be made to ensure that as much as possible is carried in British ships, in any event no less a proportion than was carried in pre-war days.

The earnings from the carrying trade have always been, and must continue to be, an important factor in our trade balance. In our view, the interests of all countries are best served by the fullest international freedom for ships to ply in all trades in what is international business. For these reasons His Majesty's Government are opposed to discriminatory practices by Governments limiting cargo to their national flags. My hon. Friend may rest assured that we shall do everything possible to enable British shipping by fair competition to secure its full share in all trades.

Cross-Channel Services

30.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is satisfied that the reconditioning of ships for cross-channel services is not being delayed by lack of suitable materials; and whether he will take steps to ensure that all necessary supplies are provided.

Yes, Sir. I am aware of no instances of delay on this account. If the hon. Member has any particular difficulty in mind, I will have it investigated.

Liverpool And Belfast Service

31.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether, in view of the delay owing to war service of the return of suitable ships to the Liverpool-Belfast service, he will allocate the s.s. "Leinster" to this service until the return of the "Ulster Monarch" class, or other appropriate vessels.

The M.V. "Leinster" is being reconditioned and will be available for cross-channel service in the New Year. As I told the hon. Member on 29th October, arrangements are in hand which should enable the S.S. "Louth" to run on the Liverpool-Belfast service before the end of the year. This vessel, with the s.s. "Longford," will enable nightly sailings in each direction to be maintained on all week days.

Is it not a fact that as the good ships on the Liverpool-Belfast service are not available, having been sunk or used on war service, the only good ship that still sails to Liverpool does not sail from Liverpool to Belfast?

As the hon. Gentleman has been interested in this problem for some time, he knows the difficulties, and we are doing our best to satisfy the interests of all concerned.

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will do his best to assist the British Ulster people and not only those in Dublin?

Herring Industry, Yarmouth

32.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that the existing transport facilities at Yarmouth, both by rail and road, are quite inadequate for the expeditious handling of the herring now being landed there; and, in view of the loss of valuable food caused by this, whether he will take immediate steps to improve these facilities during the remainder of the season.

I cannot agree that the transport facilities for herring at Yarmouth are inadequate. The full pre-war service of special trains for fish traffic has been restored and, except for one occasion when the catch was exceptionally heavy, I am not aware of any recent case when the day's catch has not been disposed of on the same day. The road transport available has been in excess of requirements.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as there are only about 100 boats operating when normally there are 700, the catch can hardly be excessively heavy? If I send him further particulars will he look into them?

That is hardly the point. The point is whether the facilities are there, and I am assured they are. However, I will be glad to look into the question again.

Road Haulage Organisation

34.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he will state the reason for the continuation until August, 1946, of the Road Haulage Organisation, in view of the announcement made by His Majesty's Government at the time of the introduction of the scheme that this was a war-time measure only.

In view of the existing conditions of transport, the Government felt bound to exercise their option to continue the existing agreements for their full period, and I gave notice accordingly.

Does the righthon. Gentleman consider that this was done to maintain or facilitate nationalisation when the Government are ready? Is that true?

:We will have to wait and see if that is intelligent anticipation or not.

United Maritime Authority

35.

asked the Minister of War Transport when the United Maritime Authority will cease to operate; and whether he has come to a final decision as regards the control of British tonnage after that date.

2nd March, 1946, has been established as the date of termination of the Agreement on Principles under which the United Maritime Authority operates, but that authority ceased on 31st October to control tankers used for the transport of petroleum and its products, molasses, alcohol and creosote, subject to arrangements to meet the requirements of contracting Governments until the end of 1945. As to the second part of the Question, I will make a statement on the Government's policy as soon as possible.

London Omnibuses (Standing Passengers)

38.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he proposes to take any action to enforce the right of the public to stand in motor omnibuses up to the limit allowed by his regulations.

I am meeting the representatives of the union tomorrow afternoon, and in the circumstances I am sure that my hon. Friend will not press me to say more at the moment.

:For the information of the public, who are obviously immensely interested in this matter, would the Minister confirm that the public have a legal right to stand in buses up to the limit allowed, and that the conductors are under a legal obligation to allow them to do so?

I think really that supplementary question is implied in the original Question, and, as I have indicated, I think the present moment is not the best time to answer that question.

It is not quite so easy to state definitely "Yes" or "No" as to the legality of a particular position, and if the hon. Gentleman will just accept the spirit of my reply, I can assure him that he will be better serving the interests of the public in which he is so much concerned than by persisting with his question.

While nobody has any desire to prejudice the right hon. Gentleman's negotiations—[Hon. Members: "Oh, no!"]—no, we have not; I think that will be accepted in good faith—surely it is not unreasonable to ask the Government, if not now, at any rate at the earliest opportunity, to be good enough to tell the House what is the legal position?

I entirely accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is only because, when I do give the information to the House, I want it to be watertight, that I suggest it is not wise to press for it now.

I am hoping to do so immediately I have met the representatives of the union and have found out the position.

Factory, Spennymoor (Omnibus Facilities)

39 and 40.

asked the Minister of War Transport (1) whether he will provide omnibus facilities to enable girls to travel from Ferryhill and Merrington to the Royal Ordnance factory at Spennymoor in time to commence work at 7.30 a.m., and an omnibus service back to Ferryhill at 5 p.m.;

(2) whether he is aware that the girls employed in the Royal Ordnance factory, Spennymoor, coming from Ferryhill and Merrington, are constantly late in arriving at the factory in the morning owing to the inadequate bus service; and why a licence has been withheld from a local firm willing to run a workmen's service.

No road service licence has been withdrawn, but the number of vehicles engaged on contract services on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply and Aircraft Production under an assisted travel scheme has been reduced in the process of closing down the Royal Ordnance factory. Existing local services cannot be adapted to provide for this traffic, but I understand that a local operator has offered to provide a suitable service if the employers concerned will guarantee a minimum receipt per day.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that something like 300 girls are concerned, and will he agree that a licence should be given to local firms who are prepared to put a workmen's bus on

December.January.February.March.
(a) From India, Burma and Far East to the United Kingdom.32·424·423·523·4
(b) From India and Burma to East and West Africa.12·416·416·418·2

My hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that special shipping is being used until the end of this year in order to embark the large number of men who are already due for return to this country but were delayed in India.

Petrol (Form Z/F5a)

43.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that as a number of persons receive variable amounts of fuel for road transport purposes, Form Z/F5A is still in extensive use despite the recent concession which he made; and whether he will consider adopting some system, which will make it possible to abolish the use of this form altogether.

So long as fuel rationing continues it will be necessary for those operators who use varying amounts to for the convenience of these girls in the two areas?

If my hon. Friend will examine my reply, he will see there is no difficulty about the licence, and we shall give every facility to provide this service. The issue is about the amount to be received for the service.

Services, Far East (Shipping Allocation)

42.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is now in a position to say 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; and if he will give the overall figures for all the Services without waiting for detailed allocation.

I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, that the detailed allotment is still under consideration, but the provisional figures of Service personnel planned to be repatriated in troopships, expressed in thousands, are:

justify their requirements. I think that the form to which my hon. Friend refers is suitable for this purpose.

British West Indies (Passenger Service)

41.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he is aware that with the restoration of one requisitioned Dutch passenger ship to her original owners there will shortly be no direct link by passenger liner with the British West Indies, and, in view of the large and in creasing number of West Indian civilians awaiting passages home, what steps he is taking to deal with the situation.

There are direct services to Jamaica and Trinidad by ships that carry a limited number of passengers. The demands on passenger ships, mainly for the repatriation of troops, makes it impossible to increase passenger facilities to the West Indies at present.

Southern Railway (Suburban Services)

44.

asked the Minister of War Transport the average period of time between the advertised and the actual arrival of trains on the London and suburban servtioes of the Southern Railway between the hours of 7.10 a.m. and 4.7 p.m.; and whether an improvement has been effected in the operation of these services during recent weeks.

I am making inquiries and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as I can obtain the information.

:Is my right hon. Friend aware that the delays on the Southern Railway are an increasing source of irritation to the travelling public? Cannot something be done about it?

:I gathered as much, from the Question. I can assure my hon. Friend that the matter will be investigated.

Toll Bridges

70.

asked the Minister of War Transport how many toll bridges still exist on first and second-class and other roads; and what would be the approximate cost of making them free to the public in each case.

:Fifty-nine toll bridges still remain, of which two are on trunk roads, 13 on Class I roads, nine on Class II roads, and 35 on unclassified roads. I regret that I am not able to estimate the cost of freeing these bridges, as it depends on the particular circumstances of each case.

In view of the fact that provision was made in an Act passed in this House some time ago for local authorities to take over toll bridges and roads, will the right hon. Gentleman put pressure on local authorities to take action, because some of them are using such bridges for paying the local rates, and they will never, therefore, be freed?

I will undertake to give special attention to the question of toll bridges.

Railway Wagons

71.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that about 160,000 railway wagons are now out of service for repair in this country, which is over 100,000 more than is the normal number at this time of the year; whether he is taking steps to increase the repair staffs; and what the prospects are of getting the number of wagons under repair back to normal before the winter coal demands arise.

I am aware that the wagon position is serious. Special steps have been taken to obtain additional labour and facilities for repairs, to increase the number of wagons to meet traffic demands during the coming winter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the failure to release key men is causing a serious bottleneck, and has he made representations to the Minister of Labour with a view to expediting demobilisation?

Yes, Sir, and it has received very sympathetic consideration, but I feel that we shall best solve this problem by bringing into operation additional repair and production facilities.

Can the right hon. Gentleman state how many have been released as a result of his representations to the Minister of Labour?

:If my hon. Friend will put that Question down I will endeavour to give him the information he requires.

What proportion of the number of wagons sent to the Continent after D-Day have been returned?

:I cannot give that information offhand, but steps are being taken to secure the return of certain rolling stock sent to the Continent.

Railway Coaches

2.

asked the Minister of War Transport the number of passenger carrying vehicles actually available to the railways for useful work at the present time compared with the figure at the outbreak of war; and what steps are being taken to increase the stock for next season's holiday traffic.

The number of passenger-carrying vehicles actually available to the railways for useful work is 35,513, which is 4,869 less than at the outbreak of war. Steps have been taken to bring back from the Continent British railway stock lent for military purposes and to construct new vehicles.

Reconditioned Army Vehicles

74.

asked the Minister of War Transport how many reconditioned Army vehicles are now available; how many midwives, nurses and badly disabled ex-Servicemen have applied for such vehicles; and how many such applications have been granted.

Eighty-five cars were notified to my Department in October as becoming available and these are already on offer to suitable applicants. I have on hand about 600 applications from nurses and midwives, and about 1,700 from disabled ex-Servicemen, 400 of whom are badly disabled; since 1st June I have granted 71 permits to nurses and midwives and 252 to badly disabled ex-Service men.

Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind, as more cars become available, that they are very essential to ex-Servicemen wishing to set themselves up in business once more?

Yes, Sir, I have steadily increased the percentage allotted to ex-Servicemen in the disposal of these cars, and the recent revision brings the distribution to disabled ex-Servicemen up to nearly 90 per cent.

Roadside Poles

75.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will give consideration to the introduction of legislation to prohibit the erection of poles connected with overhead telegraphic lines and electricity cables being erected along highways owing to the increasing menace to traffic.

The position of poles for overhead telegraphic lines and electricity cables is settled in consultation with the appropriate highway authority, and I do not think that new legislation is required. If my hon. Friend has in mind any particular case where he considers that conditions are dangerous for traffic I shall be glad to arrange for an investigation.

Is it not a fact that what we want is far less regulation, so that we may get cheaper electricity in the country districts?

War Medals And Decorations

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the provision of a ribbon or clasp to designate service in France and the Low Countries during the campaign of 1939–40 as distinct from the ribbon given for service in the 1944–45 campaign.

I have been asked to reply. Eight Campaign Stars, a Defence Medal and several Emblems have now been instituted for service during hostilities, and it is not proposed to add to these awards in the manner suggested.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why the precedent of the last war is not being followed in this war also?

There are many ways in which the comparison between this war and the one before breaks down.

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider the awarding of a suitable medal to personnel who have served in the Azores, Iceland and Gibraltar, as service in these areas is not covered by any of the existing awards.

The Defence Medal is granted to officers and men of the Forces for service during the war in the Azores, Iceland and Gibraltar, and the time qualification of three years is reduced to one year for such service overseas from the place of residence. Aircrew who have taken part in operations from these bases qualify under the approved rules for the appropriate Campaign Stars.

Manpower Committee

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will state the names of the Chairman and members of the Manpower Committee.

No, Sir. The arrangements made by the Cabinet for the discharge of the business for which it is collectively responsible are matters for the Cabinet itself and are not customarily disclosed.

Will the Lord President of the Council say whether this Committee is entirely advisory, or can take decisions in regard to matters?

To answer that would be a breach of the doctrine to which I have just referred.

Day Of Remembrance

49.

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider adding the years 1939–45 to the Cenotaph in Whitehall and making 11th November a Day of Remembrance for both wars.

I will consider favourably the first suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member. As regards the second, it was announced on 10th October that the Government proposed to consider, in consultation with other Commonwealth and Empire Governments, the question of fixing a National Day to be observed in future years as a Day of Remembrance for those who died in the two wars. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already started his consultations on this point.

Does not the Lord President of the Council consider it would be much to the advantage of the public if a Sunday were always chosen for the Day of Remembrance?

Will the right bon. Gentleman remind the Home Secretary that now he is a Minister of the Crown he should be careful about expressing his private opinions on matters such as these?

Agriculture

River Boards Bill

54.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what he intends should be the future of the River Boards Bill; and what stage has been reached in the preparation of this Bill.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Mr. Berry) on 22nd October.

Will the Minister keep in mind that areas round the Wash are very seriously affected by any project such as is contained in the Bill, and will he see that the interests of those areas are not jeopardised?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that all relevant factors will be taken into account.

Foot-And-Mouth Disease

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease there have been this year; how many of these occurred among pigs and may have been attributable to swill made from imported meat.

During this year there have been 122 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Great Britain of which 60 have been original cases, that is, cases not traceable to previous outbreaks in this country. Fifty-six of these 60 outbreaks started in pigs, and in 29 of them the outbreak has been attributed to infected swill. In a number of other cases swill may have been the cause, but the evidence is less clear.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there have been, so far as I am aware, no outbreaks at all among those who have been supplied with swill from the American camps in this country? In view of the absence of foot-and-mouth disease in North America, does he not think that fact is rather significant?

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member must be aware that America does not import meat from sources from which this country imports, and must continue to import, meat. Perhaps that fact will add to the explanation.

What steps has the Minister taken to ensure that swill is properly processed?

The hon. Member is well aware that we are doing all that we can to persuade people who use swill to observe the Order, and, by means of our inspectors, to see that the Order is observed.

Cannot the Minister use a little more compulsion in these cases, because, according to his own reply, the disease arises from lack of proper processing of swill?

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how much money has been spent on research into foot-and-mouth disease in the last 10 years.

During the last 10 financial years about £250,000 has been spent on the research work undertaken by the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Committee.

Will the Minister consider substantially increasing the amount of money and time devoted to research into what is a serious, and may be a devastating, disease?

As against an average of £25,000 per annum spent on this disease, some £37,000 was spent last year, and I have no intention of reducing that sum.

County Executive Committees (Appeal Tribunals)

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will state the composition of the regional appeal tribunals which are to be set up in connection with decisions of the W.A.E.C.s; and how soon they will be functioning.

Wheat

59.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the fact that all the wheat produced in this country is needed for human consumption, he will reconsider the decision to reduce the deficiency payment to farmers for the 1946 crop by £2 per acre.

No, Sir. The reduction in the acreage payment was made in consideration of the withdrawal of compulsory directions to grow wheat for the 1946 harvest.

Does not the Minister agree that this is not the time, when costs are rising, to decrease farmers' income by reducing the acreage payment?

63.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will obtain an estimate from the county committees as to acreage of autumn wheat planted this season.

The planting of wheat is still in progress in many part of the country, and I hope that in view of the serious food situation, farmers will continue to plant as much wheat as possible on all suitable land, both now and in the spring. Returns of the acreage planted up to 4th December will be made by farmers on that date.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman encourage farmers by reinstating the acreage payment he is now taking off?

Trainees, Worcestershire

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many ex-Servicemen are being trained in agriculture in the county of Worcestershire.

Is the Minister satisfied that there is enough labour to replace the prisoners?

No, Sir. I should very much prefer the figure to be 80, or 88, or 880.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Evesham considers the position thoroughly unsatisfactory?

Will the Minister bear in mind that until the men in the Forces who previously worked on the land know what the Government's agricultural policy is to be, they will not have very much enthusiasm about the present scheme?

Woodlands (Clearance)

61.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether prisoners of war are available for the clearing of woodlands.

At the present time the prisoners of war allocated to my Department are fully occupied on urgent farm work. Opportunities may, however, arise during the winter of making small numbers available for clearing woodlands.

Does the Minister appreciate that, unless the woodlands are prepared for replanting, the Minister's difficulties will steadily increase? Would it not be better to get on with it now?

I fully appreciate the hon. and gallant Member's point of view, but he will also be fully aware of the necessity for lifting all the potatoes and the beet before we divert labour.

Grey Squirrels (Destruction)

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if action is being taken to destroy grey squirrels in every county where their numbers are increasing; how many grey squirrel clubs have been formed by W.A.E.C.s and with what results.

Yes, Sir. About 150 clubs for shooting grey squirrels have already been formed, and I anticipate that this number will increase with the approach of the main shooting period. I have no detailed information of the numbers of grey squirrels so far destroyed by this means.

Surely the grey squirrel should be shot at all times? Why shoot it only in February and March?

I am horrified at the callousness of the right hon. Gentleman. Surely if he had a spark of humanity—[Interruption.]

The hon. Member will be aware that, at the period mentioned by myself, there are no leaves on the trees and that the squirrels are easier to get at.

Horticultural Production

64.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what was the value of horticultural production, including potatoes in the past year.

The value of the output of horticultural produce including potatoes in England and Wales in 1944–45 is provisionally estimated to be in the neighbourhood of £140,000,000.

Newfoundland (Self-Government)

65.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether any steps have been taken towards the restoration of self-government to Newfoundland at an early date.

It is hoped to make a statement on this subject in the near future.