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Commons Chamber

Volume 416: debated on Monday 19 November 1945

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House Of Commons

Monday, 19th November, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Death Of A Member

I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Alexander Sloan, Esq., Member for the County of Ayr and Bute (South Ayrshire Division) and I desire on behalf of the House to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives of the honourable Member.

Private Business

GLOUCESTER CORPORATION BILL [ Lords]

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

REIGATE CORPORATION BILL [ Lords]

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Parliamentary Elections (Proxy And Postal Votes)

Address for Return,

"Showing the number of Service applications for postal voting facilities, the number of postal and proxy votes cast by or on behalf of Service voters, the number of Service electors and the total numbers of electors and of votes cast at the General Election of July, 1945, in Great Britain and Northern Ireland." —[Mr. Oliver.]

Oral Answers To Questions

India

Army Ghq

3, 4 and 5.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India (I) what was the total strength of the Directorate of Combined Operations at G.H.Q., India, on VJ-Day and what is its strength now;

(2) what is the total number of officers employed at G.H.Q., India; and how many of these are lieutenant-generals, major-generals, brigadiers and full colonels, respectively;

(3) what total reduction in the number of officers employed at G.H.Q., India, has been made since VJ-Day; and, in particular, by how many the number of brigadiers employed has been reduced.

I have asked the authorities in India to supply the informa- tion desired and I will communicate with ray hon. and gallant Friend as soon as it arrives.

In view of the fact that the establishment at G.H.Q., India, is now somewhat over 2,000 officers, will the Minister treat as a matter of urgency the getting of the figures for which I have asked, so that action may be taken speedily to reduce the strength at this G.H.Q.?

I am not in a position to discuss facts at the moment but I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that a telegram was sent the day after he put his Question down, and I am still waiting for a reply.

Elections

6.

asked the Under secretary of State for India if, in view of the coming election, he will give an assurance that Nehru will not be re-arrested because of his speeches relating to the release of the Indian National Army men and officers.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S.O. Davies) on I5th November.

7.

asked the Under secretary of State for India whether, in view of the importance of securing an in formed public opinion in this country regarding the Indian elections, he will consult with the B.B.C. with a view to facilities being granted to Indian leaders to give broadcast talks to the British public; and arrange for a Parliamentary delegation. to visit India before or during the elections.

I fully share my hon. Friend's view of the importance of keeping the public in this country as fully informed as possible about the forthcoming elections in India. The most suitable methods of achieving this end are under examination.

8.

asked the Under secretary of State for India whether, in view of the importance of securing the best possible atmosphere for the elections in India and of making them as free as possible, he will declare a policy of general amnesty for political prisoners and press the responsible authorities to expedite their examination and release; as far as possible lift the ban on political organisations; and lift from individuals released from prison any restrictions limiting freedom of political action.

In reply to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave on I5th October to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. P. Freeman) and the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin). Since that date the number of political detenus has diminished still further, and the process of examination and release is being carried on by the authorities in India as expeditiously as practicable. The removal of bans on political organisations has been carried as far as is considered to be possible at present, having due regard to the need for maintaining law and order.

The disqualifications contained in Section 69 (c) of the Government of India Act, I935, is being removed on application in all cases where the offence did not involve violence. I understand that the Central Government has no order in force restricting public speaking or other political activities of such individuals. I am making inquiries as to whether any Provincial Government has imposed any such restriction.

9

asked the Undersecretary of State for India if he is aware that the new electoral register in the Punjab will be published after the date for nominations in the forthcoming elections; and no person may be nominated unless he is on the existing electoral register; and many persons who were in detention or otherwise debarred from being on that register, and who will be qualified for inclusion in the new register, will thereby be disqualified from nomination; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy the situation.

I am making inquiries into the matter and will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as I receive a reply from the authorities in India.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman responsible for those regulations, or are the Provincial Government?

In that case, what power has the hon. and learned Gentleman over the Provincial Government? Is it not solely in their power?

I do not think we have any power. What I have undertaken to do is merely to make inquiries.

I am sure arrangements can be made for a Question to be put on the Order Paper so that I can give a reply in the House.

Is not my hon. and learned Friend aware that Lord Wavell gave a promise that the new electoral list would be prepared in the course of the past year, and that the voting would be carried out on the basis of that list? Will my hon. and learned Friend see that Lord Wavell's promise is carried out in the Punjab?

Any matters coming under Schedule 6 of the.1935 Act are a matter for the House. Other matters that are within the discretion of the Provincial Government are the responsibility of the Provincial Government.

Burma

War Damage (Compensation)

11.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma if he can now state the Government's policy with regard to compensation for losses in curred by commercial interests in Burma as a result of the scorched earth policy and the Japanese occupation.

This question is under the active consideration of H.M. Government, and I hope to be in a position to make a statement in the very near future.

Imphal Road

12.

asked the Under-secretary of State for Burma whether the Imphal-Tamar-Kalewa road is being maintained in full running order pending a final decision on its future.

The road will be required for use as a line of communication for some months to come and is being maintained accordingly.

Are British troops or other personnel being employed on the maintenance of this road?

Executive Council

13.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma if he will give the House any information as to whether the differences between the British representatives and the Burma Patriotic Front as to the composition of the proposed new Executive Council have been over come.

There has been no change in the attitude of AFPIL towards participation in the Governor of Burma's new Executive Council.

Mr A Knight (Government Service)

14.

asked the Under secretary of State for Burma why Mr. A. Knight, late superintendent of the Burma Secretariat, is not regarded as having been of non-Asiatic domicile at the date of his appointment to the ser vice of the Government of Burma on 21st January, 1913, for purposes of superannuation, leave and passage con cessions.

I am asking the Government of Burma for a report on Mr. Knight's position and will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as it is received.

Manchuria (Status)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has full knowledge of the agreement between China and the U.S.S.R. as to the future political and economic status of Manchuria; and whether he will give an assurance that nothing in this agreement is prejudicial to the interests of this country in Manchuria.

:When the Chinese-Soviet Treaty and other agreements were signed in August last, translations were published by the official Press agencies of the two Governments. As the hon. Member may recall, these instruments provide that the rights and obligations of the contracting parties under the Charter of the United Nations shall be unaffected. Dairen is declared by the Chinese Government to be a free port open to the commerce and shipping of all nations. The Soviet Union reaffirms her respect for China's full sovereignty in the Three Eastern Provinces as well as China's territorial and administrative integrity. In general, I think I can assure the hon. Member that there is nothing in these instruments which is prejudicial to British interests.

Can the Minister confirm or deny recent reports that the Soviet Government have recently refused to allow Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek's troops to land either at Port Arthur or Dairen?

That is a matter between the Soviet Government and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek.

In view of the Foreign Minister's recent statement of His dislike of bilateral agreements, shall we hear during the forthcoming Debate on foreign affairs a clear exposition of what is happening in the Far East, and not only a description of the instruments involved?

Atomic Energy (Research, Spain)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that fugitive German scientists are working on atomic research in Spain; and whether he will demand that these men be handed over.

I have received no evidence that German scientists are now working in Spain on research in the use of atomic energy, but I should be glad to consider any information which my hon. Friend may possess.

Foreign Service (Salaries)

18

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to increase salaries of members of His Majesty's Foreign Service in order to enable them more adequately to represent this country abroad and to meet the rising cost of living while serving at home.

Certain revisions in the salary scales for members of the Foreign Service are being introduced, with effect from 1st August last. In addition, allowances are made to meet expenditure for representation abroad. These allowances are constantly reviewed, in the light of changing conditions, such as the cost of living. When they are serving at home, officers of the Foreign Service receive allowances to meet the rise in the cost of living. These allowances are on the same basis as those granted to the Home Civil Service.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that new entrants to the Foreign Service are being offered employment at the rate of £275 per annum for a start, and does he think this is compatible with the general intention to widen the scope of entry into the Foreign Service?

Perhaps the hon. Member would put that question on the Paper. There must be allowances in addition if the persons are serving abroad.

Do the allowances to members of the Foreign Service abroad vary according to the exchange rates in different countries?

I think allowance is made for exchange rates, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would like to have details, I should be glad to circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will my right hon. Friend consider giving the House an opportunity of discussing the new rates of pay for the Foreign Service which, in the view of many of us, are grossly inadequate?

Nothing would please me better, but both the hon. Member and I would have to consult other authorities.

British Council

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the future of the British Council.

The future of all our overseas publicity services is now under consideration. The hon. Member will, therefore, I am sure, understand that I cannot yet make any statement on the future of the British Council.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give some indication when he will be able to make a statement; will it be in the next few weeks or the next few months?

I would not like to make any binding promise, but I hope that it will not be too long.

Is the report of the committee which was set up to investigate the working of the British Council to be made known to the House or to be published?

Lebanon (Haifa-Tripoli Railway)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what are the terms of the agreement reached with the French concerning the operation of, or disposal of, the Haifa-Beirut-Tripoli Railway; and whether the Lebanese Government were consulted beforehand.

The British and French representatives in the Lebanon recently communicated to the Lebanese Government the draft of a tripartite agreement about the Lebanese section of the Haifa-Tripoli railway. If this draft agreement is accepted, H.M. Government in the United Kingdom will grant an option to purchase the Lebanese section of the railway to a French or Lebanese company designated jointly by the principal French representative in the Lebanon and the Lebanese Government. I hope that the views of the Lebanese Government will shortly be received.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether his answer means that the Lebanese Government were not consulted before the agreement was made, and that it was a bilateral one?

My answer plainly states that the Lebanese Government were consulted before the agreement was made.

Oh, no, that is not my question. The Question I put on the Paper is whether the Lebanese Government were consulted before the agreement was made between the British and the French, and clearly the answer shows that it was not, and that is the trouble.

Central Europe (Germans, Expulsions)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has yet any report from the Ambassadors in Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia, with regard to the expulsion of Germans from Central Europe to Western Germany.

I assume that my hon. Friend is asking whether His Majesty's Ambassadors in the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia have yet made any report concerning an alleged agreement between the Governments of those three countries to transfer 4,500,000 Germans, at the rate of 30,000 a day. if this assumption is correct, the answer is "Yes, Sir." It has now been confirmed that no such agreement or decision was ever made.

In view of the reply, can the Minister state the basis of the statement of Field-Marshal Montgomery that several millions of refugees would have to be expected in the British zone in the near future, and can he explain why information possessed by Field-Marshal Montgomery is withheld from His Majesty's Government?

I would not like to accept the proposition that the Field-Marshal has information which was withheld from H.M. Government. In view of the Debate later this week, when, no doubt, the matter will be dealt with, I think I had better not add to what I have said.

The reply of my right hon. Friend was very ambiguous. Does he mean that the expulsions from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary have stopped

As far as I am able to judge, there have been very few expulsions from Czechoslovakia in recent times, and certainly the number from Poland has very greatly diminished.

In view of the very great harm that is done by rumours being spread about these expulsions, will His Majesty's Government make inquiries as to the sources from which these rumuors come?

Does the answer mean that no agreements in the terms set out in the Question have been made, but that some similar agreements may have been made?

No, Sir; as far as I can make out, the whole thing was without foundation. There was another rumour that the Russians were going to expel a great number from their zone to ours, and that proved to be equally without foundation.

United Nations (Territorial Claims)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, at the next meeting of the Allied Supreme Council, he will propose that the Governments of the Big Five should make fresh and explicit statements concerning their territorial objectives.

I sympathise with my hon. Friends' desire that the Allied Governments should make explicit statements about their territorial claims. As, however, there is no Allied Supreme Council, I am afraid the matter cannot be dealt with as he suggests.

Jews (Emigration)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will state the number of refugee Jews admitted to Great Britain and Palestine since I933; and whether he has any information regarding corresponding figures for U.S.A.

No statistics of the Jews who enter Great Britain are available for the reason that aliens who come here are not classified by race or religion. Between 1st of January, I933, and 30th of September, 1945, 266,238 legal Jewish immigrants, mostly refugees, were admitted to Palestine. I regret that I am not able to give any information about Jewish immigrants into the United States.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statements from America are to the effect that only a few hundred have been so admitted?

Indo-China (British Troops)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the situation in Indo- China, with special reference to the purposes for which British troops are being employed.

On 24th October, my right hon. Friend made a comprehensive statement about the situation in French Indo-China, and about the employment there of British troops. He clearly stated that His Majesty's Government intend to withdraw our troops as soon as events permit. The situation remains unchanged, and I cannot usefully add to what my right hon. Friend then said.

Foreign Ministers' Conference

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to break the present deadlock preventing the discussion by the foreign ministers' deputies of the matters referred to them at the Big Five Conference.

Greece (Minister's Visit)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the negotiations conducted by his Under-Secretary during his recent visit to Greece.

My hon. Friend is still in Athens, and his negotiations are still in progress. I think it would be wiser for me to make no statement for a day or two.

Dutch East Indies

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the then Minister of Works and Communications of the Republican Government of Indonesia informed the senior staff officer of the 23rd Division, on 5th October, that Indonesians offered full co-operation in the transporting of internees and prisoners of war; why this offer was not accepted; and why the Minister was informed that the British would only issue their orders through the Japanese military authorities.

No, Sir, I have no information regarding the offer of co-operation alleged to have been made in Indonesia to the senior staff officer of the 23rd Division on 5th October.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that such a report was published in "The Times" on 8th October and was given wide publicity in other publications, and will he, therefore, go into the matter and report to this House as soon as possible, as it is possible that this may have been one of the original bases for the present troubles prevailing in the Far East?

I could not accept any Press report from however responsible a journal. His Majesty's Government have received no official information, but if my hon. Friend wishes to pursue the matter, perhaps he will put a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War.

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Dutch Government have informed him of their policy in relation to Indonesia; and on what terms Dr. Van Mook is authorised to negotiate on their behalf.

On 6th November, at Batavia, Dr. Van Mook issued a full statement of the policy of the Dutch Government in the Netherlands Indies. His Majesty's Government were informed of this declaration before it was published. For the convenience of hon. Members, I will place a copy of it in the Library of the House.

Could not my right hon. Friend use his influence to stop the Dutch from making stupid attacks upon Dr. Van Mook, because they only weaken his position and leave the British holding the baby?

Is it not becoming increasingly obvious to my right hon. Friend that the desire of the Hague Government to negotiate decreases in proportion as our military support increases; and will he, therefore, make it clear to the Government of the Hague that it is not our task, and it is not our intention, to restore the status quo ante, but that it is our job to try and facilitate every negotiation between the Indonesians and the Dutch Government?

I could not at all accept the statement of the matter put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend. I would call his attention to the fact that a meeting was held on Saturday last, and that another is to be held on Thursday, and perhaps we had better not do anything to muddy the water in the meantime.

Far Eastern Commission

36 and 37.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) if he will give an account of the progress of the Far Eastern Advisory Commission;

(2) on what grounds the U.S.S.R. has declined to take part in the work of the Far Eastern Advisory Commission.

The Far Eastern Commission met for the first time on 30th October, in Washington, with His Majesty's Ambassador as the representative of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The other countries represented in the Commission are the United States of America, China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, France, the Netherlands and the Philippines. On 6th November, General McCoy of the United States was unanimously elected Chairman. I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that the Government of the Soviet Union have not declined to take part in the work of the Commission; on the contrary, discussions about their participation are going on between the Soviet Government and the Government of the United States. As Mr. Byrnes stated at his Press conference on 14th November, agreement had not then been reached. The United States Government have promised to keep His Majesty's Government informed of the future progress of these discussions. While they are going on, I am sure my hon. Friend will understand that I should not attempt to make a fuller statement.

Is not the real difference here that not only Russia, but also China, Australia and other nations want a control commission as opposed to an advisory commission; and in view of that, would my right hon. Friend represent to the United States Government—for we all have interests in the Far East—that it cannot be left to the will of a soldier, however distinguished?

I think I had better not enter into the merits of the matter, in view of what I have said.

Roads

Motor Vehicles (Purchase Licences)

40.

asked the Minister of War Transport what is the average time taken by his department in finally disposing of forms of application for the purchase of a motor car.

44.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he will expedite the granting of permits for the purchase of new motor cars, in view of the long delay which now takes place, even in those cases where permits are ultimately granted; and whether he is aware that this delay is causing hardship and loss to those concerned.

77.

asked the Minister of War Transport what is the average time taken between the receipt of a letter requesting a licence to buy a new motor car and the issuing of the licence; and what action he is taking to speed up the process.

Licences are granted at a rate calculated to cover anticipated production of cars for six to eight weeks ahead. The number of applications meriting special consideration which are being received far exceeds the number of cars being produced. A lengthening waiting list is consequently inevitable. There would be no advantage in expediting the issue of licences out of step with production, with the result of increasing the interval between the receipt of the licence and the delivery of the car and prolonging the period before it will be possible to discontinue the licensing system. Any hardship there may be is due not to delay in the issue of licences but to the relatively small production, which has been only a quarter of the original target.

Is the Minister aware that, even where manufacturers have assured customers that they are able to deliver the car, if only a licence is granted, a long delay still persists before the licence is issued?

I do not think there is any evidence to support that when the facts are examined.

Will the Minister have conversations between his Department and the Board of Trade in order to step up the production of cars?

Is the Minister aware that the delay in answering applications in his Department is causing great hardship to ex-Service professional men now returning to their peacetime occupations, and cannot he do something to speed up an answer to them?

I am quite aware of the delay in dealing with these applications, but the hon. Member will have noticed, an my reply, that I hope to discontinue this system in the near future, as there is no purpose an building up a large and expensive department for a temporary purpose.

Is the Minister further aware that I cannot get a permit for my district nurse for the Vale of Evesham?

The best news which the House has received for some time is that the hon. Member needs a nurse.

Is it not a fact that district nurses are doing really important work?

71.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he is aware that on 24th August, I945, the Manchester Waterworks Undertaking applied to his regional traffic commissioner, north-western region, for a licence to acquire seven 10 cwt. motor vans; that a decision has not yet been notified notwithstanding repeated requests; that the vehicles are urgently required for the operation of the waterworks undertaking both at the head-works and on the aqueducts and in the area of supply; that lack of transport hinders the operation of the undertaking; and will he issue the licence forthwith as the vehicles can then be supplied at once.

An application was made on 24th August, 1945, and I understand that the district transport officer saw the waterworks engineer and told him that he would recommend that it should be granted. The application was forwarded from the regional office to headquarters at the end of September. Applications are entertained only from those who can, show that their need for a new vehicle is essential in the national interest. Unfortunately, the number of applications for this type of vehicle far exceed the number being delivered by the manufacturers, and I am unable to accord priority over other essential users. I regret that owing to extreme pressure on the branch concerned a note explaining the position was not sent to the applicants till a day or two ago.

Safety Campaign

43.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he is aware that previous road safety campaigns have not proved successful in reducing road casualties; and what new steps he is taking in the present campaign to make it more effective.

I am not prepared to accept the premise contained in the first part of the hon. and gallant Member's Question. The present campaign will be a sustained and developing endeavour to lessen road casualties, and incomparably more ambitious than any hitherto attempted.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the campaign, so far as it has gone, is entirely insipid, and having no effect whatever on an apathetic public?

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is a little impatient. This is a long campaign and it was launched only a couple of weeks ago.

Will the Minister see that the campaign is directed to all classes of road users and not only to motorists?

Severn Bridge

69.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will consider providing space or width in the proposed Severn Road Bridge which will allow for the future construction or development of a double-track railway line similar to the Dutch roadway across the northern end of the Zuyder Zee.

The embankment across the Northern end of the Zuyder Zee is not comparable with a bridge across the Severn, but I will have consideration given again to the question whether it is practicable to construct the latter to accommodate a railway.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the Dutch did face the future, although they did not need a railway immediately? They left provision for a railway, and that is what I am asking him to do, to face the future.

County Council Roadmen (Wage Payments)

70.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he will give particulars of the number of county councils and other local authorities, who pay roadmen employed by them fortnightly by cheque; and whether he will arrange with such authorities to discontinue this practice.

Thirty-eight county councils in England and Wales have been authorised to pay the wages of roadmen by cheque. Until the staff position of county councils eases considerably, I do not think that the present authority can be withdrawn.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Kent County Council, so far back as June, I942, indicated to the National Council for County Council Roadmen that they were prepared to pay wages in cash if the necessary petrol could be made available?

If the hon. Member will draw my attention to any particular point, I will have it considered.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say who authorised these authorities to make payment by cheque, and. how long he has had authority to alter the law, which declares that payment by cheque is not legal tender?

I am afraid I cannot answer that offhand. If my hon. Friend will put the Question down, I will give him the necessary information.

Conscription (Government Policy)

45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will announce the Government's intentions with regard to compulsory service in the post war armed Forces of the Crown.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. and gallant Member for Edinburgh West (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) and the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) on I8th October, in which he said that this is a matter which can only be settled as part of His Majesty's Government's long-term defence policy as a whole. No decision can be taken until further progress has been made with the settlement of the world-wide problems resulting from the war.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to distinguish between the question of peacetime terms for the peace--time Army and the immediate announcement of terms for occupation Armies, which will, in any event, be largely derived from people who have been conscripted for this war?

I took it that this Question related to the future organisation of military forces for peacetime.

Armed Forces (Approach To Mps)

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he will instruct the three Service Departments that, although Servicemen and women desiring to put forward re quests or grievances should in the first instance do so through the usual Service channels, it is to be understood clearly by all ranks that all Servicemen and women retain the normal citizen right of communicating with their Members of Parliament about any subject whatsoever, provided that there is no disclosure of military secrets.

I am satisfied that Servicemen and women already understand that if they write to a Member of Parliament disciplinary action will not be taken against them for that reason, and all three Service Departments accept that view; but the proper channel for com- plaints as provided in the King s Regulations is the commanding officer, and I would emphasise the importance of men and women taking up their problems through the channels specifically provided, at any rate in the first instance. Before a complaint can be disposed of by higher authority, it is generally necessary for the commanding officer himself to inquire at first hand, and to report upon, the facts. I think, therefore, that the House will agree with me that individual complaints and grievances will be more expeditiously dealt with, and the practical interests of individuals be better safeguarded, if complaints, not already investigated, are first made through the proper channels rather than referred directly by Members to Ministers. It would be of great assistance to the Service Departments if hon. Members bring this point of view to their correspondents.

While certainly not wishing to urge anything that will increase the correspondence of any hon. Member, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that these matters are not always expeditiously dealt with when raised only through the usual channels; and that there is some misapprehension about this, especially, perhaps, in the Navy among senior officers? Will he cause a clear statement of the facts to be circulated through Service channels?

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the answer given to this Question is published in orders in all three Services so that the people concerned will understand what the position is?

I would not like to give an answer straight off, but I will bring the suggestions of both hon. Members to the notice of the Service Departments.

:Is it not the case that there are less grievances in the Royal Navy than in any other Service?

Coast Erosion

47.

asked the Prime Minister if he will take steps to make one Government Department primarily responsible for dealing with the problem of resisting the erosive action of the sea around the coast of England.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will bear in mind that Scotland also has a coast?

I understand that Scotland has a very lengthy coast, and it will not be forgotten.

:Will the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that erosion has been greatly increased by the lack of repairs to sea defences owing to the war, and that these sea defences have not yet been repaired?

Agriculture

Water Supplies (Kent And Sussex)

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that in the Weald of Sussex and Kent there is an urgent and unsatisfied demand for piped water supplies to improve both milk production and the amenities of home for agricultural workers, since much of the well-water is inadequate in volume and poor in quality; and if he will arrange a joint conference of his Department and that of the Ministry of Health with local authorities in the area, in order to consider ways and means of providing this service for all localities.

The reply to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." As regards the second part, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and I are collaborating in the improvement of water supplies, and there is close consultation between local authorities and war agricultural executive committees in working out proposals for mains extensions when labour and materials are available.

Has the attention of the Minister been called to the absurd situation arising in the South of England, an instance of which is given in the "News Chronicle" today, by which there is an ample supply of pipe water available for military camps, but neighbouring farms and cottages are not allowed to use it? Will he look into that matter at once? Will he also deal with the whole question when he makes his promised statement on agriculture?

I am not aware of the case mentioned by the Noble Lord, but if he will bring the facts to my notice I will look into them. The Noble Lord will, however, be aware that, under Section 3 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1941, and Section 5 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1944, grants up to 50 per cent. can be made to such schemes as those referred to in the Question, and that already 860 schemes have been approved in Kent and Sussex since the Acts came into force.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is impossible for any individual farmer or landowner to get the local authorities to act, because their reply is that they are held up by the Government?

I can only repeat that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and I are collaborating on this.

Is it not time the Minister gave up circumlocution in theory and went in for a campaign of common sense?

Woodlands (Conversion)

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Earl WINTERTON:

51. To ask the Minister of Agriculture, if he is aware that owners of felled woodlands and worn-out coppice land in the southern counties would like, where circumstances are favourable, to convert the areas in question into fruit or arable land; and if he will arrange with the War Department to sell bulldozers no longer required for military purposes to W.A.E.C.s so that they may be hired by landowners for this purpose.

To save time, Mr. Speaker, I will not ask the next Question, No. 51 orally, but have it treated as a written Question.

Ddt Insecticide

53.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, before the commencement of the next fruit spraying season, he will arrange for his experts to make a categorical statement as to the extent to which D.D.T. can usefully and safely be employed in this connection.

. I am arranging for a notice to be published regarding the use of D.D.T. by farmers and horticulturists. But until further research and experiment on the practical application of this new insecticide to agriculture and horticulture have been carried out, any statement issued must necessarily be in general terms.

In view of the alarmist reports that one reads in the Press about D.D.T. possibly being able to destroy fruit trees, will the Minister be good enough to see that his advice is given with the shortest delay?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the notice will be issued long before the next spraying season.

Devon (Training And Releases)

55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many men from the Services have been accepted for training in agriculture in the County of Devon.

Thirty-three ex-Servicemen have been accepted for agricultural training in the county of Devon under the Government scheme. Of these, 24 are now in training, six are awaiting places and three have withdrawn.

56.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many applications for the release of agricultural workers under Class B have been received by the Devon W.A.E.C.; how many of these cases have been supported and for warded by that committee; in how many cases his Ministry have recommended re lease; and how many releases have been obtained.

Up to I5th November, the Devon War Agricultural Executive Committee had received 286 applications, of which they supported 86. Thirty-nine of these applications were recommended by my Department to the appropriate authorities, who have approved release in 23 cases and rejected one case for non-compliance with the essential conditions. Decisions in the remaining 15 cases are outstanding.

In view of these rather insignificant results, will the right hon. Gentleman stimulate the release of agricultural workers by relaxing the present rather rigorous restrictions?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will know that we are only allowed to back up the applications of those who are recognised as specialists, but we hope there will be a speeding-up shortly.

In view of the importance of the subjects involved, would the Minister consider issuing figures for the whole country similar to those which he has given for Devonshire?

Drainage Workers (Wage Payments)

57.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will now arrange for catchment boards and other land drainage authorities now paying their workmen by fortnightly cheque, to pay weekly and in cash.

The method adopted by drainage authorities for the payment of wages to their workmen is a matter for settlement within the industry itself and not within my competence.

Hunting (Trespass)

58.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what protection he proposes to afford tenant farmers with T.T. dairy herds against the intrusion of foxhounds, horses and huntsmen amongst their herds with the possibility of scattering their cattle amongst neighbouring herds of non- T.T. cattle by breaking down fences and leaving open gates, such as happened recently in West Norfolk.

Incidents such as that in West Norfolk are infrequent and most hunts do their utmost to cause as little damage as possible to agriculture. I do not consider, therefore, that any special action is needed. Hunting is only carried on by courtesy of the farmers concerned, and hunts have no legal right to hunt over private property. If they do so and the farmer objects, he can sue the hunt or individual huntsman for trespass and claim damages; or make a claim for compensation from the hunt for any damage caused.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that farmers have to go to a great deal of expense to get their herds accredited T.T., and unless they can be protected against this kind of thing, there will be a great deal of damage? Further, is he aware that in this neighbourhood last season a number of in-calf heifers slipped their calves as a result of the hunt passing through their field?

As I have already stated, a hunt has no legal right to hunt over private property, and if farmers object, they can take the steps I have indicated.

But does my right hon. Friend realise that, so far as tenant farmers are concerned, the landowners reserve sporting rights and, therefore, the tenant farmers are without protection?

If any private farmers who object to hunting over their land are in any way intimidated by landowners, and such cases are brought to our notice, we will certainly look into them.

Is it not a fact that the reservation of sporting rights has nothing to do with cases of trespass, or the rights of anyone to recover damages? Sporting rights have nothing to do with it.

Brood Mares (Rations)

60.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the approaching breeding season and the necessity for increasing the present supply of horses in the country, he will now arrange for rations to be granted for brood mares and young stock.

Rations are granted for horses used for essential purposes where the owner cannot provide sufficient feeding stuffs of his own growing. The supply of feeding stuffs at present available does not permit the issue of rations to other classes of horses.

Sodium Chlorate

62.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will be able to make supplies of sodium chlorate available to farmers for the coming season.

I am informed by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that the supply of sodium chlorate is steadily improving. While it cannot be guaranteed that farmers' full demands during the coming season will be met, substantial quantities of this weed killer should be available.

Will the Minister confer with his colleague, the Minister of War Transport, so that this material will be allowed to be carried by rail?

That scarcely arises out of the Question, but should any complicated cases arise and we are made aware of the fact, we will look into them.

Italian War Prisoners

63.

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many Italian prisoners of war are employed in the agriculture industry in England, Scotland and Wales, respectively.

The numbers of Italian prisoners of war employed in agriculture on 31st October were 49,000 in England, 9,000 in Scotland, and 5,500 in Wales.

Has the right hon.Gentleman received representations from a number of war agricultural committees that, before these prisoners are withdrawn from work, they shall be given reasonable notice by his Department? Is he prepared to act on those representations?

I can assure the Noble Lord that reasonable notice will be given before Italians are withdrawn.

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to withdraw English agricultural workers from the. Armed Forces and get rid of these Italians?

Forestry (Government Policy)

52.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is yet in a position to state what is to be the forestry policy of the Government; whether there is any possibility of providing employment for a substantial number of demobilised officers and men in forestry work in Great Britain; and what steps should be taken by those in the Forces who are anxious to take up a career in forestry after demobilisation,

I hope to be able to make a statement on policy shortly. As regard the second part of the Question, it is anticipated that there will be a limited number of posts for trained forest officers, and employment in forestry work for a substantial number of demobilised men. A training scheme for men in the Forces who desire to take up a career in forestry has been prepared and details will be available shortly through the local offices of the Ministry of Labour.

Is the Minister aware that some people have been demobilised already and are unable to get advice as to a career in forestry?

If the demobilised men referred to will make application to the Ministry of Labour, they will shortly be able to obtain documents on forestry which explain the whole thing up to date.

Does the right hon. Gentleman include in forestry, work in connection with underwood, hurdle making and so on? So often forestry is only taken to mean work on coniferous plantations.

I cannot be certain about all the contents of the booklet, but I am sure that it will deal with ancillary trades.

6I

asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the urgency to commence the reafforestation programme he will make retrospective to this season all grants to be announced under the Government's forestry policy.

While I appreciate the urgency of reafforestation, I regret, that I am unable to anticipate my statement on forestry policy.

Could the Minister give any hope that his policy will be announced in time to take effect this season?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the policy announcement will be made fairly shortly.

Dominions (Emigration)

64.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether, in pursuance of the principles laid down in Command 6658, he has ascertained from the Canadian Government if the repatriation of Canadian Forces and the resettlement of war workers have proceeded to a point where discussions on migration can profitably be resumed; and what is the nature of the reply.

It has not yet been possible to make further progress with the negotiations with the Canadian Government on this subject.

Is the hon. Gentleman pressing the Canadian Government on this matter?

The Canadians are very fully occupied in dealing with the problem of their returning Servicemen at the moment.

But has the hon. Gentleman brought to the notice of the Canadian Government how serious our problem is becoming?

We have raised the matter with them, and they know our views.65. Viscount Hinchingbrooke asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether the migration agreements between the Dominion of Australia and this country referred to in Command 6658 have been concluded; and when the agreements will be published.

Discussions with the Commonwealth Government are still proceeding. A statement will be made as soon as they are concluded.

Shipping

Merchant Seamen (Discharge Papers)

67.

asked the Minister of War Transport what documents a merchant seaman has to be in possession of at the time of his discharge.

When the seaman ceases to be employed in the Merchant Navy, he is required to surrender his seaman's identity card and is provided with an authority which enables him to be reentered in the civilian register. He is also given a formal certificate of discharge from his liability under the Essential Work (Merchant Navy) Order, 1942.

Ss "Orion" (Trooping Capacity)

79.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he will make a statement on the circumstances in which the s.s. "Orion" was overcrowded with Dominion troops; and the reason for its return to port.

This is a rather long reply, Mr. Speaker, but in view of the interest in this subject, I will take the opportunity—

I am in the hands of the House. If it is the general wish of the House, it may be as well to have the statement now, instead of after Questions.

I have had inquiries made into the criticism of conditions on board the "Orion"—

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. You said you were in the hands of the House, and the House has clearly demonstrated that it did not wish to hear it now.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me this opportunity of stating the facts to the House—

Troop capacity has no relation to peacetime capacity, and the removal of cabins and the erection of fittings in the troopdecks add greatly to the accommodation. All ships are fitted in accordance with Regulations laid down by the Service Departments in conjunction with the Ministry of War Transport, and their capacities for voyages west and east of Suez are agreed by the same authorities.

In present circumstances there is inevitably a great shortage of cabin accommodation, and it has been agreed by the Service Departments, including those of the Dominions, that as a temporary measure officers up to the rank of Lieutenant, R.N., or the equivalent in other Services may, when necessary, be embarked in accommodation normally provided for non-commissioned officers and men, which may involve sleeping in hammocks and the acceptance of troopdeck messing.

The fitted trooping capacity of the "Orion" is 5,235, reduced for voyages east of Suez to 4,676. On this occasion, in order to improve conditions for the large number of officers and warrant officers who could not be accommodated in cabins, the total number of all ranks embarked was further reduced to 3,44I—and a lift of I,200 men was sacrificed. The Service Authorities informed their personnel before embarkation of the conditions of travel that would be experienced. The owners of the "Orion" were not responsible for deciding the numbers to embark, or the allocation of the accommodation. I am satisfied that they assisted in every possible way to make those travelling as comfortable as the conditions would allow. Before the voyage the troop accommodation was reported by the Board of Inspection to be satisfactory in all respects. Minor complaints about food were speedily rectified.

The criticisms of conditions on board appear to have arisen from the use of troopdeck accommodation for officers and warrant officers. When this course has to be adopted on voyages of this length, every effort is made to accommodate officers in tier berths, rather than in hammocks, but the "Orion" was the only suitable ship in position to take these men home in time for Christmas. She sailed from Southampton on nth November, but owing to damage to her machinery, had to return. I am glad to inform the House that another ship has been allocated, but it will be some two or three weeks before the ship will sail. It must be realised that, so long as the present pressure on passenger space continues, there must be some sacrifice of comfort if men are to be got home within a reasonable period, and it will not always be possible to provide cabin accommodation for every officer.

Did any representatives of the Dominion concerned inspect and approve the accommodation before the ship sailed?

I cannot say whether they actually inspected it, but the Australian Government were fully consulted and, I understand, concurred in the arrangements.

Is the Minister aware that many British officers in Burma and the Far East today would be very glad of that accommodation?

Port Of Londonderry

80.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that commercial and passenger traffic was diverted from the Port of Londonderry owing to its use as a naval base during hostilities; and what steps are being taken to restore this traffic.

I am advised that there has been no diversion of commercial and passenger traffic from the Port of Londonderry owing to its use as a naval base; the second part of the Question, therefore, does not arise.

Whatever the reason was, all the traffic stopped, and it was naturally assumed that, as the port was used as a naval base, that was why. Is it fair to the dockers and those engaged in the distributive trade that this traffic should not be restored, as the present position deprives them of their livelihood?

London Transport (Vehicles)

68.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he will arrange for more omnibuses to operate and trains to run on the L.P.T.B. systems in the London and Greater London areas, during the peak periods of passenger travel and thus avoid the congestion and inconvenience caused to the travelling public through shortage of accommodation on omnibuses and trains at these times.

The London Passenger Transport Board will introduce new schedules increasing peak period services next month and early in the New Year. As a general rule in the Central London area the train services provided at the peak periods arc the maximum that can be operated, but if my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind I shall be happy to make inquiries.

Is the Minister aware that, during peak periods in the London area, people have almost to fight to get on the trains and, when on trains, have almost to fight to get off again; and is not the whole business undignified? Is there not an urgent necessity for trying to improve conditions for the travelling public in these trains?

As one who has been travel-line for 10 years on the Underground, I am not unfamiliar with the conditions.

If the hon. Member has any specific point, and he will put it down, I will give it consideration.

Railways

Train Delays

72.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that many trains arrive up to two hours later than their scheduled times in spite of clear weather; and what steps are being taken consistent with safety to improve time keeping.

During the four weeks ended nth November, 62 long distance trains out of a total of nearly 30,000 arrived at London termini two hours or more late. The late arrival of 2I of the 62 trains was due directly or indirectly to mishaps and three were delayed awaiting overseas leave parties. Every effort is being made by the railway companies to maintain the punctuality of trains, and it is expected that the general time keeping will gradually improve as more labour and rolling stock becomes available.

Is not the Minister aware that when you go on the up journey to Doncaster, trains are on time, but between Doncaster and King's Cross they lose an hour every day, and can he explain why that is so?

Hon. Members must listen until I call their names. I speak as loudly as I can.

Is the Minister aware that the 9.45 train from Manchester this morning was held up outside Euston for half an hour, and is there any reason for this?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government control the railways of this country?

As a matter of fact, as my right hon. and gallant Friend is aware, the ordinary railway administration is not affected at the present moment. Perhaps in the near future it may be.

73.

asked the Minister of War Transport if he is aware of the inconvenience caused to West Cumberland workers returning on the 6.18 p.m. train from Carlisle, by the railway company's practice of attaching vans for shunting at intermediate stations, thus creating considerable delay in their arrival home; and what steps he is prepared to take.

I am informed that the daily average delay in the arrival of this train at Whitehaven between 22nd October and 14th November was 13 minutes, of which four minutes was due to the need to attach a van for Naval purposes at Workington. The attachment of this van was discontinued as from Monday, 12th November, and I am informed that, apart from horse boxes which are attached to the train on monthly sale days, vans are now attached to the train only on rare occasions The situation will be further reviewed.

78.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware of the inadequacy, unpunctuality and slowness of the train service between London, St. Pancras and Bedford, Midland Road; and whether, owing to the fact that previous representations to the L.M. & S. Railway Company have had little effect, he will take steps to see that a real improvement is brought about at the earliest possible moment.

I am making inquiries and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

One-Class Travel

81.

asked the Minister of war Transport if he will introduce one- class travel on the railways.

Mr. Barnes